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Daily Reflections for Lent

FIFTH WEEK OF LENT
Sunday, April 2
David M. McCarthy, Ph.D.
Interim Associate Provost

 

Sarah Laughs and Mary Cries

 

“Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?” -John 11:40

 

When Sarah, wife of Abraham and progenitrix of the people of God, overhears that she will conceive and bear a son, she laughs (Genesis 18:12). She is older than your grandmother. Grandma McCarthy would certainly laugh: In terms of the body and the natural course of things, bearing a child would be impossible. In terms of her life-course and expectations for her final years and days, what would she do with son anyway? What good would a son do her now? But we know from the story of Abraham and Sarah that Isaac, their son, will be born and will live for the glory of God—that a people will be dedicated to God as a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Exodus 19:6). Sarah’s scoffing (laughing) turns to joy.

 

The raising of Lazarus (John 11:1-45) follows the same pattern. When Jesus receives word that Lazarus is near death, He takes His time. When He arrives too late, Mary is frustrated and distraught, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:32). Jesus, too, wept. Because of the loss and pain, Mary and Martha (and we as well) are likely to miss the point of raising Lazarus from the dead: not only does Jesus overcome natural limits of death, but also He presents a clear sign that God is liberating and gathering the people of God (1 Peter 2:1-5). New life for Lazarus will bring great joy for him and his sisters, but his release from death is not for him in the same way that Sarah’s son Isaac is not, strictly speaking, for her, but for the glory of God. When Jesus calls Lazarus out of the tomb, when tells those gathered, “Untie him and let him go” (John 11:44), Lazarus’s life becomes a sign for the world of God’s promise of salvation. He is a sign to us, about who we are called to be.

 

God, our Father, in the name of Jesus Christ and with Your life-giving Spirit, we pray that when we experience the joy of Easter, we give thanks that we and our new lives (like Lazarus’s) have become signs of God’s redemption for the world. Amen.

 

Ezek 37: 12-14    Ps 130: 1-2. 3-4. 5-6. 7-8   Rom 8:8-11      Jn 11:1-45

FOURTH WEEK OF LENT
Saturday, April 1
Katherine Lowe
Class of 2018   
                                                                                           

Not-So-Innocent Justice

 

God is a shield above me saving the upright of heart. God is a just judge,
powerful and patient, not exercising anger every day. -Psalm 7:11-12


 

The overwhelming theme of today’s readings is that of justice. Jeremiah trusts God to bring justice to those who plot against him, the Psalm sings of the Justice of God, and in the Gospel, Nicodemus scolds the Pharisees for their unjust prejudice against Christ. Sometimes it is difficult to discern justice from pettiness. Many of us try to be present for God in our daily lives, so we expect Him to fight our little grievances for us. A teacher gives a bad grade, a parent or a friend takes their frustration out on you, a person you trust lets you down again, and you wish God would come down and make them pay for the pain they’ve caused you. We can become patient in the worst way possible, willing to serve God if He will punish our enemies in a fulfillment of our own grudge matches. This is not God’s justice. God came for all and continues to love those who hurt us as much as He loves us. Lent is a time to reflect on the mercy and justice of redemption offered to all who are willing to take it. The Savior has come for you and your neighbor. Let us not become consumed with our own little sufferings and forget the suffering He endured for all mankind. The justice we seek is not for us to determine, since  we all have failed to be just, like the Pharisees in the gospel who ask, “Does our law condemn a person before it first hears him and finds out what he is doing” (Jn 7:51). Trust in God and the importance of sincere forgiveness in His Justice. Through growing to truly love your neighbor and the mercy they deserve this Lent, we can grow closer to God Himself.

 

God, the true source of Justice and Mercy, help me trust in Your Will. Amen.

 

Jer 11: 18-20       Ps 7: 2-3, 9bc-10, 11-12        Jn 7:40-53

FOURTH WEEK OF LENT
Friday, March 31
John Bilenki
Class of 2017

For The Glory of His Name

 

“And look, He is speaking openly, and they say nothing to Him.
Could the authorities have realized that He is the Messiah?” - John 7:26

 

In the first reading from the book of Wisdom, the wicked say of the Son of God, “[He] boasts that God is His Father. If the righteous One is the Son of God, God will help Him and deliver Him from the hand of His foe. Let us put Him to the test that we may have proof of His gentleness and try His patience” (Wis 2:16, 18-19). Christ’s perseverance in His passion and death, which we are quickly approaching in this Lenten season, is a response to this taunt from the wicked. He says to some skeptical inhabitants of Jerusalem in the Gospel today, “You know Me, and I also know where I am from. I did not come on My own, but the One who sent me, whom you do not know, is true” (John 7:28).  Jesus models for us the great grace of humility and simplicity of spirit that flow from His relationship with God the Father; this relationship allows Him to admit that “I know Myself to be nothing more than a Son of God, and My life is lived for the glory of His name.” Christ’s faithfulness and perseverance in carrying His cross model for us that God will be faithful to us whenever we undergo trials or sufferings.

