Lenten Reflections 2023
March 21 – Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Lent
Readings Ez 47:1-9, 12, Ps 46:2-3, 5-6, 8-9, Jn 5:1-16
Invitation to Prayer: A clean heart create for me, O God; give me back the joy of your salvation. (cf. Psalm 51:12a, 14a)
Reflection: In today’s Gospel, Christ healed a man who’d been sick for 38 years. “It’s a miracle!” many proclaimed. “But he did it on the Sabbath!” his detractors bemoaned.
Last week my kids were playing with their cousins in our living room while I tidied up the kitchen (I was alone in our house with 8 children between the ages of 1 and 8). I didn’t turn on any music or a podcast. I simply tuned in to the chaotic soundtrack of their game. What were they playing? Church. The trunk that holds the board games was set up like an altar. It was covered with a white blanket, laid out with nary a wrinkle, and there was a cup, a bowl, and an open book on top. One of the older kids drew a crucifix, colored it in, and cut it out. But when the artist went to hang the crucifix on the curtain rod above the altar, division set in among them…
“No, I’m going to hang it up!” one kid yelled. “But it’s my crucifix! I made it and I’m the priest!” “No, I’m the priest!” Their game of church had barely been going on for ten minutes and already they teetered on the edge of a great schism.
As I scrubbed Pope Dad’s pancake mess off the countertop, I was hit by the existential weight of the microcosm of the history of Christianity playing out in my living room. I pondered the difference between playing church and being Church. I wondered how many miracles I had failed to see in my life because I chose to dwell on my beef with the placement of the crucifix or the person playing the priest.
Before Christ healed the sick man by the pool at Bethesda, he asked him: “Do you want to be well?” It’s a fascinating question, for it alludes to the possibility that the man might not want to be well. Honestly, sometimes it seems like I don’t want to be well. Sometimes the drama of sin and division [and all the pride that comes with being right] is more enticing. A clean heart create for me, O God; give me back the joy of your salvation.
Prayer: Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved, as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
And it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life. Amen.
St. Francis of Assisi, pray for us.
Kevin Heider works as the “media guy” for Catholic Campus Ministry at Wright State. He is a husband, a father of five, and a singer-songwriter (his music is on Spotify) who loves conversations about art and all things creative.
March 22 – Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Lent
Readings: Is 49:8-15; Ps 145:8-9, 13cd-14, 17-18; Jn 5:17-30
Invitation to Prayer: The Lord is gracious and merciful.
Reflection: Sometimes I think I just need to see a giant yellow flashing arrow that shop owners use to attract business to show me what I am not supposed to miss.
God seems to be pulling out a big flashing arrow in today’s readings. Kind of a spiritual neon sign telling us to stop and study the relationship between Father and Son and ourselves to them.
In the first reading God tells us to what ends He will go to comfort his people. This is no simple hug and a pat on the hand. Rather, He’ll cut a road through all His mountains and make His highways level. He won’t forsake and forget us. Just in case you were tempted to pull up a digital news account of a mother abandoning her child, God, our Father, says he will never forget any of us.
To reveal even more detail about who our Lord is, the responsorial psalm reminds us of God’s qualities of being gracious, merciful, slow to anger, of great kindness, good to all, compassionate toward all his works, faithful in all his words, holy in all his works. And the list goes on. Check it out.
In the Gospel we learn about the beautiful relationship between God the Father and His Son. Jesus also tells us that we should be more impressed by the resurrection of life and the resurrection of condemnation.
In the final passage Jesus makes sure that the neon, flashing arrow illuminates our awareness as to who God is and who we are in relationship to Him. This arrow is firmly aimed at the biggest takeaway in today’s Gospel and points to the words we should be taking away to our inner self: I do not seek my own will but the will of the one who sent me.
Prayer: Dear Father, thank you for the gift of this Lent and the opportunity to improve our awareness and relationship to you. Your reminder of your many qualities helps to remind us of who we are called to be to others. Grant us the grace to do your will always.
Closing: Today let us be the light of love that God is to us, especially to those living in the darkness of poverty, despair, homelessness, and addiction, because we have seen the great light the Father and Son have shown us.
Pam Long and her husband Bob are the parents of three children and grandparents to three grandchildren, all who bring great joy and hope now and in the future. Pam is a parishioner at St. Julie Billiart Church, a part of the St. Stephen Parish Family in the Hamilton area. She leads the Catholic Relief Services Chapter for Dayton, Cincinnati and Southwest Ohio and is a member of the Archdiocesan Social Action Commission. She retired in 2017 as Regional Director of the Catholic Social Action Office.
March 23 – 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: God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in him might have eternal life. (Jn 3:16)
Reflection: I often struggle with knowing what God wants for my life. When facing a difficult decision, I pray, reflect, talk to my people, and consider how my life can build up God’s kingdom – but I often don’t know if I’m really following my will or the guidance of the Holy Spirit (if the two are not in line). I’ve been extraordinarily blessed to have been led through the doors God opened, but I know there are many people who have found themselves in a place they regret their decisions (guidance?).
But I cannot imagine, cannot fathom, outright challenging God when/if God explicitly told me something. Where does Moses get the nerve to push back and tell God to chill out – “Let your blazing wrath die down; relent in punishing your people.” (Ex 32:12)?!?
I must admit that I struggled with today’s readings. Not only does Moses challenge God – and win! – but Jesus calls us out for missing Him in the scriptures and not accepting Him.
I think I settle on these two challenges from God: 1. We must change our view of God from a deity that is high above us, lording over us with vengeance and wrath, to a merciful Creator, loving us and offering us mercy if we but turn to God and ask. God always stands ready to welcome us, but we have to make the intentional turn to God; and 2. Jesus is always with us – in the scriptures, in nature, in our neighbors and strangers, and in ourselves, but we will miss Him if we are focused on our own selfish ways.
Ultimately, these challenges both boil down to the same idea: the three persons of God are all around and always with us, but it’s up to us to open ourselves up to God or to turn away. I make the daily effort to convert, to turn towards God.
Prayer: Lord, help me to “cultivate the practice of prayer” by preparing myself “with sincere effort and intent to bring [my] will into harmony with [your] will.” (St. Theresa of Avila, The Interior Castle)
Closing: How do I see God, and how does that affect my prayer? Where have I missed seeing Jesus in the world, and how can I open my heart and eyes to see Him all around me?
Andrew Musgrave serves as the Director of the Catholic Social Action office. He is a member of the Church of the Resurrection, has been married to Ana for 10 years, and has two amazing daughters, Layla and Juliet.
March 24 – 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: Today if you hear the voice of the Lord, harden not your hearts.
Reflection: Our Scripture readings today remind us again that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament. The Book of Wisdom gives us insight into the mind of those who are most wicked, those who are most affected by their inability to surrender to a righteous, charitable, and forgiving way of life, for “their wickedness blinded them.” (Wisdom 2:21).
Once Jesus began His public ministry, he never steered away from the people he came to save. He knew a life where some of the people fully realized He was the long-awaited Messiah; where some only approached and followed Him when there was something in it for them; and where many were simply unable to open their eyes, their hearts, and minds. As bright as the light of Jesus was shining, those who were not ready to see could not come out of their own darkness.
The contrast between the character of Jesus and that of His enemies could not be more pronounced. The Jewish leaders sought day after day to torment Jesus, to seize Him and to eventually put Him to death; death as their limited understanding thought it to be. Jesus gives us the model of behavior when we are faced with the same terroristic threats in our lives. Jesus spent His days embodying the spirit of charity; of prayer and of fasting from the most human response of striking back against those who disagreed with Him. When we are unfairly accused, criticized, or condemned, we would do well to cry out as Jesus did by continuing our work and vocations in service to all the people of God.
Jesus gives us the strength; we only need to ask for the strength to forego concern of what others think about us and turn our fears and doubts over to God. The grace of our baptism calls us to go forth as disciples of Jesus; sent to live out the corporal works of mercy through our words and behaviors.
Prayer: Father, our source of life, You know our weakness. May we reach out with joy to grasp Your hand and walk more readily in Your ways. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever.
Closing: The days of Lent are often associated with the image of a desert. Perhaps this day and every day, we can replace the desert image with that of a mountain. Together let us climb God’s mountain, taking the high road to imitate Jesus in His unconditional love for friend, for the stranger and for those who see us as their enemy.
Deacon Ed Bayliss is assigned to the family of parishes of Immaculate Heart of Mary, Guardian Angels, and St. John Fisher; and also assists as deacon at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Peter in Chains. He was ordained in April 2022. Ed and his wife Kim have 5 children and 7 grandchildren.
March 25 – Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord
Readings: Is 7:10-14; 8:10, Ps 40:7-8a, 8b-9, 10, 11, Heb 10:4-10, Lk 1:26-38
Invitation to Prayer: “To do your will, O my God, is my delight, and your law is within my heart!” (Ps 40:9)
Reflection: The Annunciation of our Lord is the day when, “The word of God became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (Jn 1:14a). This is where God descends to us to be like us in all things but sin, so that we might overcome our sin and be like Him. God does this with the cooperation of humanity. As the first reading says, God is going to give us a sign and that sign is the virgin bearing a Son. The Son is called “God with us” (Is 8:10). Mary is this sign that humanity has again been faithful and that the time of salvation has come. God is now dwelling with us.
