Lenten Reflection – Week 1

SUNDAY 1 MARCH

Scripture: Matthew 4: 1-11

Reflection

Today’s liturgy points us to the tale of two the Adams: the first man, Adam (from the book of Genesis) and the new Adam, Jesus Christ. The story of the two Adams is permeated by temptation. The first Adam, in the book of Genesis, failed to resist temptation and thus fell into sin. On the other hand, the second Adam conquered temptation and sin as also suggested by the hymn Praise to the Holiest in the height: “A second Adam to the fight and to the rescue came”.

Jesus, proclaimed Son of God at his Baptism, is subjected to a triple temptation in the Gospel that begins the First Week of Lent each year. Matthew’s version of the temptation tells us that the same Spirit that descended upon Jesus in the Jordan at the moment of Baptism, now leads him into the wilderness. There he remained for forty days and nights and this was to prepare him for his public ministry. The forty days and forty nights is suggestive not only of Moses’s fast but also of Israel’s forty years in the desert.

There are times when we too have to face our own desert or wilderness and, like Jesus, we experience temptation. Sometimes our flesh and humanity want to give in to these temptations. Often, we choose evil because there is some temporal ‘positive’ benefit which comes from it e.g. pleasure. Temptation comes at a time when we are weakened and weary. Likewise, the tempter came to Jesus when he was hungry. Our lesson lies in how Jesus resisted temptation. Even today, Jesus understands our struggles and he is one with us: “This means that he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every way, in order to be their faithful and merciful High Priest in his service to God, so that the people’s sins would be forgiven. And now he can help those who are tempted, because he himself was tempted and suffered” (Hebrews 2:17-18).

It is amazing how Jesus responded to Satan’s temptations with a quotation from scripture. Jesus is seen to face temptation with the power of the word of God. Jesus defeated Satan not with his own resources, but he trusted the power of God’s word. When St. Paul wrote his second letter to Timothy (2 Timothy 3:16) he says: “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching the truth, rebuking error, correcting faults, and giving instruction for right living”. We too should lean upon the scriptures and God’s power to conquer our many temptations.

Practical suggestions

Jesus used Scripture (the word of God) to defeat Satan and conquer sin. During this Lenten season spend few minutes each day reading and reflecting on the Word of God. Start today with the Gospel of Matthew. If you read this gospel as was suggested during Advent, choose another Gospel to read.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, help me to understand your divinity, your humanity and your mission; bless me to accept and believe that you are my God and Saviour. Strengthen me to resist the many temptations I face. Amen

MONDAY 2 MARCH

Scripture: Leviticus 19: 11 – 18; Matthew 25: 31 – 46

Reflection

“but You shall love your neighbour as yourself”
These words from Leviticus are spoken by the Lord to Moses whom he instructed to; “Speak to the whole community and say to them; You shall be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy.” This is his call to us to follow his way. At the beginning of this first week of Lent the start of Lent the words of sacred scripture guide us on the right path as we commit ourselves to follow this year’s Lenten theme; “From Repentance to Renewal.” If we are genuinely serious about wanting to transform our lives so that we may live as God has calls us to: “be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.”

Leviticus offers us these words of advice in our journey to become Holy: Do not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another. Do not use my name falsely. You shall not oppress your neighbour or rob him. You shall fear your God and LOVE your neighbour as yourself.

If we look into ourselves (which is what we are meant to do during Lent), at the totally unplanned ways we have brought into or left out of our way of living, ways which oppose the ways that God has called us to follow, we can reflect on the teachings of Leviticus which are in a similar, more practical vain, and repeated in the Gospel: These are when we don’t – feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, welcome the stranger and clothe the naked.

Jesus tells us that we must be “holy as His Father in heaven is holy” for there will be a judgement when “He will separate the sheep from the goats.” Those who follow His Word on His right and those who do not, on His left (left out?). “As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.”

Practical suggestions

Bring some non-perishable food for the Parish Poverty Relief and the St Vincent de Paul feeding scheme. Clear out your cupboards and choose some clothes and shoes you no longer wear to give to the poor, and make a point of greeting people today.

Prayer

Strengthen me O Lord to embrace your commandment with all my heart so that I may imitate the love, care, kindness and compassion your Son Jesus came to bring. Amen

TUESDAY 3 MARCH

Scripture Matthew: 6:7-15

Reflection

Our lives are so busy nowadays that for the most part all we seem to do is play “catch up”. Today stop and think; almost a week has passed since we had ashes placed on our foreheads and heard the words, “Repent and believe in the Gospel.” What has changed in your life since then?

