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“It was now about noon and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon because of an eclipse of the sun. Then the veil of the temple was torn down the middle. Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Father, into your hands I commend my spirit’; and when he had said this he breathed his last” Luke 23:44-46).
 
During Holy Week, we will hear many words describing the suffering and death of Jesus. In times of suffering, we return to an awareness of our own human frailty. It is a place of humility, recognizing God as Creator and ourselves as finite creatures. We are not in ultimate control. That is God’s domain. So, too, is the reason for suffering and the miracle of the Resurrection.
 
The Passion of our Lord is what connects him with us in our humanity. In suffering, we grow in solidarity with Christ and with those he loves. His suffering is an icon of our own suffering, a window of opportunity that points us to God. God, who is infinite, reaches out in humility to touch us in that pain.
 
As we recall this most precious event within Christian tradition, we are called to enter more deeply into the reality of pain and persecution in our world. We also know the profound promise of a light that will not be overcome by deep shadows.
 
When do you suffer or feel helpless in your own life? Can you see God meeting you in this suffering?
 
Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International.

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Reconciliation

God always loves us unconditionally, because mercy is his very nature. Said another way, because God is love, God is mercy.
 
We almost know the words by heart, because we have so often heard John’s story of the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11):
 
 

“Has no one condemned you?”
She replied, “No one, sir.”
Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you.
Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.”

 
Fr. Simeon, a Trappist monk at St. Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer, Massachusetts, reminds us that we must “open our heart so that the mercy of God can enter it and have its healing and life-giving effect there.”
 
Repenting of all our wrongdoing makes us capable of receiving the mercy that God is always extending to us.
 
The sacrament of reconciliation can “open the door to a new life,” Pope Francis has said, “as the merciful God enters our lives.”
 
During this Jubilee Year of Mercy, the pope invites us Catholics to renew the grace of our baptism by going to confession often and with contrite hearts: “The Church teaches us to confess our sins with humility, because only in forgiveness, received and given, do our restless hearts find peace and joy.”
 
Our prayer today:
 

Jesus, you saved the condemned woman from death by stoning.
Through your boundless mercy,
save us who open our hearts to your life-giving love.

 
Peter W. Yaremko, a former journalist, is the owner of Executive Media, Inc. and is a specialist in executive communications. He attends St. Peter the Apostle Church in Provincetown, Massachusetts and blogs at peterwyaremko.com/paradise_diaries.

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“But when they continued asking him, he straightened up and said to them, ‘Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.’ Again he bent down and wrote on the ground.
And in response, they went away one by one, beginning with the elders. So he was left alone with the woman before him. Then Jesus straightened up and said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ She replied, ‘No one, sir.’ Then Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin any more’” (John 8:7-11).
 
Some of the scribes and Pharisees were resentful of Jesus’ popularity and wanted to catch him in violation or contradiction to the law. They tried to set him up by bringing him a “woman caught in adultery.” The traditional laws were unequivocal—death by stoning was required. The crowd expected nothing less than a public display of capital punishment. Jesus’ response was to “draw in the sand” and then challenge them to show mercy and forgiveness.
 
Jesus let the woman go. She was offered a second chance, a fresh start. Imagine how she must have felt. Imagine, too, how the members of the crowd may have felt when they realized that they, too, had made mistakes for which others might condemn them.
 
Our sins are all around us. Others see what we do not see. The challenge is to remain mindful of our own vulnerabilities and be aware of our own inclination to sin. We all share humanness with the ones we judge. If we cultivate compassion and forgiveness toward ourselves, are we not less likely to pick up a stone and throw it?
 
Have you ever forgiven someone who hurt you? How did you feel after doing it?

Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International.

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Footprnts_beachThere is more to spirituality than walking in the woods or watching waves break on the shore.
 
At the invitation of Jesus, Peter, James and John “leave everything.”
 
In the parable of the prodigal son, we hear the young man say that he will “get up” and go to his father.
 
Even monks are very active in the quiet of their cloister. Trappists, for example, rise in the small hours of the morning to begin their day—a day during which they gather seven times to offer their prayers for the world.
 
What’s the lesson here?
 
C. S. Lewis points out in his Reflections on the Psalms that the “goats” are cast out not because of sinful things they did, but for things they did not do.
 
And last month Pope Francis, praying the Angelus with the crowd in Saint Peter’s Square, told them, “In this Holy Year of Mercy we are called to comfort those who feel they are sinners, unworthy before the Lord, defeated by their mistakes, by speaking to them the very words of Jesus: ‘Do not be afraid. The Father’s mercy is greater than your sins!’”
 
Being disciples means placing our feet in the footsteps left by the Master. But we must move our feet, too.
 
Our prayer today:
 

Lord, remind us always
that our mercy must be shown in actions,
not merely in words.

 
Peter W. Yaremko, a former journalist, is the owner of Executive Media, Inc. and is a specialist in executive communications. He attends St. Peter the Apostle Church in Provincetown, Massachusetts and blogs at peterwyaremko.com/paradise_diaries.

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“Now the older son had been out in the field and, on his way back, as he neared the house, he heard the sound of music and dancing. He called one of the servants and asked what this might mean. The servant said to him, ‘Your brother has returned and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ He became angry, and when he refused to enter the house, his father came out and pleaded with him. He said to his father in reply, ‘Look, all these years I served you and not once did I disobey your orders; yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends. But when your son returns who swallowed up your property with prostitutes, for him you slaughter the fattened calf.’ He said to him, ‘My son, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours. But now we must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found’” (Luke 15:25-32).
 
Jesus was asked by the Pharisees and scribes why he welcomed “sinners” and ate with them. His response was to tell a parable of two sons. Not only a story of forgiveness and reconciliation, this parable captured the essence of God’s relationship with his children. This divine relationship between God and his children is characterized by unconditional, ever-present, unending love.
 
Neither of the two brothers recognized the depth of their father’s love for him. The younger allowed himself to starve before he conceded, out of desperation, for the chance that his father would accept his return. The elder was bitter and filled with resentment.
 
Perhaps the brothers represent two types of people. There are “sinners” who squander their time and resources by separating themselves from true communion with God and often add to their own suffering by thinking they have gone too far to be loved by God. The “too good” people squander their time and resources by working for the wrong reasons and expecting reward based on merit. They believe God should love and reward them, and only them, because of what they have done.
 
When the true depth of love was revealed by the father’s joy at the younger son’s return, it showed that neither the elder nor the younger brother was right.
 
This parable was Jesus’ response to his critics who said that “sinners” did not deserve God’s love. Jesus was challenging them to see that they were like the elder brother who refused to believe that God’s love was deep enough to reach these sinners.
 
Ultimately, we are all invited to be the father in this parable and to give love freely and unconditionally to every child of God.
 
Which character do you most relate to in this parable? Why?

Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International.

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