Sunday 5 March
Scripture Matthew 17:1-9
“From dust you are and to dust you shall return”. A profound sentence from Scripture through which we acknowledge the greatness of God in creating us, that we shall die and our mortal remains will return to dust. Why?
The corruption of sin and death brought about by the power of the devil is the root cause. Jesus emerged from the desert totally focused on destroying this power and taking the sting out of death; regardless of what it would entail. He would win back for us the option to attain eternal life by destroying the hold of Satan, through His passion death and resurrection.
Timewise, last Sunday’s Gospel of the temptation of Jesus is three years back from today’s, which takes place as Jesus sets his face towards Jerusalem where he knows he must go. His transfiguration reveals His true divinity which He had hidden so well during His ministry. Our hope lies in this and today we are given a glimpse of what awaits us; eternal life.
At the end of time and after the final judgement, God will again take the dust of our human remains and create a spiritual body which will be reunited with our souls. A body so glorious that we cannot even imagine the bliss that this resurrection from the dead will entail. This is the potential that the miracle affords us, and it is up to us to work at making this potential our hope and a reality.
Lent affords us time to prepare for this reality by aligning our hearts with the Sacred Heart of Jesus through prayer and fasting and being totally generous in giving of our material possessions for the benefit of others so less fortunate than ourselves.
During Lent we must cease sleepwalking through life and get to grips with the reality of our stay on earth. We must truly look into our hearts to appreciate from our depths the meaning of Easter and the promise it holds for us.
Father, you created us out of dust. Through your Son and by the power of the Holy Spirit may we be recreated this Lent through the fire of God’s love. Amen
Monday 6 March
Scripture: Daniel 9: 4b – 10
Today’s scripture from the Book of Daniel invites us to reflect on the theme of repentance and forgiveness. This excerpt is part of a prayer that Daniel offers to God on behalf of the people of Israel. Daniel acknowledges the sins and transgressions of his people and asks God for forgiveness and mercy.
Daniel’s prayer is a powerful example of repentance and humility. He does not try to justify or excuse the sins of his people. Instead, he takes full responsibility for their wrongdoing and pleads for God’s forgiveness and mercy. He recognizes that the only way to be reconciled with God is through repentance and a sincere desire to change.
As we reflect on this prayer, we are reminded that we are also sinners in need of God’s mercy and forgiveness. Like the people of Israel, we have rebelled against God and fallen short of his standards. We have disobeyed his commandments and ignored the warnings of the prophets. But just as Daniel did, so also can we turn to God in repentance and humility, and ask for his forgiveness and mercy.
During Lent, we are called to examine our lives and to identify the areas where we have strayed from God’s path. We are invited to repent of our sins and to turn back to God with all our heart. We are called to make amends for the wrongs we have done and to seek reconciliation with those we have hurt. Then we will be Ransomed, Healed, Restored and Forgiven!
REFLECT – Examine your heart and identify any grudges or resentments that you may be holding onto.
DO – Go out and seek reconciliation with those you may have hurt and forgive those who have hurt you.
Lord God, our Father, give me the grace to follow in the footsteps of Daniel and turn to You with a contrite heart. Help me to recognize my need for your forgiveness and mercy and let me be renewed in my commitment to live a life that is pleasing to you. Father, bless me and keep me always in your loving care. Amen.
Tuesday 7 March
Scripture: Matthew 23:1-12
Hypocrisy has pushed people away from God. According to Msgr. Charles Pope, the heart of hypocrisy is people who want to be seen, people who desire applause and approval. We want to be seen at our best and we want people to have good and positive things to say about us. We are very focused on our appearance and image. Before leaving the house, we look ourselves in the mirror to see if we are looking good. We worry about our hair, skin or how we are dressed. We don’t want our flaws to be noticed. That is well and good, but that is not the sum of who we are. There is our inner self that we need to take care of as well.
