Welcome to The Long Island Catholic’s Lenten Blog. Every day this Lent we will provide a reflection from a different person -– priests, deacons religious, lay men and women — people both young and not as young. Check back every day to be inspired as you make your Lenten journey toward Easter.

Friday, March 22

Today’s reflection comes from Laura Cassell, chief executive officer, Catholic Charities, Diocese of Rockville Centre.

Today’s readings are strong reminders of the constant, uphill battle we face when we attempt holiness.  The prophet Jeremiah laments the perils he, like all the prophets, faces: denunciation, treachery, and the vengeance of the angry crowd.  The Gospel passage opens abruptly with a mob who “picked up rocks to stone Jesus.”  And the more harrowing lines of the Psalm would not be out of place today in some dark, menacing heavy metal song: “. . . breakers of death. . . the destroying floods. . . cords of the nether world. . . the snares of death.”

No light reading.  And it isn’t isolated.  Throughout scripture and Church history we find stories of prophets and people seeking holiness who find hardship, even persecution.  The primary example is Christ himself.

 

As Christians, should we expect anything different?  The message is clear:  first, expect the way to be long and difficult.  Raising our voice for the powerless, we will always run up against the powers of the day.  Serving the poor, we will always find ourselves short of funds, pressed for time, and staring down steep odds.  Proclaiming the true God, we must always–always–challenge a dominant culture that creates false, material gods that can never answer the heart’s longing.

 

But here is the other half of the readings’ message:  hope in the Lord and call upon him!  The first reading ends with Jeremiah praising God, who “has rescued the life of the poor from the power of the wicked!’  The Psalmist cries out, and the Lord hears him.  Jesus (not for the last time) escapes the angry crowd and goes on to make more believers.

 

With these readings, let us embrace our work anew today.  It isn’t God’s will that the way be easy, or that we win every round.  But He does want us to be in the fight, day after day.  In the words of another Psalm (27:14), may we all “take courage; be stouthearted, wait for the Lord!”

 

Thursday, March 21

Today, we offer some words about confession from St. Thomas Aquinas. Have you taken advantage of the sacrament of reconciliation yet this Lent. Next Monday, March 25, 2013 is reconciliation Monday. Confessions will be heard at all parishes in the Archdiocese of New York, the Diocese of Brooklyn and the Diocese of Rockville Centre, 3 – 9 p.m. To find a parish near you, visit i-confess.com

In the life of the body a man is sometimes sick, and unless he takes medicine, he will die. Even so in the spiritual life a man is sick on account of sin. For that reason he needs medicine so that he may be restored to health; and this grace is bestowed in the Sacrament of Penance. —-St. Thomas Aquinas

Wednesday, March 20

Today’s Lenten reflection comes from Nicholas Lande, a junior at Holy Trinity Diocesan High School and a leader in the Cure of Ars Youth Group.

We are always called to be disciples of God, whether we have chosen the path, or the choice has been made for us at baptism. Jesus invites us to be a part of His united family and welcomes those who stray. We are truly described as Jesus’ disciples when we follow his teachings and at the same time display a great amount of humility and faith while doing it.

Although we tend to be slaves to sin, committing sin(s) obviously does not sentence us to forever damnation! Rediscovering the sacrament of reconciliation in our lives will help us develop a stronger relationship with God and purge us of our imperfections so that we can “wipe the slate clean” and start again. In confessing our innermost truth, conversion sets us free and helps us live out our lives as ideal Catholics.

What has to be remembered is that being a part of Christ’s family is eternally permanent.

 

Tuesday, March 19

On the Feast of St. Joseph and day Pope Francis  is installed, our lenten reflection is taken from Pope Francis’ homily yesterday about our role as protectors.

“In the end, everything has been entrusted to our protection, and all of us are responsible for it. Be protectors of God’s gifts!”

“Whenever human beings fail to live up to this responsibility, whenever we fail to care for creation and for our brothers and sisters, the way is opened to destruction and hearts are hardened.”

“How does Joseph respond to his calling to be the protector of Mary, Jesus and the Church?”

“By being constantly attentive to God, open to the signs of God’s presence and receptive to God’s plans, and not simply to his own.

“Joseph is a ‘protector’ because he is able to hear God’s voice and be guided by his will; and for this reason he is all the more sensitive to the persons entrusted to his safekeeping. He can look at things realistically, he is in touch with his surroundings, he can make truly wise decisions.”

Being a protector “is not just something involving us Christians alone; it also has a prior dimension which is simply human, involving everyone.”

“It means protecting all creation, … respecting each of God’s creatures and respecting the environment … it means protecting people, showing loving concern for each and every person, especially children, the elderly, those in need, who are often the last we think about.”

And it also means “caring for one another in our families: husbands and wives first protect one another, and then, as parents, they care for their children, and children themselves, in time, protect their parents. It means building sincere friendships in which we protect one another in trust, respect, and goodness.”

“Being protectors, then, also means keeping watch over our emotions, over our hearts, because they are the seat of good and evil intentions: intentions that build up and tear down!”

“In the Gospels, Saint Joseph appears as a strong and courageous man, a working man, yet in his heart we see great tenderness, which is not the virtue of the weak but rather a sign of strength of spirit and a capacity for concern, for compassion, for genuine openness to others, for love.”

Monday, March 18

In honor of our new pope, a quote from St. Francis of Assisi to reflect on today.

While you are proclaiming peace with your lips, be careful to have it even more fully in your heart.
– Francis of Assisi


Sunday, March 17

Today’s reflection comes from Kimberly Capuder, a junior at Kellenberg Memorial High School and Editor in Chief of The Phoenix Newspaper

Lent is a spiritual journey for Catholics; it is a time to search within oneself to find one’s faults and then humbly ask for the Good Lord’s forgiveness. This journey is not an easy one, as it takes prayer, focus and faith in God to lead us to what we are aiming for. The short term goal is to fulfill a more perfect life on Earth with Jesus Christ, and the long term accomplishment is to live with Him for all eternity in Heaven. During these 40 days, we must remember how God sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to earth to suffer and ultimately die on the Cross for our sins.

I went to confession and received the Sacrament of Reconciliation this week at my school. Taking part in this experience is very meaningful to me, because it cleanses and refreshes my conscience from the transgressions I have committed. Through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we are made whole once again by strengthening our relationship with our loving and forgiving Lord.

JN 8: 1-11
Today’s Gospel exhibits the perpetual mercy of Jesus. Jesus is teaching in the Temple on the Mount of Olives when Scribes and Pharisees approach Him. They have brought Jesus a woman accused of adultery. The Scribes and Pharisees immediately condemn the woman. They tell Jesus that the Law of Moses says that a woman guilty of this crime must be stoned. This was another one of their many “tests” for Jesus. He begins drawing in the sand and eventually tells them this: “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” (JN 8:7). The crowd that has gathered begins to leave, starting with the elders, and the woman is saved. The crowd did not and could not punish her, and neither does Jesus. He absolves the woman and tells her to sin no more.

John’s Gospel teaches us that it is wrong to judge others. Everyone has committed wrong doings, and nobody is free of sin. It is unfair to denounce others for their imperfections before we examine our own offensive consciences first. It is not proper to convict others for the violations they have made against God because we are sinners ourselves! Judgment is left for God alone.

“The Lord opened the understanding of my unbelieving heart, so that I should recall my sins.” –St. Patrick
Today is St. Patrick’s Day, and this quote of his ties in seamlessly with today’s Gospel. Jesus opens our hearts and minds to recognize our sins and repent for them.

