Ash Wednesday  
Luke 18:9-14

The parable of the Pharisee and the Publican contrasts the attitudes of two men in their relationship with God. The Pharisee relies on his own righteousness before God and seeks His approval for his good works. The Publican, considered by his fellow Pharisee to be corrupt, a sinner and beyond redemption, acknowledges his sins and seeks God’s forgiveness. Ironically, it is the Publican who is justified by God and treated as a good person.

Luke tells us that Jesus addressed this story to some people who boasted of their self-righteousness and despised others. Some of us behave like these people and believe that God is impressed with our righteousness. In this world of competition we have to make sure that our credentials are better than the other person. We are driven to belittle others so that we can look good; this was the Pharisee’s problem. When we have to destroy others to prove that we are better, it exposes our fear that we are not. We do not need to impress God; he knows us as we are. The Collect for Purity prays: “Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid.” God is not impressed by what we claim to be, but by what we are.

The self-righteousness of the Pharisee denies us the truth that we “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” We are all saved by grace and not by works. Our salvation is a gift from God who sent His Son to be our Saviour. Like the Publican we must all beat our breast and cry “God be merciful to me a sinner.”

Prayer

Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in me a new and contrite heart, that worthily lamenting my sins and acknowledging my wretchedness, I may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ my Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Thursday After Ash Wednesday
John 17:1-8

We might think it strange that Jesus prayed for his glorification. From the beginning John spoke of his glorification, “we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.” He was also glorified in the first miracle at Cana and the disciples believed in him. John shared the view that Jesus’ ultimate glorification was in his crucifixion and resurrection. “The hour has come,” anticipated his death and resurrection, the crowing of his work and his glorification.

Jesus came to grant eternal life to those whom God had given to him. John’s understanding of eternal life is not life ad infinitum –endlessly-but knowing God and Jesus His Son. Knowing God is not intellectual knowledge but having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Eternal life begins at the Font. The Father is glorified when we established a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Jesus revealed God to man, “"I have manifested thy name to the men whom thou gavest me out of the world.” Jesus showed us what God was like. The disciples accepted the revelation and believed Jesus word and teaching. Jesus’ accomplished his ministry and the Father was glorified.

The work of glorification continues whenever we accept God’s word and believe in him. In accepting God’s word we see his character and are challenged to shape our lives around His revealed character.

Prayer

Direct us, O Lord, in all our doings with your most gracious favour, and further us with your continual help; that in all our works begun, continued, and ended in you, we may glorify your holy Name, and, finally, by your mercy, obtain everlasting life, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

Friday after Ash Wednesday  
John 17:9-19

In today’s reading Jesus prays for future believers and not the world. He does not dislike the world, he prays for protection of those who will carry on his work in the world. Divine protection will be needed as he leaves the disciples; his physically presence will no longer be with them.

The disciples’ lives must be modelled on the unity between the Father and the Son. Without unity their work would be compromised and the Father’s glory would not be revealed to future generations. The disciples are to be God’s agents of reconciliation in the world and their visible unity is necessary for this ministry.

Disciples will be disliked because they are not of the world. They might be considered weird because they are not part of this world’s secular life. But Jesus does not want them to withdraw from the world. It is in the world that they will exercise their ministry of reconciliation. He asks God to protect them from the evil one as they proclaim the Good news of the Kingdom. “I do not pray that thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that thou shouldst keep them from the evil one.”

Christians cannot withdraw from their communities; they must be part of the community’s life and try to influence it positively so that God may be glorified.  Some people misunderstand the meaning of ‘not of the world’ and detach themselves from their communities. Christians are to live in the world and affect it but be not affected by it.

Prayer

Support us, O Lord, with your gracious favour through the Fast we have begun; that as we observe it by bodily self-denial, so we may fulfil it with inner sincerity of heart; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
Saturday after Ash Wednesday  
John 17:20-26

In today’s reading Jesus broadens his prayer and prays for all who through the disciples preaching and teaching would come to believe in him. Jesus is praying for the Church’s success in the world in all generations.

Jesus prays for the oneness of his disciples and by extension the Church. Its unity is vital for its work of evangelism in the world. The unity of the Church is to be patterned after the unity of the Father and the Son.

The prayer for oneness does not necessarily mean uniformity. There can be unity in diversity; we must not expect all Christians to hold the same beliefs. However, we can still have unity as we share a common witness in announcing the Good news of God’s kingdom.

“Being one’ implies that we are all equal to one another. In this prayer Jesus claimed equality with God for which he was rejected by the Jews. “That they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You” tells us that our unity is the same as that between the Father and the Son. As Christians we will have our differences, but these must not stand in the way of our unity which is an expression of our love for God and each other.

As we think about the need for unity, let us be united in our witness for Jesus in the world as we fight against sin and all forms of evil that rob us of our true humanity.

Prayer

Almighty and everlasting God, mercifully look upon our infirmities, and in all our dangers and necessities stretch forth your right hand to help and defend us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

Lent 1:  Monday 
Mark 1:1-13

Immediately after his baptism by John the Baptist, Jesus went into the wilderness for a period of forty days, during which time he was tempted by Satan. Mark’s account of the temptation is very brief. The content of the temptations is recorded in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.

Traditionally, the wilderness is the place where we meet God and are purified by Him. It is also the abode of Satan and the place where we encounter the forces of evil. Jesus’ encounter with the wild beasts and Satan is Mark’s way of describing Jesus’ victory over the power of evil. Jesus takes on the demonic powers of this world and defeats them.

Jesus’ experience is common to all people. We set out to achieve our goals and it is usually followed by a period of testing. Life is not a smooth path; it has its bumps. Jesus’ temptation informs us of the ‘testings’ we will encounter as we try to serve God and commit our lives to Jesus Christ. As we embark on our spiritual journey there will be doubts and anxiety as we embrace the Cross of Christ. We must remember that things do not always work out as we expect.

We are aware of the wild beasts in the wilderness. They come in all forms and fashion to seduce us and take us away from God. The Christian life is a war with the forces of evil that are present in the world. In our time of trial the angels will minister to us.

Prayer

Almighty and everlasting God, mercifully increase in us your gifts of holy discipline, in almsgiving, prayer and fasting; that our lives may be directed to the fulfilling of your most gracious will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.


Lent 1: Tuesday
Mark 1:14-28

“The Kingdom of God is at hand” was the main subject of Jesus’ earthly ministry. The Kingdom is the reign of God, his sovereign rule over all creation, our hearts and minds.  The Kingdom is a future reality, but whenever we accept the Gospel of Christ it is present.

