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Lenten Reflections 2021

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March 2: Tuesday of the Second Week of Lent
Readings: Is 1:10, 16-20, 50:8-9, 16bc-17, 21 and 23 and Mt 23:1-12

Invitation to Prayer: Lord Jesus, let me take to heart the words which You command me today (Deuteronomy 6:6).

Reflection: Biblical language is fantastic! Where else can you hear a line like “they widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels?” But hidden in a phrase that is foreign to our modern ears (yet would have been understood by the crowds and disciples to whom Jesus was speaking) there is a simple idea at play. Christians should seek holiness, not hypocrisy.

What the Lord was speaking out against was a piety rooted in being seen or a devotion that sought status and honor. We often see the Pharisees receive such accusations in the New Testament – later in this Gospel chapter, Jesus will call them “white-washed tombs.” Interestingly, Jesus does not instruct His followers to eschew the various religious prescriptions given by these leaders. What they are instructing the people of God to observe is good, but their motivation and example leaves much to be desired.

Phylacteries and tassels were designed to be reminders to the person that wore them. The former is a set of two leather boxes affixed to straps – one worn on the head and the other on the hand- that literally “binds” the Law and Scriptures to the wearer’s heart and mind . The tassels were worn on the corner of garments to signify keeping the Commandments always at the forefront of thought and action. These tools of devotion and love to our almighty God became, for the Pharisees, ornamentation to signal their holiness to others. Theirs, as Jesus was cautioning, was a spirituality that was focused solely on outward appearance, not interior reality. Nothing wrong with a wide phylactery – as long as it comes from a love for God and others. This Lent, let us consider our outward facing actions. Do they seek approval from others, or are they animated by the saving power of God and the desire to wash ourselves clean (as the first reading encourages us).

Prayer: Lord Jesus, send Your Holy Spirit to fill my heart. Animate my actions with a love for You and Yours that encompasses my whole heart, being, and strength (Deuteronomy 6:5).

Closing: Take time throughout the day to consider your actions and their fruits. Are you simply “going through the motions,” or are you living out a relationship of love?

Bradley Barnes has served as the Coordinator of Youth Ministry at Guardian Angels Parish since 2014.

March 3: Wednesday of the Second Week of Lent
Readings: Jer 18:18-20, 31:5-6, 14, 15-16, Mt 20:17-28

Invitation to Prayer: Can you drink the chalice that I am going to drink? (Mt 20:22)

Reflection: Do you liked to be challenged? Jesus challenges us and as we immerse ourselves in his teachings, the challenge seems massive at times. Often it doesn’t fit in our own lifestyle. As one Franciscan reminded me, we’re counter-cultural.

That challenge is giving your whole life to Christ in everything you do. It’s daunting. Perhaps you can review moments in your life when you had to dive into a project. Whether a college student working hours upon hours on a term paper re-arranging the household cutting the clutter, remodeling the basement: it takes complete attention. It takes study, planning, and action. Sometimes it falls short, the B on a term paper, the clutter that remained, the half finished basement. The mother of the sons of Zebedee looking out for their children request that Jesus allow their sons to sit with him, one on the right, one on the left. Jesus answers it’s not for mine to give. Lent is a time to commit to God’s will, and that journey is fraught with peaks and valley’s. As a sinner, the devil wants me to quit. Even when I’m down to the last thread of a rope, hanging on is in itself an act of love for God. St. Catharine of Siena tells us ““You know that every evil is founded in self-love, and that self-love is a cloud that takes away the light of reason, which reason holds in itself the light of faith, and one is not lost without the other.” Our journey is conversion to shed our self. Our journey is the summit of saying “yes” to turning over our life to Christ.

Prayer: Lord, help to shed old self and commit my journey to saying yes to you.

Closing: In the spring cleaning of your life, shed those things that take you away from Christ.

March 4: Thursday of the Second Week of Lent
Readings: Jer 17:5-10, 1:1-2, 3, 4 and 6, Lk 16:19-31

Invitation to Prayer: (Even if you don’t feel like it’s true, pray…) “Jesus, I trust in you. Jesus, I trust in you. Jesus, I trust in you.”

