Sunday 19 March
Scripture John 9: 1 – 41
The shorter version of this Gospel passage leaves out verse 31 – a verse which shows just how ingrained it was in the minds of the Pharisees that “God does not hear sinners”. Jesus Christ came to earth precisely to alter this perception cast in the stone of the minds of the religious leaders of the time. Religious speech often cloaks the darkest of hearts. Our entire Lenten practices would be null and void if God did not listen to sinners. Our Lord loved sinners who were willing to repent and he died for them and us. He gained the right for us to be forgiven our sins provided we offer God our true and authentic repentance.
Life lessons to be drawn from this account include the danger of assuming that sin is responsible for any physical ailment. The Saviour makes it clear that in this instance God designed the man’s blindness to provide a real platform for exalting His own glory. How often we miss the boat in terms of what happens to us which has the potential to bring glory to God. We need to internalise and embody the prayer in the Mass ( outside of Lent and Advent) where we sing or pray Glory to God in the highest: how might my situation bring glory to God!!
Jesus went to find the man who had avoided the temptation of the devil through those religious leaders to speak a vicious lie about God’s Son. This would have displeased God and would not have honoured Him as the elders supposed it would. The Redeemer seeks us out always, offering His help and encouragement to walk with God, irrespective of our ordeals and situations.
In our distress, grief, panic, disillusionment, lack of faith and hope in many of the circumstances of life, we can be party to bringing glory to God through our actions and through allowing others to interact with us. The Jesuit motto “to the greater glory of God” is embodied in what the previously blind man did.
Almighty God we were designed to bring you glory. Help us during this Lenten season to allow our thoughts, words and actions to bring You that desired glory. Amen.
Monday 20 March
Solemnity of St Joseph, husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Scripture: Matthew 1:16; 18-21; 24
For our Lenten Theme, “Ransomed, Healed, Restored, Forgiven,” to have any value in our lives we require FAITH in Jesus Christ Our Saviour. Today, the three Mass readings each talk to the extraordinary Faith of David, Abraham and Joseph respectively, and how, through this Faith, each was able to live in Hope.
The Gospel reading reminds us of the power of faith and trust that Joseph must have had in God. Joseph’s initial reaction to Mary’s pregnancy was one of shock and fear, but he was willing to listen to the angel’s message and follow God’s plan. He put his faith in God’s wisdom and guidance, even though it meant going against his own plans and expectations.
Joseph must have been an ideal father, wondering at his extraordinary child and what his future held, teaching Jesus by example and protecting him, but also moulding him with gentle love and firmness.
Lent is a time of spiritual renewal and growth, a time to deepen our relationship with God and to reflect on our own lives in light of his teachings. Let us use this time to renew and grow our faith in God, to trust in his plan for our lives, and to follow his guidance with courage and conviction.
REFLECT – Put yourself in the young Joseph’s shoes. Are you willing to listen to God’s voice and follow his plans, even when they are different from your own? Do you have the courage to put your faith in God’s wisdom, even when it means stepping outside of your comfort zone?
ACT – Identify something you will do differently from now on to reflect your growing Faith e.g. Set aside time for prayer and reflection, attend a weekday Mass, offer help at the Denis Hurley Centre and/or SVDP.
Lord, I believe, help me in my unbelief. I come to you today seeking your strength and guidance. I am struggling with doubt and uncertainty, and I need your help to trust in you and have faith in your plans for my life. I know that you are good and loving, and that you have a purpose and plan for me. Help me to let go of my fears and doubts, and to trust in you completely. Give me the faith to believe in your promises and the courage to follow your will for my life. I pray that you will fill my heart with your peace and joy, and that you will help me to trust in you no matter what challenges I may face. In your holy name, I pray. Amen.
Tuesday 21 March
Scripture: John 5:1-3, 5-16
We are easily discouraged. When faced with failure we easily give up. When the going gets tough, we are ready to throw in the towel. Some even give up without making an effort. What do you do when you face difficult situations? Who do you turn to for help? There is no need to let disappointment and discouragement lead us to defeat. In today’s Gospel we meet a man who had been sick for thirty-eight years. He could not get to the healing waters in the pool of Bethzatha, because there was no one to carry him when the water was disturbed. Thirty-eight long years is enough to make anyone lose hope and abandon the effort.
