Fourth Sunday of Lent Year c Wojciech Szypula


4th Sunday Lent C

First Reading   Joshua 5:9, 10–12 Psalm 34:2–7 Second Reading 2 Corinthians 5:17–21 Gospel   Luke 15:1–3, 11–32

Psalm 34:2–7

 I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad. O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together. I sought the Lord, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears. Look to him, and be radiant; so your faces shall never be ashamed. This poor soul cried, and was heard by the Lord, and was saved from every trouble.

Reading the Word

First Reading Joshua 5:9, 10–12

The Lord said to Joshua, “Today I have rolled away from you the disgrace of Egypt.” And so that place is called Gilgal to this day.

While the Israelites were camped in Gilgal they kept the passover in the evening on the fourteenth day of the month in the plains of Jericho. On the day after the passover, on that very day, they ate the produce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain. The manna ceased on the day they ate the produce of the land, and the Israelites no longer had manna; they ate the crops of the land of Canaan that year.

Second Reading 2 Corinthians 5:17–21

If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.

So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Gospel Luke 15:1–3, 11–32

Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

So he told them this parable: Then Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.” ’ So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.  And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.

“Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him.  But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’ Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’ ”

Hearing the Word

“The God who Reaches out”

Mid-way through the Lenten season, the liturgy offers a striking and reassuring portrayal of God reaching out to his people, which happens consistently and unconditionally, even amidst challenging and troubling circumstances.

The first reading looks back at Israel’s entry into the promised land. The very first act of Joshua after the crossing of the river Jordan was the circumcision of the new generation of the Israelite men. This was necessary because the generation who came out from Egypt proved itself disobedient and perished in the course of a 40-years-long desert journey (Josh 5:3-6). Our reading begins with God stating to Joshua, “today I have rolled away from you the disgrace of Egypt”. Many understand this statement as a reference to the disgrace of Israel’s Egyptian slavery. However, a more accurate translation from Hebrew reads that God rolled away the “reproach of Egypt”. This means that God removed the reason for the Egyptians to reproach, that is to mock and disdain the Israelites. Knowing that the Israelites wandered homeless in the desert for 40 years, the Egyptians would ridicule them for trusting God who took them out the land of abundance – Egypt – and then abandoned them in the wilderness to die. Such mockery is hinted at in several biblical texts (Exod 32:12; Num 14:13-16; Deut 9:28). Now, God removed any reason for doubt and mockery by fulfilling his promise of the land, which will be settled by a new generation of the Israelites. This new generation assumes and legitimizes its identity as God’s people by undergoing circumcision immediately after entering the land.

The original Exodus generation failed the test of faithfulness and broke the covenant with God. Still, God reached out to their successors, fulfilling his promises, and maintaining his fidelity. This new generation of Israelites will have to make a new beginning. This is highlighted by the disappearance of manna, their desert food, and the command to cultivate the land and live off its fruits.

In the second reading Paul’s describes his apostleship as “the ministry of reconciliation”. Sin in its various forms separates humanity from God and requires reconciliation. While they were Gentiles, the Corinthians had lived sinful lives in ignorance of God and his commands. The Israelites followed the law, but sins still frequently occurred and sacrifices for reconciliation had to be repeatedly offered in the Temple. Then, God reached out to sinful humanity in an entirely new way – through his Son. Jesus offered a one-time self-sacrifice on the cross which reconciled humanity to God in a definitive way. To describe this, Paul makes a puzzling and a difficult statement that Jesus was made “sin” for our sake. Paul means here that Christ, even though himself sinless, suffered the fate of a sinner and experienced death, which is a direct consequence of human sin. Christ underwent death for the believers’ sake, in order that sin and its fruit – death – might be overcome. This victory happened when God raised Jesus from the dead. Therefore, those who are “in Christ” are no longer under the power of sin – they are reconciled to God through Christ, they are a “new creation”. Neither are they under the power of death because, like Christ, they will experience the resurrection.

Paul sees himself as the messenger of this wonderful mystery, and appeals to the Corinthians to respond to God. God reached out to them by sending his Son into the world. They, in turn, must respond to God through faith in Christ. It is this faith in Christ that reconciles them to God and leads to eternal life.

Despite its popular title – “the parable of the prodigal son” – the story in today’s Gospel is a story about a father reaching out to his two lost sons. This story must be read and interpreted in the context of Jesus’s interaction with two groups of people. First, Jesus associated with tax collectors and sinners who were the outcasts of Jewish society because they committed acts that violated God’s laws and harmed others. Second, there were the Pharisees and the scribes who strictly followed God’s laws. They were genuinely surprised at Jesus’ association with the outcasts, which would make him ritually impure. These two groups are represented by the two sons in Jesus’ story.

