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Daily Reflections for Lent

Dr. Sean Lewis
Professor of English

All That We Have Is A Gift

“But now we must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.” Luke 15:32

“The last temptation is the greatest treason: To do the right deed for the wrong reason” (T.S. Eliot, Murder in the Cathedral)

Today’s readings focus on forgiveness, and so much has been written on the parable of the Prodigal Son that one is tempted simply to let Jesus’ words speak for themselves. In this reflection, however, I would like us to turn our attention to the one character in these readings who does not ask for forgiveness: the elder son in the parable. It is natural for us to identify with the repentant son, but identifying with the elder son is also a fruitful exercise. For those of us striving to live the Christian life, it can be all too easy to fall into the attitude of the elder son: here I am, praying regularly, involved with the Church, routinely receiving the sacraments. How much better am I than those lax believers who do not practice the faith! As with most falsehoods, there is an element of truth in this attitude: God has called us to lives of conversion. He has “made us new creations” and “reconciled us to himself through Christ” (2 Cor 5:17), and we are called to live the Christian life without compromise. At the same time, if our religious practices lead us to treat those weaker in faith with the kind of scorn show by the elder brother, we must put aside these practices. As we hear throughout today’s readings, God is in control: “Today I have removed the reproach of Egypt from you” (Jos 5:9); “When the poor one called out, the LORD heard, and from all his distress he saved him” (Ps 34:6); “all this is from God” (2 Cor 5:18). The error of the elder brother was thinking that his holiness was solely a matter of his own actions, when, in reality, all of his virtues were ultimately gifts from God. As we continue our Lenten practice this week, let us ask God for the grace of humility, realizing more fully that we are the beneficiaries of His abundant mercies.
O Lord, make us truly grateful for all of the gifts You have given us, particularly those gifts we take for granted. Draw all of Your children to Yourself, Lord. Even those
whom we deem the least deserving of Your mercy, so we all may feast with You forever in Heaven. Amen

Jos 5:9a, 10-12, or 1 Sm 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a Ps 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7, or Ps 23: 1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6 2 Cor 5:17-21, Eph 5:8-14 Lk 15:1-3, 11-32, or Jn 9:1-41
Paul Miller
Class of 2016

Sacrifice Of The Heart

“My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit; a contrite, humble heart, O God, You will not scorn.” Psalm 51:19

What is it about a gift from a loved one that warms the heart? For children, it is usually the gift itself, something they’ve been waiting to receive. As we mature, the object of affection might change, but the desire remains: we are waiting to receive.

In today’s Scripture readings, we hear once again what it is God is waiting to receive from us during this Lenten season. Our acts of penance and our gift of alms during Lent are not meant as scripted religious requirements, but rather, each act is an occasion by which we can offer our whole hearts humbly to God. This gift of sacrifice can be a real struggle, and we need God’s grace. We ought to pray that the Holy Spirit give us the grace to offer authentic hearts of love to God. When offering our hearts, we must recognize we are dependent upon God, that He gives us His grace. We should in return offer genuine, humble, and contrite hearts back to Him, in love. God is waiting to receive the gift He desires from us, the sacrifice of our whole heart, true and complete.

Lord Jesus, we offer to You today our whole heart in love and adoration. Help us to be a living sacrifice of love to You every day. Amen.

Hos 6:1-6 Ps 51:3-4, 18-19, 20-21ab Lk 18:9-14
Katlyn Freddino
Class of 2016

Who, Me?

“The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.’” Mark 12:31

In today’s gospel, Jesus reiterates the two most important command-ments: to love God above all, and to love your neighbor as yourself. Growing up, the second great commandment was taught to me by many people: my parents, teachers, priest, and family members. But it wasn’t until recently that I really heard what Jesus was saying.

“Love your neighbor as yourself.” It seems simple: love your neighbor, be good to them, etc. But do you really love your neighbor as yourself? I know I fail often. I tend to compare myself with my neighbors and put them on a pedestal. I see their beauty, their talents, and their goodness. And then there’s me… broken, clumsy, and not good enough.

