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Posts Tagged ‘Lenten Reflections’

This post is part of our Lenten Reflection Series: Be A Fountain of Mercy
Authored by Sister Mary Rebekah Kennedy, SND

LISTEN: Jerusalem My Destiny  – Rory Cooney

I have fixed my eyes on your hills,
Jerusalem, my Destiny!

In our Lenten journey we have arrived in Jerusalem with Jesus. I do not know if Jesus knew for sure what was going to happen to him once he arrived in the Holy City. But I do know that throughout the Gospels, Jesus was faithful to the journey itself which would lead to Jerusalem. Jesus’ journey was one of doing the will of his merciful Father.

Whether Jesus spent time in prayer with his Father, used his healing touch to make others whole again, or spoke words of comfort or admonition to his followers, he was doing God’s will. Jesus is the model for us all of a Son who lived in total awareness of his Father.

I have fixed my eyes on your hills,
Jerusalem, my Destiny!
Though I cannot see the end for me,
I cannot turn away.

We, too, are called to live in that total awareness of being a daughter or a son of God. As we continue our journey through the Jubilee Year of Mercy, may we, too, be inspired to spend time in prayer with our Father. May our contacts with others reflect the comforting words and touches of Jesus. May we awaken each day petitioning God to lead us in doing His will.

I have fixed my eyes on your hills,
Jerusalem, my Destiny!
Though I cannot see the end for me,
I cannot turn away.
We have set our hearts for the way;
this journey is our destiny.

And, finally, may we be reassured that we do not travel alone to Jerusalem. We are a part of the Body of Christ.

I have fixed my eyes on your hills,
Jerusalem, my Destiny!
Though I cannot see the end for me,
I cannot turn away.
We have set our hearts for the way;
this journey is our destiny.
Let no one walk alone.
The journey makes us one.

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This post is part of our Lenten Reflection Series: Be A Fountain of Mercy
Authored by Sister Mary Regina Robbins, SND

“Quick, bring the finest robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again.” Lk. 15

Even though the Gospel for this Sunday is familiar to all of us, we never tire of it. It shows in bas relief how in Christ old things can pass away and new things can come. It is possible to let go of the old if it bogs us down, and believe in new life. So we hear again the parable of the Prodigal Son returning to his father who receives him with open arms and abundant blessings of love and gratitude. With a little imagination we can picture Jesus, the storyteller, holding his listeners spellbound as they wonder how the story will end. Surprise, shock! Jesus has come up with a terrifically radical, unforgettable story to get across the mercy of God, the loving Creator-God. He reveals his Abba as one who waits for us, refusing to take away our free will and who even lets us wander and fall until we find how miserable we can be apart from him.

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Especially parents can identify with this story as they feel an aching longing for their departed children. Many parents are tortured by what may have gone wrong or what could have been different in their relationships with their children. They hope and pray for their children to realize that they have a home and are painfully missed.

But the story is not just about others returning. It is also about us. In many ways we wander, straying from goodness and close dependence upon God. During Lent we are invited to spend time looking at where we are and where we have wandered. We allow ourselves in quiet prayer to recognize our plight. By facing our inner truth we come to an awakening, “I must return.”  The Church, especially during the Holy Year of Mercy, opens its doors, providing the sacrament of reconciliation and doctrinal promises of forgiveness and acceptance.

As Saint Paul says in the second reading, God our Father is reconciling us through Christ. As we prepare for the Easter renewal of our baptismal vows we believe: “Whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold new things have come.”

What are these old things for you and what might the new things be? For the Prodigal Son it was very clear. Is it clear for you?

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This post is part of our Lenten Reflection Series: Be A Fountain of Mercy
Authored by Sister Mary Antonine Manning, SND

The burning bush that was not consumed and the barren fig tree that was spared destruction can lead us to a consideration of the duty of care for our common home—the Earth.

In his encyclical On Care for Our Common Home (Laudato Si’) Pope Francis proposes certain practices that may seem trivial but as he says, “directly and significantly affect the world around us.” Among these are choosing to use less heating and wearing warmer clothes instead, avoiding the use of plastic and paper, reducing water consumption, separating trash and recyclables, cooking only what can reasonably be consumed, showing care for other living things, using public transport or carpooling, planting trees, and turning off unnecessary lights (L.S. 211).

