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One a Day
During Lent

by Kevin Regan

This Youth Update is a guide for your Lenten journey. Each day's reflection is closely connected to the Scripture readings of Lent. Each day's thought can take you a mile.

Use these mile markers as a direction for prayer. Read them and write your own notes in a journal. Use them as a way to prepare to celebrate the Eucharist. Read them with friends and reflect together on their connection to your lives. Move slowly and deliberately toward Easter.

Gather Your Gear

ASH WEDNESDAY:Strength.
Models pose on magazine covers and in TV commercials. It's true that cosmetics and clothing can beautify your body. But only God can beautify your soul. Only he can help you form a conscience strong enough to withstand the temptation to confuse physical beauty with inner beauty. Only God's support can help you do what is right when others take the easy way out.

THURSDAY: Vision.
Death wears many masks. Alcohol abuse often lurks behind the mask of freedom. Heartbreak hides behind the mask of anticipated sexual pleasure with no commitment or concern for consequences. Behind the mask of superiority lies the power to destroy reputations and personal dignity. Loving the Lord means taking the masks off and choosing real life.

FRIDAY: Discipline.
You are asked to fast from food during Lent. This can remind you that there is a love greater than love for food, fine clothes or physical comfort. The real fast of Lent is saying no to selfish desires. It is fasting from thoughts, words and actions that isolate and humiliate your peers. This is the fast God asks of you, to care for those closest to you and to support the homeless and hungry in your neighborhood.

SATURDAY: Mercy.
You may say, "I'll never forgive her" or "I'll get even with him." Revenge is a predictable response. But in you is the gift of mercy. Jesus came to give sinners a chance. Your forgiveness, like that of Jesus, offers a change from the usual way the world does business. Revenge enslaves your body and mind while mercy is your song of freedom.

Week One: Desert

SUNDAY: Discover love.
The Spirit led Jesus into the desert. When you feel alone and needy and no one is there to help and nothing is going your way, life is like a desert. You may be tempted to give up. It is then that faith is most difficult. It takes courage to believe God loves you. Can you pray with Jesus to trust in God's care for you in the deserts of your life?

MONDAY: What about the others?
"I didn't mean to hurt anybody": These words often follow disaster. A young girl dies due to excessive speed. A boy is hospitalized after a fight. A reputation is ruined because of a lie. Sin appears so attractive, full of pleasure and self-satisfaction. Sin is evil but appears good. Sin creates a desert of isolation. When you are tempted to act irresponsibly, ask with Jesus, "What about the other person?"

TUESDAY: Change.
Relationships can bring out the worst in people. Envy, pride and jealousy spread their poisons. You try to change the other person to meet your expectations. But it doesn't work. Lent is a reminder that others really change only when they are loved. That means first changing yourself.

WEDNESDAY: Oasis.
It's hard standing at the end of the line, isn't it? It's hard always being the last chosen or the one left out. What does this do to your self-image or your sense of being valued? Those at the end, at the bottom of the social ladder, are easily forgotten. Jesus sees the last coming first. Whatever you do to the least, you do to Jesus. This creates an oasis in life's desert. But do you believe it?

THURSDAY: Rain.
It does rain in the desert. Flowers grow there. The desert sunflower is an example. Isaiah the prophet says God's word, like rain, gives life to the good seed in you. Seeds of kindness, integrity and courage are planted through the events of each day. These need the life-giving nourishment of God's word to grow. How are you cultivating the seeds planted in the garden of your life?

FRIDAY: Friend.
Who is your closest friend, the one whose acceptance brings you joy? This person is someone special. Jesus shares with you his special relationship to God. He addresses God with the familiar title of "Daddy." In prayer it is not the words you use that count, but your awareness of God's complete love for you. God's love will always accompany you as you journey through the deserts of your life.

SATURDAY: Law.
A classmate is caught shoplifting. What do you do? A friend is lured into a drug-dealing gang. How do you respond? Out of a false loyalty you may do nothing. Jesus invites you to love your friend or classmate just as you want to be loved. This involves action. Such love, according to Jesus, is the whole meaning of God's law.

Week Two:Questions

SUNDAY: Can you see the journey's end?
You are not to remain in the deserts of life. Today in the transfiguration of Jesus you catch a glimpse of the glory that awaits you at the end of your journey. God says, "This is my beloved Son on whom my favor rests. Listen to him." This is a sneak preview of Easter. This is a most reassuring message: The happiness your heart desires is what God desires for you. Imagine!

MONDAY: What's your image?
Who are you? What kind of person are you becoming? What's your image of yourself? Friends, movies, videos, music and advertising all try to sell you an image to imitate. God, too, has an image of you, "You are my beloved." To the world, you must prove yourself. For God, you must love yourself. Which will it be?

TUESDAY: Are you listening?
God says, referring to Jesus, "Listen to him." To whom do you really listen? Just as the food you eat shapes your body, the voices you hear shape your values. They feed your soul. Are the people you hear worthy of your attention? Are they getting you into good spiritual shape? Do you hear the words of Jesus addressed specifically to you?