If you are a late starter, remember that it is never too late to put things right.
Make time today to read the Gospel proclaimed at Mass in all Churches today.
This should help to get you going. It will most certainly help anyone to get going, because what we see in the Lord’s Prayer, is what Jesus told His disciples to do if they wanted to pray and to be holy. He told them that when they prayed, they needed to avoid ‘empty phrases.’ He suggested that they should rather repent because repentance brings renewal and renewal leads us to everlasting life with God and the saints. This is the only way our prayers will make us holy.

Whenever you pray, first clear your mind of all distractions and concentrate on being fully committed to improving your life through your prayers. It is only if we are earnest and sincere in our prayers that we will be able to grow spiritually. What is it that enables us to be honest and understanding in our daily prayer?
First, we must be truly sorry for our sins, all our sins (yes even the daily sins we tend to gloss over) if we want to be forgiven by God. We must pray that we never ignore even the smallest of our sins, because if we do, we are only fooling ourselves. More often than not it is these so-called ‘little sins’ that result in us from distancing ourselves from God.

Our lives should be spent constantly trying to eradicate sin. To achieve this we need to be more committed in a prayer life. We need to ask ourselves today ‘am I God-centered or am I self-centered’? Am I genuinely seeking God’s help or am I going through the ritual of prayer?

Hopefully this will prompt us to take a long hard and honest look at our life. Then we can pray for the help to follow more closely the teachings of our Lord.

Practical Suggestions

Turn to God in prayer today and let it be a prayer from your heart. Allow the thoughts in your mind to prompt you to speak to God more honestly and sincerely. After all he knows you (and loves you) just the way you are!
Commit today to make time for prayer every morning and at the end of each day. Just 5 minutes of sincere, heartfelt prayer will suffice.

Prayer

Lord God hear my prayers and help me to be patient so that I may hear your response. Help me to deepen my prayer life and to be positive in my acceptance of your love for me. Amen. Our Father…

WEDNESDAY 4 MARCH

Scripture Luke 11: 29 – 32

Reflection

People are always looking for signs. How many times have we not asked ‘Lord just give me a sign …’? If only the crowds had listened to Jesus and taken his words and teaching to heart. If only we would read the Gospels and take the words and teaching of Jesus to heart! For many it is probably too much effort. We want the easy way of sign, wonders and miracles. Real faith goes much, much deeper than that. It comes from reading the Gospels and a time of quiet contemplation on what we have read. “There is something greater than Jonah here” Jesus said, referring to himself. But they were too blind and their hearts were closed so they couldn’t recognise him.

This same blindness and hardness of heart prevents many people from recognising Jesus today. The wonder and miracle of his presence is made real for us every day in the celebration of Holy Mass, yet we fail to see it and recognise him. The priest holding up the Sacred Host and the Sacred Chalice proclaims, “Behold the Lamb of God …”. Is that what you behold, Jesus the Lamb of God? We have the greatest gift and opportunity to encounter Jesus in the Holy Eucharist but often, far too often, we deny ourselves this opportunity – and go looking for signs here, there and everywhere!

In truth, we’re not very different to the people of Jesus’ time. We also ask for signs. Today Jesus reminds us that “when Jonah preached they repented and there is something greater than Jonah here.” When we make this Lenten journey from Repentance to Renewal we will recognise Jesus.

Practical Suggestions

Come to know Jesus by reading the Gospels. If you haven’t done so already this year, read the Gospel of Matthew during these weeks of Lent. During Lent go to Mass as often as possible and experience the miracle of the Eucharist. Allow yourself to be filled with wonder and awe when the priest proclaims “Behold the Lamb of God” and acknowledge in your heart ‘yes Lord, I believe!”

Prayer

Father open my eyes and my heart to see the wonder of your presence made real for me by your Son Jesus. Amen.

THURSDAY 5 MARCH

Scripture Matthew 7: 7 – 12

Reflection

Prayer does not necessarily come easily to us, and furthermore people have struggled, through the centuries, to know what it is ‘okay’ to pray for! We tend to feel awkward about asking God to find us ‘a good car at a bargain price’, or to help us find something that is ‘lost’. We think our prayer should be confined to ‘spiritual’ things, and we’re not entirely sure what those things are!