The prodigal son represents the tax collectors and sinners. He was truly a sinner. The family property can only be divided after the father’s death. By demanding his share of the property, the younger son acts as if his father was dead. He then separates himself from the family and squanders everything living a life of debauchery. He ends up becoming a servant of a Gentile man and eating pig’s food. From the Jewish point of view, he is an utterly disgraced man excluded from the family and the community. But like the sinners who approached Jesus, he returns to the father with an honest acknowledgment of his sins.

The older son represents the Pharisees and the scribes. His merits, and his utter devotion to his father and to the family were unquestionable. But this led him into a self-righteous conviction that he alone deserved his father’s favor. Consequently, the older son refused to enter the household where the party for the younger brother was held. This, ironically, made him the next “lost son” who separated himself from his celebrating and reunited family because of his self-righteous convictions.

The father is the true hero of the story, for he reaches out to both of his lost sons. To the sinner son he offered an unexpected and shocking forgiveness, restoring him to the full status of a family member. To the older son, in an attempt to overcome his anger and bring him back into the household, the father offered an assurance that he was his rightful heir who “is always with him”, Thus, the story focuses on the father who reaches out to his misguided sons attempting to restore them both to the family. The sinner son returned to the family by asking for forgiveness and then accepting it. Interestingly, the story does not report whether the self-righteous older son accepted his father’s words and rejoined the family. Telling this story, Jesus was making a point that God reaches out to all, both sinners and self-righteous with an unqualified offer to be his children.

In today’s liturgy we see God reaching out to his lost children. The Exodus generation was lost due to their disobedience and idolatry. Still, God reached out to their descendants, fulfilling his promises and giving them a chance for a new life. Paul shows how God reached out to sinful humankind through his son who brought about divine-human reconciliation and thus set up a “new creation”. The gospel story shows a God who reaches out to those who separate themselves from him, either by sin or by self-righteousness. These examples provide a powerful assurance that the hand of God is always extended to his lost or separated children. Those who in return reach out to God can be confident of the truthfulness of the Psalmist’s words, “I sought the Lord, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.”

Listening to the Word of God

A mighty oak tree stands in the open field with branches stretched out to the sky. Birds of different colours make their way to it. One by one, as they erect their nests to perch, they chirp, and the sound of the songs of their beaks evokes a sweet orchestra. Momentarily, some fly away in pursuit of pleasure elsewhere. However, when the dusk of night invades the light of day, they quickly fly back to their home in search of shelter and security. Deep down in their hearts, they know that the tree with outstretched branches is “home sweet home”.

The above imagery is descriptive of the relationship that God has with us. He is forever for us and not against us. His loving presence is available to all who seek to live. Even when we run away from him in pursuit of forbidden pleasures, his compassionate arms remain outstretched, awaiting our return. We will never find a true home elsewhere, no matter how some alternatives might appear appealing for a time.

Drenched in sin, there are some who have given up any hope of recovery. They feel their sins are unpardonable and do not even dare to call God their Father.  They are unable to bring themselves to the fact that the love of God is like the sun at midnight. It shines even in the darkest hour of our lives. His faithfulness is everlasting and his arms our forever outstretched to welcome us home.

Law enforcing agencies go after criminals to prosecute them but the outstretched arms of God go after sinners to embrace them. Even outcasts are not cast out of the sight of God. This is graphically expressed in the Gospel text – “While he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him” (Luke 15:20). The attitude of the Father in the Gospel text epitomises God’s attitude towards each one of us. He loves us as we are and nothing can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ, as Paul beautifully stated (cf. Rom 8:39).

Generally, parents see something of themselves in their children. In their children, they see the flesh of their flesh and bones of their bones. Even those who are adopted parents often develop an affinity for those under their care and this creates a strong bond. It is said that “a loving mother bathing her baby does not throw away the latter with the dirty water”. A loving mother would not sit unconcerned when her baby falls to the ground.

During this season of Lent, God calls each one of us back home. He calls us to come back not because he wants to punish us for sins committed but to offer us the balm that would heal the festering wound caused by sin. His arms reach out to us not with a blow of the fist but a glow of a feast. He wipes away our tears and fills our hearts us with the light of joy.


“The love of God is like the sun at midnight. It shines even in the darkest hour of our lives.”



When did I last have a deep feeling that God loves me? At what moment?

Do I think of myself as being far or separated from God? For what reason?

Response to God

I decide in my heart to confess and renounce all my sins, and to arise and go back to God’ arms that await to embrace and love me.

