Dust thou art, and into dust thou shalt return. - Genesis 3:19
Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the Lord, your God. - Joel 2:13
The liturgical use of ashes originated in the Old Testament times. Ashes symbolized mourning, mortality and penance. In the Book of Esther, Mordecai put on sackcloth and ashes when he heard of the decree of King Ahasuerus to kill all of the Jewish people in the Persian Empire (Esther 4:1). Job repented in sackcloth and ashes (Job 42:6). Prophesying the Babylonian captivity of Jerusalem, Daniel wrote, "I turned to the Lord God, pleading in earnest prayer, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes" (Daniel 9:3).
Jesus made reference to ashes, "If the miracles worked in you had taken place in Tyre and Sidon, they would have reformed in sackcloth and ashes long ago" (Matthew 11:21).
In the Middle Ages, the priest would bless the dying person with holy water, saying, "Remember that thou art dust and to dust thou shalt return."
The Church adapted the use of ashes to mark the beginning of the penitential season of Lent, when we remember our mortality and mourn for our sins. In our present liturgy for Ash Wednesday, we use ashes made from the burned palm branches distributed on the Palm Sunday of the previous year. The priest blesses the ashes and imposes them on the foreheads of the faithful, making the sign of the cross and saying, "Remember, man you are dust and to dust you shall return," or "Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel." As we begin this holy season of Lent in preparation for Easter, we must remember the significance of the ashes we have received: We mourn and do penance for our sins. We again convert our hearts to the Lord, who suffered, died, and rose for our salvation. We renew the promises made at our baptism, when we died to an old life and rose to a new life with Christ. Finally, mindful that the kingdom of this world passes away, we strive to live the kingdom of God now and look forward to its fulfillment in heaven. Reflection courtesy EWTN
3 Action Steps for Parents
Let go of a bad habit.
What would you list as your worst habit as a parent? Nagging? Inattention? Interrupting? Lack of time? Pick one habit and try, a day at a time, to let go of it. Jesus came to free the prisoners. If you feel like a prisoner to a bad-parenting habit, take advantage of Lent to loosen its grip on your life.
Strengthen a good habit.
Take a minute to write down three parenting skills that you're really good at: coaching, keeping a sense of humor, staying calm when everyone else is flying off the handle, taking care of the daily details, seeing the big picture. Pick one and think of how you can put this strength to good use on a daily basis. When the flu hits your household, you know how illness can be passed from person to person. But healthy living is contagious too. Exercising your strengths can benefit those you live with.
Ask God to lead you.
Every morning, first thing, ask God to help you be a better mom or dad. You have a mission from God to be the kind of parent your child needs. Sometimes when I'm worried about a difficult situation in my family, I think ahead to that situation and picture God already there. With the thought that God is present there, my attitude changes. My fear diminishes; my love grows. I no longer see it as a “godforsaken situation.”
Think of an ocean liner traveling the seas. A small change in its course will, over time, greatly change the destination. Lent is an opportunity to have small changes in your daily life make a big difference in your family over the long run. Practice Lent, right where you are. It's where God is waiting for you.
This is an excerpt from Raising Faith-Filled Kids: Ordinary Opportunities to Nurture Spirituality at Home by Tom McGrath via Loyola Press
Father Michael Thompson, SJJ, Superior General of the Josephites, welcomes us to the 2016 Lenten season and speaks to us about our need for Repentance.
The Catholic Church has traditionally relied upon symbols and sensual experience in order to convey the truths of its greatest mysteries including Christ’s Incarnation, his Crucifixion and Resurrection, the resurrection of the faithful at the end of time, the Real Presence of Christ in the bread and wine, the power of prayer, and the sacredness of all of creation.
The Lenten season and its liturgies provide us with ordinary elements and materials of life that point to deeper religious meanings.
Water—On the Third Sunday of Lent we hear the story of the Samaritan woman who is ultimately thirsting for new life but asks Jesus merely for a drink. He invites her to a new understanding of living water that goes beyond the literal, beyond what she can see and touch. We are reminded of the embryonic water of our mother’s womb, the baptismal water that made each of us a child of God and disciple of Christ, and the water in the font where we dip our hand as we enter the church and sign ourselves with the cross. Increase our thirst for you, O God.
