March 6 Ash Wednesday
“Even now, says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart.”
This one, simple sentence to me is one of the stronger commands in Scripture. By saying “Even Now” it is calling us from where we are in life. Maybe we have grown stronger in our faith, maybe we have completely fallen away. It doesn’t matter.
Even now, says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart.
It’s easier to bring to the Lord snippets of our hopes and joys, or our fears and sadness. But to bring to the Lord our WHOLE heart, everything that is going on in our lives from our biggest worry to the smallest decision we will make, today we are called to return to the Lord and to bring our whole selves. With our busy lives, the call to bring our whole self to the Lord today can be a monumental task. But as we are donned today with ashes and reminded that we are dust and to dust we shall return, we are also called to remember that we owe our whole selves to God’s creation. And in this season of fasting and preparation, let us return our whole hearts to God, and await his call.
“If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”
Yesterday we were reminded of our finiteness here on Earth and today we are told that we must deny ourselves. It’s quite the one-two punch of existentialism and self-denial, but it does serve as a reminder of our true mission here. We are not put on this Earth to seek riches or gain a reward—that awaits us in heaven. Instead, we are called to take up our cross daily and follow the teachings of Jesus: to love one another, to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the incarcerated… We are called not to solely pay attention to our own wants and desires but rather to use our talents to fulfill Jesus’ teachings and continue his mission here on Earth. Today, let us spend some time in reflection on ways in which we can take up our cross daily and follow Jesus, that we show his love to all we meet.
“This, rather, is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; Setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke; Sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; Clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own.”
A popular question in Catholic circles this time of year is “What are you giving up for Lent?” There’s a variety of answers ranging from sweets, to television, or making more an effort to pray. Today’s first reading reminds us not to get caught up in what we are “giving up” or fasting from during these 40 days. We are called to take our fasts as reminders and motivation for our real mission here on Earth, spelled out in the excerpt above. This is a strong call to seek social justice in our world today as our fast. Today, spend some time in reflection on how you are using your Lenten fast to fulfill the commands spelled out in Isaiah’s reading today and to keep in mind that, in giving something up for Lent, we must not become so wrapped up in our own self-sacrifice as to turn our backs our own. We are called to more.
“If you hold back your foot on the sabbath from following your own pursuits on my holy day; If you call the sabbath a delight, and the LORD’s holy day honorable; If you honor it by not following your ways, seeking your own interests, or speaking with malice, Then you shall delight in the Lord.”
A common theme so far in Scripture this Lent has been a call to return our hearts and minds back to the Lord. Lent is a time for us to re-focus our intentions and actions and to re-evaluate what we are doing in our lives, to spend a time of fast reminding ourselves of what we can do without, and a time spent preparing for the Resurrection. It is a reminder that we should always be preparing for the time when the Lord will return to Earth, though we know neither the day nor the hour. We prepare by invoking the Lord’s mission, not by pursuing selfish interests. Today, spend some time in reflection on what pursuits in your life are not serving the greater glory of God, and take some time to focus on how we may “call the sabbath a delight.” Listen to where God is calling you to be today, and you shall delight in the Lord.
March 10 First Sunday of Lent
As we begin our Lenten journey this year, let the words of today’s readings, responsorial psalm and Gospel be our guide. The quotes from Scripture (from the Old and New Testament) can act as a support and reminder that we are human and loved. We will face temptation, as Jesus did in the desert, but God is our “refuge and fortress.” He has given His angels, as He gave to Jesus, the command that they guard us in all our ways. All of us will face temptation in the coming days, but like Jesus, remembering the Father’s love for us, will help us turn away from that which tempts us. As we continue our journey, let us remember all that has come before us and be attentive to the Word of God as we listen and pray over it during these forty days. Paul’s letter to the Romans reminds us that our faith which is “open to all, is to be professed with the lips and believed in the heart, so that it bears witness in action” according to the Lectionary. During Lent let us listen, acknowledge our belief and act upon what we have learned for the greater good.
