Gratitude Magazine March 2015 Edition

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Lenten Reflections for 2014 Liturgical Year

 During these 40-days of Lent, Fr. Peter Ike Chidolue, SJ accompanies us on a spiritual journey. He shares with us reflections on the scriptures - food for our soul.

Easter Triduum: A journey begins – a divine invasion.

 

Tonight Jesus begins a three day journey into the darkest part of our human hearts. He journeys into the part of us where shame resides and hatred rules. He journeys into the part of our humanity where we get the inspiration to murder, to kidnap and commit genocides. He journeys into the part of us where hopelessness, fear, low self esteem, fornication and adultery, anger, jealousy and sloth gather in celebration. ## During this journey, the Lord like a sponge absorbs within himself all our darkness, all our shame, all our fears, all our hopelessness, all our low self esteem and all the illness, sin and dirt of our world upon himself. “He who is without sin, became sin that we might become the righteousness of God”.

Goodness, purity, virtue, and all that the Son of God represents, will experience the darkest blow, the darkest pain, the darkest shame, the darkest murder that evil can inflict on the world. The Son of God walks along the terminal, the accident and emergency hospital ward of our world and takes away the sickness, the pain, the cancer, the AIDS and the brokenness of everyone upon himself and becomes sick for us and takes our place. Will He survive all these sickness and atrocities? Will goodness survive in the midst of all these evil? Will the light brightly burn in the midst of this seemingly infinite darkness? These are the questions that this triduum answers.

Watch the Lord as He makes this journey. What you will see will never leave you the same. Behold your salvation is at hand.

May Easter happen to all of you and May God bless you all!

 

Passion Sunday: Holy week begins – Matthew 26: 14 – 27:66

Today begins the Holy Week. And today we hear again the story of our salvation. It is the story of the holiest person that ever lived on earth. He did all things well. He was so good that evil could not bear to see him alive. Everything was taken from him and yet he remained faithful. Nothing made him to give up his trust and confidence in God. He was faithful unto the end.

Because of this week, the story of our lives will be retold. During this week, he will take upon himself all of our sins that we might become the righteousness of God. During this week, he will enter into our darkest night and into our graves to bring back to life everything beautiful that evil has destroyed in us. He will do this at a great price. Behold our redemption is at hand. 

May God bless you all.

Day 34: “From that day they were determined to kill him.” - John 11: 45-56

On the holiest of all Jewish festivals, the holiest of the Jewish leaders were planning to kill the Son of God for doing all things well. The Jewish authorities were like men in a dream that cannot tell that they are dreaming. This blindness happens to all of us. Are we aware of presence of God in the unfamiliar places of our lives? Would we crucify our Lord because He does not fit into our categories or unsettles our waters? On the holiest of days, evil used holy hands and hearts to kill the holiest of holy. In this darkness salvation happened. May God give us the courage and freedom to recognize the Lord when He come to us.

May God bless you all!


Day 33: “...for I have committed my cause to you.” - Jeremiah 20: 10 – 13

As we get closer to the Holy Week, it is important to bear in mind the words of Jeremiah, “I have committed my cause to you.” When we encounter difficulties in life, it is important to commit our cause to God. When we no longer have strength to go on, it is important to commit our cause to God. When we no longer believe or have trust in ourselves, it is important to commit our cause to God. 

We cannot and should not commit our cause to the world or to sin or to fear or to our limitations. Let us commit our cause to God trusting that He will see us through. The Holy Week is about what happens when we commit our cause to God. Trust in God and God will live in you. When God lives in you, you will have the whole world in your heart.

May we have the courage to commit our cause to God. May God bless us with this grace.

Day 32: “You shall become a father of a multitude of nations.” - Genesis 17:3 – 9

This promise was made to Abram when he was hundred years old and his wife was ninety. God's promise to us is not dependent on our limitations or our strength or our talents. God's promise is dependent on God and with God all things are possible.

Blessed is the one who believes that the promises made to him or her by the Lord will be fulfilled.

Day 31: “If our God, the one we serve, is able to save us from the fiery furnace and from your power, O king, he will save us; and even if he does not, then you must know, O king, that we will not serve your god or worship the statue you have erected.” - Daniel 3: 14 – 28.

The willingness of the three men, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, to serve the Lord was not dependent on God's power to save them. They were willing to serve God whether God saves them or not. If they had died in the flame would we have found their lives attractive? We sometimes ask the Lord why bad things happen to good people. But our lives only become bad and sad when we no longer listen to God's voice and when something or someone other than God possesses our heart; otherwise the life of the just is always in God's hands.

It is important to notice that God did not remove them from the fire but entered the fire with them and they were unharmed by it. When we encounter difficulties, God enters into our difficulties with us and gives us the strength to overcome it. He does not remove the problems but gives us the courage and the grace to face them.

As we get closer to the Passion Week, may God give us the grace to see Him in our difficult moments. May God bless you all.

Day 30: “Why did you bring us out of Egypt to die in this wilderness? For there is neither bread nor water here; we are sick of this unsatisfying food?” – Numbers 21: 4 – 9

This is unbelievable. The people of Israel craving for a life of slavery after they were delivered from their cruel masters in Egypt? What is it about the human person that makes us want to go back to a life that has stolen almost everything from us? You find an alcoholic stretching to grab a shot of liquor after he has been told that his life is on the line. You find a married man flirting with other women when he knows that his married life is hitting rock-bottom. You find a woman searching for a cigarette after she had been told that one more puff will kill her. Why do we keep going back to what can destroy us?

Are we sick of our life with God? Do we find our life with God unsatisfying? Is God sufficient for us? We cannot know if God will satisfy us when we have not given God everything. We cannot follow God and love him out of convenience; we have to love God completely and give Him everything. In our relationship with God, there needs to be a complete gift and exchange of self.#

The Israelite seemed to have forgotten what they went through in the land of slavery, and they seemed to have also forgotten what the Lord did to get them out of there. To forget our journey is not to appreciate how far we have travelled and what the Lord has done with and for us. To forget is to die as if we never lived.

