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Chris (email link at the bottom of each page)

Tempted by Satan

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1st Sunday of Lent

The Spirit led Jesus into the desert for forty days to be tempted and tested.  During Lent we too are tested and tempted, although it's different for each of us. Some find food an overwhelming temptation, whilst others struggle instead with envy and jealousy.  In this sense temptations are a mystery: 'By the solemn forty days of Lent the Church unites herself each year to the mystery of Jesus in the desert.' (CCC 540). So, during this holy season we too can expect to be tempted and tested. 

The Scriptures make clear that Jesus was tempted by Satan and so are we!   The name Satan means ´adversary'.   In the Book of Job, we're given a vivid picture of Satan in God's heavenly court, along with other angels, where he has the role of accuser or prosecutor (see 1:6-12:2:1-7).  The Scriptures also identify Satan as the serpent who tempted Adam and Eve  Gen. 3) and thus as the origin of sin and temptation.

Therefore, the Scriptures and tradition clarify that we have a mortal enemy who, although created by God, is in a desperate struggle to overthrow God's reign and lead his creation into darkness and death.

Over Easter, we will recite and renew our baptismal promises.  Bear this in mind as we move through Lent, because, as you know, this renewal involves us actively and freely rejecting Satan.   Lent is also a time for us to discover anew the Gospel, the 'good news', which Jesus began to proclaim immediately after his time of testing.   The good news is a message of two parts: firstly, to repent, and secondly, to believe in the Gospel.

We walk together on this road marked out for us by the Church and take up our call to stand firm and resist Satan, knowing that he will flee, and embrace freely and with love the Gospel, which is Christ with us and in us, the hope of salvation.

'In these days.. let us add something beyond the wonted measure of our service, such as private prayers and abstinence in food and drink. Let each one, over and above the measure prescribed for him, offer God something of his own free will in the joy of the Holy Spirit.' (St Benedict)

Chris 
 

Deuteronomy 26:4-10 • Psalm 90(91):1-2, 10-15 • Romans 10:8-13 Luke 4:1-13

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The Dangers of Sin

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What is sin?  Firstly it’s an offence against God, a rebellion against his love, where we turn our hearts away from him.  Sin is not a theory; it’s a daily reality to which our experience testifies: “What revelation makes known to us is confirmed by our own experience.  For when we look into our own hearts we find that we are drawn towards what is wrong and sunk in many evils which cannot have come from their good creator.” (Gaudium et Spes 13).  If we look into our own hearts we know that this is true.  We are continually struggling between good and evil, light and darkness.  We want to do good but find that we don't always manage it.
 
Sin is a real force that works to undermine our life with God.  The biggest mistake that we can make is to underestimate its power.  Jesus came to set us free and to strengthen us.  Through the Spirit we are inwardly renewed and empowered to overcome sin – we receive the grace that we need to say “no” to sin and to live for God.
 
We reject Satan, his evil works and his empty promises.
 
Lord Jesus, you came to conquer sin.  Teach me to be vigilant and courageous so that I may experience your victory over sin in my life.
 
James 5:1–6 • Psalm 48(49):14–20 • Mark 9:41–50
 
 
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We are wounded

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Photo by Mateus Campos Felipe on Unsplash

Mark 6:53–56 

The sick, weak and suffering pursued Jesus.  Such was their faith that they simply wanted to touch him, believing this would heal them (v. 56).  Jesus came to seek, save and heal the lost, and to restore a fractured and fallen humanity.  He himself said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17).

Nowadays, many people struggle with the concept of sin, but the Gospel isn't going to change to accommodate our modern sensibilities.  We have lost the sense of sin and because of this corresponding sense of our need for a Saviour.  This is sad and serious because the very essence of the Gospel is that Christ brings healing and redemption.  Like sheep we have gone astray, and Jesus, the great Shepherd and Physician, has come to rescue and heal us.

Through baptism we are brought from death to life and become a new creation, born of water and the Holy Spirit.  However, we all remain wounded and need God's constant grace to become what he intends us to be: his children.

