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Daily Reflections for Lent

Dr. Barrett Turner
Professor of Theology

I Believe In Emptiness

“We do not know where they have put Him!” John 20:2

The Gospel reading for Easter morning is bizarre and supernatural. Someone not paying attention could think the passage was about faith in the risen Lord. After all, St. John, “the other disciple” with St. Peter, “saw and believed” (v. 8). Surely, John believed that Jesus had risen from the dead.

This interpretation makes little sense. First, as St. Augustine observes (Io. ev. tr. 120), the final verse of the passage states that Peter and John “did not know the scripture, that He must rise from the dead” (v. 9). Second, if John believed in the resurrection of Jesus, why did he not share his understanding with St. Mary Magdalene, who “stood weeping outside the tomb” (v. 10). In truth, what John believed was the word of Mary that Jesus’ body was no longer in the tomb. He believed in emptiness.

It is easy to forget this final blow to those who loved Jesus that “they” (the enemies of Jesus in v. 2) had triumphed over Him even so as to take control of His corpse. Yet the empty tomb was their final preparation for believing in Jesus’ bodily triumph over sin, death, and the powers of this world.

Immediately Jesus approaches Mary Magdalene and tells her to announce His bodily life to the disciples (vv. 14-18). Soon after, He appears to Peter, John, and the other disciples, commanding them to announce the same resurrection to the world (cf. Acts 10:34). From belief in the final darkness of Easter morning comes belief in the truth of His immortal life!
Risen Lord, though final defeat may seem to loom over us, may our belief in the emptiness of our efforts be the final preparation for the entrance of Your glory into this world. Amen.
Acts 10:34a;37-43 Ps 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23 Col 3:1-4 or Cor 5:6b-8 Jn 20:1-9
Dr. John Love
Seminary Professor

Where Is God When I Am Waiting?

“Lord, send out Your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.” Psalm 104:30

Holy Saturday is a time of waiting between the tragic moment of Christ’s Crucifixion and death on Good Friday, and his earth-shattering Resurrection on Easter. It was the time when Jesus lay in the tomb, when He descended to Sheol – the Jewish place of waiting. I am often waiting for this or that. Frequently I am “in between” important moments, when there seems to be “nothing” happening at all. These times can feel dark, lonely, and empty. All of the Scripture readings today are from the beginning of Genesis, Abraham’s offering his son Isaac, to the women coming to Jesus tomb in Luke 24. All show the Biblical characters in a darkness, waiting on the Lord. As the Scriptures unfold they tell us that in our darknesses, when we feel forgotten and on our own, the truth is that God is with us. He is at work, His Spirit hovering, bringing new life out of nothing, out of obedience, out of death and darkness and abandonment. Even death cannot separate us from the love of God in Christ, because Jesus meets us there. He meets us in our darkest, loneliest, most forgotten hours. He walks with us. He pours out His life, His Spirit. He renews the face of the earth. He does all things well. He made the heavens and the earth and everything in it. He has plans for our welfare and not for our woe. Even in our trials He incorporates into His plan for our salvation, our happiness, and our sharing in His perfect glory. Holy Saturday shows us that He does not arrange our affairs from a far distance but He will stay with us, through everything, even through death, while He transfigures us through His inconceivable, faithful love.
Lord, from the beginning of time You have always been and will always be, “Emmanuel-God with us.” Help us to trust You, to turn to You, and to receive from You all that you want to lavish on us, You who are never outdone in generosity.
Your Spirit within us teaches us to cry out to You, “Abba,” “Daddy.” By your Spirit, let us love You and all Your children as we hope for heaven and all the joys You have in store for us. Amen.

Gen 1: 1-2:2 Ps 104:1-2, 5-6, 10-, 12, 13-14, 24, 35 Gen 22:1-18 Lk 24: 1-12
Seminarian Coady Owens
Sem. Class of 2017

Ah Holy Jesus – How Hast Thou Offended?

“Oppressed and condemned, he was taken away, and who would have thought any more of his destiny” Isaiah 53:8

“We must shake off a two-thousand-year-old simplification of Christ as ‘our dear Savior’ prototype of patience and love, long enough to realize how incomplete this representation, how little known He really is.” This is the exhortation of Romano Guardini, the great teacher of Benedict XVI. Indeed, this may be the great struggle of our age. Never should the events of Christ’s passion be passively acknowledged, for how could we presume to comprehend what occurred on that day? Movies have been made; reflections have been written; medical reports detailing the physiological breakdown caused by crucifixion have been published – but these are only SparkNotes. Christ is more than a movie or reflection. He is more than a medical report: He is a life genuinely lived in all its genuine complexity.

