Readings & Reflections with Cardinal Tagle’s video: Third Sunday in Ordinary Time B & Conversion of St. Paul, January 25,2015

Readings & Reflections with Cardinal Tagle’s video: Third Sunday in Ordinary Time B & Conversion of St. Paul, January 25,2015

At a moment when “time was running out” for evil Nineveh, God did something extraordinary: he raised up Jonah to preach repentance to “great city.” When “Jesus came proclaiming the Gospel of God,” Christ’s first action was to call men from the sea to preach to the world. Nothing convinces us of the compassion, the love, the kindness, and the goodness of God like the witness of these humble believers who leave nets, boats, and father to follow Jesus. To us who beg, “Teach me your ways,” Jesus beckons: “Come after me.”

AMDG+

Opening Prayer

“Lord Jesus, you have called me personally by name, just as you called your first disciples, Simon, Andrew, James, and John. Help me to believe your word and follow you faithfully. Fill me with the joy of the gospel that your light may shine through me to many others.” In your Mighty Name, I pray. Amen.

Reading I – The Ninevites turned from their evil way.
Jon 3:1-5, 10

The word of the LORD came to Jonah, saying:
“Set out for the great city of Nineveh, and announce to it the message that I will tell you.” So Jonah made ready and went to Nineveh, according to the LORD’s bidding. Now Nineveh was an enormously large city; it took three days to go through it. Jonah began his journey through the city, and had gone but a single day’s walk announcing, “Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed,” when the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast and all of them, great and small, put on sackcloth.

When God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way, he repented of the evil that he had threatened to do to them;
he did not carry it out.

The word of the Lord.

Responsorial Psalm
Ps 25:4-5, 6-7, 8-9
R. (4a) Teach me your ways, O Lord.
Your ways, O LORD, make known to me;
teach me your paths,
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my savior.
R. Teach me your ways, O Lord.

Remember that your compassion, O LORD,
and your love are from of old.
In your kindness remember me,
because of your goodness, O LORD.
R. Teach me your ways, O Lord.
Good and upright is the LORD;
thus he shows sinners the way.
He guides the humble to justice
and teaches the humble his way.
R. Teach me your ways, O Lord.

Reading II – The world in its present form is passing away.
1 Cor 7:29-31


I tell you, brothers and sisters, the time is running out.
From now on, let those having wives act as not having them,
those weeping as not weeping,
those rejoicing as not rejoicing,
those buying as not owning,
those using the world as not using it fully.
For the world in its present form is passing away.

The word of the Lord.

Alleluia Mk 1:15

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The kingdom of God is at hand.
Repent and believe in the Gospel.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel
Mk 1:14-20 – Repent and believe in the Gospel.

Fr. Robert Barron’s Homily on 3rd Sunday in OT: Radical Christianity. To listen click below:

After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

As he passed by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea; they were fishermen. Jesus said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Then they abandoned their nets and followed him.

He walked along a little farther and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They too were in a boat mending their nets. Then he called them. So they left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed him.

The Gospel of the Lord.

Reflection 1 – Following Him

Dr. Scott Hahn’s Reflection click below:

Listen Here!

The calling of the brothers in today’s Gospel evokes Elisha’s commissioning by the prophet Elijah (see 1 Kings 19:19-21).

As Elijah comes upon Elisha working on his family’s farm, so Jesus sees the brothers working by the seaside. And as Elisha left his mother and father to follow Elijah, so the brothers leave their father to come after Jesus.

Jesus’ promise – to make them “fishers of men” – evokes Israel’s deepest hopes. The prophet Jeremiah announced a new exodus in which God would send “many fishermen” to restore the Israelites from exile, as once He brought them out of slavery in Egypt (see Jeremiah 16:14-16).

By Jesus’ cross and resurrection, this new exodus has begun (see Luke 9:31). And the apostles are the first of a new people of God, the Church – a new family, based not on blood ties, but on belief in Jesus and a desire to do the Father’s will (see John 1:12-13; Matthew 12:46-50).

From now on, even our most important worldly concerns – family relations, occupations, and possessions – must be judged in light of the gospel, Paul says in today’s Epistle.

The first word of Jesus’ gospel – repent – means we must totally change our way of thinking and living, turning from evil, doing all for the love of God.

And we should be consoled by Nineveh’s repentance in today’s First Reading. Even the wicked Nineveh could repent at Jonah’s preaching. And in Jesus we have a greater than Jonah (see Matthew 12:41). We have God come as our savior, to show sinners the way, as we sing in today’s Psalm. This should give us hope – that loved ones who remain far from God will find compassion if they turn to Him.

But we, too, must continue along the path of repentance – striving daily to pattern our lives after His. – Read the source: https://stpaulcenter.com/following-him-scott-hahn-reflects-on-the-third-sunday-in-ordinary-time/

Reflection 2 – What evil situation and sins that we are to repent at this time?

In the book of Jonah, God called Jonah to preach repentance to the Ninevites. He revolted against God’s wishes. His reason was that the Ninevites were not Jews and their enemies. Jonah was afraid that the Ninevites would actually listen to his preaching and find favor with God. So, Jonah tried to run away from God. He boarded a ship only to be tossed about in a life-threatening storm. When the sailors concluded that Jonah was the problem, they threw him overboard. A huge fish swallowed him. God commanded the fish to spew Jonah upon the shore.

