Share your favorite prayers and your most cherished means of connecting with God, including prayers that you wrote.

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By athenacp
The Cross - by Clarita Calasanz

It is now the Lenten Season and we have stations of the cross and other devout practices which reminds us of the Passion and Death of Our Lord. This is the story of our salvation and the ongoing love story that God has with all of us. He loved us with an infinite love in spite of who we are and never mind how cold and indifferent we have been towards Him, or how far we have strayed away from Him. He continues to love us anyway.

Lent reminds us of the crosses that each of us has to bear, sickness, broken relationships, financial problems, loss of loved ones, etc. We are naturally afraid of that and it's so much better not to think about it. But we are told to Embrace the Cross and it will be much easier to carry.

The following story is probably fiction but it drives home the point. A certain nobleman has decided on finding the Garden of Eden or the Land of perpetual youth. He was told he had to carry a wooden cross in order to find what he was looking for and he agreed. He thought what a small price it was if he could realize his dream. The cross was given to him and he started on his way. The cross was heavy, so he decided to carry it on his shoulder. After a while, it became intolerable, so he decided to just drag the cross after him as he walked. That worked for a while, but it eventually became unbearable also. At his wits end he decided to lift the cross with his two arms and to hold it close to his body. He was embracing the cross and he discovered it was becoming lighter as he went on his way and he finally reached his destination without any problem.

I have been afraid of the Cross, but I also love the song, "Be not afraid, I go before you always, Come, follow Me". It is one of my favorite songs. It is a very encouraging thought during Lent. Instead of being afraid of the Cross let us Embrace it and rely on what Jesus promised: "I will be with you", and we will be surprised to find how truly easy it is.
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By athenacp

Jesus' anguish was so great that He trembled and shuddered as He exclaimed:
"Father, if it is possible, let this chalice pass from Me!" But the next
moment He added: "Nevertheless, not My will but Yours be done." His will and
that of His Father were one, but now that His love had ordained that He
should be left to all the weakness of His human nature, He trembled at the
prospect of death.
Angels came and showed him, in a series of visions, all the sufferings that
He was to endure in order to atone for sin; how great was the beauty of man,
the image of God, before the Fall, and how that beauty was changed and
obliterated when sin entered the world. They showed Him the satisfaction
that He would have to offer to Divine Justice, and how it would consist of a
degree of suffering in His soul and body that would gather together all the
sufferings due to the sinful tendencies of all humanity, since the debt of
the whole human race had to be paid by that humanity which alone was
sinless-the humanity of the Son of God.
No tongue can describe what anguish and what horror overwhelmed the soul of
Jesus at the sight of so terrible an atonement-His sufferings were so great,
indeed, that a bloody sweat issued forth from all the pores of His sacred
body. Our Redeemer, on Mount Olivet, was pleased to experience and overcome
that violent repugnance of human nature to suffering and death which
constitutes a portion of all sufferings.
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By athenacp

At every point in the Gospels, we are meant to identify with Jesus. God became man that man might become God. We participate in him and thereby learn what a godly life is like. Nowhere is this clearer than in the Gospel story of the temptations in the desert.

Jesus has just been baptized. He has just learned his deepest identity and mission and now he confronts - as we all must - the great temptations. What does God want him to do? Who does God want him to be? How is he to live his life?

Now watch how, at every turn, Jesus undoes the damage of Eden caused by the Great Lie. The devil first tempts him to make his own sensual pleasure the center of his life, to measure good and evil by what sensually satisfies him. But Jesus reverses the momentum: "One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God."

Next, Satan takes Jesus to the parapet of the Temple and tempts him to make his ego the center of his life, to make his own glory the measure of good and evil. But Jesus again counters: "You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test."

And then the devil takes him to a high mountain and shows him all the kingdoms of the world: "All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me." The temptation is to make power the center of his life, to make of his own authority the measure of good and evil. But Jesus replies: "Get away, Satan! It is written: 'The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.'"

The account in Matthew ends with a critical line: "Then the devil left him." At the word of Jesus, even Satan must depart. Let us remember that fact when we are tempted by the Great Deceiver.
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By athenacp
And leaving everything behind. . .

Lenten meditations on justice and peace

by Robert Waldrop

Tax collectors in Roman Palestine were not popular with most people. So here comes Jesus, and what does he do? He calls a tax collector as an apostle! And then, he goes to dinner with the man and his friends. Not a particularly smart way to win friends and influence people. Look who Jesus is visiting with, they said. Doesn't he know those kind of people are scum? What does Jesus do in response to such gossip? He continues to go directly to those most in need, to the ones who were marginalized and rejected, pushed or chased to the very edge.

