Each issue carries an
Archdiocese of Cincinnati.
Lent, Day by Day
The Scriptures of Lent are a treasure
for those preparing to join the Church, the catechumens. Lent for
them is a time of discoveryabout God, others, self. They are
on a sacred journey toward initiation at the Easter Vigil. But we
all know that Lent is not only for newcomers. Any of us can benefit
by joining in spirit with these men and women who are listening
to Baptism's call. By stepping out of the express lane of lifefor
even a few minutes a daywe can reconnect with the stories
of Scripture that reconnect us with God.
Take time each day to read these brief
meditations, alone or with others. If you really want to make the
most of these 40 days, read the biblical passages cited before the
meditations. On Easter morning, as you accompany the women to the
empty tomb, you will not be disappointed. You may discover what
Jesus has so often promised: Even though I may not be visible, I
am with you forever.
Renew from within.
(Jl 2:12-18; 2 Cor 5:206:2;
Mt 6:1-6, 16-18)
It's easy to focus on the externals
of this day: the fasting, the meatless meals, the ashen cross on
foreheads. But these symbols should urge us inward to search our
hearts. Today is a good day to spend quiet time looking for ways
Lent can transform our lives so we can witness to Jesus' life, even
after the ashes fade.
Thursday: Unpack your excess baggage.
(Dt 30:15-20; Lk 9:22-25)
Traveling though life, we get bogged
down in inessentials, sometimes losing sight of core values. We
need to pack lightly during these days of preparation for Christ's
resurrection. The Lenten pilgrimage will be smoother if we take
inventory of our baggage at the onset. Release a burden or a grief
today, give up an idol that prevents you from choosing life.
Friday: Touch the lives of others.
(Is 58:1-9; Mt 9:14-15)
Christ's challenge is to move beyond
the pain of our personal Lenten struggles to soften the pain of
others. Lenten practices are merely the warm-up for the real work
of lifebringing justice and love to those most in need. Today
share your lighteven a glimmerwith someone whose life
seems dark and hopeless.
Saturday: Take Christ at his word.
(Is 58:9-14; Lk 5:27-32)
Lent can be a drab time, if we focus
only on sacrifice and self-denial. The trick is to remember that
Christ has promised to be with us, even in suffering and pain. If
we follow him, he will be our noonday sun to light and lighten the
gloom. Today, when sadness or discouragement begins edging into
your life, remind yourself that Christ lives in your heart.
First Sunday of Lent
Be true to yourself.
(Mt 4:1-11 [Cycle A, 1999]; Mk 1:12-15
[B]; Lk 4:1-13 [C])
A humbling thought: Christ too struggled
with temptation. Because he became like us in all things, except
sin, he helps us appreciate that there's no shame in being human.
Pride, excessive self-sufficiency, worship of illusory pleasures
of our culturethese are the temptations of today's desert.
Renew your resolution to be whole and holy as you wrestle with the
demons in your life.
Monday: Be blessed as you bless.
(Lv 19:1-2, 11-18; Mt 25:31-46)
The Beatitudes call us to positive actions
beyond the "thou shall nots" of the days before Christ came to show
us the way. We need to take time to seek out strangers or friends
who are hungry, poor, lonely or naked in our midst, and share our
blessings with them.
Tuesday: Live the Lord's Prayer.
(Is 55:10-11; Mt 6:7-15)
God's word should be life-giving, to
us and others. In our actions today, the Word will accomplish its
purpose if we praise God's name as we count our blessingsdaily
bread in all its manifestationsand forgive others as God forgives.
Wednesday: Be open to conversion.
(Jon 3:1-10; Lk 11:29-32)
The people of Nineveh got a second chance,
and so do we. We need to read the signs of Jonah and the new Jonah,
Christ. In listening to Scripture, we can find room in our life
for change and repentance.
Thursday: Keep knocking on God's door.
(Est C, 12:14-16, 23-25; Mt 7:7-12)
Like a loving parent, God wants only
the best for us. Our prayer should be confident, not timid, knowing
that God will answer if we are persistent in our knocking. Let's
do the same when others knock on our door looking for help.
Friday: Reconcile your differences.
