“How much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”


Thursday (March 1):Scripture:  

7 “Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or what man of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good  things to those who ask him! 12 So whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them; for this is the law and the prophets.

Old Testament Reading: Esther C:12,14-16,23-25 (Deutero-canonical portion)

14: 1 And Esther the queen, seized with deadly anxiety, fled to the Lord. 3 And she prayed to the Lord God of Israel, and said: “O my Lord, you only are our King; help me, who am alone and have no helper but you, 4 for my danger is in my hand. 5 Ever since I was born I have heard in the tribe of my family that you, O Lord, took Israel out of all the nations, and our fathers from among all their ancestors, from an everlasting inheritance, and that you did for them all that you promised.” 12 “Remember, O Lord, and make yourself known  in this time of our affliction, and give me courage, O King of the gods and Master of all dominion! 13 Put eloquent speech into my mouth before the lion, and turn his heart to hate the man who is fighting against us, so that there may be and end of him and those who agree with him. 14 But save us from the hand of our enemies; turn our mourning into gladness and our affliction into well-being.

Meditation: Do you expect God to hear your prayers? Esther’s prayer on behalf of her people is a model for us. She prayed for help according to God’s promise to be faithful to his people. God wants us to remember his promises and to count on his help when we pray. Jesus wanted to raise the expectations of his disciples when he taught them how to pray. Jesus’ parable of the father feeding his son illustrates the unthinkable! How could a loving father refuse to give his son what is good; or worse, to give him what is harmful? In conclusion Jesus makes a startling claim: How much more will the heavenly Father give to those who ask! Our heavenly Father graciously gives beyond our expectations. Jesus taught his disciples to pray with confidence because the Heavenly Father in his goodness always answers prayers. That is why we can boldly pray: Give us this day our daily bread.

Those who know and trust in God’s love, pray with great boldness. Listen to what John Chrysostom, a 5th century church father, has to say about the power of prayer: “Prayer is an all-efficient panoply [i.e. ‘a full suit of armor’ or ‘splendid array’], a treasure undiminished, a mine never exhausted, a sky unobstructed by clouds, a haven unruffled by storm. It is the root, the fountain, and the mother of a thousand blessings. It exceeds a monarch’s power. ..I speak not of the prayer which is cold and feeble and devoid of zeal. I speak of that which proceeds from a mind outstretched, the child of a contrite spirit, the offspring of a soul converted – this is the prayer which mounts to heaven. ..The power of prayer has subdued the strength of fire, bridled the rage of lions, silenced anarchy, extinguished wars, appeased the elements, expelled demons, burst the chains of death, enlarged the gates of heaven, relieved diseases, averted frauds, rescued cities from destruction, stayed the sun in its course, and arrested the progress of the thunderbolt. In sum prayer has power to destroy whatever is at enmity with the good.”

Prayer flows from the love of God; and the personal love we show to our neighbor is fueled by the love that God has poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5). Jesus concludes his discourse on prayer with the reminder that we must treat our neighbor in the same way we wish to be treated by God and by others. We must not just avoid doing harm to our neighbor, we must actively seek his or her welfare. In doing so, we fulfill the law and the prophets, namely what God requires of us – loving God with all that we have and are and loving our neighbor as ourselves. The Holy Spirit is every ready to transform our lives in Jesus’ way of love.  Do you thirst for holiness and for the fire of God’s love?

“Let me love you, my Lord and my God, and see myself as I really am – a pilgrim in this world, a Christian called to respect and love all whose lives I touch, those in authority over me or those under my authority, my friends and my enemies. Help me to conquer anger with gentleness, greed by generosity, apathy by fervor. Help me to forget myself and reach out towards others.”  (Prayer attributed to Clement XI of Rome)

Psalm 138:1-3,7-8

1 I give you thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart; before the angels I sing your praise;
2 I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness;  for you have exalted above everything your name and your word.
3 On the day I called, you answered me, my strength of soul you increased.
7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life;  you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and your right hand delivers me.
8 The LORD will fulfil his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures for ever.  Do not forsake the work of your hands.

