Malankara World Journal Palm Sunday and Annunciation to St. Mary
(Passion Week Special -2)
Volume 3 No. 132 March 21, 2013
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
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PALM SUNDAY - BIBLE READINGS AND SERMONS
ANNUNCIATION TO ST. MARY - BIBLE READINGS AND SERMONS
PALM SUNDAY ARTICLES
ANNUNCIATION TO ST. MARY - ARTICLES
This is the second of the Malankara World Journal Passion Week specials. Here are the planned specials:
Issue 132 - Theme: Palm Sunday - Arrival of the King - This Issue
Issue 133 - Theme: Pes'ho and the New Commandment - To be released on March 25
Issue 134 - Good Friday and Gospel Saturday - To released on March 27
Issue 135 - Easter - To be released on March 28
We hope that you will be spiritually nourished and blessed during this passion week. Dr. Jacob Mathew
PALM SUNDAY - BIBLE READINGS AND SERMONS
Before Holy Qurbana
For Procession (at the Western Entrance)
For the Blessing of the Palm leaves
ANNUNCIATION TO ST. MARY -
Annunciation to St. Mary (25th March)
Before Holy Qurbana
The Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday highlights important truths about both humanity and God. It painfully illuminates the fickle nature of the human heart; the city that eagerly embraced Jesus one day would be calling for his death just a short while later. And it reminds us that God often fulfills His promises in ways we don't expect: here was Israel's promised king, but riding on a donkey, not the noble warhorse one might expect. He was a king, but not the one Jerusalem thought it needed -instead of liberating them from Roman oppression through military might, Jesus intended to liberate his people from the oppression of sin… by sacrificing himself. God fulfilled His promise but confounded human assumptions about how He would do so.
Malankara World has a supplement that provides detailed information about Passion Week including articles, prayers, sermons, etc. You will find it here:
Daily Meditations, Prayers and Reflections
Malankara World has developed a daily plan of bible readings, meditations, reflections, and prayers for Passion Week. Please click on the link below for the day to read the reflection for that day.
PALM SUNDAY ARTICLES
by Gayle Somers
In our Lenten journey, have we discovered that we are studies in contrasts? Did we begin with great aspirations and are now feeling more than ever our fickleness? If so, we are truly ready for Palm Sunday.
Gospel(Read Mark 14:1-15:47)
Today, we begin the passion week. What is our disposition today, having spent nearly 40 days praying, fasting, and doing acts of generosity? Most of us start Lent with some sense of seriousness about our relationship with God. We welcome a whole season in which we seek to know and love Him better. Is that happening? Are the results mixed?
For many of us, Lent becomes a time to face ourselves. Sometimes we discover that our resolve never quite bears fruit. We can surprise ourselves when we notice our laziness, distractibility, or superficiality. The disciplines that seemed so promising at the outset - "This will be a spiritual Lent for me!" - get a little burdensome, a little inconvenient, too easily forgotten. The contrast in us between our desire for God and our love of ourselves can, in a penitential season, become sharp. When this happens, we should not despair. On the contrary, we should recognize that this is precisely what Lent is meant to teach us - we need a Savior! We are in way over our heads.
The public reading of the Passion story on Palm Sunday is the Church's first call to us to concentrate, to listen carefully to what is about to unfold in Holy Week. It is a long story, full of drama. It is meant to lift us up out of our sober (and often disheartening) Lenten self-reflection and help us focus on the remedy for all the troubling contrasts within us. Interestingly, it is a story full of contrasts. Let us ponder some of them:
Life is full of contrasts. This story, being completely human, is as well. However, Jesus brought the Divine into the human story. He shows this by predicting the future several times throughout the Gospel account (the re-telling of the story of the anointing, the room that will be prepared for the Passover, Judas' betrayal, the Bridal Feast of heaven, the scattering of the apostles, Peter's denial). Yet it is the centerpiece of this drama that explains what we most need to know today: what Jesus is about to undergo - suffering and death - He does for us, to forgive and heal all our contrasts, all our waffling between light and shadow. Knowing all our failures, He gives to us His Body and Blood, sealing us into an eternal covenant with the One toward Whom we always strain but, left to ourselves, usually fail.
If we think of the Passion story as a mural, we will "see" that it is shot through with lights and shadows. Taken in all at once, we find they provide depth and texture to the story, giving richness to the drama that changes everything for us. The contrasts actually clarify the intersection of the human and Divine. We begin to realize that the mercy of God is made perfect within human unsteadiness. Jesus entered this world of lights and shadows and conquered it - for us.
Lord Jesus, thank You for being the Stillpoint of all my swirling contrasts. Help me keep my eyes on You as I make my way through Holy Week.
Isaiah 50:4-7 (NIV)
The prophet, Isaiah, because he lived during a time of great covenant unfaithfulness in God's people (about the 8th century B.C.), had to deliver dire warnings of coming catastrophe unless the people repented. He prophesied that judgment would inevitably fall, but Isaiah also spoke of a coming restoration, when their punishment would end, and the people would once again flourish in their land. Remarkably, Isaiah's prophecies included detailed descriptions of a Suffering Servant who would play a significant role in this restoration. Through his innocent, willing suffering, the sin of the people would be expiated (paid for) and forgiven.
Here, of course, we have an astounding Messianic prophecy of Jesus, the Innocent One Who suffered on behalf of all people, making our redemption possible. There are several "songs" in Isaiah about this Suffering Servant. Today's reading highlights the determination of the Servant to stay the course set out for him, regardless of the physical violence and acts of degradation against him. To those of us who arrive at Palm Sunday feeling the weight of our flawed humanity, the "Suffering Servant" speaks: "The LORD God has given Me a well-trained tongue that I might know how to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them." What blessed refreshment as we reach the climax of our Lenten journey!