In today’s Verse Before the Gospel it says “…now is a very acceptable time…now is the day of salvation.” We would, therefore, be wise to follow Jesus’ words in Matthew’s Gospel where He says “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me…whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”
These words mirror the “shalls” (as opposed to the “shall nots”) in today’s reading from Leviticus where it says “you shall fear your God…Judge your fellow man justly…Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against your fellow countrymen…(and most importantly)…You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” All of these actions will prepare us to “Be holy, for I, the LORD, your God, am holy.” A pretty tall order, but then, NOW is the time…
A theme that runs through our Lenten readings is “the word.” As Isaiah compares God’s word to the “rain and snow (that) come down (from the heavens)…And do not return there till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, Giving seed to the one who sows and bread to the one who eats…” words allow us to “Glorify the LORD” and “extol his name” as it says in the Responsorial Psalm. Luckily for us the LORD “heard the poor one (who) called out” and has ears for the “cry of the just” and is able to rescue us from our “distress.”
In the Verse Before the Gospel Matthew tells us that “One does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.” So when Jesus tells us not to “babble”, but to pray the Our Father as He gives it to us, we should listen attentively and pray it intentionally – perhaps really “hearing” it for the first time.
In today’s first reading, Jonah has come to Nineveh for the second time and he is to announce the message that the Lord will tell him. Again, the importance of words. When he transmits the message – that Nineveh will be destroyed in 40 days, the people take it to heart, proclaim a fast and put on sackcloth. The king even takes this seriously and does likewise. In doing this and proclaiming that “every man shall turn from his evil way and from the violence he has in hand,” the king hopes that “God may relent and forgive, and withhold his blazing wrath.” And so it happens.
Luke tells us “Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation” and, hopefully, we can take to heart the Verse Before the Gospel, “Even now, says the LORD, return to me with your whole heart for I am gracious and merciful” and we will be saved.
Stretching back to our childhood, today’s message in Matthew’s Gospel is a message we learned and adopted as youngsters (hopefully): “Do to others as you would have them do to you” or “treat others as you would like to be treated.” Maybe it was the first time we stole our sibling’s toy we heard this phrase, but Jesus was smart in phrasing the statements positively. Instead of “don’t do to others” he puts the ownership on us and our actions. Just in our faith, we must persist in our pursuit in pursing God.
Matthew says it best: “’People often give up after a few halfhearted efforts and conclude that God cannot be found. But knowing God takes faith, focus, and follow-through, and Jesus assures us that we will be rewarded. Don’t give up on your efforts to seek God. Continue to ask him for more knowledge, patience, wisdom, love, and understanding. He will give them to you.” (Matthew 7:7-8)
Commit to actively pursuing your faith in the Lord during this Lenten season. That means shutting off your phone, silencing the incidentals, turning off judgement and preconceived notions and connecting with you and God—consistently. It’s not easy. Don’t know where to start? Start with the Golden Rule and ask yourself “What good and merciful action can I take today?”
So often we get caught on a single word. Talk to any lawyer and one word could make or break a case. Talk to your friends and one word could make or break a relationship. Now combine a string of words into rules and you have right and wrong. In today’s reading by Ezekiel, in chapter 18, I imagine him preaching to a group of people who are looking for direct answers to God’s kingdom. What is fair? What do I have to do for entry? What will cause me to be denied entry? What if? You get the picture.
The instructions are simple—turn away from sin and practice God’s virtue and you will live. All will be forgotten of your previous wicked ways and God will be pleased. Inversely, if the righteous person turns away from his pious path and turns to sin, he will die. God knows we are not perfect, we will fall and it is in our resilience and determination to continue to march on with God we must regroup and find our strength. It’s easy to give up and make excuses—don’t. God knows us better than we realize and expects more from us, even when we don’t think it’s in us to give. Head up and march on, my brothers and sisters.
Love your enemies? In Matthew’s gospel today, he makes a bold statement challenging us not only to be kind to others but those we wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole. Or in Dr. Seuss’s case, some amazing creative contraption…
It is easy to love those who love you but those that talk behind your back or fall silent when you need their support at work at with your family? Embrace the tax collector or whoever is your enemy just as God embraces all of us. Lent is a time of reflection and consideration. Try taking on a new perspective with the lens of Jesus and maybe your enemy won’t seem so evil.
