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Read daily meditations during the season of Lent. Reflect on Gospel challenges that will help you prepare to celebrate Holy Week and Easter.

Catholic Update

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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

Prayers, devotions, 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

Jesus 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.

SPONSORED LINKS

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 relationship with God? Today, think about your personal relationship with God. If you have time, write a letter to God about that relationship.

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 painting.

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

The Christian 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

People tend 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 way.

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 surface impressions.

Saturday: John 7:40-53

The 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 death today.

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 death.

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

God makes 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 Cross.

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.

Holy Week

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.

Sacred Triduum

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.

Holy Thursday

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.

Good Friday

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 Jesus.

Holy Saturday

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?

Father Mark E. Thibodeaux, S.J., is a teacher, spiritual director and author
of Armchair Mystic; Easing Into Contemplative Prayer and God, I Have
Issues: Fifty Ways to Pray No Matter How You Feel
.

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