May God give us the grace to remember what the Lord has done and is doing for us and the courage to give God our everything.

Day 29: The Dilemma of Susanna – Daniel 13: 1 – 62

The wicked elders gave Susanna two choices: First, sleep with us and we would not tell anyone about it and you will still be considered as an honourable wife and true daughter of Israel; or secondly, if you refuse to sleep with us we will tell everyone that you are a prostitute and that we caught you with another man in the very act of adultery and you will be condemned to death as a prostitute and you will lose your honour and your life. If you were Susanna what would you do?

Her sense of self was not dependent on what would people say about her or how people felt toward her. Her commitment to God and to her husband had no price. She was not willing to be unfaithful even at the price of her life and her honour. She was ready to be rejected by her husband and condemned to death for being a prostitute than for her to defile her body.

She had discovered the pearl of great price and was not willing to give it away for anything. Have you found that treasure that you are willing to give everything away for? Susanna found God and her relationship with God was greater than honour and greater than life. Is there anything more important to us than our relationship with God?

May God bless you

Day 28: “Would the Christ be from Galilee? Does not the scripture say that the Christ must be descended from David...?” - John 7: 40-52.

We do not see nor find God because we know where to look. This is a saying from a very wise man and he is right. We have so dressed God in our attires and customs and attitudes and pronounced vehemently that for God to be God, God has to appear in these attires or customs or with these attitudes. God's action has to fit within our own categories. These were the sins of the Pharisees-the sin of blindness. It is the sin of not allowing God to be God; the sin of believing that God can no longer surprise us; the sin of believing that we know who God ultimately is.

The Pharisees killed the promised messiah because they claim to know how he should be and how he should appear. But when God acted as God, they crucified the messiah because God was expected to act not as God but as man.

We do the same thing as the Pharisees did. Sometimes we pray for a shoe and when God gives us an umbrella because of an approaching storm we claim He does not care for us. God gives us more than we can ever ask for or need and yet we reject his gifts and demand for our poison. We need to allow God to be God and trust in His time and gifts. We need to give God the chance to surprise us. We need to trust in God's vision for us.

We often do not see God or sometimes feel His absence because we think we know how God looks like or where God should appear or how God must appear. St. Augustine beautifully claims, describing his encounter with God in these words: “He touched me and I yearned for His embrace.”

Let us give God the chance to touch us. Let us give God the chance to surprise us in God's own way and in God's own time.

May God bless you all.

Day 27: Goodness and virtues on trial – Wisdom 2:1, 12-22

Would goodness, and kindness and virtues change or die when crushed by cruelty and by evil? Would goodness remain good no matter what it encounters? Sometimes we feel like changing our habits and attitudes based on the response we get from others. Whenever my politeness is received with brutish anger and sarcasm do I remain polite or prudently become sarcastic? Whenever my charitable gestures are met with exploitation and ingratitude, do I remain charitable or become suspiciously cautious? Do I allow the evil that confronts my goodness to change me?

In Jesus, goodness and virtues were on trial. He did all things well and yet they wanted to kill him. Will this crippling ingratitude dissuade him from being God's son or from loving those waiting for the chance to condemn him to death? He will love until the end.

In each of us, goodness and virtues will also be on trial. Our resolve will be tested. Our hope, our faith and our love in God will be stretched to its limit. Our soul will experience dark nights that depicts a seeming absence of God. We will feel abandoned and alone. But will goodness and virtues win this trial?## May God give us the grace and strength to remain faithful no matter the price. May God bless you all!

 

Day 26: They have been quick to leave the way I marked out for them – Exodus 32: 7-14

The Lord divided the sea in two; He changed water to blood; He pulled water from a rock; He did unimaginable feats to deliver His people Israel. So why were they quick to leave the Lord? Why did they forget so easily what the Lord had done for them?

These questions are also for us. The Lord has been faithful to us in our lives. He has also protected us from many dangers. He has been there when others walked away from us. If this is true, why then are we quick to walk away from the Lord? When we walk away, we live as if these miraculous deeds of God’s presence in our lives never happened. We live as if creation never happened. We live as if we have no eyes or ears or nose or mouth. We live as if we never took our first step. We live as if we never utter our first word. We live as if life never happened. And we die without living at all.## Today I ask for the grace to never forget what the Lord has done for me and to remember them with gratitude. I make this prayer for you also. May God bless you.

Day 25: I will never forget you – Isaiah 49: 8 – 15

Does a woman forget her baby at the breast, or fail to cherish the son of her womb? Yet even if these forget, I will never forget you. This is the kind of relationship God wants with us. It is the relationship deeper than that of a mother and a child. Because no matter what happens the Lord will NEVER forget us. This is the kind of relationship that Jesus brought to his people. It is a relationship where everyone sees God as Father. This was too much for his people to hear. They never believed that God could love them that much. So instead of the dead to hear the voice of the Lord and live, they killed the voice so as to remain in their grave. The Son cannot die and his voice cannot be silent. May his voice raised us from our graves and make us to never forget that the Lord will never forget us!## May God bless you.

Day 24: Wherever the river flows, the sea is made fresh, all living creature teeming in it live, fish is plentiful, health is present, trees and its fruit remain ever green and never fails, because this water comes from the sanctuary. - Ezekiel 47:1-9,12.

The sanctuary is the presence of God in our lives. We are all God's sanctuary. Now what flows out of our lives is so important. Does the river, the attitude, the behavior, the faith, the love that is indicative of our relationship with God bring forth healing? Are our lives like the river that flows from the sanctuary as described by Ezekiel or are our lives like a hurricane that brings forth destruction along its path. Our relationship with God is judged by how we live and by the nature of the river that flows from our sanctuary. May the presence of God in our lives bring forth healing and peace and love and joy to all those that we will encounter. 

May God bless you all.

Day 23: “Go home,” said Jesus “your son will live.” The man believed what Jesus had said and started on his way … - John 4:43-54.

