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Lenten Reflections 2021

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April 4: Easter Sunday
Readings: Acts 10:34a, 37-43; Psalm 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23; Col 3:1-4 or 1 Cor 5:6-8b; John 20:1-9

Invitation to Prayer: O Risen Lord, as you run out to meet me, grant me the grace to eagerly seek your face that I may discover true life!

Reflection: Fra Angelico lived in Florence and painted a variety of religious scenes, often imitating the work of Giotto, but Fra Angelico would always add something theological to his paintings. If one compares the two artists’ depiction of the Risen Christ’s Appearance to Mary Magdalene on Easter morning, one notices a small but significant difference. In Fra Angelico’s painting, the Risen Lord is carrying a gardener’s hoe. He does not carry a grave digger’s shovel, as if he works among the dead; rather he carries a gardener’s hoe, as one who tends to the growth and care of the living.

Why a gardener’s hoe? The story of humanity began in the Garden which God had fashioned when he said, “Let us make man in our own image.” Of course, Adam and Eve disobeyed God and sinned, hiding themselves in shame from the Divine Gardener; suffering and death entered our world. Immediately, God began devising a plan to save us from our sins. Finally, God entered history to save His people, sending us His own Son.

Through the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus, humanity was re-fashioned in God’s image. Now, as on that first Easter morning, Jesus, the Divine Gardener, walks through His Garden, just as God had done in Genesis. He does not find us hiding in shame; rather, He discovers that we, like Mary Magdalene, are rushing out to greet him in this glow of Easter joy. We go to meet the Heavenly Gardener, as He comes to tend to the Garden of His Church and world in which He has created each of us to live.

The Heavenly Gardener desires to walk through the garden of our souls and to till its soil, no matter how hardened that soil might have become. Will I allow Him to do his work? The grace of the Resurrection can transform us and our world, marked by suffering and death. Where once there was death, with God, there is the hope for life in abundance here and in eternity, for He is Risen!

Prayer: Lord, soften the soil that is my heart and water it with the graces of Easter, that it may blossom like the lily so that I, with boldness, may proclaim to the whole world: He is Risen!

Closing: I will eagerly share with others the Good News that He is Risen! Resurrexit sicut dixit. Alleluia.

Father Earl Fernandes is Pastor of St. Ignatius of Loyola Church, Cincinnati


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.

 

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 me to shed my 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.

 

March 7: Third Sunday of Lent
Readings: Ex 20:1-17, 19:8, 9, 10, 11, 1 Cor 1:22-25, Jn 2:13-25

Invitation to Prayer: “Remember to keep holy the sabbath day. Six days you may labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD, your God.

Reflection: When I was young, Sunday was a day where there weren’t many businesses open. There were a scattering of restaurants, gas stations, and convenient stores but not much else. For those that remember the department and grocery stores were even closed on Sunday. OF course the Cincinnati Reds and Cincinnati Bengals played on Sunday which as a young boy I looked forward to!

Sunday was a day with family, and I can remember wearing my “Sunday” clothes to church and then making my Mom have a bad day as I went out and played with my cousins. Grass stains became a standard of laundry day. In the early afternoon, we had Sunday dinner with the family. It was the common thread of life.

In the past few decades, Sunday has become a day of chores: whether heading to the grocery store, hardware store, or heading to soccer or ball games with the kids. When I was in Israel several years ago, the sabbath was foremost. On Friday, you could feel the rush to complete all the task needed before sundown. When the sabbath began, most of the businesses in the nation are closed. Even the airport!

Sunday can be viewed as the last day of the week, or the first day of the next week. In today’s first reading, God gives us his commandments. The first commandment is “You shall not have other gods besides me.”, So Sunday is a great day to reflect on God’s love and mercy: What were the times in the previous six days I didn’t put the Lord first and foremost. How can I improve that in the sic days ahead.

My human failings often immerse me in many tasks. I rarely stop to think why I  make certain tasks so important. I find if I take some time after Mass, even for just 15 minutes and reflect on placing God first, I can change the trajectory of my plans to center on God. It’s not easy. Even during Mass my mind wanders of the task ahead on Sunday, instead of focusing on God. I fail at carrying out his mission he’s charged to me, and when I carry out just my mission I wind up drifting out to a sea of selfishness. Sunday is a day I can reset that mission.

Prayer: My Lord Jesus Christ, help me to place God first and foremost in my life.

Action: Take 15 minutes on this Sunday and reflect of the mission God has given you.

March 8: Monday of the Third Week of Lent
Readings: 2 Kings 5:1 – 15ab; Psalms 42: 2, 3; 43: 3, 4; Luke 4: 24 – 30

Invitation to Prayer: “Open my eyes, Lord. Help me to see.”

Reflection: “Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place.” (Luke 4: 24)

Today’s readings proclaim a commonly acknowledged biblical notion- “that no prophet is accepted in his own native place.” The Old and New Testaments are filled with stories that demonstrate our faulty human nature in the refusal of a nation of people to see the work of God in their midst. These prophets and disciples of ancient times are limited in the lives that they can touch and the miracles that God can perform through them because of the impeding doubt of their peers. In Matthew’s parallel account of the Rejection at Nazareth, he concludes the chapter with the statement, “And he did not work many mighty deeds there because of their lack of faith.” Even Jesus was rejected by his native countrymen, and their unbelief rendered them incapable of receiving the grace of God through miracles and healing.

The human condition contributes to our very limited perspective of others. Our lived experience and preconceived notions create a sense of tunnel vision much like blinders on a horse. We can see only a very narrow sliver of one another, yet we assume that this familiar sliver defines a person’s identity. As humans, we cannot fathom that the imperfect girl who grew up next door could ever be a great saint or that a young man with autism could be an instrument in the conversion of many. We see only the surface of the great depth of our potential and the potential of others as children of God.

This Lent, as we strive to grow closer to Jesus through sacrifice, let us also work to better recognize the face of Christ in one another- to take off the blinders of humanity and recognize the holiness within those around us. God has formed each of us in His image and likeness, and we are called to look beyond the ordinariness of our humanity to become true instruments of God’s grace here on earth.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, open our eyes to see your face in those around us. Help us to look beyond the flaws of humanity to see the work of your hand in one another and reveal to us your presence that dwells within the heart of your creation. We are your people, created in your image and likeness, O Lord. Enliven us as disciples and fill us with your Spirit, so that we can establish your kingdom in the here and now. Amen.

Closing: How has my humanity prevented me from seeing the face of God in others? Have I neglected to recognize holiness within someone in my life? How can I take off the blinders of humanity to better honor God’s creation?

Noelle is the Associate Director for the new Office for Persons with Disabilities. She is passionate about creating a culture of inclusion and meaningful participation for persons with disabilities and their families here in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati and looks forward to growing this new office into a thriving resource for parishes and the community at large.

