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Thursday, Mar 26, 2020 LENTEN WEEKDAY Reflect in your heart
Imagine taking a walk with the Lord today. As you walk along, he suddenly stops and looks at you with a question in his eyes. He hesitates, but then goes ahead and asks: “Do you have the love of God in your heart?” You might respond: “I am doing my best to be patient, to think of others first, to be kind and generous. It is Lent after all.” Jesus persists: “But do you have the love of God in your heart?” Take five minutes today and consider that question. Be at peace with whatever thoughts come to mind. Then allow the insights you gain to set the rest of the day's course.
TODAY'S READINGS: Exodus 32:7-14; John 5:31-47 (247). “It is simply that I know you and you do not have the love of God in your hearts.”
Friday, Mar 27, 2020 LENTEN WEEKDAY; DAY OF ABSTINENCE What price would you pay?
Today’s gospel has an aura of doom about it, with Jesus getting a clear message that authorities would like to kill him. The church teaches that “Jesus went up to Jerusalem voluntarily, knowing well that there he would die a violent death because of the opposition of sinners,” as the Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it (http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p122a3p3.htm). How far are you willing to go to “do the right thing”? Contemplate today the sacrifices you have made and what you would be willing to do to be true to your beliefs.
TODAY'S READINGS: Wisdom 2:1a, 12-22; John 7:1-2, 10, 25-30 (248). “Some of the inhabitants of Jerusalem said, ‘Is he not the one they are trying to kill?’”
Saturday, Mar 28, 2020 LENTEN WEEKDAY The plot thickens
Next weekend we observe Palm Sunday, ushering in a dramatic week that includes the tragedy of Our Lord’s suffering and death. The gospels describe for us the suspicion and plotting that will lead to his Crucifixion. Among the religious leaders, only Nicodemus gives Jesus the benefit of the doubt and tries to argue his case. This is the same Nicodemus who has already visited Jesus under cover of night to discuss his teachings and who provides the burial spices after Jesus is crucified. How can you be Nicodemus in situations where others are subject to suspicion and suffering?
TODAY'S READINGS: Jeremiah 11:18-20; John 7:40-53 (249). "I, like a trusting lamb led to slaughter, had not realized that they were hatching plots against me."
Sunday, Mar 29, 2020 FIFTH SUNDAY OF LENT; THIRD SCRUTINY OF THE ELECT The nightmare is over
The moment of waking from a nightmare is suffused with relief. Whoever was chasing you dissolves, and whatever threatened harm has vanished. Grief and loss, however, can be living nightmares from which we’re unable to shake ourselves awake. Yet as the Scrutiny prayers for our Elect this Sunday affirm, the “horror of sin, which distorts life” is indeed an evil from which we can escape. Death has an end, and love will have its victory. We pray with our Elect for freedom from all paths that lead to death and a greater attraction to the ways that restore life.
TODAY'S READINGS: Ezekiel 37:12-14; Romans 8:8-11; John 11:1-45 (34). “Whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live.”
Monday, Mar 30, 2020 LENTEN WEEKDAY Get into the Spirit
On this day in 1990, Sister Thea Bowman, F.S.P.A. died but the voice that nurtured countless thousands was not silenced. Before Sister Thea, black Catholics were expected to give up their music, dance, and spiritual testifying because these were suspiciously “Protestant” customs. She restored their identity, shaped it through the Institute of Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University, and shared it with those of other backgrounds. Shortly before her death, Thea spoke to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops from her wheelchair. In the last five minutes of that talk, Thea the visibly moved bishops in singing “We Shall Overcome.” Thea called the spirituals she grew up with "bonfires to warm chilly nights." Such songs of hope warm a few hearts as well. Sing a spirit-filled song, today, in honor of Sister Thea.
TODAY'S READINGS: Daniel 13:1-9, 15-17, 19-30, 33-62 or 13:41c-62; John 8:1-11 (251). “Neither do I condemn you.”
Tuesday, Mar 31, 2020 LENTEN WEEKDAY I am vs. I AM
John’s gospel uses the term “I AM” to identify Jesus. That’s a reference to the Exodus story when God revealed the divine presence to Moses using the name “I AM.” So the presence of Christ in us, in our humanity, is the “I AM” who is with us. Of course there’s another “I am” who is the self, our ego. That’s the conflict. Just as John the Baptist said, “He must increase and I must decrease,” the best thing we can do is surrender the “I am” in us to the “I AM” who is Christ.
