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Lenten Reflections 2022

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March 2 Ash Wednesday
Readings: Jl 2:12-18, 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: “Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.” (Mt 6:1)

Reflection: Ash Wednesday used to cause me a lot of discomfort, if the truth be told. Not because of the fasting and abstinence from meat (although those were unpleasant, of course). No, the thing that I used to dread the most was walking around all day with ashes on my forehead. Always working in the corporate world, I was one of the few Catholics who received my ashes early in the day. It seemed that very few people at my places of employment recognized what the symbolism of ashes was all about. “Hey, there’s something on your forehead” my concerned co-workers would say. And I would explain – once again! – that I’m Catholic and how we recognize the beginning of Lent through this symbolism, which reminds us that this life on earth is fleeting and we will be nothing more than dust at the end of it. I guess it was a good opportunity for evangelism, looking back on it.

In the Gospel today, Jesus guides us towards the proper disposition of the heart when we practice our Lenten observances of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. We should make our sacrifices in secret with the assurance that “your Father, who sees in secret, will repay you.” These are comforting words as we begin this penitential season of Lent. Our extra efforts in each of these areas of sacrifice are recognized by God as our way of showing Him how sorry we are for our past sins and our desire to amend our lives for the better.

May this beautiful (yes, beautiful!) season of Lent be a time of renewal for you, so that you may fully celebrate the resurrection of our Lord in joy on Easter.

Prayer: Lord, I know my sins have been many, and I am sorry for having offended you. During this season of Lent, I offer you my daily sacrifices as a way to show you the sorrow I have for my sins and my love for you. I pray for your grace, that I may draw closer to you each day so that I may celebrate Easter in peace and joy.

Closing: How will you draw closer to our Lord this Lent? Our traditional Lenten observances of prayer, fasting and almsgiving are wonderful ways accomplish this “throughout these forty days.”

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 42 years, and is the father of two and grandfather of four.

 

March 3: Thursday after Ash Wednesday
Readings: Dt 30:15-20, Lk 9:22-25

Invitation to Prayer: “Blessed are they who hope in the Lord” (Psalm 40:5a)

Reflection: The key to understanding today’s readings is to realize that God teaches mankind little by little; gradually and patiently over time. And this is how He has always taught us, from Adam and Eve until now.

In the Old Testament reading, Moses emphasized that keeping the Commandments meant life; the only other alternative was death. And, significantly, that loving the Lord meant keeping our hearts turned towards him, loving him meant heeding his voice and holding fast to him. Many in Old Testament times thought this simply meant obeying the “thou shalt not’s” in the Commandments. In other words, obeying the rules. There were some, however, who saw that the Old Covenant was calling them to both love God and their neighbor. They saw that the Old Covenant was not ultimately about rules, but relationships.

And after many centuries, Our Lord came so that the rest of us might know what loving really means. In the Gospel, he teaches us that loving means denying ourselves, taking up our cross daily, and losing our lives for his sake. And during his Passion which culminated on the Cross, he showed us what loving God and neighbor looked like.

Prayer: Almighty Father, during this season of Lent, may I learn the way of love by denying myself through acts of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. May I be open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit in loving my neighbor.

Closing: Consider what it really means to lose our lives for His sake; to live for Him and not for ourselves; to take up (and even embrace) our cross daily.

Deacon Rusty Baldwin serves as a deacon in Region 7 in Dayton, Ohio. He was ordained in 2007. He has been married to his wife Heather for 37 years and is the father of eight.

 

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

Invitation to Prayer: “Seek good and not evil so that you may live, and the Lord will be with you.” (Alleluia Acclamation)

Reflection: Last Friday while standing in line at the fish counter at Kroger, I meet a woman who was joy-filled and a delight to speak with. She told me she preferred to have a positive outlook because God helps her share her positive outlook with her friends who always complain. As she kept talking I was reminded how she radiated Christ in her demeanor, spoke clearly from the fullest of her heart of her love for a life in Christ Jesus.

Reflecting back on this encounter brought me to Luke’s Gospel, The Sermon of the Plain, when he noted “A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good…and from the fullest of the heart the mouth speaks.” Clearly, this woman of God spoke from the fullest of her heart the joy of living a life in Christ Jesus and she does her best to bring the joy of Christ to her friends who always complain.

One way for us to battle all those complaints that come out of us during our Lenten desert walk is to devote one’s self to praying our Blessed Mother’s most holy rosary. To dive into the life of Jesus and Mary; to embrace, to encounter, to be enlighten by the mysteries of their unconditional love, mercy, and forgiveness. St. Dominic said it will cause virtue and good works to flourish and what a blessing it is to have Jesus and Mary at our side as we make our Lenten desert walk.

Prayer: Father God, good and gracious Lord, as we begin our Lenten desert walk, we devote ourselves to our Blessed Mother’s most holy rosary daily, with a strong desire to seek only the good. May our relationship with Jesus and Mary deepen our relationships with others in, and through, and with your joy. May we become the good person out of the store of goodness for which we were created to produce good fruit and live with Jesus and Mary forever.

Resolution: I will, with your grace Dear Lord Jesus and Holy Mother Mary make a commitment to pray your most holy rosary daily through my Lenten walk. I will embrace the life of Jesus and Mary. I will seek out only the good in all my relationships and share that goodness with everyone. I will welcome Father God the unconditional love, mercy, and forgiveness offered us in praying our Blessed Mother’s most holy rosary.

Deacon Henry Jacquez serves in the Holy Trinity/Nativity Pastoral Region, President of the Board of Trustees Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Center, member of the Mater Filius Queen City Ministry Team (home for women who find themselves in a crisis pregnancy), Spiritual Leader for Holy Trinity’s St. Vincent De Paul Conference, and intentional disciple of Our Dear Lord Jesus and Blessed Mother Mary. He was ordained in April 2013. He has been married to his wife, Betsy for 42 years, and is father of three children and six grandsons.

 

March 5 – Saturday after Ash Wednesday
Readings: Is 58:9b-14, Psalm 86:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, Lk 5:27-32

Invitation to prayer: Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth. (Psalm 86:11ab)

Reflection: We all want to be healthy, and many people actively pursue physical health and wellbeing to their great benefit. We know the positive effects of running, cycling, swimming, weightlifting, cross fit or even a daily walk. Today, there is a wealth of information about what we should eat, how much we should sleep, the positive and negative effects of caffeine, alcohol or even bottled water. Those who take the time to pursue healthy lifestyles experience the physical benefits of these endeavors. But what about our spiritual health?

The Lord has something to say to us about health in this Sunday’s Gospel.

“Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do. I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners.” (Luke5:32)

The question we might ask ourselves is whether we are among the righteous or among those in need of repentance? Before answering we should recall the Scripture verse that reads, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)

Simply put, we are all in need of the life-changing effects of redemption, and we should each do all we can to enhance our spiritual wellbeing. Lent is the perfect time for us to evaluate our spiritual fitness and enhance our daily routine.

This Sunday’s readings offer us wise counsel for long-term success. Afterall, the benefits of physical fitness will end with our transition into glory, but what we do for our spiritual benefit will be with us for eternity.

The first reading from Isaiah 58 reveals what contributes to a healthy spiritual life. These include the removal of oppression, false accusation and malicious speech. We are encouraged to share our bread with the hungry and make provision for the afflicted.

But more significantly, we are directed to abandon our own pursuits on the Lord’s day – Sunday. We are to keep this day holy; we are to honor it by not following our own ways or seeking our own interests. Sunday is a day uniquely dedicated to the Lord, and on it, we are required to seek our ‘delight in the Lord,’ and in Him alone.
If we wish to experience the spiritual benefits of our relationship with the Lord, i.e., His mercy, kindness, goodness, and the joy of remaining in His presence, then this Sunday we should ‘exercise’ the basic principle offered in Psalm 81 from tomorrow’s readings, “Teach me your way, Oh Lord, that I may walk in your truth.”

Prayer: Almighty God, help me to find my delight in You, give me the grace to honor and keep holy the day you have set aside. I pray that I might order this day in such a way that I remain entirely focused on You and come to experience the benefits of living in Your presence.

Closing: Let us prayerfully consider forgoing something we may have otherwise planned to do this Sunday, and instead, choose to spend that time in conversation with the Lord.

-Deacon Candidate Mark Danis

 

March 6: First Sunday of Lent
Readings: Dt 26:4-10, Ps 91:1-2, 10-11, 12-13, 14-15, Rom 10:8-13, Lk 4:1-13

Invitation to Prayer: Filled with the Holy Spirit, was led into the desert for forty days.

Reflection: This week, our RCIA candidates and catechumens begin a phase of their journey called the period of purification and enlightenment. Really the path of RCIA is the journey of us all. We as Catholics pray our church calendar into this Lenten season it is not just the “soon-to-be” Catholics who need to be enlightened and purified. It is a season for all of us.

Our Lord, in this week’s Gospel, goes into the desert for forty days. While he literally went into a desert, the desert can be a metaphor for this period in our lives as we try to realign our lives to the way God wants us to live. The desert. What does that mean to you? Could it be silence? Could it be austerity? Could it be the stripping away of everything that separates you from God? Where do you go to rest, to pray, to center yourself?

And our Lord was tempted. It is comforting to see the human side of our Lord and to know that he faced some of the things that we ourselves have faced. But Satan faced the incarnate God. He should have known better. We, through our fasting and abstinence of this season and through the purification and enlightenment of our journey, should gain in fortitude through our desert experience to show the evil one to whom we belong.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, may the solitude and testing of the desert lift and strengthen our souls to be more fitting to be joined with you. Make our sacrifices and our sufferings be pleasing to you and bring us closer to your cross so that we may rejoice in the Easter that awaits us.

Closing: What is one way that you can shut out the noise of the world and join in the desert experience of Jesus?

Deacon Brian Caperton is  the pastoral associate for All Saints and St. Vincent Ferrer Churches (the Kenwood Pastoral Region.) He is a graduate of the Athenaeum of Ohio. He is married to Carolyn; have two kids, Ashley and Michael and a grandson, Andrew.

 

March 7: Monday of the First Week of Lent
Readings: Lv 19:1-2,11-18 Psalm 19:8,9,10,15, 2 Cor 6:2b, Mt 25:31-46

Invitation to Prayer: “Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.” (Psalm 19:8,9,10,15)

Reflection: When we start a new job, join a club or other fraternal organization, we all want to know what is the job or organization all about? What is the organizations mission statement? What are the expectations of me as an employee or member of the organization? What happens if I do not meet the expectations? What are the consequences? In today’s readings we get this information loud and clear from the Old Testament and the New Testament. God is telling Moses his expectations of his people the Israelites. God gives them the Commandments. The Israelites have been struggling and wondering for a long time and God is trying to help them in growing their relationship with him, the one and only true God. God is giving them his mission statement for them to life out in their daily lives, to ultimately Love God and Love Neighbor. In the Gospel Jesus tells his disciples what the consequences are for not living as God ask us too.

There are consequences for both our actions and non-actions. God is a loving and merciful God, but everything he does and expects from us is done with ultimate love and mercy. God expects us to not only love and serve him, but our neighbor as well. This is not always an easy thing to do. We all have people that we know and do not know that are very tough to be loving towards. That person maybe going thru something that makes them not even like or love themselves. They may push us and others away, who are trying to help them and love them unconditionally. We are encouraged by today’s readings to continue to try, we may not succeed, but all God ask is from us is to try. That loving spirit of God 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 the upcoming Easter joy.

Prayer: Almighty God, I continue to struggle to live as You have asked me too. 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 help me to love you and my neighbor unconditionally. Show me the way to love others as You love me. Help us all to grow closer to you and love as you command us.

