2012 Lenten Reflections

HOLY SATURDAY

This year I have been very conscious because of the calendar synchronicity of the parallels between our Easter celebration and the celebration of Passover. In our family we always had the tradition of preparing the foods for Easter, packing them in a beautifully decorated basket, and taking them to the nearby Church for a special blessing on Holy Saturday afternoon. I understand that this tradition was common in many of the Slavic and Eastern European countries. As I looked at the foods in the basket, I saw how many of them were also part of the Seder meal being celebrated by our Jewish friends.

There is the salt that represented the tears.  There is the bitter herb of horseradish that represented the life of slavery in Egypt. There is the hard-boiled egg representing the new life the Israelites were to know as they left Egypt and bondage. There is the matzoh or unleavened bread representing the haste with which the Jewish people fled from Egypt. There is the meat, often lamb, which strengthened the Israelites for the journey and represented the sacrificial lamb.

This year, my great-nieces and great-nephew will be departing from the age-old tradition of preparing the basket. Instead, they will write their own blessing prayer based on what each of these foods prepared for Easter mean to our particular family. I am keenly curious to see what they will create as a blessing for our Easter food.

At the convent, Holy Saturday is an oddly curious day. The tabernacle in the Chapel is empty. There is no sanctuary lamp. The emptiness and silence in the Chapel is an awesome reminder of the emptiness of the tomb. Jesus, according to tradition, is no longer in the tomb but has descended into hell to free our ancestors fromb death and bring them into eternal life. That would mean the freeing of the prophets, of Moses, of David, of Adam and Eve. The gates of the netherworld are opened and all who had previously died but were manifestly good can now enter Paradise.

As we decorate the Chapel for the Easter feast, It becomes the symbol of that Paradise as the altar is adorned with a white altar cloth trimmed in gold, the Easter lilies, azaleas, daffodils, hyacinths and hydrangeas fill the Chapel with beautiful colors and scents. The statue of the Resurrection is brought into the Chapel and surrounded by flowers. Paradise becomes real as we fill the Chapel with the signs of Spring and new life.

We observe a relative silence throughout the day to encourage meditation on what all is silently transpiring “behind the scenes”, so to speak. What Jesus accomplishes in silence and secret will be made manifest in the glorious sounds of the Easter chants and hymns and the ringing of the bells once more. While there is hustle and bustle as we prepare for the Easter celebration, there is also the meditative spirit which reminds us that this Triduum we have been celebrating is the most solemn holiday of the Christian year. Culminating in the Easter Vigil Mass and the Easter celebration, these days are the epitome of our faith. We pray for those being admitted to the Church on this Easter Eve. We remember our own commitment to the Faith as we prepare to renew our baptismal promises.

May the blessings of the Risen Christ be with you. May you enjoy this festival of life and light with all those you love. And may we one day realize the fulfillment of the prayer of Jesus at his last supper with his disciples. May we one day be fully united in communion, not only with our Christian friends, but with our Jewish brothers and sisters, the Muslims with whom we share our father Abraham, and all children of the Holy One by whatever name they call the Divine throughout the world.

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GOOD FRIDAY

The Ignatian method of meditation is one that always comes to mind for me on Good Friday.  There are four Gospel accounts of the Passion, and the reading used for Good Friday is always taken from the Gospel of St. John.  To meditate on this Gospel in the Ignatian method, one would follow these steps:

  • Read the full account of the Gospel slowly, letting your imagination take in the scene as completely as possible.  If time permits, do a second slow reading so that you can fully absorb what is being recounted.
  • Picture yourself either as one of the characters in the reading or as a bystander observing what is happening.  Here is where I like to bring in journaling.  Instead of just imagining myself in the scene (composition of place), I picture myself there engaging in conversation with the character I chose.  Talk about what is going on, your reaction to the situation, the feelings that are rising up in you.  Instead of creating the conversation in your head, really picture the scene with you and the character there talking from heart to heart about what is taking place.
  • If you are moved to do so, sit silently experiencing the scene as if it were a movie going by the screen of your mind.  Do not create the movie, just let it unfold in your mind’s eye.  Then sit silently with your emotions and experience the love, anger, sorrow – whatever has come up in you.  Let what is happening in your imagination speak to you, and let your heart learn the listen the scene holds for you.
  • The next step is the colloquy.  Speak to Jesus or God as you picture God and pour out the emotions of your heart.  Express your gratitude or sorrow or anger or dismay or whatever in a pray directed to God.
  • The final step is to make a resolution for the day based on your experience.  Maybe you will act differently toward someone.  Maybe you feel moved to visit someone or write to someone to offer forgiveness or gratitude.  Maybe there is a thought that you want to carry with you throughout the day to help you to stay with your reflection.  Whatever you are moved to do as a result of the meditation becomes your resolution.  Some action should flow from your prayer.

