grayscale photography of crying woman
Bible, Gospel, Lent, Lent, Mass Reflection

A Prayer for When you Feel Lukewarm

15 March 2021

John 4:43-54

It must have taken a certain amount of desperation for this royal official to seek Jesus out. A few biblical commentaries say that he was probably a pagan, so right away, he’s not initially going to be open to the idea of a Jewish Messiah. We don’t know how long his son was ill, but we do know that it had become so serious that he begged Jesus to come and heal him. 

How much of this is rooted in real belief, and how much of this is desperation? We don’t know, and I’m not sure if it really matters. Because in the end, we read that the man “believed the word that Jesus spoke to him.” (v. 50) This doesn’t sound like lukewarm sort-of-belief to me. It sounds like belief brought to fruition by desperation. 

Sometimes this is what it takes to throw ourselves into God’s arms. It’s the divorce, the diagnosis given over the phone, or a child’s life-threatening accident. In these moments of terror, we give ourselves over to the one who is always there for us, even if we haven’t realized it up until that moment. Sometimes a shock is needed to jolt faith awake. 

In this case, Jesus’ word is enough to save the beloved son. Just as his father created the entire cosmos with his word, Jesus–whom John calls the “Word of God”–heals with a simple word. 

Before we receive Communion at Mass, we pray, in part, “Only say the word and my soul shall be healed,” echoing the centurion. Jesus, the Word of God, is still acting today. He waits for you to say your words, words of faith, which will open the door to him so he can come into your life and act, healing your soul’s wounds. We just have to say the word. 

Emily DeArdo

Meditation

Lord, I am not worth that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word, and my soul shall be healed.

Lent Devotional 2021
Download A Time to Grow Lent Devotional as a free E-book here
grayscale of photo of man
Catholic Family, Gospel

What to do When Times are Tough

Mark 12:28-34

I had a million questions for Jesus when my husband lost his job. “Are you friggin kidding me?!” “Why are you doing this to us?” “Don’t you see that we have a house, three kids, and I’m unemployed?” 

I’m good at questions, especially accusatory questions. During that really difficult season of our life I would sit in front of the crucifix in our kitchen, and a powerful river of questions streamed out of mouth right into Jesus’ face. Each episode left me weak and angry, making it harder to get through my daily obligations.

On one of these silently-screaming occasions, my oldest son came over from the living room where he was entranced by the TV and gave me a hug. It was a powerful hug for a five-year-old. Then he walked away.

That torrent of questions I sprayed at the cross came back to me in a wave of pure, uncomplicated, unconditional love.  The Lord spoke to me the words of the Shema, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord alone!” (Deut 6:4).

God broke through in that fundamental prayer, to proclaim the only answer to Every. Single. Question: Praise. That day, my son reminded me that our purpose is to live out the Gospel, even when it takes all our strength. God’s job is to be God.

I stopped spitting questions at God and praised him instead, whether it was with zeal, or a meek “I love you,” I focused on showing more love to my husband and kids, recalling that they, too, were in this boat with me.    

If you are in a difficult, angry, or even sorrowful season in this moment, and if all you can do is look at the crucifix and ask him, “But, why?”, try a simple switch from question to proclamation, “You are God.” Jesus will look at you and smile with his Precious face, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God, daughter.”

Amanda Alley

Meditation

In Jewish tradition, the Shema is prayed during morning and evening prayer. It’s recited almost as a cleansing or centering prayer, similar to our Glory Be during the Liturgy of the Hours. Pray Deuteronomy 6:4 slowly. Remind yourself of this truth. Commit this verse to memory.

“Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone!”

Lent Devotional 2021
Download your copy of A Time to Grow: A Daily Devotional for Lenten Pilgrims here.
woman covering face with book on bed
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.
facade of old cafe in small village
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?

Download your free Ebook of A Time to Grow HERE

If you or someone you know is seeking to grow in faith or community this Lent, then my book Joyful Momentum will help! Get your copy HERE
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