Reflection: “Do you trust me?

Jasmin said yes (In the movie, Aladdin). Me… I’m not so sure. Trust takes risk and surrendering control. In today’s first reading we are promised that those who trust in the Lord are connected to life, “Like a tree planted beside the waters that stretches out its roots to the stream: it fears not…”

Fear not. Wouldn’t that be nice?

But scripture also says, “More tortuous than all else is the human heart, who can understand it?” This sounds more like my experience – an overthinking mind, and a (sometimes) tumultuous heart. Indeed, who can understand it?! “I, the Lord, alone probe the mind and test the heart”.

The Lord, who alone understands us, plants us. The tree did not choose that location for itself; it was planted there. What the tree DID do, instinctively, was stretch out its roots to the nearest life source; the stream.

We may be more instinctive than we realize. Our hearts, our minds – we KNOW WHAT we need. So how do we recognize when we are near it? Our roots reach out…

Where has God planted you? What is your nearest life source? Can you sense your roots reaching out? Are you allowing it, and cooperating with the Spirit? Are you willing to let God replant you if you are in a lifeless place right now?

Prayer: Lord, I declare the truth you reveal to me in scripture: Blessed am I when I trust in you, Lord! Blessed am I when I hope in you, Lord! I fear not and bear fruit, even in distress!

Closing: Identify the life sources God has provided in your current life situation. Ask the Lord to show any barriers that might prevent you from full access to the life God has arranged for you. Ask him to remove those barriers, or to help you create a plan to remove them.

Abbie Kohler loves the Lord, her family, people & good coffee. She’s lived in southwest Ohio since 2017. With roots in MN, the recent record-breaking snowfall made Cincinnati feel even more like home! She works for NET USA; is involved in Encounter School of ministry; and serves on the St. Gertrude’s youth ministry core team. Know of her prayers for you!

March 5: Friday of the Second Week of Lent
Readings: Gn 37:3-4, 12-13a, 17b-28a, 105:16-17, 18-19, 20-21, Mt 21:33-43, 45-46

Invitation to prayer: From the fear of what love demands, deliver me Jesus.

Reflection: There are many foreshadowings in our first reading to the life of Jesus. He knew He would be killed by His own people and was very blatant to call the chief priests out on it. “The stone that the builders have rejected has become the corner stone.” This has been the tale as old as time, man rejecting the thing that will save us. Even back to our first parents, Adam and Eve rejected God’s Love. There is always another “stone” we think will make us happy but at the end of the day we are looking for love and when we choose anything else we are rejecting His Love. The ultimate rejection of this Love after the fall was the crucifixion of Jesus. This is what our Lord is telling the people through this parable.

Jesus leads us through Lent by example of His own desert journey. We are able to reject the stones that hold us away from God. We can do a spiritual cleanse from all things that do not bring us closer to the cornerstone. Oftentimes we dream of a life much smaller than what God has planned because we are rejecting His Love. The Lord wants to fulfill dreams as big as we can imagine and then some! Because as we know, no one could have dreamed of something as amazing as the Resurrection.

Prayer: Jesus, guide me through this desert deeper into the cornerstone of Your most Sacred Heart.

Closing: I encourage you to run to the Father through your desert this Lent with reckless abandon.

Sarah Rogers is the Associate Coordinator for Young Adult Ministry. Sarah loves her job, especially when it involves going to a local coffee shop!

March 6: Saturday of the Second Week of Lent
Readings: Mi 7:14-15, 18-20, 103:1-2, 3-4, 9-10, 11-12, Lk 15:1-3, 11-32

Presence of God: Behold, Lord Jesus, I am lost and have despoiled my inheritance through sin. Bring me back to the Father. Make me His true child again.

