We discover the Holy Spirit speaking to us in the words of Scripture, and it is the Spirit within us who enables us to listen to him. It's a rather interesting concept but quite true. The Spirit is present in the Word; the Spirit is present in us.
David is the patron saint of Wales and perhaps the most famous of British saints. Ironically, we have little reliable information about him.
It is known that he became a priest, engaged in missionary work and founded many monasteries, including his principal abbey in southwestern Wales. Many stories and legends sprang up about David and his Welsh monks. Their austerity was extreme. They worked in silence without the help of animals to till the soil. Their food was limited to bread, vegetables and water.
In about the year 550, David attended a synod where his eloquence impressed his fellow monks to such a degree that he was elected primate of the region. The episcopal see was moved to Mynyw, where he had his monastery (now called St. David's). He ruled his diocese until he had reached a very old age. His last words to his monks and subjects were: "Be joyful, brothers and sisters. Keep your faith, and do the little things that you have seen and heard with me."
St. David is pictured standing on a mound with a dove on his shoulder. The legend is that once while he was preaching a dove descended to his shoulder and the earth rose to lift him high above the people so that he could be heard. Over 50 churches in South Wales were dedicated to him in pre-Reformation days.
Were we restricted to hard manual labor and a diet of bread, vegetables and water, most of us would find little reason to rejoice. Yet joy is what David urged on his brothers as he lay dying. Perhaps he could say that to them—and to us—because he lived in and nurtured a constant awareness of God's nearness. For, as someone once said, "Joy is the infallible sign of God's presence." May his intercession bless us with the same awareness!
The more we call on the Lord the more we can feel his Presence. Day by day he draws us closer to his loving heart.
It is so easy to get caught up with the trappings of wealth in this life. Grant, O Lord, that I may be free from greed and selfishness. Remind me that the best things in life are free. Love, laughter, caring and sharing.
Where do I sense hope, encouragement, and growth areas in my life? By looking back over the last few months, I may be able to see which activities and occasions have produced rich fruit. If I do notice such areas, I will determine to give those areas both time and space in the future.
The Word of God
Reading 1 Dn 3:25, 34-43
Azariah stood up in the fire and prayed aloud:
"For your name's sake, O Lord, do not deliver us up forever, or make void your covenant. Do not take away your mercy from us, for the sake of Abraham, your beloved, Isaac your servant, and Israel your holy one, To whom you promised to multiply their offspring like the stars of heaven, or the sand on the shore of the sea. For we are reduced, O Lord, beyond any other nation, brought low everywhere in the world this day because of our sins. We have in our day no prince, prophet, or leader, no burnt offering, sacrifice, oblation, or incense, no place to offer first fruits, to find favor with you. But with contrite heart and humble spirit let us be received; As though it were burnt offerings of rams and bullocks, or thousands of fat lambs, So let our sacrifice be in your presence today as we follow you unreservedly; for those who trust in you cannot be put to shame. And now we follow you with our whole heart, we fear you and we pray to you. Do not let us be put to shame, but deal with us in your kindness and great mercy. Deliver us by your wonders, and bring glory to your name, O Lord."
Responsorial Psalm PS 25:4-5ab, 6 and 7bc, 8-9
R. (6a) Remember your mercies, O Lord.
Your ways, O LORD, make known to me; teach me your paths, Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my savior.
R. Remember your mercies, O Lord.
Remember that your compassion, O LORD, and your kindness are from of old. In your kindness remember me, because of your goodness, O LORD.
R. Remember your mercies, O Lord.
Good and upright is the LORD; thus he shows sinners the way. He guides the humble to justice, he teaches the humble his way.
R. Remember your mercies, O Lord.
Verse Before the Gospel Jl 2:12-13
Even now, says the LORD, return to me with your whole heart; for I am gracious and merciful.
Gospel Mt 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."
Some thoughts on today's scripture
▪ A reading that illuminates the theme of the Year of Mercy. There is no limit to the number of times we are called to forgive (to be merciful). This is one of the most demanding aspects of Christ's teaching. Yet forgiveness is a grace (gift) for the one offering it and for the one receiving it.