Speaking about the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and Scribes, Jesus says, “You must therefore do what they tell you and listen to what they say; but do not be guided by what they do: since they do not practice what they preach.” Jesus warns his disciples about the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and Scribes. They were interested in playing to the gallery rather than being honest before God: “Everything they do is done to attract attention, like wearing broader phylacteries and longer tassels…”
Lent is a time for us to rid ourselves of any hypocrisy. This is a time of renewal; to look within us and less on our outer appearance – and that of others. This is a spiritual time to look at ourselves as though we were looking into a mirror, a time to be self-reflective and correct our behaviour especially those times where there is a mismatch between our words and our deeds. In the last part of today’s Gospel Jesus gives us an antidote to hypocrisy – humility. Humility is always referred to as the queen of virtues simply because it can transform our lives.
Reflect and ask yourself; How do I live before God and before others? Am I humble, honest and sincere?
Lord Jesus, you became a servant for my sake to set me free from the tyranny of selfish pride and self-concern. Teach me to be humble as you are humble and to love others generously with selfless service and kindness. Amen.
Wednesday 8 March
Scripture: Matthew 20: 17 – 28 “What is it you want?”
All mothers have wishes for their children – that is natural – whether it is for a long and healthy life, a great career, a good and faithful wife or husband, a loving family, prosperity … all that and more!
Jesus is confronted with the mother of James and John, and when He enquires ‘what it is that she wants’, she asks that her sons be promised ‘the top spots’ in the kingdom that Jesus speaks about. She wants ‘the works!’
Jesus then asks James and John whether they ‘can drink the cup that He is going to drink’? With a flush of youthful enthusiasm, and without any real understanding of the meaning, they answer, ‘We can!’
All of us, who call ourselves Christian, are challenged to ‘drink of that cup’ in some way – be it physical, psychological, or spiritually. Discipleship involves sacrifice and suffering in one way or another. We may not be asked to make the ultimate sacrifice, but we should give serious thought to how ready we are to ‘drink from that cup’ and align ourselves with Jesus, who drank from it to the last drop!
Reflect on how your faith would sustain you if all outward signs of that faith were taken away? Have you ever experienced any sort of ‘persecution’ for your faith? If so, how did you feel at that moment? Try to imagine the feelings of those who still today are being persecuted for their faith.
God our Father, today I pray for all those who are persecuted for their faith. Give them courage when they are threatened, comfort when they are afraid, and hope when they are tempted to despair. Amen.
Thursday 9 March
Scripture: Jeremiah 17: 5 – 10
By their fruits you will know them. (Matthew 7:16-20)
There are times when our journey of faith takes us through dry, barren periods and at such times it may even feel as though God has forsaken us. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, it is at these times that God is close to us. As always, however, it is we who, for one reason or another, have drifted away from Him.
Without the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we may well feel like a dried, shrivelled up shrub in the desert, but God promises to bless those who put their trust in Him, and who stop trying to go it alone.
He gives us a picture of a strong, healthy, fruitful tree with its roots thrust down towards the stream flowing with living water. This signifies the wise person who places their trust in God and therefore seeks out the living water through prayer and contemplating God’s word. They draw close to God and trust Him to meet their needs. Psalm 1 echoes the theme of today’s Old Testament reading.
Jesus offered the Samaritan woman at the well ‘living water’ so she would never be thirsty again. He told her that this ‘living water’ would become a spring of water inside her which would well up to eternal life. John 4:10 and John 4:13-14.
Again, Jesus offered the people who had gathered to listen to Him this ‘living water’ to nourish their Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who helps us to deepen our faith and trust in God. John 7:37-39.
A person filled with the presence of God’s Spirit in their lives will, in turn, manifest that living water in their everyday life as it flows out from them into the world. Like that tree, God wants us to stand firm in our faith. He wants to nourish us so that we will bear good fruit. Matthew 7:17-19
The fruits of the Spirit which we are called to live everyday of our life are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23
It is a worthwhile exercise before going to sleep to briefly review your day and to think of the times when you openly displayed the fruits of the Spirit.
Father thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit. Please fill me with Your living water so that I will be strong and resolute in my faith and live my life according to the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Friday 10 March
Penitential Day of Fast and Abstinence
Scripture: Matthew 21: 33 – 46
It is always important to understand to whom Jesus was speaking when he taught and told parables. Today he is addressing the chief priests and the elders of the people, the religious leadership. They refused to accept him and, in their rejection of him, they rejected his teachings. We wonder then that if they rejected his teaching why they wanted to arrest him. Perhaps it did indeed strike a chord within them – and a sensitive one at that!