The sick man stayed there not knowing when the water would be disturbed. He knew that even when the water was disturbed someone might get into the pool before him. However, he still had hope because he stayed there for thirty-eight years with the hope that his turn will come for healing. He never gave up, patiently waiting for his turn. Jesus came onto the scene and fulfilled the man’s expectant hope. “Jesus saw him lying there and knew he had been in this condition for a long time.” John tells us that there were crowds of sick people – blind, lame, paralyzed – all waiting for the water to move. Even though there were crowds of sick people, Jesus laid eyes on this particular man, probably because of his expectant hope.
Our Lenten theme for this year is: Ransomed, Healed, Restored, Forgiven. Today’s Gospel calls us to restore our hope in God. Waiting around the pool, with crowds of people, was not easy for the sick man but his hope kept him going and this hope was fulfilled! We are called to ‘Wait at the pool’ with hope. We may be discouraged when we feel that our prayers are not answered. When you are tempted to abandon your Lenten discipline and resolutions, hold on a little longer. Be assured that Jesus sees you just like he did with the sick man at Bethzatha.
Do an act of kindness especially for those who are less fortunate and in need of help.
Heavenly father, I am your humble servant, and I come before you today in need of hope. There are times when I feel helpless, there are times when I feel weak. I pray for hope. I need hope for a better future. I need hope for a better life. I need hope for love and kindness. I make this prayer through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Wednesday 22 March
Scripture: John 5: 17 – 30 “those who did good will rise again to life.”
Eschatology is not a word we are necessarily familiar with – but it is the study of ‘the last things’: death, heaven, hell. Not a favoured dinner table topic of conversation, but it is one we need to give attention to. Where do we want to be when death finally claims us, as inevitably it will?
The parable of ‘The Last Judgement’ in Matthew’s Gospel tends to leave us all a little uncomfortable – the goats who were condemned to the eternal fire were not condemned for their evil deeds, they had committed, but because they neglected to help those who were in need!
Jesus says that we choose our destiny – by doing good or doing evil – and evil does not necessarily involve doing actual physical harm to others. It is sufficient to ignore the poor, the sick, the homeless, the oppressed, those suffering injustice – that will constitute ‘evil’!
But Jesus came to offer us a second chance, an opportunity to turn around, repent of our selfishness, and believe in Him. Then with Him, in a close relationship, we try to be better people and make sincere efforts to build His Kingdom here. Time is short, do not waste it!
What is your concept of heaven and hell? Is it possible to experience these in our present lives? Resolve, in these last few weeks of Lent, to try and store up some ‘good deeds’, so that the Resurrection at Easter will have new meaning for you.
Lord Jesus, give me the grace to believe in the resurrection You promised. Help me to do good on my journey through this life, and fill me with a longing for heaven and zeal to build Your Kingdom. Amen.
Thursday 23 March
Scripture: Psalm 105: 19 – 23
Moses had lead the Israelites across the Red Sea, from slavery to safety. He had gone up the mountain to commune with God and to receive the Ten Commandments. In the short time that he was away from the Israelites, they fell back into their old pagan practices. (Exodus 32 : 7 – 14)
The Egyptians worshipped many different gods and constructed great temples which housed ornate, crafted images of their gods. The Israelites would have known about these gods and possibly some may have even joined the Egyptians in the sacrificing for and worship of these gods
While having made an image of a calf was bad enough, they then went on to worship it and to offer sacrifices to it. But worst of all, they gave credit to this idol for their miraculous rescue from their slavery in Egypt. It has been said that God was able to take the Israelites out of Egypt but He was unable to take Egypt out of the Israelites!
Old habits die hard and even when we’ve resolved to change or stop a particular habit, we find, within a very short space of time, our resistance grow low and we easily succumb to the temptation to return to our old ways.
It is not difficult to slip into bad habits which can take the form of physical, emotional or even dubious spiritual practices. These may include unhealthy habits and addictions which are detrimental to the wellbeing of our body, unsavoury thoughts which pollute our minds, and habitual sin which causes us to separate ourselves from God.
Many of us have chosen to give up something we enjoy as part of our Lenten practice. Others have made a concerted effort to give up on some form of bad behaviour. How wonderful it is that we are given these opportunities during Lent to reflect on our lifestyle and to make the effort to remedy some of the practices which don’t really serve us.
We are halfway through the Lenten season but it’s never too late to start over again if you have slipped back into some of those old ways. Remain strong and determined during these remaining few weeks to follow through on what you planned to do this Lent.