Can I trust God with what is most important to me? Can I place my life and lives of those I love in God's hands? The only assurance that God gives us that He will save us from our present predicament is that He is faithful. The man whose son was at the point of death did not ask for assurance but started on his way home, when Jesus told him that his son will live. He trusted the Lord.

Do you trust the Lord that much? Do you believe that the promises the Lord made to you will be fulfilled no matter what? If the Lord were to ask you to step out of the boat and to walk on the sea toward him would you do it? If you were blind and the Lord were to ask you to hold his hand as He takes you through the streets of Nairobi, Lagos or a very busy city, would you allow him and trust in him and would your heart be at rest during the walk?

There is no other way to be happy and to find peace than to trust and obey the Lord. May the Lord give us the courage to believe in him. May God bless you all!

 

4th Sunday of Lent: Spiritual Blindness – John 9: 1 – 41



Are you awake? Are you blind? Are you groping in the dark when there is light all around you? These are questions that I ask myself constantly. For though He came that we might have life and have it in abundance, many choose to die without living at all. This is the result of spiritual blindness.

Spiritual blindness reminds me of two stories that exposes our human condition. The first is the story of a homeless man whose body was found in a cold winter night close to an unlit fireplace. By his body was thousands of half burnt $100 bills. He had burnt over $5,000,000 trying to keep himself warm and all the while thinking that he was burning pieces of old newspapers. The burnt “papers” could not keep him warm, and so he died of cold. When we are spiritually blind, what is most valuable would be most useless to us. I guess the homeless man would have be cursing God when his fire went out not knowing that his poor fuel made up of $5,000,000 could have bought him a house. He was blind to the value of what he was burning away. Am I like that? Am I blind to what I have? Am I burning away my gifts?

The second story is of a young lady, whose beauty would take your breath away. Every young lady wanted to be like her. She had a wonderful education and an enviable job. She was saved from committing suicide. She had been sleeping with many men because she had a low self esteem and wanted to feel desirable and loved. She moved around with uneducated hoodlums and drunkards because she felt that an educated and a responsible would not find her attractive. She was blind to her beauty. How could someone whom every lady wants to look like feel undesirable? How could a lady whom many men pray to God that she might look their way have a low self esteem. She was blind.



The Pharisees in today's gospel were also blind to the healing presence of God in the life of a man born blind. They were blind to the presence of the Messiah. They were blind to the answer of the prayers of Israel for the one who will make all things new. They were blind to the actualization of their dreams. They were blind and therefore dead.

Jesus asked the blind man to go and wash himself in the pool of Siloam. That is what we are called to do. We have to wash ourselves and open our eyes to who we are and who we are called to be. We need to wake up from our sleep and rise from our deaths. Our night is over. Our darkness is gone. Spend some time during this season of Lent and experience the newness that the sacrament of reconciliation brings. Take a whole week preparing your heart for it.



Today I pray for all mothers. I pray for my mum and for yours. Mothers are one of God's unique blessings, blessings that we are often blind to. May God bless all mothers today as we celebrate Mother's day (in Nigeria) with joy that nothing can take away! May God bless you all!

 

Day 22: "I thank you, God, that I am not grasping, unjust, adulterous like the rest of mankind." - Lk 18: 9-14

We spend a lot of time comparing ourselves with others. We want someone's life, job, success, dreams and every other things that does not belong to us. Sometimes we condemn and criticize others to justify ourselves and gloat over our successes by condescending others. In this path, there is no growth, no love, no peace and no joy.

The Lord calls us to look within ourselves, and like the tax collector, open our hearts to the healing presence of God. We should be able to ask ourselves certain questions and be true to the answers we give. Is the door to my heart open for God to come in? Is my heart soft enough for God to mold me? Are my eyes open enough to see goodness and opportunities around me? Is my tongue loose enough to bring good news to others and praise to God or is it heavy with malice and lies? We need God and so we pray.

We pray so that we might see what God sees when God looks at our world. We pray so that we might have the courage to love the way God loves. We pray so that we might find and live a purposeful life. We pray because without God we can do nothing. We pray because without God our hearts are and will remain restless. These were the reasons the tax collector prayed. He found healing. He found God. The Pharisees, on the other hand, found nothing but himself.

Why do you pray and how do you pray? May God teach us and help us to pray.

Day 21: I am like a cypress ever green, all your fruitfulness comes from me. - Hosea 14:2-10

Where does your joy come from? Where does your success come from? Where does your peace come from? Where does your happiness come from? If any of these comes from things or persons, then you have every reason to be afraid and to be worried.

No human being or thing can give your lasting peace, joy, happiness or success. Everything we have that comes from human beings or things will end and fade.

The Lord reminds us through the words of Prophet Hosea that He is like a cypress ever green, and that all our fruitfulness comes from Him. We should never allow ourselves to forget this. God is the source of all our joys, peace, happiness and success. All these are His gifts. We get all the gifts that adorn our lives from God's never-exhaustive storehouse.

When we love God with all our heart, with all our mind and with all our strength, and when we remain connected with Him, we will become like an ever-flowing stream, like an ever-green cypress, our joys, our peace, our happiness and our successes will never end, because our fruitfulness will flow from the Lord.

May God keep us ever connected to Him.

Day 20: O that today you would listen to his voice! Harden not your hearts – Psalm 94:1-2, 6-9

Do I hear or listen to the Lord's voice in the course of my day? Do I sought after the voice of the Lord like a drowning man gasping for air? Am I content with hearing other voices other than the voice of the Lord?

Our world and our society are drowning in many voices and noise. Do I recognize the Lord's voice in the midst of all these voices? Hearing the Lord's voice is critical, because it is the first step towards living a purposeful life. 'How I wish,' the psalmist exclaims, 'that you would listen to his voice.'

The second step towards living a purposeful life is to allow the voice of the Lord to penetrate our hearts. God's message should touch our vulnerability, it should examine our wounds, it should disturb our comfortableness, it should stir our waters, it should confront our fears, it should unmask our shame, and it should permeate every aspect of our lives.

