Each issue carries an imprimatur from
the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. Reprinting prohibited
Stillness in Lent: Day By Day
Be still and know that I am God (Ps. 46:10) is a powerful
primer of prayer. God is. God is God. The God of all ages is the God of our friends and
of our enemies, neither of our creation nor under our control. Anything we say about
God is only an approximation, for God is most definitely Other. Lent is a time to recognize
and be present to God the other in the depth and silence of our hearts. In
that stillness await the mystery of the Resurrection.
Ash Wednesday: Entering into silence
Jl 2:12-18; 2 Cor 5:206:2; Mt 6:1-6, 16-18) Lent invites us
to silence in Gods presence. Jesus tells us to go to our inner rooms, to close the
door and pray to our Father in secret. There we must first acknowledge our utter dependence
on God. As Lent begins, pray for that grace.
Thursday: Recognizing the Cross
Dt 30:15-20; Lk 9:22-25)—Sometimes we mistake loneliness for holy
silence with God. Since loneliness is a part of the Cross of life, we bear it willingly
when we must. But we need not avoid other people completely to be holy. Jesus speaks today
about self-denial. Hear him explain that we do not save our lives for ourselves.
Friday: Understanding fasting
(Is 58:1-9a; Mt 9:14-15)—Lent is a time for fasting, and fasting can
be a positive and joyful experience. Yes, the bridegroom will leave us, but we know he
is with us eternally. How can we grow closer to God? Think of positive ways to fast for
(Is 58:9b-14; Lk 5:27-32)—Jesus knows we need healing, of physical
illness, of painful memories, perhaps of a sinful past. Healing does not always mean forgetting
or disappearing. Ask Jesus to heal whatever separates you from peaceful silence with God.
First Sunday of Lent: Starting and stopping
(Mt 4:1-11 [Cycle A]; Mk 1:12-15 [B]; Lk 4:1-13 [C])Just a few days
into Lent and already we are tired. There are so many other things to pursue: riches, honor,
pride. Just for today, imagine you are standing alone with Jesus in the desert. What tempts
you to quit your Lenten resolve? Ask Jesus to help you continue.
Monday: Who is Jesus?
(Lv 19:1-2, 11-18; Mt 25:31-46) Matthews Gospel has lots of
practical advice. Here Jesus explains how to find him. If we feed the hungry, give drink
to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked and visit the imprisoned, we have
made a good start in locating Jesus in our midst. Recognize your own and others hunger,
thirst, aloneness, embarrassment and imprisonment. See Jesus in others and in yourself.
Tuesday: How to pray
(Is 55:10-11; Mt 6:7-15) Today Jesus teaches a stunning lesson. The
Our Father we say so easily is truly a pledge of dependence on God and Gods will.
If we see God in all things, we can better understand what Jesus is teaching us to say.
Pray the Our Father a few times today.
Wednesday: Signs and signals
(Jon 3:1-10; Lk 11:29-32) Collectively we like to be affirmed in our
beliefs. We want to see our understandings of faith and morals triumph all about. But often
the world does not recognize Jesus as Son of God, any more than the people of an earlier
age recognized Jonah. Ask for the grace to resist some worldly denial of Christ that attracts
Thursday: Persistence is a virtue
(Est C:12, 14-16, 23-25; Mt 7:7-12) Evil often suggests that persistence
is mere stubbornness, and that you should just give up trying to do Gods will. But
Jesus promises that persistent knocking will open the door, that persistent prayer will
grant you good things. Pay attention to the persistent needs of those about you, and answer
them as Jesus might.
Friday: Making peace
(Ez 18:21-28; Mt 5:20-26) There is no sense in trying to ignore anger
when we pray. When that anger is directed at another person, we must try to make peace
if we can and forgive the other in the stillness of our hearts. Recognize the interior
peace that comes from praying for enemies.
Saturday: Loving others
(Dt 26:16-19; Mt 5:43-48) It is easy to love distant enemies. Pride
often reminds us how well we pray for the opponent in war or in politics. How much harder
it is to love the one who hurts you. We do not need to excuse or forget, but we must always
forgive. Pray for that grace.
Second Sunday of Lent:—Keep moving
(Dn 9:4b-10; Lk 6:36-38) Jesus teaches us to live honestly. If we
do not judge, condemn or withhold forgiveness, neither will we be judged, condemned nor
unforgiven. Ask in silence to understand, rather than judge, the person who puzzles us.
Tuesday: Humility 101
(Is 1:10, 16-20; Mt 23:1-12) Humility is crucial to the Lenten journey,
and it is truly difficult to be humble. Often we really do know more than the next person.
But to see everyone through Gods eyes is to see the humble Jesus before us. If we
can do that, we are beginning to be humble.
Wednesday: Status symbols
(Jer 18:18-20; Mt 20:17-28) Jesus is the Son of God, but he is as
helpless as the rest of us in the human condition. He tells his followers that he will
be killed. Who will be the next leader? Jesus surprises them and us by insisting that the
leader is the servant. How does that echo in your life?
