Daily Lenten Reflections | Sunday Lenten Reflections
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Saturday the First Week in Lent
Jesus said to His disciples:
"You have heard that it was said,
You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.
But I say to you, love your enemies,
and pray for those who persecute you,
that you may be children of your Heavenly Father,
for He makes His sun rise on the bad and the good,
and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.
For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have?
Do not the tax collectors do the same?
And if you greet your brothers and sisters only,
what is unusual about that?
Do not the pagans do the same?
So be perfect, just as your Heavenly Father is perfect."
This particular Gospel can be a difficult one. Because of our fallen nature, it is too easy to "love (our) neighbor and hate (our) enemy." We easily fall into the temptation of holding on to our anger or remaining hostile with those who are difficult to love. This anger can break up friendships, relationships, and even families. As Christians, we know that Jesus calls us to something greater. He calls us to take on a humble heart. He asks us to not only love our enemies, but also pray for them. Jesus says, " I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you." We cannot do this on our own, we need the help of God’s grace.
Let us look to St. John Paul II as a prime example of how we are called to live this Gospel message. On May 13th 1981, St. John Paul II was out addressing the crowd in St. Peter’s Square in Rome, when he was abruptly shot four times. By the grace of God, he survived the assassination attempt. Instead of getting angry, St. John Paul II, prayed for the man who shot him. He visited this man in prison and forgave him. In forgiving, St. John Paul II demonstrated a true act of love and mercy. This pure act serves as a reminder of our own ultimate vocation to love all of our brothers and sisters, even those who have wronged us.
Today, let us ask St. John Paul II to intercede for us in a special way. Let us ask for the grace to love our enemies and pray for those people in our lives who have hurt us, for their souls and for their healing. We ask God to use our pain and hurt for His greater glory.
Friday the First Week in Lent
Thus says the Lord GOD:
If the wicked man turns away from all the sins he committed,
if he keeps all my statutes and does what is right and just,
he shall surely live, he shall not die.
None of the crimes he committed shall be remembered against him;
he shall live because of the virtue he has practiced.
Do I indeed derive any pleasure from the death of the wicked?
says the Lord GOD.
Do I not rather rejoice when he turns from his evil way that he
And if the virtuous man turns from the path of virtue to do evil,
the same kind of abominable things that the wicked man does,
can he do this and still live?
None of his virtuous deeds shall be remembered, because he has broken faith and committed sin; because of this, he shall die.
You say, "The LORD's way is not fair!"
Hear now, house of Israel: Is it my way that is unfair, or rather, are not your ways unfair?
When someone virtuous turns away from virtue to commit iniquity, and dies, it is because of the iniquity he committed that he must die.
But if the wicked, turning from the wickedness he has committed,
does what is right and just, he shall preserve his life; since he has turned away from all the sins that he committed, he shall surely live, he shall not die.
In today’s reading, Jesus asks us to turn away from sin and embrace the truth and life found in Him. He promises eternal life to those who “keeps all statutes and (do) what is right and just.” From this we learn how to become virtuous disciples. Keeping Christ present in all things helps us to chose what is right and to grow in mercy and virtue.
When we turn away from sin and turn towards Christ, something in our heart changes and it changes for the better. When we place Christ in the center of our hearts, we become more compassionate and loving. We begin to discover our purpose in God’s divine plan. Jesus rejoices when we turn away from evil and run towards Him. At times, we fall short when we are overwhelmed with daily trials and temptations. Instead of looking at these trials and temptations as difficulties, may we open our eyes to see them as opportunities for us to grow in holiness.
Today, humble yourself before the Lord and seek Him in all things. Ask Him to be present and to help you overcome the temptations and difficulties you are currently facing. “May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the endurance of Christ” (2 Thessalonians 3:5).
Thursday the First Week in Lent
When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi
He asked His disciples,
"Who do people say that the Son of Man is?"
They replied, "Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah,
still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets."
He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"
Simon Peter said in reply,
"You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."
Jesus said to him in reply, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.
For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.
And so I say to you, you are Peter,
and upon this rock I will build my Church,
and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven.
Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven;
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in Heaven."
In this Gospel passage, we see the faith of St. Peter. Simon Peter was far from perfect, but Christ appointed him as the first Pope of the Catholic Church because of his simple faith. What a beautiful example this is to each one of us. God does not call us to be perfect, He calls us to be faithful. The theological virtue of faith allows us to believe in God’s love for us and reveals the truths of Catholicism. Though Peter was known to have moments of doubt due to his fears and earthly anxieties, he would sometimes share profound insights about Jesus like he did in today’s reading. These pearls of wisdom had been revealed to him by God, the Father because of his faith in Jesus Christ.
On this special feast day, we celebrate Christ choosing Peter to take His place as the leader of the Catholic Church. Each Pope thereafter has followed in Peter’s footsteps. According to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, celebrating the "Chair" of Peter has “a strong spiritual significance to it” because it is “a privileged sign of the love of God, the eternal Good Shepherd, who wants to gather His whole Church and lead her on the path of salvation.” (General Audience, Feb 22, 2006)
Today, take some time to pray for our Church leaders, especially our Holy Father, Pope Francis, as he continues shepherding his faithful people towards the ultimate truth, found in Jesus Christ.
Wednesday the First Week in Lent
While still more people gathered in the crowd, Jesus said to them,
“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.
