Russell Pollitt SJ The sexual abuse crisis that rocked the Catholic Church worldwide has been one of the most disillusioning things I have had to face as a priest. It...
A Journey of Renewal
SUNDAY 09 MARCH
It is tempting not to read today’s Scripture because you have heard it at Mass. Resist the temptation and take some time to read again today’s Scripture.
Scripture: Matthew 4: 1 – 11
Many faithful Christians pray the Lord’s Prayer every day that we may not be led into temptation but delivered from evil. Temptation is all around us. We encounter it every single day from the time we awaken (to hit the snooze button for another 10 minutes of sleep) to the time we switch off the light to go to sleep (just another chapter in this interesting book – and throughout the day between waking and going to sleep.
Perhaps we have grown so accustomed to temptation that we don’t even notice it. Lent provides an opportunity to heighten our awareness of temptation and to strengthen our resolve not to yield to temptation. After all, if the Lord himself was so seriously tempted as today’s scripture describles, what about the rest of us sinful mankind!
In all probability (like me) you have already been seriously tempted during these past few days of Lent. Isn’t it amazing how, all of a sudden, you develop a craving for the things you have given up for Lent!
How did Jesus resist temptation there in the desert? Perhaps we can do the same.
Firstly, Jesus when tempted to turn stones into bread to satisfy his physical hunger responded “Man shall not live by bread along, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” It is spiritual food that strengthens us during our Lenten observance – from the words of Jesus himself: “take and eat, this is my body” and ‘take and drink, this is my blood.” Strengthen yourself to resist temptation by receiving the Eucharist as often as possible this Lent. Let your union with Jesus through this special sacrament and his indwelling presence within you be the source of your strength to resist temptation. This is why he gave us this special gift.
Secondly, when tempted by the use of Scripture, Jesus’ own personal knowledge and understanding of Scripture enabled him to resist this temptation. People often justify their actions and behaviour by the selective use of Scripture (the Bible says …). It is easy to be deceived and to deceive ourselves if we are unfamiliar with Scripture – especially the actual teachings of Jesus. This Lent, make time to read Scripture, starting with the words and teachings of Jesus himself. Start reading the Gospels. Begin today by reading the first two chapters of St. Matthew. Read two chapters every day between now and Easter and you will have read all four Gospel. Keep doing this and the words of Jesus will be second nature to you, strengthening, helping and guiding you every day of your life.
Thirdly, when tempted to turn away from God and worship the things of this world (which satan represents), Jesus resolutely proclaimed “You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.” Lent is our time to focus on God and him alone, to place our complete Faith, Hope and Trust in him. Last Sunday Jesus reminded us to “Seek first his kingdom and its righteousness, and all these other things will be yours as well.” Do you believe this, can you do this? Jesus did. He put is Faith, Hope and Trust in God. Why can’t we do the same?
As you have read above, resolve to go to Mass and receive the Eucharist as often as possible this Lent, read Scripture daily (especially the Gospels), and worship and focus God alone through your daily personal prayer.
Father, I place myself in your hands today in comple Faith, Hope and Trust. I open my mind and heart to you so that I may be strengthened and renewed and experience the true Joy of our faith. Amen
Some suggestions for your Lenten Season
- Attend a weekday Mass or Masses and receive the Blessed Eucharist;
- Attend weekly Stations of the Cross – 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 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;
- Pray a decade of the Rosary every day;
- Keep Fridays during Lent as days of Prayer, Fast and Abstinence (Mass at 6.30am and Stations of the Cross at 6.00pm); Make your intention for your Fast and Abstinence the return of lapsed Catholics – especially those you know. Make a list of them and pray for them daily;
- Contribute generously to the Bishops’ Lenten Appeal;
- Encourage a lapsed Catholic to Come Home to the Father’s House and to attend Holy Mass and/or Stations of the Cross with you;
- Participate in the St. Vincent de Paul Winter project;
- Remember to bring an item of food to Mass for the Poor;
- 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 know who they are and offer them some words of encouragement and support – especially those in your own NSG;
- Create a Lenten prayer space in your home: a purple cloth, purple candle, bible, crucifix and rosary;
- Participate in your NSG weekly faith-sharing.
