In recognition of Lent, we will be posting a daily note based upon the day’s gospel.  Please join us in reflecting during the Lenten season. 

February 14, 2018 – During the season of Lent we look for fruitful and productive ways to do penance. There are so many ‘things’ we could give up, and many of them would probably be to our spiritual advantage. But what about turning over to the Lord to more expensive possessions we have and hold on to: the attitudes, values and patterns in our lives which aren’t yet really transformed by God’s grace. That could rend us holier.

Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the Lord, your God.  (Joel 2:13)

February 15, 2018 – Isaiah is very straightforward when he counseled about true fasting: feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, clothe the naked, don’t turn your back on your own. This is precisely the work and mission of the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington.  Support us – during Lent and beyond. It’s a great way to fast.

Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? (Isaiah 58:7)

February 16, 2018 – Societal division, dislike, and even hatred abound in our country. That’s a stinging indictment against us. We claim to be a country where all are equal. Such is not the case. The law of both testaments in the bible is the same: love one another. God’s presence in our world is marked by the tangible and visible effects of that law in our society. What are we doing to make God’s law a reality in our neighborhood?

You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.  Leviticus (19:18)

February 17, 2018 – Jonah’s journey to Nineveh at the Lord’s command might be thought of only as a fishy story, but Jonah’s mission was to preach repentance. As we listen to the Lenten readings at Mass and pray on them, are you beginning to get a sense that true religion is not just the private prayers we might offer to God but the down and dirty work of changing the cities and towns, the very country we live in for the better. Roll up your sleeves and let’s get back to work. Nothing fishy about this.

When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it. (Jonah 3:10)

February 18, 2018 – Saying I’m sorry and really meaning it is no easy task. Reconciliation with someone we’ve offended is our challenge in daily living. Reconciliation is the vocation of each Christian and of the church as a whole.  What are we doing this Lent to mend fences and build bridges with our neighbor and those who have been hurt by our words and deeds? Once reconciled then we can offer our gift at the altar.

First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. (Matthew 5:24)

February 19, 2018 – Pardon, and you shall be pardoned. Give, and it shall be given to you. Need more be said. Jesus’ words must be as fresh today as they were 2,000 years ago. They must also be as abrasive and as piercing today as they were 2,000 years ago. Catholic Charities gives but only as you give to them to dispense care and generosity in your name. It hurts to pardon, but how can we possibly imagine that we would be forgiven if we are not actively forgiving others.  A Lenten challenge to be sure.

Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. (Luke 6:37)

February 20, 2018 – Tell me that all of us don’t expend energy jockeying for the best position, whatever it may be. And perhaps we engage in that tactic all too frequently. Lent is a great season to let go of things. Jesus makes it quite clear that he is not some divine dispenser of the best seats in the house. Rather, when questioned about that possibility his answer reflects all the activities of his own life. Serve one another. Can we give up enough to make the reality of service to others the hallmark of our lives?

The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Matthew 20:28)

February 21, 2018 – Joseph, the dreamer, was the favorite son of Jacob. He had a rough life, thrown into a cistern by his own brothers, sold by his siblings to foreigners to cover their misdeed, falsely accused of adultery and subsequently jailed. Yet God had his back and brought him safely out of all his personal tragedies. His life can be interpreted on several different levels, but why not let him speak to us in this Lenten season. If we surrender to God, we’ll discover that God has our backs through thick and through thin. Do our experiences allow us to accept this reality?

When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him. (Genesis 37:4)

February 22, 2018 – Today is the Feast of St. Peter.  We celebrate the gift of the one called to lead the apostles and the early Church.  He had a far different role, but we are all called to be leaders in our own communities and families.

You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church. (Matthew 16:18)

February 23, 2018 – In today’s gospel, the Lord tells us not to call other people a fool, or be angry with our brother. Many of us fall on the side of anger, more often than we would like to admit.  On the second Friday of Lent, let us look for ways to be more patient and kind to one another, particularly those who can easily make us angry.

But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. (Matthew 5:22)

February 24, 2018 – Today’s gospel is one of my favorites.  The first homily when I was a young seminarian was presented on this gospel.  I think it is one of the hardest of all.  The Lord says love your enemies and pray for your persecutors.  Someone slaps your one cheek, turn the other. Isn’t that a huge challenge for us all?

You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew: 5:48)

February 25, 2018 – For me this is a time of trying to be transfigured, not so much changed on the outside, but on the inside. Reflect on the Lord’s transfiguration on the mountain, and challenge yourself to change something on the inside that keeps you from being the image of Christ to others.

…and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them.(Mark 9:3)

February 26, 2018 – We are reminded today, as Jesus said to his disciples “Be merciful, just as your father was merciful.” Easier said than done for most of us. This Lenten season, we should all be looking for ways to be merciful to one another, to try to better understand one another, and do our part to encourage, engage, and support one another.

