Catholic Update

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Day by Day
Through Lent
Creating a Place
for Peace

By Karen Berry, O.S.F.

Being a Christian is a challenge. The words of Jesus unsettle our hearts. He said we must forgive our enemies and do good to those who hate us. If we forgive terrorists, are we unpatriotic? If we don—t, are we un-Christian?

Jesus did not issue easy challenges. But when world leaders condone, plan or perpetrate violence against each other—s countries, what can we do? When the violence in our movies, video games and sports arenas influences our children—s values, what can we do?

The large task of peacemaking needs a beginning in the places we create for peace in our own lives. Let—s make this Lent a journey in that direction.

Ash Wednesday (Mt 6:1-6, 16-18)
Make me an instrument of peace—in just 40 days!

When the public cry is for military action, defense, justice, protecting our economic interests, punishing our enemies—where is your heart? The Father sees in secret. If you are praying the words of St. Francis a lot these days: "Lord, make me an instrument of your peace," Lent is a good time to examine how to become that instrument.

Thursday— (Lk 9:22-25)
The risk in being a peacemaker

Suffering, rejection and self-denial are conditions a disciple of Jesus can expect. A mission of peacemaking will meet with resistance, misunderstanding and accusations. We know where Jesus— journey led him. Are we willing to take up a cross when we become peacemakers?

Friday (Mt 9:14-15)
Sharing Jesus— urgent mission

It is important to remember that any journey we take is in the company of Jesus. When we travel with him on a journey of peacemaking, the joy will make the fears bearable and the urgency of the mission will be the stimulus. Love will prepare us for what lies ahead.

Saturday (Lk 5:27-32)
Moved by the power of hope—

If we are hearing Jesus— call to follow him today, maybe it—s because we are sick. The world is sick. We need Jesus because we aren—t healthy, and the good news is that the Physician is here for us. That gives us reason to hope as we walk the peace path.


Creating a place for peace in our routine


During this first week of Lent, we will focus on our daily routines to find opportunities for peacemaking. In today—s Gospel we see that Jesus prepared himself for the upcoming rigors of daily public ministry by setting aside time in the wilderness. Though he faced temptation, he was in the company of angels. How can you prepare peacefully today for the busy week ahead?

Monday (Mt 25:31-46)
Welcome the stranger

Where, in your routine today, might you (or did you) encounter the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the ill, the prisoner? What is a fellow worker hungry for? What is a family member thirsting for? What, in your routine, imprisons you? Make peace with how you address these needs.

Tuesday (Mt 6:7-15)
Forgiveness needed—

When we make a place for prayer in our daily routine, we will inevitably be led to consider the areas in our life where forgiveness is needed. Jesus taught his disciples to focus on forgiveness because there could be no peace in their lives without it. He did not make it sound easy; just very necessary!

Wednesday (Lk 11:29-32)
Think twice

We—re hearing a lot today about who is evil, who should be punished, who deserves judgment. Jonah was sent to a place he did not want to visit, to preach to people who were his nation—s enemies. His reluctance came from his not wanting God to care about these people. Look today for the signs that God is at work through reluctant Jonah.

Thursday (Mt 7:7-12)
God—s gift

Think about all the things you give to others in the course of a day: time, expertise, meals, a listening ear, car pool, donations, teaching, etc. You know how to give good gifts, and God does, too. Lower your stress by taking time to ask.

Friday (Mt 5:20-26)
Routine peace

Anger sometimes creeps into our day catching us unaware. Perhaps there has been a slow burn under the surface of your emotions for quite a while. Or maybe anger is a steady, though unwanted, companion for days on end while you endure a difficult situation. If anger is eating into your routine, try some healthy negotiation in the interest of making peace.

Saturday (Mt 5:43-48)
Gospel challenge

Love your enemies. Ah, there—s the sting! People didn—t want to hear that from Jesus. Some turned away from him after he said that. We don—t want to hear it either. Whether it—s enemies across the ocean or enemies across the street, we know the thought of loving them is uncomfortable. Start in small ways.


Creating a place for peace in our home


Jesus— transfiguration was so dazzling that Peter didn—t want the experience to end. He wanted to set up tents and stay right there on the mountain where everything was beautiful, clear and peaceful. They couldn—t stay, of course, because life moves on. But Jesus had given his closest friends a haven away from the hectic for a while. This week, focus on your home (your "tent") as a place for peaceful renewal.

Monday (Lk 6:36-38)
Charity starts—

Stop judging and condemning and start forgiving! Jesus had kind of a repetitious theme, didn—t he? Let—s look around our home today while we ponder these words. The people we love most are frequently the recipients of our judgments and criticism. How can we make peace in our home by showing mercy?

