Lent calls us back to seeing that God loves us as we are and wants to heal us. We do the right things for the wrong reasons and sometimes do the wrong things with the best of intentions. Even something objectively wrong can become, through God's grace, a sign of something holy and healing, a marker along our path that leads us home to God.
-from The Hope of Lent
✞ "Even on the cross He did not hide Himself from sight; rather, He made all creation witness to the presence of its Maker. Then, having once let it be seen that it was truly dead, He did not allow that temple of His body to linger long, but forthwith on the third day raised it up, impassible and incorruptible, the pledge and token of His victory. " — St. Athanasius of Alexandria
✞ MEDITATION OF THE DAY "We firmly believe, and hence we hope that, just as Christ is truly risen from the dead and lives for ever, so after death the righteous will live for ever with the risen Christ and he will raise them up on the last day. Our resurrection, like his own, will be the work of the Most Holy Trinity." — (CCC, 989) AN EXCERPT FROM Catechism of the Catholic Church
✞ VERSE OF THE DAY "Ah, my Lord God! You made the heavens and the earth with your great power and your outstretched arm; nothing is too difficult for you. ... Great and mighty God, whose name is Lord of hosts, great in counsel, mighty in deed, whose eyes are fixed on all the ways of mortals, giving to all according to their ways, according to the fruit of their deeds." Jeremiah 32:17-19
SAINT OF THE DAY
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Saint Benedict the African
Saint of the Day for April 3
(1526 – 1589)
Saint Benedict the African's Story
Benedict held important posts in the Franciscan Order and gracefully adjusted to other work when his terms of office were up.
His parents were slaves brought from Africa to Messina, Sicily. Freed at 18, Benedict did farm work for a wage and soon saved enough to buy a pair of oxen. He was very proud of those animals. In time, he joined a group of hermits around Palermo and was eventually recognized as their leader. Because these hermits followed the Rule of Saint Francis, Pope Pius IV ordered them to join the First Order.
Benedict was eventually novice master and then guardian of the friars in Palermo—positions rarely held in those days by a brother. In fact, Benedict was forced to accept his election as guardian. And when his term ended, he happily returned to his work in the friary kitchen.
Benedict corrected the friars with humility and charity. Once he corrected a novice and assigned him a penance only to learn that the novice was not the guilty party. Benedict immediately knelt down before the novice and asked his pardon.
In later life, Benedict was not possessive of the few things he used. He never referred to them as "mine," but always called them "ours." His gifts for prayer and the guidance of souls earned him throughout Sicily a reputation for holiness. Following the example of Saint Francis, Benedict kept seven 40-day fasts throughout the year; he also slept only a few hours each night.
After Benedict's death, King Philip III of Spain paid for a special tomb for this holy friar. Canonized in 1807, he is honored as a patron saint by African Americans.
Among Franciscans, a position of leadership is limited in time. When the time expires, former leaders sometimes have trouble adjusting to their new position. The Church needs men and women ready to put their best energies into leadership—but also men and women who are gracefully willing to go on to other work when their time of leadership is over.
The Liturgical Feast of Saint Benedict the African is April 4.
Saint Benedict the African is the Patron Saint of:
In Babylon there lived a man named Joakim, who married a very beautiful and God-fearing woman, Susanna, the daughter of Hilkiah; her pious parents had trained their daughter according to the law of Moses. Joakim was very rich; he had a garden near his house, and the Jews had recourse to him often because he was the most respected of them all.
That year, two elders of the people were appointed judges, of whom the Lord said, "Wickedness has come out of Babylon: from the elders who were to govern the people as judges." These men, to whom all brought their cases, frequented the house of Joakim. When the people left at noon, Susanna used to enter her husband's garden for a walk. When the old men saw her enter every day for her walk, they began to lust for her. They suppressed their consciences; they would not allow their eyes to look to heaven, and did not keep in mind just judgments.
One day, while they were waiting for the right moment, she entered the garden as usual, with two maids only. She decided to bathe, for the weather was warm. Nobody else was there except the two elders, who had hidden themselves and were watching her. "Bring me oil and soap," she said to the maids, "and shut the garden doors while I bathe."
As soon as the maids had left, the two old men got up and hurried to her. "Look," they said, "the garden doors are shut, and no one can see us; give in to our desire, and lie with us. If you refuse, we will testify against you that you dismissed your maids because a young man was here with you."
"I am completely trapped," Susanna groaned. "If I yield, it will be my death; if I refuse, I cannot escape your power. Yet it is better for me to fall into your power without guilt than to sin before the Lord." Then Susanna shrieked, and the old men also shouted at her, as one of them ran to open the garden doors. When the people in the house heard the cries from the garden, they rushed in by the side gate to see what had happened to her. At the accusations by the old men, the servants felt very much ashamed, for never had any such thing been said about Susanna.