Response to your World

Whenever overcome by doubt and self-pity, I will think about moments when I have experienced deep peace in my heart and remember the joy of being in the presence of God.

Having experienced the love of God for us in many ways, we decide on some ways in which our group can become agents of wholesome change in our world. How can we be bridges of hope to those on the margins of society who have been labelled “bad”?


Eternal Father, in the person of your Son Jesus Christ, you have revealed to us who you truly are – the God of compassion who reaches out to his children. May this renewed image of you deepen our faith and cause us to reach out to all those who stand in need of love. Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen

Scripture quotations from New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, © 1989, 1993. Used with permission.



Third Sunday of Lent Year c



First Reading     Exodus 3:1–8, 13–15 Psalm 103:1–4, 6–8, 11 Second Reading 1 Corinthians 10:1–6, 10–12 Gospel Luke 13:1–9


Psalm 103:1–4, 6–8, 11

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul,

and do not forget all his benefits—who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the Pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, The Lord works vindication and justice for all who are oppressed. He made known his ways to Moses, his acts to the people of Israel. The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;

Reading the Word

First Reading Exodus 3:1–8, 13–15

Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.” When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” He said further, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

Then the Lord said, “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites.

But Moses said to God, “If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I Am Who I Am.” He said further, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘I Am has sent me to you.’ ” God also said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you’: This is my name forever, and this my title for all generations.

Second Reading 1 Corinthians 10:1–6, 10–12

I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea,  and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them, and they were struck down in the wilderness.

Now these things occurred as examples for us, so that we might not desire evil as they did. So do not complain as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. These things happened to them to serve as an example, and they were written down to instruct us, on whom the ends of the ages have come. So if you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall.

Gospel Luke 13:1–9

At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. He asked them, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.”

Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, ‘See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’ He replied, ‘Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’ ”

Hearing the Word

“Out of the Spiritual Wilderness”

The readings of the third Sunday of Lent lead us to reflect on the image of the spiritual wilderness – a state of confusion and indecision that many biblical characters experienced –  a reflection which may lead us to  some valuable insights on how to move beyond this destructive state.

The first reading contains a very significant passage where God’s name is disclosed. We see Moses at a very low point in his life. Disowned and rejected by his fellow Israelites, Moses has fled his home, Egypt, and became a wandering shepherd, tending somebody else’s flock in the wilderness. In this desolate location, Moses sees a bush which was burning without being consumed. Approaching this unexplainable phenomenon, Moses hears a voice telling him to take off his sandals because he stands on “holy ground”, that is, in God’s presence. God then identifies himself as the God of Moses’ father and his distant ancestors, the patriarchs. This was the same God who had called Moses’ people into existence, and who was fully aware that they were threatened with utter destruction in Egypt. God tells Moses that he intends to deliver the Israelites from the hands of their oppressors and give them a land of their own.

Moses’ response to this wonderful declaration showed that he was truly in the “spiritual wilderness” – he was not sure which God spoke to him, and so he asked for God’s name! Moses did not seem to know the God of his family, or the history of his people. God’s answer was both mysterious and informative. In a direct translation from Hebrew God gave his name as, “I am who I am”. Grammatically, this phrase is a simple repetition of the verb “to be”. Stated in the Hebrew imperfect tense, which implies a continuing and unfinished action, God’s answer means something like, “I am the one who always is”. Many interpretations have been offered for this puzzling statement. The context of our passage suggests that this statement refers to God’s unceasing and constant presence with his people. This presence began in the remote past with God’s choice of Abraham, it continues into the present with God’s intention to save the people, and it will continue into the future with God leading them to a new land. God’s mysterious name revealed to Moses means that God founded his people, and he will remain with them forever. This understanding of the meaning of God’s name finds its symbolic confirmation in the burning bush. A normal bush would burn up very quickly. The bush in Moses’ vision burns continuously, just as God presence with his people is constant and never ending.

For Moses, this encounter with God meant the end of his time in the spiritual wilderness. This nomadic shepherd who was once ignorant of his roots and history, now knows his God and his life goal. From now on, Moses will serve God’s salvific purposes for his people which were laid down in a distant past and stretch far into the future.  

The second reading comes from Paul’s instruction to his troublesome community in Corinth. Paul addresses the issue of Christians consuming food which had been offered to idols in pagan temples. Some Corinthians insisted on their right to consume such cheaply and widely available food because they “had knowledge” that no other god exists (1 Cor 8:4-6). Others, however, were scandalized by such behaviour, considering it an act of idolatry. This brought divisions and tensions to the community. Paul agreed that food offered to idols can be eaten because such idols are not real gods. However, he insisted that all should abstain from such food in order not to scandalize some hesitant Christians and to maintain the unity in the community (cf. 1 Cor 8:7-12; 10:23-3).