This story has a very important lesson to teach us. Jonah represents those people who are narrow minded, selfish and who do not want to share anything with others. Jonah is symbolic of those who hate other people, hold grudges, and refuse to be reconciled with their enemies. Jonah represents those people who do not understand God. But God is forgiving, generous and not narrow minded. The sign of how God is different from Jonah and those who are like him is the cross. Jesus opened his arms on the cross to reach out as far as he could so that no one would be excluded from his reconciling love. Before Jesus sacrificed himself on the cross for our salvation, he set to insure the continuance of his mission on this earth after his death and resurrection. At the beginning of his public ministry, he selected his apostles and proclaimed, “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mk 1:15), those chosen disciples followed him, who would be the nucleus around which he would form his Church. We call this Church Catholic because it is universal. It extends back through all the ages to the time of Christ and will remain until he returns in glory. Authentic Catholics do not close their hearts to others, as Jonah did. But they open their arms to embrace everyone like Christ and proclaiming the Gospel: “Repent and believe in the Gospel.” What evil situation and sins that we are to repent at this time? Medical Journal Report: (Diary of Unborn Baby) wrote, “On November 1: My mother and father showed how much they love one another. The slept together and my life began; On November 15: My blood circulation system is beginning now. My body is beginning to grow. I am now big enough to be seen; On November 20: My two hands and two feet have begun to grow. I can now stretch and straighten my back; On December 15: Today my mother felt me moving around and she is sure that I am inside her. How happy I am! On January 6: Now hair is starting to grow on top of my head and above my eyes. Now I am starting to grow on top of my head and above my eyes. Now I am starting to make myself pretty; On January 19: My heart is really beating strong now. I am growing in all directions. I am happy and contented; On January 20: Today my mother killed me… If it had happened to you, you would not be listening this story of an unborn baby. In this video you’ll see what abortion really look like click this link: http://www.pagadiandiocese.org/2016/02/24/he-performed-1200-abortions-in-new-videos-he-wants-you-to-see-what-abortion-really-looks-like/

The story of an unborn baby is a reality that the crooks are still with us. The oppressors are still doing their evil work. We are as miserable as ever. This situation needs our attention and concern for action. How can I commit myself to repentance and healing of the sins of our times? For more reflection watch the video of the Healing Power of Confession by Dr. Scott Hahn, a former Presbyterian Minister who become Catholic  click this link: http://www.pagadiandiocese.org/2014/04/19/confession-by-dr-scott-hahn/

Reflection 3 – “They abandoned”

What caught my heart in today’s gospel reading were the words, “they abandoned.”  Simon and Andrew left their nets to follow Jesus.  James and John did not only abandon their nets but left their father Zebedee with his hired men as they responded to the invitation of Jesus.

Sometime ago, we heard God’s call to follow Him. Some of us may have instantaneously left (abandoned) our old lives and embraced our new lives in Christ. Others may have taken time in responding to God’s call. Whatever the case may be, each one of us left or abandoned something behind. We had to forsake whatever we had in exchange for what we believed will achieve the reason why we are in this world. We all realized that to reach our final destination we had to give up a lot. We learned that we had to die to our selves and open our hearts to what is Christ-like and allow the Spirit to take full control.

Responding to God and His call means we have to make a complete turnaround and discard our old ways. It means we should never re-consider going back to our old lives or even look back at them but continuously and incessantly work at what will bring us close to our God. It means seriously pursuing our ministry and being fruitful in the Lord’s vineyard.

Unfortunately any activity, even the most religious and spiritual in nature, when marred by tension and major differences can numb souls and may cause one to seek spiritual refreshment. One may in time find a need for a fresh anointing from the Lord Who is always at work in creating a masterpiece out of us.

Amid any difficulty and pain, the temptation to abandon our relationship with God and His Church may be knocking in our hearts. Are we going to give in to the enemy and allow this to happen? God is asking us to abandon all that we are and all that have caused us to experience coldness in our hearts. He is calling us to make a return to Him for all the good He has done for us. He is asking us to give our all to Him so that He may work on us and purify us and cleanse us of our sins, so that we be made heirs of all things and the refulgence of His glory and the very imprint of his being, so that at journey’s end we may take our place in the greatest banquet that awaits all of us at the right hand of our Lord!

With humble and contrite hearts and in the presence of all His people, let us take the cup of salvation and call upon the Name of the Lord. Let us pay our vows to the Lord. Let us abandon the evil one and offer our Lord a sacrifice of thanksgiving! Let us offer Him a sacrifice of praise! Let us abandon our old selves, our hardened hearts and sinful dispositions. Let us leave our old ways and allow God’s grace to fill our empty hearts, so that life may be upon us, to share and bring to the world. Let us abandon everything that is not of Christ as  “This is the time of fulfillment. The reign of God is at hand! Reform your lives and believe in the good news!”

Direction

Let us abandon our old lives, seek God and His will. Change for the better.

Prayer

Heavenly Father, I offer You a sacrifice of praise as You give me the grace to abandon my old life and follow Jesus. In Him, I live and move and have my being. Amen.

Reflection 4 – “Memento Mori”

The priest was trying to catch the attention of his parishioners one Sunday. With a booming voice, he began his homily with this declaration: “Everybody in this parish is going to die!” The people were shocked upon hearing these words. But a man sitting in front smiled. The priest repeated: “No one is exempted! Everybody in this parish is going to die!” Again, while the congregation was terrified, the man was already grinning. This time, the priest looked at the man and again said, “Everybody in this parish will die!” The man laughed loudly. The priest asked the man for an explanation. The man said, “Father, I am not your parishioner. I belong to another parish.” (Adaptation from Rev. P. Bloom).

This Sunday’s readings speak about the certainty of death and the shortness of human life. This theme can be expressed in two words: “Memento mori.” This is a Latin phrase, which is translated as, “Remember you will die.” It refers to a category of artworks that aims to remind people of their mortality. This phrase originated in ancient Rome. Coming home after a victorious military conquest, the Roman general would go around the city for a victory parade. Standing behind him was a slave, dutifully repeating the words, “Memento mori”. The purpose is to remind the general that, although he is at the peak of his life and career, enjoying success and honor today, he could fall or die tomorrow. According to Tertullian in his Apologeticus, the complete statement that the slave utters is, “Respice post te! Hominem te esse memento! Memento mori!” (“Look behind you! Remember that you are but a man! Remember that you will die!”). (cf. Wikipedia).