Thursday: Serving and being served
(Jer 17:5-10; Lk 16:19-31) We can apply the parable of poor Lazarus
to organizations, nations and ourselves. If we consume everything and leave nothing for
the poor, we will have consumed our rewards as well. Look for an opportunity to quietly
share time and material goods with someone else.
Friday: Watching and waiting
(Gn 37:3-4, 12-13a, 17b-28a; Mt 21:33-43, 45-46)—Jesus death
approaches. Like the vineyard owner, God first sent prophets and then his own Son. All
were ignored, and this parable foretells Jesus death. Allow yourself to feel dismay
at the way the world continues to ignore Jesus.
Saturday: Hope survives
(Mic 7:14-15, 18-20; Lk 15:1-3, 11-32) Hope is central to a life of
faith and charity. The father found his lost son, but only because the lost son trusted
his father would receive him. If we neglect hope, depression may overtake our good efforts.
Ask to better learn the virtue of hope.
Third Sunday of Lent: Give yourself a chance
(Jn 4:5-52 [A]; Jn 2:13-25 [B]; Lk 13:1-9 [C]) Todays Gospel
speaks about conversion. We all have a chance to turn it around. The Samaritan
woman, the money changers in the Temple and the poor, barren fig tree remind us of the
second chance God gives. No matter how the days of Lent have gone so far, let this week
mark a new beginning and a fresh start on the journey.
(2 Kgs 5:1-15a; Lk 4:24-30) Lent is a time to quietly examine our
relationships with others, as well as with the Lord. We often get a bit too critical of
one another, especially of those closest to us. What prophet have you run out
of your life lately? And why?
(Dn 3:25, 34-43; Mt 18:21-35) If we cannot forgive other people, how
can we forgive ourselves? Jesus tells us to forgive the brother or sister who sins against
us 77 times. Thats a lot of forgiving! Ask for the grace to keep up with Jesus command.
(Dt 4:1, 5-9; Mt 5:17-19)—Jesus reminds us today that there are boundaries
in every part of life. If we ignore those boundariesif we break the ruleswe
will meet some punishment. Ask God to give you a healthy response to the law of God.
Thursday: Siding with Jesus
(Jer 7:23-28; Lk 11:14-23)—Jesus tells us there are two sets of people
in life: those who are with him and those who are against him. Sometimes the problem is
figuring out who—s who. Ask for the wisdom to see things through Jesus— eyes.
(Hos 14:2-10; Mk 12:28b-34) The most difficult task in learning to see
things as Jesus does is also the easiest: We must look with loving eyes. If we say we love
the Lord, we must also try to love each other. Try that, just for today.
Saturday:—Remembering the essentials
(Hos 6:1-6; Lk 18:9-14) There is nothing worse than the person who
is proud of how humble he is. The Pharisee has that sort of silly response to life. The
poor tax collector knows who he is and what he has done. Jot down a few notes about who
you are this Lent, and thank the Lord for self-knowledge.
Fourth Sunday of Lent: Rejoice!
(Jn 9:1-41 [A]; Jn 3:14-21 [B]; Lk 15:1-3, 11-32 [C]) Last Thursday
marked the midpoint of Lent, and today the Church celebrates Laetare Sunday, a happy day
of encouragement in the midst of the long fast. Today there may be flowers on the altar
and music at Mass. The priest and deacon wear rose-colored vestments. Hear God—s joyful
encouragement to you this day.
Monday: Healing and trust
(Is 65:17-21; Jn 4:43-54) The concrete example of todays Gospel
echoes in our own lives: Jesus has told this man his child will live. How often do we silently
hear Gods promise, and remain afraid? Ask God to help you believe his promises.
Tuesday: The world does not understand
(Ez 47:1-9, 12; Jn 5:1-16) Jesus broke the rules by healing on the
Sabbath, and the sick man broke the rules by carrying his mat. Often God—s rules override
those of the world, but the world does not understand. Pray to accept your experiences
of God—s way over the ways of the world.
Wednesday: This is for real
(Is 49:8-15; Jn 5:17-30)—Jesus accusers are furious. He healed
on the Sabbath and he called God his Father. Jesus knows the consequences, but he does
not back down. We live in the same tension with the world. Resolve to stand your ground.
(Ex 32:7-14; Jn 5:31-47)Parts of the Gospel of John are very confusing.
Today Jesus speaks in a confusing way about confusion. Who to believe? Who to listen to?
Quietly offer your own confusion to the Lord, and ask for light.
Friday: Recognizing Christ
(Wis 2:1a, 12-22; Jn 7:1-2, 10, 25-30) Jesus time draws near,
yet he continues to speak openly in the temple. Even though his enemies want to have him
arrested, he remains free, because his time has not yet come. Pray to understand that no
one can silence the truth.
