Posted by: RAM | February 14, 2016

Sunday (February 14): “You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.”

Mabuhay at Mabuting Balita!
Month of the Passion of Our Lord
St. Valentine, Patron  of Love, Young People, Happy Marriages (d.269)
First Sunday of Lent
Lectionary: 24

First Reading: Deuteronomy 26:4-10
Psalms 91:1-2, 10-15:  Be with me, Lord, when I am in trouble.
Second Reading: Romans 10:8-13
Gospel: Luke 4:1-13
Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan
and was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days,
to be tempted by the devil.
He ate nothing during those days,
and when they were over he was hungry.
The devil said to him,
“If you are the Son of God,
command this stone to become bread.”
Jesus answered him,
“It is written, One does not live on bread alone.
Then he took him up and showed him
all the kingdoms of the world in a single instant.
The devil said to him,
“I shall give to you all this power and glory;
for it has been handed over to me,
and I may give it to whomever I wish.
All this will be yours, if you worship me.”
Jesus said to him in reply,
“It is written:
You shall worship the Lord, your God,
and him alone shall you serve.

Then he led him to Jerusalem,
made him stand on the parapet of the temple, and said to him,
“If you are the Son of God,
throw yourself down from here, for it is written:
He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,
and:
With their hands they will support you,
lest you dash your foot against a stone.

Jesus said to him in reply,
“It also says,
You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.
When the devil had finished every temptation,
he departed from him for a time.
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/021416.cfm

Reflection: Are you ready to follow the Lord Jesus wherever he wishes to lead you? After Jesus’ was baptized by John the Baptist at the River Jordan, he withdrew into the wilderness of Judea – a vast and mostly uninhabitable wilderness full of danger. Danger from scorching heat by day and extreme cold at night, danger from wild animals and scorpions, plus the deprivation of food and the scarcity of water.

Why did the Holy Spirit lead Jesus into such a lonely place – right after Jesus was anointed and confirmed by the Father for his mission as Messiah and Savior? Jesus was following the pattern which God had set for Moses and for Elijah – both were led on a forty day journey of prayer and fasting to meet with God on his holy mountain (Exodus 24:18 and 1 Kings 19:8). God tested Moses and Elijah to prepare them for a prophetic mission – to speak God’s word (Exodus 33:11; Deuteronomy 18:15; 34:10) and to lead God’s people into the way of holiness and righteousness, a way marked by love of God and love of neighbor. While Moses and Elijah each prayed and fasted in the desert wilderness of Sinai, God fed them with his life-giving word. Their time of solitude with God enabled them to be renewed in faith, hope, and love for the call God had given them. Jesus likewise went into the wilderness to prepare himself for the mission entrusted to him by spending forty days and nights in solitude and prayer to his Father in heaven.

Jesus tempted by the devil
Luke tells us that at the end of Jesus’ forty days in the wilderness one visitor came out to tempt him. Luke describes this tempter as the devil (Luke 4:1), who is also called the father of lies (John 8:44), Satan (Luke 10:18), and the spiritual ruler and god of this world (John 12:31; 2 Corinthians 4:4). He is the same deceiver who tempted Adam and Eve in the Garden of Paradise (Genesis 3). Why did Satan tempt Jesus at the end of his lengthy period of fasting? Satan knew that Jesus was embarking on an important spiritual mission for the kingdom of God. Perhaps Satan saw an opportunity to strike while Jesus appeared more vulnerable in his physically and emotionally weakened condition due to his prolonged fasting and inner struggle over his particular call and mission. Satan undoubtedly thought he could persuade Jesus to choose his own path rather than the path his Father had chosen – a path that required self-renunciation, humility, and obedience to his Father’s will. Jesus had to struggle with temptation, especially the temptation to choose his own way and to push aside the way his Father wanted him to go. This is the fundamental temptation which confronts each one of us as well. My way or God’s way, my will or God’s will.

Satan’s first temptation appealed to Jesus’ physical desires and hunger. Jesus was very hungry and physically weak at the same time – he hadn’t eaten anything for forty days. Did the Spirit lead him into the wilderness to die? When the people of Israel were led into the wilderness for forty years without any natural source of food, they complained to Moses that he was punishing them with starvation – a very painful way to suffer and die. Moses took the matter to God in prayer. And God intervened by sending them manna – bread from heaven – for their daily provision. Should not Jesus do the same to revive his weakened condition?