This all occurs because “the handmaid of the Lord” allows it to be done unto her (Lk 1:38). Mary consents to God’s plan. It was a lot for a young person to take on, still she trusts in the Lord. It is her acceptance in bringing forth a Savior that undoes the rejection of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. This fiat, or yes, leads to Mary being called the New Eve.
How well do we cooperate with God’s plans for us? Are we like Mary and find it in ourselves to say yes, even when we know the future may not always be easy? Doing the will of God might not always seem like a delight, as the psalmist says today, but we have to trust that joy will come out of the sorrow. Mary is the perfect model of this acceptance of God’s will and allowing Him to work out His plan in our lives. “‘For nothing will be impossible for God’” (Lk 1:37b).
Prayer: Lord, help me to be open to the plans you have for my life and give the courage to say yes to those plans, just as the Blessed Virgin Mary did.
Closing: What are some of the ways that God is calling you to grow in faithfulness to Him today? What is a small way that God is inviting me to say yes to Him? What is holding me back from giving my fiat to these plans? How has following God’s will brought joy and delight to my life?
Matthew Hess is the director of ministry at the Maria Stein Shrine of the Holy Relics in Maria Stein, Ohio. He enjoys reading papal biographies or cross stitching with a cup of tea in his free time. Matt and his fiancé, Rachel, are preparing for their wedding which is slated for this summer.
March 26 – Fifth Sunday of Lent
Readings: Ez 37:12-14, PS 130:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8, Rom 8:8-11, Jn 11:1-45
Invitation to Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, teach me to trust and believe in your healing power and presence.
Reflection: When I was in high school, I expected that I would be quite close to spiritual perfection by the time I graduated college. To my great chagrin, even extending my college tenure to graduate school failed to allow that hope to be realized; I still have so many imperfections and struggles that have hung around to greater and lesser degrees over the years. I know that God loves me, and that He wants me to join Him in heaven, but if that’s true, why won’t He just help me overcome these things that are keeping me from imitating Jesus more perfectly?
As if to back up this confusion, John tells us about an unusual sequence of events in today’s Gospel: We are told that “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus,” but then, we hear, “So when he heard that he was ill, he remained for two days in the place where he was,” as if His love for them was the reason for that He chose to delay His coming to them. But if Jesus loved them so much, why didn’t He go in haste to heal Lazarus? Why didn’t He spare them the pain and heartache of death? Why did He abandon them to their suffering?
But whether we consider our own pains or that of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, Jesus Christ says to us, “This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” After all, Jesus Christ is the same God who promised, “I will open your graves and have you rise from them. . . I will put my spirit in you that you may live. . . thus you shall know that I am the Lord. I have promised, and I will do it. . .” When God permits evil, it is only because He knows He can draw an even greater good out of it, and not because He actively desires evil to be done. If God permits an illness, He does not wish it to end in death – the eternal death of the soul – but for the glory of God, and if, as St. Irenaeus tells us, “The glory of God is the living man. . .” then God only permits an illness in order to bring about our fullness of life. St. Irenaeus goes on to say, “. . . and the life of man is the vision of God.” How then, does experiencing illness grant us the vision of God?
To begin with, it opens our eyes to how much we need Him. Mary and Martha send word to Jesus when Lazarus falls sick, knowing that, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” They know that He brings healing and life, and they desire His presence. St. Augustine tells us that, “The entire life of a good Christian is in fact an exercise of holy desire. You do not yet see what you long for, but the very act of desiring prepares you, so that when he comes you may see and be utterly satisfied.” Do we, in our need, remember that Jesus Christ said, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners”? And when He asks us, “Do you want to be well?” Are we ready to respond, “Yes!”? An awareness of our own spiritual infirmity and desire for God’s healing prepares us to receive God as He truly is.
When our eyes are opened in this way, we discover that what God reveals to us in his delay is not that He is inactive or inattentive to our needs, but that He longs for us to trust in his healing power. His power is not limited to merely preventative measures – healing us before we even become sick – otherwise we would have been lost after the Fall. No, God desires to enter into the very places we think have been utterly destroyed to bring even our death into a new life in Him. And believing in His desire and power to do so, and withholding nothing of ourselves from being transformed by His love, is the way in which we will be granted the vision of God through which we receive the fullness of our life.
Prayer: Loving Father, open my eyes to see your presence and love through my deepest wounds, and help me be a channel of your healing power to all those you have entrusted to me.
Paco Patag is a homeschool graduate and an alumnus of Cincinnati State Community College, the University of Cincinnati, and the Saint John Leadership Institute. He serves as the Associate Director of Young Adult Evangelization for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, and currently resides at the Stella Maris men’s household at Our Lady of the Valley in Reading. Paco always welcomes conversations about life, books, and music, especially around a fire or on a good hike.
February 22: Ash Wednesday
Readings: Jl 2:12-18, Ps 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: “Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness” (Psalm 51: 3)
Reflection: Lent is not a time to sit idle and wait for God to act. It is a time of spiritual urgency. The prophet Joel exclaims, “Blow the trumpet in Zion! proclaim a fast, call an assembly; gather the people!” The Lord has indeed taken the initiative as he calls out to us, “Return to me with your whole heart,” but it is up to each one of us to respond to this invitation.
Each year we are blessed with the gift of this holy season to examine our lives, root out from them that which is not of God, and allow ourselves to be more conformed to the goodness for which he created us. Jesus himself encouraged his disciples to practice the spiritual works of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Both then and now, these disciplines help us to be less focused on ourselves and more committed to God and to loving others as he does.
Prayer is an antidote to pride, because through prayer we contemplate God and his ways rather than our own. Fasting is an antidote to sensuality, because we intentionally set aside even legitimate pleasures that we find in this life, knowing that our ultimate fulfillment is in heaven. Almsgiving is an antidote to vanity, because it teaches us to think more of others and their good rather than remaining focused only on ourselves.
Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, then, make the likeness of God shine more clearly from our lives. May he grant us that grace, to learn to live more like him during these forty days, to better reflect his image and likeness to a world in need of his presence. In so doing we more perfectly become who he created us to be.
Prayer: Lord, as I embark on this spiritual campaign of forty days, help me to convert my heart more and more to you, not so as to be noticed by others but solely for love of you who have given everything for love of me.
Closing: Consider the motivations for your practical resolutions to pray, fast, and give alms this Lent. For what spiritual intention can I offer up these small sacrifices?
Father Jason Williams serves as Chancellor of the Archdiocese as well as Master of Ceremonies to Archbishop Schnurr. He was ordained in 2016 and completed his licentiate in canon law through The Catholic University of America in 2022.
February 23: Thursday after Ash Wednesday
Readings: Dt 30:15-20; Ps 1:1-2, 3, 4 and 6; Lk 9:22-25
Invitation to Prayer: Dear Jesus, let me shoulder the cross before me this day, particularly when I think I have no time, energy or resources to care for my neighbor.
Reflection: What great parties we have when a child is born and baptized into the faith. This is a great occasion to revel in new life. And then there are the birthday parties and other milestones, all happy reasons for cherishing life. More importantly there are the sacraments, which give us the grace to see Jesus walking with us throughout our lives.
It is a temptation (and we’re only in the second day of Lent!) to limit the call to “choose life” to giving birth to a child. We are called to so much more and should embrace the deeper meaning of choosing life as much as we embrace that sweet little one we cradle in our arms.
In today’s scriptures the author of Deuteronomy points to a broader understanding of choosing life. We learn we are to love God, walk with Him and keep his commandments, statutes and decrees. The two greatest commandments? We know that answer by heart! Love God and love our neighbor.
In the Gospel Jesus makes it clearer: “whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” So we’ve got to give our life to Jesus by doing what we can to change the difficult conditions of others’ lives. We must become aware and engaged with our neighbors who did not choose poverty, homelessness, sickness, violence in their neighborhoods and climates that are changing and threatening their homes and ability to feed their families.
If we are choosing life as God asks and Jesus shows, we will work to remove the perils that our neighbors face in their lives, just as we would do it for our children. Then we will be choosing life, not just here for ourselves, but also for our neighbors and for eternity with God.
Prayer: Dear Jesus, help us this day and always to expand our knowledge of our neighbors, not limiting ourselves to those we know or who live next door, and to work for the good in their lives, valuing it above our own.
Closing: Meet someone new today, either in person or through media accounts. Become aware of the cross she or he is carrying. Choose a life-giving response.
Pam Long and her husband Bob are the parents of three children and grandparents to three grandchildren, all who bring great joy and hope for the future. Pam is a parishioner at St. Julie Billiart Church, a part of the St. Stephen Parish Family in the Hamilton area. She leads the Catholic Relief Services Chapter for Dayton, Cincinnati and Southwest Ohio and is a member of the Archdiocesan Social Action Commission. She retired in 2017 as Regional Director of the Catholic Social Action Office.
