REFLECTION FOR TODAY,
March 30, 2020

By Fr. Andrew Ibegbulem, OSA

THE MERCY OF GOD

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. John 8:7-9

This passage comes from the story of the woman caught in adultery when she was dragged before Jesus to see if He would support her stoning. Jesus asked her accusers to consider their own sinfulness before stoning her. This was a perfect response, and in the end, she is left alone to encounter the tender mercy of Jesus.

We all need the mercy of God. At this time of lent we are invited to prayerfully consider the areas of our lives where we might seek hope. In addition, we are called to consider how we might bring hope to others especially at this time we are faced with the Coronavirus pandemic by words of encouragement and mercy rather than condemnation.

But there is a line in this passage that is easily overlooked. It is the line that states, "…beginning with the elders." This reveals an interesting dynamic within human communities. Generally speaking, those who are younger tend to lack the wisdom and experience that comes with age.

Though the young may find it hard to admit, those who have lived a long life have a unique and broad picture of life. This enables them to be far more prudent in their decisions and judgments, especially when it comes to the more intense situations in life.

In this story, the woman was brought before Jesus with a harsh judgment. Emotions were high and these emotions clearly cloud the rational thinking of those who were ready to stone her. Jesus cuts through this irrationality by a profound statement. "Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her."

Perhaps, at first, those who were younger or more emotional did not allow the words of Jesus to sink in. They probably stood there with stones in hand waiting to start throwing. But then the elders began to walk away. This is age and wisdom at work. They were less controlled by the emotion of the situation and were immediately aware of the wisdom of the words spoken by our Lord. As a result, the others followed.

Reflect, today, upon the wisdom that comes with age. If you are older, reflect upon your responsibility to help guide the younger generation with clarity, firmness and love. If you are younger, do not neglect to rely upon the wisdom of the older generation. Though age is not a perfect guarantee of wisdom, it may be a far more significant factor than you realize. Be open to your elders, show them respect, and learn from the experiences they have had in life.

Prayer for the young: Lord, give me a true respect for my elders. I thank you for their wisdom stemming from the many experiences they have had in life. May I be open to their counsel and be guided by their gentle hand. Jesus, I trust in You.

Prayer for the elder: Lord, I thank You for my life and for the many experiences I have had. I thank You for teaching me through my hardships and struggles, and I thank You for the joys and loves that I have encountered in life. Continue to pour forth Your wisdom upon me so that I may help guide Your children. May I always seek to set a good example and lead them according to Your Heart. Jesus, I trust in You.



REFLECTION FOR TODAY,
March 28, 2020

By Fr. Andrew Ibegbulem, OSA

IN AWE OF JESUS

The guards answered, "Never before has anyone spoken like this man." John 7:46

The guards and many others were in awe of Jesus, amazed at the words He spoke. These guards were sent to arrest Jesus at the order of the chief priests and Pharisees, but the guards couldn't bring themselves to arrest Him. They were rendered powerless in the face of the "awe factor" Jesus enjoyed.

When Jesus taught, there was something communicated beyond His words. Yes, His words were powerful and transforming, but it was also the way in which He spoke. It was hard to explain but it's clear that, when He spoke, He also communicated a power, a calm, a conviction, and a presence. He communicated His Divine Presence and it was unmistakable. People just knew this man Jesus was different than all the rest and they hung on His every word.

God still communicates to us this way. Even n our present situation He do communicate to us in different ways. But are we able to understand when He communicates? Jesus still speaks to us with this "awe factor." We simply need to be attentive to it. We should strive to be attentive to the ways that God speaks in a clear and convincing way, with authority, clarity and conviction. It may be something someone says, or it may be an action of another that touches us. It may be a book we read, or a sermon we listen to. Whatever the case may be, we should look for this awe factor because it is there we will find Jesus Himself.

Interestingly, this awe factor also invited extreme criticism. Those with a simple and honest faith responded well, but those who were self-centered and self-righteous responded with condemnation and anger. They were clearly jealous. They even criticized the guards and others who were impressed by Jesus.

Reflect, today, upon the ways that God has left you in awe of His message and His love. Seek out His voice of conviction and clarity. Tune into the way God is trying to communicate and pay no attention to the ridicule and criticism you may experience when you do seek to follow His Voice. His Voice must win out and draw you in so that you can savor everything He wishes to say.

Lord, may I be attentive to Your unmistakable Voice and to the authority with which You speak. May I be amazed at all You wish to say. And as I listen to You, dear Lord, give me the courage to respond with faith regardless of the reaction of others. I love You, dear Lord, and desire to be transfixed upon Your every Word, listening with wonder and awe. Jesus, I trust in You.



