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Daily Reflections for Lent

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
Faith Berard
Class of 2017

How Will You Choose To Live?

“Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked.” Psalm 1:1

It's hard to reflect on the readings without reflecting upon my own life, and the reality that the decisions I make matter. All of the readings today draw attention in some way to the fact that there are generally "two ways" to live: righteously or wickedly. We are called to live a righteous life, and while this can be a daily struggle that involves many failings, we can persevere with God’s grace.

This can be seen in all aspects of our life: whether it be our daily habits, weekend habits, our vocation, our relationship, and our friendships. These things matter and the way we bring Christ into them matters. There are always two roads when it comes to the decisions we make and the way we live our life. One road may be easier, but it does not necessarily make it the right choice. The narrow road may be lonely, but can potentially produce more fruit in time.

The Gospel message today is seemingly simple: if you treat your neighbor poorly, you risk your eternal life with God in Heaven…but I think it's deeper than that. No one wants to live a life like Lazarus. We all have our own sufferings that can either cause distance in our relationship with Christ or we can use that suffering to allow Christ to get closer to us. The story of Lazarus reminds us that we are not destined for an earthly life without suffering, but we are promised perfect happiness in the next, as long as we live striving for union with the One who made us.

Heavenly Father, please help us to see You in our sufferings and to let it propel us to grow closer to Your Son each day. Bring us to You each day and help us to receive the graces to accept Your unconditional love. Amen.
Jer 17:5-10 Ps 1:1-2, 3, 4 and 6 Lk 16:19-31
Hugh Kinsey
Class of 2019

The Road To Success

“But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:26-28

Everyone wants to be the best. The best player at the sport they play, the best student in the class, the best employee at their occupation, or the best artist or musician. Everyone wants to succeed in the things they commit their time.

Being successful in itself is not a bad thing; God calls us to lead happy and successful lives. He calls us to make progress in our spiritual life and our lives of virtue, ultimately striving for holiness. He cares less about what career we choose than He does about the way we go about being successful.

Striving for success becomes a problem when we break God’s Law in pursuit of worldly success. God calls all of us to live lives of service and to love others, especially the poor and weak. This is difficult to do when there is only a single opening, position, or seat that many people want. When we idolize promotions and raises and abuse others to get them, we offend God. Cheating, lying, or stealing to succeed is not what God calls us to do. He calls us to love and care for others while working and pray-ing hard. Striving for success becomes a problem when we put others down to raise ourselves up.

It is possible to follow God and be successful, even in the competitive and success-driven world in which we live. It is possible to climb with-out knocking others off the ladder. With strength, endurance, prayer, faith, and love, we can all achieve what God really calls us to, happiness and holiness.

God, give us the strength to be merciful, the power to be peaceful, and the love to be faithful. Allow us to be successful and more importantly a successful follower of Your Word. Amen.

Jer 18:18-20 Ps 31:5-6, 14, 15-16 Mt 20:17-28
Kathleen Hollenbeck
Alumni Relations Office

Beauty In God’s Laws

“Come now, let us set things right, says the LORD: though your sins be like scarlet, they may become white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they may become white as wool. If you are willing, and obey, you shall eat the good things of the land.” Isaiah 1:18-19

There is beauty in God’s laws. God created us and He understands man’s true needs. Don’t you think He knows what self-restraints we will need to follow in order to help us flourish? As followers of Christ, we should strive always to remember that God knows us better than we do. When God’s commandments are understood and followed in love, God’s difficult teachings will enable us to live as creatures fulfilled in every aspect of our life here on earth. More importantly, they are a roadmap to eternal life, assisting us to life with Him after death as His children for eternity.

Many do not understand Catholic teachings. How often did Jesus articulate difficult teachings, doing so with a gentle spirit? During this Lent, in the Year of Mercy, let us ask God to enable us to be good examples of Christ’s laws in action.
Lord, please help us to focus on Your perfect love for us so as to try
and understand the teachings that we sometimes may not appreciate. Even when we do not, let us trust You enough to obey all Your laws, if only because we revere them and love You. Amen.

Is 1:10, 16-20 Ps 50:8-9, 16bc-17, 21 and 23 Mt 23:1-12
Pia Saldarriaga
Class of 2016
Seeing Christ In Everything

“Jesus said to him in reply, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My heavenly Father.’” Matthew 16:17

I’m sure we’ve all heard that cliché “See the beauty in everything.” Though this sounds easy enough, it can be hard to do especially in our busy lives. However, in today’s reading, Jesus reminds us of the importance of recognizing the blessings He has given us and inviting others to open their eyes to His love.

Jesus said, “They look but do not see and hear but do not listen or under-stand.” It can get so easy to get to a point in our faith where we simply stop giving thanks, either because things seem to be going so well, or because we feel like we’ve been pretty good and we start to relax. But it is so vital for us to truly “see with our eyes” and acknowledge all the blessings in our lives. When we do this, it gets easier to see God in even the smallest things and that’s how our hearts are transformed. In yesterday’s Gospel, we saw how Peter, James and John witnessed the transfiguration of Jesus. They were able to encounter Him because they truly saw with their eyes and listened with their ears to God’s message. In today’s Gospel, Jesus brings us back to the importance of being open and attentive to His blessings so that we too may encounter Him and share this beautiful gift of salvation with others.

Lord, help me to see You in everything and hear even Your whispers so that I may be open to what You have in store for me. Amen.