Possibly the hardest thing to do (especially for me on my Lenten journey this year) is to forgive others who have harmed or wronged us. No matter how difficult this is, we must learn to forgive in order to develop a deeper sense of love and understanding for our neighbors. Jesus loves us in spite of our imperfections, and in this way liberates our souls. Now it is our turn to carry out His mission by showing compassion and clemency to all, as Jesus has shown to us. Dear Lord, please bless Your children on their Lenten missions this season, and help them find a way to be brought closer to You.

Saturday, March 16

Today’s reflection comes from Mary Dennis, a wife and mother who has been a youth minister for eleven years and is currently the youth minister at Curé of Ars Church in Merrick.

“Who do you say that I am?” That thought has been with me this Lenten season. In today’s reading the crowd questions who Jesus is — is He a Prophet; is He the Christ? Who is this Jesus? For me Jesus is many things. He is my friend, my father, my brother, my spouse but most importantly my Lord and Savior. And it is in my Lord and Savior that I find comfort and rest.

Who is Jesus to you? Is He that best friend who listens to you, supports you, cries with you, and loves you? Or is He like a father to you, teaching you, supporting your dreams, loving you? Or like that brother, who challenged you, supported you, had your back, shared your secrets and loved you? Or is He like a spouse to you walking through life with you, laughing with you, crying with you, supporting your dreams, sharing your inner most thoughts, and loving you? Or is He all those things and more?

For me He is my Lord and Savior, He is all those things I have stated and more. He loves me unconditionally. He gave his life freely for me, and He suffered and died on that cross for me. And for that and for so much more I will be eternally grateful. So I ask you to take time this Lenten season and reflect on, “Who is Jesus to you?”

Friday, March 15

Today’s Reflection comes from Elizabeth Tichvon, a Marian catechist and blogger at http://click-elizabeth.blogspot.com, and a columnist at amazingcatechists.com/

From today’s Responsorial Psalm:

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; and those who are crushed in spirit He saves” (Psalm 34:19).

Imagine a soft breeze lifting a sheet of paper off a dresser top and carrying it unseen through the air, taking it soundlessly through a moment, then gently setting it on a cool, white tile floor beneath a doorway.

What’s on the paper?

I don’t know yet, since it’s been lying there unnoticed as I totter about barefoot, attempting to locate the coffee pot switch in the marginal light being offered by the moon.

I’ve been worn out of late, having moved single handedly to Florida – just me, a U-Haul trailer and our yellow lab, Boomer, while my husband finishes things up in Michigan.

Mornings have been tough to rise in, this my last week before I start a new job. I keep trying to savor these free moments, but then remember they are Lenten moments, meant to be denied as Christ denied 40 days of His before suffering a horrific death for me. Still, selfishly, I wanted to savor mine.

It’s already Thursday and I’ve only managed to get up once this week for my early morning visit to the Adoration Chapel. So last night when I heard a train whistle in the distance, I asked the Mother of God to help me to wake refreshed that I might go to her Son in time to receive what I so desperately need. But again this morning I turn back to my warm bed.

Then I see something on the floor in the middle of the bedroom doorway but can’t make it out. I flip on the light and am surprised to see the print of Our Lady of Guadalupe given to me several years ago by a friend who had visited there. In the disarray of the move, it must have been with some other papers on top of the dresser. Now there she was on the floor lying face up, centered precisely at the entrance to our bedroom as if to block it. “You can’t keep giving if you have no Life in you,” Our Lady spoke to my weary heart.

I bend down and take the picture, amazed at how God keeps speaking despite my disobedience. I look over at my soft pillow on the bed and walk toward it still holding the picture. Suddenly I hear the train again in the distance. I am keenly aware of God’s call and of how selfishly I’m responding to it. Realizing my indolence, I cut through it with the sharpest of swords – my Holy Rosary. I put the picture down, pick up the Rosary and drive to the chapel.

There are a lot of hurting people in the world, but today I am not one of them. At this moment, alone here near the monstrance, I glory in the Real Presence of the Lord and He hears me, giving me peace and joy of soul. Here in the dark, it is so quiet. I can hear the candles flickering. Jesus hangs here silently and beautifully on the Cross, but only as a reminder. For at this moment He is in Heaven. At this moment, He is with me. Elizabeth

“We who believe in Christ’s abiding presence in the Holy Eucharist are to become apostles of the Real Presence to our generation. We are to convince them that the almighty power of Christ to work miracles is available in our day on one premise —- that we come to Him in the Eucharist and confidently beg Him to give us what we so desperately need.

“Where Eucharistic Adoration is practiced and promoted, the results are phenomenal, especially in the graces of conversion. Over the years, I have seen how true this is, especially ever since I was called to Rome to be told that the Holy Father desperately wants Eucharistic Adoration promoted throughout the world. I have spoken to those who have seen the wonders Eucharistic Adoration produces. Bishops tell me they have seen miracles, and I have no doubt. How then are we to motivate people to come to Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament and adore Him present in our midst? The strongest motivation will be our own experience in knowing what the Real Presence has done in our own lives.” – Father John Anthony Hardon

Thursday, March 14

Today’s reflections comes from Msgr. Richard Henning, director of the Sacred Heart Institute, Huntington.

In the ancient world, people imagined that the “gods” thought and behaved like men – at least the worst that men had to offer. They imagined that the gods were selfish and petty, that they used people for capricious purposes, and that they could be manipulated through self interest or appeals to their vanity. In that world, religion ritual focused preventing the worst divine behavior and on means of extracting benefits from a chosen patronal god.

The God of Israel never presented Himself in such terms. Indeed God does present in interpersonal terms, but not as a God who pursues selfish and capricious ends. Rather God is faithful and just, declares creation “good,” and demonstrates love for the people. This God ever pursues the good of the people rather than vanity or self interest. When the people stray, as they do in the reading today from Exodus, the problem is that they do harm to themselves. And notice how Moses speaks so frankly to God – he is presumptive, but only because God has chosen him and this people for a special relationship.

In the Gospel of John, this personal nature of the relationship between God and man comes to its ultimate fulfillment. Jesus speaks in today’s passage (as He does often in John) of the intimacy of the relationship that He enjoys with the Father. If ancient Jews might have wondered whether to trust the unique nature of their faith, the Christ event proves for all time the utter unselfishness of God. God’s only desire is an out flowing, generous love that embraces the Son, and through Him, a new and expanded family of God.

As we continue our Lenten discipline, we might wish to recall that we may never imagine that our actions will manipulate God to our own ends. God is not interested in our bribes or compliments, only that we live in grace and truth. Our actions are in fact for our own sake, that we be renewed in our capacity to hear the Word of God and act in accord with it. Our actions are one side of a deeply personal and intimate relationship with the Father through Jesus Who continue to teach us that the Only True God is love!

 Wednesday, March 13

Today’s post comes from Pat Gohn, a writer, speaker, and host of the “Among Women” podcast. Her new book, Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious: Celebrating the Gift of Catholic Womanhood will be released March 25th from Ave Maria Press. Find out more at www.patgohn.net.

That we may be amazed…

We are well past the midpoint of Lent… For some of us the rigors of the season seem to wear thin by now. We fast, we pray, we give. We wait to see what the Lord is making of all of this, making of us. By now we are often tempted to grouse about the discipline of it all. While the rhythms and sacrifices of Lent are a holy kind of waiting, the fullness of Easter graces can still seem a bit far off.Yet a strange new vigor has arisen in these days: the faithful raise fervent prayers for the selection of a new pope being elevated to the Chair of Peter.