March 17 Second Sunday of Lent
Welcome to the second week of Lent! In today’s first reading from Genesis, the Lord took Abram outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars, if you can. Just so, he added, shall your descendants be.” (Genesis 5:5)
God is trying to impress upon Abram the scope of his love while Abram questions how this will be his. The Lord instructs Abram to bring him a heifer, goat, ram (each three years old), along with a dove and young pigeon. Abram brings all of these things to the Lord and cuts them in half as instructed less the birds. As night falls and birds of prey attack the carcasses, Abram is filled with darkness. The Lord continues to foreshadow the future of his descendants with slavery and mistreatment but promises an ending of peace. The road ahead will not be easy but in the end God’s love will prevail with future generations. Much like the life of Jesus, his journey was filled with hardship, betrayal and ridicule but ended with God’s enduring love in Heaven. How would you describe your own journey so far?
Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. (Luke 6:37)
It is incredibly easy to condemn others’ actions, to judge their behavior and their words, thinking that we know what is right or better. Jesus meets us with love, compassion and mercy rather than judgment and condemnation. Today strive to listen instead of condemn, and to love instead of judge.
March 19 Feast of St. Joseph
When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home. (Matthew 1:24)
Joseph was in a difficult situation and had a number of options. He chose the path of acceptance and faith. He didn’t play the victim. He didn’t reject Mary or her son. He didn’t shame Mary. He followed his faith and the words of the angel and loved Mary and Jesus despite the unusual predicament that he was in. Pray to the Lord for the faith to follow wherever God’s will and call leads.
My trust is in you, O Lord; I say, “You are my God.” In your hands is my destiny; rescue me. (Psalm 31:16)
Recognizing the saving grace of God is the easy part. Trusting the Lord seems like a no brainer, but is often a challenging reality. Today try to let go of your own ego and trust the Lord.
There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day. And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. (Luke 16:19-20)
It is easy to get caught up in our life, our schedule, our work or our studies. Take a moment to stop and look around to recognize where you are encountering “Lazarus” today.
As you see fit, pray for or respond to the “Lazaruses” you see today.
“Jesus said to them, “Did you never read in the scriptures:
‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone;
by the Lord has this been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes’?
Therefore, I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.”
Jealousy. It’s an ugly feeling. It makes us uncomfortable and gives us a sense that something isn’t fair. Why them and not me? I have worked hard, I deserve this more than they do. Ironically, even if we could replace that person we are jealous of, there would almost certainly be someone else that shows up on the scene to replace them.
Jesus tells a parable in today’s Gospel about the tenants in a vineyard. A landowner keeps sending servants to collect his harvest, but each time, the tenants kill the servants instead of delivering the fruits of their labor. The landowner finally sends his son to collect the harvest and the tenants kill his son as well. Their motivation? If they get rid of these less deserving folks, the tenants will be left to inherit the land.
Jesus asks what should be done with the tenants. People respond immediately. Get rid of those tenants and give the vineyards to someone more deserving! Jesus answers by reminding us of the rejected stone that became the cornerstone – the most important stone in the foundation. Jesus was rejected, but through his life and death, he became the cornerstone of our faith and church. We cannot reject what God wants us to do by getting rid of others who we feel are less deserving. We must work to discover and develop the gifts that God had given each of us.
When we think of this story and about jealous tendencies when they creep into our lives, this is the perfect time to flip jealousy on its head and instead reflect on what we have control of and what gifts we have been provided from God. We don’t get to reject God’s teachings and take over God’s kingdom, ‘just because’ we are God’s people. When we stop worrying about the other guy, and focus on what we can give, we find that all of us have been given our own unique talents and gifts from God. Together we can produce the beautiful fruits of God’s kingdom.