At the judgment
the queen of the south will rise with the men of this generation
and she will condemn them,
because she came from the ends of the earth
to hear the wisdom of Solomon,
and there is something greater than Solomon here.
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.”
In this Gospel, Jesus warns us about hearing His word but not following it. The people demanded proof that Jesus was the Messiah before they believed Him. Jesus says ‘This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah.’ Jonah was a prophet who spent three days in the belly of a whale. Because of his witness, the pagan city of Nineveh was converted and the people repented for their sins. In turn, they began to believe in God and His mercy.
How often do we find ourselves in the same situation as the Ninevites, demanding a sign from God before believing? We are visual and rational beings who seek tangible signs from God in times of doubt. We want signs from God to affirm our decisions. We want Jesus to prove to us that He is present among us. Even though these desires are genuine, we should strive to live by faith and not by signs. God has given us an opportunity to truly know Him through prayer. Through the grace of prayer we are able to believe that Jesus is truly present and walking beside us.
Just as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, Jesus is the sign for us. Is this enough for us to believe? True faith and trust lies in believing without seeing and knowing that Christ is always with us. During this time of Lent, we are reminded of His great love for us and how He gave His life for us to live. He will never abandon us. Today, spend time with Jesus in silent prayer. Pray for the grace to feel His presence and to believe in Him without always looking for more.
Tuesday of the First Week in Lent
Jesus said to His disciples:
"In praying, do not babble like the pagans,
who think that they will be heard because of their many words.
Do not be like them.
Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.
"This is how you are to pray:
Our Father who art in Heaven,
hallowed be thy name,
thy Kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
"If you forgive men their transgressions,
your heavenly Father will forgive you.
But if you do not forgive men,
neither will your Father forgive your transgressions."
We are so blessed to have a good Father in Heaven, who cares for us so deeply and loves us unconditionally. In today’s Gospel, Jesus teaches us the beautiful prayer we recite at every mass: the Our Father. In praying this, we acknowledge our identity as children of God and we rejoice in the fact that we belong to the same family, the Kingdom of God. In this prayer, we worship God, seek forgiveness and ask for our lives to align with His most perfect will.
Jesus also stresses the importance of forgiveness in this prayer. This does not always come easy in life. We often get upset with one another, hold grudges and refuse to forgive. Sometimes we want to forgive others but have a hard time letting go of the things that hurt us. We can internalize things and begin dwelling in the pain caused by others. However, the more that we hold onto these things that hurt us, the more we are ultimately hurting ourselves. We are not perfect; we all make mistakes and we all sin. We are all guilty of doing something wrong and hurting others. We are human. Jesus comes to free us from that burden. Because He forgives each one of us, we too must forgive our brothers and sisters when they sin against us. During this Lenten season, may we meditate on Jesus’ ultimate example of forgiveness. While He was dying on the cross, He said, ’forgive them for they know not what they do.’ (Luke 23:34) He humbled himself to forgive even the people who put Him to death.
Today, think of the person in your life that you need to forgive. Ask Jesus to give you the grace and strength you need to truly let go and forgive that person in your heart. Remember that when”you forgive men their transgressions, your Heavenly Father will forgive you.” In turn, you will receive great peace and healing.
February 19, 2018
Monday of the First Week in Lent
Jesus said to His disciples:
"When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, He will sit upon His glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before Him. And He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on His right and the goats on His left.
Then the king will say to those on His right, Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from
the foundation of the world.
For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me,
naked and you clothed me,
ill and you cared for me,
in prison and you visited me.'
Then the righteous will answer Him and say,
'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you,
or thirsty and give you drink?
When did we see you a stranger and welcome you,
or naked and clothe you?
When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?'
And the king will say to them in reply,
'Amen, I say to you, whatever you did
for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.'
Then He will say to those on His left,
'Depart from me, you accursed,
into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels.
For I was hungry and you gave me no food,
I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
a stranger and you gave me no welcome,
naked and you gave me no clothing,
ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.'
Then they will answer and say,
'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty
or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison,
and not minister to your needs?'
He will answer them, 'Amen, I say to you,
what you did not do for one of these least ones,
you did not do for me.'
And these will go off to eternal punishment,
but the righteous to eternal life."
Today’s Gospel reminds us of our main vocation to love and to serve others. Jesus shows us the importance of going out of our way to seek those in need. He offers specific guidelines on how we are called to serve our fellow brothers and sisters.
As we continue journeying through the Lenten season, let us strive to put the needs of others before our own. Maybe you can sign up to work at a soup kitchen or feed the homeless man you pass by on the street. Maybe you can collect clothes and donate them to the nearest shelter or work on forgiving those who have wronged you. Sometimes performing these works of mercy can seem like a checklist rather than a way of life. However, today’s Gospel encourages us to look beyond this “checklist of responsibilities” and truly love our brothers and sisters who are set before us, through various spiritual and corporal works of mercy. We are called to love the person in front of us and to see the face of Jesus in everyone we encounter.
Think about your own life. How can we open our eyes to live more attentively to the needs of those set before us? Who are the people that God has placed in front of you to serve? Will you ignore them or love them? Today, chose to love those around you and place the needs of others before your own. Try opening the door for someone, help someone cross the street, let another car go in front of you in traffic or pay for someone’s coffee. This will open your eyes to see Jesus in the ordinary moments of life. Pray that you may learn to love others more freely, and ask God to grant you more opportunities to practice this selfless love in your daily life.
St. Patrick Church
86 Cooper St.
Woodbury, NJ 08096