Reflection: “There are two ways of knowing how good and loving God is. One is by never losing Him, through the preservation of innocence, and the other is by finding Him after one has lost Him.” These words of Fulton Sheen capture the essence of the prodigal son. What always remains striking, though, is the hardness of heart of the older brother who never left his father. Though perhaps outwardly he preserved his innocence, interiorly his heart was as self-centered as his brother, and therefore far from his father. And whereas his brother was converted, he remained hard hearted and resentful that his outward innocence wasn’t rewarded the way he thought it should have been.

Let this famous parable remind you of the essential purpose of all of your Lenten observances, which is to turn your heart to God in repentance for sins, receive his forgiveness, and have his Divine Love kindled there again. To dwell in God, and to have Him dwelling in you; that is the reward of holy innocence, that is the merciful grace he bestows on the penitent sinner.

Prayer: My most loving and affectionate Father, as I contemplate Your infinite mercy, let it pour out into my soul that I may be converted to You and live through Jesus Christ, Your Son. Kindle in my heart the fire of Your love. Live in me, my God. May I live in You.

Action:  Make a time in the day to examine your conscience. If there are ways that you have sinned, or even simply missed an opportunity to love, ask the Father for mercy and forgiveness. Then love the Holy Trinity with your whole heart, or imagine Jesus in the Eucharist in a tabernacle and love Him there, and resolve to get yourself back on track in the love of God.

Marty Arlinghaus has served as Director of Prison Ministry for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati since 2019.

 


February 17 Ash Wednesday
Readings: Jl 2:12-18, Psalm 51:3-4, 5-6ab, 12-13, 14 and 17, 2 Cor 5:20—6:2, Mt 6:1-6, 16-18

Invitation to Prayer: I place myself in the presence of the God who formed me out of the dust.

Reflection: “Even now, return to me with your whole heart,” says the Lord through the prophet Joel. There is never a time in our lives when we are unable to return to Him – dum spiro, spero, the Latin saying goes: “While I breathe, I hope.”

What we do with that breath matters. As we begin this time of Lent, as we receive ashes on our heads to signal our repentance, we can use that breath to pray David’s psalm 51: “I acknowledge my offense before the Lord. We can also use our breath to speak our resolution to return to God with our whole hearts – only through grace and the forgiveness of our sins can this be done! As David prays: “A clean heart create for me, O God.”

We must participate in God’s invitation – as St. Augustine says, “The God who created you without you will not save you without you.” Let us resolve to confess our sins and to give ourselves fully, not holding anything back.

Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Closing: I resolve to return with my whole heart to the living God who created me out of love and destined me for love.

Fr. Christopher Komoroski was ordained to the priesthood on May 16, 2020 and is currently serving as Assistant Chaplain of the University of Cincinnati Newman Center and as Parochial Vicar of St. Monica St. George and Holy Name Parishes in Cincinnati.

 

February 18: Thursday after Ash Wednesday
Readings: Dt 30: 15 – 20; Psalms 1: 1 – 2, 3, 4 and 6; and Luke 9: 22 – 25

Invitation to Prayer: “Purify my heart, let me be as gold or precious silver.”

Reflection: “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself?” (Luke 9: 24 – 25)

As we journey into the desert of Lent, we are called to take pause and inventory our lives. We must consider our priorities and our adherence to right order, so that we can purge ourselves of the earthly things that prevent us from full communion with our Lord. In today’s readings we see a common theme of choice and intentionality. We have been given the privilege of freewill in our lives- the ability to chose what is finite or what is infinite. We can choose abundant life that comes with following God and obeying His commands, or we can cling to earthly pleasures that lead to death. The formula seems simple, yet so often we stray from the narrow path of righteousness only to be lost in the busy world around us.

