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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.