Repentance is the prerequisite for the new life to be found in Christ. From the Old Testament perspective sin means to walk in the wrong direction, to be on the wrong path. Repentance is a call to change direction and get back on the right path. Jesus has this in mind as he invites his hearers to repent and accept the Good News of the kingdom. Jesus’ idea of repentance is not a legal exercise; it is a call to change our way of living and adopt a certain life style which reflects God’s grace in our lives. There is an urgency to it: “The kingdom of God is at hand: repent and believe the gospel”

Sin affects our relationship with God and people. If our lives are to be changed it is imperative that we seek God’s forgiveness by acknowledging our sins and accepting his offer of forgiveness.  Forgiveness heals our broken relationship with God and makes our crooked paths straight. All of us are crooked, it is part of the human experience, but we must not use our crookedness as an excuse for sinful living. There is a remedy for our crookedness.

We can see the call to repent as an opportunity for new life. A new life to be found in Jesus Christ who inaugurates God’s kingdom.
Repent!

Prayer

Grant to your people, Lord, grace to withstand the temptations of the world, the flesh and the devil, and with pure hearts and minds to follow you, the only True God; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

Lent 1: Wednesday
Mark 1:29-45

At even ere the sun was set
The sick, O Lord, around Thee lay;

Jesus’ healing ministry gave hope to many who were physically and mentally ill. As his fame spread he was sought by the masses who brought their sick to him to be cured. Mark says; “And the whole city was gathered together about the door.” They came to Jesus because they believed he had the power to heal their relatives and loved ones and restore them to wholeness.

“They brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons.” This sums up the state of our world. It is a sick world as is witnessed by the evil that pervades all sectors of life. Our world is in need of God’s healing power, but we need not despair, there is hope for the world.

One also notes in today’s reading that Jesus found time to pray: ‘He rose and went out to a lonely place, and there he prayed.” We live busy lives and are caught up in many activities but we must always have time for prayer. Prayer brings us into communion with God making it possible for us to discern his will for us. Like Jesus, we must find a ‘sacred’ place to which we can withdraw and share sacred moments with the Father.

We must make a lonely place. It is difficult to shut our doors against the intrusions of the outer world and the noise that marks our society, but it is important that we find such a sanctuary to which we can retreat.

Prayer

Bless us, O God, in this holy season, in which our hearts seek your help and healing; and so purify us by your discipline that we may grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
Lent 1: Thursday
Mark 2:1-12

Not much is known of the spiritual character of this man who is affected with paralysis. In the ancient world pain, sickness and suffering were linked to one’s sin and physical ills were regarded as punishment. The Paralytic might have regarded his complaint as a punishment for his sins. We do not know Jesus’ thinking on the matter. However, he saw that the man needed more than physical healing for full restoration to health.

Jesus realised that the man’s problem was more than a physical issue and said to him, “My son, your sins are forgiven.’ There is a relationship between some forms of sin and physical suffering, mental stress and functional paralysis. Jesus went deeper than the physical and forgave the man his sins. He was healed physically and spiritually.

Very often we ascribe our ills and pains to external forces and conditions, without recognizing that some of them are related to personal sins (what Paul calls the works of the flesh- Galatians 5:18-20) and  can be contributing factors to the various forms of personal suffering we experience from time to time. Medical science holds to the theory that some physical ailments result from mental stresses. From a theological perspective sin gives rise to guilt feelings which do affect a person’s physical health.

Good health and peace of mind cannot be attained while we continue to sin deliberately. One notices that on most occasions Jesus always restored the sick to spiritual health before they were physically healed.

Prayer

Strengthen us, O Lord, by your grace, that in your might we may overcome all spiritual enemies, and with pure hearts serve you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

Lent 1: Friday
Mark 2:13-22

The outcast of society felt comfortable in Christ’s presence because they experienced his love and forgiveness. He welcomed them into his circle and treated them as persons made in the image of God. Jesus’ acceptance of society’s unforgotten empowered them and restored their human dignity. He frowned on their sins and demanded repentance but he never discarded them. The Scribes and Pharisees objected to Jesus’ association with ‘publicans and sinners’ because he violated their code of conduct and traditional ceremonial cleanness. Jesus crossed forbidden social boundaries in order to reach out to those who society had written off. Jesus does not exclude anyone from his Church. His is an all embracing love which reaches out to everyone and assures them of his care and mercy.

Our Lord’s example is one to be emulated by his Church. The Church is sent to seek and to save the lost. Our mission is to the whole world, all who are willing to accept our message have a place at our fellowship table. We cannot make the Church an inclusive body that keeps out those we consider unworthy. If we do the Church becomes another social club and fails in its mission to seek and save the lost.

The Gospel reading speaks of Christ embracing ministry. The Gospels witness to God’s embracing nature in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Jesus embraced prostitutes, women, lepers, the outcasts of society, Zacchaeus the tax collector, the Samaritan woman at the well and the woman caught in adultery, just to cite a few examples. He has given us an example to emulate.

Prayer

Lord Christ, our Eternal Redeemer, grant us such fellowship in your sufferings, that filled with your Holy Spirit, we may subdue the flesh to the spirit, and the spirit to you, and at the last attain to the glory of your resurrection; who live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
Lent 1: Saturday
Mark 2:23-28; 3:1-6

On various occasions Jesus got into problems with the Pharisees for ‘breaking’ the Sabbath. Jesus did not allow Sabbath restrictions to prevent him from doing good and showing God’s mercy. Jesus did not reject all laws; he discarded them when they became a hindrance and stood in the way of mercy.

Every society needs laws and statues to regulate its life, but when such rules and regulations become a millstone around our necks and prevent us from doing good, we have a duty to question their usefulness. The question “does it serve the interest of people’ must always be asked as we examine the morality of laws. Sometimes we can follow the law so as to avoid doing our moral duty. Jesus makes reference to this in Matthew’s gospel: “If a man tells his father or his mother, what you would have gained from me is Corban' (that is, given to God) -- then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother.”

In our religious life we have to be able to discern when the observance of rules, customs and traditions, stand in the way of service to humanity. Many of the rules we seek to enforce in our churches are manmade statues which can be useful for good order but not necessary for our salvation. The question we must ask is: “Do these laws build up the Body of Christ?” We must avoid making Christianity a legal code and not a religion of grace.

Jesus angry with the Pharisees because they allowed self interest and tradition to blind them to human need and suffering. The needs of the person require us to do what is right, given the situation.

