Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Spy Wednesday 2021

Today is Spy Wednesday. Those religious people who live double lives are like Judas who betrayed Christ. As you may know, Spy Wednesday is the day when Judas Iscariot conspired against his Lord and Master, Jesus Christ (Mark 14:10-11). Today, there are many ways we can conspire against Jesus.  Many Christians have abandoned faith in God during this time of the alleged pandemic. Immediately, churches were closed and public liturgies were suspended. Many have supported this action by the bishops. To them, it looks like "protection" from a contagion, however, to real Christians, it is a betrayal and lack of faith in Christ. 

To add insult to injury, many of them have tried to justify the actions by claiming that keeping Masses active or churches open will endanger others or even kill them. This kind of sophism is disgusting and something that can only derive from the devil itself.  How can one claim that going to Mass endangers others or even kills them?  This is very silly to state, for the sake of being polite. Where is their faith? Do they think God would allow the spread of contagion via the Mass or Sacraments?  Have they not read Psalm 91:1-8 which states:

"Whoever goes to the LORD for safety,
whoever remains under the protection of the Almighty,
can say to him,
“You are my defender and protector.
You are my God; in you I trust.”
He will keep you safe from all hidden dangers
and from all deadly diseases.
He will cover you with his wings;
you will be safe in his care;
his faithfulness will protect and defend you.
You need not fear any dangers at night
or sudden attacks during the day
or the plagues that strike in the dark
or the evils that kill in daylight.
A thousand may fall dead beside you,
10,000 all around you,
but you will not be harmed.
You will look and see
how the wicked are punished."

Even a year after the Covid 19 Coronavirus pandemic, we still see some religious leaders exaggerate their concern for contamination.  There have even been cases of priests and even Protestant leaders kicking members out of their communities for not wearing a mask.  Communion on the tongue is treated as dangerous.  Some bishops and pastors are even prohibiting processions.  What is troubling is that protestors are allowed o gather by the 10s of thousand, spring breakers are allowed to frolic on beaches, but the Church is scared to exist?  How can this be?  There are other ways we betray Jesus just like Judas did. Going to Church and then sinning as if the calls for repentance of the confiteor means nothing is one way. Being "religious," yet not being "religious" is hypocrisy. This kind of practice of religion is worthless (James 1:26). If we think that going to Mass all dressed up or walking around with a Rosary or Bible and not applying their essence in our lives pleases God, then we are fooling ourselves (Matthew 6:1).

This type of worship is in vain and offends God (Matthew 15:7-9).  The reason why we go to Mass, pray daily, receive the Sacraments, attend retreats and other religious events is to help us become more Christ-like. If we are to live in Christ who is the truth, then we too must be truthful (John 14:6, CCC para. 2468). Duplicity in living the Christian life serves no purpose to the worship of God and our sanctification. I call this an implicit form of atheism that mocks God.  The reason being is because we sometimes think we believe in God and are religious, but deep down we just do it as an obligation or to get attention; this rejects God (Titus 1:16). Sacred Scripture clearly states that those who reject God or lack belief in Him are fools (Psalms 53:1, Psalms 14:1).

Presenting an external devotion to God while not externalizing it is what Judas Iscariot did.  He was called by the Lord, traveled with Him, and even was at the Last Supper with Him, yet He did not internalize who this Lord was (John 1:10). We must not be like Judas who left early to collect his money. Either we are with God or with the world, there is no middle ground (Matthew 6:24). We only fool ourselves into thinking we are religious when in fact we are not deep down. God is never fooled or mocked (Galatians 6:7).  As we get closer to the Paschal Triduum, let us focus on ourselves and where we stand before God.  Are we truly transforming within, or has Catholicism become a ritual run by unconsciousness and conditioning?  We must ask ourselves these questions.

Our faith must be genuine. As many of you know, the first Mass was at the Last Supper. Judas left the supper early. He was the first one to leave Mass early.  Why did he leave?  He left to collect his money and set up the betrayal he was conceiving.  Judas took the bread, the Body of Christ, and left (John 13:30). While there may be valid reasons we can leave Mass, we must always try to avoid doing so. We must not be a spy for Satan. We must not be fake Catholics like Judas who followed Jesus as an opportunist.  We must not sell out Christ for the things of this world. 

