March 25. The Annunciation. Pearl shared some of her insights with the others on the feast of the Annunciation. “Mary, a young girl, betrothed to be married, had her life completely turned upside down by the invitation she received through the angel Gabriel to be the mother of the Messiah. She rightly questioned the angel, asking how this could be possible, but her ‘yes’ to God was unconditional. From that moment on she devoted her life to her Son.
This was an unplanned pregnancy and at that time could have been as problematical as it has been for many other young women until our day, as according to custom she could have been killed. Joseph also responded positively to God’s request in a dream, and accepted and treasured Mary as his wife and Jesus as his son. Unwed mothers in different cultures have had very difficult experiences, as was recently reported in Ireland where they and their babies were badly mistreated in institutions, because of the judgmental attitudes of the Church, the community and their families. Today, abortion is too commonly chosen as a solution and social and family support for the right to life of unborn babies should always be available.
Scripture. “Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be to me according to your word.” From Luke 1:26-382.
Pope Francis: The Church has been present for centuries throughout the world. All things human are our concern wherever the councils of nations come together to establish the rights and duties of man, we are honoured to take our place among them. This journey of fraternity also has a Mother, whose name is Mary. Having received universal motherhood at the foot of the cross she cares not only for Jesus but also for the rest of her children. She wants to give birth to a new world, where all of us are brothers and sisters. FT 278.
Reflect, share, act, pray. How can our family support the right to life from birth until natural death for humans as well as conservation of wild life projects?
March 26. Human Rights and a Throw-away World. Zandile and George were veterans of the liberation struggle and at this time of the year often spoken of those days. “It is interesting to see how the scripture readings as we approach Holy Week describe violent protests that are building up. The prophet Jeremiah experienced it, as he warned the leaders against their wicked ways and so did Jesus. Jeremiah however was calling on God for vengeance.
Scripture. “The Lord is with me as a dread warrior, therefore my persecutors will stumble, they will not overcome me. They will be greatly shamed. Jer 20:10-13. Jesus did not seek physical confrontation but he cleverly debated with the Jews and defended himself. At that time the Jews took up stones to stone Jesus. Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father, for which of these do you stone me?” Again they tried to arrest him but he escaped from their hands.
Pope Francis: It frequently becomes clear that in practice, human rights are not equal at all. Respect for those rights is the preliminary condition for a country’s social and economic development. When the dignity of the human person is respected and his or her rights recognized and guaranteed, creativity and interdependence thrive and the creativity of the human personality is released through actions that further the common good. FT22.
Some parts of our human family, it appears, can be readily sacrificed for the sake of others considered worthy of a carefree existence. Persons are no longer seen as a paramount value to be cared for and respected, especially when they are poor and disabled, not yet useful – like the unborn – or no longer needed – like the elderly. We have grown indifferent to all kinds of wastefulness starting with the deplorable waste of food. FT 18.
The harmony which St Francis experienced with all creatures was seen as a healing of the rupture of original sin. St Bonaventure held that through this universal reconciliation with every creature St Francis in some way returned to the state of original innocence of our first parents. LS 66.
Reflect, share, act, pray. Have we adopted the Reuse, Reduce, Recycle approach to combat the throw-away culture of today’s world?
March 28. Palm Sunday. Some of the reflections during Holy Week are built on the Songs of the Servant of the Lord from the prophet Isaiah which are part of the liturgy of Holy Week. Bruce offered to lead the reflections. He explained that, starting with an extract from one of the Songs, they are applied to St Francis who was himself meditating on aspects of the life and the passion of Jesus Christ.
From the 3rd Song of the Servant of the Lord. The Lord God has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him that is weary. I gave my back to those who struck me and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard. I hid not my face from shame and spitting. For the Lord God helps me. Isaiah 50:4-7
From The Little Flowers of St Francis of Assisi. St Francis and his companions, being called by God to carry the cross of Christ in their hearts, to practise it in their lives, and to preach it by their words. They were truly crucified men both in their actions and in their works. They sought after shame and contempt, out of love for Christ, rather than the honours of the world, the respect and praise of men. They rejoiced to be despised, and were grieved when honoured. Thus they went about the world as pilgrims and strangers, carrying nothing with them but Christ crucified; and because they were of the true Vine, which is Christ, they produced great and good fruits in many souls they gained to God.
It happened that, in the beginning of the Order, St Francis sent Brother Bernard to Bologna, there to accomplish many good works, according to the grace which God had given him. So Brother Bernard, in the name of holy obedience, set out for Bologna; but when he arrived in that city, the little children in the streets, seeing him dressed so strangely and so poorly, laughed and scoffed at him, taking him for a madman. All these trials Brother Bernard accepted for the love of Christ, with great patience and with great joy, and seeking to be despised yet more, he went to the market-place, where, having seated himself, a great number of children and men gathered round him, and taking hold of his hood pushed him here and there, some throwing stones at him and others dust. To all this Brother Bernard submitted in silence, his countenance bearing an expression of holy joy, and for several days he returned to the same spot to receive the same insults.
Now, patience being a work of perfection and a proof of virtue, a learned doctor of the law, seeing such virtue and constancy in Brother Bernard, who had endured for so many days such contempt and such injuries without losing his temper, said within himself: “Without doubt this man must be a great saint”; and going up to him, he asked him who he was, and whence he came. Brother Bernard put his hand into his bosom, and taking out the Rule of St Francis, gave it to him to read. The doctor, having read the Rule, was struck with wonder and admiration at the sublime perfection therein prescribed, and turning to his friends, he said: “Truly this is the most perfect state of Religion I have ever heard of, and this man and his companions are the holiest men I have met with in all the world; guilty indeed are those who insult him; we ought, on the contrary, to honour him as a true friend of God.”
How does this story speak to you?