Light and Darkness—On the Fourth Sunday of Lent we hear of the man born blind. There are many allusions to seeing and blindness in this reading, to choosing light or living in the dark. For many of us, judging by appearances is the primary obstacle to seeing the light. Sometimes clinging to our own partial piece of the truth and refusing to listen to God’s voice in another person highlights our blindness in everyday experiences. We need desperately to be healed of the blindness of our resistance, the prejudices that exclude others from our circles, our inability to see as God sees. Help us to see as you see, O God.
Bindings—The Fifth Sunday of Lent we meet Lazarus bound and already buried. In response to the request of his sisters, Jesus calls Lazarus forth from the grave to new life. For Christians, the cycle of dying and rising characterizes all of life. Each night we close our eyes and die to the day; each morning we rise to a new day of possibilities. Each spring we bury seeds in the ground only to see them burst forth as flowers and fruits, vegetables and grain. The risen life does not begin simply after we die. Eternal life breaks into time. There is so much more to life than we can see; there is so much more to love than we can hold; there is so much more to our intimate belonging to each other than we can contain. Symbols can help. When the eternity of God invades our mortal time-bound bodies, loosens our bindings, and sets us free, we begin to live as resurrected people. O God, set us free.
Sister Honora is the Assistant Director at RENEW and a Dominican Sister of Amityville, NY.
Moses spoke to the people, saying:
“The priest shall receive the basket from you
and shall set it in front of the altar of the LORD, your God.
Then you shall declare before the Lord, your God,
‘My father was a wandering Aramean
who went down to Egypt with a small household
and lived there as an alien.
But there he became a nation
great, strong, and numerous.
When the Egyptians maltreated and oppressed us,
imposing hard labor upon us,
we cried to the LORD, the God of our fathers,
and he heard our cry
and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression.
He brought us out of Egypt
with his strong hand and outstretched arm,
with terrifying power, with signs and wonders;
and bringing us into this country,
he gave us this land flowing with milk and honey.
Therefore, I have now brought you the firstfruits
of the products of the soil
which you, O LORD, have given me.’
And having set them before the Lord, your God,
you shall bow down in his presence.”
Lead us to greater self-understanding and to reverence anew God’s way of leading us to our deepest peace and truest potential through life’s rhythm of joy and struggle.
Tender God of the garden and the desert,
you give life graciously as overflowing gift.
You pour out your lavish grace on us
even when we see and feel you not.
Give us the courage
to let ourselves be led by you
to those places and persons
where you wait to meet us.
Open our hearts and our lives
to your quiet and unsettling stirrings.
Come to us in both the ache and the awe
of our human journeys.
In the company of one another,
deepen our faith to see
that in each discovery of our true selves,
we discover you, and each time we recognize you, our Father,
we come to know a little more of our true selves.
We place ourselves in one another’s keeping
and together praise you, through, with,
and in the Spirit of Jesus, now and forever. Amen.
An act of kindness experienced when he was a child gives a young man the courage, years later, to comfort another person in a time of need. Video courtesy RENEW International.
What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul,
what wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss
to bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,
to bear the dreadful curse for my soul!
When I was sinking down, sinking down, sinking down,
when I was sinking down, sinking down,
when I was sinking down beneath God's righteous frown,
Christ laid aside his crown for my soul, for my soul,
Christ laid aside his crown for my soul!
To God and to the Lamb, I will sing, I will sing,
to God and to the Lamb, I will sing;
to God and to the Lamb who is the great I AM,
while millions join the theme, I will sing, I will sing;
while millions join the theme, I will sing!
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on;
and when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on;
and when from death I’m free, I’ll sing and joyful be,
and through eternity, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on;
and through eternity I’ll sing on.
Below is an infographic showing what you can be doing for Lent this year.
Prep Time: 10 Minutes
Ready In: 30 Minutes
Cook Time: 20 Minutes
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed andsnapped into pieces
1/2 cup pizza sauce
1 teaspoon olive oil, or as needed
1 (14 ounce) prebaked pizza crust
salt and black pepper to taste
3/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
1. Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
2. Place asparagus on a baking sheet; drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
3. Bake the asparagus in the preheated oven for 10 minutes.
4. While asparagus is baking, spread the pizza sauce over the pizza crust. Distribute asparagus pieces and crumbles of blue cheese evenly over the pizza.
