More and more people work at occupations that make few physical demands. While there will always be jobs that involve manual labor, not everyone can enjoy the satisfaction that comes with seeing a concrete result from physical work. Often our hobbies reveal that we need to do things with our hands, we need to be active, and we need to use our bodies as well as our minds.
Frances's life combines aspects of secular and religious life. A devoted and loving wife, she longed for a lifestyle of prayer and service, so she organized a group of women to minister to the needs of Rome's poor.
Born of wealthy parents, Frances found herself attracted to the religious life during her youth. But her parents objected and a young nobleman was selected to be her husband.
As she became acquainted with her new relatives, Frances soon discovered that the wife of her husband's brother also wished to live a life of service and prayer. So the two, Frances and Vannozza, set out together—with their husbands' blessings—to help the poor.
Frances fell ill for a time, but this apparently only deepened her commitment to the suffering people she met. The years passed, and Frances gave birth to two sons and a daughter. With the new responsibilities of family life, the young mother turned her attention more to the needs of her own household.
The family flourished under Frances's care, but within a few years a great plague began to sweep across Italy. It struck Rome with devastating cruelty and left Frances's second son dead. In an effort to help alleviate some of the suffering, Frances used all her money and sold her possessions to buy whatever the sick might possibly need. When all the resources had been exhausted, Frances and Vannozza went door to door begging. Later, Frances's daughter died, and the saint opened a section of her house as a hospital.
Frances became more and more convinced that this way of life was so necessary for the world, and it was not long before she requested and was given permission to found a society of women bound by no vows. They simply offered themselves to God and to the service of the poor. Once the society was established, Frances chose not to live at the community residence, but rather at home with her husband. She did this for seven years, until her husband passed away, and then came to live the remainder of her life with the society—serving the poorest of the poor.
Looking at the exemplary life of fidelity to God and devotion to her fellow human beings which Frances of Rome was blessed to lead, one cannot help but be reminded of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta (September 5), who loved Jesus Christ in prayer and also in the poor. The life of Frances of Rome calls each of us not only to look deeply for God in prayer, but also to carry our devotion to Jesus living in the suffering of our world. Frances shows us that this life need not be restricted to those bound by vows.
Malcolm Muggeridge's book Something Beautiful for God contains this quote from Mother Teresa about each sister in her community: "Let Christ radiate and live his life in her and through her in the slums. Let the poor seeing her be drawn to Christ and invite him to enter their homes and lives." Says Frances of Rome: "It is most laudable in a married woman to be devout, but she must never forget that she is a housewife. And sometimes she must leave God at the altar to find Him in her housekeeping" (Butler's Lives of the Saints).
I pause for a moment and reflect on God's life-giving presence in every part of my body, in everything around me, in the whole of my life.
Many countries are at this moment suffering the agonies of war. I bow my head in thanksgiving for my freedom. I pray for all prisoners and captives.
There is a time and place for everything, as the saying goes. Lord, grant that I may always desire to spend time in your presence. To hear your call.
The Word of God
Reading 1 Is 49:8-15
Thus says the LORD: In a time of favor I answer you, on the day of salvation I help you; and I have kept you and given you as a covenant to the people, To restore the land and allot the desolate heritages, Saying to the prisoners: Come out! To those in darkness: Show yourselves! Along the ways they shall find pasture, on every bare height shall their pastures be. They shall not hunger or thirst, nor shall the scorching wind or the sun strike them; For he who pities them leads them and guides them beside springs of water. I will cut a road through all my mountains, and make my highways level. See, some shall come from afar, others from the north and the west, and some from the land of Syene. Sing out, O heavens, and rejoice, O earth, break forth into song, you mountains. For the LORD comforts his people and shows mercy to his afflicted.
But Zion said, "The LORD has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me." Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you.
Responsorial Psalm PS 145:8-9, 13cd-14, 17-18
R. (8a) The Lord is gracious and merciful.
The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness. The LORD is good to all and compassionate toward all his works.
R. The Lord is gracious and merciful.
The LORD is faithful in all his words and holy in all his works. The LORD lifts up all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down.
R. The Lord is gracious and merciful.
The LORD is just in all his ways and holy in all his works. The LORD is near to all who call upon him, to all who call upon him in truth.
R. The Lord is gracious and merciful.
Verse Before the Gospel Jn 11:25a, 26
I am the resurrection and the life, says the Lord; whoever believes in me will never die.
Gospel Jn 5:17-30
Jesus answered the Jews: "My Father is at work until now, so I am at work." For this reason they tried all the more to kill him, because he not only broke the sabbath but he also called God his own father, making himself equal to God.
Jesus answered and said to them, "Amen, amen, I say to you, the Son cannot do anything on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for what he does, the Son will do also. For the Father loves the Son and shows him everything that he himself does, and he will show him greater works than these, so that you may be amazed. For just as the Father raises the dead and gives life, so also does the Son give life to whomever he wishes. Nor does the Father judge anyone, but he has given all judgment to the Son, so that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes in the one who sent me has eternal life and will not come to condemnation, but has passed from death to life. Amen, amen, I say to you, the hour is coming and is now here when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For just as the Father has life in himself, so also he gave to the Son the possession of life in himself. And he gave him power to exercise judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Do not be amazed at this, because the hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and will come out, those who have done good deeds to the resurrection of life, but those who have done wicked deeds to the resurrection of condemnation.
