THE AFRICAN CHURCH & CONTEMPORARY AFRICAN REALITY with Rev Dr Laurenti Magesa A 3-day course for priests, religious and interested lay people to deepen understanding of being Church in Africa in the...
SUNDAY 14 FEBRUARY
You may be tempted not to read today’s Scripture because you have heard it at Mass. Resist the temptation and take some time to read again this short passage of Scripture.
Scripture: Luke 4: 1 – 13
Temptation strikes at the heart of each of us. Despite our good intentions, resolutions and best efforts we seem to either be led into or succumb to temptation. When this happens, many choose to give up and yield to their weakness and temptation, believing that they are incapable of keeping their good intentions and resolutions.
This has happened to all of us in the past. So we’re a little cautious about making bold resolutions for Lent, almost anticipating our failure. After all, if the Son of God could be so seriously tempted when he came among us, what chance do we have?!
Today’s scripture begins “Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus left the Jordan and led by the Spirit through the wilderness..” The Holy Spirit was with him and he allowed the Spirit to be his Helper and Guide! That’s exactly what we need to do as we begin our Lenten Journey; be open to the Holy Spirit and ask the Holy Spirit to be our Helper and Guide. That’s what made the difference for Jesus and this is what will make the difference for us. Very few of us even think about the Holy Spirit during Lent or make a connection between the Holy Spirit and Lent. But the Spirit is God’s gift to us to strengthen us in our weakness and to give us courage in our doubt.
On our own we fail, but with the presence of the Holy Spirit we can and will resist temptation! So today, and every day during Lent, ask the Holy Spirit to be your Helper and Guide.
In addition, feed yourself with the Word of God and the Eucharist – the Bread of Life. Invite the presence of Jesus into your life by reading his word (the Gospel of Luke – remember!) and receiving Holy Communion, as often as possible.
You can experience a Spirit-filled and fruitful Lenten Season. God gives you all the help you need. Take full advantage. Just as he sustained and strengthened Jesus in the wildreness, so too will he strengthen and sustain you in your Lenten Journey towards renewal, change and transformation, making you a better Christian and a faithful follower. Come Holy Spirit!
Some suggestions for your Lenten Season
- Attend a weekday Mass or Masses and receive Holy Communion as often as possible during Lent;
- Attend the weekly Stations of the Cross – Wednesdays at 8.00am and Fridays at 6.00pm;
- Give up something non-essential that you usually enjoy and/or something that will make you a better person by the end of Lent;
- Go to Confession – preferably as soon as possible and again at the Penitential Service during Holy Week;
- Establish and maintain a daily routine of prayer. Use this daily programme to read God’s Word and to reflect on it. Add youir own personal prayers for all whom you love. Pray an additional prayer for those suffering with drug, alcohol and substance abuse and their families;
- Pray a decade of the Rosary every day;
- Keep Fridays during Lent as days of Prayer, Fast and Abstinence (Mass at 8.30am and Stations of the Cross at 6.00pm); Make your intention for your Fast and Abstinence those suffering with drug, alcohol and substance abuse and their families;
- Contribute generously to the Bishops’ Lenten Appeal every Sunday;
- Invite a lapsed Catholic to attend Sunday Mass and/or Stations of the Cross with you;
- Pray for the Catechumens and Candidates of our parish who will be Baptised and/or Received into Full Communion with the Church at Easter. Find out who they are and offer them some words of encouragement and support.
- Create a Lenten prayer space in your home: a purple cloth, purple candle, Bible, Crucifix and Rosary;
- Think of ways in which you can show Mercy – in your home, with your family, in your workplace and with your friends. Make a special effort to be Merciful like the Father;
- Share this weekly programme with someone.
Father, I place myself in your hands at the beginning of this first week of Lent. Strengthen my resolve to become a better person and send your Holy Spirit into my heart and my life to guide my Lenten Journey and to help me resist temptation. Amen.
MONDAY 15 FEBRUARY
Scripture: Matthew 25 : 31-46
“Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me’
Christmas has come and gone and already Lent is upon us, so our mood must change. Christmas was a time of celebration for the coming of the child Jesus into the world. He came into this world and lived as one of us in all things except sin, and this He did for thirty three years.
Soon we will be celebrating the Paschal Mystery, the Suffering, Death and Resurrection and Ascension of this same Jesus. We know that he will come again in glory. Until then we have the Holy Spirit to help us and guide us to a better life, a life ultimately with our Father in heaven. This is why our mood must change.
The whole purpose of God the Son becoming man, in the first place, was to rescue us. Just as God rescued His people from the tyranny of the Egyptians, so does Jesus rescue us, His people from today’s world; a world which is so materially centred. He rescues us from the tyranny of sin which prompts us to put the things of this life before the things of the life we were born to enjoy, Eternal life.