February 24: Friday after Ash Wednesday
Readings: Is 58:1-9a, Ps 51:3-4, 5-6ab, 18-19, Mt 9:14-15
Invitation to prayer: A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn. (Ps 51:19b)
Reflection: We enter this Lenten season, a time where we take special care to stop, pray, fast, and reflect, and we boldly believe that we are going to make this Lent different. We’re going to stick to our fasting, we’re going to up our praying, and we’re going to slow down so we have time to do that. Maybe we even ask for God’s grace to help us with our Lenten practices. But then, perhaps, the difficulty of the extra prayer and pain of the fasting gets to us, makes us a little less strict, a little less committed, a little less faithful. (And, honestly, did we really even consider how the particular fast or prayer practice would bring us closer to a Godly existence, or did we just do it because we were supposed to, it was easy to pick, or it’s what we always do?)
This seems to be a common path I find myself on (and hear about from others), and this reading from Isaiah really hits home when I think about how this happens. I wonder, therefore, if this is a sign that I need to change things up, more thoughtfully consider how my Lenten practices might line up with God’s will (and not my own).
If you haven’t already decided on your Lenten practices (or even if you already have), consider how you might follow the guidance from Isaiah and direct your Lenten journey towards seeking to make this world more like God’s kingdom, especially for those who are experiencing injustice, oppression, and marginalization. Consider how you might respond to God’s perfect and never-ending love with a true, full-throated, open-hearted “YES.”
Prayer: “I acknowledge my offense, and my sin is before me always: “Against you only have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight.”” (Ps 51:5-6ab) I humble myself before you Lord, and I ask that you guide my heart to love you and be Christ to those most in need.
Closing: How is this Lent going to be different? How are you committing to cleaning the inside of the cup and then pouring out that love on others?
Andrew Musgrave serves as the Director of the Catholic Social Action office. He is a member of the Church of the Resurrection, has been married to Ana for 10 years, and has two amazing daughters, Layla and Juliet.
February 25: Saturday after Ash Wednesday
Readings: Is 58:9b-14, Ps 86:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, Lk 5:27-32
Invitation to prayer: Encourage each other daily while it is still today.
Reflection: We’ve begun the desert season of Lent, recalling the 40 days in the desert that Jesus subjected himself to; and like Hi we are fasting and praying and fending off the temptations of the devil.
Just as Jesus came out of the desert refreshed and ready to begin His ministry, so too we are called to minister. Our scripture readings today remind us of the rebirth we gain as we walk each step of our Lenten journey nourished by God’s Word, by His understanding of all that we are going through each day, and with His hand in ours when we stumble.
Isaiah foreshadows Jesus’s teaching and our vocation as Christians by telling us to feed the hungry, and to tend to friends or strangers who are in pain:“ The Lord will give you plenty, even on the parched land.” (Is 58:11) God will feed us in our Lenten desert and all the days that come after.
In Saint Luke’s Gospel account, we read the story of Jesus calling Levi and eating with him; and the Pharisees reaction of Jesus mingling with the greedy, sinful tax collector. Jesus gives us His teaching that Isaiah preached as well: “I have not come to call the righteous but the sinner” (Luke 5:32).
Friends, at times in our lives, we are the hungry and we are the ones in pain; and at times we are the greedy and sinful. Jesus knew that by the model of His suffering and by His humble life as the incarnate Son, we could have our eyes and our hearts opened to see the path we need to take in our times of suffering, He has given us all we need to be His arms and legs in the charity of healing and helping. Jesus wants us to be the ones who offer time to the lonely, prayers for the sick and aid to those who may have nothing. It is easy to walk away from people that are most in need of our help and it is also just as be the ones who offer a helping hand and the people that take the first step in offering forgiveness.
Prayer: Father, through our observance of Lent, help us to understand the meaning of your Son’s death and resurrection, and teach us to reflect it in our lives. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Closing: Perhaps during this season of Lent and every day that follows, we can offer up to the Lord the burdens of the sacrifices we make. We can remain steadfast in meeting the responsibility of the grace received in the sacraments and so make our lives a constant tribute to the love of God.
Deacon Ed Bayliss is assigned to the family of parishes of Immaculate Heart of Mary, Guardian Angels and St. John Fisher; and also assists as deacon at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Peter in Chains. He was ordained in April 2022. Ed and his wife Kim have 5 children and 7 grandchildren.
February 26: First Sunday in Lent
Readings: Gn 2:7-9; 3:1-7, Ps 51:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 14 and 17, Rom 5:12-19, Mt 4:1-11
Invitation to Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, purify and intensify my love through this season of Lent.
Reflection: I don’t think it’s truly registered for me, in quite a while, just how heartbreaking the Fall and Original Sin is. Eve was tricked into believing a lie about God’s trustworthiness, Adam stood by and did nothing to protect his bride from harm, and the peace and joy of Eden was lost. They failed to trust in the sufficiency of what was freely given by their Creator and chose to shortsightedly grasp at their own plans for satisfaction. Saint Pope John Paul II, pondering this, writes, “Original sin, then, attempts to abolish fatherhood, destroying its rays which permeate the created world, placing in doubt the truth about God who is Love and leaving man only with a sense of the master-slave relationship (Crossing the Threshold of Hope, 1994).” And as we continue to see today, this rejection of trust in God’s love and goodness wounds not only each human person’s relationship with God, but with creation, each other, and our very selves.
Here at the beginning of Lent, Jesus goes before us into the desert to be tempted by the devil, but what might at first seem like a grim reminder of the forty days of fasting and penance to come is instead a reminder of great hope. Christ offers us a pattern to follow in this life: he goes into the desert immediately after his Baptism, and it is only after his temptation in the desert that he begins his public ministry.
Having received the truth of his identity as the beloved Son of the Father through baptism, Jesus demonstrates his complete trust in his Father’s goodness by rejecting the devil’s temptations to continue the distortion of relationships brought about by original sin: to exert his power over creation to turn stones into bread; to take dominion over others through an earthly kingdom; to grasp at one’s own selfish satisfaction by taking advantage of God’s goodness; and to reject God to worship lesser things. This restoration of the proper order of relationships is the fundamental basis of Jesus’ ministry in which he invites us to share in his own relationship with his Father that we might receive the healing fullness of his Father’s perfect and infinite love.
As a result, in our own Baptism, the Father adopts us “as his children in his only Son (CCC 2782),” washing away the stain of original sin which fundamentally strikes at the heart of the relationship between father and child. Only then are we equipped to enter fearlessly into the desert of this life. In Lent, we are led by the Spirit into the desert to embrace anew our identity as beloved children of the Father, that we might live out our mission of bringing his love and goodness into every one of our relationships. Almost of all of Lent lies before us, but we should take heart in that this Gospel shows us that “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 (Heb 4:15).”
What might our lives look like if we lived as if we truly believed that we are the beloved children of God the Father, meant to radiate Christ in the midst of the darkness of this world? I hope we give ourselves a chance to discover the answer to that question this Lent.
Prayer: Loving Father, help me to conform myself more closely to your Son, Jesus Christ, and so bring your love to those around me through this season of Lent. Amen.
Paco Patag is a homeschool graduate and an alumnus of Cincinnati State Community College, the University of Cincinnati, and the Saint John Leadership Institute. He serves as the Associate Director of Young Adult Evangelization for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, and currently resides at the Stella Maris men’s household at Our Lady of the Valley in Reading. Paco always welcomes conversations about life, books, and music, especially around a fire or on a good hike.
February 27: Monday of the First Week of Lent
Readings: Lv 19:1-2, 11-18, Ps 19:8, 9, 10, 15, Mt 25:31-46
Invitation to Prayer: “‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me’” (Mt 25:45)
Reflection: Where do we see God? This is the central question of today’s Gospel and one that we still ask today. If we never know the answer to this question, how then can we follow the commands of God and live with Him in heaven? It can be easy to maintain an image of God who is abstract, or a distant grandfatherly being. But today we read we must see Him in those we are called to serve.
The Lord speaks to Moses in the first reading instructing the assembly of His expectations of them. These laws tell us how we should treat our neighbor. We are told not spread slander, not to lie, not to rob, and not bear hatred in our hearts. At the end of each statement, the Lord reminds us “I am the Lord” thus connecting our actions toward our brothers and sisters to Himself.
In the Gospel, Jesus directly connects our actions with our treatment of God. If we show love and mercy to those around us, we have shown it to God. In carrying out God’s law of Love, He is loved. When we ignore those in need we have ignored him. Jesus is saying that when we act with charity toward another, we are showing our love for Him.
Finally, if we fail to see that our actions matter and that God is present in those in need, then there are consequences for our lack of charity. It can be easy to think that God really does not care about what we do or how we live. No. That is not what Jesus is telling us. The goats are separated from the sheep. Those who realized God cares about their day to day actions toward their fellow humans are rewarded for their charity. By seeing God in others, we will see God in eternity.
