Scripture: Genesis 12: 1 – 4
Have you ever been lost in a big city or a shopping mall or even a foreign country? In all these cases, it is not a pleasant experience because we can be frightened and feel helpless. Such an experience evokes feelings of anxiety, confusion and frustration. Last Sunday’s first reading from the Book of Genesis showed how humanity got lost and drifted from God’s plan as a result of disobedience and sin. God intervened and wants to direct humanity to the right path.
Today, we ask ourselves: what about those who have lost their spiritual path? When we think of those who are lost spiritually, we shouldn’t think only of the Catholics who no longer attend Sunday Mass. There are times when we also find ourselves lost from our faith and spirituality. We too can be confused as we search for the right path. Our life journey is not very easy. This is because life is not only a journey, it is a search: we all have to discover for ourselves the path that will lead us home to God. Today’s reading from Genesis offers guidance on this issue.
“Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house.” God says to Abram. When called by God, and because of his great faith and obedience, Abram left his land and the security of home to follow God. This was a time for Abram to put his feet up and settle down because he was advanced in age. But Abram followed God’s direction and instruction. This was God’s way to give direction to a lost humanity (because of Adam’s fall).
Our Sunday readings during Lent are chosen to help us to appreciate our salvation history which is the plan of God. Abraham’s total response to God’s instruction came at a price. He had to make sacrifices and bear ‘crosses’ of detachment and adjustments to a new life situation. Just like Abraham, our father in faith, we are called during lent, to trust God who will bring us safely home. If we feel lost, let us use this season as an opportunity to journey back towards God. Regardless of how far we have strayed from God, he is ready to welcome us back. Here are beautiful words from the prophet Hosea (14:4) “The Lord says, ‘I will bring my people back to me. I will love them with all my heart’”.
List the things Abram left behind to follow God’s will. Now draw up your own list of the things that you have given up for Lent and ask God to give you the strength to be true to your Lenten resolutions.
My God, I offer you myself as a sacrifice of thanksgiving. My wish is to be detached from everything that separates me from you. Help me to carry out what I profess through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Scripture: Daniel 9: 4 – 10, Luke 6: 36 – 38
Last Monday, in Leviticus, God called us to be “holy” because He is Holy. Today (and every day) Jesus gives us advice on how we can be precisely that: HOLY! He tells us, in Luke’s Gospel, that we are CALLED to be merciful, not to judge, not to condemn, to forgive and to give to all who are in need.
Daniel also gives us sound advice when he tells us how God is “merciful in His love for those who love Him and keep His commandments,” that we should live our lives in His ways.
We know that we are sinners and, just as children test their parents, so we test God especially when we act and do those things that we know go against God’s will. Most of the time we don’t have a legitimate excuse for doing or not doing the things that that turn us away from being “holy” or “merciful” even though we constantly get advice from so many reliable sources. ‘From where’ you may ask! From the Bible! The Bible should be our constant companion. (download a Catholic Bible app to your cell-phone – it’s free).
Today’s scripture provides great examples: Daniel tells how we can keep on doing God’s “good” side by side the things that God wants us to do. We also hear from Jesus, whom God has chosen to GIVE us His Word, telling us where we go wrong: acting wickedly and rebelling, turning away from the commandments, not listening to the prophets (from the Bible and our priests in this modern age).
We know that Jesus loves us so much that He was prepared to die for us in order that we may be freed from the sins that sadly we choose to hold on to. This is what causes us to lose sight of the mercy that we should show to others. We must remember that we are forgiven the moment we repent, because God is merciful, full of forgiveness and encouraging. We can take advantage of God’s graciousness given so freely as we make our journey of repentance from our past failings to our new life of “RENEWAL” as true members of God’s family.
We know the old saying; “You reap what you sow.” Let us make the effort this Lent to plough all our efforts into pleasing God as we try earnestly to be “Holy” by listening to His words when we read the bible daily. Be forgiving and practice all those things that make us merciful in God’s eyes. Remember, God sees all things done in secret!