“He said to his father in reply, ‘Look, all these years I served you and not once did I disobey your orders; yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends. But when your son returns who swallowed up your property with prostitutes, for him you slaughter the fattened calf.’ He said to him, ‘My son, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours. But now we must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’”
Today’s readings have common themes of compassion, forgiveness, and the need to repent. In the Gospel, we hear Jesus tell of a father who gives half of his inheritance to each of his sons. One son stays with his father and takes care of him, follows the rules, and makes good use of his inheritance. The other son squanders his inheritance, and finds himself tending to the swine of another landowner during a famine.
The story is full of symbols. The lost son who squanders his inheritance relates to turning away from God, throwing away a great gift he has been given. The lost son longs for material comforts. He feels sorry for himself; even the swine – the least clean of animals – have enough to eat. He longs for what others have, and wants to feed on the pods the swine eat. He is starving, ‘dying’ from spiritual hunger.
What does the lost son do? He decides he must return to his father, admit his sins, and proclaim he no longer deserves to be called his father’s son. Upon the lost son’s return, his father holds a huge party in the lost son’s honor, much to the dismay of the good son. The father explains to the good son the lost son was dead, but has now come to life again; he was lost, but now is found. This is cause for great celebration.
Jesus’ story of the lost son reminds us change is always possible. Following the rules is not enough. When we repent, and admit our shortcomings, God will celebrate our return. When we turn away, He will always welcome us back. When you feel like you have turned away from God, talk to Him about it. Look for His welcome embrace. You may find it where you least expect it.
March 24 Third Sunday of Lent
“There once was a person who had a fig tree planted in his orchard, and when he came in search of fruit on it but found none, he said to the gardener, ‘For three years now I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree but have found none. So cut it down. Why should it exhaust the soil?’ He said to him in reply, ‘Sir, leave it for this year also, and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it; it may bear fruit in the future. If not you can cut it down.'”
Today’s readings tell us of Moses leading God’s people away from slavery and even though they were safe and free from their former lives, everyone was complaining! We can call probably relate to this story in our own lives. Sometimes we forget what gifts we have from God and start focusing on what is wrong or what we don’t have. It’s like the lyrics from a popular band’s song, “What I want is what I’ve not got, but what I need is all around me.”
Paul reminds us that even though our ancestors had everything spiritual provided to them, they still were not on firm footing with God. If we are too sure of ourselves, we may also find ourselves in for a fall. The important reminder is to keep looking to God for guidance, even when we find ourselves with all that we appear to need.
Jesus also reminds us how important the need to repent is. There is no such thing as greater punishment for bigger sinners, all equally must repent! There is also a message of second chances in the Gospel. Even a fig tree that had not produced fruit for three years was capable of bearing fruit with the right nurturing and care.
This is how God cares for us. He is like the gardener who slows down to spend some extra time with some of the plants in the garden that may not be growing into their potential. God is with us if we let him be there for us. There is always an opportunity for forgiveness and for being thankful. We are sinners, but when we open ourselves up to God’s care and nurturing and ask for forgiveness, there is an opportunity for peace and grace.
“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38)
Right here in the middle of Lent, we hear the story of the Annunciation of the Lord. It’s an important reminder of the importance of Jesus coming to us in human form and living his life for us to provide the ultimate sacrifice.
When Mary first hears of God’s plan, her first reaction is like one that many of us might have. She, an unmarried woman, has been chosen to bear a son. How is this even possible? What on earth does this mean? What else will she be asked to do? Will she be able to do it? How will her life be changed? What will others think?
The important part of the story is that Mary says ‘yes’ to God’s request even though she likely had many unanswered questions. Take some quiet time this Lenten season to listen for God’s voice. What do you hear? It is human nature to ask a few preliminary questions when we hear God’s word, but are we willing and able to put trust in God and also say ‘Yes!’ with confidence, like Mary did? Pray for God’s peace and grace to do what He is calling you to do.
Even now, says the LORD, return to me with your whole heart; for I am gracious and merciful.
