Saturday of the First Week of Lent

Reading I Dt 26:16-19

Moses spoke to the people, saying:
“This day the LORD, your God,
commands you to observe these statutes and decrees.
Be careful, then,
to observe them with all your heart and with all your soul.
Today you are making this agreement with the LORD:
he is to be your God and you are to walk in his ways
and observe his statutes, commandments and decrees,
and to hearken to his voice.
And today the LORD is making this agreement with you:
you are to be a people peculiarly his own, as he promised you;
and provided you keep all his commandments,
he will then raise you high in praise and renown and glory
above all other nations he has made,
and you will be a people sacred to the LORD, your God,
as he promised.”

Responsorial Psalm 119:1-2, 4-5, 7-8

R.    (1b)  Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord!
Blessed are they whose way is blameless,
    who walk in the law of the LORD.
Blessed are they who observe his decrees,
    who seek him with all their heart.
R.    Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord!
You have commanded that your precepts
    be diligently kept.
Oh, that I might be firm in the ways
    of keeping your statutes!
R.    Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord!
I will give you thanks with an upright heart,
    when I have learned your just ordinances.
I will keep your statutes;
    do not utterly forsake me.
R.    Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord!

Verse before the Gospel 2 Cor 6:2b

Behold, now is a very acceptable time;
behold, now is the day of salvation.

Gospel Mt 5:43-48

Jesus said to his disciples:
“You have heard that it was said,
You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.
But I say to you, love your enemies,
and pray for those who persecute you,
that you may be children of your heavenly Father,
for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good,
and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.
For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have?
Do not the tax collectors do the same?
And if you greet your brothers and sisters only,
what is unusual about that?
Do not the pagans do the same?
So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

– – –

Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Salvific Suffering

Here we are. We’ve made it through the first week and half of Lent already. Have these past ten days been as rough for you as they have for me? UGH! I could share sob stories about countless hours put into renovating our house only to find renters who didn’t pay and then threatened to sue us. I could moan about how tired I am being unexpectedly pregnant at the ripe old age of 41. I could pour out my tears to God about my father, and then my father-in-law being hospitalized with life-threatening illnesses. I could explain to you how I didn’t sleep most of the night because I was worried about my son’s upcoming surgery…. 

There are seasons in life where we definitely feel overwhelmed, as if 20 baseballs were thrown at us all at once and we can’t catch a single one. But the thing is, we ALL go through these seasons. I think it is safe to say that not one of us has floated through life on a cloud without a single hardship. I also think it is safe to say that many of you have suffered far more hardships than I have. 

Lent is a perfect time to embrace these hardships and allow them to unite us ever closer to our Lord. During last weekend’s homily, our Pastor reminded us of St. John Paul II’s encyclical “Salvifici Doloris”, regarding salvific suffering.

The encyclical states: “suffering is the undergoing of evil before which man shudders. He says: ‘let it pass from me’, just as Christ says in Gethsemane.” What a profoundly human statement! Just reading this, I exclaim “Yes! God understands me!” It goes on to say: “Christ has also raised human suffering to the level of the Redemption. Thus each man, in his suffering, can also become a sharer in the redemptive suffering of Christ.” So although profoundly human, Christ has elevated it to a supernatural level.

“As a result of Christ’s salvific work, man exists on earth with the hope of eternal life and holiness. And even though the victory over sin and death achieved by Christ in his Cross and Resurrection does not abolish temporal suffering from human life, nor free from suffering the whole historical dimension of human existence, it nevertheless throws a new light upon this dimension and upon every suffering: the light of salvation.”  

“In the Second Letter to the Corinthians the Apostle writes: ‘We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For while we live we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh …. knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus’(58).”

So whether your sufferings be numerous and burdensome, or relatively few and far between, may today’s Scriptures remind us that as long as we follow God’s commands we will be blessed. We suffer now but we will be redeemed!

