Lenten Reflection Day 13: Luke 6:36 (updated)

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“Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:36-RSV)

Reflection

Many of us have been fasting unaware before Lent. We have been on the fasting from mercy. The waitress forgot our order; we immediately complain about it. A teammate did a poor presentation. We think of them as incapable. Our spouse or child had a difficult day; we do not care. The list goes on.

During this Lent, let us practice fasting from mercilessness. Let us give almsgiving to the strangers, those with collaborate, and our loved ones.

Today’s Intention

Lord Jesus, we cannot expect mercy when we are merciless ourselves. We ask you to send the Holy Spirit to teach us to be merciful towards others as your Father is merciful towards us.

Peace and Goodness

Invitation

There are two actions when responding to an invitation. We can either accept it or reject it. I realize that some people may say that there is also the “maybe” or “tentative” response. At the end, however, you either go or don’t go where you are invited.

In today’s Gospel (Luke 7:36, 8:3), Jesus accepts an invitation by a Pharisee to dine at his house. Doing so led a sinful woman to find him. Through their encounter we witness the power of repentance and forgiveness. The woman is so sorrowful that her tears wash Jesus’ feet.  Her pain becomes an invitation for our Lord to come into her life. Jesus accepts this invitation too and, thus, forgives her sins.

Another option we have when we receive an invitation is to reject it. In the Gospel of Mark, the encounter between Jesus and the rich man (Mark 10:17-31) illustrates this point. When Jesus invites the man to follow him, he rejects the invite. The man was too attached to his possessions to accept the invitation.

In our daily lives, we are constantly sending, accepting or rejecting invitations.  It is a way of controlling who becomes part of us. Who are you inviting, accepting or rejecting? What is your motivation in either case? Is God invited or rejected into your house? Are sinners welcome into or avoided in your life?

To know the answers to these questions, we must be intentional in our prayer. Our salvation depends on it because through our decisions sometimes we are like the Pharisee, the sinful woman, the rich man, and Christ. Which one are you?

He Departed From Him For A Time

Reading today’s Gospel (Luke 4:1-13) my attention was drawn to the last sentence: “When the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from him for a time.”  In the past, I had not really paid attention to these words, but today they jumped out at me.

The devil never stopped tempting Jesus. First, he attacked Jesus directly, face-to-face in the desert. When that failed, he attacked him indirectly through Judas Iscariot (cf. LK 22:3). In Judas, he found a willing party to expose Jesus to the biggest temptation of all: to avoid the suffering of the crucifixion.  Fortunately for humanity, Jesus triumphed in all instances.

As I pondered those words in my heart, I realized that I must always be alert to the devil’s attacks both direct and indirect. As St. Peter tells us “Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for [someone] to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). However, this is an effort that I cannot take on my own.  First, I must rely on God to fill me with the Holy Spirit (cf. LK 4:1) and grace me with steadfast faith to resist the devil. Second, I must join the community of fellow believers, for they, too, undergo the same temptations. Together, we will call upon the graces that God grants us through Jesus (cf. 1 Peter 5:9-10).

The Holy Family

Reading I – Sirach 3:2-6,12-14
Responsorial Psalm – 128:1-2,3,4-5
Reading II – Colossians 3:12-21
Reading III – Luke 2:22-40

In his Letter to Families in 1994, Pope John Paul II eloquently expressed that of the many paths we walk:

the family is the first and the most important. It is a path common to all, yet one which is particular, unique and unrepeatable, just as every individual is unrepeatable; it is a path from which man cannot withdraw. Indeed, a person normally comes into the world within a family, and can be said to owe to the family the very fact of his existing as an individual” (John Paul II, 2)

As we celebrate the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, the words of Pope John Paul II find justification in today’s readings.  The scriptures of the past week offer glimpses of the Holy Family’s glorious path to God’s promise. Key to their strength as a family was their understanding of the importance of obedience to God: “For the Lord sets a father in honor over his children and confirms a mother’s authority over her sons” (Sir 3:2).

As children of God and parents of Christ, Mary and Joseph fulfilled their obligations and reaped the rewards of their obedience in the incarnation of Jesus Christ. They did this not for their sake but for ours. Likewise, Jesus, by his life and death, modeled Deuteronomy’s words: “Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD, your God, has commanded you, that you may have a long life and that you may prosper in the land of the LORD your God is giving you” (Dt 5:16).

In Jesus’ obedience, we find the bond of perfection (cf. Col 3:14). It is through his love that “the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body” (Col 3:15) with his church. It is in our union with Christ through his church that we echo John Paul II’s words: “Following Christ who ‘came’ into the world ‘to serve’ (Mt 20:28), the Church considers serving the family to be one of her essential duties. In this sense both man and the family constitute ‘the way of the Church’ (John Paul II, 1).

By honoring God, Joseph and Mary became the holy and beloved parents we are called to be: “Blessed are those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways” (cf. Ps 128: 1). Through their parenting, they taught us how to love our children with “heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience bearing with one another and forgiving one another” (Col 3:12).

Mary and Joseph understood that Jesus was the center of a strong family. They knew this not by their own accord but by God’s grace. It was this understanding that guided Mary in motherhood.  It was what gave Joseph courage to stay with Mary; and it was what led them to present Jesus for consecration. It is through the consecration that the “child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom and the favor of God” (Lk 2:40).

As we honor the Holy Family’s obedience and love, let’s pray that their example becomes embedded in our hearts. That we, too, can be faithful to God and live our lives filled with love, mercy, and care not only for our children but for all children and families living among us.