The readings today focus on forgiveness and returning to God. We first hear from the book of Deuteronomy where Azariah prays to God, “For your name’s sake, O Lord, do not deliver us up forever, or make void your covenant…Do not let us be put to shame, but deal with us in your kindness and great mercy.” Followed by Jesus telling the parable of the servant who begged for his debt to be forgiven but then did not forgive his own debtors. As we look to God for forgiveness and mercy are we showing that same mercy to others around us?
Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life; you have the words of everlasting life.
In our readings today we focus on the everlasting value of God’s laws and our obedience to follow them. In the first reading Moses speaks to the people of Israel, “Now, Israel, hear the statutes and decrees which I am teaching you to observe, that you may live, and may enter in and take possession of the land which the LORD, the God of your fathers, is giving you.” In the Gospel of Matthew Jesus states, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.” Jesus represents the new covenant with the Lord; however we must heed the wisdom of God’s words as written through the ages.
Even now, says the LORD, return to me with your whole heart, for I am gracious and merciful.
In the first reading we hear the Lord say “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.” Jeremiah is addressing the fact the Israelites are no longer listening to word of God, and instead “they have stiffened their necks and done worse than their fathers.” They have become a nation that no longer listens to the Word of God. As we hear God call us during this Lenten season are we open to what he is saying? Do we “stiffened our necks” against his Word because it isn’t convenient or do we embrace the knowledge and grace the Lord is sharing with us?
I am the Lord your God: hear my voice.
In the first reading, we hear the Lord talk about new life once Israel returns to the Lord: “I will heal their defection, says the LORD, I will love them freely; for my wrath is turned away from them. I will be like the dew for Israel.” The Lord’s love and forgiveness for Israel is unlimited and he calls for them to return. The Lord is always waiting for us to return, to ask for forgiveness and be in his presence. Jesus states the most important commandment is “Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” Do we hear the Word of God and love him with all of our heart? Are there ways we can open ourselves to hear his calling and follow him?
The one who humbles himself will be exalted. (Luke 18:14)
Everyone knows the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector. Typical in Jesus’ parables, the characters society expects us to despise are the ones we learn the most from. In this instance, we learn humility and meekness before God. The tax collector knows his sins, and he begs for forgiveness. The Pharisee, the one who is supposed to be a visible model for the people, has a proud heart before God. Going back to the first reading from Ash Wednesday, we are reminded that God wants us to rend our hearts, not our garments. An ego-centered life does not allow for God to work in us. What are your motivations for your actions?
March 31 Fourth Sunday of Lent
But now we must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found. (Luke 15:32)
Offering forgiveness and mercy is not an easy thing to do, especially when someone acts the way the younger son does in today’s reading. We are so very blessed to receive God’s mercy and forgiveness; however, we must remember that we are also called to emulate God’s mercy and forgiveness. Today seek to offer mercy and forgiveness to the “prodigal sons” in your life.
Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will not believe. (John 4:48)
The signs and wonders of God come to us in many ways. A man rising from the dead, a conversation with a friend, the kindness of a stranger, or the beauty of creation are just a few.
What signs of God’s presence do you have in your life?
When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been ill for a long time, he said to him,
“Do you want to be well?” (John 5:6)
The man Jesus encounters has the desire to be well, but needs help getting to the healing waters of the pool. Jesus does not just ignore the man’s suffering, but provides him with healing.
Today help me not to ignore those who need healing.
We are now in the last few weeks of Lent —past the halfway point, but not quite to Palm Sunday and Holy Week. I have always found that this is the time where Lent begins to feel a little harder. Our energy dips. Our Lenten practices waver. And we just cannot wait for Easter and the breaking of our chosen fasts. It is easy to feel a little despair or annoyance during this time, and to see our Lenten practices purely as commitments and not gifts or opportunities.
I invite you in these coming days to spend a little extra intentional time each day with God. This can take many different forms. A few examples include – reading the day’s scripture readings, looking up a recording of your favorite hymn from mass and listening to it, spending time with an icon or piece of art you enjoy, go for a walk in your neighborhood, or sit by the lake and watch the water. There are countless ways to spend quality time with God, and each of us will find a way that works well for us.
Try something new, and embrace the chance for God to surprise you this Lent.