(Ez 18:21-28; Mt 5:20-26)
A self-righteous attitude interferes
with prayer and conversion. As this first week of Lent nears the
end, look for ways to make these 40 days more authentic. Leave your
gifts at the altar and embrace those who have hurt you. Don't wait
for them to take the first step.
Saturday: Walk in God's ways.
(Dt 26:16-19; Mt 5:43-48)
No one ever said it would be easy. Say
a prayer, take a deep breath and just do it: Love your enemies and
pray for those who persecute you. It may not make sense in the here
and now, but it's a big step toward living a Godlike life.
Second Sunday of Lent
Be open to surprises.
(Mt 17:1-9; Mk 9:2-10; Lk 9:28-36)
It began as just another day out for
a walk to the mountain, but, in an instant, the disciples were flat
on the ground trembling at the voice from the clouds. We rarely
count among our experiences such dramatic epiphanies, but if we're
open, we can discover moments in our lives that call us to transformation.
Monday: Swallow your pride.
(Dn 9:4-10; Lk 6:36-38)
None of us are so blameless that we
don't need forgiveness. But forgiving and being forgiven require
more humility than we may think. Saying "I'm sorry" or "I was wrong"
or "Let's start over" is the first step to healing divisions.
Tuesday: Take a back seat.
(Is 1:10, 16-20; Mt 23:1-12)
There's a lot to be said for understated
Christianity. Recapture the spirit of Ash Wednesday today, moving
beyond externals into the humility of those who don't need the best
seats at the banquet to prove their worth in the eyes of others.
Wednesday: Think service.
(Jer 18:18-20; Mt 20:17-28)
The prophets and Jesus' disciples just
didn't get it. What they were
challenged to do would not be easy. In his words and life, the Servant
of the servants calls us to put our needs aside and to live for others.
Thursday: Stay rooted in Christ.
(Jer 17:5-10; Lk 16:19-31)
It's hard to focus on what's essential
when we're surrounded by messages that contradict our deepest convictions.
Prayer and the company of value-rich friends can help us stay grounded.
Friday: "Hold fast to dreams."
(Gn 37:3-4, 12-13, 17-28; Mt 21:33-43,
Joseph, the dreamer, suffered at the
hands of his brothers, who had a hard time with him as the favorite
son. No matter how cynics and skeptics may view your vision of the
Kingdom, hold onto it and work to make it real.
Saturday: Return to God, again.
(Mi 7:14-15, 18-20; Lk 15:1-3, 11-32)
Too often we're like the jealous brother,
pouting when someone gets a second chance. But all of us at some
time need a fresh start. Believe God's promise: It's never too late
to start over.
Third Sunday of Lent
Feed your inner spirit.
(Jn 4:4-42; Jn 2:13-25; Lk 13:1-9)
A hearty meal can dull our human cravings,
but without spiritual nourishment, we will never be fully satisfied.
Give thanks to a good God (and a good cook) before a meal today,
then add a prayer of thanks for the living waters and the Bread
Monday: Stand up for your convictions.
(2 Kgs 5:1-15; Lk 4:24-30)
There's little profit in being a prophet,
especially among those who think they know you. Jesus got driven
out of town when he told the truth. Living out our beliefs may make
us unpopular with friends and co-workers, but Christianty is more
than a popularity contest.
Tuesday: Make forgiveness a habit.
(Dn 3:25, 34-43; Mt 18:21-35)
"Is this guy for real?" Peter must have
wondered when Jesus told him not to give up forgiving a fellow Christian,
even after seven times. It may seem impossible to be as tolerant
as Jesus demands, but don't we expect that same patience from a
Wednesday: Read the fine print.
(Dt 4:1, 5-9; Mt 5:17-19)
The prominent issues of Christian lifelove,
forgiveness, justiceare easy enough to accept in principle.
But living out the details of these themes, applying them "to the
least of God's children" can be nettlesome. What are the sticking
points of Christ's message in your life?
Thursday: Test the power of the pen.
(Jer 7:23-28; Lk 11:14-23)
A nation lacking moral leadership will
crumble like a house divided. Share your deepest convictions with
those who can make a difference. Pick up a pen (or log into e-mail)
and urge your elected officials to fashion public policy that reflects
Friday: Do the love walk.
