Friday, February 26, 2021

Lockdown and Gospel - Day 48, February 26 (Friday of the first week of Lent)

« You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times… But I say to you… » (Matthew 5:21a.22a)

 

In the Sermon on the Mount as retold by Matthew, Jesus emphasizes the contrast between the traditions received from the scribes and his own teaching. As we read this sermon, we could think that Jesus is simply inviting his listeners to aim higher, to practise their religion more fervently. However, we would be mistaken. Jesus invites us instead to reconsider our whole life in the light of the Father’s merciful love for his children. Jesus is not primarily concerned with the quality of our religious “practise,” but with the transformation of our hearts brought about by an experience of ongoing relationship with him.

I hear Catholic leaders express their fear that, because of this lockdown, people might get used to not practising their religion. They wonder if there will be fewer people at church once the pandemic is over. It’s possible. But is this the real question? For Jesus, religious practice is secondary in view of the relationship he calls me to live with him. From that relationship will flow a renewed and committed religious practice that can give meaning to my life.

Abba, Father, I have difficulty “practising” my religion during this confinement. But perhaps this is the opportunity to get to the heart of the question, to rediscover your Son Jesus living in me. Fill me with your Spirit so that I might respond whole-heartedly to his love, a love that changes everything.

Amen.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Lockdown and Gospel - Day 46, February 22 (Wednesday of the first week of Lent)

The queen of Sheba came from the ends of the earth to listen to the wisdom of Solomon, and see, something greater than Solomon is here! (Luke 11:21)

 

Jesus expresses his frustration at the lack of reception his message receives from the religious leaders of Israel. He reminds them how a pagan woman like the Queen of Sheba travelled a long way to come and listen to King Solomon, renowned for his wisdom. Jesus is there, in the midst of his people; no one needs to travel a long way to come and hear him, the living wisdom of God. How sad that they do not take advantage of his nearness.

I notice around me good Catholics who are enthusiastic about people who claim to have the truth about COVID (which, according to them, is only a set-up), about vaccines (which they believe should not be taken), about government efforts (who they imagine want to violate our freedoms) and even about the Pope (whom they claim to be a fake). I wish they put as much energy into listening to the teaching of Jesus, handed on by the Church and lived out by the saints as they do on these conspiracy theorists.

Abba, Father, free me from my fears and anxieties. Help me to trust the men and women who have a responsibility to seek the common good during this pandemic. Change my heart so that, in all things, I seek first to deepen my relationship with your son, Jesus, the source of all true wisdom.

Amen.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Lockdown and Gospel - Day 42, February 20 (Saturday after Ash Wednesday)

Jesus went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up, left everything, and followed him. (Luke 5 :27–28)

 

In calling Levi–also known as Matthew–Jesus invites a man of bad reputation to become his disciple. Indeed, publicans, who collected taxes for the Romans, were seen as traitors, men who got rich off the backs of the poor of Israel. This didn’t stop Jesus who only sees a human being in need of God’s love if he is to be transformed. From a static, rigid position, seated at his desk, Levi gets up and walks: he is resurrected to a new life.

Living Lent during this pandemic doesn’t seem easy to me. Isn’t this lockdown a kind of Lenten season that doesn’t seem to end? It’s true, if I equate Lent with “doing penance,” then Lent began long before Ash Wednesday this year. However, if I understand Lent as an opportunity to leave a static and rigid spiritual position to engage more deeply in following Jesus, these forty days could truly lead to a resurrection.

Abba, Father, as he heard the words of your son Jesus, Levi heard your call. He recognized in these words the possibility of a new beginning, of a dynamic life following Jesus. Grant me the generosity of heart to respond like him, whatever my past or my present may be. Help me turn to a future renewed by your presence and your love.

Amen.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Lockdown and Gospel - Day 40, February 18 (Thursday after Ash Wednesday)

If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. (Luke 9:23)


In popular parlance, "carrying one’s cross" means accepting to patiently endure a difficult ordeal over which one has no control. But in the mouth of Jesus, this expression says something else. For Jesus, the cross is not an ordeal to be endured, but the supreme witness of love which becomes a source of salvation for the world. He announces to his listeners that, if they want to be his disciples, they must do as he did: embark on a path of radical love that transforms every aspect of life.

In the popular conception, this pandemic is a "cross" that I must endure with patience. However, if I follow Jesus, I will seize this pandemic an opportunity to truly be his disciple. I will transform this ordeal with my words of love, by the concern I have for others, by my care for the good of all. In learning to overcome my frustrations to be more attentive to others, I transform this pandemic into a Christian "cross", a sign of love and a source of salvation for the world.

Abba, Father, from the height of the Cross, Jesus poured out your love on the world. Give me your Spirit so that I also turn all the events of my life into an occasion for love. Help me to die to my selfish moods and help others live abundantly.

Amen.


Monday, February 15, 2021

Day 37, February 15 (Monday of the sixth week of Ordinary time)

 (How does today’s Gospel speak to me during this lockdown? Allow me to share a humble reflection.)

 

The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, asking him for a sign from heaven, to test him.” (Mark 8:11)

Back in Jewish territory, Jesus is immediately assailed by the Pharisees. Despite all the signs he has given to date (exorcisms, healings and teachings), they demand an even greater sign, something spectacular. However, their mind is already closed; their request springs from mistrust, not from interest. Their understanding of God simply doesn’t align with that of Jesus. They are looking for a powerful, majestic, magician God; Jesus reveals a God of compassion and service who chooses to be close to the humble. The Pharisees and Jesus are not on the same page.