"I cannot do anything on my own; I judge as I hear, and my judgment is just, because I do not seek my own will but the will of the one who sent me."
Some thoughts on today's scripture:
▪ The relationship between Jesus and his heavenly Father is the topic in this enigmatic passage. Jesus traces everything in his being and in his choices to their source in the Father. "I can do nothing on my own". "I seek to do not my own will but the will of him who sent me" (the Father). He and his Father are intertwined in every way, so much so that they are one (Jn.10:30). Honour Jesus and you will be honouring the Father.
▪ Note the striking statement: "My Father is still working, and I also am working". God is present among us ("Emmanuel"), but this is not a passive presence, one simply of being. This is an active presence through which God is involved in the drama of our lives as a fellow-actor or partner.
Jesus, you always welcomed little children when you walked on this earth. Teach me to have a childlike trust in you. To live in the knowledge that you will never abandon 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.
Saint Frances of Rome, Religious (Optional Memorial)
My Father is at work until now, so I am at work. (John 5:17)
One common idea of heaven is that of a place where the angels and saints just sit around playing harps and singing hymns all day long. But something is missing here—especially considering how deeply our forebears in the faith are connected with us. No, heaven must be a very active place, a place where God is always at work, and so are his children.
Three times in this passage, Jesus precedes his words with the double affirmative "Amen, Amen." Clearly, he is saying something worth paying attention to! First, he declares that he doesn't do "anything on his own," but "only what he sees the Father doing" (John 5:19). So all of his acts of healing, forgiveness, and mercy reflect what is going on in heaven right now. This means that your Father is always looking on you with compassion. He is always at work, bringing the peace of heaven into your life.
Second, Jesus says that anyone who hears his word and believes his Father is freed from condemnation and has eternal life (John 5:24). Not just the people of Jesus' time, but everyone. So heaven is filled with the prayers of all those who have gone before us—including our loved ones. They are praying that we, too, will embrace the gift of eternal life. They are cheering us on, assuring us that we can come to that place where all judgment is lifted and where everyone is filled with the glory of God.
Third, Jesus said that the time was coming when everyone who hears Jesus speak to their hearts will come to life (John 5:25). The Son of God, enthroned in heaven, continues even now to speak to us. He is calling out to us, offering us his wisdom and guidance, his hope and his encouragement. And with every word we hear, we come alive!
Take some time today and imagine heaven as a place of immense energy. Hear your Father speaking words of love and guidance to you. Imagine his angels keeping close watch over you and your loved ones. Picture the saints praying for you and encouraging you. You are not alone—all of heaven is on your side!
"Father, forgive me for the times when I thought you were far off. Thank you for bringing the grace of heaven into my life."
We heard our Lord say today "In a time of favor I answer you, on the day of salvation I help you". When is that particular day? When is it a time of God's favor? When is that day of salvation? "Saying to the prisoners: Come out! To those in darkness: Show yourselves!" For He who pities them...guides them. As you read these words today, the Lord our Father is leading you and guiding you, have no fear. You are being guided to that place where you will not be scorched, and thirst and hunger. You are being guided to protection, to running and living waters, and the place where He feeds the flock Himself, of Himself, saying to His love... I will never forget you. The Psalms we pray say "The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness". And I thank the Lord for being gracious, full of grace and giving grace. And I thank God for being merciful, full of mercy. And I thank God for Him being slow to anger, unlike me, but I want to be like Him. And I thank our Lord for being of great kindness. Of Him, there is no other. There is no other God than this God. There is no greater love. And He shows it by giving His life. In comes this tremendous, kind, merciful, and gracious Lord: "My Father is at work until now, so I am at work." Once again, we have that word they used back then, "until". It doesn't mean what it means today, because until meant up to, but nothing changes. Like the Virgin Mary, she had no relations "until", and this meant up to, but nothing changes, nobody said things changed, because the Father and the Son are one, one did not take the place of the other, rather, the manifestations of His Love are introduced into our lives by the Way He sees fit. And so, what we have is the Father working through the Son and then the Holy Spirit will come, working the Son in our lives and the Father in our lives. This is why you must believe He is at work. And whoa, woe to the one who hears this and does not believe! Why? Because life eternal is at hand, for the Kingdom of Heaven, our Lord is at hand. Woe to you, for you, not for Him! Either we believe or not. Those who choose not, choose death. It is evident in the lives today, those who side not with our Lord, side with death to the Lord, for if you are neutral, you have given permission on your watch for the Death of our Lord, because there is no such thing as time outside this world and in His Kingdom. Therefore, celebrate His life. "... the hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and will come out" and the Lord says " the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live". Can you hear Him? Because if you don't hear now, how will you hear later? Of course we struggle to hear Him. But He speaks clearly. Of course we have a hard time being loving and forgiving, but He does it anyway. Of course I have a hard time being gracious and kind, but He is anyway. Aside with me. Away with me. Lent has been serving the lesson of the Lord,
"I Am Here, do you accept Me?
Do you accept Me the way I have presented Myself?
Do you accept the Words I have brought forth upon your eyes, your ears, your mind, and your heart? "
"because I do not seek my own will but the will of the one who sent me." - JESUS