Week 1: March 6
God’s Voice of Love
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness…
This is the story of the encounter of Jesus in the wilderness. For 40 days and 40 nights, the evil one attempted to get Jesus to put his own needs and potential concerns above the will of His Father. He wanted Jesus to act independently of the Father. He wanted Jesus to sacrifice His secure future for the present. Jesus met the devil’s challenge by trusting His Father to do all things in His time, in His way and with His result!
When I take a closer look at this passage, it helps me to understand the reason why Lent is so important. In the Gospel of Luke, it says Jesus is “led by the Spirit into the desert.” The Holy Spirit is God’s power. He often works as God’s voice, that “still small voice” of our souls. We need to remember God’s voice is always, always a voice of love that we need to be prepared to hear, even when we don’t particularly like the answer!
As I matured in my faith, in my relationship with God, I realized Jesus wasn’t having a physical conversation with a little man in red tights with a pitchfork and horns on his head. Our enemy is much more clever than that, knows our weakness, creates doubt, tempting us away from our heavenly Father.
In today’s world, it’s easy to distract ourselves from God’s voice of love. In His love, God gives us strength, dear friends, to resist that temptation. Be attentive in your prayer, fasting and almsgiving!
God of love, I open myself to you. May I be aware of only your powerful goodness, given to me at every moment of this day. I hold fast to you with a trusting heart, ready to heed your voice and to rest in your care. May all I am and all I do bless others. Amen.
-Terri Balash, Director of Pastoral Care
Week 2: March 13
In the Bible, important things happened on top of mountains, not unlike the “mountain top” experiences that we may be familiar with when we are filled with wonder and awe of God’s greatness and beauty. One of the most important mountain top events ever is described in today’s Gospel reading. We hear the story of the Transfiguration, where Jesus led his closest friends – Peter, John and James – up a mountain to pray. As Jesus prayed, he was transfigured and “his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light.” (Matthew 17:2). Jesus was joined by Moses and Elijah, also seen in glory. Moses represented the law and Elijah represented the prophets.
When Peter saw Jesus with these two important people of the faith, he got excited and suggested that they should stay on the mountain and build three tents for each of them. God’s voice and a cloud overtook them, and it was declared that Jesus is God’s Chosen Son and they should listen to Him (Luke 9: 33-35). I relate to Peter in this story, how often I have been in a bewildering situation and blurted out the first thing that came into my mind without really processing what was happening.
Peter was rebuked because he identified Jesus in the same circle as Moses and Elijah. Though they are pillars of the faith, they are not the Son of God. Moses and Elijah disappeared, and Jesus was the only one left standing there in front of the apostles.
This reading calls us to reflect and pray on our own lives to help us see the ways in which we can put Christ first in our day to day. In our busy world, do we put God on the same level as family, work or hobbies? Are we following the first commandment, or are we focusing our energy worshiping false gods like money, power and status?
Lent is a time for a restart in all areas of our lives. By prioritizing prayer, fasting from the false gods, and serving and giving alms to the poor, I hope and pray that we can experience our own transformation and be restored to a wholeness with Christ.
-Anh Clausen, Director of Family Ministry & Religious Formation
Week 3: March 20
In our walk with Jesus, we can sometimes see that He calls us softly and tenderly, other times Jesus calls us loudly and directly. Jesus utilizes two strong examples of apparent suffering, with little warning and seemingly no reason, to help us understand how fragile our lives can be. Jesus does not take the time to defend God in these tragic events, only that He does not equate tragedy with divine punishment.
Tragedy can come to us no matter what, yet our call to repentance remains the same. I reflect on the words of Jesus here, “If you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!” In my mind, repentance used to be an uncomfortable word. My mind goes back to my college years when a variety of street preachers would harshly preach to repent or burn in eternity. It did not matter whether these curt street preachers were right or wrong, but it left an indefinite sour taste in my mouth regarding the word and concept of repentance.
I have since learned to love and see how beautifully profound the concept of repentance is. If we never repent, we will never fully understand the mercy that God shows for us, mercy will always remain a vague understanding without it. Yet, when we repent, when we acknowledge our sin and surrender to God in whatever ways are unique to ourselves, a rush of understanding, love, mercy and grace are permitted to interact with our lives. Not only that, but as we acknowledge our sinfulness in repentance, we lose ground to judge others. If I am a sinner who needs repentance, what gives me the right to judge anyone else? As Jesus says, “Do you think they were more guilty than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem? By no means!”