It is often difficult for us to see God working in our lives. Those moments are often small and not what we are on the lookout for. We can find it easier to worship false gods and idols, just as the Israelites did in the desert in today’s reading. They choose to create and worship a golden calf, even though it was the Lord God who had saved them from slavery. Today’s society makes us prone to looking for the simple answers — the easy stories or phrases that fit into a meme or tweet. When the truth is often exponentially more complicated than that.
The Lord, through the Holy Spirit, works in mysterious and often unexpected ways. It is our job as a faith filled people to put in the work of being open and attentive to those moments when God is speaking to us or making Their presence known. These moments may be easy to dismiss as nothing, or as a coincidence.
Even if you don’t always feel that it’s there. In believing in Christ’s intimate presence, we open ourselves up the opportunity to see the Lord acting in our lives and in our hearts.
Today’s Gospel reading shares with us a small, but important reminder Jesus and his preaching were often not welcomed. He was not liked or well received by many of his contemporaries. They saw him as a radical and troublemaker, instead of someone who was speaking the Lord’s truth.
His work was dangerous; as we are reminded in today’s Gospel he was careful of his movements. He traveled in secret, and chose the places that he went based on safety. His words were unpopular and challenging to the status quo. But that did not stop him from continuing to say what he was being called to say. He lived his mission regardless of consequence.
Where do you see the prophetic voices in your life or in the world around you?
Who speaks truth to power?
Who fights for those on the margins?
Who lifts up rather than tearing down?
Today’s Gospel reading provides us with a wonderful, if frustrating, reminder that when we focus too much on the details of a situation we lose sight of God’s working in the world. In this scene the crowd questions Jesus’ validity based on his birthplace, family, and the tradition of the Scriptures. In asking all these questions they cannot hear Jesus’ message or see him authentically.
This story calls us to remember that God does not show up where we always expect to find Her. She will arrive in those people who we have cast as outsiders. In those who we have deemed as “not worthy.” As those who don’t fit into the tradition that has been handed to us…If we do not keep our hearts open, then we will miss all of the many and varied ways that God enters into the world and into our lives.
The Jesuit tradition reminds us to, “Find God in all things.” It is my prayerful challenge to you that in these last days before Easter, you seek to find God in your life in the unexpected ways and people.
The Gospel today is well known and sounds simple, but the lesson can be hard to implement in daily life. A woman who committed adultery was going to be stoned, but Jesus interrupts the Pharisees and says that the person who hasn’t sinned should cast the first stone. No one could throw the first stone thus proving Jesus’ point that we all sin. While it is difficult to visualize a public stoning today, the Gospel tells us that God’s love is endless and incredibly kind. Jesus forgives the woman no questions asked! Do we have the capacity to forgive others as Jesus did? Well, this Gospel certainly tells us that we should try. Life is already hard enough, so why not help each other through our sins instead of judging each other.
Today’s readings continue from yesterday. Jesus tells the Pharisees that they do not know where he has been or where he is going, but he knows exactly who he is and where he is going. He also tells the Pharisees that whoever follows him will not walk in darkness, but will have the light. Most striking to me is that Jesus wasn’t arrested because it wasn’t his time yet. The Pharisees had no idea what Jesus was talking about, and they wouldn’t know until the right time. They were looking for a reason to arrest Jesus, but they couldn’t find one. But we know exactly what Jesus is talking about here. If we continue to follow Jesus, he will be there for us. He will continue to show us the light and who we are supposed to be. After thinking of this, one question comes to mind: What are you doing today to be who Jesus calls you to be?
“You belong to what is below and I belong to what is above” – Jesus said this to the Pharisees and further confused them because they still have no idea who Jesus is or what he is talking about. While the Pharisees are confused by Jesus, I’m wondering today about how Jesus must have felt to know so much and to have this group of Pharisees misunderstand him. Unlike the Pharisees, we know the ending to this story and I feel that we should take a moment today to wonder how often we misunderstand what Jesus is saying in today’s Gospel. We know that he is from “above” and that sinning is from “below” but how do we remember this when we go about our daily lives?