Today’s readings speak of the Lord’s consoling nearness…

“Thus says the LORD:

In a time of favor I answer you,

on the day of salvation I help you…” (Is 49:8)

Waiting on the Lord’s timing and his mercy are so great a part of the Christian life. And Lent is not so much about tending to our will, but to his; not so muchabout our timing, but his. We see this so clearly this Lent — characterized by the prayers and sacrifices on behalf of the conclave.

May we anticipate the goodness of the One who sees and knows the one who will be chosen as pope.

The Lord is gracious… merciful… slow to anger… kind… just…good… compassionate…faithful… holy… and near to all who call on him. (Psalm 145)

And may our new pontiff be a loyal and holy son of the Church –  a Good Shepherdwho always acts like Jesus — in union with the amazing will and timing of the Father.

 For the Father loves the Son

and shows him everything that he himself does,

and he will show him greater works than these,

so that you may be amazed. (John 5: 20.)

 Tuesday, March 12

Today’s reflection comes from Mary Ellen Barrett of Our Lady of Perpetual Help parish, Lindenhurst, a columnist for The Long Island Catholic. You can visit her blog, Tales from the Bonny Blue House, here.

Do you want to be well?

In today’s Gospel we find Jesus in Jerusalem for a feast day and he is visiting a pool where the sick gather to bathe and heal.  Jesus approaches a man, knowing that the man had been sick for many years.

“Do you want to be well?” asks Jesus.

The man thought Jesus was offering to help and begins to explain his predicament in not being able to get into the pool. His very infirmity was getting in the way of his being in the healing water, much the way sin gets in the way of the healing graces of our baptism. Jesus offers, not as the man expects, to help him into the pool, but complete healing. Jesus commands the man to take up his mat and walk away.

Why this man? This man had been waiting and returning to this pool for thirty-eight years, overcoming whatever obstacles he encountered, the unkindness of others and the physical pain. Finding year after year that the pool did not heal him but returning anyway.  Jesus knew all of these things and knowing the perseverance of the man He healed him. Yet this, we are told, is the beginning of the persecution of Christ because this healing took place on the Sabbath. St. Ambrose wrote that Jesus performed miracles on the Sabbath because during the creation of the world it is the day God rested and Jesus came to pick up where God left off, to renovate the earth by conquering the sin.

Jesus came to re-create the earth, God sent His son to renovate our souls and bring us closer to the created beings we were meant to be.  Use these last weeks of Lent to ask God to heal you, renovate your soul and then take up your mat and walk toward Him.

 

Saturday, March 9


Today’s reflection is a penitential prayer from St. Ambrose of Milan (AD 339-397)

O Lord, who hast mercy upon all,
take away from me my sins,
and mercifully kindle in me
the fire of thy Holy Spirit.
Take away from me the heart of stone,
and give me a heart of flesh,
a heart to love and adore Thee,
a heart to delight in Thee,
to follow and enjoy Thee, for Christ’s sake, Amen


Friday, March 8

Today’s Lenten reflection is from Barbara McNulty, director of youth ministry at St. Joseph Church, Babylon

MK 12:28-34
Love – a simple, four letter word. In the context of today’s Gospel: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart…” and “you shall love your neighbor as yourself” the concept of Love is a beautiful thing and something we all aspire to have and also to give. What a wondrous gift Jesus has given us by laying out the commandments so simply for us!

In today’s world though, love is not so simple. The word “love” is tossed about and used so irreverently in so many avenues that its beauty has gotten obscured. Love is often equated with physical pleasure. The idea of loving someone so fully and completely as to be willing to sacrifice all that you have for them is unknown to many, and the influence of the popular media today has desensitized us to the beauty and truth of espousal love and the gift of self. Today’s Gospel provides us with the tools we need to overcome society’s culture of death which is obscuring the beauty of true love.

Blessed John Paul II put this eloquently when he said: “The truth and power of love are shown in the ability to place oneself between the forces of good and evil which are fighting in man and around him, because love is confident in the victory of good and is ready to do everything so that good may conquer.” (TOB 6/27/84)

The commands of our Lord are few and simple: “Love God with all your soul, your mind, your strength and love others as yourself.” Trusting God and abandoning ourselves to His will are not easy tasks in our busy lives, but tasks worthy of the challenge. For the love of Jesus “is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices” Let us pray that we experience true love on our Lenten journey.


Thursday, March 7

Today’s reflection is from Maria Petkanas, a parishioner of Saint Brigid’s Parish in Westbury. Maria contributes to the daily family blog at the parish website http://www.saintbrigid.net/blog/belonging

Praying, alms giving and fasting are what Catholics usually practice during Lent.This year at the start of lent, I’ve decided to make prayer an important part of my busy day. I’m calling this time, “my quiet time with Jesus” — loud noises and distractions are not allowed!

As we saw Jesus going into the desert for 40 days before starting his mission, I felt invited to join Him on His journey in prayer. I have always imagined the desert as an unwelcoming place, not quite the most attractive environment to go to. However, this time, the image of the desert made me identify the need for a quiet time with Jesus, the opportunity to free my mind and soul of all worries and everything else that prevents me from recognizing His voice. During this time of Lenten prayer, I’m even more certain that He is next to me.

I hope and pray to our Heavenly Father that at the end of this Lenten Season we can see new life and receive the blessings of His love through the death and resurrection of Jesus our Lord.


Wednesday, March 6

Today’s reflection comes from Kathleen DeGennaro, a student at Kellenberg Memorial High School. Juniors and seniors from the school’s CROSS are providing daily Lenten reflections on the school’s website. You can read them all here.

Matthew 5: 17-19
In the Gospel reading for today, Jesus tells his disciples that He hasn’t come to discard religious laws that pertained to the Jews at that time, nor has He come to tell the people that what the prophets have said in the past is untrue. Instead, Jesus reassures them, saying that until all of the prophesies have been fulfilled, like He has come to do, no parts of the faith law will change. Jesus knows that, in the time to come, his disciples will be persecuted. They will have to hold steadfast to what Jesus has taught them, despite the threats and suffering that they will have to endure. But He promises them that He will reward them, and they will be greatly rewarded in the Kingdom of God.
By this passage, Jesus is also telling us something that could apply today; until His second coming, nothing is going to be perfect. Things will be challenging, and others may encourage us to sin or ignore the commandments. Not everyone is going to accept or welcome Jesus into their lives, and these people might try to convince us of the same. However, Jesus promises us that as long as we fight the temptation, and encourage His commandments instead of discouraging them, that we will be rewarded when we go to Heaven. We may endure much suffering and hardship, but He promises that we will be rewarded.


Tuesday, March 5

Today’s reflections comes from Marianne Sheridan, coordinator of youth, campus ministry and young adults for the Diocese of Rockville Centre

“Have patience with me and I will repay you back in full …. Moved with compassion, the master of that servant let him go and forgave him.”

I remember when I first read this Gospel, my immediate reaction was “Well that slave definitely didn’t deserve forgiveness”. ” Really? How could he beg for forgiveness and then not give it to another. Then upon reflection, I came to the realization that I AM THAT SLAVE. Like so many of us, we can definitely identify with the slave in this story. I, for one, have certainly had many times in my life that I have called upon the compassion and patience of others to forgive me ~ after all don’t I deserve it?
Yet, as Christians we know that forgiveness isn’t really about deserving it because, whether we deserve it or not, God always loves us and forgives us – no questions asked! So then, why do we feel we deserve to be forgiven and yet we can’t forgive others? Could it be our pride? Our own sense of entitlement? What is it?

