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Bible, Gospel, Lent, Liturgical Living

Our Favorite, Comfy Sweatshirt Prayer Revisited

23 February 2021

Matthew 6:7-15

One of my favorite scripture passages is Isaiah 55:10-11 which compares the word of God to rain that falls to earth making it fertile and fruitful. The word of God, it says, will not return to God empty, but will do what pleases God and achieve the end for which He sent it. 

In a recent general audience, Pope Francis spoke about this saying, “The Bible was not written for a generic humanity, but for us, men and women in flesh and blood, men and women who have first and last names, like me, like you” (Homily, 27 Jan 2021). I love these reminders that God’s word is living and purposeful, shared with me as if God were speaking these words to me alone. 

This is a good reminder as we approach the words of today’s gospel in which Jesus teaches us the Lord’s Prayer. For many of us, the Lord’s Prayer is like our favorite comfy, old sweatshirt – it fits, it’s easy, and it’s always there. 

But in that familiarity, do we find ourselves forgetting to read these words with the same intentional prayerfulness we give to other, less familiar passages? Do we gloss over today’s gospel with a “been there, done that” approach instead of diving deeply into this beautiful prayer gifted to us by our Savior? Do we recite rather than pray the Lord’s Prayer? 

Much has been written about the perfection of the Lord’s Prayer – how it organizes our priorities according to God’s intention and how it helps us look past the trials of today toward eternity with God. 

What if we were to explore this prayer with those things in mind or reflect on it using the purposeful steps of lectio divina, searching and listening for what God is saying to each of us in these familiar words? What fruit would God’s word yield if we just ask, “What are you saying to me today, Lord?”

Kim Miller

Meditation

Pray the words of the Our Father from Mt 6:14 slowly.

Lent Devotional 2021
Download your copy of A Time to Grow: A Daily Devotional for Lenten Pilgrims here.
Bible, Gospel, Lent, Saints

Feast of the Chair of St. Peter

22 February 2021

Matthew 16:13-19

Feast of the Chair of St. Peter

“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” My word! Can you imagine having a pop quiz with Jesus? As the disciples stumble through to the correct answer, it is faith that ultimately moves Peter to respond, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

It is easy to read the Bible, to read a commentary, or watch a video and recite back a lesson learned or memorized, but Jesus doesn’t ask us for book smarts. He asks whether we know him. When Peter identifies Jesus as the Messiah, Jesus know that this knowledge came from the Father (see Mt 16:17). Jesus doesn’t ask us to recite information. He asks for our hearts. He asks that we serve him like Peter served him.

If you visit the Vatican you will see a large tablet in the basilica on which are inscribed the names of all the Popes, the successor of St. Peter. They have guarded and guided the faithful since the day that Jesus built his Church upon Peter. It is fitting that we remember to pray for Pope Francis today and for all who lead the Church.

Muffy Patterson

The names of all the successors of St. Peter (photo by Elizabeth Tomlin)

Meditation

O God, shepherd and ruler of all the faithful,
look favorably on your servant Francis,
whom you have set at the head of your Church as her shepherd;

Grant, we pray, that by word and example
he may be of service to those over whom he presides
so that, together with the flock entrusted to his care,
he may come to everlasting life.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the
unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Amen.

                                                          Prayer from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops


Lent Devotional 2021
Download your copy of A Time to Grow: A Daily Devotional for Lenten Pilgrims here.
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Eucharist

Bread of Heaven

Mark 1:12-15

First Sunday in Lent

With the Gospel Acclamation today, the faithful hear this verse, Matthew 4:4, One does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.” We take this to mean earthly bread, our sustenance that fuels us for our daily tasks. However, last year, many of us went without heavenly bread for months at a time. Maybe you can’t receive the Eucharist now because you don’t have access to in-person Mass, or you are avoiding the church building due to health concerns. 

I went without the Bread of Heaven for three and a half months in 2020, and one of the first times I received the Eucharist after churches re-opened in New York, was at my daughter’s First Holy Communion. Not only was I receiving Jesus’ Body and Blood again, I was finally receiving this gift again in communion with my Church family and sharing this precious gift with my young daughter. 

