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Lenten Reflections 2020

24, February, 2020Posted by :Andrea Morale

This Lent, as we all continue to stay home to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 Pandemic, you and your loved ones are in our prayers. May we all continue to support each other and our communities through prayer. May our loving God heal and protect all who are affected by COVID-19.

March 29, Fifth Sunday of Lent

Lent: A Call to Prayer

By Sr. Margaret Golub, OSU

Lazarus John 11:11-45

When  we read the story of Mary, Martha and Lazarus, it is like visiting with friends. We have heard the story, but each year it is filled with new meanings and messages.

The story begins with Lazarus being sick, and his sisters Mary and Martha sending Jesus an urgent message.   The reaction of Jesus is not what they expected.   Jesus waited a few days before he went out to see the family in Bethany.  By the time Jesus arrived, Lazarus had been dead for four days.

When we examine the story and see what it teaches us on prayer we notice three components to prayer: one is God’s response and action, then there is our call and response and the third is the component of community.  Let me illustrate these three parts in the story of Lazarus.

The first component is God’s response and action to our prayers.  When we think of prayer we tell God what is happening and ask for his help.  We need to wait for God’s response and action in His time and for God’s agenda indicating how He wants the story to unfold.  Here we must be open to surprises.

The second component of prayer is our part.  God calls Lazarus to “Come out.”

So too, God calls us to change, to leave the tomb, to take a step.  At  that point we need to listen to what God is asking or expecting of us.

The third component is community.  Lazarus could not complete the task alone.  Jesus called others to assist him, first to unbind him and then to set him free.

The story has many lessons on the way God answers prayers, on the need to listen and respond to his grace and on the awareness that we need others to help us in our quest to  complete the process.

Let us be aware of the need for prayer,  the power of prayer  and the different facets of prayer, so we spend our Lent listening and responding to the call of Jesus, “come out, ” and  be ready to assist others when we are able.

March 21, Fourth Sunday of Lent

Lent: A Transformation from Darkness to Light

By Sr. Catherine Talia, OSU

The readings for the fourth Sunday of Lent leave me with three ponderings.  In the first reading, God says to Samuel, “Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the Lord looks into the heart.” In the second reading, we are told “Awake O sleeper and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” Finally, in the Gospel we meet the man born blind who shows us how to stand by principles and how to listen.

Lent is a time for transformation, for going from darkness into the light.  It makes no difference what form our darkness takes, selfishness, anger, sloth, etc., we are all called to move away from the darkness and look toward Christ our Light.  How conscious am I in my effort to be more self-giving, more patient, more caring for my neighbor. God sees the heart and knows our desires. We may not arrive at full transformation by the time the alleluias of Easter are ringing but it is the effort that counts.   Can I be like the man born blind?  He listened to Jesus in spite of the Pharisees who questioned him.   He believed, received and accepted the gift that was given. He knew that “He was blind and now he could see.”  Nobody could take away his belief not even the powerful Pharisees.   The Pharisees did not believe either the blind man or Jesus.  They continued to question, to doubt and to accuse.  They were not capable of listening to a blind man and so they became the blind ones.  This lent, listen to the promptings of the spirit deep in your heart so that you may be led from darkness to light, from blindness to sight regarding the things of value in life.  Become kinder, more loving, and more generous with Christ as your light.

March 14, Third Sunday of Lent

Lent: Reflecting God’s Unlimited Love

By Sr. Laurentine Morgan, OSU

“Jesus came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there. Jesus, tired from his journey, sat down there at the well . . .” (Jn 4:7)

Today’s readings represent the history of our faith. It is the story of Jacob and his well and of his children – the children of Israel (Jacob). This is the area where the Bible stories we have heard as children took place. We understand that these stories were a part of Jesus’ past. However, Jesus is a new part of it – imaging a new covenant with God. It is a transition from the Old Testament to the New Testament.

In today’s Gospel we are privy to a conversation between Jesus and a woman of Samaria. A conversation which is one of the lengthiest and theologically telling in scripture. Culturally the most surprising aspect of the conversation is that it even takes place. In Jewish culture a male observant Jew was expected to avoid conversation with women in public. Aside from this we need to understand the animosity that existed between Samaritans and Jews. Historically, Jews and Samaritans shared the same ancestry and belief in Yahweh and the coming of a Messiah. However, because of the influences exerted by the rule of the Assyrians over the Samaritans, intermarriage with the foreigners resulted. This led Samaritans to worship not only Yahweh but also other gods; an unacceptable breach of faith to the Jews, causing a major rift between the two nations. So of course, it is surprising that Jesus, an observant Jew, initiated the conversation with the Samaritan woman.

This point is noted as revealed in the conversation when the woman herself says to Jesus, “How can you a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” Jesus not only conversed with the woman, but he also asked her to give him a drink, an act that according to Jewish law made him unclean.