To further strengthen his argument, Paul issued a severe warning about the dangers of idolatry, using the example of the Israelites who took part in the Exodus from Egypt. These Israelites saw God’s mighty deeds, miraculously passed through the sea, and were fed with manna from heaven and drank the water from a rock. Still, they fell into rebellion and idolatry, resulting in God’s rejection of that particular generation which perished in the desert. Paul sets these events as “examples” for the Corinthians. They also “passed through the water” in baptism, and partook regularly of the “spiritual food and drink” in the Eucharistic meals. Still, this is no guarantee that they are safe from falling into idolatry. In fact, the Corinthians already resemble the Israelites who “murmured” dissatisfied with the desert life and diet, because they murmur unhappy about Paul’s calls for abstinence from the food offered to idols.

Through these reminders Paul warned his overconfident Corinthians that careless partaking in the food offered to idols puts them in danger of falling back into idolatry. Before their conversion, they were in the “spiritual wilderness”, believing in numerous gods and participating in pagan feasts and rituals. They had been led out of that wilderness through the gift of faith in the one true God. They must now carefully safeguard this gift by staying away from all forms of idolatry, lest they may be tempted to return to it.

The Gospel reading begins by describing two random and tragic events. The first was a massacre of some innocent Galilean pilgrims by Pontius Pilate. The second was a sudden collapse of the Siloam tower in Jerusalem, which killed eighteen bystanders. All these victims were ordinary people who died unexpectedly, unprepared for death. The second part of the passage contains the story of a barren fig tree threatened with destruction by its owner. The gardener, who represents Jesus, pleads with the owner to give the tree one last chance to bear fruit, and then spares no effort to help the fig tree to produce the desired fruit.

The combination of these stories creates a clear message directed particularly at those who witnessed Jesus’ ministry, heard his words, saw his deeds, and yet remained undecided as to whether to believe in him or not. They lived in the “spiritual wilderness” of indecision, which means being unprepared for death, just like the Galilean pilgrims and the bystanders in Jerusalem.  It means being barren as the fig tree in Jesus’ story. The way out of the spiritual wilderness is to bear fruit for God through repentance which means accepting and following Jesus as God’s Messiah. And such repentance cannot be postponed.

Today’s liturgy shows some examples of moving out of the spiritual wilderness. Moses was led out of his wilderness of ignorance by God’s self-revelation. The Corinthians were brought out of the wilderness of idolatry by the gift of faith in Christ, and the gift of a Christian community. Many of those who saw and heard Jesus remined in the spiritual wilderness of indecision. Jesus warned against remaining in such a state, insisting on repentance as a way to bear fruit for God, and being prepared to face God whenever death comes. Those who make their way out of the spiritual wilderness can truly rejoice with the Psalmist and confidently say, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name.”

Listening to the Word of God

Critics of religion often ask piercing questions as they make reference to some events of world history: Where was God when the World Trade Center was destroyed and many killed? Where was God when the Nazis spearheaded the holocaust of countless Jews? Where was God when some Africans were sent as slaves to America and the Caribbean? Where was God when some Galileans had their blood mingled with their sacrifices by Pilate? We often ask the same questions on a very personal level. Where was God when my parent died? Where was God when I was abused or left alone in a desperate situation? Where was God when…Where was God when…?

There is a time of wilderness in every epoch of human history both on the individual and communal levels. It is often characterised by emptiness and a feeling of abandonment. It is a period of searching for answers and solutions. In that momentary period of darkness, a spark of divine fire emerges, often in unlikely places and persons, and God speaks. A heart-warming answer to all the questions above is captured in our First Reading. God said to Moses: “I have seen the misery of my people…” God saw the misery of the Israelites in Egypt and sent Moses on a rescue mission. Although he himself was going through his own spiritual wilderness, Moses had to step out in faith and carry out the mission. In so doing, he was led out of his wilderness. God sees every misery and choses to act by raising up people of faith in every generation to respond to the crisis that stares at them.

It took people of faith to bring relief and support to the victims of the World Trade Center. It took people of faith to initiate actions to halt the atrocities being meted out to Jews by the Nazis. It took people of faith to bring the slave trade to an end. I was led out of my misery by an unexpected helpful gesture of a stranger or a community I joined. It takes people of faith to transform this world.