When Jesus tells us to love our neighbor as ourselves, he’s not only telling us to love others, but to love ourselves, too. As humans, it’s hard to love perfectly. Our love is disproportionate and sometimes we get frustrated with ourselves because of this fact. But Jesus… He is God, and He is perfect, beautiful Love. When you look at yourself in the mirror, look through the lens of Christ. Everything that you criticize about yourself, Jesus sees, and He delights in you despite what you perceive. Will you too, delight in your beauty and worth despite your flaws?

Lord Jesus, You saw our imperfections as You were dying on the cross, and You deemed us worthy of Your love and suffering. Help us to see ourselves and our neighbor as You see us: beloved. Amen.

Hos 14:2-10 Ps 81:6c-8a, 8bc-9, 10-11ab, 14 and 17 Mk 12:28-34
Mike Repovz
Varsity Catholic FOCUS Missionary

Come To Me . . .
“Every Kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste.” Luke 11:17

As we continue our journey through Lent, it is easy to get lost in the day to day monotony, especially in the third week where the beginning zeal has worn thin, and the finish line seems so far away. It is in times like these, and at any time, where it is much to our benefit to reassess what we are doing and why we are doing it. So that we may be thrilled and excited (“as all get out”) to continue the mission with just as much (if not more) zeal and determination as when we began. “Live with the end in mind,” or “begin with the end in mind,” I am sure we have all heard this before. The end we are striving for is complete unity, a total “fusion,” as St. Therese of Lisieux would say, with Jesus Christ.

Make no mistake, the kingdom of our body and soul is under attack . . . every day! The general of Evil, Satan himself, prowls around the kingdom of our soul seeking to destroy every part of us. Not just to separate us completely from God, but to use us to separate those around us against such attacks, the only defense is to call on the name of Jesus Christ who has power to drive Satan and all evil spirits out. “The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer” (Psalm 18:2). It is He whom we seek to entirely unite our soul. To come into a greater union with Christ is the reason for our Lenten sacrifice. When the sight of this most honorable, wise, noble, truth-filled, upstanding and selfless mission of uniting ourselves completely with Christ is lost, our kingdom, or soul, is laid waste. When our eyes are taken off of Christ and His call for us to be one with Him, as He and the Father are One, it is inevitable that we will fall into pride, despair, thoughts of our own importance or ego, or other forms of division. To always think about and to put into action what will give us life, and life to the utmost, is what will unite us to Christ to be our stronghold at every moment. May our daily sacrifices this Lent, be seen always in this light.

Our Father in Heaven, we beg You, through the intercession of Mary, our Mother, and through Jesus Christ, Your Son, that we may accept all that You give us, knowing it is exactly what we need to be united wholly to You and to give our lives as a sacrifice for You, as Your Son exemplified perfectly for us. For it is in this giving of our lives in imitation of Your Son, where our life will be found. Amen.

Jer 7:23-28 Ps 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9 Lk 11:14-23
Katherine Lowe
Class of 2018

On Chaos And Christ

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.” Matthew 5:17

In today’s readings, the central theme is about rules. Rules are put in place to help us in our journey towards salvation. I don’t know about you, but I have a love-hate relationship with rules. I like to think of myself as an organized person who appreciates order, yet I am resentful of rules that seem to tie me down and prevent me from doing exactly what I want to do exactly when I want to do it. There are often times where I would prefer a little chaos over sticking to the rules. But chaos and Heaven don’t go well with one another.

In the first reading today, Moses is prefacing the Ten Commandments to the Israelites, in which they are instructed to “observe in the land that you are about to enter and occupy” (Dt. 4:5). Like the Israelites, we have been given the earth as a wonderful, even if fallen, stepping stone to the gates of Paradise. We too have been charged with commandments to uphold, which on closer inspection can minimize the chaos and dysfunction in our bruised world. As positive as the social benefits of the Commandments are, the spiritual benefits are even more vital. Christ Himself stated that He “came not to abolish [the Commandments] but to fulfill” (Mt. 5:17). Instead of resenting the temporary restraint on our freedoms, I challenge myself and others this Lent to practice a little more humility. We should acknowledge that the Glory of God in Heaven is worth the effort to obey Him, and those things He asks specific to His Will for us during different stages in our lives. This Lent, let us prepare our hearts for the mystery of the Resurrection and the beautiful fulfill-ment of the law God has given us.