Let us meditate on where we stand before God.  Are we like Judas seeking silver coins?

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Passion Sunday/Palm Sunday: Jesus Still Triumphs

Palm Sunday or Passion Sunday is the last Sunday of Lent and the beginning of Holy Week. Today we remember the Passion of Christ. Jesus entered Jerusalem while the people shouted Hosanna and threw Palm branches in his path.

He is the king, the Messiah, the one the Jews were expecting for centuries.  As He enters Jerusalem, He is seen as a triumphant King. A king of the Jews.  But was He really Triumphant?  Today's events are forcing many to question this.  The closing of Churches and lack of faith by bishops, priests, deacons, religious and laity has really scandalized the image of Christ is triumphant.   Are we truly shouting Hosanna from the heart or only when things are "normal" in the world?

Hosanna is an exclamation of supplication in a moment of emotion. The Palms are a sign of victory and joy.  The people celebrated the Triumphant entry of the King of Kings into Jerusalem. Ironically just a few days later these same people will call upon Pilate to crucify Him.

Zechariah 9:9 prophesied this day. The account of the story is read prior to the procession with the Psalms and comes from Matthew 21: 1-11  In the Catholic Church, red vestments are used to symbolize the blood Jesus would shed as a result of His entry into Jerusalem.  Passover coincides with Palm Sunday this year. We should reflect on this via the eyes of our elder brothers and sisters in the old covenant. 

The first reading during Mass is from Isaiah which is connected to Jesus.  It reflects on how Jesus is a gifted speaker who spreads the Good News, yet offends many.  Because of this, He is beaten, his beard is plucked and He is mocked.  This reading is a foreshadowing of the Passion of Christ. Despite being abused by the people, Jesus returned no insult or attack.  He braved it all for the sake of all.  Today we live in a world where Christ's message is not popular.  Priests, religious, laity, and even our separated Christian brethren face all kinds of hardships just for speaking the name of Christ and what He stands for.  This is very true today when the Church is undergoing a massive trial. Many are questioning the validity of the faith and if it is even worth believing.  With bishops closing churches and denying the Sacraments, why even believe in them?  The government has even threatened the Church and ministers of all persuasions.  We must be strong and not give in to the pressures of the world and preach Christ in season and out of season (2 timothy 4:2). This means even during a pandemic. Like Christ, we must bear it all for the sake of salvation.  It may seem like God has abandoned us and this is why the responsorial Psalm begins with this phrase. This Psalm is another foreshadowing of Christ's passion.  Christ, Himself felt abandoned by the Father.  However, this is not so.  God is there present comforting Him and us as well who struggle today during this pandemic. We cannot truly know why this Covid-18 Coronavirus is happening now and why it is infecting so many people around the world. Doctors may say it is spreading because of close contact, bodily aerosols, or contaminated surfaces. But they have contradicted themselves several times. Scientists say the same; some even claiming that the virus came from bats, is airborne, or may have been living in humans for decades, and mutated to the point it is now.  But they too have contradicted themselves. Some religious groups are saying this is the end times, a chastisement or a warning from God.  But we cannot know for sure. Lastly, environmentalists, both scientists, and armchair ones are claiming that this is earth attempting to calibrate the disordered man has caused due to global warming and overpopulation.  But again, we cannot know for sure.  Man cannot know it all. His fields of inquiry and technologies have failed.  Perhaps this is a reminder that we are not gods. We are not masters of life or this world and have to focus on the one who is the Master of all.  God has not abandoned us. We have abandoned him.  