Prayer: God, our Father, this Lent help me to see Your presence in those around me and to respond to them with charity. May I be attentive to Your words and honor You with my deeds. Amen.
Closing: In your day today be mindful that those who you come in contact with share in the likeness of God. If you happen to encounter someone that needs help, extend to them an act of charity.
Matthew Hess is the director of ministry at the Maria Stein Shrine of the Holy Relics in Maria Stein Ohio. He enjoys reading papal biographies or cross stitching with a cup of tea in his free time. Matt and his fiancé, Rachel, are preparing for their wedding which is slated for this summer.
February 28 – Tuesday of the First Week of Lent
Readings: Isa 55:10-11; Ps 34:4-5, 6-7, 16-17, 18-19; Mt 6:7-15
Invitation to Prayer: Lord, help me to find my true joy in you alone.
Reflection: There is a hauntingly beautiful Taizé song (De noche iremos), based on the poetry of St. John of the Cross, that speaks of a journey where people go out by night in search of the fountain (the source of life) with only thirst to light the way. In a period of great duress, King David cried out, “O God, you are my God for you I long, for you my soul is thirsting” (Ps. 63:1). To be thirsty is to be needy, and desirous of drink, and there is a thirst at the core of our being that only God can slake.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church has a long, marvelous section (cf. 2759-2865) on the “Our Father.” According to St. Thomas Aquinas, the “Our Father” contains all that “we can rightly desire, [and] also in the sequence that they should be desired” (CCC, 2763). Were I to list all that I would think that I should rightly desire, I don’t think that I would have come close to something like the “Our Father.” I need to be taught how to desire the things of God. Through the “Our Father,” Jesus teaches how to be God’s child, how to truly have the same desires as our heavenly Father. This is one reason why we “are to pray” in the manner of the Our Father: to have the same desires in our heart as God.
“Prayer is nothing but the exercise of our desires,” (St. Augustine), and our desires have no limit because we were made for God. We thirst because we were “created to be filled by God,” but our “heart is too small for the greatness to which it is destined” (St. Augustine; cf. Spe Salvi, 33), so God stretches our heart by delaying his gifts to us and thereby “strengthens our desire; through desire he enlarges our soul and by expanding it he increases its capacity for Him” (Ibid.) This desire is not unlike my children who’s faces light up when I tell them that we’re going to Graeter’s. As they walk in, desire leads the way for them as they choose from all the delicious options. In an infinitely greater manner, God gives gifts to his children who exercise their desires before Him in prayer.
We have the gift of God’s word to assist us in the work of expanding our hearts through prayer. The word of God has an efficacious and life-giving effect. It does “not return void” from the mouth of God, it accomplishes the end for which it is sent (cf. Isa 55:11). Lent is a great season to spend time with word of God in prayer in moments of great desire.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, help me to burn with a desire for you above all things. Expand my heart through a deeper life of prayer, transform my life with your word, and light my way by filling me with and ever greater thirst for you.
Samuel Vásquez serves as the Managing Director of Hispanic Evangelization for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. He attends St. Gertrude parish with his wife Adriana and his children.
March 1 – Wednesday the first week of Lent
Readings: Jon 3:1-10, PS 51:3-4, 12-13, 18-19, Lk 11:29-32
Invitation to Prayer: “At the judgment the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because at the preaching of Jonah they repented, and there is something greater than Jonah here.”
Reflection: Several weeks ago I attended the Men of St. Joseph Men’s Retreat at St. Mary’s in Bethel, Ohio. It was an excellent way to prepare for Lent. The quest speaker, Fr. Bill Casey, CPM spoke of the “Real Presence Of Jesus In The Eucharist” as well as how God’s love and mercy has the ability to embrace one’s life in an divine, eternal way (something greater is happening here). He alluded to the fact that God doesn’t change, we change.
Lent has always been a tough journey for me. Every Lent challenges me to grow closer to the Lord, become more intimate with Him, which of course means trust, repentance and change. Change in my life style. Change in my prayer life. Change in my ability to fight and many times battle brutal temptations. Change in how I might grow in holiness.
The people of Nineveh made it their primary goal to trust in Jonah’s message, trust in God’s love and mercy, repent and change their life style. God’s love and mercy rewarded them. So my invitation to all of our readers is this: plan to trust in God’s love and mercy, plan to repent, plan to grow closer to the Lord, plan to humble yourself, plan to grow in holiness, and plan to make this Lenten journey one that welcomes and accepts God’s love and mercy for you.
Prayer: Father God, good and gracious Lord we come before you with a humble and contrite heart. Expand our heart for you O Lord, make it your sanctuary of grace, your home for the repentant sinner, your place of peace and joy, your light of eternal love, mercy, and trust. Amen.
Closing: From St. Faustina’s Diary, “I am love and mercy itself. … Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sins be as scarlet. … My mercy is greater than your sins, and those of the entire world. … I let My Sacred Heart be pierced with a lance, thus opening wide the source of mercy for you. Come then with trust to draw graces from this fountain. … The graces of My mercy are drawn by the means of one vessel only, and that is trust. The more a soul trusts, the more it will receive.”
Deacon Henry Jacquez, ordained April 2013, serves in the Queen of Apostles Family of Parishes, and is President of the Board of Trustees of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Center. He has been married to his wife, Betsy for 43 years, and is father of three children and seven grandsons.
March 2: 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 138:3a)
Reflection: Today’s readings are focused on the power of prayer. Good things can come from prayers, perhaps not what we initially asked for, but what we may actually need.
Today’s reading from the Old Testament is a small excerpt from the Book of Esther. The story of Queen Esther is one of the most beautiful stories in the bible. In today’s reading, Queen Esther is praying to the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob for help in her time of loneliness and despair. The context of this story is that Haman had convinced the King to destroy Esther’s people, the Jews. Esther is in a unique position, having been told, ”Who knows—perhaps it was for a time like this that you became queen?” Esther knows that she is taking her life into her own hands by even asking her husband, the King, to turn his heart to hatred for the enemy of the Jewish people. The penalty for speaking this way to the King could be her death, yet she believes that only the power of God can save her and her people. Queen Esther implores God to empower her through her words and her actions. In answer to her prayer, God softens the King’s heart, leading to the defeat of Haman and the enemies of the Jewish people, thus saving many lives. This is a strong testament to the power of prayer.
In the Gospel, Jesus gives us short instructions on prayer: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened for you.” God is always listening to our prayers. As Jesus says in the last words of the Gospel, “Do to others whatever you would have them do to you. This is the law and the prophets.” Prayer time is always productive in making us people with more love both for God and for our brothers and sisters.
Prayer: Dear Lord, during this season of Lent, may all my prayers of blessing, petition, intercession, thanksgiving and praise rise up to you. May they glorify you, deepen my love for you and aid me in loving others as you have loved me.
Closing: We are called today and every day to pray to God and to place our trust in him. As Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, so should we: “Father, not my will but yours be done.”
Deacon Mark Madden serves as a deacon in the Family of the Most Holy Eucharist (SW7) in Cincinnati, Ohio. He was newly ordained in 2022. He has been married to his wife Bette for 41 years and is the father of three and grandfather of eight.
March 3: 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: There are many things in life we think are unfair or unjust. And of course, some are! But we even think that about God at times, don’t we? We are not alone in this. The readings today invite us to consider fairness and justice from a different point of view: God’s!
Why, do you suppose, there never seems to be any end of fad diets? A typical plan for one of these diets will say, eat lots of these things and none of those things and your excess pounds will fall away. Presto, a new thinner you! They never work and yet there seems to be no end of them. We all know what really works: eating less, eating the right things, and exercise. So why don’t we just do that? Because we, literally in this case, want to have our cake and eat it too! We want to be able to eat what we want, when we want, and in whatever quantity we want, and at the same time be healthy and thin.
That’s the same complaint Ezekiel is addressing today. God, you have said, if I sin, I will die. If I turn away from sin, I will live. But that’s not fair! I want to sin and have eternal life too! It sounds a bit more crass and juvenile when stripped of the biblical language but is that not the essence of the complaint? And throughout history, we have been quite childish and obstinate in this regard, for it was in the Garden of Eden that God first told us that sin brings death. Adam and Eve didn’t believe God then and we have been questioning God ever since haven’t we? But God has patiently told us through the ages not to sin, to turn to Him and live. He’s not doing this to keep us from something good, from something he doesn’t want us to have. God is not capricious. Rather, sin is death and in His love for us, He wants to keep us from harm.
And Our Lord expands the lesson even further in the Gospel. He teaches us that we must be more righteous than those considered to have achieved the pinnacle of holiness; the scribes and Pharisees. They kept the Law and the 10 Commandments perfectly – at least in their own estimation. But God wants more from us. He wants our hearts to be like His. He wants us to be holy inside and out. He doesn’t want a cup that is clean on the outside but is full of filth on the inside.