Prayer

O God, by your Word you marvelously carry out the work of reconciliation: Grant that in our Lenten fast we may be devoted to you with all our hearts, and united with one another in prayer and holy love; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
Lent 2: Monday
Mark 3: 7 – 19

Following His healing of the man with the withered hand in the Synagogue on the Sabbath, Jesus took His disciples to the Sea of Galilee.  Healing on the Sabbath was against the “tradition of the Elders”, the Pharisees were angry with him for ‘breaking’ the Sabbath law and set about to destroy him.

Those who were demon-possessed (unclean spirits) recognised Him as “Son of God.” In today’s modern world people with epilepsy and mental illness would have been considered “demon possessed” in Jesus’ day.  Jesus’ admonition to them not to reveal Him was striking. He was not looking for cheap popularity. He did not seek to promote himself. He sought to glorify his Father through a life of service that ended on the cross. This approach to life is ridiculed by our modern world.

The trip to the mountain top with the commissioning of the twelve disciples to become apostles (those who are sent to spread the message) is somewhat reminiscent of Moses on Mount Sinai receiving the Commandments to be given to the twelve tribes of Israel.  Jesus’ commissioning of the twelve with authority over demons is regarded by some writers as a reconstituting of the new Israel, a symbol of the new community or kingdom which He came to establish.

 Jesus’ ministry through His life, teaching, death and resurrection was to set up a community of believers, in which the rule of God was to be supreme.  Jesus calls us to be his disciples and to share in his ministry.

Prayer

Let your Spirit, O Lord, come into the midst of us to wash us with the pure water of repentance, and prepare us to be always a living sacrifice to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
 Lent 2: Tuesday
Mark 3: 19(b) – 35

While Jesus was at a home, probably in Capernaum on the north western shore of the Sea of Galilee, many came to Him seeking help and relief.  They were very impressed with his miracle working powers.  There were others, like the Pharisees who did not accept that His power came from God, His father, but accused Him of being an agent of Satan.  In fact, some said He was mad, even members of His natural family entertained this thought.

His detractors accused Him of casting out demons by the prince of demons, Beelzebub.  Jesus confounded them in his response: “How could Satan cast out Satan?”  If Satan, the prince of darkness, placed a demon in someone, why would he use one of his supposed agents, Jesus, to remove it, thus defeating his purpose of enslaving people and keeping them in spiritual darkness? 

Rather it was Jesus, who represents the Kingdom of Light, through the power of the Holy Spirit, who is the strong man, breaking into Satan’s Kingdom of darkness, binding him, the weaker man, and freeing those held captive by him.  He further made the profound statement that speaking irreverently (blaspheming) about him could be forgiven, but sinning against the Holy Spirit was an unpardonable sin. 
 
Jesus’ explanation about who makes up His family is not necessarily a rejection of them, but a reference to His spiritual family; those who do God’s will, as Jesus did. God invites us to become members of his family by doing his will and living it out daily in our lives.

Prayer

O  God, you willed to redeem us from all iniquity by your Son: Deliver us when we are tempted to regard sin without abhorrence, and let the virtue of his passion come between us and our mortal enemy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives, and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
 
Lent 2: Wednesday
Mark 4: 1 – 20

The sower or farmer represents Jesus or His subsequent representatives (apostles, priests, pastors, ministers).  The seed is the word of God or the preached message.  The different soils and the various outcomes of the seed represent different groups of people and their reactions to the received word or message.

The seed that fell by the wayside is synonymous with the group that hears the word or message and feels good or energised about it, like listening to a “good” sermon, but after leaving “church” they become uncertain, having heard someone else’s view.

The seed on the rocky ground represents the group who after rejoicing at the message, falters and loses it in times of life’s difficulties, because of weak faith.  It is difficult for some to hold on to faith in times of great tragedies like in Haiti following the earthquake.

Those among the thorns having received the message become distracted and caught up with riches and desires.  As Paul tells Timothy (1 Tim. 6: 10) “The love of money is the root of all evil.”  Some literally “worship” their wealth. And the word produces no fruit. Finally the word on “good ground” represents that group of people who hear and receive the word and live according to it; the word bearing multiple fruits.

The parable teaches that the Kingdom of God will triumph over the forces of evil and is meant to give encouragement to us as we witness for Christ in the world.

Prayer

O God, you so loved the world that you gave your only begotten Son to reconcile earth with heaven; Grant that we, loving you above all things, may love our friends in you, and our enemies for your sake; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
 
Lent 2: Thursday
Mark 4: 21 – 34

These three parables: “The lamp on the stand”, “the parable of the growing seed”, and “the parable of the mustard seed”, all point to the development of the Kingdom of God, according to St. Jerome in his biblical commentary.

In the “lamp on the stand”, one interpretation is that Jesus’ mysterious teaching will one day become manifest (plain) to all.  The lamp illuminates (brightens) the darkness; the knowledge of Jesus’ message will over-come the spiritual darkness of many, leading to an understanding and acceptance of the Kingdom of Light where God rules.

In “the parable of the growing seed”, the Kingdom of God grows under His guidance as more and more believers are added.  The full revelation of the Kingdom will occur at the “end time” with the second appearing of Christ.  This is certain as the harvest following the planting of the seed.  Hence, believers should not be discouraged.

“The parable of the mustard seed” shows the contrast between a tiny seed and its development into a massive tree – From small beginnings of the Kingdom (a few believers) to a mighty harvest at its fullness.  This large resultant tree from a small seed may refer to the capacity of the Kingdom to accommodate all who would accept the message that Jesus brings. The mustard seed is also associated with challenging Jesus’ followers to having even that little faith in order to achieve great things

Prayer

O Lord, strong and mighty, Lord of Hosts and King of glory: Cleanse our hearts from sin, keep our hand pure, and turn our minds from what is passing away; so that at the last we may stand in your holy place and receive your blessing; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
 
Lent 2: Friday
Mark 4: 35 – 41

It was believed by some in the ancient Near East, that the sea represented “chaos and evil”.  Many accounts in the Old Testament have similarity to stories from that region.

As the disciples sailed to the other side of the lake, Jesus was asleep in the stern of the boat, a human action.  The development of the storm can be regarded as the forces of chaos and evil struggling against God (Jesus), in an attempt to destroy Him.  The disciples, fearful for their lives, woke Him up, and asked Him if he did not care that they might perish.  There seemed to be an implicit belief that Jesus, who had performed many miracles, could somehow save them.

Jesus did what God does – rebuked the storm and peace returned.  He then questioned their faith.  They questioned what sort of person He was, that even the wind and the waves obeyed Him.

The storm presented an opportunity for Jesus to show His mastery over nature, a further proof that although He was human, He was also Divine, and that as long as you were with Him physically or spiritually there was no need to be fearful.  We can overcome any situation that develops when we encounter the “storms” of life.