REFLECTION FOR TODAY,
March 27, 2020

By Fr. Andrew Ibegbulem, OSA

THE TEMPTATION OF FAMILIARITY

"Jesus cried out in the temple area as he was teaching and said, "You know me and also know where I am from. Yet I did not come on my own, but the one who sent me, whom you do not know, is true." John 7:28

Sometimes the more familiar we are with someone the harder it is to actually see their goodness and the presence of God in their lives. Often, we are tempted to look at them and presume we "know all about them." As a result, what we can often do is simply highlight their faults and weaknesses in our minds and see them only through the lens of these faults and weaknesses.

This is what happened with Jesus. When Jesus went up to the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles, there were some there who knew Him. They probably knew Him as this ordinary son of a carpenter. Perhaps they were even from His home town. As a result of this familiarity with Jesus they immediately doubted He could be the Messiah. But they were, of course, very mistaken.

This presents a great lesson for us. It's the lesson of being judgmental and overly critical of others we know well. The more we know about someone the more we will be aware of their faults and weaknesses. And if we are not careful, we will focus in on those qualities rather than on the good qualities God wants us to see.

This is what happened with Jesus. No, He did not have any actual bad qualities. He was perfect. But there were most likely many parts of His life that invited the false judgment and criticism of others. His self-confidence, the authority He manifested in His teaching, the extraordinary compassion He had toward sinners, etc., were all exceptional qualities that some could not understand. And, as a result, they chose to be critical. "We know where He is from," they said. In other words, they did not think that someone they knew could be filled with greatness.

What do you think about those around you? What do you think about those closest to you? Are you able to see beyond any apparent weakness they have and see the hand of God at work? Are you able to see beyond the surface and see the value and dignity of their lives? When you can see the goodness of others, point it out, and be grateful for it, you will actually be seeing and loving the manifest goodness of God. God is alive and active in every soul around you. It is your responsibility to see that goodness and love it. This takes true humility on your part but, in the end, it's a way of loving God in your midst.

Reflect, today, upon how you look at those who are closest to you and spend some time trying to ponder the ways that God is alive in their lives. If you do this, you will be loving God in your very midst.

Lord, I do love You. Help me to see and love You in others. And help me to shed any temptation I have toward being judgmental and humbly be drawn into the goodness of all Your sons and daughters. I love You, dear Lord, may I also love You in others. Jesus, I trust in You.



REFLECTION FOR TODAY,
March 26, 2020

By Fr. Andrew Ibegbulem, OSA

THE TESTIMONY OF GOD

"The works that the Father gave me to accomplish, these works that I perform testify on my behalf that the Father has sent me." John 5:36

The works performed by Jesus offer testimony to His mission given Him by the Father in Heaven. Understanding this will help us to embrace our own mission in life. First of all, let's look at the fact that Jesus' works offered testimony. In other words, His works spoke a message to others about who He was. The witness of His actions revealed His very essence and His union with the will of the Father.

So this begs the question, "Which works offered this testimony?" One might immediately conclude that the works Jesus was speaking of were His miracles. When people witnessed the miracles, He performed they would have been convinced that He was sent from the Father in Heaven. Right? Not really. The fact of the matter is that there were many who saw Jesus perform miracles and remained stubborn, refusing to accept His miracles as proof of His divinity.

Though His miracles were extraordinary and were signs to those who were willing to believe, the most profound "work" that He performed was that of His humble and genuine love. Jesus was genuine, honest and pure of heart. He exuded every virtue one could have. Therefore, the testimony that His ordinary actions of love, care, concern and teaching gave were what would have won over many hearts first and foremost. In fact, for those who were open, His miracles were, in a sense, only icing on the cake. The "cake" was His genuine presence revealing the mercy of the Father.

You cannot perform miracles from God (unless you were given an extraordinary charism to do so), but you can act as a witness to the Truth and share the Heart of the Father in Heaven if you humbly seek to be pure of heart and allow the Heart of the Father in Heaven to shine through you in your daily actions. Even the smallest action of genuine love speaks volumes to others.

In moments like this, when we are confronted with the Coronavirus pandemic, there is that desire in us to seek God's physical miracle as his only testimony. This was the situation of the Jews, who were seeking signs only as God's testimony but were never open to listen to the message of God. Let us today first be open to God and acknowledge his love, care, and concerns for us as his testimony.

Reflect, today, upon your call to give testimony to the Father in Heaven. You are called to share the love of the Father with everyone you meet. If you embrace this mission, in great and small ways, the Gospel will be made manifest to others through you, and the will of the Father will be more fully accomplished in our world.

Lord, I pray that I act as a witness to the love flowing from Your Heart. Give me the grace to be real, genuine and sincere. Help me to become a pure instrument of Your merciful Heart so that all my works will give testimony to Your mercy. Jesus, I trust in You.