This is the message that St. Paul in his letter to the Corinthians is seriously trying to convey: “I tell you, brothers, the time is running out!” Our life in this world is very short. Even the world itself is passing away. Hence, he urges us to conduct our affairs in this world with our full attention focused on what is most essential in life, namely, eternal salvation: “From now on, let those having wives act as not having them, those weeping as not weeping, those rejoicing as not rejoicing, those buying as not owning, those using the world as not using it fully” (1Cor 7:29b-31a).

Aware, then, of this reality, some important resolutions are in order. The first is repentance. This is the core message that Jesus proclaimed at the beginning of his ministry: “The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel.” And when the people asked for a sign, Jesus told them that there would be no sign except the sign of Jonah. He was referring to the prophet Jonah who was sent by God to the sinful city of Nineveh. He preached the warning: “Forty days more, and Nineveh will be destroyed!” (Jon 3:5). Fortunately, the Ninevites listened and repented, and their city was spared from destruction.

This message needs to be proclaimed persistently in our time – no matter how unpleasant and offensive it may be for some people. Nowadays, many people have already lost the sense of sin. This is clearly proven and illustrated every Sunday. Throngs of churchgoers receive Holy Communion, but only a handful of them regularly go to confession. We may also notice a growing number of Catholics who ignore and even openly contradict the teachings of the Church, particularly on moral issues such as abortion, divorce, and same sex “marriage”. Pope Benedict XVI observed a growing “phenomenon” of people in modern society “who wish to belong to the Church but who are strongly determined by a vision of life that is opposed to the faith” (CNA/EWTN News, Vatican City, May 30). Hence, there is really the need to remind people of the horror of sin and the need for repentance and conversion.

Second, we must not waste our precious time in this world. As St. Paul noted, “time is running out.” In our daily life, we must always use every opportunity to do something good. Let this famous quotation be our guiding motto: “I expect to pass through this world but once. Any good, therefore, that I can do or any kindness I can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it for I shall not pass this way again.” (Attributed to Stephen Grellet).

Attached to the wall leading to the chapel of the Sisters of Charity in Rome is a reminder: “Celebrate this Mass as if it was your first Mass; celebrate this Mass as if it were your only Mass; celebrate this Mass as if it were your last Mass.” It is an apt reminder to the priest celebrant as well as to every Catholic who comes to Mass for we can never be certain if we will still be around for the next Mass. Hence, St. Philip Neri said, “The best way to prepare for death is to spend every day of life as though it were the last.”

Third, we have to follow Jesus immediately and unconditionally. This was how the first disciples responded to the Lord’s calling. They immediately left everything – their father, the boat and nets, their family and community. They exercised total detachment from material and worldly things and thereby were able to follow Jesus in total freedom and commitment. Detachment does not mean that material things in this world are evil, and need to be spurned. Rather we are simply practicing the Lord’s instruction: “Seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well” (Mt 6:33). We ought to realize that the more we detach ourselves from things of this world, the greater will be our freedom to follow Jesus and the greater also our capacity to love others and appreciate the goodness and beauty of God’s creation.

Let us not fear death. Instead, let the reality and certainty of death inspire us to live our life to the full. It is said that the best way to prepare for death is to begin to live. Let me close with this quote from Robin Sharma: “When you were born, you cried while the world rejoiced. Live your life in such a way that when you die the world cries while you rejoice.” (Source: Fr. Mike Lagrimas, Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, Palmera Springs 3, Susano Road, Camarin, Novaliches, Caloocan City 1422).

Reflection 5 – They proclaimed a fast

They proclaimed a fast, and all of them, great and small, put on sackcloth.

Lent begins three weeks from Wednesday, which people will soon begin to consider what they will give up during this time of penance and preparation. It is also the time we will hear many of the friends of these people scoff at this notion. How silly to fast from something for a time, they say. Isn’t this simply a residue of your Catholic upbringing that you have not been able to shake? Modern man is no fan of many of the practices of the Church, but fasting causes a particular aversion in society. It is foreign to the modern mind. Why deprive yourself of something good in this life, even for a time? What good does it do to deny yourself those cookies, TV shows, or drinks?

This thinking has seeped into the Catholic consciousness as well. Our fasting is almost exclusively limited to the forty days of Lent. That is about as bare minimum as it gets! Yet, throughout salvation history, fasting has stood as one of the spiritual life’s most powerful tools. Three aspects in particular highlight the power of fasting.

The Scandal of Eternity: In our Second Reading, Paul sounds to us like a commercial for a Ford automobile, attempting to talk us into buying the last of the 2017 F-150’s. Time is running out! You must act now!

Usually, when we think of “time running out,” we think in terms of sales, school deadlines, or my free three-month “Spotify Premium” membership. Rarely do we think in these terms regarding serious things, and almost never in the context that Paul is speaking. Paul proclaims boldly that the world in its present form is passing away. Yet, it would be hard to tell this by looking around. Little of our day-to-day life seems to point to the next life. This is where fasting becomes a powerful tool. Fasting, like celibacy, makes little sense outside the context of eternity. To fast does sound silly to the person who lives for this life alone. Why waste perfectly good pleasures when this is all there is, when the physical world is king? In a sense, fasting laughs in the face of the propaganda of modernity, which tells us to do what feels right, that pleasure is good, and that you harm yourself by not taking what you want. Someone who encounters a person fasting has a similar reaction to seeing a priest in their clerics, or a nun in her habit; this is a person who believes in eternity, who is willing to bet big on the truth of heaven.

Gratification Delayed: Due to the prevalence and ease of access to pleasures, delaying gratification is a laughable notion to modern man. It once was a great treat for me to get a Frosty; now there are six Wendy’s within five miles of the Cathedral, and I’ve been twice this week. We can have whatever we want, when we want it. This sounds great! The problem arises when I attempt to apply the principles I have learned in the physical world to my spiritual life. How can we expect to fight off the temptation of sin when I don’t even attempt to fight off the temptation of another bag of fries? We have trained our bodies to take what they want, and our souls have followed suit! In God’s providence, we can rely on the same principles to flip the script. Fasting gives us the experience of training our bodies to say “no” to a pleasure. As creatures made of both body and soul, this experience melds into our spiritual lives as well, assisting us in saying no to the devil’s latest temptation. If I can say “no” to the extra cookie, I am more likely to say “no” when the next temptation of gossip, anger, or impurity pops up.

