Reflections on the Daily Readings

March 24 - 30, 2019
The Season of Lent - the Third Week
Readings: Sunday Cycle C; Weekday Cycle I.
Divine Office - Psalter Week III.

Sunday 24:          The Third Sunday of Lent
Exodus 3:1-8, 13-15; Psalm 102; 1Corinthians 10:1-6, 10-12; Luke 13:1-9
Today many people are oppressed by their own false gods and habits but the Lord still wants them to be freed and so we have this season of Lent to help us identify our false gods and to accept God’s help in freeing ourselves from the things which oppress us. Freedom will require conversion on our part.
In our first reading we see the Lord appointing Moses to go and bring his message to his people in Egypt who have been held in slavery by a people with whom they once had equality. What is important to note in the account is not the fact that the bush was unharmed, or that Moses was tending a flock, but that the Lord had seen the plight of his people and so resolved to free them from that plight. To accomplish this the Lord would take them from Egypt which suggests that the people must be taken from their current existence and way of life if they are to truly worship the Lord, in other words, conversion and transformation are required. Moses raised some objections to being the messenger but the Lord assured him that he was with Moses and he gave Moses his own sacred name.
St Paul takes up the story of the Exodus in the text from the first letter to the Corinthians and reminds those in Corinth not to become complacent in the faith. The Chosen People had been led from slavery by God, through Moses, and Paul connects key moments of that journey with key elements of the Christian faith, namely Baptism and the Eucharist. But Paul also points out that despite the goodness of God to the people, some of them complained and rebelled against him and so they were lost and died before reaching the Promised Land. God does not want to destroy anyone and does not wish evil on his people but in return the people must be faithful to him if they to reach the Kingdom.
In the gospel we see Jesus giving the people an instruction on sin. They come to him in the first part telling him of the death of a number of people at the hands of Pilate and of others who die in an accident. For the people of the time such things were the result of sin committed by the victims, but Jesus says that this is not the case and in this he is saying that God does not wish evil on people, even on sinners. At the same time there is a call to repentance by the Lord because even though God will be kind to his people, he still will not accept their sinfulness. We are human and the Lord is aware of that but he has set standards for us and we must make every effort to live up to those standards. The choice placed before us today is quite clear: if we accept the Lord’s love and compassion, and turn away from our false gods which lead us into sin, then we will be saved and receive eternal life, but if not, then, while we may live this life according to our own rules, we will not enter the Kingdom in the next life.

Monday 25:         The Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord*
Isaiah 7:10-14, 8:10; Psalm 39; Hebrews 10:4-10; Luke 1:26-38
In our first reading from the prophet Isaiah we have a scene where King Ahaz is being advised by different groups and people as to what course of action he should take. To prove he is the one to listen to, Isaiah offers a sign which Ahaz refuses, but Isaiah gives the sign anyway. He predicts the birth of a child who will be faithful to God and who will be born to a maiden. The child will be called Emmanuel.
In the second reading from the letter to the Hebrews, the author says that the offerings and sacrifice of animals to God does not please him and doesn’t take away our sins. It is only the sacrifice of Jesus Christ which does this and the old type could only be removed by the one single sacrifice in which Jesus offered himself on our behalf and went to the Cross.
Our gospel text recounts Gabriel’s visit to Mary to tell her that she was to bear the Saviour of the world. Despite having questions herself, Mary answers ‘yes’ to God and we too are called on to say ‘yes’ to him every day of our lives and to trust in his goodness as completely as did Mary. Our readings also remind us of Jesus’ ‘yes’ in the Garden of Gethsemane when he was faced with the prospect of dying for us. Yet, in that ‘yes’ which caused his death, he also secured our salvation. Now is the time for us to say ‘yes’ to him and to truly grasp that salvation.

