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Great Lent Today

Day 23 - Fourth Tuesday of the Great Lent

Opening Prayer:

May your grace not forsake us, O Lord, we pray,
but make us dedicated to your holy service
and at all times obtain for us your help.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

The Readings
Daniel 3:25, 34-43, Psalm 25:4-5ab, 6 and 7bc, 8-9, Matthew 18:21-35

In His Steps - A Lenten Series

Today: Pool of Bethesda: Do You Want to Get Well?

Daily Meditation:

Do not let us be put to shame,
but deal with us in your kindness and great mercy.

Azariah asks God to remember his mercies.
He places his complete trust in God.
These days, we place our lives in God's hands,
and we let God forgive us.

The challenge of the Gospel is to forgive
as we have been forgiven.
How often we are so very much harder on others
than our God is on us!
An important Lenten examination of conscience.

"So will my heavenly Father do to you,
unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart."

Today's Daily Reflection

by Edward Morse, School of Law, Creighton University

"Azariah stood up in the midst of the fire and prayed aloud…" Daniel 3:25.

Sometimes we find ourselves in the midst of fire. These verses in Daniel, which are part of the Catholic canon of scripture, provide an astonishing example of a faith in the midst of a trial, which is inspired by an encounter with God. It has much to offer us in our Lenten journey.

I have always loved this story of Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego (aka Azariah). When presented with demands from unjust laws, they stood up to mighty King Nebuchadnezzar and calmly resolved to resist. They told the king that God could save them if He wished, but if He did not, it would not affect their decision to refuse to worship a false god. The king is angry and offended, so he has them thrown into a fiery furnace. That decision kills some other people, but not our three friends. They were joined in the furnace by what the king described as a "fourth man". (Country music fans of a certain age may recall the Statler Brothers singing this story, "they didn't bend, they didn't bow, they didn't burn".)
When you consider this context, the prayer offered by Azariah (Abednego) is really astonishing. He does not call for divine retribution on the Babylonian oppressors, who surely had some serious sins to their account. Instead, Azariah focuses on the faults of his own people and their corporate need for divine mercy. The faults of others (as grievous as they were, indeed) apparently did not seem so important when Azariah encountered the "fourth man" -- a theophany – in the midst of this fiery trial.

Following God makes a lot of sense when you are in the fire and need to get out, but then there is always the question: what are you going to do next, after the crisis? Sometimes deliverance is not sufficiently transformative of our attitude and way of life. The Gospel today provides a severe object lesson about deliverance and the requirement of something from us -- forgiveness. In the parable, the debtor who was forgiven much fails to forgive another debtor – and his own deliverance was therefore withdrawn. Yikes!

As we sit comfortably at a distance, we can wonder what this debtor was thinking and why he was so dense. But if we had been in the midst of that adventure, could we be so sure of ourselves? If we were the debtor who had been mistreated over our small debt, would we be glad that the other fellow was getting his due for bullying us? What about our dignity, which has been offended by this brute? Would we want justice more than mercy?

Sometimes cycles of affliction and injury are hard to stop. We get hurt, then we hurt others, and then they hurt others, etc. But we must stop them. This seems to be a supernatural quest, which is not so easily achieved on our own terms. While we may know that "[love] does not brood over injury" (1 Cor. 13:5), practicing that kind of love is asking quite a lot, when the hurt is real and we do not feel fine at all!

During this Lenten season, how can we find the kind of prayer that arose in Azariah's heart – and the transforming change in attitude that accompanied it? Perhaps we may find such prayer by spending more time with our Lord than we spend brooding over our injuries and our neighbor's faults (though indeed they are real and many). May God help us to perform this supernatural work. And I suspect we will be astonished at the results if we try. Thanks be to God.

Preface for Meditation:
by Prince Mathew

See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I am commanding you today, by loving the Lord your God, walking in his ways, and observing his commandments, decrees, and ordinances, then you shall live and become numerous, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to possess. But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the Lord swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. Deuteronomy 30:15-20

At the end of their long sojourn through the desert—only a stone’s throw away from the Promised Land but not quite there yet, Prophet Moses calls on his people to affirm with him their joint commitment to God and his promises. “The blessings of God”, Moses says, “will be abundant, if you keep faith: you will only truly live when you choose to continue to walk with God”. For Moses, this is made all the more urgent since he has been told that he will not cross the Jordan with his people. For him the end of the journey of life, and his pilgrimage has come. As he faces death, he speaks passionately of life—in this short passage he mentions the word ‘life’ or ‘live’ six times.

Like the people of Israel on the banks of the river Jordan, we too are invited to reject all that denies life and choose instead what is life-giving, life enhancing. This is a choice we make not only for ourselves, but for all generations.

Bible Reading Passages:
Fourth Tuesday of Great Lent

Fifty-Day Gospel Planner
(Read all Gospels during the Great Lent)



Gospel Readings:

Matthew 20:1-16 (KJV)

For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard.

And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard.

And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace,

And said unto them; Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way.

Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise.

And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle?

They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive.

So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the labourers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first.

And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny.

But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny.

And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house,

Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day.

But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny?

Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee.

Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?

So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.

Matthew 11:25-12:8 (KJV)

At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.

Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight.

All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Matthew 12

At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn; and his disciples were an hungred, and began to pluck the ears of corn and to eat.

But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto him, Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath day.

But he said unto them, Have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungred, and they that were with him;

How he entered into the house of God, and did eat the shewbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests?

Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are blameless?

But I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the temple.

But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless.

For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day.

Bible Verse of the day:

"Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you." St. Matthew 20:14


Praise to Christ, who has given us himself as the bread from heaven. Let us pray to him, saying:
Jesus, you feed and heal our souls; come to strengthen us.

Lord, feed us at the banquet of the Eucharist,
- with all the gifts of your paschal sacrifice.
Give us a perfect heart to receive your word,
- that we may bring forth fruit in patience.
Make us eager to work with you in building a better world,
- so that it may listen to your Church and its gospel of peace.
We confess, Lord, that we have sinned,
- wash us clean by your gift of salvation.

Closing Prayer:

God of infinite love,
I thank you for this reminder of your love
and your call that we be more patient,
gentle and compassionate with others.
Here in the middle of Lent,
I turn to you to beg for your help.
Please soften my heart.
Help me to let go of judging others.
I ask you this, in Jesus' name.

May the Lord bless us,
protect us from all evil
and bring us to everlasting life.

Source: Portions from: Creighton University Praying Lent

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