As I reflect on these readings, the final line of Luke’s Gospel truly strikes a chord in my heart. “What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself?” This poignant question, posed by Luke, is magnified in relevance by the self-focused society that surrounds us. We are bombarded with messages that tell us that worldly successfulness is the standard measure of a person’s worth, and that success always justifies the means by which it is attained. It is easy to get swept away in the undercurrent of accomplishment and gradually lose sight of ourselves. We sacrifice pieces of who we were created to be to fit into the narrow mold of successfulness; however, Jesus provides us with a different path. In a complete juxtaposition to the human endeavor for success, Jesus teaches us of a new sacrifice- one of eternal life.
When we choose to give our lives over to God, we allow him to further advance his creation. We become more of who we were created to be at our conception, and the power of God is magnified through us. We may not achieve worldly power, wealth or honor, but we become united with God through eternal life. This giving-over of self is a process by which we must gradually let go of what is still tying us to this world. May this Lenten Season be a time of spiritual evaluation and surrender.

Prayer: Lord, as we enter the desert of Lent, help us to embrace a spirit of surrender. Help us to break away from that which ties us to this world, so that we can fully become the saints you created us to be. Give us the strength to order our lives with You at the center, and to set aside our desires for worldly power or wealth. Bless us with eternal life and unite us with Christ your Son. Amen.

Closing: This Lenten season, may we take time to reflect on our intentions and priorities. Are we seeking earthly success or focusing on our own achievements? What habits, possessions, or influences are keeping me from fully surrendering my life to God? How can I release myself from these bonds?

Noelle is currently serving as the Associate Director, Persons with Disabilities for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. She is a graduate from the University of Dayton with a BA in Religious Studies and a minor in both Women’s Studies and Social Work. After spending eight years as a stay-at-home mom to her four children, Noelle is excited to be re-entering the ministry world. She is currently working towards certification in Special Needs Ministry, and hopes to also obtain her Master’s Certificate in Bioethics in the next five years. “I firmly believe that God has placed me exactly where I belong, and I am overjoyed to be a proclaimer of the Gospel of Life in this Archdiocese.”

February 19: Friday after Ash Wednesday
Readings: Is 58:1-9a, 51:3-4, 5-6ab, 18-19, Mt 9:14-15

Invitation to Prayer: “A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.” (Psalm 51:19)

Reflection: Most of us enter the penitential season of Lent fully aware of our sinfulness. The responsorial psalm for today’s Mass reminds us of this: “For I acknowledge my offense, and my sin is before me always; Against you only have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight.” (Psalm 51:5-6). Because of this acute awareness of our failures before God and our brothers and sisters, we feel that we must “make amends”. Since sackcloth and ashes have gone out of vogue, we show our sorrow to God by “giving up” sweets, coffee, Facebook, TV or any of a thousand other “guilty pleasures” which we think we can do without for 40 days.

But is this really what God wants of us during this time of penance leading up to Easter? The answer just might lie in today’s first reading from Isaiah. God tells Isaiah that what He really wants of us is to care for the burdened and oppressed, share our bread with the hungry, shelter the homeless and clothe the naked. In short, to LOVE OUR NEIGHBOR. God acknowledges the sacrifices we make when we fast and afflict ourselves, but if they are done without accompanying LOVE, they are meaningless.

Now, this isn’t to say that fasting and making sacrifices aren’t good things to do. (I wouldn’t let you off THAT easily!) These offerings to God are tangible demonstrations of our sorrow for our failure to love as God demands. But these sacrifices alone are simply hollow gestures if they don’t lead us to reconciling with God and neighbor. Our Lenten sacrifices must be directed towards wholeness. That wholeness is achieved when we earnestly seek to return to the fullness of love of God and our neighbor. It is then that we will experience the fullness of Easter joy.

Prayer: Almighty God, too often I have failed to live as You have instructed me. My love for my family, friends, and neighbors is so imperfect. I have been selfish. During this season of Lent, I pray that you will make me whole again. Show me the way to love others as You love them. Then, when I love as You do, my sacrifices will be pleasing in Your sight.

Closing: In addition to your Lenten sacrifice today, pray about one way that you can reach out in love to another – a family member, a friend, a neighbor or someone you might not even know. Ask God to guide you in one extraordinary act of love today.

