Day 70 – March 11

Today’s Readings:

Numbers 35-36
Mark 12:28-44
Psalm 70

‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” – Mark 12:29-31

In answer to the Scribe’s question, “Which is the first of all the commandments?”, Jesus quotes two Biblical texts. The first, from Deuteronomy, chapter 6, the famous Shema prayer, which declares God as the only god, the basis for the monotheism of the Jewish people. The second text is from Leviticus 19:18, which tells how one should treat your neighbor.

As far as can be known, Jesus was the first to put these two parts of law together and fuse them into one, love of God – love of neighbor. The scribe was quick to see how they relate with one another, how love is the supreme law, even above ritualistic sacrifices. He recognized that true love is sacrifice of the highest degree. Jesus approves of his understanding.

How can we apply this today? Just as it was in Jesus’ time, there is a tendency to ‘ritualize’ our love of God, to make it be something we do on Sunday, or at assigned times of our prayer. In Jesus’ day, love could easily be set aside for ritual, such as in the response of the Priest and Levite when they pass the wounded traveler on the road; they failed in love, not wanting to risk contaminating themselves from participation in the temple rituals and sacrifices.

For the saints, they understood the second part of Jesus’ law is the way par excellence to love God. Saint Teresa of Calcutta said, “Each one of them is Jesus in disguise.” During this Lenten season, it is the perfect opportunity to make ‘sacrifices’ of love for God by expressing compassion for our neighbor.

We have only to take to heart this teaching, put it into practice and find ourselves, like the Scribe, not far from the kingdom of God.

May God Bless you.

cb365

Advertisements

Day 69 – March 10

Today’s Readings:

Numbers 33-34
Mark 12:1-27
Psalm 69

“A man planted a vineyard, put a hedge around it, dug a wine press, and built a tower. Then he leased it to tenant farmers and left on a journey.” – Mark 12:1

The parable has God as the owner of the vineyard. The tenants are the people of Israel. The servants are the prophets. Jesus himself is the son. And the other tenants are the Gentiles to whom the good news would be proclaimed and by them accepted.

There are so many angles to focus on in this teaching, let us concentrate on what we can tell us about God himself.

First, God gives us everything we need to succeed in this life because of his generosity. He makes ready the vineyard with everything it would need to easily cultivate and profit from the work. How can we look around us and see equal generosity of God in our lives?

Second, God believes in us, giving us freedom to run our lives as we choose. Like the landowner, he seemingly is at a distance and leaves us in our freedom, trusting us to make our daily choices.

Third, God is ever patient, almost to a fault. How many times does the owner of the vineyard send servants to collect his share of the harvest? The parable reports three, and many others. Time and time again, God gives opportunity for us to turn to him. He deals with us patiently, much more than we deserve.

Lastly, God’s justice will be victorious. The tenants take advantage of the owner’s absence, thinking that he is too far off to do anything. Perhaps they thought the owner was dead and the son was now the owner, thus killing him would leave the land open to others. Sometimes we may think that God is far away, sleeping, or others fall into error thinking he does not exist. Through all of it, God bears patiently with us, awaiting the proper time where he will come to restore justice, where he will “…put the tenants to death, and give the vineyard to others.”

How are we doing with what God has given us for our success? Do we use the freedom that we are given to act on the behalf of the divine Vineyard Owner? When he comes to collect his portion of the harvest, will we be found wanting? Or will we push him away?

Let us ask the Lord to grant us the grace work diligently in our daily events, that when he comes, he will find us ready to accept him, and be united to him in the great harvest when he comes in triumph.

May God Bless you.

cb365

Day 68 – March 9

Today’s Readings:

Numbers 31-32
Mark 11:19-33
Psalm 68

Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.” – Mark 11:21

Today in Mark, we see Jesus in a very uncharacteristic tone, condemning a fig tree when it did not bear fruit out of season. To take this scene literally casts a shadow on Jesus, and shows him to be as petulant as a child. But, if we are to take Jesus as he claims himself to be, the Son of Man, the Messiah; or even at the level of a prophetic teacher, we must look beyond his actions to find the lesson.