Closing: Reflect and 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 Andy Rammel serves as a deacon at Northwest Dayton Pastoral Region. He was ordained in April, 2010. He has been married to his wife Lori for 28 years, and is the father of Hannah and Paul.

March 8: Tuesday of the First Week of Lent
Readings: Is 55:10-11; Psalm 34:4-5, 6-7, 16-17, 18-19; Mt 6:7-15

Invitation to Prayer: One does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God. (Mt 4:4b)

Reflection: Words matter. It may be a trite cliché, but in our readings today, we hear that theme of the spoken word. The beautiful picture that Isaiah paints for us reminds us that this is the calendar season of planting, and the liturgical season when we can plant the word of God within ourselves; perhaps for the first time for the catechumen, perhaps planted anew to develop a deeper relationship for the baptized Christian. God’s seed sown in His words and in the words we choose to speak, when we take time to care for them as we would tend to a newly planted flower, provide wonderful results. As the saying goes “from your lips to God’s ears”. We hear that from the palmist who tells us that when we cry out, the Lord hears our pleas and rescues us from our distress. As we approach an Easter rebirth, our focus as disciples of Jesus Christ should reminds us to choose words that speak genuinely; words crafted in a way to bring peace, to offer praise, to seek and to offer forgiveness.

Isaiah tells us to seek the Lord where He can be found, for He knows what we need. Jesus affirms that when He tells the disciples that the Father knows their thoughts before they form them. From the start, the words “Our Father” lets us know that when we pray, we are praying for all people in praise of God’s holy name. The bread we ask for is the bread of God’s grace and of His love and in this season of penitence, the bread of His forgiveness. And then we confess that we can only be forgiven as much as our actions and words offer forgiveness to others. The words of the Lord’s prayer are very familiar to us and so we would do well to take time and allow them to wash over us; to let them come on us as the gentle rain that falls from heaven. When we do that, we will plant God’s word so deeply within us that it can only burst out and grow in a visible sign of our trust and faith in Him.

Words matter. Jesus Christ, The Word, matters in a most special way as we walk with Him toward His Passion, when He won the victory for us over sin, suffering and death.

Prayer: Look with favor on Your family, Lord, and as at this time we restrain the desires of the body, may our hearts burn with love of You.

Closing: Might we this day and every day during Lent ask the Lord to grant us the strength and resolve to disciple our minds and bodies, so that through us His radiant presence might shine for all to see.

Ed Bayliss is in the final months of diaconate formation as he prepares for ordination in April of this year. He is a member of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish and serves as Business Manager at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Peter in Chains. Ed and his wife Kim have 5 children and 7 grandchildren.

March 9: Wednesday, the First Week of Lent
Readings: Jonah 3:1-10, Psalms 51:3-4, 12-13, 18-19, Luke 11:29-32

Invitation to Prayer: “This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah. Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation.

Reflection: Does this generation seek a sign? What kind of sign are we looking for? Sometimes that sign we are looking for is one that will validate or justify our sinful habits, our vices. Jesus said, “For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” Matthew 7:14.

We often refer to the road to heaven as the “straight and narrow!” Jesus is our sign. He showed us how to live and how to love, how to forgive, and most importantly the Paschal Mystery, that death to selfish desires, to our sinfulness, brings us to new life, brings us to Easter joy!

It’s like Jesus is the sign at the gate to the road to heaven and He says, “Go straight ahead, all the way through. Do not veer off course for any reason. Ignore and resist any sign that tempts you to go in any other direction but straight.” So, we put the car in drive and begin to move forward. It does not take very long for us to encounter signs instructing and luring us to go in different directions. These signs tempt us to take a detour. We begin to say to ourselves, “This straight and narrow is boring.” “Its time for a change of scenery.” “This road is long, bumpy and challenging.” “There has to be a short cut.” We can easily end up following signs that we attribute to being the right way, when in truth we know that we are really justifying the wrong in our lives and that these signs are keeping us off course.

Jesus is the only sign that we need to follow in order to live virtuous lives of holiness. He is the sign that keeps us on the straight and narrow bringing us to new life in Him. When our lives become a reflection of the life of Jesus Christ, we then in turn become a sign for others, pointing them in the right direction on the road to heaven.

What signs are tempting us off course? What signs this past year have led us in wrong directions? What do we need to do in order to get back on course?

Prayer: Jesus, I know you are the way, the truth and the life. Please give me the grace to recognize the wrong turns and the self-destructive detours in my life. Help me to keep my eyes fixed on you so that you can bring me back on course which is the road that leads to heaven, the road that leads from death to new life. May this Lenten journey redirect me from any wrong turns and bring me to the resurrection joy of Easter.

Closing: In addition to your Lenten sacrifice today, take some time to ask yourself if you are looking for a sign that justifies sin or any wrong behaviors in your life. Am I looking for and following signs that are taking me off my heavenly course? Write them down, make a list. Sometime during Lent take the list with you and go to confession. After experiencing the joy and freedom of forgiveness, take the list, shred it up into tiny pieces and roll the tiny pieces into a tight little paper wad and discard it in the trash.

Deacon Mike Meyer is the Director of Youth Ministry at St. Denis Catholic Church in Versailles, Holy Family Catholic Church in Frenchtown, and Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Bradford. He is also the Deacon at St. Remy Catholic Church in Russia. Mike and his lovely wife Carla have six daughters and fourteen grandchildren. They reside in the country between Russia and Versailles.

March 10: Thursday of the First Week in Lent
Readings: Est C:12, 14-16, 23-25, Mt. 7:7-12

Invitation to Prayer: “Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me.” (Psalm 51: 12a, 14a)

Reflection: From a very early age, we all heard our parents tell us to treat others as we want them to treat us. We all were taught the Golden Rule in school. It was often the motto that hung over the chalkboard in our classrooms. In our Gospel today we have Jesus telling us to “Do to others whatever you would have them do to you.” Jesus is preaching the Golden Rule.

For all the times we have heard this, did we ever stop and reflect on what this really means? We always assumed that we knew what it meant, that it was really meant for others, not us. We were the ones mistreated. We needed better treatment from everyone else. But was that really the case? How does my treatment of others make them feel? Do I ever take the time to reflect on my own behavior and how it affects others? What am I teaching my children by the way I treat them? Discipline them? Reward them? Pray with them?

As we take time today to reflect on our relations with others, let us remember that the Golden Rule also applies to our relationship with God. Yes, treat God as you want Him to treat you.

Prayer: Loving Father, to often I have failed to live up to your teachings. I am an imperfect human being, selfish and self-centered. During this season of Lent bring me home to your love. Bless me and guide me, guard me and protect me as I strive to do your will.

Closing: In addition to your Lenten sacrifice today, pause before you act and see if you are treating others as you wish to be treated.

-Deacon William Staun

March 11: Friday of the First Week of Lent
Readings: Ez 18:21-28 Mt 5:20-26

Invitation to Prayer: “If you, O Lord, mark iniquities, who can stand.” (Psalm 130:3)

Reflection: “That’s Not Fair!!!” In playgrounds and households we hear these words shouted by children still forming their understanding of sharing and fairness. These concepts soon become deeply ingrained in all of us: don’t take what’s not yours. Don’t hurt other people. Treat others as you’d want to be treated. So it’s only natural for us to expect God to disdain only on our blatantly harmful actions. However, in today’s gospel, Jesus tells us that fairness isn’t just not directly harming or killing someone. We shouldn’t even harbor ill will or anger because anger draws us inward, focuses us on ourselves and not others, rendering us unfit to engage with God. Ezekiel today reminds us that God’s ideas of fairness are not the same as ours – because God is merciful and forgiving more than God is fair and just. If we turn away from our wickedness and sins and act rightly and justly, God will forgive us for anything.

We often interpret fairness in a narrow, self favorable way, thinking that if we haven’t directly harmed someone, then we are being fair; we are good people. But what if our inaction is indirectly hurting someone? Saint Amborse said that if you have two coats, then one belongs to the poor. Have we helped others? Have we shared our gifts from God? Jesus tells us It is not enough to simply avoid wickedness, but we must promote good for others as well, so that our brothers and sisters are reconciled with us and with God. Just as our God is generous to a fault, so must we be generous with those in need. Fair or Not!

Prayer: O God of justice and mercy, we praise you today for the mercy you so freely dispense. Help us today to share your abundant mercies with others. We ask this through Christ, Our Lord, who so freely gave his life for our redemption.

Closing: Usually when we think of Lent, we focus on giving something up, improving our virtue. But Almsgiving is also an important part of Lent. Who can you help today by more than fairly sharing your God given gifts? How can you best grow your virtue of generosity?

Deacon Mike Lippman serves as a deacon at Saint Maximilian Kolbe parish in Liberty Township. He was ordained in April, 2010. He has been married to his wife Linda for 39 years and is the father of two, grandfather of one.

March 12 – Saturday of the First Week of Lent
Readings: Dt 26: 16 – 19, Mt 5: 43 – 48

Invitation to Prayer: In this first week of Lent, we’ve begun the journey toward seeking and desiring to be merciful, just as Our Father in heaven is merciful. Let us be mindful that we enter this Season of Lent, the Spirit of God is with us, leading us, and protecting us, so that we do not lose our way.

Reflection: In the reading from the Book of Deuteronomy, the prophet Moses reminds the people that God, the God of Love has entered into a covenantal relationship with them. The visible sign amongst them was to be measured by their willingness to observe the covenant with all their heart and soul. They were to intentionally live out the promise in their words and actions. These words and actions would lead others to recognize the blessings of God by how they loved God, but also how they loved one another.

Jesus reminds the disciples, and us that the desire, and the zeal to love the Lord with all our heart and soul is only possible through our reliance and trust in God. It is in living the way of the Lord that our hearts are renewed and then and only then do we profess once more that Jesus is Lord!

So let us enter into the days of Lent with the purpose of spending time in prayer to discern whether we are still on the journey toward holiness. Let us be open to the prompting of God’s Spirit to remove the scales from our eyes so that we can once more begin to see with the eyes of faith. Let us enter into these days of Lent, knowing the joy of Easter will bring us greater understanding of the God who is always with us.

Prayer: O Merciful and Loving Father, we profess and believe that there is no other God like You. As we look back over our days, You, O Lord have been ever-present to us, in the storms, trials and joys of life. In these days of Lent, O God, allow us to be open to your mighty hand, so that we may be led deeper into the paschal mystery of Your Son, and our Lord, for ever and ever. Amen.

Deacon Royce and his wife Rita Winters have been married for forty-five years. Deacon Royce is the director of African American Pastoral Ministries for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. They are members of the Church of the Resurrection – Bond Hill.

 

March 13 – Second Sunday of Lent
Readings: Genesis 15: 5-12, 17-18. PS 27; 1, 7-8, 8-9, 13-14. Philippians 3: 17-4:1. Luke 9: 28b-36.

Invitation to Prayer: Lord Jesus, give me wisdom to hear your words and to follow you where you would lead me. Help me to know that you are with me and that I need to turn to you with my whole heart especially now during this holy season of Lent.

Reflection: “The Lord God took Abram outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars, if you can. Just so, he added, shall your descendants be.” Abram put his faith in the Lord, who credited it to him as an act of righteousness.”

It must have been very very dark that night and the sky must have been full of the most beautiful stars the night that God spoke to Abram. This is a beautiful image. God leans toward Abram and makes a solemn promise with him. God’s promise is a covenantal promise, an unbreakable promise; that God will give Abram all that he needs to flourish and much, much more than Abram could ever imagine! God and Abram are in a relationship. It is a relationship of love and commitment between God and His people. Abram learns to trust God and he also learns how to be faithful to this covenant. Likewise, God extends the same promise to each of us. We are His chosen ones and His faithfulness and love know no bounds. God is generous with us beyond our wildest dreams.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, my faith in you is so weak sometimes; please strengthen my ability to turn back to you during this season of Lent. Help me to know that the same covenantal promise you made to Abram, you make to me. Be with me as I am on this journey and help me to follow you in all that I do.

