Tag Archives: Lent

goodfriday1

Good Friday Meditation

goodfriday1

From The Word Among Us:

Into your hands I commend my spirit. (Psalm 31:6)

It’s Good Friday, the very day for which Jesus was born into the world. His whole life, everything he ever said or did, had been leading up to this day. Every miracle, every sermon, every word of forgiveness or challenge—none of them makes sense apart from the cross. And today, we are invited to join millions of people all over the world in gazing upon the Lamb who was slain for our sin.

So let’s follow Pilate’s words and “behold the man” (John 19:5). Come and behold the Christ in his humanity. Recall his humble beginnings as a newborn in a manger. Wonder at his hidden years as he grew in stature and grace.

Come and behold the One on whom the Holy Spirit rested as a dove. See him in his humility, trust, and surrender to his Father as he walked with God each and every day. Behold the One who prayed, “Into your hands I commend my spirit” (Psalm 31:6). See how this prayer, which he breathed with his dying breath, was but the full expression of a lifetime of yielding to his Father.

Come and behold the One who said, “I thirst” (John 19:28). Gaze upon the One who experienced hunger, thirst, and pain, both physically and spiritually. He came not to be served but to serve. He washed his friends’ feet. He dined with sinners and touched lepers. He poured out his life day after day for his people. And now here he is, crucified, betrayed, and abandoned. He is nailed to a cross, and he is still pouring out his life.

“Behold, your king!” (John 19:14). Before his pierced and bloodstained feet, we bow our knees, anticipating the day when every person will kneel before him. Look upon this ravaged rabbi, and see here your eternal King, the One through whom all things were created. See your high priest seated in heaven, even now constantly interceding for you, just as he did on the cross.

Behold Jesus. The sky blackens. The earth shakes. The rocks rend. His body lies still for now. His majesty is emptied but for a season. Here is your King.

“Jesus, into your hands I commend my spirit.”

Isaiah 52:13–53:12; Psalm 31:2, 6, 12-13, 15-17, 25; Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9

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ProdigalSon

Lenten Meditation: The Father’s Generosity

ProdigalSonFrom The Word Among Us:

Everything I have is yours. (Luke 15:31)

The party was in full swing. The sounds of music and dancing and animated celebration were unmistakable—and incomprehensible—to the young man. “You mean my brother squandered a hefty portion of the family estate,” he splutters, “and we celebrate?” Bitterness radiates from him as surely as the sound of joyful merrymaking carries from the feast. “My brother had all that wicked fun, and then he’s treated like a hero for returning? I’ve served my father so faithfully,” he fumes, “yet he’s never given me so much as a small goat to feast on with my friends.”

The older son’s problem is that he never asked. His father even assured him, “Everything I have is yours.” Everything! The older son didn’t consider his father to be so extravagantly generous; he didn’t expect impressive expressions of his father’s love. He was so caught up in duty, service, and obedience that he missed the most important thing: love, displayed extravagantly and without hesitation.

This is the kind of love that God the Father showers on us every day. We have only to receive it from him. It’s the kind of love that created the heavens and the earth, the kind of love that set us as rulers over creation. It’s the kind of love that sacrificed his only Son for our sake and still forgives, and forgives, and forgives again. Generous. Overflowing. Extravagant. The kind of love that boldly declares, “Everything I have is yours.” That’s how much your heavenly Father loves you!

This week, ask your Father for that “goat” for a feast with your friends. Ask him for something you’d like but don’t necessarily need. Set aside all thought of what you deserve, all insecurity, all fear of punishment. Your Father loves you. He delights in you and wants to declare his love for you unmistakably and extravagantly. When the older son complained that he had never had a feast, his father opened his arms and his heart, declaring, “It’s all yours.” This is who our God is. This is how he loves us. Be confident in that love. Ask.

“Father, I don’t always think your extravagant love is for me. Help me to grow in confidence and assurance that when I ask, you will answer generously.”

Micah 7:14-15, 18-20; Psalm 103:1-4, 9-12

I was glad to see this particular bible story highlighted today, as I often sympathized with the “good” brother — the one who diligently did his duty and remained with his father. Ironically, in real life I feel more like the prodigal son, (minus the amoral lifestyle), who took a different path — much to the surprise of others. Of course, I’ve always had the full support of my parents and other family members, while others — to put it politely — questioned my decisions.