Anticipation of the Banquet

We anticipated this special moment for weeks, carefully preparing ourselves. I’m not simply talking about reviewing sacramental prep lessons, rehearsing hand placement for receiving the Body of Christ, ironing her dress, and fluffing her veil. Our preparation included the Sacrament of Penance. Our family, away for the Eucharist for months, hungering as we watched Mass on TV and recited the “Prayer for Spiritual Communion” in unison in our living room, approached the healing sacrament together the day before the first in-person Mass. Not only had we been away from the Body of Christ for months, we had been lacking His sacrament of mercy. Anticipating this joyful reunion, I was determined that the souls of each of my family members would be clean and whole tabernacles for Jesus, present in the Holy Eucharist. 

That was at the end of June. Today, I have the opportunity to receive Jesus every day. However, I’ve noticed that I’m not always as attentive to my mental and spiritual state as I was when I was in the desert last year. 

Lent is an Invitation Renewed

This Lent, Jesus is offering us a new opportunity to come back to him with our whole hearts. This season invites us to stop, reassess, and reconnect with the one who loves us and sacrificed all for us. We are still living lives of daily uncertainty. Everything is not back to normal. However, just as the angels ministered to Jesus in the desert, God sends His angels to tend to us in hard times (Ps. 91:11). Do we trust this? Do we recognize that our Lord, like us in every way but sin, understands hardship, dryness, uncertainty (Heb. 4:15)? 

When we are surrounded by the wild beasts of illness, instability, financial hardship, and even the Bread of Life is inaccessible to us, the Word of God “is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). Let us reflect on the scripture and permit it to draw us closer to Jesus, the Word become flesh (John 1: 14), our sustainer, redeemer, and brother.

Nancy Belmont

Meditation

How can you be more intentional in your preparation to receive the Eucharist?

Lent Devotional 2021
A devotional for Lent 2021 with daily Gospel Reflections Download HERE
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Bible, Gospel, Lent, Liturgical Living, Uncategorized

Beyond the Day Spa – to a Hospital for Sinners

Luke 5:27-32

We all love a good cliché, even one about the Church. A quote attributed Saint Augustine comes to mind here: “The church is not a hotel for saints, it is a hospital for sinners.” I’ve heard this said a number of ways and used in a number of circumstances. Today’s Gospel could probably be pointed to as its origin. Here Jesus says, “Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do.” Jesus said this after He was questioned as to why He would “eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners”. 

What you do to the least…

Ministering to those who are untouchable, or undesirable is not attractive to most of us. If we are honest, we feel most comfortable ministering in socially comfortable and acceptable situations. Jesus was challenged many times for socializing with or ministering to those seen as “less than” or “unclean”. 

But did the fact that Jesus served everyone from leper, to adulterer mean that he was a “live and let live” kind of savior?  Did His associations mean his acceptance of clichés such as “As long as no one gets hurt what does it matter?” or “You do you.” No, quite to the contrary. 

According to the folks at The Gospel Coalition, “Jesus was a friend of sinners not because he winked at sin, ignored sin, or enjoyed light-hearted revelry with those engaged in immorality. Jesus was a friend of sinners in that he came to save sinners and was incredibly pleased to welcome sinners who were open to the gospel, sorry for their sins, and on their way to putting their faith in Him.” 

Jesus had an Invitational Open Door Policy

In many ways Jesus had an invitational open-door policy in order to bring healing to the most people possible. Eating with the tax collectors was not just a welcome aboard party for Levi, it was an invitation for all present to come and be healed. Since you are the hands and feet of Jesus present today, can you be the one to help keep the door open for all to come to Him? 

Lisa Miklos

Meditation

Who are the “least” in my community? Am I doing a good job being the hands and feet of Christ to the people who needs Christ’s love the most?

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Bible, Gospel, Lent, Lent, Mass Reflection, Uncategorized, Women's Ministry

Out of Love or Obligation?