May this Good Friday exercise help you not only today but in the many days ahead.  It has actually been suggested that this type of quiet reflection is good for your body as well as your soul.  Those who practice daily meditation experience many less health problems that are due to stress.  This type of meditation is calming, but it also helps you to make a deeper spiritual connection with the Divine as you perceive God to be.  Have a very Good Friday.

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Remember the legacy of Scripture and that which unites us

Thursday, April 5, 2012

HOLY THURSDAY
When I did my internship for nursing home administration at Menorah Park, I learned many of the Jewish traditions which have come into everyday practice without our knowing the roots.  One of those practices is “Spring Cleaning”.  Before the celebration of Passover, all traces of leavened bread must [more…]

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What shadows do we need God to help us light?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Wednesday of Holy Week has been traditionally called “Spy Wednesday”, because this is the day on which it is thought that Judas conspired with the Jewish leaders to betray Jesus. In some areas of the Christian Catholic world there is a special prayer service held this evening called “Tennebrae” [more…]

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How do we see light and darkness?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

It is interesting that the first reading for the three days of Holy Week before the Sacred Triduum are taken from the prophet Isaiah.  They are called the “The three songs of the servant of Yahweh” as they describe the suffering servant.  The reading for Tuesday is especially revealing, [more…]

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Have you thanked your prophetic voice?

Monday, April 2, 2012

Isaiah the prophet paints a verbal picture of the servant of God.
Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased, upon whom I have put my spirit; he shall bring forth justice to the nations, not crying out, not shouting, not making his [more…]

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Attention in the details

Sunday, April 1, 2012

I think that today’s Gospel reading from Mark is my favorite account of the Passion of Christ.  Mark pays attention to little details, and I would like to point out some of these.
First of all, it is surprising to find the account of the woman who anoints the feet [more…]

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With God acting through us, all things are possible

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Today’s reading from the prophet Ezekiel is one of the most detailed descriptions of God’s promise to the Israelites.  God speaks of unifying the nation so that it will no longer be a divided kingdom.  God will deliver them from sin and cleanse them to make them his people.  [more…]

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Going back to our roots

Friday, March 30, 2012

As we approach Holy Week, it is good for us to remember what it is that we are about to celebrate.  When the Jews celebrate Passover, it is customary for the youngest member of the family to pose the question:  “Why is this night different from all other nights?”  [more…]

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Can we confidently reveal our true self to another?

Thursday, March 29, 2012

I’ve always been fascinated by the story of Abraham being told by God that he would be the “father of a host of nations,” when he and his wife were beyond the childbearing years.  And yet three religious traditions find their roots in Abraham – Muslims, Christians, and Jews.  [more…]

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The freedom of the children of God is based on simple truths.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

When I was a child, today’s reading from the Book of Numbers was one of my favorites.  Why?  Because it was so much fun trying to pronounce the names of Nebuchadnezzar, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.  I also was amused by the King’s reaction to seeing four men walking around [more…]

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Compassionate presence and healing hands

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

In today’s first reading we hear the story of Moses dealing with the complaining Israelites who are punished by the Lord with a plague of seraph serpents.  Moses was told to mount an image of the seraph serpent on a pole and that whoever looked on it would be [more…]

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What cause do I have to believe that God is at work in me and in those I love?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Today is an unusual day.  We take a break from the Lenten season to celebrate the feast of the Annunciation.  Usuually celebrated on March 25, the feast was superceded by the Fifth Sunday of Lent this year and is therefore transferred to be celebrated on March 26.  Truly it [more…]

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Jesus wept at the death of his friend, be unafraid to express emotion