Isaiah's words call forth the ministries of all today and throughout history who would live, confess, and witness to justice and peace. Remove the oppression! Stop the false accusations! No more malicious speeches! (Is Congress listening?) Give bread to the hungry! Satisfy the afflicted! It's not difficult, obscure, nor is it hard to understand. The words are rather plain and obvious. And closing our eyes doesn't make them go away.

From this journey-ministry of solidarity and service, our strength will be renewed, we will be like a spring whose water never fails. We will not be forsaken or lost or forgotten. There is Someone who remembers His covenant of old.

So when Jesus called, the Gospel of Luke says that "leaving everything behind, he (Levi) got up and followed him." Are we able to answer the calls of Jesus and Isaiah today? Can we leave behind our lives of sin and wickedness and embrace journeys of peace and justice? Where could we possibly get the strength for such commitment? From the spring that flows and never fails, from the one who rebuilds the ruined homesteads and restores the people. As we encounter and serve, when we call, the Lord will surely answer.

Prayer Intentions:

+ For the Palestinian people, who are suffering greatly from 50 years of war, that justice and peace will come to them, we pray to the Lord.
+ For all those who serve the poor, that they will be strengthened and confirmed in their ministries of justice and peace.

+ For continued progress towards justice and peace in the Persian Gulf.

Practice Today:

+ Make a list of ten major problems faced by your community. Think about how the way you live your life contributes to or detracts from resolving these challenges. What changes can you make in your life to increase the positive contribution you make and decrease the negative?
+ Pray for everybody on your list of poor people.

+ Pray for everybody on your reconciliation list.

+ Call somebody and invite them to go to mass with you.

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By athenacp

The temptations Jesus faced may seem a little obscure to us, but, in fact, they lie at the heart of all human temptation. They are three classic substitutes for the good that is God's will.

The first great temptation is to focus our lives on material things and the satisfaction of sensual desire: "The tempter approached and said to him, 'If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread.'"

Jesus is starving after 40 days of fasting. And he feels the temptation to use his divine power to satisfy his bodily desires. This is the pull toward hedonism-the philosophy that the good life is the physically-satisfying life. Food, drink, sex, material things, money, comfort, a secure sense of the future are the supreme values for many, especially in our culture.

Many, many people throughout history are waylaid by this powerful temptation. It is appealing because the desires are so basic. Thomas Merton said that the sensual desires - for food, comfort, pleasure, and sex - are like children in that they are so immediate and so insistent.

But our lives will never expand to greater depth as long as we are dominated by our physical desires. This is why in so many of the initiation rituals of primal peoples, something like fasting or deprivation is essential. It is also why initiation into a demanding form of life, like the military, often involves the deprivation of sensual pleasures.

When we give way to this temptation, it shuts down the soul, for the soul has been wired for God, for journey into the divine. When sensual desire dominates, those deeper and richer desires are never felt or followed. They are, as Merton said, like little children, constantly clamoring for attention, and never satisfied.

This is why Jesus responds: "It is written: 'One does not live by bread alone.'" Life means so much more than sensual pleasure. Love, loyalty, relationships, family, moral excellence, aesthetic pleasure, and the aspiration after God are all so much more important. How tragic then when we think that life shrinks down to the contours of pleasure or bodily satisfaction.
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By athenacp

Having failed at his first attempt to tempt Jesus in a direct and relatively crude way, the devil plays a subtler game: "The devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a single instant."

This is the more rarefied, more refined temptation of power. Power is one of the greatest motivating factors in all of human history. Alexander the Great, Caesar, Augustus, Marcus Aurelius, Charlemagne, the Medicis, Charles V, Henry VIII, Louis XIV, Napoleon, Nixon, and Kissinger - all the way down to your boss at work. These are all people who have been seduced, at one time or another, by the siren song of power.

We notice something very disquieting in the account of this temptation: the devil admits that all the kingdoms of the world have been given to him. He owns and controls them. That is quite a sweeping indictment of the institutions of political power. But it resonates with our sense that attaining high positions of power and not becoming corrupt is difficult to do.