Detachment and Dependence: Finally, the modern world finds fasting strange because it seems to deprive us of the things that give us life and joy. To limit my intake of alcohol, or to avoid TV, appears to rid our lives of the very things that make them good. Fasting opens the heart of the Christian to just how unfulfilling modern pleasures are. Yet, we choose to continue flooding our souls with them, because we are terrified of the emptiness we believe will come without them. Fasting is, indeed, a gamble. It is a gamble that the Lord will do what he says, and fill the space abandoned by the pleasures of this world. To fast is to believe that the attachments of this world are merely band aids on a wound, while the Lord is the final remedy upon which we can depend. This is why the Ninevites’ fast was so successful. By their actions, they showed the Lord that they were betting big on Him, that they believed in His power and might, and that they wanted him to fulfill them more than their previous sins and pleasures ever could.

Fasting should always be done in moderation, and usually with the assistance of a wise spiritual guide. But, this week, let us perhaps consider one small area in which fasting can be inserted into each of our lives—be it from television, sweets, or a host of other things. By reintroducing fasting into the Catholic consciousness, we open others’ minds to eternity, train our souls, and recognize where our true dependence lies! – Read the source: http://www.hprweb.com/2017/12/homilies-for-january-2018/

Reflection 6 – “Repent and Believe in the Gospel”

Purpose: In Mark’s Gospel, the calling of the disciples is urgent and demands an immediate response. We too are called, as baptized Catholics, to respond generously and courageously to our baptismal vocation and become intentional disciples of Jesus Christ. God’s infinite mercy is offered to everyone. The time of fulfillment is close at hand.

Today, the clear message of the Word of God is the urgency of repentance and God’s infinite mercy and compassion. As Paul says, “the time is running out”! We do not know when Jesus our Lord will be coming in glory to judge the living and the dead, but it may be sooner than we think, and we need to be always waiting for it, expecting it, longing for it in joyful trust.

What a powerful message for us is the Book of Jonah: we see the reluctant prophet finally heeding God’s bidding to go to Nineveh, the “enormously large city,” and to preach repentance in the name of the Lord God of Israel, giving to the Ninevites only 40 days before their great city is destroyed! And to Jonah’s utter dismay and shock, everyone believes in God, the great and the small, repenting in fasting and sackcloth. The Lord God of Israel once again manifests his glory in his hesed we emet, his utter mercy and steadfast love, loving kindness, truthfulness. God indeed strongly desires that his mercy and covenant love be extended not only to his People Israel, but also to all the Gentiles, to all peoples. We can already sense in the Book of Jonah the universality of God’s mercy and love, as fully revealed in Jesus Christ.

Mark’s Gospel, in its very beginning, capitalizes on the urgency with which Jesus proclaimed the good news of God after the arrest of John the Baptist: this is the time (kairos, in Greek) of fulfillment (plèrôma, in Greek). It is the time of grace, the time of salvation, the fullness of time. It is urgent that the response be immediate, complete. “Repent” (from the word metanoia, a deep change of mindset and heart) and “believe in the Gospel.”

This is followed by Jesus calling Simon and his brother Andrew to follow him, and they immediately left their nets as fishermen and heard Jesus’ promise to become “fishers of men.” Likewise, Jesus called James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who left their father and their boats and followed Jesus. Mark the evangelist, unlike John, intentionally dramatizes the urgency of the first disciples’ response to the call of Jesus.

What about us, brothers and sisters? Do we sense any urgency in living out fully our baptismal calling to witness to our Faith and preach the Gospel? Do we hear, with the ears of our mind and heart, God’s plea to repent and believe in the good news? Or do we keep this call only for Ash Wednesday? Do we realize how deeply God wants to embrace us and all peoples in his mercy? Are we aware of the dangers of lukewarmness, routine, and bored practice of our Faith, especially when we come to Mass? We know, from Scripture and the teaching of the Church, that God desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. But tempus fugit (“time is running out,” as the famous Latin aphorism says). Our Lord admonishes us in his mercy and truthful love to “enter through the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and easy is the road that leads to destruction, and many are taking it; and narrow is the gate and hard is the road that leads to Life, and few are finding it” (Mt 7:13-14).

As a tool to help all of us respond to our Lord’s call to repent and believe in the Gospel, I would highly recommend Shelley Weddell’s book, “Forming Intentional Disciples.” If you have not yet read it, individually or in a group, it is a must-read! It highlights, in a very realistic way, the state of our beloved Church today and urges, in a positive way, solutions for all of us to come alive and become “missionary disciples” of the “Joy of the Gospel.”

Brothers and sisters, people around us, our families, our colleagues at work, our friends, our fellow parishioners, have a right to see radiant Catholics, on fire with God’s charity, filled with the Holy Spirit, and witnessing to the transforming power of God’s love! So many around us still do not know that there is a God who is a Father, who loves them madly, who desires to enter into covenant love with them and with every human being in Jesus Christ and his Church! People are still waiting to see in you and in me someone who is radiant with God’s love, aglow with the Spirit! The stakes are high, so will we, today, heed the call of our baptism, the call of Jesus Christ and his holy Church? – Read the source: http://www.hprweb.com/2014/12/homilies-for-january-2015/

Suggestions for Further Reading: Shelley A. Weddell, Forming Intentional Disciples: The Path to Knowing and Following Jesus, Our Sunday Visitor, 2012; Ralph Martin,The Urgency of the New Evangelization: Answering the Call, Our Sunday Visitor, 2013

Reflection 7 – No better time than now

This Sunday’s Gospel reading is a call to surrender ourselves fully to God. “NOW is the time of fulfillment” – not just 2000 years ago, not at the Second Coming of Christ, but right now in your life when and where you need Jesus the most.