 

Have you been faithful to God? Go before Him in prayer today remembering that you are His child. You are beloved in His sight. Beg His mercy for your shortcomings, but also, ask (seriously, ask!) for the grace of humility and simplicity of spirit that you, too, might say with Christ: “I know myself to be nothing more than a child of God, and my life is lived for the glory of His name.” Continue to bear your cross along as Jesus did on the journey to Calvary, for “[u]nless there is a Good Friday in your life there can be no Easter Sunday” (Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen). He loves you. Amen.

 

Wis 2: 1a, 12-22   Ps 34: 17-18, 19-20, 21 and 23   Jn 7: 1-2, 10, 25-30

FOURTH WEEK OF LENT
Thursday, March 30
Zachary Robinson
Sem. Class of 2021

 

Bad Trades

 

“They exchanged their glory for the image of a grass-eating bullock.”  -Psalm 106:20

 

Today’s first reading is just the first example among many of Israel’s idolatries after their freedom from Egypt. Seriously, read in the Old Testament about the worshiping of the golden calf. Moses has been up on Mount Sinai with God for forty days (cf. Ex 24:18), and the splitting of the Red Sea (cf. Ex 14:21-22), supernatural fire, smoke, and lightning (cf. Ex 19:16-19), and gratuitous manna, quail (cf. Ex 16:9-15), and water from a rock (cf. Ex 17:1-7) are all last month’s news. Apparently, the testimony of God’s works wasn’t powerful enough to convince them that God is faithful. Now they want to make their own god (cf. Ex 32:1 ), to swap the love of the Father for a shiny heifer. That, brothers and sisters in Christ, is a bad trade.

 

Appropriately, we aren’t so different. The golden calf was the cool thing of the month for the Israelites, and we have our own flashy idols to pay attention to rather than God: the next smart watch, pop stars with new singles, what shoes will be in style this year, the NFL draft. The problem with all of these trends is the same: they are all bad trades.

 

In fact, there’s only one good trade: Forsake the world, and make Jesus Christ the center of your life. Jesus is adamantly telling us in the Gospel that He is still performing works to testify to the Father’s love for us. “But you do not want to come to me to have life,” he says, reading our selfishness (Jn 5:40). Is this true in your heart? If you aren’t convinced that Jesus is the trade you’re looking for, try this challenge for one week: start looking for His works. I promise you’ll find them. God testifies to His love with His works.

 

Lord Jesus Christ, don’t let me exchange the glory of Your love for an idol that is a reflection of my forgetfulness.  Father, show me Your works, testify to Your love for me.  Amen.

 

Ex 32:7-14          Ps 106:19-20,21-22, 23                  Jn 5:31-47

FOURTH WEEK OF LENT                                                                                    Wednesday, March 29
Pille Snydstrup
Class of 2017

 

Have Faith in God Always

 

“The Lord is trustworthy in all His words, and loving in all His works.  The Lord supports all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down.”  -Psalm 145:13-14

 

Throughout our lives, we may have gone through difficult times and lost our faith. We may have even given up at times, but we are reminded that God is always with us to help us get back on the right path.

 

The movie Soul Surfer demonstrates how, when we are knocked down, it can be challenging to get back up. The main character, Bethany Hamilton, went through a traumatic event in her life, losing her arm. She became very angry and did not understand how God could let something so devastating happen to her. She asked her youth group leader, “How can this be God’s plan for me?” She gave up things she liked doing before and lost her faith. It was very hard for her to accept this new reality, but she realized that something good must come out of this tragedy. One day Bethany believed that if she had faith, she could continue doing what she loved the most, surfing. Slowly, she was able to overcome this difficult time in her life by having faith and trusting God again.

 

I connected with this movie because there have been times in my life where I have lost faith, and it felt like I had no support at times. I had to remind myself that God was always with me and He would help me when I needed extra support.

 

                Lord, help us see that You are always present, especially during times that I most need You. Amen.

 

Is 49:8-15            Ps 145:8-9, 13cd-14, 17-18           Jn 5:17-30

FOURTH WEEK OF LENT
Tuesday, March 28
Matthew K. Minerd
Philosophy Adjunct (Frederick Campus)
 

Heal My Crippled Soul

 

“Jesus said to him, "Rise, take up your pallet, and walk." - John 5:8

 

Human nature limps. Frailest among all intellectual beings, spiritual  at our root, yet needing the body for the full perfection of what we are,  it is not surprising that humans limp along. We limp for more profound reasons than this. We limp because we have had something supernatural torn from the very substance of our soul. Born into the state of original sin and forever in the darkness cast by the actual sins that we (and all, save Christ and Mary) have committed since the time of the Fall, we limp along in darkness like prodigal children incurvatus in se, curved in upon ourselves. Though our natures were certainly not undone by the Fall, we nonetheless are prodigal children and cripples; we still need to be healed. We are broken beggars.