The second reading tells us that Jesus is God but was not equal to God. What does this mean?  Does it mean Jesus is some demi-god like Jehovah's Witnesses and other sects claim?  No, not at all!  It simply means that while Jesus is God, He is also a man. His humanity is not equal to His divinity.  He was a man in human appearance with flesh, blood, pain, emotions, and so forth.  He "emptied" Himself of the infiniteness of God to take the form of a limited human being. In other words, Jesus was not this mutant from X-Men, Superman, or a Greek-god displaying powers of shapeshifting.  We see movies like Superman, Brightburn, or even the show Superman and Lois which show how the characters Clark Kent or Kal-el and Brandon Bryer discover their powers.  They cannot be cut or hurt.  Jesus was not like this. He was truly man and God.  This was why He was able to die. God died! His human body died. Jesus wanted to be one of us and experience what we experience. This was why He too was tempted by the devil. He felt pain, He got sick, got cramps, got cut, bled, got hungry and thirsty, and so on.  He was one of us in all things except sin. Jesus was obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross we are told. This means that Jesus basically obeyed the laws of physics and nature. He was obedient to them!  This is why before it says that "He humbled Himself." God truly humbled Himself becoming a slave to this universe just like we are all slaves to it. None of us can defy the laws of physics. We are trapped in this "biosphere" called the universe. Because of this, He became our example and was exalted.  This is why at Jesus' name we all bend the knee and confess that He is the Lord.  He is the one the Father sent. This is why when we hear the name Jesus, we should incline our head slightly during the liturgy. It is a sign of reverence. 

Finally, the Gospel tells the account of Jesus' last supper where He instituted the Holy Eucharist.

Christ defined all the true meaning of the Passover meal by breaking bread and sharing wine which are His body, blood, soul, and divinity.  We read how Judas is there present during the meal. He sells out Jesus for 30 pieces of silver.  Judas is the first to leave the first Mass.

How many times do we see people leave Mass early? Perhaps we may have done it ourselves?  We are imitating Judas the betrayer when we leave Mass early.  In doing so, we make whatever we are leaving Mass for more important than Christ.  Granted, there may be emergencies we may have to attend to, but this is where faith comes in.  God will take care of any emergencies for us. Moreover, we continue reading how Christ tells the disciples how they will flee when He is arrested.  Each boldly claims that he will not leave Christ.  How many times have we been vain in thinking that we have total control of faith?  How many times have we thought that we control grace in us?  It is God who sustains our faith and nourishes us with His grace.  We only cooperate by the suspension of our free will to submit to God's will.

Christ then goes to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray.  He cries tears of blood showing the pain and anguish He was going through.  Like in last week's Gospel with Lazarus, we again see Christ's humanity.  He is one of us!  He is the perfect Adam we must imitate.

However, like the disciples, we often fall asleep when we are in His presence.  Instead of praying, we slack off and get distracted to the point of dosing off.  We must avoid this by asking God to teach us how to pray and give us the strength and demeanor to be in His presence to pray even when our human frailness gets in the way.

Lastly, we continue reading how Christ is taken to trial.  The Son of God, God Himself is treated like a criminal.  He is sentenced to be killed by way of Crucifixion.  His crime is love.  Christ came to save all, first to His own people the Jews.  Ironically, it is sometimes our own that betray us.  We must avoid being like the Jews of Christ's time who were with Him, saw His works, and still wanted no part of Christ.  Like the Jews in the desert, they saw His works and still did not want to believe as the first reading of the third week of Lent told us.  Christ is then made to go through a horrible death.  First He is made to carry a heavy cross.  Throughout the way, He is mocked, spat on, hit, and falls down three times for the sins of the past, present, and future.  He dies on the cross and is buried.  God is dead!

Today, this phrase still echoes among societies throughout the world, especially in universities teaching our youth.  Some believe philosopher Nietzsche to have coined the phrase "God is dead," but this has existed way before his own birth. Christ is nailed to the cross and dies.  The people of His time said, "God is dead."

The Son of God who performed miracles preached the good news dies.  We know that in reality, He is still alive. Man can kill God because God allows it out of love. Today's age of secularism, atheism, and relativism shout, "God is dead, we have killed Him!" However, God is alive and well.  He rose from the dead showing He is the God of the living and dead.  He is the one who IS; who is dependent on no one for existence.

We must not be like the Jews of the old covenant who saw and still did not believe, nor do we want to be like the Jews in Jesus' times who like their ancestors saw Christ's works yet did not believe as well (Psalm 95:9, Hebrews 3:9). They even proclaimed Him as their king by throwing palms onto His path only to reject Him and call for His execution days later, according to some scholars.  We should not be like them.  We must never lose faith nor let the world silence it.  This is important today now more than ever.  The Covid-19 Coronvirus has forced many to question their faith in God.  God seems absent. The closing of Churches and denial of the Sacraments to the faithful has added to this doubt.  We read in Scripture, Tradition, the writing of the saints and heard even from Our Lady in apparitions that God protects, that Mary protects. 