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Gospel for today, if you take the readings for the RCIA program, is very long.  It is the story of the raising of Lazarus.  It is a story of friendship, the closest friends Jesus had – Lazarus and his sisters Martha and Mary.  These were the people at [more…]

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Judge by actions, not words

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Gospel reading for today shows us how divided the Jewish leaders were concerning Jesus. The Pharisees, the Sanhedrin, the chief priests and the guards were arguing about Jesus saying how powerful his preaching was, how no Prophet could come from Galilee, questioning how Jesus could be a descendant [more…]

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Rejoice in our true origins

Friday, March 23, 2012

As we move further into Lent, the Gospel readings record the intensified commitment on the part of some of the people in Jerusalem to kill Jesus. He began to be more careful about his comings and goings and entered the city in relative secrecy for the festival of Booths. [more…]

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An everlasting love

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The story of the exodus from Egypt is full of dramatic crises. In today’s reading, we hear of God complaining to Moses about the depravity of the people. They have made a molten calf and ate worshipping it, sacrificing to it, calling it the one who saved them from [more…]

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Steadfast and unfailing love

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The first reading from today’s liturgy contains one of the most tender passages in all of Scripture.  Zion is complaining in the book of Isaiah:  “The Lord has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me.”  But the Divine responds:  “Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for [more…]

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Spend time feeding the hungers of the soul

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

We are in the fourth week of Lent, and the tone of the readings for the liturgy have begun to change.  More and more as we approach the end of Lent, we hear why the authorities are getting perturbed with Jesus.  Today’s gospel talks about the cure of the [more…]

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Joseph – chosen to be the husband of Mary and the protector of Jesus

Monday, March 19, 2012

Although it is Lent, the Feast of St. Joseph takes precedence over the Lenten observance.  Today is like a break to celebrate in the middle of a season of penitence.  As a result, in old Catholic countries, many special traditions developed around the celebration of this day.  Because St. [more…]

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How good it would be if we could practice seeing with the eyes of God!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

There is an option during Lent to use the readings from cycle A, no matter what cycle we are in. The first reading in this cycle comes from the first book of Samuel and tells the story of Samuel being called by the Lord to anoint the one God [more…]

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To see us love one another is more important than any artificial sacrifice

Saturday, March 17, 2012

My sister has four daughters who are now grown with families of their own. I can remember when they were younger – four girls in the house, a precocious pre-teen and three teenagers. That could be any mother’s nightmare. Don’t get me wrong. These girls were wonderful, but they [more…]

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Do you hear God’s voice as the whisper in your soul?

Friday, March 16, 2012

In Psalm 81, God pleads with his people to hear him. This has been a theme throughout this week. In this psalm God makes a promise – you could almost call it a bribe:
“If only my people would hear me,
And Israel wall in my ways,
I would feed them with [more…]

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Do I harden my heart to God’s call?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The psalm response in today’s liturgy is repeated in many of the Lenten Masses: “If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts.” It is a reminder to us of God’s complaint regarding the Israelites when they were wondering in the desert. They closed their hearts and did [more…]

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How do you measure up against your values?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The readings for today’s liturgy are probably not on the top ten list of readings since they deal with the law. In the first reading, Moses is reminding the Jews, the chosen people, that they are to remember all that the Lord has commanded them to do: “Take care [more…]

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God cannot be outdone in generosity

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Today’s Gospel tells a familiar story of St. Peter’s usual unbounded enthusiasm. He asks Jesus in a spirit of what he sees as total generosity: “Lord, when my brother wrongs me, how often must I forgive him? Seven times?” “No,” Jesus replied, “not seven times; I say, seventy times [more…]

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Be open to “minor miracles”

Monday, March 12, 2012

Today’s reading from the second book of Kings tells a very interesting story about Naaman the king of Aram who was a leper.  It was recommended to him that he visit the prophet in Samaria, Elisha.  When Elisha told him to wash seven times in the Jordan, he objected, [more…]

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Making our words be life-giving

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Mass readings today are so rich, that it was hard for me to decide what I should reflect on, but one line in the Gospel of John in cycle A. The Samaritan woman says to the town people about Jesus, “He told me everything I have done.” Because [more…]

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Where there is servant leadership, everyone takes responsibility