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The sign of Jonah for an evil generation


 Wednesday (February 29):  Gospel Reading:  

29 When the crowds were increasing, he began to say, “This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign shall be given to it  except the sign of Jonah. 30 For as Jonah became a sign to the men of Nin’eveh, so will the Son of man be to this generation. 31 The queen of the South will arise at the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them; for she came from the ends of the earth to  hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here. 32 The men of Nin’eveh will arise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.

Old Testament Reading: Jonah 3:1-10

1 Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nin’eveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.” 3 So Jonah arose and went to Nin’eveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nin’eveh was an exceedingly great city, three days’ journey in breadth. 4 Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s journey. And he cried, “Yet forty days, and Nin’eveh shall be overthrown!” 5 And the people of Nin’eveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them. 6 Then tidings reached the king of Nin’eveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, and covered himself with sackcloth, and sat  in ashes. 7 And he made proclamation and published through Nin’eveh, “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything; let them not feed, or drink water, 8 but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them cry mightily to God; yea, let every one turn from his evil way and from the  violence which is in his hands. 9 Who knows, God may yet repent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we perish not?” 10 When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God repented of the evil which he had said he would do to them; and he did not do it.

Meditation: Do you pay careful attention to warning signs? Many fatalities could be avoided if people paid attention to such signs. When the religious leaders demanded a sign from Jesus, he gave them a serious warning to avert spiritual disaster. It was characteristic of the Jews that they demanded “signs” from God’s messengers to authenticate their claims. When the religious leaders pressed Jesus to give proof for his claims he says in so many words that he is God’s sign and that they need no further evidence from heaven than his own person. The Ninevites recognized God’s warning when Jonah spoke to them, and they repented. And the Queen of Sheba recognized God’s wisdom in Solomon. Jonah was God’s sign and his message was the message of a merciful God for the people of Nineveh.  Unfortunately the religious leaders were not content to accept the signs right before their eyes. They had rejected the message of John the Baptist and now they reject Jesus as God’s Anointed One (Messiah) and they fail to heed his message. Simeon had prophesied at Jesus’ birth that he was “destined for the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that inner thoughts of many will be revealed” (Luke 2:34-35). Jesus confirmed his message with many miracles in preparation for the greatest sign of all – his resurrection on the third day.

The Lord Jesus came to set us free from slavery to sin and hurtful desires. Through the gift of the Holy Spirit he pours his love into our hearts that we may understand his will for our lives and walk in his way of holiness. God searches our hearts, not to condemn us, but to show us where we need his saving grace and help.  He calls us to seek him with true repentance, humility, and the honesty to see our sins for what they really are – a rejection of his love and will for our lives. God will transform us if we listen to his word and allow his Holy Spirit to work in our lives. Ask the Lord to renew your mind and to increase your thirst for his wisdom. James says that the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, without uncertainty or insincerity (James 3:17). A double-minded person cannot receive this kind of wisdom. The single of mind desire one thing alone – God’s pleasure. God wants us to delight in him and to know the freedom of his truth and love. Do you thirst for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14)?

“Lord Jesus, change my heart and fill me with your wisdom that I my love your ways. Give me grace and courage to resist temptation and stubborn wilfulness that I may truly desire to do what is pleasing to you.”

Psalm 51:3-4, 12-13, 18-19

3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned, and done that which is evil in your sight, so that you are justified in your sentence and blameless in your judgment.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.
13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.
18 Do good to Zion in your good pleasure; rebuild the walls of Jerusalem,
19 then will you delight in right sacrifices, in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;  then bulls will be offered on your altar.

“If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you”


 Tuesday (February 28):  Gospel Reading:  

7 “And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 9 Pray then like this: Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. 10 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread; 12 And forgive us our debts, As we also have forgiven our debtors; 13 And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil. 14 For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; 15 but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Old Testament Reading: Isaiah 55:10-11

10 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and return not thither but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,11 so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and prosper in the thing for which I sent it.