However, how is this true when churches are closed and Masses are suspended due to a mere virus introduction into nature which happens naturally?  Many are seeing this contradiction.  They are also seeing the hypocrisy of saying the Church is a field hospital while shutting out the wounded and abandoning them; not to mention the call for bishops to acquire the scent of the sheep.  How is that done while hiding in rectories and episcopal mansions?  These optics are not good. They demonstrate to the world that God is dead. If the alleged successors of the apostles behave this way, then why even bother to believe?  Why even bother to be Catholic?  As stated, we must never lose faith nor let the world silence it. Today, this is what is happening. The government is even threatening churches if they do not obey their demands while keeping abortion mills and liquor shops open.  If this is not the spirit of the Antichrist, then I do not know what is.  So as you sit home without being able to attend Mass, meditate on this. Choose your side. Jesus did triumph. Let us truly believe this.  If not, then we are just believing in Spinoza's God who is limited to the laws of physics and processes of nature.  This is not our God.  Our God has power over what He created.  This includes viruses.  Our God can protect against anything, even viruses.  Our God can set aside the laws of nature and work miracles that defy reason, science, and the imagination. 

Faith is key!  Please do not lose it due to the actions of our bishops and priests.  Please do not lose it due to the cowardice of religious and laypeople.  Please do not lose it due to the news of deaths and widespread contagion.  If you believe churches should be closed, Mass suspended and Sacraments denied to the people, then your faith is lukewarm and you do not shout Hosanna today because Christ did not triumph to you.  Trust in God.  Jesus still triumphs! Jesus has triumphed! 

Today we lift up our palms -virtual or imaginary ones- not like those hypocrites in the Gospel reading before Mass, but like those in Revelation 7:9 who see the Lamb of God, hold their palms out to Him in joy and wear clean white robes showing they are made spotless by the blood of Christ shed for all during His Passion.

May Christ teach us how to live and suffering in faith.  Let us shout Hosanna to the King with sincerity and remain with Him through good times and bad times until the end of time comes.    

Readings: Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion | USCCB

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Sunday, March 21, 2021

5th Sunday of Lent - We Must Follow Christ

Today's readings tell us that God makes things new in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). We must follow Christ in order to be part of this renewal. This following of Christ will not be easy. We must suffer greatly (Matthew 10:18).

In the first reading, we are told that God is going to start a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. This covenant will be different from the one the Israelites were used to.  Before, God showed Himself to them and brought them out of slavery. He would work His wonders before them and others, showing that He is God (Psalm 95:9). Now things will be different.  He is going to place His law in their hearts (Psalm 37:31). Here we see how God is preparing humanity for Jesus. He is setting a place in man's heart for Himself (Ephesians 3:17). This new covenant will include not only Israel and Judah but the rest of the world (Jeremiah 31:1,3-4,7-8John 11:52).  The old covenant was a preparation for the new. This is why Jesus did not come to abolish the old, but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17).  The old is part of the new.  It is a religious and spiritual metamorphosis. However, in order to be part of this new covenant, we must be pure of heart, mind, and soul. This brings in the Psalm for today.

In the responsorial Psalm, we recite, "Create a clean heart in me, O God."  We ask God for mercy and ask that He in His generosity and goodness restore His image in us by wiping clean all that exists in us that keeps us from this image (Isaiah 1:18). Only God can do this (Psalm 51:7).  God is the only one who knows us inside and out (Psalm 139:2).  He can perceive our introspection and know our temperament. We were created by Him, we come from Him (Genesis 1:27). His breath and word are what keeps us in existence (Genesis 2:7Psalm 39:5Matthew 4:4). This washing of the soul brings back the joy in us. God reestablishes His friendship with us. In response, we must call others who are in sin and bring them to this spiritual laundry mat that is God's grace, so to speak (Colossians 3:16Romans 15:14James 5:20). This cleaning is done with the blood of the lamb who was slain (Revelation 12:11). His suffering redeems us and restores us as we read in the second reading.