Lord Jesus, I do grow weary of myself during Lent; how thankful I am that You have paid for all my failures so that I can have new life. Help me choose that life today.
Psalm 22:8-9, 22:17-20, 22:23-24 (NIV)
We can't read this psalm without being amazed at how accurately it describes some of the details of the Crucifixion. That is why we understand it as a prophetic Messianic psalm, written by David, King of Israel, hundreds of years earlier. David, like Jesus, was persecuted unjustly. His enemies wanted to destroy him, and his suffering made him cry out, "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?" However, in a verse not included in our reading, David acknowledges that God has not forsaken him: "For He has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; and He has not hid His face from him, but has heard when he cried out to Him" (Ps 22:24).
This is the turning point of the psalm. In contrast to his suffering, David goes on to see a time when he will be restored and be able to "proclaim Your Name to my brethren in the midst of the assembly" (Ps 2:25), even being able to "eat and be satisfied" (Ps 22:26). In other words, David sees life after his suffering, something wonderful from God on the other side of it that will cause all Israel to "give glory to Him…revere Him" (Ps 22:23). Is it any wonder, then, that this psalm was on the lips of Jesus as he was dying on the Cross? The separation from God He experienced as He bore the full weight of all humanity's sin made Him feel abandoned, as did David, but He had the hope of the psalmist, too: "Posterity shall serve Him; men shall tell of the LORD to the coming generation, and proclaim His deliverance to a people yet unborn" (Ps 22:30). We cannot doubt that this psalm, known so well to Jesus, gave Him courage as He drank His cup of suffering to its bitter end.
The psalm is, itself, a response to our other readings. Read it again prayerfully to make it your own.
Philippians 2:6-11 (NIV)
St. Paul gives us a summary of the Incarnation and, with it, a preview of what lies beyond the sober details of today's Gospel narrative. Jesus left His glory in heaven to become one of us, yet He became more "us" than we are ourselves. God made us for obedience to Him, which would enable us to live in His "image and likeness" and be truly happy. We, however, often choose disobedience (as Lent, perhaps, is teaching us); on our own, we never really reach who we actually are. Jesus chose perfect obedience for us, even unto death. Therefore, God gave Him the Name that will eventually cause every knee to bend and every tongue confess that "Jesus Christ is Lord." In all our other readings today, we see the "Suffering Servant" stripped of power and glory, the very image of weakness and defeat. In this epistle, we see King Jesus, exalted and glorified and worthy of praise - the perfect anticipation of the joy of Easter!
King Jesus, help me to believe that the way of humility and obedience is always the path to glory.
About The Author:
Gayle Somers is a member of St. Thomas the Apostle parish in Phoenix and has
been writing and leading parish Bible studies since 1996. She is the author of
three bible studies, Galatians: A New Kind of Freedom Defended (Basilica Press),
Genesis: God and His Creation and Genesis: God and His Family (Emmaus Road
by Fr. Andrew
Christ arrives a king triumphant today and dies as a criminal on Friday. Christ is honored with palm branches today and crowned with thorns on Friday. Christ is adored with singing today and mocked with jeers on Friday. Christ is born in victoriously on the foal of an ass today and bears the burden of the cross on Friday.
Our Christian faith isn't about an emotion or feeling, it isn't about priests or people we like, and it isn't about a guarantee of smooth sailing. It is about the fact of this week: God became man so that he could share in our life and even our death. In Jesus Christ, God has experienced the worst of human pain and suffering so that we are not alone in ours.
A priest friend of mine describes hell as "looking at your problems, your pain, your sin, your sufferings, your life, and wondering 'What am I going to do?' Heaven is looking at the difficulties of your life and praying, 'My God, what can you do for me? Look and see the cross in our suffering, to see confession in our sins, to see the resurrection in your pain."
When you are lost, when your loves are cold and gone, when you are alone - where is God? When your dreams and hopes come tumbling down, where is God? When you are gripped by pain, lost in sin, despairing innocence, drowning in shame, where was God?
He was on the cross. All along, He was on the cross. You are not abandoned, you are not alone, you are not alone. My God was on the cross.
By John A. Huffman, Jr.
Scripture: Matthew 21:1-17
The stage is set. The curtain rises. The last act of the drama begins. Here comes Jesus into the city of Jerusalem.
Perhaps 2.5 million people crowded the narrow streets converging on this holy city at Passover time. Garments were spread on the road. Branches torn from trees fanned the same air which carried shouts of "Hosanna."
All this was no accident; Jesus knew what He was doing. In advance, He had arranged for a donkey; two disciples brought it to Him. It was no accident that marked His mode of transportation. Matthew reveals that Jesus set the stage for what we now call Holy Week so as to fulfill the prophecy spoken centuries before in Zechariah 9:9 and Isaiah 62:11. "Say to the Daughter of Zion, 'See your king comes to you gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey"' (Matt. 21:5).
Call it the first century or the 21st century, the picture remains: Your King is coming. Let's take a look at this King.
I. Your King is a different kind of king.
We Americans aren't too familiar with monarchy. We will watch a coronation. We are fascinated by the pageantry surrounding a royal wedding. We will even occasionally follow at a distance the royal gossip surrounding Prince Charles and Camilla, and read an article about the dating status of Princes William and Harry.
Although we are sort of numb when it comes to all kinds of leadership -- seeing the weaknesses of kings, prime ministers, and presidents -- yet who among us is not stirred to rapid pulsation by the majestic strains of "Pomp and Circumstance"?
