Take away the stone

Fifth Sunday of Lent

Question of the Day

Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?

God Helps in the Place of Affliction

How confused and hurt Martha and Mary must have been when they sent word to Jesus that “the one you love is ill,” and he did not come. He was two miles away. Another day passes and Lazarus dies. The grieving begins, and still Jesus has not come. They knew Jesus’ miracles first-hand. They believed he was the long awaited Messiah. They knew his love first-hand, and now they experience his physical absence in their greatest need.

Jesus waits. He waits two more days after hearing the news. God’s timing and plans challenge our faith. He waits so that we may behold the glory of God and the triumph of God’s love for us—for all of us, not just Martha, Mary, and Lazarus.

When Jesus does come, Martha confesses her belief in the resurrection, that she knows her brother will rise again. But the new life Jesus has for us is not just eternal life, but also the new life that begins at baptism and confirmation. The reading from Romans today is clear that the spirit of Christ dwelling in us is a source of life for the here and now.

The name Lazarus means “God is my help” and Bethany means “house of misery or poor house.” Lazarus represents all people who are dead in sin. When Jesus wept, it was for all humanity. In raising Lazarus, Jesus demonstrates that he has come to set each one of us free from slavery to sin and to raise us to new life.

Scriptures of the Day

Old Testament: Ezekial 37:12–14

Thus says the Lord GOD:
O my people, I will open your graves
and have you rise from them,
and bring you back to the land of Israel.
Then you shall know that I am the LORD,
when I open your graves and have you rise from them,
O my people!
I will put my spirit in you that you may live,
and I will settle you upon your land;
thus you shall know that I am the LORD.
I have promised, and I will do it, says the LORD.

Psalm: 130:1–8

Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD;
LORD, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to my voice in supplication.

If you, O LORD, mark iniquities,
LORD, who can stand?
But with you is forgiveness,
that you may be revered.

I trust in the LORD;
my soul trusts in his word.
More than sentinels wait for the dawn,
let Israel wait for the LORD.

For with the LORD is kindness
and with him is plenteous redemption;
And he will redeem Israel
from all their iniquities.

New Testament: Romans 8:8–11

Brothers and sisters:
Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
But you are not in the flesh;
on the contrary, you are in the spirit,
if only the Spirit of God dwells in you.
Whoever does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.
But if Christ is in you,
although the body is dead because of sin,
the spirit is alive because of righteousness.
If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you,
the one who raised Christ from the dead
will give life to your mortal bodies also,
through his Spirit dwelling in you.

Gospel: John 11:1–45

Now a man was ill, Lazarus from Bethany,
the village of Mary and her sister Martha.
Mary was the one who had anointed the Lord with perfumed oil
and dried his feet with her hair;
it was her brother Lazarus who was ill.
So the sisters sent word to him saying,
“Master, the one you love is ill.”
when Jesus heard this he said,
“This illness is not to end in death,
but is for the glory of God,
that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”
Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.
So when he heard that he was ill,
he remained for two days in the place where he was.
Then after this he said to his disciples,
“Let us go back to Judea.”
The disciples said to him,
“Rabbi, the Jews were just trying to stone you,
and you want to go back there?”
Jesus answered,
“Are there not twelve hours in a day?
If one walks during the day, he does not stumble,
because he sees the light of this world.
But if one walks at night, he stumbles,
because the light is not in him.”
He said this, and then told them,
“Our friend Lazarus is asleep,
but I am going to awaken him.”
So the disciples said to him,
“Master, if he is asleep, he will be saved.”
But Jesus was talking about his death,
while they thought that he meant ordinary sleep.
So then Jesus said to them clearly,
“Lazarus has died.
And I am glad for you that I was not there,
that you may believe.
Let us go to him.”
So Thomas, called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples,
“Let us also go to die with him.”