How wonderful it would be if God intervened with an extraordinary sign to end the pandemic. I would no longer have to endure confinement, masks and distancing, the sick would all be healed and humanity would believe in God! But the God of Jesus doesn’t correspond to my dreams. Rather, God is present in humble acts of service, in daily compassion, in gentle words and attentive patience.

Abba, Father, you revealed your glory and your majesty in the silence of Good Friday. You don’t dominate, you serve. You don’t impose yourself, you love. Free me from any false images I may have of you, so that I may discover you in the humble service of my brothers and sisters.

Amen.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Lockdown and Gospel - Day 33, February 13 (Saturday of the fifth week of Ordinary time)

(How does today’s Gospel speak to me during this lockdown? Allow me to share a humble reflection.)

 

His disciples replied, “How can one feed these people with bread here in the desert?” (Mark 8:4)

Jesus is in pagan territory, surrounded by a crowd that has been with him for three days. However, this place is deserted and Jesus worries that the people will not have the physical strength to return home. Taken with compassion, he expresses his concern to his disciples, who respond with the question quoted above. They see no way out of the problem Jesus has set before them. Then Jesus himself takes the situation in hand: he multiplies the little bread they have, and the crowd is fed.

I have the feeling of being on a rigorous fast since the beginning of this lockdown. I am not fasting from food – I have it in abundance – but from friendships, shared activities and family gatherings. The lockdown seems like a relational desert. I understand the apostles' frustration: where can I find something to satisfy my yearning in such a desert? TV shows, puzzles and solitary walks no longer suffice. However, Jesus can take what little I have - phone calls, text messages, little gifts exchanged by mail - and multiply their scope and impact in my life. My poverty can become wealth in his Spirit.

Abba, Father, this lockdown obliges me to endure a relational fast, even a spiritual one. Renew my trust in Jesus who, still today, can multiply the bread that is mine. May the brief and fleeting encounters that make up my life these days, however poor they may be, generate in me a deep richness which will satisfy my yearning. From the abundance that I will then discover in myself, I will be able to feed others.

Amen. 

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Lockdown and Gospel - Day 33, February 11 (Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes)

(How does today's gospel call me to live this lockdown? Allow me to share my humble reflection with you.)


On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ (John 2:1.3)

In the gospel of John, Jesus’s first miracle is not a healing, but a transformation of water into wine. Wine isn’t necessary for survival, but it represents all the "plus" in life that gives it taste, warmth and colour. Mary recognizes that it's not enough to survive, you have to live, too.

This lockdown forces me to put aside all the 'plus' of my life. Right now, I must simply focus on survival, and I find this painful. However, still today, Jesus can transform what appears to be plain water into a source of joy, vitality and dynamism. I must seek to live deeply the very simple things that are within my reach.

Abba, Father, I don't want to simply survive, I desire to live deeply. To Mary's concern corresponds the compassion of your Son who wants me to taste the rich wine of your life-giving Spirit. Open my heart so that I in turn can be a source of deep life for others.

Amen.

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Lockdown and Gospel -- Day 31, February 9 (Tuesday of the fifth week of Ordinary time)

(How does today’s Gospel speak to me during this lockdown? Allow me to share a humble reflection.)

 

The Pharisees and the scribes asked Jesus, “Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” (Mark 7:5)

The Pharisees were a group of fervent Jews who wanted to live their faith in a radical way. For them, this meant paying attention to the smallest details of the Law of Moses, which they interpreted very narrowly. However, it’s easy to get bogged down in such details while forgetting that which is essential. For Jesus, it’s not the hands that need to be purified, but the heart.

This lockdown has forced me to set aside certain religious practices that usually allowed me to express my faith and grow in it. Sometimes, I really get frustrated and anxious about this situation. However, I can be so centred on these practices I can’t enjoy, that I forget those that lie within my reach: meditation on the Word of God, prayer, spiritual reading, love shared with others and commitment for justice.

Abba, Father, I suffer from all that this lockdown has stolen from me. Yet, I ask you to open my eyes and my heart to what remains. Your love, the friendship of your Son, Jesus and the vitality of the Spirit within me is the essential reality on which I need to focus. So that when the day comes that I can return to my community practices, my heart will be even more open to you and to all my brothers and sisters.

Amen.

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Lockdown and Gospel - Day 29, February 7

(How does today’s Gospel speak to me during this lockdown? Allow me to share a humble reflection.)


Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told Jesus about her at once. He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them. (Mark 1:30-31)

The prone position to which Simon’s mother-in-law is reduced represents everything that drags humans down and oppresses them. The verb that Mark uses to designate her healing—he “lifted her up”—is one of the verbs that will be used to designate the resurrection of Jesus: he is “risen” from the dead. The standing position that characterizes this woman after her recovery represents her renewed vitality, her autonomy, her ability to engage in life.

This lockdown has the capacity to lay me low. I tend to stay in bed too long, to idle too much on the sofa or in my big chair. My mind seems downcast, oppressed somehow. Jesus wants to give me his hand to help me get up, to arise. He wants to breathe his Spirit of life and generosity in me so that I might remain lucid, engaged and active, even in the midst of this challenging time.

Abba, Father, thank you for your son Jesus who comes to my help to lift me out of my lethargy. Don’t let me to be satisfied with my downcast state. Instead, awaken in me the desire to share here and now in the vitality of your Son’s resurrection. Help me to choose life every day.

