In the Reading for Tuesday of the First Week of Lent, Isaiah prophesies about the power of the Word of God. He compares God’s Word to the snow which fertilizes the soil yielding a rich harvest. So too God’s Word nourishes our hearts to yield a blessed bounty. I have experienced the power of God’s Word when praying the Scriptures. Listening to God’ Word instills in me patience, comfort, peace, joy, and other fruits of the Holy Spirit. God often speaks to me the Word I need to hear. What is God saying to you?
In the Gospel for Monday of the First Week of Lent, Jesus describes the final judgment. He will welcome into his glory those who fed, clothed, visited, and otherwise cared for him. They are surprised; they never saw him. Jesus says, “Whatever you did for one of these least … you did for me” (Matthew 25: 40). This story bolsters my hope. Every act of loving kindness has a purpose. When discouraged by life’s daily struggles, I still make a difference for others. Whether pouring coffeee for my wife, smiling at a co-woker, praying for a sick friend, and more, these simple acts of loving kindness matter. They matter to others. They matter to Jesus. Who needs your loving care?
In the Reading for Friday after Ash Wednesday, Isaiah criticizes the people whose fasting has hardened their hearts. This is the fasting God wants: “releasing those bound unjustly … setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke, sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless, clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own” (Isaiah 58: 6-7). On Ash Wednesday, I talked with my sister-in-law about fasting for something instead of from something. She resolved to practice good deeds. God has plenty for us to do. What are you doing for Lent?
Jesus predicts his Passion in the Gospel for the Memorial of Saint Polycarp. Then he tells his disciples that “whoever loses his life for my sake will save it” (Luke 9: 24). St. Polycarp is a martyr. He gave his life as a witness to his faith in Christ. Jesus still wants his disciples to witness their faith by their lives. Jesus asks us to give of ourselves in love for others. Living for others blesses us and God far more than living for ourselves. How do you live for others?
The prophet Joel pleads for God in the First Reading for Ash Wednesday. “Return to me with your whole heart” (Joel 2: 12) God asks the people. God wants us to do the same. God reaches out in love. God desires love in return. God wants us back in His loving embrace. What’s keeping you apart?
In the Gospel for Tuesday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time, Jesus referees an argument among his disciples. They are fighting about who’s the best. Jesus says, “If anyone wishes to be first he [she] shall be the last of all and the servant of all” (Mark 9: 35). I wanted to be the perfect parent. Working for perfection only frustrated me and my family. I realized loving my sons even meant admitting my mistakes and asking forgiveness. Instead of a perfect parent, I became a better one. Practicing the self-giving love of Jesus promotes the reign of God “on earth as it is in heaven”. Who could ask for more?
In the Gospel for Friday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time, Jesus tells his disciples they must deny themselves and “take up his cross, and follow me” (Mark 8: 34). I used to think a good disciple stoicly accepted personal suffering. Jesus is talking about the denial of selfess love. For love of their children, parents struggle with nightime feedings, after work dinner preparation, car pools, resentful teenagers, college loans, and other more serious hardships. Jesus challenges all of us to give of ourselves in love for others. How are you taking up the cross?
In the Reading for Wednesday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time, James admonishes his community to put their faith into loving action. “Be doers of the word and not hearers only” (James 1: 22). Loving care for those in need accomplishes God’s purposes, not anger and other vices. I have struggled with anger especially when raising my sons. I respond in a more loving way to life’s frustrations and demands when I try less by myself and rely more on God. Then I am open to the healing touch of Jesus described in today’s Gospel. When do you struggle to do the loving thing?
In the Reading for the Memorial of Saint Cyril and Saint Methodius, James advises his Christian community to stop deceiving themselves. They were blaming God for their sins. James exhorts them to take responsibility instead. God intends only good for those who believe. Every good gift comes from God. I resist personal responsibility for my sinful behavior. I try to blame someone or something else. God’s unconditional love helps me take personal responsibility. Inspired by God, the loving people in my life forgive me and desire the best for me. Who offers these perfect gifts to you.?
Jesus cures the deaf man with a speech impediment in the Gospel for the Memorial of Saint Scholastica. The crowd acknowledges that God’s saving power is at work in Jesus. “He has done all things well. He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak” (Mark 7: 37). God’s power is still at work in the world. Like the deaf man, we need Jesus’ help to hear the quiet presence of God in our daily lives. We also need his help sharing this good news with others by what we say and do. How is your hearing?