One of the fundamental characteristics of a person of faith is repentance. True repentance shows forth in good works of faith. With the aid of the parable of a fig tree, Jesus challenges us to give evidence of repentance. To repent is to accept God’s rescue plan of salvation. He so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever would believe in him would not perish (cf. Jn 3:16). Jesus Christ is the embodiment of God’s rescue plan for every human being. Therefore, unless we repent and believe in him, and we show it by our good works that help to save the world even on a smallest scale, we have no reason or right to question where God was when the world was drowning in misery.

It is true that there are many dark spots in our world. However, there is a saying that “it is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.” When we repent and place our faith in Jesus we light a candle of faith that wards off the darkness in our hearts and the world.


“It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.”



How do I react to spiritual dryness and desolation in my spiritual life?

Do I look for an easy way out or trust God to lead me on my way of the cross through life?

Response to God

We bring before God in prayer all the persons and places engulfed by some form of spiritual wilderness. We offer ourselves to be used by God to bring them relief.

Response to your World

Instead of complaining about how bad the world is, using Jesus’ teaching as my guide, I will make an effort to make it better, even if in one very small way this week.

In our group we will identify a particular situation where we can offer some concrete help to someone experiencing spiritual or material desolation and then take the necessary steps to do so.


Eternal Father, I offer to you the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of your dearly Beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world. For the sake of his sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world. Amen


Scripture quotations from New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, © 1989, 1993. Used with permission.

Mwenyeheri Gregorius Frackowiak, SVD.

Nyamwaya copyWatakatifu ni watu ambao waliishi maisha yao kwa kutenda matendo ya kawaida kwa njia isiyo ya kawaida. Maisha yao na mafunzo yao yanavutia wengine kuiga mwenendo wao. Watakatifu wana uhusiano wa karibu sana na wafia dini,  ambao ni watu  waliotoa maisha yao hadi kufa kwa ajili ya kutetea Imani katika Dini zao. Hawa hujitolea kuteseka hadi kufa kwa kushuhudia imani yao.

Mfano mzuri ni ule wa Mwenye Heri Gregorious Frackowiak ambaye alizaliwa katika familia ya watoto kumi na wawili, katika kijiji cha Boleslaw Frackowiak katika Mji wa Lowecice karibu na Poznan. Wazazi wake walimlea katika mazingira ya kikristu. Alijiunga na Shirika la Neno la Mungu akiwa na umri wa miaka kumi na nne (14). Alitamani kwa dhati kuwa Bruda. Alipokelewa na kuanza malezi ya Novishiati Gorna Grupa. Baada ya Novishiati alifanya kazi katika mapokezi ya maktaba ya vitabu, na baada ya kuzuka vita vya pili vya dunia; Mwenye heri Gregorious  alikuwa mmoja wa wale walioteswa na kufa kwaajili ya kutetea imani zao. Hii ni baada ya Gorna Grupa kufanywa kituo cha mateso ya Mapadre.

Mtakatifu Gregorious aliyaacha makazi yake Gorna Grupa  alipokua akifanya kazi,  na kwenda kufanya kazi sehemu mbalimbali kama vile, Parokia ya Mtakatifu Martin kama mhudumu wa Sakristia na pia kuwafundisha watoto imani ya Kanisa Katoliki. Baadae alijiunga na wachapisha Jarida la Jaricin, lililokua likichapisha habari za kupinga  wapiganiji wa Nazi waliokua  wanapigana katika vita ya pili vya dunia. Wapiganaji hao walipogundua uwepo wa  kikundi hiki waliwakamata na kuwafunga Gerezani, walikotesa hadi kufa.

Mwenye heri Gregorius alijitolea kufa kama mfia dini na kifo chake kinaweza kikalinganishwa na kile cha Mtakatifu Maximilian Maria Kolbe aliyekufa kwa kukatwa kichwa  tarehe 05, Mei 1943; akiwa na miaka thelathini na mmoja ( 31) tu.

Mtakatifu Maximilian Maria Kolbe alikua kijana wa umri mdogo zaidi akilinganishwa  na wafia dini wenzake watatu wa shirika la Neno la Mungu. Alifia Gereza liitwalo Dresden. Ili kuonyesha kufa kwake ni kujitolea kama mfia dini, aliwaandikia familia na marafiki zake barua hii:

“Ninawaandikia barua hii kwa mara ya mwisho katika dunia hii, mtakapoipokea barua hii sitokua tena katika dunia hii. Siku ya Jumatano ya tarehe 05, Mei1943; Saa 12:15 Jioni nitanyongwa. Sasa limebaki lisali moja tu Padre aniletee Mwili wa Kristo. nawasihi mniombee ili Roho yangu ipumzike kwa Amani Mbinguni. Nawaachia yote, kama mkipenda mwaweza kumjulisha Mama yangu juu ya kifo changu. Nimepumzika kwa Amani. Nawasalimu ninyi nyote, na nawangoja wote mbele za Mungu. Tafadhali wasalimu Wamisionari wote wa Ndugu Bruczko na baada ya vita naomba mpeleke Kanzu yangu hapo. Mungu awabariki mbaki waaminifu katika Kanisa Katoliki. Naomba msamaha wa makosa yangu yote. Namhurumia sana Mama yangu. Mungu awabariki.  Tutaonana Mbinguni .”