It is overwhelming to sense the power, the armament, the majestic aura, that surrounds the presence of a man called a king. There is something awe-inspiring about royal power. We could add that there is something awesome about all political and military power which marks the trains of kings, prime ministers, and presidents.
There is one exception -- that being an encounter with King Jesus. Jesus is a different kind of king. Whereas most royalty comes determined to rule, He comes determined to serve. Whereas most monarchs spend time building their egos with the perquisites of office, He comes with a totally disarming humility. Whereas most kings ride white stallions or majestic Boeing 747s, King Jesus rides a donkey. He knew what He was doing.
The King chose His vehicle of transportation. The horse stands for war; that's what the people wanted. They yearned for a leader who would set them free from the yoke of Rome. Jesus rode a donkey, a symbol of meekness, of peace. How different are the swishing of palm branches from the click of crossed swords or the deafening blast of a twenty-one gun salute.
Most kings set themselves up for a hero's death. In the Westminster Abbeys of their imagination, they picture the heads of all nations standing in silent tribute, and the world paying honor to their contributions. Jesus was different. He prepared for the cross. His was an ignominious kind of death marked by the insulting inscription: "King of the Jews." His fellow monarchs did not fly in from around the world to pay Him honor. No, for your King is a different kind of king.
II. Your King knows precisely who He was and who He is.
Most kings aren't that certain about themselves. In most cases, they have inherited their positions. With their inheritance comes either an ambivalence -- bred by failure to earn the position -- or perhaps, at the other extreme, a kind of bravado and strutting that comes from years of grooming by palace functionaries.
Jesus knew precisely who He was. He knew He was the Messiah spoken of by the Old Testament Scriptures. Critics may deny this, but the record is clear. Jesus dressed for the occasion, preparing Himself for the kind of entrance into Jerusalem described by Isaiah and Zechariah. Those prophets declared that the Messiah would come. He would be One different from the average king. This One would be humble, making His entry on a donkey.
Jesus willingly forced the issue. He deliberately provoked the kind of response He got in Jerusalem that day, which was entirely opposite to His past performance. His whole style of life and ministry was one of shying away from publicity. He avoided large crowds when He could. He refused to take the dominant power-oriented stance of other contemporary leaders. But on this day, He put on the symbols of the Old Testament prophetic utterances.
He declared in no uncertain terms, by his posture and bearing, "I am the King." He even picked the day. The exposure was great. There was only one problem: He picked His day not so much to gain the adulation of the crowd, which He knew was fickle, but to force the issue of His whole reason for being here on earth. His triumphant entry into Jerusalem was designed to seal His doom. It was the catalytic agent which would stir the anger and arouse the jealousy of the religious establishment to a frenzy, setting the stage for the greatest event in all human history.
Not only did your King know precisely who He was when He entered Jerusalem; right now He knows who He is as He enters the Jerusalem of your life. Embodied in His presence that day, and today, is a transparent honesty which defies so much of worldly leadership.
III. Your King comes with a compassion for souls and bodies.
Only hours after His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, He wept. Have you ever seen a king weep? Have you ever watched a president shed tears? Years ago, a presidential candidate disqualified himself from a primary election after he cried in public. We don't want to see our rulers weep; we demand that they be strong. We push them into an arrogance in the fear that they may reflect too much of what we are ourselves and, by weeping, be discredited.
No, Jesus was different; He stopped and wept for Jerusalem. He said, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing" (Matt. 23:37).
He healed broken bodies as the blind and lame freely approached Him the days after His triumphal entry, which so quickly turned into the day of His crucifixion. He didn't keep them waiting. He didn't flaunt His rank in their faces. The simple people, the people with broken bodies and shattered dreams, the people with bruised spirits, the people who hurt in the soul where you can really feel hurt, these He took to Himself. He did it then; He does it now. That's the kind of Lord He is!
He wants to transform you through the regenerating power of His Holy Spirit. He wants to touch your life and make you a whole person where your body, soul and spirit fit together in an eternal complement. Isaiah described Him in these words:
He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. (Isa. 53:3-7)
IV. Your King comes sounding a note of judgment.
He is a King who has compassion, but this compassion is not an endeavor to buy your favor. He is not going to give away everything, denying His own righteousness. He tells you what you need instead of what you want. He tells you that the wages of sin is death. He tells you that someday you will stand before God your Maker, accountable for all that you have done in this life. He warns of judgment. He warns of eternal hell, total alienation and separation from Himself.
The King who enters Jerusalem on a donkey walks by foot to the hillside of Olivet. From that perspective, overlooking the city He loves and for which He wept, He refuses to give a campaign speech as any earthly leader would do. Instead, He tells it like it is, predicting domestic breakdown, economic catastrophe, wars, rumors of war, earthquake, famine, and all of the horrible desolation which you and I bring upon each other.
That's the kind of King He is. He tells you and me what we need to hear, not just what we want to hear. He talks about more than positive thinking. He talks about more than picking yourself up by your own bootstraps. He tells you that you can't succeed ultimately in your own strength. He warns you to face up to it now and to come to Him while you can.
Your King is coming! His approach demands your response. Either you are with Him or you are not. There is no neutral ground!
Today we sing our hosannas, which literally mean "Save now!" Do we mean this? Are we serious? Have we come because it's the nice thing to do? Or are we here because we mean business?
Let me conclude by telling you the brief stories of two men I know.
Bob has gone to church all of his life. He thinks of himself as being a very religious man. Bob is in his mid-sixties. He has lived a full life. He hasn't let religion spoil his fun. In fact, although Bob is religious, he has no king. He has no lord. Well, that's not quite true. He does. There is only one problem: Bob's king's name is Bob. He goes through the forms of religious practice. He wouldn't miss church on Palm Sunday. Right now, he is sitting through the last five minutes of some preacher's sermon somewhere.