Satan tried to get Jesus to turn stones into bread, both to prove his supernatural power over nature and to satisfy his own personal hunger. Jesus knew that he had been anointed with extraordinary power for performing great signs and wonders, just as Moses and Elijah had performed great signs and miracles in the name of God. But Jesus had chosen to fast from food and to pray for a lengthy period in order to prepare himself for the mission his Father was entrusting to him. Jesus wanted to do his Father’s will, even though it might cost him great sacrifice, suffering, and even the loss of his own life. He hungered for his Father’s word and made his life dependent on what the Father wanted him to do, rather than what he might have preferred for himself. Jesus chose to use his power and gifts to serve his Father rather than to serve himself. Jesus defeated Satan’s snare with the words of Scripture from the Book of Deuteronomy in which Moses warned the people of Israel to never forget God nor his word: “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Deuteronomy 8:3; Matthew 4:4).

Jesus’ second temptation
Satan tempted Jesus a second time by presenting him with the best the world could offer – great riches, privileges, glory and fame, and the power to rule over all the kingdoms of the world – Jesus could claim title and possession to everything he desired. Jesus quickly saw through the trap of placing the world’s glory, wealth, and power above the honor, glory, and service that is due to God alone. Jesus saw how easily one’s heart can be swayed and even overpowered by what it most treasures. The heart cannot serve two masters – only one will prevail. Allowing fame, glory, and wealth to master one’s heart is a form of idolatry – the worship of false gods. Jesus chose to honor his Father and to serve his Father’s kingdom above all else. He chose to make his Father’s will alone as his personal treasure and delight. Jesus again defeated Satan with the words of Scripture which Moses wrote in the Book of Deuteronomy: “It is written, `You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve'” (Deuteronomy 6:13).

Jesus’ third temptation
Satan’s last temptation was to convince Jesus that he should position himself at the pinnacle of the temple in Jerusalem, the holiest place on earth where God dwelt in a special way with his people, and there perform a spectacular sign that would prove beyond a doubt that he was the Messiah, God’s anointed Son. Why would this be a real temptation for Jesus? It might be helpful to note that the devil is a Bible expert! He accurately quotes from Psalm 91:11-12, “He will give his angels charge of you, to guard you,” and “on their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.” This psalm is connected with the temple which was regarded as a place of refuge and protection for those who put their trust in God and his dwelling place. The devil wanted Jesus to perform a death-defying sign by throwing himself off the tallest point of the temple to prove that he was who he claimed to be, the divinely appointed Messiah and Son of God. The temple pinnacle which Satan was referring to was very likely the highest structural corner in the construction of Herod’s great temple. This high corner of the temple served as the “king’s porch” on the edge of a precipice which dropped some 700 feet into the valley below.

Jesus refused to perform any sign that might put God to the test. When the people of Israel almost died of thirst in the wilderness, they rebelled against Moses and they put God to the test by saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?” (Exodus 17:7). Jesus refused Satan’s test to prove his divine claim as the Messiah. Jesus quoted once again from the words of Scripture in the Book of Deuteronomy: “It is said, `You shall not put the Lord your God to the test'”(Deuteronomy 6:16). Jesus knew that he would first have to cleanse the temple (John 2:13-22; Luke 19:45-46) and then offer his body as the atoning sacrifice for the sin of the world (John 1:29; Hebrews 10:5-14). Only after he would be lifted up on the cross and be raised from the tomb on the third day, would people recognize that the Father had sent his Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but to save it (John 3:17).

Spiritual preparation in the forty days of lent
What lesson can we learn from Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness? How can we hope to fight temptation and overcome sin in our own personal lives? When Jesus went out into the wilderness to fight temptation by the devil, he was led by the Holy Spirit. Jesus did not rely on his own human strength and will-power for overcoming temptation. He relied on the Holy Spirit to give him strength, wisdom, courage, and self-control. The Lord Jesus knows that we cannot fight temptation on our own. We need the strength and guidance of the Holy Spirit to help us. The Lord Jesus gives us his Holy Spirit to help us in our weakness (Romans 8:26) and to be our guide and strength in times of testing (1 Corinthians 10:13). The Lord gives grace to those who humbly acknowledge their dependence on him (James 4:6) and he helps us to stand firm against the attacks of Satan who seeks to destroy us  (1 Peter 5:8-10; Ephesians 6:10-18). The Lord Jesus is ever ready to pour out his Spirit upon us that we may have the courage we need to repent of our sins and to turn away from them, and to reject the lies and deceits of Satan. God wants us to “fight the good fight of the faith” (1 Timothy 6:12) with the strength and help which comes from the Holy Spirit. Do you seek God’s wisdom and guidance for overcoming sin and avoiding the near occasions of sin?