Father, help me to keep you constantly in my thoughts and actions, especially to be ‘Holy’ as you are and to be ‘merciful’ in my judgements, knowing that your wish is for me to climb your mountain to reach your heavenly home. Amen
Scripture: Matthew 23: 1 – 12
Religion has the tendency to take on a life of its own with innumerable laws, rules, customs, traditions, rituals and forms of dress. You could be forgiven for thinking that this is exactly what the Catholic Church is like. Undoubtedly through our long history there have been times when this has been the case and there are still some in the Church who hanker after this. Thankfully though, our wonderful faith is the primary focus of the Church and down to earth leaders such as Pope Francis and our own Cardinal Napier are a shining example of this.
That Jesus had a problem with the religious leaders of his time is without doubt.They were filled with a sense of their own self-importance and made life difficult for the people. They had forgotten that they were there to serve the people of God and not to lord it over them.
Naturally the Church, as a religious organisation and a faith community, has to have rules, and because we have been around for such a long time, we have a rich tradition as well as customs and rituals. But these are meant to serve us – not the other way around!
Ask yourself today, ‘where is my focus? Is it on customs, traditions and rituals or on the essence of my faith? Am I following Jesus with a lively faith?’ Remember that Lent is the season for the renewal of our faith so that we can join in with the Catechumens at the Easter Vigil. They are asked, “What do you ask of God’s Church?” They answer, “Faith.” Next, they are asked, “What does this faith offer you?” They reply, “Eternal Life!”
Pray for your priest – and for all priests. Ask God to guide them so that they are filled with the spirit of Jesus, serving God’s people in humility and sincerity, concerned about the salvation of all God’s children.
Father, I thank you for the gift of your Son Jesus who shows us the way to you. Help me to follow in his way so that I may imitate his humility and be of service to others. Amen.
Scripture: Matthew 20: 17 – 28
The Pope has many titles such as ‘Supreme Pontiff (pontiff means bridge-builder), Vicar of Christ, Bishop of Rome, Sovereign of the Vatican Sate – and a few more. The title that most suits the office of the Pope is ‘Servant of the Servants of God.’ This title really describes who the Pope is.
Jesus never assumed for himself any fancy titles, never pushed himself in front of anybody and most certainly didn’t have a blue light brigade (or whatever the equivalent was in those days!)
Like the other ten apostles we are horrified at the request to Jesus from the mother of James and John, especially as Jesus had just been telling them what was going to happen to him in Jerusalem! Such is human nature – we aspire towards titles and places of honour. The way of Jesus is very different: “anyone who wants to be great among you must be your servant.” Think of the actions of Jesus at the Last Supper: “he got up from the table, removed his outer garment and, taking a towel, wrapped it round his waist; then he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples feet.” (John 13: 4). After washing their feet, he said “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Master and Lord, and rightly, so I am. If I, then, the Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you should wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example so you may copy what I have done to you.” (John 13: 13 – 14)
The way of Jesus is very different to the ways of the world! He did this at the Last Supper after instituting the Sacraments of Eucharist and Holy Orders to show that both these Sacraments are about service. At the end of Mass, the deacon says “Go in peace glorifying the Lord by your life.” In the old translation “Go in peace to love and to serve the Lord.”
This is what our faith calls us to do and this Lenten season of Repentance and Renewal is meant to remind us of this. You may remember the 5 marks of Discipleship during Easter last year: disciples Worship, Connect, Grow, Serve and Give.
Ask yourself today: in what way do I give of myself? How do I serve others in the spirit and way of Jesus? The answers to these questions should lead us to follow the call and example of Jesus.
Lord Jesus. Help me to be a disciple who serves, a follower who is faithful to your teaching, and a Christian who is always willing to embrace your spirit of humility and service. Amen.
Scripture: Luke 16: 19 – 31
“If they will not listen to either Moses or the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone should rise from the dead”
This parable tends to make people feel very uncomfortable, and I am no exception. Our 21st Century world has become a place that is very much divided between the ‘Dives’ (Latin word meaning ‘rich’) and the Lazarus’ (the poor), and the trouble is that the gap between the two groups has become almost impossible to bridge. Moreover, probably two-thirds of the world’s population counts themselves among the ‘Lazarus’!
That problem is compounded by the seeming insensitivity of the world at large to the plight of the poor. Agreed the problem is huge, and most of us throw up our hands and say, ‘Well, what can I do? I can’t solve the problem!’ True, but if each of us helped just one person each day, we would begin to whittle away at the problem!