But that’s not fair some will continue to say – for that is what mankind has been saying ever since Adam and Eve and there seems to be no reason to believe that we will stop saying this anytime soon. God might well reply, “Come let us reason together, for indeed I agree with you that it is not fair. It’s not fair that when I sent my beloved Son to you so many despised him. It’s not fair that in return for the love and mercy he showed he was so cruelly treated. It’s not fair that he was nailed to the cross by those to whom he gave life itself. It’s not fair that some, knowing I am merciful and provide grace without measure, continue to sin. No one could truthfully call what I have done fair. To be truthful, you’d have to call it love.”
Prayer: Almighty Father, help me to truly understand what God is love means. Give me the wisdom and the desire to show my love for you by loving those who are the most difficult to love.
Closing: Consider what it really means to love like God does – like Our Lord did and how we can do the same!
Deacon Rusty Baldwin serves as a deacon in the NE-6 family of parishes in Dayton, Ohio. He was ordained in 2007. He has been married to his wife Heather for 38 years and is the father of eight.
March 4: Saturday of the First Week of Lent
Readings: Dt 26:16-19, Mt 5:43-48
Invitation to Prayer: “Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day for salvation.” (2 Cor 6:2b)
Reflection: So often what Jesus tells us is simple to say but difficult to do. To love your enemies is to want and do good things for people who harm you and others you love. Love my enemies? What stands in my way? I do. My desire to reward myself, my family, and my friends in a way that excludes others undeserving. My pride in goodness and spite for others who embrace evils and succumb to weaknesses that hurt others. Yet “he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.” What good comes from loving enemies?
I see this play out in our St. Vincent de Paul Society homeless shelters in Dayton every day. Many people in shelter you and I can easily relate to – hard times, bad choices, and insufficient deep relationships to make it on their own right now. Others, though. Wow. Clearly they see me as their enemy, and they’re the most difficult to love, even from a distance! Sometimes they come around, and it’s not because I’ve kept my distance or withheld myself from them. Am I willing to shine my light on the bad and the good? Am I willing to shower my love on the unjust as well as the just? Am I willing even when they don’t come around?
Lent is a great time to re-examine how my love can grow through suffering – my own and loving through the sufferings of my family, friends, neighbors – and enemies.
Prayer: Almighty Father, during this season of Lent, help me love my enemies. Help me experience your love, radiate its light, and wash away judgment and condemnation in what I think, say, and do. Amen.
Closing: Consider the crosses you are called to take up on behalf of your enemies, and look for what God is teaching you about his love through their lives and actions.
Michael Vanderburgh is executive director of St. Vincent de Paul Society in Dayton and a member of the Archdiocese Child Protection Review Board.
March 5: Sunday of the Second Week of Lent
Readings: Gn 12:1-4a, 2 Tm 1:8b-10, Mt 17: 1-9
Invitation to Prayer: “Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you. (Psalm 33:22)
Reflection: In today’s gospel reading, the Transfiguration, a glimpse of the “glorified Lord” is revealed, as well as an affirmation of his divinity and relationship to the Father. And when the Father declares, “this is my beloved Son, with whom, I am well pleased; listen to him”, he is affirming the authority given to the Son to teach what we and the world need to know to obtain salvation and be united with the Father.
Our catechism teaches that we are created to come to know, love, and serve God in this world so we can be with Him in the next. How we come to know and love and serve God is through all that the Son has revealed. And as the Father entrusted this authority to teach to the Son, the Son has entrusted this authority to teach to the Church that he established, beginning with the apostles.
So as the apostles were to listen to the Son because of the authority given to him, we likewise are to listen to what the Church offers (teaches) because of the authority the Son has given to her.
Prayer: Almighty Father, your Son has established his Most Holy Church on earth to teach and lead mankind to union with you. Grant us the grace to be ever faithful to what he teaches so we may serve you in this world so as to be united with you through all eternity.
Closing: Are there any Church teachings you struggle with or don’t fully understand? Ask the Holy Spirit to open your heart and mind to all the Church has to reveal to you.
Deacon Joseph Leep retired as Director Mfg. Readiness, Navistar International. He is married to his wife Mary Beth, has 3 children and 4 grandchildren. He is a Newly Ordained Deacon at the Holy Family of Clermont County family.
March 6 – 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: Let us take a moment to call to mind our sins. Reflecting on our own brokenness, let’s turn to the Lord and beg for his mercy.
Reflection: As we begin this Lenten season, we are invited into this season of extra prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. We are reminded of our brokenness and shortcomings as we read today’s Scripture passages. I think it’s important to start there, we were created in God’s image and likeness, but broken from the beginning through original sin. When we acknowledge our brokenness, that honesty helps us to move forward in our relationship with the Lord. Today’s psalm is particularly to the point and a beautiful verse to reflect on today, “Lord, do not deal with us according to our sins.” Thank God for His goodness and the way that He sees all of us and responds with love, instead of only looking at our sins. I pray that you have the patience to do the same with yourself and others.
Jesus calls us to be merciful as our Father is merciful. In my own family, we have a culture of forgiveness and it is not rare to hear an apology with the response I forgive you, multiple times each day. But, this lent, I want to step outside of that and bring that same quickness I have in forgiving my 3 year old into my friendships and work relationships.
The next lines of the gospel are particularly challenging. “Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned.” Our culture is so quick to cast judgments and condemn. When we have a negative, judgmental, or condemning thought come to mind, let’s quickly turn that into a prayer. Lord, thank you for the gifts of so and so – help them to imitate you as I seek to imitate you. Lord forgive me for that negative thought, please purify it and replace it with your goodness. Help me Lord, to see You, in all around me.
The gospel reading continues, “Forgive and be forgiven. Give and gifts will be given to you…for the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.” In reflecting on my own need to receive forgiveness and gifts, I am called to give both in an equal portion. How can I be more generous to others with my time, talent, and treasure? How can I be more forgiving to those around me?
Prayer: Jesus, prepare our hearts to receive you more fully. Help us to welcome others into our lives and into your Church. Grant us the grace we need to repent of our sins and turn to you and the Sacraments to receive your love and mercy.
Andrea Patch is the Eastern Regional Director for NET Ministries. Andrea is a wife and a mother to four young children and enjoys spending time playing board games and talking with friends.
March 7: 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: “Wash yourselves clean!” (Is 1:16)
Reflection: Have you ever walked out of the house with breakfast still on your face? Those of us with children have, no doubt, chased down a youngster to wipe the breakfast off of their face as they scramble out the door to catch the morning bus. They are blissfully ignorant of the giant spot at the corner of their mouth, no doubt something chocolate if they can get their hands on it! The day has so many possibilities, and distractions, ahead of them that they don’t want to stop to look at themselves in the mirror to see if they have anything on them that shouldn’t be there.
Many of us adults may find ourselves in a similar situation from time to time. We are blissfully ignorant of those things that cling to us. Granted, sometimes it may be breakfast, but in addition we may have other stains that are just beneath the surface. Stains we won’t see unless we stop and take some time to carefully examine ourselves.
We find ourselves at the beginning of the second full week of Lent. The Lenten observances we have carefully, and prayerfully undertaken are hopefully beginning to sink in and free up some time for us to spend in prayer. The extra prayer time we are gaining is a great opportunity to look in the “mirror” and identify those things that should not be there. Sometimes what we find in our examination may be so hideous that we want to immediately bury it again in the hopes that it will just go away or maybe we think that we can handle this on our own. Perhaps we even think that this issue is just too big for the Lord to handle or forgive. The readings from Scripture today definitively answer this last question.
Our first reading from the prophet Isaiah is a call to, “…set things right. Though your sins be like scarlet, they may become white as snow; Though they be crimson red, they may become white as wool” (Is 1:18). “If you are willing, and obey, you shall eat the good things of the land” (Is 1:19). The Lord is telling us that nothing is beyond His reach. He is even calling us to a feast if we obey!
The responsorial psalm calls us out and warns us to practice what we preach. “Why do you recite my statutes, and profess my covenant with your mouth, though you hate discipline and cast my words behind you” (Ps 50:16bc-17) We are even told how we will be warned that we have offended God. “I will correct you by drawing them [sins] up before your eyes” (Ps 50:16bc-17). This is a clear call to prayer. The best way for us to “see” what God wants to show us is in silent prayer.
Jesus cautions the crowd in Matthew’s Gospel to beware of those, even those in positions of authority, who say one thing but do another. “The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice” (Mt 23:2-3). This warning applies to all in positions of authority, whether they be government, teachers, parents, and even those at Church. The warning is to guard against the sin of pride. Thankfully, the Lord follows this with the remedy for the sin of pride. “The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Mt 23:11-12).
Prayer: Heavenly Father, teach us how to pray. Guide us in our journey by helping us identify those things that separate us from you. Help us grow in our personal relationship with your Son, Jesus Christ. May we radiate Christ in all our daily activities. We ask this in Jesus’ mighty name. Amen.
Closing: During this season of Lent let us make the time to carefully examine our consciences in silent prayer. Let’s identify those barriers that we have put up to Christ’s Love and utilize the Sacraments, especially the Sacrament of Reconciliation, to tear down those barriers and prepare for the Glory of Easter.