Amen.

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Lockdown and Gospel - Day 28, February 6 (Saturday of the fourth week of Ordinary time)

(How does today’s Gospel speak to me during this lockdown? Allow me to share a humble reflection.)


He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” (Mark 6:31)

Returning from their first mission, the Apostles are eager to share all they have experienced with Jesus. He suggests that they withdraw from the crowd to enjoy a little rest. Jesus's invitation transcends mere physical well-being. It takes on a deeply spiritual dimension. In fact, in the Bible, “rest” is a grace granted by God, the characteristic note of the Sabbath, a messianic gift.

I certainly feel like I’ve “come away to a deserted place” during this lockdown. In fact, I’m occasionally frustrated by this forced rest. I can't wait to go out, to gather with friends, to take up my activities. However, I notice that Jesus included himself in his invitation to the Apostles. He didn’t say "Go and rest," but "Come and rest". My lockdown experience will change if I recognize that Jesus is in it with me, at my side, in my heart. His presence transforms this prolonged halt into a spiritual renewal.

Abba, Father, you give me a faithful companion in this lockdown: your Son Jesus, my brother. With him, I can transform this long period of social convalescence into a journey of healing, renewal and fulfillment. Help me recognize his presence and share it all around.

Amen.

Friday, February 5, 2021

Lockdown and Gospel - Day 27, February 5 (Memorial of saint Agatha)

(How does today’s Gospel speak to me during this lockdown? Allow me to share a humble reflection.)


Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison. (Mark 6:2)

Like many tyrants, King Herod took whatever he wanted. John the Baptist, however, was not afraid to criticize and denounce him. However, John suffered the fate of many other activists in the history of the world who cried out for justice: he was imprisoned, tortured and killed. It would be the same with Jesus.

Sometimes this lockdown feels like a prison. Maybe this experience will help me grow in solidarity with the many men and women who, still today, are imprisoned for their commitment to justice, freedom and peace.

Abba, Father, I present to you these brothers and sisters who, because of their convictions and their concern for the common good, are thrown in prison, mistreated, humiliated and sometimes executed. My confinement during this lockdown is a pale shadow of what they endure for the sake of your Kingdom of justice, peace and joy. May my prayer bring them something of comfort and hope.

Amen.

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Lockdown and Gospel - Day 25, February 3 (Wednesday of the fourth week of Ordinary time)

(How does today’s Gospel speak to me during this lockdown? Allow me to share a humble reflection.)


Jesus began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, “Where did this man get all this?  (Mark 6:2)

The people of Jesus’s village were amazed at the power of his teaching and by his ability to cast out demons and heal the sick. We are luckier than them, for we know whence came this power. Indeed, we know the rest of the story: his passion, his resurrection and his exaltation. ‘Where did he get that from?” From his Father, whose power is love.

And where could I draw the strength to live this confinement with calm and confidence if not from the same source? With Jesus, I can find in God the ability to speak wisely and act lovingly for others. For, through baptism, Jesus makes me participate in his own relationship with the Father, in the Holy Spirit.

Abba, Father, Jesus did not seek first to astonish, but to heal, to console and to free. He wanted nothing more than to reveal your love for humanity. Help me to live as a true brother, a true sister of your Son. By seeking–with him—the good of others, by welcoming—like him—your Spirit of strength, I will be able—in him–to experience and share joy and peace, even in the heart of this lockdown.

Amen.

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Lockdown and Gospel - Day 24, February 2 (Feast of the Presentation of the Lord)

(How does today’s Gospel speak to me during this lockdown? Allow me to share a humble reflection.)


“The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favour of God was upon him.” (Luke 2:40)

This editorial line from Luke concludes the account of the trip that Joseph and Mary made to present their newborn baby, Jesus, at the Temple. It also sums up everything we know about the childhood of Christ, emphasizing that it was a time of physical, psychological and spiritual growth.

Is the lockdown a time of growth for me? Obviously, I stopped growing physically many years ago. Still, I need to take care of my body and keep myself healthy. Psychologically, I’m far from having attained full maturity. In this respect, the solitude and forced idleness imposed by the lockdown are like a school that opens up new interior spaces for me to discover and integrate. Finally, at the spiritual level, as the lockdown upsets my habitual practices. It invites me to discover new forms of prayer, celebration and communion.

Abba, Father, you watch over me like your beloved child. Regardless of my age, you want to see me continually grow and flourish. Whatever the context, you help me to live abundantly. May my body, my heart and my mind unite in an ongoing process of growth which will only cease when I ultimately come into your presence.

Amen.

Monday, February 1, 2021

Lockdown and Gospel - Day 23, February 1 (Monday of the fourth week of Ordinary Time)

(How does today’s Gospel speak to me during this lockdown? Allow me to share a humble reflection.)


Jesus said to him, “Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and what mercy he has shown you.”(Mark 5 :19)

Jesus has just freed a man from a devastating maleficent power. In a surge of gratitude, this man asks Jesus to become his disciple, but Jesus invites him instead to reconnect with his own family, to retake his place in the life of his village and to share his experience of God's mercy with those who share his life.

I sometimes fantasize about doing something extraordinary that would show everyone my faith. The Lord, however, invites me to simplicity and humility. My Christian life first takes place in my family setting, in my home, where I can simply share the love I receive from God with others. This lockdown invites me to be more attentive to the less spectacular dimension of life, woven from simple gestures but imbued with great love.