Meditation: Do you believe that God’s word has power to change and transform your life today? Isaiah says that God’s word is like the rain and snow which makes the barren ground spring to life and become abundantly fertile (Isaiah 55:10-11). God’s word has power to penetrate our dry barren hearts and make them springs of new life. If we let God’s word take root in our heart it will transform us into the likeness of God himself and empower us to walk in his way of love and holiness. God wants his word to guide and shape the way we think, act, and pray. Ambrose, a fourth century church father, wrote that the reason we should devote time for reading scripture is to hear Christ speak to us. “Are you not occupied with Christ? Why do you not talk with him?  By reading the scriptures, we listen to Christ.”

We can approach God confidently because he is waiting with arms wide open to receive his prodigal sons and daughters. That is why Jesus gave his disciples the perfect prayer that dares to call God, Our Father. This prayer teaches us how to ask God for the things we really need, the things that matter not only for the present but for eternity as well. We can approach God our Father with confidence and boldness because Christ has opened the way to heaven for us through his death and resurrection. When we ask God for help, he fortunately does not give us what we deserve. Instead, he responds with grace, mercy, and kindness. He is good and forgiving towards us, and he expects us to treat our neighbor the same. God has poured his love into our hearts through the gift of the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5). And that love is like a refining fire – it purifies and burns away all prejudice, hatred, resentment, vengeance, and bitterness until there is nothing left but goodness and forgiveness towards those who cause us grief or harm.

Consider what John Cassian, an early church father who lived for several years with monks in Bethlehem and Egypt before founding a monastery in southern Gaul (360-435), wrote about the Lord’s Prayer and the necessity of forgiving others from the heart:

“The mercy of God is beyond description. While he is offering us a model prayer he is teaching us a way of life whereby we can be pleasing in his sight. But that is not all. In this same prayer he gives us an easy method for attracting an indulgent and merciful judgment on our lives. He gives us the possibility of ourselves mitigating the sentence hanging over us and of compelling him to pardon us. What else could he do in the face of our generosity when we ask him to forgive us as we have forgiven our neighbor? If we are faithful in this prayer, each of us will ask forgiveness for our own failings after we have forgiven the sins of those who have sinned against us, not only those who have sinned against our Master. There is, in fact, in some of us a very bad habit. We treat our sins against God, however appalling, with gentle indulgence: but when by contrast it is a matter of sins against us ourselves, albeit very tiny ones, we exact reparation with ruthless severity. Anyone who has not forgiven from the bottom of the heart the brother or sister who has done him wrong will only obtain from this prayer his own condemnation, rather than any mercy.”

Do you treat others as you think they deserve to be treated, or do you treat them as the Lord has treated you – with mercy, steadfast love, and kindness?

“Father in heaven, you have given me a mind to know you, a will to serve you, and a heart to love you. Give me today the grace and strength to embrace your holy will and fill my heart and mind with your truth and  love that all my intentions and actions may be pleasing to you. Help me to be kind and forgiving towards my neighbor as you have been towards me.”

Psalm 34:4-7, 16-19

4 I sought the LORD, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.
5 Look to him, and be radiant; so your faces shall never be ashamed.
6 This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.
7 The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.
16 The face of the LORD is against evildoers, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.
17 When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles.
18 The LORD is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit.
19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous; but the LORD delivers him out of them all.

“As you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me”


 Monday (February 27): 

Gospel Reading:  Matthew 25:31-46

31 “When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33 and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left.34 Then the King will say to those at his right hand, `Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, `Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, `Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’ 41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, `Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, `Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, `Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.’ 46 And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Old Testament Reading: Leviticus 19:1-2,11-18

1 And the LORD said to Moses, 2 “Say to all the congregation of the people of Israel, You shall be holy; for I the LORD your God am holy. 11 “You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another.12 And you shall not swear by my name falsely, and so profane the name of your God: I am the LORD. 13 “You shall not oppress your neighbor or rob him. The wages of a hired servant shall not remain with you all night until the morning. 14 You shall not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind, but you shall fear your God: I am the LORD. 15 “You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor. 16 You shall not go up and down as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not stand forth against the life of your neighbor: I am the LORD. 17 “You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason with your neighbor, lest you bear sin because of him. 18 You shall not take vengeance or bear any grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the  LORD.