Father, thank you for the gift of life and for the daily blessings you freely bestow on me. In these last few weeks of Lent give me the strength to live each day in a manner worthy of being called a follower of Jesus. Amen
Friday 24 March
Penitential Day of Fast and Abstinence
Scripture: Wisdom 2: 1, 12 – 22 and John 7: 1 – 2, 10, 25 – 30
The Book of Wisdom was written about fifty years before the coming of Christ. Its author, whose name is not known to us, was probably a member of the Jewish community at Alexandria, in Egypt. He wrote in Greek, in a style patterned on that of Hebrew verse. At times he speaks in the person of Solomon, placing his teachings on the lips of the wise king of Hebrew tradition in order to emphasize their value. His profound knowledge of the earlier Old Testament writings is reflected in almost every line of the book.
There is a chilling connection between this passage from Wisdom and the rejection of Jesus, as well as the encounter between Jesus and the religious leaders in the temple in the Gospel.
In their determination to silence Jesus they were blind to what they were really doing and what they were missing out on. Religion of this kind can create and cause spiritual blindness.
We find ourselves in the fortunate situation and position of being able to reflect on the whole picture of the Old Testament and be immersed in the teachings of Jesus in the four Gospels. Sadly however, such spiritual blindness continues among us Catholic Christians today. Is it possible that we lack the compassion of Jesus and his willingness to reach out to the marginalised, the rejected, the poor and downtrodden. We want a sanatised Church and religion.
Consider the rather vocal criticisms by conservative Catholics against Pope Francis who, if we are familiar with the teachings of Jesus, is doing precisely what Jesus expects his Church to do: reach out in love and mercy to all people. When customs, traditions and rituals become more important than love, mercy and compassion then religion loses its heart.
If we allow this spiritual season of Lent to transform our hearts and lives into the likeness of Jesus, when we are genuinely Ransomed, Healed, Restored and Forgiven, then the light of Jesus will shine brightly within us and radiate outwardly in a very darkened world. More than ever our world needs the light of faith. Choose to be a person of faith rather than a religious person. Let his love show and his light shine in you.
Introspection is difficult but necessary. Ask yourself today, “Am I a loving, merciful and compassionate person in the image and likeness of Jesus?”
Open the eyes of my heart Lord to see the wonder of your love for me, even in my many sins, faults, and failings. Help me to be merciful and compassionate. Forgive my failure to love others. Amen.
Saturday 25 March
Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord
Scripture: Luke 1: 26 – 38
For us Christians, the Annunciation of the Lord is one of the greatest moments in human history. The Word was made flesh. God became man, conceived in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary. So great was this event that it is observed in the Angelus prayer; at the beginning, the middle, and at the end of each day.
The great God of the heavens chose to come among us, to walk among us, in order that he may lead and guide us on the way to salvation. So much does God desire our salvation that “he emptied himself to assume the condition of a slave and became as we are; and being as we are, he was humbler yet, even to accepting death, death on a cross. But God raised him high, and gave him the name, which is above all other names, so that all beings, in the heavens, on earth and in the underworld, should bend the knee at the name of Jesus and every tongue should acclaim Jesus Christ as Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2: 7 – 11)
Today, nine months before we celebrate the birth of the Saviour at Christmas, we are reminded of God’s great love for us, his people, and his choice of Mary to be the mother of the Saviour. Mary could not possibly have imagined what this would mean for her and how this would change the course of her life. Yet she chose to put her complete faith, hope, and trust in God and responded to the angel “let what you have said be done to me.” She believed that God, who had asked her to do this, would help her to bring it to fulfillment. And indeed he did!
On Monday we celebrated the Feast of St. Joseph. He, like Mary, chose to trust God and to believe that God would guide him.
Today, God asks each of us, as he did Mary and Joseph, to bring Jesus into our world, our homes and community, our country. Each of us is, like Mary, a bearer of Christ. We carry him in our hearts, most especially through the gift of the Holy Eucharist, not just for our personal sanctification, but so that he may be present in our world, in this, our time. Can you, like Mary, say to God “let it be done to me as you have said”?
Go to Mass today and/or tomorrow and receive Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. Be filled with his awesome presence as Mary was. Let him be present through you, in your home, and to all whom you encounter.
Lord God, thank you for sending us your Son Jesus, conceived in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Like her, I place my faith, hope, and trust in you. Guide me to bring to fulfillment what you ask of me. 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.