Tuesday 26:         Of the Third week of Lent
Daniel 3:25, 34-43; Psalm 24; Matthew 18:21-35
In the Book of the Prophet Daniel there is recounted the story of three young men – Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah – who refused to abandon their religion for King Nebuchadnezzar. The king had them bound and thrown into a fiery furnace but the angel of God joined them there and they walked through the furnace unharmed. Our passage today from Daniel sees Azariah speaking to God from within the furnace and asking God to look kindly on them and on their people and to forgive the sins of the people which have brought them such torment. The Psalm continues this theme. In the gospel, Jesus tells his disciples that prayer on its own is not enough – we must also forgive our neighbours whenever they wrong us. And that forgiveness must come from the heart and not just from the lips. If we do not forgive others how then can we stand before God and expect him to forgive us when we withhold forgiveness?

Wednesday 27:    Of the Third week of Lent
Deuteronomy 4:1, 5-9; Psalm 147; Matthew 5:17-19
In the first reading, Moses has given the people their laws and tells them to be careful to observe them because they come from God. It is a reminder of the importance of the command of God in our daily lives. Christ, in the gospel, tells us that he came to complete the laws given to us by Moses and that they are to be obeyed. While some use Jesus as an excuse to be a rebel we see him today upholding the tradition and Law of the Jewish people, but what is important is that Jesus wants us to live the spirit of the law and not just the mere letter of the law, and while this at times is harder to do it is infinitely more rewarding and more pleasing to God. The Ten Commandments may have been given many centuries ago but they are not outdated and are still to be obeyed by all.

Thursday 28:       Of the Third week of Lent
Jeremiah 7:23-28; Psalm 94; Luke 11:14-23
In today’s reading from the Prophet Jeremiah, God tells us what commands he had given the people. The people, however, have abandoned the Lord and his commands. It is a reminder to us not to harden our hearts to God but to always be receptive to his ways no matter where they lead us or what they may ask of us. In the gospel some of the people are afraid of Jesus and believe that he can cast out devils because he is one himself. He tells them that this is not the case because the kingdom would soon die if that were so. He goes on to tell them that if they are not for him then they are against him. We know that being for Jesus is not just something we say but is a complete way of life and one which we cannot shy away from because when we refuse to make the commitment to live this way of life then, at that moment, we put up a barrier to closer union with God.

Friday 29:            Of the Third week of Lent
Hosea 14:2-10; Psalm 80; Mark 12:28-34
In the first reading from Hosea, the Lord is calling his people back to him and reminding them that when they seek help that it is he who gives it. God assures them that he loves them freely and that he will shower his blessings on them despite their transgressions. The Psalm continues this theme of God calling his people. In the gospel, Jesus gives the supreme commandment of love – love of God followed by love of neighbour. He quotes from the Old Testament, or the Jewish Scriptures, from the Book of Deuteronomy, which reminds his listeners of the covenants made with God and of their failure to live by it even in the simplest of things. If we live by the command of love then we will have no problem in keeping all the Commandments.

Saturday 30:        Of the Third week of Lent
Hosea 5:15-6:6; Psalm 50; Luke 18:9-14
We read in the prophet Hosea that what God wants from us is true love – not sacrifices and fleeting emotions when we are in difficulty. We must always love him and seek to do his will with sincerity. We must never be superficial people when it comes to God. The Psalm echoes this. In the gospel, Jesus tells the story of two men in the Temple – one who went to the front and told God how good he was, believing that his goodness and righteousness was of his own creation; the other who stayed at the back and asked God for mercy acknowledging that he was a sinner. We are called to be like the second man – to be honest before God and to acknowledge that we do wrong. We are also reminded that all goodness comes from God and not from ourselves and this is what the tax collector realised and which made him righteous before God – God has no time for insincerity. The lesson put before us today is that true love for God is genuine and humble.

Memorials this Week:
March 25:            Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord
Today is celebrated as a solemnity as it recalls the day when the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and told her that God had chosen her to play an important role in the plan of salvation – that of bearing the Christ-child. Key for us is Mary’s acceptance of this task even though the whole episode must have terrified her.

© P. Breen, O.Carm. 2011, 2013
The Reflections above are available in printed form in:
Reflections on the Readings for every day of the Church's year.
Patrick J. Breen, O.Carm. Dublin: Columba Press. 2011. ISBN 978 1 85607 732 3.

And direct from the publishers: Columba Press, Dublin.

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