The second reading reminds us that Jesus prayed and offered Himself for all of us. Today's second reading is sometimes used by Jehovah's witnesses and Muslims to claim that Jesus was not god.  To them, he was either a demi-god or a prophet. The words, "he learned obedience" and "was made perfect" seem to indicate this.  However, we must understand that Jesus was both God and man (John 1:114). He had two natures and one personhood. This is called the Hypostatic union. The fact that He was God did not make His humanity any different. He experienced everything human beings experience except sin (Hebrews 4:15). Christ ate, drank, cried, experienced different emotions, thought, learned, etc. He was not some magical deity walking the Earth like Hercules fighting Titans and whatnot. For all intent and purpose, Christ lived like an "average joe." So because of this, He learned obedience and was made perfect in the sense that His humanity was authentically human.  Since He did not succumb to any temptation and followed through with the will of His Father, Christ became the source of our salvation.  He is the new Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45).

Finally, in the Gospel, we read of Jesus' agony.  Jesus announces the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. This hour is the new beginning. The beginning of the new covenant signed, sealed, and delivered by the suffering and death of Christ. Jesus says, "unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat, but if it dies, it produces much fruit." Here He is referring to Himself. His death on the Cross had to occur. Jesus had to suffer in order to redeem us. Humanity got into trouble via sin and death, so Christ would use the image of sin (humanity) and death to save the world (Romans 5:12-18). If we are to call ourselves Christians, then we too must suffer (Matthew 16:24). Jesus reminds us, "whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life." This means that we must be open to suffering and even martyrdom if it comes to that (Matthew 24:9).

This life that we live today is not what we were meant for.  Humanity was meant for so much more. The Covid 19 coronavirus pandemic has reminded us of the importance of life.  Today we are learning of the many Christians being killed. These are the martyrs of today who follow Christ to the cross. Their reward will be in heaven. Instead of focusing on the rewards of this life that wither like a crown of leaves, they focus on the crown in heaven that never withers (1 Corinthians 9:25). These Christians unite themselves to the suffering Christ. We too are united when we suffer for the faith (1 Peter 2:212 Timothy 2:12Romans 8:17). The agony of Christ shows us how Christ was truly human. This ties into what we read in the second reading regarding Jesus learning obedience and being made perfect. He suffered even before being scourged at the pillar.

Christ asks the Father to save Him from this hour. However, he did not quit and accepted what was coming. In the Mass, we join Jesus in this hour by reliving His passion, death, and resurrection. Christ has not been sacrificed again, He died once and for all peoples (Hebrews 9:28Romans 6:101 Peter 3:18). This death weakened the hold of the ruler of this world who is the liar Satan (Revelation 12:11). It is no wonder why today we see all kinds of evils and crazy ideas taking over society (Isaiah 5:20).  These crazy ideas are out there.  From so-called same-sex marriage to gender theory. Thank God the Vatican issued an answer to a dubia regarding blessing such parodies. The Vatican clearly stated that sin cannot be blessed.  We must be on the alert with things of this world.  Satan knows his time is up so he has to pull all stops to try to deceive many (1 Peter 5:8). However, Christ, as He is lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to Himself (John 3:14-15). In the end, Christ wins. We must follow Christ.  May Jesus Christ be praised!

Readings: Fifth Sunday of Lent | USCCB

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Sunday, March 14, 2021

Laetare: 4th Sunday of Lent - The Divine Mercy is Needed

We are now on the 4th Sunday of Lent or Laetare Sunday.  Laetare means to rejoice and comes from the introit of the extraordinary form of the mass.  On this day, priests can wear rose to show a relaxation of Lenten penance in anticipation for Easter, the resurrection of Christ.  The readings today remind us of God's mercy and His commitment to making things new.

In the first reading from Chronicles, we read of the destruction of the kingdom which was established by God via the covenant with David. This would be the last covenant in the Hebrew Scripture or Old Testament (2 Samuel 7). As usual, the "chosen people" went haywire and disobeyed God.  They "added infidelity to infidelity" and did every abomination imaginable, completely ignoring God and desecrating the Lord's temple with their sins.