Closing: Reflect on the ways in which you might depend solely on yourself in making daily decisions. Autonomy is valued so highly in our culture, and it is hard to remember to turn to the Lord for guidance and discernment. Think about how often you may “take credit” for accomplishments and perhaps forget to be grateful to God for those very talents. Try to remember to listen to the soft and gentle voice of the Holy Spirit as you move from one activity and commitment of your day to another. God wants us to turn toward Him and fulfill our end of the covenant relationship.

Marisue Naber is married to Deacon John Schuler from Saint Mary Parish-Hyde Park. She recently retired after practicing as a nurse in higher education and as a Faith Community Nurse at Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish. John and Marisue have 4 children and 9 grandchildren.

March 14: Monday of the Second Week of Lent
Readings: Dn 9:4b-10; PS 79:8, 9, 11 and 13; Lk 6:36-38

Invitation to Prayer: “He has not dealt with us as our sins merit, nor requited us as our wrongs deserve.” (Psalm 103:10)

Reflection: Today, Jesus tells us to be merciful as our heavenly Father is merciful. Jesus shows an example of mercy when he tells the adulterous woman: “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin any more.” (Jn 8:11) It is important to note that Jesus didn’t condemn her but he did condemn her action, her sin, when he told her to sin no more.

As Christians, we should be compassionate towards other people’s afflictions as if they were our own. We can be compassionate to others through corporal works of mercy including visiting and caring for the sick, giving food to the hungry, and drink to the thirsty, and spiritual works of mercy including teaching the ignorant, correcting the person who has erred, and forgiving injuries.

We should also show understanding towards people who are in error. But we should never be indifferent to truth and goodness. Love, in fact, impels us to proclaim the truth to everyone. We must distinguish between the error which must always be rejected and the person in error, who never loses his dignity as a person even though he flounders. And we cannot ever pass judgment on the guilt of others. For God alone is the judge.

Prayer: Almighty God, too often I have failed to love when proclaiming truth and too often have I avoided proclaiming truth out of a false sense of love. Show me the way to love without accepting bad behavior. Show me how to be merciful and loving as you are.

Closing: In addition to your Lenten sacrifice today, pray for one person who appears to have rejected Jesus and his truth.

Deacon Jay Rettig serves as a deacon at St Francis de Sales Parish in Lebanon. He was ordained in April, 2010. He has been married to his wife Kathleen for 53 years and is the father of five and grandfather of eleven.

 

March 15: Tuesday of the Second Week of Lent
Readings: Is 1:10, 16-20 Ps 50:8-9, 16bc-17, 21 and 23 Mt 23:1-12

Invitation to Prayer: “Lord, hear my prayer; in your faithfulness listen to my pleading; answer me in your righteousness” (Psalm 143)
Reflection: I wrote an email to a family member hastily years ago and went about my day. Within a few minutes, I realized that I had not chosen my words carefully enough and they were greatly misunderstood. The amount of time spent to repair that relationship, due to a misunderstanding in an email, was significant. Have you ever emailed, texted, posted something, or actually said something and regretted hitting the “send” button. Releasing untruths (on purpose or on accident) into the world around us can damage others; and repairing the relationship(s) can be difficult.

Today, Christ tells us to not let untruths come from us…to really practice what we preach.

We preach through our written word, spoken word, and our actions. As followers of Christ He calls all of us to not only grow closer to Him but to also never stop learning from Him, and the teachers he has provided to us (The Magisterium). This made me ask myself, and now you:
Do I strive daily to grow closer to God (to avoid sin) and become white as snow?

Do I listen to God’s Word at Mass, including all the prayers and invite everything I hear to permeate me, to change me, to draw me closer in relationship to God?

Do I pray without ceasing, simply keeping God on my mind throughout my day?

I will strive to do these things today, and through Lent. Will you?

Prayer: Lord God, Creator of all that is good, guide me this day to see you in those whom I encounter. Allow your Spirit to work through me to bring your glory to others as you see fit. I ask this through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Closing: Spend some time praying on the three questions at the end of the Reflection; pondering on them throughout your day.

Deacon Chris Rauch serves as a deacon at St. Francis of Assisi in Centerville. He was ordained in April, 2013. He has been married to his wife Joanie for 38 years, and they have 4 children and are expecting their 12th grandchild.

 

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

Invitation to Prayer: “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the chalice that I am going to drink?”

Reflection: When you were a kid, and you wanted something from your parents, we’d often say I’ll do anything. Whether it was cleaning the garage, cleaning the basement or some other task. It was a one and done and we got what we wanted, maybe a trip to the baseball game, an overnight backyard campout with friends. It was a one and done.

In Matthew’s Gospel they answer “We Can”. It’s easy in the near term to answer “We Can.” Lent is the opportunity to follow Jesus deeper and not to say we can, but for the long haul. Each Lenten journey is a piece of a whole conversion process. We want it to be linear, we want it to be always moving forward. Yet in my life, I’m eager to say I can, only to let the earthly false diamonds lead me astray. God’s great mercy always awaits.

Prayer: Jesus, my saviour, keep me on your path and deepen my faith this Lent.

-staff

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

Invitation to Prayer: “If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.’” (Lk 16:31)

Reflection: I recall as I was growing up, I was always the kind of kid that had to “see for myself”. (Perhaps I still have some of that in me!) It wasn’t that I didn’t believe people, but there was something about seeing something in person that seemed to make it more “real” and certainly made it easier to remember. Perhaps this is the same theory that is used in science labs in school. Learn the theory in class, but then put the theory into practical application in the lab. When we “see”, we tend to believe all the more.

The rich man in today’s Gospel is one of those “seeing is believing” kind of guys. In the parable that Jesus speaks to the Pharisees, the rich man dies and is cast into the torments of the netherworld. In his torment, he is told by Abraham that he cannot ever cross over into the serenity of the heavenly Kingdom. To his credit, he attempts to save his brothers from the anguish he is experiencing, and asks Abraham to send Lazarus to warn them. To which Abraham replies that even if someone were to rise from the dead – someone we could “see” – an unbeliever still will not believe.

Sometimes we might find it difficult to fully grasp some aspects of our faith because there isn’t some “hard evidence” of it. The concept of a triune God can be difficult to comprehend, yet we believe because of the teachings revealed to us through Sacred Scripture, the Magisterium and Tradition. The real presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist is confirmed for us by the words of Jesus himself, not through scientific proof. Faith, by its very definition, is an act of belief. The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us “Faith is a treasure of life which is enriched by being shared.” (CCC, 949)

This Lent, let’s look at those aspects of our faith that we might struggle with. Are we fully “bought in” to each and every element of our Catholic faith? In those areas that we may struggle, let’s ask God to help strengthen our doubts. That may lead us to a celebration of Easter that finds us renewed in our faith and in an even deeper relationship with our Lord.

Prayer: Lord, at times I have fallen into the trap of needing evidence when it has been difficult to simply believe in all that You have taught me. Help me to rely less on my physical eyes and to begin to see through eyes of faith. Strengthen me with the clarity of your Word, handed on to me through the shepherds of Your Church through the ages. Lead me to a holy and joy-filled celebration of Easter, renewed and rejoicing in my faith.

Closing: Are there any areas of faith that you might struggle with? Examine your heart for any of these areas of difficulty and present them to the Lord with the petition “I do believe, help my unbelief!”

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 42 years, and is the father of two and grandfather of four.

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

Invitation to Prayer: “But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father.” (Matthew 5:44-45)

Reflection: Joseph the son of Israel, as we all know, ultimately saved all of Egypt and the surrounding countries from a severe famine, to include his family and his brothers who had betrayed him years before for 20 pieces of silver. That should sound familiar, by the way. For someone in the New Testament was betrayed for 30 pieces of silver by a man who should have been like a brother to him – namely Our Lord who was betrayed by Judas. And such correspondence and similarity between events in the Old and New Testaments is intentional. In His divine providence, God established such correspondence and similarity so that through historical events He might gradually reveal to us different aspects of His Divine Plan of Salvation to include revealing the Messiah, the Savior that was to come. God was preparing us, that is all mankind, so that when, in the fullness of time, the Messiah finally came to dwell among his people, we might recognize Him.

That’s why so many of the history, stories, and prophesies in the Old Testament seem vaguely familiar and remind us of people or events in the New Testament. That was God’s plan all along! Historical events have significance at the time they occur – just ask Joseph’s family and all of Egypt! Joseph being sold into slavery was a matter of existential significance to them! His providential rise to power saved them from starving to death. But God also uses these same historical events as signs. Signs that point to future events or to people with eternal significance so that those with eyes to see and ears to hear might see the hand of God and hear his voice in the events of history and of everyday life.

That is why feelings about our personal circumstances, though important, can nevertheless be quite unreliable. I wonder how Joseph felt when he was betrayed by his brothers? Joseph wasn’t stupid. Long before that fateful day, he knew his brothers resented and hated him. But that day he found out just how much! He probably felt anger, disbelief, fear, sorrow, and an indescribable pain in the depths of his soul when he realized he would probably never see his father again! These feelings were altogether natural and proper. Joseph should have and was perfectly justified in feeling how he did. God gave us feelings and emotions – we are not robots. However, God never intended for us to be ruled by our passions or our emotions. Rather, they are there to serve us, not we them as is so often the case.

And that’s the crucial point in the story of Joseph. What did he do with his feelings and emotions? He did not let them dominate him, he did not let them determine or set the course of his life from then on. He did not even hold a grudge or any bitterness towards his brothers. Contrast that with the priests, elders, and Pharisees today after Jesus told them the parable. No, Joseph trusted that God would bring good out of what had happened to him. But make no mistake, Joseph was not a prophet – we know the end of the story, he didn’t. All he knew was that he was being sold as a slave and all his pleading fell on ears that would not hear and eyes that would not see.

You can probably guess where this is going. We must emulate the faith, hope, and love of Joseph. But NOT the Joseph who, after a long life, looked back and saw the hand of God working in every circumstance for his ultimate good, however painful they were at the time. Rather, we must emulate the faith, hope, and love of Joseph in the solitary darkness of that dry well his brothers had put him in. Abandoned, hated, and for all he knew, left there to die. For even in all that, Joseph had faith and hope in God – he never gave in to despair. We must emulate the Joseph thrown into prison for a crime he didn’t commit, who again placed his faith and hope in God. We must emulate the Joseph who though all-powerful and who could have had his brothers killed with a mere word, showed them mercy and love instead. He forgave them, and even comforted them by telling them how God had used all that had happened, all that they did to him for good. Joseph could have resented and resisted the hand of God and become a bitter man. Instead, he accepted the events, setbacks, and injustices he endured as coming from the hand of God and thereby became wise and exceeded all in faith, hope, and love.

Prayer: Give me the grace, Good Lord, to think my worst enemies my best friends, for the brethren of Joseph could never have done him so much good with their love and favor as they did him with their malice and hatred. (Prayer of St. Thomas More)

Closing: Let us pray to God for the faith of Joseph in all the circumstances of our life, and may the prayer of St. Thomas More become our own as we strive to love our enemies as Our Lord commanded.

Deacon Rusty Baldwin serves as a deacon in Region 7 in Dayton, Ohio. He was ordained in 2007. He has been married to his wife Heather for 37 years and is the father of eight.

