Each issue carries an imprimatur from
the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. Reprinting prohibited
How Shall I Fast?
Daily Meditations for Lent
by Mark E. Thibodeaux, S.J.
Lent is a time of prayer, penance, and, of course, fasting. But what type
of fasting should I do? One of my favorite Lenten Scripture passages is
Isaiah 58: “This rather, is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound,
setting free the oppressed and homeless, sharing your bread with the hungry,
clothing the naked and not turning your back on your own.”
As difficult as it is for me to give up candy bars and to pray for ever-longer
periods of time, I find Isaiah’s type of fasting an even greater challenge. To
concretely reach out to those in need—to actually reach out to real homeless
people, prisoners and even to those of “my own” whom I’ve imprisoned in my
heart through rejection, negligence or being judgmental—this would make for
a far more difficult Lent.
Every Lent we are invited to meditate on Scripture. But this Lent, I also
invite you to set about tasks which lead to greater reconciliation with God and
others, and especially with those who are on the “outs,” whether in
society or people closer to home.
Ash Wednesday: Joel 2:12-18
Start (or continue) a spiritual journal today.
Set down spiritual goals that you hope will
accompany your concrete penances to return
to the Lord.
Thursday: Deuteronomy 30:15-20
Make two lists. On one, write your behaviors,
habits and choices that have been life-giving,
and, on another, those that have
deprived you or others of life. Make a plan
with God to root out just one of those that
are from the spirit of death.
Friday: Isaiah 58:1-9
and penances lead you to reach out to
those in need. Visit a soup kitchen, homeless
shelter or relief agency. Or, send a card to
someone who needs a word of support.
Saturday: Luke 5:27-32
befriends people who are condemned by this
world. What person in your life have you
condemned as a sinner? Write, call or visit
this person today.
First Sunday of Lent: Romans 10:8-13
Paul gives you the great news that “The Word is near you!” St.
Ignatius believed strongly that God’s great desire was to have an
intimate relationship with every person he ever created. Do you
have that intimate
God? Today, think
about your personal
God. If you have
time, write a letter
to God about that
Monday: Matthew 25:31-46
What if Jesus
is not speaking figuratively here? What if he really wants you to
come to know homeless people, foreigners, shut-ins, and prisoners?
Go out and visit with someone who concretely fits into one
of these categories.
Tuesday: Isaiah 55:10-11
One can learn much about
God by reflecting on his creation: on the heavens, rain, snow,
the earth, seed and so on. Spend a few minutes outside in nature
today, trying to learn about the painter by reflecting on the
Wednesday: Jonah 3:1-10
Jonah was called to
confront the authorities. Are you called to do the same to your
boss, Church leader, or government leader? If called to do so,
send a memo, e-mail or letter to your congressional representative
or some other person in authority, voicing your opinion of an
important moral issue.
Thursday: Matthew 7:7-12
God is madly in love with
you and is longing to give you the things you need. If you could
ask God for one gift right now, be it spiritual or physical, what
would that gift be? In prayer, ask God to grant you this gift,
provided it is within his will.
Friday: Ezekiel 18:21-28
The Lord does not desire the
death of the wicked, but rather that they be converted and live.
The Lord is waiting for you to allow him to heal you and bring
you closer to him. Go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation today,
or plan to do so soon.
Saturday: Matthew 5:43-48
To pray for those
who have hurt you is one of the most difficult and spiritually
rewarding acts that Christ asks of you. Pray today for the
well-being of the person who has hurt you the most in your life.
Second Sunday of Lent: Genesis 15:5-12, 17-18
God tells Abraham that he will bless him as abundantly as he
blesses the night sky with stars. God promises to bless you just as
abundantly as he blessed Abraham. Do you believe this? In your
prayer today, ask God to guide your hand as you write
God’s response to the letter you wrote to him last Sunday.
Trust that God will speak to you if you ask him to!
Monday: Luke 6:36-38
Perhaps more than any
other sin, Jesus abhors the sin of being judgmental of
others. Do you judge a person by race, age, sexual orientation,
ethnicity, ideology or religion? Today, or sometime
this week, on the Internet or in the library, research and
try better to understand the group you’re most easily
tempted to judge.