Abba, Father, you are full of kindness and mercy for me. Thanks to you, I can experience a hope and a joy that I would not know otherwise. Help me to be a witness of your mercy, especially for those who are close to me. In the ordinariness of my life, I will learn to recognize the wonder of your presence.

Amen.

 

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Lockdown and Gospel - Day 22, January 31 (Fourth Sunday of Ordinary time)

(How does today’s Gospel speak to me during this lockdown? Allow me to share a humble reflection.)


They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” (Mark 1:27)

At the beginning of his gospel, Mark emphasizes the power of the Jesus’s word. His teaching impresses and energizes people. His words can expel evil spirits and heal the sick. Without saying it, Mark is sending a message to his readers: “The text you read - my gospel - is also the Word of God, and can act with power in your lives, too! "

I usually listen to Bible texts at Sunday mass or even on weekdays. These texts often encourage me. Sometimes, they challenge me to change something in my life. They enlighten and console me. This lockdown, however, gives me the opportunity to open myself even more to the power of a Word that heals, transforms and brings life.

Abba, Father, you sent your living Word into the world, your son Jesus. As I read the Bible, as I meditate on these texts, as I pray with them, your Word takes root in me and leads me to more abundant life. Teach me to frequent your Word with diligence and generosity. More and more, may it become my home, the source of deeper life, the true light for my path.

Amen.

(Note: A Catholic website that can help us grow with the Sunday scriptures is this one: https://liturgy.slu.edu/. I invite you to visit this website and explore the wide variety and richness of the reflections it offers.)

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Lockdown and Gospel -- Day 21, January 30th (Saturday of the third week of Ordinary time)

(How does today’s Gospel speak to me during this lockdown? Allow me to share a humble reflection.)


Jesus said to his disciples, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” (Mark 4:40)

After the parables comes the story of the crossing of the lake. Jesus and his disciples find themselves in a boat in the middle of a storm. The disciples fear for their lives as Jesus, exhausted, sleeps in the boat. They call to him for help. Waking up, he calms the wind and the sea. The disciples are astonished, frightened by their master’s power. Mark points out that they have not yet grasped Jesus’s identity nor learned to trust him. It’s only after the resurrection that they will understand and believe.

This pandemic is like a great storm that has befallen the world. I implore the Lord to intervene, but he seems to be sleeping. Why doesn’t he get up, why doesn’t he step in to make this disease go away? I could wear myself out questioning God … but maybe I should also question myself. Why am I not confident? The disciples did not know who Jesus was, but I do: he is the Son of God, conqueror of death, my Saviour and my Lord.

Abba, Father, I take up prayer of the man who asked Jesus to heal his son: “Yes, I believe; But help my unbelief!” Faced with the upheavals caused by the pandemic, I feel fragile and helpless. But your Son Jesus is with me, close by. Send your Spirit to calm the storm that rages within me and to give peace to my heart.

Amen.

Friday, January 29, 2021

Lockdown and Gospel - Day 20, January 29 (Friday of the third week of Ordinary time)

(How does today’s Gospel speak to me during this lockdown? Allow me to share a humble reflection.)


The Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth;  yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs. (Mark 4:31-32)

Mark continues his narrative by reporting a few parables concerning the Kingdom. This one echoes the theme of “secrecy” typical of this Gospel. The Kingdom seems to grow from humble origins: a private gesture, a few quiet words, a simple prayer … but against all odds, it develops and flourishes and bears an abundance of fruit.

This lockdown forces me to recognize my weakness and even my helplessness. What can I possibly do in my solitude to reach out, help others, give hope or shed light? Very little, it seems to me. And yet, this little bit, entrusted to the Lord, can bear abundant fruit, beyond my expectations. It is only in heaven that I will know all the good that my little acts have produced in the world.

Abba, Father, help me believe that my poverty can be a source of life for others, despite all appearances. Open me to the mysteries of your Kingdom which silently but constantly grows in this world. Teach me to sow my little seeds with confidence, knowing that you will make them bear fruit in surprising ways for me and for others.

Amen.

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Lockdown and Gospel - Day 19, January 28 (Memorial of Saint Thomas of Aquinas)

(How does today’s Gospel speak to me during this lockdown? Allow me to share a humble reflection.)

 

And he said to them, “The measure you give will be the measure you get, and still more will be given you.” (Mark 4:24)

In our times. If you buy 500 grams of ground coffee, you’re sure to get exactly 500 grams. Such standardized measures did not exist in Jesus’s times. Dishonest merchants could fashion smaller measures for themselves and use them to increase their profits. Jesus invites his disciples to use large measures instead, promising them that their greater generosity will result in an even more generous return, far beyond their expectations.

It seems that this lockdown causes me to “reduce my measure,” to be a bit more selfish, a little less generous. Could this be a result of anxiety? Fatigue? A mildly depressed state? A closing in on myself? Perhaps it’s a little of all of that. Jesus invites me to fight against this tendency. He wants me to live fully, even during this lockdown, and to give freely of myself.

Abba, Father, free me from the deadly tendencies that may tempt me during this period of confinement. Make me all the more attentive to others, more dedicated to service, more inclined to give of myself. May your love draw me into a movement that decentres myself and centres me on others.

Amen.

 

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Lockdown and Gospel -- Day 18, January 27 (Wednesday of the third week of Ordinary time)

(How does today’s Gospel speak to me during this lockdown? Allow me to share a humble reflection.)