God out of love and concern sent messengers to rescue them, but the people did not listen to them and mocked them (Luke 4:24Isaiah 66:4Psalm 95:10). The people were just out of control. This sin and licentiousness led to the destruction of the house of God and the walls of Jerusalem.  Everything was destroyed.  The Israelites were then taken captive in Babylon and were made slaves to the king of the Chaldeans.  However, despite the people of God ignoring God and wanting no part of Him, God was still concerned and wanted to restore them. In order to do this, He inspired Cyrus who was a pagan king, and anointed him to rebuild the temple and shepherd His people (Isaiah 44:28-45). Cyrus would then issue a decree stating that all of the kingdoms of Earth were given to him by God. This was a signal showing that the salvation God began with the Hebrews would extend to the rest of the world (1 Timothy 2:42 Peter 3:9). Many times atheists and others describe the "God of the Old Testament" as vindictive, jealous, and evil; however, we see how these human attributes used to describe God indicate how passionate He is with the human race that He tries everything to save them even if He has to show some "muscle," so to speak (Deuteronomy 4:31Psalm 116:5). We must not forget God because He has not forgotten us. This brings us to the responsorial Psalm.

In the responsorial Psalm, we read the cries of God's chosen people suffering "by the streams of Babylon" weeping and remembering Zion.  We read this Psalm of their lamentation and repeat, "Let my tongue be silenced if I ever forget you!" If we forget God, then nothing good will come about from this rejection (Ezekiel 6:9Deuteronomy 32:18Ezra 8:22Leviticus 26:27-28). We must not be like the Israelites who followed God only when it suited them. When we turn away from God, nothing good comes. The atheist mantra "good without God" is not realistic because all good comes from God. God is the one who declares what is good (Genesis 1:31). Sin forces us to turn from God. We become insensitive and open to all kinds of evil. This kills us spiritually and psychologically.  The second reading from Ephesians reminds us of this.

The reading from Ephesians reminds us that our sins bring about death (Romans 5:12). However, God is always merciful; rich in it. He has such a great love for us that He brought us back to life with Jesus Christ.  Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). It is in Him that the image of God in us is restored (Genesis 1:26).  Jesus is the image of the Divine Mercy who came to redeem and save all those who are open to Him. In Jesus, we see how far God will go to rescue His people who seem to be fond of going astray (Exodus 32:9).  We just passed the anniversary of the Covid-19 Coronavirus onset as a pandemic on March 11th.  I still remember that week and the months that followed like it was yesterday.  This virus truly brought the world to its knees.  New York City is often called the "city that never sleeps;" well, the coronavirus put the city to sleep!  I thought I would never see New York City so quiet and lifeless.  

I remember going outside and seeing the empty streets and busses.  It felt like a zombie apocalypse movie like Resident Evil or the television series The Walking Dead. There was an eery feeling in the air, so to speak. I recall going to the Our Lady Queen of the Universe Shrine in the north Bronx to pray.  It was surreal.  I felt like I was alone in the world with no soul in sight, but I was not.  At the shrine, I felt God's and Our Lady's presence strongly. I prayed for the world and asked God for mercy.  Covid-19 reminded me that we need mercy from God.  Was this virus a sign or a warning from the heavens?  Was it a punishment?  We cannot know for sure. However, we do know that it woke us all up.  We must ask God for mercy. This year is the year of St. joseph.  What a wonderful saint to ask to show us how to be closed to Jesus!  He was the foster-father of Christ and protected Him.  We can ask St. Joseph to plead to His Son Jesus for mercy.   Jesus brings mercy to each one of us but at a high price as we read in the Gospel.

In the Gospel, Jesus tells Nicodemus that He will be lifted up like Moses lifted the serpent in the desert (Numbers 21:9). God had commanded Moses to make a bronze serpent. Anyone who looked at this serpent would be healed. Ironically, what made them sick were serpents (Numbers 21:6).  This symbol is still used today in the medical profession.  God is so powerful that He uses the same thing that brings bad and brings good from it. Similarly, Jesus being lifted on the Cross is something that is not good per se.  Being crucified was the capital punishment at the time of Jesus.  No-one lined up to receive it. Nevertheless, God uses this bad to bring about good: redemption and salvation. God uses death to bring life. This is only something God can do because He can do anything.  By being nailed to the cross, lifted up, and then dying, Jesus draws all peoples worldwide back to God (John 12:32). Once again, God demonstrates His mercy.