It might be useful here to recall the two great names for the devil in the Bible: ho Satanas, which means the adversary,and ho diabolos, which means the liar or the deceiver. Worldly power is based upon accusation, division, adversarial relationships, and lies. It's the way that earthly rulers have always done their business.

A tremendous temptation for Jesus was to use his Messianic authority to gain worldly power, to become a king. But if he had given in to this, he would not be consistently a conduit of the divine grace. He would be as remembered today as, perhaps, one of the governors of Syria or satraps of Babylon (and do you remember the first-century satrap of Babylon?)

No, Jesus wanted to be the one through whom the divine love surged into creation, and so he said to Satan, "It is written: 'You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve.'"
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By athenacp
The Lenten discipline consists of three separate parts

1. Corporal or External Fast - including the abstinence from certain foods, drinks and amusements, and parties during Lent. These points of fast should be stressed today especially with the mania of entertainment besetting our society.

2. Spiritual or Internal Fast - which consists of abstaining from 'all evil' - sin. Saint John Chrysostom taught that 'the value of fasting consists not so much in abstinence from food but rather in withdrawal from sinful practices." Saint Basil the Great explains; "turning away from all wickedness means keeping our tongue in check, restraining our anger, suppressing evil desires and avoiding all gossip, lying and swearing. To abstain from these things - herein lies the True Value of fast!"

3. Spiritual Change - achieved by the practice of virtues and good works must be the main objective of our fasting. The Fathers of the Church insisted that during Lent the Faithful attend the Lenten church services and daily Mass.

In the course of the centuries, our fasting discipline has undergone numerous and radical changes. Today, unfortunately, the observance of Lent is but mere formalism, reduced to abstinence on certain days and without any stress on one's spiritual growth or the amending of one's life style.
It is urgent that we return to the pristine spirit of the Great Fast which is so badly needed in our materialistic world.

Listed below are suggested practices that may be used along with your usual Lenten family traditions of sacrifices and pennances.

Corporal or External Practices:
a. Take less of what you like and more of what you dislike at meals today.
b. Take nothing to drink between meals today.
c. Do not use seasoning on your food today.
d. Do not use any sweeteners with your food or drinks today.
e. Avoid listening to the radio at all today.
f. Take nothing to eat between meals today.
g. Avoid any TV,or videos: instead read the Passion of Christ in your bible or missal.
h. Take only one helping of each item at meals today.
i. Say one extra Rosary.

Spiritual or Internal Fast Practices
a. Don't do any unnecessary talking: instead say little ejaculations throughout the day.
b. Exercise your patience today in all things.
c. Don't make any complaints today.
d. Restrain any anger, and go out of your way to be kind to the person who caused your anger.
e. Don't be distracted with someone else´s business.
f. Avoid any gossip today, instead say an extra Rosary to overcome this great fault.
g. When asked to do something extra do so with a joyful and pleasant attitude today.
h. Speak in a pleasant tone to everyone today.
i. Avoid using the phone today.
j. Tell the truth in all your dealings today.
k. Avoid any vanity or self seeking today.

Spiritual Practices (virtues and good works)
a. Practice humility today in all your actions.
b. Be generous today: help someone in need.
c. Look for ways to be helpful throughout the day.
d. Do a job that needs to be done without being asked.
e. Be courageous: walk away from any impure situations today.
f. Don't be idle at all today. Always be doing something for others or for our own spiritual growth.
g. Go out of your way today to help or talk to someone who is usually difficult.
h. Volunteer for an extra job today.
i. Say an extra Rosary today for the conversion of a sinner.
j. Visit someone who is sick or lonesome today. Offer to say a Rosary with them.

Mancipia Press
Saint Benedict Center
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By athenacp
This Week's Morning Offering Lenten Challenge

Each day this week pray a rosary for someone you wouldn’t normally think to pray for. That guy who works at your favorite restaurant. Your child’s bus driver. The lady who always sits in the front row at Mass. A co-worker’s son or daughter.

Ask the Holy Spirit to help you think of these people who you know of, but may not know personally. Make your list and each day pray for that specific person.

Challenge your friends and family to do the same on your favorite social media channel. Spread the love this Lent!

"Little things done out of love are those that charm the Heart of Christ.”

- St. Therese of Lisieux
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By athenacp

The first two temptations were straightforward enough: sensual pleasure and power. But this third one is more elusive. It is the temptation toward glory. It is the temptation to use God, to manipulate him, instead of becoming his servant: "Then the devil led him to Jerusalem, made him stand on the parapet of the Temple, and said to him, 'If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here...'"

