First Sunday of Lent
Background: To understand this Sunday’s gospel, we need to realize that we are jumping back over the unfolding of Jesus’s ministry in Galilee that we have been reading in the early Sundays of Ordinary Time and returning to his baptism in the Jordan. Having received the overwhelming awareness that he was God’s beloved Son/Servant, he needs to ponder the implications of that calling. And so, he heads out into the desert to pray and there is tested and tempted. What does this mission involve; and, perhaps more importantly, what does it not?
In Luke’s version Jesus is repeating the Exodus journey of Israel from slavery to freedom, an event referred to in the reading from Deuteronomy; yet we are on the same journey. And so, this is the day when the catechumens publicly state their desire make the promises of baptism, to be reborn by water and the Spirit, and to share in the Eucharist. It is also the day when the candidates express their desire to be received by renewing their baptismal promises before being sealed with the Spirit and sharing the Eucharist. As we the faithful accompany them on their lenten journey to initiation, we must join them in that renewal since on Easter we too will be asked to reaffirm our baptism by renouncing sin and professing faith.
- The first temptation or testing is about relying on material things rather than on spiritual. Which have priority in your life?
- The second temptation is about relying on power to bring happiness. What do you need to give up to find simplicity and inner freedom in your life?
- Faith is saying to God: “Thy will be done,” not expecting God to work miracles just for you. When has humble trust in God already brought you through to the other side of a difficult time?
- What temptation do you think our society or our church has fallen into? How might we return to faithful service of the gospel?
Practice: This week pray St. Ignatius Loyola’s prayer, “Take, Lord, Receive.” Each day before saying it ponder what grace you might need right now.
Second Sunday of Lent
Background: We read this week the last of three interconnected episodes in the gospel: the Jesus’s baptism, temptation, and now transfiguration. What links them is that they deal with the meaning of his being the beloved Son/Servant. We have seen how he has struggled to understand the meaning of his Sonship; now for his disciples the meaning is confirmed as the voice tell them to “listen to him.” If, like Abram, we put our deepest trust in God, we shall see God’s promise fulfilled in glory.
- When have you experienced the glory of Jesus? When did he become for you not just your Teacher but your Savior and Lord?
- Are you so focused on your own sins and unworthiness that you cannot believe that God’s is guiding you to glory through this lenten journey?
- Have you kept silent like the disciples, or have you told others of how God’s grace is at work within you?
- Which person’s goodness have you been most blind to?
Practice: This day’s responsorial psalm is Psalm 27, a prayer of trust in God in the midst of difficulties. Pray it each day this week. Before you pray it, each day ponder from what difficulty you might need, if not deliverance, then new strength.
Introduction to the Third to Fifth Sundays of Lent: Unlike Years A and B in which the gospels are taken from John, this year they are taken from Luke and his parables of mercy. As we draw closer and closer to Easter, we keep hearing the call to repentance, the sole condition for receiving God’s mercy and reconciliation.
Doing God’s will brings God’s kingdom/reign to reality every day.
Third Sunday of Lent
Background:This gospel selection walks a narrow line. On the one hand, Jesus rejects a mechanistic or accounting version of the Lord God’s justice: the wicked are not always punished nor the good rewarded—in the short term. On the other hand, repentance and the fruits of repentance shown in deeds of love lead to inner peace and eternal life. Doing God’s will brings God’s kingdom/reign to reality every day.
- Do you still think of God as an accountant totaling up your good and bad deeds? What other image of God do you have?
- Which person has shown you the liberating power of trust in God’s love for you?
- How do you still need to be pruned in order to bear fruit?
- What needs to be changed in our church or society for God’s kingdom/reign to be revealed?
Practice: This week pray Teilhard de Chardin’s prayer: “Above all, trust in the slow work of God.”
Fourth Sunday of Lent
Background: This gospel selection has often been misnamed the Parable of the Prodigal Son; yet there are three characters in the story, and so the better name might be the Parable of the Man Who Had Two Sons—both of whom screw up. The one, unlike Jesus, has yielded to the temptations of this world and paid the price; the one is the best little boy in the world but, also unlike Jesus, has no love in his heart. It is the love of the father for both that brings them together in forgiveness and reconciliation.
- Which son are you most like?
- Who, like the father, has brought you forgiveness and reconciliation?
- To whom have you brought those two gifts?
- In our church or society how are they being denied to people?
Practice:Find out if your parish’s St. Vincent de Paul conference might let you accompany them on a home visit. It is only through encountering the face of the poor and the vulnerable that we learn to move beyond stereotypes and learn to bring peace to others. Consider joining if that is God’s call to you.