Again Guardini, “It has been claimed that others have died worse deaths than Jesus Christ. This is not true. The purer, stronger the life that death overcomes, the more terrible the dying. Our life is always so corrupted by death, that we have no idea what a real, whole life is. Jesus was so entirely vital that He could say: I am life.” And it is with
precisely this perspective that we should approach Christ’s real, whole, genuinely lived life – not in presumption and passive acknowledgement, but open to wonder at an active encounter. Here is reality that surpasses drama. The noblest life – life itself – is willingly and brutally dispatched. “Oppressed and condemned, He was taken away, and who would have thought any more of His destiny?” But, is that the end?

Jesus help us to encounter Your passion anew, to feel the weight and the magnitude it bears, to wonder at Your crucifixion. Allow us to have a share in Your death so
as to have a share in Your life. Amen.

Is 52: 13-53:12 Ps 31: 2, 6, 12-13, 15-16, 17, 25 Heb 4:14-16,5: 7-9 Jn 18: 1-19:42
Dawn Walsh
St. Bernadette’s Store Manager
Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes

Entering Into The Covenant

“Then they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat them.” Exodus 12:7
Today, while we read of and commemorate the passing of the Angel of Death over the Israelites, we realize all that is foreshadowed in the Old Testament is fulfilled in the New Testament. In addition, what is fulfilled in the New Testament is found in our own lives, because we are the mystical body of Christ. Think of the doorposts as our memory and will, and the lintel as our intellect. These are the faculties, which God has given us to know Him, but they need to be purified with the blood of the Lamb. God promised us that when He sees the blood of His Son on our doorposts and lintel, His judgment will Passover us. We have two ways to “mark the two doorposts and the lintel of our house,” Confession and Communion. When we confess our sins with childlike faith, our souls are washed in the blood of the Lamb cleansing our intellect, memory, and will. Then cleansed from our sins, we receive the Eucharist worthily, and the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ is mingled with our own. We are completely renewed in our person and in our relationship to God and to others. Truly we have put on the new man, Christ Jesus and have entered into a new covenant with God.

This is illustrated in 1 Cor. 11:25 “This chalice is the new covenant in my blood.” In first Corinthians St. Paul tells us we are invited into the new covenant with our Heavenly Father, through the blood of the Lamb, Christ Jesus. Jesus’ Blood is mingled with our own when we receive Him in the Holy Eucharist. Mystery of God! Even the angels do not have this privilege. May God give us the grace to enter into this covenant with humility of heart and generosity of soul.
Dear Lord, in this Year of Mercy, as we recall the paschal mystery, purify our memory, strengthen our wills and inflame our hearts through the precious blood of
Your Son, Our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Ex 12:1-8, 11-14 Ps 116:12-13, 15-16bc, 17-18 1 Cor 11:23-26 Jn 13:1-15
Veronica Halbur
FOCUS Missionary

Will You Love Him?

“Then one of the Twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, ‘What are you willing to give me if I hand Him over to you?’ They paid him thirty pieces of silver, and from that time on he looked for an opportunity to hand Him over.” Matthew 26:14-16

The gospel today shows the betrayal of Jesus by Judas. For what? Silver coins and the lust for money and things of this world over the love of Jesus' authentic friendship. Jesus invites each of us into this intimate friendship as well as discipleship with Him. Judas chose the lust of this world over Jesus' friendship. Likewise, we must face many temptations, which can keep us from this friendship Jesus offers us. So often we choose other things above Christ. Instead of loving Him we betray Him. Commit yourself today to loving Jesus. Our actions can both explicitly and implicitly show our gratitude or lack of gratitude for the God who gave us life. Next time you consider skipping Sunday Mass, choose to love Jesus instead of betraying Him. Next time all your friends invite you to get wasted at that party, choose to love Christ instead of betraying Him. I'm sure that you can think of hundreds of more examples of opportunities to love Christ. Desire to love Him; after all, He loved you first. He loves you so faithfully that He stretched out His arms and died for you. Let Him love you and love Him in return.