And Jesus said, “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!” (Mark 4:9)

In his fourth chapter, the evangelist Mark presents us with the first parables of Jesus. Through these stories, Jesus wants to initiate his disciples into the coming Kingdom and open them to the active presence of God in the world. However, they are not obvious: the disciples must invest themselves in these accounts and seek to understand them as from within. Otherwise, they’ll simply go in one ear and out the other.

Could it be that this lockdown is some kind of parable writ large? Not that God would impose it on us to teach us something; but perhaps there is a meaning to be found in this painful experience. I would have to open my ears, my eyes and my heart to understand this event in depth and to grasp what God is trying to tell us through it. If I don’t make this effort, the lockdown will go through my life without having taught me anything.

Abba, Father, I believe you speak to me in everyday events. How much more must you be trying to tell me something during this pandemic! Open my ears so I might hear. Open my eyes so I might see. Open my heart to welcome your Spirit, that I might have the wisdom to understand this living parable.

Amen.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Lockdown and Gospel -- Day 17, January 26 (Memorial of saints Timothy and Titus)

 (How does today’s Gospel speak to me during this lockdown? Allow me to share a humble reflection.)

 

« Who are my mother and my brothers? » And looking at those who sat around him, Jesus said, “Here are my mother and my brothers!” (Mark 3:34-35)

Family relationships were highly valued in the culture of Jesus—sacrosanct, one might say. Yet Jesus does not consider them fundamental. He claims that one’s relationship with God is more important. In doing so, he proclaims that, for him, his disciples form his true family. He must have gazed upon them with care and tenderness as he called them mother, brother and sister.

Jesus looks at me the same way. He doesn’t only want to be my Lord and my Saviour, he wants to be my brother, my close friend. He joins me in the solitude of my confinement to keep me company. Jesus invites me to turn with him to God to discover a Father full of compassion who wants to reunite all his children in one big, loving and warm-hearted family.

Abba, Father, in Jesus you give me a new family of brothers and sisters. What unites us is our desire to understand and do your will here on earth, as it is done in heaven. Teach us to share our substantial bread with the least of your children. Enable us to forgive each other as you forgive us. Keep us united in your love, despite this lockdown.

Amen.

Monday, January 25, 2021

Lockdown and Gospel -- Day 16, January 25 (Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul)

(How does today’s Gospel speak to me during this lockdown? Allow me to share a humble reflection.)


And Jesus said to the Apostles, “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation.” (Mark 4:15 p.m.)

Saint Paul was not there the day the Risen Christ entrusted this mission to his Apostles. But one day, on the road to Damascus, the same Jesus met him, revealed himself to him and associated him to their mission. Today the Church remembers this turning point in the life of one who would become “the Apostle of the Nations.”

The lockdown I’m experiencing could well be a “road to Damascus” for me. It could transform me by opening my eyes to what is essential. I had fallen asleep in my old ways. This lockdown shakes me up, throws me to the ground … and the voice of God awakens me to my mission. I could come out of this with renewed priorities, new convictions about the path to follow in my personal life, in the Church and in society.

Abba, Father, I bless you for the road to Damascus: Paul’s road two thousand years ago and mine, today. Let me hear your voice and see your light, so that I will come out transformed and renewed by this experience. Renew my hope so that I might go forth with the Apostles and with Saint Paul to proclaim your Gospel to all people.

Amen.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Lockdown and Gospel - Day 15, January 24 (Third Sunday in Ordinary Time)

(How does today’s Gospel speak to me during this lockdown? Allow me to share a humble reflection.)


Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. (Mark 1.14)

Today in the Catholic Church, we celebrate “the Sunday of the Word.” Pope Francis’s reflection this morning resonates with me. He draws my attention to a particular difference between John the Baptist and Jesus: while John preached in the desert, Jesus preached in the villages of Galilee. People had to leave their homes to go listen to John; Jesus leaves his own home to go out to meet them. He visits their homes, their workplaces, their synagogues and their public places. In this way, he manifests God’s desire to be close to all God’s children.

Even today, Jesus comes to me. Thanks to Sacred Scripture, I can welcome him into my home, listen to him and converse with him in prayer. Thanks to his Spirit, he abides in my heart. Even during this lockdown, Jesus wants to draw closer to me, to console me, to enlighten me and give me his courage. I only need to open the Book and read.

Abba, Father, I bless you because, in Jesus, you have made yourself close to us. Your living Word reaches us where we are. Help us to welcome it, to meditate on it, to let ourselves be transformed by it. Make us messengers of your Good News for so many men and women who are struggling in these difficult times. May this Sunday of the Word shine throughout 2021 so that, despite everything, it will be a year of grace.

Amen.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Lockdown and Gospel -- Day 14, January 23 (Saturday of the second week of Ordinary time)

(How does today’s Gospel speak to me during this lockdown? Allow me to share a humble reflection.)


When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.” (Mark 3:21)

The Greek expression translated here as “his family” includes Jesus’s relatives and members of his village. What is it they’ve heard that causes their reaction? They’ve become aware of his dazzling popularity, but also of the radicalism of its teaching and his controversies with religious leaders. Their own reputation is at stake. They obviously don’t understand him. So they try to bring him back to his native village, by force if necessary. Poor Jesus! He meets opposition from all sides, even from his relatives and childhood friends.

How lucky I am to belong to a family that loves and supports me. Not everyone is so lucky. The tensions resulting from this lockdown can contribute to souring already fragile relationships. The feeling of not being understood and being rejected by our loved ones can then grow and plunge us into even greater loneliness. Where did Jesus find the strength to endure such rejection? In his relationship with the Father.