I have always been a fan of C.S. Lewis and have thought back to his statement on pride ~ “Pride is a ‘deadly disease’, a ‘spiritual cancer,’ that devours love and contentment.” Wow – can our pride really do that? Absolutely! Our pride can destroy who we are really meant to be – who God calls us to be – it can prevent us from seeking forgiveness and from forgiving another. In essence, this pride will slowly destroy the humble spirit God wants to see in all of his people and in their relationships. I never realized how powerful pride was and how damaging it could be.

Therefore, we cannot forgive another until we put our pride aside. So, put your pride aside and remember that we are not justifying why a person acted the way they did nor are we asked to forget about what was done. Don’t allow pride to hold you back from forgiveness; rather, let your pride go and open your heart to forgiveness. Remember, we forgive because God says so – and even more importantly, because God forgives us – even though we don’t deserve it. Allow forgiveness to give you a pure heart again! You deserve it!

Our challenge is to love those who are unlovable and to forgive those who are unforgivable. Yet, part of being a true Christian is giving others what God has already given us. How much mercy do you need? How much forgiveness do you need?  That is how much you must forgive.

Remember, God isn’t impressed with how many books we’ve read about forgiveness; rather, he is impressed
when we practice forgiveness. When we understand the true meaning of forgiveness, we will recognize the
need for forgiveness in every life and every relationship.

“When you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive you your sins too (Mark 11:25)

Monday, March 4

Today’s reflection comes from Msgr. Jim McNamara, pastor of Church of the Holy Cross, Nesconset

In today’s Gospel Jesus speaks about how a prophet is not acceptable in his native place. While the people were impressed with His teaching, they began to remember Him from His childhood. They knew His parents and His relatives. They saw Him work as a carpenter. This familiarity with Jesus blocked their ability to appreciate Him. They had already placed Him in a box whose boundaries were already set. Jesus was limited to what they already knew about Him.

The goal of Lent is to draw closer to Jesus and to appreciate Him more as the Son of God, as the most beautiful person who ever walked the face of the earth. This goal should guide us in everything we do during Lent, whether we give something up or do something positive. Thus the focus of Lent is not on us or our self-improvement. The focus of Lent is on Jesus Christ and everything He says and does out of love for us.

We might take this a step further and recognize that everything that Christ says and does is said and done out of love for me personally. Even if I were the only person who ever lived, Jesus would still die on the Cross for me. Sitting before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament with this realization and allowing it to penetrate our heart and soul would be a very valuable Lenten practice.

Like the people in the Gospel, we must be careful that we do not limit Christ. Our familiarity with Him over the years can limit our ability to appreciate Him. Actually the same is true of ability to appreciate one another. We can box others in by our previous experience of them or we can fail to be open to the fact that someone may change and grow.

Lent is an opportunity to draw closer to Christ and appreciate Him even more. As this third week of Lent begins, let us spend time with Jesus, the most beautiful person who ever walked the face of the earth.

Sunday, March 3


Today’s reflection comes from Maria Cantasano, coordinator youth and young adult ministry, Church of Notre Dame, New Hyde Park

Today, Jesus teaches about suffering and sin. We’ve all heard the expression that people “get what they deserve.” But is it true? Though the Galileans in the Gospel were murdered, they were not greater sinners than those that were not murdered. Likewise, the people that died when the tower at Siloam fell were no greater sinners than the others. Jesus says, “BY NO MEANS!” We can all think of the innocent that suffer and die, some children and some incapable of sin. So what are we to understand about suffering and sin?

The gospel shows that bad things happen to us. According to Jesus, the suffering endured by people should not be viewed as a punishment for sin, a radical view at the time. However, repentance of sin, humility in view of our often sinful inclinations is necessary to soften the heart. Without repentance and softening, we lean away from God, not toward. We move toward selfishness and self importance and this leads at last to the suffering of alienation from God and other people. And so we can see that in this way, yes, suffering follows sin.

If we believe Jesus, then God is love and God is patient. The fig tree gets another year to live and produce fruit. The gardener will lovingly prune and encourage it to produce from the careful tending it receives. If it will not, it is set apart – cut down. Each year, we get another Lent, so that we may examine our consciences and actions. We see where we can be loving; set aside selfishness. Jesus’ desire is that we be with him and not cut off. He is the gardener of your heart. Take the pruning, and live!

Saturday, March 2

Today’s reflection comes from Suzanne Richards, Director of Parish Faith Formation, Christ the King Parish, Commack.

The Prodigal Son, we’ve all heard this story before. There are three main characters, the father, the young son and the older son. The young son requests his inheritance, leaves home, spends all his money, and returns home. The father is delighted when his young son returns and throws a feast for him. The older son is resentful, for he has been loyal by remaining home.

The ultimate theme is forgiveness. We are reminded that God’s love is always with us, for those who have remained faithful and for those who may have faltered along the way. It is a story that we can relate to, whether we are the one who is asking for forgiveness or receiving it.

But, how many of us feel like the older son? A bit resentful that the young son spent his inheritance, is lavished with fine clothes and receives a feast? I suspect the older son is quietly saying, “this isn’t fair.” It sounds similar to those who wondered why their power wasn’t restored sooner after Super Storm Sandy.

But, just like the older son was reminded, so too we must remember the blessings we do have. The father reminds the older son, that everything was available to him. Perhaps, we needed to remember that their there are people in other parts of the world with no electricity, no running water, and no smartphones. Perhaps, we needed to remember that we have what we need – family, friends, and our faith; we just may not have had what we wanted.

Friday, March 1

Today’s reflection is taken from the 1997 Lenten Letter of Pope John Paul II. The entire letter is available here.

The season of Lent recalls the forty years spent by Israel in the desert while on its way to the promised land. During that time the people experienced what it meant to live in tents, without a fixed abode, totally lacking security. How often they were tempted to return to Egypt, where at least there was a supply of bread even though it was the food of slaves. In the insecurity of the desert God himself provided water and food for his people, protecting them from every danger. For the Hebrews the experience of being totally dependent on God thus became the path to freedom from slavery and the idolatry of material things.

The Lenten season is meant to help believers, through a commitment to personal purification, to relive this same spiritual journey, by becoming more aware of poverty and of life’s uncertainties and by rediscovering the providential presence of the Lord who invites us to open our eyes to the needs of our brothers and sisters in need. In this way Lent also becomes a season of solidarity with individuals and peoples in so many parts of the world who find themselves in very difficult situations.

Dear Brothers and Sisters! Let us fearlessly go up with Christ to Jerusalem (cf. Lk 18:31) and accept his invitation to conversion, so that we may cling more fervently to God, the holy and merciful One, especially during the Lenten season of grace. I pray that this Lent will enable all to hear the Lord’s plea to open their hearts to all those in need.

Thursday, February 28

Today’s reflection comes from Peggy Clores, the co-coordinator of Our Lady of Mercy’s Adult Education/RCIA Program and a columnist for Amazing Catechists.

Even one moment prior to Pope Benedict’s stunning announcement, not a single one of us was prepared for it. In one extraordinary instant, as only our God can do, He got our universal attention and took our collective breath away. What a snapshot He must have had as millions upon millions dropped their jaw and ran to each other in confusion or amazement. And run to each other we did as we hyper-focused our attention on Rome and Heaven. I am in awe, for our God has given us yet a new opportunity to take in the distinct Catholic reality that underscores our universality and our oneness.

In this glorious sacred drama, God has permitted His children a few weeks to go off in our different directions and absorb and process and trust.  Yet, I am quite sure that, on this last day of Pope Benedict’s Pontificate, we are once again united in heart and in wonder.  We’ve never known anything like it in our lifetime; for this divine pause does not follow death but a decision — a decision that called many of us to raise the bar and deepen our understanding of this particular operative action of the Holy Spirit. I am in awe, for what could underscore more spectacularly the Apostolic reality of the Rock than these weeks of relative unsteadiness; from the stunning announcement to the Holy Spirit’s next commissioning.