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

Invitation to Prayer: When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home. (Matt 1:24)

Reflection: My father-in-law (a Navy Seabee) shared with me that during the Korean War on a mission as he was driving a supply truck, bullets whizzing by him. He prayed to God for direction if he was so blessed to return home. He told God he would do whatever God wanted for his life’s vocation. He would become a priest or marry a good Catholic girl. He married a good Catholic girl as God willed it for him.
St. Joseph too discerned his calling to marry or divorce Mary; his life’s vocation on the line. After much discernment and a visit from an angel Joseph took Mary as his wife, honored her for being the mother of our dear Lord Jesus, honored her soul for the incredible woman she was, and honored her for the mother she is for all mankind. He followed God’s will for his life.

As we honor the solemnity of St. Joseph during this Lenten season for the man who desired to do the will of God, for the humble man that surrendered his will for God’s will, for the man of integrity, selfless love, and uncompromising faithfulness. May we understand the meaning of surrendering to God’s will as we make our way through this Lenten desert walk of sacrifices we make for others.
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for this Lenten season in surrendering our will for your will for us. May we always seek your will in everything we do to grow in holiness like St. Joseph, like Our Blessed Mother Mary, like those who touch our lives through their faithfulness and sacrifices for us.

Resolution: I will through the remaining of my Lenten desert walk surrender my will to God’s will for me with daily reflection and prayer to accompany my desire to deepen my personal relationship with Jesus, Mary, through the heart of St. Joseph; most just, chaste, prudent, strong, obedient, and faithful.

Deacon Henry Jacquez serves in the Holy Trinity/Nativity Pastoral Region, President of the Board of Trustees Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Center, member of the Mater Filius Queen City Ministry Team (home for women who find themselves in a crisis pregnancy), Spiritual Leader for Holy Trinity’s St. Vincent De Paul Conference, and intentional disciple of Our Dear Lord Jesus and Blessed Mother Mary. He was ordained in April 2013. He has been married to his wife, Betsy for 42 years, and is father of three children and six grandsons.

March 20: Third Sunday of Lent
Readings: Ex 3:1-8a, 13-15, Ps 103: 1-2, 3-4, 6-7, 8, 11; 1 Cor 10:1-6, 10-12; Lk 13:1-9

Invitation to prayer: Lord, be kind and merciful, pardon our iniquities and heal all our ills (Psalm 103:3-4)

Reflection: The Readings for this Sunday should affect us like the ‘ice bucket challenge’ of 1991 to 2014. You may recall this internet phenomenon where people, from the United States to Norway, endured pouring a bucket of ice-cold water over themselves to raise money for cancer awareness https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ice_Bucket_Challenge#:~:text=From%201991%20to%20early%202014,to%20jump%20into%20cold%20water

Our wake-up call begins with Moses being beckoned by an angel to approach a burning bush In Exodus 3. Here God will speak to Moses. This exchange between God and Moses reveals God’s seriousness when He gives Moses instructions on how to save his people.

Moses then asks who he should explain is sending him to the Israelites, and God responds twice, “I am who am,” and then He instructs Moses to tell the people, “I Am sent me to you.” The Father does generously provide an explanation regarding His fatherhood of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but He has made His point.

It is reminiscent of the Father’s exchange with St. Catherine of Siena years later, when in her book The Dialogues, God the Father says to Catherine: “Do you know daughter, who you are and who I am? If you know these two things, you have beatitude in your grasp. You are she who is not, I AM HE WHO IS.”

The cold water is being poured into that bucket.

In our Second reading this Sunday, St. Paul laments how so many of those who followed Moses did not heed his call, and as a consequence they, “suffered death by the destroyer.” Paul also uses nearly the exact same phrase twice, and in quick succession, “These things happened as examples for us,” and then, “These things happened to them as an example.”

Now the ice is filling up in that bucket.

Next, in our Gospel reading, people tell Jesus about the Galileans, those whose blood Pilate mingled with the blood of pagan sacrifices. This is one of those times when Jesus chooses to be frank with His listeners, or in our case, His readers. In response to this horrendous event, our Lord says, “I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!” Wow, we should read that again…

But, of course, there is no need, because later, in this same conversation, and after relating his own story about the victims of a falling tower in Siloam, Jesus says the exact same thing, “I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!”

The temperature of that water is genuinely ice cold now.

Finally, to further emphasize His point, and with double effect, Jesus shares the parable of the unfruitful fig tree, whose owner orders his gardener to “cut it down.” The gardener makes one final appeal on behalf of the tree, but he agrees that if it does not bear fruit within a year, he will indeed, “cut it down.”

Each of these readings uses the same literary device, and they have been placed in this sequence in our calendar for a deliberate reason. Sometimes the best way to be awakened from slumber is with a bucket of ice-cold water.

Prayer: Good and gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in mercy, help me understand my need for conversion and repentance, give me the grace to recognize the examples You provide for my instruction, and grant me the humility to understand who it is who is calling me to a new way of life.

Closing: Let us pray for the courage to allow God to reveal our need for conversion. Let us ask Him for the Grace to eliminate anything in our live that serves as a distraction to our complete surrender to His call in our lives.

Mark Danis is a member of St. Brigid Parish in Xenia. Mark took vows as a member of the Secular Carmelite Community in Dayton, and  work’s as the Director of Spirituality for St. Vincent de Paul in Dayton.

 

March 21: Monday of the Third Week of Lent
Readings: 2 Kgs 5:1-15ab; PS 42:2, 3; 43:3, 4; Lk 4:24-30

Invitation to Prayer: Bring me to your holy mountain, to your dwelling-place. Then will I go to the altar of God, the God of my gladness and joy. (Psalm 42)

Reflection: No prophet is accepted in his own native place. I often joke that it is hard for me assist at Mass in my hometown when I visit because the people there knew me at an ornerier phase of my life. I fear that they won’t take me too seriously. Sometimes it is hard to be who we should be around those closest to us because they see us for who we are – warts and all.

The same happened with our Lord. His message is often one that might be difficult for us to hear, but one that we need to hear. They thought that because they were familiar with him, he might have words that they would want to hear. Doesn’t that happen in our relationship with the Lord? Don’t we want to hear a Gospel of our own liking and not the Gospel that we ought to hear? Do we get angry when the will of the Lord does not match the will of our own liking? We think to ourselves “This is the Jesus who just wants me to happy – this is the Jesus that I know.”

Why don’t we step back for a moment and examine both our own lives and our familiarity with the Lord? Is our relationship one that God wants for us, or do we look at it as one we have designed in our own mind that might conform to the way we want it.

Prayer: Lord, help me to not be so complacent in my faith that I start to think that me own desires are what you want from me. May my familiarity with you be a deep relationship and not just a casual knowledge of you.

Closing: Take time to evaluate how those closest to you, in your native place, view and see your faith. Is it one on which they would want to model their faith?

Deacon Brian Caperton was ordained in 2019. He serves All Saints and St. Vincent Ferrer parishes as pastoral associate. He is also a student of Canon Law at St. Paul University in Ottawa, Ontario. He is married to Carolyn and they have two children and a grandson.

March 22: Tuesday of the Third Week of Lent
Readings: Dn 3:25, 34-43; PS 25:4-5ab, 6 and 7bc, 8-9; Mt 18:21-35

Invitation to Prayer: Remember your mercies, O Lord.

Reflection: Mercy and Forgiveness. It’s what we’re about, with family, with friends, even with enemies.

I know when I am hurt, I want to lash out. My first thought is to get even. Hurt turns to anger turning to despair.

Then there’s the other hurt, when I let people down, or when I let Christ down, I want to hide. I feel so much shame, even when I go to Mass, I feel I don’t belong there because of my sins. God knows my failings, my sins, and through the sacrament of reconciliation I am forgiven. It sounds to easy, and often I don’t let myself off the hook.

At a recent birthday party, you could feel some tension. Old wounds were bubbling up. Yet at that exact same time, there were many no longer with us. The if only mode was in full discussion. If only, I should have, always leading we need to get together more. Often the rush of everyday life crashes on everyone and those brief thoughts fade.

The grace of Mercy and Forgiveness can set a new course for ourselves. It’s a road to freedom.

Prayer: Lord, I need the grace of mercy and forgiveness. Deepen my love for you this lent to sharpen your gifts of faith, hope, and love so I can be Christ for those around me.

Closing: If you’re holding any grudges, this lent is a good time to let them go.

-Staff

March 23: Wednesday of the Third Week of Lent
Readings: Dt 4:1,5-9; Psalm 147: 12-13,15-16,19-20; Mt 5:17-19

Invitation to Prayer: Let my steps be guided by your promise; may evil never rule me. (Psalm 119: 133)

Reflection: One of the beautiful aspects of our Christian life is that Holy Mother Church provides us with well-chosen Scripture each day. We take this time during Lent to depart from Ordinary Time cyclical readings and are presented with readings that allow us to focus on this penitential season.

In Scripture today, we can read, in the most literal sense, the message given us to commit to following the laws of the Lord, presented as Moses tells us “as the Lord, my God has commanded me”. In Matthew’s Gospel account, Jesus refers to Moses, and the commands that God the Father gave him, with respect for the law and for those who spoke as prophets of the Lord. And Jesus ends His message today with the goal we all have: to spend eternity in the Kingdom of heaven.

The theme of the golden thread that connects our two readings today is the theme that the Doctors of the Church model for us: teach and listen. Moses and Jesus advise the entire Church to teach the commandments; learn and pay attention to them; to feed our minds and spirits with the riches of Holy Scripture. The natural human instinct to teach and to learn, to discern right from wrong, to receive and pass on oral and written tradition – that human instinct is raised today to the supernatural essence. God created us in His image and gave us free will. As we reflect on today’s readings as part of the season and reason of Lent, we are reminded of the need to be obedient to God, even unto death as Jesus was obedient unto His death on the Cross. The same Cross that provides for us the path to salvation and eternal life. We are reminded that through His endless love for us and desire for us to share in that love, Jesus gave us the Sacrament of Penance for those times when our words and our behaviors are outside the law.

Might we this day and every day, as we approach the glory of the Easter morning, have courage to acknowledge with sincere contrition and humility our human weaknesses and failings. Might we look inwardly and in doing so, take the outward steps to the Confessional. Might we share our sorrows for straying from God and His law; and so receive the grace that comes with the forgiveness granted us in the Sacrament.

Prayer: Grant us Lord that schooled through Lenten obedience and nourished by Your Word, we may exercise restraint and discipline as we increase our devotion to You, united in heart and in prayer.

Closing: Today, let us seek the Lord where His is found and beg Him for His forgiveness. May we be renewed through the Holy Spirit as we reconcile with God and with each other.

Ed Bayliss is in the final months of diaconate formation as he prepares for ordination in April of this year. He is a member of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish and serves as Business Manager at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Peter in Chains. Ed and his wife Kim have 5 children and 7 grandchildren.

 

March 24: Thursday, the third week of Lent
Readings: Jer 7:23-28, Psalm 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9, Jl 2:12-13, Lk 11:14-23

Invitation to Prayer: “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” Luke 11:23

Reflection: Division. We see it everywhere. In the papers, on the news, in our families, at work, at school, in our communities, in our neighborhoods, and most definitely in the entertainment industry. What is causing all this division? Sometimes we even encounter people who seem to have made it their mission in life to divide, cause drama, foster hurt and unforgiveness, and seem to pour gas on fires of anger, greed, and destruction.

Jesus states in today’s Gospel reading from Luke that whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. So, the question for us today is, “How can we gather?” One could say, “Hey, lets do a reality check.” If we take a good look back on life’s past experience we could argue that people disagree, they come from different perspectives, different points of view, and a variety of life experiences. All these things factor into an individual’s opinions about how to deal with life’s challenges.

