February 21th, 2021 – First Sunday of Lent - Cycle B
Readings: Genesis 9: 8-15, Psalm 25 “Your ways, O Lord, are love and truth to those who keep your covenant”, 1 Peter 3: 18-22, Mark 1: 12-15
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we are at the beginning of Lent, a time of penance and interior renewal to enable us to prepare for Easter. The Church’s liturgy unceasingly invites us to purify our souls and to begin again. It commemorates the forty days Jesus spent in the desert in preparation for his years of preaching, which culminated in the cross and in the triumph of Easter. Forty days of prayer and penance, and at the end of them the temptations of Christ, which this Sunday’s Gospel recalls.
The whole episode is a mystery which humans cannot hope to understand: God is here submitting to temptation, letting the evil one have his way. A mystery indeed. But we can meditate upon it, asking our Lord to help us understand the teaching it contains. Jesus allowed this so as to give us an example of humility, and to teach us to overcome temptations that we are going to have to undergo in the course of our lives. Jesus wanted to teach us by his example that no one should consider himself exempt from any type of trail.
The Lord allows temptation, and uses it providentially to purify you, to make you holy, to detach you more from the things of earth, to lead you where He is and by the route he wants you to take, so as to make you happy, so as to give you maturity, understanding and effectiveness in your apostolic work with souls, and to make you humble. “Blessed is the man who endures trial, says the Apostle St James, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life which God promised to those who love him. I wish you a fruitful Lenten season.
Fr. Paschal Chester, svd
Sunday, February 14th, 2021
Readings: Leviticus 13: 1-2, 44-46,
Psalm 32 “I turn to you, Lord, in time of trouble, and you fill me with the joy of salvation”, Corinthians 10: 31-11:1, Mark 1: 40-45
My dear brothers and sisters, the Gospel of today’s mass present us with the healing of the leper. It must have been an extraordinary scene. He knelt before Jesus and said, “if you wish, you can make me clean”. Perhaps he had prepared a longer speech, explaining how he contracted the disease, or about how he has suffered, or about how he wish to be united with society. But in the end this simple blurted-out aspiration, filled with trust,with sincere sensitivity, was enough. “If you wish, you can make men clean”.
These few words are in a fact a powerful prayer. Jesus took pity on him, and told him, “I do will it. Be made clean.” Our Lord always wants to heal us of our weaknesses and our sins. And there is no need for us to wait months or days for him to pass through our city or our town. Every day we can find the same Jesus of Nazareth who healed the leper. He is there in the nearest tabernacle, in the heart of a soul in grace, in the sacrament of penance.
Jesus has taught us that the worst sickness is hypocrisy, the pride that leads us to conceal our sins. We have to be totally sincere with him. We have to tell the whole truth, and like the leper tell him, “Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.”
Let us remember that our very failings, weaknesses or illnesses can be the opportunity for us to approach Christ as the leper did. And from that moment on he would have been an unconditional disciple of his Lord. Do we go to confession, pray, attend mass with these dispositions of faith and trust?
May the Lord bless us with his presence. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Fr. Paschal Chester, svd
Readings: Job 7: 1-4, 6-7, Psalm 147 “Praise the Lord, who heals the brokenhearted”, 1 Corinthians 9: 16 -19, 22-23, Mark 1: 29-39
My dear brothers and sisters, when we reflect on the terrible problems some people have, we ask ourselves why it should be like this. In the first reading Job describes in dramatic terms the situation of humanity on earth. The gospel reading is a reply to the problems by Job. Jesus sees the sad reality of suffering and disease. He takes it on and exhorts his disciples to engage in bringing about the new world that he has just begun. In the second reading we have the example of Paul, a man who did not spare himself in his dedication to his mission, giving up his rights so as not to an obstacle to the growth of the kingdom.