 

We will never realize the profound riches of the waters of baptism if we do not realize our need for grace, at once gratia sanans and gratia elevans, grace that heals and grace that elevates.  Grace, the very indwelling of the Holy Trinity, is needed so that we may once again live the life for which we were created, the supernatural bliss of seeing God face-to-face, and  the self-sacrificing life of Divine Love in the midst of this world’s great tears and small joys. 

 

The Thomists of yore tell us that without grace, even our natural virtues are unstable and incapable of their full plenitude of activity. They can be true virtues, but, they limp along weakly.  To be what we are to be as humans, we must first live a Life that is Divine. One understands thus the true and full meaning of Isaiah’s vision: “And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit  every month because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.”

 

Like the cripple, I come before You, O Lord, and beseech You that, in Your generous mercy,
I may be granted the healing power of Your grace, not only that I may be healed of my sins but,
even more, that I may delight in Your intimate life,  both here and hereafter. Amen.

 

Ez 47:1-9, 12      Ps 46:2-3, 5-6, 8-9                           Jn 5:1-16

FOURTH WEEK OF LENT
Monday, March 27
Vicente Garcia
Class of 2017

 

I believe In. . . What Now?

 

“Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.”  The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went his way.” -John 4:48-50

 

At every Sunday Mass, we Christians renew our faith by reciting the Nicene Creed. Have you ever caught yourself going through the motions? “I believe in one God . . . I believe in our Lord, Jesus Christ . . . I believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church . . . ” I believe in . . . What now? What am I doing reciting all of these things, do I believe in them? What is believing? The Catechism teaches us that believing is an act of the intellect assenting to the divine truth by command of the will moved by God through grace (CCC 155). Such belief characterizes true faith, which gives and receives at the same time. One gives assent not only to divine truth but to receiving His grace to guide that person to a deeper understanding of divine truth, life in Him. Believing is what drives us to bring the truth, Jesus Christ, into the journey of our lives. Of course, there are many truths in life that ultimately point to the Truth, and we will not understand everything in our lifetime.

 

In the Gospel, Jesus said to the crowd, “Unless you see signs and wonders, you will not believe,” to which the official said, “Yes, but seriously, please save my son.” Then Jesus says,” Go; your son will live.” And the man did as Jesus said and returned home, believing in Jesus, but having no idea whether or not his son was healed. The passage reveals that at the same moment Jesus had said those words, the official’s son was healed. This demonstrates that the act of going and believing that Jesus will do what He says He will do is what allows miracles to happen, rather than withholding belief in Jesus until He performs a miracle that is clear and obvious.

 

Mother Mary, your “Yes” to receiving Jesus into yourself was the ultimate act of faith and brought salvation to God’s people. We pray humbly through your intercession that God might grant us the grace this day to say yes to Jesus in our lives as you did, and as the man in today’s Gospel. We pray as the father with the possessed son prayed, “I believe; help my unbelief.” Amen.

 

Is 65:17-21          Ps 30:2, 4, 5-6, 11-12a, 13b            Jn 4:43-54

FOURTH WEEK OF LENT                                                                                   
Sunday, March 26
Allison Ivcic   
Class of 2017

 

You Don’t Need To See To Believe

 

“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, or You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” -Psalm 23:4

 

As a baby falling asleep in my mother’s arms, I would cry if she shut off the light. I needed to see her to feel her presence. In today’s world, it has become difficult to believe without seeing. If we have an immature, faith, we sometimes don't think that God is there when things aren't going our way.

 

Sheep learn to follow their master's voice to avoid danger. Over time they come to trust that he will lead them to food and keep them from their enemies. We need to learn how to discern the voice of the Lord from the voices of the world. This can only be done if, like the sheep, we learn to hear the voice of our true shepherd even though we cannot see Him, and to do this we need to establish a real relationship with Him. It is important to also turn our backs on the world’s superficial goods and follow Jesus so that we can come to know what is truly righteous and good. In the gospel today, the blind man only hears the voice of Jesus, yet he believes it is the Lord long before he sees Him. Jesus doesn't just heal the blind man; He brings him into the fold. The blind man comes to know Jesus as the Lord.

 

True faith is the belief in things not seen, but like the blind man, we can see evidence of God's hand in our lives if we spend time with Him at Mass, before the Blessed Sacrament, fasting, and going to Reconciliation. Like the blind man, we need to allow ourselves to be led out of darkness by following the voice of our true Good Shepherd. We can’t just believe; we need to embrace our faith and listen to the voice of the Shepherd and follow Him.

