Lenten Reflections – Week 1 2022

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SUNDAY 6 MARCH

Scripture: Joel 2: 12 – 18

Reflection:

Our Lenten Season began on Ash Wednesday with the call of God, through the Prophet Joel, “Come back to me with all your heart.”

What an extraordinary invitation to:  a) come back, and b) with all your heart.

  1. Come back:

You may (rightfully) argue “but I haven’t been away!”

The truth is that because of Covid during the past two years of Lent and Advent, many have not been able to go to Mass. Even for those who have, our faith has taken quite a knock and honestly, it isn’t what it could be and should be.

There are some (you may know them), who haven’t returned to Mass at all. Whatever situation you find yourself in, I am sure you can relate to God’s call and invitation as we begin this Lenten journey. Take it to heart and make it a personal invitation to you – to pray more, to be more spiritually focused, to read scripture, to go to Mass more often, to be serious about your fast and abstinence, to repent and believe in the Gospel as you heard when the ashes were signed on your forehead on Ash Wednesday. Now is the time to come back!

b)  With all your heart:

We all know what it means to be ‘half-hearted.’

We have done that when we lacked motivation, were not really convinced, not enthusiastic and simply following instructions. But we also know what it is to do something whole-heartedly. This is what God calls us to: to put our whole heart, soul and being into this Lent. Jesus did this when he resisted the temptations he experienced in the wilderness. The Gospels bear strong testimony to the total commitment of Jesus.

Can you embrace this Lent with total commitment?

Lent calls us to metanoia – a genuine and sincere change of heart.

Jesus strengthened himself through fasting, prayer, scripture and his intimacy with the Father. Similarly, you can strengthen yourself through increased daily prayer, reading scripture (especially the Gospels), and your intimacy with Jesus through the Eucharist.

Practical Suggestion:

In a spirit of complete faith, hope and trust, choose today to embrace whole-heartedly the call of God to “Come back to me with all your heart.”

Prayer:

Father, I place myself in your hands at the beginning of this first week of Lent. Strengthen my resolve to embrace your call and to follow Jesus with a lively faith.  Guide my Lenten Journey and help me to resist temptation.  Amen.

Listen to this song: Come back to me. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SJ20I-UhTec

MONDAY 7 MARCH

Scripture: Matthew 25: 31 – 46

Reflection:

Just in case we lull ourselves into complacency regarding our faith, we have the words and instructions of Jesus to wake us up today!

Most of us consider regard ourselves as loyal, good, faithful Christians, but (and it is a huge BUT) is that enough?

Are we satisfied with going to Mass faithfully, praying the rosary and other prayers, reading the Bible – or is there something more that is asked of us who are good, loyal and faithful Christians? Oh yes there is!

Jesus makes this abundantly clear in today’s Gospel: Feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, visit the sick and those in prison.

The hungry, thirsty, naked, homeless, strangers and sick are all around us! They drag us out of our comfort zone and complacency. We encounter them every day and, truth be told, they make us feel uncomfortable!

Jesus wants us to do something, not just feel guilty about our apparent inability to do anything for the homelessness, hunger and poverty that surrounds us.

Faith, like the Word of God, is something alive and active (Hebrews 4:12).

Our faith is lived through our willingness to ‘do whatever he tells you’ as Mary said to the servants at the wedding in Cana (John 2:5) and pharoah to the people in Genesis 41:55, in regard to Joseph.

Today Jesus himself tells us what we must do in order to attain salvation, and to enter into God’s kingdom. Knowing what is required should spur us into action, and definitely not not cause us to react out of fear. When we reach out from within ourselves to do for others, and to give to others, something wonderful happens to us: we begin to share in the goodness of our God!

Practical Suggestion:

Look through your cupboards this week and take out the items of clothing which you haven’t worn for a while. Parcel them up and either take them to church to be given to the poor, or find a needy person and give the parcel to them. If you are accustomed to eating special treats with your tea and coffee or fancy desserts after your meal, try to cut them out during this week or throughout Lent as an exercise in self-denial.

Volunteer to have a hands-on experience of helping the needy by joining the St. Vincent de Paul Society and our other charities who are always in need of an extra pair of hands for the wonderful work they do.

Contact the parish office to get details about how you can assist them.

Prayer:

Father, each day I implore you to ‘give us this day our daily bread’ which you do with an abundant generosity. Help me to give others their daily bread and to be an answer to their prayers in their need. Amen.

TUESDAY 8 MARCH

Scripture: Matthew 6: 7 – 15

“Your father knows what you need before you ask him”

Reflection:

If you read Luke’s gospel you hear that this ‘prayer’ was taught by Jesus in answer to a request of one of the disciples who said, “Lord, teach us to pray”.

Jesus says that God our Father ‘knows what you need before you ask him’, so then you may well ask yourself, ‘What is the point of praying? If God already knows what I need, why do I have to ask?’