Saturday: Listening and watching
(Jer 11:18-20; Jn 7:40-53) Jesus continues to teach, and his enemies
are all about. Only Nicodemus understands the most basic point: Jesus is innocent, and
the law will not condemn an innocent person. Pray to speak in defense of the innocent.
Fifth Sunday of Lent: Prepare to rise
(Jn 11:1-45 [A]; 12:20-33 [B]; 8:1-11 [C]) We fear death. Both really
and metaphorically death brings change. As we daily die to sin and selfishness, we prepare
ourselves to rise with Christ at the time of our own natural deaths. Ask God to quiet any
fears you may have.
Monday: Throwing stones
(Dn 13:1-9, 15-17, 19-30, 33-62; Jn 8:1-11) Jesus stops the crowd
from stoning the woman, not because she is innocent of their claims, but because they are
equally guilty of something. Try to find a reasonable explanation for some offense you
think you see, and leave God to be the judge.
Tuesday: God is God
(Nm 21:4-9; Jn 8:21-30)—Jesus further confounds the crowd. Who is
he? I AM. Jesus is the Son of the Father. Be still, and know that God is God.
Wednesday: Children of God
(Dn 3:14-20, 91-92, 95; Jn 8:31-42) Jesus further confounds his followers.
He is of God, and if they were children of God they would love him. How could they not?
Meditate on your relationship to Jesus.
Thursday: The Son of God
(Gn 17:3-9; Jn 8:51-59) As Jesus moves closer to his death, his statements
are more and more scandalous to the people. God is his Father, and he knows God while they
do not. Humbly accept that thought from Jesus, and ask him to teach you about his Father.
Friday: Works of the Father
(Jer 20:10-13; Jn 10:31-42) Again they pick up rocks to stone Jesus.
His self-defense is simple: Either he performs the Father—s works or he does not. Believe
or disbelieve according to those terms. The simple folk across the Jordan believe. Ask
for quiet simplicity in your faith.
(Ex 37:21-28; Jn 11:45-56) Caiaphass interests are political:
Jesus troubles the delicate balance of power in Jerusalem. Jesus knows his enemies and
has left Jerusalem. Will he come back for the Passover? Allow yourself to feel the anguish
Jesus felt in knowing what lay ahead.
Holy Week/Palm Sunday
(Mt 26:1427:66 [A]; Mk 14:115:47 [B]; Lk 22:1423:56
Jesus returns to Jerusalem riding on a simple beast, and he is hailed as King of
the Jews. The good news of his gospel is a joyful reformation of the law. He claims
to be the Son of God, and he promises everlasting life for all. He is unstoppable. Join
in welcoming him.
Monday: Preparing for death
(Is 42:1-7; Jn 12:1-11)—Todays Gospel returns us to Bethany,
where Mary, Martha and their raised brother Lazarus live. Mary takes the precious oil usually
used for burial preparations and pours it on Jesus feet. Does she recognize how close
his death is? Do something today for someone you love.
Tuesday: Betrayal and denial
(Is 49:1-6; Jn 13:21-33, 36-38)—Jesus
friends are still with him, and Peter says he will never betray Jesus. He clearly believes
what he says. Silently understand how often you have said the same.
Wednesday: Spy Wednesday
(Is 50:4-9a; Mt 26:14-25) This day was once called Spy Wednesday, the
day Judas is exposed. Judas has taken 30 pieces of silver to betray Jesus, yet he still
eats with him. Understand Jesus anguish, and the confusion of the apostles at this
Holy Thursday: This is my body
(Ex 12:1-8, 11-14; 1 Cor 11:23-26; Jn 13:1-15)—Today consider the
body of Christ. The washed feet belong to the body of Christ. The blessed bread actually
becomes the body of Christ. It is offered with the simple words: The body of Christ. Be,
and continue to become, what you receive.
Good Friday: This is my blood
(Is 52:1353:12; Heb 4:14-16, 5:7-9; Jn 18:119:42) Jesus blood
washes across the centuries as a salve for sin. Yet we cannot stand to watch his suffering
in our minds eye. Allow yourself to know his suffering, and keep that sense of compassion
for all who suffer.
Easter Vigil: The tomb is empty
(Mt 28:1-10 [A]; Mk 16:1-7 [B]; Lk 24:1-12 [C])—Holy Saturday is a
time of waiting and watching, trusting, hoping that Jesus words were God—s promise.
Wait and watch with the women in belief, and rejoice!
Phyllis Zagano, Ph.D., holds the Visiting Aquinas Chair
of Catholic Studies at St. Thomas Aquinas College, Sparkill, NY. She also teaches religious
studies at Hofstra University. She is author of several best-selling books, including Called
to Serve: A Spirituality for Deacons (Liguori Publications) and Ita Ford: Missionary
Martyr (Paulist Press).
NEXT: In the Desert with JesusLenten Biblical Themes (by
Michael D. Guinan, O.F.M.)