What does the Temple have to do with glory? There was no place more central in Jewish society than the Temple, no place more revered. Therefore, to stand at the very pinnacle of the Temple is to stand highest in the eyes of the world, with everyone watching you - even God. As the devil says to Jesus, "He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you...With their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone."

This is the temptation to place ourselves above God, a temptation that all of us sinners are susceptible to. But Jesus replies, "You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test." Jesus himself is God, so he's issuing a reminder to all of us: God remains God, and we must become his servant.

Having dealt with these three classic temptations, Jesus is ready for his mission. He knows who he is and who he is not. This is our challenge throughout Lent.

The Gospel passage then ends on an ominous note: "When the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from him for a time." Notice the words "for a time." This is warning to all of us that temptation will return throughout our lives, often at key moments. It's a summons to be ready, always ready.
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By athenacp
Lent is a time to reflect upon our lives; to see what in our lives may prove to be obstacles to our salvation, and learn how to overcome them; and to do penance for the times when we transgress the Commandments of God. It is also a time of great hope; for it is when we are truly sorry for our sins, and wish sincerely to make amends for them, and avoid them in the future, that we begin to understand the depths of God's Mercy

Lord, God,
Trinity of Love,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
I praise You,
I worship You,
I adore You,
I love You.

Father, Creator,
I thank You for the gift of life.
May I do Your will this day.

Jesus, Son, Savior,
by Your death on the Cross,
You showed me the Father's love.
May I be willing to die to myself
in order to live for You.
May I share Your "Good News" this day
with all those around me.
May Your love be reflected
in every kind word, thought, and deed.
And if I fail, be there to raise me up.

Spirit, Sanctifier,
shower Your life
upon all the peoples of the world.
Grant us the gifts of peace and love.

(by Father Paul M. Keeling, CRSP)
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By athenacp
-- Author Unknown

He could hear the crowds screaming "crucify" "crucify"...
He could hear the hatred in their voices,
These were his chosen people.
He loved them,
And they were going to crucify him.
He was beaten, bleeding and weakened... his heart was broken,
But still He walked.

He could see the crowd as he came from the palace.
He knew each of the faces so well.
He had created them.
He knew every smile, laugh, and shed tear,
But now they were contorted with rage and anger...his heart broke,
But still He walked.

Was he scared?
You and I would have been
So his humanness would have mandated that he was. He felt alone.
His disciples had left, denied, and even betrayed him.
He searched the crowd for a loving face and he saw very few.
Then he turned his eyes to the only one that mattered
And he knew that he would never be alone.
He looked back at the crowd, at the people who were spitting
At him, throwing rocks at him and mocking him and he knew
That because of him, they would never be alone.
So for them, He walked.

The sounds of the hammer striking the spikes echoed through
The crowd. The sounds of his cries echoed even louder,
The cheers of the crowd, as his hands and feet
Were nailed to the cross, intensified with each blow.
Loudest of all was the still small voice inside his
Heart that whispered "I am with you, my son",
And God's heart broke.
He had let his son walk.

Jesus could have asked God to end his suffering,
But instead he asked God to forgive.
Not to forgive him, but to forgive the ones who were persecuting him.
As he hung on that cross, dying an unimaginable death,
He looked out and saw, not only the faces in the crowd,
But also, the face of every person yet to be,
And his heart filled with love.
As his body was dying, his heart was alive.
Alive with the limitless, unconditional love he feels for each of us.
That is why He walked.

When I forget how much My God loves me,
I remember his walk.
When I wonder if I can be forgiven,
I remember his walk.
When I need reminded of how to live like Christ,
I think of his walk.
And to show him how much I love him,
I wake up each morning, turn my eyes to him,
And I walk.
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By athenacp
A Prayer for Lent

"Lord, I come before You today to ask for Your blessings in all I do and to thank You, knowing that You will answer my prayer. I thank you Lord for my life just as it is. In Your time and in Your way Lord You will provide for my needs, help me to await these changes with patience and faith in Your holy providence. Help me also to praise Your Holy Name in the asking and in the receiving."
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By athenacp
Turn away from violence!