Lord, bless us with the strength to live by Your Rules and trust in Your infinite Wisdom behind them, even when our soul is weary, so that Your Love may be fulfilled in our life. Amen.

Dt 4:1, 5-9 Ps 147:12-13, 15-16, 19-20 Mt 5:17-19
Mike Herlihey
Class of 2016

Practice What You Preach

“His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to. Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?’” Matthew 18:32-33

Disdain for hypocrisy is universal. Don’t you hate it when someone you know complains about someone backstabbing him or her and then that same person turns around backstabs someone else? “Practice what you preach.”

Today’s Gospel passage, the parable of the unforgiving servant, is a story of a hypocrite. The servant owes the master “a huge amount” or in other words 10,000 talents. A talent is an ancient unit of measurement of coinage. So the value of a talent varied depending on the kind of metal in which it was created. The point is it was a huge amount. The master of the servant forgives him of all that he owes. Our hearts are warmed by the kindness of the master. Then we read how the servant fails to do the same for a fellow servant who owes him a much smaller amount, only a hundred days wages. It is understandable to get angry over this parable because hypocrisy is so ugly.

We must look internally at ourselves and ask, are we hypocrites? How many times do we insult and sin against God and He forgives us? He gives us everything, and it hurts Him greatly to see us sin against Him. He has every reason to hold a grudge and not forgive us. Yet, He is merciful and forgiving. Are we hypocrites when we accept God’s forgiveness and yet fail to forgive others who sin against us? Our sin against God is “a huge amount” compared to the sin of others against us. We must learn to forgive unlimitedly just like God in His infinite mercy forgives us.

Help us God to forgive others, especially when it isn’t easy. Help us not blame others but to realize our own hypocrisy and learn to forgive others. Amen.

Dn 3:25, 34-43 Ps 25:4-5ab, 6 and 7bc, 8-9 Mt 18:21-35
Vanessa Forka
Class of 2017

Be Healed

“I hope in the LORD, I trust in His word; with Him there is kindness and plenteous redemption.” Luke 4: 24

In today’s readings, the gift of baptism is being foreshadowed. During baptism, we become enlightened and freed from original sin. It is through this gift that we are given our title as sons and daughters of Christ.

Naaman was a leper, who was told by the prophet Elijah to go to the Jordan to wash his body and he was healed. Although he thought the idea was strange, he still obeyed the prophet and received great healing though this cleansing. Naaman’s healing came through an act of faith; because he believed, he was healed. Our Lord God calls each and every one of us to put all of our trust in Him.

There are many times when we have doubted God because of the negative things that occur in our life. These times of trial can make us lose faith in Him. Even though we do, he still blesses those who believe. Our Lord is calling us today to be like Naaman the leper, even though Naaman was ignorant, he had faith and he was healed. If we believe in God and trust in His word, He will heal us and we will receive great blessings from Him.
Dear Lord, in You we trust. Guide our path when the road is narrow; enlighten and fill us with Your love daily so we may radiate peace love and light to our brothers and sisters. Help us become more willing to grow closer to You through prayer and trusting in Your word always. Help us hold onto our faith when times get hard. Jesus in You we trust. Amen.

2 Kgs 5:1-15ab Ps 42:2, 3; 43:3, 4 Lk 4:24-30
Deacon Eric Silva
Sem. Class of 2016

Branches Bear Fruit

“It may bear fruit in the future. If not you can cut it down.” Luke 13: 9

The beautiful aspect of this parable lies in understanding what it means for us and understanding what it says about us. In the parable of the barren fig tree, the tree has not yet borne fruit for its owner. He offers to cultivate the soil around the tree for one more year before cutting it down, barring whether or not it has borne fruit at the end of that year. Analogies do indeed fall short at some point but the alarming truth that the parable of the fig tree communicates is incredibly profound: if Jesus Christ is the man who cultivates the ground around the tree and fertilizes it, then we, the “fig trees of the world,” are the ones who bear the fruit. It is God who sustains us always, but we are called to physically manifest the works of God who feeds literally.

