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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
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Uncategorized

A Belated Annunciation

Luke 1:26-38

I wrote this reflection in January, to publish on March 25th, the Feast of the Annunciation. But I’m struggling this week. My COVID vaccine absolutely knocked me out. While I hate to publish late, this is one of those posts that’s just going to have to be better late than never. Thanks for reading 🙂 Here goes:

One of the things I love about our faith

Our Faith is so smart! Even the liturgical calendar is smart. There are exactly nine months until Christmas, which is why today (ah-hem …a few days ago, actually), we mark the Annunciation of the Lord’s birth by the angel Gabriel. Today’s gospel is often associated with children’s Christmas plays, but for us today, it falls within Lent. Why?

I think one reason that we read about the Annunciation during Lent is to be reminded of exactly who Jesus is. Jesus is fully God and fully human. The early Church Fathers coined this as the “hypostatic union” of Christ’s divinity and humanity that was present from the very moment of Jesus’ miraculous conception in Mary’s womb.

Fully Human Fully Divine

At Mass, we are reminded of the unity of Christ’s humanity and divinity when the priest pours the water into the wine and prays quietly, “By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity.” Once the two liquids are mixed, they cannot be separated from one another.

The Church Fathers wrestled through decades and councils about how to articulate the incarnation, that “the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (Jn 1:14), in spoken and written language. After all, how can one write the profundity of a miracle in mere human constructs? If these learned men struggled, imagine how tremendously graced Mary must have been, when as a mere teen, she understood who and what she would carry in her womb and gave her resounding “yes” to God, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38).

Why does any of this matter?

There is so much to meditate on in this passage, but I hope you’ll remember two things: First, Jesus assumed the fullness of your humanity, in all its weakness, because he loves every bit of you. There is nothing about you that is outside the reach of God’s mercy or redemption. Second, if you feel overwhelmed or afraid that you’re not living up to what God (or anyone else) asks of you, go to Mary. Pray her fiat “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38). She knows what it means to move from being “troubled” (Lk 1:29), to assenting to God’s will.

              Elizabeth Tomlin

Meditation

Offer today’s concerns to Mary.

Pray one Hail Mary slowly.

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

To Love Like St. Joseph

19 March 2021

Mt 1:16, 18-21, 24a

Feast of St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary

St. Joseph has a special place in our family. Our Aunt Pat was a Sister of St. Joseph. Her given name was Mildred Patricia, after her mother, but she always went by Pat and didn’t realize that her first name was Mildred until her first day of kindergarten, when the Sister of St. Joseph at the front of the classroom called roll.

The Tomlin side of my family is from Cape May, New Jersey, and Aunt Pat, and all the Tomlins, were educated by the St. Joseph sisters, who have a large presence and beautiful retreat house on the shore. Since Aunt Pat was formed and educated by these sisters, it was natural that when she discerned her call to religious life, she joined the Sisters of St. Joseph.

Aunt Pat had a quiet presence. She was a student of St. Joseph and St. Therese of Lisieux and practiced the “little way.” Like her patron St. Joseph, she worked hard, and she loved generously. She taught school and coordinated religious education for several parishes near Cape May until her retirement in 2016. She also sacrificed her comfortable, communal life to become her mother’s main caregiver for the last ten years of her mother’s life. Like St. Joseph parenting Jesus, this was not a job that she anticipated, but one that she embraced, and she prayed to St. Joseph for the strength to do this work.

When I married into the family, Aunt Pat adopted me as if I had always been a Tomlin. She wrote cards to me regularly. When my husband deployed, she would call me just to check in. There was no distinction that I was niece “in-law” and not by blood. I was hers, and she was mine.

I’m certain that St. Joseph’s example helped impart to Aunt Pat her diligence in work and her generous spirit of adopting me as one of the family.

If I were in New Jersey today, I would break my lenten fast and feast on a small, cherry Rita’s Water Ice today since that was her favorite summer treat. St. Joseph and Aunt Pat, pray for us!

Elizabeth Tomlin

Meditation

Is there someone in your life who has loved you with the spirit of St. Joseph? Give thanks for that person today.

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

Feast of St. Patrick

17 March 2021

John 5:17-30

When reading the Gospel of John, I always feel I am being called to reflect on my life, especially in a spiritual sense. That perhaps my spiritual life is not where it needs to be, and now is the time to get uncomfortable and grow. Well, this is exactly what today’s Gospel reading is requiring each of us to do: read, reflect, get uncomfortable, and act. What better time to do this than in the season of Lent?