Lenten Meditations on Justice and Peace

by Robert Waldrop
The story thus far. God has told Jonah to go to the Nineveh and Jonah doesn't want to go. It takes a quick three day/three night no continental breakfast vacation in the belly of a large fish to convince Jonah that obedience to God was the right thing to do. So he went to Nineveh, preached the Gospel, and behold, it came to pass that the people repented, the king proclaimed a fast, and everybody started running around in sack-cloth and ashes. Remember this is not the Bible Belt, it's Nineveh, capital of Assyria, a nation of fierce and cruel warriors and conquerors.

Why was doom and destruction coming to this cosmopolitan capital of a major empire? We have some clues. Nineveh was built on idolatry and conquest and war. (And those who live by the sword tend to perish by the sword.) The King's proclamation directs that everyone shall turn "from the violence he has in hand." History records pictures of Assyrian captives being led out over crumbled walls, linked together by chains held in place with large hooks driven through the lips and noses of the vanquished. Nice people, those Assyrians, a bit violent when provoked. . and perhaps they are easily provoked. . .

Comes now Jesus, who sorrowfully announces that even though One who is greater than Jonah has come among the people, few are listening and the Roman Procurator has certainly not called for public fasting. Christ prophesies of his coming death, showing us the path of servant leadership, reconciling humanity to God through the Blood of the Cross. He condemns the cynicism and unbelief of the powerful.

Who knows when the Judgment of the Lord may come upon us? And what will be our reactions? Are we like Jonah, running away from God's call? Are we like the Ninevites, who, hearing God's word, turn from their wickedness and repent of their sins, putting away violence? Are we like the Romans of Jesus' time, proud and hard and contemptuous of all ragged prophets running around with prostitutes and tax collectors and preaching reconciliation?. Even if he was the Son of God, who cared? Shouldn't all prophets of peace and justice be crucified just on general principles as menaces to the "established" order? (Although some might say that the crucifixion of prophets of justice and peace is a sign of a decadent society and a declining civilization.)

If the seeds of war and hate and violence planted by Nineveh were to be its downfall, what does this suggest about putting our faith in the policies of war and hate and violence practiced by governments today? In the U.S., wealth continues to centralize, the top five percent make out like fat rat while the bottom 60% are stagnating or losing ground. Meanwhile, guns, ships, troops, bombs and missiles are gathering in the Persian Gulf and people talk about biological warfare in grim detail. Is this a stable foundation for future peace and harmony? In "40 days" (metaphorically speaking) does destruction loom for the mighty military and economic world empires of our own era?

In response to the Word of God brought to them by a foreigner, the Ninevites repented and changed their behavior. How can we bring the Word of God to the great urban cities and empires of our own day? What violence do we have in our hands that we need to put aside? And perhaps most importantly, what will we do if people listen to us and say, "OK, now what do we do?"

Prayer intentions:

+ For the Holy Father's prayer intentions in particular, that human rights will be respected.
+ For those without work, that they will be able to find or create work.

Practice today:

+ Pick up some trash in a public place and dispose of it properly. (Be prudent, wear gloves. Smokers, pick up cigarette butts.)
+ Continue to meditate on the social sins you are involved with and work on your lists.
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By athenacp

This past week we have looked at the temptation of the garden and the temptations of desert. All temptations have one thing in common: they entice us to resist the Lordship of God in our lives.

The first temptation began with the Great Lie in the garden; the lie that says we can live our best life outside the rules of God, that freedom requires unrestricted autonomy.

The three temptations Jesus faced in the desert are temptations we all face. Not the exact same things, of course, but his temptations represent three classic ways that we resist the Lordship of God in our lives.

First, we place sensual pleasure at the center of our concerns. We make eating, drinking, and sex the dominant concerns. But this is a source of great mischief, for only God can legitimately fill that central position. This is why Jesus must confront this temptation, feeling its full weight, and then resist it for us.

Next, we are tempted by power. From political dictators to tyrants within families and friendships, power is alluring. This is the temptation Jesus faces as he is brought to the highest mountain and offered all the kingdoms of the world. Once more, on our behalf, Jesus resists this temptation.

Finally, we are tempted to make honor our central pursuit. We want to raise our own reputation, be seen by everyone, be admired, be esteemed - this is the temptation Jesus faces when he is taken to the parapet of the Temple, the highest place in the society of his time and the place of supreme visibility. For the third time, Jesus confronts and resists this temptation for us.

This Lent, I ask you to reflect on where you are right now. What are you doing in the garden? Who is luring you and how? Are you buying into the Big Lie?