“The kingdom of God is at hand” – what you need from the Lord is right here, at hand, ready for you.

“Repent, and believe in the gospel” means “Come follow Me and learn from Me to become like Me.” For the first disciples, it meant dropping whatever they were doing to spend so much time with Jesus that their whole lives were forever affected. And this is what it means for you and for me: We have to put aside our own agendas and busy schedules to spend more time following Jesus wherever he leads us.

In the modern world, we have become more dependent on our technological devices than on Jesus. Many of us cannot even go on vacation without remaining accessible to their employers via the cell phone. Somehow, we need to find a way to take a stand against this. It’s one of the social justice teachings of the Church: We are actually called by God to rebel against working on Sundays and other days of rest. Why? Because we need to spend that time with Jesus getting renewed, restored and re-energized.

Unfortunately, Jesus doesn’t walk through the door and circle dates on our calendar and write “Rest with Jesus” so that we can plan ahead. We have to follow his lead at a moment’s notice – every moment. To experience the kingdom of God on the earthly side of heaven, we have to be willing to drop everything to follow Jesus into unfamiliar places at unexpected times. We have to learn to follow his lead even in situations where his way is the surprising way.

Questions for Personal Reflection:
What’s on your to-do list? What keeps you busy? What are your goals for the future? What are you dreaming of? If Jesus has a different plan for your day or for your life, how easily could you switch over to new ideas and plans?

Questions for Community Faith Sharing:
What are some of the nets you’ve abandoned in the past in order to follow Jesus? How difficult was that to do? Are you happy about it now? Why? How was this an experience of the kingdom of God on earth? – Read the source: http://gnm.org/good-news-reflections/?useDrDate=2018-01-20

Reflection 8 – Conversion to love to serve Him in the mission

With the invitation to convert ourselves to Christ by harboring his grace and by sharing his love with our neighbor.

Wikimedia Commons

1) Conversion and good news.

Today, the liturgy of the Mass proposes a passage from the evangelist St. Mark who – with a bare and essential style – summarizes the whole message of Jesus Christ with the words “the Gospel of God”. This divine, good and happy news is proclaimed in Galilee, a region bordering the land of the pagans. In this way, it is underlined the perennially missionary dimension of the announcement. The grandiose novelty of the expression “Gospel of God” risks escaping us who are far from the experience of the first readers of Saint Mark.

The Greek word “gospel” is translated with the expression “good news”. It sounds good, but it remains far below the magnitude of the word “gospel”. This word belongs to the language of the Roman emperors who considered themselves lords of the world and its saviors and redeemers. The proclamations emanating from the emperor were called “gospels”, regardless of whether their subjects were happy news or not. What comes from the emperor – it was the underlying idea – is a salvific message, not simply news but the transformation of the world towards the good.

Writing the “Gospel of God”, St. Mark teaches that emperors are not the saviors of the world. The true savior is Jesus whose name means “God saves”. Christ is the Word of God and he is manifested as an effective word. In Him and for Him really happens what the emperors claimed without being able to realize.

Therefore, a “Gospel” is no longer the announcement of the victory of a powerful one over his enemies. The “Gospel of God” is not the proclamation of the victory of a strong man who has defeated a weak man. It does not concern the joy of someone and the crying of others. The “Gospel of God”, the happy announcement, no longer concerns the powerful in turn. The happy “good news” is proclaimed by Jesus, meek and humble at heart. This good news is proclaimed in the name of God-Love, it is God himself who in Christ makes himself present in the world and in history.

The phrase: “Proclaiming the Gospel Jesus said: ‘Time is complete and the kingdom of God is near; convert and believe in the Gospel “(Mk 1: 14) could be reformulated as follows:” Proclaiming the good news, Jesus said:” The auspicious time has come. The Kingdom of God is near. Convert and believe in the good news’ “.

The meaning of this sentence is not: “Make your moral conversion and then believe in the good news”, but rather “Accept the good news with living faith. Doing so, all your way of thinking, wanting, and acting will be changed “. Let us become converted to Christ by recognizing him as the Way, the Life, and the Truth, and as the person in whom the Father makes visible all his love.

In short, if we convert by changing our mind and heart we can believe in the joyful and good news that God is among us. In a sense, to convert is to see beyond, to have a look that goes beyond. In fact, the word converting translates the Greek word which literally means “looking beyond”, therefore, understanding beyond appearances the true meaning of things.

Also St. John the Apostle and Evangelist introduces the commandment of conversion that asks to love the others as Christ loved us, with the power of the Gospel of joy and with the announcement of the good news: “I have told you these things, so that my joy dwell in you and your joy be full. This is my commandment: love one another as I have loved you “(Jn 15: 11-12).

If we are converted to Christ, who invites us to abide in him to make his glad tidings dwell in us, we will always better understand that the true meaning of God’s commandment is not to be an imposition but a communication of love. The “command” to convert is an invitation of love, which Christ addresses to his disciples so that they can enter into communion with him and accept his offer of friendship.

In short, Christian conversion is not so much a new relationship to an imperative or new ideas but a personal relationship with Jesus, who proposes his friendship allowing a welcoming that is festive, humble, and grateful of the saving truth

2) Conversion and the following of Christ.

If conversion is to dwell in Christ and follow Him, it means that this “being in Him” is a verb of movement. There is an idea of movement in conversion, as in the motion of the sunflower which every morning raises its corolla and sets it on the paths of the sun. “To convert” means “to turn towards” the light because the Light is already here.

In fact, communion with Him implies following Him. Christ is not so much a Word to hear or to read. He is the Logos, that is, the Word that gives meaning (understood as direction) to our life and light to our steps.

When St. Mark writes that Jesus “passing along the Sea of Galilee saw Simon and Andrew, Simon’s brother,” He said to them: ‘follow me’”. He did not say: “Learn” because the first characteristic of the Christian disciple is to “follow”. In fact, the verb, which usually accompanies the word disciple, is to learn. Instead, using the verb to follow, the Gospel emphasizes that, in the first place, there is not a doctrine but a way of living that implies walking with the Master, identifying oneself in him.