Just take COVID 19 for example. How people are definitely divided in their opinions? Mask or no mask, vaccinated or unvaccinated, open up and let the people gather, or stay at home and social distance? It is so confusing and draining. And that is just one issue of many.
Jesus is calling us to gather with Him, to bring healing and forgiveness, to bring people together. Jesus calls us to love, and not just any kind of love, but the love that mirrors the unconditional love of Jesus Christ on the cross. They’ll know we are Christians by our love. Catholic Christians and all Christians for that matter are called to gather, to love. When we fail, we cause division and strife, and people scatter.

Prayer: Jesus, help me to love more like you love. Open my eyes to the areas of my life where there is division and unforgiveness, hurt and pain. Send your Holy Spirit upon me and give me the grace to bring healing, life, respect and kindness to all the people involved in divisive situations in my life. Help me to gather! May others recognize Christ-like love in my everyday actions that when they witness my behavior, it will be easy for them to see that I am Christian. This I ask in the name of Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with God the Father in heaven, forever, and ever Amen.

Closing: In addition to your Lenten sacrifice today, reflect on and choose one situation in your life where there is division, whether it be with family, friends, co-workers, or people in your community. Make a commitment to pray for that situation every day and ask God for the insight and the grace to give you opportunities to bring healing and unity to those relationships. On Easter Sunday, take some time at the end of the day to prayerfully reflect on any positive changes that occurred. Also try to identify how your commitment to both prayer and action positively affected you and helped you to love more like Christ.

Deacon Mike Meyer is the Director of Youth Ministry at St. Denis Catholic Church in Versailles, Holy Family Catholic Church in Frenchtown, and Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Bradford. He is also the Deacon at St. Remy Catholic Church in Russia. Mike and his lovely wife Carla have six daughters and fourteen grandchildren. They reside in the country between Russia and Versailles.

 

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

Invitation to Prayer: “Here I am Lord, I come to do your will.”

Reflection: This conversation between Ahaz and God has to be one of the best in all of the Old Testament. Ahaz initially comes across as a really smart man. It seems he knows how to speak to God. But, as we read the rest of the story, his failure to ask God for help led to his eventual destruction and that of his kingdom. So how smart really was he? Okay, the question for us today is “Do we know how to speak to God?” Our human nature would always ask for a sign. That is who we are. We like to see God as working for us, not us working for God. If we go a little deeper into the story, we realize that we can not refuse the will of God. Ahaz did not understand this. He wanted to do it all on his own. Whereas Mary, on the other hand, listens to God’s will and agrees to it. Mary understood that what God announces, God makes happen. We all seem to believe that prayer is one of the hardest things we ever do. And yet, talking to God should be the most natural thing we ever do. And so should doing God’s will. Let us take our example from Mary, not Ahaz, and pray as she did, asking only to do God’s will.

Prayer: My God, today I ask you to excuse my lack of trust as I often put my will before yours. So often I think I know what is best for myself. I am foolish. I am an imperfect human being, selfish and self-centered. During this Lenten Season, bring me back, restore me to your love. Bless me and guide me, guard me and protect me as I strive to do your will.

Closing: As we pray today, let us pray as Mary did: “May it be done to me according to your word.”

-Deacon Bill Staun

March 26: Saturday of the Third Week of Lent
Readings: Hos 6:1-6 Lk 18:9-14

Invitation to Prayer: “O God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” (Lk 18:13)

Reflection: Today we have another one parable of Jesus where he presents two extremes to help us understand an important spiritual concept. It is easy to read today’s parable and identify with the tax collector. We believe we know our sinfulness and certainly we want to be justified. And after all, none of us could be Pharisee’s, right? Certainly we don’t wear tassels or phylacteries (whatever they are!). But let’s be honest with ourselves – we ‘church people’ who attend mass regularly, who strive to be good Roman Catholic followers of Christ, are just as likely to act in the spirit of a Pharisee as we are the tax collector. Have we ever asked ourselves, “why aren’t other people here at church?” Or thought, “if only those people were Catholic like me, they’d be happy.” If so, then we are acting like the Pharisee in that our focus on ourselves rather than God is preventing us from receiving God’s grace and mercy. Certainly, all of us are self centered at times and at other times we are generous and loving. We may be the tax collector today and the Pharisee tomorrow.

The good news is that this parable isn’t really about how much we are like the tax collector or the Pharisee. This parable is about God – God who is merciful and loving to any repentant sinner. God who desires love more than sacrifice and a change of heart more than empty actions. And when we focus on God and not ourselves, we can all go home justified.

Prayer: O God of justice and mercy, we praise you today for the mercy you so freely dispense. Help us today to share your abundant mercy with others. We ask this through Christ, Our Lord, who taught us of your loving mercy and gave his life, in mercy, for our redemption.

Closing: When was the last time you sought God’s mercy in the Sacrament of Reconciliation? Schedule a time to go to confession now so that you too can be justified!

Deacon Mike Lippman serves as a deacon at Saint Maximilian Kolbe parish in Liberty Township. He was ordained in April, 2010. He has been married to his wife Linda for 39 years and is the father of two, grandfather of one.

March 27 – Fourth Sunday of Lent [Year C]
Readings: Jos 5: 9, 10-12; Luke 15: 1-3, 11-32

Invitation to Prayer: On this Fourth Sunday of Lent, we reflect on the Parable of the Prodigal Son and the love the Father has for all of his sons and daughters. Let be present to the movement of God in our lives and how we are invited to return over, and over, and over again to the warm embrace of God’s love and mercy.

Reflection: In the reading from the Book of Joshua, the people God are encamped on the plains of Jericho and celebrate the Passover, prior to entering into the Promised Land – the land of Canaan. It was a new beginning, with new conditions which gave them the ability to grow their own crops. The people of God celebrated their new status by remembering their past experiences of God’s abounding love. They were no longer nomads, they were now dwellers in a land that was a “good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey.” Ex. 3:8

The Prodigal Son, just like the people of God, had wandered far away from God in the ‘desert.’ We can reflect back on our own lives and identify the times, that we’ve felt lost and all alone. Though lost, our God never stopped searching for us. God never stopped loving us. Never – no never have we ever returned to God’s loving embrace, and not known or felt the love of God’s own heart. It is from this loving embrace that we praise God for his mercy and love. Yes, we the people of God have come to know that our God is always with us. Our God continually extends to us the invitation to return home to a loving embrace.

Prayer: O Merciful and Loving Father, we profess and believe that there is no other God like You. As we look back over our days, You, O Lord have been ever-present to us, in the storms, trials and joys of life. In these days of Lent, O God, allow us to be open to your mighty hand, so that we may be led deeper into the paschal mystery of Your Son, and our Lord, for ever and ever. Amen.

Deacon Royce and his wife Rita Winters have been married for forty-five years. Deacon Royce is the director of African American Pastoral Ministries for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. They are members of the Church of the Resurrection – Bond Hill.

March 28: Monday of the Fourth Week of Lent
Readings: Is 65:17-21, PS 30:2 and 4, 5-6, 11-12a and 13b; Jn 4:43-54

Invitation to Prayer: “I praise you, LORD, for you raised me up and did not let my enemies rejoice over me.” (Psalm 30:2)

Reflection: In today’s Gospel, a high ranking official, who was likely a member of Herod’s court went to Jesus and asked him to come and heal his son. First, Jesus tests his faith. Then, Jesus, perceiving that his faith was sincere, sent him home with the words: “You may go, your son will live.” The man believed and left. When the son was healed, the whole household came to believe.

How does Jesus test our faith? Does he perceive that our faith is sincere?

Last weekend, I attended a men’s retreat during which many men described serious medical conditions in their immediate or extended families. Then, each of these men described how carrying this cross allowed their faith and trust in God to grow.

Somehow, Jesus makes good come out of evil, even serious physical or emotional conditions. When we are faced with serious challenges in our lives or in the life of someone close to us, we must trust that Jesus loves us and that he will somehow make good come out of it.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, your love never fails and your mercy is unceasing. Give me the courage to surrender my stubborn pride, fear and doubts to your surpassing love, wisdom and knowledge. Make me strong in faith, persevering in hope, and constant in love.

Closing: Pray three times today with conviction: “Jesus, I trust in you.”

Deacon Jay Rettig serves as a deacon at St Francis de Sales Parish in Lebanon. He was ordained in April, 2010. He has been married to his wife Kathleen for 53 years and is the father of five and grandfather of eleven.

March 29: 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: Say to the LORD, “My refuge and fortress, my God in whom I trust.” (Psalm 91)

Reflection: Recently I posted a religious link on my Facebook page and wondered if my account would be shut down due to the cancel culture in which we are witnessing around us; it did not happen. It seems to be very easy to get disheartened these days due to all the bad news, misinformation, and the cancel culture which has permeated our society; it is so hard to know who to trust and what to believe.
In the Gospel today I was reminded that Christ already dealt with the cancel culture, misinformation, and bad news of the world, and so I don’t have to! Christ brought the Truth to the world, and many in the world tried to silence Him. Nothing has changed in that regard these last 2000 years.

As people of faith, we are called to totally trust God, and proclaim the Good News throughout our lives as we are now the hands and feet of our Lord. It made me ponder on how I currently proclaim the Truth around me both by word and action. Today, let us ask ourselves:
Do I speak the Truth daily by the way I live?

Do non-believers sense the joy my faith brings me, and yearn for what I have that they are missing out on?

Do I share with others the healing power of Christ in my life when the opportunity arises?

Prayer: Lord God, creator of all that is good, I praise you for my life and the gifts you have bestowed upon me. I ask that you send the Holy Spirit to guide me this day, that I may be a beacon of hope, truth, and joy to those I encounter. I ask this through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Closing: Discuss at least one of the three questions above with a fellow Christian and invite Christ into the discussion. Mt 18:20

Deacon Chris Rauch serves as a deacon at St. Francis of Assisi in Centerville. He was ordained in April, 2013. He has been married to his wife Joanie for 38 years, and they have 4 children and are expecting their 12th grandchild.

March 30: Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Lent
Readings: Isaiah 49: 8-15. PS 145: 8-9, 13cd-14, 17-18. John 5: 17-30.

Invitation to Prayer: Lord Jesus, in your kindness and mercy, grant me the wisdom to hear your words and to follow you where you would lead me. Help me to know that you are with me in all that I do, and that I need to turn to you with my whole heart, especially now during this holy season of Lent.

Reflection: “The Lord comforts his people and shows mercy to his afflicted…Even should she (a mother) forget (her infant) I will never forget you.”

Our God is a God who keeps promises. In fact, our God makes a solemn covenant, an unbreakable promise, with each one of us. Human promises and contracts are easily broken or dissolved, changed and altered. The covenant God makes with us never changes. In our great human frailty, we tend to forget this comforting and generous gift, our covenant with God. I have heard it said that the phrase, “Be not afraid”, is quoted over 1000 times in the Bible. God must be very aware of our tendency to forget his love and merciful goodness and compassion toward us. One of the strongest human bonds, the bond of a mother to her child, may not always be honored. Sometimes those we love the most let us down and do not fulfill their promises. God is ever more faithful than the most dedicated mother. God cherishes each one of us individually and will never let us down. In this reading from Isaiah, he reminds us of God’s everlasting covenant. This should give us a measure of heavenly peace.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, my faith and trust in you is weak; deepen and strengthen my faith and enable me to turn back to you with my whole heart during this season of Lent. Help me to know that the same covenantal and eternal promise you made to Abram, you make to me. Calm my weary and worrisome soul, be with me on my life’s journey, and help me to follow you in all that I do.

Closing: Reflect on a time when you have been anxious and afraid, or worried about yourself or someone close to you. Make a special effort to remind yourself of the unbreakable covenant God makes with each one of us…God promises to love us and to comfort us, to calm our fears, and to be always with us. Remember to listen to the soft and gentle voice of the Holy Spirit as you move from one activity and commitment of your day to another. God wants us to turn toward Him and fulfill our part of the covenantal relationship he makes with each of us.