5. Return pizza to center rack of preheated oven; bake until the cheese is melted and bubbling, 8 to 10 more minutes.
Recipe from allrecipes.com
A man confronts his fears and trusts in God, remembering the words and living witness of a childhood friend.
The Lord God took Abram outside and said,
“Look up at the sky and count the stars, if you can.
Just so,” he added, “shall your descendants be.”
Abram put his faith in the LORD,
who credited it to him as an act of righteousness.
He then said to him,
“I am the LORD who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans
to give you this land as a possession.”
“O Lord GOD,” he asked,
“how am I to know that I shall possess it?”
He answered him,
“Bring me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old she-goat,
a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.”
Abram brought him all these, split them in two,
and placed each half opposite the other;
but the birds he did not cut up.
Birds of prey swooped down on the carcasses,
but Abram stayed with them.
As the sun was about to set, a trance fell upon Abram,
and a deep, terrifying darkness enveloped him.
When the sun had set and it was dark,
there appeared a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch,
which passed between those pieces.
It was on that occasion that the LORD made a covenant with Abram,
saying: “To your descendants I give this land,
from the Wadi of Egypt to the Great River, the Euphrates.”
That we may understand more deeply the transforming power of God active in our lives. That we may let ourselves be amazed by wonder while committed to work for justice.
God of mountaintop experiences
and God who accompanies us down the mountain,
walk with us again.
You invite us to a place apart.
Do you want to show us Jesus’ “face dazzling as the sun”?
Is it your desire that we, too, be overcome with your glory
and utterly amazed?
Place us near your Son.
Let the Spirit of Jesus shine on us
and teach us to recognize your voice
in the cries of your “beloved” poor and suffering today.
Make us people of vision,
willing to wait and suffer
until the gift of new life is available to all
your dearly loved children, our brothers and sisters.
May your vision for our world be revealed more clearly to us
as we pray and share.
Transform us through his Spirit
into your image and likeness, the Body of Christ,
still growing to full stature. Amen.
Lent is a time to deepen our prayer lives, and thankfully there are a number of things the Church recommends. Here are just five simple strategies. Choose one, preferably one you’re not familiar with, and commit to it this Lent:
1. Pray before the Blessed Sacrament
Spend some time if you can, every day or maybe once a week, praying in front of Our Lord. Don’t just talk—be still and listen.
2. The Jesus Prayer
Pray this simple prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Repeat it over and over again throughout the day, for one minute, five minutes, or half an hour. Pray it at the beginning and end of the day. Let its calming rhythm focus your mind on God.
3. The “Come, Holy Spirit” Prayer
Simply praying, “Come, Holy Spirit” works anytime, anywhere—it’s always a good prayer. For more, try praying the entire Veni, Sancte, Spiritus.
4. The Rosary
If you haven’t prayed the rosary in a long time, pick it up during Lent. If you’re unsure how, or if you’ve forgotten which mysteries to pray, there are plenty of free guides online or at your parish.
5. The Mass
If you don’t go to Sunday Mass, go—you’re obligated if you’re a Catholic. If you do go to Sunday Mass, go daily during Lent. Decide to attend one extra Mass each week. Visit MassTimes.org to find daily schedules at nearby parishes.
All of these are simple, straightforward ways to deepen your prayer life during Lent. You don’t have to do them all, but just choose one and commit yourself.
Change our hearts this time,
your word says it can be.
Change our minds this time,
your life could make us free.
We are the people your call sets apart.
Lord, this time change our hearts.
Brought by your hand to the edge of our dreams,
one foot in paradise, one in the waste.
Drawn by your promises, still we are lured
by the shadows and the chains we leave behind. But …
Now as we watch you stretch out your hands,
offering abundances, fullness of joy,
your milk and honey seem distant, unreal,
when we have bread and water in our hands. But …
Show us the way that leads to your side,
over the mountains and sands of the soul.
Be for us manna, water from stone,
light which says we never walk alone. And …
Need some ideas for how to keep your lenten journey going?
1. Make a commitment to reading the Sunday readings before you go to Mass. In the same way that reading up on football players, opposing teams, and coaching strategies will help you experience a game more fully, familiarizing yourself with the readings ahead of time can allow you to experience them in a deeper way on Sunday.
2. Think about what you usually spend your money on. Do you buy a few too many clothes? Spend a few too many bucks on iTunes? Eating out? Pick one type of expenditure that you’ll “fast” from during Lent, and give the money you would usually spend to a great local charity.
