This week let us continue with a general, overall, view of what the Church is called to be - the sort of community which allows differences and settle opposing views...
SUNDAY 5 MARCH
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: Matthew 4: 1 – 11
One thing is certain – Lent is a time when we are seriously tempted! Very few, if any of us, do not experience or are spared the efforts of the ‘evil one’ to distract us from our Lenten resolutions, promised and decisions. When you think about it, he had the gall to tempt Jesus, the Holy One of God! Imagine the havoc he can wreak on us!
If we are to hold fast to our Lenten Resolutions and bring them to fulfillment we are going to need all the help we can get.
As we begin this sacred season of renewal, change and transformation to turn to our faith and spirituality for strength, help and guidance. The Lord himself helps us to resist temptation. He knows what temptation is. He experienced it himself and he drew on his relationship with the Father and the words of Sacred Scripture to resist the efforts of the ‘evil one’. And when we fall, he is there to help us to rise again. Our Lenten Journey is not about the times we fall but about our determination to rise and continue to follow Jesus.
“Man does not live by bread alone” Jesus reminds himself. He reminds us too! As we focus on eating less of this earthly food we need to focus more on being fed by the spiritual food we are offered: Jesus the Bread of Life. Do your best this Lent to draw strength from Jesus in the gift and Sacrament of the Eucharist. Make a very special effort to attend Holy Mass as often as possible during these 6 weeks.
“… but on every word that come from the mouth of God” Sacred Scripture is also the spiritual food we are offered. Read your Bible. In addition the the daily scriptures in this Lenten Programme, read the Gospel of St. Matthew.
The invitation to ‘Change my Heart’ is an opportunity to take on and experience the Beautiful Life and Attitudes of Jesus and the changes this will make in our lives: Compassion, kindness, gentleness, patience, humility, tolerance and forgiveness. (Colossians 3: 12 – 17). Try it!
Some suggestions for your Lenten Season
- As mentioned above, 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 (Tuesday 11 April);
- Establish and maintain a daily routine of prayer. Use this daily programme to read God’s Word and to reflect on it. Add your 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, a bowl of ashes, Bible, Crucifix and Rosary;
- Invite someone to the Come & See evenings on Thursday 9 and 16 March;
- 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 change my heart and send your Holy Spirit guide my Lenten Journey and to help me resist temptation. Amen.
MONDAY 6 MARCH
Scripture: Lev. 19:1-2,11-18 Matthew 25:31-46
There is a very old Scots ditty that goes, “You’ll take the high road and I’ll take the low road, and I’ll be in Scotland before you. ” Life is very much like this. We have a choice of two ways to live our lives; one good and one bad, in the eyes of God. One will get us to Heaven, the other will land us in hell.
In today’s scripture from Leviticus, the law book of ancient Israel, the Lord, through Moses, lays down the right way for the Jews to live their lives. It claims that just as the Lord is holy, so too, should all his followers be holy. The main theme of this passage is: the holiness of God and how this holiness, must be mirrored in our relationship with our neighbours.
Matthew in his gospel, warns us of the consequences of not following the right road. He reminds us about judgement day, when Jesus will separate the good from the bad, the sheep from the goats, sending the bad to hell and inviting the good to, “Come blessed of my Father! Take possession of the kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of the world.”
Matthew also highlights that loving our God cannot be separated from loving our neighbour. If we ignore our neighbour, regardless of how much we claim to love God, we will cannot receive the gift of salvation.
It is through this important understanding and acceptance of how our relationship with God must be, that we also come to understand exactly what our relationship with our neighbour should be. Unfortunately, this is something we often tend to overlook in our busy lives, and we also overlook how we are meant to live a holy life, remembering that it is through this holy life that we attain eternal life.
Unfortunately we have the tendancy to put ourselves first and so neglect our neighbours, even when they are in need. We don’t always do it intentionally but we do it because we are so preoccupied with our own lives. This makes us forget, or simply fail to realise, that our neighbours also have needs.
It is this failure to be aware of the love of God and the needs of our neighbours that makes us selfish and leads us to an unholy life. It would be prudent then, to regularly examine our conscience, while asking for God’s help, because it is only with the help of God that we will be able to avoid these lapses in our concern for others.
Times like this also tempt us to turn away from God and his promise of eternal happiness. This is why Jesus highlights the two great commandments, to love God and love neighbour. We need God’s help and our own good actions to see us through.
Because we are forgetful and selfish beings by nature, we need to consciously set aside a special time each day, especially in this time of Lent, when we can examine our life and pray that God through the power of the Holy Spirit will give us the strength and the will, to become more thoughtful, more loving towards our neighbour and so enhance our relationship with our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Make time today to reflect on how you live out your love for God and neighbour.