(Hos 14:2-10; Mk 12:28-34)
The ways of the Lord are right, Hosea
reminds us, but they're not always easy. Jesus reduced those ways
to two: Love of God and love of neighbor. Easier said daily than
Saturday: Weed out pharisaism.
(Hos 6:1-6; Lk 18:9-14)
Of course, we'd rather be the repentant
sinner than the self-righteous pharisee, but a little bit of the
pharisee lingers even among the humblest of Christians. Look for
ways to fine-tune your Lenten practices today, focusing less on
the burnt offerings and more on God's love and forgiveness.
Fourth Sunday of Lent
Take a wide-eyed look at the world.
(Jn 9:1-41; Jn 3:14-21; Lk 15:1-3,
Jesus came to help the blind see. In
the ruts of daily living, we stumble around with closed eyes and
stopped-up ears. Look and listen for the nuances of pain today in
the actions and words of those you meet. Be the healing eyes and
ears of the Lord for them.
Monday: Be a miracle worker.
(Is 65:17-21; Jn 4:43-54)
Unlike Jesus, we can't bring a dead
child back to life, but we can revive one dying a slow death from
lack of love and self-esteem. Reach out today to youth by praising
them for who they are or what they have achieved, no matter how
insignificant these may appear.
Tuesday: Give an extra boost.
(Ez 47:1-9,12; Jn 5:1-3, 5-16)
You can do it, Jesus tells the sick
man. Just pick up your mat and head for the healing waters. We too
can inspire others to tap their spiritual resources to change their
lives. Help someone find that inner spring of life by your affirming
words and prayers.
Wednesday: Embrace the millennium.
(Is 49:8-15; Jn 5:17-30)
Doomsday forecasters point to war, disease
and catastrophe as reasons to fear the end is near. Christians rejoice
in Christ's coming, wherever or whenever that may be. Live your
life today in harmony with the word of God, joyfully anticipating
a closer union with God.
Thursday: Be a witness to God's word.
(Ex 32:7-14; Jn 5:31-47)
John the Baptist foreshadowed Jesus
as a powerful light preparing the world for the message he would
bring. Two thousand years later, we lengthen that shadow, witnessing
to Christ's link between God and humanity. We keep John's spark
alive when our works match our words steeped in the eternal Word.
Friday: Find God in the ordinary.
(Wis 2:1, 12-22; Jn 7:1-2, 10, 25-30)
Because Jesus' contemporaries knew him
and his family, they could not accept him as the Messiah, the one
who would reveal God to them. Perhaps it is in the ordinary actions
and words of those we know best that we will be granted a glimpse
of the divine.
Saturday: Stand strong in your beliefs.
(Jer 11:18-20; Jn 7:40-53)
Had Jesus lived today, he would have
confounded the poll-takers. Did he speak the truth? Was he a charlatan?
Should they arrest him or follow him? We too get mixed reactions
when we articulate our deepest beliefs, but need to stand firm,
no matter how we are judged.
Fifth Sunday of Lent
Attend to the grieving.
(Jn 11:1-45; 12:20-33; 8:1-11)
The pain of a loved one's death never
really diminishes, though it may take a back seat to our daily struggles.
Even though it's awkward to talk to someone who is grieving, our
reaching out moves them toward healing. Help someone who is saddened
by a death, recent or distant, by acknowledging their pain through
your words or quiet presence.
Monday: Don't throw the first stone.
(Dn 13:1-62; Jn 8:1-11)
Since our century lacks wise Daniels
to see through false accusations against others, we have to rely
on the greater wisdom of Christ's words when we encounter sin in
others. Are we so blameless ourselves that we dare to hurl the first
stone against the sinner? Christ, who was without sin, chose not
to condemn. How can we?
Tuesday: Look to Jesus for new life.
(Nm 21:4-9; Jn 8:21-30)
In Moses' time, God commanded the people
to raise their eyes to a serpent on a rod so they might be saved
from the venom of the serpents. We raise our eyes to a new symbol,
Jesus, a sign of contradiction. In his death on the cross, we are
assured of life and redemption.