When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus
had already been in the tomb for four days.
Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, only about two miles away.
And many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary
to comfort them about their brother.
When Martha heard that Jesus was coming,
she went to meet him;
but Mary sat at home.
Martha said to Jesus,
“Lord, if you had been here,
my brother would not have died.
But even now I know that whatever you ask of God,
God will give you.”
Jesus said to her,
“Your brother will rise.”
Martha said to him,
“I know he will rise,
in the resurrection on the last day.”
Jesus told her,
“I am the resurrection and the life;
whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live,
and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.
Do you believe this?”
She said to him, “Yes, Lord.
I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God,
the one who is coming into the world.”

When she had said this,
she went and called her sister Mary secretly, saying,
“The teacher is here and is asking for you.”
As soon as she heard this,
she rose quickly and went to him.
For Jesus had not yet come into the village,
but was still where Martha had met him.
So when the Jews who were with her in the house comforting her
saw Mary get up quickly and go out,
they followed her,
presuming that she was going to the tomb to weep there.
When Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him,
she fell at his feet and said to him,
“Lord, if you had been here,
my brother would not have died.”
When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who had come with her weeping,
he became perturbed and deeply troubled, and said,
“Where have you laid him?”
They said to him, “Sir, come and see.”
And Jesus wept.
So the Jews said, “See how he loved him.”
But some of them said,
“Could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man
have done something so that this man would not have died?”

So Jesus, perturbed again, came to the tomb.
It was a cave, and a stone lay across it.
Jesus said, “Take away the stone.”
Martha, the dead man’s sister, said to him,
“Lord, by now there will be a stench;
he has been dead for four days.”
Jesus said to her,
“Did I not tell you that if you believe
you will see the glory of God?”
So they took away the stone.
And Jesus raised his eyes and said,
“Father, I thank you for hearing me.
I know that you always hear me;
but because of the crowd here I have said this,
that they may believe that you sent me.”
And when he had said this,
He cried out in a loud voice,
“Lazarus, come out!”
The dead man came out,
tied hand and foot with burial bands,
and his face was wrapped in a cloth.
So Jesus said to them,
“Untie him and let him go.”

Now many of the Jews who had come to Mary
and seen what he had done began to believe in him.

Mini Homily: Our God turns darkness into light, sin into forgiveness, and death into life

More Questions of the Day

  • What stone in your life needs to be rolled away?
  • Do you desire to be made new?
  • In our suffering, and the seeming absence of love, will we trust that God is working out his plan, and that he can bring a much greater good than our own minds and plans can imagine out of what seems like hopeless situations?

Prayer of the Day

Jesus, I trust in you.

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They forgot the God that saved them

The Importance of Remembering

We are no different than the Jews we meet in the Old Testament reading today. God’s people have grown impatient waiting for Moses to come down from the mountain. They abandon the one true God and quickly turn to false gods. American culture is full of false gods (youth health, sports, sex (or any kind of pleasure), money, power, self/individualism, education, skills, productivity, and convenience to name a few). Lent is a time to recognize and root out the sin that has infested our lives and to return to the one true living God.

Reading scripture helps us remember who God is and all he has done. Psalm 106 invites us to praise God and speaks of God’s mercy. Verse 6 explicitly states that we are sinners, too, just like the Jews who worshiped the golden calf: “we have sinned like our ancestors; we have done wrong and are guilty.”

Our sin and guilt are not the end of the story. We must also remember that through Moses’ intercessory prayer, God abandons his plans, in his Justice, to punish the evil the people have done. The Old Testament, however, is only part of the story.

In the Gospel reading, Jesus reveals who he is: God’s only begotten Son, sent into the world to do the work of God (which is the work of saving us). The Old Testament scriptures speak of Him, yet the Jews do not believe. It is important to remember who God is and all he has done—for all of humanity, and also specifically in our own lives.

Scriptures of the Day

Old Testament: Exodus 32:7–14

The LORD said to Moses,
“Go down at once to your people
whom you brought out of the land of Egypt,
for they have become depraved.
They have soon turned aside from the way I pointed out to them,
making for themselves a molten calf and worshiping it,
sacrificing to it and crying out,
‘This is your God, O Israel,
who brought you out of the land of Egypt!'”
The LORD said to Moses,
“I see how stiff-necked this people is.
Let me alone, then,
that my wrath may blaze up against them to consume them.
Then I will make of you a great nation.”