When Jesus heals a man on the sabbath and stirs such an uproar causing his adversaries to want to kill him, I want to tiptoe away quietly, unheard and unseen, and hide my head in the sand. Why would Jesus do such a thing? Why not adhere to the laws of the land and come back tomorrow?

Jesus tells us why, “My Father is at work until now, so I am at work” (Jn 5:17). It is unfathomable to think that God has worked unceasingly since creation for the well-being of each of us, but Jesus tells us this is true. Creation is not yet finished, there is still so much work to be done.  God will never abandon us. In the messiness of the world, a messiness that we in fact created ourselves, we have a perfect example of God’s continuous work and mercy in the gift of His only Son.

We are being called to pull our heads out of the sand, to abandon fear, and to be like Christ in today’s gospel. This life on earth is not to be spent doing our own bidding but to do God’s will, as Jesus proclaims, “I do not seek my own will but the will of the one who sent me” (Jn 5:30). 

Amanda Costello

Meditation

Lord, Sometimes I want to shy away from doing your will. Help me to live out your calling in my life boldly.

Lent Devotional 2021
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Uncategorized

Gospel Reflection for Sunday 14

John 3:14-21

By Cassandra Smith

God loves me! The full measure of His love is displayed on the Cross. 

I read in CS Lewis’ Letters to Malcolm that the image of Christ crucified was not popularized until those who had borne witness to the crucifixion were long gone. The agony, humiliation and horror of a crucifixion is not the kind of image we might choose for the next Hallmark card to our sweetheart, yet it’s the ultimate image of true and lasting love and healing of our brokenness. 

John reminds his audience of the day when Moses mounted a bronze serpent to a pole. When someone was bitten by a snake, they would gaze upon the bronze serpent to be healed (see Nm 21:9). For those suffering, the journey to Moses must have been terrible. Fraught with anxiety and physical discomfort.

I wonder if we could observe the whole scene of the crucifixion, if we might see the Father holding his only son on the Cross, knowing it would be a difficult journey for us to get there to the foot of the cross and even more painful to gaze upon the brutality He endured for us. 

We carry many scars, wounds from the various “bites” we have experienced. We allow so many things to occupy our gaze and interrupt our journey. Our fears, worries, doubts. I find myself listening to the hissing of the serpent in my ear. He plants words of self-doubt, comparison, and envy. He leads me to believe lies that I am not good enough, not smart, or pretty or lovable. But these are all lies.

I am called to bring those sufferings with me to gaze upon Jesus. And while I’m there, I might recall these words John 3:16, which we read today.

Cassandra Smith

Lent Devotional 2021
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Uncategorized

The Cost of Discipleship

10 March 2021

Mark 5:17-19

Following Christ has never been easy. In fact, we are asked to deny ourselves and take up our crosses, to follow Jesus. If you’re giving up chocolate, carbs, soda, or any other comfort food for Lent, you know just how difficult a small sacrifice can be. You might even find yourself having “just one bite” when your willpower gives out.

In these verses, Jesus makes it clear that discipleship is challenging. But our reward in heaven will be great. Living in 2021, we are often confronted with a gospel that emphasizes God’s mercy and generosity, while ignoring that God asks something of us, too. He asks that we deny ourselves. He asks for our obedience. Our lenten offerings, given as a sacrifice to God, strengthens our obedience. It’s like spiritual weight-lifting.

In this day, it can be unpopular to follow rules, or even to talk about following rules, especially rules of morality, such as those contained in the Ten Commandments. But as Christians, we are called to speak truth, and we’ve been called to rise above the trends of popular culture.

As theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer taught, “Salvation is free, but discipleship will cost your whole life.” Do you have the heart and courage to live as Jesus teaches us? Even when it’s hard? Even when nobody else is watching? Are you willing to thoughtfully and lovingly speak out and defend our faith in a culture that does not share our values?

If there was ever a time when we should act in a way which glories God, and speak words that are consistent with our faith, now is that time!  

Muffy Patterson

Meditation

 Lord, you call us to “be salt of the earth” and “light of the world.” Help us to understand the responsibility we have to share Gospel by our actions and by our words. Give us courage, we pray. Amen.

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