From time to time we encounter various forms of storms in our daily lives. Such storms do threaten our faith in God and like the disciples we do ask if God is with us. Yes, God is with us at all times and we are never alone in our personal storms.

Prayer

Grant, O Lord, that as your Son Jesus Christ prayed for His enemies on the cross, so we may have grace to forgive those who wrongfully or scornfully use us, that we ourselves may be able to receive your forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
 
Lent 2: Saturday
Mark 5: 1 – 20

During Jesus’ ministry the land of Israel and Judea were occupied by the Romans who were pagans.  Although the Jews were allowed to practise their religion they had to pay homage to the Emperor.

In the land of the Gerasenes, there was a garrison of Roman Soldiers, about two thousand (2000), stationed there.  Also there was a man who was demon-possessed who lived among the tombs.  It was believed that demons lived among the dead.  He had great strength, so much so that he burst chains and shackles, and could not be restrained. When he saw Jesus, he ran to Him and bowed before Him (worshipping Him).  Under the power of the demon he called Jesus the ‘Son of God’ and asked Him if he had come to torment him.

Jesus commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man and enquired its’ name.  He replied “Legion, for we are many”.  Through the man the demons begged to be sent into a herd of swine, about 2000, feeding nearby.  Those who were caring for the swine told the encounter to people in the city.  They came to where Jesus was and found the man who was formerly demon-possessed now dressed and behaving normally. 

The sending of the demons into the swine, leading to their destruction, is a sign of the Kingdom of God representing ‘good’ over-coming evil, represented by the pagan oppressive Romans.  An encounter with Jesus, who is God, leads to a transformation of the person, as seen in the demon-possessed man, leading to a better life.

Prayer

Grant, most merciful Lord, to your faithful people pardon and peace, that they may be cleansed from all their sins, and serve you with a quiet mind; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
Lent 3: Monday 
Mark 5:21-43

In the biblical sense, faith is regarded as the stepping out of darkness caused by doubt, into light created by belief in God. Faith is about having a conviction and complete trust in the might and power of God, to protect, provide and deliver. In other words it is about believing in the promise of God never to leave nor forsake his children.

The story of the woman suffering from haemorrhages for twelve years, presents an act of deep faith in Jesus Christ, to deliver, to heal, and to shed light upon dark and hopeless situations such as this. No one or anything, was able to help her overcome her problem, hence she was deemed incurable. She had tried everything and spent all that she had, to no avail and there was no hope.

 “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well” (Mk 5:28). The strong faith that she had in Jesus Christ to heal her, saw her moving from a situation of darkness, through the possible hindrance of the crowd and into the marvellous light of God’s healing power.

Our human nature will see us in many instances, trying all of the earthly known remedies to heal our various ailments or diseases, but when all have failed we are encouraged not to lose heart, for we have a friend and great physician Jesus to help us. Our faith in Jesus Christ to deliver and heal us from anything should propel us to be willing and even eager to go to him, knowing that we would be made well through his power and his grace.

Prayer
Look upon the heart-felt desires of your humble servants, Almighty God, and stretch forth the right hand of your majesty to be our defense against all our enemies; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
Lent 3: Tuesday 
Mark 6:1-13

The saying that familiarity breeds contempt can be easily applied to the response of the people in Nazareth, to the presence of Jesus Christ among them. Here it was that Jesus was in his hometown among his own Jewish people, yet, he was unable to minister to them effectively as was the case in the other towns he visited.

 Rather than embracing him they would show much reproach to him because of his humble background. They would question his wisdom and power by asking themselves: - “Is this not the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” (Mk 6:3). This would result in them creating a barrier, which would distance them from his ministry. They were astonished by his doctrine, yet offended at his person; therefore neglecting the opportunity to receive his doctrine.

We read and we hear of the great wisdom and mighty works of Christ; but do we really accept and acknowledge him as the Messiah? Or do we allow our familiarity with his gospel to create a barrier and obscure our vision of his divine wisdom and power at times? Do we honestly believe in the divine wisdom and power of Jesus Christ? Are we only prepared to see him as the babe in a manger, the carpenter, and the son on Mary?

Let us not allow our familiarity with Jesus Christ and his gospel message to hamper our belief in his divine wisdom and power; leading us to contempt, which will only hinder the power of him in our lives.

Prayer

O Lord, we beseech you mercifully to hear us; and grant that we, to whom you have given a fervent desire to pray, may, by your mighty aid, be defended and comforted in all dangers and adversities; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
Lent 3: Wednesday 
Mark 6:13-29
 
It appears that Herod had some respect for John the Baptist and his preaching, though at times he was very much puzzled and even challenged by the words of John. Herod recognized John as a just and holy man, and for this reason he liked to listen to him and would hear him gladly without allowing the words of John to bear fruit in his life.

Here in the case of Herod, we have an example from the parable of the sower, where the seed fell on the rock, grew up and then withered for lack of moisture. Herod would receive the word with joy but would not allow it to take root firmly in his life. “The ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe only for a while and in time of testing fall away” (Luke 8: 13).

Unlike Herod we as Christians are expected to allow the Word of God to take root in our lives; thus enabling us to be not only hearers of the Word but doers of the Word as well. Though at times we may not be sure of what we would have read or heard, it should be our moral duty to seek guidance and wisdom, so as to be enlightened with a good understanding. The wisdom necessary for a good understanding of God’s Word would come after deep reflection and prayer. Therefore, we should be encouraged to be like the seed sown in good soil in the parable of the sower, and allow the word to take root, guiding us into all ways of peace and truth.

In our Christian witness let us hold fast to the word of God. .

Prayer

Give ear to our prayers, O Lord, and direct the way of your servants in safety under your protection, that, amid all the changes of our earthly pilgrimage, we may be guarded by your mighty aid; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
Lent 3: Thursday
Mark 6:30-46

In issuing this invitation to his disciples, Jesus shows great care and consideration for them as they were now returning from their duties of teaching and preaching. They were gathered together preparing to give Jesus an account of what they had done and also what they had encountered.

Jesus first encourages the disciples to take some time out from their toil and rest. It is a case of saying to them that though it is important to do the work of God, it is also equally important for them to recognize the need for rest and relaxation. However, this rest and relaxation can only be achieved if one can retreat to a deserted place, re-group, take a breath and then go again.

Similarly, we too as workers for God must recognize the importance of taking some time out from our daily schedules to rest. This allows us to reflect on our tasks and be recharged to continue our work in witnessing for God. In an effort to be well rested and recharged, we are encouraged by Jesus Christ to come away from the community at times to a deserted place where there can be no distractions and spend time with God who will refresh us with his presence.