MONDAY 10 MARCH
Scripture: Matthew 25 : 31 – 46
“Come O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world“
God calls all people to be family. Each person born on earth is called to be one united family. That is the image God has in his divine mind. He knows this is possible and knows we have the potential to live in this way. The fact that we don’t means we do not believe as God does. So let us start believing in ourselves as God believes in us. Let’s take a chance to dream – God has prepared for each of us a place in heaven – as a united, happy family – this is our inheritance.
Pause for a moment and try and imagine what this might be like – go on pause – hey, pause!
Now God believes that image is possible on earth. Awesome isn’t it?
Stop three times today and dream of heaven.
Pray the Our Father and pause at the words …“thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”.
TUESDAY 11 MARCH
“Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who sin against us”
Scripture: Matthew 6: 7 – 15
“That is unforgiveable!” “I can forgive, but I can’t forget!” Many of us, at a heated moment in our lives, have used these or similar words. In each case, forgiveness is being withheld for one reason or another.
Have you ever been forgiven, and I’m not just talking about being forgiven for some trifling incident, but forgiven for something serious – the breaking of a relationship, hurting someone deeply that you really care about? If you have been on the receiving end of those wonderful words, “I forgive you”, or “All is forgiven”, then you can relate to the feeling of “joy and peace” that floods through you when you hear them. We are able to start again, go back to where we were before we failed. We all fail, at some point, at some time, -we all fail.
True forgiveness is a wiping out of the past. In the words of Psalm 103, when God forgives us, “He takes our sins farther away than the east is from the west”. (vs. 12. We are set free! That freedom is a source of real JOY!
A “debt” is something that we expect to have to pay – it’s a simple rule we all understand. When we are the ones who are owed then we expect to be paid, and paid in full! Furthermore, we are not particularly sympathetic to listening to reasons why someone cannot settle their debt
All of us are less than perfect – all of us do things, say things, that hurt and wound others; all of us “leave out” the things we should or could be doing to make life better for others. Jesus says that every time we do these things, we hurt Him, but He is always willing to say the magic words, and wipe everything out
When we say the words of the Our Father, which include asking for forgiveness, do we think about the words in the second half of the sentence……….. “As we forgive those who have sinned against us”? Are thee words true? Can we go on expecting or even hoping that God will continue to wipe out our transgressions when we are unwilling or refusing to offer the same gift of forgiveness to others?
Let us pray for the Spirit of Love to fill our hearts this Lent. Let us look at all those we have relationships with. Is there a need to be reconciled, to pass on the JOY of forgiveness to someone else?
Think about your life and relationships with family, friends, business associates, and others. Are there people that you are not at peace with? Resolve to speak with that person if possible and set the matter right.
Lord Jesus, I often come to You asking forgiveness for my failings. Help me now to want to reach out to others and offer them the same gift You give to me. Take away any sense of anger or bitterness I may feel towards another, and give me peace of mind and heart. Amen.
WEDNESDAY 12 MARCH
Scripture : Jonah 3: 1 – 10 Luke 11: 29 – 32
We all look for signs. Sometimes we are desperate for signs. We might even pray for a sign. This is obviously what the people had been demanding of Jesus. The greatest sign was among them, in their midst, and they could not see, they did not or could not recognise.
The story of Jonah in the belly of the whale prefigures Jesus in the tomb before his resurrection. But how could they know that, how could they see that?
Often we are too busy looking for some kind of spectacular sign that we miss out on the Lord’s presence among us; in the Eucharist, in Confession, in the gift of each day; in personal prayer. His presence is all around us, even in the people whom we encounter. But our hearts have become hardened and closed to his presence.
Lent is our time to experience Metanoia; to allow God to change our hearts from being as hard as stone to hearts for love alone. When this begins to happen through our willingness to embrace the Lenten experience then not just our hearts. Our eyes and hearts and whole being becomes sensitised to the presence of God, all around us.
Because of their hardened hearts the critics of Jesus did not experience his presence and recognise God in their midst. Harden not your hearts this Lent but we softened and opend to the wonderful presence of God.
Find some – or rather, make some quiet time for yourself today – even if its later tonight when everyone is asleep. Sit quietly – alone. Let the stillness invade you. Enjoy the peace and quiet, feel the presence of the Lord. Ask him to come into your heart.
A pure heart create in me O God. Give me again the Joy of your help. Amen.