 

March 9: Tuesday of the Third Week of Lent
Readings: Dn 3:25, 34-43, 25:4-5ab, 6 and 7bc, 8-9, Mt 18:21-35

Invitation to Prayer: “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? Jesus answered, “Seventy-seven times.”” (Matthew 18:21-22)

Reflection: Forgiveness. It’s one of those things that, if we’re really honest with ourselves, is kind of hard to do. When someone has really hurt us, or when someone has REALLY wronged us, our first reaction might be more along the lines of anger, retaliation or excommunication from our life, rather than forgiveness.

But we hear in today’s Gospel at Mass that Jesus doesn’t just command us to forgive, but to forgive endlessly! Picture St. Peter talking to Jesus: “So, Lord, I think I’d be doing GREAT if a brother sins against me and I forgive him. In fact, I’m so good that I would even forgive him SEVEN times!” But Jesus puts him into his place: “You’re not even close, dear Peter. Not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” Can you imagine St. Peter’s face?

And yet, in this Gospel passage, the message of “endless forgiveness” wasn’t just directed to St. Peter, but to all of us as well. That’s a tough reality to accept. It’s hard for us frail humans to forgive. But look at the example God gives to us. When we head off to the sacrament of Confession, we fully expect that God is going to forgive our sins. Over and over and over again! Yet, when it comes to us forgiving each other, we find it so difficult to do.

During this Lenten journey, perhaps we can add one more act of charity to the three traditional “pillars” of Lent – prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Let’s try to practice forgiveness as the Lord instructs us to do. The spiritual rewards at Easter will be abundant!

Prayer: Heavenly Father, so often I come to You and ask forgiveness for the times I have sinned. And in Your immense mercy, you welcome me back. Yet I find it so hard to offer the same forgiveness to my brothers and sisters. Give me a heart of love and forgiveness, that I may experience the joy of reconciliation with all those whom I love.

Closing: Who do I need to forgive this Lent? In prayer, ask the Father to soften your heart and allow you to offer the gift of forgiveness to that one person from whom you’ve withheld it for so long.

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.

March 10: Wednesday of the Third Week of Lent
Readings: Dt 4:1, 5-9, 147:12-13, 15-16, 19-20, Mt 5:17-19

Invitation to prayer: Strengthen our hearts, minds, and bodies, Lord, to follow your commandments.

Reflection: Today’s readings are all about remembering and following the rules. Moses reminds the chosen people to follow the rules God gave whenever they get into the Promised Land to show that they are a people special to God. The Psalmist is grateful for the commands God gave, for they have helped Israel to be a great nation. And Jesus – a Jewish rabbi – clarifies that He is not here to replace the law or the prophets but to complete them.

Sometimes we find rules to be very helpful: they give us guidance, teach us, protect us, and give us cover when someone wants us to do something that doesn’t feel right. At other times, rules can be challenging: they limit us, prevent us from taking the easy route, frustrate us, and stop us from doing what we might want to do. I imagine we can all think of times that rules were a blessing (e.g. I can drive my family to church and trust that the other drivers will follow the traffic laws) and when they were not (e.g. Do I really have to fill out ALL of these forms to access this benefit? Can’t they just trust me that I deserve this?), but I think we’d all ultimately agree that having rules are good (and necessary!). So the challenge is overcome our selfishness, our busy-ness, maybe even our arrogance and know the most rules are in place for the greater common good.|

This, of course, isn’t to say that some rules are unjust and need to be changed: one needs only look at our history of racial injustice to see that sometimes rules are profoundly harmful and disrespectful to human dignity. But in most cases, we can trust that people were following God and seeking the best when they drafted the rules.

As we continue in our Lenten journey, perhaps we can take some time to thank God for the wisdom God gave to people to create rules and laws that help us have a safe society and consider what keeps us from following rules, especially the most important one: to love the Lord with all of our heart, mind, and soul, and to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Prayer: God, we ask that you free our hearts and minds to follow the laws of love that you have given us and trust in your wisdom.

Closing: We thank you God for all you have given us and all the ways you teach us to do what is right and loving and just.

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.

 

March 11: Thursday of the Third Week of Lent
Readings: Jer 7:23-28, 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9, Lk 11:14-23

Invitation to Prayer: Oh Lord, help me to return to you with my whole heart.

Reflection: “Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste and house will fall against house.”

In today’s Gospel Jesus’s good work, driving out a demon, is questioned by the crowd. Jesus, the decisive one in this passage, assures them that Satan has been driven out by One that is mightier than he. Jesus also issues a warning, that any house that is divided will not stand, his followers cannot remain neutral to His love. They must decide if they are fully with God or not. It is a decision that modern day Christians are still called to reflect on.

Our own hearts are the dwelling place of God. Through sin these houses can be divided, not fully focused on the Eternal. If this happens we have chosen our own downfall, away from our loving Father. During this season of Lent we are called to heed the warning of Christ in this Gospel passage. We must decisively choose Him. In searching our hearts, we should be sure that enticing worldly things are not distracting us, making us share affections with something other than our Lord. We are being called to come out of this Lent with a heart undivided in its love for God.

Prayer: Jesus, may I continue to walk in your love and follow your commands.

Closing: What things are keeping my heart from trusting or loving the Lord completely?

Matt Hess is the Director of Ministry at the Maria Stein Shrine of the Holy Relics in Maria Stein, Ohio.

March 12: Friday of the Third Week of Lent
Readings: Hos 14:2-10, 81:6c-8a, 8bc-9, 10-11ab, 14 and 17, Mk 12:28-34

Invitation to Prayer: Jesus, help us to love you with our whole heart, mind, soul, and strength; and to love our neighbor as ourselves.

Reflection: Jesus had a great deal of criticism and challenges from the intellectuals and spiritual leaders of his time. He often had people trying to trap him in his speech in an attempt to have him contradict himself. At first glance, it might seem like the individual in the Gospel today asks Jesus his question as a trap. Even if that was the young man’s starting intent, he asked Jesus a simple and honest question, “Which is the first of all the commandments?” It is a humble question, the young man earnestly wants to serve God and follow his commandments.

Jesus answers, “The first is this: 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. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.” The young man gives a humble acknowledgment to Jesus’ answer and praises his wisdom. It is clear that the young man walked away with his opinion of Jesus transformed, because this time he refers to Jesus as “Teacher”. Jesus himself sees that the young scribe has understanding and tells him that he is not far from the kingdom of God.

In our day and age, we have lost the humility needed to have peaceful exchanges with others that can lead us to changes for the better. This year, more than ever, we have seen our society polarized in deeply negative ways. Rather than having productive discussions that search to know the truth, we see people condemning and attacking others without charitable dialogue. To be clear, there is a truth that both sides need to seek and conform too, but it is just as important to help lead others into the truth of God with the very love Jesus speaks of in these two commandments.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, help us to be agents of your love and truth in the lives of all we meet, especially to those who disagree with us.

