In the Gospel for Monday of the Third Week of Lent, Jesus preaches in the synagogue in Nazareth about Gods’ mercy. He illustrates with a story that God has mercy on everyone. ” ‘There were many lepers in Israel during the time of Elisha the prophet; yet not one of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were all filled with fury” (Luke 4: 27-28). Jesus makes it clear that God’s mercy shows no partiality. His Jewish listeners got angry. I have gotten angry at God when I think God cares more for others than for me. Jesus reminds me that God loves everyone, including me. He wants us to love others as God does. He wants us to care for the needs of others no matter who they are. What challenges do you have in loving others different from you?
In the Gospel for Friday of the Second Week of Lent, Jesus tells the story of the Vineyard and the Wicked Tenants. At harvest time, the landlord sent his servant to collect the produce. The tenants killed him and all the other servants sent after him. “Finally, he [the landlord] sent his son to them, thinking, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.’ They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him” Matthew 21: 37-39). This allegory compares the vineyard to the reign of God, the servants to the prophets, and the son to Jesus. Jesus admonishes his listeners to not reject him as they had rejected the prophets. Christians today face the same choice. Each day we decide to accept or reject Jesus. We accept Jesus every time we do a loving act of kindness for others in need. How have you accepted Jesus today?
In the Gospel for Thursday of the Second Week of Lent, Jesus tells the story of the rich man and Lazarus. “There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day. And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Dogs even used to come and lick his sores” (Luke 16: 19-21). When Lazarus dies, Abraham welcomes him to the messianic banquet. When the rich man dies, he goes to the netherworld. The rich man failed to care for Lazarus. He did not follow Jesus’ teaching about care for the needy. The story makes me wonder who needs my help; who is at my door. I pray to look beyond my own needs to the needs of others. Who is at your door in need of loving kindness?
In the Gospel for Tuesday of the Second Week in Lent, Jesus teaches the disciples about humility. “Do not be called ‘Master’; you have but one master, the Christ. The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Matthew 23: 10-13). Jesus reminds them he is their master, their teacher. Christian disciples today follow the one teacher, Jesus Christ. They strive to live their lives following Jesus’ example. They teach others the way of Christ by living a life of loving service to others. Heroic Christian witnesses like Dorothy Day and Pope Francis teach me how to follow Jesus. I taught my sons the way of Jesus by my loving service to them and their mother. How do you teach others the way of Christ?
In the Gospel for Thursday of the First Week in Lent, Jesus teaches his disciples that God answers their prayers. “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened” (Matthew 7: 7-8). God answers our prayers. God often answers them in unexpected ways. When ever a friend prays for patience, she experiences another test of patience. While a seminarian, I prayed for God’s guidance. God helped me discern marriage as my vocation. How does God answer your prayers?
In the Gospel for Wednesday of the First Week in Lent, Jesus speaks about the sign of Jonah. “At the judgment the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because at the preaching of Jonah they repented, and there is something greater than Jonah here” (Luke 11: 32). Jesus compares his preaching God’s Word to Jonah’s preaching to the Ninevites. The power of God’s Word moved them to conversion. Jesus even more powerfully proclaims God’s Word. He expects his listeners to hear and keep God’s Word. How does the power of Jesus’ message affect the way you live?
In the Gospel for Monday of the First Week of Lent, Jesus reveals the Final Judgment. ” ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me’ ” (Matthew 25: 37-40). On the Day of Judgment, God blesses those who care for the needy. Christian disciples demonstrate their love for God with deeds of loving kindness. Loving Christ is caring for those in need. They feed the hungry, care for the sick, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger and more. I feed the hungry when I prepare dinner for my spouse. I care for the sick when I pray for my homebound friend. I welcome the stranger when I greet a newcomer at mass. How do you care for the needs of others?
In the Gospel for Friday after Ash Wednesday, the Pharisees asks Jesus why his disciples do not fast. “Jesus answered them, ‘Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast’ ” (Matthew 9: 15). Jesus compares his disciples to wedding guests celebrating with the bridegroom. Fasting is for mourning sorrow, not parties. Since God is with them in Jesus they have good reason to celebrate. They can fast when Jesus is gone. Christians live in between the Resurrection and Second Coming. Lent is a time to celebrate the blessings of God in our lives. It is also a time to fast in mourning for the sorrows of personal and communal sin, e.g., fasting from gossip that hurts others, fasting from excess use of fossil fuels that hurts the environment. How does your Lenten fasting help you grieve the sorrow of your sins?
In the Gospel for the Thursday After Ash Wednesday, Jesus predicts his passion. “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it” (Luke 9: 23-24). Jesus invites us to make a profound commitment to him and his way of love. He wants us to carry his cross. He is asking us to do more than patiently endure our daily struggles. He asks us for daily steadfast loyalty to love others in word and deed. Such loyalty is challenging. Lent is a good time to renew our commitment to Jesus’ way of life. How can God help you today renew your commitment to love as Jesus loves?
In the Gospel for Monday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time, Jesus continues his healing ministry. People were following Jesus just to touch his cloak. “Whatever villages or towns or countryside he entered, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and begged him that they might touch only the tassel on his cloak; and as many as touched it were healed” (Mark 6: 56). I have had many experiences of being touched by the healing power of Jesus. I was anointed with oil at my Baptism. My wife wiped my forehead with a cool wash cloth when I was sick with the flu. My youngest son kisses my on the cheek when we meet. My friend peacefully coped with delays in her coronary bypass surgery by the grace of the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. How have you experienced the healing touch of Jesus? How do you reach out to others for Jesus’ sake?