They knew that what he was saying was true. But the truth didn’t matter to them. Quite possibly they were more concerned about the power and authority they held over the people.
Jesus very cleverly asked them what the owner of the vineyard would do to the tenants who had killed his son. They said, “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will deliver the produce to him when the season arrives.” What telling words – until they realized that they were speaking about themselves!
Israel was the vineyard of the Lord and they, the religious leaders, were the tenants. Is it any different today? The Church is the vineyard of the Lord and religious leaders are the tenants. God provides the Church with everything needed to yield a rich harvest. Are our religious leaders faithful tenants? Are we faithful tenants? Will we, at the end of our lives, be able to say to God that we have faithfully led others to faith? Are we good stewards in the vineyard of the Lord. Do we support and encourage our religious leaders?
It is easy for us to point fingers at the religious leaders of Jesus’ time. Jesus’ parable is addressed to us as much as it was addressed to them.
Have you ever invited anyone to join RCIA? At the Easter Vigil Mass on Holy Saturday, hundreds of thousands of adults, who are participating in the RCIA programme in their parishes throughout the world, will be Baptised and Received into Full Communion with the Church. Each of them has been led to faith by another Catholic. Are you willing to lead someone to faith?
Father, help me to accept that I am called to lead others to you by my example and invitation. Help me to be a faithful disciple and to “Go make disciples” as Jesus instructed. Amen.
Saturday 11 March
Scripture: Luke 15: 1 – 3, 11 – 32
The parable of the Prodigal Son is so very familiar to us that we may be tempted to gloss over the Gospel account. It’s worth reading, slowly and deliberately.
The mission of Jesus was to reveal the true nature of God to his people. At that time the notion of God as angry, vengeful, legalistic and a punisher dominated the lives and thoughts of his people. They lived in fear of God. But then there are still Christians (and dare I say, Catholics) who still see God in this way. As a result, they live in fear and are meticulous about adherence to laws, rules, regulations, customs, and traditions.
Jesus revealed God as a loving, compassionate, and merciful Father who longs for the return of his children who have strayed. He rejoices at their return and, in the parable of the Prodigal Son, restores them to full sonship in his house.
Our Lenten season began with God’s call to us through the prophet Joel: “Come back to me with all your heart.” The truth is that there is a bit of the Prodigal Son in each of us. We are rebellious, we stray from the path of faith and salvation, and often we know better, so we become reliant on self. Lent is a time for all of us, prodigal sons and daughters, to return to the Father’s house.
Today’s Gospel began: “The tax collectors and sinners were all seeking the company of Jesus to hear what he had to say, and the Pharisees and the scribes complained.” They had a problem with him welcoming sinners and eating with them! We know that this is precisely why Jesus came; to call sinners to repentance. We must be careful not to adopt the attitude of the scribes and Pharisees, but rather to be humble enough to acknowledge that we are sinners. When we do, we are then able to experience true and sincere metanoia, a genuine change of heart, as we return to the Father’s house. Think of the words we use when we go to Confession, “Bless me Father for I have sinned.” When we acknowledge this, just as the Prodigal Son did, then we experience the Father’s exuberant joy at our return. We are Ransomed, Healed, Restored and Forgiven!
When was the last time you went to Confession and asked for forgiveness? Go to confession and experience the Father’s joy.
There are many who have stopped going to Mass because of stuff that has happened in their lives. Tell them that this is precisely why Jesus came. Invite them to attend Mass with you tomorrow and/or to accompany you when you go to Confession.
Father, your love guides every moment of our lives, even during those times when we turn away from you. You never abandon any of us, your children. Thank you for sending Jesus to remind me of your love, mercy, and compassion. May I always live in this love and experience your mercy and compassion. Amen.
These Daily Reflections for Lent 2023 are written by George Cominos, Mike Montocchio, Fr. Wandile Cagwe, Irene Helsdon, Veronica Donnelly and Fr. Desmond Nair. Please acknowledge the authors when copying and distributing. We wish you a fruitful and blessed Lenten Season that you may be Ransomed, Healed, Restored and Forgiven.