Bob's problem is that Bob has committed himself to himself instead of to Jesus Christ. Bob is his own lord. He gets turned off by emotional preaching that talks about hell. He wants soothing talk about heaven. He hates preaching that quotes from the Bible. He wants comforting talk about psychology. He wants no mention of sin from the pulpit. According to him, "That went out of style with the middle ages." My friend Bob gets turned off when he sees Jesus the Messiah, the humble King, coming his way.
Then there is Hal. Hal was a cynic. He had every reason to not believe. His life was loaded with doubts. "How in the world could God become a man? How could an intelligent person trust the Bible?"
Yes, there is a difference between Bob and Hal. Whereas Bob ran the other direction every time Jesus began to come his way, Hal stopped. Hal took a good look, a long look, into the eyes of the prophesied King. He let those eyes probe his religious pretension. He let that penetrating glance cut through the smoke screen of his doubt.
He was willing to doubt his doubts. He was willing to go back to the drawing board and read some of the great writers of the Christian faith. A scientist by profession, Hal was willing to empirically examine the claims of Christ intellectually and to experiment with them in his own life existentially. He took Jesus at His Word, only to discover this One to be his Lord and Savior.
Is your name Bob? Or is your name Hal?
Your King is coming! He is riding toward you now. He is ready to look straight into your eyes. Are you ready for His glance? That glance demands a verdict. He wants to know whether or not He truly is your King, your Sovereign. Will you shift your glance away, or will there be that nod of affirmation which comes from one who is loyal in allegiance to the King of all kings, the Lord of all lords -- your King and your Lord?
ANNUNCIATION TO ST. MARY - ARTICLES
By: Msgr. Charles Pope, Archdiocese of Washington
In today's Gospel we step back to March 25, the feast of the Annunciation, an
event all but hidden, but which changed the world.
God whose focal presence had departed the Temple, just prior to the Babylonian
invasion (cf Ez 10:18) and the loss of the Ark of the Covenant, now returns to
the Ark of Mary's womb. The Glorious presence of God returns now to his people
in an obscure town of less than three hundred, a town so small that no road went
We are reading here of a pivotal moment in the history of mankind. God not only
returns to his people but becomes one with them in the incarnation.
And at this moment we do well to consider four aspects of this pivotal moment.
As we do so, we consider, not only Mary's glories, but also ours in a
subordinate but real way. For Mary is the perfect disciple and typifies in a
most excellent way the glories that God also wishes to bestow on us, in perhaps
a different but still substantial way. Lets look at for aspects of this Gospel.
I. The RESPECT of God
The text says, The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a
town of Galilee called Nazareth. To virgin betrothed to a man name Joseph and
the virgin's name was Mary…Mary said "Behold I am the Handmaid of the Lord, May
it be done to me according to your word."
Note that God asks of Mary her cooperation. Although the Angel Gabriel's words
are not in the form of a question, that Mary considers this to be a request from
God is clear from Mary's response. She says yes, and thus understands it as a
request, not merely a statement of what shall be.
In this regard we see an important indicator of the respect of God for her
freedom. Surely he has prepared her and equipped her with every good grace to
say, yes, but in the end, her free "yes" is significant, and something that God
looks for and respects. Otherwise, why send an angel at all? Why come through
Mary at all? Why not simply appear suddenly as a full grown man and start to
work? As it is, God wills to come through Mary (cf Gen 3:15) and seeks her "yes"
in the place of Eve's "no."
And this respect for her free "yes" is also a respect God extends to us. Indeed
we can see here how God's respect is in contrast to the devil, who shouts, is
invasive, provocative and intrusive. Through cultural noise etc., he tempts and
provokes. But God whispers and respectfully invites. He does not force our
decision but summons us in love and awaits our answer.
In scripture we read of Jesus, Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one
hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and
he with me. (Rev 3:20). Hence, though all powerful and able to coerce, God does
not do so, he does not act violently or impose his will. He respects the freedom
He Himself gave us, and invites us to cooperate in his plan for us.
Mary (and we) are thus respected by God in terms of our freedom.
II. The REGARD of God
Note in the text the great love of God, appreciation and
regard extended to Mary through the Angel. The text says, Hail, Full of grace!
The Lord is with you…Do not be afraid Mary. You have found favor with God...
As the great and glorious Angel, Gabriel comes to Mary, (and every angel is
glorious) he must still, in an astonishing way acknowledge Mary's beauty,
holiness, and perfection, by God's grace. Imagine an all glorious Archangel
rendering a kind of debt of praise to a mere human being! And in so speaking
this way He is speaking for God, of the deep love, appreciation and regard that
God has for Mary, his greatest human work.
Indeed, we should never forget the Love and deep regard God has for Mary and
also for us. Mary is surely God's masterpiece. But she is also the result of His
grace and work.
In a less perfect way, but a still true manner, God also loves us and loves in
us the perfection we will one day attain by his grace and mercy. A couple of
texts come to mind:
I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with
loving-kindness. (Jer 31:3)
Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…you are
precious and honored in my sight, and..I love you. (Isaiah 43:1-3)
We are not good, and therefore God loves us. God loves us and therefore we are
good, if we accept his love. Mary was, by a singular grace wholly open to God's
love and perfection. But, if we are faithful, we too will one day become the man
or woman God has always intended us to be.
God thus shows great regard for Mary (though Gabriel) and he also knows the
glory we will one day share.
III. The RIDDLE in the middle
There remains the mysterious question of Mary:
"How will this be since I do not know man?" Had she been thinking in merely
biological terms she would would have known the obvious answer to the question:
she and Joseph would conceive. But her question seems to suppose she had other
notions about her future than regular marital relations.