To allow the voice of God to accompany us is to never allow ourselves to walk alone in our journey of life.

Find time to listen to the Lord. Allow yourself to recognize the Lord's voice in the events of your life. And when you hear His voice, do not be afraid to open your heart.

May God continue to bless your life with His soothing and comforting voice. 

 Day 19: Remember and tell … Deuteronomy 4:1, 5-9

We all have testimonies of God coming to our rescue. We have all noticed the faithfulness of God in our lives. To be even able to read this reflection is enough evidence that God has cared for us and has always protected us. The worst thing that can happen to us is to live and fret as if God has never being faithful. Sometimes we are like children that weep and scream whenever a storm comes forgetting that they are in a very secure apartment. Yet this happens to us almost always. Are you in a difficult situation? Do you have a serious problem and you have no idea of how to get out of it? Are you fretting and anxious about it? Are you already asking God why this is happening to you? Have you forgotten that God is always faithful and that He has proven to you that with Him all things are possible?

Knowing how easy it is for the people of Israel to forget the wonderful things that God had done in their lives, Moses instructed them thus: “Do not forget the things you eyes have seen, nor let them slip from your heart all the days of your life; rather, tell them to your children and to your children's children.”

It is important to have something symbolic to remind you of God's faithfulness. For me, it is the sun. Whenever it shines, I say to myself, God is faithful. Also throughout these remaining days of Lent, whenever I wake up, my first word would be “God is faithful!”

What will be for you a symbolic reminder of God's faithfulness? Find something you see everyday and let it remind you of this. By this, creation becomes a sacrament.

So my dear friends, no matter the clouds in your sky, the tears in your eyes, the fears in your heart and the problems in your hands, never forget, GOD IS FAITHFUL.

May God bless you.

Day 18: “I am the handmaid of the Lord,” said Mary “let what you have said be done to me.” - Lk 1:26-28

Life comes with a lot of surprises and challenges. Sometimes we are not prepared for these challenges and surprises. The events of our lives are often shrouded in mystery; we do not know how it will all end. When we feel tired and confused and helpless by life's events and problems, where do we run to and what do we do? We can scream, struggle, and give up in the darkness that our not knowing brings or we can hold on to the arms of the one that knows the way no matter how dark and uncertain our lives have become. “I am the handmaid of the Lord; let what you have said be done to me.” Can I say and trust in these words whenever life throws its challenges and problems at me? Mary said these words, not knowing what the future holds for her. But she was comforted because the one that calls her knows the way. I must imagine that she said these words again as she looked at her son hanging on a tree and as she carries his dead body in her arms.

I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word. May God give us the courage to say these words every day of our lives.

Day 17: “My Father, if the prophet had asked you to do something difficult, would you not have done it?” - 2 King 5:1 – 15

Naaman the Syrian was angry because the Prophet Elisha asked him to do something so easy and insignificant as a cure for something so insurmountable. How can he jump into an insignificant Jordan?

Sometimes we think that the answer to very difficult situation is found in the extraordinary. Sometimes we even think that to find an answer or a solution to a very difficult problem, we need to suffer and decipher an encrypted message from God. The answer to the difficulties in life is found in the realities that we encounter everyday. It is in ordinariness of life.We should never take anything for granted, because embedded in what is most familiar and most ordinary is the transforming magic of life.

If we are able to engage the ordinariness of our lives with extraordinary passion, then we will find answers, graces, blessings and breakthroughs along the corridors of our worst problems and deepest fears.

May God give us the grace to value the common River Jordans of our lives and the patience to allow ourselves to experience their magic.

Day 16: Who is God? - Luke 15: 1-3, 11-32

The answer we give to this question matters and determines the kind of life that we will live. The answer we give also determines if there will be a shelter for us when the storm of life gets heavier and dangerous. When you pray, to whom do you pray to? When you close your eyes and fall on your knees and say 'God', what image comes to your mind?

In the above scriptural text from today's gospel, the tax collectors and the sinners were all seeking the company of Jesus to hear what he had to say, and the Pharisees and the scribes complained. 'This man' they said 'welcomes sinners and eats with them'. If he were a man of God he would be with us and not with the sinners. Does God welcome sinners and eats with them? They were asking the question, 'who is God?' Jesus answers this question with a parable. Many have called this parable, the parable of the prodigal son. But this parable is about the Father, not the children. It is the parable of the forgiving Father.

Our world is so afraid of the Forgiving Father and so focuses more on the prodigal son and on the unforgiving brother. But this parable gives us the most important gift that Jesus gave to the world – God. This is a gift of a Father that rushes towards us, that embraces us, that kisses us, that places the ring of relationship around our finger, before we present our speech of how we have offended him by our waywardness. Are we worth this much? Are we that lovable? How do we deal with a God that has infinite love, faith and hope in us? The Pharisees and Scribes could not bear to have a God that loves this much. Can we?

If God forgives us this easily, wouldn't this be a license to continue in our sins always hoping that after all God will forgive us? To think this way is not to understand what sin does to us. Would anyone set himself or herself on fire because there is a fire extinguisher by his or her side? The Lord knows how the flame of sin disfigures our beauty and the pain and anguish it brings to our heart and so rushes towards us to bring us healing and peace.

Our God is searching for us. Our God is waiting us. Our God is rushing towards us with arms open wide. Our speech may have been planned and rehearsed and we may have planned to be a slave in our Father's house after our sins and failures. But God embraces us and calls us, 'My Child'.

This is Jesus' greatest gift to us – the revelation of God.

Day 15: The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone – Matthew 21: 33-43, 45-46

We have dreams or goals in our lives. Importantly we are God's dream and hope for our world. And as a dream, we are like a building that God is constructing through and with the events of our life. Each of these events are like stones that make up the house or the dream. We should never take any of our experiences in life for granted, because that experience may be the cornerstone; that is, the particular event that makes all our dreams come through. Joseph's experiences of betrayal by his brothers, slavery and time in Egypt are his own 'cornerstone'. These experiences were painful and yet he remained faithful to who he was called to be. He did not reject his experiences or became bitter, but transformed them and became blessed.