Where are you in desert? How do you stand up to the three great temptations: to sensual pleasure, honor, and power?
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By athenacp

One of the most dreadful stories in the entire Bible is the one the ancient Israelites called "the Akeda," the binding of Isaac. The story is terrible, not simply because it involves human sacrifice, not only because it involves a father's willingness to kill his own son, but because it seems to set God against God.

After all, Isaac was the son of the promise, the son of Abraham's impossibly old age, the one through whom Abraham would become the father of many nations. Hoping against hope, Abraham had continued to have faith, even as he and his wife became old and then ancient. This faith was finally justified as Sarah became pregnant and gave birth to Isaac.

Then, some twelve years later, when Isaac was just coming of age, Abraham heard a voice commanding him to sacrifice this son to God, this beloved, bearer of the promise of God. God asks obedience of Abraham.

Now I know many of us might grate against calls to be obedient to authority. But obedience (which means, fundamentally, "listening") is absolutely essential to the Biblical perspective.

Obeying God is nothing like obeying a politician or a president or a king. Such people are flawed and sinful and sometimes have to be opposed. But God isn't like that. God is love right through; he wants only what is for our good.

Another important point: politicians and presidents and kings put out policies that we can readily understand, but God is essentially mysterious. We cannot, even in principle, fully understand what God is up to, what his purposes are. His commands - which will always be for our good - are nevertheless often opaque to us. And this is precisely why we have to obey, listen, and abide - even when that obedience seems the height of folly.
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By athenacp
Righteous Prayer, Righteous Action

Lenten meditations on justice and peace

Readings: Esther C: 12, 14-16, 23-25; Psalm 138, Matthew 7:7-12

God is taking us on quite a journey this year. We have read God's word and considered its justice and peace implications, and they don't seem hard to find. Today we journey down into the dark depths of threatened genocide and then rise to the sublime wisdom of the Golden Rule.

We begin with Esther's prayer before risking her life by approaching King Ahasuerus without his invitation. Due to the wicked actions of Haman, the chief counselor of the Persian king, the entire Jewish community was threatened with genocide. And so it came to pass that Queen Esther and all Israel fasted and prayed, Esther calling upon God as the "Ruler of Every Power" for assistance in this time of extreme need. God heard the prayers, and the Jewish community was saved from destruction: righteous prayer + righteous and courageous action.

Jesus teaches us in today's Gospel about prayer. "Ask and it shall be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you." The reading concludes with the Golden Rule, "Do to others whatever you would have them do to you," perhaps the most succinct justice and peace statement in all of the Bible or the justice teaching of the Church. (It's another one of those clues God has been giving us through the Lenten readings.)

This connection between prayer and action on behalf of justice is not accidental. We are sometimes faced with a false dichotomy; some will emphasize the spiritual aspects of our faith, others the justice aspects. In reality, and in spirituality, these two are so closely woven together that separating them destroys the whole cloth of the Gospel. Our temporal liberation from unjust tyranny is closely connected with our spiritual salvation. As we work out our salvation (as St. Paul writes), we are drawn closer in solidarity and love to others, and are called to reach out to them through concrete individual and corporate actions of justice and peace. "Faith without works is dead," as St. James writes.

The work of justice is daily supported by the prayers of contemplative monks, nuns, and laity across the world, and some of the great saints of justice and peace have also been great mystics. This connection is very clear, e.g., in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, which is a discipline that enables "contemplatives in action". Through the liturgy of the Church -- the various aspects of the Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours -- we are constantly catechized and evangelized regarding our obligations not only to God, but also to our fellow human beings. Esther's prayer was followed by her courageous action; Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin were persons of great prayer as they fed and housed and clothed the poor.

The work of justice and peace begins in our prayer for justice and peace and continues in our righteous and courageous actions.

Prayer intentions:

+ For all those at risk of genocide and ethnic cleansing, and for healing for those who have experienced such tragedies, including the Jews, the Bosnians, the Ibos, Hutus, and Tutsis, Native Americans, the Timorese and for the repose of the souls of those who have perished.
+ For an end to the genocide of abortion, and for healing for all those touched by this modern tragedy.

+ For all who work for justice and peace, that their work will be grounded in prayer and contemplation.

Practice today:

+ Do something on behalf of people at risk of genocide and ethnic cleansing, e.g., pray at an abortion clinic, donate to a fund that is providing help for people in such situation.
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By athenacp

The story of Abraham forces us to come to grips with the deepest and most terrible truths of our faith. In this story, the most terrible moment is undoubtedly when Isaac observes that there is fuel and there is fire, but no lamb for the sacrifice. "God will provide," Abraham says, obviously devastated. As he raises the knife for the kill, an angel interrupts him and he is rewarded for his display of faith.

