Prayer of the day

Grant, we pray, O Lord, that, schooled through Lenten observance and nourished by your word, through holy restraint we may be devoted to you with all our heart and be ever united in prayer. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Prayer of the day

Grant that your faithful, O Lord, we pray, may be so conformed to the paschal observances, and the bodily discipline now solemnly begun may bear fruit in the souls of all. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Lent is a time of penance and conversion

Coming closer to God means being ready to be converted anew, to change direction again, to listen attentively to his inspirations – those holy desires he places in our souls – and to put them into practice. – St Josemaria, The Forge, 32

We are at the beginning of Lent: a time of penance, purification and conversion. It is not an easy program, but then Christianity is not an easy way of life. It is not enough just to be in the Church, letting the years roll by. In our life, in the life of Christians, our first conversion — that unique moment which each of us remembers, when we clearly understood everything the Lord was asking of us — is certainly very significant. But the later conversions are even more important, and they are increasingly demanding. To facilitate the work of grace in these conversions, we need to keep our soul young; we have to call upon our Lord, know how to listen to him and, having found out what has gone wrong, know how to ask his pardon.

“If you call upon me, I will listen to you,” we read in this Sunday’s liturgy. Isn’t it wonderful how God cares for us and is always ready to listen to us — waiting for man to speak? He hears us at all times, but particularly now. Our heart is ready and we have made up our minds to purify ourselves. He hears us and will not disregard the petition of a “humble and contrite heart.”

– St Josemaria, Christ is Passing, 57

Things to do on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of Holy Week

  • Pray the Stations of the Cross. Those are not only reserved for Fridays.
  • Housecleaning. It is traditional to do housecleaning during the first part of Holy Week. In one part, it is a symbol of our Lenten’s renewal. In second part, it is to prepare our houses for the celebration of Easter and also the blessing of the houses by the priest on Holy Saturday. Note that the cleaning should be nearly finished by Wednesday of Holy Week and the remainder of the Holy Week should be semi-holidays. Spring cleaning isn’t only a secular activity, even for the Jews it was customary to clean the house in preparation of Pasch.
  • Eat more simple meals. To sacrifice dessert or a more expensive cut of meat will help the family members become more aware of the austerity of this week. Meals don’t have to be less nutritious or filling.
  • Pray more. Include more prayers in your daily life.
  • Attend mass daily. Try to attend, if possible, mass daily for Holy Week.

Meditation on today’s liturgy

"The well-stocked kitchen, with Jesus in the house of Martha and Mary in the background" by Joachim Beuckelaer
“The well-stocked kitchen, with Jesus in the house of Martha and Mary in the background” by Joachim Beuckelaer

Gospel Reading: Jn 12:1-11

Meditation

Today the liturgy presents two noteworthy characters who play dissimilar roles in the Lord’s passion. One fills us with solace and comfort; the other with uneasiness and wholesome fear. Their juxtaposition produces a powerful effect by way of contrast. The two characters are Mary of Bethany and Judas.

Jesus is in the house of Lazarus, at dinner. Mary approaches, anoints the feet of her Savior for His burial and dries them with her hair. Judas resents her action and resolves upon his evil course. These two persons typify man’s relation to Christ. He gives His Body to two types of individuals: to Magdalenes to be anointed, to Judases to be kissed; to good persons who repay Him with love and service, to foes who crucify Him. How movingly this is expressed in the Lesson: “I gave My body to those who beat Me, and My cheeks to those who plucked them. I did not turn away My face from those who cursed and spit upon Me.”

The same must hold true of His mystical Body. Down through the ages Christ is enduring an endless round of suffering, giving His body to other Marys for anointing and to other Judases to be kissed, beaten, and mistreated. Augustine explains how we can anoint Christ’s body:

Anoint Jesus’ feet by a life pleasing to God. Follow in His footsteps; if you have an abundance, give it to the poor. In this way you can wipe the feet of the Lord.

The poor are, as it were, the feet of the mystical Christ. By aiding them we can comfort our Lord in His mystical life, where He receives Judas’ kisses on all sides-the sins of Christians.

The Gospel account may be understood in a very personal way. In everyone’s heart, in my own too, there dwell two souls: a Judas-soul and a Mary-soul. The former is the cause of Jesus’ suffering, it is always ready to apostatize, always ready to give the traitor’s kiss. Are you full master over this Judas-soul within you? Your Magdalen-soul is a source of comfort to Christ in His sufferings. May the holy season of Lent, which with God’s help we are about to bring to a successful conclusion, bring victory over the Judas-soul and strengthen the Magdalen-soul within our breasts.

– Excerpt from Pius Parsch, The Church’s Year of Grace

Reflection for Palm Sunday

Today is Palm Sunday, the day we hear the Passion of Jesus. But this day is about much more than simply reading or hearing the Passion. This is the beginning of the time when we walk with Jesus in his sorrow, his fears and his suffering. So often when we come to Jesus, it’s all about us. Today, we accompany our friend and try to witness with him and support him in his last days and hours.