But Moses implored the LORD, his God, saying,
“Why, O LORD, should your wrath blaze up against your own people,
whom you brought out of the land of Egypt
with such great power and with so strong a hand?
Why should the Egyptians say,
‘With evil intent he brought them out,
that he might kill them in the mountains
and exterminate them from the face of the earth’?
Let your blazing wrath die down;
relent in punishing your people.
Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel,
and how you swore to them by your own self, saying,
‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky;
and all this land that I promised,
I will give your descendants as their perpetual heritage.'”
So the LORD relented in the punishment
he had threatened to inflict on his people.

Psalm: 106:19–20, 21–22, 23

Our fathers made a calf in Horeb
and adored a molten image;
They exchanged their glory
for the image of a grass-eating bullock.

They forgot the God who had saved them,
who had done great deeds in Egypt,
Wondrous deeds in the land of Ham,
terrible things at the Red Sea.

Then he spoke of exterminating them,
but Moses, his chosen one,
Withstood him in the breach
to turn back his destructive wrath.

Gospel: John 5:31–47

Jesus said to the Jews:
“If I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is not true.
But there is another who testifies on my behalf,
and I know that the testimony he gives on my behalf is true.
You sent emissaries to John, and he testified to the truth.
I do not accept human testimony,
but I say this so that you may be saved.
He was a burning and shining lamp,
and for a while you were content to rejoice in his light.
But I have testimony greater than John’s.
The works that the Father gave me to accomplish,
these works that I perform testify on my behalf
that the Father has sent me.
Moreover, the Father who sent me has testified on my behalf.
But you have never heard his voice nor seen his form,
and you do not have his word remaining in you,
because you do not believe in the one whom he has sent.
You search the Scriptures,
because you think you have eternal life through them;
even they testify on my behalf.
But you do not want to come to me to have life.

“I do not accept human praise;
moreover, I know that you do not have the love of God in you.
I came in the name of my Father,
but you do not accept me;
yet if another comes in his own name,
you will accept him.
How can you believe, when you accept praise from one another
and do not seek the praise that comes from the only God?
Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father:
the one who will accuse you is Moses,
in whom you have placed your hope.
For if you had believed Moses,
you would have believed me,
because he wrote about me.
But if you do not believe his writings,
how will you believe my words?”

Questions of the Day

  • God’s people adored a molten calf. What do you adore?
  • Have you forgotten all that God has done for you?
  • How do you do remember God? Do you have set times of prayer each day when you speak to God and listen to his voice?
  • Do you consistently seek God by reading scripture?
  • Do you intercede and plead for God’s mercy on our sinful culture?
  • Do you rejoice in the light of the world?
  • Does God’s word remain in you, or have your false gods blotted it out?
  • Do you seek praise from people or from God?
  • Do you believe Jesus’ words? Will you go to him to have life?

 

Think like a saint, like a champion

Lenten Questions
from Matthew Kelly, Dynamic Catholic

  • Are you wasting life? And are you comfortable wasting your life?
  • How many Sundays do you have left?
  • Do you know anyone in your life who has said “I’m fed up. I’m dissatisfied.” and gone on a radically different path?
  • Do you think about how short life is and how long eternity is?
  • Do we think about heaven? eternity?
  • Do we think about what moments in our life make the difference between what matters most and what matters least?
  • How will we see life differently when we are on the other side?
  • How will we regret the moments we’ve wasted?

Watch Matthew Kelly’s Lenten Video Reflection for March 25

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And why do I think about these things?

My father died when he was 35 years old. He had a massive heart attack that killed him instantly. I was a few weeks away from turning nine, and my sister had just turned eleven. For years the question that plagued me was “did he do all that God had for him in this life?” I don’t remember when I stopped asking that question, but I do know it has been several years now.

What made me stop was not that I had an answer, but, I believe, that my trust in God increased through my spiritual development. My focus shifted from the weight of my (many) questions that would always remain unanswered to living in God’s presence and doing his will in the moment. Not that I always succeed in such a grand endeavor, but the attempt alone supersedes all. Knowing that I can trust God to accomplish the good work he has begun in me, I can also entrust to him my family, friends, and strangers on the street—their beginnings and endings and everything in between, as God has promised to turn everything to good for those who love him.