Deacon Jeff Little was ordained in April 2022 and is assigned to the Holy Face of Jesus Parishes (NW4). Jeff and his wife Laura have 4 children.
March 8: Wednesday of the Second Week of Lent
Readings: Jer 18:18-20, Mt 20:17-28
Invitation to Prayer: “Into your hands I commend my spirit; you will redeem me, O LORD, O faithful God.” (Psalm 31:6)
Reflection: A selection from the Gospel According to Mark is helpful as we consider today’s readings: “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house.” (Mark 6:4)
The first reading from Jeremiah finds the prophet drawing the ire of his own people. We know all too well that, to be the bearer of uncomfortable truths, we must sometimes be willing to suffer rebuke. Oftentimes this is true tenfold when we must speak the truth to those who feel they know us best, such as close friends and family. Jeremiah was a prophet sent to stand before God on behalf of a people in need of correction. His repayment was contrived plots and threats of destruction.
Fast forward to our Gospel reading from today, and we see Our Lord instructing His disciples on what true glory as His followers really means. He preaches to us a Love that costs the cross. The chalice that He invites His disciples to drink is the chalice He receives on the night of His Passion. If we wish to be first, we must be willing to be made a suffering servant after the pattern that Jesus left for us. Our Lord died, abandoned by so many, except for the a few at the foot of His Cross (including St. John, one of the sons of Zebedee that had desired a place beside Him).
For the prophet Jeremiah, being a witness to the truth meant living out the rest of his days in servitude and exile. For Jesus, it ultimately meant laying down His life for all of us. For us, it might mean having a difficult conversation with a loved one, or being a good example when it seems the hardest. May we be given the courage to set aside our own honor for the glory of God and conformity to His will.
Prayer: Almighty Father, during this season of Lent, may my self-denial include a fasting from the opinion of others. Let me rely only upon You so that your light may shine in the darkness.
Closing: Consider the ways that you are being invited to drink the self-sacrificial chalice that the Lord offers you this Lenten season. Pray for those relationships where you must radiate the light of Christ.
Bradley Barnes currently serves as the Coordinator of Youth Ministry for the S-3 Family of Parishes. He has worked in parish ministry for over ten years and has been married to his wife Meghan for 13 years.
March 9: Thursday of the Second Week of Lent
Readings: Jer 17:5-10, Ps 1:1-2, 3, 4 and 6, Lk 16:19-31
Reflection: Today’s gospel warns us to avoid the “last regret.”
We might have small regrets in our life, but there is one regret which would be the greatest and last regret we could have. It is the regret to avoid at all costs: losing our soul for all eternity!
The Rich Man expresses this regret by calling on “Father Abraham” to send Lazarus back to warn his brothers not to end up as he did. Roles have reversed. Whereas on earth Lazarus was the beggar, now the Rich Man is begging Abraham.
Abraham doesn’t say he’s not capable of helping the Rich Man. He just dismisses the request because he views it as pointless. (“They will not be convinced, even should someone go to them from the dead.”) Assuming that Abraham could intercede on behalf of the Rich Man, he would go ask God to raise Lazarus from the dead. In that way, Abraham would be a broker—an intercessor before God.
Finally, there’s Lazarus. He experienced poverty and illness on earth but now finds comfort in heaven. Assuming that God would respect Lazarus’s free will, Lazarus would not be forced to return to earth unless he agreed to leave the comforts of heaven. If he agreed to this, it would be a great sacrifice. It would be a greater act of love than the Rich Man or Abraham because this requires action. Lazarus would be a beacon of hope to his brothers.
These three characters call us to love our brothers and sisters in different ways. We must first recognize the need for conversion, we can pray for the conversion of others, and we can bring a message of conversion to others. We can share the gospel with them!
Prayer: Lord JESUS, may we never become so stuck in our ways that we have the final regret of not loving you more ardently! Grow our hearts to share the gospel with others. Give us wisdom and prudence so that we may do so effectively. And give us the courage to go out of our comfort zone to invite others to love you too.
Closing: Who can you share the gospel with? Who can you pray for? What do you need to do today to avoid the last regret?
Carl Brown is the Development & Stewardship Communication Manager for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati
March 10 – Friday of the Second Week of Lent
Readings: GN 37:3-4, 12-13a, 17b-28a, and MT 21:33-43, 45-46
Invitation to Prayer: Come Holy Spirit, open our hearts, minds, and ears this day so that we may receive all you have in store for us this day.
Reflection: In today’s readings, we get a real glimpse of what persecution looks like. In Jesus’s parable, we see the master of the vineyard’s son being killed because of his relationship with the master. In Genesis, we see Joseph being conspired against by his own brothers because he was favored greatly by his father, Israel. In both stories, the son was sent by the father to accomplish a task, and they were both attacked for their task and the one who sent them.
In the world today, our faith and way of life is constantly under attack. Our Catholic ideals are called “old fashioned,” and “outdated.” We may even be labeled as homophobic, misogynistic, and ignorant when we stand up for the dignity of the human person created in God’s image and likeness.
God knew this would happen. For he even said, “If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you,” (John 15:18-27).
This is supposed to be an encouragement! Why does the world hate us, because it hated God first. It is really sad in a way, the world does not know the love of God the Father, and he has sent us, messengers, to share that with others. And yes, people may not receive the love you give well, but this is not a reason to stop trying! Jesus says, “Therefore, I say to you, the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.”
We are all called to produce fruit. So, what is something you can do to show the Father’s love today? Something real and practical. Yes, it may not be received very well, but you are still producing fruit for the vineyard of the Lord!
Let’s pray today for the courage to be like the sons in today’s readings. To go into the world and share the good news of the Lord, regardless of the outcome.
Prayer: All loving Father, we ask for an outpouring of the spiritual gift of courage this day. We ask that you will consume our hearts with the spirit that is within us through the laying on of hands. Grant us the courage to love others as you have loved them today and every day.
Closing: Today, let’s go into the world and love those around us as the Father has loved us.
Alex Bodenschatz served as a NET Missionary from 2018-2020 and now works with NET Ministries as the Easter Regional Recruiter.
March 11 – Saturday of the Second Week of Lent
Readings: Mi 7:14-15, 18-20, Ps 103:1-2, 3-4, 9-10, 11-12, Lk 15:1-3, 11-32
Invitation to Prayer: Lord, show me your kindness and compassion and remove my sins from me.
Reflection: Today we hear the gospel of the prodigal son. There is so much to unpack in this beautiful story, but for now we will focus on the compassion and mercy of the father. The first reading from Micah reminds us that God removes guilt, pardons sin, delights in clemency, and has compassion on us. The Psalm reminds us that “the Lord is kind and merciful” and the psalmist is reminding his own heart and soul to “forget not” all the benefits of the Lord. In the Gospel, the prodigal son “remembers” the goodness of his father and his father is eager to restore the benefits of sonship upon him going so far as to run and meet him, cloth him in fine garments, put a ring on his finger, and slaughter the fattened calf in celebration. Too often, I think I forget the true goodness of God. I forget how eager he is to forgive my sins. I’m tempted to stay away from his kindness and mercy, thinking that “I no longer deserve to be called a son.” But when I remember His goodness and meet him in the confessional and at Mass, his goodness is without end and my life is restored.
Prayer: Dear Jesus, I so often forget your goodness and mercy and am tempted to stay away in shame. Yet, you already know my sins and are eagerly awaiting me in confession so that you can cast them “into the depths of the sea.” I pray that you would send the Holy Spirit anew into my heart to stir up my memory and courage to turn to you.
Matt Reinkemeyer is the Director of Development Operations for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati Stewardship Office. He helps coordinate the annual Catholic Ministries Appeal where he loves the opportunity to connect the generosity of donors with life-changing ministries
March 12- Third Sunday of Lent
Readings: Ex 17:3-7, 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9, Rom 5:1-2, 5-8, Jn 4:5-42
Introduction: Obey Your Thirst.
Reflection: “The woman said to him, ‘Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.’ ”
In our Gospel today Jesus encounters the Samaritan woman at the well. She is there to quench her thirst. She, like many of us, is not merely physically thirsting but spiritually parched. She is stuck in a dry desert of her sins. But Jesus meets her at the well. He knew she would be there and He waits for her. He can’t wait to challenge her past reliance on physical thirsts of the flesh, that she might experience the fullness of life in Him! If you are like many of us, you are easily preoccupied with thoughts of your next meal, your favorite coffee or other drink or other desires of the flesh. Jesus wants us to know that these desires are passing and never really fulfill us.
What if we gave up our preoccupation with our desires of the flesh and replaced them with Jesus? Imagine if in the midst of fasting every time we were reminded of our hunger, instead of imagining and longing for our next meal we said to ourselves, “Jesus, I thirst for you!” or “Jesus, I hunger for you in the Holy Eucharist!” This can be a powerful exercise. I encourage you to limit your meals to focus more on Jesus. In just a few weeks on Good Friday we will hear Jesus say: “I Thirst”. Jesus was thirsting, not for wine and gall but rather for the Love of your soul! Soon after Jesus’ death, blood and water pour out of Jesus’ side. This is Jesus pouring out from His heart his most amazing mercy and love!