Perhaps it would be helpful to remind ourselves of Jesus’ telling of the parable of the barren fig tree, and the Master who wants to cut it down because it is of no use (Luke 13:6-9). The vinedresser convinces the Master to let it stay another season, giving it care that it may yet produce fruit for his master. What if Jesus meant the condemnation of the fig tree in today’s reading as an extension of that parable?

The people of Israel have been given a chance – or chances, again and again called to faithfulness, and again and again failed. Moses reminds us of this, the Israelites failing to enter the promised land because of their wavering in faithfulness wandered for forty years in the desert.

Jesus may be pointing to the fig tree as an example of Israel, a people who have been singularly cultivated by God himself, and are failing in their bringing forth fruit of faithfulness? Just as a fruitless tree is good for nothing than to be thrown into the fire for kindling, so the life a follower of God is good for nothing if it too bears no fruit.

May God Bless you.

cb365

Day 67 – March 8

Today’s Readings:

Numbers 29-30
Mark 11:1-18
Psalm 67

“He entered Jerusalem and went into the temple area. He looked around at everything and, since it was already late, went out to Bethany with the Twelve.” – Mark 11:11

It has been quite the day, almost festive, as Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey while bystanders throw palm branches and their cloaks down before him, shouting, “Blessed is he who comes!” It is a victory march, not unlike that of Simon Maccabaeus’ entrance into Jerusalem a hundred and fifty years before when the enemy of his time was defeated (1 Maccabees 13:51); a conquerer’s welcome. The people went home that night, most likely talking about Jesus the Messiah (for that is what they were shouting – “He who comes” is another name for Messiah).

Yet, as the day fades to dusk, we catch Jesus in the temple area. The buzz of the day has subsided, and we reach him in the quiet moment that precedes the coming storm. What was going through Jesus’ mind? The many times before he had walked on those stones. Maybe recalling the pivotal moment when he was twelve, sitting with the temple priests, engaged in conversation with them. He knew full well the path before him. Before he entered into the final battle, he sought the presence of God. It was here, because he faced God daily that he had the strength and courage to face men.

When we are caught in the struggles of our day, from where do we find our strength? Let it not be from our titles and achievements, nor from other men’s praise, but, like Jesus, let our strength come from placing ourselves before God, letting Him nourish and lead us.

May God Bless you.

cb365

Day 66 – March 7

Today’s Readings:

Numbers 27-28
Mark 10:32-52
Psalm 66

“The cup that I drink, you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right or at my left is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared.” – Mark 10:39-40

Along the road, Jesus shares with his closest companions the truth of his mission; of how he will be handed over and treated with the upmost contempt. He will be spit upon, beaten, and put to death. Victory (resurrection) will come, but not without a heavy price. These words haven’t even had a chance to settle in our souls before James and John approach Jesus with their request, to sit at his right and left – places of honor – in his kingdom.

At first glance, we may think to ourselves, “How could they ask this from the one who just predicted a pretty grim future for himself? Didn’t they hear what he just said?”

Jesus responds, “Can you drink the cup I am to drink?”

At banquets, kings would offer their personal cup to esteemed guests for them to drink from. It was a gesture to honor the person. However, the chalice Jesus offers is a cup of complete and total sacrifice. It is cup measured out “at the hand of the Lord, the cup of his wrath”(Isaiah 51:17), for the expiation for our sins (CCC457).

For Jesus, there is no glory without the pain of sacrifice. For us to be his disciples, we too must be willing to ‘drink the cup’ and follow after the Master, who allowed himself to be stripped of everything on the Cross, except His love. This is what Jesus offers us a share in, every time we are stricken by others, we are called to love in return.

Lord Jesus, you offer us the chalice that we might share in your passion. Give us the grace and courage to respond to the struggles of life with heroic virtue, that others may come to know you, and believe.

May God Bless you.

cb365