Closing: Let us pray that the Lord guides us to the truth in every aspect of our lives, and ask him to give us the humility to deliver that truth to our adversaries with love.

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).

 

March 13- Saturday of the Third Week of Lent
Readings: Hos 6:1-6; Ps 51:3-4, 18-19, 20-21ab; Lk 18:9-14

Invitation to Prayer: Let us strive to know the Lord.

Reflection: When I’m in the desert of Lent, God can feel elusive; His workings are a mystery to me.

He desires to refine me by the fires of repentance, and it’s painful. I’m always surprised by the pain, even though I’ve found myself in the wilderness many times. And today’s gospel confronts me with the painful truth: “Jesus addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else.”

Today’s gospel is for me. It’s for my hardened heart and rebellious spirit. It’s here that Jesus invites me to look to Him, and something interesting happens: I’m too ashamed to raise the eyes of my heart to heaven; I fumble for the tax collector’s words, “O God, be merciful to me a sinner.”

This is the reason God allows me to wander into the desert – not to punish me for my sins, but to awaken me to His desire for mercy. And to know His mercy, my heart must be disposed to receive it.

Closing: What word, phrase, or image jumped out as you read today’s readings? Meditate on it and tell God your desire to know Him. Allow for silence to better hear His voice.

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.

March 14: Second Scrutiny for the Fourth Sunday of Lent
Readings: 1 Sm 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a; Ps 23: 1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6; Eph 5:8-14; Jn 9:1-41

Invitation to Prayer: Jesus, you are the Light of the World. You bring light and life beyond my imagining. I ask you humbly: anoint me, wash me, shine your light into my life. Make me one who is sent, to proclaim the mighty works you have done for me.

Reflection: You may have noticed that the readings listed above are for the “second scrutiny” for the fourth Sunday of Lent. The scrutinies are rites celebrated during the RCIA process that provide final moments of grace, repentance, and conversion for the catechumens before they receive the Sacraments of Initiation at the Easter Vigil.

In today’s scrutiny, the catechumens encounter a Jesus who anoints, washes, and shines light into the darkness. All the readings for today are connected by these themes. In the first reading, Samuel anoints David’s head with oil, marking him as the next King of Israel. In the Psalm, the Lord is a shepherd who leads to restful waters, guides through dark valleys, and anoints with oil. In the second reading, the baptized are “light in the Lord” and “children of light,” opposed to the works of darkness. And in the Gospel, God, for the first time in the Bible, gives sight to a man born blind, through an “anointing” with clay (vs. 11) and a washing with water.

Whenever a theme or set of themes emerge so prominently, it’s because the Church is urging us to reflect on them and apply them to our own lives. And so I ask you:

• In what ways has God anointed you? What gifts have you received from Him? What role has He chosen you to fulfill, for the sake of His people?
• In the Bible, water represents healing, forgiveness, and the movement of the Spirit. What wounds do you need Jesus to heal? What relationships did you need Him to restore? What sins do you need Him to forgive?
• Search your heart. Go there with Jesus. What dark recesses of your heart has He not conquered yet? Where do you need Him to shine His light of truth? What lies have taken root that He can expel? What strongholds of Satan can He destroy?

The catechumens in your parish – and around the world – are wrestling with these very same questions as they await the sacraments that will transform them forever. And when we ask ourselves these questions, even as life-long Catholics, a transformation awaits us too. The Light of the World desires to make all things new, including you.

Prayer: Jesus, you are wonderful. You anoint me until my cup is overflowing. You lead and guide me like a good shepherd. You make me a child of the light. You wash me and cure my blindness. I am in awe of you.

Closing: Take the questions listed above and bring them to Jesus in prayer. Spend time with them, as much time as you need. Today’s readings are a witness of the mighty deeds of the Lord. What is He waiting to do in you and through 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].

 

March 15: Monday of the Fourth Week of Lent
Readings: Is 65:17-21, 30:2 and 4, 5-6, 11-12a and 13b, Jn 4:43-54

Invitation to Prayer: Lord, may you be our new normal.

Reflection: In today’s first reading, the Lord says, “I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the things of the past shall not be remembered” (Isaiah 65:17). Though these words ultimately point to our heavenly destination, it is hard not to think of the current pandemic as we all long for a new normal. As things begin to improve, we can be tempted to forget the Lord’s hand in guiding us or even forgetting His place in our new normal. Can we, like the royal official in today’s Gospel, have faith that Jesus is restoring our life and our world even as we journey back to normal? Will our faith be stronger when we get there?

Prayer: Heavenly Father you make all things new through your Holy Spirit. As we come ever closer to the newness of our post-pandemic world, may our faith continue to grow in you. May we see with new eyes the things you are doing and the things you are calling us to. May this Lenten journey purify us by your grace for what lies ahead. Amen.

Closing: What has been God’s place in my pandemic reality? What will His place be in my new normal? How can I use the remainder of this Lent to strengthen my reliance and faith in God?

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.

March 16: Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Lent
Readings: Ez 47:1-9, 12, 46:2-3, 5-6, 8-9, Jn 5:1-16

Invitation to Prayer: Lord Jesus, show me the needs that you wish me to bring to You this day.

Reflection: We’ve all been the man by the pool of Bethesda. Our Gospel tells us today that the man had been ill and infirm for thirty-eight years. Whether that is twice your age or half of it, it still represents a huge portion of life lived. Imagine struggling with something deep and painful for that amount of time.

We’ve now closed out a year of a pandemic – a year that has sometimes felt like two, five, or even thirty plus years. Maybe we’ve watched loved ones suffer, or dealt with our own physical, mental, and spiritual stresses. During this time, we’ve witnessed beautiful expressions of the kindness of others. Those reaching out to us to “put us into the pool,” so to speak. The fact that this man in our Gospel didn’t have someone like that in his life makes Jesus’ actions all the more incredible.

Whether it is poor health, mental illness, or habitual sin, we all need assistance sometimes. But, for those times where we can’t seem to find it, how great it is to have a Lord and Savior who comes to us right where we are. When we feel most alone and broken, Jesus offers us an invitation to “Rise, take up your mat, and walk.” That mat, for us, might be the difficult moments that our suffering has born – transformed now into a chance to show the world what Christ has done for us. Let us take these remaining months of Lent to truly give Jesus those things that we are still struggling with, so that they might be changed into proof of His victory over this world.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I can’t do this on my own. Thank You for being a loving Savior who both sends people to “put me into the pool,” but also reaches out to me when I feel I have no one. Amen.