3. When you first sit down in front of your computer at work, say a prayer before starting your day.
4. Go to a weekday Mass one day during the week. Many parishes offer them early in the morning, at noon, or after work. Daily Masses are often more intimate and informal than Sunday Mass.
5. Read the entire Gospel of Mark in one sitting. As the shortest Gospel, it is the most concise story of Jesus’ life, and the cross, a central Lenten symbol, plays an even more prominent role than in the other Gospels.
1 (1.5 ounce) package spaghetti sauce mix
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 3/4 cups water
1 pint ricotta cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 (10 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
8 ounces sliced mozzarella cheese
8 lasagna noodles
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease one 13x9 inch baking dish.
2. In a medium saucepan, combine spaghetti sauce mix, tomato sauce, tomato paste and water. Bring to a boil over medium heat then remove from heat and let cool.
3. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs and combine them with the ricotta or cottage cheese, salt, spinach and 1/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese.
4. Spread one half cup tomato sauce mixture into the prepared baking dish. Place half the uncooked noodles over the sauce, spread with half the spinach mixture, half the mozzarella cheese, and half of the tomato sauce. Repeat layers, using remaining ingredients. Top with remaining Parmesan cheese.
5.Cover dish securely with aluminum foil and bake for in the preheated oven 1 hour. Let stand 10 minutes before cutting and serving.
Recipe from allrecipes.com
Enter into a visual prayer experience this Lent with Arts & Faith: Lent. Use this video to take a new look at this season of spiritual renewal through the lens of sacred art.
I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters,
that our ancestors were all under the cloud
and all passed through the sea,
and all of them were baptized into Moses
in the cloud and in the sea.
All ate the same spiritual food,
and all drank the same spiritual drink,
for they drank from a spiritual rock that followed them,
and the rock was the Christ.
Yet God was not pleased with most of them,
for they were struck down in the desert.
These things happened as examples for us,
so that we might not desire evil things, as they did.
Do not grumble as some of them did,
and suffered death by the destroyer.
These things happened to them as an example,
and they have been written down as a warning to us,
upon whom the end of the ages has come.
Therefore, whoever thinks he is standing secure
should take care not to fall.
That we may discover new areas or old resistances in our lives in need of God’s renewing touch. That we may let ourselves be healed and grow to greater wholeness for the glory of God and the sake of our world’s salvation.
Light of Truth, Beacon of Hope, Fire of Love,
in your light we see light.
Without you, we grope in darkness and shadows.
Be with us, Radiant God.
Give us new eyes,
that we may see the sufferings of others
and our tendency to be comfortable with injustice.
Give us new eyes,
that we may glimpse our own self-righteousness
and the self-interest that strangles compassion.
Give us new eyes,
that we may recognize you
in the face of the stranger,
the outcast, the haughty,
and serve you in serving them.
Give us new eyes,
that we may look on the world
that God so loves
with forgiveness, patience, and hope.
Give us your eyes,
O Light of Truth,
Beacon of Hope,
Fire of Love,
Christ, our Savior and Brother. Amen.
The 17th-century French philosopher Blaise Pascal said that most of us spend our lives seeking diversions in a desperate attempt to avoid the hard and simple questions: who am I? What is the purpose of my life? What does God want of me?
We eat and drink, gamble and gossip, seek out the most banal entertainments, surrender to television and social media, attend party after party—all in order to avoid those questions.
Right now, identify the diversion that most distracts you from these questions. Then take some practical steps to rid yourself of it, or at least reduce it.
Are you preoccupied with eating and drinking? Then fast regularly. Do you watch too much television or spend too much time on Facebook? Then give yourself a specific limit. Do you indulge in idle chatter? Then resolve not to say anything mean about anybody (you’ll find that your conversations are a lot shorter.) Do you socialize too much? Then refrain from non-essential parties for the rest of Lent. Clear the ground. Clean out the system. Make room for yourself to ask and reflect on life’s most important questions.
To follow Jesus into the desert is to divest yourself of diversions. It is to sacrifice the superficial so that the depth may rise. It is to still the chatter so that God’s voice might be heard.
Jesus walked this lonesome valley.
He had to walk it by Himself;
O, nobody else could walk it for Him,
He had to walk it by Himself.
We must walk this lonesome valley,
We have to walk it by ourselves;
O, nobody else can walk it for us,
We have to walk it by ourselves.