St Athanasius speaks down through the centuries: “The Lord did not come to make a display. He came to heal and to teach . . . For one who wanted to make a display the thing would have been just to appear and dazzle the beholders.  But for him who came to heal and teach, the way was not merely to dwell here, but to put himself at the disposal of those who needed him, and to be manifested according to how they could bear it, not vitiating the value of the divine appearing by exceeding their capacity to receive it.”

The Spirit helps us grow in two important areas.  The first is self-knowledge: we need God's grace to understand ourselves and to become aware of the aspects of our personalities that God wants to touch with his strength and healing.  The second is the confidence that God has the power to heal us and set us free from anything that hinders our growth as his children.

Lord Jesus Christ, by your cross and resurrection you have set us free. You are the Saviour of the world. 

Chris 
 

 

1 Kings 8:1–7,9–13 • Psalm 131(132):6–10 • Mark 6:53–56

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Jesus heals the leper of his disease

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Mark 1:40–45 Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

 Figure by trees in sunshineLeprosy was one of the most repugnant and most feared diseases in the ancient world. In the Old Testament the term was used to denote a broad range of skin diseases, some of which were curable, and so the law stipulated conditions to be fulfilled if the disease was to be recognised as cured. In its most virulent form it was considered so serious that the rabbis regarded the healing of leprosy to be as difficult as raising the dead. Perhaps the worst effect of leprosy was that people suffering from any of the diseases covered by the term had to live isolated from society. They were forbidden from entering a dwelling, and if anyone approached they had to cry "Unclean, unclean!" (Lev. 13:45–46).

This understanding helps us to realise that in today's Gospel Jesus was approached by a person who was normally denied any contact with healthy people. Those surrounding Jesus must have shied away from the sick man, fearful of contamination. How did Jesus react to the man's presence? Some ancient manuscripts, rather than saying that he was 'moved with pity' (v. 41), read that he was 'moved with anger. Commentators reflect that this reading may portray Jesus’s anger against the power of evil seen as present in the illness. With a word and a touch Jesus healed the leper.

Despite the laws of Leviticus, the leper came to Jesus with great faith, and his faith was rewarded with his healing Jesus showed that he regarded compassion as more important than the ritual prohibitions against contact with the diseased. Nevertheless, he was obedient to the law in complying with the regulations surrounding the proof of a cure, telling the man to go to the priest and make the stipulated offering

As we try to follow Jesus’s way, we may ask ourselves: Who are the outcasts today? Who are those that we shy away from, in fear, loathing and contempt? Whether consciously or not, it is all too easy for us to retreat from those who are ill or suffering But people, whoever they are and whatever their condition, need compassion and care.

Lord, you cared for the outcasts of society.  Help me to make room in my heart for everyone, including those whom society judges as beyond redemption, for your mercy reaches out to all.

 

 

Leviticus 13:1–2, 44-46 • Psalm 31 (32):1-2, 5, 11 • 1 Corinthians 10:31–11:1 • Mark 1:40–45

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Heal our Sin, Lord Jesus

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Deep are the Wounds that Sin has Made

Mark 1:29–39 

In a commentary on St Mark's Gospel St Bede makes the following observation about the healing of Peter's mother-in-law, “The health which is conferred at the command of the Lord returns at once entire, accompanied with such strength that she is able to minister to those of whose help she had before stood in need.”  The miracle involved Jesus's directly touching her, taking her by the hand and helping her up, healed and ready to serve (v. 31).  This simple and seemingly minor incident and healing in Jesus's ministry reveals so much about who he is and why he came. Only God himself could heal as Jesus healed; only divine power could overturn the laws of nature and the grip of a fever and suffering so effortlessly and so immediately.