Matthew 9:14-15

I am a pretty literal person. To me, passages this make sense because we are reading the scriptures with post-Resurrection knowledge. We know who Jesus is and that the disciples are right to feast with the Lord – the bridegroom. We know what Jesus means when he says that “the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away” (Mt 9:15).

Something more has stuck with me with this passage though, and it reminds me of the story of the Prodigal Son, which we will read a little later during Lent. What comes to mind was a question a priest asked in his homily a few years ago. 

If you will recall the parable, the older brother was miffed that the father had a fattened calf slaughtered in honor of his younger brother’s return from his perfidious sojourn, while he, the older son, had obeyed his father.  The father tells the older brother that all they have, has always been his to enjoy.  

Do you do things out of love or obligation?

The priest asked our congregation, “Do you do things out of love or only out of obligation?”  The older brother was fulfilling his duty out of obligation but not love; at least that’s how I understood the question. That struck me hard especially because I’m disciplined and dutiful.

I see a parallel here. The followers of John the Baptist are asking Jesus why his disciples were not fasting in accordance with the customs of the day, but  Jesus knew that the time for fasting would be once he was crucified.  It’s almost as if he is stating that there is no need to fast out of obligation because there will come a time for all who believe in him to fast out of love for him. 

Why do you fast?

This begs the question, are you fasting out of love for Jesus, or out of obligation? Are you attending Mass because these are days of obligation, or because you love the Lord and want to sit at his feet and partake of his banquet?

Now, acting out of obligation is not necessarily wrong. Often times we do the right thing out of obligation. We may refrain from gossip, for example, because we feel obliged not to damage another’s reputation but not because we actually have much regard for someone. It’s a harder pursuit to refrain from gossiping about someone because you love that person as a sister or brother in Christ, made in the image and likeness of God.

To act out of obligation is good. To love is better.

What have you chosen to offer during Lent?  Are you fasting from something? Are you adding something more to your plate, such an increased prayer time?  Or perhaps you pledged to donate to a food drive by buying a few extra groceries for the food bank each time you go to the commissary?  Whatever it is you choose to do, strive to do it because of love?

Aly Tugaoen


Meditation

Lord Jesus, During Lent I have given up or taken on (name your lenten offerings), help me to make these sacrifices out of love for you for my neighbor. When I’m weak in my offerings, remind me that you gave your entire life freely out of love for me, your unworthy servant. Bless my obedience to this lenten sacrifice and increase my love for you. Amen.


Lent Devotional 2021
A devotional for Lent 2021 with daily Gospel Reflections Download HERE

Get your copy of Joyful Momentum HERE
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Lent, Lent, Mass Reflection, Uncategorized, Women's Ministry

On Being a Servant Leader

Luke 9:22-25

Two lines from Today’s Gospel strike me. The first is “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Lk 9:23). The second is “What profit is there for one to gain the world yet lose or forfeit himself” (Lk 9:25). To me, these speak loudly, not only of discipleship, but also of servant leadership. This makes sense because to be a good servant leader, one must first be a disciple. 

For the better part of the last 45 years, I have been mentored and guided by selfless servant leaders. Some were older than me and some younger, but all selfless and wise in their own right. Unfortunately, I also experienced some who claimed themselves as servant leaders, only to show themselves as wanting the world. The difference between the two was as clear as day. The true servant leaders understood and lived the conditions of discipleship and the others did not. 

Imagine how it must have felt hearing Jesus speak of his own approaching passion and his instruction about the cost of following him. Luke 9:24 says “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”

Jesus showed us the cost of doing the Father’s will, and he knows that when we lose our lives for his sake, it will not be easy, but that is the only way. Dying to self to follow Jesus is exactly what we are called to do each day, and especially when we are called to serve others. When others see our service, they should see us as a “visible presence of Christ.” Our actions should be to further the kingdom, not to fulfill our own ambitions and goals. May our reflection on the conditions for discipleship lead us to rely on Jesus’ promise that as we die to ourselves we will live in Him.  

Lisa Miklos

Meditation

How does Jesus ask you to lose your life for his sake?