Closing: Reach out today to someone that you know is struggling. Become the Hands of a loving Savior who wishes to bring healing and salvation to the suffering of this world.

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

 

Wednesday March 17: Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Lent
Readings: Is 49:8-15, 145:8-9, 13cd-14, 17-18, Jn 5:17-30

Invitation to Prayer: Lord you call me out of the darkness and into the light of the Resurrection, help me to answer this call.

Reflection: Today’s first reading has made me realize a feeling I’ve unknowingly had since last Lent, a desire to be called out of darkness. “Saying to the prisoners: Come out! To those in darkness: Show yourselves! Along the ways they shall find pasture, on every bare height shall their pastures be.” I remember feeling so hopeful towards the end of last Lent that I had made the best of these terrible, isolating circumstances, I had passed this test with flying colors and that we would all be back to normal soon. But I sit here exactly a year later, the darkness has stayed and hope seems to have dwindled. If anything all I see is people pushing one another further away. But this reading reminds me that it’s never my timeline, but His that has the last say. We didn’t “flatten the curve” as we were meant to in March 2020, we didn’t reopen schools as we were told, and most heartbreaking of all we are not yet called back to our Sunday mass obligation. I currently feel like Zion calling out, “the Lord has forsaken me, my Lord has forgotten me.” But with the weather getting warmer, Easter approaching, and the world slowly be surely opening up my God reminds me that, “For the LORD comforts his people and shows mercy to his afflicted… Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you.” He will never forget me or leave me in darkness forever, He will call me out in His own time.

Call to action: Reflect on this past year, how the Lord has stretched you, recognize any feelings of isolation and darkness and unite them with Jesus in these last few weeks of Lent, as He was alone and anxious in the desert.

Closing prayer: Sing out, O heavens, and rejoice, O earth, break forth into song, you mountains. For the LORD comforts his people and shows mercy to his afflicted.

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 18 – Thursday of the Fourth Week of Lent
Readings: Ex 32:7-14, 106:19-20, 21-22, 23, Jn 5:31-47

Invitation to prayer: Lord, do not let me turn my back to you, I want to receive your blessings.

Reflection: The first reading sounds awfully familiar to us. What happened when the pandemic started? What kind of feeling did you experience when the churches closed their doors to prevent the spread of the virus? Were we complaining that the church abandoned us in the moment that we need it? What reaction did you have in that time? Did you worship God from home, or you did allow other gods an opportunity to enter your home?

In the Gospel, Jesus is questioning if we believe in Him. How often do we recognize the presence of Jesus in our everyday life? We have many distractions during the course of a day which can easily distract us from hearing his voice. We have no problem jumping out of bed each morning to turn on the tv for the news and weather, but do not we take time to check-in with Jesus to catch-up on the Good News that He has to share with us.

Prayer: O, Lord, my Father, forgive my sins and give me the grace to testify that Jesus your Son, came for my salvation. Do not allow me to give-in to the influence of other gods.

Closing: What is the limit of the Lord’s patience? As Christians, do we show the patience and understanding, that Our Lord has always shown to us?

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

 

March 19: Solemnity of Saint Joseph, husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Readings: 2 Sm 7:4-5a, 12-14a, 16, 89:2-3, 4-5, 27 and 29, Rom 4:13, 16-18, 22, Mt 1:16, 18-21, 24a

Presence of God

Lord Jesus Christ, you submitted yourself to St. Joseph as your father on earth. Help me to learn from him as you did what it means to be a man, and how to take up the cross.

Reflection

What does it mean to be a man? There is much work to do for men in the Church to learn how to be a man and know their place. The wheel of fortune on which turns the different concepts of manhood that prevail in any given cultural circumstance cannot possibly land on the true definition of masculinity. Anymore it seems we only have the negative reaction to the faults and sins of men today or in past generations of “you don’t want to be like that, “ but we don’t have a positive concept of what it means to be a man. This creates an unsolvable problem, the wheel only turns faster, and many men, especially the young, get ground under and canceled who could’ve instead been formed by good mentors into holy and righteous men of God.

There is a breech between the extremes for how our culture understands masculinity. Who will be a model virtue to stand in this breech firmly but calmly and give an authentic witness to what true masculinity looks like? Go to St. Joseph. Especially since the beginning of the Year of St. Joseph, there is a growing amount of material coming to light on this great saint, who is second in the communion of saints only to the glorious and Immaculate Virgin Mary. Spend even a little time meditating on the person of St. Joseph and the role he played in salvation history and as the head of the Holy Family. You will start to see how in every way he is the role model that our world sorely needs to cease the swinging from left to right and back again, and instead press forward towards the consummation of all things in Jesus Christ. How do you combine strength with gentleness? Look to Joseph. How do you both follow and be a courageous leader? Look to Joseph. How do you be chaste and be mature? Look to Joseph. How do you listen for the voice of God and obey it? Look to Joseph. How do you conquer fear, use prudence, have faith, protect innocent life, show mercy, and be just in the eyes of God? Look to Joseph. How do you have an interior life and live in the world? Look to Joseph. How do you discern the will of God? Look to Joseph. He will help you. You can even consecrate yourself to Joseph and submit yourself to his patronage, just like to the Blessed Mother. If it was good enough for Jesus to do, why not for those who are part of His body?

Prayer

St. Joseph, pray for me and help me: to listen attentively, to hear faithfully, to respond generously, to act promptly, to obey humbly, to follow courageously, to love chastely, to take the Virgin and Child under my roof, and there to cherish and nurture the life of Christ in me until He is come to full stature.

Pray for me, and help me, St. Joseph, to work diligently for the coming of the Kingdom of God, whether I am remembered for what I do and say or not, only that I may be doing His will, and in that find my true joy.

Teach me, St. Joseph, as you did the Lord Jesus, to embrace the wood of the cross, and stretch myself out on it in union with His sacrifice for the salvation of the world and for my own happy death, to the glory of the resurrection.

Through the same Christ, Our Lord. Amen

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

March 20: Saturday of the Fourth Week of Lent
Readings: Jer 11:18-20, 7:2-3, 9bc-10, 11-12, Jn 7:40-53

Invitation to Prayer: Let us remember that we are in the holy presence of God…

Reflection: Let’s revisit that line in the Gospel: “So a division occurred… because of him.”

As a prophet of God, Jeremiah’s efforts brought such division that he was being plotted against and felt that he was being led to the slaughter. The psalmist was pursued like a lion’s prey by the wicked. The crowds that heard Jesus were divided in their opinion of him. There is even division between the guards, chief priests and Pharisees.

Most of us have experienced something similar in our own lives, some experience that makes it very clear that following God may cause division – in our communities, our families, and even in our own hearts.