The forty days of Lent is the annual retreat of the people of God in imitation of Jesus’ forty days in the wilderness. We are called to journey with the Lord in a special season of prayer, fasting, almsgiving,  repentance, and renewal as we prepare to celebrate the feast of Easter, the Christian Passover. The Lord gives us spiritual food and supernatural strength to seek his face and to prepare ourselves for spiritual combat and testing. We, too, must follow in the way of the cross in order to share in the victory of Christ’s death and resurrection. As we begin this holy season of preparation and renewal, let’s ask the Lord for a fresh outpouring of his Holy Spirit that we may grow in faith, hope, and love, and embrace his will more fully in our lives.

“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.” http://www.rc.net/wcc/readings/feb14.htm  www.dailyscripture.net author Don Schwager © 2016 Servants of the Word

Saint of the Day: St. Valentine, Patron  of Love, Young People, Happy Marriages (d.269)

Saint Valentine, officially known as Saint Valentine of Rome, is a third-century Roman saint widely celebrated on February 14 and commonly associated with “courtly love.”

Although not much of St. Valentine’s life is reliably known, and whether or not the stories involve two different saints by the same name is also not officially decided, it is highly agreed that St. Valentine was martyred and then buried on the Via Flaminia to the north of Rome.

In 1969, the Roman Catholic Church removed St. Valentine from the General Roman Calendar, because so little is known about him. However, the church still recognizes him as a saint, listing him in the February 14 spot of Roman Martyrolgy.

The legends attributed to the mysterious saint are as inconsistent as the actual identification of the man.

One common story about St. Valentine is that in one point of his life, as the former Bishop of Terni, Narnia and Amelia, he was on house arrest with Judge Asterius. While discussing religion and faith with the Judge, Valentine pledged the validity of Jesus. The judge immediately put Valentine and his faith to the test.

St. Valentine was presented with the judge’s blind daughter and told to restore her sight. If he succeeded, the judge vowed to do anything for Valentine. Placing his hands onto her eyes, Valentine restored the child’s vision.

Judge Asterius was humbled and obeyed Valentine’s requests. Asterius broke all the idols around his house, fasted for three days and became baptized, along with his family and entire 44 member household. The now faithful judge then freed all of his Christian inmates.

St. Valentine was later arrested again for continuing to try to convert people to Christianity. He was sent to Rome under the emperor Claudius Gothicus (Claudius II). According to the popular hagiographical identity, and what is believed to be the first representation of St. Valentine, the Nuremberg Chronicle, St. Valentine was a Roman priest martyred during Claudius’ reign. The story tells that St. Valentine was imprisoned for marrying Christian couples and aiding Christians being persecuted by Claudius in Rome. Both acts were considered serious crimes. A relationship between the saint and emperor began to grow, until Valentine attempted to convince Claudius of Christianity. Claudius became raged and sentenced Valentine to death, commanding him to renounce his faith or be beaten with clubs and beheaded.

St. Valentine refused to renounce his faith and Christianity and was executed outside the Flaminian Gate on February 14, 269. However, other tales of St. Valentine’s life claim he was executed either in the year 269, 270, 273 or 280. Other depictions of St. Valentine’s arrests tell that he secretly married couples so husbands wouldn’t have to go to war. Another variation of the legend of St. Valentine says he refused to sacrifice to pagan gods, was imprisoned and while imprisoned he healed the jailer’s blind daughter. On the day of his execution, he left the girl a note signed, “Your Valentine.”

Pope Julius I is said to have built a church near Ponte Mole in his memory, which for a long time gave name to the gate now called Porta del Popolo, formerly, Porta Valetini.

The romantic nature of Valentine’s Day may have derived during the Middle Ages, when it was believed that birds paired couples in mid-February. According to English 18th-century antiquarians Alban Butler and Francis Douce, Valentine’s Day was most likely created to overpower the pagan holiday, Lupercalia.

Although the exact origin of the holiday is not widely agreed upon, it is widely recognized as a day for love, devotion and romance.

Whoever he was, Valentine did really exist, because archaeologists have unearthed a Roman catacomb and an ancient church dedicated to St. Valentine. In 496 AD Pope Gelasius marked February 14th as a celebration in honor of his martyrdom.