The evangelical following is never a call to stand still but to walk. The evangelical call is an invitation to go out, to go towards the world and the mission. If the following does not imply a “going after Christ”, it means that we only follow ourselves. The evangelical sequela is different from those sequences that instead invite to separate from the others and withdraw in ourselves.

Thus, the novelty of existence begins: going after Christ who calls and proposes himself as the path to life for his disciples, we included.

Jesus sees and speaks to two people, the quality of the relationship he initiates is a sign of the novelty of Love. “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men” means that Jesus asks Simon and Andrew to convert not doing who knows what, but following him and making sure that the mission of salvation of Christ becomes their vocation.

The vocation to conversion is to enter into a relationship with him, to let be loved by him and to take his love and his truth into the world. Jesus asks to respond to his Love: Jesus loves and asks to be loved. Here it is: the novelty of history is the beginning of the relationship of Love, aimed at tasting Love and introducing Love in every moment, in every action in which life unravels. This is the “conversion” that Jesus asks: not making life a means to do things, but living life in such a Love so that everything lives.

3) The sequela of the consecrated Virgins.

An example of living the reality of disciples following Christ is given to us by the consecrated Virgins. With their gesture of offering themselves to the Lord Jesus, these women testify that following Christ is to imitate Jesus chaste, poor, and obedient, begging him to be made capable of loving with His love, of giving with His Heart, of serving with His light, and of working with His gifts.

With their consecrated life they testify, first of all, that the initiative belongs to Christ and that his call is free. Secondly, they show that it is possible to respond to the call of Jesus even if it involves such a radical and profound separation that St. Mark speaks of abandonment of the father and of the work. Abandoning the trade and the family is like being uprooted. But it is worthwhile because in this way one can root oneself in Christ.

Their life pushes us to make our own the prayer that the priest today says at the beginning of the Mass: “O Father, who in your Son have given us the fullness of your word and your gift, let us feel the urgency of convert us to you and to adhere with all our soul to the Gospel, so that our life may also announce to the doubtful and distant the only Savior, Jesus Christ “.

Following the example of the consecrated Virgins, each of us, every morning, at every awakening, is able to say: “I too can ‘convert’, I can and must move thoughts, feelings, and choices towards God so that He may enter more into my heart and that of the world.

Patristic reading

Golden Chain

on Mc 1:16-20
Gloss.: The Evangelist, having mentioned the preaching of Christ to the multitude, goes on to the calling of the disciples, whom He made ministers of His preaching, whence it follows, “And passing along the sea of Galilee, &c.”
Theophylact: As the Evangelist John relates, Peter and Andrew were disciples of the Forerunner, but seeing that John had borne witness to Jesus, they joined themselves to him; afterward, grieving that John had been cast into prison, they returned to their trade.
Wherefore there follows, “casting nets into the sea, for they were fishers.”
Look then upon them, living on their own labors, not on the fruits of iniquity; for such men were worthy to become the first disciples of Christ; whence it is subjoined, “And Jesus said unto them, Come ye after Me.”
Now He calls them for the second time; for this is the second calling in respect of that, of which we read in John. But it is shewn to what they were called, when it is added, “I will make you become fishers of men.”
Remig.: For by the net of holy preaching they drew fish, that is, men, from the depths of the sea, that is, of infidelity, to the light of faith. Wonderful indeed is this fishing! for fishes when they are caught, soon after die; when men are caught by the word of preaching, they rather are made alive.
Bede, in Marc., 1, 6: Now fishers and unlettered men are sent to preach, that the faith of believers might be thought to lie in the power of God, not in eloquence or in learning. It goes on to say, “and immediately they left their nets, and followed Him.”
Theophylact: For we must not allow any time to lapse, but at once follow the Lord. After these again, He catches James and John, because they also, though poor, supported the old age of their father.
Wherefore there follows, “And when He had gone a little farther thence, He saw James, the son of Zebedee, &c.”
But they left their father, because he would have hindered them in following Christ. Do thou, also, when thou art hindered by thy parents, leave them, and come to God. It is shewn by this that Zebedee was not a believer; but the mother of the Apostles believed, for she followed Christ when Zebedee was dead. (p. 23)
Bede: It may be asked, how he could call two fishers from each of the boats, (first, Peter and Andrew, then having gone a little further, the two others, sons of Zebedee,) when Luke says that James and John were called to help Peter and Andrew, and that it was to Peter only that Christ said, “Fear not, from this time thou shalt catch men;” (Lc 5,10) he also says, that “at the same time, when they had brought their ships to land, they followed Him.”
We must, therefore, understand that the transaction which Luke intimates happened first, and afterward that they, as their custom was, had returned to their fishing. So that what Mark here relates happened afterward; for in this case they followed the Lord, without drawing their boats ashore, (which they would have done had they meant to return,) and followed Him, as one calling them, and ordering them to follow.
Pseudo-Jerome: Further, we are mystically carried away to heaven, like Elias, by this chariot, drawn by these fishers, as by four horses. On these four corner-stones the first Church is built; in these, as in the four Hebrew letters, we acknowledge the tetragrammation, the name of the Lord, we who are commanded, after their example, to “hear” the voice of the Lord, and “to forget” the “people” of wickedness, and “the house of our fathers’ ” (Ps 45,10) conversation, which is folly before God, and the spider’s net, in the meshes of which we, like gnats, were all but fallen, and were confined by things vain as the air, which hangs on nothing; loathing also the ship of our former walk.
For Adam, our forefather according to the flesh, is clothed with the skins of dead beasts; but now, having put off the old man, with his deeds, following the new man we are clothed with those skins of Solomon, with which the bride rejoices that she has been made beautiful (Ct 1,4).
Again, Simon, means obedient; Andrew, manly; James, supplanter (ed. note: Cf. vol i, 139, 140, 364); John, grace; by which four names, we are knit together into God’s host (ed. note: Al. ‘in imaginem’); by obedience, that we may listen; by manliness, that we do battle; by overthrowing, that we may persevere; by grace, that we may be preserved. Which four virtues are called cardinal; for by prudence, we obey; by justice, we bear ourselves manfully; by temperance, we tread the serpent underfoot; by fortitude, we earn the grace of (p. 24) God.
Theophylact: We must know also, that action is first called, then contemplation; for Peter is the type of the active life, for he was more ardent than the others, just as the active life is the more bustling; but John is the type of the contemplative life, for he speaks more fully of divine things. – Read the source: Archbishop Francesco Follo https://zenit.org/articles/archbishop-follo-conversion-to-love-to-serve-him-in-the-mission/