If there is anything keeping us focused on the mirage of the world, may we forsake these dry wells and focus on Jesus. We need the renewing waters of mercy, which flow from the side of Jesus. May we hunger for the Lord’s mercy in reconciliation and his living presence in the Holy Eucharist this Lent. Come Lord Jesus, give us your living water! Jesus, I thirst for you!
Prayer: Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink, ‘you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
Father Jacob Willig is the Chaplain at the Catholic Newman Center at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.
March 13: Monday of the Third Week of Lent
Readings: 2 Kgs 5:1-15ab, PS 42:2, 3; 43:3, 4, Lk 4:24-30
Introduction: “Today, in your hearing, the scriptures have been fulfilled.”
Reflection: : With some poetic license let’s take a look at today’s message. Imagine that instead of Christ coming in 1 BC, you are a Jewish man in synagogue and it is two thousand years since 1 BC and the savior promised by Isaiah and Ezekiel and Elijah and all of the prophets since them, still has not appeared. Then one day, you see your neighborhood plumber, the guy you grew up with you just fixed your broken faucet, gets up and reads from the scroll and proclaims: “The spirit of God is upon me…” When he finishes reading from the scroll he then proclaims that in your hearing the scripture has been fulfilled. You look at each other and say, “Isn’t this Joseph’s son. We played with him in the sandbox in kindergarten. He was the sixth man on our grade school basketball team.”
You and those around you accuse him of blasphemy and he tells you that : “No prophet is accepted in the his own hometown”. “Blasphemy” you repeat again.
Stop imagining. Sure, the story happened two thousand years ago, but place yourself in the crowd in the synagogue in 1 BC. And try to tell yourself that you would react any differently. He passes through your midst and even after you see or hear of His miracles you still are not convinced. All of the sudden, the message of two thousand years ago isn’t so strange after all.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, open my heart to see Joseph’s son in the people we interact with every day.
Deacon Joe Grote was ordained in April of 2022. He serves the Tri-County Catholic Family of Parishes. He is also Director of Facilities for the Eastside Family of Parishes. He has been married for 44 years and is the father of four and grandfather of five.
March 14 -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: Today we are reminded that all is only through God’s mercy. Our actions matter, but our actions will never be enough. We can never be truly deserving of God’s mercy. Our sacrifice, our only way forward, is in following God “unreservedly.” With a “contrite heart and humble spirit.” I find myself grappling with how I can truly and fully follow God. I find that us humans slip very easily into putting our own values and fears onto God. We find comfort in upholding our values as God’s. We design an idol without realizing what we’ve done.
Our mercy will come in trust in God and following with our whole hearts. This sounds so easy, but will take intention and questioning every day. We will fail often. We will need to humble ourselves and be open to learn that there is so much of God’s heart that we don’t yet know.
We each have such a tiny perspective and grasp of the truth, of God. If we aren’t open to other perspectives and to offering mercy to every sinner, then at least some part of us is closed to God.
God is more expansive and magnanimous than we can imagine.
Let’s take lent as a time to open our eyes to the love and mercy that is God. For ourselves and for all of God’s creatures. Try on God’s heart and see ourselves and others through God’s eyes. We will all fail at doing this 100% of the time, but remember with God it is never too late for conversion and reconversion. Over and over again we will be shown mercy and given new sight.
Prayer: Dear Jesus, show us sinners the way. Guide us to justice. Teach us your way of mercy and love.
Closing: Let’s all pray for openness and humility. Let’s open our eyes, ears, and hearts to see, hear, and love anew.
Sara Seligmann is the Regional Director of the Catholic Social Action office. Sara is a wife and a mother to three sweet and beautifully unique young children. Sara enjoys learning, listening to interesting stories, and connecting with other parents.
March 15 -Wednesday of the Third Week of Lent
Readings: Dt 4:1; 5-9; Ps 147:12-13, 15-16, 19-20; Mt 5:17-19
Invitation to Prayer: “The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The decree of the Lord is trustworthy, giving wisdom to the simple.” (Psalm 19:8)
Reflection: Today’s readings focus on the commandments and their importance in our lives. We first hear from Moses as he reminds the people of Israel to obey the statutes and decrees of the Lord as they prepare to enter into the promised land. He remarks on the unique relationship between the Lord and Israel. God is the true ruler of the nation who has established laws by which Israel is governed, and has intimately shared these commands with His people through divine revelation.
Moving on to the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus reinforces the importance of the commandments as he introduces his teaching about the law during the Sermon on the Mount. He states, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.” This introduction is revelatory because it shines new light on God’s commands through the eyes of Christ. As a people, ancient Jews were concerned with limits. The laws were established to delineate the boundaries between sinful and righteous behavior, and as long as those lines were not crossed a person was looked upon as favorable to God. In fulfilling the law, Jesus offers a revolutionary perspective that creates a path to holiness. He proposes a paradigm shift from a law of limits that often results in minimal efforts, to a law of standards that calls all people to strive for greatness. As followers of Christ, we are called to go beyond what is deemed acceptable as we emulate Jesus and grow in our role as disciples. Christ calls us to interpret the commandments through the lens of radical love, so that we may be united with him and one another.
We are not set free from the law; we are called to live it more completely.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, you have given us your commandments so that we may live according to your will. Help us to embrace your laws through your son, Jesus Christ, so that we may grow in our love for you and for one another. Give us the fortitude to embrace your decrees, even when they seem impossible, so that we may become the people that you intended for us to be at our creation. Transform us through your radical love, so that we may be made holy as we work to create your Kingdom here on Earth. Amen.
Closing: How do I approach the commandments? Do I perceive them to be a law of limits or a law of standards? How can I work to understand the statutes and decrees of God in the Old Testament through Christ’s lens of radical love?
Noelle Collis-DeVito works in Campus Ministry at the University of Dayton, where she met her husband when she was an undergrad. She has served in ministry for 20 years and is especially passionate about Ministry with Persons with Disabilities. She currently serves on the National Catholic Partnership on Disability Council for Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and presents nationally on Sensory-Friendly Mass.
March 16 – Thursday of the Third Week of Lent
Readings: Jer 7:23-28, Ps 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9, Lk 11:14-23
Introduction: “Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste and house will fall against house.”
Reflection: Non serviam. I will not serve. These words, uttered by Lucifer at the beginning of creation, and echoed all too often in our own lives. This statement, sometimes unbeknownst to us in the moment, comes at irrevocable cost to us.
To quote C.S.Lewis, “Human History…is the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.” In the Lenten study “Return” by Fr. John Burns, he similarly says, “The entire pattern of fallen humanity’s sinful machinations is an endless repetition of their attempt to live without God.”
Living without God sounds terrifying. Yet why do I tend towards that? Why is it so much easier to hang on to my sinful habits instead of ordering my life towards Him? Why do I cling to my anxiety as if, if I gave it to the Lord, it would be too much for Him to handle? Why do I, like Martha, “worry about many things”, instead of “choosing the better part” like Mary? “Even to this day”, as the first reading today says, we turn our backs and not our faces to Him.
What is holding you back from turning towards Him? I think that sometimes we worry that freedom or peace will only come after we’ve mastered all sin and temptation. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. True, lasting, interior peace comes in the persistent turning of our hearts back to God, even in and ESPECIALLY in, those moments of defeat. In those moments when despair, hopelessness, and temptation seem insurmountable. This is metanoia.
What does metanoia look like for you? For me, it begins in the quiet prayer of my heart. Turning my heart towards Jesus, asking him what He wants to heal and change in me, and waiting patiently for a response. Metanoia consists of living in a posture of surrender. Surrender of my need for control, of my mediocre desires and plans for my life to whatever the Lord has in store for me. Sometimes, all I can say is, “Lord, make your Will my Desire.” Actually, more often than not, it’s, “Lord, help me to want to make your Will my desire.” Surrender is costly, but like the alabaster jar of perfumed oils broken at the feet of Christ, the odor is so sweet.
Prayer: Take a few minutes today and take the song “Let My Life be Worship” and these lyrics to prayer:
“I turn my face towards You and my heart is open
You’re always pursuing, and my life’s surrendered
So let my life be worship
And let my heart stay true
May my love never grow cold
May it burn forevermore
May my life be worship to You
In blessing, in sorrow, in the ordinary
Whatever the cost is, You’re always worthy
My heart’s cry and my whole life is for Your glory”
Closing: My most fruitful, or only fruitful, prayer comes when I’m not worried about what my prayer should look like, or if it looks like everybody else’s. Praying with music, especially worship music, might be new for you, but I encourage you to try it. Check out the playlist “Lent: Songs in the Desert” on Spotify and listen to what God has to share with you through the lyrics.
Sarah Rose Bort is the Director of Family Faith Empowerment at Uptown Catholic in Cincinnati.