TODAY'S READINGS: Numbers 21:4-9; John 8:21-30 (252). “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I AM.”
Wednesday, Apr 01, 2020 LENTEN WEEKDAY Freedom’s not just another word
“Truth will set you free” and other heady thoughts about freedom are abundant in today’s gospel. Across the centuries, the Catholic Church has had a lot to say about freedom (though, admittedly, it also has remained silent at times when it should have spoken out). A foundation for much of that thought springs from the concept that God has granted human beings freedom to choose between good and evil, and the “more one does what is good, the freer one becomes,” as the Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it (http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s1c1a3.htm). In a world that often glorifies power and money, it is hard to believe that truth and goodness are the keys to freedom. But have a little faith and see where it gets you.
TODAY'S READINGS: Daniel 3:14-20, 91-92, 95; John 8:31-42 (253). “If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Thursday, Apr 02, 2020 MEMORIAL OF FRANCIS OF PAOLA, HERMIT Vegan before vegan was a thing
The movement toward organic farming and more humane animal husbandry has helped raise our awareness of the impact of our food production on the vast chain of creation. Saint Francis of Paola intuited all this more than 500 years ago, when he founded the religious order of Minims, “the least,” in the spirit of the “Lesser Brothers” of Saint Francis of Assisi. In addition to the usual monastic vows, Minims take a fourth vow to abstain from meat, eggs, and all dairy products, not only to practice a “Lenten way of life,” but also in an effort to “do no harm” to other living beings. Bring a bit of the spirit of the Minims to your dining table and daily life.
TODAY'S READINGS: Genesis 17:3-9; John 8:51-59 (254). “They picked up stones to throw at him; but Jesus hid and went out of the temple area.”
Friday, Apr 03, 2020 LENTEN WEEKDAY; DAY OF ABSTINENCE Banish the bullying
Growing up, it seemed that every school, every playground had that kid—you know the one, the bully. That child taunted, picked on, and terrorized others. Unfortunately, as adults, we see bullies too in our workplaces, our relationships, on social media, in political life, and so on. As Catholics, we have a religious duty to take a stand against bullies. “Life, especially human life, belongs to God; whoever attacks human life attacks God’s very self” (Evangelium vitae§9). The church calls us to stop bullying in all its forms, including the ways we might bully others. Pope Francis challenges us: “What is it within us that pushes us to mock and mistreat others weaker than we are?” Be especially conscious today of the way you treat others.
TODAY'S READINGS: Jeremiah 20:10-13; John 10:31-42 (255). “I have shown you many good works from my Father. For which of these are you trying to stone me?”
Saturday, Apr 04, 2020 MEMORIAL OF ISIDORE OF SEVILLE, BISHOP, DOCTOR OF THE CHURCH Go down in history
It is amazing the impact one learned person can have on the course of history. Because sixth-century Isidore of Seville was a dedicated scholar and shared his erudition with others in dictionaries, encyclopedias, and great histories, much of the ancient world’s wisdom was preserved during the chaotic Middle Ages. He was sometimes called the “Schoolmaster of the Middle Ages” because his writings were used as textbooks for nine centuries! Perhaps more remarkable, he combined this great learning with an equal sense of compassion and charity toward those less fortunate. Be wise and kind and you will earn your place in salvation history.
TODAY'S READINGS: Ezekiel 37:21-28; John 11:45-56 (256). “What are we going to do? This man is performing many signs.”
Sunday, Apr 05, 2020 PALM SUNDAY OF THE PASSION OF THE LORD Lord, have mercy
In any act of violence, there are victims and villains. As we meditate on Jesus’ Passion, we can’t ignore that the villains of Holy Week bear an uneasy resemblance to ourselves. Too often, we fail to stand with the innocent. We’re content to benefit from the peril of those who offend us. We seek to destroy what we don’t understand. We deny friends who seem too dangerous to embrace. We run from another’s crisis to save ourselves. On Palm Sunday, we’re the ones crying: “Crucify him!” Raise your voice today for the innocent.
TODAY'S READINGS: Procession: Matthew 21:1-11 (37); Mass: Isaiah 50:4-7; Philippians 2:6-11; Matthew 26:14—27:66 (38). “I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard.”
Monday, Apr 06, 2020 MONDAY OF HOLY WEEK Rise to the occasion
“The Resurrection of Jesus is the crowning truth of our faith in Christ,” the Catechism of the Catholic Church states. Fittingly, of all the things Christians believe, the idea that the dead can be brought back to life requires the greatest leap of faith. Jesus helped his followers prepare for this mind-blowing concept by raising Lazarus from the dead—the last of his big miracles before his own death. It was an ultimate sign of his power and identity to leave them with. It helps us, too, get ready for the stunning reality that all who die will rise.