WEDNESDAY: Can you face failure?
The world rejects failure. What do you do with what is selfish and sinful in you? Ads demand that you pretend to have no faults. Hide your sins! Cover up both physical blemishes and moral weakness! But Jesus says that, when you admit your sin and seek forgiveness, God gives you new hope. Hiding something doesn't make it disappear. Recognizing your sin can become a path to life.

THURSDAY: Who's there?
Look in the mirror. Who do you see? Can you see only your imperfections and the things you want to change about yourself? Can you see the child loved by God? Can you know God's joy in you as you try to navigate the choppy waters of adolescent life? See yourself through God's eyes.

FRIDAY: Can you change?
The Samaritan woman had five husbands. Bartimaeus was a blind beggar. Zacchaeus was a tax collector who cheated the people. The love of Jesus released each of them from shame. Jesus came for those whose self-esteem was destroyed by their life circumstances. His love changed their lives. Will you let him change yours?

SATURDAY: Can you believe in yourself?
Are you popular? Do you try to please others? Do you bend yourself out of shape to be accepted? Or do you believe that others will love in you what you love in yourself? Experiencing God's love for you as you are is the beginning of a healthy self-love. You are his beloved. Believe it!

Week Three:Attitudes

SUNDAY: Take a risk.
Sometimes the unexpected things are most important. A new classmate gets the locker next to yours; a troubled team member asks for a ride; a new teacher shows up in class. Offering Jesus a drink of water changed a Samaritan woman's life. The ordinary things hold extraordinary surprises. Give something new a chance!

MONDAY: Let go.
Have you ever said this or felt this way? Sometimes, when we hold on too tight, our fear is greater than our love. Risk letting go of your fear and of people to whom you cling too tightly. Tell God how much you want to trust in his love.

TUESDAY: Forgive.
St. Peter had an attitude. So he asked Jesus how often he needed to forgive. Jesus responded with the unexpected answer. Forgiveness is not about numbers. It is about attitude. Once you really know that God forgives you everything, your attitude will change. You will be free to forgive from your heart.

WEDNESDAY: Wake up!
A 16-year-old once described the Church as being on the outer circle of the dartboard. He was referring to all the Church laws. Lent is a wake-up call to the unexpected news—the full meaning of all law rests in the person of Jesus. He loves you personally and invites you to love in return. Love is about a person before it is about law.

THURSDAY: Wonder.
The little child watched with eyes like silver dollars as the sun fell slowly from the sky. The horizon exploded with color—red and pink, orange and rust. With amazement the child looked to his mother and said, "Mommy, can you do that again?" God's wonders are there to dazzle you each day. Are you too busy to look?

FRIDAY: Care enough.
What makes Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King, Jr., or Mother Teresa universally recognized as worthy of imitation? They lived with passion. They served others, sought justice and cared for the forgotten ones wholeheartedly. If you are bored with life, don't blame others. Look within yourself. How passionate are you? Do you live fully or do you hold back in fear?

SATURDAY: Better?
A recent headline covering a Madonna concert read, "Connections, strings get you close to Madonna." It is natural to want to be someone who can get front-row seats. It is easy to expect that good grades or success make you a tad better than others. Jesus sees this behavior as living in illusion. You don't become a better person by looking down on others but by looking honestly at yourself. Jesus favors the tax collector who prayed, "O God, be merciful to me, a sinner" (Luke 18:13).

Week Four:Vision

SUNDAY: Oh, say, can you see?
I saw a blind man play basketball. I watched a blind and deaf Helen Keller see by using the movement of her fingers in the hand of her teacher. Jesus healed a blind man who in return believed Jesus was indeed God's chosen one. Seeing is believing. But believing is the light needed to really see. What are your blind spots?

MONDAY: Faith.
Faith makes things happen. Faith in a new coach can produce a winning season. A teacher's faith in you can help you achieve unexpected accomplishments. Faith sees the invisible possibilities. Faith brings into light hidden gifts. Faith frees untapped powers in yourself, in others and in God.

TUESDAY: Trust.
Trust unleashes a power in you and in others that fear blocks out. "Trust me, you can do it," was the message of Ann Sullivan to a blind Helen Keller. When you fear the blind spots in your life, Jesus says, "Do not be afraid. I am with you always." Can you share a fear with Jesus today?

WEDNESDAY: Seeing clearly.
Ads say happiness lies in material things. Buy and you will be content. But you always need more. Of course, this costs you more. Jesus says money can never buy happiness. You look for it in the wrong places. That is your blind spot. You hold the treasure you seek within you. Look there.

THURSDAY: Love alone.
TV is getting rich on game shows with big payoffs or reality-based shows with million-dollar prize money. Lotteries are popular nationwide. People seek happiness in money. This is a blind spot—in the eyes of Jesus. Money without love is a skeleton of loneliness clothed in luxury.

FRIDAY: Treasure.
Misplaced faith can kill body and spirit. Young people die from trusting that drugs will make them happy. People kill their spirit of generosity by seeking happiness at shopping malls. Jesus reminds you that where your treasure is, your heart is sure to follow. If God is your delight, God will give you your heart's desire.