Meditation: What kind of future are you preparing for? What about the life to come after our death? God puts in the heart of every living person the desire for unending life and happiness with him. While death claims each of us at the appointed time, God gives us something which death cannot touch – his own divine life and sustaining power. We can either accept or reject the offer which God makes to us in Christ Jesus the Lord. The Day of the Lord will reveal what kind of life we have chosen for the age to come – a life of peace and joy with God or a life of misery and separation apart from God.

Jesus’ parable of the separation of goats and sheep invites his audience to consider their lives in view of the age to come. What happens when you put sheep and goats together? Jesus’ audience readily understood the need for separating the two. In arid lands, like Israel, goats and sheep often grazed together during the day because green pasture was sparse. At nightfall, when the shepherd brought the sheep and goats to their place of rest, he separated them into two groups. Goats by temperament are aggressive, domineering, restless, and territorial. They butt heads with their horns whenever they think someone is intruding on their space.

What’s the point of this story for us? The kind of life we choose to live now and the moral choices we make will have consequences that determine our future – for better or for worse. Separation is an inevitable consequence of judgement. The Day of Judgement will reveal who had true faith in God and who lived according to God’s command to love him first above all else and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, with true compassion and mercy (see Leviticus 19:1-2,11-18). Jesus calls us to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. We are not called to flee the society around us nor to disdain those who treat us unfavorably or unfairly. We are to be leaven in a society that needs God’s healing love and forgiveness. When we let our light shine we allow others to see God’s love, truth, and compassion in the way we speak and treat them. God has shown us his incredible mercy and loving-kindness through his Son, Jesus Christ, who came to save us from the tyranny of sin and Satan, and a world blinded by vanity and deception. We are ambassadors for Christ and our mission is to bring his light, truth, and merciful love to those who stumble in darkness, ignorance, and unbelief.

As much as we might like to judge the parables, the parables, nonetheless, judge us by pointing out the consequences of the choices we make and the kind of life we choose to follow. Jesus teaches us a very important lesson about loving our neighbor and taking responsibility for others. God will judge us not only for the wrong we have done but also for what we have failed to do. Now is the time of God’s mercy, for seeking his help and grace to turn away from sin, and to walk in his way of love. We can love freely, generously, and unconditionally because God has already poured his love into our hearts through the gift and working of his Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5). Ask the Holy Spirit to purify your heart that you may love as God loves and live charitably with all.

This parable is similar to the parable about Lazarus and the rich man.  The rich man let Lazarus die on his doorstep and was doomed to crave for drops of cold water he had not thought of giving to the poor man. When Martin of Tours (who lived in the 4th century), a young Roman soldier and seeker of the Christian faith, met an unclothed man begging for alms in the freezing cold, he stopped and cut his coat in two and gave half to the stranger.  That night he dreamt he saw the heavenly court with Jesus robed in a torn cloak.  One of the angels present asked, “Master, why do you wear that battered cloak?”  Jesus replied, “My servant Martin gave it to me.” Martin’s disciple and biographer Sulpicius Severus states that as a consequence of this vision Martin “flew to be baptized.” God is gracious and merciful; his love compels us to treat others with mercy and kindness. When we do something for one of Christ’s little ones, we do it for Christ. Do you treat your neighbor with mercy and love as Christ has treated you?

The scriptures present us with the choice between two kingdoms – the kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness. The choice is ours. Which kingdom do you serve? God’s kingdom lasts forever because it is built on the foundation of God’s love and justice. To accept Jesus as Lord and King is to enter a kingdom that will last forever where righteousness, love, truth, and peace dwell. Is your life submitted to the Lordship of Jesus?

“Lord Jesus Christ, you are my Lord and King and there is no other. May your love rule in my heart that I may think and act with charity towards all.”

Psalm 19:8-10, 14

8 The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes;
9 the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever;  the ordinances of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey  and drippings of the honeycomb.
14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.

Jesus was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan


 Sunday (February 26):  Gospel Reading: 

12 The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.13 And he was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to him. 14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God,15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel.”

Old Testament Reading:  Genesis 9:8-15

8 Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, 9 “Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your descendants after you, 10 and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark. 11 I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” 12 And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: 13 I set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a  flood to destroy all flesh.