Marisue Naber is married to Deacon John Schuler from Saint Mary Parish-Hyde Park. She recently retired, having taught Nursing at UC for many years, and then worked as a Faith Community Nurse at Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Anderson. John and Marisue have 4 children and 9 grandchildren.

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

Invitation to Prayer: Take a moment to recall the presence of Jesus Christ with you now, remembering that he is more present and necessary than the very air we breathe.

Reflection: Why is Moses more merciful than God? This question can arise from a quick reading of Exodus 32:7-14. Why does Moses have to plead God not to destroy his people? Why is God so full of wrath? The ancient Rabbis, however, had a different take on this passage. An ancient Rabbinic tradition teaches this passage as a test of Moses’ mercy. God’s wrath flares up, not for the destruction of Israel, but to evoke the mercy of Moses, that he might learn to plead God for his people. This is the leadership God wants of Moses: a sacrifice of mercy.

All of this foreshadows Jesus, the Christ, who will plead the Lord God by giving his very life for his people. The gospel today can at times be harsh, perhaps even wrathful. Jesus is stern with his people. Is Moses more merciful than Jesus? By no means! We know Christ will give his entire life for us. Instead here we encounter God’s pleading. Jesus pleads with us that we might come to him. Indeed he says, “But you do not want to come to me to have life,” almost begging, thirsting for us to come to him. Once again, God’s wrath flares up, not for our punishment but to plead our mercy. Will we not come to him? Will we not recognize him? Will we not accept his gift of mercy?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I praise you for your merciful death on the cross for me. I know that it was my sins which nailed you there. I praise and thank you for paying the punishment I owed and pleading to the Father for mercy on my behalf. Help me to receive your gift of love and to be merciful like you.

Closing: Sometimes the best way to come to know God more is to act like him. It can be hard to understand mercy until we receive mercy and act mercifully. Today, how can you acknowledge the mercy of another and in turn be merciful to someone else?

Benjamin Klare is a seminarian in First Theology at Mt. St. Mary’s Seminary & School of Theology in Cincinnati, OH. He is studying and discerning for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.

 

April 1: Friday of the Fourth Week of Lent
Readings: Wis 2:1a, 12-22; PS 34:17-18, 19-20, 21 and 23; Jn 7:1-2, 10, 25-30

Invitation to Prayer: “Is he not the one they are trying to kill? And look, he is speaking openly and they say nothing to him.” (Jn 7:25-26)

Reflection: I had a friend (and I use that past tense because he sadly passed away a few years ago, much too early in life) who had no problem speaking his mind on just about any topic. He wasn’t afraid to touch the “untouchable” topics that we politely avoid in public conversations, including politics and religion. He was a devout Catholic and was well catechized in his faith. He was the kind of guy that handed out copies of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (yes, the full-sized, 900-page version!) to people, Catholic and non-Catholic alike. He was convinced of the truth of the Catholic Church and he had no problem letting people know about it. I recall going to the March for Life in Washington, D.C. with him several times. He would enthusiastically take on the pro-abortion demonstrators and engage them in debate about why their position on abortion was wrong. I marveled at (and was a bit jealous of) his courage and the deftness with which he defended the pro-life position with strangers on a street corner who were clearly hostile to his viewpoint.

The events presented in today’s Gospel remind me of that friend to some extent. They take place in Jerusalem at the time when Jesus had become very well known to Jewish officials and they were actively seeking to find him and kill him. The chief priests and Pharisees did not like Jesus’ message, which was in opposition to them and their practices. How many times did he call them hypocrites? Jesus had to speak the truth, because that was why he was sent by the Father. He knew that by continuing to speak against the chief priests and the Pharisees he was putting his life in danger. But he refused to cower against the authorities. He refused to be restrained from speaking the truth just because it wasn’t convenient, popular or safe. And, as we know, he paid the price for speaking the truth with his life.

Are we that bold? Are we that fearless? Are we afraid of speaking the truth for fear of what others will say or think about us? Perhaps we may be shunned in social media, our family, our parish, our workplace, our neighborhood, our circle of “friends”. I’ll be the first to admit that I am NOT that courageous! I’m not one that willingly meanders into the mine fields of conflict. But I do pray for the strength, grace and diplomacy to proclaim the Gospel and the truths of the Church without regard for the consequences. It’s not easy. But if we look to Jesus as our model, we should strive to imitate him as best we can.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I am weak. There are times that I find it difficult to stand up for the truth out of fear of rejection or conflict. But I know that your words are truth and love. Please give me courage and wisdom to proclaim the truths of the faith to those whom I encounter, so that they may know you and love you completely. Amen.

Closing: Is there an opportunity for us to lovingly reach out and bring the truth of Christ’s message to someone we know? Perhaps we have an occasion to be a messenger of the Gospel to someone we care about. Ask God for the strength and prudence to be a beacon of God’s love to them.

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 42 years, and is the father of two and grandfather of four.

April 3:The Fifth Sunday of Lent
Readings: Is 43:16-21, Ps 126:1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 6., Phil 3:8-14, Jn 8:1-11

Invitation to Prayer: “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.” (John 8:11)

Reflection: Many years ago before I entered into the Deacon Program. I wanted to make a lifetime confession to clean and heal my soul from all those sins I had committed being such a free spirit. I wanted to lay everything out there as much as I could remember. I wanted to be in total unity, spirit and heart, peace and joy with our Lord who was calling me to the Diaconate.

A dear friend, in love with our Blessed Mother and her most holy rosary; we would often shared stories of how praying our Lady’s rosary touched our lives. One day he caught sight of me as I was entering the Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Center. He immediately knew something was wrong with me. He asked if he could help me in any way. I told him I was about to make a lifetime confession and I was a scared and a nervous wreck.

He just smiled and told me “you are so blessed, Mother Mary is with you. Fr. Smith is here. Fr. Smith loves our Lady and her rosary too. You couldn’t have come at a better time. You are so blessed.” He was right! Fr. Smith was the most compassionate, helpful, and forgiving of souls. He didn’t condemn me but blessed me for having the courage to make such a good confession. I came out of there walking on clouds and so thankful to our Blessed Mother for her grace to do it.

Prayer: Dear Mother Mary, give all those who shy away from confession the grace to open their heart and soul to a priest who represents Jesus in this healing sacrament filled with his unconditional love, unfathomable mercy, and infinite forgiveness this Lenten season.

Resolution: I will throughout this year make it a goal to go to confession more often. To pray our Lady’s most holy rosary for the grace to strengthen my relationship with her Son, Jesus who neither condemns but only heals and blesses us to become the best version of ourselves as he created us.

Deacon Henry Jacquez serves in the Holy Trinity/Nativity Pastoral Region, President of the Board of Trustees Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Center, member of the Mater Filius Queen City Ministry Team (home for women who find themselves in a crisis pregnancy), Spiritual Leader for Holy Trinity’s St. Vincent De Paul Conference, and intentional disciple of Our Dear Lord Jesus and Blessed Mother Mary. He was ordained in April 2013. He has been married to his wife, Betsy for 42 years, and is father of three children and six grandsons.

 

April 4: 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; Jn 8:12-20

Invitation to prayer: Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil; for you are at my side. (Psalm 23:4)

Reflection: The 23rd Psalm is the best known of the one hundred and fifty Psalms in the Bible. If you were to memorize only one of the Old Testament Psalms, this would be the one. It is a prayer of total abandonment to God’s mercy, an acknowledgement of His providence and guidance throughout our earthly journey, and it offers praise and thanks for God’s promise of eternal life.

If we view the 23rd Psalm in light of the Old Testament Reading today, we can see how Susanna’s own experience with the two evil judges validates the promises found in this Psalm.

In the Book of Daniel, the beautiful Susanna falls victim to the unbridled passions of two older, wicked judges. When she refuses their illicit offer and chooses to face the consequences of their false accusations, she does not loose heart. Rather, she cries out to the only one who can save her from certain death.

“O eternal God, you know what is hidden
and are aware of all things before they come to be:
you know that they have testified falsely against me.
Here I am about to die,
though I have done none of the things
with which these wicked men have charged me.”
Susanna’s rejection of the judges’ enticement to sin, and her prayer of abandonment in the midst of injustice, echo the very sentiments found in the 23rd Psalm:
He guides me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk in the dark valley
I fear no evil; for you are at my side (Psalm 23:3b-4)

Immediately God hears Susanna’s prayer, and the Holy Spirit inspires a young man named Daniel to come to her defense. Daniel instantly interrogates the two judges and reveals their deceit. As a result, Susanna’s chastity, reputation and her life are spared.

It is important to recognize God’s intervention is preceded by Susanna’s prayer. God will surely guide us in the right paths, but He wants us to place our trust in Him above everything. Susanna does that when she begins her prayer. She first acknowledges God knows what is hidden. Indeed, He is aware of all things, even before they come to be.

How often might we find ourselves asking whether God really knows what is going on in our lives, and whether He is genuinely concerned about our welfare? If we genuinely want God to take control of the circumstances of our lives, then we must acknowledge His omnipotence. More importantly, we must learn to cast all our cares upon Him, (1 Peter 5:7) especially when experiencing a trial or an injustice.

Prayer: Father, when we experience unwarranted accusations and injustice, please send us the Holy Spirit to turn us to prayer. All our hope is in you Lord, and we have confidence You will guide us along the sure path of this earthly life until we come to stand before You in our heavenly home.

Closing: Let us pray to our heavenly Father that He might provide us the grace to abandon ourselves to Him in all circumstances. Let us pray with confidence in His supreme power and look beyond our temporal and temporary circumstances to the reality of the eternal life.

-Deacon Candidate Mark Danis

April 5: Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Lent
Readings: Nm 21:4-9; Psalm 102:2-3, 16-18, 19-21; Jn 8:21-30

Invitation to prayer: “The LORD looked down from his holy height, from heaven he beheld the earth, to hear the groaning of the prisoners, to release those doomed to die.” – Psalm 102

Reflection: The Lord reminds of our humanness. Our frailties, our weakness, our sinfulness. He reminds us that because of the sin of Adam, we will die. He belongs to what is above, we, here, to the world.

Lent is the season for us to confront the imperfections that we possess as the humans that we are. Lent is a time for us build ourselves into the people that Christ want us to be. As we approach the Triduum, as we approach the mystery of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, may we strive toward perfection.

Christ is truth, the truth given Him by the Father. He is the great I AM. May we come to believe in Him because he has spoken this way.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, since you speak to us through scripture and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, help us to draw ever closer to you and to believe because you have spoken to us.

Closing: Today is the feast of the great Dominican Saint, St. Vincent Ferrer, the patron saint of builders. As one of the parishes that I serve is St. Vincent Ferrer, let us pray to him that together we may build God’s kingdom on Earth.

Deacon Brian Caperton was ordained in 2019. He serves All Saints and St. Vincent Ferrer parishes as pastoral associate. He is also a student of Canon Law at St. Paul University in Ottawa, Ontario. He is married to Carolyn and they have two children and a grandson.

 

April 6: Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Lent
Readings: Dn 3:14-20, 91-92, 95, Daniel 3:52, 53, 54, 55, 56, Jn 8:31-42

Introduction: “I did not come on my own, but he sent me.”

Reflection: “If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” In today’s Gospel, Jesus promises freedom for those who follow him. At these words, Jesus’s Jewish followers are confused. “Why do we need to be set free? We are descendants of Abraham!” Jesus, however, responds that all who have sinned are slaves to sin. This means everyone, including all of us. The good news is that Jesus deeply desires to free each and every one of us from this slavery.

