Does our outward appearance accurately portray our inner attitude? In some measure, the disciplines of Lent—prayer, fasting, almsgiving—help us to bring these two closer together. But we need to be mindful that we don't take this too far. If we find ourselves doing these things for the praise we might get from others for our holiness, it's time to step back and examine our motives and priorities. What we are is more important than what we seem to be.
So many holy persons seem to die young. Among them was Dominic Savio, the patron of choirboys.
Born into a peasant family at Riva, Italy, young Dominic joined St. John Bosco as a student at the Oratory in Turin at the age of 12. He impressed John with his desire to be a priest and to help him in his work with neglected boys. A peacemaker and an organizer, young Dominic founded a group he called the Company of the Immaculate Conception which, besides being devotional, aided John Bosco with the boys and with manual work. All the members save one, Dominic, would in 1859 join John in the beginnings of his Salesian congregation. By that time, Dominic had been called home to heaven.
As a youth, Dominic spent hours rapt in prayer. His raptures he called "my distractions." Even in play, he said that at times "It seems heaven is opening just above me. I am afraid I may say or do something that will make the other boys laugh." Dominic would say, "I can't do big things. But I want all I do, even the smallest thing, to be for the greater glory of God."
Dominic's health, always frail, led to lung problems and he was sent home to recuperate. As was the custom of the day, he was bled in the thought that this would help, but it only worsened his condition. He died on March 9, 1857, after receiving the Last Sacraments. St. John Bosco himself wrote the account of his life.
Some thought that Dominic was too young to be considered a saint. St. Pius X declared that just the opposite was true, and went ahead with his cause. Dominic was canonized in 1954.
Like many a youngster, Dominic was painfully aware that he was different from his peers. He tried to keep his piety from his friends lest he have to endure their laughter. Even after his death, his youth marked him as a misfit among the saints and some argued that he was too young to be canonized. Pius X wisely disagreed. For no one is too young—or too old or too anything else—to achieve the holiness to which we are all called.
I pause for a moment, aware that God is here. I think of how everything around me, the air I breathe, my whole body, is tingling with the the presence of God. Freedom
Everything has the potential to draw forth from me a fuller love and life. Yet my desires are often fixed, caught, on illusions of fulfillment. I ask that God, through my freedom may orchestrate my desires in a vibrant loving melody rich in harmony.
Help me Lord to be more conscious of your presence. Teach me to recognise your presence in others. Fill my heart with gratitude for the times Your love has been shown to me through the care of others.
The Word of God
Reading 1 Ex 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.
Responsorial Psalm PS 106:19-20, 21-22, 23
R. (4a) Remember us, O Lord, as you favor your people.
Our fathers made a calf in Horeb and adored a molten image; They exchanged their glory for the image of a grass-eating bullock.
R. Remember us, O Lord, as you favor your people.
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.
R. Remember us, O Lord, as you favor your people.
Then he spoke of exterminating them, but Moses, his chosen one, Withstood him in the breach to turn back his destructive wrath.
R. Remember us, O Lord, as you favor your people.
Verse Before the Gospel Jn 3:16
God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in him might have eternal life.
Gospel Jn 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?"
Some thoughts on today's scripture
▪ Who is Jesus? This is the core question being teased out in today's reading. The answer hinges on his relationship to God (whom he calls his Father). A secondary question is: Who (or what) bears testimony (witness) to Jesus? John indicates four witnesses: John the Baptist, the works of Jesus himself, the Father, and the scriptures. Do you understand this style of argument?
▪ Who is Jesus? John approaches the question from a Jewish religious and cultural perspective. How would you answer the question today from within your own cultural terms of reference? How would you answer it out of your personal experience of knowing him?
Sometimes I wonder what I might say if I were to meet you in person Lord. I think I might say "Thank You Lord" for always being there for me. I know with certainty there were times when you carried me, Lord. When it was through your strength I got through the dark times in my life.
I thank God for these few moments we have spent alone together and for any insights I may have been given concerning the text.
I see how stiff-necked this people is. (Exodus 32:9)
Have you ever had a stiff neck? Not just an achy shoulder, but a neck so tight that you can't move your head without pain. It can get so bad that you end up in bed staring at a wall with a warm compress on your shoulder. Work, friends, and daily life get pushed out of focus while you wait for it to heal. Well, at least it can be healed! With the right combination of care and exercise, your neck loosens up and regains its full range of motion.
In today's first reading, God complains about his "stiff-necked" people (Exodus 32:9). He is upset that some of them don't look back and remember all that he has done for them. They also fail to look around and notice that God is still working miracles for them. Instead, they look only at the challenges standing right in front of them.