Wednesday: Wear the cloak of truth.
(Dn 3:14-20, 91-92, 95; Jn 8:31-42)
Nebuchadnezzar was astounded when the
three holy men walked out of the fiery furnace unscathed. At times,
we may take heat for our beliefs, but Jesus has promised that the
truth will protect us and set us free.
Thursday: Believe and live.
(Gn 17:3-9; Jn 8:51-59)
Those Jews who did not accept Jesus
tried to stone him because they could not make sense of his words.
Sometimes it's hard for us to believe them tooespecially when
he assures us that if we keep God's word we will never die. In the
days before Good Friday, ponder this central message and ask for
the grace to believe it.
Friday: Find support in others.
(Jer 20:10-13; Jn 10:31-42)
Like the Old Testament prophets or like
Jesus, we may feel threatened because of our beliefs. Try not to
focus on those who reject God's word, but seek out the example of
those whose lives demonstrate the works of God made visible in our
Saturday: Work for unity.
(Ez 37:21-28; Jn 11:45-57)
Even before Jesus, dispersed believers
longed to come together as one. It was the chief priest Caiaphas,
a nonbeliever, who understood that the death of one man could bring
people together. Again this Lent as we commemorate the death of
Jesus, let us recommit ourselves to finding unity in our diversity.
Palm Sunday: Don't grow weary.
Few of us would identify with Judas
the betrayer, Peter the denier or the bloodthirsty crowds calling
for Jesus' crucifixion. But all of us, like the other disciples,
have been overcome by drowsiness or lack of commitment, unable to
muster up enough energy to watch with Jesus in the garden. During
this holiest week of the year, stay vigilant, even though you may
be tempted to give in to seasonal distractions.
Monday: Examine your motives.
(Is 42:1-7; Jn 12:1-11)
Judas chastised Mary at Bethany when
she anointed the feet of Jesus with costly oil instead of using
the money for the poor. But he said this, the evangelist notes parenthetically,
not because he cared for the poor but out of other motives. How
often do we help the poor out of "political correctness" rather
than dedication to gospel values?
Tuesday: Keep your aim straight.
(Is 49:1-6; Jn 13:21-33, 36-38)
Like Isaiah, we have been called by
God to be polished arrows in the service of the Lord. In these last
few days of Lent, clarify your goals. What has thrown you off course?
How can you readjust your sights so you hit the target you set 40
Wednesday: Speak truth and kindness.
(Is 50:4-9; Mt 26:14-25)
"Surely it's not I, Lord?" Judas asked
in chorus with the other disciples. Jesus knew, Judas kneweven
though the betrayer's words and attitude suggested otherwise. Choose
as your model today not Judas but Isaiah, who realized how important
it was to raise up the weary with true, faith-filled words.
Holy Thursday: Be humble.
(Ex 12:7-8, 11-14; 1 Cor 11:23-26;
Being on the receiving end of the Holy
Thursday foot-washing ritual can be awkward, as priests, deacons
and neighbors humble themselves to cleanse you during this untypical
ceremony. Outside the liturgy it's no easier and just as embarrassing
to be the one ministered to. Today, step out of the servant role
briefly to let someone else experience the joy of serving you.
Good Friday: Understand your suffering.
(Is 52:1353:12; Heb 4:14-16,
5:7-9; Jn 18:119:42)
He knows our pain. Even in the garden,
threatened by soldiers, Jesus thought of his followers as he embraced
the suffering that lay before him. Aware that Jesus has been tested
too, be bold enough to ask God for the grace to integrate your pain
into the total fabric of your life.
Easter Vigil: Shake off the fear.
(Mt 28:1-10; Mk 16:1-7; Lk 24:1-12)
The Resurrection is upon usnot
only in the readings of the liturgy but also in our daily life.
Too often we are grounded by the inertia of fear as we attempt to
put into action the fruits of our Lenten sojourn. Believe in yourself,
shed your fears and live as a redeemed child of the Resurrection.
Next: An abbreviated version
of Celebrating the Lord's Day
(by Pope John Paul II)