This Lenten period invites us to ‘Repentance and Renewal’. Can we ‘let go’ of something that makes us richer than so many others? For example, can we ‘fast’ from spending money on unnecessary items and give the money to someone who has less? Can we ‘fast’ from hoarding our time for ourselves, and spend it rather with someone who is lonely, grieving, or in need of a friend?
The rich man in this parable was condemned not for his ill-treatment of Lazarus, but simply because he failed to even see Lazarus on his doorstep! That is all too easy to do. Let us not be condemned for the same failure!
Decide how you can give of your time, talent or wealth to help at least one person this week. If you don’t know of such a person, ask your friendly parish priest for suggestions.
Lord, turn my spirit towards You, that I may see with Your eyes, and reach out to those around me who are in need of a friend or practical help. Amen.
“We can do no great things, only little things with great love. You can do what I can’t do. I can do what you can’t do. Together we can do something beautiful for God.” St. Teresa of Calcutta
During Lent, all are encourage to keep every Friday as a Day of Fast and Abstinence. Observe this day. Offer your Fast and Abstinence for the return of all lapsed Catholics. Go to Stations of the Cross. Follow the way to the Calvary with Jesus.
Scripture: Matthew 21: 33 – 42
The setting and context of this parable is that the Jewish religious authorities are questioning Jesus’ authority in expelling dealers from the temple. Our Lord has just entered into Jerusalem triumphantly (Palm Sunday) and matters between Him and the chief priests and elders are now really getting ugly. He has a go at them because of their selfish attitudes as if they are totally in charge.
These people start listening to the parable and think Our Lord is referring to them as landowners because many of them had side-line businesses of leasing land. This soon changes as the story develops and they become the target.
The land is kingdom, the landowner is God, the Jewish authorities the tenants, the servants are the prophets, and the Son is Jesus. The tenants fail to give part of the produce back to the landowner as rent and thus act as if they are the owners. The owner will eventually evict them and deal harshly with them.
God is creator and owns everything. He has given to us all the necessary capacity in the form of our talents (just as the tenants had the winepress ,fences etc) to produce fruit which must be used in the furthering of the kingdom of God (rent) and NOT just for our own gain and ends! We do not have the right to use the results of our talents solely for ourselves even though we have put in the effort. We must pay rent by including serving others with what God has given to us because we can only love God and neighbour by doing this. God is not asking us to give everything away, just to be fair.
Think about the talents and abilities God has given to you. Lent is a good opportunity to discover or rediscover them!! To what extent you have used them selfishly as if you own all the results (fruit) rather than using them to help both yourself – and others?
Almighty Father, through your Holy Spirit, open my heart so that I may be more generous in sharing the fruit of my talents with others just as Jesus did. Amen
Scripture: Luke 15: 11-32
I can’t think of a more beautiful and fitting allegory to illustrate the theme “From Repentance to Renewal” than the parable of the “Prodigal Son and the Ever-Loving Father”.
What a foolish and self-centred young man he was to have behaved in this appalling way towards such a loving and generous father. Yet, in retrospect, don’t we often behave in exactly the same way towards our loving and generous Father.
How foolish we are! We are so easily tempted by all the pleasantries of this world especially when it comes to time to attend Sunday Mass. We find it so easy to justify why missing Mass is really not such a big deal and yet our Father is there, waiting to clothe us in His love, to satisfy our spiritual hunger and quench our soul’s thirst.
How self-centred we are! We find it more convenient to be busy with every other trivial thing rather than setting aside some quality time to spend with our Father in prayer or to allow Him to speak to us through our reading of the Sacred Scripture.
Often, we behave in exactly the same way as the young man in this parable. We turn our back on our Father when life is good, and things are going well. When we find ourselves in some kind of difficulty or dilemma, we run back to God and implore His help. Our ever-loving, patient, merciful Father is always there, waiting for us to return to Him.
How much better it would be if we had a regular prayer life and set aside a little time each day to spend with our Father in prayer.
Make a real effort to spend a few minutes during the day to say a simple prayer to God our Father. It doesn’t have to be eloquent, just pray from your heart.
Father, thank you for always being there to listen to my prayer. Forgive me for the times when I’ve been too busy to pray. 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.