The answer to that is that God wants to be ‘connected’ to each of His children

– He wants to hear us – our voice, and to have confirmation of our dependence upon Him. It’s precisely the same as having any meaningful relationship in your life – if you don’t keep up the connection, the relationship will falter and soon come to an end!

It has been said that the ‘Lord’s Prayer’ can only be prayed by someone who knows what he/she is saying, and has actually decided to be a disciple!

The order of the petitions in the prayer are important – the first three have to do with God and His glory, and it is fitting that we should put Him above all other people and things – He is our Creator!

The second three deal with our needs and necessities, and even there there is order: we ask for ‘bread’ – the necessity for the present time; we ask for ‘forgiveness’, which brings in the past; and we ask for ‘help in avoiding temptation’, which puts the future in His hands!

So, this Lenten journey, let us make this prayer really meaningful in our lives!

Practical Suggestion:

Set aside 10 – 15 minutes each day as a time when you will renew your connection with God the Father – time to talk to, listen to, and just to be with Him. Make this prayer part of your ‘conversation’!

Prayer:

Jesus, thank You for teaching us how to pray. May the Holy Spirit open my heart and mind to hear the voice of the Father as I talk with Him each day.

I pray this in Your name. Amen.

WEDNESDAY 9 MARCH

Scripture: Luke 11: 29 – 32

Reflection:

Yom Kippur is the holiest day in the Jewish calendar where Jews atone and repent through prayer, fasting and confession. In the afternoon, Scripture is proclaimed from the prophet Jonah to whom our Lord refers in today’s Gospel.

As children we were all fascinated by Jonah because he tried to run away from his God-given task of getting the people of Nineveh to repent.

Long story short, he was thrown overboard, swallowed by a whale, and vomited onto the beach three days later, after which he rallied the whole nation to repent, and they did. God spared them from disaster.

Jesus faced a huge crowd who had witnessed His miracles, but instead of increasing their faith, they created more unbelief because some thought that the real power behind his healing was really Satan. They doubted his authenticity and authority.

He knew that they wanted a sign to reverse their thinking. He told them that the only sign that he would give was the sign of Jonah. In other words, He would lead all people to repentance, and, unlike Jonah, he would do it willingly.

Like Johan he was destined to enter the tomb for three days and then to emerge in the resurrection. This is how they would come to know that he is the Son of God, the Messiah. Obviously this sign was to be given at the end of His earthly life. They had no idea what He was talking about at the time.

Only in hindsight would they – and we – come to understand.

What we do with this sign will determine our own eternity. There will never be another sign so powerful as the passion, death and resurrection of the Lord.

This is what Lent is all about. During this sacred time we also remember to pray for those who have yet to believe in this sign and become instruments of leading them to faith and belief.

Practical Suggestion:

We are called to embrace the sign of the Holy Week Triduum (Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday) to acknowledge that Jesus as the One who will determine our eternal destiny.

We have to internalise this sign, to produce the change in ourselves that the Holy Spirit is so desperately waiting to bring to fulfilment in us. Plan ahead now, to participate in the Triduum during Holy Week.

Prayer:

Holy Spirit of God, you were sent by the Father in the name of Jesus to help me. During this Lenten season guide my mind and guard my heart so that the greatest sign ever given may become a sign illuminating my life. Amen.

THURSDAY 10 MARCH

Scripture: Matthew 7: 7 – 12

Reflection:

During Lent we are called to make a special effort to pray.

Prayer takes many forms. There are people who struggle with the concept of prayer and question whether they are “doing it right,” but there is really no wrong way to pray. Prayer is our inner-most spirit communing with God.

When we see the beauty and perfection of nature we may spontaneously glorify God for His wonderful creation. We may praise God for our safe arrival after travelling or for the gift of a new life which has come into the world.

At other times when we are angry, hurt or in despair we may shout out to (at) God in our frustration. When we are grief-stricken we may sob our way through our prayers to God. God hears every prayer.

It is very easy to attempt to limit God when we pray, especially when we petition Him for His help and assistance. We may think we need to be very specific with our request and tell Him exactly how we want Him to answer our prayer. In truth, God sees the bigger picture and He knows what the best outcome for our particular circumstance would be.

There is no need to barter with God or to tell God precisely how we want Him to handle our problem or in what way we think He should work in and through our life. Our prayer should be “Thy will be done” in every situation, believing in faith that He will answer our prayer in His time and in His way.

Never stop asking according to His will for your Life. Continue seeking His guidance in your life. Always knock and be ready to receive the richness of

God’s blessing which He freely gives to you.

“For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matthew 7:8)

There are times when we feel far from God. It is not God who has drawn away from us but rather we who have distanced ourselves from Him. He is always waiting and longing for us to return to Him. He is only one prayer away!

Practical Suggestion:

Create a Prayer Journal for Lent.