And yet, it is God himself who can heal that division! With the Psalmist we take refuge in God, imploring him to rescue us, sustain us, and be our shield – so that through our faithful commitment we might bring God to others and others to God.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, give us the grace that we need to heal the divisions in our world and in ourselves by saving what has been lost and healing what has been wounded.

Toni Alander is the proud wife of Matt and mother of Will and Ed. She works in the Stewardship Office for the Archdiocese.

 

March 21: Fifth Sunday of Lent
Readings: Jer 31:31-34, 51:3-4, 12-13, 14-15, Heb 5:7-9, Jn 12:20-333

Invitation to Prayer: Lord, Your love for me and Your desire for me are more powerful than any love or desire I’ve ever felt.

Reflection: “We would like to see Jesus.” How deep that desire burns in the human heart, even when we cannot put words to it. It’s the desire of every heart.

Here’s the thing: God has entrusted us, that when that desire is stirred up in the hearts around us, to guide others to Him. In the Gospel, the Greeks come to meet Jesus through His Apostles. In the beginning of the Gospel of John, it’s a chain reaction of people who come to know Christ through others: John and Andrew through John the Baptist; Peter through Andrew; Nathaniel through Philip – everyone gets to know Christ because someone else was there to introduce them. We’ve got the same call today, as His Apostles in this age – to lead the hearts burning for Christ to Him.

Now, we can be better or worse intermediaries in that respect, and often we let ourselves get in the way. Our wounds, our pride, our own desires – perhaps even the fact that we don’t even know Christ that well ourselves yet. The Gospel today is a chance for us to examine how well we can lead others to Christ, and how to die to ourselves to more perfectly reflect what it means to follow Him. How can I let go of the things that separate me from Christ, that are also keeping me from more perfectly sharing Him? It takes time. It takes work. The martyrs were ready to give it all up – to die for Him in every part of their lives – because they knew Him and had trained themselves to die for Him in a million little ways before the big way. How can I train myself, and open myself to His grace, to be a more perfect disciple?

Prayer: Lord, show me one way that I can give up my own pride for the sake of bringing others to you.

Closing: I resolve to train myself to more perfectly lead others to Christ.

Father Tim Fahey is the CCM Director at Wright State University

March 22-Monday of the Fifth Week of Lent
Readings: Dn 13:1-9, 15-17, 19-30, 33-62 or 13:41c-62, 23:1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6, 23:1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6, Jn 8:1-11

Invitation to Prayer: “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”

Reflection: Condemnation. Blame. When things don’t go my earthly way I like to assign these words to others, which shields me from my own failings.

Even when I sin, I qualify it with “because”…I was under stress, I was angry, I was disappointed. Think about it, when I take the Lord’s name in vain, it’s usually because I’m out of control lashing out.

My spiritual director once told me “Sin is filling up an emptiness”. So instead of running to the Lord, I run to the earthly to fill that emptiness. It’s like fasting, and waiting until 12:01am the next day and gorge, not the right mindset.

Today’s Responsorial Psalm is “Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil; for you are at my side.”

I have an advocate for our sinfulness, Jesus Christ. Sin weighs me down, it keeps me from being fully human. Simply put, I need to go to Jesus more in my life to overcome my stain of sinfulness.

Prayer: Jesus, walk with me today in my sinfulness.

Action: Prepare to go to confession in the next 10 days, whether you go regularly, or if you haven’t for years. Make an examination of conscience, and free yourself of condemnation and blame.

March 23: Tuesday of the Fifth week of Lent
Readings: Nm 21:4-9, 102:2-3, 16-18, 19-21, Jn 8:21-30

Invitation to prayer: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you… and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28-30

Reflection: When you have your eyes set on the future, on the fulfillment of things yet to come, do you ever hear God say to you,

“Rejoice with me in the journey.
I am at the destination, but I have things to reveal to you in this journey.
I am with you in this journey….”

In today’s first reading, the Israelites – God’s chosen people (That’s us), had been rescued from slavery, promised a bright future… and were still on their way to God’s revelation of that land. We meet them having a bit of a “moment”, “…with their patience worn out by the journey, the people complained against God and Moses. ‘Why have you brought us up from Egypt to die in this desert, Where there is no food or water? We are disgusted with this wretched food!'”

My dad was in a car accident in February. Watching the physical healing from a distance, keeping pace with the progress towards God’s promised restoration, I am reminded: the adrenaline of, “Is he going to be ok” eventually wears off, and we settle into the unsettledness of this journey to our new “back to normal.”

When we meet the Israelites, the adrenaline of “We’re free!!” has worn off, and there’s still a journey (that involves some suffering, like “wretched food”) before they find their new “back to normal.”

But in today’s Gospel, Jesus, on his journey, tells his disciples, “The one who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone.”
Whatever current road you are on if you’re in the new & full-of-adrenaline stage, if you’re in the hopeful “it can’t be much longer” phase, or if you’ve grown tired of the journey, too… here’s my prayer for us all:

Prayer: May our patience never be worn out by the journey. May instead, we are renewed by the presence of God along the way. May we not be concerned with the length of the trip, because of part of our destination… HE… is already with us

Closing: Renew my mind and fix my eyes on you… wherever you are, Lord. May I know your closeness and find strength. And may the food be not so wretched.

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

 

March 24: Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Lent
Readings: Dn 3:14-20, 91-92, 95, Dn 3:52, 53, 54, 55, 56, Jn 8:31-42

Invitation to prayer: Awaken in us the ability to remain deeply faithful to you, in all times and in all ways.

Reflection: Faith – deep and abiding, without hesitation or fear, full of praise and wonder. What a beautiful gift that is, and how frequently we fall far, far short of it.

Over the last 12 months, we have come through one of the hardest, most challenging times that our country and our world has ever faced. In the U.S. alone, over 536,000 have died from the coronavirus, translating to about one death per minute. Millions have lost their jobs and homes and have made sacrifice after sacrifice after sacrifice. Our country has been torn apart by a deeply partisan election season. Racial inequality has become too much to bare, and people of all races are demanding changes to systems steeped in injustice (e.g. education, health care, criminal justice, electoral, etc.). Uncertainty has become our way of life, and we’re a LONG way from that changing.

And yet, mercifully, there are those among us who have shown a deep peace and calm due to their faith in God. Just as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego – faced with a painful and certain death – stood before the king with confidence in God’s love, many of our sisters and brothers have stood in the face of all the pain that has swirled around us with trust that God’s kingdom will prevail. They know that it won’t be easy, it might be painful, and it might mean more loss and struggle, but they know that if they stay on the path God has put before them, they will come out on the other side with God remaining ever faithful, just, and merciful.

As we continue our Lenten journey (a difficult journey that also ends in joy), what work do we need to do to get to that place of always and in every way having faith in God?