Today’s Scripture spells out a clear warning; that the time will come when we will be judged on the way we have lived our earthly lives, and only those who meet the standard set by God will enjoy the heavenly reward that Jesus spoke about so often while on earth.
But God is not as harsh as we humans are with each other. Yes He will judge us, and some of us will make the grade and some possibly not, but God will judge with mercy and love and before the day of judgement God will, through the Holy Spirit, do all that he can, to ensure that we are saved even from ourselves. What we need is Faith, because faith brings hope, and hope brings trust in Jesus.
Yes Jesus is the answer to all our problems, but only if we accept him willingly. Then we can become Merciful like the Father.
Set aside a specific time during each day of Lent to read the daily Lenten reflection, and, if possible, always include your family or a friend. Discuss the reflection and what it means to you, then decide on some form of action that will put into effect what you think you need to change your life, so that you are drawn closer to God and become Merciful as he is.
Lord God, with the power of the Holy Spirit, help me and those close to me to change our lives so that on judgement day I will hear you say, “Come you who my Father has blessed, take for your heritage the kingdom prepared for you since the foundation of the world.” Amen.
TUESDAY 16 FEBRUARY
Scripture Isaiah 55: 10 – 11; Psalm 33; Matthew 6: 7 – 15
My word shall succeed in what it was sent to do.
It would do you a tremendous anount of good to spend some extra time today reading and praying these readings. They provide a wealth of encouragement for the living of the Word of God.
God’s Word calls us to “Come back to the Father’s House”; for the value of living with Him and experiencing his Mercy.
The prophet Isaiah tells us today how we are nourished by the Word, just as the rain and snow gives life giving water to the crops that grow, and provides sustenance for all to eat. God gives us all that we need to come to him.
The Psalm seeks to calm us: “The Lord rescues the just in all their distress”. But we must question ourselves; can we be “free from our terrors”? Can we “be rescued from our distress”? Can our “appeal be heard”? Can we “overcome our crushed spirit” while we are away from the Lord?
God can only guide and help us when we accept that we cannot “live on bread alone”.
Jesus has told us that; “Your Father knows what you need, before you even ask Him!” But He cannot help you in your needs IF YOU DO NOT ASK HIM. The Lord’s Prayer offers us the opportunity each day to enter into “The Father’s House” as we enhance efforts to grow in our relationship with God, especially during this time of Lent.
Practice the teaching of Jesus. He feeds our souls with His body and our minds with His Word. Attend Holy Mass often and read the Word daily as you pray to our Lord.
Lord, I need you at all times in my life. Help me follow your ways and do your will as you have taught. Continue to teach me and to strengthen me by your Word. Amen.
Our Father …
WEDNESDAY 17 FEBRUARY
Scripture: Psalm 50: 1 – 2
“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your merciful love;
According to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.
Wash me completely from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.”
Lent is the time when we take the opportunity to reflect on the mercy and compassion of our God. It is also the time when we find ourselves facing numerous temptations to sin each day. During Lent we tend to be more mindful of our shortcomings and this awareness often causes us to feel discouraged in our efforts to carry through on the commitments that we try so hard to achieve at this time.
We share in the struggles which St. Paul wrote about in his letter to the Romans. He writes : “For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” He then goes on to write : “For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do — this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.” Romans 7:15-20
But we can take courage as David did as he cries out to God in Psalm 51. Truly we have a merciful God who understands our many faults and failings. In this Year of Mercy we are encouraged to come before our God in sincere humility, putting aside any pride and arrogance we may have and to ask Him to walk with us over these next six weeks of Lent. We ask that He watch over us and guide us and strengthen us in our endeavours to make this Lent a good one.
Many of us celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation at the end of Lent in preparation for Easter. Consider going to Confession at the beginning of Lent to prepare yourself for the coming weeks and to be strengthened by the grace and mercy of God, so freely and lovingly given in this Sacrament.
Father, as I set out on this journey through Lent, help me to remain focused on the areas of my life which I need to change in order to grow in my faith. Give me the strength to overcome the many temptations which challenge my resolve each day and forgive me for the times when I am lured away from doing those things which I know are right and pleasing to You. Amen.
THURSDAY 18 FEBRUARY
Scripture: Matthew 7: 7 – 12
As Christians, we are often bitterly disappointed when we petition God and do not seem to get results. During Lent we are called to think deeply about today’s scripture, bearing in mind that it forms part of the Sermon on the Mount which included Jesus’s teaching on how to pray (the Lord’s Prayer or Our Father). These verses deal with prayer and the effectiveness of prayer. Not even an evil parent will give his son a stone instead of bread (in those days bread was shaped like smooth stones), not even an evil parent will give his daughter a snake instead of a fish.
Jesus then calls us evil to emphasise that even though evil we still would “give good”. Therefore God the Father who is sinless and perfect would do much better! So why does it seem that he doesn’t answer all our prayers?