When the people came to her husband Joakim the next day, the two wicked elders also came, fully determined to put Susanna to death. Before all the people they ordered: "Send for Susanna, the daughter of Hilkiah, the wife of Joakim." When she was sent for, she came with her parents, children and all her relatives. All her relatives and the onlookers were weeping.
In the midst of the people the two elders rose up and laid their hands on her head. Through tears she looked up to heaven, for she trusted in the Lord wholeheartedly. The elders made this accusation: "As we were walking in the garden alone, this woman entered with two girls and shut the doors of the garden, dismissing the girls. A young man, who was hidden there, came and lay with her. When we, in a corner of the garden, saw this crime, we ran toward them. We saw them lying together, but the man we could not hold, because he was stronger than we; he opened the doors and ran off. Then we seized her and asked who the young man was, but she refused to tell us. We testify to this." The assembly believed them, since they were elders and judges of the people, and they condemned her to death.
But Susanna cried aloud: "O eternal God, you know what is hidden and are aware of all things before they come to be: you know that they have testified falsely against me. Here I am about to die, though I have done none of the things with which these wicked men have charged me."
The Lord heard her prayer. As she was being led to execution, God stirred up the holy spirit of a young boy named Daniel, and he cried aloud: "I will have no part in the death of this woman." All the people turned and asked him, "What is this you are saying?" He stood in their midst and continued, "Are you such fools, O children of Israel! To condemn a woman of Israel without examination and without clear evidence? Return to court, for they have testified falsely against her."
Then all the people returned in haste. To Daniel the elders said, "Come, sit with us and inform us, since God has given you the prestige of old age." But he replied, "Separate these two far from each other that I may examine them."
After they were separated one from the other, he called one of them and said: "How you have grown evil with age! Now have your past sins come to term: passing unjust sentences, condemning the innocent, and freeing the guilty, although the Lord says, 'The innocent and the just you shall not put to death.' Now, then, if you were a witness, tell me under what tree you saw them together." "Under a mastic tree," he answered. Daniel replied, "Your fine lie has cost you your head, for the angel of God shall receive the sentence from him and split you in two." Putting him to one side, he ordered the other one to be brought. Daniel said to him, "Offspring of Canaan, not of Judah, beauty has seduced you, lust has subverted your conscience. This is how you acted with the daughters of Israel, and in their fear they yielded to you; but a daughter of Judah did not tolerate your wickedness. Now, then, tell me under what tree you surprised them together." "Under an oak," he said. Daniel replied, "Your fine lie has cost you also your head, for the angel of God waits with a sword to cut you in two so as to make an end of you both."
The whole assembly cried aloud, blessing God who saves those who hope in him. They rose up against the two elders, for by their own words Daniel had convicted them of perjury. According to the law of Moses, they inflicted on them the penalty they had plotted to impose on their neighbor: they put them to death. Thus was innocent blood spared that day.
Responsorial Psalm Ps 23:1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6 R. (4ab) Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil; for you are at my side. The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. In verdant pastures he gives me repose; Beside restful waters he leads me; he refreshes my soul. R. Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil; for you are at my side. He guides me in right paths for his name's sake. Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil; for you are at my side With your rod and your staff that give me courage. R. Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil; for you are at my side. You spread the table before me in the sight of my foes; You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. R. Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil; for you are at my side. Only goodness and kindness follow me all the days of my life; And I shall dwell in the house of the LORD for years to come. R. Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil; for you are at my side.
Verse Before the Gospel Ez 33:11 I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked man, says the Lord, but rather in his conversion, that he may live.
Gospel Jn 8:1-11
Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. But early in the morning he arrived again in the temple area, and all the people started coming to him, and he sat down and taught them. Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery and made her stand in the middle. They said to him, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?" They said this to test him, so that they could have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger. But when they continued asking him, he straightened up and said to them, "Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her." Again he bent down and wrote on the ground. And in response, they went away one by one, beginning with the elders. So he was left alone with the woman before him. Then Jesus straightened up and said to her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" She replied, "No one, sir." Then Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin any more."
According to Jewish law, adultery was a capital crime punishable by death (Leviticus 20:10). But according to Roman law—which governed occupied Palestine—Jews had no authority to put a man to death. So if Jesus had agreed with the Pharisees, he would have violated the Roman law. But if he had disagreed, he would have been identified as a false teacher. Jesus' opponents must have felt very secure about their trap!
Once again, Jesus' enemies underestimated him. He needed only one sentence to silence them: "Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her" (John 8:7).
Why did this one sentence have such a dramatic impact? Because Jesus made it clear that whatever judgment they leveled against this woman for her sin would be leveled against them for their own sins. If she were condemned, they would be condemned too. There were only two responses: to confess their sins or to walk away. Since they were unwilling to repent, they walked away, and the woman lived.