For anyone who writes professionally, especially if you’re a freelancer, it can be challenging to deal with the disapproval of other people, who are focused on more “traditional” lines of work, even in an age when technology and social media have facilitated the marketing of one’s skills and created the ability to literally work from anywhere. When I read the story of the prodigal son, I can relate to all of the characters — the father who loves his sons unconditionally, the “traditional” son and the one who squandered his fortune in order to discover his real treasure had been right in front of him all along.

It also makes me very grateful for the wonderful parents I’ve been blessed to have. The fact that they are still in my life and doing so well fills me with incredible thankfulness. As for God’s generosity, He always seems to place the right people and opportunities in my path exactly when I need them. Very grateful for that!

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An impressive bronze 
statue of Father Francisco Lopez stands in the foregound of a magnificent cross on the mission grounds.

Lenten Meditation: The Mark of a Disciple

LentFrom today’s Word Among Us:

The mother of the sons of Zebedee approached Jesus … wishing to ask him for something. (Matthew 20:20)

What bad timing! Jesus had just told his disciples about his coming passion, death, and resurrection. It must have been an emotionally charged moment, but that didn’t keep James and John’s mother from asking for a favor for her sons! Even the two brothers seemed oblivious as they eagerly offered to drink from Jesus’ cup, unaware of what that “cup” entailed! To make matters worse, the other disciples grumbled against them for trying to get special treatment.

But as awkward as it must have been, this woman’s timing was also providential. It gave Jesus the opportunity to teach the Twelve—again—that grasping for power is not a mark of a disciple. Greatness in God’s kingdom consists in self-giving, not in self-aggrandizement.

This is a lesson that everyone needs to hear over and over again, and Jesus had no problem repeating it. Like many of his teachings, Jesus knew that it wasn’t enough simply to state it once and then move on.

Why do we need so much repetition? It’s not that we are hard of hearing. It’s not that we are slow of mind. It’s that many of our fallen, sinful philosophies and expectations are so deeply held that nothing but continual reminders will dislodge them.

Jesus’ gospel is not just a minor variation on the ways of the world. It’s a whole new message. Rather than teaching revenge, he tells us to turn the other cheek. Rather than looking out for ourselves first, he asks us to give top priority to the poor and needy and defenseless. Rather than focus on our careers and comfort, he wants us to fix our eyes on heaven and on building his Church.

The good news is that we don’t have to figure this out all by ourselves. Jesus has given us the Holy Spirit to write his words on our hearts. Yes, we need to learn all that Jesus taught. But we also need the Spirit to bring these truths to life for us. He alone has the power to transform our thinking so that we can become more like Jesus!

“Lord, help me to train my mind so that I can experience your transforming power!”

Jeremiah 18:18-20; Psalm 31:5-6, 14-16

So, this one has always posed a bit of a challenge for me. There’s a seeming contradiction in the exhortation to give top priority to the poor, needy and defenseless at the expense of “looking out for ourselves first”. After all, you cannot give something away that you yourself do not have. A great metaphor for this is airline safety: haven’t we all been through the routine prior to take-off when we’re advised in the case of an emergency to secure our own oxygen first, then help the ones around us?

Growing up as a Catholic schoolgirl, it always confounded me how so many of the nuns and priests would condemn success and “rich” people, yet clamor for members of the congregation to donate weekly to the offertory and throughout the year to various drives for the missions, the poor, etc. Well how could congregants donate money if they themselves were not making it through their successful professions and business ventures? Even at a very young age I struggled with this contradiction, compounded by the fact that I was often singled out as a “rich doctor’s daughter”.

Knowing my father to be an honorable, humble and hard-working man who as the son of Italian immigrants had to work his way through high school, college and medical school — happily, I might add as he was grateful for the opportunity — I could never reconcile the fact that Jesus would condemn my dad and others like him as nothing but greedy, self-centered human beings unworthy of heaven. Weren’t they doing the Lord’s work in a way by caring for the sick and providing for their families?

And while I believe it’s important for children who come from good homes to understand how blessed they are to have loving families and live in the USA, it also confounded me that while telling us stories about the poor in Africa, for example, nuns and priests would never condemn the despotic regimes that enslaved their own people. Instead, they’d blame the USA — a country that has been a beacon of freedom and hope for countless millions across the globe. It’s also a country that has sacrificed much blood and treasure to free others from tyranny and oppression.