For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you. (Luke 6:38)

February 27, 2018 – We must be mindful that our actions speak louder than our words.  That we are not engaging for the sake of appearances alone.  That our deeds and actions are done humbly and in the best interest of others rather than ourselves.

For they preach but they do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them. All their works are performed to be seen. (Matthew 23:3-5)

February 28, 2018 – Serving our neighbors is a key tenant of Jesus’s life and his teachings.  What are you doing to serve others?  Are you fulfilling your Lenten promise to reflect and repent?

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 20:28)

March 1, 2018 – When we are given much comfort in life we are obligated to share it with those less fortunate.  We cannot turn our backs on what is ugly or unpleasant in this world. Have you heard the call?  How will you answer?

Son, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. (John 16:25)

March 2, 2018 – Today’s gospel the Parable of the Tenants, is rather eye-opening and we can draw many parallels to our daily lives. The tenants did not believe in the love, forgiveness, and grace of God. They feared and wanted to silence those unlike themselves.  How often do we also wish we only had to hear from those who thought like us or behaved like us?  We should open our eyes to see the struggles and victories of all our neighbors to learn from them, as well as accept our errors and not be afraid to change course when necessary.

“The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.” (Matthew 21:41)

March 3, 2018 – Have you ever lost your way?  Like the older son in today’s gospel many of us have probably set out on our own, questioned ourselves and our beliefs.  But what did we find?  Did we find ourselves?  Or like the son, did we need something more than ourselves to be fulfilled?

“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 15:31-32)

March 4, 2018 – Do you ever get angry?  What is it that really upsets you? I hope that you are angrier about the great injustices in the world than you are by the small inconveniences that happen every day. For instance, what makes you more upset catching every red light on the way to an important meeting, or seeing a school shooting without addressing gun laws?

Stop making my father’s house a marketplace. (John 2:16)

March 5, 2018 – Healing and curing: two activities for which Jesus’ fame spread through the land. Healing and curing depend on our willingness to see and to hear. Lent provides the perfect backdrop for us to see and to hear the deeds and words of Jesus acting in our lives now. Catholic Charities is a great example of others really being the healing hands and the salvific words of the risen Lord. Can you assist in this work?

Naaman’s servants went to him and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!” So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy. (2 Kings 5: 13-14)

March 6, 2018 – Do you expect others to show you mercy?  Have you shown mercy to others when asked?  How can we expect forgiveness if we are unwilling to give it?  Let us use the immeasurable mercy and grace shown to us by the Lord as a reminder of how we should treat our fellow man.

“Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.” (Matthew (18: 21-22)

March 7, 2018 – Do our actions match our words?  Are we leading by example? Do we follow in the footsteps of Jesus?  If our answer is no, or that we do not know we must look at ourselves to see how we can do better.  This is a simple question, but the answer is not so simple.

“Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the Kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5: 19)

March 8, 2018 – Have you ever been at a loss for words, or unsure why you acted as you did? Even with our best intentions we can fall short.  As we continue to reflect during this Lenten season let us look to Jesus and how he lived as a guide to a life that is right and just.

Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste and house will fall against house. (Luke 11:17)

 March 9, 2018 – According to today’s gospel, when asked which of all the commandments is most important Jesus replied You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength” and that “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” What better time than Lent to look within ourselves and see if we are following these commandments.  Have we become so busy with our lives that we have forgotten how to put God first?  And what of our neighbors, are we ensuring that they are well cared for and safe?

“You are right in saying, He is One and there is no other than he. And to love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” And when Jesus saw that he answered with understanding, he said to him, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.” (Mark 12:32-34)

 March 10, 2018 – Do not be consumed with your own righteousness.  We are all fighting our own battles, facing our own struggles.  We cannot look at our neighbors’ actions and judge, as we do not fully understand what brought them to their decisions.  We should be looking to ourselves to see how we can provide more compassion, love, and grace to those around us.

For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted. (Luke 18:14)

March 11, 2018 – If you go to a sports event and see a sign that says-John: 3:16, it is someone proclaiming this mini-gospel to all the sports arena and those who might see it on TV. Think about how much God loves you and me. To send His own son and have him die for us is the Paschal Mystery. Keep that in mind this week. We are loved so much by God that Jesus died for us.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believe in him might not perish but might have eternal life. (John 3:16)

March 12, 2018 – Jesus returns to Cana, the site of the wedding feast during which the jugs of water were turned into choice wine. This event was noted as the first ‘sign’ Jesus performed. Now a healing – the second ‘sign’, as the gospel calls it. A transformation and now a healing. It can be argued that the ‘signs’ of our times are social chaos, war, poverty, homelessness, and disengagement. But we are the healers in God’s name, to change our societies, our communities, our economies, our values.  The challenge ahead of us on God’s behalf.