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“Reusing something instead of immediately discarding it, when done for the right reasons, can be an act of love which expresses our own dignity,” (L.S. 211). The Pope decries what he terms a throwaway culture. “[W]e know that approximately a third of all food produced is discarded and ‘whenever food is thrown out it is as if it were stolen from the table of the poor,’” (L.S. 50).

Lent provides us with the impetus to examine our lifestyle and to evaluate our stewardship of the Earth.

Questions for reflection:

Am I striving to be aware of how my actions affect others—my brothers and sisters throughout the world?

What type of ecological situations are we forcing future generations to face by ignoring ecological problems now?

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This post is part of our Lenten Reflection Series: Be A Fountain of Mercy
Authored by Sister Mary Regina Robbins, SND

The Entrance Antiphon for this Sunday is a beautiful plea:

“Of you my heart has spoken:
Seek his face.
It is your face, O Lord, that I seek.
Hide not your face from me!” (Ps. 25)

As we continue our Lenten journey we experience an increasing desire to be pure of heart, to have eyes of faith, to be all that God is calling us to be. We want to see the face of Christ so we can reflect his goodness to our world. However Satan wages a relentless war against our efforts. We hear God’s call in our hearts but the evil spirit uses twists and turns to suggest excuses, and butters up our already-puffed-up egos. The journey is rough at times. Like Saint Paul we say we do not always do the things we resolve to do. We experience our human weaknesses and realize more and more how much we need Lent to discipline ourselves. We turn to God for the grace and strength to be Christ-like. “Hide not your face from me, Lord!”

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This Sunday we have the wonderful Gospel of the Transfiguration. Let your imagination enter the scene. Climb the hillside with Jesus. His transfiguration is to empower us as it did the apostles, for our own transformation into his likeness.

The apostles had some kind of mystical experience on Mount Tabor. It changed their lives and they held in their hearts forever that memory. They had a personal God-experience, an intimate encounter with Jesus Christ, true God and true man.

This Gospel event is so important that the liturgical calendar celebrates it as a feast day on August 6. It is recorded in all three synoptics (Mtt.17.1-8, Mk. 9.2-8 and Lk. 9.28-36). Jesus manifests his glory and divinity, impressing upon the apostles who he really is, giving them a truth which they will later be able to refer to in times of temptation and difficulty.

Have you had a “transfiguration” personal encounter with Jesus? Yours may not be recorded in any book and it may not be as dramatic, but if you look into your heart you may be able to recall some moment or event that changed you in some way. We know the story of Jesus’ transfiguration because the apostles experienced it, recalled it, reflected upon it, and then shared it, giving testimony. Do we willingly share our God-experiences as testimony of what God can do? This is a grace to ask for during Lent as we deepen our prayer and meditation and pray that God will show us his face.

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This post is part of our Lenten Reflection Series: Be A Fountain of Mercy
Authored by Sister Mary Teresita Keliher, SND

As we begin the Lenten season we journey with Jesus into the desert. In the film The Bible there is a heart-wrenching scene where Jesus is struggling for survival after 40 days in the desert. The devil approaches Him and offers a stone to change to bread. He takes Jesus to a high point and encourages Him to jump and trust that God will provide. Finally the devil takes Jesus to the temple and offers Him a royal kingdom. Each time Jesus rebukes the devil, staying strong against these temptations.

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Lent is an appropriate time for all of us to face our temptations and examine our God connections. What are our priorities and where does God fit in? We are offered three ways to improve our relation with God and our Christian family.

  1. PRAY – We are encouraged to pray more during this Lenten season. Where are you in your prayer journey? If your answer is that you don’t have time to pray, then Lent is the perfect opportunity for renewal. For Lent create a prayer space, maybe with a cactus plant as a reminder of Lent. Practice silence and create times of quiet, at home or in the car. Meditate, breathe slowly and pray the Psalm for the day. Read a spiritual book. Take a walk and see the beauty around you.
  2. FAST – Jesus fasted in the desert. Lent motivates us to fast, wasting less, giving up grudges, fasting from TV.
  3. ALMGIVING – Finally we are encouraged to look around us and see those in need. Almsgiving motivates us to spend a little less on ourselves and offer money to a charity. What could you do to help? Simplify your life. Do some spring cleaning and offer the extras to a local second-hand store.

Pope Francis has offered the idea of practicing a Work of Mercy on Fridays. The Pope is a tremendous example to us we see him reaching out to those in need. Our prayer, fasting, and almsgiving help us to be better disciples in our world today. Kerry Weber, managing editor of America Magazine, wrote the book Mercy in the City in which she describes her Lenten journey of picking a work of mercy each week and executing it in some way.