Tuesday (Mt 23:1-12)
Help your family—

The challenge to us today is to lead by example. If you are someone who has been putting heavy burdens on others in your family, lend a helping hand. If you have been seeking a place of honor among your relatives, try humble service instead. Lead your family members in calling upon our Father in heaven to bless your home life.

Wednesday (Lk 2:41-51)
St. Joseph, patron of families

Today we reflect on the role of St. Joseph as creator of a peaceful home life centered on God. While the Gospel passage shows us his anxiety over Jesus— burst of independence at age 12, it also shows us that he must have instilled confidence in the child he was raising. What have you helped to nurture in the members of your household?

Thursday (Lk 16:19-31)
Giving homes

It—s annoying when charity solicitors come to our door, isn—t it! They want to earn money for a meal or a school trip; they want to collect clothes and furniture for the poor. Some days we can give and some days we can—t, but do we send them on their way feeling peaceful about their encounter with us?

Friday (Mt 21:33-43, 45-46)
Family tree vineyard

What are we in danger of losing because we haven—t done with the gift what God wanted us to do? Have we alienated a family member, lost touch with a relative, spoiled the landscape of our homes and our hearts? Look at the vine in the vineyard as your family tree. How have you tended it?

Saturday (Lk 15:1-3, 11-32)
Forgiving families

Today—s Gospel story of the prodigal son gives us such a beautiful model for making a place of peace in our homes. As God is always ready to welcome us home after our mistakes, let us open our homes to the prodigal people who want to lavish their renewed good intentions on us.


Creating a place for peace in our heart


Jesus didn—t like the idea of the Temple being used for a marketplace and, as is typical of John—s Gospel, there—s a lot of symbolism in the story. As we begin this third week of our Lenten peacemaking journey, let us look into our hearts, the temple where God dwells, and see if there is any distracting clutter there. During this week, let us make our hearts a place for God—s peace.

Monday (Lk 4:24-30)
Peace within

It hurts to not be accepted, especially if we have tried very hard to say or do something that we think will be helpful to another. That rejection of our best intentions sits heavy on our heart. Today spend some quiet time with Jesus, who was rejected in his own hometown. Ask him how he made peace in his heart with that.

Tuesday (Lk 1:26-38)
Annunciation (2003 only)

Imagine Mary—s troubled heart when the angel appeared! A mystery, both frightening and exhilarating, had invaded her life. The consequences of her assent to that mystery would reach beyond her to everyone she loved and would come to love. In your quiet time with today—s story, learn from Mary to ponder the mysteries in your own heart and to grow in trust.

Wednesday (Mt 5:17-19)
Following the law

In today—s Gospel, Jesus extols keeping every part of the law, yet criticizes the religious leaders who followed the letter of the law too strictly. He must have come to a place of peace in his own heart to understand the value of law and the abuse of it. Which laws and rules are most helpful in your life?

Thursday (Lk 11:14-23)
Take a stand

We are invited today to take a stand for Jesus. He wants us to trust his words and his actions, to believe that he comes from a place of goodness when he teaches and heals. As we continue through Lent, let us prepare our hearts to see that goodness itself might be hated, but it can—t be destroyed.

Friday (Mk 12:28b-34)
Commandment for the heart

Love the Lord with all your heart! From this place of peace, your heart, where love resides, grow all the outward manifestations of love that you extend to other people. How do you love God? How does that spill over into the way you love your neighbor?

Saturday (Lk 18:9-14)

God reads hearts, today—s parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector so clearly teaches. We find ourselves cheering for the poor, humble, sinful tax collector when Jesus praises that man—s prayer. What does God see in your heart today as you come to the end of peacemaking?


Creating a place for peace in our plans


Go with the flow!— God had a wonderful plan! He gave his Son so people would have life. Some people tried to mess with that plan, but God prevailed. We make plans too and sometimes things don—t go the way we want them to. What do we do when someone messes with our plans? This week, let us ask God to help us find peace when our plans are disrupted.

Monday (Jn 4:43-54)
Faith and peace

A Capernaum official with great plans for his son finds his son near death. Faith steps in where panic threatens. The man is able to weather the storm of sorrow and find peace in believing, even before the healing of his son is confirmed. Perhaps a deep faith must accompany all our plans, so we can be at peace with whatever happens.

Tuesday (Jn 5:1-16)
Saying yes—

When Jesus asks, "Do you want to be well?" maybe we should answer the question. Instead we often offer all the reasons we aren—t well because things haven—t happened according to our plan! Just saying yes might open the way for God to act in God—s own way, bringing a peace that was eluding us.

Wednesday (Jn 5:17-30)
Include God

We can—t do anything on our own. Jesus recognized that and credited the Father with all the good works Jesus found himself able to do. Finding a place for peace in our own plans happens when we include God in those plans. Remember to recognize the hand of God in the work that you do.