The Samaritan woman is an outcast, one shunned even in Samaritan society. Jesus knows the woman’s sins and forgives her. He reaches out to this woman and brings her to the knowledge of salvation. She comes to understand and believe that Jesus is the Messiah. She invites others to meet him.

This encounter is significant because of its many levels of impact.

  • First – personal: the woman is converted to the belief in Jesus because he knows her sins but speaks with her anyway.
  • Second – social: having come to know Jesus as the Messiah, she becomes an agent of transformation to her own people, as they come to believe in him first because of her and then because they encounter him personally.
  • Third – educational: Jesus uses this encounter with the woman to teach his disciples that God’s mercy is unlimited. When the disciples return from their excursion to town to buy food they are confused and indeed scandalized to find Jesus talking to a Samaritan – a WOMAN!

Although the Gospel has dominated this reflection the theme of God’s presence and love for us runs through the readings of the day. In the first reading from Exodus we hear that in their thirst for water, the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “Why did you ever make us leave Egypt? Was it just to have us die here of thirst? . . . Is God in our midst or not?”

The second reading from Romans assures us that “. . .hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For Christ, while we were still helpless, died at the appointed time for the ungodly” proving God’s love for us.

Finally, the Psalm verse implores “If today you hear his voice, harden not your heart.”

Shifting the focus from ourselves to God’s love leads us to the amazing awareness that even though we are sinners, we are so incredibly loved by God. The invitation is to sit in the quiet and experience God’s love living in us, allowing us to deepen our relationship with God and one another.

What are you thirsting for spiritually, and how will you alleviate the thirst?

Who are the outcasts you encounter, and how can you reflect God’s love for them?

March 8, Second Sunday of Lent

Where is God Leading You This Lent?

by Sr. Joanne Callahan, OSU

I volunteered to do the reflection for the Second Sunday of Lent before I looked at the readings.  This can be a foolish thing to do as some Sundays you look at the readings and you don’t know where to begin in your own reflection.  This is not the case for this second Sunday of Lent.  All of the readings and the responsorial psalm offer us so much to think about. 

In the first reading we are reminded of Abram’s great faith in leaving his own country and the land and people he knew and loved, and moving to where the Lord wanted him.  He was promised a great nation, but he had challenges before he ever understood the Lord’s meaning for his life.  Yet he went.  Where is God leading you this Lent?  What/Whom do you have to let go of in order to meet our God?

The Gospel is one of my favorites.  The story of the Transfiguration.  God takes three of his disciples, not all of them.  Whey them?  God revealed himself to them saying: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased: listen to Him.”  Imagine being part of the scene.  I know I have shared my thought of what I hope will happen at the end of my life – that God will say to me “You are my beloved daughter, with whom I am well pleased.”  If that’s my wish, then I need to look at how I listen to Him and how I live my life.

The second reading reminds us: “He saved us and called us to a holy life, not according to our works but according to his own design…” Lent gives us the time to look at our lives and come to commit ourselves again to live a holy life, not doing our own will, but the will of God for me.  I don’t know about you, but I often figure out what I need to do and then tell God what I’m going to do instead of coming in prayer to discern what is the best course of action.  I’m trying to get better at this, but I presume it will be a life-long struggle for a Type A personality, even though I know I am more at peace with the decision when I know God is part of the dialogue.

I guess I come away with the Responsorial Psalm refrain in my mind: “Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.”  For it is trusting in the Lord that we need to do as we travel wherever God leads us this Lent.  Enjoy the journey of these forty days with the God who loves you and calls you to new and unknown places.

March 1, First Sunday of Lent

Lent: Being Freed Into God’s Abundant Love

by Sr. Lisa Bergeron, OSU

The sacred season of Lent has begun.  This first Sunday reacquaints us with a fully human Jesus whose being was entirely rooted in the knowledge of himself as Beloved by God.  Absolutely, unconditionally Beloved.  Indeed, in just the previous passage in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus is baptized and hears his Abba’s voice: “This is my  Beloved, on whom my favor rests.”  Then the Spirit leads Jesus into the wilderness, where he encounters the Tempter, the Exiled One.

And like many who are exiled from their truest selves, the devil offers Jesus only deceit and delusion.  These falsities are similar to the temptations to which we can we can fall prey when we seek for outside approval:

  • Be wholly self-sufficient in your needs;
  • Be arrogant with your might;
  • Be adored for who you are not.

When we succumb to any of these deceptions, we dishonor our own heritage as God’s Beloved, and distort our relationship with God, who is the One who calls us into being, who sustains and comforts us, who leads and guides and teaches us and calls us to live a more just, peaceable, compassionate and authentic life.