Though we are accountable for our work in witness for God, let us never neglect ourselves spiritually, mentally or physically. Rather, let us strive to listen to the words of Jesus, and be refreshed, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest awhile.”

Prayer

Keep watch over you Church, O Lord, with your unfailing love; and, since it is grounded in human weakness and cannot maintain itself without your aid, protect it from all danger, and keep it in the way of salvation; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

Lent 3: Friday  
Mark 6:47-56 

Our Christian journey can become very challenging, without the presence of Jesus Christ our defender and redeemer. As a result we can find ourselves being tossed to and fro on the stormy seas of life. 

Fear, that state of panic or distress caused by a sense of impending danger or pain, is very much part of the human psyche and is often at the heart of our inability to put our complete trust and confidence in Almighty God.

As believers in a God who is the author, sustainer and protector of life, we should always be ready to put our complete trust and confidence in Him. Believing and understanding that God works in his own time, and will never neglect his people in any circumstance.

As such he reveals himself to his people in various forms and even through others, as He seeks to calm our fears.

In revealing himself to us, God comforts and encourages us not to lose heart, but to acknowledge his presence and be not afraid; for he is in complete control of all situations, and will work his purpose out.
 
 “God is our hope and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will we not fear, though the earth be moved: and though the hills be carved into the midst of the sea. .... The God of Jacob is our refuge” (Psalm 46).
 
Prayer

Grant us, O Lord our Strength, to have a True Love of your Holy Name; so that, trusting in your grace, we may fear no earthly evil, nor fix our hearts on earthly goods, but may rejoice in your full salvation; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
Lent 3: Saturday 
Mark 7:1-23
 Sincerity in worship on the part of all Christians towards Almighty God ought to go far beyond the religious practices, with all the rituals and traditions. It should come from deep within the heart and be driven by love; true love for God. True and genuine love will see us as Christians serving and praising God in thought, word and deed.

Religious practices with rituals and traditions all have a role to play in the worship of God, but we should  be encouraged and in some cases,  challenged, to recognize that there is much more to worshipping God. True Worship  calls for a sincere response on our part, which will see us being propelled into action in the service of God. This will allow us to move beyond words, and be the hands and feet of God at work in this world.

Worshipping God in spirit and in truth calls for a sincere response on our part, which will see us being propelled into action in the service of God.

The sincere worship of God is very much part of true religion. The writer of the Letter to James tells us that “religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world” (Jas 1: 27).

When the worship of God is carried out in all sincerity that the honour and glory due to God will be rightfully given to him.

Prayer

O God, you know us to be set in the midst of so many and great dangers, that by reason of the frailty of our nature we cannot always stand upright: Grant us such strength and protection as may support us in all dangers, and carry us through all temptations; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

Lent 4: Monday
Mark 7:24-37

In the story, the woman came asking Jesus’ help for her daughter. His answer that it was not right to take the children’s bread and give it to dogs appeared at first blush a shocking saying. To a Greek, the word dog meant a shameless and audacious woman. To a Jew, it was equally a term of contempt. The word dog was in fact sometimes a Jewish term of contempt for the Gentiles.

How then, are these words of Jesus explained?  He did not use the usual word which described the wild dogs of the street, but the little pet lap-dogs of the house.  The same word can be a deadly insult and an affectionate address, according to the tone of voice. In any case, Jesus did not shut the door on the woman’s request for help.

First, he said, the children must be fed, but only first; there is meat left for the household pets. This could be interpreted that Israel had the first offer of the Gospel, but only the first, there were others still to come.  Hear the woman in her reply!  “True Sir, but even the dogs below the table eat some of the bits of bread that the children throw away”.  Here was a sunny faith that would not take no for an answer, here was a woman with the tragedy of an ill daughter at home, whose faith was tested and whose faith was real, and her prayer was answered. Symbolically she stands for the Gentile world which seized on the bread of heaven which the Jews rejected.

Prayer

O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy: Be gracious to all who have gone astray from your ways, and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of your Word, Jesus Christ your Son; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

Lent 4: Tuesday 
Mark 8:1-10

Over and over again we see Jesus moved with compassion. The most amazing thing is his sheer consideration, a virtue which never forgets the details of life. Jesus looked at the crowd; they had been with him for three days; and he remembered that they had a long walk home.  Confront Jesus with a lost soul or tired body, and his first instinct was to help. 

It is all too true that the first instinct of many people is not to help. It is human to want to  avoid the trouble of  giving help.  It is divine to be moved with such compassion and pity that we are compelled to help. 

The next observation from the story is the challenge of Jesus. When Jesus had pity on the crowd and wished to give them something to eat, the disciples immediately pointed out the practical difficulty that there was nowhere within miles where any food could be got. At once Jesus asked them the question, ‘how many loaves have you?” Compassion became a challenge. In effect Jesus was saying, “Do not try to push the responsibility for helping on to someone else. Do not say that you would help if you only had something to give. Do not say that in these circumstances to help is impossible. Take what you have and give it and see what happens”.

After this incident, Jesus had charged them to tell no one; but the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it.  Here we have a glimpse of what the witness of one man can do for Christ.

Prayer

O God, with you is the well of life, and in your light we see light: quench our thirst with living water, and flood our darkened minds with heavenly light; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives, and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
Lent 4: Wednesday 
Mark 8:11-26

The tendency of the age in which Jesus lived was to look for God in the abnormal.  It was believed that when the Messiah came the most startling things would happen. When false Messiahs arose, as they frequently did, they lured the people to follow them by promising astonishing signs.

It was a sign like these that the Pharisee were demanding. They wished to see some shattering event blazing across the horizon, defying the laws of nature and astonishing everyone. To Jesus, the whole world was full of signs. He did not think that God had to break in from outside the world; he knew that God was already in the world for anyone who had eyes to see. For anyone who has eyes to see and a heart to understand the sights of nature, the beauty of a sunset, the daily miracle of night and day and the daily splendour of all common things, are signs from God.

This passage continues with the failure of the disciples to learn from experience. The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, and they had only one loaf in the boat.  He reminded them that twice he had satisfied the hunger of huge crowds with food enough and to spare.  It is as if he said, “Why all the worry? Don’t you remember what happened before? Hasn’t experience taught you that you do not need to worry about things like that if you are with me?”

If we would only read the lessons of experience rightly, it would teach us not only the pessimism of the things that cannot be, but the hope which stands amazed that God has brought us thus far in safety and in certainty.