▪ The parable mirrors a legal system that would be considered harsh and inhumane today. Nevertheless, even within that system pity and forgiveness are shown to exist alongside revenge and punishment. We need to distinguish the core message of the parable from the historical background out of which it emerges. Keep returning to the opening verses of the reading.
I begin to talk to Jesus about the piece of scripture I have just read. What part of it strikes a chord in me? Perhaps the words of a friend - or some story I have heard recently - will slowly rise to the surface in my consciousness. If so, does the story throw light on what the scripture passage may be trying to say to me?
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end.
Not seven times, but seventy-seven times. (Matthew 18:22)
Speaking in parables was one of Jesus' most effective teaching methods. A master storyteller, he had the ability to gain his listeners' interest and involve them in the drama of his stories. But Jesus didn't just tell engaging tales—he used them to reveal the love of God and the values of his kingdom.
To bring a lesson home forcefully, Jesus often used exaggeration—a common Semitic practice—or contrasted opposites like wisdom and folly, generosity and stinginess. Surely there's no clearer instance of exaggeration than today's Gospel reading about the unforgiving servant. A man who was forgiven an enormous debt—the equivalent of 150,000 years' wages—refused to cancel another man's debt that equaled a hundred days' wages—a debt that was only 1/20,000 of 1 percent as great as his own. Although the servant acknowledged his need for mercy, he didn't allow that mercy to soften his heart. And the consequence for him was devastating.
The blunt ending of this story is a direct challenge for us to be just as forgiving to other people as God has been to us. It also underscores something Jesus told his disciples in the Sermon on the Mount: "If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions" (Matthew 6:14-15). If we are not trying our best to be merciful, compassionate, and forgiving, we will find it very hard to pray or to know God's own love and mercy in our lives.
The season of Lent offers us a special time to come to grips with our need for mercy and to let God's mercy soften our hearts and influence the way we relate to the people in our lives. God doesn't want us to hold a grudge or treat unkindly anyone who is "in debt" to us. He doesn't want to see our hearts darkened by bitterness or resentment. Rather, he wants his peace to rule us—and through us to touch everyone around us. Don't you want that too?
"Thank you, Jesus, for the countless times you've forgiven my sins. Deliver me from any hardness of heart that I harbor toward others, and teach me mercy from your own immeasurable mercy."
We read today, we heard today, we learned today "But with contrite heart and humble spirit let us be received;" as we plead for mercy in the Psalms too "
Remember your mercies, O Lord." Another Psalm we pray says "In your kindness remember me, because of your goodness, O LORD." The Lord is asked, "how many times are we to forgive?" Why do we wonder that? Why do we ask the Lord that question? So we can know how many more times until we send somebody to hell? Funny thing is though, we send ourselves. Therefore, be merciful, as our Father is merciful. Endless is the mercy. If you've forgiven once and a hundred times, be prepared to forgive again. Mercy endures forever, because the Lord endures forever.
