26th February 2021

Friday 15 March 2019 - Daily Prayer


FRIDAY, FIRST WEEK OF LENT

Reading 1: Ez 18:21-28 Ezekiel speaks of God’s forgiveness to sinners who repent and warns the virtuous people who depart from the path of virtue to do evil.

Gospel: Mt 5:20-26 Jesus tells us that worship of God can be ruined by unwillingness to be reconciled with anyone who has anything against us.


GIVE UP SIN!

In the first reading, the Lord God, through his prophet, Ezekiel, challenges two old beliefs common among his people: that children inherit the guilt of their ancestors and are punished for it, and that God is more strict than merciful. This passage is a major breakthrough in the theology of the Old Testament as regards the relations between sin and its consequent punishment, and one’s progeny. Till then, the Jews believed that children inherited the guilt of their ancestors and were punished for it. Now for the first time, God declares his option for personal responsibility. Each one is accountable for one’s life. We cannot hold our parents or the society for the evil we do or the good we fail to do. So also, we cannot shift the blame for our faults to circumstances or character or the moon/stars! In all humility we should recognize that the fault is always ours.

Coming to the second misconception, the prophet clearly proclaims that God’s mercy overrules strict justice, and he doesn’t hold our past against us. There are some secular thinkers who accuse religion of creating unnecessary guilt. But today’s passage completely shatters that myth. Even the greatest sinner, if he repents, can joyfully trust in God and be confident of his mercy. It can happen even at the last moment of one’s life. That’s why the Church is against the death penalty, which is reiterated by Pope Francis in his recent Encyclical letter, Fratelli Tutti (nos. 263-270). And Jesus himself confirms what the prophet says: “There is rejoicing among the angels of God over one repentant sinner” (Lk 15:10).

In the Gospel we see how Jesus raises the standard required of his disciples: “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Lent isn’t just about giving up some food or drink or entertainment; it’s about giving up sin. It’s about giving up anything that keeps us away from God and from sanctity


Responsorial Psalm: Ps 130: 1-8 If you, O Lord, should mark our guilt, Lord, who could stand?


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Feb 25: Blessed Rani Maria Vattalil

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Blessed Rani Maria Vattalil

“She opens her hand to the poor and reaches oat her hands to the needy.” (Prov 31:20)


Sr. Rani Maria was born on 29 January 1954, as the second child of Paily and Eliswa of Vattalil, in an ordinary peasant family. Her God fearing parents brought her up in Christian faith and charity along with their six other children. From her infancy her parents and grandparents made her understand the importance of prayer, and she regularly attended Holy Mass and took part in the popular devotions.

During the final year of her school, she shared her inner promptings with her cousin Cicily. The frequent visit to a nearby convent, helped them to make a decision to enter the Franciscan Clarist Congregation. She made her first profession in Franciscan Clarist Congregation on 1st of May 1974 under the new name Rani Maria. Hearing the experiences of missionaries, she was inflamed, and would often repeat: “I too want to go to North India, to serve the poor and die for them”.

She arrived at St. Mary’s Convent in diocese of Bijnor on 24,h December 1975. She served as a teacher for two years, and also was engaged in social ministry. She then did admirable work for the poor and downtrodden at Odagady in the diocese of Satna, and at Sneha Sadan, Udainagar.

As an experienced Social worker, through various conscientization programmes Sr Rani Maria made the poor aware of their rights and injustice perpetrated on them. She became the object of the displeasure of their oppressors, who looked upon her work to uplift the poor as attempts to convert them to Christianity. As a result, on 25th February 1995, as Sr Rani Maria was travelling on a bus, she was stabbed her by a knife to death. Unto the last she kept on saying “Jesus! Jesus!” She was beatified on 21“ March 2017. Her Feast day is celebrated on February 25 each year.


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25th February 2021

Psalm 138:8 Illustrated: "The Lord will fulfill his purpose for..." —  Heartlight® Gallery


THURSDAY, FIRST WEEK OF LENT (Bl. Rani Maria Vattalil, Martyr)

Reading 1: Est 4:17 (C:12, 14-16, 23-25) Queen Esther presents a beautiful lesson in prayer.

Gospel: Mt: 7:7-12 Jesus’ prayer likewise teaches about prayer, with special emphasis on perseverance in prayer.