You must go and stand your trial,
You have to stand it by yourself,
O, nobody else can stand it for you,
You have to stand it by yourself.
40 years ago, Catholics in the United States wanted to respond to famine in Africa. Could we feed the hungry through Lenten prayers, fasting and almsgiving? The answer was yes—and it came in the form of a small cardboard box.
CRS Rice Bowl is your way to help our brothers and sisters in need each Lent. Make it a family project during Lent.
Prep Time: 20 Minutes
Cook Time: 10 Minutes
Ready In: 30 Minutes
1 (8 ounce) package lemon pepper linguine
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
1 tablespoon lemon pepper
1 pound medium shrimp - peeled & deveined
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to boil, add pasta, and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until al dente. Drain, and return pasta to the pot.
2. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Cook garlic, lemon pepper seasoning, and shrimp in oil until shrimp is cooked through, 3 to 5 minutes.
3. Toss pasta with shrimp and Parmesan cheese.
Recipe from allrecipes.com
James Martin, SJ, author of "My Life with the Saints" and "A Jesuit Off-Broadway," discusses Almsgiving and Joy in this Lenten season.
The LORD said to Joshua,
“Today I have removed the reproach of Egypt from you.”
While the Israelites were encamped at Gilgal on the plains of Jericho,
they celebrated the Passover
on the evening of the fourteenth of the month.
On the day after the Passover,
they ate of the produce of the land
in the form of unleavened cakes and parched grain.
On that same day after the Passover,
on which they ate of the produce of the land, the manna ceased.
No longer was there manna for the Israelites,
who that year ate of the yield of the land of Canaan.
Gift us with greater freedom and simplicity in coming to know ourselves as beloved children, loved unconditionally by the God from whom we have nothing to hide.
Fountain of Life, Flood of Forgiveness,
Overflowing Cup of Mercy,
we drink from you, O Holy One.
You make our dry hearts moist again,
bring us back to life, and stand us up in grace
Confidently and joyfully, we look forward to the day
when we will become all that God has intended for us.
To this end, the Holy Spirit has flooded our hearts in love.
If only we knew the gift we have been given.
O Spirit of Wisdom, teach us how to unfold.
You, who know us better than we know ourselves,
disclose us to ourselves.
Safely sheltered in you,
may we discover your merciful gaze
loving us in all those places
where we find it difficult to love ourselves.
O tender God, send us out to love others
from that place of mercy where you bathe us all.
We praise you and thank you for the gifts we can scarcely
understand and only barely imagine,
through our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
If God is for us, who is against us?
He who did not withhold his own Son,
but gave him up for all of us,
will he not with him also give us everything else?
It’s not that hard to admit that we need God’s help in this life. Only the most proud or the most foolish believe they are truly self-sufficient. Yes, we need God. Yes, we can seek from God whatever we need—help, comfort, or guidance.
But actually taking the step toward God can be not only difficult but complex. A lot of things can get in the way.
Pain. It’s possible to be in so much pain that we cannot move. We are paralyzed, numb, almost without sense. So we do nothing but remain in our deep hurt.
Shame. We can’t come to God and tell lies at the same time. This spiritual process requires that we face our embarrassments, shortcomings, failures, and sins, and the shame of all this holds us back.
Anger. It really is all right to come to God angry, but many of us don’t feel that it’s all right. We’re deeply disappointed in God—for not rescuing us from a situation, for allowing us to suffer loss, for not giving us what we wanted—and that anger prevents any steps in God’s direction.
Fear. We may fear punishment. We may fear God’s disapproval. We may fear that God won’t act or say what we’re hoping for. And we may fear that, in coming to God, we’ll need to change in some way.
How do we overcome these obstacles? How do we come to God when pain, shame, anger, or fear is blocking the path?
Remember one simple fact: God is for us, not against us. God waits for us, eager to help with our pain, shame, anger, or fear. The only thing to do is step forward and bring to God whatever burden hinders us.
This is a reflection by Vinita Hampton Wright, author of Days of Deepening Friendship.
Jesus Remember Me
When you come into Your Kingdom
St. Joseph shows us how to keep our commitment to our Faith. St. Joseph is the Josephite's Patron Saint. We look to his guidance as a society. On his feast day we honor his anchor of faith. Watch how the Josephites celebrated the Feast Day of St. Joseph in 2015 at St. Joseph's Manor in Baltimore, Maryland. Archbishop William E. Lori was the Principal celebrant and gave thanks to the Josephites for their continual service in African American communities nationwide.
