green leaves
Bible, Gospel, Lent, Uncategorized

Palm Sunday

28 March 2021

Mark 14:1-15:47

Palm Sunday 

We are womb to tomb people. In January we pray and we march to protect life in the womb, and hopefully life in all its stages, too. How often, though, do we really embrace the beauty and dignity of dying? More specifically do we ever take the time to think of the moments after life leaves our bodies? Do we ponder being prepared for burial? 

Today’s reading brings us to thinking about preparation for burial. In Mark 14:8 Jesus says “She has done what she could. She has anticipated anointing my body for burial.” Here Jesus is speaking of the woman who came to Simon’s house with the alabaster jar of perfumed oil, Spikenard. “She broke the alabaster jar and poured it over His head” (14:3), anointing Jesus for burial. As one who would be buried as a criminal, it would have been commonplace for him not to have been anointed at all. 

 All of this brings me to the story of Lizz Lovett. Lizz, a wife and mother, long suffered the ravages of cancer. Her beloved husband, Ryan wanted to honor Lizz to the very last and researched ancient Judeo-Christian rituals and prayers as a final act of love and service to her, to include how to honor her body upon death. He wanted her to know that his love for her continued even after she died.

Ryan and eight others, including Lizz’s mother and sister lovingly prepared her body for Christian burial after she died. This included anointing her body with spikenard and wrapping her body in burial cloth. Ryan, like the woman who anointed Jesus, knew how important and sacred it was to care for someone womb to tomb.

I can’t imagine a more loving and eternal act. Ryan said that by lovingly preparing her body for Christian burial he participated in preparing his wife for the marriage ceremony of her union with Christ in Heaven. He gave her up, with dignity and tenderness and faith, to the end.

The Gospel reading speaks of preparations for Christ’s passion, but should also have us reflect on how we prepare ourselves and others for our union with Christ in heaven.

Lisa Miklos

Meditation

You can read Lizz and Ryan’s story here.

Lent Devotional 2021
Download A Time to Grow Lent Devotional as a free E-book here



woman in black long sleeve shirt using binoculars
Bible, Gospel, Lent, Mass Reflection

Who Could Cast the First Stone?

22 March 2021

John 8:1-11

By Cassandra Smith

Most of us have committed sins that are hard enough to utter in the quiet confessional, where we at least have the option of spilling our guts with a screen hiding our faces. There’s at least a pretense of anonymity. Imagine that you are caught doing the worst thing you have ever done, and you are dragged by your arm and denounced to your community.

I hear the sneers, the laughter. The fingers gripped around my arm will surely leave a bruise. I see the blood-thirsty eyes of the people around me, waiting to fling their own anxieties, frustration, guilt, and hatred at me with those stones. These people are not more righteous than me, they just haven’t been caught.

Tears are welling up in my eyes. Could I just go back to the moment before I chose to sin? I see Jesus. I feel my throat close as I swallow a fear-filled cry. I want to plead my case. But how can I defend the indefensible? I’m guilty. I know I deserve the death that’s coming.

What is Jesus writing in the sand? Why have I been released?  

During trials like this, the witnesses would cast the first stones of execution. So what did Jesus write to cause these people to abandon their case? St. Augustine proposed that perhaps Jesus scrawled the sins of the woman’s accusers in the sand.

In the short-term, Jesus saved this woman’s life. Yet her sin remained, and we know that the penalty of sin is death. In just a few weeks, we will walk with Jesus as he pays the penalty for this woman’s sins and for all of our sins. Though blameless, Jesus trades places with us. 

Cassandra Smith

Meditation

“No one has greater love that this, to lay down one’s live for one’s friend” (Jn 15:13). Have you made time to meet Jesus at this seat of mercy yet during Lent? Make a plan to go to Confession this week.

Lent Devotional 2021
Download your copy of A Time to Grow: A Daily Devotional for Lenten Pilgrims here.
eyeglasses on book beside macbook
Bible, Gospel, Lent

Catholics Don’t Know the Bible. Or do we?

18 March 2021

John 5:31-42

By Maggie Phillips

I’ll be honest, I read and re-read this passage, not quite knowing what to make of it. So I looked at the footnotes, and something leapt out at me. In John 5:39, Jesus says, “You search the scriptures, because you think you have eternal life through them; even they testify on my behalf.” According to the footnotes, Jesus may be speaking imperatively, imploring his listeners to search the scriptures to see for themselves how they testify to his saving mission.

Have you ever heard someone say they didn’t know anything about the Bible because they were Catholic? Or that Catholics don’t know the Bible?

We Catholics don’t have a reputation for memorizing scripture and verse in our religious education classes. In fact, the concept of memorizing scripture may be entirely foreign to you.

But we Catholics hear God’s word proclaimed in the Old Testament, New Testament, Gospel and Psalms at each Mass. We hear scripture prayed in the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Because we hear scripture proclaimed to us in fragments during Mass, instead of memorizing it, we may think that our knowledge of scripture doesn’t count. 

To that I say, it does count! The entire prayer of the Mass has deep scriptural, liturgical roots, and the readings of the Mass have been thoughtfully chosen by the Church in her wisdom to illuminate each other. It’s imperative that we pay attention.

It’s imperative because Jesus tells us in John 5:39 that if we think we have eternal life through the Word, who John tells us earlier is God himself — “And the Word was God” (Jn 1:1) — then we have a responsibility to take initiative and search the scriptures. Now, that can be daunting. And to paraphrase Ned Flanders of The Simpsons, “some of the stuff seems to contradict the other stuff.” We aren’t meant to read the Bible in isolation and without context.