And I plead for mercy today, because, the only grandmother I've ever known and had through my life, she passed away yesterday evening. She was a devoted woman to the faith, like my mother. And I say this because, one of the questions at the Renew workshop on Sunday was "when was the first time you were called by the Lord?" It was a tough question. Recall the first time the Lord called. And what if the one who calls, calls for the last time? I told the whole group of men (just two other guys LOL), that the first calling I guess is when I lived in a little town in Colorado, where I was born. I was probably no more than 4 years old, and remember playing and waiting on a school playground for my mom to get out of a church prayer meeting. I wrote a song about it a while back. I remember being curious as to what I could faintly hear, and so I got off the swings, left the playground, and approached the school room, went up some stairs, and opened the door slowly, and as the door opened, the more I could see and hear the glorious praises to God "Alabare! Alabare!" (I shall praise, we praise!). That precious moment involved my mother and my grandmother. The sad part about losing my grandmother yesterday, was that just the day before I had told my wife I wanted to go sing to her one last time the next day or so. The next day came, as I was singing with the choir in practice in the church, I got a call from my dad...saying his mom passed. I lost my chance to sing to her, to comfort her one last time. But I was at the place she had taught me, praising God at Church. I remember last week I had gone with the priest and my mom for the Holy Sacrament taken to my grandma, Holy Annointing of the Sick that only a priest can do. That would be the last time I saw her. Jesus is in the person of the priest in the Holy Sacraments. So I saw her with Jesus, and if the Lord wills, I will be able to sing with her again in the next eternal life...singing to Jesus our Lord and our love. I remember a heart wretching moment, while we were gathered, the priest had a hard time understanding the words my grandma would say in spanish ... "tengo miedo" "I am scared". It was perplexing to me. How could such a faithful and powerhouse of a woman, now be so frail, and scared? Perhaps, like in today's first Holy Scripture says "now we follow you with our whole heart, we fear you and we pray to you."
Upon hearing a reflection of today's Gospel on USCCB, it spoke of all of us as a family, and how we represent God to one another. In forgiveness. In love. And more. Now, I am recalling the moment an atheist once said "I am surprised at how supposed Christians say they believe in eternal life and they give up offering me that life so quickly". Could it be that we cast off strangers to hell that easy and quickly? A new little girl was dropped off at choir practice and I blurted "where were you Sunday!? I needed a power singer, we were way too quiet!" and in her innocent little voice she said "my mommy was sleeping". I said "then you had the intent, you are innocent". Locked in her house, her voice was only heard by God and not the family in Church. We are in this together. For a long time I yearned for a cat for our house to help control the mice problem. One day, a white cat appeared with grey spots. Later on, turns out she was a momma cat, new kittens, like 6 of them were around. Later, one drowned in our little pool. The kittens carried on with their momma. Through the cold hard winter, I thought they died or something. The warmer days brought them back to the backyard in their safe haven, and safety of trees, pond, and birds. Not too long ago, the momma cat was found dead on the highway. At nights, I could see the now bigger kittens huddled together. In the morning, I could see them prancing around again, without their momma. Maybe they know or not. It kind of tugged at my heart. "Are they alone?" I would ask myself. Days later, I told my wife, look! Look at the stairs, it seems a big cat was laying with them and they were being kept warm. As I made a noise on purpose, they scattered and I saw that this was not the momma cat, it seemed like a large male...I said to my wife "it is the father". This morning, my dad and brothers work together, and they were sitting as usual daily at work talking and kind of laughing. The kittens prancing around in the morning.
The warmth is the love of the Father. That's what we got this day.
Let peace fill your heart. Let God fill your life. It's all we got. I only wrote one note in the Renew class Sunday and it said what God said through a brother..."God Is Hope".
All we can be is thankful, and those words are powerful, and they came to me as I thanked God after Mass yesterday, Monday. I said in my heart words I never said before to our Lord "Thank you for your body". And a poem/song ensued and I'll leave you with it now:
Thank you for your offering Thank you for your generosity Thank you for your caring Thank you for your blossoming Thank you for believing Thank you for your kissing Thank you for your arms Thank you for your coming Thank you for your charm Thank you for the embrace Thank you for involving Thank you for your grace
I want to thank you for such a gift Although I don't know how to accept It seems like all is a great myth Yet I know it my heart I can't forget Of how much you call me, Of How much you wait, Of How much you yearn for me, And of how much I forget.
My God, You are so great. Thank you is all I can say. And please, never forget me. I know you came to save me. I know for that I live this day. I know for that you are great.
Before I go, Lord, I just need to give thanks. Because you deserve all my love, and I feel so shoddy, That day you offered yourself, my heart sank. What have I done to deserve your precious body?
I give you thanks and that's all I can do. All I can live is happy, forever loving you. I appreciate the marvels and grace from the Heavens above. I can only fall more in love with thanks, your sweet and great love.