“But now you are trying to kill me, because my word has no room among you.” Though this is early in John’s Gospel, Jesus is alluding to his death. As we approach Holy Week, we will enter once again into the drama of the death and Resurrection of Christ. In this highest point of the liturgical year, we recognize the work of salvation that Jesus has done for us. In his death, he takes on our sins and thus frees us from our sins, and in his Resurrection, he frees us from the power of death.

Today, let us reflect on the mercy of Jesus, who suffered death, even death on a cross to bring us to himself and save us from slavery to our sins. Additionally, as we prepare for Holy Week, we should strive to commend every aspect of our lives: our sins, fears, failings, and insecurities, to the pierced and afflicted Heart of Jesus, which burns with love for us.

Prayer: O God, Father of compassion and mercy, through our Lenten penances and preparation for Holy Week, help us to know more fully your love for us. Aid us in commending our whole lives into the hands of our Crucified Lord, who seeks to free us from our fears and failings. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God forever and ever.

Christopher Buschur is a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, currently studying at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary and School of Theology in Cincinnati, Ohio. He is also a former intern at The Catholic Telegraph. Christopher’s home parish is St. Mary, Urbana.

April 7: Thursday of the Fifth Week of Lent
Readings: Gn: 17:3-9: Psalm 105:4-5, 6-7, 8-9; Jn 8:51-59

Invitation to Prayer: Christ is mediator of a New Covenant, so that by means of his death, those who are called may receive the promise of an eternal inheritance. (Heb 9: 15)

Reflection: It is one week before the end of Lent. The readings from Scripture as we approach the Passion of our Lord remind us that the hatred against Christ was growing, and the plot to kill Him was developing.

IN our first reading, we are reminded that Abraham’s life marks the beginning of salvation history. His immense journey through the wilderness was made in response to God’s call. This biblical desert he walked was a place of passage and purification.

The wilderness inside us is a place of testing, where the power of false gods can be broken. This wilderness, this Lenten desert, is a place of encounter with ourselves, with our inner demons and with God. To enter it fully, we must leave behind the call of this world with all its interruptions and messages that seek to confuse us into avoiding the truth. Only through making ourselves vulnerable to our own pain and fear can we make ourselves open to the experience of loving and of being loved; open to the One truth that matters for all time.

The vehemence of the Jewish people make their conversations with Jesus sound like shouting matches. Yet, again today, we see Jesus call on His divine nature to remain strong as He speaks about who He is and about His relationship with the Father. Jesus pays all respect to Abraham, and his understanding of the coming fulfilment of all the promises made in the Old Testament. This divine way of looking at things is the model for us to follow and to appreciate the meaning of a holy life that Jesus brings to life.

Might we this day and every day ask Jesus for His help to proclaim from the rooftops the gift of the Word; the gift that is a life and purpose to fill with love and charity.

Prayer: Be near, O Lord, as we plead before You, and look kindly on us as we place our hope in Your mercy. Cleanse us from the stain of sins so that we may persevere in holy living to become heirs of Your promise.

Closing: Today, may we speak holy words that give God the glory and reflect the eternal Truths alive in our hearts. May He filter out errors and allow only the seeds of Truth to be planted in our minds.

Ed Bayliss will be ordained a Deacon in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati on April 23 this year. He is a member of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish and serves as Business Manager at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Peter in Chains. Ed and his wife Kim have 5 children and 7 grandchildren.

 

April 8: Friday, the Fifth week of Lent
Readings: Jer 20:10-13, Psalm 18:2-3a, 3bc-4, 5-6, 7, Jn 10:31-42

Invitation to Prayer: “I hear the whisperings of many: “Terror on every side! Denounce! let us denounce him!” All those who were my friends are on the watch for any misstep of mine. Jer. 20:10

Reflection: Have you ever in your life taken a big step towards God and grew in your faith life in leaps and bounds? And people who know you well, your friends and family, begin whispering about you because they notice a change in your behavior and are convicted by your newfound freedom of faith. They want the old you back and are a lot more comfortable with the way you used to be.

This is what happened to Jeremiah. God calls on him to preach to the people that they need to turn away from their sinful, selfish ways and return back to God. They do not like it one bit. They don’t want to hear it! So, they are whispering and conspiring to denounce him. Those who were once his friends are now watching for him to misstep so they can bring him down.

God is always pushing us forward in our faith life and drawing us closer to himself. Sometimes it can seem as if we are surrounded by people who are holding us back, who desperately want us to slip back into past sinful behaviors and old ways of living our lives. The culture in our modern society wants everyone to honor the God of Relativism, a live and let live mentality.

When we witness behaviors and attitudes from those around us that are sinful, destructive, and harmful, even though we are bothered by them we choose not to say or do anything about it in an effort to maintain the status quo, to keep the peace. This way no one will whisper about us or denounce us.

This fifth week of lent we should find ourselves making steps toward God and away from past sins. God is calling us to witness to others with our lives, just like He called Jeremiah to witness to the Jewish people. By answering this call, we could potentially be instrumental in helping another person come alive in their faith and turn away from sin. When we do this in love, empowered by the grace of God, we make the world a better place, and we don’t need to worry about the whisperings of others or friends watching for us to misstep. We are joyfully alive in the freedom of faith.

Prayer: Jesus, help me to witness to others through both my actions and my words. Give me the patience, love, and grace that I need to live and speak your truth to others. Take away any fear or anxiety that I have about being denounced or negatively talked about behind my back. Give me the freedom of faith that brings peace to everyone. This I ask in the name of Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with God the Father in heaven, forever, and ever Amen.

Closing: In addition to your Lenten sacrifice today, ask yourself if anyone in your personal life is holding you back in your Catholic, Christian faith. Ask God to replace any fear or anxiety that you have with faith, and to give you the grace that you need to continue to be committed to moving forward in your heavenly journey even when faced with the oppositions and the whisperings of others.

Deacon Mike Meyer is the Director of Youth Ministry at St. Denis Catholic Church in Versailles, Holy Family Catholic Church in Frenchtown, and Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Bradford. He is also the Deacon at St. Remy Catholic Church in Russia. Mike and his lovely wife Carla have six daughters and fourteen grandchildren. They reside in the country between Russia and Versailles.

April 9: Saturday of the Fifth Week in Lent
Readings: Ez 37:21-28, Jeremiah 31:10, 11-12abcd,13, Jn 11:45-56

Invitation to Prayer: “Make for yourselves a new heart and a new spirit.”

Reflection: Awhile back, while browsing through a religious goods store, and I don’t remember which one or where, I saw a placard, or piece of wall art, which read: “I will be their God and they shall be my people.” This got me to thinking. To the people of the Old Testament this was the ultimate statement. This was God claiming ownership of them, the Jewish people. What more could you ask than to be one of God’s people? To become one of the chosen? But wait, I am sure many said “does that come with free food and lodging for life?” Somehow, we always want something in return for our committing to anything. God’s love does not come with attachments, conditions, pre-conditions, dues, penalties, etc. God’s love is unconditional. God’s love is freely given and it must be freely received. We must always remember that God does not think like we think. God’s ways are not man’s ways. We hear that a lot, but it is true. God loves us so much. God loves us with all are faults, our sins, our failures and he will never give up on us, He will never stop forgiving us. He will never stop loving us.

Prayer: Loving Father, what is it about you that you never stop loving me? What have I ever done to deserve your love? Have I taken your love for me for granted for so long that now I fail to recognize it? I am a sinful human being, selfish, only loving myself. During this Lenten Season, bring me back home, restore me to your love, and forgive all my sins. I ask for your blessing, your guidance, and your protection as I strive to do your will.

Closing: As we lay in bed awaiting sleep, let us call to mind all those moments today when God showered us with His love.

-Deacon Bill Staun

April 10: Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion
Readings: Lk 19:28-40, Is 50:4-7, Ps 22:8-9, 17-18, 19-20, 23-24., Phil 2:6-11, Lk 22:14—23:56

Invitation to Prayer: “You who fear the Lord, praise him; all you descendants of Jacob, give glory to him; revere him, all you descendants of Israel.” (Psalm 22:23)

Reflection: Today, Jesus’ disciples welcomed Christ the King. They carried olive branches and loudly praised the Lord: Hosanna in the highest!

And yet, in six days, the crowd would yell “Crucify him!”

By our words and actions, are we praising Jesus or crucifying him?

By our sins, we put Jesus on the cross. When we accept and even embrace the sins of those around us, we are saying: Crucify him!
Let the blessed palm that we receive today be a reminder of our love for Jesus and our desire to follow him in good times and in bad. Let us put this palm in our home as a sign that Christ the King is always welcome there.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, be the King and ruler of my heart, mind, life, and home. May my life reflect your meekness and humility that you may be honored as the King of glory!

Closing: Walk with Christ this Holy Week. Follow him down the Via Dolorosa through the pain of his crucifixion to the joy of his resurrection.

Deacon Jay Rettig serves as a deacon at St Francis de Sales Parish in Lebanon. He was ordained in April, 2010. He has been married to his wife Kathleen for 53 years and is the father of five and grandfather of eleven.

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

Invitation to Prayer: Say to the LORD, “My refuge and fortress, my God in whom I trust.” (Psalm 91)

Reflection: He died suddenly and I was left with an aching hole in my heart. I struggled through my days and weeks, wanting to reach out to him, realizing over and over that he was not reachable.

I simply did not have a number I could call to talk to him for advice and counsel as I had in the past. At the age of 40 I had lost my father and my life suddenly changed. Where exactly was he? Was he safe? Would I see him again? Was he with God?

I imagine that most of those who loved Lazarus felt the same way and asked the same questions after his death. Jesus loved him. Scripture tells us that He loved “Martha and her sister and Lazarus”. The loved ones of Lazarus must have been rejoicing over his return from the dead, and the inkling that there may be a “home” for them – even after death. What a special gift they were given.

After a few months of sleepless nights as I dealt with the death of my father, I was also given a special gift. I was given the gift of a dream, like no other before or since, where the colors were beyond vivid and all my senses seemed to be truly alive for the first time. In this dream I was looking for “the way” or “directions” or “an answer” as I explored what seemed like paradise. Suddenly a person appeared at my side and in an instant I found myself in his full embrace. I was being held by my dad who looked so healthy and happy. He simply put his mouth next to my ear and whispered “I’m Home” and upon his release I awoke immediately. My sense of loss and my grief seemed no longer so deep and painful – my father was home with God. A place where we all long to be. I was reborn like Lazarus with a gift like no other. “Home” means so much more to me now.

Prayer: Lord God, creator of all that is good, I praise you for my life and the gifts you have bestowed upon me. I ask that you send the Holy Spirit to guide me this day, that I may be a beacon of hope, truth, and joy to those I encounter. I ask this through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Closing: Discuss with another or with family: What do you think it was like for those who lost Lazarus and realized he had been returned to them by Christ? What would you ask Lazarus if you had lived at that time? Do you have a personal story or have you heard about someone being reborn or rising again? What does “home” mean to you?

Deacon Chris Rauch serves as a deacon at St. Francis of Assisi in Centerville. He was ordained in April, 2013. He has been married to his wife Joanie for 38 years, and they have 4 children and are expecting their 12th grandchild.

April 11: Tuesday of Holy Week
Readings: Isaiah 49:1-6. PS 71: 1-2, 3-4a, 5ab-6ab, 15, 17. John 13: 21-33, 36-38.

Invitation to Prayer: Lord Jesus, in your kindness and mercy, grant me the wisdom to hear your words and to follow you where you would lead me. Help me to know that you are with me in all that I do, and that I need to turn to you with my whole heart, especially now during holy week.

Reflection: “Peter said to him, “Master, why can I not follow you now? 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.”