Today Jesus is talking to the people who believe in him, and Jesus opposes their stance that they only follow Abraham because, well, the Jews are trying to kill Jesus. At the end of the Gospel, The Jews say, “We have one Father, God.” Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me…I did not come on my own, but he sent me.” What a powerful statement. God sent Jesus, and Jesus is telling others. We are called to show our faith as passionately as Jesus did on this day. Today I am wondering how can we be better at recognizing that God sent Jesus to us and show that we have faith in Him each day?
The Lord remembers his covenant forever. (Psalm 105:8)
Throughout Lent there’s a lot of talk about the covenant God made with Abraham, and consequently, the Israelites. In this covenant, God promised to make Abraham the father of a great nation and that He will take care of them for all eternity. As Abraham’s descendants, we are to hold up our half of the bargain, too. Look back on the past few weeks of Lent. How did you do with your Lenten observance? What can you improve upon?
But the Lord is with me, like a mighty champion. (Jeremiah 20:11)
Jeremiah proclaims the greatness of God’s fidelity. While many of his enemies are looking for him to stumble, God is there supporting his every move. Likewise in today’s Gospel, Jesus’ enemies are looking to trap Jesus in his words. But since God is in Jesus, Jesus is able to turn their accusations back at themselves and escape their threats. It’s a dramatic and medieval image: God defending us against our enemies, but it still applies today. Our enemies may or may not have changed, but they are still there. What or who causes you to stumble? How do you witness God defending you?
So from that day on they planned to kill him. (John 11:53)
In the Gospel today, Caiaphas has a point. It makes logical sense to sacrifice one man for the sake of the entire nation and for the entire dispersed children of God. He seems to genuinely care about the well-being of the Israelites. The problem with his thinking is that it is not our place to choose who gets to live and who must die. It is our duty to be the hands of Christ and take care of each other. Meditate on prominent life issues. Read about what the Church teaches on war, the death penalty, abortion, euthanasia, crippling poverty. Go out of your way to take care of someone.
April 14 Palm Sunday
I have set my face like flint, knowing that I shall not be put to shame. (Isaiah 50:7)
Jesus knows what is coming. He is ready for what awaits him in Jerusalem. Pray that that this week you may find the strength, courage and time to journey this final stretch with Jesus from the Palm Sunday parade, to the Last Supper, to the Cross and to the empty tomb.
In today’s Gospel, we are asked to think about our motivation toward the Lord. What/ why do you do certain things? Are you doing them for yourself, for others, or for Jesus? We see Mary being asked why she is using this expensive oil on Jesus by one of the disciples Judas. The oil could have been sold for money that could have been given to the “poor”. Jesus knew that the Judas was not worrying about the poor, he wanted that money for himself but wanted to make it seem like he cared about others. We see two different motivations in this story. Judas makes his motivation seem like it is good and for the right reason but in reality is just for himself. Where Mary, makes it seem like she does not care about the poor and is doing this to be like but that is not the case. That is why Jesus tells Judas to leave her alone. He is lifting her up and showing her that she is doing the correct things. She is now a witness of what can happen when you do things for the right reason, even if it does not seem like it is. She is doing it out of love and nothing else.
“My children, I will be with you only a little while longer. You will look for me, and as I told the Jews, ‘Where I go you cannot come,’ so now I say it to you.”
In today’s Gospel, we see Jesus telling his disciples that his time on this earth is coming to an end. Jesus knows that his time to suffer for us is coming and tells his disciples. Where he is going, they are not ready to join him yet but Peter does not understand that. He wants to follow Jesus now and will do anything to be with him, he would even lay down his life for him. Jesus knows that is not true. He knows that Peter will deny him 3 times. Peter tries to show that he will do anything for Jesus when he is around Him, but once he is alone, he does not want people to know he knows Jesus. As college students, I often see the conversation about God or Jesus to not be a very popular topic but it sadly makes scene. We live in a world where we want to be liked by people and if they think that religion is “weird” or “unnecessary” you will believe them because you want to have friends. This will be the same situation with Peter. With Jesus, he says he loves him and will do anything, around anyone else he will deny it so he doesn’t get in trouble.