Deacon Mark Machuga is the Director of the Office of the Diaconate for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. He also serves as a deacon at Our Lady of Victory Parish in Delhi Township. He was ordained in April, 2016. He has been married to his wife Julie for 41 years, and is the father of two and grandfather of four.

February 20, Saturday after Ash Wednesday
Readings: Isaiah 58: 9b-14 // Psalm 86: 1-6 // Luke 5: 27-32

Invitation to Prayer: Lord Jesus, give me the strength to follow you when you call.

Reflection: “And leaving everything behind, he got up and followed him.” Levi’s immediate response to Jesus reminds me how much more I had to grow in my discipleship. When Jesus calls me, I want assurances, I ask questions, I give excuses. How great was Levi’s faith that he got up immediately and left everything to follow Jesus? He chose uncertainty over the familiar. He didn’t have all the answers, and yet he went anyway.

Whether or not Levi knew Jesus before this encounter and call, he had the courage to say yes and to move. Perhaps Levi knew in the depths of his heart that wherever Jesus is, is the better place to be, even if he didn’t have all the answers. We should pray and ask for Levi’s intercession that our trust and faith in Jesus be strengthened, that we might not waiver when he asks something of us.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you for calling me by name to follow after you. Through Levi’s intercession, increase my faith, decrease my doubt, and give me the strength to follow you with all my heart wherever you lead.

Closing: Is there something that Jesus has asked of you that you’ve been putting off? Find time today to do it (or make a stride in it).

Christen Aquino presently serves as the Managing Director for Parish Evangelization in the Center for the New Evangelization.

February 21: First Sunday of Lent
Readings: Gn 9:8-1, Ps 25:4-5, 6-7, 8-9, 1 Pt 3:18-22, Mk 1:12-15

Invitation to Prayer: Lord Jesus, as I begin this Lenten journey strengthen me against temptation.

Reflection: Today the Spirit leads Jesus into the desert to be tempted by Satan for 40 days. Jesus resists all of the temptations of Satan, and thus reminding us that he takes on all aspects of human nature except for sin. When he returns he proclaims “Repent and believe in the Gospel.”

We have a Savior that knows what we go through in our own temptations due to his time in the desert. As we begin this Lenten journey we need Jesus to strengthen our weaknesses, our resolve, and our virtue so that we may live up to our baptismal promises.

Lent is the time to confront our weaknesses, sinfulness, and failings. The more we seek Jesus in prayer, he strengthens us so we may persevere against temptation and seek greater lives of holiness freer from sin.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you for taking on our human nature so that we may know we can turn to you in times of temptation, and through your cross and resurrection be given your grace to grow in holiness.

Closing: Where do I need to seek Jesus more in my life to be freer from sin and grow in holiness?

Father Brian Phelps is the Pastor of St. Francis of Assisi parish in Centerville.

 

February 22: Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter, Apostle
Readings: 1 Pt 5:1-4, 23:1-3a, 4, 5, 6, Mt 16:13-19

Invitation to prayer: Lord, open our hearts to hear your call and be led in your way.

Reflection: Each of the readings today touch on the idea of leadership. In the well-known 23rd Psalm, the psalmist praises God for leading, for protecting, for nurturing, and for saving. In the gospel, Peter is tapped by Jesus to be the leader of the Church, empowering Peter to guide the faithful. And in the first reading, Peter has taken this charge from Jesus and is now encouraging other leaders in the early Church to eagerly and willingly lead by example, reminding them that they will receive their reward in heaven.

Some among us are born leaders – they love to be in charge, they thrive in the spotlight. Others among us are more at peace following, supporting, and doing work behind the scenes. The truth is, we’re all called to lead sometimes and at other times to follow. I often find myself in the former category, and it’s therefore sometimes hard to step back and let someone else take the reins. My wife, on the other hand, is much happier supporting those in charge, and she actively resists being in leadership positions. Both of us, however, have worked on listening to God and trusting when God needs us to be in a position to which we’re not normally accustomed.