How many times have we known what we should do, or what we should or should not say in any given moment, but just didn’t follow through even with our best intentions? We make excuses, put things off, or we just don’t want to be embarrassed by exhibiting our Christian convictions. Our Lord knows us well, that our spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. And it is because God knows us so well, he gives us many opportunities to return to Him, again and again. This is so important to Him, that even during that last supper, He said that His blood would be shed for the forgiveness of sins, our sins; for what we have done and what we have failed to do.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, you know me so well, that my actions may not always reflect what I know is best. Help me to be stronger in my faith, in my trust in You. Help me to follow your example, when You put aside Your human desires in order to do the will of Your Father. Grant me the strength and courage to follow You wherever you lead.

Closing: Reflect on a time when you wished that you would have acted differently in a given situation. How could you have prepared yourself to be a stronger person?

Deacon John Schuler is a member of St. Mary Parish – Hyde Park. He is married to Marisue Naber. John and Marisue have 4 children and 9 grandchildren

 

April 13: Wednesday of Holy Week
Readings: Isaiah 50:4-9a, Ps 69:8-10, 21-22, 31 and 33-34, Mt 26:14-25

Invitation to Prayer: “Lord, in your great love, answer me.” (Psalm 69:14)

Reflection: Today’s readings all point to Our Lord’s great mercy. Jesus Christ, who made the heavens and the earth will soon be rejected by his own creation; rejected by those who Our Lord loves deeply and who depend on his divine goodness for their very existence.

As the Passion of Our Lord draws near, the readings urge us to reflect on the depth of Jesus’ love for us. Through Isaiah the prophet he tells us, “I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pluck my beard.” Those who did this might never ask Our Lord for forgiveness, might in fact hate him all the more because of his love for them, yet Our Lord is love and cannot but love who he created.

Sometimes we find it difficult to forgive, even those who are truly sorry and ask for our forgiveness. We savor the power we gain over someone who has wronged us. If how we were wronged is a small matter, we should simply consider how Our Lord was willing to forgive those who wronged him and let go of our petty grievances. Sometimes, though, we have been so deeply and so seriously injured by someone we might wonder whether we can ever forgive. If this is where you are at, Our Lord in His Passion is especially reaching out to you during Holy Week. Give that injury and hurt, pain and anger to Our Lord. He knows the injustice you suffered and wants to free you from that pain and bring healing to your spirit. Our faith is for times like these, when we don’t think we have the ability to forgive, save for God’s grace.

Let us unite our sufferings, great and small, with the Lord’s this Holy Week. Let us unite any injustice we have suffered with what He suffered. He knows how real our pain is because he went through it himself.

Prayer: Lord, give us the grace to forgive as you forgive. Give us the grace your mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, must have had when she forgave those who pierced her heart as they crucified her son. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us.

Closing: Pope Francis said, “Holy Week is a privileged time when we are called to draw near to Jesus: friendship with him is shown in times of difficulty.”

Deacon Rusty Baldwin serves as a deacon in Region 7 in Dayton, Ohio. He was ordained in 2007. He has been married to his wife Heather for 37 years and is the father of eight.

April 14: Holy Thursday
Readings: Ex 12:1-8, 11-14, Ps 116:12-13, 15-16bc, 17-18, 1 Cor 11:23-26, Jn 13:1-15

Invitation to Prayer: Jesus, as we begin the holiest days of the year, help us to understand the significance of everything you’ve done for us. Give us a heart and mind to understand your passion, death, and resurrection anew. May we recognize your gifts to us today!

Reflection: “… fully aware that the Father had put everything into his power… he rose from supper and took off his outer garments … and began to wash the disciples’ feet.”

In Christian stewardship we often reflect on how everything we are and everything we have is a gift. Holy Thursday is the perfect opportunity to reflect on how Jesus teaches us about giftedness and humility. Jesus is God. And God the Father “put everything into his power.” And what does He do? He receives that and immediately responds by humbling himself as a gift for others. He does this first by washing the feet of the disciples. He also does this so profoundly in giving us the Eucharist – humbling his body, blood, soul, and divinity to be given to us under the likeness of bread and wine. And ultimately, He will humble himself by being given up to death on a cross. Humility is the link that moves us from receiving a gift, to giving a gift… to being a gift… a gift like Jesus.

Prayer: Jesus, I so often struggle to remember the many gifts you pour out on me. The Church, the Eucharist, my life, my livelihood, my family, my home, and countless other gifts. Help me to live in gratitude this Holy Week and please give me the humility to not only receive your gifts, but to become a gift for others in humility.

Closing: When was the last time I thanked Jesus for the Church and his presence in the Eucharist? When was the last time I truly humbled myself so as to be a gift for someone else?

Matt Reinkemeyer is the Director of Development Operations for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati and a member of Our Lady of Victory Parish in Delhi. He and his wife, Jennifer, have four kids including their oldest who is getting ready to make her first communion.

 

April 15, 2022: Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion
Readings: Is 52:13—53:12, Ps 31:2, 6, 12-13, 15-16, 17, 25, Heb 4:14-16; 5:7-9, Jn 18:1—19:42

Invitation to Prayer: “Brothers and Sisters … let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help … for we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:14-16).

Reflection: On this most solemn of days, I offer an excerpt of The Reproaches for reflection; a series of laments of our Lord Jesus Christ to his people dating to the 9th century and customarily sung during the adoration of the Cross.

The Reproaches (Improperia)
My people, what have I done to you
How have I offended you? Answer me!

Response:
Holy is God!
Holy and strong!
Holy immortal One, have mercy on us!

Antiphons:
I led you out of Egypt,
from slavery to freedom,
but you led your Savior to the cross.

For forty years I led you
safely through the desert.
I fed you with manna from heaven,
and brought you to a land of plenty;
but you led your Savior to the cross.

What more could I have done for you.
I planted you as my fairest vine,
but you yielded only bitterness:
when I was thirsty you gave me vinegar to drink,
and you pierced your Savior with a lance.

For your sake I scourged your captors
and their firstborn sons,
but you brought your scourges down on me.

I led you from slavery to freedom
and drowned your captors in the sea,
but you handed me over to your high priests.

I opened the sea before you,
but you opened my side with a spear.

I led you on your way in a pillar of cloud,
but you led me to Pilate’s court.

I bore you up with manna in the desert,
but you struck me down and scourged me.

I gave you saving water from the rock,
but you gave me gall and vinegar to drink.

For you I struck down the kings of Canaan.
but you struck my head with a reed.

I gave you a royal scepter,
but you gave me a crown of thorns.

I raised you to the height of majesty,
but you have raised me high on a cross.

Prayer: We adore your Cross, O Lord, we praise and glorify your holy Resurrection, for behold, because of the wood of a tree joy has come to the whole world. May God have mercy on us and bless us; may he let his face shine upon us and have mercy of us.

Closing: Today, let us join our sufferings to that of our Savior, however great or small they may be. Let us give endless praise and thanksgiving to him who loved us to the point of death, death on a cross.

Benjamin Klare is a seminarian in First Theology at Mt. St. Mary’s Seminary & School of Theology in Cincinnati, OH. He is studying and discerning for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.

 

April 15: Holy Saturday
Readings Click here.

Invitation to Prayer: “Peter got up and ran to the tomb, bent down, and saw the burial cloths alone; then he went home amazed at what had happened.”

Reflection: This past weekend I ran into a gentleman who came into the Church four years ago. He said after twenty-eight years of marriage, going to Mass every Sunday with his wife, raising their two children in the Catholic Church, and founding the 40 Days for Life Campaign in Tyler, Texas; he thought it time to seek the Lord in Eucharistic Adoration to figure out his next career move.

During Adoration the Lord placed only one word on his heart, “begin.” After sharing the word with his wife and a period of discernment he signed up to “begin” the RCIA program at his parish. Nearing the end of the program he was still unsure if becoming Catholic is what the Lord was calling him to do. So once again he went to Adoration seeking the Lord’s guidance. Our marvelous Lord once again placed only one word on his heart “continue.”

Sharing with his wife once again the word the Lord put on his heart “continue.” He went onto becoming a Catholic gentleman on Holy Saturday’s Easter Vigil Mass at his parish. He went on to share that these two incredible words the Lord gave him during his Adoration visits were miraculous in converting his heart and deepening his personal, intimate relationship with the Lord that was nothing short of amazing.

Prayer: Good and gracious Lord, most amazing in guidance, love, mercy, and forgiveness. We come before you humble servants in thanksgiving for all the gifts, talents, and guidance you have graced us with. We seek only your will in our life with supplication and total surrender.

Resolution: We will now commit ourselves to more time in Eucharistic Adoration this year with a strong desire to listen more attentively, to discern more actively, and give more praise and worship to you who desires only that we become the best version of ourselves for you and those we serve.

Deacon Henry Jacquez serves in the Holy Trinity/Nativity Pastoral Region, President of the Board of Trustees Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Center, member of the Mater Filius Queen City Ministry Team (home for women who find themselves in a crisis pregnancy), Spiritual Leader for Holy Trinity’s St. Vincent De Paul Conference, and intentional disciple of Our Dear Lord Jesus and Blessed Mother Mary. He was ordained in April 2013. He has been married to his wife, Betsy for 42 years, and is father of three children and six grandsons.

April 17: Easter Sunday 2022
Readings: Acts 10:34a, 37-43, Ps 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23., Col 3:1-4, Jn 20:1-9

Invitation to Prayer: “… and he saw and believed.” (Jn 20:8)

Reflection: Five words. There are only five words in the “Invitation to Prayer” today, which come from John’s gospel on this Easter Sunday.

“… and he saw and believed.”

Though small in number, they pack a powerful message. These five simple words encapsulate the message of the Resurrection. For without Peter and the “other disciple” (as the Gospel refers to him) running to the tomb and finding nothing but the burial cloths, we would have no account of the Resurrection. In fact, without this very first encounter with an empty tomb, the entire mission of Jesus might have been derailed. If they had not seen and believed, they wouldn’t have carried the news of the resurrected Christ back to the other apostles and disciples.

Peter and the other disciple saw and believed. And from that moment on, the news of Christ’s Resurrection – the Gospel of Christ – began to spread.

The description of this event at the empty tomb is quite interesting. John states that Peter and the other disciple “saw and believed”. He did not say that they “saw and understood”. There is a difference between believing and understanding. Understanding implies being able to grasp the nature, significance or explanation of something (according to Webster). Believing is an act of faith, the acceptance of a proposition that might be devoid of proof. “When I can understand it, then I’ll believe it” most people say. But that mindset is not what God is calling us to. I personally cannot understand the concept of a triune God – three persons in one divine being. Yet I believe. I cannot understand the concept of transubstantiation, when the elements of bread and wine change in substance into the body and blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Yet I believe. I cannot understand, even on this Easter Sunday, how Jesus rose from the dead! Yet I believe. In our science-driven, fact-filled world, we are convinced that we must first understand, then believe. Our faith calls us to the exact opposite – believe, and then you may understand.

On this most holy of all solemnities of the Church, may our belief in the Resurrection of our Lord be strengthened. May our gratitude to our Lord for his sacrificial death and his glorious Resurrection, which is the source of our salvation, overflow within our hearts. Though we were not present on the first Easter morning to see for ourselves, let us ask God to strengthen our belief in his Resurrection.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I come before you in awe of the mystery of the Resurrection. Though I do not understand, I do believe! On this day, you have conquered death and unlocked for us the path to eternity. Help me to continue to believe even when understanding may be difficult. Bless your Church throughout this holy Easter season, that we may love you more intimately and so share in life eternal. Amen.

Closing: Throughout this Easter season, we will continue to move towards the beginning of the Beacons of Light. Let’s pray for the success of our new Families of Parishes and to accept and believe in that which we might not understand.

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 42 years, and is the father of two and grandfather of four.

 

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