SATURDAY: Insight.
Sometimes everything seems hopeless. An accident, a disappointment or a rejection may lead you to feel this way. You may have been blind to life's dangers and your spirit feels crushed. Here God's faithfulness can bring hope to your spirit. "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted, and those who are crushed in spirit he saves" (Psalm 34:19). Use this prayer today.

Week Five:Death

SUNDAY: Readiness.
Lent is the drama of God breaking into human history through the love of Jesus. It is shocking to see how God loves. In Jesus, it is God who weeps at the death of his friend Lazarus. Through Jesus, God calls him back to life. In Jesus, it is God who dines with sinners and sick people. What is in you that God seeks to love? Are you ready to allow God's love to bring what is dead in you to life?

MONDAY: Shame.
Shame is a type of death. It cuts the roots of your self-confidence and well-being. Those who see only your shame are dead, too. They ignore their own humanity. Jesus forgave the woman caught in adultery, while challenging the self-righteousness of her accusers. Those who throw stones overlook their own offenses. Can you ask Jesus to heal your shame?

TUESDAY: Pain.
When you experience suffering, you ask, "Why me?" It may be a car accident or a sickness or the death of a friend. Where do you look for understanding? Jesus' journey through the events of his passion offers you no easy answer to life's mysteries but the assurance that God walks with you. Is that enough?

WEDNESDAY: Conscience.
Consider these cases: John let himself be talked into shoplifting and was full of remorse once he was caught. Jen regretted giving in to pressure from her boyfriend to have sex with him. She feels alone, afraid to trust anyone. When you are faithful to your convictions, you feel integrity's rewards. When others dictate your choices, something dies in you.

THURSDAY: Hope.
Mary couldn't find her lost keys. She looked in all the wrong places—until she tried the ignition! Sometimes when you feel lost, you look in the wrong places for help. Then you get depressed and down on yourself. You feel empty, but the familiar voice of your friend can remind you that you are somebody. God's voice calls to you, "My beloved."

FRIDAY: Blame.
Do you ever feel misunderstood? You try your best to be helpful but all you hear is criticism. You may even be accused of acts of which you are innocent. What do you do? Sometimes God is the only one who knows. With Jesus you can pray, "In my distress I called upon the Lord. Praised be the Lord....I am safe from my enemies" (Psalm 18:7,4).

SATURDAY: Chatter.
When we use words carelessly or too frequently they lose their meaning. The words love and freedom are good examples. Jesus comes to you as God's word. He walked the walk before talking the talk. That is what Lent is all about. How carefully do you use words?

Holy Week:Life

PALM SUNDAY: Power hunger.
The power of Jesus flows from obedience to God's will. His method of change is through love. Power and fame tempt people to follow superstars. For some, education, politics and economics are ways to power rather than service. Fame in God's eyes is not being number one but being one of a number of loving people. Which kind of power will you claim?

MONDAY: Buried treasure.
Mary anointed the feet of Jesus with precious ointment. She was criticized for wasting something so costly. She knew her act of love was priceless. What is it in you or in your life that is beyond the value of money? How do you share this treasure?

TUESDAY: Finding safety.
A friend betrayed Jesus. Jesus sought refuge or safety in God's love. Betrayal doesn't harm the body, but it splits the human spirit. Once betrayed, trust becomes difficult. A faithful friend is a great source of healing. Seek God's Spirit in those painful moments of betrayal.

WEDNESDAY: Confidence.
Do you ever feel down and low? Do you experience the poverty of feeling alone? Jesus identifies with you in your suffering. Your God knows your anguish. You can pray with confidence, "See, you lowly ones, and be glad; you who seek God, may your hearts be merry!"(Psalm 69:33).

HOLY THURSDAY: Slave no more.
Today is the celebration of the Exodus: slavery to freedom. Today is the foot-washing: freedom to service. Today is the Eucharist: service to thanksgiving. Today is the birthday of the Church: thanksgiving to a community of love. Today Jesus becomes your nourishment on the journey.

GOOD FRIDAY: Free at last.
How do you know when someone loves you? Words are not enough. Loving feelings can't be trusted, for your feelings are constantly changing. When someone can identify with your experience, it is a sign of love. Today God identifies with the greatest mystery: suffering and death. Only love overcomes the fear of death.

EASTER VIGIL: Magnetic attraction.
Love took Jesus on his earthly journey through death to resurrection. Mary Magdalene came out of love to care for the body of Jesus. Love created in the hearts of the believers the courage to act with compassion. The resurrection is God's response to death and suffering. It is the magnet of love pulling on your heart.

Kevin Regan teaches at La Salle Academy in Providence, Rhode Island. His written work includes both books and articles for a variety of publications.

Kyle Amann (16), Erika Drake (16) and Patrick Metz (15), all members of St. Bernard Parish in Winton Place, Ohio, met after Sunday Mass to journey through Lent—-well ahead of schedule. Their observations are appreciated and incorporated into what you read here.

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