Thursday (Jn 5:31-47)

Jesus said, "I do not accept human praise." That probably freed him to do what he knew he had to do. When our plans are formed around what we think others might like or not like, rather than around what God might be asking of us, a place of peace in us will be disrupted.

Friday (Jn 7:1-2, 10, 25-30)
Necessary acts

Jesus changed his plans. Like prophets before him, he hesitated to go into a place of personal danger. But then he went anyway and spoke openly because he knew that was what his Father wanted him to do. Recall a time when you experienced peace after doing something difficult but necessary.

Saturday (Jn 7:40-53)
Be flexible

The Messiah wasn—t expected to be from Galilee. Surprise! Have your expectations ever prevented you from seeing the truth or appreciating a gift? Being flexible in our expectations can keep us open to the surprising things God does with our plans. Being flexible prevents the shattering of our peace.


Creating a place for peace in our memories


If we are going to be a people of peace, it is very important that we be at peace with ourselves. That includes making peace with our past and healing our memories. Begin this week—s theme by considering the good fruit that has emerged from the things in your life that you have allowed to die. What seeds have "fallen into the ground," only to be transformed in ways that became new life?

Monday (Jn 8:1-11)

Have you ever faced judgment for a mistake? Do you still carry the shame? In your prayer today, come confidently to Jesus who shows compassion, welcome and wisdom when dealing with people—s mistakes. Remember that Jesus spent time alone to prepare for compassionate encounters.

Tuesday (Jn 8:21-30)
Look up!

When Jesus says, "You belong to this world," he seems to be chiding his disciples for not being able to see his connection with the Father, with his mission, with a higher purpose. When you review your past today, recognize the choices that kept you more with the values of the world than with those of Jesus. Then consider what happens when you focus on "what is above."

Wednesday (Jn 8:31-42)

Jesus has a memory of his origins. He came from God. How does the memory of your origins—ancestors, cultural influences, faith heritage—affirm who you are? What are your strengths because of your origins?

Thursday (Jn 8:51-59)
Forgive the past—

Some of the most difficult memories to make peace with are those associated with the hurtful things we said or did to loved ones who are no longer with us. Death is such a final divide—or seems to be. Our faith reassures us that those we love are in God—s presence. From their perspective, all is forgiven. It—s time to forgive ourselves.

Friday (Jn 10:31-42)
Seek understanding—

Remember when your good intentions were misinterpreted? The choices from those experiences are: self-pity, giving up, or trusting yourself. Spend time today with misunderstood Jesus to receive his affirmation.

Saturday (Jn 11:45-56)
Gently prepare

We are about to enter the week of remembering what was done to Jesus. We will touch the collective memory of people—s inhumanity toward the Son of Man. It is a disturbing memory, redeemed only by the power of resurrection. Prepare for it today by expressing gentle concern to all.


Creating a place for peace in our relationships

Passion Sunday (Mk 14:1—15:47)

The Passion drama includes so many players. It—s a plot laced with power struggle, misguided intent, fear and the death of innocence. Looking at the state of our world drama today, we know that the peace of the world depends on right relationships. Let—s do well with ours.

Monday (Jn 12:1-11)
Lord, let us see

Judas shows us today that righteous behavior is annoying at best. Judas didn—t see Jesus for who he really was. Let us pray for clear vision and unselfish sharing as we find Jesus in our relationships today.

Tuesday (Jn 13:21-33, 36-38)
Make us strong

St. Peter wanted to believe everything he heard. But his bravado could only shelter his vulnerability for so long. Let us pray today for the strength to believe in and stand by the people who need us to be there for them.

Wednesday (Mt 26:14-25)
Give us honesty

The chief priests used the misguided Judas. When we exploit another—s fears, the relationship of trust falls apart. Let us pray to be open, honest communicators.

Holy Thursday (Jn 13:1-15)
Keep us humble

Peter, without intending to, shows us how to allow another to serve us. He didn—t want Jesus to wash his feet. But it is only in humility that we can allow others to be all they want to be for us.

Good Friday (Jn 18:1—19:42)
Deliver us from evil

Pilate asks a lot of questions because he honestly doesn—t know what to do. But he allows his focus to shift from the man whose innocence he believes in to his own political insecurity. Let us pray that we will not jeopardize relationships in the interest of self-preservation.

Easter Vigil (Mk 16:1-7)

The tomb is empty. Jesus has already gone on to Galilee. The journey continues. Having examined, with prayerful perspective, our daily routines and home life, our hearts and the plans we make, our memories and relationships, we are renewed by the risen Jesus who walks with us, encouraging us to keep being peacemakers in a troubled time.

Sister Karen Berry, a Joliet Franciscan, is a teacher, freelance writer and director of a family program of religious education in Tucson, Arizona.

Next: The Examen of Consciousness (by Phyllis Zagano)


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