Holy Spirit, give us the grace and strength to lay down our life for Christ just as He did for us. To love Him instead of betraying Him. To take up our own crosses each day with joy. Amen.

Is 50:4-9a Ps 69:8-10, 21-22, 31, 33-34 Mt 26:14-25
Veronica Messier
Class of 2017

Humble Surrender To Grace

“Will you lay down your life for Me?” John 13:38

In this verse, Jesus challenges Peter’s brash offer at self-sacrifice. Picture Christ looking at Peter after his bold declaration and saying, “Oh really?” Peter is eager to please his Master. Peter wants to follow Jesus wherever He may go. He wants to earn Christ’s privileged position as “the one whom Jesus loved” (Jn 13:23). These are all good things. But Peter, the strongest man out of all of Jesus’ apostles, the one to whom He gives the authority over His Church, is not strong enough to lay his life down for Christ. Jesus deflates his ego when He informs Peter that “the cock will not crow before you deny me three times” (Jn 13:38). If this is Christ’s response to Peter’s ambitions, can you imagine how ours may come up short? This should be a wake-up call for each one of us. None of us have the strength to lay down our lives for Jesus of our own accord. None of us can earn the dignity bestowed upon us from the very Love He gives us. We must realize that all things we do are done by the grace of God. Without Him, we are nothing, but we are everything to Him. Let us lay down our lives by recalling the dignity with which He has created us and by surrendering our ambitious egos to the grace of His will. Christ wants us to be on fire for Him, but we must recognize our need to be lit by His flame at all times in order to spread Light to the World.
Christ, teach us humility in answering Your call. May we recognize that our worth lies in You alone and that we can do no good ourselves apart from Your Grace. Make us strong enough to allow You to hold us. Amen.

Is 49:1-6 Ps 71:1-2, 3-4a, 5ab-6ab, 15 and 17 Jn 13:21-33, 36-38
Dr. Josey Chacko
Professor of Business, Accounting & Economics
The Fragrance Of Life

“Then Mary took a twelve-ounce jar of expensive perfume made from essence of nard, and she anointed Jesus’ feet with it, wiping His feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance.” John 12:3

It had been about forty days since my first day at the Mount, maybe a little more, and I had decided that I would climb up the ‘mount.’ I yearned to see the storied beauty of Western Maryland at the peak of its golden red tint. Overwhelmed with the work of the day, I instead chose the concrete landscape of a mostly windowless building; missing the opportunity to be influenced by beauty in the present moment. In today’s reading Mary, emboldened by her devotion to Jesus, saw with surprising clarity what most of the disciples overlooked. Mary’s perception was on the present, her time with Jesus, past the supernatural resurrection of her brother and beyond the looming ultimate sacrifice. Mary valued her time with Jesus far more than wealth could ever afford. Is Jesus calling on you today to be intentionally present with Him?
Caring Father, embolden us today to fill the Mount with the fragrance of your life in us. Let us stop making excuses and get on living this ‘nard perfume’ of a life. Amen.

Is 42:1-7 Ps 27:1, 2, 3, 13-14 Jn 12:1-11
Rev. Fr. John Trigilio, Jr., PhD, ThD
Seminary Professor

The City Of Kings

“That at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth.” Philippians 2:10

Palm Sunday is a day of irony. Jesus enters Jerusalem, the city of Kings and where the Temple of the Lord had been built. He is greeted with triumphant cheers just as King David and King Solomon were received after a major victory in battle. “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord” (Luke 19:38), shouts the crowd as they throw palm branches beneath His feet. Yet, in less than week, on Good Friday, the same multitude that heralded Him as King will now turn and say, “crucify Him” and “we have no King but Caesar.”

Like palm leaves that soon dry out, the faith of the populace quickly fades and they act like a fair weather, fickle friend. When Jesus fed 5,000 with the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, the people wanted to carry Him off and make Him king. He was like the genie in the bottle; like the goose that laid the golden egg.

Christ’s Kingdom was not of this world, however. It is a Kingdom of love and peace; of light and truth. He wears not a crown of gold, but a crown of thorns. He sits not on throne bedecked with jewels, rather he is nailed to the wooden throne of the Cross.