Each day make a note on at least one thing that “I praise God for today” one thing “I thank God for today” and one thing “I ask God for today”.

As you go about your day, try to notice things that you can praise and thank God for or that you could petition God to help or guide you with.

You may just catch yourself praying more than you ever knew was possible.

Listen to this song: In his time  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aJeNUlNY7Iw

Prayer:

Father, not my will, but Thy will be done.  Amen.

FRIDAY 11 MARCH

Scripture: Ezekiel 18: 21 – 28

Reflection:

If the wicked man renounces all the sins he has committed, respects my laws and is law-abiding and honest, he will certainly live; he will not die.

You have probably heard people say, ‘God is a God of second chances’.

This statement unsettles me because people might be under the impression that God counts the number of times he forgives us. I prefer to believe that God not only gives us second chances, but rather that He is a God of another chance. As many times as the wicked person genuinely repents and asks for forgiveness from God, they are forgiven.

Today’s scripture from the prophet Ezekiel coincides with the theme of Lent: repentance (to come back to God with our hearts). On Ash Wednesday we were signed on our forehead with ashes and we heard these words, ‘Repent, and believe in the Gospel’.

During this season of Lent, we seek reconciliation with God and with each other. God does everything possible to draw us to repentance, offering forgiveness and another chance. In the Catholic Church, we have the Sacrament of Reconciliation which was given to us by Jesus to help us reconcile with God and his Church. This sacrament can be repeated as often as we need and it helps us to overcome our sins.

God is not just a God of second chances because if it were so we would be in trouble. Knowing that God gives us ample chances to repent is good news, because most of us mess up the second chance fairly quickly.

The book of Proverbs says, “Though the just fall seven times, they rise again, but the wicked stumble from only one mishap.” (24:16).

This verse attests to and reassures us that failure is not the end of the road.

A fall does not have to be the end. We rise as better persons with the help of God. In this first week of Lent, we are reminded to be patient with ourselves as God is patient with us.

When we fall into sin, we cannot sit in the dust of sin. We choose to get up as many times as we fall. Even with good intentions, we might find ourselves down and disheartened but remember that God is always merciful and gracious.

Practical Suggestion:

Patience with oneself is hope, and patience with God is faith. Many people struggle with patience especially when they fall over and over again into sin.

Today try to maintain a right attitude and don’t be too hard on yourself. Conversion may take time. Always remind yourself that God is patient with you.

Prayer:

Eternal Father, turn our hearts to you. Enlighten us with your word, that we may find the way to your glory. During the season of Lent, may you teach us to find new life through repentance and help us live by your commandment of love.

Through Jesus Christ your Son. Amen.

SATURDAY 12 MARCH

Scripture: Matthew 5: 43 -48

Reflection:

Today’s extract from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is very challenging and very stark, making our Lenten Theme, “Come back to me with all your heart” seem tough.

If we come back to Jesus, we must follow his lead!

But can we ever be completely comfortable with Jesus’ command to love our enemies?

It seems to go against every human instinct. We can be tempted to dismiss it as unreasonable and impractical.

Jesus was envisaging a situation where his own followers would be persecuted and would have many enemies. He was teaching them in advance how they were to relate to those who would inflict suffering on them because of who they were and what they were doing in spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Saint Paul echoes this teaching of Jesus in his letter to the Romans, when he exhorts the members of the church in Rome, ‘Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought of what is noble in the sight of all… Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good’. That last exhortation of Paul captures the essence of Jesus’ teaching in our gospel reading. If your enemy does evil to you, do not add to the store of evil in the world by responding in kind. Rather, love your enemy, pray for those who persecute you. Overcome evil with good.

Pope St John Paul II said that to love someone with truly benevolent love is to will God for them since God is the supreme good of each human person. ‘Be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect’. God is constantly at work to overcome evil withgood. Jesus’ life, death and resurrection were God’s supreme effort to overcome evil with good. In calling on us to be God-like, some might say that Jesus is asking too much of us. Yet Jesus knows the good of which we are capable with God’s help, even against all the odds and in the face of great provocation.

Practical Suggestion:

Call to mind those people who have offended you or those whom you have come to distrust. Place them before God in your prayers, asking God to Bless them.

Offer up a prayer for the end of violence in the Ukraine and the rest of the world.

Prayer:

Lord, you present a message that is not easy for my fallen nature to accept. However, I believe in your words, and I trust you because you alone have the

words of eternal life. I turn to you as one in need. Lord, help me to love my enemies and pray for those who persecute me. I want only to please you in all I do. Amen

These Daily Reflections for Lent 2022 are written by Fr. Desmond Nair, Irene Helsdon, George Cominos, Veronica Donnelly Fr. Wandile Cagwe, and Mike Montocchio. Please acknowledge the authors when copying and distributing. We wish you a fruitful and blessed Lenten Season as you respond to God’s call to come back to him with all your heart.

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