For me, what is essential in this Gospel is understanding that Jesus embraced his humanity fully, and remained grounded in the truth of his relationship with God.  He did not attempt to hide or cover up his vulnerability and frailty; nor did he cling to his status as God.  Rather, he “emptied himself” (Philippians 2:6) of all that was non-essential.  And he surrendered himself to the grace of his Abba’s love, and thus becomes even more fully who he was meant to be.  This Jesus, I believe, is who St. Ignatius of Loyola was contemplating when he remarked: “There are very few people who realize what God would make of them if they abandoned themselves into his hands and let themselves be formed by his grace.”  Jesus realized the fullness of his human potential because he lived the words uttered by his Abba:  “This is my Beloved, on whom my favor rests.”  Do we remain rooted in the knowledge that God claims each one of us as Beloved, and utters those precious words to us with each murmur of our heartbeat?

So often we are formed by other than the grace and love of our God.  We worry about how we appear to others, and whether we have enough influence or sufficient possessions to maintain our sense of worth.  We are concerned with having enough money to live freely.  We can become consumed with looking good or seeming more poised, popular or honorable than we truly are.  We hide our flaws and inadequacies and pretend to be perfect, selling ourselves short in our seeking after acclaim, autonomy and individuality.

I know that having enough to live on is a very real concern for some in our society; in my work as Director of Parish Social Ministry I daily encounter families who are struggling to pay the rent, put food on the table or keep their children clothed against the elements.  I do not mean to minimize their suffering and heartache.  But for most of us, the worries that keep us up at night are rooted in our anxieties that we are simply not enough as we are, that we do not measure up.  In doing so, we forget our heritage: we are redeemed children of God!   I would encourage us to follow the example of Jesus, and know ourselves – completely, absolutely and unconditionally – as Beloved by God, precious and honored and cherished.  I would urge us to renew within ourselves that sense that our whole personhood and identity is rooted in the One whose love has brought us into life, and brought us to this very moment. 

I invite you during this season of renewal (the word “Lent” comes from the Latin word for “spring”), to ponder with me:  If I allow myself to be formed by God’s love and grace, what will God make of me in the next six weeks?  What newness will flourish in me, in my life, my work, my family, my community?  How will my receptivity to the abundant love of God touch and transform me, and thus change our world?

May these Lenten days free us into God’s grace and lead us to our true home:  in the heart of the One who calls us “Beloved.”

Sister Lisa Bergeron, o.s.u., has been an Ursuline Sister of Tildonk for more than forty years.  Currently, she is Director of Parish Social Ministry at St. John Nepomucene Church, Bohemia, NY, where she oversees more than 300 volunteers in 21 different ministries.

February 26, Ash Wednesday

Lent: What is God Asking of You?

by Sr. Geraldine Conklin, OSU

LENT:   Be kinder. Go to daily Mass. Give up chocolate. Help an ailing neighbor. Pray more. Eat less. Exercise more. Volunteer in a soup kitchen. Visit a nursing home. Lunch with a lonely friend. Call a relative. Be more diligent at work. Listen more attentively. Talk less. Speak up more often.

What is it that God is asking of you this Lent? How will you respond?

This Ash Wednesday, God calls us to repent and believe the Good News. “Come back to the Lord your God,” urges Joel. God “is patient and keeps his promise: God is always ready to forgive and not punish.” With enthusiasm Joel cries, “Blow the trumpet on Mount Zion; give orders for a fast and call an assembly. Gather the people together…Bring the old, gather the children and babies. Even newly married couples must leave their homes and come.”  It seems everyone must come to celebrate by fasting, repenting, changing. It is a unique concept.  Celebrate repentance; revel in fasting and sacrifice, because God “had mercy on everyone.”  You are already forgiven; you are loved. So, embrace this fast, this time of repentance with joy.

-Joel 2:12-18

What is it that God is asking of you this Lent? How will you respond?

Paul exhorts us to “Listen! This is the hour to receive God’s favor; this is the day to be saved!” The Apostle explains that Jesus took on the sins of the world and thus, “He has changed you from an enemy to a friend.” Friend of God! What a wonderful gift, an awesome grace. Paul then begs, “In our work together with God, we beg you who have received God’s grace not to let it be wasted.” You know you have been blessed with innumerable graces and unique gifts for a purpose. It is up to you to use these gifts wisely.          

-2nd Corinthians 5:20-6:2

What is it that God is asking of you this Lent? How will you respond?

Matthew exhorts us to be “certain not to perform your religious duties in public so that people will see what you do…When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites! They love to stand and pray in the houses of worship and on the street corners, so that everyone will see them…and when you fast, do not put on a sad face…”  So, it seems that whatever you do, it should be something ordinary. Something not noticeable. Something that fits into the way you live. Something between you and God. Something that will transform you or bring you closer to God and the ones you love. Take some time to think about your life, your family, your work and the gifts you bring to God’s people.

-Matthew 6:1-6-16-18

What is it that God is asking of you this Lent?  How will you respond?

So, once you figure out what God is asking of you this Lent, be it big or small, do it with all your heart. Make a difference in your own life or someone else’s. Use these precious six weeks to come closer to the God who made you, saved you, and loves you more than you can ever fathom.

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Lent offers us all an opportunity to grow in our relationship with God and to reflect upon our lives.
We offer reflections from our Sisters to assist you in your Lenten journey.

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