Meditation: What is the significance of Jesus spending 40 days and nights of solitude, prayer and fasting in the Judean wilderness? In the Old Testament 40 days was often seen as a significant period of testing and preparation for entering into a covenant relationship with God. In the days of Noah, God judged the earth and destroyed its inhabitants in a great flood because of their idolatry and total rejection of God. Noah and his family were spared because they obeyed God and took refuge in the ark for 40 days. When the flood subsided God made a covenant with Noah and promised that he would not destroy the human race again. Jesus came to fulfill that promise. When God freed the Israelites from slavery in Egypt he brought them into the wilderness of Sinai. Moses went to the mountain of the Lord at Sinai and stayed there in prayer and fasting for 40 days (Exodus 24:18). At the conclusion of this 40 day encounter God made a covenant with Moses and the people. After the prophet Elijah had confronted idolaty in the land of Israel and destroyed the 400 priests of Baal, he fled into the wilderness and journeyed for 40 days to mountain of God at Sinai. There God spoke with Elijah and commissioned him to pass on the work of restoration of true worship of God in the land (1 Kings 19:8). After Jesus was annointed by the Spirit in the waters of the Jordan River, he journeyed to the wilderness of Judea for 40 days to prepare himself for the mission which the Father sent him to accomplish in establishing a new covenant that would supercede all the previous covenants which God had made with his people.

Matthew, Mark, and Luke tell us in their gospel accounts that Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit into the wildnerness. Mark states it most emphatically: “The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness” (Mark 1:12). Why was Jesus compelled to seek solitude for such a lengthy period? Was it simply a test to prepare him for his ministry? Or did Satan want to lure him into a trap? The word tempt in English usually means to entice to sin. The scriptural word here also means test in the sense of proving and purifying someone to see if there are ready for the task at hand. We test pilots to see that they are fit to fly. Likewise God tests his servants to see if they are fit to be used by him. God tested Abraham to prove his faith. The Israelites were sorely tested in Egypt before God delivered them from their enemies. Jesus was no exception to this testing. Satan, in turn, did his best to entice Jesus to chose his own will over the will of his Father. Despite his weakened condition, due to fatigue and lack of food for 40 days, Jesus steadfastly rejected Satan’s sublte and not so subtle temptations. Where did Jesus find his strength to survive the desert’s harsh conditions and the tempter’s seduction? He fed on his Father’s word and found strength in doing his will. Satan will surely tempt us and will try his best to get us to choose our will over God’s will. If he can’t make us renounce our faith or sin mortally, he will then try to get us to make choices that will lead us, little by little, away from what God wants for us.

As soon as John the Baptist had finished his ministry, Jesus began his in Galilee, his home district. John’s enemies had sought to silence him, but the gospel cannot be silenced. Jesus proclaimed that the time of restoration proclaimed by the prophets was now being fulfilled in his very person and that the kingdom of God was at hand. What is the kingdom of God? The word “kingdom” means something more than a territory or an area of land. It literally means “sovereignty” or “reign” and the power to “rule” and exercise authority. The prophets announced that God would establish a kingdom not just for one nation or people but for the whole world. God sent us his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, not to establish an earthly kingdom but to bring us into his heavenly kingdom – a kingdom ruled by justice, truth, peace, and holiness. The kingdom of God is the central theme of Jesus’ mission. It’s the core of his gospel message.

How do we enter the kingdom of God? In announcing the good news, Jesus gave two explicit things each of us must do to in order to receive the kingdom of God: repent and believe. When we submit to Christ’s rule in our lives and believe the gospel message, the Lord Jesus gives us the grace and power of Holy Spirit to live a new way of life as citizens of God’s kingdom. Jesus gives us grace and conviction to renounce sin and Satan, the father of lies (John 8:44) and the ruler of this present world (John 12:31). That is why repentance is the first step. Repentance means to change – to change my way of thinking, my attitudes and disposition, and the choices I determine for my life, so that Christ can be the Lord and Master of my heart rather than sin, greed, and selfishness. If we are only sorry for the consequences of our sins and bad choices, we will very likely keep repeating them. True repentance requires a contrite heart (Psalm 51:17)  – a true sorrow for sin and a firm resolution to avoid it in the future. The Lord Jesus gives us grace to see sin for what it really is – a rejection of his love and wisdom for our lives and a refusal to do what is good and in accord with his will. His grace brings pardon, healing, and help for turning away from everything that would keep us from his love and truth. To believe is to take Jesus at his word and to recognize that God loved us so much that he sent his only begotten Son to free us from bondage to sin and harmful desires. God made the supreme sacrifice of his Son on the cross to bring us back to a relationship of peace and friendship with himself. He is our Father and he wants us to live as his sons and daughters. God loved us first and he invites us in love to surrender our lives to him. Do you believe that the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ, has power to free you from bondage to sin and fear?