Relics of St. Valentine can be found all over the world. A flower-crowned skull of St. Valentine can be found in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, Rome. In 1836, other relics were exhumed from the catacombs of Saint Hippolytus on the Via Tiburtina and were identified as Valentine’s. These were transported for a special Mass dedicated to those young and in love.

Fr. John Spratt received a gift from Pope Gregory XVI in 1836 contianing a “small vessel tinged” with St. Valentine’s blood. This gift now stands placed in Whitefriar Street Church in Dublin, Ireland.

Other alleged relics were found in Prague in the Church of St Peter and Paul at Vysehrad; in the parish church of St. Mary’s Assumption in Chelmno Poland; at the reliquary of Roquemaure in France; in the Stephansdom in Vienna; in Balzan in Malta and also in Blessed John Duns Scotus’ church in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, Scotland.

St. Valentine is the Patron Saint of affianced couples, bee keepers, engaged couples, epilepsy, fainting, greetings, happy marriages, love, lovers, plague, travellers, and young people. He is represented in pictures with birds and roses and his feast day is celebrated on February 14. http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=159

Sts. Cyril and Methodius (d. 869; d. 884)

Because their father was an officer in a part of Greece inhabited by many Slavs, these two Greek brothers ultimately became missionaries, teachers and patrons of the Slavic peoples.

After a brilliant course of studies, Cyril (called Constantine until he became a monk shortly before his death) refused the governorship of a district such as his brother had accepted among the Slavic-speaking population. Cyril withdrew to a monastery where his brother Methodius had become a monk after some years in a governmental post.

A decisive change in their lives occurred when the Duke of Moravia (present-day Czech Republic) asked the Eastern Emperor Michael for political independence from German rule and ecclesiastical autonomy (having their own clergy and liturgy). Cyril and Methodius undertook the missionary task.

Cyril’s first work was to invent an alphabet, still used in some Eastern liturgies. His followers probably formed the Cyrillic alphabet (for example, modern Russian) from Greek capital letters. Together they translated the Gospels, the psalter, Paul’s letters and the liturgical books into Slavonic, and composed a Slavonic liturgy, highly irregular then.

That and their free use of the vernacular in preaching led to opposition from the German clergy. The bishop refused to consecrate Slavic bishops and priests, and Cyril was forced to appeal to Rome. On the visit to Rome, he and Methodius had the joy of seeing their new liturgy approved by Pope Adrian II. Cyril, long an invalid, died in Rome 50 days after taking the monastic habit.

Methodius continued mission work for 16 more years. He was papal legate for all the Slavic peoples, consecrated a bishop and then given an ancient see (now in the Czech Republic). When much of their former territory was removed from their jurisdiction, the Bavarian bishops retaliated with a violent storm of accusation against Methodius. As a result, Emperor Louis the German exiled Methodius for three years. Pope John VIII secured his release.

Because the Frankish clergy, still smarting, continued their accusations, Methodius had to go to Rome to defend himself against charges of heresy and uphold his use of the Slavonic liturgy. He was again vindicated.

Legend has it that in a feverish period of activity, Methodius translated the whole Bible into Slavonic in eight months. He died on Tuesday of Holy Week, surrounded by his disciples, in his cathedral church.

Opposition continued after his death, and the work of the brothers in Moravia was brought to an end and their disciples scattered. But the expulsions had the beneficial effect of spreading the spiritual, liturgical and cultural work of the brothers to Bulgaria, Bohemia and southern Poland. Patrons of Moravia, and specially venerated by Catholic Czechs, Slovaks, Croatians, Orthodox Serbians and Bulgarians, Cyril and Methodius are eminently fitted to guard the long-desired unity of East and West. In 1980, Pope John Paul II named them additional co-patrons of Europe (with Benedict). http://www.americancatholic.org/features/saints/saint.aspx?id=1291&calendar=1

More Saints of the Day
St. Abraham of Carrhae
St. Antoninus of Sorrento
St. Auxentius of Bithynia
St. Conran
Sts. Cyril and Methodius
St. Dionysius
St. Eleuchadius
St. Maro
Sts. Cyril and Methodius
St. Nostrianus
St. Theodosius
St. Valentine
Bl. Vicente Vilar David

Let me be the change I want to be. Even if I am not the light, I can be the spark.  Follow Tweets by @TheOneKinEnt  @Pontifex @CardinalChito

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