REFLECTION FOR TODAY,
March 25, 2020

By Fr. Andrew Ibegbulem, OSA

GOD BECOMES MAN

"Then the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his Kingdom there will be no end." Luke 1:30-33

Happy Solemnity! We celebrate today one of the most glorious feast days of the year. Today is nine months before Christmas and is the day we celebrate the fact that God the Son took on our human nature in the womb of the Blessed Virgin. It's the celebration of the Incarnation of our Lord.

There are many things to celebrate today and many things for which we should be eternally grateful even with the current Coronavirus pandemic. First and foremost, we celebrate the profound fact that God loves us so much that He became one of us.

The fact that God took on our human nature is worthy of unlimited rejoicing and celebration! If we only understood what this meant. If we could only understand the effects of this incredible event in history. The fact that God became a human being in the womb of the Blessed Virgin is a gift beyond our comprehension. It's a gift that elevates humanity to the realm of the divine. God and man are united in this glorious event and we should be forever grateful.

We also see in this event the glorious act of perfect submission to the will of God. The solemnity also calls us Christian to submit all we are going through presently to God as The Blessed Virgin Mary did. It's interesting to note that our Blessed Mother was told that "you will conceive in your womb and bear a son…" She wasn't asked by the angel if she was willing, rather, she was told what was to happen. Why is that the case?

It happened this way because the Blessed Virgin said "YES" to God throughout her life. Never was there a moment that she said no to God. Therefore, her perpetual "YES" to God enabled the angel Gabriel to tell her that she "will conceive." In other words, the angel was able to tell her what she had already said "YES" to in her life.

What a glorious example this is. Our Blessed Mother's "YES" is an incredible witness to us. We are called to daily say "YES" to God especially in our present situation. And we are called to say "YES" to Him even before we know what He asks of us. Today's solemnity of the annunciation affords us the opportunity to once again say "YES" to the will of God. No matter what He is asking of you, the right answer is "Yes" Lord.

Reflect, today, upon your own invitation from God to say "Yes" to Him in all things. You, like our Blessed Mother, are invited to bring our Lord into the world. Not in the literal way she did, but you are called to be an instrument of His continual Incarnation in our world. Reflect upon how fully you answer this call and get on your knees today and say "Yes" to the plan our Lord has for your life.

Lord, the answer is "Yes!" Yes, I choose your divine will. Yes, You may do with me whatever You will. May my "Yes" be as pure and holy as our Blessed Mother's. Let it be done to me according to Your will. Jesus, I trust in You.



REFLECTION FOR TODAY,
March 24, 2020

By Fr. Andrew Ibegbulem, OSA

THE HEALING PRESENCE AND POWER OF JESUS

Jesus said to him, "Rise, take up your mat, and walk." Immediately the man became well, took up his mat, and walked. John 5:8-9

Let's look at one of the clear symbolic meanings of this passage above. The man Jesus healed was paralyzed, being unable to walk and take care of himself. Others neglected him as he sat there by the pool, hoping for kindness and attention. Jesus sees him and gives him His full attention. After a short dialogue, Jesus cures him and tells him to rise and walk.

One clear symbolic message is that his physical paralysis is an image of the result of sin in our lives. When we sin we "paralyze" ourselves. Sin has grave consequences on our lives and the clearest consequence is that we are left unable to rise and then walk in the ways of God. Grave sin, especially, renders us powerless to love and live in true freedom. It leaves us trapped and unable to care for our own spiritual lives or for others in any way. It's important to see the consequences of sin. Even minor sins hinder our abilities, strip us of energy, and leave us spiritually crippled to one extent or another.

Hopefully you know this and it is not a new revelation to you. But what must be new to you is the honest admission of your current guilt. You must see yourself in this story. Just as the name of the man was not mentioned in the story, we as individuals should tale the identity of this man. The man did not seek healing from Jesus by asking him but Jesus went to him. All the man needed was someone to help him into the water.

Jesus did not heal this man only for the good of this one man. He healed him, in part, to tell you that He sees you in your broken state as you experience the consequences of your sin. He sees you in need, looks at you and calls you to rise and walk. He sees us in our present situation of this Coronavirus pandemic. Do not underestimate the importance of allowing Him to perform a healing in your life. Do not neglect to identify even the smallest sin which imposes its consequences upon you. Look at your sin, allow Jesus to see it, and listen to Him speak words of healing and freedom. We need Jesus more than ever in our lives and world.

Reflect, today, upon this powerful encounter this crippled man had with Jesus. Put yourself into the scene and know that this healing is also done for you. If you have not done so already this Lent, go to Confession and discover Jesus' healing in that Sacrament. Confession is the answer to the freedom that awaits you, especially when it is entered into honestly and thoroughly.

Lord, please forgive me for my sins. I desire to see them and to acknowledge the consequences they impose upon me. I know that You desire to free me from these burdens and to heal them at the source. Lord, give me courage to confess my sins to You, especially in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Jesus, I trust in You.