They will build houses and dwell in them; they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit. (Isaiah 65:21)

March 13, 2018 – Do you want to be healed?  It seems like a simple enough question, but what does your answer say about your desires and wishes. Do we know what true healing is, and are we ready for Christ to come and bring that to us, have we prepared in all the ways we should have? Are we truly ready to be healed?

Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.”  At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. (John 5:8-9)

March 14, 2018 – Jesus tells his hearers that the Father is at work in the world, and so is Jesus. Jesus accomplished the will of the Father, and that will is spelled out in the various writings of the prophets of old and in the life of Jesus himself. Feed the hungry, cure the sick, heal the broken hearted, forgive the sinner. These are God’s rules, and the rules which will prevail when all is said and done and we stand before the Lord at the time of our death. We will be judged based on our answer to a simple question God will put to us: tell me how you loved me?

 By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me. (John 5:30)

March 15, 2018 – Many of us has been asked to testify on behalf of another. It may be as simple as a recommendation letter or perhaps a more serious situation, such as in a court. Today Jesus talks of testifying for himself and that his Father also testifies on his behalf. Speak the truth and recognize that Jesus is the Lord.  Are we afraid to testify to that belief?

For the works that the Father has given me to finish—the very works that I am doing—testify that the Father has sent me. (John 5: 31-47)

March 16, 2018 – With the passing of each day of this Lenten season we draw closer to the celebration of the liturgies of Holy Week which culminate in the Easter Vigil. During the Easter Vigil candidates for entrance into the Church – the catechumens – will be brought into the community of which each of us is a vital part. The Jews are confounded because they cannot plumb the depths of Jesus’ origins. We know him by faith, the faith we share with those preparing to enter the church. Together we will come to know more intimately exactly who Jesus is.

You do not know him, but I know him because I am from him and he sent me. At this they tried to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come. (John 7:28-30)

March 17, 2018 – While many of us will be enjoying the great gift of our Irish heritage today (whether we are Irish or not).  We do not forget St. Patrick was a magnificent evangelist in the 15th century for Ireland. If you know the story his preaching spread so broadly and with such excitement that many of us today are Christian/Catholic because of him. Let’s celebrate today the gift of one who spoke God’s word all through his live even until his death.

“Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.”-St. Patrick

 March 18, 2018 – Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all of us had deep in our hearts a desire to see Jesus? Today we have Philip and Andrew, and soon Peter who came to follow Jesus because each was introduced to him by another. We at Catholic Charities believe that we see Jesus most often in the hungry, thirsty, naked, ill, and imprisoned. Throughout your travels today may you see Jesus.

Sir we would like to see Jesus. (John 12:21)

March 19, 2018 – The woman caught in adultery.  When asked how Jesus would handle her situation, he responded by saying “Let the one without sin cast the first stone.’ And those present began to walk away one by one. Pope Francis was questioned about those who are not openly in conformity with the teachings and practices of the Church. “Who am I to judge?” Not an escape answer but an honest assessment of human nature. And who do we judge?  And how?  And when? And why? Are you ready to pick up the first stone?

“Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

“No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:7-11)

March 20, 2018 – Today is one of my favorite gospels the reader sees something that the listener might not immediately understand.  When Jesus talks about where he came from and who he is he uses capital letters to say “when you lift up the sun of man then you will realize I AM” those words for the reader have always been a stark reminder that Jesus is God, it is exactly what God said to Moses speaking at the burning bush. I AM WHO AM. It must have been hard to hear in the early church and even hard for us to hear today, Jesus is God and we have come to believe in him. Let us celebrate the richness of our faith in these holy days leading up to Easter.

So Jesus said to them, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me. (John 8: 28)

March 21, 2018 – Freedom is a national standard which we Americans prize and value. We can discuss, however, to what extent each person in our country is ‘free’ and how one experiences a freedom and what is lacking for those who claim that they are not free. While a debate about the nature, the meaning of and extent of freedom is wholesome, we need also to be practical. What is each of us doing to free others from poverty, from hunger, from social injustice, and working toward just wages, adequate housing, equality in the workplace, and many other personal and social concerns.  Don’t get burned by ignoring these realities.

Jesus then said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:31-32)

March 22, 2018 – We hear it again in today’s gospel “Amen, Amen I say to you, before Abraham came to be, I AM” it was such a jarring statement that people picked up stones to throw at him. His proclamation would bring life to many but many others in desperation would cry out “CRUCIFY HIM!”  How do you personally respond to a God who sends his own son so all who believe will not perish and may have eternal life.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

March 23, 2018 – Have you experienced some type of recrimination if you attempt to put into practice what you believe? It can be rough to stand in opposition to a family member, a friend, an employer when we believe one thing and the other person believes another. The cost for standing up for what we believe can be great. The loss of a valued relationship or even a job. That’s a high price to pay to defend our core beliefs. Jeremiah knew the story well, as, of course, did Jesus. “O Lord of hosts…to you I have entrusted my cause.”