This is the time we have compassion for Jesus. We may hesitate and feel unworthy. How can we have compassion for Jesus?

We have compassion for the God who became man and suffered with us and for us. The root of the word compassion means to “suffer with.” That is what Jesus has done for us by becoming human – and that is what we do for Jesus this week.

Today we have two Gospels – the first is read at the back of church as the palms are being blessed. The second Gospel is the story of the Passion. We are invited part to read the Passion at a deeper level. We don’t just hear it uncomfortably and squirm with the stories of pain and torture. We are invited to enter into it with our hearts and imaginations.

We will walk this journey with Jesus, our friend, the one we love so much. We enter into the story as the Passover supper is prepared and Jesus predicts, “One of you will betray me.”

Along with the disciples, we immediatly forget our role of accompanying Jesus and we focus on ourselves. We become “distressed” and tell each other and him, “Not I, Lord.” He offers his body, his blood, his life to us. We leave dinner in a confused haze of singing, as we walk with Jesus to the Garden.

It is there that he takes us aside, his closest friends. He asks us to “Sit here while I pray.” He tells us of his agony, saying his soul is sorrowful, even unto death. He begs us to remain with him. But it’s so very hard to stay with suffering. We all see, read and experience suffering in our lives or the lives of others. The pain of others is rarely a place we want to be and our most human instinct might be to flee from it.

Too often, in that fleeing, I return to focusing on myself, my own flaws and sins. They are familiar to me and I am more comfortable with my own sins and suffering than I am the pain of others.

The core of our own entry into the Passion is not about us but about the vulnerability we open ourselves to when we wnter into the suffering of others. We might be painfully aware of our own shortcomings, no matter how much we ignore them. We know of our own impatience, our anger, and our lack of compassion for our spouse or children. As we look around us in the world, it might seem too barbaric and painful to watch or read new stories about the suffering of our brothers and sisters around the world. Too often, when we can do nothing to alleviate their pain, we simply focus on our own. We duck our heads into alcohol, drugs, anger, righteousness and being judgmental of others.

Yet, the more deeply I can be with Jesus in his suffering, watching his humiliation, being beaten, spit upon, whipped and mocked, the more I can feel the depth of his love for me. He suffers with me in all of my pain and he asks me to enter into the suffering of others.

If the suffering of others only annoys me, I can’t enter into it. If i can’t have com-passion and suffer with those around me who are in pain – my family, my community, my world – then I can’t really feel the love Jesus had for me when he died for me.

Next Saturday night at the Easter Vigil, Mary Magdalene is told by the young man at the tomb, “Go and tell the disciples and Peter.” Spread the word of Jesus and his love. Remain vulnerable to those who are in pain. Be a witness for Jesus in this world.

Most of all, we are invited to feel how deeply we are loved by Jesus – loved so much that he died for us.

– Maureen McCann Waldron, Creighton’s University’s Collaborative Ministry Office

Daily suggestion for Lent

Read a portion of Scripture every day.

There are many ways to read the Scriptures every day even without opening a Bible, in a daily missal, online, on a smartphone app such as Laudate or New Missal, but the best way is still to listen to the readings at Mass. However, hearing Scripture on Sunday is not enough, not by a long shot.

Scripture is “food for the soul” (Dei Verbum, 21). Who eats just once a week? To survive and strive, you need daily nourishment. You can have a steady diet of Scripture by attending Mass daily, participating in the Liturgy of the Hours, or reading Scripture in daily prayer. Actually, all three make an unbeatable combination.

The writers of Sacred Scripture were inspired by the Holy Spirit. But it is equally true that the Scriptures themselves are inspired. The Holy Spirit has been “breathed into them” and resides within their words. When we approach the Scriptures prayerfully, aided by the same Spirit who dwells in them, reading Scripture becomes an experience filled and empowered by God’s Spirit, and we are changed.

However, it is hard to know where to begin to read the Bible, or to know how to fil it all together, how to interpret correctly some rather obscure passages, words and names. There are great Catholic Bible studies found in books, on audios and videos, and on the Internet which can help us, busy people, to learn a lot without a huge time commitment.

Sometimes the words of Scripture are encouraging. For instance, St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 12 tells us that no matter how insignificant we may feel, we each have an essential role to play as members of the body of Christ. But other times Scripture holds a mirror up to our face and we don’t like what we see. In Nehemiah 8, the people wept at the reading of the Word, because it made them realize their sin. The Word is truth, and sometim the truth is painful. But so is antiseptic on a wound. Scripture challenges us only to heal us and call us to growth. No pain, no gain.

Taken from 40 Days, 40 Ways: A New Look at Lent by Marcellino D’Ambrosio