Reflection 9 – Feast of Santo Niño: Be Like Little Children (Mk 10:13-16)
 
A mother was preparing pancakes for her sons, Kevin 5, and Ryan 3. 
The boys began to argue over who would get the first pancake. 
Their mother saw the opportunity for a moral lesson. 
’If Jesus were sitting here, He would say, ‘Let my brother have the first pancake, I can wait.’ 
Kevin turned to his younger brother and said, 
’Ryan, you be Jesus!’
It is always a great experience listening to the simple but profound wit and humor of children. This Sunday, we gather together in the presence of the greatest Child of all, the Holy Infant Jesus, the Santo Niño.
Filipinos have exceptionally strong devotion to the Santo Niño. And this is the reason why Rome granted to the Philippines a special permission to celebrate the Feast of the Santo Niño every third Sunday of January. It is, therefore, important to make sure that we all understand the real meaning of this devotion.
In the first place, the devotion to the Santo Niño is inextricably linked with the history of the Filipino people. One may wonder why the Philippines, surrounded by non-Christian countries, is the only Christian nation (i.e., aside from the tiny East Timor) in Asia. This highlights the fact that we are a nation specially loved by God for having received the gift of faith from the Spanish missionaries. And the first wave of missionaries came with the great circumnavigator, Magellan, who offered as a gift to the king and queen of Cebu the image of Santo Niño. In short, this devotion is particularly dear to the Filipinos for this is the first religious image that set foot on Philippine soil. It is the concrete historical icon that marked the beginning of Christianity in the Philippines.
Secondly, this devotion has profound theological significance, especially in relation to the Mystery of the Incarnation. The Second Person of God took on our human nature. He is true God, and at the same time, true Man. As true Man, he became like us in all things, except sin. The image of the Santo Niño is a clear expression of our belief in the God-made-Man. Jesus Christ passed through each and every stage of human life, becoming like a child, simple and humble, to show us the way back to the heavenly Father.
And finally, this devotion is very much in line with the Lord’s exhortation in the Gospel: “Whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it” (Mk 10:16). The image of the Santo Niño conveys to us the all-important lesson of becoming child-like in order to enter God’s kingdom. Like the two boys in our story, we are reminded, “You be Jesus!” It is, after all, what it essentially means to be Christian – we must be like Jesus. And the way to do this is to emulate the attitude of a little child. Basically, we can mention three attitudes of a child: humility, obedience and trust.
These traits are easily perceptible in little children, but are very difficult and unattractive for adults. When we tend to be engrossed in our achievements and accomplishments, the image of a child reminds us to be humble, for “he who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” The most basic foundation in Christian holiness is humility. As a building cannot go up higher without a strong and deep foundation below, so also it is impossible to grow in holiness without an abundant supply of profound humility.
The second virtue is obedience. As we grow older, we hold on to our rights, freedom and prerogatives. We insist on our power and independence. We naturally resist any interference or threat to our freedom and autonomy. We find it repugnant to submit our will to somebody else. Hence, it is quite understandable that for many of us, obedience is not an attractive virtue. The image of a child is presented to us so that we will always be reminded that, notwithstanding our status and position in life, we still are God’s children. And so, we have to submit ourselves in humble obedience to the will of the heavenly Father. In his agony in the garden, Jesus gave us the perfect example of an obedient Son. He prayed, “Father, let this cup of suffering pass, but not my will but your will be done.” It is true that obedience is not attractive to adults for it runs counter to our human rights and freedom. Yet, obedience to God enhances our rights and freedom as His children and inheritors of the kingdom. Ultimately, as St. Thomas Aquinas said, “Obedience unites us so closely to God that in a way transforms us into Him, so that we have no other will but His.” St. Ignatius of Loyola said, “It is not hard to obey when we love the one whom we obey.”
And finally, the virtue of trust and dependence on God is evident in a child. This is not also attractive to adults who place so much value on self-sufficiency. We want to have control over everything in our life, with our intricate plans and avowed expertise in every aspect of human affairs. But the Lord reminds us: “I am the vine, you are the branches; apart from me you can do nothing.” “Unless the Lord builds the house, in vain do the builders labor.”
Our devotion to the Santo Niño should lead us to follow more closely the example of Jesus, the humble, obedient and trustful Son of God. As the Holy Child reminds us to become better children of God, we are also challenged to give ample attention to the welfare and protection of children in our midst (Source: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, Palmera Springs 3, Susano Road, Camarin, Novaliches, Caloocan City 1422).

Reflection 10 – Call to Conversion and Mission 

We celebrate the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul. His original name was Saul of Tarsus. He was a Pharisee. In fact, he was a zealous Pharisee. So when he heard about the emergence of the followers of the New Way, as what the early Christians were called then, he saw this as a threat to the Jewish religion. So, it was then that he relentlessly persecuted the Christians. The Scriptures say that he was present while St. Stephen, the first martyr of the Church, was being stoned to death. The Acts of the Apostles said: “Saul, still breathing murderous threats against the disciples of the Lord, went to the High Priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, that, if he should find any men or women who belonged to the Way, he might bring them to Jerusalem in chains” (Acts 9:1-2). On his way to Damascus, he met the Lord. A sudden and bright light from heaven struck him, and he fell to the ground. And he heard the voice of the Lord: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.”