Some questions I would add to Michael Kelly’s are as follows:

  • What gifts has God given you?
  • How are you investing those gifts for the kingdom of God?
  • Have you sent materials to heaven for your eternal mansion?
  • Are you mostly focused on the building and maintenance of your temporal house?

 

 

 

I forgave your entire debt

First Question of the Day

Is there some offense I don’t have to forgive?

Scripture of the Day

Old Testament: Sirach 28:2–4

Forgive your neighbor the wrong done to you;
then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven.
Does anyone nourish anger against another
and expect healing from the LORD?
Can one refuse mercy to a sinner like oneself,
yet seek pardon for one’s own sins?

Gospel: Matthew 18:21–35

Peter approached Jesus and asked him,
“Lord, if my brother sins against me,
how often must I forgive him?
As many as seven times?”
Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.
That is why the Kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king
who decided to settle accounts with his servants.
When he began the accounting,
a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount.
Since he had no way of paying it back,
his master ordered him to be sold,
along with his wife, his children, and all his property,
in payment of the debt.
At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said,
‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.’
Moved with compassion the master of that servant
let him go and forgave him the loan.
When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants
who owed him a much smaller amount.
He seized him and started to choke him, demanding,
‘Pay back what you owe.’
Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him,
‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’
But he refused.
Instead, he had him put in prison
until he paid back the debt.
Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened,
they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master
and reported the whole affair.
His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant!
I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to.
Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant,
as I had pity on you?’
Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers
until he should pay back the whole debt.
So will my heavenly Father do to you,
unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart.”

Note: Some translations of The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant are more specific about the amount the debtor owed his king: 10,000 talents. “Huge sum” is too easily misunderstood. A laborer earned one denarius for a day’s labor. It would take 15 to 20 years of work to pay back one talent. The point is that the amount is a sum that a man could never pay back. We can never make full reparation for the damage our sin has caused. God tells us that the measure we use for others is the measure he will use for us.

Video of the Day
Immaculee Ilibagiza keynote speech at the 2017 Women’s Conference

Prayer of the Day

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy Name. Thy kingdom come, Thy Will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who have trespassed against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.

More Questions of the Day

  • With whom are you most angry?
  • Is there someone we need to forgive or need to ask to forgive us?

Mercy Quote

Tell sinners that no one shall escape My Hand; if they run away from My Merciful Heart, they will fall into My Just Hands. Tell sinners that I am always waiting for them, that I listen intently to the beating of their heart… when will it beat for Me? Write, that I am speaking to them through their remorse of conscience, through their failures and sufferings, through thunderstorms, through the voice of the Church. And if they bring all My graces to naught, I begin to be angry with them, leaving them alone and giving them what they want. — Divine Mercy in My Soul: Diary of Saint Faustina, #1728

Lenten Action

Make a good confession. Have your entire debt forgiven, and then go and do likewise.

Let us celebrate with a feast

Feast of Saint Cyril

Collect

O God, who through the Bishop Saint Cyril of Jerusalem led your Church in a wonderful way to a deeper sense of the mysteries of salvation, grant us, through his intercession, that we may so acknowledge your Son as to have life ever more abundantly. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

First Question of the Day

This Lent, what is it that God wants to do for you?