Some hold that the question here is not really her question, but is rhetorically
placed here by Luke so that the angel can inform us, the readers, that God alone
is the true Father of this Son. But such a notion seems more made up by nervous
moderns in an attempt to solve the mystery. Reducing a pivotal question like
this to a mere literary device seems unbecoming.
Catholic tradition surely sees evidence here of the doctrine of Mary's perpetual
virginity. To be sure many other questions are are raised by this resolution of
the question: Why would two people get married and live as virgins?….Were such
arrangements common at that time? (it would seem not). And so forth.
In the end Mary's question would surely seem to point to some expectation of
Mary that she would "not know man" in some sense, going forward. But at any
level we are not going to wholly satisfy our curiosity, and maybe it is none of
One thing is sure, the Church teaches, without ambiguity that Mary remained ever
virgin. That this question of hers indicates she was clear on this here, seems a
reasonable conclusion, but there remains also a mystery that we must respect and
understand, that it is none of our business, ultimately.
In this case, Protestants have some thinking to do. For Mary's question is not
meaningless or naive, it is a true question, with a true context that ought to
be respected as at least pointing to her virginity, even if it alone does not
alone prove it. For more on this topic read here: New Theological Movement.
IV. The REASSURANCE of God
In today's Gospel we step back to March 25, the feast of the Annunciation, an event all but hidden, but which changed the world.
God whose focal presence had departed the Temple, just prior to the Babylonian invasion (cf Ez 10:18) and the loss of the Ark of the Covenant, now returns to the Ark of Mary's womb. The Glorious presence of God returns now to his people in an obscure town of less than three hundred, a town so small that no road went to it.
We are reading here of a pivotal moment in the history of mankind. God not only returns to his people but becomes one with them in the incarnation.
And at this moment we do well to consider four aspects of this pivotal moment. As we do so, we consider, not only Mary's glories, but also ours in a subordinate but real way. For Mary is the perfect disciple and typifies in a most excellent way the glories that God also wishes to bestow on us, in perhaps a different but still substantial way. Lets look at for aspects of this Gospel.
I. The RESPECT of God
The text says, The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth. To virgin betrothed to a man name Joseph and the virgin's name was Mary…Mary said "Behold I am the Handmaid of the Lord, May it be done to me according to your word."
Note that God asks of Mary her cooperation. Although the Angel Gabriel's words are not in the form of a question, that Mary considers this to be a request from God is clear from Mary's response. She says yes, and thus understands it as a request, not merely a statement of what shall be.
In this regard we see an important indicator of the respect of God for her freedom. Surely he has prepared her and equipped her with every good grace to say, yes, but in the end, her free "yes" is significant, and something that God looks for and respects. Otherwise, why send an angel at all? Why come through Mary at all? Why not simply appear suddenly as a full grown man and start to work? As it is, God wills to come through Mary (cf Gen 3:15) and seeks her "yes" in the place of Eve's "no."
And this respect for her free "yes" is also a respect God extends to us. Indeed we can see here how God's respect is in contrast to the devil, who shouts, is invasive, provocative and intrusive. Through cultural noise etc., he tempts and provokes. But God whispers and respectfully invites. He does not force our decision but summons us in love and awaits our answer.
In scripture we read of Jesus, Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. (Rev 3:20). Hence, though all powerful and able to coerce, God does not do so, he does not act violently or impose his will. He respects the freedom He Himself gave us, and invites us to cooperate in his plan for us.
Mary (and we) are thus respected by God in terms of our freedom.
II. The REGARD of God
Note in the text the great love of God, appreciation and regard extended to Mary through the Angel. The text says, Hail, Full of grace! The Lord is with you…Do not be afraid Mary. You have found favor with God...
As the great and glorious Angel, Gabriel comes to Mary, (and every angel is glorious) he must still, in an astonishing way acknowledge Mary's beauty, holiness, and perfection, by God's grace. Imagine an all glorious Archangel rendering a kind of debt of praise to a mere human being! And in so speaking this way He is speaking for God, of the deep love, appreciation and regard that God has for Mary, his greatest human work.
Indeed, we should never forget the Love and deep regard God has for Mary and also for us. Mary is surely God's masterpiece. But she is also the result of His grace and work.
In a less perfect way, but a still true manner, God also loves us and loves in us the perfection we will one day attain by his grace and mercy. A couple of texts come to mind:
I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness. (Jer 31:3)
Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…you are precious and honored in my sight, and..I love you. (Isaiah 43:1-3)
We are not good, and therefore God loves us. God loves us and therefore we are good, if we accept his love. Mary was, by a singular grace wholly open to God's love and perfection. But, if we are faithful, we too will one day become the man or woman God has always intended us to be.
God thus shows great regard for Mary (though Gabriel) and he also knows the glory we will one day share.
III. The RIDDLE in the middle
There remains the mysterious question of Mary: "How will this be since I do not know man?" Had she been thinking in merely biological terms she would would have known the obvious answer to the question: she and Joseph would conceive. But her question seems to suppose she had other notions about her future than regular marital relations.
Some hold that the question here is not really her question, but is rhetorically placed here by Luke so that the angel can inform us, the readers, that God alone is the true Father of this Son. But such a notion seems more made up by nervous moderns in an attempt to solve the mystery. Reducing a pivotal question like this to a mere literary device seems unbecoming.
Catholic tradition surely sees evidence here of the doctrine of Mary's perpetual virginity. To be sure many other questions are are raised by this resolution of the question: Why would two people get married and live as virgins?….Were such arrangements common at that time? (it would seem not). And so forth.