Once again we get a betrayal story of Jesus. Here we see it start off by Judas going to the chief priest how much he would be paid if he were to hand Jesus over. He is told how much and then joins Jesus for the Passover dinner. As they are all eating, Jesus tells them that he knows someone is going to betray him. Everyone around is shocked and saying “Surely it is not I, Lord?”. Then Judas responds by saying “Surely it is not I, Rabbi?” and Jesus says in reply “You have said so”. He knows that he is the one but is not going to tell him that.
This whole situation of Judas betraying Jesus is because of money. He is greedy and wants it all for himself. If you recall, Mondays gospel talked about how Judas looked down upon Mary because she used expensive oil that “could have be sold to help the poor” but he really just wanted that money for himself. Since he was not able to receive that money, he wanted to get some in a different way. That way was turning Jesus over. It is always about money but for Jesus, it is always love.
April 18 Holy Thursday
We have gotten to Holy Thursday. The day where we come to mass to have out feet washed and wash others’ feet just like Jesus. Today’s gospel is all about the start of Jesus last days on Earth. He is having supper with his disciples and during it, Jesus gets up and started to wash his disciples’ feet. Him getting down onto his knees to wash their feet shows us the love that he had for his disciples. When we go to church and have our feet washed, we are showing Jesus the love that we have for him. That we thank him for dying on the cross for us, that we believe in him, and we are waiting for the day that he comes again. We are also continuing what he told his disciples to do. He had washed the disciple’s feet, so they were to wash one another’s feet. He has given them a model to follow. We are in 2019 and still doing the same thing. We are having our feet washed and washing others just as Jesus wanted.
April 19 Good Friday
Good Friday is celebrated as part of the Sacred Triduum (“Three Holy Days”), with a special liturgy used on this day. The heart of this Good Friday liturgy is the proclamation of the passion from the Gospel of John, and the veneration of the cross.
“When Jesus had taken the wine, he said ‘It is finished.’ And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit.” (John 18:1-19:42)
Jesus went through this death, on the cross, for us and that is why it is GOOD Friday – our God who created us, gave us His own Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ, to teach us how to live our lives. And then Jesus Christ died for our sins, so that we can have eternal life.
I need to thank God today and every day for all that He has given me:
My life – God created me.
My Teacher – Jesus taught me how to live my life.
My Savior – Jesus died for my sins.
Thank you, God!
April 20 Holy Saturday
Holy Saturday is celebrated as part of the Sacred Triduum (“Three Holy Days”). The Triduum starts with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday and ends on Easter Sunday. There is no Mass between Mass of the Lord’s Supper and the Easter Vigil. Holy Saturday can be a long day, in anticipation of the beautiful Easter celebration ahead….this is the long day when Jesus’ tomb was sealed, and Jesus’ mother and all of the apostles were still shocked from Jesus’ death and in mourning. Holy Saturday is a good day for private prayer – a day to reflect on all that Jesus has done for me, including death on a cross.
April 21 Easter Sunday
Why is Easter so important and special? Per the Little Black Book:
“When it comes to the importance of days that are holy, the Church puts the Triduum to the top of the list…In 1969, Pope Paul VI solemnly promulgated the General Norms for the Liturgical Year. The Triduum is described this way: “Christ redeemed humankind and gave perfect glory to God principally through His paschal mystery: By dying he destroyed our death and by rising he restored our life. The Easter Triduum of the passion and resurrection of Christ is thus the culmination of the entire liturgical year.”
Easter celebrates Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, and his promise of eternal life for all who believe in him. The Son of God was born into creation. He lived and showed me how to live. He suffered. He died. He ascended to the Father… and he is now able to return to me through the sending of his Spirit as he promised. The resurrection is not the end of the story – Jesus came to Bethlehem and he returns in the Holy Spirit. He is present to me now – within me, alongside me, all around. It is a real presence, as real as the presence of the Lord in the Eucharist.”