Pope Francis six years ago declared that starting December 8, 2015, a jubilee year of Mercy would begin. Today's readings are a good way to reflect on the mercy and how God does everything to try to bring us back to Him, even sparing His own Son on the Cross who He sent not to condemn the world but to save it.  We must be merciful ourselves with others (Matthew 5:7James 2:13). None of us are perfect, so we should not treat others who fall as if they are lesser than us. We must hate what is evil and seek what is good.  As children of God, we must be children of the light (1 Thessalonians 5:5). In light, we can see better.  Our eyes work to their full potential.  With light, we appreciate the beautiful things around us. When we are in the light of Christ, we see the world as it truly is and enjoys the beauty of it.  We see others as God sees them; not as we see them now which many times forces us to be uncharitable, impatient, and rude to others because we do not see them as God does.

During this Lent, recall how merciful God is and that He will do anything to bring you back. He wants us to be saved and enjoy eternal life with Him. Make use of the sacrament of Penance and turn away from sin. Focus on Christ lifted up on the Cross and let Him draw you in.  The Covid-19 Coronavirus pandemic showed us that we need God.  Man with all his technology, education, and science cannot defeat nature.  To think that a microscopic organism can do this to the "most advanced" species on earth is very humbling.  We need God's mercy.   May Jesus Christ be praised!

Readings: Fourth Sunday of Lent | USCCB

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Sunday, March 7, 2021

3rd Sunday of Lent - God's Law & Jesus Cleans the Temple

Today's readings deal with the law, the temple, and respect for God.

In the first reading, we read the Commandments God gives to Moses.  We cannot serve other gods, take God's name in vain; we must keep the sabbath, respect our parents, not kill, not fall into adultery; we cannot steal, cannot slander others nor desire other people's goods or their spouses.  These laws pin down fallen human nature in great detail. 

We often claim to believe in God, yet worship other things. Money and power are two of the most common "gods" that have plagued humanity (Matthew 6:21Ecclesiastes 5:10Psalm 37:16-17Hebrews 13:51 Timothy 6:10).  Today we see people sleep on the street just to purchase a phone, sneakers, or tickets to a show, sporting events, or concert.  They leave behind families, lovers, set aside their own well-being for these material things that are meaningless.  Moreover, the first commandment is often used by our separated brethren against our use of images and statues.  The "idols carved in the shape of anything in the sky above" etc are used to attack our use of images of angels and saints.  This is a very bad interpretation of the text.  This text must be read in context.  The images in the sky, earth, and under the earth are in reference to the idols used in ancient Egypt. Birds, cats, alligators were often worshiped as representations of Egypt's gods.  We know God is not speaking of angels or saints here because 5 chapters later in Exodus we read how God commands that the Ark of the Covenant be made with two cherubs on top. Cherubs are angelic creatures that are "in the sky."  Did God contradict Himself? No! The attack on Catholic use of images is silly indeed.  If we think about it, Protestants collect money.  Money has images of white males we call presidents.  These white males are creatures found on earth or who used to live on earth.  If we interpret the text like some Protestants do, then they are guilty of possessing idols when they collect money.  Let us respect God's Word and not misinterpret it!  Furthermore, many of us take God's name in vain and treat God as if He was just another adjective we can use to describe something or make a statement of exclamation.  God's name must always be respected, as well as, the names of all things holy.  

We sometimes work on Sunday and do not respect that this day is the day the Lord rose from the dead and started the new creation. Today so many young people and older folks disrespect their parents.  Killing today is almost a daily occurrence and is being done in God's name around the world. There is no respect for life.  Not even the unborn are safe.  The culture of today encourages infidelity. We are told to "hook up," and "mess around" in order to have fun and explore. Marriages are decreasing with nearly half of them ending in divorce.  Stealing is done in every facet of life.  The poor steal from the poor, the rich from the rich, the rich from the poor, and vice versa.  Slander is rampant around the world. Movies, books, articles, and other publishings encourage bullying others in the name of free speech. The act of bringing down reputations is now part of a popular television show that stalks actors and others.  We are never happy with what we have and want more.