Prayer: God, we know that you stand ever present and ever ready for us to turn to you with our hearts fully open to your love. Help us to make that turn.

Closing: Through you God – and only you – we are blessed beyond measure. We thank you for your grace and the gift of faith.

Andrew Musgrave serves as the Director of the Catholic Social Action Office, and his wife Ana, is a case manager with Council on Aging. They have two wonderful daughters and moved to Cincinnati in 2019 after working in ministry for 15 years in Milwaukee, WI.

March 25 – Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord
Readings: Is 7:10-14; 8:10, Heb 10:4-10, Lk 1:26-38

Invitation to prayer: Lord, you have something special to ask of each of us. We don’t know what you are thinking, but here we are, Lord, your servants. Lead us.

Reflection: Have you ever realized that your entire world is about to change? That’s exactly what happened to a humble young virgin when the Angel Gabriel appeared to her with news that would change her life, and ours, forever. While perplexed by the Angel’s appearance and greeting, Mary’s response to the news that she would bear the Son of God was one of curiosity and calm acceptance. She had to know the road ahead would be hard, including rejection and misunderstanding from her family, betrothed, and neighbors. Yet, in the ultimate witness to faithful discipleship, she said. “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Mary chose to set aside any doubts, fears, and personal desires to accept what God was asking of her with humility and faith. Through Mary’s response, we, too, are invited to make “yes” to what God asks of us a way of life.

Prayer: Loving and gracious God, we thank you for faith filled example of Our Blessed Mother. Like Mary, we do not know what the future holds, but we trust in your steadfast love and know that you will be with us. We pray to respond to what you ask of us with the same courage and conviction that Mary did.

Closing: Have you accepted God’s will in your life? Today, and throughout the remainder of Lent, pray for an understanding of what God is calling you to do.

Sister Eileen is a member of the Ursulines of Cincinnati and serves as Associate Director of the Mission Office.

 

March 26: Friday of the Fifth Week of Lent
Readings: Jer 20:10-13, 18:2-3a, 3bc-4, 5-6, 7, Jn 10:31-42

Invitation to Prayer: Oh Lord, help me to recognize your good work in my life

Reflection: “But the Lord is with me, like a mighty champion…”

In today’s readings we see that God is with us as a positive, active force. At various stages in our lives we may have felt, and maybe now we feel, some of the sentiments in the reading from Jerimiah. The situation may have us feeling trapped and confused. As Christians we remember that during trying times in our lives that God is not only our companion, but also our champion, rescuing us from adversity and finding ways to bless us.

This champion knows our experience because God has shared in our humanity through Jesus. We see this in the Gospel as Christ suffers from the confusion of the people. They seek to trap him, not believing our Lord is there to rescue humanity from their sin. Jesus points out the signs and wonders he has performed, trying to convince the people that he is doing the good work of his Father among them.

Even today Jesus continues to perform great wonders in our lives and has been active even in the confusing and hectic moments. We just need to recognize his signs and deepen our faith in our eternal champion.

Prayer: Jesus, may I continue to appreciate and trust the good work you are doing in my life.

Closing: What are some signs from the past year that God is actively bringing about good in my life?

Matt Hess is the Director of Ministry at the Maria Stein Shrine of the Holy Relics in Maria Stein, Ohio.

March 27: Saturday of the Fifth Week of Lent
Readings: Ez 37:21-28, Jeremiah 31:10, 11-12abcd, 13, Jn 11:45-56

Invitation to Prayer: Jesus, help us to remember that you can work all things for our good.

Reflection: In our Gospel today, Jesus has just raised his friend Lazarus from the dead. The enemies of Jesus are frantically trying to stop him from continuing the incredible miracles that have culminated in this high point, raising someone from the dead. As they debate what to do, Caiaphas speaks this prophetic word about it being better for one man to die than for the entire nation. This is Caiaphas who says this, the same man who would soon have Jesus arrested, put on trial, and killed. John the evangelist and writer of this Gospel specifies that Caiaphas did not say this of his own accord, but that because he was high priest that year, he spoke by the Holy Spirit. God used the religious role of the High Priest to speak truth about Jesus, even as the man in that role plotted his death. We see this again in the passion of Jesus when Pilate washes his hands of the blood of Jesus, and Caiaphas leads the people to reply, “His blood be on us and on our children!”, and it is that very same blood that brings us our salvation through the sacraments.

This is the loving mercy of God, that even as we sin and reject God at different points in our life he can use it to bring us back to himself. As St. Paul says in his letter to the Romans, “We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him.” God can take the worst things we have done in our lives and use them to bring about his saving work in us. God does not will us to sin, but can turn all of it back for our good through the grace of his death and resurrection. Let us have hope as we enter into these last few weeks of Lent and into Easter, that God can take our sins and failings and use them to bring about the glory of his Easter joy in our lives.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, help us to enter into this Easter season with a new and deeper trust in your mercy.

Closing: What sin or regret can you hand over to the Lord and allow him to heal at this time in your life?

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).

 

March 28: Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion
Readings: Mk 11:1-10, Is 50:4-7, 22:8-9, 17-18, 19-20, 23-24, Phil 2:6-11, Mk 14:1—15:47

Invitation to Prayer: Lord, lead me and guide me into this holiest week of the year.

Reflection: “Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest!” It’s almost as if we can still hear the crowds some 2,000 years later. There was great joy in the air; much excitement as Jesus comes riding victoriously into Jerusalem. People laying their cloaks and palm branches on the ground to give a hero’s welcome to the Messiah, to the triumphant King! We can imagine that those in the crowds probably felt like this joy they experienced at that moment would never end. The excitement would continue on, uninterrupted.

But we know that’s not the case. The same people who were shouting “Hosanna” would soon after change their chorus to “Crucify Him!” The hatred and the repulsion of the crowds toward Jesus would be even stronger than their enthusiasm and excitement had been for Him just days before.

We realize it wasn’t Jesus Who changed. He remained the humble, peaceful King through it all. So it was the crowd that changed in such a drastic way. This is sometimes how our lives go as well. Jesus remains our Savior, our Messiah, our humble and peaceful King, offering us His unconditional love. But we can be as fickle as those crowds, oscillating at times between tremendous love for Jesus and indifference or lethargy in our relationship with Him.

As we enter into this Holy Week, let us strive to stay with our Savior – through His agony, His arrest, His suffering, and His death. Let us strive to stay with Him so that we may know that joy once again – the joy that we find in the glories of His Resurrection!

Prayer: Blessed is He Who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!

Closing: Choose one practical thing you can do to help you spend this Holy Week journeying with Jesus.

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

March 29, Monday of Holy Week
Readings: Is 42:1-7, Ps 27:1, 2, 3, 13-14, Jn 12:1-11

Invitation to Prayer: Lord, give us courage.