There are several important lessons we can learn from this celebration. First, Jesus identified Himself with His followers. Saul was not persecuting Jesus; he was persecuting His followers. But Jesus said: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.” Indeed, Jesus has always been true to His promise: “I will be with you always until the end of time.” That is why, in the midst of life’s trials and tribulations, we should take courage from the Lord’s assurance: “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in their midst.” And this will also serve as a reminder to all of us in dealing with one another. We should always be conscious of the presence of the Lord among our fellow humans. We treat one another with love and compassion, for as Jesus said, “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, you do unto me.”

Second, after that encounter on the road, Saul did not immediately proclaim the Gospel. Instead he went into Arabia and later returned to Damascus to receive instructions and guidance from Ananias. It was only after three years that he began his ministry. In other words, that encounter on the road was just the beginning of a long journey of conversion. Conversion to the Lord is a long process. For Saul, it took him three years of prayer, soul searching and reflections on God’s Word. This equipped him with all the necessary graces to finally embark on the great task of spreading the Gospel of Christ. And in the second reading today, with a sense of urgency, he calls us to conversion: “I tell you, brothers and sisters, the time is running out. From now on, let those having wives act as not having them, those weeping as not weeping, those rejoicing as not rejoicing, those buying as not owning, those using the world as not using it fully. For the world, in its present form is passing away” (1Cor 7:29-31).

Time is running out. The culture of death has already captured the hearts and minds of most people in the world. And if we do not act fast, we will wake up one day with a world totally enveloped in the darkness of destruction and death.

Every year we remember with sorrow the anniversary of that fateful day when the US Supreme Court decided on the case of Roe vs. Wade, and legalized abortion, the killing of babies in the womb of their mothers. In the US alone, there are 60 million babies killed since 1973. Dr. Brian Clowes, director of education and research at Human Life International, to investigate the number of worldwide abortions since 1973. The results were staggering! He estimates that there have been more than 1.72 billion abortions over the last 40 years, a trend that is not lessening but growing exponentially as more and more countries embrace and legalize contraception and abortion as methods of population control, which is always sold as “family planning” and “reproductive health.” (Fr. Shenan Boquet, LifeNews.com 4/1/13).

This is now the time when the call to repentance and conversion is most urgent and imperative. It is best for us to recall God’s promise to King Solomon: “If my people, upon whom my Name has been pronounced, humble themselves and pray, and seek my presence and turn from their evil ways, I will hear them from heaven and pardon their sins and revive their land” (2Chro 7:14).

But conversion is just half of the story. St. Paul himself avoided using the word “conversion” in reference to that encounter with the Lord on the road to Damascus. In his Letter to the Galatians 1:15-16, he describes the event, not as conversion, but as the moment of his calling, just like the call of the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah. He used the words “chosen” (“set apart”) in the womb of his mother, “called” by God, and “revealed” to him His Son, so that he might “proclaim” Jesus to the Gentiles. In short, his conversion is directed towards one purpose: the proclamation of the Gospel. It is his mission, in response to the Lord’s command in the Gospel today: “Go out to the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.” Saul embarked on this mission. From Saul, he became Paul, acquiring a new name to signify a new mission and direction in life. He is called the Apostle to the Gentiles, and at other times, the Apostle to the Nations, for indeed he went all over the world spreading the Gospel of Christ to all nations.

This feast reminds us that as Christians, we are essentially missionary. The faith we received is meant to be shared. And the more we share it, the stronger and more vibrant it becomes. In this time when the Gospel of life is drowned by the clamor for more blood of the children and the innocent, when telling the truth becomes more of a risk than an advantage, when people are accustomed to easily believe the media filled with commercial and political propaganda rather than the Word of God, this missionary vocation of Christians becomes truly necessary and vital. This is what Saint Paul realized when he wrote to the Corinthians: “For if I preach the Gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!” (1Cor 9:16). If we as Christians do not proclaim the truth of the Gospel during this difficult period in our history, woe to us! We ourselves will be victims of the culture of death.

May the conversion of Saint Paul and his example of apostolic zeal and courage inspire us to return to God and be active instruments in the spread of the Gospel of Jesus, the good news of life and love in the world. (Source: Fr. Mike Lagrimas, Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, Palmera Springs 3, Susano Road, Camarin, Novaliches, Caloocan City 1422)

Reflection 11 – Conversion of St. Paul

Paul’s entire life can be explained in terms of one experience—his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus. In an instant, he saw that all the zeal of his dynamic personality was being wasted, like the strength of a boxer swinging wildly. Perhaps he had never seen Jesus, who was only a few years older. But he had acquired a zealot’s hatred of all Jesus stood for, as he began to harass the Church: “…entering house after house and dragging out men and women, he handed them over for imprisonment” (Acts 8:3b). Now he himself was “entered,” possessed, all his energy harnessed to one goal—being a slave of Christ in the ministry of reconciliation, an instrument to help others experience the one Savior.

One sentence determined his theology: “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting” (Acts 9:5b). Jesus was mysteriously identified with people—the loving group of people Saul had been running down like criminals. Jesus, he saw, was the mysterious fulfillment of all he had been blindly pursuing.

From then on, his only work was to “present everyone perfect in Christ. For this I labor and struggle, in accord with the exercise of his power working within me” (Colossians 1:28b-29). “For our gospel did not come to you in word alone, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and [with] much conviction” (1 Thessalonians 1:5a).

Paul’s life became a tireless proclaiming and living out of the message of the cross: Christians die baptismally to sin and are buried with Christ; they are dead to all that is sinful and unredeemed in the world. They are made into a new creation, already sharing Christ’s victory and someday to rise from the dead like him. Through this risen Christ the Father pours out the Spirit on them, making them completely new.

So Paul’s great message to the world was: You are saved entirely by God, not by anything you can do. Saving faith is the gift of total, free, personal and loving commitment to Christ, a commitment that then bears fruit in more “works” than the Law could ever contemplate.

Read the source: http://www.americancatholic.org/features/saints/saint.aspx?id=1271
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