“Lord Jesus, your word is life and joy for me. Fill me with your Holy Spirit that I may have the strength and courage to embrace your will in all things and to renounce whatever is contrary to it.”

Psalm 25:4-9

4 Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths.
5 Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation;  for you I wait all the day long.
6 Be mindful of your mercy, O LORD, and of your steadfast love, for they have been from of old.
7 Remember not the sins of my youth, or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for your goodness’ sake, O LORD!
8 Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
9 He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.


 “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance”Gospel Reading:   

7 After this he went out, and saw a tax collector, named Levi, sitting at the tax office; and he said to him, “Follow me.” 28 And he left everything, and rose and followed him. 29 And Levi made him a great feast in his house; and there was a large company of tax collectors and others sitting at table with them. 30 And the Pharisees and their scribes murmured against his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” 31 And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

Old Testament Reading: Isaiah 58:9-14

9 Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, Here I am.  “If you take away from the midst of you the yoke, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, 10 if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. 11 And the LORD will guide you continually, and satisfy your desire with good things, and make your bones strong;  and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters fail not. 12 And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;  you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to dwell in. 13 “If you turn back your foot from the sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the sabbath a delight and the holy day of the LORD honorable;  if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly; 14 then you shall take delight in the LORD, and I will make you ride upon the heights of the earth;  I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

Meditation: When your neighbor stumbles through sin or ignorance, do you point the finger to criticize or do you lend a helping hand to lift him up? The prophet Isaiah tells us that God repays in kind. When we bless others, especially those who need spiritual as well and physical help, God in turn blesses us. When Jesus called a despised tax collector to be his disciple he surprised everyone including Levi (also known as Matthew). The religious leaders were especially upset with Jesus’ behavior towards public sinners like Levi. People in Palestine were divided into roughly two groups: the orthodox Jews who rigidly kept the law and all its petty regulations, and the rest who didn’t keep all the minute regulations. The orthodox treated the latter like second class citizens. They scrupulously avoided their company, refused to do business with them, refused to give or receive anything from them, refused to intermarry, and avoided any form of entertainment with them, including table fellowship. Jesus’ association with the latter, especially  with tax collectors and sinners, shocked the sensibilities of these orthodox Jews.

When the Pharisees challenged Jesus unorthodox behavior in eating with public sinners, Jesus’ defence was quite simple. A doctor doesn’t need to treat healthy people; instead he goes to those who are sick. Jesus likewise sought out those in the greatest need. A true physician seeks healing of the whole person – body, mind, and spirit. Jesus came as the divine physician and good shepherd to care for his people and to restore them to wholeness of life. The orthodox were so preoccupied with their own practice of religion that they neglected to help the very people who needed the greatest care. Their religion was selfish because they didn’t want to have anything to do with people not like themselves. Jesus stated his mission in unequivocal terms: I came  not to call the righteous, but to call sinners. Ironically the orthodox were as needy as those they despised. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God(Romans 3:23). Do you thank the Lord for the great mercy he has shown to you? And do you seek the good of all your neighbors and show them mercy and kindness?

What does it mean to “leave all and follow the Lord”? Bede the Venerable, a 7th century church father comments on Matthew’s conversion to discipleship: “By ‘follow’ he meant not so much the movement of feet as of the heart, the carrying out of a way of life. For one who says that he lives in Christ ought himself to walk just as he walked, not to aim at earthly things, not to pursue perishable gains, but to flee base praise, to embrace willingly the contempt of all that is worldly for the sake of heavenly glory, to do good to all, to inflict injuries upon no one in bitterness, to suffer patiently those injuries that come to oneself, to ask God’s forgiveness for those who oppress, never to seek one’s own glory but always God’s, and to uphold whatever helps one love heavenly things. This is what is meant by following Christ. In this way, disregarding earthly gains, Matthew attached himself to the band of followers of One who had no riches. For the Lord himself, who outwardly called Matthew by a word, inwardly bestowed upon him the gift of an invisible impulse so that he was able to follow.” Are you ready to forsake all for Christ?