As I wait and I pray, I am reminded of our family’s last day on our first and only pilgrimage to Rome. On that final night in February 2001, we broke away from the tour group, grabbed our youngest of three sons and took off for one last moment in Vatican Square.  Yet when we jumped out of the cab, we discovered that the security guards were putting up the barricades and we were too late to linger. Looking up at the warm yellow light pouring out of John Paul II’s bedroom window, I was reduced to tears — for I was in awe. I pleaded with the guard for five minutes as we were to depart early morning and may never have this moment again.  He took pity on me and the minutes were granted.

On my knees, I took in the absolutely glorious sight of the Vatican as I listened to Andrea Bocelli’s “The Prayer”. And it became too much.  Awe turned rapidly to grief.  My heart was breaking in a way it never had before because I couldn’t bear to leave Her or to leave our Holy Father.  In the depths of my inconsolable heart, the transcendent reality that this indeed is our home was made manifest.  I was in awe and had gotten a glimpse of Heaven.

My seven-year-old son wanted to understand why I was so upset. I had been so consumed that I lost sight of the fact that little eyes were watching.  Still on my knees, I took him by the shoulders and turned him back around to face this magnificent, magical night view that anchor’s the Bride of Christ.  Through heaving sobs, I said these words to young Paul.

“Mommy is crying because the world doesn’t understand that this is the most beautiful place on earth. This is our home. For the rest of your life, many will try to take this treasure away from you.  No matter what happens, never forget tonight and how beautiful She is and never ever let anyone take this from your heart. They don’t know and they don’t understand. I want you to always remember this night.”

When I looked at his face, with the lights from Vatican City shining in his eyes, he was in awe.

And at age 19, Paul still remains in awe, for he understands that She was divinely given to us and is Holy, not because of our humanity, but because of the Christ; and nothing has ever take that treasure from him.

So, on this last day of Pope Benedict’s Pontificate, may we cloak our Holy Father in prayers of loving gratitude and, as we await the next Peter, may each and every one of us remain in awe of our One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.  As today’s reading from Jeremiah says “Blessed is he who trusts in the Lord.”  Amen.

 

Wednesday, February 27

Today’s reflection is from Mary Anne Russo, associate director: Ministry with Persons with Special Needs, diocesan Office of Faith Formation

You are my God.  In your hands is my destiny.

 I have, for as long as I can remember, read the Scriptures through the eyes of a person who has a disability.   I am one of those by the side of the road, rejected by a “perfect” society, who is touched by Jesus.  I am healed by His presence, His words.  I do not seek, as the mother of the sons of Zebedee did, for a place at the right or left of Jesus in the Kingdom of His Father.  I simply seek a place at the table for myself, and for others like me, who are not, in the eyes of the world, perfect.

As a result of the eyes through which I read Scripture, my ministry with persons with special needs has evolved.  Along the way to this ministry, my husband and I adopted three children who have Down Syndrome, one of whom uses a wheelchair for mobility.  We do not see them as “disabled”.  We see them as our children, now adults, created in God’s image, blessed with a gift of innocence, unharmed by a society which considers itself “perfect” and them, not.  (How I wish I could correct the vision of the flawed society which rejects them!)

My faith life, my ministry, comes from the eyes which God has given me.  Perhaps today you might look at the eyes God has blessed you with.  Though they may be very different from mine, I believe they will lead you to the One Who is your destiny-and show you how to serve Him!

Tuesday, February 26

Bishop David L. Ricken of Green Bay, Wisconsin, chairman of the Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), offers “10 Things to Remember for Lent”:  

  1. Remember the formula. The Church does a good job capturing certain truths with easy-to-remember lists and formulas: 10 Commandments, 7 sacraments, 3 persons in the Trinity. For Lent, the Church gives us almost a slogan—Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving—as the three things we need to work on during the season.
  2. It’s a time of prayer. Lent is essentially an act of prayer spread out over 40 days. As we pray, we go on a journey, one that hopefully brings us closer to Christ and leaves us changed by the encounter with him.
  3. It’s a time to fast. With the fasts of Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, meatless Fridays, and our personal disciplines interspersed, Lent is the only time many Catholics these days actually fast. And maybe that’s why it gets all the attention. “What are you giving up for Lent? Hotdogs? Beer? Jelly beans?” It’s almost a game for some of us, but fasting is actually a form of penance, which helps us turn away from sin and toward Christ.
  4. It’s a time to work on discipline. The 40 days of Lent are also a good, set time to work on personal discipline in general. Instead of giving something up, it can be doing something positive. “I’m going to exercise more. I’m going to pray more. I’m going to be nicer to my family, friends and coworkers.”
  5. It’s about dying to yourself. The more serious side of Lenten discipline is that it’s about more than self-control – it’s about finding aspects of yourself that are less than Christ-like and letting them die. The suffering and death of Christ are foremost on our minds during Lent, and we join in these mysteries by suffering, dying with Christ and being resurrected in a purified form.
  6. Don’t do too much. It’s tempting to make Lent some ambitious period of personal reinvention, but it’s best to keep it simple and focused. There’s a reason the Church works on these mysteries year after year. We spend our entire lives growing closer to God. Don’t try to cram it all in one Lent. That’s a recipe for failure.
  7. Lent reminds us of our weakness. Of course, even when we set simple goals for ourselves during Lent, we still have trouble keeping them. When we fast, we realize we’re all just one meal away from hunger. In both cases, Lent shows us our weakness. This can be painful, but recognizing how helpless we are makes us seek God’s help with renewed urgency and sincerity.
  8. Be patient with yourself. When we’re confronted with our own weakness during Lent, the temptation is to get angry and frustrated. “What a bad person I am!” But that’s the wrong lesson. God is calling us to be patient and to see ourselves as he does, with unconditional love.
  9. Reach out in charity. As we experience weakness and suffering during Lent, we should be renewed in our compassion for those who are hungry, suffering or otherwise in need. The third part of the Lenten formula is almsgiving. It’s about more than throwing a few extra dollars in the collection plate; it’s about reaching out to others and helping them without question as a way of sharing the experience of God’s unconditional love.
  10. Learn to love like Christ. Giving of ourselves in the midst of our suffering and self-denial brings us closer to loving like Christ, who suffered and poured himself out unconditionally on the cross for all of us. Lent is a journey through the desert to the foot of the cross on Good Friday, as we seek him out, ask his help, join in his suffering, and learn to love like him.

 

Monday, February 25

Today’s lenten reflection comes from Marian Zahra, the director of youth ministry at St. John Nepomucene parish, Bohemia

Lent is an especially challenging time for many young people.  This season is asking us to consider placing Jesus more in the center of our life than ever before. The words come easily but the actions that make this happen are much harder. It is much harder to BELIEVE Jesus rather than simply believe IN Jesus. The difference lies in the moments when we are hurt or angry and find it hard to resist the temptation to react with judgment or hostility.

We are living in a world that most of the time is loudly saying to us that it is ok to be selfish, it is ok to do this for ME because I deserve it -– while our faith and our journey to BELIEVE Jesus when He says He is the way and the truth and the life is what we are trying to live. It’s kind of like trying to eat healthy when all you see around you are fast food places and desserts. I gave this much thought and read today’s Gospel asking for guidance.
Jesus said to his disciples: “ Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven.”
Today, can I make a judgement about an important value without being judgmental to others? I can do that. I can BELIEVE Jesus when He says I am forgiven, and this will motivate me to judge no one. When I do this, I am being merciful to the people that God has put in my life and I make a difference in God’s world today. Pray for mercy and compassion.