Prayer

O Lord our God, you sustained you people in the wilderness with bread from heaven: Feed now your pilgrim flock with the food that endures to eternal life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
Lent 4: Thursday 
Mark 8:27-9:1

In this passage Jesus asks of the disciples  “who do men say that I am?’ and he heard from them the popular rumours and reports.  Some said he was John the Baptist, others that he was Elijah or one of the prophets.  Jesus’ general question prepares for the more concrete query to the disciples; “but who do you say that I am”?
To Jesus’ concrete query to the disciples, Peter as spokesman acknowledges Jesus to be Christ the Messiah. No sooner had Peter made this discovery than Jesus told him he must tell no one of it.  Why? Because first and foremost, Jesus had to teach Peter and the others what Messiahship really meant. Jesus clarifies the nature of his identity as the Messiah/Christ by means of the prediction of his oncoming passion. He began to teach them that it was necessary that the Son of Man should suffer many things, and should be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed and rise again after three days.
All their lives they had thought of the Messiah in terms of irresistible conquest, and liberator, and they were now being presented with an idea which staggered them. That is why Peter protested so violently. To him the whole thing was impossible. Jesus sternly rebuked Peter. “Get behind me Satan, these are not God’s thoughts but man’s.
Then follows a collection of sayings about discipleship in which the theme of suffering predominates: the need for self-denial, losing one’s life for the gospel, the value of true self, and not being ashamed of the Son of Man.

Prayer

Almighty and most merciful God, drive from us all weakness of body, mind and spirit; that, being restored to wholeness, we may
with free hearts become what you intend us to be and accomplish what you want us to do; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

Lent 4: Friday  
Mark 9:2-13

The transfiguration establishes Jesus’ glorious identity as the beloved son of God, and places his divine sonship in the context of Jewish expectations about the kingdom and resurrection. Jesus went up to the mountain top, and with him he took Peter, James and John, the three who formed the inner circle among the disciples.  Moses the supreme law giver of Israel, and Elijah the first and greatest of the prophets come to meet him. God had many times, and in many places, and in many ways, spoken through the prophets but now he gives all that he can give us by sending his own son.

The transfiguration has a double significance. It did something very precious for Jesus. He had taken the decision to go to Jerusalem, and that was the decision to face and accept the cross.  On the mountain top he received a double approval of his decision.
It did something very precious for the disciples. They had been shattered by Jesus’ statement that he was going to Jerusalem to die. That seemed to them the complete negation of all that they understood of the Messiah. They were still bewildered and uncomprehending.  Things were happening which not only baffled their minds but were also breaking their hearts. What they saw on the mountain of the transfiguration would give them something to hold on to, even when they could not understand.

On the mountain they saw the glory of Christ, and now they had the story of this glory to hide in their hearts and to tell to others, not at the moment, but when the time came. We like the disciples are sent to tell our stories of Christ on the mountain top.

Prayer

O God, you have given us the good news of your abounding love in your Son Jesus Christ: So fill our hearts with thankfulness that we may rejoice to proclaim the good tidings we have received; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives, and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

Lent: Saturday 
Mark 9:14-29 

This passage relates to the healing of a possessed boy by Jesus. It begins and ends with the focus on the disciples’ inability to heal the boy.  The disciples’ inability to perform the healing is finally explained with reference to reliance to God’s power alone.

Everything is possible for God, but usually miracles are the Father’s response to those who trust in him. The disciples wonder; did Jesus not give them power over the demons? But they are not aware of their lack of faith and easily forget how far they are from their Master.  To them are directed the sharp words of Jesus. “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you”?  His comment has the tone of one worn out by the inappropriate responses to his teaching and activity.

The disciples had been quite unable to deal with the case of the boy, and their helplessness was a first-rate opportunity for the scribes to belittle not only them but their Master.  That is what made the situation so delicate, and that is what makes every human situation so delicate for the Christian.  Our conduct, our words, our ability or inability to cope with the demands of life, are used as a yardstick, not only to judge us, but to judge Jesus Christ.

Since Jesus was on the mountain top the father had to deal with the disciples, and his experience was discouraging. His faith was badly shaken, so badly shaken that when he came to Jesus all he could say at first was, ‘help me if you can’. Then face to face with Jesus, his faith blazed up again. ‘I believe; help my unbelief.’

Prayer

Mercifully hear our prayers, O Lord, and spare all those who confess their sins to you; that those whose consciences are accuse by sin may by your merciful pardon be absolved; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
Lent 5: Monday 
Lent 5: Monday
Mark 9:30-41

Jesus foretells his death and resurrection. He is surrounded by his closest disciples and is on his way to Jerusalem and the cross that awaits him. He wants to be certain that as he prepares to leave this world his disciples fully understands his teachings.

Jesus was very forthright in pointing out to his disciples that if they wanted to find greatness in his kingdom they would find it not by being first but by being last. He reminds them that his way was the way of love and service and that true greatness would be found not in thinking of and doing for one’s self but by serving and caring for others.

Jesus wants us to build his kingdom by being of service to others. In other words we should live our lives to brighten the corner where we are and help our fellow men along the way. That corner or way may be the church, home, office, or street corner.

He demonstrates how loving and compassionate he wants us to be by taking a little child in his arms  Jesus is saying that if we take care of the little children – namely poor and needy,  disadvantaged ,  marginalized persons who have no wealth or influence in society we are welcoming him, but more so the One who sent him!

In our quest to find God we must reach out in love to help and support our fellow human being. For all men who ultimately do good are working on God’s side, even those who were not called to be disciples but still can call upon Jesus’ name to cast out demons.

Prayer

Be gracious to your people, we entreat you, O Lord, that they, repenting day by day of the things that displease you, may be more and more filled with love of you and of your commandments; and, being supported by your grace in this life, may come to the full enjoyment of eternal life in you everlasting kingdom; through Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
Lent 5: Tuesday 
Mark 9:42-50

Sometimes, in order to save a person’s life it is necessary to amputate a limb, so that the disease that is affecting the particular limb does not spread through- out the whole body and the individual dies. In order to save the person’s life, sometimes it becomes  necessary to amputate the limb. The price paid for that hand or foot is a small sacrifice to make if one is desirous of preserving one’s life.

In today’s Gospel the writer is equating spiritual life with the physical. And is reminding us that if we neglect our spiritual well being  we may become cut off from God, and alienate ourselves in the process. For, as neglect of the physical body leads to death, so neglect of the spiritual body will also lead to death.

Christians must keep themselves separate from evil and sin in order to remain near to God in themselves. Jesus is admonishing us to make the necessary sacrifices to preserve our lives and ultimately save ourselves. He says it is better to enter into life maimed than to have two hands and be cast in to hell.