Every event in our life is a kernel with something to offer. Since we will never know which event will be the cornerstone, let us never allow any event to go without benefiting from it.

May God bless you with His dream, which is beyond all human understanding!

Day 14: “Blindness to goodness around and within me...” - Jeremiah 17:5-10

A curse on the man who puts his trust in man, who relies on things of flesh, whose heart turns from the Lord. He is like dry shrub in the wasteland: if good comes, he has no eyes for it, he settles in the parched places of the wilderness, a salt land, uninhabited. - Jeremiah 17.

In life, we can either rely on God or on man, the flesh or our self. The choice not to rely on God is the definition of sin. If we rely on man, the flesh or our self, our life we become a hell, a wasteland where nothing that is beautiful grows. We will become like a chief mourner in a joyous celebration. We will always see obstacles, temptations, sadness, problems, and darkness in life. We will have no eyes for goodness when it comes to us. We will be blind to every blessings and beauty that come our way. This is what sin brings, and it is what it promises. This is the consequence of not trusting in God.

Those who trust and rely on God are like trees by the waterside that thrust their roots to the stream. When the heat comes, they feel no alarm; their leaves stay green. They never worry in the year of drought and never cease to bear fruit. Would you not want to be like this? Would you not want to pass through life with your life in the loving and secure palms of God?

Let remain closely connected to God. In him lies are security, our purpose and our peace. May God bless you!

Day 13: Solemnity of St. Joseph, husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary – Matthew 1:16,18-21,24

What can we learn from St. Joseph? For St. Joseph, nothing and no one was more important to him than God. God was his everything. He trusted God completely. God was more important to Joseph than God's promises and blessings. We can learn trust and pure love from St. Joseph. Think about this, he was a husband of a woman who remained a virgin. What a devotion! What a love! For a society and a generation that have equated love to sex, Joseph's life redeems love and extols sex and purity.

Our level or measure of trust is seen in our ability to leave what is most precious to us in the hands of the one we claim to trust. Can we leave what is most precious to us in the hands of God?

As a form of exercise, I want you to write down a list of what is most precious to you. When you are done, take each of them to God and say, “Lord, I place this in your hand, done with this whatever you wish.”

As you do this, monitor how you feel. Do you feel liberated or anxious?

May His will be done in our lives and may we have the courage to say “Amen” to this prayer.

Day 12: come let us talk it over. Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are as red as crimson, they shall be like wool – Isaiah 1:10, 16 – 20

You rulers of Sodom, you people of Gomorrah, come let us talk this over. Sodom and Gomorrah symbolise the height of moral degradation. It represents the complete dehumanisation of a person. So, it is to those who feel completely lost that the Lord refers these words to. To those who feel completely broken that all they see in themselves are shattered dreams, haunting shame and litanies of regret, the Lord says come. To those who feel so lost, so confused, and so blind that they do not know how to find their way back home, the Lord says come. To those who feel helpless in the face of sin and to those who find it hard to forgive themselves, the Lord says come.

Come let us talk it over, He says. Come let us see how we can get you back on your feet. Come let us take all these shame and sins and regrets away. Though your sins seem so great and so unforgivable, I will wipe your heart clean and give you a new start. Though you may seem so disfigured by sin, I will make you so beautiful that angels will gasp with admiration at you. I will give you a new beginning.

We cannot be too lost that God cannot find us. We cannot be too broken, too bad, too sinful that God cannot save us. I will make you as white and spotless as snow, He says to us when we are all covered with the blood and stain of sin and the stench of shame. I will make you as white as snow. Can I still be made white? Can my spots go away? Can I find my innocence? Can I begin afresh? To these questions, the Lord says 'YES'.

We have a God that never gives up on us. So, never give up on yourself or on others. Let today be our new beginning, our rebirth. Today the Lord breathes new life into us. May we be filled with the Holy Spirit that brings abundant life and grace.

Day 11: Be compassionate as your heavenly Father is compassionate – Luke 6:36 – 38

Be compassionate to whom? During these days of Lent, let us try to show compassion to someone that is often neglected by us – ourselves. Be compassionate to you. Do not condemn yourself. Do not judge yourself. Show kindness, love and compassion to yourself as a mother would to her only child.

Be kind to your body. Be kind to your mind. Be kind to your spirit. We become what we eat, what we read, who and what we spend most of our time with. During these days, let us spend more time with God and with ourselves. Let us not beg for food and water because we have forgotten that the key to the storehouse of food, riches and wealth is in our pocket.

The human heart is a storehouse of unimaginable wealth because God is there; let us spend some time there.

Show yourself some compassion and kindness today. May God bless you!

2nd Sunday of Lent: Do you trust God enough? – Genesis 12: 1 – 4

During this second week of Lent, let us truthfully ask ourselves if we trust God enough? Are we willing to leave everything for God? Are we willing to follow God wherever He leads? God asked Abram to leave his homeland, his family and his father's house for a land that He will show him. Abram did. He left everything without knowing the land that God will direct him to or how far it will be. Do you trust God enough to act like Abram did? If you were Abram's wife or child would you agree to sell all you have and follow your 75 year old father to a land he claims God will show him? Can you trust God without asking for a sign.

Jesus trusted God completely without asking for a sign. Can we do the same?

May God help us to trust Him completely.

Day 10: They are happy who follow God’s law – Psalm 118

Here lies the source of all joy, all happiness, all comfort and all meaning. When we follow God’s law, we will shine like bright stars. It is our attitudes, our habits, our way of life that set us apart. In following God’s law we become God’s dream. When we follow God’s law, we experience a joy, a love, and a meaning that no human mind can ever envision or comprehend. And God’s law that we should love as God loves reminds us that we are our Father sons and daughters and that we should be like our Father. They are happy who follow God’s law. Do you want to be Happy? Follow God’s law no matter the cost.