Tuesday: Isaiah 1:10, 16-20
It is not enough
that you simply cease doing sin. You must replace sin with virtue.
You must “redress the wronged, hear the orphan’s plea, defend
the widow.” Today, find out the particulars of how to volunteer
for some organization that serves the poor.
Wednesday: Matthew 20:17-28
life includes self-sacrifice. Without him or her knowing it, do
someone’s house chore or similar kind of task today.
Thursday: Luke 16:19-31
If wealth is your God, then
the Lord isn’t. Are you free from the bondage of wealth or do
you suffer from “affluenza” (the “disease” of affluence)? Write
a check to a charitable organization today. Trust that God will
return it a hundredfold.
Friday: Genesis 37:3-4, 12-13, 17-28
Every family has
baggage from the past. Have you done all that you could to
reconcile with your estranged family? Reach out to a difficult
family member today.
Saturday: Luke 15:1-3, 11-32
to see themselves as the
prodigal son in this
passage. But today,
ask yourself, “How am
I called to be like the
generous and forgiving
father in the story?” Who
do you need to welcome
back into the fold?
Third Sunday of Lent: John 4:5-42
In the First Reading today, God sends
Moses to provide water to the thirsty
Israelites. In the Gospel, Jesus provides
the woman at the well with Living
Water. Reflect on your life lately.
What person has been your “Moses,”
providing you with Living Water? A
friend? A family member? A Church
person? Write that person a thank-you
note sharing how much he or she
means to you.
Monday: 2 Kings 5:1-15
Naaman had trouble believing
that the Lord could heal him not through extraordinary means but
by simply giving him a good bath! Take a long hot bath today.
Imagine the Lord washing away all that ails you.
Tuesday: Matthew 18:21-35
Debt forgiveness is a big
issue in world politics. International debt keeps Africa’s most
impoverished nations poor. Through the Internet or the library,
research the plight of an economically struggling African nation.
Watch for an opportunity to help.
Wednesday: Matthew 5:17-19
Contrary to popular
opinion, Jesus loved the Law and lived by its decrees. Meditate
on a difficult doctrine of the Catholic Church today. Try to understand
why the Church might be asking its members to live this
Thursday: Luke 11:14-23
Catholics used to believe that
non-Christian religions were totally false and not of God. But
Vatican II and John Paul II exhorted all to presume that everyone
is reaching out for the same God. Today, research a non-Christian
religion, or, if you know any non-Christians, ask them to tell you
about their religion. Try to get a new perspective on God.
Friday: Mark 12:28-34
Jesus and a devoutly religious
man discuss the famous Scripture passage about loving God
with all your heart, and your neighbor as yourself. What is
your favorite Scripture passage? Memorize as much of it as
you can and repeat it back to yourself from time to time.
Saturday: Luke 18:9-14
Jesus’ model of a prayerful person is one
who is honest before the Lord and admits his need for God’s
mercy. Spend some time in prayer today, speaking honestly
with the Lord about who you are, what you’re feeling right
now, and so on.
Fourth Sunday of Lent: 2 Corinthians 5:17-21
Paul calls you an “ambassador of Christ.” Last Sunday,
parishes preparing for Easter Baptisms reflected on the
one who has brought you Living Water. This Sunday,
ask Christ to show you how to bring Living Water to
someone who needs some kind of personal rebirth.
Who in your life right now needs you to be his or her
ambassador of Christ? Write that person a card or
letter of love and encouragement today.
Monday: Isaiah 65:17-21
This is a reading
of tremendous faith and hope in a New Jerusalem.
Take a walk in a beautiful park or beside a quiet creek.
Reflect on nature’s ability to renew itself and on God’s
ability to “create a new heaven and a new earth.”
Tuesday: John 5:1-3, 5-16
Jesus asked the lame man,
“Do you want to be healed?” It takes courage to do something
new. How much do you allow past trauma to keep you from
rising out of your paralysis? In your prayer today, put on some
good music—and dance!
Wednesday: John 5:17-30
Jesus speaks of his relationship
to the Father. If children are not close at hand, go to a public
place where you can briefly watch a parent and child interact (for
example, a park, a grocery store, a mall). Prayerfully reflect how
your relationship with God compares.