1 PT 5:1-4 Ps 23:1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6 MT 16:13-19
Rev. Brian Nolan
Chaplain and Director of Campus Ministry

Dark Clouds Only Temporarily Obscure The Sun

“While He was still speaking, a cloud came and cast a shadow over them, and they became frightened when they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, ‘This is My chosen Son; listen to Him.’” Luke 9 :34-5

A few years ago in January, I was taking a plane to visit my parents in Florida. The day was bitter cold, sleeting and the sky was filled with dark clouds for a third consecutive day. I remember being happy to be inside away from the chill and settled into my seat. As the plane ascended into the sky amidst the dark clouds and sleet, suddenly there was a burst of sunshine as we rose above the clouds. I was surprised and delighted and noticed that it changed my whole disposition. It is interesting how being in the presence of sunshine lifts our spirits! Then I thought to myself, “How could I have lost sight that the sun always shines above the clouds? Why was I so surprised at this?”

This Sunday the Catholic Church recounts the Transfiguration. Jesus invited the inner three: Peter, James and John, to the mountaintop where they were given a glimpse of His Divinity. He was transfigured before them and His clothes became dazzling white. They were “eye-witnesses of His glory,” even if it was for a few brief moments.

Why did Jesus give them this experience of seeing Him in His glory? The Apostles were about to witness some of the darkest days of Jesus’ passion and death. The dark clouds of hatred, betrayal, and denial were upon them, inspired by the Evil one. This glimpse of His glory was given to help them to persevere despite the coming scandal of the Cross. It was an unforgettable memory to sustain them even when the sky would grow dark, innocent blood would be shed, and all would seem lost.

Every one of us can lose perspective and sight of our future destiny in light of the dark skies and the cold chill that we can experience from the world at times. Yet we have been given a Savior and Son that gives us hope in the midst of any darkness. Jesus is greater than the sun, He is the Light of the world! And the warmth He gives is not just for our bodies, but for our hearts to be filled with His love that we might love others in Him.

Jesus, help us to trust You in all things, but especially when Your light and presence seem absent. Remind us that dark clouds can only temporarily obscure the Son, who will be our Light and we will reign forever in Him.

Gn 15:5-12, 17-18 Ps 27:1, 7-8, 8-9, 13-14 Phil 3:17—4:1 Lk 9:28b-36
Dr. Christa Bucklin
Professor of Spanish

Let Your Love Grow

“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Heavenly Father.” Matthew 5:44-45

To enter more deeply into the life of Christ, we, as His followers, must be willing to be transformed by His word and example. It is not enough to remain at status quo. We are challenged to love as Christ loved to truly be children of God. He asks to open our hearts wider, to reach further than we think possible.

It is pleasant to greet those we know and to shower love and affection on those who love us. It is difficult, if not unnatural, to go beyond these boundaries and extend love to those who do not reciprocate.

Christ says, “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world.” He teaches us that it is possible to go beyond “an eye for an eye” when confronted with the insults, arrogance, malice, betrayals, and injustice of our enemies. By His own life, He shows us how to transcend these troubles: love, pray, and forgive.

Love those who offend, oppose, betray, reject, and harm you. Pray for them. Forgive them.

Christ’s call to love the unlovable produces great transformations in the heart and soul. He does not ask us to love our enemies to burden our hearts, but rather, to release them from hatred, hurt and resentment. We can go beyond our own understanding of love toward a greater awareness of the depth of Christ’s perfect love for all people. We can grow past our own human limitations toward greater freedom and maturity. By His grace, we can become more like Christ Himself.

Lord, grant us the grace to have no boundaries in love. Amen.
Dt 26:16-19 Ps 119:1-2, 4-5, 7-8 Mt 5:43-48
Caroline Butler
Class of 2016

The Boy Who Cried…?

“Out of the depths, I cry to You, O Lord.” Psalm 130:1
Think back to a time when you were in great suffering. What was the situation? Maybe you are suffering right now. Is there a particular sin with which you are struggling? If the situation was in the past, how did you handle it? How are you handling it now? What did/does your prayer look like in these times? Maybe it looked something like the Responsorial Psalm:
Out of the depths, I cry to you, O Lord
Lord, hear my cry
Please, let your ears be listening to my voice in petition!
Maybe it didn’t look like anything.
How often do we suffer or struggle and forget to pray about it, not just sitting in a chapel complaining about it, but from the depths of our heart, asking God for His help? The Lord knows everything we go through. He suffers with us when we suffer and rejoices with us in our victories. So why do we still need to pray about our problems? Jesus is constantly inviting us into a deeper relationship with Him. Relation-ships take participation from both people. He wants us to tell Him what
is going on in our hearts!

Let’s take this one step further. Not only does He want us to share our hearts with Him, but He also wants us to ask Him for help.
Our Blessed Mother Mary was the best example of suffering with humility. How often do we ask for her intercession in our times of struggle? Mary and the saints are gifts to us and have some powerful prayer to help us grow in virtue and overcome suffering.
We may never understand why we go through trials in our life, but we can offer our sufferings and struggles up as prayers. What a beautiful way to love others- by suffering for them.
Come Holy Spirit, please give us a deeper understanding of our struggles and suffering. Mother Mary, teach us how to suffer well and give us the courage and trust to be vulnerable with our wounds. Please pray for us as we continue to prepare ourselves for the greatest suffering and act of Love in the world. Amen.
Ez 18: 21-28 Ps 130: 1-2, 3-4, 5-7a, 7bc-8 Mt 5:20-26
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