Dear God, help us to follow your laws.

Day 9: Forgive me Lord for I have sinned - Ezekiel 18: 21 – 28

Whenever we fail or fall we say this very profound words: “forgive me Lord for I have sinned against you.” By our sins, we offend a God who is all loving and all kind and all compassionate. Some times, this idea may extend to this other idea. When I do good, God rewards me and when I do evil, God punishes me. My life will be called blessed if all the good things that I have done surpasses the bad. This way of thinking is to misunderstand the effects of goodness and the effects of sin in our lives.

When we sin, we break God's heart, because we destroy ourselves, we hurt ourselves and we dehumanize ourselves. So when we sin, we need to forgive ourselves as well, for the harm that we do to ourselves. We are not only doing God a favor by being good; we are doing ourselves a favor. Do you eat a food you enjoy, a food that is good for you, because you want your parents to reward you? Do you read a book you enjoy or watch a wonderful movie because you want a reward from your friend? Why then do we do good hoping to receive a reward from God. Goodness allows the beauty in us to blossom. Doing a good deed is itself a reward. In doing good we become you we are meant to be.

Similarly, when we sin, we destroy ourselves. The act of sin is itself a punishment. Would you starve yourself and blame God for your hunger? Would you stab yourself with a knife and blame God for your pain and loss of blood. The wages or the reward of sin is death.

A man once said to God, “dear God, I have lived for 20 years without alcohol, without any hard drugs, and I have lived a chaste man for these years. Lord you have to give me a break. For the next 5 years I will drink all kinds of liquor, I will experience the euphoria of cocaine and heroin, and I will have sex with 10 women.” He died 3 years later. What killed him? Who punished him? Why didn't his 20 years of goodness save him from these recklessness?

The complaint in the book of Ezekiel is only possible when we see goodness as a hard work that need a reward. Goodness rather is a way of life called happiness.

May Good give us the grace to desire goodness and the wisdom to hate sin. 

Day 8: Ask, Seek, Knock – Matthew 7:7-12

If you know and believe that if you ask you will receive, what then would you ask for? If you know and believe that if you seek you will find, what then would you search for? If you know that if you knock, the door will be opened for you, then on whose door would you knock? The answers we give to these questions tell a story of who we are. They paint a picture of what is most important to us.

If we were asked to request for just one thing, what would that be? Would we know what to ask for?

Have we found that which we are willing to giving everything away for? May God give us the grace to know our true treasure. May God bless you all!

Day 7: In 40 days Nineveh will be destroyed – Jonah 3: 1 -10

When sin lives in us, it is only a matter of time before we are destroyed. Nineveh was an exceedingly great city. But no kingdom, no matter how great and pure, can live or exist with sin as its master. The essence of sin is to destroy what is most noble and most true in us. When sin holds our reins or sit in the driver’s seat of our lives, we get noticeable signs before destruction. What are these signs? Are you always angry at everything and everyone? Do you find live boring and meaningless? Do you find it difficult to forgive? Do you find it so difficult to be happy and to enjoy yourself? Do you find prayer a very difficult and boring obligation? Do you feel like a stranger in your own skin? Do you feel so afraid and alone? Do you find it so difficult to stop sinning? Do you feel depressed and unforgivable? Do you feel that God can no longer look at you?

If we have any of these signs then we are invited to do what the people of Nineveh did. There are no other signs that will be given to us.

Christ came that we might have life and have it in abundance. Sin came that we might have death and experience it in abundance. So let us ask for the grace today to see sin for what it truly is, to hate sin and to keep away from sin.

During these days of prayer let us ask the Lord to teach us how to reclaim and restore what was stolen and destroyed by sin. May God’s mercy and compassion save us from sin.

Day 6: Be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy – Leviticus 19:1-2, 11-18

What is God saying to us? What does this mean? Let us slowly read those words again: “Be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy”. The Lord is pointing our destiny to us. The Lord is showing us who we are. We are not slaves of sin. We are not mere flesh and bones. We are not just travellers, visitors or members of this planet. We are God’s children. Our Father is holy, and so should we. An eagle’s child cannot be a chicken. That is why in 1 Cor 2: 9 He says, “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived -- the things God has prepared for those who love him.” The human mind cannot conceive who we are; it is beyond our biggest dream.

Holiness is our primary vocation; it is our first mission. Our holiness is seen in the stories that our lives tell. Our lives should tell stories of trust, of kindness, of hope, of goodness, and of forgiveness.

Holiness is our gift, it is our calling and it is our mission. It is an openness to the mercy and the grace of God. It is to remain planted in God.

May God make us Holy.

Day 5: Temptations: Why do I sin? - Genesis 2:7-9, 3:1-7; Matthew 4:1-11

The evils and calamities of our world and time compel us to ask a deep and personal question: What happened to us? Have we always been this way? Were we created broken? How are we capable of bringing unimaginable harm to others? Why do we commit sin?

Every sin or evil begins with a temptation. We will all face temptation. The temptation of Adam and Eve and the temptation of Jesus help us to understand sin and how we can stand against it.

In the book of Genesis, when God created man, He breathes into him the breath of life, and man became a living being. What makes us a living being is the breath or the Spirit of God within us. That is the very thing we cannot live without. In the temptation in the garden, Eve was told by the serpent that if she tastes the forbidden fruit she would become like God. But Eve was already like God, for the breath of God resided in her. She was tempted to become what she already is. Temptation belittles us and then promises to give us what we already possess. Eve was tempted to trust in someone or something other than God. She was tempted to create for herself through her own effort what she had already received as a gift – the image of God. The choice of the created over the creator by Adam and Eve left a God-hole within the heart of man and woman. A hole that can only be filled by God and God alone. But because we now depend on other things: wealth, pleasure, profession, family, pride and creatures, we are left incomplete, dissatisfied and craving. No amount of created things can fill a God-hole. Because of this insatiable-ness, we begin to steal from one another, to kill one another, to destroy one another, and to betray one another in order to feel complete. A world that looks elsewhere other than God in order to fill its God-hole will never know peace, or love, or hope or joy. A God-hole can swallow all the wealth of our galaxy. That is why a man or a woman can steal from everyone and amass enormous wealth from oppressing others and yet not feel satisfied or complete.