Christian revelation teaches us  that we are in need of healing because we are fallen and wounded by sin.  Each one of us is sick by sin. For sure, by God's grace baptism removes the stain of original sin but we bear its scar and we are wounded, subject to weakness and temptation during our life on earth.  The great apostle Paul, in heartfelt anguish and desperation, cried out, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver  me from this body of death?”  (Rom. 7:24). Through baptism we are immersed in Jesus’s death and resurrection, but our life on earth is a struggle to overcome the sin which seeks to master us and be healed from the wounds and bruises we receive in the course of our battle with sin and what the Church calls 'concupiscence'.  

We can console ourselves with this reflection by the early church father St Irenaeus: “The Word of God, Jesus Christ, on account of his great love for humankind, became what we are in order to make us what he is himself.”  He who was without sin took away our sin that we who are sinful could know the freedom and joy of being children of God, heirs of Christ.  

May Christ come to our house and enter in and by his command cure the fever of our sins.  Each one of us is sick with a fever.  Whenever I give way to anger, I have a fever There are as many fevers as there are faults and vices. Let us beg the apostles to intercede for us with Jesus, that he may come to us and touch our hand. If he does so, at once our fever is gone. (St Jerome)

Job 7:1-7 • Psalm 146(147):1–6 • 1 Corinthians 9:16–19, 22–23 • Mark 1:29–39

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Shunned and rejected, but not by Jesus

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Hebrews 3:7–14 • Psalm 94(95):6–11 • Mark 1:40-45

In the ancient world lepers were outcasts. Feared and loathed in equal measure, despised and dreaded too, they scraped out a meagre existence by beggıng and pleading for mercy. The Levitical law was clear, unambiguous and harsh: The leper who has the disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose, and he shall cover his upper lip and cry: "Unclean, unclean."... [H]e shall dwell alone in a habitation outside the camp' (Lev. 13:45 – 46). Leprosy was clearly a terrible curse, a truly dreadful disease. In Jesus' day the sufferer was declared ritually unclean, and the condition was perceived as a punishment for sin. Lepers did not receive the compassion and care evoked by other diseases but were ostracized, feared and judged as sinners. It is hard for us to conceive of the suffering and anguish of the poor leper in today's Gospel account, although in the early days of the outbreak of AIDS/HIV sufferers said that they felt like lepers. Had he been forced to leave a wife and family? Did his former friends shun him? Where did he find food and shelter? What hope did the years ahead hold for him? How he must have wept and lamented his awful fate! Mark records that Jesus was profoundly moved with compassion for him, which led him to stretch out his hand to touch and heal him.

There are, of course, many in our society who are shunned and rejected, modern lepers if you will. It doesn't take much imagination to identify them: the poverty-stricken, refugees, migrants, those afflicted with AIDS, child-busers, prisoners, sex workers, drug addicts. If Jesus were alive today, these are the people he would love to associate with. But Jesus is alive today living by his Spirit and through the witness of believers who understand that we are all of us in fact lepers. We are all afficted and wounded by sin and darkness, and like the leper we too have received the pity, compassion, love and mercy of God, revealed in Jesus Christ our Lord. Having ourselves received God's amazing mercy, we reach out to others with his pity, compassion, love and mercy.

Lord, you have cleansed us from sin and restored to us the dignity of being your sons and daughters. Holy Spirit, fill our hearts with joy in our salvation so that we might long to share that joy with others, especialy those who have been rejected.

Chris

from Bible Alive

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The Holy Spirit opens our hearts

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Matthew 12:38-42
 
Jonah and the Whale
 
Despite Jesus’ many miracles the Pharisees wanted to see more. But Jesus was having none of it and promised that the only other sign that would be given to them would be the sign of Jonah. The prophet Jonah was called by God to preach a message of repentance to the Gentiles of Nineveh (located in modern-day northern Iraq). 

In the bright constellation of Old Testament prophets Jonah shines (or not) as the most reluctant prophet. He disobediently ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish by boat. The Lord then sent a severe storm that caused the crew of the ship to fear for their lives. Jonah was soon thrown overboard and swallowed by a great fish, in whose belly he remained for ‘three days and three nights’ (Jon. 1:15-17).  After the three-day period, the Lord caused the great fish to vomit Jonah out onto dry land on. 2‘10). 