Reflection Questions:

  • What is a temptation in my life that I want to address this Lent?
  • How does my involvement in economic, political, or church systems contribute to the building of the Reign of God?

Prayer: Grant almighty God, through the observance of holy Lent, that we may grow in understanding of the riches hidden in Christ and by worthy conduct pursue their effects. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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This post is part of our Lenten Reflection Series: Be A Fountain of Mercy
Authored by Sister Mary Regina Robbins, SND

An ambassador is an honorary position, but also a very responsible one. An ambassador stands in place of another of greater distinction and purpose. Saint Paul liked to think of himself as representative of Christ and His message, and so do I! What a Christian challenge! To be a stand-in for Christ!

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We carry in our hearts and minds the indwelling of our Savior, with all the outpouring of God’s love. The call this Lent may be precisely to let Christ truly live out His love in and through us. We might spend some time reflecting on Paul’s words to the Corinthians (2Cor. 5.20-6.2).

“We are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, to be reconciled to God. For our sake He made Him to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. Working together, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain!”

So we resolve not to receive the grace of God in vain. This Lent the church is even more than ever aware of the great message of God’s love and forgiveness, as Pope Francis has announced a Holy Year of Mercy. To reflect on God’s great love, acceptance and forgiveness, encourages us to be merciful to ourselves but also challenges us to treat others with this same mercy. We recognize and even celebrate that while made to the image and likeness of God, we are all very human and human beings are “in the making” and not brought to perfection yet. Because we are in the making we depend on and want others to give us the benefit of the doubt, to have mercy when we fail or make mistakes. We too need not to judge others or expect perfection from them. Let us use the entrance antiphon for Ash Wednesday as our own mantra this week: “You are merciful to all, O Lord. You overlook people’s sins, to bring them to repentance, and you spare them, for you are the Lord our God.” But instead of the “Lord” say: “I am merciful to all.” And then see what happens.

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By Sister Mary Grace Leung, SND

The seasons of the Church’s liturgical year have always been special to me because I entered the Catholic Church through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. I was baptized at the Easter Vigil in 2006 and every year I look forward to my anniversary!

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When I learned about Advent in my classes, I made sure it was special by lighting up the Advent candles at home before I had supper. I said all the prayers and pondered on my anticipation of Jesus’ birth. Then Lent came, and I was truly touched by the practice of praying, fasting and giving alms. I was eager to fill my rice bowl for Catholic Charities and I bought food for the homeless whom I greeted along my walks on the streets of the city. Lent helped me realize that I needed to be with and for people who are in need – something that was lacking in my past.

My eagerness and excitement in taking the final steps to my baptism was filled with so many graces. The three scrutinies of the catechumens, the three readings from the Gospel of John about the healing of the man born blind, the raising of Lazarus and the Samaritan woman all pointed me toward conversion experiences that enriched my prayer life and openness to what God was calling me to as a new disciple and member of the Church. What moved me was hearing the voice of Jesus telling me “do you know that I love you?” I said, “Yes, I do!” and every Easter I am reminded of God’s love for me, and that he is always with me in times of darkness as well as in times of joy. God’s love endures and strengthens all of us for the journey, and this is the great blessing of each Easter season.

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By Sister Mary Rebekah Kennedy, SND

The time of Lent is a concentrated period in which we gaze contemplatively at the face of Jesus. Each of us might search for something different in his eyes – acceptance, understanding, love, forgiveness, or guidance.

We often approach Jesus aware of and burdened down with our failings, our shortcomings, our biases. My wish for all of us at this season, however, is that in our contemplation of the face of Jesus we might see not our faults and foibles reflected in his eyes but that we might see ourselves as only he sees us. In the Spiritual Canticle, John of the Cross writes:

When You regarded me
Your eyes imprinted your grace in me,
In this, You loved me again,
And thus my eyes merited
to also love what You see in me…
Let us go forth together to see
ourselves in Your beauty.

These words give me hope. They remind me that God has made me in His Divine Image. The faults and flaws that I see in myself are invisible to his eyes. When I am present to Jesus as my constant companion I am able to see myself reflected in his eyes and to love myself as He loves me. I then can become a true reflection of the Divine Image.