By Frt.  Nyamwaya George Okong’o

SVD KenTan Young Confreres Gathering


There is a Swahili proverb that says, young age is like the smoke from a cigarette. It lasts only for a moment. However, Young age can be a blessing in the later days, if it is well lived. This week has been very eventful for the young confreres from SVD Kenya-Tanzania SVD Province.


Ten confreres under 7 years in Perpetual Vows, accompanied by two facilitators, met in Arusha, Tanzania on Monday 11 March for their ongoing formation program. On Tuesday they went up hill to Maua in Moshi, at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro. There they were accommodated at the Franciscan Capuchin Sisters Novitiate for two days.


On the arrival day the confreres had an afternoon rest and then went around the village to get familiar to the environment. Some of them made friends very quickly by the local Wachaga people. In almost every house you could not fail to notice the aroma from the local drink called Mbege, made from Bananas. there are a lot of bananas in that area. In the evening, after dinner, they gathered to enjoy the company of one another. Some others went hiking toward the forest and almost got themselves into trouble for trespassing the restricted area, but instead they made friends with the forest guards who explained to them the rules and a lot about the mountain.


On the second day after breakfast, Fr. Michael Shaji, SVD, took the confreres through a chronological history of the Kenya-Tanzania Province since its establishment as a mission in 1984 to the present day. Fr. Shaji arrived in Kenya from India for OTP in 1997 and in the year 1999 he went back to India to finish his Theological Studies before coming back in the year 2002 for his First Assignment he has been working in the province since then. After tea break, the young confreres shared their experiences, joys and challenges in their respective missions.

Later that night there was a social gathering with some drinks and snacks. The Capuchin Sisters also took the chance to market their merchandise that they produce in the convent that included, Guava and Strawberry Marmalade, Macadamia Nuts, Wine among others. The confreres were also happy with the delicious meals served by the sisters during the two-day stay.

On the third day, they traveled back from Maua through Moshi town and then spent the best part of the afternoon at Kikuletwa Hotsprings (Chemka in Kiswahili), where they enjoyed swimming in the warm crystal clear waters of the springs. They also had their  meals there before going back to Arusha. That evening, they gathered for dinner together with other confreres working in Arusha City.

On Friday the confreres returned each one to their respective missions. It was indeed a great moment for all. The young confreres expressed their joy and the wish to gather again soon.

Fr. Larence Muthee, SVD



First Reading: Genesis 15:5–12, 17–18: Psalm: Psalm 27:1, 7–9, 13–14,  Second Reading: Philippians 3:17–4, 1Gospel:  Luke 9:28–36



Psalm 27:1, 7–9, 13–14

 The Lord is my light and my salvation;

whom shall I fear?

The Lord is the stronghold of my life;

of whom shall I be afraid?

Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud,

be gracious to me and answer me!

“Come,” my heart says, “seek his face!”

Your face, Lord, do I seek.

Do not hide your face from me.

Do not turn your servant away in anger,

you who have been my help.

Do not cast me off, do not forsake me,

O God of my salvation!

I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord

in the land of the living.

Wait for the Lord;

be strong, and let your heart take courage;

wait for the Lord!

 Reading the Word

 First Reading:  Genesis 15:5–12, 17–18

God brought Abram outside and said, “Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” And he believed the Lord; and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness.

Then he said to him, “I am the Lord who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess.” But he said, “O Lord God, how am I to know that I shall possess it?” He said to him, “Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” He brought him all these and cut them in two, laying each half over against the other; but he did not cut the birds in two. And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.

As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram, and a deep and terrifying darkness descended upon him. When the sun had gone down and it was dark, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates,

Second Reading:  Philippians 3:17–4:1


Brothers and sisters, join in imitating me, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us. For many live as enemies of the cross of Christ; I have often told you of them, and now I tell you even with tears. Their end is destruction; their god is the belly; and their glory is in their shame; their minds are set on earthly things.

But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself.  Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved.

Gospel: Luke 9:28–36

Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he said. While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.