In today Gospel, the Lord taught us how to deal with temptation. Let us spend some time looking at how he did it. One thing was clear for Jesus. God is the only one that can satisfied his longing. God was his everything. He had no doubt about this and he did not need any proof of this. No amount of food, no amount of power, and no amount of wealth can satisfy the human heart. Jesus took back for us what we gave away through the choices of Adam and Eve.

What we are, can never be bought by all the riches, pleasures and promises of our galaxy. We are priceless. May we never lose our sense of worth. The breath of God resides in us.

May God bless you all!

Day 4: I have come for the sick, for the broken, and for sinners. Luke 5:27-32

Success, strength, faithfulness and health are attractive gifts, traits or virtues. Most times, I desire these for myself. I also find it easy and attractive to mingle with and move with people who are successful, strong, faithful and healthy. Who wants to mingle with failure, with the weak, with sinners or with the sick? He does.

Our world is so afraid of failing that it often prefers not to try, not to live; we are so so afraid of being weak, of being incomplete, of being broken. And yet the Lord does not run away from us when we fail, when we are weak, when we are unfaithful, and when we are sick. Rather, the Lord runs towards us. He comes to us in our failures, in our sinfulness, in our weakness and in our sickness to make us whole. We can never be too broken not to be saved; neither can we be too lost that the Lord cannot find us.

The Lord never gives up on us. He knows that what is broken and in ruin can be restored. He knows that what is lost can be found. He knows that what is dead can live. If the Lord believes this much in us then let us try to never give up on ourselves and to believe in what God can do with and in us. 

Take some time to read about God's promises to you in Isaiah 58:9-14. May we give God the chance to heal our brokenness, our unfaithfulness, our sickness, and our untrustworthiness of God and of ourselves. May God bless us!

Day 3: Is that what you call fasting? – Isaiah 58: 1 – 9

No one loses weight by accumulating dozens of fitness videos or gain knowledge by filling ones shelf with books. We lose weight by doing, not only watching what we see in the fitness videos, and we gain knowledge not by dusting our books but by reading them.

We cannot expect to experience a change in our lives if we keep doing the same things in the same ways. The kind of transformation we will experience during this season of Lent depends on the changes we bring in our way of life during this time. Do we pray more now than before? Do we smile more now than before? Are we kinder now than before? Do we try more now to be forgiving than before? Are we more generous now than before? Are we more peaceful and less quarrelsome now than before?

Prophet Isaiah reminds his people that they cannot claim to be fasting if they have not made changes in their lives. We cannot claim to be fasting if our life still remains a bad news to others. To fast without changing our lives, without caring for the poor, and the sick and the oppressed, is like going to have a bath with our raincoat on. We will never get wet or clean or refreshed. So for this Lent, to make a lasting impression on our lives, we need to make a change in the way we live. We have to bring something new in our lives. This could be praying more or visiting the sick more or reading the scripture more or smiling more or trusting more.

Throughout today let us continue to look at the Lord, because we know who we are by looking at him. May God bless us today!

Day 2: Today I set before you, life and prosperity, death and disaster. Choose – Deut 30: 15 -20.

What is it in my heart that make me to choose death and disaster over life and prosperity? What makes me to desire sin, when I know its wages is death, over keeping the commandments of God, a commandment that gives me peace? Why do I choose to be planted in a desert over being planted near a stream? Why do I choose anger over gentleness, revenge over forgiveness, hatred over love, sin over grace?

Have convenience and pleasure become the symbol or sign of what is good for me? Sin and hatred comes to us every day with a proposal: “I will give some seconds of convenience and pleasure for an eternity of pain and despair now and always, deal?” How can my heart say yes to this?

Jesus tells us in Luke 9:22-25 that “he is destined to suffer grievously, to be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, to be put to death, and to be raised up on the third day.” He then invites us to take up our own cross and to follow him. Do I want the life of Jesus? Do I want to live the way that he lived? He suffered grievously. He was rejected. He was put to death. He was raised. But there was no one that ever lived that was more alive than Jesus, that was happier than Jesus, and that was more fulfilled than Jesus. Do I want to live like him even if it means that I have to also suffer grievously?

Dear God help us to want to live like your son. Help us to always remember the proposals of evil – seconds of convenience for an eternity of pain and death. Help us to know that the price of evil and sin is too expensive for any human heart to pay. Help us today to choose life through all our choices.

May God bless us all! We know who we are by looking at the Lord!

Day 1: Ash Wednesday: Rend your heart! - Joel 2: 12 – 18

Today we begin a journey of 40 days. This is an adventure and a mission into the most familiar and yet the most mysterious part of humanity. It is a journey with God into ourselves, into our very heart. The question of who we really are, what we really want, where we really want to be, why we feel what we feel, where our fears come from, what gives us deepest peace and joy, and the source of our happiness is asked and answered in this familiarly mysterious place - our hearts. And so we begin this journey with a command, “Rend your heart!” But where is our heart? Can we find our heart? Do we still remember or know the way that leads to our heart?

Our journey begins with the 'Ash'. The ash tells a story, a story of that which no longer is, of that which has been consume and destroyed by flame. Our past mistakes, our broken dreams and promises, our fears and uncertainties, our addictions, our un-forgiveness, and our shame. Someone else has taken all these upon himself and so they are no longer ours. The Son of God takes our place and receives the sentence and wages of our sin that we might be free to take this journey towards grace.

Let us spend some time getting to know this Son of God. He is the WAY. During these 40 days I will be spending time with our Lord by going through the gospel of Luke, and I know that when I find him, I will find myself. We know who we are by looking at the Lord.

May these 40 days be days of grace and blessings for us and may the gentle and creative fingers of God keep us ever beautiful and ever true. God bless you!