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Today’s Gospel reading may surprise us a little as we often think that the apostles were holy men because of their close association with Jesus. But the reading today shows us two men whose mother appeals for their “promotion.” The mother of James and John appeals for her sons [more…]

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Seeing with God’s eyes what is going on in our midst.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The people of Sodom and Gomorrah had a reputation for doing evil. To this day the names of those ancient cities are representative of “Sin Cities.” Yet in the book of the prophet Isaiah we hear God addressing them in these words:
Wash yourselves clean! Put away your misdeeds from [more…]

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The key to an open heart

Monday, March 5, 2012

Today’s Gospel contains one of the most encouraging passages in Scripture. Jesus is instructing his disciples on the meaning of forgiveness and compassion and not making judgments. He tells them, “Give and it shall be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will they pour [more…]

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Don’t overlook what follows the vision

Sunday, March 4, 2012

I love the story of the Transfiguration which is the Gospel for this Lenten Sunday. Moses and Elijah appear speaking with Jesus, and Peter, with his usual exuberance exclaims: “Rabbi, how good it is for us to be here. Let us erect three booths on this site, one for [more…]

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“Love your enemies, pray for your persecutors”

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Today’s Gospel contains one of the hardest commands that Jesus spoke: “Love your enemies, pray for your persecutors.” I can hear many say, “Oh, that’s not hard at all. I don’t have any enemies. I’ve never been persecuted.” That was my opinion until I looked at these words from [more…]

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Recognizing our brother and sister in each person we meet

Friday, March 2, 2012

In today’s Gospel Jesus talks about the fact that not only is murder a sin, but even being angry and using abusive language toward someone renders one liable to judgment. Jesus goes on to speak of forgiveness, saying: “If you bring your gift to the altar and there recall [more…]

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Strong female examples: from where do they draw their strength and goodness?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

One of the most famous women in the Hebrew Scriptures is the heroine mentioned in today’s first reading. Queen Esther took her own life into her hands as she approached the King of Persia, Xerxes and convinced him to reverse the decree of Haman who planned to exterminate the [more…]

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When we put good deeds in, God’s love pours out

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

We are all familiar with the story in the first reading from today’s liturgy. It’s the story of Jonah who came to Ninevah to preach after trying to escape the task God had set before him and spending three days in the belly of the whale. Ninevah was so [more…]

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Let us begin peace in our own hearts

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

I had a totally different reflection written for today, but in the light of yesterday’s events in Chardon, Ohio, things have changed in a big way. As of the time of this writing, one student has died and four are being treated for gunshot wounds from a horrific shooting [more…]

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How often do I look the other way?

Monday, February 27, 2012

In the Gospel read at Masses this morning, we hear Jesus talking about those who saw him hungry, thirsty, or away from home or naked or in prison and who did not respond.  They asked a basic question:  When did we ignore you?  Jesus responds:  “I assure you, as [more…]

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Appreciating God’s promises

Sunday, February 26, 2012

In the story of Noah from the book of Genesis, God makes a covenant with the people after the flood saying; “This is the sign that I am giving for all ages to come, of the covenant between me and you and every living creature with you:  I set [more…]

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Making Sunday Special

Saturday, February 25, 2012

In another passage from Isaiah, God speaks to the people about observing the Sabbath saying: “If you hold back your foot on the Sabbath from following your own pursuits on my holy day; if you call the Sabbath a delight, and the Lord’s holy day honorable; if you honor [more…]

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Seeing each person as a child of God

Friday, February 24, 2012

In the book of the prophet Isaiah we read of the Holy One chastising his people for the kind of fasting and penance which was hypocritical and which led to oppression instead of praise. The prophet speaks to the people in God’s name and says: “This, rather, is the [more…]

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How are you watering your parched soul during this Lenten season?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The forty days of Lent remind us of the forty years of the Exodus when the Jewish people wondered in the dessert. They complained to Moses that God had abandoned them because they had no food. On hearing this, God provided manna to sustain them which they gathered every [more…]

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Ash Wednesday Reflection: Opening our Hearts to God’s Love and Grace

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent in the Christian calendar.  Over the centuries the focus of Lent has changed.  Since the Second Vatican Council, the emphasis has once again been placed on the preparation for Baptism of those in the Catechumenate (studying to be received into the [more…]

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