WE ARE HIS SANCTUARY; WE ARE HIS LIGHT

Think of the most perfect earthly father you can possibly conjure up in your mind. Multiply the goodness of that person a million times and you still have not begun to understand the depth of the love that the Heavenly Father has for you and me. The one and only thing he concerns himself with is how to distribute good things to his children. He knows all about us and is always there for us. Our own petitions reveal how much we truly believe in him and are ready to be dependent on him, humbly acknowledging that we can never succeed on our own.

Queen Esther was afraid of being put to death. In her anguish she took God for her helper and clung to him. Her prayer was heard and her enemies were destroyed. Following this, she did not fail to lift up her heart in prayer to God in thanksgiving and praise. God responds when and in the way that he feels best; however, if we cannot hear him responding to our prayer, could it be that we are lacking in the way we have prayed?

True prayer is a groaning of the Spirit within us, as St Paul says. For this groaning to open a path through our stony hearts, we often need repetition. Even a simple repetition of an Our Father and a Hail Mary with perseverance, can lead us towards orienting ourselves to God’s will and word. God is concerned and takes utmost care of every detail of our lives.

Let us be assured of his unshakable gaze and constant presence. May we remain supple in his hands, co-operating with his grace even when seemingly evil things come our way, through sickness, loneliness, persecution, etc.

May the humble prayer of petition well up spontaneously in us when we feel threatened, drawing for us fresh grace and help. Said St John of the Cross: “In tribulation, immediately draw near to God with confidence, and you will receive strength, enlightenment, and instruction.”


Responsorial Psalm: Ps 138:1-3, 7-8 On the day I called, you answered me,       O Lord.


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24th February 2021

Let yourself be transformed by God's Word | Focolare Movement


WEDNESDAY, FIRST WEEK OF LENT

Reading 1: Jon 3:1-10 Jonah preaches penance to the Ninevites, and they respond by recognizing their sinfulness. They proclaim a fast as the sign of their desire to return to God.

Gospel: Lk 11:29-32 Jesus presents the contrast between the Ninevites’ return to God and the unwillingness of Jesus’ contemporaries to heed his call to repentance.


TRANSFORMED BY THE WORD OF GOD

The people demanded a sign from Jesus. They had seen signs of healing and exorcism but wanted to see something remarkable. It was not the first time that they had asked for a sign. Whenever Jesus performed a miracle, there were some among the audience that accused him of having used the power of the devils. It was clear from their attitude, that they were demanding for proof that he was not empowered by Satan but by God. Jesus reproached those who wanted to validate his authority, by declaring that his presence among them is more significant than that of any Old Testament prophet or king. In the gospel passage today, he gives the examples of Jonah and Solomon.

God tells Jonah to preach repentance in Nineveh, the capital of the brutal Assyrian Empire. When he proclaimed to them that they were going to be destroyed because of their wickedness, they believed in his word; they put on sackcloth, sat in ashes and fasted, as a sign of repentance, humbly begging God for forgiveness. The queen of Sheba was a foreigner to Israel who came a long way to witness the greatness of King Solomon. She recognized God’s wisdom in him. Foreigners like the queen of Sheba and the Ninevites were able to see the truth of God’s message proclaimed by his chosen ones. The people of Israel instead had rejected the message of John the Baptist, and now they rejected Jesus as well, as God’s anointed one.

The word of God that Jonah preached transformed the lives of the people. God’s word can transform us. Saint Teresa of Avila, a great Carmelite mystic and reformer, drew her inspiration from the treasures of Sacred Scripture. Sometimes, we too wait for signs from God. Instead of waiting for signs, let us allow ourselves to be transformed by the word of God, so that our eyes may be opened to the marvels that God is already doing for us in our daily life.


Responsorial Psalm: Ps 51:3-4,12-13,18-19 A broken and humbled heart, O God you will not spurn.


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23rd February 2021

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TUESDAY, FIRST WEEK OF LENT (St. Polycarp, Bishop and Martyr)

Reading 1: Is 55:10-11 God, through Isaiah, compares his word to the rain and snow that water the earth and make it fertile. Human hearts rise up to God when fertilized by God’s word.

Gospel: Mt 6:7-15 Jesus gives us a lesson in prayer by sharing with us his own prayer.