Temptation is very much a part of our lives; in order to avoid it , it might become necessary to cot ourselves off from some aspects of our lives to save our souls. The reference to ‘cutting’ off a limb is not meant to be taken literally; it reminds us of the price to be paid by disciples who desire to serve Christ faithfully.


Prayer

Almighty God, through the Incarnate Word you have caused us to be born anew of an imperishable and eternal seed: Look with compassion upon those who are being prepared for Holy Baptism, and grant that they may be built as living stones into a Spiritual Temple acceptable to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

Lent 5: Wednesday 
Mark 10:1-16

From the beginning of creation God made male and female. They were created to provide companionship for each other and to live in peace and harmony as husband and wife. In so doing they became one, having been joined in union by God.

In today’s Gospel the Pharisees posed a question concerning divorce to Jesus. The topic was one of great interest to Jewish inhabitants and they wanted Jesus’ opinion on the subject.

The law concerning Jewish divorce was that found in Deuteronomy 24:1. Which states: ‘suppose a man enters into marriage with a woman, but she does not please him because he finds something objectionable about  her, and so he writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house ,she then leaves his house ..... 

It was against this background that the question was posed to Jesus. Jesus’ response suggested that since marriage was sanctioned from the beginning of creation the bond could not be broken by human law. Jesus suggested that the only ground for divorce was adultery since that broke the bond of trust between the couple. 

Moses sanctioned divorce because of the “hardness of their hearts”. Would you say that in today’s world Moses law is appropriate or does the human heart has the capacity to forgive, heal and move on?

Prayer

Almighty God, our heavenly Father, renew in us the gifts of your mercy; increase our faith, strengthen our hope, enlighten our understanding, widen our charity, and make us ready to serve you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

Lent 5: Thursday 
Mark 10:17-31

Today’s Gospel story is about a young aristocrat who came to
Jesus and asked the question: “what must I do to inherit eternal life? “ Contemplate the scene, here was a young wealthy man who literally threw himself at the feet of the prophet of Nazareth. Despite his wealth he must have felt something lacking in his life.

Jesus responded by saying that he should observe the commandments and told him to sell his possessions and give to the poor. The man indicated that he kept the commandments but was crest fallen at the notion of selling his possessions as he was well off materially.

Today’s lesson teaches that to be true to Christianity one must forget oneself , relatives and friends and be prepared to sacrifice our treasured possessions what-ever they may be for the sake of  God. It is well and good to observe the commandments but true service necessitates that we go beyond that and give of ourselves in helping others. If we are to be true followers of Christ we must forsake all and follow him, and in making such a sacrifice God takes care of our every need.

At that time it was felt that prosperity meant that one was richly blessed by God and the better off you were materially the more you were looked up to as being worthy of entry into the kingdom of  God. Jesus’ response to the young man had the effect of turning this theory upside down.

Prayer

O God, you have called us to be your children, and have promised that those who suffer with Christ will be heirs with him of your glory: Arm us with such trust in him that we may ask no rest from his demands and have no fear in his service; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

Lent 5: Friday  
Mark 10:32-45

Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem, walking ahead of his disciples, whom he tells of his pending fate. He knows that he is on his way to be killed and courageously and vividly explains what is going to happen to him. In true heroic fashion he marches on to face his cross. His disciples, though puzzled out of love followed him to the very end.

Then James and John made their ambitious request for one of them to sit on his left and one on his right hand in his glory. A request which infuriated the other apostles. James and John showed that though they were apostles and part of Jesus’ inner circle, they were ordinary men like you and me.  They were men with ambitions and worldly concerns, men that Jesus worked with. And if he worked with James and John he will also worked with you and me.

In order to follow him we must be prepared to drink the cup that he drank and be baptized with the baptism that he was baptized with. That cup is the life we must tread and the experiences we must gain as followers of Christ. The baptism represents the sacrifices we must make if we truly want to  be his disciples.

In order to gain a crown we must first gain a cross. The standard Jesus set was not the standard of the world, where power and influence were important factors. Jesus’ life was one of love, service and the ultimate sacrifice, in that He gave His life to save man- kind. It is this kind of service that in losing one’s life we find it with God.  Jesus admonishes us to do the same.

Prayer

O Lord, you relieve our necessity out of the abundance of your great riches: Grant that we may accept with joy the salvation you bestow, and manifest it to all the world by the quality of our lives; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives, and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

Lent 5: Saturday 
Mark 10:46-52

Jesus and his disciples were on their pilgrimage to celebrate the Passover. They were leaving Jericho and were being hailed by the throng which lined the road side. Among the crowd was a blind man, a beggar, named Bartimaeus, who created uproar to attract Jesus’ attention as he intended to ask him for help!

The people around Bartimaeus tried to silence him but he persisted as he was determined to get Jesus’ attention.  Here was his chance to see again if Jesus healed him of his infirmity. The call of Jesus and the thought of being able to see drove him on. Many of us are called by Jesus but the cares and concerns of this world hinder us from answering the call. In contrast Bartimaeus saw his one chance and like a bolt out of the blue jumped at the opportunity.

When we hear the call of Jesus, it is necessary to examine ourselves, to have faith and grasp the opportunity that is being presented to us, for Jesus is the one who saves, and can rid us of whatever cares and concerns we may have-He causes us to see.

When our needs are met we must show our gratitude, by following Jesus and as an act of love, help our fellow human beings to come to an understanding that  Jesus did for us He will do for them..

Bartimaeus began with a need, which was met. He was grateful to Jesus and showed his loyalty to Jesus by following him.

Prayer

O Lord, in your goodness you bestow abundant graces on your elect: Look with favour, we entreat you, upon those who in these Lenten days are being prepared for you Holy Baptism, and grant them the help of your protection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

Holy Week: Monday
Mark 11:12-25

There is no place for uselessness in life. That is the major message of this difficult passage which is expressed through two incidents – the cursing of the fig tree and the driving out of people who were selling in the temple.

The fig tree was sending mixed signals since it was not in the season for bearing fruit, yet it was in leaf, indicating from a distance that it was in fruit. But on closer inspection it was not bearing any fruit. In a sense then it was not doing what it claimed to be and this was condemned to death. 

The commercial element of temple worship was legitimate, and even necessary, but Jesus objected to it. It is not clear from the passage whether Jesus was angry because of the legitimate commercial aspect or because of the opportunity which this offered for corruption. Whichever it was, in the temple Jesus met what he did not expect and so he demonstrated his anger.

At the end of the passage Jesus used the above incidents to teach the disciples about faith and forgiveness. It is as if Jesus was saying that these were the true measure of kingdom people – faith in God and the ability to forgive as God forgives his children. Any claim to be kingdom people which does not display these qualities is false and is not worthy of God.