 

Lord, give me the strength to move out of this world of darkness and sin
and into the light of the presence of You, my Shepherd. Amen.

 

1 Sam 16:1b 6-7, 10-13a                  Ps 23:1-6              Eph 5:8-14         Jn 9:1-41

ANNUNCIATION OF OUR LORD
Saturday, March 25
Br. Matthew Mary Bartow, MFVA
Sem. Class of 2018      

  

Say ‘Yes’ to the Lord

 

“And Mary said, ‘Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word.’
And the angel departed from her.” -Luke 1:1:38

 

   This passage depicts the crucial, pivotal moment in salvation history when Mary fully and freely gives her assent, her fiat, to the will of God. This must be a tremendous challenge for Our Blessed Mother. The angel Gabriel appears to a humble teenage girl and delivers the astounding news that she is going to conceive and bear the Savior of the world. Even though the angel calls Her “full of grace,” she still must have a profound sense of unworthiness for this role of Mother of God, not to mention how difficult it would be to explain this to others, especially Joseph.  Despite all this, Mary shows that she trusts completely in the Lord and allows Him to accomplish His will through her. Mary’s “Yes” to the Lord is what opens the door to the salvation of the world.

 

   In giving her assent to the word of the angel, Mary serves as the pre-eminent exemplar of Christian discipleship. This blessed season of Lent is an excellent opportunity for us to follow the example of Mary more closely. On the one hand, Mary is the sinless one who is “full of grace” and so she is perfectly disposed to respond freely to God’s call. We, on the other hand, are prone to sin and so we constantly need God’s grace to leave behind our sinful inclinations and turn towards the Lord. During Lent, we strive to open ourselves to God’s will especially through the practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. These three works of penance help us to detach from our vices, sins, and self-will so that we might more readily do God’s will. The more we open ourselves to the grace of God, the more we allow Christ to enter into this world and perform His saving work through us. Thus we become more like Mary by imitating her response at the Annunciation: “Let it be done to me, according to your word.”

 

Holy Mary, thank you for generously saying “Yes” to the Lord. Please help us, your children, to imitate your example so that Christ, your Son, may more  fully enter into this world. Amen.

 

Is 7:10-14, 8-10     Ps 40:7-8a, 8b-9, 10-11   Heb 10:4-10      Lk 1:26-38

 

THIRD WEEK OF LENT                                                                                           
Friday, March 24
Louis Lawrence                                                                                                                     
Class of 2018   

 

His Voice

 

“I am the Lord your God: hear My voice.” - Psalm 81: 9a, 11

 

The recurring theme of today’s scripture passages is the abundant blessings our Lord promises to us, His people when we take the time to listen to Him and follow His Word.

 

In the first reading, the Lord is calling the Israelites back to righteousness after failing to fulfill their covenant with God. The Israelites must repent, but afterward, the Lord will forgive them. He describes His forgiveness through metaphoric images of growth, prosperity, and fruitfulness in nature. The Lord concludes, saying that those who are prudent and just will recognize that such growth is only possible by listening to and following His teachings, but that those who are sinful may not do so.

 

The psalm selection continues the theme of describing the powerful blessings God bestows upon us. He relieves our burdens and rescues us in times of distress; He will feed us when hungry. But this is only possible if we take the time to listen carefully, recognize His voice, and obey His commands.

 

Mark’s Gospel passage, relaying a conversation between Jesus and a Scribe, clearly presents the most important way we can obey God: by following the commandments identified by Jesus Himself. The scribe asks what the most important commandment is, and Jesus responds that it is to love the one true Lord God with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strength. And, that we must also love our neighbor as ourselves. The scribe repeats the commandment, thus signifying his understanding to Jesus, who then tells him that He is “not far from the Kingdom of God.”

 

 In each passage, the Israelites, God’s chosen people, are called upon to listen to the Word of God: “Return, Israel, to the Lord, your God” (Hos 14:2), “O Israel, will you not hear me?” “If only My people would hear me” (Ps 81:9, 14), “Hear, O Israel!” (Mk 12:29).

In today’s busy, chaotic world, it can be very difficult, sometimes, to   understand what it is God asks of us. It is crucial, however, that we make the time, throughout our lives, both in prayer and at Mass, to simply listen and hear God’s voice. For it is through Him that all is possible, and by following His Word, we will never be “far from the Kingdom of God.”

 

O Lord, my God, help me to embrace periods of silence with prayer so that I might be able to better hear Your voice, and follow Your word. Amen.

 

                                    Hos 14:2-10        Ps 81:6c-8a, 8bc-9, 10-11ab, 14, 17          Mk 12:28-34

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