Prep Time: 10 Minutes
Cook Time: 30 Minutes
Ready In: 40 Minutes
1 (15 ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 (10 ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained & sliced
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
8 (10 inch) flour tortillas
2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1 large tomato, diced (optional)
1. Pour the beans into a large iron skillet, and bring to a boil. Cook at a hard simmer until they become pasty and begin to resemble burrito beans in texture.
2. Heat oil in a separate skillet over medium heat. Stir in artichoke hearts, onion, and garlic; cook until the artichokes become golden brown.
3. Place tortillas in a dry skillet over low heat to warm. Remove from skillet. Spoon beans and artichoke mixture onto each tortilla, and top with cheese and tomato. Fold in ends, and roll up.
Recipe from allrecipes.com
A young woman perceives God’s unconditional gift of joy in all of life’s circumstances, from personal challenges to her parish ministry work.
Thus says the LORD,
who opens a way in the sea
and a path in the mighty waters,
who leads out chariots and horsemen,
a powerful army,
till they lie prostrate together, never to rise,
snuffed out and quenched like a wick.
Remember not the events of the past,
the things of long ago consider not;
see, I am doing something new!
Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
In the desert I make a way,
in the wasteland, rivers.
Wild beasts honor me,
jackals and ostriches,
for I put water in the desert
and rivers in the wasteland
for my chosen people to drink,
the people whom I formed for myself,
that they might announce my praise.
That we may discover new reverence for the mystery of the Communion of Saints which transcends time and space to unite us with one another.
O Holy Trinity, God of love,
breathe in us, move among us,
gather us into you.
Resettle us on the soil of our earth
to free one another
through the mutual exchange of the varied gifts
with which you bless us.
Unbind us from our fears,
unite us in our shared sorrows,
enlarge us with the deep and simple sharing of our joys.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
world without end. Amen.
When a prisoner escaped from Auschwitz in the summer of 1942, the Nazi soldiers imposed their penalty. They took all of the prisoners from the escapee’s barracks and lined them up, and then at random chose a man to be put to death in retaliation. When the man broke down in tears, protesting that he was the father of young children, a quiet bespectacled man stepped forward and said, “I am a Catholic priest; I have no family. I would like to die in this man’s place.”
Pope John Paul II later canonized that priest, Saint Maximilian Kolbe. With brutal clarity, Kolbe allows us to see the relationship between suffering willingly accepted and salvation. He was consciously participating in the act of his Master, making up, in Paul’s language, what is still lacking in the suffering of Christ.
We see a similar example in Saint Francis. Among the many stories told about the joyful saint, one of the most affecting is that concerning his encounter with a leprous man. Young Francis had a particular revulsion for leprosy. Whenever he saw someone suffering from that disease, he would run in the opposite direction. One day, Francis saw a leper approaching, and he sensed the familiar apprehension and disgust. But then he decided, under the inspiration of the Gospel, to embrace the man, to kiss him, and to give him alms. Filled with joy, he made his way up the road. But when he turned around he discovered the man had disappeared. Once again, suffering was the concrete expression of love.
When a mother stays up all night, depriving herself of sleep, in order to care for a sick child, she is following this same example, suffering so that some of his suffering might be alleviated. When a person willingly bears an insult, and refuses to fight back or return insult for insult, he is suffering for the sake of love.
We shouldn’t be surprised when we are called upon to suffer in this world. We have been given the privilege of carrying on Christ’s work in just this way.
We are nine months before Christmas and today’s Gospel is announcing the conception of Jesus through the narrative Luke has so masterfully created. It is the key passage for Mary in the New Testament though each passage is a priceless pearl. In rereading many times this passage you may realize it differs from the Ave Maria prayer dedicated to Mary which we call the Hail Mary. Without losing the importance the passage has for the Christ-centered dimension of the Gospel of Luke, we turn as he did to the person of Mary who is being greeted or hailed by a messenger, the Angel Gabriel. The announcement says, “Rejoice, O highly favored daughter.”