So what do we make of this? The story offers one of the most vivid literary displays of a principle that is found from beginning to end of the Bible: the law of the gift. The law of the gift says that the more you give your being away, the more your being increases; the more you cling to your being, the more your being decreases.

What is Abraham willing to give away? That which he loves the most. What is the result? The increase of his being.
Now when the first Christians looked back at this archetypal story from their Jewish tradition, they found a remarkable resonance with the story of Jesus. This early conviction of the Church is reflected in the juxtaposition of Abraham's sacrifice with the story of the Transfiguration.

In the account of the Transfiguration, we hear of another father and son: "A voice came from the cloud saying, 'This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.'" Isaac was Abraham's beloved son, and Jesus is God the Father's beloved son.

What is the dynamic between this divine father and divine son? It is a play of giver and gift, sacrificer and sacrificed.

On Calvary, God the Father will lay wood upon the shoulders of his son and lead him up a hill where he will allow him to be sacrificed. The anguish in the heart of Abraham is nothing compared to the anguish in the heart of God the Father. He gave away what was dearest to him. And the result? The result is the law of the gift. When Jesus went into godforsakenness, when he was sacrificed by the Father, he brought back from the dead the gift of eternal life.

It is this awful and wonderful sacrifice that we celebrate at every Mass.

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By athenacp

Whenever the Bible speaks of Abraham, it is speaking of faith, for he is our father in faith. The story of the Akeda, the great test of faith and obedience, comes near the end of a lifetime of faith. As we enter more deeply into Lent, it would behoove us to take a quick look at where Abraham's story began.

Abram, at the age of 75, was summoned by God to leave his home city and, with everything he owned, to begin a wandering trek in the desert in search of a land that God would show him. The miracle is that he did it since, at first he seems to be wavering in faith. He needs some kind of guarantee.

God makes a formal covenant with him, and he does so in the standard manner of the time. He tells Abram to bring several animals forward and to cut them in two, laying their halves side-by-side. The idea is that the two people entering into an agreement would walk in between the severed pieces and swear that the same would happen to them if they broke the covenant.

Abram falls into a trance and a deep terrifying darkness came over him. Here we see his side of the deal. What does trance imply if not a loss of control? When you fall asleep or unconscious, you are practically defenseless. And doesn't darkness signal the same thing? The fear of the dark is primordial. We don't know where we are going, and that is so frustrating! So it is with the things of God.

But then we see God's side of the deal. "When the sun had set and it was dark, there appeared a smoking firepot and a flaming torch which passed between those pieces." In the form of fire, God signals his covenant fidelity.

God can be trusted, even when he is leading us through the deepest darkness. This means that great faith is justified - for Abram, and for us.
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By athenacp
Bending Our Will

Lent is a time when we can shatter the deceptions of Satan by holding fast to the righteousness of Christ. Lent is a time for seeing that all of creation is good for guiding us to a greater knowledge of God.
— from The Little Way of Lent
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By athenacp

In her readings, the Church asks us to consider the account of Abraham's faith in tandem with the Gospel account of the Transfiguration of the Lord. They are indeed parallel narratives.

Jesus leads Peter, James, and John up a high mountain. We know from the symbolism of the mountain that an encounter with God's mystery is imminent. Next, "His clothes became dazzling white. And behold two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem." The brightness is evocative of the light that passed through the divided sections.

Then there is the "trance" that accompanies faith. "Peter and his companions had been overcome by sleep..." This anticipates in a very mild way the terrible darkness that Peter and his companions are going to be asked to endure. When Jesus enters into his Passion, their lives fell apart; everything they believed was turned upside-down.

But then they come fully awake and they see the glory of the Lord - and Peter says something characteristically rash: "Master, it is good that we are here; let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." His statement is beautiful, touching, and deeply human, but spiritually misguided precisely because authentic faith never settles down, never builds booths, never stays put. And it certainly can never live under the illusion that it is in charge.

"While he was still speaking, a cloud came and cast a shadow over them, and they became frightened when they entered the cloud." Just when you think you have control over God, God confounds you - not because he's being difficult, but because he is a God of the future, a God of adventure, a God of fuller life.
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By athenacp

The Transfiguration was, obviously, of great importance for the first Christians. We've been talking about how the early Church related it to the Akeda so let's take a deeper look at its Biblical framework.