The Commandments capture well the fallen psychological state of all human beings.  It is no wonder why they are the basis for secular law.  Many courthouses today, including the Supreme Court has the image of the Commandments. Laws are necessary for life.  Without laws, there would be chaos.  Our own universe operates on laws (Job 38:33).  Laws, in general, serve to keep peace and harmony, not to oppress.  The laws of physics allow us to exist in this universe. God's laws keep us focused on loving Him and our neighbor.  This is why Jesus summed them up in two Commandments (Matthew 22:37-40).  The Psalm for today brings to mind this.

In the responsorial Psalm, we recall how God's words are what give life.  In the book of Genesis, God creates the world with His word (Genesis 1). It is God's word that gives us life and sustains it (Matthew 4:4).  In the Commandments, we have the law of God which is indeed perfect.  As I stated before, it encompasses fallen human nature and our behavior perfectly. However, we must be careful not to turn the Commandments into a strict totalitarian system.  This will bring about judgment and abuse of others. The Commandments must bring us to love God and our neighbor.  The law is fulfilled in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:2).

In the second reading, St. Paul tells us of how things were at the time. The Jews were looking for signs, miracles, and other supernatural events which they were told about by their ancestors. Meanwhile, the Greeks were looking for wisdom via philosophy. Socrates, Plato, and the other Greek philosophers thought about life and the world seeking answers, only to bring about more questions. This is because they did not seek the one who brings the signs and the one who is truth and wisdom: Jesus (John 10:1). Philosophers like Nietzsche went mad thinking about what existence means and its purpose. All he had to do was focus on Jesus Christ who was a God that was dead but rose again conquering sin and death (1 Corinthians 15:55-57). Today academics and others think they have solved the universe with their methodologies and whatnot. They criticize certain aspects of creation and dismiss God as impossible or foolish. Yet when we study the wonders of nature, what we think are imperfections or mistakes are actually works of a genius who is so powerful that He can make the stupid work with the intelligent and the illogical with the logical. The foolishness we assume in God and His creation is actually wiser than we think. Many atheists today cite the appendix as proof that no intelligent designer was involved. They dismiss the appendage as a leftover of evolution that serves no purpose. However, this is not true. The appendix aids our immune system as a backup which exposes white blood cells to antigens. This suppresses humoral antibodies which are destructive (Martin, L 1999).  So this little appendage which is often used to call God foolish actually shows His wisdom.

Finally, in the Gospel, we see Jesus demonstrating His anger at the way the Temple was being used for marketing purposes. He found people selling livestock, exchanging currency and He threw a fit. For the first time, we see Jesus visibly angry; so angry that He turned over tables and drove out the people and their livestock telling them not to make His Father's house a marketplace.  Here we see that Jesus was in fact truly human and divine. He got upset just like we do and He acknowledged that the Temple of God in the house of His Father who He is united with (John 10:30).  The driving out of these businessmen was foretold in the Old Testament (Zechariah 14:21Malachi 3:1-5Isaiah 56:7). Today's Gospel shows us how people casually set aside God's Commandments. The businessmen in the Temple set aside God for money.  This was their "strange god." 

Only Christ can clean the Temple of God.  God does not dwell in just any Temple made by men (Acts 7:48).  The real Temple of God is us (1 Corinthians 6:19).  We must take out the sinful desires in us that corrupt the Temple of God. Again, only Christ can do this and He needs our permission to enter the Temple of our lives and clean it out (Revelation 3:20).  The alleged Covid 19 Coronavirus pandemic has surely forced humanity to "clean up."  Not only in the sense of handwashing, sanitizers, etc but also spiritually.  Many of us have started to pray more and go to Confession.  This must continue even after Covid -19 is under contorl  During the Lenten season, we must open our minds, hearts, and souls to accept Jesus into our lives.  Only He can clean out the concupiscence that drives us to all kinds of sins and despair (Psalm 51:10).  Are you willing to follow the Commandments and live in Christ Jesus?  May Jesus Christ be forever praised! Amen!         

Readings:  Third Sunday of Lent | USCCB

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