“Lord Jesus, our Savior, let us now come to you: Our hearts are cold; Lord, warm them with your selfless love. Our hearts are sinful; cleanse them with your precious blood.  Our hearts are weak; strengthen them with your joyous Spirit. Our hearts are empty; fill them with your divine presence.  Lord Jesus, our hearts are yours; possess them always and only for yourself.”  (Prayer of Augustine, 354-430)

Psalm 86:1-6

1 Incline your ear, O LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and needy.
2 Preserve my life, for I am Godly; save your servant who trusts in you.  You are my God;
3 be gracious to me, O Lord, for to you do I cry all the day.
4 Gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.
5 For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call on you.
6 Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer; hearken to my cry of supplication.

Fasting for the kingdom of God


 Friday (February 24):   Gospel Reading:  

14 Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” 15 And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come, when the bridegroom is  taken away from them, and then they will fast.

Old Testament Reading: Isaiah 58:1-9

1 “Cry aloud, spare not, lift up your voice like a trumpet;  declare to my people their transgression, to the house of Jacob their sins. 2 Yet they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation that did righteousness  and did not forsake the ordinance of their God;  they ask of me righteous judgments, they delight to draw near to God. 3 `Why have we fasted, and you see it not? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?’  Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure, and oppress all your workers. 4 Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to hit with wicked fist. Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high. 5 Is such the fast that I choose, a day for a man to humble himself?  Is it to bow down his head like a rush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast, and a day acceptable to the LORD? 6 “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? 7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house;  when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? 8 Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily;  your righteousness shall go before you, the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. 9 Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, Here I am.  “If you take away from the midst of you the yoke, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness

Meditation: Are you hungry for God? Hungering for God and fasting for his kingdom go hand in hand. When asked why he and his disciples did not fast Jesus used the vivid picture of a wedding celebration. In Jesus’ time the newly wed celebrated their honeymoon at home for a whole week with all the guests! This was a time of great feasting and celebrating. Jesus points to himself as the bridegroom and his disciples as the bridegroom’s friends. He alludes to the fact that God takes delight in his people as a groom delights in his bride (Isaiah 62:5). To be in God’s presence is pure delight and happiness. But Jesus also reminds his followers that there is a time for fasting and for humbling oneself in preparation for the coming of God’s kingdom and for the return of the Messianic King. The Lord’s disciples must also bear the cross of affliction and purification. For the disciple there is both a time for rejoicing in the Lord’s presence and celebrating his goodness and a time for seeking the Lord with humility, fasting, and mourning for sin. If we hunger for the Lord, he will not disappoint us. His grace draws us to his throne of mercy and favor. Do you seek the Lord with confident trust and allow his Holy Spirit to transform your life with his power and grace?

What kind of fasting is pleasing to God? Fasting can be done for a variety of reasons – to gain freedom from some bad habit, addiction, or vice, to share in the suffering of those who go without, or to grow in our hunger for God and for the things of heaven. Basil the Great wrote: “Take heed that you do not make fasting to consists only in abstinence from meats. True fasting is to refrain from vice. Shred to pieces all your unjust contracts. Pardon your neighbors. Forgive them their trespasses.” Do you hunger to know God more, to grow in his holiness, and to live the abundant life of grace he offers you?

“Come Lord, work upon us, set us on fire and clasp us close, be fragrant to us, draw us to your loveliness, let us love, let us run to you.” (Prayer of St. Augustine)

Psalm 51:3-6,18-19

3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned, and done that which is evil in your sight, so that you are justified in your sentence and blameless in your judgment.
5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.
6 Behold, you desire truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.
18 Do good to Zion in your good pleasure; rebuild the walls of Jerusalem,
19 then will you delight in right sacrifices, in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;  then bulls will be offered on your altar.