It is a messianic greeting that is found in several of the prophets–Joel, Zacharia, Zephania where the same expression in the Septuagint is the one Luke uses, “Chaire” or Rejoice. The next word is the way the Angel supplies a new name to the person receiving the message which means a new mission or calling in life that will effect God’s people. Even though our liturgical translation from the New American Bible is close to the Greek, there is no word like daughter within the text except through interpreting the feminine ending given to the verbal expression called a perfect passive participle. Mary is called “Kecharitomene” which is literally translated as the one, or You, (Mary) have already been blessed with loving-kindness, that is, with the grace of God in abundance. The verb itself is multivalent and contains the idea of someone who is graced by God, is beautiful, is favored, etc. The verb is causative that is it effects what it says so God is declaring what gifts Mary already possesses. It is only used of a person, Mary, in this passage and nowhere else in the New Testament nor in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible called the Tanakh.
Mary thus is the focus in the first part of the Annunciation which will through her “yes” to the Angel become an effective mission and a vocation within her vocation to be the spouse of Joseph. The Annunciation thus is called by the Church, the Annunciation of the Lord but we see also that it is a vocation story for the person of Mary who will become the mother of the Messiah mentioned in the above prophetic texts starting with the word “Chaire” or Rejoice.
Today we may wish to take some time to meditate on the new name our spiritual mother receives. We may see in that name her mission and vocation that completes her relationship with God as well as her fidelity in marriage to Joseph of the lineage of David–the messianic link for Jesus’ call to be the Messiah and Mary to be the Mother of the Messiah. Finally, since the feast is also centered on Jesus, we may wish to link it to his conception and the great dignity of being conceived for living a life dedicated to the will of God. Life is for living and this Son of Mary will show us how to do that living. We may rejoice in the many surprises of grace that Mary is experiencing in this scene and also in our finding grace for ourselves through the inspired text given to us through Luke a creative and active agent of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit has a vital role in both Mary and in us the readers of Luke. Let us rejoice and be filled with grace on this day when we think about it whether saying, “Hail, Mary, full of grace” or hearing or reading “Rejoice! Highly Favored One. Amen.”
Fr. Bertrand Buby, S. M.
Baking a crown of thorns out of bread is fun and easy. It’s great for serving with dinner on Ash Wednesday or Good Friday.
You do not have to make homemade bread to do this! You can just get the Pillsbury breadsticks or cinnamon rolls.
Bread dough (your favorite recipe or Pillsbury breadsticks from a can)
1. Make your favorite bread dough recipe, separate into 3 equal pieces, and roll into 3 ropes.
2. Braid the dough together, and shape into a circle. Pinch together at the end. Don’t worry- it seriously doesn’t have to be perfect.
3. Beat one egg, and brush across the top of the bread.
4. Bake according to dough directions.
5. Once it’s all baked, stick pretzel stick in the bread all over to be the “thorns”, poking out at different angles. They will easily go into the bread while it is still warm.
This activity is brought to you by catholicicing.com
Prep Time: 15 Minutes
Cook Time: 20 Minutes
Ready In: 1 Hour 35 Minutes
1/4 cup honey
3 tablespoons lime juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound tilapia fillets salt & pepper to taste
1 butternut squash - peeled, seeded & sliced
1 bunch fresh asparagus spears, trimmed & chopped
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese
1. In a large bowl, mix the honey, lime juice, and garlic. Season tilapia with salt and pepper, place in the bowl, and marinate 1 hour in the refrigerator.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a medium baking dish.
3. Arrange the squash and asparagus in the baking dish. Place tilapia on top of vegetables, and season with poultry seasoning. Discard remaining marinade.
4. Bake 20 minutes in the preheated oven, until vegetables are tender and fish is easily flaked. Sprinkle with mozzarella, and continue baking 5 minutes, or until cheese is lightly browned.
Recipe from allrecipes.com
Father Michael Thompson, SJJ, Superior General of the Josephites, talks to us about the importance of commitment throughout your Lenten journey.
The Lord GOD has given me
a well-trained tongue,
that I might know how to speak to the weary
a word that will rouse them.
Morning after morning
he opens my ear that I may hear;
and I have not rebelled,
have not turned back.
I gave my back to those who beat me,
my cheeks to those who plucked my beard;
my face I did not shield
from buffets and spitting.
The Lord GOD is my help,
therefore I am not disgraced;
I have set my face like flint,
knowing that I shall not be put to shame.