GOD’S WORD ACCOMPLISHES ITS PURPOSE

What is the worth of your words? Are they effective? Do they make someone’s life beautiful? Do they build up or destroy? The world of today seems to have lost the real worth of words once spoken. Leaders make promises and forget them immediately and easily after achieving what they desire. Moreover, words of hatred and violence, of controversy and negativity, seem to be more desirable than words of values, of wisdom, of goodness and of positivity. The words of world are untrustworthy. Is it the same with the words of God? Let the readings of today answer.

The people of Israel were captives in Babylon under King Nebuchadnezzar II in the year 587/586 B.C. Their long captivity had broken them leaving, them with no hope. Amidst these violent events, God, through his prophet Isaiah, proclaims that liberation is at hand. The people get ready, filled with joy to return to their homeland; but their joy did not last long, for the promise was not immediately fulfilled. Israel was left again with discouragement and wondered if God was now behaving like humans who fail to keep promises.

The prophet answers them with a metaphor. The word of God is like rain and snow. They come down from the heavens and do not return without result. It affects the soil, enabling it to nurture the grain seed and foster the growth of all vegetation. So also, the word of God will faithfully accomplish its purpose. Rightly so, foretold by the prophet, the people of Israel were eventually freed and were allowed to return to their homeland.

Are we often seized by a kind of distrust when we do not see the immediate result of God’s word? The prophet exhorts us today, to let God take his time to fulfil his words in each one’s life. The effect of word of God sometimes seems as though slow and untrustworthy. But those who stand firm in hope will certainly see his promises to us fulfilled.


Responsorial Psalm: Ps 34: 4-7, 16-19 The Lord rescues them in all their distress.


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22nd February 2021

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MONDAY, FIRST WEEK OF LENT

(Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter the Apostle)

Reading 1: 1 Pet 5: 1-4 Peter exhorts the leaders of the Church to be shepherds to the flock entrusted to them. He asks them to be an example that the flock can follow.

Gospel: Mt 16:13-19 Peter makes the confession of faith: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus makes Peter the rock on which Jesus would build his Church.


FEED MY LAMBS, TEND MY SHEEP

Today is the feast of the Chair of St Peter, the apostle, and the readings focus on this particular quality of leadership: the much acclaimed “shepherding.” We are all called to be shepherds in one way or another and have a flock to tend to. As we celebrate this feast, we are presented with three questions:

“In what sense am I a shepherd?”

The answer is quite simple. We are called to imitate Jesus’ style of shepherding. Parents carry it on as they shepherd their kids, teachers do it as they shepherd their pupils, employers and supervisors too are in some way entrusted with this responsibility as they shepherd those who work under them, priests and religious respond to this call as they shepherd the flock that is entrusted to their care. In this way, the chain of shepherding goes on until we reach the ultimate shepherd Jesus Christ who made Peter the first shepherd of the Church.

Having answered the first question, we come to the second and more important one:

“How am I to be a shepherd in imitation of Christ?”

The answer is explicit in today’s first reading which is taken from the first letter of Peter. He says that a shepherd should look after his sheep not from a mere sense of duty but rather with love. If the leader who is a shepherd takes care of the sheep and becomes an example, then all will imitate him, and this will eventually make many more imitators of Christ, the supreme shepherd over all.

In today’s gospel we see Jesus choosing Peter as the leader of his Church. Jesus entrusts him with the responsibility of taking care of the Church as he himself would! In this way each of us are called to imitate Jesus’ style of shepherding – as he has shepherded us. This brings us to the third and most important question:

“Am I ready to imitate Christ’s style of shepherding?”

The Good Shepherd is waiting for our answer.


Responsorial Psalm: Ps 22:1-6 The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.


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21st February 2021

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SUNDAY, FIRST WEEK OF LENT

Reading 1: Gen 9:8-15 After saving Noah and his family from the flood, God establishes a new friendship-agreement (covenant) with him. The rainbow is a constant reminder of that covenant.

Reading 2: 1 Pet 3:18-22 St Peter says that the waters of the flood of Noah’s time were a type of the waters of our Baptism by which we are saved.

Gospel: Mk 1:12-15 After being baptised by John the Baptist, Jesus spent forty days in the desert. While there he was tempted by Satan. Mark gives a brief account of Jesus’ temptations and the beginning of his preaching.


TEMPTATIONS STRENGTHEN US

Today, on the first Sunday of Lent, the liturgy invites us to be aware of the temptations of Satan and to ignore his vile suggestions. All of us face temptations. A temptation is a trick, a deception, a lie; therefore, Jesus calls the devil, “the father of lies” (Jn 8:44). Satan does not just hide the truth, but replaces it with falsehood. He is a master manipulator, a cunning coaxer, an efficient enticer. The moment we journey in the path of holiness; he makes every effort to drag us back to sinfulness.