Jesus, however, makes no exceptions in what He says today. Just ‘ask, seek, knock’. So the conclusion is that as long as what I’m asking for is worthy of Him, and worthy of being a child of His, it’s okay. I can’t, therefore, pray for things like revenge on an enemy or the desire to see someone suffer – those things are completely unworthy!

Jesus tells us that our prayer will have results, but He does not say when, or exactly how our prayers will be answered. He says that our Heavenly Father will give His children ‘good things’, so however my prayer is answered God knows that what He is giving is ‘good’ for me.

What do I want to pray for this Lent? Is it a prayer for myself or for others? And am I willing to persist in that prayer, or will I give up if I do not receive an immediate response?

Practical Suggestions

Make time today, and during the next week, for quality prayer time. Ask Jesus, believing that you will receive, for what you want most.

Prayer

Lord, I pray for transformation – that I may become a more effective and willing disciple, and find joy in serving You through serving others. I pray this in Your name. Amen.

FRIDAY 6 MARCH

Scripture Matthew 5: 20-26

Reflection

Time and again Our Lord makes it clear that He has come properly to interpret the law and make clear to us the fullness and objectivity of that law – that is the intention God had when he gave us his commandments. This was to overcome the narrow and human understanding of the law. For instance, whilst the Jews understood what it meant to love their God, their understanding of love of neighbour was actually indifference to that neighbour (refer to the parable of the Good Samaritan).

Today Jesus emphasises the need for reconciliation; a process which is designed through dialogue and interaction, to remove fear, anger, hatred, revenge, insult, exploitation and everything that needs to be uprooted in the hope of resolving issues. This in turn must lead to pardon and forgiveness.

God will NOT forgive the sin of not forgiving others and we agree to this when we petition Him in the Lord’s Prayer to forgive us as we forgive those who have sinned against us. We need to get what we say into our hearts.

You can take a horse to the water but you cannot make it drink. Jesus is saying for your own sake take the horse to the water!! The Triune God smiles upon us when we make a genuine effort towards reconciling irrespective of the outcome, irrespective of possible failure in this regard.

Practical Suggestions

Today think about whom you have become indifferent to so that you don’t have to go through the sacrificial effort of reconciling. This could be a parent, a sibling, a friend, and many others. Choose one person with whom you need to be reconciled.

Prayer

Almighty Father, open my heart fully to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit who will empower me to start the process of reconciling with others. Amen.

SATURDAY 7 MARCH

Scripture Matthew 5: 43-48

Reflection

In this Gospel extract, Jesus tells us to “Be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” He doesn’t ask us to try our best to be perfect, He simply states that we are to be perfect. This means that we have the God-given capacity to be perfect. In Genesis 1: 27 we read that we have been created in the image of God so it goes without saying that if we believe Jesus’ words that God is perfect, and we have been created in His image, then it’s not unreasonable for Jesus to tell us to be perfect.

However, the truth of the matter is, we have the gift of free will which allows us to make choices about how we behave and all too frequently we choose to behave in a sinful manner. For this reason, Lent gives us the wonderful opportunity to take time out to repent of our sinful ways and to be renewed so that by the boundless grace of God we can be perfect just as He commands us to be. God has given us the Ten Commandments which cover every facet of human living. In Deuteronomy 26: 16 we read that God once again reiterates that we are to keep His commandments, but when we break one of these commandments we are able to confess our sins, receive His forgiveness and be renewed in our resolve to be perfect.

Practical Suggestions

The Ten Commandments are fulfilled in Jesus’ Great Commandment: “You shall love…God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength….You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” (Mark 12:30-31). Commit the Great Commandment to memory.

Prayer

Father, You gave us the Commandments so we can live a life pleasing to you and to guide us in our daily dealings with one another. You have given us the capacity to be perfect but all too often we slip into the way of sin. During this Lenten season help me in my decision to journey from repentance to renewal in every aspect of my life. Amen.

These Daily Reflections for Lent 2020 are written by Fr. Wandile Cagwe, Deacon Mark Wardell, Lawrence Surgeson, Fr. Desmond Nair, Irene Helsdon, George Cominos, and Veronica Donnelly. Please acknowledge the authors when copying and distributing. We wish you a fruitful and blessed Lenten Journey from Repentance to Renewal.