Sunday, February 24

Today’s reflection comes from Deacon Andrew Ciccaroni of St. Joseph parish, Garden City.  Deacon Andy shares daily reflections on his blog  Deacon’s Speakin’  and his Facebook page Deacon’s Speakin’

The little girl was at the church for the baptism of her new baby brother. She was intrigued by all the sites of the church but most especially with the ‘big bowl’ filled with water. Her mother told her that this water would be blessed making it holy water like the water at the doors of the church.  “That was the special water that we used to make the cross on ourselves when we entered,” the mother continued. The little girl ran to the holy water, made the sign of the cross, ran back to her mother and asked, “Can you see the cross on me?”

Ash Wednesday has come and gone. The black soot that marked our foreheads as followers of Christ has been washed away.That day, as we walked the streets of the city, shopped in stores, worked at our jobs, there was no denying what we believe in. There was no question about whether we are followers of the way. Everyone who saw us knew who we were and what we believe. But what about tomorrow? What about the other 364 days of the year? With the cross of ashes washed from our foreheads, will others be able to see the cross that was placed there forever at our baptism? It can not be seen with the eye, but it can be seen with the heart. Will others feel our love, compassion, understanding, support and understand that it comes to them from Jesus through us? We sing that others will know we are Christians by our love, but will they? Do people who see us in stores, and on trains, and walking the streets see Jesus? Will they know who we are and what we believe even if they don’t know our names?

We pray  that every day we learn to live our lives so that all will see Jesus in us. All will know our faith. All will see our mark of God’s love. Lent is our chance to restructure our lives so that we can become windows to Christ. So that others can look at us and come to know the resurrected Savior who has given us a life beyond our comprehension. Not one day, but every day.

Saturday, February 23

Today’s reflection is an excerpt from Pope Benedict XVI’s 2013 Lenten Message. You can read the entire message at Vatican.va

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The celebration of Lent, in the context of the Year of Faith, offers us a valuable opportunity to meditate on the relationship between faith and charity: between believing in God – the God of Jesus Christ – and love, which is the fruit of the Holy Spirit and which guides us on the path of devotion to God and others.

In my first Encyclical, I offered some thoughts on the close relationship between the theological virtues of faith and charity. Setting out from Saint John’s fundamental assertion: “We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us” (1 Jn 4:16), I observed that “being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction … Since God has first loved us (cf. 1 Jn 4:10), love is now no longer a mere ‘command’; it is the response to the gift of love with which God draws near to us” (Deus Caritas Est, 1).

Faith is this personal adherence – which involves all our faculties – to the revelation of God’s gratuitous and “passionate” love for us, fully revealed in Jesus Christ. The encounter with God who is Love engages not only the heart but also the intellect: “Acknowledgement of the living God is one path towards love, and the ‘yes’ of our will to his will unites our intellect, will and sentiments in the all-embracing act of love. But this process is always open-ended; love is never ‘finished’ and complete” Hence, for all Christians, and especially for “charity workers”, there is a need for faith, for “that encounter with God in Christ which awakens their love and opens their spirits to others. As a result, love of neighbour will no longer be for them a commandment imposed, so to speak, from without, but a consequence deriving from their faith, a faith which becomes active through love.” Christians are people who have been conquered by Christ’s love and accordingly, under the influence of that love – “Caritas Christi urget nos” (2 Cor 5:14) – they are profoundly open to loving their neighbour in concrete ways. This attitude arises primarily from the consciousness of being loved, forgiven, and even served by the Lord, who bends down to wash the feet of the Apostles and offers himself on the Cross to draw humanity into God’s love.

The entire Christian life is a response to God’s love. The first response is precisely faith as the acceptance, filled with wonder and gratitude, of the unprecedented divine initiative that precedes us and summons us. And the “yes” of faith marks the beginning of a radiant story of friendship with the Lord, which fills and gives full meaning to our whole life. But it is not enough for God that we simply accept his gratuitous love. Not only does he love us, but he wants to draw us to himself, to transform us in such a profound way as to bring us to say with Saint Paul: “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (cf. Gal 2:20).

When we make room for the love of God, then we become like him, sharing in his own charity. If we open ourselves to his love, we allow him to live in us and to bring us to love with him, in him and like him; only then does our faith become truly “active through love” (Gal 5:6); only then does he abide in us (cf. 1 Jn 4:12).

Faith is knowing the truth and adhering to it (cf. 1 Tim 2:4); charity is “walking” in the truth (cf. Eph 4:15). Through faith we enter into friendship with the Lord, through charity this friendship is lived and cultivated (cf. Jn 15:14ff). Faith causes us to embrace the commandment of our Lord and Master; charity gives us the happiness of putting it into practice (cf. Jn 13:13-17). In faith we are begotten as children of God (cf. Jn 1:12ff); charity causes us to persevere concretely in our divine sonship, bearing the fruit of the Holy Spirit (cf. Gal 5:22). Faith enables us to recognize the gifts that the good and generous God has entrusted to us; charity makes them fruitful (cf. Mt 25:14-30).

Dear brothers and sisters, in this season of Lent, as we prepare to celebrate the event of the Cross and Resurrection – in which the love of God redeemed the world and shone its light upon history – I express my wish that all of you may spend this precious time rekindling your faith in Jesus Christ, so as to enter with him into the dynamic of love for the Father and for every brother and sister that we encounter in our lives. For this intention, I raise my prayer to God, and I invoke the Lord’s blessing upon each individual and upon every community!

BENEDICTUS PP. XVI

 

Friday, February 22

Today’s Lenten reflection is taken from a letter written by Blessed Mother Teresa to her Sisters and coworkers in Lent, 1996

Lent is a time of preparation for Easter. But Easter comes only after the pain, suffering and death of Holy Thursday and Good Friday. That is exactly like our life. We look forward to rising with Jesus, but each one of us must go through pain, sorrow, suffering, sickness and death. Because of the promise of the Resurrection, we do not have to be afraid. We can accept all suffering as a gift of God. We may shed a few tears, but inside we will be at peace and have a deep sense of joy.

Thursday, February 21

Today’s reflection comes from Father John Sureau, associate pastor at Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Lindenhurst.

Before entering the seminary, I had the privilege and honor of working as a social worker in high school and hospital settings. It was tremendously challenging work that required, for me, the development of many skills and characteristics (many of which are still developing).

I think what amazed me most in my work then, and in the opportunities I presently have for counseling and social work, is the courage it takes for those in need to come forward.  I think of what it must take for another person to schedule an appointment and actually show up, to actually admit there is a need for clarity, for help, for support.  How hard that is for you and me.

Is it much different for you and me in the spiritual life?   The readings today both reveal a need for us to call out, to get the Lord’s attention, if you will.  Esther cries out, “Now help me, who am alone and have no one but you, O LORD, my God” (Est C:12, 14-16, 23-25). Jesus says it pretty clearly, “For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened” (Matthew 7:8).

For part of one day a week, I am able to work with young men struggling with the cross of addiction in a group home here on Long Island.  While my role, I suppose, is to support and guide, I find that most days I leave humbled and challenged to improve my own relationship with the Lord and the way I live my life.  For these young men, perhaps with a little push, have come forward and admitted, like Esther, they have no one else but their higher power at work in their lives.  And they work hard – through prayer, meditation, group meetings and more – to maintain that necessary and essential relationship. One they call on time and time again.