 Do we send mixed signals as Christians or do our lives display the kind of faith in God which can move mountains?

Prayer

Almighty God, whose dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
Holy Week: Tuesday 
Mark 11:27-33

The story in this passage speaks to a dilemma which we sometimes face.  These Jewish leaders were caught between confessing Christ on the one hand or offending the world on the other. If they confessed Christ, by saying “from heaven” then they would have been embarrassed to explain why they did not believe in Him.  On the other hand if they answered otherwise it would surely have caused them some problems with the crowd.

Their response was to sit on the fence and to lie in this case by saying that they did not know. They could neither confess Christ nor offend the world.
 
This situation is not very far-fetched however as sometimes we too face such a dilemma. In those situations of life do we choose the way of Christ and suffer the consequences or do we choose the world. On such occasions we might wish to avoid consequences such as the loss of friends or family, or ridicule in the press and in public, or a life of deprivations.  We measure these outcomes against the benefits of the comforts which we enjoy and all that contribute to them.

 Unlike those Jewish leaders however we can choose Christ because our faith is certain and we recognize that the peace which Christ brings is far greater than any benefits which the world could give. That faith in Christ also sustains us through the most difficult challenges which we experience.

Prayer

O God, by the passion of your blessed Son you made an instrument of shameful death to be for us the means of life: Grant us so to glory in the cross of Christ, that we may gladly suffer shame and loss for the sake of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
Holy Week: Wednesday 
Mark 12:1-11

The reading must surely be a summary of the relationship between God and the early Israelites those many years ago. It portrays God as forever trying to claim his own, who at the same time refuse to accept Him. Indeed God’s desire for his people is such that he finally sent the person closest to Him, his heir, and even then the response to this offer was to reject rather than embrace Him.

The passage however ends on a high note of victory when it exclaims that God’s kingdom was founded on the very person who was rejected.

Unlike those early Israelites we know of God’s love for all of us and of his incarnation in Jesus. We know of his call to us today as well. But what is our response to God?

 Are we like those Jews who were so consumed with selfishness that we have difficulty accepting this call? Are we so controlled by our material world that we focus on self and on getting as much as we can? Is not this selfishness a barrier to Christ’s entry into our lives? And is this not the kind of rejection of which we read in the passage.

Or perhaps we are like the others to whom the vineyard was given. Maybe we are like the others who recognized and accepted that Christ is really the sure foundation. Will you accept God’s offer today?

Prayer

Lord God, whose blessed Son our Saviour gave his body to be whipped and his face to be spit upon: Give us grace to accept joyfully the sufferings of the present time, confident of the glory that shall be revealed; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

Holy Week: Thursday
Mark 14:12-25

To eat with someone is to accept, and to offer, a most precious gift since only friends can truly eat together in fellowship. Jesus in this story therefore offers his disciples a valuable gift in his invitation to them to eat the Passover meal with him. But this was no ordinary meal, and thus no ordinary gift, since Jesus knew that this was his last meal with them. He therefore chose to prepare them for events which would soon occur through the use of ordinary bread and wine.
 
It is hard to imagine the distress which Jesus caused his guests when he announced that one of them will betray him. The disciples were thrown into questioning themselves and their actions and motives.  And so while sharing His most precious gift Jesus was able to prepare them for his death by His most serious warning – one of you will betray me.

We are sometimes hard on Judas, who is elsewhere named as the betrayer, but if we pause for a moment we might find that even as we today receive the body and blood of Christ we are also no better than he. Our lives sometimes do not reflect the faith in God and the dependence on Him which makes us able, through God’s grace, to participate truly in Christ’s body and blood in the sacrament of Holy Communion.

We therefore are called upon to question ourselves constantly about the lives we project to the world – do we truly represent Him or do we betray Him.

Prayer

Almighty Father, whose dear Son, on the night before he suffered, instituted the Sacrament of his Body and Blood: Mercifully grant that we may receive it thankfully in remembrance of Jesus Christ our Lord, who in these holy mysteries gives us a pledge of eternal life; and who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
Holy Week: Friday  
John 13:36-38

The Reading for today captures a farewell conversation between friends, Jesus and his disciples. And in that exchange the heart speaks more than the mind. Peter, with his impetuous nature and in all love and sincerity exclaims that he would die for Christ. He must have meant what he said but one wonders if he truly understood what that meant at the time.

Jesus however knew differently and he knew that Peter had not yet reached that point of total sacrifice. Jesus was right as ever for not too long after this show of love and loyalty Peter actually denied Him. It surely was not intentional but in a moment of weakness he collapsed.

Jesus knows that life with Him is not easy; it was not easy even for him. It is a journey of increasing conviction in which love for him and understanding of his mission in life for the individual grow together. While it may not be present at the beginning of the journey a point is reached however when the believer is able to declare with both heart and mind that he will follow Jesus to the end – even unto death. Indeed Peter reached that point as well in his life, though some years after Jesus had died, since he was also killed for his faith.

Today Christians in Barbados are not killed for following Jesus. Yet in our call to represent Christ to the world we need to be prepared to take a stance for Christ even if it brings us pain and suffering of death.  Are you ready to lay down your life for Christ?

Prayer

Almighty God, we pray you graciously to behold this your family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed, and given into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death upon the cross; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

Holy Week: Saturday 
John 19:38-42

The impact of this story is in the un-likeliness of the people who took care of him in death and the impact which his death made on them. You would have expected that the disciples, or some of them, or others who had followed Jesus over the past three years of his journey, would have been the first to take care of his body. No - it was two men who were his followers – but in secret. Joseph and Nicodemus did not wish to make a public declaration of their beliefs while Jesus was alive as they were after all members of the same group that questioned Jesus prior to his death. We are not told what role they played in the proceedings and we wonder.

For some reason however Jesus’ death on the cross removed whatever fear these men had for their own safety and position in society such that they were both prepared to declare their faith in him, by asking for his body to bury it. And so the man Jesus, who was born in a lowly stable and crucified as a common criminal on a cross, was buried in state fit for a king. This happened all because of the transforming effect of the cross on those who could make a difference.

That same cross confronts us all today and sends the message that we need not fear. There is no need to wrestle with the life that you live and the life in Christ that you want openly to live. In the cross Christ offers us the strength and the courage to live for him in the world.

Prayer

O God, Creator of heaven and earth: Grant that, as the crucified body of your dear Son was laid in the tomb and rested on this holy Sabbath, so we may await with him the coming of the third day, and rise with him to newness of life; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

 

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