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March 13, 2003 Edition

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Fr. Stillmank -- Word of God, Word of Life
This week's readings
Pope's Prayer Intentions
Third Millennium Prayer

This week's readings
Week of March 16 - 22

Sunday, March 16, 2003
Reading I: Gn 22:1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18
Reading II: Rm 8:31b-34
Gospel: Mk 9:2-10

Monday, March 17, 2003
Reading I: Dn 9:4b-10
Gospel: Lk 6:36-38

Tuesday, March 18, 2003
Reading I: Is 1:10, 16-20
Gospel: Mt 23:1-12

Wednesday, March 19, 2003
Reading I: 2 Sm 7:4-5a, 12-14a, 16
Gospel: Mt 1:16, 18-21, 24a

Thursday, March 20, 2003
Reading I: Jer 17:5-10
Gospel: Lk 16:19-31

Friday, March 21, 2003
Reading I: Gn 37:3-4, 12-13a, 17b-28a
Gospel: Mt 21:33-43, 45-46

Saturday, March 22, 2003
Reading I: Mi 7:14-15, 18-20
Gospel: Lk 15:1-3, 11-32

Pope's Prayer Intentions
March General Intention

The Sacrament of Reconciliation: That the people of God and our pastors may grow in the realization of the importance of God's merciful gift of love, the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

March Mission Intention

The local Churches of Africa: That in their current difficult situations, they may feel the urgency of announcing the Gospel coherently and courageously.

The acceptable sacrifice:
God is for us

photo of Fr. John G. Stillmank
Word of God 
Word of Life 

Fr. John G. Stillmank 

The literary juxtaposition of Abraham with Isaac on the mountain, where Abraham was asked by God to offer his son in sacrifice, and Jesus on the mountain transfigured in the presence of his disciples, helps us to think about Jesus as the divine sacrifice acceptable to the Father.

In the book of Genesis, Isaac is to take the place of a spotless, unblemished lamb which Abraham would otherwise have sacrificed to God. He bears on his back the wood for the sacrifice, and trusts that his father Abraham knows what he is doing, even though he sees (in the longer version of the story) that they have no sacrificial lamb with them.

"Just as Isaac was released from the bonds of death which held him to the altar of sacrifice, so was Jesus raised up on the third day, released by the power of the Holy Spirit from the power of sin and death."

In the episode from the Gospel, the Father is present as the voice from heaven which says, "This is my beloved Son. Listen to him." Thus Jesus is shown to be the beloved and thus acceptable sacrificial lamb in all his divine glory, the Lamb of God soon to be sacrificed on the wood of the Cross, which he will carry to Calvary.

We know how both stories turn out, from countless hearings. Abraham is told by God not to sacrifice Isaac after all, since God has seen Abraham's faithfulness, and instead the Lord provides a ram for the holocaust in place of Isaac. Jesus becomes the ram offered up on the Cross to God in our place, so that we need not suffer the full price of our own sins.

Readings for
Second Sunday
of Lent
(March 16, 2003)
Genesis 22:1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18
Psalm 116:10, 15, 16-17, 18-19
Romans 8:31b-34
Mark 9:2-10

Saint Paul's words can echo in our hearts as a way of shedding light on what happens in these other two episodes. "If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all, how will he not also give us everything else along with him?"

If God is for us, not even our own sins - if we repent of them - can separate us from his love. Who can be against us if the Lord is on our side? Abraham knew this, and trusted in the Lord's promises. Jesus knew this, and delivered his own body to be tortured, mutilated, mocked, reviled, and killed. Jesus knew that God was for him, and Jesus knew that no one who stood against him could make a difference in that, in the end.

Just as Isaac was released from the bonds of death which held him to the altar of sacrifice, so was Jesus raised up on the third day, released by the power of the Holy Spirit from the power of sin and death. In his resurrection, Jesus takes up the life which he had freely laid down, and the divine, transfigured Lord is once again revealed to his followers.

We are the beneficiaries of these tales from Scripture, which are not mere stories or literary devices but real evidence of God's love for us. Just as God saved Isaac from death, just as the Lord raised up the Son of God and destroyed the power of death, so too by the power of the Cross given to us through the sacraments does Jesus promise that new life to those who love him.

If God is for us, who can be against us? No one, no thing, no power on earth or in hell can stand against those who have allowed Jesus to wash them in the covenant of his blood and present them as a new creation to his Father.

Fr. John G. Stillmank is Moderator of the Curia for the Diocese of Madison and pastor of St. Andrew Parish, Verona, and St. William Parish, Paoli.

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Third Millennium Prayer

1. Loving and gracious God,
in your providence
you have brought us to a new beginning,
a new millennium ripe for new evangelization.

2. We praise and bless you, Father.
In renewed faith, hope, and love
we give ourselves to you
that you form us in the image of Jesus,
your Son and our savior.

3. As followers of Jesus
help us to have the courage
to push out into the deep water
and lower our nets for a catch.
Teach us to listen to your voice,
to trust in your word,
to leave everything and follow
in the footsteps of Jesus.

4. By the power of your Holy Spirit
help us to work for greater solidarity
with all people throughout the world.
Enrich your Church with lasting measures
of justice, leading us to true peace.

5. May Mary, Mother of the Church,
intercede for us in our desire to say
yes to all that you, Father, ask of us.

This we pray through Christ our Lord. Amen.

William H. Bullock, Bishop of Madison

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