That we may grow in our desire to give ourselves over in love to God and God’s people as we pray for and reflect on the grace to let ourselves be loved.
Gracious and compassionate God,
as your Christian people,
we have been signed with the cross of your Son.
Place us once again near the cross of Jesus
to learn the lessons you long to teach.
Continue to re-form us by the life, death, and rising
of the Master who called us “friends.”
Stir in us the memory and power of his life.
May the gospel we cherish
become the sacred gift out of which
we fashion our lives anew.
We pray for wholeness
for ourselves and for our Church.
Do not allow our fears or resistance
to limit the power of your Spirit.
Bring forth in us the new life
that you see bound up
within our ignorance and pride.
Weep with us and over us again
until we unleash the contagion of your love,
and release those bound
by their own fears or others’ greed.
Make us eager to be among your people
as those who serve in love.
Through, with, and in Jesus, we give you thanks,
O lover of us all and giver of our loving. Amen.
In the course of our busy week, we most likely have times set apart for certain things that are important to us—a workout, a few social phone calls, or maybe even a short catnap—so that we can renew ourselves, our energy, and our perspective. Holy Week is a time that is set apart in our Church’s liturgical year for our spiritual renewal. In fact, the word holy refers to anything that is set apart for God’s purposes. Holy Week is holy precisely because it is time that is set apart for us to focus on how we are spiritually renewed through the suffering, death, and Resurrection of Jesus.
The Symbols of Holy Week
The liturgies of Holy Week are filled with some of the richest and most ancient symbols of the Catholic faith. The waving of palms on Passion (Palm) Sunday reminds us that we are called to be followers of Jesus, not just fans who cheer from a distance. The washing of feet on Holy Thursday speaks to us of the selfless love that we are called to practice in imitation of Jesus. The veneration of the cross on Good Friday reminds us that, as Christians, we believe that Jesus can overcome anything, even death. The lighting of the Easter fire in a darkened church and the celebration of baptisms on Holy Saturday speak to us of the new life that is ours because of Jesus’ triumph over the darkness of sin and death through his resurrection.
Make Space to Renew Your Faith
In her book The Holy Way, Paula Huston explains that “a cluttered and overburdened mental space can be one of the biggest obstacles to simple living.” This Holy Week allow yourself time apart, holy time, to spend with Jesus.
O sacred Head, now wounded,
with grief and shame weighed down,
now scornfully surrounded
with thorns, thine only crown:
how pale thou art with anguish,
with sore abuse and scorn!
How does that visage languish
which once was bright as morn!
What thou, my Lord, has suffered
was all for sinners' gain;
mine, mine was the transgression,
but thine the deadly pain.
Lo, here I fall, my Savior!
'Tis I deserve thy place;
look on me with thy favor,
vouchsafe to me thy grace.
What language shall I borrow
to thank thee, dearest friend,
for this thy dying sorrow,
thy pity without end?
O make me thine forever;
and should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never
outlive my love for thee.
Last year, Pope Francis celebrated the Holy Thursday foot-washing ritual at a rehabilitation center in Rome.
As Jesus hung on the cross, he uttered seven last words of great meaning to those who contemplate his passion and death. This online prayer commemorates each of the Seven Last Words in a separate Flash meditation.
The Easter Candle
A baptismal candle symbolizes the light of Christ and the flame of faith. The flame used to light this candle is always taken from the Easter candle, also known as the paschal candle. This very tall Easter candle is blessed and lit from a new fire at the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday when we celebrate the Death and Resurrection of Jesus and welcome new members of the Church through Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist. As it is carried in procession throughout a darkened church, we sing, “Christ our light. Thanks be to God!” The Easter candle remains lit in the sanctuary through the Feast of Pentecost and then is kept next to the baptismal font for the remainder of the liturgical year. It is lit as a resurrection symbol for baptisms and funerals. The candle is usually decorated with a cross, the numerals of the current calendar year, and the Greek letters alpha and omega to signify Christ as “the beginning and the end.” Five grains of incense can also be inserted in the cross to symbolize the five wounds of Christ. At the Easter Vigil, the following lines are sung in the darkness of the church:
“Accept this Easter candle. May it always dispel the darkness of this night!”
(the Exsultet or Easter Proclamation).
Excerpts from the English translation of The Roman Missal © 1973, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. (ICEL). All rights reserved.
A 40 Day
Journey Through Lent