Heavenly Father, through the power of the Holy Spirit, and with the love of Jesus, help me to grow closer to you and my neighbours, so that I may live a fulfilled life and my hope of an eternal life with you. Amen.
TUESDAY 7 MARCH
Scripture: Isaiah 55: 10-11 “My word will accomplish that which I intend”
An article by Emmanuel Ngara in a recent Southern Cross discusses the ways in which God communicates with His Church, with His people. He suggests that there could be a physical presence accompanied by a real voice or in a dream and, as with Mary, God could send an angel.
The method that God uses is different for each of us, but the question is; How do I know that (or if) God is communicating with me? We might also ask, “Why does he want to communicate with me (us)?”
There are many reasons that necessitate the need for God to communicate with us and in this week, we reflect on the need to “resist temptation”, temptations that we are constantly bombarded with; that will and so often do, pull us away from our Faith.
Now is a good time to reflect on the Old Testament passage from Isaiah, which draws a wonderful analogy with “the rain that comes from heaven to water the earth, never to return” giving the power to the things on earth to manifest themselves into the things that make the world the beautiful place that it is!
In the same way, God “sends His words down to us” – He speaks to each of us, in our own special way, giving us the means to “accomplish that which He intended”. Yes, God will give the knowledge, strengths and wisdom, to overcome – ‘RESIST’ the temptations that we experience; if we listen to His voice or, whichever way God communicates with us. (Ps. 34) “from all your terrors the Lord will set you free”. Believe it!
Work out for yourself the way that God communicates with you. It may be a voice that you hear, a thought that comes into your mind or, even a dream. It may be all of these or some other way. Get to know God and listen to him.
Dear Lord God I need refuge from the temptations that I encounter and experience. May I, through your loving presence, be always faithful to you. Amen
WEDNESDAY 8 MARCH
Scripture: Psalm 50:17 A humbled, contrite heart O God, you will not spurn.
Psalm 50 (51 in some Bibles) is a beautiful prayer written by David after the prophet Nathan had confronted him about his indiscretions with the beautiful and desirable Bathsheba which resulted in the subsequent murder of her husband. (2Samuel 11:2-27)
David acknowledged his sin and in the psalm he cries out to God for mercy and forgiveness.
In this first week of Lent we can be quite certain that temptations in many different shapes and forms will plague our best efforts as we begin our journey of repentance and spiritual renewal. During the next six weeks we will often feel the need to come humbly before our God and acknowledge that with the best of intentions, we have still fallen short of the mark.
The wonderful reality is that God is not waiting to judge our faults and failings but He is waiting for us to turn to Him with a contrite heart, to acknowledge our sins and accept the wonderful gift of His mercy and forgiveness. He is waiting to lift us up and set us back on track and strengthen us as we continue on our way towards the joy of Easter.
Remember that Jesus never said that following Him would be easy but He did promise that it would all be worthwhile in the end.
Pray the selected verses from Psalm 50 at the end of the day today.
Psalm 50:1-3; 10: Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; According to your great compassion blot out my sins. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my faults, and my sin is always before me. Create in me a pure heart, O God. Amen
THURSDAY 9 MARCH
Scripture: Matthew 7: 7-12
Of all the temptations we face in our lives and of all the temptations we give in to – thus offending God, the devil furnishes our imagination to believe that God does not care for us when our prayers of seeking, knocking and searching are not answered in the way we asked them to be. This has to be one of the greatest challenges to our faith, hope and trust in the Lord. For not a moment should we ever think that God does not have the almighty power to do anything.
Like a Father or Mother watching their child fall and hurt itself, our Father agonises with us when we are suffering mentally, emotionally, spiritually or physically. He has one single purpose in mind when He acts or seems to do nothing: His entire influence over us is to give us what we need to enter into heaven, what is going to benefit us eternally. That, by the way, is exactly the basis upon which the Pope’s make their decisions on important matters.
God does not give us what we want unless it coincides with a need that will allow us to be with Him forever in eternity. In our lives, we will be able to see, on reflection, how God allowed a particularly uncomfortable situation an unnecessary evil perhaps, to be transformed over time into something good for us. It is absolutely guaranteed that when we encounter Jesus after death, we will see how the whole way our lives panned out and helped our relationship with Him.
Of course, the basis for this is that we prayed in each situation to Him. Jesus knows this well. As true Man, He begged the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane to allow His suffering to pass should it be the will of the Father. When the soldiers came to arrest Him, he resigned Himself to His Father’s will and with an acceptance went up Calvary.