Abba, Father, I thank you for my family and friends. They are a real blessing for me in this time of lockdown. However, I can’t help but consider the many people who find themselves even more isolated because of relationship breakdowns caused by this lockdown. I hold them up in prayer so that you might console them, enlighten them and give them hope even in their loneliness.

Amen.

Friday, January 22, 2021

Lockdown and Gospel - Day 13, January 22 (Friday of the second week of Ordinary time)

(How does today’s Gospel speak to me during this lockdown? Allow me to share a humble reflection.)


He went up the mountain and called to him those whom he wanted, and they came to him.  And he appointed twelve, whom he also named apostles, to be with him, and to be sent out to proclaim the message, and to have authority to cast out demons. (Mark 3:13-15)

In Mark’s Gospel, mountains are places of revelation, of proximity to God. Jesus calls the Twelve to him on a mountain. This small group, the nucleus out of which the Church will grow, is introduced by Jesus into divine intimacy. He establishes them in a stable fashion “to be with him”. This relationship gives rise to a mission: proclaiming Jesus’s message and doing good to others.

Can this lockdown become God’s mountain for me, a space set apart from the world, difficult to inhabit but pregnant with the divine? Could this confinement be an occasion for me to discover more deeply what it means to “be with Jesus”? He calls me, here and now, to share the hope that inhabits me and to expel the demons of anxiety, discouragement and indifference.

Abba, Father, it’s not easy to climb this lockdown mountain. I would rather stay in the plain, where one can easily journey, surrounded by comfortable landscapes. Yet, this mountain that challenges me is a place of encounter, of intimacy and of mission. Help me recognize your presence, let me hear your voice, allow me to walk with the Twelve in the footsteps of Jesus.

Amen.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Lockdown and Gospel - Day 12, January 21 (Memorial of Saint Agnes)

(How does today’s Gospel speak to me during this lockdown? Allow me to share a humble reflection.)

Jesus departed with his disciples to the sea, and a great multitude from Galilee followed him; hearing all that he was doing, they came to him in great numbers from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, beyond the Jordan, and the region around Tyre and Sidon. (Mark 3 :7-8)

The expression "to follow Jesus" could be translated "to become his disciple". Mark points out that these many disciples come from various parts of the Middle East, both pagan and Jewish. Such was the impact of Jesus’s words and deeds of on the people of his day. However, Mark also foreshadows the Church to come, a community of communities marked by a great diversity of ethnicities, languages ​​and cultures.

Often when I hear the word “Church” I think of my home parish; sometimes, I’ll think of the Pope in Rome. This word, however, evokes a much richer reality: hundreds of millions of people from all over the world who share the same faith in Jesus and live out of the conviction that he gives them access to life in abundance. During this lockdown, it does me good to think that I am part of this immense and varied people. I am not alone in praying to God in the name of his Son, Jesus.

Abba, Father, I thank you for this multitude of brothers and sisters that you give me in Jesus. All over the world, people like me are fighting this pandemic by seeking light, consolation and strength in the same Word and in the same Spirit. May your Church be a source of hope and fraternal warmth in the midst of this suffering world.

Amen.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Lockdown and Gospel - Day 10, January 20 (Wednesday of the second week of Ordinary time)

 

(How does today’s Gospel speak to me during this lockdown? Allow me to share a humble reflection.)

Jesus entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand. They watched him to see whether he would cure him on the sabbath, so that they might accuse him. (Mark 3 :1-2)

Mark goes on to tell how Jesus asked the congregation whether it was permissible to do good on a Sabbath day. No one dared answer. Jesus then looked at the congregation with anger, "grieved at their hardness of heart." Despite their refusal, he healed the man, provoking the Pharisees’ decision to destroy him. The opposition to Jesus is radicalized by his insistence on showing the Father's mercy.

Jesus can heal a withered hand. Faced with a hardened heart, however, he is powerless because he respects human freedom. That is why hardening of the heart is much more dangerous than any disability, disease or infirmity. The coronavirus may infect my body; it should never infect my heart, making me uncaring for others.

Abba, Father, save me from the hardening of my heart. Keep me open to the work you want to accomplish in me and through me. I may suffer from an "atrophied hand," whatever shape it takes in my life, but don't let my heart grow hard.

Amen.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Lockdown and Gospel - Day 10, January 19 (Tuedsay of the second week of Ordinary time)

 

(How does today’s Gospel speak to me during this lockdown? Allow me to share with you my humble reflection.)


Then he said to them, “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath.” (Mark 2,27)


Another scandal! This time, the disciples are gleaning crops as they walk in order to feed themselves. However, it’s the Sabbath (Saturday) and harvesting is not permitted on this day of rest. For the Pharisees, strict observance of the Sabbath is part of Jewish identity. Jesus responds with a pithy sentence. He reminds them that the law of God is not an absolute, but that it exists for the good of humankind.

Oh, the law! It’s a topic of intense discussion these days. Some argue that the government does not have the right to restrict their freedom by enacting regulations such as curfews. Others point out that "the law is the law" and must be obeyed at all costs. Occasionally, I find myself ambivalent. Maybe I need to remind myself that what matters ultimately is the good of others; and that during a pandemic, the common good consists primarily in the protection of life.