 

 

 

 

 

NOVENA IN THANKSGIVING FOR THE 200TH ANNIVERSARY

OF THE RESTORATION OF THE SOCIETY OF JESUS

 

NOVENA DAY 9

7 August, 2014

 

THANKSGIVING FOR THE REESTABLISHMENT OF THE SOCIETY OF JESUS

 

Forty-one years after its suppression, the Society of Jesus was re-established by Pope Pius VII, on 7th August. The papal Bull, Sollicitudo Omnium Ecclesiarum, extended to the rest of Christendom the rights and privileges granted to the surviving Society in the Russian Empire and in the kingdom of Sicily. Today we celebrate the 200th anniversary of this moment of grace, and we gather to thank the Lord who continues to confirm us as servants of Christ’s mission.

In the name of the Father…….

A suitable hymn may be sung, or the following psalm recited.

Psalm 150

Praise God in His holy place,
praise him in his mighty heavens.
Praise him for His powerful deeds,
Praise his surpassing greatness.

O praise him with sound of trumpet,
praise him with lute and harp.
Praise him with timbrel and dance,
Praise him with strings and pipes.

O praise him with resounding cymbals,
praise him with clashing cymbals.
Let everything that lives and that breathes
Give praise to the Lord.

Glory be….

Scripture Reading (Ephesians 1:3-6).

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.

The Word of the Lord / Thanks be to God.

Brief moment of silence.

From the Tradition of the Church (Sollicitudo Omnium Ecclesiarum)

The Catholic world demands with unanimous voice the re-establishment of the Company of Jesus. We daily receive to this effect the most pressing petitions from our venerable brethren, the archbishops and bishops, and the most distinguished persons, especially since the abundant fruits which this Company has produced in the above countries have been generally known. After having by fervent prayers implored the Divine assistance, after having taken the advice and counsel of a great number of our venerable brothers, the cardinals of the Holy Roman Church, we have decreed, with full knowledge, in virtue of the plenitude of apostolic power, and with perpetual validity, that all the concessions and powers granted by us solely to the Russian empire and the kingdom of the Two Sicilies, shall henceforth extend to all our ecclesiastical states, and also to all other states. We declare, besides, and grant power, that [Jesuits] may freely and lawfully apply to the education of youth in the principles of the Catholic faith, to form them in good morals, and to direct colleges and seminaries; we authorise them to hear confessions, to preach the Word of God, and to administer the sacraments in the places of their residence with the consent and approbation of the ordinary.

Responsory

Be not afraid,
R/: For I will be propitious to you.

Intercessions (may be adapted)

Animator: God has deigned to confirm the Society and bring it back together as servants of Christ’s mission. Let us now implore God’s compassion to accompany us as we seek to discern and to carry out God’s will.

1. Let us pray in thanksgiving for all the graces we have received in the past 200 years;  
All: May God’s providence strengthen our trust in the Lord.

2. Let us pray in thanksgiving for our companions who kept the Society alive during the moments of trial;
All: May our lives inspire more vocations to the Society.

3. Let us pray in gratitude for our collaborators, who, in one way or another, contributed to the re-establishment of the Society.
All: May our labours bear abundant fruit, for the salvation of all.

4. Let us pray in gratitude for the memories of the old and the dreams of the young;
All: May we remain faithful to our tradition and face new challenges with creativity.

5. Let us pray for our brothers and sisters who have gone before us;
All: May they rejoice forever in heaven and intercede for us.

Let us now offer our personal intentions for the novena (brief silence).

Our Father

Novena Prayer

Blessed are you, Lord, who choose
the weak and make them strong,
raise the fallen, heal the wounded
and gather the dispersed back to you.
Renew us with the Spirit who moved
St. Ignatius and his companions to serve
your Son under the standard of the Cross.
Grant us the courage to reach out
to our forgotten brothers and sisters;  
the generosity to open our doors to those
who seek you, and the wisdom to sow
seeds of your Kingdom in the hearts
of all we meet, for the greater
glory of your Name, as we pray… (or sing)

Take Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory,
my understanding, and my entire will,
all that I have and possess.
You have given all to me.
To You, O Lord, I return it.
All is Yours, dispose of it wholly according to Your will.
Give me Your love and Your grace,
for this is sufficient for me.

Conclusion

Animator: Let us bless the Lord;
All: Thanks be to God.

 

 

restoration pic

Magis

Magis is a term that expresses the desire of a Jesuit to go beyond the limits of human capability in achieving the best ever possible for God and humanity. The term reminds Jesuits of the desire to always do things for the greater glory of God even at the cost of one’s life, like Ignatius and his companions were willing to do for God and His Church.

The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius

The Spiritual Exercises, of st. Ignatius, is a book detailing the spiritual steps to understanding one’s Christian calling and also contains guides on how to discern where the Spirit of God is prompting us and to what end. Every Jesuit does a thirty-day retreat some time in the novitiate to discern how he is called and the necessary steps that need to be taken in line with Christ’s example of humbly accepting the Father’s will for Him. At the end of Jesuit formation and before Jesuits are approved for the final vows, which entail full incorporation into the Society, Jesuits go through a period of tertianship, which is similar to a third year in the novitiate. During this period of tertianship, the Jesuit will do the thirty-day retreat on the basis of the Spiritual Exercises in order to discern once more where the Spirit is prompting him to go and what to do for God and His Church.

<< Life of St. Ignatius of Loyola

Spiritual Exercises

All Jesuits have been formed in the spirit of the Spiritual Exercises during their time in the first house of Jesuit formation, the novitiate. The Spiritual Exercises comprises of spiritual guides and suggestions to be practiced by an exercitant (one who is doing a retreat) usually for a period of thirty days. During the period of taking the Spiritual Exercises, the Jesuit exercitant discerns if he actually has a call to be a member of the Society of Jesus from God or whether God is actually calling him to another form of Christian life, such as married life or to another kind of religious order in the Church.

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