They should have stayed. That's what the woman did, and her life was changed. Jesus showered her with grace and washed away her sins. Even though she was guilty, Jesus issued a decree of divine forgiveness and set her on a new path.
John Newton, the eighteenth-century writer of the hymn "Amazing Grace," learned this lesson well. He was sailing a ship in the midst of a violent storm that had all but sunk the vessel. Terrified, he called out to God for mercy, and the winds calmed down immediately.
Newton was a slave trader. He focused almost exclusively on material gain and cared little about the people he put into chains. After experiencing God's mercy so dramatically, he gave his life to Jesus and became a tireless servant of the Lord, witnessing about what God had done for him.
Like John Newton, we will feel moved to change our lives to the degree to which we experience God's mercy. We will remember that, like the woman caught in adultery, we too deserve punishment but have been given mercy, peace, and life instead.
"Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy on my soul."
Daniel 13:1-9, 15-17, 19-30, 33-62 Psalm 23:1-6
Susanna said "... it is better for me to fall into your power without guilt than to sin before the Lord." In other words, she said what very few of us would say, only saints: "I'd rather die than to sin" and offend thee O Lord. Rather, most are like the trappers, ready to pounce on the innocent, because, either you are on the side of light, or of darkness. Either you are strong, or you are weak, and devil feeds on weaknesses. The more of each, the more you grow, like the story of the black and white wolf that were fighting, and the Indian chief spoke and the children asked "who wins?" and the chief responds..."the one you feed".
We pray today "Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil; for you are at my side With your rod and your staff that give me courage." As several of us family on a bus going to the Carmelite Hermitage this weekend, I pointed to a flock of sheep in verdant green pastures with a mountain/hill in the background. But inside, I knew we were those sheep being led by the Good Shepherd. We were in the fence, and it was good. Mathew Kelly says the bible is a guide to help us live happy lives. And the Shepherd feeds us of Himself. Giving. What do we give?
The Lord gives something to the woman caught in adultery. Of Himself...mercy. Where everyone else was enthused by sentiments, Jesus is full of Grace, like His Blessed Mother. He sees the trap they have laid out for Him. He too was being trapped like Susanna. He looks to Heaven because the adulteress couldn't. He looks to Heaven because the Pharisees couldn't. All they could see were laws. All she could see where sentiments, unguided, and passions not fenced out. And Jesus sticks His neck out. For every person He would save...He would have to die. He put His life on the line for her. For this unfaithful woman. For this sinful woman. For this woman that couldn't love anyone but herself. For this sinful woman brought about by sinful men. They would not correct her and love her, no, they would kill her. I read a Spanish reflection that ended saying "Aprendamos de Jesús a ser profetas defensores de la vida." Let us learn from Jesus to be prophets, defenders of life! From the unborn to the natural death. If Jesus did it, it was so that we would follow His Way. This lent, I have been trying hard to keep from throwing stones of condemnation, those accusatory words, and the unrelenting tongue that is led by feelings, sentiments, things that are not in the grace of God.
All the white lambs looked so peaceful. That is living a life of Grace. Where mercy abounds, where love abounds. Jesus corrected her with love and said these words that made me write a song about it when He says "Go and sin no more". These words are spoken to the heart in the confessional. I don't know if you've been to confession, especially when you have this huge hefty weighted sin to expose. God knows it, but will you acknowledge it? What happens when someone says "hey you know what I heard about you?" And then these things that are kind of true come about, and the truth hurts and you get mad. What do you do first? You probably ask "who said that about me?" So you can hate them. So you can choke them, so you can throw stones.
No, Jesus did not do that. He said things on the cross that most would not as they would wallow in their pain of self. No, He said "Father, forgive them".
This is choosing to die than to sin. And Jesus would do it all over again for you.
But He is giving us the chance to do it for Him. Because we are that woman in the Scripture. We are the bride of Christ as the Holy Church.
adrian Hear the song "U Know Me" https://soundcloud.com/going4th/sets/renuevame
fromredeemedonline.com: A Personal Relationship with God - Marcel LeJeune Thought for today: You can't accidentally love somebody, you can't accidentally love God, and you can't accidentally believe in God. God has chosen to love you. Are you choosing to love Him? That's what "relationship" is all about.
Action for today: Jot down a few of his ideas and pray about how you can live out your relationship with God today.
Prayer for today: Lord Jesus, I want to choose You in all that I do today. I want to serve you in everything. Draw me closer to You!
Quote for today: "Being a Christian means having a living relationship with the person of Jesus, it means putting on Christ, being conformed to Him." – Pope Francis
Be a Hero today – #ShareJesus: Do you have a prayer partner? Ask God to show you someone who you can pray with, and share about your personal relationships with Jesus with each other in encouragement.