Hearing the Word

“Fighting Uncertainty”

The readings of the second Sunday of Lent narrate events and situations where several significant biblical characters experience a state of uncertainty and confusion, and are rescued from it by divine or apostolic intervention.

The first reading builds on Gen 15:1-4 which reports how God appeared to Abram with the promise of making him a great nation. Abram, whose name will be changed to Abraham (Gen 17:5), responded to this promise with a bitter complaint that God gave him no child up to this time, despite an earlier promise (cf. Gen 12:1-5). God responded by showing Abram the multitude of stars and restating the promise of exceedingly numerous descendants. Moving away from doubt, Abram responded with faith which was reckoned to him as righteousness. Biblically, righteousness means being in the right relationship with another person. Thus, this important statement means that the right relationship with God is built on faith and trust.

God then made yet another great promise stating that Abram will be given the land of Canaan. This promise was even harder to believe. After all, Abram was just a nomad, a traveler with a small family. How could he even hope to have this large, rich, and already inhabited land for himself? Consequently, Abram was plunged into doubt and uncertainty, asking God for a sign saying, “how am I to know that I shall possess it [the land]”. God would provide this sign through a covenant. Covenants were formal and binding agreements made through solemn and often complex ceremonies. They cemented relationships and defined the mutual duties and obligation of those making them. The covenant ceremony described here is highly symbolic. In Hebrew, the phrase “to make the covenant” literally means “to cut the covenant”. Thus, Abram was instructed to cut the sacrificial animals in halves and arrange the parts opposite one another. Abram then fell into a deep sleep where he saw a vision of God passing as a flame of fire between the animal parts. This was a part of the covenant making ceremony which meant that the one who would violate the covenant by not fulfilling its obligations would be cut into pieces, just like the sacrificed animals (cf. Jer 34:18). Significantly, it was only God who passed between the pieces, Abram did not. This means that God bound himself to Abram unconditionally, assuring him that the promise of the land will certainly be fulfilled. Through this solemn and immensely significant ceremony, God removed any doubt and uncertainty from the father of the future Israelite nation.

One of Paul’s chief reasons for writing to the Church in Philippi was to fight against false teachers who were confusing and misleading his converts there. These teachers were certain Christians who insisted that the continuing practice of the Jewish laws and customs was a necessary condition for being righteous before God, and, therefore, necessary for salvation. Such teaching was likely to create chaos and confusion among the Philippians who had just become Christians and were unsure what this new religion required.

Paul was absolutely furious with those teachers. He called them “dogs” and “evil workers” who “mutilate the flesh” (Phil 3:2). He described them in the harshest way. Stating that “their God is the belly”, Paul referred to their preoccupation with food laws and dietary restrictions required by the Jewish Law. Writing about “their glory being their shame”, he referred to the circumcision demanded by the Jews but considered shameful by the non-Jews in the Greco-Roman world. Finally, Paul stated that “their minds are set on earthly things”, meaning that they focus on the life and practices relevant for this world only.

Reacting to these teachers, Paul wrote to the Philippians with clarifications and explanations, stating clearly that the demand for continuing practice of the Jewish law was contrary to the Gospel. The core of Christian faith is the belief that righteousness comes from faith in Jesus alone, and that salvation was made possible by Jesus’ death on the cross. To insist that the observance of the Law is necessary amounts to claiming that Jesus’ death was insufficient for salvation. This made those teachers “enemies of the cross of Christ”. Paul insists that his converts imitate himself who, once a zealous practitioner of the Law, renounced it when he became a believer. The teaching of these opponents was harmful because it diverted the Philippians from the focus on Jesus alone by imposing additional, unnecessary and useless requirements on them. Instead of focusing on earthly things demanded by the Law, the Philippians must focus on the pursuit of eternal life, where they belong as the “citizens of heaven”. Writing this with great clarity and conviction, the apostle aimed to remove the Philippians’ uncertainty and confusion regarding the true Christian faith and practice sowed by the false teachers, and to set them on a straight path towards their true home.

The Transfiguration account, among other important elements, describes the reactions of Jesus’ three closest disciples. The appearance of Moses, Elijah, and Jesus’ changed appearance, utterly confused them, as revealed by Peter’s offer to build the three tents. First, Peter’s suggestion to make a tent for each of the three implies that he placed Jesus on an equal footing with Moses and Elijah. Second, seeing Jesus in the glorified body, he called him “master” which implies a significant but ordinary man. Finally, building tents means that Peter thinks of this mountain as a permanent residence for Jesus.