Gospel of the Day: Luke 5:1–3, 11–32

Tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus,
but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying,
“This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
So to them Jesus addressed this parable.
“A man had two sons, and the younger son said to his father,
‘Father, give me the share of your estate that should come to me.’
So the father divided the property between them.
After a few days, the younger son collected all his belongings
and set off to a distant country
where he squandered his inheritance on a life of dissipation.
When he had freely spent everything,
a severe famine struck that country,
and he found himself in dire need.
So he hired himself out to one of the local citizens
who sent him to his farm to tend the swine.
And he longed to eat his fill of the pods on which the swine fed,
but nobody gave him any.
Coming to his senses he thought,
‘How many of my father’s hired workers
have more than enough food to eat,
but here am I, dying from hunger.
I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him,
“Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.
I no longer deserve to be called your son;
treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers.”‘
So he got up and went back to his father.
While he was still a long way off,
his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion.
He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.
His son said to him,
‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you;
I no longer deserve to be called your son.’
But his father ordered his servants,
‘Quickly, bring the finest robe and put it on him;
put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.
Take the fattened calf and slaughter it.
Then let us celebrate with a feast,
because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again;
he was lost, and has been found.’
Then the celebration began.
Now the older son had been out in the field
and, on his way back, as he neared the house,
he heard the sound of music and dancing.
He called one of the servants and asked what this might mean.
The servant said to him,
‘Your brother has returned
and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf
because he has him back safe and sound.’
He became angry,
and when he refused to enter the house,
his father came out and pleaded with him.
He said to his father in reply,
‘Look, all these years I served you
and not once did I disobey your orders;
yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends.
But when your son returns
who swallowed up your property with prostitutes,
for him you slaughter the fattened calf.’
He said to him,
‘My son, you are here with me always;
everything I have is yours.
But now we must celebrate and rejoice,
because your brother was dead and has come to life again;
he was lost and has been found.'”

Second Question of the Day

Will you come in to the party?

Prayer

Eternal Father, I abandon myself to your will, which is love.

Prostrate in prayer before the Lord

Prayer / Scripture of the Day: Esther C:12, 14, 23–25

Prayer of Esther, a Jew, married to the King of Persia

Queen Esther, seized with mortal anguish,
had recourse to the LORD.
She lay prostrate upon the ground, together with her handmaids,
from morning until evening, and said:
“God of Abraham, God of Isaac, and God of Jacob, blessed are you.
Help me, who am alone and have no help but you,
for I am taking my life in my hand.
As a child I used to hear from the books of my forefathers
that you, O LORD, always free those who are pleasing to you.
Now help me, who am alone and have no one but you,
O LORD, my God.

“And now, come to help me, an orphan.
Put in my mouth persuasive words in the presence of the lion
and turn his heart to hatred for our enemy,
so that he and those who are in league with him may perish.
Save us from the hand of our enemies;
turn our mourning into gladness
and our sorrows into wholeness.”

Background

Though it features real people, the Book of Esther is not a historical document. It is the basis for the Feast of Purim, a feast commemorating a time when God saved his people. The setting of the narrative is Persia in the 5th century BC. When King Xerxes falls for a plot to kill all the Jews, Queen Esther is the only one who can save her people. Yet she can do so only by risking her own life. The king does not know that his Queen, Esther, is a Jew. And, anyone who went to see the king without being summoned would be killed. The story is one of a reversal of fortune, where the lives of the prospering wicked come to an abrupt and violent end, and the God’s people, who are enslaved, are saved.

Quote of the Day

 “God remembered his people and vindicated his inheritance.” — Mordecai, Esther’s uncle, Esther 10: 12

Question of the Day

Do we trust God enough to begin to pray? T o persevere in prayer? Do we believe he hears and answers? Do we believe in God’s provision and protection? What will we sacrifice to make more time for prayer? Do we turn to God only for the “big things,” or do we engage God in every area of our need?

Gospel of the Day: Matthew 7:7–12

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Ask and it will be given to you;
seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds;
and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
Which one of you would hand his son a stone
when he asked for a loaf of bread,
or a snake when he asked for a fish?
If you then, who are wicked,
know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will your heavenly Father give good things
to those who ask him.

“Do to others whatever you would have them do to you.
This is the law and the prophets.”

Ask, Seek, Knock

Like Esther, we, too, have recourse to the Lord. With the courage and humility of Esther, may we, this Lenten season, offer, with a spirit of repentance, an enduring prayer of adoration and petition, with great confidence in our loving and merciful God. Our enemy, we know, is not flesh and blood, and the enemy to banish is Satan and his minions, the fallen angels. May they be cast into hell forever, and may the kingdom of God come. May we find in Christ the wholeness for which we long. May God set us free.