I wonder if during this Lenten season, we might take some extra time to sit with God, listening patiently and with open hearts, and – through God’s grace – accepting the call we receive from God. In these unprecedented and divided times, it will surely take all of us working together (and sometimes in unexpected ways!) to come through this difficult phase of our journey.

Prayer: God, help us to trust you always, knowing that you will always lead us with mercy and love.

Closing: Where has God been leading you, and why might you be resisting?

Andrew Musgrave serves as the Director of the Catholic Social Action Office. He is married to Ana, and they have two wonderful daughters. He moved to Cincinnati two years ago after working in ministry for 15 years in Milwaukee, WI.

February 23, Tuesday of the First Week of Lent
Readings: Isaiah 55: 10-11 // Psalm 34: 4-7, 16-19 // Matthew 6: 7-15

Invitation to Prayer: Lord Jesus, you already know all that I need today. Help me to trust you more.

Reflection: “Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” Praise God! How often do you find yourself wondering what to pray for or to ask for? This line gives me a strong reassurance that while it’s good to bring everything before the Lord as prayer, it’s equally okay to say, ‘God, I don’t even know what I need, but I do know that I just need you.’

The beauty of the Our Father is that when we are at a loss for words, Jesus has already supplied the perfect prayer for us. This prayer puts everything into perspective, reminding us who God is, who we are, and our deep reliance on God to provide for our physical and spiritual well-being.

How often do we rush through this prayer without really thinking anything about it? Take some time today to slowly and intentionally pray through the Our Father. What line stands out to you? Is God perhaps letting you know what you need before you’ve even asked him? Spend time praying with that line and conversing with the Father.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you for showing me that God is a loving Father who desires to draw near to me in prayer.

Closing: Take some time today to slowly and intentionally pray through the Our Father. What line stands out to you? Is God perhaps letting you know what you need before you’ve even asked him? Spend time praying with that line and conversing with the Father.

Christen Aquino presently serves as the Managing Director for Parish Evangelization in the Center for the New Evangelization.

 

February 24, Wednesday of the First Week of Lent
Readings: Jon 3:1-10, 51:3-4, 12-13, 18-19, Lk 11:29-32

Invitation to Prayer: Jesus, help us to turn to you in our needs and away from our sins.

Reflection: In our first reading today, we see the prophet Jonah calling for the people of Nineveh to repent of their sins and turn back to God. Jonah did not believe they would change their evil ways. In fact, he refused to preach to them the first time God asked, only changing his mind after being swallowed by the fish and it spit him out on the shore outside their city. Jonah truly did not believe the people of Nineveh would be open to saying yes to God’s mercy, nor did he think they deserved it. Jonah was wrong. The entire city repented and turned back to God, embracing His mercy, and they were saved.

This beautiful story asks us to reflect on those people in our own lives who we have given up on. We have to ask ourselves, is there anyone in my life who I have refused to share the Gospel with? Is there anyone I have written off, or been too afraid to confront? God calls us to offer His mercy to everyone in a charitable way. Who in my life do I need to call back to God, out of a life of sin and into His love? Maybe we have too much anger towards them like Jonah, or are afraid of how they will react to us. Each of us have the difficult task of coming before God and asking Him honestly: is there anyone in my life you want me to reach out to, who I have avoided or ignored? If so, ask God today to soften your heart, or give you the courage to call those individuals into his great love.

God is so quick to forgive and so gentle with us in His mercy. Let us ask the Holy Spirit to give us the wisdom to do the same.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, help us to be agents of your love and mercy in the lives of all we meet, especially to those closest to us.

Closing: Ask God to show you if there is anyone he is calling you to reach out to in order to bring them back into a deeper relationship with Him? Take some time to offer that person to him in prayer today.

Matthew Cantrell is the Eastern Regional Engagement Officer of NET Ministries. NET Ministries challenges young Catholics to love Christ and embrace the life of the Church. Every August, 175 young Catholics aged 18-28 leave behind their jobs, school, family, and friends to devote nine months to serving with the National Evangelization Teams (NET).