In the end Mary's question would surely seem to point to some expectation of Mary that she would "not know man" in some sense, going forward. But at any level we are not going to wholly satisfy our curiosity, and maybe it is none of our business.
One thing is sure, the Church teaches, without ambiguity that Mary remained ever virgin. That this question of hers indicates she was clear on this here, seems a reasonable conclusion, but there remains also a mystery that we must respect and understand, that it is none of our business, ultimately.
In this case, Protestants have some thinking to do. For Mary's question is not meaningless or naive, it is a true question, with a true context that ought to be respected as at least pointing to her virginity, even if it alone does not alone prove it. For more on this topic read here: New Theological Movement.
IV. The REASSURANCE of God
Mary is in the presence of an Archangel. This alone is frightening enough. But it is also true that her world is shifting quite dramatically. Hence her natural fear and anxiety is understandable. Thus Archangel Gabriel gives a number of reassurances to Mary: Do not be afraid Mary, For you have found favor with God…Behold you will conceive in your womb and bear a son and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the most high, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his Kingdom there will be no end…"
In effect St Gabriel is saying to her that, however the details unfold, in the end there will be total victory, for she is to bear a Son who is the Son of the most High God and who will have a kingdom that will never end or be conquered. Hence, whatever her concerns, this all leads to victory.
Mary will need this reassurance for, to be clear, there ARE some difficult days ahead: the crisis of homelessness at birth, the flight to Egypt, Simeon's prophecy that a sword would pierce her heart, and the actual thrusting of that sword at the foot of the cross. This knowledge of ultimate victory is an important reassurance for her to hold close, and not forget.
So too for us. For we too have some difficult valleys to cross, some hills to climb. We must constantly keep in mind the end of the story, that Jesus is already the victor and that however our eyes my think that we are losing, in the end, total victory belongs to Jesus, and to us, if we stay with him. The end of the story is already declared: Jesus wins, overwhelmingly, and all his enemies are placed under his feet (e.g. Rev 20-22; 1 Cor 15:25-26; John 16:33 inter al.).
Consider this magnificent passage from Isaiah:
If we were to memorize and internalize this passage so many of our fears and anxieties would flee, our trust would build and we would live victorious lives. It may at times seem that evil has the upper hand. Evil has its day, But God has the victory. No matter how dark it can seem, God has already won, only the news has not yet leaked out.
But in our hearts this truth and reassurance must be emblazoned. For, like Mary, we have difficult days in our future. All the more reason God's reassurance is essential for us. It got Mary through the Cross and it will get us through ours.
Hence, we have here a pivotal moment in History. God's presence returns to the human family. And it all happens so quietly, in a town of 300, so small that there was not even a road that went to Nazareth. Quietly, but clearly and powerfully, God has thrust the first blow at Satan's realm. Victory is sure.
I have it on the best authority that Mary sang this song after the Angel left: Done made my vow to the Lord and I never will turn back, I will go, I shall go to see the end shall be.
It occurs to me that Mary, at this time was not much older than the young ladies in this choir.
Scripture: Luke 1:26-56
Back in the days of Elizabeth and Mary, people got married at a younger age than people do today, often when they were teenagers. Mary may have been only sixteen or so when the angel Gabriel appeared to her and told her she would have a child. Imagine God coming to the earth through a teenager!
Because she was not married to Joseph yet, Mary wondered out loud how she would be able to have a baby. Gabriel explained to her that although the baby would be her son, the child would not be Joseph's son. He would be God's son, conceived by the Holy Spirit. He would be the first and only God-man, 100% human and 100% God.
Gabriel told Mary that her son would be given the throne of His ancestor David and that He would "reign over Israel forever" (Luke 1:33). His kingdom would have no end. David was a great king who had ruled over the nation of Israel about one thousand years before the time of Jesus. When David was still alive God had promised him, "When you die, I will raise up one of your descendants....and I will establish the throne of His kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son....Your dynasty and your kingdom will continue for all time before me, and your throne will be secure forever" (2 Samuel 7:12-16). After David died, his descendants did rule after him for about five hundred years, but since then there has been no descendant of David ruling over Israel.
When Jesus lived on the earth He never did rule over Israel. In fact, the people of Israel killed Him. But God's promises are true. The Bible tells us that Jesus will one day live in Jerusalem, and from there He will rule the entire world! There won't be any United States of America then or any other countries---Jesus' kingdom will be the only kingdom. And His kingdom will never end! Everyone should want to be in that kingdom.
Gabriel told Mary that her relative Elizabeth had also experienced a miracle: she was pregnant in her old age. So Mary journeyed to Elizabeth's house and stayed with her for three months, probably until John was born. Elizabeth probably appreciated having someone to chat with during those three months since her husband couldn't talk!
When Mary arrived at Elizabeth's house, John, who was probably already filled with the Holy Spirit (see Luke 1:15), "jumped for joy" inside his mother. The Holy Spirit in John knew who was inside Mary, and was quite happy about it! So what is the key to being joyful? Being close to Jesus!
Elizabeth may have heard about what Gabriel had told Mary, because when Mary arrived at her door she already knew that Mary was pregnant with a very special child. Or it's possible that the Holy Spirit inspired her with a gift of prophecy, because we read that she was filled with the Holy Spirit upon Mary's arrival. Regardless, Elizabeth knew that Mary's baby was even more special than her own. She called Mary "the mother of [her] Lord" (Luke 1:43), so she knew that God was living inside Mary's womb.
It seems that Mary was suddenly filled with the Holy Spirit then as well, because she responded to Elizabeth's greeting by speaking a beautiful poem. It was all about God's goodness toward her and to everyone who fears Him. The best thing God did for us was to send Jesus! Like Mary, we're blessed!