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They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.” John 12:21. Is this not what I ask of God every day? What a grace in my life it would be if, on a daily basis, Jesus and I went forth together, my eyes seeing in myself and in others the goodness He sees and loves. When Jesus looks at me, he does not see a fragmented person. He sees me whole and holy, as he made me, his beauty reflected in me. Gazing on the face of Jesus, loving in myself what he unconditionally loves in me can lead me to also see others as a reflection of his beauty.

And so, during this Lenten season, what will each of us seek? Will I seek my own way? My own preferences? A front-row seat to my own opinions? Or will I seek the face of Jesus, asking Him to hold me as well as every person in His loving gaze, going forth together (Jesus, my family and friends, myself) to see ourselves in His beauty.

 

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Cleansing of the Temple: Jn. 2.13-25

By Sister Mary Regina Robbins, SND

The story of Jesus cleansing the temple area is shocking. He is definitely center stage in this scene. We see a side of his character that we were not expecting! Jesus in full stature, with energy and anger, makes a whip and drives people, oxen and sheep out of the area in front of the temple. We can picture the tables upturned and money splatting all over. He tells those who were selling doves “Get them out of here. Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace!” What’s not to run from? This man is in a rage! And along with this gesture Jesus proclaims without compromise, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” So Jesus, what was going on with you that day?

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I get it. Jesus manifests divinity and humanity. However, I find myself thinking: In Rome, Lourdes and Assisi haven’t we seen folks selling souvenirs and bargaining with people? And they do this right in front of the most holy and beautiful basilicas! In fact the economy of cities are enhanced by tourism purchases. So Jesus, what are we supposed to do with this “sign”?

Certainly our first reflection echoes the minds of the disciples describing prophets in the Old Testament: “Zeal for your house consumes me.” Jesus demonstrates a passionate love for his Father and true worship. Jesus knows motivation and sees through what is going on. As the last line in this account reads, “He was well aware of what was in man’s heart.”

And this leads us deeper into a second reflection: Jesus is well aware of what is in my heart. Am I well aware of what is in my heart? As we journey through Lent; as we enter more deeply into the basilica of true Paschal Mystery worship of God through, with and in Jesus, what clutter stands around the entrance? What moneychanger tables block my humble contrition and my sincere desire to know, love and serve God?

Now picture Jesus with that same energy helping you to dash out the junk, sins and the bad habits that the Holy Spirit keeps nudging you to get rid of. Hear Jesus say directly to you: “Get them out of here! Stop turning your beautiful Temple of the Holy Spirit, into a marketplace of detractions.”

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The Second Sunday of Lent – Transfiguration of Jesus

By Sister Mary Lisa Megaffin, SND

The account of the Transfiguration, a rather mysterious segment in the life of Christ, provides many reflection points about the presence of God.

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It almost seems as if Peter, James and John experienced a bit of an emotional roller coaster. First, they had heard (but probably not grasped) Jesus’ previous challenging messages as recounted in the gospel of Mark:

  • That the Son of Man should suffer many things—a message which Peter tried to discount,
  • The necessity of losing one’s life for the sake of the Gospel,
  • That genuine disciples of Jesus must be ready to deny themselves and take up their personal crosses.

What a juxtaposition: from hard and potentially painful sayings, to the radiance of Christ’s clothing and countenance, to the ecstasy of the apostles–“it is good that we are here.”  It is no wonder that Peter was at a loss for words–“he hardly knew what to speak because they were so terrified.”

What we can learn is that even in times of emotional turmoil, or perhaps especially in times of emotional turmoil, God is present and he will reveal himself to those whose hearts are ready to listen. During Lent, we have many opportunities to unplug, still our hearts, be led up a high mountain apart by ourselves, and embrace and surrender to the deep graces which this solitude fosters. Deep within, I hear “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” In this solitude, I can experience the radiance of God’s presence as I grow even closer in my personal relationship with Jesus, asking him:

  • How is he, as the Son of Man, suffering today in my brothers and sisters around the world?
  • What does losing my life for the sake of the Gospel mean, in light of this suffering?
  • For the grace to be aware of the radiance of God’s presence even in difficult moments, as I deny myself and take up my cross, becoming a source of that radiance and grace for others.

“The grace of the Transfiguration is not just a vision of glory…its primary purpose is something greater: to empower us to live in the presence of God and to see the radiance of that presence in all events, people, the cosmos, and in ourselves.” …Thomas Keating.

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