27th February. Friday of the 1st Week of Lent

Autonomy and Responsibility.
Ezekiel calls us to persevere in doing good across a lifetime. In Matthew’s gospel Jesus roots the discernment of good and evil in the depths of the human heart. We must do more than keep a set of rules, stopping short of murdering others; we must aim to be at peace with them and not harbour anger or resentment. Jesus names the objects of our patience and kindness: they are our brother and our sister.

25th February. Wednesday of Week 1 of Lent

Exemplary Ninive.
How marvellous that the once pagan city of Nineveh can come to believe in God, proclaim a fast, pray for forgiveness, to become a model of goodness for all the rest of us! Hope can come from unsuspected quarters! Jonah adds that when God saw the repentance of Nineveh, he “repented of the evil he had threatened to do to them.” If God can change his mind, how can we be rigid in condemning others?

24th February. Tuesday of the 1st Week of Lent

Jesus on prayer.
The gospels often portray Jesus at prayer, sometimes even suggesting the content of his prayer. But only once is Jesus presented as teaching his disciples a prayer for them to pray, and that prayer has become known to us as the Lord’s Prayer. It has had a privileged place within the Christian tradition because it is the only prayer Jesus explicitly taught us to pray…

22nd February. First Sunday of Lent

Shun not the Struggle.
One way of looking at life is to see it as a struggle between sin and grace, selfishness and holiness. Our time on earth will be successful in the measure that we put aside sin and try to live by the grace of God. Today’s Scriptures show two contrasting reactions to temptation. The first humans, Adam and Eve, are imagined as preferring their own inclinations to the will of God.

20th February. Friday after Ash Wednesday

Fasting of another kind.
We normally link fasting with food. To fast is to deprive ourselves of certain foods for a period of time. But in the first reading Isaiah defines fasting more broadly. He understands it as leaving aside all those ways of relating to people that damage and oppress them and replacing such ways of relating with working for justice on behalf of those in greatest need…

18th February. Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday could hardly make more visible and tangible the transience of things and our mortality. We start Lent in humility, close to the ground, close to our earthiness: remember you are dust and to dust you shall return. But we do not gather on Ash Wednesday just to commemorate the transience of creation. The ashes used this Wednesday are the residue of last year’s Passion Sunday palms…

16th February. Monday of Week 6

Appreciating the ordinary.
St Mark refers more often to the emotions of Jesus than any other evangelist. In today’s reading, Mark states that Jesus responded to the Pharisees’ request for a sign from heaven “with a sigh that came straight from the heart.” That sigh led to the question, “Why does this generation demand a sign?” We can almost sense the frustration of Jesus in that sigh, straight from the heart.

13th February. Friday in Week 5

Paradise Lost and Found.
One might take the first reading as describing paradise lost, while the gospel tells of of paradise regained. In the “paradise lost” story , the man and woman now feel shame at their nakedness, while up to the time of their sin in the garden they had felt no unease in each other’s company, but felt their whole selves as created to the image of God and as very good….

12th February. Thursday in Week 5

Generosity between the Sexes
Women are centre-stage in today’s readings. In Genesis the first woman heals the loneliness of man, measures up to him in a way that no other creature could, and the two are united as equals, “in one flesh.” While the woman brings joy and stability into the life of the first man, pagan women are also held responsible, at least in part, for apostasy in Israel. Then in the gospel a pagan woman surprises Jesus with her faith and humble perseverance.