Abba, Father, make me understand that the world does not revolve around me. May my obedience to government regulations become a sign of my love for all my brothers and sisters. What Jesus says about the Sabbath can also apply to me: I was made for others, and not others for me. Teach me the law of love!

Amen.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Lockdown and Gospel - Day 9, January 18 (Monday of the second week of Ordinary time)

 

(How does today’s Gospel speak to me during this lockdown? Allow me to share with you my humble reflection.)


Jesus said to them, “The wedding guests cannot fast while the bridegroom is with them, can they? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast on that day.” (Mark 2:19-20)

The Pharisees are scandalized again, this time because Jesus's disciples do not fast twice a week, as was the custom among pious Jews of the day. Jesus uses their question to a more important issue, that of his identity. In the Old Testament, the Covenant between God and Israel was sometimes understood as a marriage where God played the part of the bridegroom and the people that of the bride. Jesus takes pm God’s role, announcing that he himself comes to renew the Covenant. his renewal, however, will only be accomplished in his death, when the Bridegroom will be "taken away" from the wedding guests.

Like the early Christians, I am torn between the joy of knowing the Risen Christ and the pain of his absence. I believe he will come in glory at the end of time, but until then life is often painful, like during this lockdown. I’m forced to fast against my will. I must fast from family, friends, outings and pleasurable habits. How can I hold on to Christian joy in the midst of hardship?

Abba, Father, give me the confidence of your Son, Jesus. He never doubted your love, despite the challenge, the rejection, the betrayal and the suffering he experienced. He came to reestablish my relationship with you, sealing a new Covenant in his body and in his blood. He is the faithful spouse who will never forsake me. For that, I give you thanks.

Amen.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Lockdown and Gospel - Day 8, January 17 (Second Sunday of Ordinary Time)

(How does today’s Gospel speak to me during this lockdown? Allow me to share with you my humble reflection.)


When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, ‘What are you looking for?’ (John 1:37)

These are Jesus’s first words in John's gospel: neither a proclamation nor a teaching, but a simple question that invites to dialogue. He will use a similar approach with the Samaritan woman, with the paralytic, with the man born blind. He likes to open a space where others can express themselves, question themselves, reflect and grow. This first gospel question is perhaps the most important: “What are you looking for? ”

And so: what am I looking for in this time of lockdown? The first answers that come to mind are obvious: a vaccine, a return to normalcy, being able to have a meal with my family and friends… But why do I yearn for these things? What lies below these needs? What deep desire abides in me?

Abba, Father, this lockdown gives me time to seriously ponder serious questions: what is the meaning of my life, what difference can I make in this world, why love and be loved? Help me to really think about these important questions. They will help me engage a dialogue with you where you will answer me with your written Word in the Bible, and your living Spirit in my heart.

Amen.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Lockdown and Gospel - Day 7, January 16 (Saturday of the first week of Ordinary time)

(How does the today’s Gospel speak to me during the lockdown? Allow me to share with you my humble reflection.)


« When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that Jesus was eating with sinners and tax collectors, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ » (Mark 2:16)


The Pharisees prided themselves on their strict observance of the law. They’re scandalized by Jesus’s proximity to those known for breaking the law. Yet Jesus is only showing God’s concern for all his children on earth. His liberal hospitality reflects the mercy that God wants to offer every human being, without any triage to weed out the unworthy.

As a disciple of Jesus, I am the object of his hospitality, he welcomes me into his home. But he also calls on me to be the agent of his hospitality in my surroundings. During this lockdown, how can I reflect Jesus's unconditional hospitality? Perhaps I could enlarge my “virtual bubble” by reaching out to those who feel forgotten or neglected by me.

Abba, Father, help me overcome my natural tendency to withdraw into a small group of close friends who resemble me. As Jesus did, I want to show your generous hospitality to those who sometimes feel left out. Teach me to welcome them around my heart’s table.

Amen.

Friday, January 15, 2021

Lockdown and Gospel - Day 6, January 15 (Friday of the first week in Ordinary time)

(How does the today’s Gospel call me to live the lockdown? Allow me to share with you my humble reflection.)


“Then some people came to Jesus, bringing a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. And when they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and after having dug through it, they let down the mat on which the paralytic lay.’ (Mark 2:3-4)

Jesus’ popularity continues to grow so that it becomes difficult to approach him. For a paralytic who cannot move, this is impossible ... unless you have friends ready to intervene and four strong men who aren’t afraid of tearing down walls to achieve their goal. Jesus, admiring their faith, heals the paralyzed man and forgives his sins.

I admire these friends and strong men who care for this feeble one. They have only one thought: the good of their crippled friend who alone can do nothing for himself. I admire their creativity and determination, their collaboration and generosity. In a similar way, I admire those who today, in the context of this pandemic, find creative ways to support the poor, the sick and the lonely.

Abba, Father, give me the generosity and creativity of the paralytic’s friends. Awaken in me the desire to help those who suffer from this confinement even more than I do. I can at least carry them to you in my daily prayer. And may my prayer generate in me gestures of friendship and solidarity. 

Amen.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Lockdown and Gospel - Day 5, January 14 (Thursday of the first week of ordinary time)

(How does the today’s Gospel call me to live the lockdown? Allow me to share with you my humble reflection.)


"A leper came to him begging him, and kneeling he said to him, ‘If you choose, you can make me clean.’ Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, ‘I do choose. Be made clean!’" (Mark 1:40-45)

In Jesus' time, people who suffered from leprosy were marginalized, cut off from social relationships, excluded from the human community. In addition to suffering physically, they were deprived of human warmth, affection and intimacy. The leper in this story dares to approach Jesus and Jesus dares to approach him. The master’s compassion purifies the leper and heals him in all the dimensions of his being.