February 25, Thursday of the First Week of Lent
Readings: Est C:12, 14-16, 23-25; Ps 138: 1-2ab, 2cde-3, 7c-8, Mt 7:7-12

Invitation to Prayer: Lord, put your words in my mouth that I might withstand the attack of my enemies.

Reflection: How many times do we make decisions without to ask God in prayer to be present. Why then are we surprised that those decisions were wrong. This season is an opportunity for all of us to humble ourselves, and, to surrender our human desires before God, asking for his help, like Esther did.

In the Gospel, Jesus teaches us how we can ask our Father with hope and confidence for the things we need and that are good for us. We can say that we have been presenting a large list of petitions to our Father, but nothing has happened. Do we pray seeking guidance and wisdom to discern about the things that matter before submitting our requests to our heavenly Father?

He always has an answer for each of us.

Prayer: Oh Lord, our Father! You always hear my supplications, and, you answer me. Give me, oh Father, the confidence to trust in you always – because your kindness and love endures forever!

Closing: Think about the last sentence mentioned in today’s Gospel: “Do unto others what you would have them do unto you”. It is an invitation to follow Jesus throughout this Lenten season.

Dina Beach is the head of the Hispanic Leadership Formation team.

 

February 26: Friday of the First Week of Lent
Readings: Ez 18:21-28; Ps 130:1-2, 3-4, 5-7a, 7bc-8; Mt 5:20-26

Invitation to Prayer: Jesus, enter my heart. Make your abode there. Love it, guard it, and preserve it. Make it yours.

Reflection: Lent is a time when we are perhaps more conscious than ever of our actions: we fast, abstain from meat, give up certain pleasures, pray, give alms, go to Mass and Confession, etc. This is certainly well and good. Right conduct is expected of every Christian. The first reading, in fact, emphasizes the importance of doing good, avoiding evil, and pursuing righteousness – which in the Old Testament means behaving in accordance with God’s covenant demands.

But, in the Gospel reading for today, Jesus takes us a little deeper, into the interior life of man. Our passage begins with what Bible scholars call “The Six Antitheses.” Each one follows a similar pattern: “You have heard that it was said . . . but I say to you . . .”. Today’s reading only gives us the first antithesis, concerning anger, but Jesus will go on to address adultery, divorce, oaths, retaliation, and loving your enemies as well.

“You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, ‘You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment.” (vs. 21-22) Why the point and counterpoint? What is Jesus doing here? Beyond showing Himself to be the supreme Lawgiver, I think that, by reinterpreting the Law in this way, Jesus is revealing to us that, while our outward actions are important and have consequences, it is the heart that He’s really after.

It is a great affirmation that Jesus would be mindful of our hearts. After all, we are not simply creatures that act and react. We have a deep interior life, too. We think, feel, and imagine; we discern, meditate, and pray – all within, in the heart. This is an expansive aspect of human existence, and since Jesus wants every bit of us, He wants that, too.

Not only does He want it, but He loves it and desires to fill it with His grace and goodness. Jesus cares about your interior life. He wants you to think, feel, imagine, and pray well. Since, as with every human being, all of your actions spring forth from the heart, an interior life well-lived will lead not only to your own flourishing, but also to a life handed over to love of God and neighbor, and a blessed life with Jesus, forever.

That’s what Jesus wants for us more than anything.

Prayer: Jesus, you are the great discerner of hearts. You love me more than I love myself. Thank you for loving and tenderly pursuing all of me. Strengthen and inspire me to devote not only my outward actions but also my interior life entirely to you.

Closing: Think of one person in your life that you are angry with. Why are you angry? What can you do to be reconciled with your brother? Ask Jesus to help you.

Nicholas Hardesty is the associate director of Adult Evangelization and RCIA for the Center for the New Evangelization, an archdiocesan initiative that empowers parishes and schools to equip the laity for missionary discipleship. [email protected].