Adam and Eve were tempted by the devil and chose to listen to him. As a result, they lost the grace of God, inadvertently erecting a wall between God and humanity. The Gospel however, presents us with another personality, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who broke down that wall with the weapon of the cross. He too was tempted by the devil. But he did not yield to his vile promptings, “he was tempted in every way that we are, but he did not sin” (Heb 4:15).

In facing the challenges of Satan and being victorious over them, Jesus proclaims to all that God is far greater in power and majesty than Satan. He tried to tempt Jesus many times during his life but failed miserably. And, with every temptation that he conquered, Jesus gained greater power of him. The temptations strengthened Jesus. Similarly, God permits temptations in our life to strengthen our minds and hearts, and our desire for him in choosing to be obedient to his word no matter how convincing or attractive be the alternative.

Temptations are not meant for our ruin. In the face of temptation, there are always two voices, not one. Though the suggestions of the Evil One may be louder and more pronounced, there is always the calm, steady voice of God in the depths of our conscience. We see this in the life of Jesus as well. On the one hand, there was the voice of Satan ringing in his ears at every moment in different ways and through different people – “Use your power to silence the hypocrites and obliterate your enemies; win over the affection, admiration and praise of the people by giving them what they want; conquer the world with force.” But there was also the voice of his beloved Abba, constantly reminding him of his mission: “Take my love to men, love them till you die for them, conquer them with mercy, compassion and self-sacrifice.”

Satan relentlessly pushed him to set up a dictatorship of force, while God desired that he set up a reign of love. Jesus always listened to that calm, steady voice of God. This is how he conquered the Evil One at every step. He did not allow himself to be seduced into sin. Jesus came among us here on earth to overthrow the worldly kingdom of Satan that had its beginning when Adam disobeyed God in the garden of Eden. He came to reclaim God’s Kingdom that reigned in the heart of man before it was stolen by Satan through sin.

We face temptations. And God permits them so that we may prove the extent of our love for him, by choosing to be obedient to his will, and not our own passions and desires; by choosing to walk by faith, live by hope and be moved by selfless love in every thought, word and action. “Blessed is anyone who endures temptation. Such a one has stood the test and will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” (Jas 1:14) And we have the same tools that Jesus had with him, to conquer the Evil One – prayer and the word of God. Let us hold on to them firmly, that every temptation may be an occasion for us to take a step on the path of holiness.


Responsorial Psalm: Ps 25: 4-9 All your paths, O Lord, are mercy and faithfulness, for those who keep your covenant.


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20th February 2021

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SATURDAY AFTER ASH WEDNESDAY

Reading 1: Is 58:9-14 Isaiah describes in vivid terms the glory of a sinner who has allowed the Lord to restore his heart. He will take delight in the Lord and the Lord in him.

Gospel: Lk 5:27-32 Jesus is accused of associating with tax collectors and sinners, and he in turn gives his reasons for preferring their company.


SABBATH: A DAY TO WORK FOR THE LORD

In the first reading, God, speaking through the prophet Isaiah, tells Israel the proper understanding of the Sabbath. The point of the Sabbath is not so much to rest, but rather, a day to do the work of God instead of our own work. God tells his people: ‘honour it by not following your ways, or seeking your own interests, or speaking with malice.’

The true spirit of Lent, fasting, almsgiving, and prayer, is also embodied in this idea of turning our back on our own interests. This does not mean that one should take 40 days of leave in order to serve the poor during Lent. We only need to seize upon the numerous opportunities that come our way in our everyday life, and to do this we need to cut down to some extent the pursuit of our own interests.

How easy it is to follow our own pursuits! Even many who claim to follow God do so only after serving themselves. Jesus said to Levi, “Follow me.” How easy it would have been for Levi to have cleaned up his work and collected all the money sitting out on the table, thus, first taking care of his own priorities before getting around Jesus?

But, instead of telling Jesus to wait, without a thought, ‘leaving everything behind, he got up and followed him.’ The miracle recorded today is that Levi forgot about the work he was doing. He forgot about the money he had collected. He forgot about whoever was next in line at the customs post. He forgot about his own interests and followed Jesus. Well, not everyone can drop what he/she is doing to follow Jesus. Not everyone, but some can. Could you, like Levi, forget everything, leave it all behind and follow Jesus? Perhaps you are already where you belong, and what is left is to wake up every day and follow Jesus by doing your work with great love.