Q. Because Mary and Elizabeth were somehow related, we know that Jesus and John the Baptist were distant relatives. Do you know of anyone who is alive today who is related to Jesus?
A. Everyone who believes and follows Jesus is a brother or sister of Jesus!
Q. Jesus lived inside of Mary for nine months. Has He ever lived inside of anyone else?
A. Yes! If you believe in Him, Jesus lives inside of you! He doesn't live inside you physically, like a baby inside its mother, but spiritually, because the Holy Spirit lives in everyone who believes in Jesus, and the Holy Spirit is just like Jesus and the Father. That is why Jesus once promised everyone who loves Him that both He and His Father would come to live inside them (see John 14:23).
Application: Since Jesus lives in us by the Holy Spirit, we should always remember that He is with us to direct our thoughts, words and deeds.
Source: Family Style Devotions by Heaven's Family. Used with Permission
by Ken Gehrels
Bible Reading: Luke 1: 26-38
Hands out - pushing away; rejecting.
Hands out - No! Wait.
Ever notice how some people seem to instinctively put their hands out.
Unlike "hands up" people.
We've been spending time this summer considering the Relentless nature of God.
Relentlessly pursuing us. Relentlessly shaping our lives. Relentlessly hanging on to us.
Relentless in preparing salvation. Relentless to eternity.
The Relentless God is also an enormously large God.
When He invades our lives, it is not always possible to fully scope it, to contain it, or even sometimes to understand it.
What God is concerned about is our response -
There are some men and women ordained as Christian leaders who approach their work with a hands out attitude -
Reading the miracle accounts in Scripture, which seem to supersede typical natural patterns, they don't understand how they can be possible.
How could it be that a few loaves and some fish feed thousands?
There are other Christians who read the accounts and say - "What they say, that's what happened. That's what I believe."
They receive it as presented. Far more receptive than some of their leaders.
When you open the Bible to Luke 1, you are confronted by exactly the same situation. A few weeks ago we focused on the priest Zechariah. Schooled in the matters of faith. Anointed into holy temple service. Literate in the Scriptures.
But when a real life angel appears to him, the priest backs away. He holds out his hands. He's not sure. He resists.
The one who is supposed to be the spiritual leader of God's chosen people is left dumb - in more ways than one.
The chapter continues by moving the spotlight to the village of Nazareth. Here we meet someone with a "hands up" posture. A simple girl. But receptive. Beautiful in her faith. Willing.
Read the account with me, please - LUKE 1:26-38
The Bible doesn't say, but if Mary followed the typical pattern of her day, she'd have probably been around 14 or 15 years old. A young teenager. She would have been living at home, learning all the needed skills for life from her mother. She would not have received much formal training, not even much religious instruction. That was reserved for the men.
I trust that we can appreciate that she had questions in her untrained mind.
"Greetings, favored one. The Lord is with you."
She doesn't run away. She doesn't resist in unbelief.
It's just so very overwhelming for this young girl, inexperienced in life and without much religious teaching to guide her through this moment.
Her attitude is rather different than that of Zechariah, the religious
authority, the trained one, the leader.
Mary's only question is one of direction - "How can this be, since I am a
Mary was betrothed, something far more binding than what we understand by "engaged" here in Canada. To be betrothed was a legal commitment. If your beloved died during this period, you'd be referred to as a widow. But you didn't yet live together. And you didn't sleep together. That waited until marriage.
That was the law - no committing adultery.
And that was OK with the angel, who speaks words of reassurance to this young woman with the hands held out and the heart open wide.
And the open-handed Mary responds -
One thing Mary would get -
And yet - there's her answer:
Have you ever wondered why God chose to go to the north country of Israel, to a non-descript home, to a plain young teenager?
Why did the Creator choose her to be the mother of His Son?
Why would God choose her?
Actually, as you leaf through the Bible, you'll come across page after page
where exactly the same thing happens.
Moses, raised as a prince among the Egyptians, has to flee and live 40 years in the desert before God sends him back to lead Israel to freedom.
Gideon, prince among his people, has to send all but 300 of his army home before God uses him to defeat 10's of thousands of enemy soldiers.
Paul, great mind and trained theologian, is thrown roughly off his high horse, blinded, and sent packing into the desert and then back to his home. For three years he's left in oblivion - just him and God. Only then is he ready to serve.
The Bible tells us in 1 Corinthians 1:
And if He knows, it'll work out just fine.
Zechariah - hands held up in protest - had life figured out. He knew what would
work and what wouldn't.
Zechariah had to learn that if his way of life and God didn't fit, then it was
the way of life that would have to change.
A lesson somewhere in there for us too, wouldn't you say?
Her simplicity is juxtaposed to Zechariah's stubborn disbelief
As Cecil Murphy puts it in his study, The Relentless God,
Murphy writes, "No matter how powerful the divine invasion of our lives, and no
Mary is the vehicle for Christ's entrance to the world.
And one other thing - perhaps something that speaks directly to our free enterprise way of North American thinking -
Can you tell me how often Mary takes advantage of her position as the Mother of
Do you know the answer?
"Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word."
What a marvelous inspiration for us all!
And a reminder - that all our talents, all our understanding, all our opportunities are given into our lives by the Spirit of Christ. They are not something that we earn or deserve for our personal gain.
Part of the reason that our Saviour pursues us, relentlessly, is not only to enable us to belong to His eternal family, but also to be an active, serving member of His team here on earth.
What do we have that God didn't give us?
If we win a promotion to office manager, have perfect pitch in one ear, or
become known as the best cook in the community, doesn't that give us the
opportunity to say, "Here am I, the servant of the Lord."