Reflection: Today’s scripture reads like a battle cry – and in a way, that’s exactly what it is. It’s Monday of Holy Week; the war (but not the final battle) between good and evil will be won. And although we know how the story ends, we also know the Son will suffer greatly and lay down His life. As His followers, we will suffer and die with Him, too.

The horror of Good Friday feels so close, yet the Lord says He has “called [us] for the victory of justice…” His love will defeat every enemy. Because of this, we can confidently say,

“Though an army encamp against me,
my heart will not fear;
Though war be waged upon me,
even then will I trust.”

Closing: Reading scripture aloud can help us enter more deeply into its mystery. As you speak these words, pay attention to a word, phrase or feeling that pulls at your heart.

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.

 

March 30: Tuesday of Holy Week
Readings: Is 49:1-6, 71:1-2, 3-4a, 5ab-6ab, 15 and 17, Jn 13:21-33, 36-38

Invitation to Prayer: “Master, I will lay down my life for you.” Jesus answered, “Amen, amen, I say to you, the cock will not crow before you deny me three times.” (Jn 13:36-38)

Reflection: The Gospel which we hear at Mass today should make us a bit uncomfortable. St. John’s Gospel tells us that two of Jesus’ closest friends – those whom he has personally selected to be his most intimate companions in his ministry – will betray him. First, we hear the account of Jesus announcing at the Last Supper “one of you will betray me.” Shocked at this accusation, the twelve apostles demand to know “Who is it Lord? Surely not me!” As we know, it was Judas Iscariot. Then later in the same Gospel, Jesus tells Peter, the “rock” upon whom the Church would be built, “you will deny me three times.”

We may wonder how these men, who spent nearly every day with Jesus for three years, could get to the point of betraying and denying the Lord whom they loved, served and believed in. But the more important question for us to contemplate is “How is it possible for ME to deny him, to betray him?” If we spend some time in reflection, we likely will see how we have done this in our lives. Are there times when we’ve been afraid to be seen as “too religious” in our social circles? Have we been lazy in the observance of our Sunday Mass obligation, our prayer life, our regular participation in the sacrament of Confession? Have we abandoned what we know to be moral behavior and allowed ourselves to slip into a pattern of sin? These are the ways that we can deny or betray what Jesus means to us, or that we separate ourselves from Him and His love.

The good news is that our Lord ALWAYS welcomes us back! His love is beyond our understanding. His forgiveness is never ending. He understands our human fallibility and gathers us back to himself again and again. All we need to do is ask for His forgiveness!

Lent is the time for us to abandon our denials and betrayals of Jesus and make things right with Him. Then, our celebration of Holy Week and Easter will be a time of reconciliation and rejoicing, feeling the warmth of our Savior’s loving embrace once again.

Prayer: Lord, the knowledge that I have at times betrayed you or denied you weighs heavily on my heart. I love you, Lord, with all my heart. Yet in my weakness, I have let you down. Accept my contrition and bring me back into the joy of your loving embrace. Never permit me to deny you again.

Closing: As you participate in the sacred liturgies of the Triduum this week, ask the Lord’s forgiveness for the times you have denied Him. Then the celebration of Easter will fill your heart with God’s love and joy!

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.

Wednesday of Holy Week
Readings: Is 50:4-9a, 69:8-10, 21-22, 31 and 33-34, Mt 26:14-25

Invitation to Prayer: Lord Jesus, help me to open my ears that I may hear what you have in store for me today.

Reflection: Our first reading would make a good start to any Christian’s day. The prophet Isaiah speaks in such a way that we can receive these words either as a self-proclamation, or as something we need to hear.

That is the great push-and-pull of Christian discipleship. Some days we resonate more with the idea that we are the ones who need to be roused. Perhaps we’ve allowed ourselves to fall into the sin of sloth, or have even just accepted a mild lethargy to settle into our spiritual lives. It is in those times that we are invited to have open ears so that we can be renewed as someone who can say, “I have not rebelled, have not turned back.”

On the other hand, we may be in a season of great spiritual zeal. Perhaps we are the one to whom, upon waking, is given knowledge of “how to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them.” However, we must still beg for the strength to follow through and put that call into action.
Imagine our Lord Jesus, as He journeys through this first Holy Week. Each morning, He awoke as the Incarnation of this Word that God gives to us this day. He had to rise and “set His face like flint,” knowing the beyond-difficult path that laid before Him. A path full of hardship and betrayal – a betrayal seen in our Gospel reading. We think about how hard it was for Him to die upon a cross for us, but think of the courage and fortitude in just getting up each day of His ministry to proclaim the kingdom of God to a world that needed it. That is our own call that we are invited into each day. Be renewed as we enter into the Paschal Triduum on Holy Thursday – the glory of Easter is almost here.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, roused by Your Word, let me be able to set my own face like flint against the challenges of this day. Amen.

Closing: Take a moment today, on the eve of the Triduum, to discern what you need most. Are you someone who is called to rouse others, or someone that needs to be renewed themself?

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

April 1: Holy Thursday of the Lord’s Last Supper
Readings: Ex 12:1-8, 11-14, 116:12-13, 15-16bc, 17-18, 1 Cor 11:23-26, Jn 13:1-15

Invitation to Prayer: Lord Jesus, as I celebrate the Passover with you and the Apostles please guide me to the resurrection and serve others in the New Covenant of your Body and Blood.

Reflection: Holy Thursday is the night that begins the Holy Triduum. We make the walk with Jesus to the cross beginning with the Last Supper in the Upper Room with the Apostles. The celebration of The Holy Triduum is one liturgy over three days that ends with the celebration of the resurrection of Christ. Holy Thursday is the night we remember the institution of the New Covenant of the Body and Blood of Christ and the Ministerial Priesthood at the Last Supper.

The Gospel for Holy Thursday is Jesus washing the feet of the Apostles. The washing of the feet was supposed to be done by a servant, not the teacher or master. This humble act of Christ shows the sacrifice he will soon endure on the cross and the Apostles too must die to themselves and serve each other.

In the first two readings we hear the words “memorial feast” and “in remembrance of me.” “Memorial” or “remembrance of me” in our worship means more than remembering or recalling a past event. It means that the life, death and resurrection of Christ is perpetually being re-presented to us. Consequently, we are with Christ and the Apostles at Mass.

These phrases point us to the words of consecration at Mass. The words that the priest prays at Mass are the same words that Christ prayed the Last Supper. Just as Christ offered bread and wine at the Last Supper in his sacrifice, we today still offer bread and wine as a sacrifice. Christ calls us to follow in his example by dying to self and serving our brothers and our sisters. We are also called to cooperate with him at Mass by celebrating the New Covenant in the Body and Blood of Christ.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, Thank you for allowing us to celebrate with you the New Covenant in the Eucharist. Help me to love this Sacrament more and more.