Sing to the Lord! Give praise to the Lord! He rescues the life of the needy from the hands of the wicked. (Jeremiah 20:13)

March 24, 2018 – Today the high priest Caiaphas unwittingly prophesized who Jesus really is “it is better for you that one man should die, better than the people so the whole nation may not perish.” As the scripture tells us once those words were spoken from that day on they planned to kill him. These readings the last week before Holy Week speak of terror, vengeance and all-out attack on the one sent by God.  This is our chance to make these days holy by our commitment to the message that Jesus is Lord, tomorrow is Palm Sunday and the beginning of Holy Week, let’s make it a week of retreat and holiness for us all.

You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish. (John 11:50)

March 25, 2018 – The Human Person is Both Sacred and Social – When One Suffers We All Suffer.* It would seem to be a day of triumph, of victory. A parade for a popular hero. A wonderworker. A spellbinder. A healer. St. Paul: but he emptied himself taking on the nature of a menial slave. That’s victory? But nevertheless, we join the parade, waving palms, clearly identifying ourselves with the one on a colt – and with all the others who march forward. If He suffers are we also ready to bear the cross? Why can’t our vision see beyond the palms to the cross?

From Catholic in Charity & In Identity, Catholic Charities USA, 2010.

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11)

 March 26, 2018 – One of the challenges that confronts many people today is a lack of self-esteem.  Even within the midst of a narcissistic society, it is quite appropriate to strive to have a healthy self-esteem. But poverty, depression, fears of many kinds, limited access to basic goods and services all make acquiring this a challenge to realize.  Be heartened by the words of Isaiah who assures us that God places his spirit on us and within us.  Who can overcome us?

Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will bring justice to the nations.  (Isaiah 42:1)

March 27, 2018 – When we are confused, or betrayed, human nature leads us to act in very predictable ways.  Who will do what, and why?  Like when Jesus tells his disciples “Amen, amen I say to you one of you will betray me” how do our family and social relationships play out when it comes to difficult situations and our reputations are on the line? Will we be like Judas betray, or like Peter deny? Who is vulnerable- and how?

“Will you lay down your life for me? Amen, amen, I say to you, the cock will not crow before you deny me three times.” (John 13:38)

March 28, 2018 –  We approach the end.  Tomorrow an intimate meal among friends.  Then a prayer in a garden.  All because Passover is upon us.  Then an arrest and a mock trial! What has gone wrong? Now a public display of our friend cruelly beaten and dragged through the street! He is being crucified! NO! How could everything suddenly turn so egregiously bad? The Lord God is my help, therefore I am not disgraced. Is that truly our feeling?

It is the Sovereign Lord who helps me.  Who will condemn me? (Isaiah 50:9)

March 29, 2018 – Jesus has set an example for us, asking us to do as he has done.  Will we ever understand?  Probably not.  But that doesn’t excuse us from trying anew each day to see, and hear, and feel how God is choosing to be present in our lives and work among us to accomplish today what he accomplished so long ago.  Eat this bread.  Drink this cup. Share. Feed the hungry, and cure the sick.  Then the clouds will separate, and the stars will appear.     I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. (John 13:15)

March 30, 2018 – What might Jesus have been thinking as he was enduring the excruciating pain of floggings and beatings?  Ultimately crucified, was he hoping that death would come quickly so as to get it all over?  Was he angry?  Did he feel deserted even though his mother and the beloved disciple were at his feet?  Art has dulled and music soothes our pain of identification.  But the reality is that Jesus underwent a tremendous ordeal for you and I.

But you will not leave in haste, or go in flight; for the Lord will go before you, the God of Israel will be your rear guard. (Isaiah 52:12)

March 31, 2018 – All is quiet today. There exists an eerie stillness about things. Is it a calm? No noise. No hustle and bustle. A deadness. A smell of deadness. So, what’s next? Do we wait for some event? Something strange? Maybe it’s s moment for reflection. To assess. To put life – and death – in focus. To mourn the loss of someone in whom we invested our trust. The rupture of a promise of a better life.  Now darkness. Now night. Now waiting.

April 1, 2018 – For a little over 40 days we have shared a thought or two to help us celebrate the great season of Lent. Now after a great journey Easter has arrived.  Without Easter, we would have no faith and Jesus would be just another man brutally killed for his teachings.  Know God had much bigger plans than that.  Jesus rose; thus we rise.  Because of Jesus I hope to see you all someday in heaven.  He is risen hallelujah.

I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. (John 11:25-26)