When I read today’s meditation, these are the things that came to mind. I am truly not trying to pick a fight here; merely offering my two-cents’ as someone who believes in God’s purpose for each and every life. When someone like my dad achieves their God-given desires, certainly it is incumbent upon them to be generous — as my parents have always been. But in order to share with others, it is necessary to first focus on your own success, so that you might actually have something of value to give away. Otherwise, you’re just another person drowning, instead of the person with the life-line who has the ability to pull the drowning person to safety. And what of teaching a man to fish? Is it not the best demonstration of charity to help someone else learn to fend for themselves and their families?

What are your thoughts? Am I misinterpreting? Do you agree? Disagree? Let’s discuss.

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justice

Lenten Meditation: Justice

LentFrom The Word Among Us:

Learn to do good. Make justice your aim. (Isaiah 1:17)

In just a few words, the prophet Isaiah urged the Israelites to make a vital decision: “Wash yourselves clean! Cease doing evil!” Moments like this are a great grace, moments when we clearly see what we have done wrong and choose to deal with it. If I’ve stolen money, I should make restitution. If I’ve been swearing, I should resolve to stop. Whatever the situation, I need to do something. I may need to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation, seek forgiveness from someone I have hurt, or avoid a particular place or thing that endangers me.

But let’s be clear. Not all change occurs in dramatic moments. Most of the time, our goal is to “aim at” justice and “learn to do good” one step at a time. Perhaps God is inviting you to grow in kindness. There are many ways you can do this. You can take time to pray for a person who irritates you and then look for ways to compliment him or her. You can pause before you begin each new chore or activity and ask God to show you one small way that you can be helpful there.

Here’s another strategy: instead of focusing on the negative trait you are trying to overcome, try cultivating its opposite. If you tend toward passivity, cultivate zeal by stepping forward to help out. If you tend to be critical, practice appreciation by saying positive and encouraging things. If pride is your main temptation, cultivate humility by putting other people first. If you are impatient, cultivate patience by waiting longer before grumbling or even looking at your watch.

This kind of learning doesn’t happen overnight, and it can be challenging. But know this: your tiniest efforts bring a smile to God’s face. When you offer him even your desire to do better, he multiplies this little gift and fills it with the transforming power of his love. Just as a parent teaches a baby to talk by praising and repeating his first sounds, Jesus, our patient teacher, is eager to work with us as we grow in his love.

“Holy Spirit, I am still learning to know you and walk in your ways. Keep teaching me and forming me. Lord, I want to learn to do good!

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forgivenesshug

Lenten Meditation: Be Merciful

Lent

From The Word Among Us, a beautiful meditation to start the week:

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6:36)

One day, a dad was playing with his young daughter, holding her above him in the air like an airplane. Looking into her father’s eyes, the daughter suddenly squealed with delight, “Daddy, I see me in your eyes!” The father grinned, “I see me in your eyes too.”

This is the kind of face-to-face encounter that God, our heavenly Father, wants to have with us. Just as children reflect their parents’ philosophies, dispositions, and even mannerisms, he wants us to reflect his own heart of compassion and mercy as we relate to the people in our lives. There is truth to the old saying “You may be the only Bible some people ever read!”

Of course, the most perfect reflection of the Father is Jesus himself—the “image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15). As the perfect image of the Father, Jesus came to earth not only to reveal God’s compassionate heart but to teach us how we too could live as God’s children. In today’s Gospel reading, he gives us some very practical ways that we can show the world who our Father is. First, he gives us two things to stop: “Stop judging. Stop condemning.” Then he give us two things we should do: “Forgive” and “Give” (Luke 6:37-38).

But Jesus didn’t just tell us what to do. As the perfect image of God, he also taught by example, from halting the stoning of a woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11) to dining with known “sinners” and prostitutes and ultimately to laying down his life to rescue us from sin.

So look into Jesus’ eyes today, and see yourself as he sees you—as a treasured child created in God’s own image and likeness. See the great capacity that God has woven into your very being, the capacity to forgive, to be generous, and to be an instrument of his peace. As you do, your heart will soften, and you’ll be able to see other people in the same light. Know that with the help of his Spirit, you really can put away judgments and condemnation. And always remember that your Father is proud of you!

“Father, I know that you love me. Help me to reflect your mercy and love to the world today.”

Daniel 9:4-10; Psalm 79:8-9, 11, 13

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