Here's the thought for today -
Could it be?
O Lord, Divine Pursuer, and Gracious God -
An Australian scientist believes he has invented a new class of super-drug that could prevent cancer and Alzheimer's disease.
What's more, Professor David Sinclair said that his drugs have the potential to help some people enjoy a healthy life until the age of 150. However, this needs further research.
The drugs may be available within five years, following the landmark work.
The researcher explains how the drugs have the ability to switch on the body's defenses against ageing, News.com.au reported.
Three of the drugs are in human trials for the treatment of specific illnesses such as type 2 diabetes and inflammatory bowel disease, the University of New South Wales geneticist said.
Prof Sinclair is most excited about the potential to prevent illness and hopes to prove the drugs will have a dual purpose of treating and preventing disease at the same time.
"My research has been criticized because it sounds too good to be true. This paper shows it is true,'' he said in a telephone interview from Harvard Medical School, where he is based.
Prof Sinclair's drugs target the enzyme SIRT1, which is switched on naturally by calorie restriction and exercise, but it can also be enhanced through activators such as resveratrol in red wine.
He and his colleagues have developed 4000 synthetic activators.
Each one is 100 times more potent than a glass of red wine and the best three are the ones in human trials.
Prof Sinclair suggests the first medicine to be marketed could be for diabetes in about five years.
Once a significant number of people are using the drugs, it will be possible to assess other benefits.
In animal tests, overweight mice given synthetic resveratrol were able to run twice as far as slim mice and they lived 15 per cent longer.
The findings are published in the journal Science.
by Annie Thomas, Hyderabad
Rice powder (not roasted)-1 cup
Soak the uzhunnu for a few hours. Grind well.
Grease preferably steel plates of medium round
shape. Pour batter in one, and
Make all other appams same way but with no cross.
roasted rice powder-1 cup
Please use freshly grinded coconut for making this, otherwise the taste won't be good. Take the juice of coconut. You can put the grinded coconut in blender (mixi) and add some hot water to grind for 30 seconds. Now the juice comes out easily.1st milk should be kept separately. Take 2nd and third milk also. These two should equal 1 litre of milk.
Take molasses and put the in a saucepan. Add some water and heat well. While boiling, a lather forms. This should be cleaned away.
Then add cumin and chukku (dried ginger). Now sieve this through a strainer and you can see lot of stones and dirt in it. This liquid form of molasses should be used in your recipes. I have seen lots of people use molasses directly in recipes, without first melting them.
Remember, all these dirt and stones are dangerous, especially for kids. This commonly happens when we prepare aval vilayichathu, where we use it directly. But be sure to melt it first. The consistency can be achieved by adjusting the amount of water added to it.
Take the 2nd and third milk, molasses syrup and roasted rice powder, bring to a boil. Stir continuously, otherwise lumps will form. Mix cardamom powder with 1st milk and add it last. Also add a piece of palm leaf. Before it boils, take off the stove.
As the tradition goes, the head of the family cuts the appam and gives it to other members, oldest to youngest respectively, after dipping in paalukurukku. This is done in great reverence and pious atmosphere.
Palm Sunday marks the beginning of the most solemn week of the Church's liturgical year. During Holy Week, the Church celebrates the mysteries of salvation accomplished by Christ in the last days of his earthly life, beginning with the triumphal entry into Jerusalem.
For over 40 days the Christian faithful have practiced the disciplines of Lent: prayer, fasting and good works. Now the Church invites us to an even deeper spirit of prayer as we follow Christ on his journey to the cross.
Here are five suggestions for couples to use this week as an opportunity to grow in holiness as individuals and as a couple.
1. What do you do with the palm branches you bring home from Palm Sunday Mass? Consider a simple ceremony to place them in your home. See below for a suggested ritual.
2. During the week pray the Seven Penitential Psalms together. These are especially appropriate during Lent. Prayerfully reciting these psalms helps us to recognize our sinfulness, express our sorrow and ask for God's forgiveness.
3. Celebrate the Sacrament of Confession if you haven't already done so during Lent.
4. Attend a service together on Holy Thursday and/or Good Friday. On Thursday morning (or Wednesday night in some churches), the Church recalls the Last Supper and Jesus' gift of His Body and Blood. On Friday, the church hold services to celebrate the Passion of the Lord. It is an extremely moving liturgy that gives an opportunity for you for introspection, meditation and reflection and is very healing.
5. On Holy Saturday, pray for a deepening of your own faith and the grace to endure the suffering and celebrate the joys of married life. This is the day we remember our departed. Please pray for them and give the names to the church so that they can be remembered during the service.
A SUGGESTED RITUAL FOR PLACING PALM BRANCHES IN THE HOME
After dinner or at another time on Palm Sunday, the household gathers where the palms have been placed, perhaps near a crucifix or the family Bible.
All make the sign of the cross. The leader begins:
Hosanna in the highest!
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
All: Hosanna in the highest!
The leader may use these or similar words to introduce the prayer:
We have come to the last days of Lent. Today we heard the Jesus' victorious entry into Jerusalem. On Holy Thursday we enter into the Three Days when we celebrate the mystery of Christ's passing through suffering and death to life at God's right hand.
Listen to the words of the second Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians: 4:10-11:
[We are] always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being given up to death for the sake of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh.
Reader: The Word of the Lord.
All: Thanks be to God.
After a time of silence, members of the household join in prayers of intercession. The intercessions are followed by the Lord's Prayer. The leader continues:
Let us pray.
Blessed are you, God of Israel, so rich in love and mercy.
The leader concludes:
Let us bless the Lord.
All respond, making the sign of the cross:
Thanks be to God.
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