The lockdown helps me understand what it means to be forced to keep my distance, to be cut off from those I love, to be deprived of affection. I understand more clearly the leper’s deep suffering. Perhaps the lockdown will also help me grow in solidarity with all the marginalized and those who are left behind: the homeless, the poor, refugees, exiles, ex-prisoners ... the list goes on.

Abba, Father, I would like to be like Jesus, filled with compassion when facing the suffering of others, attentive to their deepest needs, open to contact with them. I too would like to reach out to them, stretch out my arms to welcome them, open my hand to share myself with them. Give me your Spirit of compassion and generosity.

Amen.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Lockdown and Gospel - Day 4, January 13 (Wednesday of the first week in Ordinary Time)

 

(How does the today’s Gospel call me to engage the lockdown? Allow me to share with you my humble reflection.)


“Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever… Jesus came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.” (John 15:11)

The first miracle that Mark recounts in his Gospel is an exorcism. The physical healing of Simon's mother-in-law is the second. Jesus frees people from illnesses of both the soul and the body. He thus manifests his dominion over the powers of evil that prevent human beings from being fully alive. In response to his healing, Simon's mother-in-law places herself at the service of others. Having recovered her health, she imitates Jesus by loving her neighbor.

The pandemic is making us all sick to varying degrees. I may not have caught the virus, but I am suffering the consequences of its spread in our world: impoverished relationships, difficulties at work, anxiety and isolation lead to discouragement, even to depression. Healthcare workers - blessed are they - are dedicated to freeing us from physical illness, but who will free me from the sickness of soul that this lockdown causes?

Abba, Father, I also need healing. Open my heart to your Spirit, the "hand" of Jesus reaching out to touch me and set me free. Restore peace and confidence in me so that, as did Simon's mother-in-law, I will happily serve others.

Amen.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Lockdown and Gospel - Day 3, January 12 (Saint Marguerite Bourgeoys)

(How does the today’s Gospel call me to live the lockdown? Allow me to share with you my humble reflection.)


“I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.” (John 15:11)

Why has the Eternal Word come into our world and embraced our weakness? Why did he teach us the path of Life? Why did he die so painfully on the Cross? For one reason only: so that we may be filled with joy, and that our joy be perfect. But not just any joy: his joy, his very own! In the sentences that precede and follow the quoted verse, he explains how to receive his joy: by remaining in his love and by loving one another.

Finding joy in this lockdown is not obvious. I can’t seem to find too many find sources of joy in the present circumstances. But when I find no joy in myself, Jesus shares his own joy with me. He spoke of this perfect joy the night before his passion. Wouldn't that be a sign that the joy he's talking about has nothing to do with the circumstances I have to face? Rather, it springs from an inner conviction that I am loved since all eternity ... and from the decision to love in others in return.

Abba, Father, open me to the joy of your son Jesus. Help me understand how much I am loved. Show me how to share with others the love that Jesus gives me. Despite this lockdown - and any other obstacles in my life - I will experience a joy that the world cannot take away from me, a perfect joy. Amen.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Lockdown and Gospel - Day 2, January 11 (Monday of the first week in ordinary time)

 (How does the Gospel of today's Mass call me to live the lockdown here at home? Allow me to share with you my humble reflection.)


Jesus said: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” … Immediately, [Peter and Andrew] left their nets and followed him. (Mark 1:15.18)


This is the gist of Jesus' message, according to Mark: the time is ripe for God to come and reign in our hearts and in the world, we just need to welcome God’s intervention. Peter and Andrew, James and John believed him, they left everything to follow him.

Very nice, but I have two objections. First, a lockdown doesn’t seem a ripe time for anything, it rather seems dismal to me. I can't see anyone, I can't do anything, not even go to Church to pray a little. And second, even though, like the apostles, this lockdown obliges me to give up many things, I have no choice, it is forced upon me. They were free, unlike me.

Abba, Father, help me to overcome these negative reactions. Make me understand that times are never ripe in themselves, that it is I, rather, who must turn them into a propitious moment. And teach me to freely accept the situations imposed on me, so that they become opportunities for growth and renewal. Your reign comes today, I only have to open my heart to welcome it.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Lockdown and Gospel -- Day 1, January 10 (Baptism of the Lord)

(Here is a short reflection on how I see the Gospel of today’s Mass calling me to live the lockdown here in Quebec.)


“People from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to John, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.... In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan."(Mark 1, 5,9)


The evangelist Mark relates how the people of Israel responded with one heart to John the Baptist's invitation to come and be baptized. Jesus joined this movement discreetly, without drawing any attention to himself. He mingled with the crowd of sinners and accepted to be immersed in the water with them. He joined his people as they sought to distance themselves from evil in all its forms.

The solidarity shown by Jesus in this scene invites me to be in solidarity with those around me during this lock-down. I also am a member of a people that seeks to avoid the physical evil of the coronavirus. This effort isn’t easy for any of us, and I might be tempted to think only of my own well-being. Yet, the Gospel invites me to follow Jesus in striving for the common good, the good others share with me.

Abba, Father, help me to recognize this lockdown as an opportunity to contribute to the good of my brothers and sisters by being patient, persevering and courageous. Teach me to follow the example of your Son Jesus, make me aware that we are all in this together.