God addresses our needs and not our wants. We often ask with the wrong motive underlying prayer because the outcome we want is often for our pleasure or to avoid suffering. Sometimes we fail to see and internalise that God has answered prayer but through lack of faith, hope and trust we missed the solution. He often works through strangers or people very familiar to us – whom we choose to ignore because we feel that God could not be using them because we prefer to have His direct intervention!!
We often give up knocking not realising that God always opens the door, but not necessarily the door we want! God always listens to our prayers and responds to what is good for us now and for our eternity. The Church reminds us to be focused on the long-term goal, where God is leading us and not always the ‘now’.
Sometimes we have to accept that a seemingly unanswered prayer means that had our “wish” been granted, it would not have helped us in the long term with our relationship with God. He will always answer prayer based on the ‘Our Father’ – helping His name to be Holy, helping to establish Christianity (His kingdom on earth), and discerning His will for us and so on.
Write out the ‘Lord’s Prayer’ today and reflect on each aspect of it. Really think about what it says – and then pray it.
Lord Jesus, help me to understand the real meaning of the prayer you have given to us. May it always come from my heart. Our Father …
FRIDAY 19 FEBRUARY
“Raising the bar”
Scripture: Matthew 5: 20 – 26
When it came to athletics at school I used to despair – not a runner, not a pole vaulter, not enough strength to throw javelin or shotput, etc. etc. However, we were always expected to try out for most things, and the high jump for me, was the worst! Even if I managed to get over the initial height, all that happened was that they raised the bar!
The Pharisees (whose name means ‘separated ones’), were generally respected by the people because of their observance of the laws of God. They maintained that the only way to be “righteous” in the eyes of God was to obey every law (and there were 613 written ones!) to the letter! Everyone else was judged by their standard and found wanting!
Jesus looks at them, and at what they are doing, and raises the bar! “I tell you, if your righteousness goes no deeper than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 5: 20)
To those listening it must have sounded like the death knell – “how can we possibly reach a level of perfection beyond that of the Pharisees? Impossible!”
So, in order to understand we need to know what it was that Jesus was critical of the ‘worship’ of the Pharisees. It was the fact that their “righteousness” was all outward show – the right words, the right robes, the right sacrifices, etc., but their hearts were “far from God”. For example, Jesus goes on to talk about ‘anger’ – and while the Pharisees would never go so far as to physically strike or kill a person, they would think nothing of destroying a person’s reputation or dignity by what they said!
They knew the rules, but they did not know God!
We need to be sure that we are not in the same mould. Jesus asks that we look at the principles behind the rules and internalize them in our hearts and then try to live them out in our daily lives.
Review your understanding of the principles behind the issues in today’s gospel. Have you internalized these, or are you ignoring them or merely paying “lip service” to them?
If there is a need for change in your attitude, then resolve to do this today with the help of the Holy Spirit. If you are at fault consider going to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and asking for mercy and forgiveness.
Lord Jesus, help me to worship You in sincerity and truth. May my words and actions flow from the understanding of Your deep love for me, so that others may come to know You and experience that same love. I ask this in Your name, Amen.
SATURDAY 20 FEBRUARY
Scripture: Deuteronomy 26: 16 – 19
We are generally resentful of laws, rules and regulations. We find them restrictive and an imposition on our freedom. This applies both to civil law and religious laws. We just don’t like being told what to do!
What we need to realise today is that our observance of the Law of the Lord does not restrict us, rather it sets us free! It enables us to live better lives and to attain greater happiness. Moses called the people into a Covenant relationship with the Lord “you will be his very own people as he promised you, but only if you keep all his commandments”. When God’s Law finds its way into our hearts we begin to experience the kind of inner conversion which we long for during this Holy Season. That’s where the Law should be – not an outward observance, but a matter of the heart. But this means that we have to think about it, reflect on it and, having done that, I embrace it personally so that I do what I do not out of a legal observance but because it makes sense to me and I make the choice to keep it and follow it. It takes a little effort – and that’s probably where we fail.
As the whole of the Law and the commandments are summed up in love of God and of neighbour, make a special effort today to show love for someone by some act or gesture – especially one who is difficult to love. Try to make this a matter of the heart – not because of a legal instruction or expectation.
Father, sometimes I find laws, rules and regulations a challence. It is not always easy to respond lovingly even to your laws and commandments. Help me today to see and understand that your’s is a Law of Love and that it is meant to set me free that I may be transformed into a better person. Open my heart to receive your law as I seek to be consecrated to you as you have promised. Amen.
These Daily Reflections for Lent 2016 are written by Fr. Desmond Nair, Lawrence Surgeson, Deacon Mark Wardell, Veronica Donnelly, George Cominos, and Irene Helsdon. Please acknowledge the authors when copying and distributing. We wish you a fruitful and blessed Lenten Journey.