Chastened and humbled, Jonah delivered his message of repentance and conversion, and the Nineties responded favourably. In similar vein the Gentile Queen of Sheba went to great lengths (and miles) to hear the wisdom of Solomon and was very impressed (1 Kgs. 10-1—13).

Jesus pointed to these examples to highlight how the Spirit had opened the hearts of Gentiles to God’s message, but now, when one greater than Jonah or Moses — greater because they pointed to him — was among them, the religious authorities had hardened their hearts. 

The message of repentance and conversion is foundational to our faith. The Spirit always leads us towards the grace of repentance because it brings us into a human-divine reality: God is holy and we are sinners. We tend to think of this admission or confession as a sign of weakness but it is the very opposite: when we confess our sins, admit our fault and throw ourselves on God’s mercy, we receive every spiritual grace and blessing.

Lord have mercy upon me a sinner; wash away my iniquity and cleanse me of my sin.

Chris
 
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Have Mercy on me, O God

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Snow-capped mountains and green fields with sheep and Psalm 51 v12
 
 
 
PSALMS 51 (NIVUK)
 
1  Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
 
2  Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.
 
3  For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
 
4  Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
and justified when you judge.
 
5  Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
 
6  Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
you taught me wisdom in that secret place.
 
7  Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
 
8  Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
 
9  Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity.
 
10  Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
 
11  Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
 
12  Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
 
13  Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
so that sinners will turn back to you.
 
14  Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
you who are God my Saviour,
and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
 
15  Open my lips, Lord,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
 
16  You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
 
17  My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.
 
18  May it please you to prosper Zion,
to build up the walls of Jerusalem.
 
19  Then you will delight in the sacrifices of the righteous,
in burnt offerings offered whole;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.
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Only God can Forgive Sins

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Matthew 9:1–8
 
The teachers of the law got at least one thing right: by claiming to forgive sins, Jesus was claiming to be God.  And of course we know that he is God, and he does forgive sins, repeatedly.
 
Fr Ronald Rolheiser:

“. . .if the Catholicism that I was raised in had a fault, and it did, it was precisely that it did not allow for mistkes. If you made a mistake, you lived with it and, like the rich young man, were doomed to be sad, at least for the rest of your life. A serious mistake was a permanent stigmatization. We need a theolgy of brokenness. We need a theology which teaches us that even though we can’t unscramble an egg, God’s grace lets us live happily and with renewed innocence beyond any egg we may have scrambled. Every time we close a door, He opens another one for us . . .

"We need a theology that teaches us that God does not just give us one chance, but that every time we close a door, God opens another one for us. We need a theology that challenges us not to make mistakes, that takes sin seriously, but which tells us that when we do sin, when we do make mistakes, we are given the chance to take our place among the broken, among those whose lives are not perfect, the loved sinners, those for whom Christ came. We need a theology which tells us that a second, third, fourth, and fifth chance are just as valid as the first one. We need a theology that tells us that mistakes are not forever, that they are not even for a lifetime, that time and grace wash clean, that nothing is irrevocable. Finally, we need a theology which teaches us that God loves us as sinners and that the task of Christianity is not to teach us how to live, but to teach us how to live again, and again, and again."

Chris

from Ron Rolheiser

 

 

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Repentance

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Jonah 3:1–10, Luke 11:29–32
 
Lent is a time to be healed, restored and lifted up.  Repentance was for the people of Nineveh the gateway to life, and so it is for us.
 
We follow One who is greater than Jonah and Solomon; we follow Christ, the Son of the Living God.  The Holy Spirit leads us to salvation along the well-trodden path of repentance.
 
The Queen of Sheba was moved by the teaching of Solomon.  The Nineties felt compelled to repent by the teaching of the reluctanct evangelist Jonah.
 
How much more, then, should we be moved and compelled to repent by the teaching of the One who is greater than Jonah Moses and all the prophets, Jesus Christ our Saviour?
 
Chris
 
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