So where can we get some help in understanding the scriptures outside of the Mass? Search out podcasts from orthodox, authoritative sources. I recommend “The Lanky Guys” and Father Mike Schmitz’ “Bible in a Year”. Find a good Bible commentary with an imprimatur from the author’s bishop.

God wants us to know him. It’s the fondest wish of his heart to be in communion with us. He’s written you a love letter. Open it!

Maggie Phillips

Meditation

Pray this verse and try to commit it to memory. In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. Jn 1:1

Lent Devotional 2021
A devotional for Lent 2021 with daily Gospel Reflections Download
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
white building and people standing near water fountain
Lent, Lent, Mass Reflection, Self Care

Visiting with the Woman at the Well

Over the past years I have been working on my fitness. I usually do my workouts first thing in the morning, and sometimes I attend a boot camp class in the evening. I do not workout mid-day. It’s just too hot for that kind of thing here in Hawaii. Folks who run at noon are some kind of special. I pray for them and cheer them when I see them, but am really glad I am not with them. Mid-day is also the time of day in which my family and I will get sunburn. We all have pretty fair skin.

In this gospel we meet a Samaritan woman drawing water in the heat of the day. Women went to the well in the early hours. Why is she there mid-day? A prevalent teaching is that she dared not go to the well in the morning because she was an outcast. This leads me to believe that Jesus encountered her at the well mid-day because he was looking for her.

“Give me a drink” (Jn 4:7), Jesus said. Jews did not speak to Samaritans. Men did not speak to women. But Jesus speaks to this Samaritan woman. And he doesn’t just speak to her, he asks for interaction, and service. This makes me think of Jesus saying, “I thirst” from the cross. What is Jesus asking you to do for him? To give to him?

“How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink? (Jn 4:9), she asks. Similarly, I ask “Who am I that you would speak with me, ask me for help, or even notice me?” Yet, he does. He sees me, just as he sees this woman. He desires me, just as he desires this woman. He seeks me out in the midst of my work, in the heat of my life, and even in the shame of my sins.

In this passage, the Samaritan thinks of physical thirst and of the labor. But what of her soul? What of my soul? Do I thirst for Jesus as he thirsts for us? Am I going to the living water to nourish my soul, or do I drink from the world, no matter how unsatisfying?

Jesus knows this woman. Her ins, outs, her past, her present, her public humiliation, and personal brokenness. She shares none of her story, but he knows it. And Jesus loves her. He knows you as well. Your beautiful and ugly parts. And Jesus loves you, and comes to you.

In her encounter with the Lord, this woman is filled to overflowing. Her joy and faith spill out onto those around her and she must invite the whole town, perhaps even the husbands who cast her aside, or the women who cast her out from the well before the heat of the day to meet the Messiah.

Jackie Henderson

Meditation

May Jesus encounter us in the heat of our day, shower us with his love, fill us with joy, and inspire us to invite others to “come and see” (Jn 4:29).

Lent Devotional 2021
Download your copy of A Time to Grow: A Daily Devotional for Lenten Pilgrims here.
Painting of St. Katharine Drexel in her habit
Lent, Mass Reflection, Saints, Uncategorized

On the Memorial of St. Katharine Drexel

Matthew 20:17-28

Memorial of St. Katharine Drexel

St. Katharine Drexel is my favorite saint. I am awed by this extremely affluent, young heiress who chose a life of voluntary poverty so that she could donate her wealth and life to share the Gospel with underserved minority populations. She is a paragon of generosity and radical cooperation with God’s vocation for her life. She is the embodiment of the verse from today’s gospel, “whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant” (Mt 20:26).

Katharine also teaches us to listen to the holy helpers that God puts into our lives. When Katharine first started supporting African American and Native American missions, she did so monetarily. As a young socialite vacationing in Europe, she had an audience with Pope Leo XIII. She told him about the good work she funded and asked him to send more priests to minister directly to Native Americans.

“Why not, my child, yourself become a missionary?”

Undoubtedly inspired by the Holy Spirit, the Holy Father asked, “Why not, my child, yourself become a missionary?” Exposed and afraid, Katherine ran out of the room crying! Her rash, completely human reaction gives me hope that I can attain holiness despite my similar cowardice and hesitation. 

Even after Katharine responded to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, became a sister, and founded the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, she still needed holy friends to rein her in. Katharine traveled so much that she wore herself down completely and suffered a devastating heart attack while in the western U.S. Her beloved brother in-law travelled to accompany her home to the east coast.

Sometimes Serving Means Slowing Down

He convinced her to slow down because once she died, her missions would stop receiving her inheritance money. Despite being relegated to her motherhouse, Katharine counted the next twenty-one years as the most fruitful for her ministry. In her quiet life, she supported her sisters with her prayers and united herself more deeply to the Blessed Sacrament, which imbued her entire ministry. In her frailty, she came to recognize that her ministry did not depend entirely on her, but on God. 

We all have a potential for great holiness. Sometimes, our plans, ambitions, and stubbornness can get in the way. Lord, send us companions who will help us to become as holy as you desire us to be.

Nancy Belmont

Meditation

 Think of a friend who has encouraged you to serve God in a way you had not anticipated. Give thanks for that person.

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