Every single tear, every single weakness, ever single humiliation and failure; in fact everything bad that happens in life can be transformed to a higher good. Out of every loss, God can and does find a marvelous gift to give to us. Out of every death, God can bring forth new life. If only we would humble ourselves and ask Him as Jesus commands us to do in the scripture today. This forms part of praying: “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. The prayer of acceptance.
Look back on your life, isolate a situation where you prayed asking for help. Determine whether you can now see the hand of God clearly evident, even though you did not get exactly what you asked for.
Dear Father, I do not know the future, I do not fully understand as You do, the consequences of what happens to me in or after a situation. Allow Your Spirit to guide me in prayer so that I am absolutely assured that You have taken charge, knowing fully what is actually best for me. Help me to pray to you in every single situation and to always place my complete faith, hope and trust in you. Amen
FRIDAY 10 MARCH
Scripture: Matthew 5: 20 – 26
When we compare ourselves with the behaviour of others we probably conclude that we are not doing too badly. After all, we go to church, we pray and we might even be making a special effort during Lent to be compassionate, kind, gentle, patient, humble tolerant and forgiving (see Sunday’s reflection).
In listening to Jesus today we need to realise that there is always room for improvement! He warns his disciples not to compare themselves with the scribes and Pharisees – who prided themselves on being virtuous. Jesus’ warning is for us, modern day disciples, as well. There is a higher standard to which we are called. A few Sundays ago we heard him say ‘love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you … turn the other cheek … walk the extra mile’. (see tomorrow’s Gospel) High ideals undeed, but this is the real challenge of our faith – and especially during this Lenten Season.
All too often we settle for minimalism and mediocrity (whats the least I need to do to enter the Kingdom of Heaven?). Genuine faith inspires us to be the best that we can be! Why settle for less?
Jesus challenges us to reach deeper into ourselves in order that we might live the kind of lives God has created us for. In creating us he has given us the capacity for our hidden selves to grow strong (Eph 3:16).
Jesus, in his humanity, shows us that it is realistically possible to aim higher, to do better, to reach our fullest human potential as God has created us for. We never have to struggle all on our own. He who has, in the fullest possible way, shared our humanity and understands our human condition, will give us all the help, guidance and strength to live virtuous Christian lives, to strive for the higher ideals, and to live as he calls us to live. Do you believe this?
A sincere examination of conscience is not something we do very frequently. We tend to gloss over our sins, faults and failings and, as a result, we never improve. Re-read today’s scripture and then think about what is happening in your own life and how it applies to you. If you want to go deeper, pick up the examination of conscience in the leaflet outside the confessional in church. If you need to, go to confession.
Lord Jesus, help me to become a better person and to experience a genuine change of heart this Lent. As I embrace your call to live a deeper a fuller Christian life, I realise that my encounter with you in this time of prayer, in your Word and in the Blessed Eucharist will strengthen me to be the best that I can be. Change my heart of God. Amen.
SATURDAY 11 MARCH
Scripture: Matthew 5: 43 – 48
Nobody likes being told what to do and how to behave. We are especially resentful if we have always been doing this ‘this way’. Jesus is not interested in how it was done in the past. “I say this to you” is his instruction. If we are unwilling to listen to Jesus then who will we ever listen to?!
Today’s challenge is what separates the men from the boys – so to speak. Its what sets us apart as Christians. “If you love those who love you, what right have you to claim any credit?” even the tax collectors (who were despised by the people) do that much. “And if you save your greeting for your brothers, are you doing anything exceptional? Even the pagans do as much, do they not?” Jesus wants us to be different. Do we dare to be different?
The ways of our faith are so very different to the ways of the world which have become ingrained in our lives and an almost natural part of our behaviour – because that’s what everyone else does. But we are not ‘everyone else.’ We are Christians whose faith leads us to an attitude, behaviour and lifestyle which is different to that of the world and society in which we live. Are we brave enough to take on the attitude, behaviour and lifestyle Jesus calls us to.
Once again, we need to know that in calling us to this way of live, he makes it possible for us to make this choice and to bring it to fulfillment. When we stand before God at the end of our lives will we have lived any differently to the tax collectors and pagans of our time. In allowing God to change our hearts this Lent we not only embrace the call of Jesus but we also choose to be different!
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 commandment or expectation.
Father, give me the strength to do what I cannot do on my own. Help and guide me to love those who have harmed me and to be merciful and charitable in all that I do and say. Amen.
These Daily Reflections for Lent 2017 are written by Fr. Desmond Nair, Lawrence Surgeson, Deacon Mark Wardell, Veronica Donnelly and George Cominos. Please acknowledge the authors when copying and distributing. We wish you a fruitful and blessed Lenten Journey.