Thursday of the Third Week of Lent, March 16, 2023

“Listen to my voice,” says God through his prophet Jeremiah, and then, he complains that God’s people fails to listen, that they listen to themselves and follow their own ways. Their deeds do not speak the language of God. They do not follow God.
In the Gospel, Jesus cures the man who was mute. Worse than anyone who is deaf and mute and blind, are those who do not want to hear and see, or to speak with sincerity. They do not follow Jesus. Their hearts are divided.

Opening Prayer
Lord, our God,
you ask of us not so much
that we observe certain practices,
but that our hearts are turned to you.
God, may we do your will in everything,
loyally and generously,
as Jesus did, your Son,
who did your will because he loved you
and who lives therefore with you
and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen!

1 Reading: JEREMIAH 7:23-28
Thus says the LORD: This is what I commanded my people: Listen to my voice; then I will be your God and you shall be my people. Walk in all the ways that I command you, so that you may prosper. But they obeyed not, nor did they pay heed. They walked in the hardness of their evil hearts and turned their backs, not their faces, to me. From the day that your fathers left the land of Egypt even to this day, I have sent you untiringly all my servants the prophets. Yet they have not obeyed me nor paid heed; they have stiffened their necks and done worse than their fathers. When you speak all these words to them, they will not listen to you either; when you call to them, they will not answer you. Say to them: This is the nation that does not listen to the voice of the LORD, its God, or take correction. Faithfulness has disappeared; the word itself is banished from their speech.

Responsorial PSALM 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9
R. (8) If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

Come, let us sing joyfully to the LORD;
let us acclaim the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us joyfully sing psalms to him. R.

Come, let us bow down in worship;
let us kneel before the LORD who made us.
For he is our God,
and we are the people he shepherds, the flock he guides. R.

Oh, that today you would hear his voice:
“Harden not your hearts as at Meribah,
as in the day of Massah in the desert,
Where your fathers tempted me;
they tested me though they had seen my works.” R.

Verse Before the Gospel: JOEL 2:12-13
Glory and praise to you, oh Christ!
Even now, says the LORD,
return to me with your whole heart,
for I am gracious and merciful.
Glory and praise to you, oh Christ!

Gospel: LUKE 11:14-23
Jesus was driving out a demon that was mute, and when the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke and the crowds were amazed. Some of them said, “By the power of Beelzebul, the prince of demons, he drives out demons.” Others, to test him, asked him for a sign from heaven. But he knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste and house will fall against house. And if Satan is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that it is by Beelzebul that I drive out demons. If I, then, drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your own people drive them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the finger of God that I drive out demons, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you. When a strong man fully armed guards his palace, his possessions are safe. But when one stronger than he attacks and overcomes him, he takes away the armour on which he relied and distributes the spoils. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.”

The Finger of God at work
In the day’s liturgy, the Church wants us to examine our conscience on our faithfulness to the Lord. Faithfulness to the Lord is not about attending Sunday Masses. It is about being aware of not allowing ourselves to be stubborn and deaf, shutting the Lord out and doing what we want.
When Jesus performed miracles and healed the sick, the stubborn Jewish leadership said it was through the power of Beelzebub, the leader of demons. A person with a hardened heart is unhappy with the Church and the faith in the Lord, puts God aside with an excuse, and discredits and slanders God. Pope Francis explains the passage and says, “One cannot be with Jesus and be at a distance. Either you are with Jesus or you are against Jesus; you are faithful or unfaithful; you have an obedient heart or have lost your fidelity.”
Our hearts may be as hard as stone, and many times we may have discredited and disobeyed the Lord, but there is still time. This is the time of mercy of the Lord: let us open our hearts because he is in us.
Jesus says the Satan is strong, but the one who comes in is stronger – Jesus himself. He is mightier than all the evil powers, and the ultimate victory shall be with him.
In his parable, Jesus suggests he is engaged in spiritual warfare with Satan. Saint Paul expressed similar feelings in his letter to the Romans: ‘Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more’. The evil one stares on our faces daily in our moments of sinfulness, and we are so prone to our weak behaviours. Yet, the promise of Jesus is a huge consolation – that there is a greater power – the power of God, the power of the Holy Spirit. The devil cannot win and the ultimate victory belongs to God.
We are sometimes blind to the hand of God working in us. We fail to appreciate the good that people do; Have you come across people who say, “by sheer luck, I escaped this accident” or “It was a coincidence that there was a doctor available, so that the patient could be attended to in time”?
When we recognise only the “luck”, or “chances” or “coincidences”, we fail to acknowledge the hand of God in those circumstances and places. There is nothing that happens by chance or by coincidence. And there is nothing called “luck” in the life of a believer. The Word of God poses this question for our reflection: Are we grateful enough to acknowledge the miracles that the hand of God works in our lives or do we take them for granted?

– That we may listen to the voice of our conscience, not only when it warns us against evil, but also when it prompts us to do good, we pray:
– That when temptation comes, we follow Jesus our Lord, who overcame temptations for us, we pray:
– That those who are preparing for baptism may learn how the Gospel will bring them joy and freedom, we pray:

Prayer over the Gifts
Lord, our God,
you send your Son among us
to be our living Word.
May we learn from him,
that he did your will in everything
because he knew that this was your way
to reveal your saving love to all.
May we be on his side
and do your will in all things
as a living offering to you,
now and for ever. Amen!

Prayer after Communion
Lord, our God,
we are perhaps so busy
with our own plans for the future
and for a world we want to build up,
that we forget your plans for a new world.
God, may we carry out your plans
by your own rules;
may we listen to your Word, Jesus Christ,
and forget our own little plans,
that we may build up a kingdom
that stands, for ever and ever. Amen!

“Obey my voice and I will be your God, and you shall be my people,” said the prophet. We thank God that God has made us his people. We do our best to live as the people God loves, with the blessing of Almighty God, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen!

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