March 17 – Friday of the Third Week of Lent
Readings: Hos 14:2-10, Ps 81:6c-8a, 8bc-9, 10-11ab, 14 and 17, Mk 12:28-34
Invitation to prayer: “Repent, says the Lord; the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Mt 4:17)
Reflection: God continues to call us back to Him, and He gives us everything we need to return; guidance, grace, and corrections. He is our healing; He is our life and too often we turn our face from him, rejecting and ignoring Him. Yet, He is always there loving us, and is continuously calling us back. We should pray that we are wise and prudent enough to understand that “straight are the paths of the LORD, in them the just walk, but sinners stumble in them.” God’s compassion and love his endless and even though we stumble, He continues from the very beginning of time throughout all eternity, and every day we have on Earth, is another chance to return to Him.
The responsorial song is another example of the Lord calling in almost begging us to hear his voice and return to him. He says in distress you called, and I rescued you, but Israel continues to not hear him. Yet the Lord our God’s love never waivers and he continues to call us asking us to hear his voice and to walk in his ways because that’s what’s best for us. During this Lenten season, let us make the most of our experience in the desert of prayers, fasting and almsgiving, ridding ourselves of our vices to the best of our abilities, removing those things that get in the way of our relationship with God.
In Saint Mark’s Gospel account, Jesus gives us the greatest commandment: ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ (Mark 12:28-29)
My dear friends, saying the first and greatest commandment is easy, but the chosen people of God have been trying to live up to this commandment for over 4,000 years with frequent failures. Through God’s grace and the blessing of the church given to us by Jesus Christ, we are given many tools to help us receive God’s grace and keep us on the path to him. Let us grow in faith and obedience, through God’s grace to be like the well understanding scribe who said to Jesus, “well said”, teacher you are right in saying, he is one and there is no other than he. And to love him with all your heart and with all your understanding and with all your strength and to love your neighbor as yourself. And most importantly that us pray that this Lenten season draws us closer to Jesus; Kingdom of God.
Prayer: God our Father, help us to strengthen our love and faith in you during this Lenten season, and to use our prayer, fasting, and almsgiving as effective tools to share those things that distract us from being closer to you. We ask for your blessings Father, and to give us faith and understanding, and with your help and grace to have the strength and perseverance to live our lives according to your will. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Closing: Reflect and consider challenges that hinder you from keeping God’s first and greatest commandment. Think about how you spend your time and money. Are your precious resources, especially your time, being used in a way that reflects your love of God?
Deacon Kelly Mocahbee is assigned to the Holy Family of Clermont County family, He is the CFO with the U.S. Courts, and was ordained in April 2022. Kelly and his wife Teri have 4 children and 4 grandchildren.
March 18- Saturday of the Third Week of Lent
Readings: Hos 6:1-6, 51:3-4, 18-19, 20-21ab, Lk 18:9-14
Invitation to Prayer: “O God, be merciful to me a sinner.” (Luke 18:13)
Reflection: Today’s Gospel passage from Luke gives us an opportunity to “look in the mirror.” Who do we see in that mirror – the Pharisee or the tax collector?
Jesus gives us two examples of people presenting themselves in prayer to God. The Pharisee brags about how wonderful he is – fasting, paying tithes and generally just so much better than all the rest of humanity. Does he think that God doesn’t know exactly what kind of person he really is? The tax collector – even though most of the Jews at that time would consider him a revolting person – is humble, fearful of God, and repentant. He realizes that he is a sinful man and presents himself to God asking for his mercy.
Both men are praying, right? But it is their attitude in prayer that determines how God receives it. One was self-righteous, the other meek, sincere and sorrowful. The Gospel tells us that the tax collector was justified in God’s sight, but the Pharisee was not. How do we present ourselves to God in prayer? I propose that we model the tax collector!
We may be doing “all the right things” during Lent – fasting, praying, almsgiving. When we offer these gifts to God with the proper attitude, we can rest assured that he will accept them with great love.
Prayer: Dearest Father, my humble prayer to you is the same as the tax collector: “Be merciful to me, a sinner.” I know that I have fallen time and time again. But your loving forgiveness is always there to raise me up. I am the lost sheep, lifted upon your shoulders and brought back to the fold. Your love for me is beyond my comprehension; my love for you is sincere. Amen.
Closing: How can you receive God’s mercy this Lent? Make a plan to celebrate the sacrament of Confession some time before Easter. With a clean soul and filled with grace, your celebration of Easter will be extraordinarily joyful!
Deacon Mark Machuga is the Director of the Office of the Diaconate for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. He serves as a deacon at Our Lady of Victory Parish and the Mary, Queen of All Saints Family of Parishes. He was ordained in April, 2016. He has been married to his wife Julie for 43 years, and is the father of two and grandfather of four.
March 19 – Fourth Sunday of Lent
Readings: 1 Sm 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a, Ps 23: 1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6, Eph 5:8-14, Jn 9:1-41
Reflection: In today’s Gospel, Jesus encounters a man in an unfortunate circumstance. Blind from birth, this man is forced to sit and beg for sustenance. He has no support structure and no one to help him, relying on the good will of others to survive. The first thought of Jesus’s disciples is to speculate on what went wrong for this man to find himself in such dire straits, asking: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” They immediately judge the man and assume that he is at fault for his circumstances. Jesus admonishes them, answering that neither the man nor his parents did wrong, but God in fact has a purpose for this man’s life. And with that, Jesus anoints the man’s eyes and he is healed.
When the Pharisees hear about what has happened, they are displeased, simply because Jesus performed this great miracle on the sabbath. When the cured man was brought before the pharisees, they act condescendingly towards him, completely discounting this man and his healing. These Pharisees are completely blind, unable to see the Lord at work in the world, even when the evidence is right in front of their faces. On the other hand, the man born blind has gained sight: not only physical sight, but spiritual sight as well. This man is able to recognize Jesus for who he is.
In our own lives, we can often be like the Pharisees and fail to see God at work, both in our lives and in the lives of others. Lent is a time to work on our life of prayer, which is ultimately the way we grow closer to Christ. We should pray today and throughout this Lent that Jesus may heal our blindness as well, so that we may truly see God at work and see the world through the lens of faith.
Prayer: Jesus, light of the world, you came to heal the blind. Come into our lives and heal our own blindness and brokenness, so that we can see with eyes of faith. Help us to be able to more clearly see you at work in our own lives and in the world, and help us to recognize your presence in all the situations that we encounter, for you live and reign forever and ever. Amen.
Christopher Buschur is a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, currently on Pastoral Internship. He is also a former intern at The Catholic Telegraph. Christopher’s home parish is St. Mary, Urbana.
March 20 – Solemnity of Saint Joseph, spouse 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
Introduction: Behold, a faithful and prudent steward, whom the Lord set over his household. (Cf. Lk 12:42)
Reflection: Because March 19th falls on a Sunday this year, the Solemnity of St. Joseph, the spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary is transferred to today. Who is St. Joseph? What is he like? No words of his are recorded in Scripture, yet today’s readings tell us a lot about him. The Church blessed us in the Lectionary with two Gospel selections to choose from today: St. Matthew’s account of the angel’s message to Joseph and his response, and St. Luke’s account of the finding of Jesus in the Temple. While only one of these will be proclaimed in today’s Mass, together they help us understand Joseph and why he is an excellent servant model for us to reflect upon this Lent.
When Mary was found with child, Joseph first sought to divorce her quietly. This passage reveals to us some important qualities: Joseph was a righteous man—his heart was conformed to God’s. Joseph was a loving man, because he was unwilling to exposing her to shame. But when an angel delivered God’s message that he was to be unafraid to take Mary into his home, because Jesus was conceived through the Holy Spirit, and He was to save his people from their sins, Joseph did as the angel commanded. In other words, he was open to God’s voice, he understood God’s call, and he responded with a generous yes.
We gain another insight on Joseph from St. Luke. After Joseph and Mary discovered Jesus was not with their relatives in the caravan, they searched for three days. When they discovered Jesus in the Temple, Mary tells him, “Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” From this we know that Joseph loved and cared for both Mary and Jesus, since with Mary, Joseph looked for Jesus with great concern. What great trust God must have in St. Joseph to have placed both Mary and Jesus in his care!
So, how can I use this model, St. Joseph, to reflect upon this Lent? To seek to conform my heart to God’s. To be open to God’s voice. To understand and obey God’s call. To put others before myself. To put my love and concern for others into action. Brothers and sisters, let us take these qualities of St. Joseph to God in our prayer, fasting, and almsgiving this Lent so that we too may be loving, obedient, servants of God…just as St. Joseph is!
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for your servant, St. Joseph, husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary, whose example of obedience and love inspires me to conform my heart to yours. Throughout this season of Lent, I ask you to grant that I, like Joseph, may hear your voice and respond with a generous yes. Help me through prayer and fasting to understand your will and, conforming my heart to yours, respond with loving concern for others. I ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ your son, by the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary his mother and St. Joseph her spouse. Amen.
Deacon Jesse Fanning is a married permanent deacon assigned to the Kettering Catholic Community (NE-5) in Kettering, Ohio.