So are you knocking loud enough? Are you bringing to the Lord the real struggles and crosses you are carrying in these days? Or are you at the point in your Lenten journey where you’ve sort of become tepid or less enthused about prayer?  The readings today give us clear example of what we are to do.  So get knocking and bring your needs to the Lord confident you will find the Lord and your prayers will be answered.

 

 

Wednesday, February 20

Today’s blog post comes from Sister Mary Alice Piil, CSJ, Director of Faith Formation for the Diocese of Rockville Centre.

“There is something greater than Solomon here.” “There is something greater than Jonah here.” These words are uttered by Christ in today’s Gospel. Every age faces that challenge of looking for the sign. Every one of us can certainly point to that time and place where we too looked for the sign. Yet, we already have the sign. Right here in our midst.
Jesus is the sign!
Pope Benedict in the eight years of his papacy challenged us to deepen our relationship with Jesus. He gave us some tools to do this particularly in his three encyclicals and three books on the gospels. His great love for Christ and His Body, the Church, is so evident in all the writings. That love was so evident in his decision to resign his ministry as pope.
As I find myself caught up in the excitement surrounding the events of his departure and the preparation for the conclave, I am struck by a profound sense of belonging! The humble act of resignation on the part of Pope Benedict underscores that fact that we are all first and foremost the Body of Christ here on earth. We all belong and use our gifts to build up the Body. The gifts change as we move through life’s stages. The one constant – our daily delving deeper into my personal union with Christ.
Lent this year offers the opportunity to meditate on my belonging to the Church. Pope Benedict has made it very clear. “There is something greater” than what any one of us might be. If I am not first of all living the mystery of God’s gracious gift to me as seen in the presence of Christ among us, then nothing else that I do or am matters.
These next weeks are exciting ones for us as Catholics. As we get caught up in the events leading up to the election of our new pope let’s pray that the Spirit is with us but particularly with the Cardinals as they discern the future as they elect our next pope!

Tuesday, February 19

Today’s reflection comes from Brenda Pistani, Missionary Childhood Association, Diocese of Rockville Centre.

The Gospel for today has Christ teaching his disciples what we now know and revere as “The Lord’s Prayer.” He instructs them to pray, “Thy Kingdom come…on earth as it is in Heaven.” But aside from prayer, how can we bring about God’s Kingdom on earth?

The famous and well-loved missionary, Blessed Mother Teresa, once said to her biographer, Malcolm Muggeridge, “Let us do something beautiful for God.” She created beauty by making of her life a gift offered back to the One who first gave her life. Each day she made small gestures of love to her sisters and those she served, making a sacrifice of her pains, discomfort, ego, and exhaustion to honor her Savior. By these offerings, seemingly insignificant at times, she labored and brought forth the Kingdom of God in the slums of Calcutta.

What of us? This Lent, can we, too, be bearers of the Kingdom? Let us begin by praying before we even step out of bed in the morning. Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to make us conscious of all of our actions and how we can infuse them with a loving spirit. Can we make coffee for a tired co-worker, compliment someone who annoys us, smile at a stranger, or give up our right to be right? Can we turn off a questionable program, refuse to bad-mouth an acquaintance, skip that latté we really, really want? Like the widow’s mites in Scripture, God will surely treasure these tiny gifts, using them as the building blocks for His Kingdom here on earth…Amen!

Monday, February 18

Today’s post comes from  Lisa Mladinich, author of  “Be an Amazing Catechist: Inspire the Faith of Children” and  founder of AmazingCatechists.com

 “Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy.” (Lev 19:2)

My teenage daughter told me something, today, that should have been funny. But it really disturbed me. It’s about a fad where young people are having the words, “Made in China” tattooed on the back of their necks.

I get the joke. Practically everything these days is made in China. But it made me angry just the same. I wondered: has our society grown so empty-headed that our children now find it amusing to indelibly mark themselves as cheap, mass-produced goods?

In the first reading, today, God commands us to, “Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy.” We are His, and on our hearts, our minds, and bodies are His fingerprints; His marks of love and grace and fatherhood–His manufacturer’s stamp.

We are made, to be sure; but in His image and likeness. And because we belong to Him we can do the things that He did, if we have faith enough.

My website, AmazingCatechists.com is founded on the principal that we can do amazing things if we walk with our hand in God’s, because He is holy; and we reflect the beauty and uniqueness of our Creator.We are not cheap, mass-produced goods, but His beloved children; holy and precious in His sight.

 

Sunday, Feb. 17

Today’s reflection comes from Mary Iapalucci, LICatholic website manager and parishioner at St. Jude’s, Mastic Beach

Today’s Gospel tells of the temptation of Christ when He spent 40 days in the desert in preparation for His public ministry. It’s a familiar story, with many quotes that are well known, although usually used out of context, especially “one does not live by bread alone.”

In the past, it struck me how strong Jesus was, and how He had the right comeback for each thing the devil threw at Him. I think however, I may have attributed his strength to His Divine nature and never really thought it was something of which a mere human like me would be capable. (Knowing how unsuccessful I am at dieting, never mind fasting, I’d be very tempted to turn the stones into bread.)  But that kind of thinking is wrong because it dismisses Jesus’ Human nature.

When I stopped to think further about this Gospel, recognizing that Jesus was fully man and fully God, it made his faithfulness even more amazing and at the same time more possible for all of us to attain. The first line of the Gospel describes Jesus as “filled with the Holy Spirit,” when He entered the desert. Well, aren’t we all filled with the Holy Spirit, too?  Jesus stood up to Satan even when he was tired and hungry, because He was open to the work and strength of the Spirit.  He knew Scripture and He knew the Father’s love and was able to stand firm because of that knowledge and faith.

We are capable of that too. God sent us His Holy Spirit. Through the sacraments, we are strengthened in the Spirit and if we truly believe what we say we believe, than we are strong enough to resist anything the devil throws at us too. The problem is we forget how much power God has given us by loving us and revealing Himself to us. We doubt we are really as strong as we are. We are afraid that we are not good enough and the devil loves those moments of doubt.

Fortunately, we have Lent to remind us to step away from our weaknesses and embrace the strength that comes from the Greatest Source.  And when we doubt ourselves, we can have confidence that God will always respond when we pray today’s Psalm : Be with me, Lord, when I am in trouble.”

Saturday, February16, 2012

Today’s guest blogger is Christian LeBlanc, a 6th-grade catechist at St. Mary’s Parish in Greenville, South Carolina. Check out his blog Smaller Manhattans http://platytera.blogspot.com/ and his book on Bible-based catechesis at https://www.createspace.com/3835986.

About 40 years ago I was watching Firing Line, William F. Buckley’s TV show. He was interviewing Malcolm Muggeridge, who at some point said, “you know, every important thing I’ve learned I learned by suffering,” or words to that effect. I was about 15 years old, and thought that was a dumb thing to say. Old British twit. I had learned plenty and was not a sufferer by any means. But it was such an intriguing concept that I retained it, even though I didn’t understand it….which makes a good motto: remember now, understand later.

Anyway, I was raised on TV. Not that I watched some insane amount of it, but it was a normal part of life. But after having kids of my own I began to worry that the quantity & quality of cable fare was more problematic than the programming content of my childhood, both for me and the kids. Not that I did anything about it.

Then about 15 years ago, our pastor suggested we parishioners consider giving up TV for Lent. I’d considered it before….and passed. But that year while driving home, my Fabulous Wife and I decided we’d try it, cold turkey. The kids were maybe 4 or 5 years old; they were not consulted.

The next day, Monday, I returned the converter box. At the cable company, the rep asked me what was wrong with the cable box? Nothing, we’re just giving up TV for Lent. A couple of people thought that was incredible, asked about the thinking behind it. I explained, but also said we hadn’t actually missed any TV yet, and weren’t sure we could do without it.