The Transfiguration takes place on a mountain, and this right away places it in relation to the Old Testament. Abraham is willing to sacrifice his son on a mountain; Noah's ark comes to rest on Mt. Ararat; the law is given to Moses on Mt. Sinai; Elijah challenges the priests of Baal on Mt. Carmel; Jerusalem is built on the top of Mt. Zion. Mountains are places of encounter with God.

In the New Testament, Jesus gives the law on a mountain, the Sermon on the Mount; he dies on Mt. Calvary; and, in a climactic moment in his public life, he brings three of his disciples to the top of a mountain - and there he is transfigured before them.

What is especially stressed here is the manner in which Jesus represents the fulfillment of the Old Testament revelation, economically symbolized by the two figures with whom he converses: Moses, representing the law, and Elijah, representing the prophets. When a Jew of Jesus' time would speak of the Scriptures, he would use a shorthand: the Law and the Prophets.

In speaking to Moses and Elijah, in the glory of the Transfiguration, Jesus signals that he brings the law and the prophets to their proper fulfillment. N.T. Wright, the great contemporary Biblical scholar, says that the Old Testament remained, fundamentally, a story without an ending, a promise without fulfillment...that is, until Jesus came into history.
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By athenacp
Lenten Blessings

During Lent
Let us improve our spirit of prayer and recollection.
Let us free our minds from all that is not Jesus.

*Mother Teresa of Calcutta*
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By athenacp
This Week's Morning Offering Lenten Challenge

Each day this week do a small, spontaneous act of generosity for someone you know. For example, send a note of encouragement to someone who is struggling; call or visit someone in a hospital or nursing home, or their caretaker; bring coffee to a co-worker you might not always get along with; spark a conversation with someone who could really use a listening ear.

Ask your Guardian Angel to help you do just the right thoughtful thing that will make a big impact on someone's day. Make your list and each day do something small yet kind for that person.

Challenge your friends and family to do the same on your favorite social media channel. Spread the love this Lent!

"Little things done out of love are those that charm the Heart of Christ.”

- St. Therese of Lisieux
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By athenacp
Have Mercy, Lord!
Seven Simple Steps toward Repentance

1. Every evening or morning, take some time out to review the previous day. Begin by quieting your mind so you can hear the Holy Spirit speaking to your conscience.

2. Ask the Spirit to show you any wrongdoing—in your thoughts and desires, in your words and relationships, and in your actions. You may want to use the examination of conscience.

3. Think about how the sins you see have clouded your experience of and trust in the Lord’s love.

4. Check your heart: Are you pliable and willing to change your mind about these sins? Do you feel unwilling to change? Do you have any sense that it’s hopeless even to try?

5. Cling to God. Acknowledge that he is your strength and tell him that you want him to reform your mind so that you think as he would have you think and choose as he would have you choose. Renounce any drive in you that wants to remain independent of the Lord.

6. Place yourself in God’s hands and obey whatever you think he is asking you to do. As you practice, God’s voice will become clearer.

7. Be sure to move from thought to action. Make a decision to take one or two concrete steps to overcome or avoid that sin area the next day. Remember: Jesus is with you every step of the way!
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By athenacp
The Passion of Mary

O Lady Mary, thy bright crown
Is no mere crown of majesty;
For with the reflex of His own
Resplendent thorns Christ circled thee.

The red rose of this passion-tide
Doth take a deeper hue from Thee,
In the five Wounds of Jesus dyed,
And in thy bleeding thoughts, Mary.

The soldier struck a triple stroke
That smote thy Jesus on the tree:
He broke the Heart of hearts, and broke
The Saint’s and Mother’s hearts in thee.

Thy Son went up the angel’s ways.
His Passion ended; but, ah me!
Thou found’st the road of further days
A longer Way of Calvary.

On the hard cross of hope deferred,
Thou hungst in loving agony,
Until the mortal-dreaded word
Which chills our mirth, spake mirth to thee.

The angel Death, from this cold tomb
Of life, did roll the stone away;
And He thou bearest in thy womb
Caught thee at last into the day-
Before the living throne of whom
The lights of heaven burning pray.

O thou who dwellest in the day,
Behold, I pace amidst the gloom;
Darkness is ever, round my way
With little space for sunbeam-room.

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