Wednesday, March 8, 2017

8 March 2017 Wednesday of the 1st week of Lent (optional commemoration of Saint John of God, Religious)

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First Reading

Exodus 10:21-11:10 ©
The Lord said to Moses, ‘Stretch out your hand towards heaven, and let darkness, darkness so thick that it can be felt, cover the land of Egypt.’ So Moses stretched out his hand towards heaven, and for three days there was deep darkness over the whole land of Egypt. No one could see anyone else or move about for three days, but where the sons of Israel lived there was light for them.
  Pharaoh summoned Moses. ‘Go and offer worship to the Lord,’ he said ‘but your flocks and herds must remain here. Your children may go with you too.’ Moses replied, ‘But you must let us have means of offering sacrifices and holocausts to the Lord our God. Our livestock, too, must go with us; not one head of cattle must be left behind: it must be from our livestock that we provide for the worship of the Lord our God; until we reach the place, we do not know ourselves what worship we shall have to offer the Lord.’
  But the Lord made Pharaoh’s heart stubborn, and he refused to let them go. Pharaoh said to Moses, ‘Out of my sight! Take care! Never appear before me again, for on the day you do, you die!’ Moses replied, ‘You yourself have said it: never again shall I appear before you.’
  Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘One disaster more I shall bring on Pharaoh and on Egypt, just one. After this he will let you go from here... Indeed, he will drive you out! Instruct the people that every man is to ask his neighbor, every woman hers, for silver ornaments and gold.’ And the Lord gave the people prestige in the eyes of the Egyptians, while Moses himself was a man of great importance in the land of Egypt, and of high prestige with Pharaoh’s courtiers and with the people.
  Moses said, ‘This is the Lord’s message, “Towards midnight I shall pass through Egypt. All the first-born in the land of Egypt shall die: from the firstborn of Pharaoh, heir to his throne, to the first-born of the maidservant at the mill, and all the first-born of the cattle. And throughout the land of Egypt there shall be such a wailing as never was heard before, nor will be again. But against the sons of Israel, against man or beast, never a dog shall bark, so that you may know that the Lord discriminates between Egypt and Israel. Then all these courtiers of yours will come down to me and bow low before me and say: Go away, you and all the people who follow you! After this, I shall go.”’ And, hot with anger, Moses left Pharaoh’s presence.
  Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Pharaoh will not listen to you; so that my wonders may be multiplied in the land of Egypt.’ All these wonders Moses and Aaron worked in the presence of Pharaoh. But the Lord made Pharaoh’s heart stubborn, and he did not let the sons of Israel leave his country.

Second Reading

From a demonstration by Aphraates, bishop
Circumcision of the heart
Law and covenant have been entirely changed. God changed the first pact with Adam, and gave a new one to Noah. He gave another to Abraham, and changed this to give a new one to Moses. When the covenant with Moses was no longer observed, he gave another pact in this last age, a pact never again to be changed.
  He established a new law for Adam, that he could not eat of the tree of life. He gave to Noah the sign of the rainbow in the clouds. He then gave Abraham, chosen for his faith, the mark and seal of circumcision for his descendants. Moses was given the Passover lamb, the propitiation for the people.
  All these covenants were different from each other. Moreover, the circumcision that is approved by the giver of those covenants is of the kind spoken of by Jeremiah: Circumcise your hearts. If God’s pact with Abraham was firm, so also is this covenant firm and trustworthy, nor can any other law be laid down, whether it originates outside the law or among those subject to the law.
  God gave Moses a law together with his prescriptions and precepts, and when it was no longer kept, he made the law and its precepts of no avail. He promised a new covenant, different from the first, though the giver of both is one and the same. This is the covenant that he promised: All shall know me from the least to the greatest. In this covenant there is no longer any circumcision of the flesh, any seal upon the people.
  We know, dearly beloved, that God established different laws in different generations which were in force as long as it pleased him. Afterward they were made obsolete. In the words of the apostle: In former times the kingdom of God existed in each generation under different signs.
  Moreover, our God is truthful and his commandments are most trustworthy. Every covenant was proved firm and trustworthy in its own time, and those who have been circumcised in heart are brought to life and receive a second circumcision beside the true Jordan, the waters of baptism that bring forgiveness of sins.
  Jesus, son of Nun, renewed the people’s circumcision with a knife of stone when he had crossed the Jordan with the Israelites. Jesus, our Saviour, renews the circumcision of the heart for the nations who have believed in him and are washed by baptism: circumcision by the sword of his word, sharper than any two-edged sword.
  Jesus, son of Nun, led the people across the Jordan into the promised land. Jesus, our Saviour, has promised the land of the living to all who have crossed the true Jordan, and have believed and are circumcised in heart.
  Blessed, then, are those who are circumcised in heart, and have been reborn in water through the second circumcision. They will receive their inheritance with Abraham, the faithful leader and father of all nations, for his faith was credited to him for righteousness.




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