We are in the Black history month and as we reflect on the experiences of many people. There has always been a crossroad between the Christian faith and grave moral issues like war, capital punishment, abortion, racial prejudice, poverty and care for the earth. We are reminded to examine each event and news through the eyes of our catholic faith. As Catholics we are reminded never to give up on prayer.
This Sunday, we begin the “Catholic Sharing Appeal” (CSA). The central theme is prayer and gratitude. Even though we have been in a challenging time, you contributed immensely in various activities of the church and we are very grateful. It is our prayer that the Lord bless us with a successful campaign and may the Lord through his gracious will bless you and your good intentions.
Amen Fr. Paschal Chester, svd
Sunday, January 31th, 2021 – Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle B
Readings: Deuteronomy 18: 15-20, Psalm 95 “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts”, 1 Co-rinthians 7: 32-35, Mark 1: 21-28
In today’s gospel Jesus’ teaching is seen in action. In the first public work of the ministry there is a confronta-tion between two superpowers: the power of God and the power of darkness. While Jesus is teaching in thesynagogue, he is interrupted by the shouts of a man possessed; he has no authority over his body or spirit.
When Jesus speaks, he commands the power that dominates this man’s life to leave him alone. At Jesus’ com-mand the man is freed. The people are astonished and marvel at Jesus’ teaching: “What is this? A new teach-ing with authority”.
When Jesus teaches, he shares not only his wisdom but his power. Jesus’ actions are his principal teachings. That is his unique authority. He uses his power to liberate people from the evil forces that dominate their lives. And when others see what he is doing with his teaching, they begin to wonder who this Jesus really is. He will be met with unmixed approval and success. Now people are applauding him but later, as we know, things will change and the applause will die down.
When people want to shelter from his teaching and ignorehis worth, they will distract themselves by focusing on his background, his family. They will begin to question his authority, criticize his values, denounce his preferences.
The important point is that Jesus stayed committed to using his power for good. He continued to exercise hisauthority to liberate those who are bound up and to confront those who lay burdens on the weak. Applause orno applause. No matter what opinion polls say, Jesus struggles on. If he received his authority from else-
where, he looks elsewhere for his approval and support. May we also look up to God for approval. Our Lord,
Jesus has left this example for us. Be blessed by the Lord.
Fr. Paschal Chester, svd
Readings: Jonah 3: 1-5, 10, Psalm 25 “Teach me your ways, O Lord”, 1 Corinthians 7:29-31, Mark 1:14-20
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, one of the most famous stories in the Bible is the tale of Jonah, the run-away prophet. Jonah is commanded by God to go to the great city of Nineveh and tell the people that God is going to destroy them in forty days. If this is his first mission, it is also his first refusal. But he goes through the experience of being swallowed by a whale in order to be born again (repentance).
Jonah has the opportunity of repentance. He prays, he reflects, he remembers; and then he promises to fulfill the word of God. The word of God is addressed to him a second time: “Up! Go to Nineveh, the great city, and preach to them as I told you to.” This time Jonah obeys. He goes into the city and tells the people that all of them will be destroyed in forty days. Surprisingly, everyone pays attention. The king and his ministers command the people to renounce their evil behavior: “who knows, God may yet repent and turn from his furious anger?” They hope that if they repent, so too will God.
Go repents when the people repent. Everyone is overjoyed. All except Jonah. He argued with God. “That is why I fled…I knew that you were a God of tenderness and compassion, slow to anger, rich in graciousness and mercy, relenting from evil.”
My dear friends, Jonah was obsessed with being right and he was willing to see all the people perish to be proved right. But the prophet had to learn that the point of his prophecy was not accuracy but repentance. True, Jonah has been made to look foolish; but his foolishness is much less important than people’s repentance. He learnt that it is never too late to repent. The story of Jonah holds out hope for all of us. In the story everyone repents: Jonah himself, the people of Nineveh and even God. Repentance is good news because it means the nothing is settled, nothing is sealed. If God can beginning again, we can begin again and again and again.
May the blessings of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
Fr. Paschal Chester, svd