Closing: How can I serve as Christ is calling me to serve?

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

 

April 2: Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion
Readings: Is 52:13—53:12, 31:2, 6, 12-13, 15-16, 17, 25, Heb 4:14-16; 5:7-9, Jn 18:1—19:42

Invitation to Prayer: Jesus, you offered your life for us on the Cross, thank you for saving my life.

Reflection: Today, we commemorate the lowest day in Human history, the day man-kind killed God. Because of sin, we turned away from God and each in our own way cried out “Crucify Him”. However, through the eyes of Salvation history these are the greatest days, when God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).

This is called Good Friday for a reason, where we see the surpassing and undeserved goodness of God who so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16)

Yesterday we celebrated Christ’s offering of his life in the Eucharist. He says No one takes my life from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again (John 10:18). By laying down his life through the offering of Bread and Wine that becomes the Body and Blood of Christ, he lays down his own life and offers it up in union with his sufferings on the Cross the subsequent day. The mystery of this sacrificial offering of Christ, spoken of in our second reading today, is so great and good it leaves us in awe of his love for us. How can I repay the Lord for all of his goodness to me, I will take up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord (Psalm 116: 12-13)

Now as we mourn the death of our savior, we go to wait in the hallowed silence of Holy Saturday, contemplating this goodness of God and our own sinfulness. Let us be like Peter, who after denying Christ and abandoning him when forth and wept bitterly the tears of repentance. Let us also turn back from our sins and race to the empty tomb on Easter morning to share in the eternal joy of our salvation through the glory of Jesus’ Resurrection!

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you for all the good things you have done for us. Help us to go forward carrying our own crosses you have for us with the same joy and love you have for us.

Closing: Ask God to show you ways you can offer up sacrifices of love for others today and in the days to come.

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)

April 3: Holy Saturday at the Easter Vigil in the Holy Night of Easter
Readings: Gn 1:1 – 2:2 or Gn 1:1, 26-31a; Ps 104:1-2, 5-6, 10, 12, 13-14, 24, 35 or Ps 33:4-5, 6-7, 12-13, 20, 22; Gn 22:1-18 or Gn 22:1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18; Ps 16:5, 8, 9-10, 11; Ex 14:15 – 15:1; Ex 15:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 17-18; Is 54:5-14; Ps 30:2, 4, 5-6, 11-12, 13; Is 55:1-11; Is 12:2-3, 4, 5-6; Bar 3:9-15, 32 – 4:4; Ps 19:8, 9, 10, 11; Ez 36:16-17a, 18-28; Ps 42:3, 5; 43:3, 4 (when Baptism is celebrated); Is 12:2-3, 4bcd, 5-6 or Ps 51:12-13, 14-15, 18-19 (when Baptism is not celebrated); Rom 6:3-11; Ps 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23; Mk 16:1-7

Invitation to Prayer: Jesus, I approach you on this holy night feeling unprepared for what you have in store for me. Your plan, your salvation, your love for me is overwhelming. I don’t know how I could receive it all. Only you can make this possible. I ask you humbly: open my heart. Expand it with your grace. Prepare yourself the room you need to abide in me and make me new.

Reflection: The Roman Missal refers to the Easter Vigil as the “mother of all vigils” and the “greatest and most noble of all solemnities.” Why? Because, on this night we keep watch, awaiting the resurrection of Jesus, which is the high-point of His work to win for us every grace, gift, and glory. There’s nothing more important than this. There is no Christianity without what we’re celebrating here. As St. Paul reminds us, “if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain!” (1 Cor 15:14).

The liturgy reflects the vast importance of the Easter Vigil through various unique symbols and rituals. It begins after nightfall, with the lights out. There’s a massive bonfire burning outside. The Easter Proclamation is announced with great joy. After a long absence, the Alleluia is sung. The catechumens receive the Sacraments of Initiation. All of this is extraordinary. But, what we’re most concerned with here are the readings.

Did you see all those readings? The Liturgy of the Word on this night is a tour de force. Nine readings – seven from the Old Testament and two from the New Testament (with a responsorial psalm between each reading) – provide a sweeping survey of God’s mighty deeds to create a covenant People and rescue them from sin and death. This is salvation history, the greatest story ever told. This is a birds-eye view of God’s great plan to save us and make us His own.

It would be impossible, with the space we have here, to properly comment on each of these readings, so instead, I want to offer some advice.

First, hand yourself over to this. The Easter Vigil is a long night. When you see all these readings listed in your worship aide, it will be tempting to think, “Oh great, we’re gonna be here forever!” Decide now that you’re going to approach this liturgy with a different mindset. This only happens once a year, and like I said, we’re celebrating one of the most central mysteries of our faith. It’s worth being intentionally present and fully invested. Keep your phone in your pocket and just be here. You won’t regret it.

Secondly, as you hear each reading, imagine that the lector is saying it right to you. When a major-league pitcher gets “in the zone,” everything disappears and it’s just him and the batter. You can do the same thing. When the Liturgy of the Word begins, get in the zone, so that it’s just you and the lector. He has a special word for you, and it’s a word that comes with grace and power.

Thirdly, as the psalm is proclaimed after each reading, imagine that this is your own response to what was read to you. There’s a reason why the Psalms are so emotionally stirring: they give voice to everything buried deep in the human heart, and that includes your heart. “Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth” (Psalm 104). “You are my inheritance, O Lord” (Psalm 16). “I will praise you Lord, for you have rescued me” (Psalm 30). “Create a clean heart in me, O God” (Psalm 51). Make these words your words and you’re entering into the story of salvation history.

Finally, embrace thanksgiving. When I hear these readings, I’m always struck by how much work God put in, in order to save us. Over the span of many centuries, He slowly, gradually, even painstakingly brought more and more of mankind unto Himself, culminating in His Son, Jesus, who ushered in the New Covenant and the universal Church. God’s plan marched ever forward, undeterred by free will and the vagaries of the human heart, to give us what we have, here and now, in the Church. In many ways, the Church is one of God’s greatest gifts to us, and the readings for today give us a sense of that.

Yet, even still, His work is not finished. As long as there are people in need of saving – as long as there is you and there is me – God’s plan will continue unfolding, until Jesus comes and all things find their fulfillment in Him. I’m just thankful that, in all of that planning, He still thought of me and He still thought of you. This liturgy reminds me that I have a ton to be thankful for. I hope you are thankful, too.

Prayer: Thank you, Jesus. Thank you. I have no other words, but thank you.

Closing: Soon after hearing these readings, spend some time journaling and praying with the following questions:

What word or phrase from the readings resonated with you? Why? What did you like the most about the Easter Vigil liturgy? What did you like the least? What role is God calling you to play in his grand story to save the world?

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].

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