Everyone knows that the fruit on a tree is a reflection of its environment, its nutrients, and the stimuli in which it is surrounded. The only difference in this analogy is that trees do not have a choice where they are to lie while we do have that choice. If we surround ourselves with friends who will authentically nourish us and who push us to bear real and true fruit in our lives, we are much more likely to do so. This Lent, as the crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ approaches, re-dedicate yourselves to where your roots lie. Are we resting them on fertile ground or are we surrounding ourselves with thickets and thorns, which choke the good nutrients the Lord offers us, most especially in the sacraments? There will be a time when we stand before Christ, the heavenly gardener, who will ask us, “What fruit have you borne in your life?”

Heavenly Father, source of all Goodness, increase in us the awareness and desire to be Your saints here on earth. Help us to surround ourselves with only that which is good and grant us the graces to always do Your will, so that we may bear fruit for You and neighbor in this life and the life to come. Amen.
Ex 3:1-8a, 13-15, or Ex 17:3-7 Ps 103: 1-2, 3-4, 6-7, 8, 11 1 Cor 10:1-6, 10-12 Lk 13:1-9
Ariana Aragon
Class of 2019
Dead While Living

“My son, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours. But now we must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.” Luke 15:32

I think when we, as human beings, talk about death, we tend to think about the act of a person or animal (even object) not having any energy or will power left in them. The parable of the prodigal son is probably one of the most relatable parables to my life. Have you ever been so hurt by a person that they are dead to you? It could be a family member, a friend, a co-worker, or a boss. This happens when a person has emotionally, physically, or mentally hurt you. These people tend to exit your life one way or another, and we can’t help but wonder about the what if’s. What if they stayed? What would it be like if the relationship between the two of you did not break apart, and if you still talked? In today’s world we tend to see Facebook updates, Instagram posts, and even SnapStories that are a little too long informing us of what they are doing and it hurts. Now imagine the father in the story, and how he didn’t have the luxury of seeing any social media updates about how his son was doing. The father simply had hope that his son was doing okay. For us, through social media, and the father through his faith, both hope for this “dead” person to come back to life; to come back to us. One of the worst feelings in the world is losing someone that is special to us and when we see them restored to us again, it is the best feeling in the world. Just because a person may be gone for now, doesn’t mean they will be gone forever. Don’t give up hope, just be ready to accept them back with open arms.

Lord, as we continue on in our Lenten journey, let us remember those who we have lost. Help us be willing to accept those back into our life who may seem lost, and help us to remember we all distance ourselves from time to time, but You are always there for us. Amen.
Mi 7:14-15, 18-20 Ps 103:1-2, 3-4, 9-10, 11-12 Lk 15:1-3, 11-32
Kieran Damitz
Class of 2018

Living Gratefully As A Result Of Christ’s Sacrifice

“But when the tenants saw the son, they said to one another ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.’” Matthew 21:38

In today’s Gospel, we hear the story of the tenants in the vineyard. A man builds the vineyard and finds tenants to work for him. However, when he sends servants to collect his share of the produce, the tenants reject the servants, even killing some of them. Finally, in desperation, the owner sends his son to the tenants, but even the son cannot sway the tenants. The tenants say to each other, “This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.” In the Gospel, Jesus’ listeners do not seem to understand the meaning behind the parable and the reason why the tenants thought they could acquire the householder’s inheritance by killing his son. The idea that killing the son would lead the father to give the son’s inheritance to the murderers seems ridiculous. Our perspective of this parable changes in the context of Jesus’ Passion, Death, and Resurrection. God created a beautiful world for humanity. We often work so hard to make it better for ourselves and yet consistently reject God and His servants (the prophets). Finally, God the Father sent His Son Jesus to the world to explain that all glory belongs to God, who created everything and gave it to us freely. Rather than accepting the message, humanity killed Jesus. From this perspective, we realize that the parable is about us! WE killed the son. As painful as this realization might be, it is only through His death that it became possible for us to share in Jesus’ inheritance: eternal happiness in Heaven. Therefore, in light of this great gift, let us strive ever more to avoid that which caused us to kill the Son, sin. For while His death made salvation possible, our greatest enjoyment of salvation comes from discerning and living out God’s plan for our lives.

Jesus, thank you for loving us so much that you willingly died for us so that I might share Your inheritance. Help us to always remember Your gift, and may it inspire us to give our best to You in all circumstances. Amen.
Gen 37:3-4, 12-13a, 17b-28a Ps 105:16-17, 18-19, 20-21 Mt 21:33-43, 45-46
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