THURSDAY 13 MARCH
How can we be better parents?
Scripture : Matthew 7: 7 – 12
The Gospel speaks to the parent in us. “Ask and it will be given to you, knock and the door will be opened…” Sometimes what one receives is not what one asked for. Jesus did not promise that we would receive our desires, but that we would receive good things – we just might not understand it at the time.
There is a line in a country music song from years ago, that thanks God for unanswered prayers. This is a challenging lesson to teach our children, our students, and even ourselves. Do we, “who are wicked, know how to give good gifts” to our children?
It is easy to give in to the demands of our children – buy this, take us here, ignore our rule breaking, skip the consequence for our bad behaviour. But are we giving them the gifts Jesus would have wanted us to give? How do we know when is the right time to teach a hard lesson. Do all lessons have to be hard?
“Do to others whatever you would have them do to you.” That seems like pretty good advice, a good guideline for making the difficult decisions of parenthood. Can you put this into practise today?
Loving Father, help us to know and understand how we can reach out to the young people in our family and our community. Help us to be good examples of Christian disciples to those who look to us for help and guidance. Amen.
FRIDAY 14 MARCH
Scripture: Matthew 5 : 20 – 26 Community Spirit
What Jesus says in this passage is, “Your worship must speak clearly to your life. You don’t just bring your gift to the altar and imagine your duty is done for the week.”
“No,” says Jesus. “If there’s something wrong in your family so that your brother – meaning anyone in our household – has something against you, then you must make that the priority in your life! Get that relationship straightened out according to God’s first law of love.” (How appropriate are these words of Jesus, especially in this ‘Year of the Family’).
Added to that, Pope Francis in his letter to families (2 February 2014) writes, “…In your journey as a family, you share so many beautiful moments: meals, rest, housework, leisure, prayer, trips, and times of mutual support… Nevertheless, if there no love then there is no joy.”
If our Sunday of worship does not speak powerfully to our lives, we are Christians only in name, not in reality. Christian community (parish) has to begin in our families – that’s the basic unit. It doesn’t stop there, but if it doesn’t have its foundation in the family, it will be a building without foundation, and how long can such a building stand?
Lent is a time to:
- Seek or offer forgiveness and reconciliation with people whom we have harmed or have harmed us, especially with members of our family.
- As a family unit, regularly attend Mass and the Stations of the Cross
Lord, you loved those who were close to you and they returned your love; bind our family together in the bonds of forgiveness, peace and love for each other. Amen
SATURDAY 15 MARCH
Scripture: Matthew 5: 43 – 48
We know that in the life to come we will be perfect. This is borne out by St. John the Evangelist, who writes, “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he (Jesus) appears, we shall be like him.” 1 John 3: 2.
The question which concerns us today is; can we be perfect in this life? In biblical times being perfect did not mean being sinless or being as holy as God is holy. Rather it meant ‘complete, finished or mature’.
Perhaps an illustration may help. When you are issued with a Certificate of Road Worthiness it means that your car is in good working order; ‘complete, finished or mature’. A Christian is perfect (complete, finished, mature, in good working order) when he/she practices their faith in their daily lives.
This means not only being loving, kind and understanding when we are at Mass, but wherever we may be – at home, at work, on the sports field or at a social event. It means being loving, kind and understanding to everyone, and not only to those who are good to us. “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.” Matthew 7: 12.
God has given us the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5: 18). Is there someone with whom I have had a ‘falling out’ and haven’t spoken to for a long time? Now is the time to be reconciled to them.
Lord Holy Spirit, I am afraid to approach (N), with whom I have had a ‘falling out.’ By your grace, give me the courage to step out in faith to apologise for my behaviour and ask their forgiveness. I ask this in Jesus name. Amen.
These Lenten Reflections are written by Fr. Desmond Nair, Fr. Stephen Tully, Deacon Peter Venter, Irene Helsdon, Fr. Brett Williams and Deacon Henry Blair and edited for use in the Parish of Our Lady of Fatima, Durban North. They are written for the glory of God and for the good of His Church and so may be freely copied and distributed. Please acknowledge the authors when copying and distributing. We wish you a blessed and fruitful Lenten Season as together we Journey to Renewal.
Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church, Durban North. Lent 2014