There may be times in life when we feel a little spiritually stiff-necked as well. Not looking back on the ways God has worked in our lives in the past, and not looking around at all the ways he is present to us right now, our necks stiffen and our vision narrows. We end up staring at the same blank wall every day, maybe even grumbling at our current situation. Why isn't God on our side any more?
How do you heal a stiff neck? By stretching it out. By looking around you. Take time to read the Scriptures and reflect on God's mighty deeds in the past. Review your own life and see where he has helped you. But also try to look around and see what he is doing for you right now.
This kind of spiritual therapy works just like any physical therapy: the more you do the exercises, the easier they get. Before long, you will be able to have a panoramic picture of God's faithfulness and love!
Where are you looking today? Are you focused only on what's right in front of your nose? Or are you looking around and seeing the Lord? Stretch, read, reflect, and rejoice! God is all around you.
"Lord, help me to keep my vision broad and encompassing. May I never forget your goodness to me!"
"I see how stiff-necked this people is." said the Lord today. Inflexible. Too tight. Too stressed out. Too hard to get through, to hard to see. And to see what? Yesterday, I looked up and saw a video on youtube on the Our Father (Lord's prayer *click) in aramaic. The sensation of the opening picture, and what it said, where it was taken, the mount of the beatitudes, made something gush through me with the inspirational prayer, as if the picture of the landscape, the warmth embraced me. As if the Lord had manifested Himself there and embraced me through His creation. And we are one with creation. And this Lord arose, He came from nothing into the midst, to save the people from the sufferings and death that was to come. He was writing their story of salvation by their lives. Joseph would become a savior through the egyptians, and Moses would take the place of Joseph, and ultimately, Jesus would take the place of Moses. The greatest of prophets, the greatest of all in the world, fulfilling all the prophecies in Himself, little did they know, this greatness would seem so little. And this is why the people had stiff necks, or should I say, "HAVE" stiff necks. The Psalms we pray say "Remember us, O Lord, as you favor your people." Remember us Lord. What does this "remembering" mean? Because Jesus said to do something in "rememberance" of Him, and what was that? The Holy Eucharist, the bread He offered as His own most precious body. To relive His life in what He was about to do. Re-live. You know, a few days ago, some sisters of Mother Teresa were murdered by a terrorist, in a nursing home they took care of the poor. They got to re-live the life of Christ in a special way, through His offering of life to the poor and forgotten, to dying for them. Remember. REMEMBER The Lord comes into our lives. And our lives are to be special vessels that carry Christ. As John was a lamp, so are we to be with Christ in our lives, for the Spirit of the Lord is upon us. "... there is another who testifies on my behalf" says our Lord today. Thousands of martyrs later, they have all testified on behalf of our Lord, and you? For millions of "white" (non blood shed) martyrs have testified to the Lord. In the time of our Lord living on earth, He was introduced by a man, St. John the Baptist, born miraculously, because of the temple encounter with an angel his father had, had. They were told this baby would be something for the Lord. And the prophets in the temple told the Virgin Mother Mary and St. Joseph that the child Jesus was destined for the rise and fall of many. The common denominator in all these lives? Faithfulness. Each soul was faithful, and history was changed, affected by the light of our Lord. The Lord says in the end today "if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?". Many have read the bible, and never met the Lord. I have sat reading scripture with men for years, and they have not met the Lord. They know the words, the history of God's wrath and mercy, and not a clue on the Lord Jesus Himself. Indeed, theologians and bible scholars know the bible inside and out and have never experienced the metanoia (life change) that a simpleton would have in an instant. This is the Lord at work in the heart of mankind. He has written His heart message and reveals it to the humble, not the stiff necked that just go through the motions. Lent is all about this. Stop. Reflect. Give. Give God a chance, a better one. Give Him the heart He deserves. Give Him the Love He deserves. What's at hand then, is only the very Lord before your presence. The Lord Himself. Revealed in the little way. Two things caught my attention in a huge texted reflection to my phone today "Scriptures: They are not another book to know more. But a book that is exactly to read as a revelation of God. As a revelation of the Son." And secondly the story of an atheist couple, who had a little daughter. She witnessed her daddy kill her mother and then committed suicide. She was taken to an adoptive home. Her new mommy took her to church. At church her new mommy told the teacher that the girl had never heard about Jesus and to be patient. The teacher took a figurine of Christ Jesus and asked the class "does anyone here know who this person is?" And the little girl answered "I know, He is the man that was with me holding my hand the night my parents died". The humble of heart will receive this great gift, of His hand in ours. Moses parted the waters and through the waters new life was offered. Jesus will part the waters of sin and death for new life. First, the martyr will offer new life, to die to self, to obtain the promise. The second, to die in the body to live with Him. Only to the humble, only to the life ready for Life. Only for your eyes to behold forever...