Thursday: John 5:31-47
Think of the various “lights” in
your life. Who most inspires you, comforts you, challenges you?
Jesus tells us today that, whoever that is, Jesus is the deepest light
of all. Light a candle today and give thanks for all of the “lights”
in your life.
Friday: John 7:1-2, 10, 25-30
We know people, but do we
really know them? That’s one way to think of the question Jesus
poses in today’s Gospel. Think of someone you know, and perhaps
don’t get along with. Determine today to look beyond the
Saturday: John 7:40-53
chief priests and Pharisees
are now blatantly
plotting the assassination
of Jesus. Prayerfully
watch the evening
news tonight. Grieve
and pray for every person
who died a senseless
Fifth Sunday of Lent: Isaiah 43:16-21
God is saying to you, “See, I am
doing something new” (showing
you a path through the desert and
giving it water). In order to grow
in the spiritual life, we must accept change and transition. Long
ago, Cardinal John Newman said, “To grow is to change. To be
perfect is to change often.” What change is God asking you to
accept right now? Today, take a step forward towards making that
change in your life.
Monday: John 8:1-11
John Paul II called the death penalty
“both cruel and unnecessary.” Pray for those who are awaiting
execution. Pray for their victims, as well. If you can find the
names of those being executed, prayerfully
read their names. As you say aloud each name, hear Jesus say,
“Let the one without sin cast the first stone.”
Tuesday: John 8:21-30
Jesus speaks openly about his
upcoming death and his true origin. Meditate about or visit a
graveyard today, asking the Lord to give you His perspective on
Wednesday: Daniel 3:14-20, 91-92, 95
In this story of courage in the fiery furnace,
the flames do not harm the Lord’s faithful
ones. In your prayer today, light a candle in a
dark room. Reflect on God presence in the
flickering flame. Ask Christ for the grace to
find him even in the most dangerous and
difficult moments of your life.
Thursday: Genesis 17:3-9
Abraham “exceedingly fertile.” If you are a
parent, look at old baby pictures marveling at
the wonder of your calling as parent. If you are not a parent, let
the Lord show you ways you, too, have given birth to a new manifestation
of God in the world: through someone you’ve ministered
to or through some work you’ve accomplished.
Friday: Jeremiah 20:10-13
You are only one week away
from Good Friday, the commemoration of the death of Jesus. On
your own or with a Church community, pray the Stations of the
Saturday: Ezekiel 37:21-28
God promises to bring the
Israelite refugees home. Learn about a current group of refugees
in one of the world’s many trouble spots. Imagine the trauma of
having to flee one’s homeland. Spend the day praying for this
group of refugees.
Passion Sunday: Isaiah 50:4-7
Jesus entered into
Jerusalem knowing well that he would be tortured and killed
there. In your life right now, are you called to take an unpopular
stand that might lead to persecution or disdain by others? If so,
take the first small step towards your Jerusalem today.
Monday: Isaiah 42:1-7
“Here is the servant whom I
uphold…upon whom I have put my spirit; he shall bring
forth justice to the nations.” Meditate prayerfully over each of
the words of the verse above.
Tuesday: John 13:21-33, 36-38
“I give you a new
commandment: love one another.” Pray the Rosary today. With
each decade, meditate on the sorrowful mysteries.
Wednesday: Matthew 26:14-25
“They paid him 30
pieces of silver, and from that time on he looked for an
opportunity to hand him over.” Spend time in front of your
favorite crucifix. Gazing on this unbelievable sacrifice of Christ,
look into his eyes and ask, “Did you do this for me, Lord?” Allow
the Lord to speak to you from the cross.
The Triduum liturgies of the Church
are some of the most beautiful of the year. Try to go to all of the
liturgies: Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Vigil.
Read the Gospel of the footwashing
(John 13:1-15). Think of some concrete ways can you be
of service to those among whom you spend your time.
Slowly read the Passion Narrative in
John 18. Consider the suffering in your life, and the suffering
in the world. Pray to unite yourself to that suffering, through
Read the Gospel from the Easter
Vigil, Luke 24:1-12, the story of the women who first witnessed
the Resurrection. How can you witness the Resurrection?