Responsorial Psalm: Ps 86:1-6 Teach me, O Lord, your way, so that I may walk in your truth.


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19th February 2021

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FRIDAY AFTER ASH WEDNESDAY

Reading 1: Is 58: 1-9 Isaiah sets forth guidelines for fasting. He tells us how not to fast and then gives the ideal attitude that will make fasting a blessed experience.

Gospel: Mk 9: 14-15 Jesus compares his life with the apostles to a wedding celebration during which fasting would be inappropriate. When the bridegroom is taken away, then they can fast.


A FAST THE GOD DESIRES

During Lent, we hear of prayer, fasting and almsgiving as means of preparation for Easter. Today’s readings talk about fasting. Fasting was an age-old religious custom, that was an external sign of penance and of the humbling ourselves before God.

In the first reading, Prophet Isaiah tells the people that their fast was not pleasing in the eyes of God, because even though they were fasting, they continued to oppress others. For them, fasting remained an external exercise without any interiorization, a habitual practice without bringing about a change of heart. The true spirit and purpose of fasting was to humble oneself and come closer to God. In the Gospel, the disciples of John the Baptist question Jesus as to why his disciples did not fast like they did. The disciples of John the Baptist and of the Pharisees took pride in how meticulously they practised fasting. But Jesus answers them with the imagery of a wedding feast; while the bridegroom is around, the wedding guests cannot possibly fast. They will fast once bridegroom is taken away, a reference to his own impending death at the hands of religious leaders.

Both the readings show a flawed understanding of fasting, which was considered as solely a religious prescription. They did not benefit from the practise, not availing divine acceptance and grace. Their fast remained only on the external level, just as a habitual action, while God intended the fast to be a means of coming closer to him, and of becoming more merciful and compassionate to the people, especially the oppressed of the society. During Lent, the Church recommends fasting as one of the means of spiritual warfare. Let the fast we practise be more meaningful – not just a ritualistic denying of food, but rather, a letting go of one’s hatred, injustice and selfishness. Only a fasting of this kind will be pleasing in the eyes of God, and bring us graces necessary to change our lives for the better.


Responsorial Psalm: Ps 51:3-6,18-19 A broken and humbled heart, O God, you will not spurn.


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18th February 2021

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THURSDAY AFTER ASH WEDNESDAY

Reading 1: Deut 30:15-20 Moses sets before his people a program that beautifully describes the purpose and goal of our Lenten life: “Choose life . . . love God, heed his voice.”

Gospel: Lk 9:22-25 Jesus lays down a formula for discipleship with him; To be his followers, we must deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow him.


LIVING IN THE NEW TESTAMENT

A cursory unreflected glance on today’s readings may throw up the semblance of opposing theological ideals. The first reading seems to propagate the teaching that following the Lord will yield a reward of material prosperity. “If you obey the commandments of the Lord… (he) will bless you in the land which you are entering to make your own.” In the Gospel however, Jesus couldn’t have been more lucid in his message when he says: “If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

From this apparent dissonance, a question arises: If the whole of Scripture is the ‘word of God’, shouldn’t there be a harmonious continuity? Our Lord himself settles this dubiety on several occasions. He proclaims that he has come to fulfil the Law (Mt 5:17); and he declares that Moses permitted divorce because of the hardness of heart of the people (Mt 19:8).

The whole of Scripture is the word of God, and therefore, God’s essential message of his love and purpose for humanity and all of creation is revealed in a harmonious continuity. That being said, there is also a difference based on two factors – the progressive nature of the revelation, and the limitedness of human interpretation.

God revealed his message in the Old Testament gradually, according to the capacity of the people, who then interpreted it according to their limited understanding and historical context. With Jesus the Truth, God’s revelation is complete; through him the Way, the message is made clear; in him the Life, the perfect interpretation of how to live is found. How unfortunate therefore, if we still desire to live by the imperfect interpretation of the Old Testament people, by a ‘prosperity Gospel’ ideology? “What gain is it for a man to have won the whole world and to have lost or ruined his very self?”


Responsorial Psalm: Ps 1:1-4,6 Blessed the man who has placed his trust in the Lord.


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