TODAY'S READINGS: Isaiah 42:1-7; John 12:1-11 (257). “The chief priests plotted to kill Lazarus too, because many of the Jews were turning away and believing in Jesus because of him.”
Tuesday, Apr 07, 2020 TUESDAY OF HOLY WEEK Now is the time
It’s not easy to admit when we have turned our hearts from God. As we make the journey of Christ’s Passion, it is time to release our grip on the sins that we cling to in fear or shame. Instead, let us cling to the mercy of Christ. Jesus himself faced many forms of sin, especially during his Passion, including betrayal, denial, and abandonment by his own friends. Yet the church says emphatically that at this dark hour, Jesus gives his life and “becomes the source from which the forgiveness of our sins will pour forth inexhaustibly” (of the Catholic Church, 1851). Turn to Jesus in times of trial.
TODAY'S READINGS: Isaiah 49:1-6; John 13:21-33, 36-38 (258). “Will you lay down your life for me?”
Wednesday, Apr 08, 2020 WEDNESDAY OF HOLY WEEK I spy the darkness
Today is sometimes known as Spy Wednesday, a reference to today’s gospel story of Judas plotting with the Sanhedrin to have Jesus arrested and put on trial. The word “spy” carries a meaning of laying a snare or planning an ambush in keeping with the story. Along with the Mass of the day, today may include an evening service called “https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tenebrae.” In this ceremony, which may consist of hymns, readings, prayers, and reflections, such as “The Seven Last Words,” a number of lighted candles are gradually extinguished to leave the assembly in total darkness. Then loud noises are made symbolizing the earthquake that followed the Crucifixion. Spend time today reflecting on the suffering and death of Jesus.
TODAY'S READINGS: Isaiah 50:4-9a; Matthew 26:14-25 (259). “He who has dipped his hand into the dish with me is the one who will betray me.”
Thursday, Apr 09, 2020 HOLY THURSDAY; EVENING MASS OF THE LORD'S SUPPER Wash “down” for supper
Jesus commanded his disciples to follow his example and wash each other’s feet—and laypeople, priests, and even popes have been doing it for centuries as a sign of humility and service. In 2015, Pope Francis made headlines when he broke norms and washed the feet of women and Muslims in Rome—proof positive that simple gestures (even ones that are 2,000 years old!) can be powerful acts of inclusion. Show your authority as a follower of Christ and make yourself meek to the excluded.
TODAY'S READINGS: Exodus 12:1-8, 11-14; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; John 13:1-15 (39). “If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet.”
Friday, Apr 10, 2020 FRIDAY OF THE LORD'S PASSION (GOOD FRIDAY); DAY OF ABSTINENCE For God so loved the world
If not for love—a love worth dying for—the horror of Good Friday would make no sense. Jesus could have saved himself but chose not to. Jesus could have conquered evildoers with almighty power, but instead refused to answer violence with violence. “The cross is the school of love,” wrote Saint Maximilian Kolbe. Because of Jesus, we know that real love expresses itself through sacrifice. What will you do today to honor the love of him who loved us most?
TODAY'S READINGS: Isaiah 52:13—53:12; Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9; John 18:1—19:42 (40). “For this I was born and for this I came into the world.”
Saturday, Apr 11, 2020 HOLY SATURDAY; EASTER VIGIL Be on the watch
The Easter Vigil—not Easter Sunday or Christmas Day, but tonight’s vigil—is the greatest of all church celebrations. The service begins in darkness as the faithful keep vigil, “looking for the light of the Lord when he returns.” As candles are extinguished, lights come up and scripture tells the stories of what God has done for us throughout time. Then new members are baptized and for the first time join everyone at the table of the Eucharist. Whether it’s your first time, your favorite night of the church year, or somewhere in between, this is a night to remember. Don’t miss it.
TODAY'S READINGS: Genesis 1:1—2:2; Genesis 22:1-18; Exodus 14:15—15:1; Isaiah 54:5-14; Isaiah 55:1-11; Baruch 3:9-15, 32—4:4; Ezekiel 36:16-17a, 18-28; Romans 6:3-11; Matthew 28:1-10 (41). “As day was dawning, Mary Magdalene came with the other Mary to inspect the tomb. . . . Do not be frightened . . . he has been raised.”