Monday was awful. So was Tuesday. But by Sunday, we were adjusting. Within 2 weeks, we were acclimated. Easter Sunday rolled around, and we and the kids decided to just leave the TV off indefinitely.

Now, years later, life is good. We watch DVDs late in the evening, which is controllable and requires effort. The house is quiet, a refuge. Family dinner conversation often extends beyond the meal. The kids turned out just fine. Now young adults, they are surprisingly unmaterialistic.

And the credit goes to the Church, whose institutional memory knows the value of sacrifice, and suffering (not that this was all that painful, but that’s part of the point, like giving blood: actually donating it is easier than anticipating donating it). And of course, we learned from this experience, although at the start all we expected was to suffer, not to learn; certainly not to learn we could be happier by giving up something that we liked. And in the bigger picture I learned to pay closer attention to what the Church teaches, even if (especially if) it’s something I don’t much want to do.

Smart Church…she knew this would happen.

Muggeridge, too. Smart Brit twit.

 

Friday, Feb. 15

Today’s reflection comes from Linda Curro, pastoral associate at St. Pius X , Plainview

Today is the first Friday in lent, a time of quiet reflection and personal housecleaning.  We are repentant, we turn from sin and try to remove the obstacles which cause us to stumble and keep us from God.  Sometimes, no easy task.

It’s also a time of fast and abstinence. We do this in order to let go of worldly sustenance so we can rely more on Jesus to give us what we truly need to feel alive.

Unlike Advent, when we anticipate Christ’s coming with great joy, and wait for Jesus to come to us, to be born into our hearts,  during Lent we seek Christ.  We look for Christ in ourselves and in others because that is where he is.  We look for Him in solitude, in our parish community and in our personal desolation and sorrow because that is where he is.

At my parish, St. Pius X in Plainview, I find Christ every Friday evening at Stations of the Cross.  There, in my beautiful church, I walk with Him and experience His passion.  My heart still breaks when I meet Mary at the fourth Station and I wonder if I would be as brave as Veronica, at the sixth station, when she wipes His face so tenderly.

At His feet, I listen to His words of forgiveness.  And when our Lord and Savior dies on the cross.. I feel crushed.

This is where I find Jesus.  He is with me at the end of the evening during the Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament and it is then when I feel His arms around me.

Of course Jesus is with us always in all things but for me, during the season of Lent, I find him, most profoundly, during the Stations of the Cross.

 

Thursday, Feb. 14

By Father Ralph Sommer, pastor of St. Brigid, Westbury

There were no Stop n’ Shops in the middle ages.  No electricity, no refrigeration – except for the ice and snow of the winter months.  It makes you wonder how people had enough food to live on.   Forget fresh fruits and vegetables.  There would have been root vegetables  (potatoes, carrots, beets) and grains, and cabbage keeps pretty well all winter.  To preserve food, they would have used salt, smoke and pickling.  And if you had enough hay to feed livestock,  you could keep them through the winter and butcher them when needed.  Most families had live chickens as a source for eggs and meat.  But once the food was eaten (or spoiled, or eaten by mice, rats, or other vermin) there was no more food.   No more food.  No Waldbaum’s.  No Pathmark.

So what did people do?  They died.  Starved to death.  Or, in a malnourished condition, they succumbed to disease.

What saved whole communities was the Lenten practice of fasting.  If I “gave up” eating as much food as I’d like,  if I  abstained from killing an animal for meat,  I would be able to stretch out the food supply for another month ’til spring arrived and there’d be new crops, new lambs, etc.  And if, by cutting back on what I ate, I could share the little I had with others in my family and neighborhood,  they could survive the winter too.

Fasting requires a choice to be unselfish,  to deny something in  myself in order to do good for others.  And in a society where death came quickly to so many,  the temptation would be to look out only for one’s self.  It was survival of the fittest.  But when parishes started introducing Lent as a time of fasting,  they were giving spiritual encouragement to people to be less selfish – and the by-product of “giving up” in Lent was that lives were saved.  Indeed whole neighborhoods were saved from starving to death because they all made a faith-commitment to fast and to share.

Today fasting is not as essential to the survival of our families.  It’s actually a luxury because it’s a choice we have.  Too much of the world (including those who live in America) doesn’t have the luxury of “giving” up food.  They just go hungry many days of the year.  But for many of us Fasting has become a way in which we can say to God, “Look at how good I can be for forty days! See,  I’m really loveable.”

Fasting becomes like a proof of our self-control.  And when we succeed in giving up the smoking or the calories or the swears, we beam inwardly and imagine God smiling on us a little more broadly this year.  When we fail,  we kick ourselves for our failures, and throw this year’s broken resolution on the heap of our past failures.

So we need to be reminded this Lent: God doesn’t love us any more or less if we succeed or fail at fasting.  God loves us with an unconditional love.  God smiles at our very existence and on the days that we fall down God,  like any loving parent watching a child fall when trying to walk, speaks one word to us…..”UP!”

“Ashes, ashes we all fall down,”  so goes the song.  And every time we fall down, God says “UP!” – and reaches out a hand and pulls us to our feet to try again.  So let’s get over this idea of our being  failures when we break our fastings.  Let’s get up and get on with fasting.  It’s meant to be an unselfish choice that is life giving.  So whether we’re fasting from fear or from food, from sarcasm or sweets,  let’s rediscover the life-giving reasons we engage in fasting in the first place.

ASH WEDNESDAY, February 13

Our first reflection is an excerpt from “What He Did for Love,” a companion book for Lent written by Msgr. Francis X. Gaeta, retired pastor of SS. Cyril and Methodius, Deer Park.

The first four days of Lent set the theme for the entire holy season. We begin with the ancient and somewhat puzzling ritual of the imposition of the blessed ashes on our foreheads on Ash Wednesday. The Church is telling us something we are not happy to hear: we shall all die – we are mortal. Our bodies will decay and turn to dust.
The Church is asking us in this ritual if we are ready to go home. Are we?
Lent is the time to get ready to “pack our bags” as Pope John referred to it. We have to go beyond the popular hype of today that loves to speculate about the End Times. Put simply, the Christian is called to live each day as if it were his/her last, and never fear death. We must be ready to meet our Jesus tonight if He calls us home.
The time of Lent is meant to convert us to a deeper love of Jesus. In Lent our catechumens and candidates prepare for Baptism and reception into the Church. The rest of us prepare for the renewal of our Baptismal Promises at Easter.
The Church traditionally suggests three ways to achieve this transformation: prayer, fasting and works of love.
Works of mercy and love are always the fruit of holiness. We have to grow in love for one another as we grow in love for the Lord. Lent is meant to deepen the bonds of family and friendship so that we are truly His Body touching the world with compassion and gentle mercy. Lent is a time for love to express itself in reconciliations.
There are six weeks of Lent. How about writing the numbers one to six on a piece of paper and next to each number write the name of someone you’ve hurt or neglected. Call one of those people each week – renew love and friendship – get together with that person to celebrate the Eucharist of love and friendship. What a blessing that would be for the Church!
Jesus calls us into the desert this Lent. He invites us to renew the covenant of love. He whispers in our ears words of love, hoping that we will fall in love again and renew the marriage covenant of our Baptism by loving Him with all our hearts. For the Israelites, the desert reminds them of the “honeymoon” with God when they had no cities, no armies, no temple – just Yahweh. And so again this Lent, Yahweh lures us into the desert of our hearts where He will speak tender words of love to us. It’s time to heed His call and follow Him into the desert and to allow Him to love us.

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