St. Paul says every knee must bend at the name of Jesus. One kneels before another as an act of submission. Lucifer refused to kneel before the dominion of the Savior and he and his horde were cast into hell. Adam and Eve refused to submit to the rule of Divine Will and they were thrown out of Paradise. Jesus, however, fought the cosmic war of good vs. evil when He conquered Satan by surrendering His own life for our souls. If we kneel before the Lord and pledge our obedience, respect and our undying love, He will reign in our hearts and be the Savior and Redeemer we desperately need. He asks we take up our cross and follow Him daily. If we listen and do what He says, we will follow Him to Calvary to die, but also follow Him out of the tomb to eternal life.
Come Lord Jesus and rule in our hearts and our homes that we may serve You faithfully by following Your command to love God and love our neighbor at all times and in all ways. Amen.

Lk 19:28-40, and Is 50:4-7 Ps 22:8-9, 17-18, 19-20, 23-24 Phil 2:6-11
Lk 22:14—23:56
Phil Breckler
FOCUS Missionary

Called To Deeper Faith

“…Do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name Him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.” Matthew 1:20-21

Joseph, how confused you must have been when the angel of the Lord delivered this message to you. Though you did not fully comprehend the significance of the message you put your faith and trust in the Lord and obeyed His command. This was the same faith held by your ancestor David as he made an eternal covenant with the God of Abraham. Because of this faith, God promised David that one of his descendants would sit upon the throne of kingship for all time. How little did David and Joseph understand God’s designs? Despite their lack of understanding, they offered their lives up to Him with such incredible faith. How many times during each day of our lives do we not understand God’s designs for us? Yet He is always there watching over us as our loving Father guiding us home to Him. In the same way that David and Joseph prepared the world for the coming of Jesus, we must prepare to welcome Christ into our own hearts as we await His resurrection at Easter. We must share in that same faith of trusting in God even when His plans are too big for us to understand. Through faith will come joy, peace, and salvation. It is through faith that we shall see Christ.

Dear St. Joseph, help us to have a heart of faith; to not be afraid of whatever challenges lie before us. Instead, help us to fix our eyes on the resurrected Jesus, the eternal King who conquers all sin and death. Amen.

2 Sam 7:4-5a, 12-14a, 16 Ps 89: 2-3, 4-5, 27 and 29 Rom 4;13, 16-18, 22
Mt 1:16, 18-21, 24a
Kari Pelzel
FOCUS Missionary
Do You Really Believe?

“I have shown you many good works from my Father. For which of these are you trying to stone Me?” John 10:32

“The LORD is with me, like a mighty champion” Jeramiah 20:11

The Jewish authorities were troubled by Jesus’ claim to be the Son of God and accused Him of blaspheming against God. What they couldn’t see was that Jesus was an answer to their prayers sent from God Himself. They perceived that Jesus was acting apart from God, but He is God. We might want to scold the Jewish authorities for their disbelief in Jesus, but how many times have you yourself doubted in God’s goodness, not trusted in God’s plans for your life, and not seen how God was answering your prayers? I know many times I have failed to understand what God was doing with my life, and failed to trust Him. Sometimes it was hard to believe that God cared about my life and I doubted His goodness. It actually seemed “ok” to not trust Him even though I still “believed” in Him. But if I wasn’t trusting Him, was I actually believing in Him? No, I wasn’t trusting or believing in His love and goodness, and wasn’t believing in His words when He said, “For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope”(Jer 29:11). I acted similarly to the Jewish authorities who picked up stones to throw at Jesus! So I challenge you this Lent, whenever the devil feeds you lies about yourself, and God’s goodness and plans for you, go to the chapel or a quiet place. Ask Jesus to speak truth to your heart and strengthen your belief in His goodness, love, and mercy. Listen to what Jesus speaks to your heart and do all God is asking of you, no matter how hard it may seem. I used to see suffering as a lack of God’s love, but Jesus didn’t come so we didn’t have to suffer, but rather to show us how to suffer and be with us through our suffering so we can be purified, become like Christ and enter Heaven where there will be no more suffering. Trust Jesus, BELIEVE, and remind yourself when it gets hard to carry your cross, “The LORD is with me, like a mighty champion.”
Lord, if it’s not Your will, let it slip through our grasp and give us the peace not to
worry about it. Lord helps us believe, and strengthen our faith. Amen.

Jer 20:10-13 Ps 18:2-3a, 3bc-4, 5-6, 7 Jn 10:31-42
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