February 27: Saturday of the First Week of Lent
Readings: Dt 26:16-19; P 119:1-2, 4-5, 7-8; Mt 5:43-48

Invitation to Prayer: Jesus, help me to seek you with all my heart.

Reflection: Has there been a more difficult time to love our enemies?

The national conversation is rife with conflict. Distrust of our institutions, government leaders, and each other is at an all-time low. At best, life feels uncertain; at worst, we feel consumed by anger and fear. And if I’m being honest, most days it feels pointless to bring these concerns to prayer.

Jesus knew that loving our enemies and praying for those who persecute us would be difficult – and yet He calls us to love perfectly. But how? I don’t always know what it looks like to love my enemies perfectly, but I do know that God doesn’t want me to “be perfect” on my own. He wants me to seek Him when I am crippled by my sin and weakness.

Today, it is enough to know God is waiting for me to ask for help to love as He loves. That alone gives me courage to strive for that perfection.

Closing: Who do you find difficult to love or pray for? Tell God how you really feel (He desires that). Once you’ve told Him everything, ask for the grace to pray for that person.

Emily Conklin is a digital content strategist by day and young adult ministry leader by evenings and weekends. She enjoys sharing the true and good news of God’s love through beautiful marketing and media.

 

February 28: The Second Sunday of Lent
Readings: Gn 22:1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18, 116:10, 15, 16-17, 18-19, Rom 8:31b-34, Mk 9:2-10

Invitation to Prayer: Lord, open my eyes to see You and my ears to hear Your voice.

Reflection: You just gotta love St. Peter. In today’s Gospel, he is with Jesus, as well as James and John. They journey together up a mountain, and then, all of a sudden, Jesus is transfigured before them. And, if that wasn’t enough of a surprise, Moses and Elijah then appear out of nowhere and begin having a conversation with Jesus. We are told that Peter, James, and John are terrified, so much so that Peter doesn’t know what to say. Yet . . . he speaks anyway, which seems very much like a St. Peter thing to do.

The next voice we hear is that of the Father, Who says of Jesus, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to Him.” It’s as if God the Father is telling St. Peter, “If you don’t know what to say – don’t say anything. Just listen!” Listen to Jesus. Allow Him to speak to you.

This seems to be something we all need to be told from time to time. So often in our modern society, filled with so much noise, we can become afraid, even terrified, of silence. This includes, of course, in our prayer. So, we might set aside time to pray, and then, fill up the entire time with our own voice. Even when we don’t know what to say in prayer, we keep talking anyway, just like St. Peter. During this season of Lent, then, let us allow ourselves to remain in silence. In doing so, we are giving Jesus an opportunity to truly speak to us, as we strive evermore to listen to Him.

Prayer: Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.

Closing: Take time to slowly read through today’s Gospel and listen silently for the Lord to speak to you.

Father Tim Ralston is pastor at St, Bernadette Parish in Amelia.

March 1: Monday of the Second Week of Lent
Readings: Dn 9:4b-10, 79:8, 9, 11 and 13, Lk 6:36-38

Invitation to Prayer: “Lord, do not deal with us according to our sins.” (Psalm 103:10a)

Reflection: Taking today’s first reading and Psalm, we could be tempted to be brought low as we reflect, as the Israelites did, on their own sinfulness and the ways we have fallen short in our words, thoughts, and actions. And certainly, Lent has a penitential spirit that calls us to this examination. Yet, today’s readings as a whole can and should be cause for joy as the Scriptures remind us of God’s mercy and desire to show us compassion and forgiveness if we will only turn to him.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, send your Holy Spirit to show me my shortcomings and sin, but also to give me hope in your mercy and forgiveness. Grant that the Holy Spirit might move me to contrition and confession of my sins with the help of your grace. Amen.

Closing: How do you feel about Confession? Does the thought of it weigh you down or does it give you comfort? Might it do both? When will you seek out Confession next?

Matt Reinkemeyer is the Director of Development Operations for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati Stewardship Office. His passion is for sharing vision and mission rooted in the Gospel with others and inviting them to be a part of it.

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