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March 10, 2005 Edition

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Living the Scriptures
Faith Alive!
This week's readings
Pope's Prayer Intentions

Standing on forgiveness:
God is waiting with open arms

photo of Nicole Helmke
Living the Scriptures 

with St. Paul University 
Catholic Center 

Nicole Helmke 

At first glance, Psalm 130 seemed a bit dismal to me: "Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord!" If that isn't the plea of a desperate soul, I don't know what is.

When I was in high school choir, we sang a piece called "De Profundis" based on this psalm, and there was no mistaking it for anything but a downbeat, somber song.

Fifth Sunday
of Lent
(March 13, 2005)
Ez 37:12-14
Ps 130:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8
Rom 8:8-11
Jn 11:1-45 or 11:3-7, 17, 20-27, 33b-45

However, after reading further in the psalm, I realized that this is really a message of hope, of forgiveness. I'm especially struck by verses three to four. "If you, O Lord, mark iniquities, Lord, who can stand? But with you is forgiveness, that you may be revered."

Wow, what good news! If my salvation hinged on my lack of faults, I would be in serious trouble, as would most of us.

When I was younger, I viewed God as more of a cool, judging God than the wonderful, merciful Father that He is.

I once heard the analogy that sin builds a wall between God and humans. In my mind, I imagined that after committing a sin, there was this massive, brick wall separating me from God.

With this image, I figured I could pray to God, but it was impossible for him hear me with this insurmountable barrier between us. Only after I'd had a chance to go to reconciliation and get this wall torn down would God be willing to communicate with me again.

While I still recognize that the Sacrament of Reconciliation has an awesome, very essential role in repairing our relationships with God, I think that the image of the wall prevented me from understanding the merciful, redemptive God described in Psalm 130.

True, we are stuck for the time being in the depths of sin and struggle here on earth. However, God knows this and is always waiting with open arms to take us back when we fall away.

I think a better image is that we turn our backs on God when we sin, but He's always standing there with open arms to receive us, as soon as we turn ourselves back around right way and run to Him.

Reflection questions

• What about your life? Can you remember times when God has pulled you out of the depths with his forgiveness?

• Are you letting anything stop you from jumping into your Father's forgiving arms?

This is still a struggle for me. It's tempting, once our backs are turned on God, to stay turned away out of shame. But at that point, it helps for me to remember that He is not marking iniquities, rather offering salvation with unconditional forgiveness.

It's reassuring that all of the readings this weekend focus on dying to sin and rising with Christ, not rising because of a lack of sin.

Nicole Helmke is a freshman at the University of Wisconsin-Madison majoring in biology. She sings in the choir at St. Paul University Catholic Center.

St. Paul's Web site is www.stpaulscc.org

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Faith Alive!

Faith Alive! logo

In a Nutshell

  • The early Christians fashioned a cycle of daily biblical prayer with psalms and biblical canticles as its centerpiece.

  • Through the psalms we know God with our hearts, not just our heads. The psalms provide the Liturgy of the Hours with a deeply personal feeling.

  • The Liturgy of the Hours unites our personal needs with the life of the whole church around the world.

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  •  Food for Thought
    Several times Pope John Paul II's writings encourage lay people to take up the Liturgy of the Hours.

    At the start of the new millennium he said, "Perhaps it is more thinkable than we usually presume for the average day of a Christian community to combine the many forms of pastoral life and witness in the world with the celebration of the Eucharist and even the recitation of lauds and vespers." He said that the experience of many groups, including groups "made up largely of lay people," is proof that this is possible.

    In his apostolic letter for the current Year of the Eucharist the pope recalled how, as the new millennium began, he had "recommended the celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours, by which the church sanctifies the different hours of the day and the passage of time through the liturgical year."

    In 2003 the pope said, "It is important to introduce the faithful to the celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours." Those working to "instill a taste for prayer" should "take into account the ability of individual believers and their different conditions," but should "not be content with the 'minimum,'" he said.

    full story

    Who Can Pray the Liturgy
    of the Hours?
    By Jim M. Schellman

    Catholic News Service

    Embedded in the heart of the Jewish prayer tradition is prayer out of the inspired word of Scripture. Several millennia old, this prayer tradition gives privileged place to the poetic form of Scripture, that is, the psalms and certain biblical canticles.

    Early Christian prayer grew from and adapted these prayer forms, making extensive use of the psalms and canticles. Phrases from the psalms are found on the lips of Jesus at various moments in the Gospels and are woven throughout the New Testament letters.

    full story 

    Ways to Observe Lent
    at Home
    By Mary Jo Pedersen

    Catholic News Service

    Millions of Catholics stand in lines every Ash Wednesday to receive a smudge of black ash on their foreheads. We carry this ritual reminder that we "are dust and unto dust we shall return" out the door of the church into our workplaces, shopping malls and homes.

    Then what happens? How do we sustain the spirit of Lent in our homes and workplaces?

    full story 

    Why One Couple Prayed
    the Liturgy of the Hours
    By Father Gerald O'Collins, SJ

    Catholic News Service

    Some years ago I went to stay with a friend in New York. After a long battle with cancer, his wife Maureen had died a few months earlier.

    Photographs of Maureen, clothes and other objects made her presence in that apartment still very real. But the thing that brought her back to me most vividly was her breviary. For years Maureen had joined her husband in the morning and the evening to pray together the Liturgy of the Hours.

    full story

    Faith Alive! logo
     Faith in the Marketplace
    This Week's Discussion Point:

    What do you do to bring liturgical seasons -- like Lent -- to life at home?

      Selected Response From Readers:  
    Copyright © 2005 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

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    This week's readings

    Week of March 13 - 19, 2005

    Sunday, March 13, 2005
    Reading I: Ez 37:12-14
    Reading II: Rom 8:8-11
    Gospel: Jn 11:1-45 or 11:3-7, 17, 20-27, 33b-45

    Monday, March 14, 2005
    Reading I: Dn 13:1-9, 15-17, 19-30, 33-62 or Dn 13:41c-62
    Gospel: Jn 8:1-11

    Tuesday, March 15, 2005
    Reading I: Nm 21:4-9
    Gospel: Jn 8:21-30

    Wednesday, March 16, 2005
    Reading I: Dn 3:14-20, 91-92, 95
    Gospel: Jn 8:31-42

    Thursday, March 17, 2005
    Reading I: Gn 17:3-9
    Gospel: Jn 8:51-59

    Friday, March 18, 2005
    Reading I: Jer 20:10-13
    Gospel: Jn 10:31-42

    Saturday, March 19, 2005
    Solemnity of Saint Joseph, husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary
    Reading I: 2 Sam 7:4-5a, 12-14a, 16
    Reading II: Rom 4:13, 16-18, 22
    Gospel: Mt 1:16, 18-21, 24a

    Pope's Prayer Intentions

    March General Intention

    Development programs: That governments of every nation always take account of the poor, marginalized, and oppressed.

    March Mission Intention

    Holy Christians for the new evangelization: That each church be aware of the ever greater urgency of preparing holy Christians, capable of confronting challenges to the new evangelization.

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