God, as the vineyard owner, lovingly permits us with ‘borrowed time’ for repentance. But if we continually refute the call to repentance, our fruitless nature can be cut down. As such, there is profound beauty in repentance, yet a strong, loud and direct calling to not delay. We do not know what tomorrow holds, so let us take time this week to reflect on the ways that we are sinful, not to objectively cast shame and guilt, but to understand that, in our sin, there is a loving God who wants nothing more than to offer us His mercy and grace…we just have to let Him.
-Nino Rebholz, Associate Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry
Week 4: March 27
When I previously heard this weekend’s Gospel, I recognized the primary message – God forgives – but didn’t find the story itself to be particularly relatable. My first response to the prodigal son parable was, “Well, I’m not like the prodigal son. I haven’t done anything THAT bad.” As I reflect on the parable this year, I’m realizing that perhaps I’ve been missing the point. Yes, the prodigal son asks for his inheritance, abandons his family, and squanders all that he is given, but he comes back. Not only does he return, but his father lovingly embraces him.
After reflecting on this passage this year, I think that the message of the prodigal son parable applies to more than the major sins we commit. The Gospel is not about how badly we can mess up, but about how immense God’s mercy is. If the father not only forgives but embraces his son after the son insults and turns his back on his family, surely the father would forgive any minor sins, too. Small actions, like hurtful words or ignoring someone in need, require repentance and forgiveness, too. We can each be the prodigal son in small ways – and the beauty of the story is that we are forgiven, too. God’s loving mercy is waiting for us. We simply need to come back to the Lord.
-Meggie Moyer, Associate Director of Liturgy & Music
Week 5: April 3
A few weeks ago, when I was preparing for Taizé prayer, I was introduced to an icon called “Mary, Thrice Blessed.” It’s an icon of Mary and Jesus. I have never been so drawn into a piece of art as I am by that icon. I kept staring at it and couldn’t figure out what it was about this icon that was captivating me. I finally decided it was Mary’s beautiful face that was drawing me in. It was kind and loving and she was looking right at me as if she was telling me, “I love you and so does my Son, Jesus.” I couldn’t look away.
As the signup sheet for writing these Lenten articles went around, I didn’t think for a minute that I would sign up for this Sunday – the woman caught in adultery! But, as the Spirit is known to do, something about this reading was pulling at my heart. I didn’t know what at first, but then it came to me. Just like Mary in the icon, I was drawn into Jesus’ kind heart in this story. Nothing complicated or theological. He doesn’t get in a yelling match with the scribes and the Pharisees; He doesn’t chastise the woman caught in adultery and turn her back over to those who brought her to him. I don’t know what Jesus did when he bent down and wrote in the sand, but maybe he was just collecting his thoughts – taking a moment. When he stood up, he said just a few simple words, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Those who had angrily and boastfully brought her to the center of town walked away, one by one. No stoning, no violence. Can you imagine what the woman was thinking while watching this all unfold? She was facing her own violent death, and now this man named Jesus, with very few words, diffused the situation with compassion and love. And her life was changed forever. She was moved to change her life because Jesus loved her unconditionally. He didn’t gloss over what she had done, but affected a change in her life by standing up for her and challenging her to sin no more.
This Holy Week, let us remember how much Christ loves us – so much so that he died for us and rose from the dead and gave us new life. May we nurture that new life with kindness and compassion. Let us have compassion that heals, not stones that hurt.
-Mary Robertson, Director of Music & Liturgy, OLDP & THW
Week 6: April 10 (Palm Sunday)
“Every year, we read the Passion…because it happens still. Abandonment, betrayal, injustice, denial, voicelessness, violence, abusive speech and disrespect for the sacredness of life are the very evils which extend the suffering of Christ to our day and time. And so, we will continue to proclaim the Passion until we are so moved by its power and poignant message to transform our world.” Bishop Jeffrey Haines
This quote from Bishop Jeff came in response to the question of why we read the passion story every year on this Sunday before Easter. Each of us is invited to find our own story within this story of Christ’s self-emptying love. Each of us is invited to encounter this divine love which is poured out for us so that we might receive that love and allow it to transform us so that we might share it with the world.
Each year, I have the privilege of walking with men and women who are preparing to enter fully into the Catholic Church through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). This year, we will welcome 17 men and women into the Church at the Easter Vigils being celebrated at Old St. Mary and Three Holy Women’s St. Hedwig Church next Saturday. As a cradle Catholic, I am always humbled and inspired by this process. Our elect and candidates are witnesses to the call of our community: challenged by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus to be “moved by its power and poignant message to transform our world.”
After our Easter Vigil Masses, our Family of Four Parishes will host a reception to celebrate our newly initiated members and to kick off our celebration of Easter. I invite you all to join us in the parish center at Old St. Mary as we give thanks for the new life of these disciples and the new life offered in Christ’s resurrection!
-Chad Griesel, Pastoral Associate