Peter and his companions were confused and unclear about the meaning of what they witnessed. Above all, they were unable to understand who Jesus is. God resolved their confusion by making a powerful and public statement. First, God declared Jesus his Son, someone infinitely greater than Moses and Elijah. Then, God declared Jesus his “chosen one”, meaning that Jesus was the Messiah, chosen and sent by God into the world for a special mission. Finally, God commanded the disciples to listen to Jesus. This declaration, made in the presence of two spokesmen for God – Moses and Elijah – meant that Jesus now takes on the role of a new mediator of God’s will to the people. God’s words and command removed the disciples’ uncertainties and cleared their confusion regarding the meaning of the Transfiguration and the identity of Jesus.

Today’s readings confirm that confusion and uncertainty befall God’s servants at times. Abram, even though he had a deep faith and trust in God, was not free from uncertainty and doubt. The Philippian Christians were unsure about how to practice their new faith and were easily deceived by false teachers. Peter, James and John struggled to understand Jesus, even though they had stayed with him for a long time. In each of these situations, confusion and uncertainty were removed. Abram was given a sign of the covenant, Paul wrote to the Philippians with clarifications, and the disciples heard God’s voice with a clear declaration of Jesus’ identity. These examples show that God does not abandon his servants to doubt and confusion. The Psalmist knew the feeling of uncertainty, but also the way out of it when he wrote, “Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud, be gracious to me and answer me!”

 Listening to the Word of God

Faith does not quench the flame of reasoning. If it were to do so, we would each die in the cold, for it takes human reason to know when to put on heavy clothing. As long as we live in this body with our minds alert, we will have questions and doubts. Doubts pop up frequently even in the hearts of people with deep faith. However, doubt in faith is meant to lead to a deeper understanding of faith, not to its loss.

Abram was a man of faith but had questions. The Church in Philippi had faith and yet had issues that needed to be resolved. Peter, John and James had faith in Jesus and yet they were terrified on the mount of transfiguration, unable to fully interpret what they beheld there.

A young woman who had invested her whole life serving God in many ways was involved in an accident that led to multiple bone fractures. As I stood by her at the emergency unit of the  hospital and she engaged in a fight with uncertainty, she uttered a shrill cry: “Oh God. Why? Why is this happening to me?” However, in the midst of all that uncertainty that sought to cloud her faith, she held on to the Word of God and kept believing. After months of recuperation, she survived and came to give thanks to God for saving her. Her faith triumphed over uncertainty.

Indeed, there are myriads of trials that confront us in our journey of faith. However, these challenges should not be regarded as obstacles. Without them, the journey might be boring and monotonous. Without challenges, there will be no testimonies.

When Abram was faced with uncertainty, God spoke. When the Church at Philippi sought clarification on some issues, Paul became God’s spokesperson and wrote a letter to them. When Peter, John and James were fascinated but at the same time terrified by the happenings on the mount of transfiguration, a voice from the cloud spoke: “This is my Son, my Chosen one; listen to him!”

The greatest weapon in the fight against uncertainty is submission to the Word of God. It can be likened to a person making a journey on an unknown road using GPS. An unknown voice speaks through the gadget at decision-making moments on the journey suggesting the direction one ought to take. In the end, submission to that voice leads the person to his/her destination. In relation to God, we can be confident that the Lord has the complete map of our lives in his hands. He knows the beginning and the end of every life.

If certainty can be attained only by sight, the blind would never be certain of anything. Going through a dark tunnel can be frightening  but the light of faith in the heart gives hope and certainty.

To seek to live one’s faith as if all is well, when in reality all is not well, is to feign pretence itself. In any true encounter with the divine, faith is elicited but it does not substitute for the activity of the human mind. When all is not well in life, and we have difficulty grasping the meaning of the unfolding events of our lives, it is okay to tell God, “Lord, I am lost. I can’t get it.” This does not mean we have lost faith, but  is rather an expression of our desire to have our faith deepened.  In the end, when faith blossoms and glows, darkness gives way to light.


“If certainty can be attained only by sight, the blind would never be certain of anything.”



To what or to whom do I turn when faced with doubts and challenges?

When was the last time that I profoundly doubted God’s care for me? What was the cause?

 Response to God

I turn to God in the prayer of supplication for  the deepening  of my faith and trust, particularly in time of trial and doubt.

Response to your World

I will think of a person who is struggling with his or her faith and seek to help by encouraging them to read and pray with the Word of God.

In our meeting, we will share our individual doubts and uncertainties in our faith life. How can we assist one another in dealing with them?


Eternal Father, in you I live and move and have my being. May your overwhelming presence in my life be a source of clarity and strength in my struggles with uncertainty and doubt. Grant this through Christ our Lord. 


Scripture quotations from New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, © 1989, 1993. Used with permission.

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