May the rest of your Lent be full of salvific suffering that unites you more intimately with our Lord. 

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Tami Urcia grew up in Western Michigan, a middle child in a large Catholic family. She spent early young adulthood as a missionary in Mexico, studying theology and philosophy, then worked and traveled extensively before finishing her Bachelor’s Degree in Western Kentucky. She loves tackling home improvement projects, finding fun ways to keep her four boys occupied, quiet conversation with the hubby and finding unique ways to love. She works at her parish, is a guest blogger on CatholicMom.com and BlessedIsShe.net, runs her own blog at https://togetherandalways.wordpress.com and has been doing Spanish translations on the side for almost 20 years.

Feature Image Credit: Aaron Burden, https://unsplash.com/photos/7oJ3O6pk10s

Daily Prayer for February 27

Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown. Revelation 2:10, NIV

Lord our God, we come into your presence. Hear our prayers, we entreat you. Let your will be done among us; let your will be done for each one of us individually, and for our time. Let everything go according to your will, even if the way leads through tribulation, fear, and need. For in the end your goal will be reached. In the end you will fulfill your purpose, and your kingdom will come. Your kingdom will come to the honor of your name and for the redemption of all people still suffering on earth. Let your Word bring us blessing. May we go forward joyfully in the patience of Jesus Christ until times change, until a new day dawns and we are allowed to see your glory and your peace. Amen.

Friday of the First Week of Lent

Reading I Ez 18:21-28

Thus says the Lord GOD:
If the wicked man turns away from all the sins he committed, 
    if he keeps all my statutes and does what is right and just,
    he shall surely live, he shall not die. 
None of the crimes he committed shall be remembered against him;
    he shall live because of the virtue he has practiced. 
Do I indeed derive any pleasure from the death of the wicked?
    says the Lord GOD. 
Do I not rather rejoice when he turns from his evil way
    that he may live?

And if the virtuous man turns from the path of virtue to do evil,
    the same kind of abominable things that the wicked man does,
    can he do this and still live?
None of his virtuous deeds shall be remembered,
    because he has broken faith and committed sin;
    because of this, he shall die. 
You say, “The LORD’s way is not fair!” 
Hear now, house of Israel:
    Is it my way that is unfair, or rather, are not your ways unfair?
When someone virtuous turns away from virtue to commit iniquity, and dies,
    it is because of the iniquity he committed that he must die.
But if the wicked, turning from the wickedness he has committed,
    does what is right and just,
    he shall preserve his life;
    since he has turned away from all the sins that he committed, 
    he shall surely live, he shall not die.

Responsorial Psalm 130:1-2, 3-4, 5-7a, 7bc-8

R.    (3) If you, O Lord, mark iniquities, who can stand?
Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD;
    LORD, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
    to my voice in supplication.
R.    If you, O Lord, mark iniquities, who can stand?
If you, O LORD, mark iniquities,
    LORD, who can stand?
But with you is forgiveness,
    that you may be revered. 
R.    If you, O Lord, mark iniquities, who can stand?
I trust in the LORD;
    my soul trusts in his word.
My soul waits for the LORD
    more than sentinels wait for the dawn.
    Let Israel wait for the LORD.
R.    If you, O Lord, mark iniquities, who can stand?
For with the LORD is kindness
    and with him is plenteous redemption;
And he will redeem Israel
    from all their iniquities.
R.    If you, O Lord, mark iniquities, who can stand?

Verse before the Gospel Ez 18:31

Cast away from you all the crimes you have committed, says the LORD,
and make for yourselves a new heart and a new spirit.

Gospel Mt 5:20-26

Jesus said to his disciples: 
“I tell you, 
unless your righteousness surpasses that
of the scribes and Pharisees,
you will not enter into the Kingdom of heaven.

“You have heard that it was said to your ancestors,
You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.
But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother
will be liable to judgment,
and whoever says to his brother, Raqa
will be answerable to the Sanhedrin,
and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna.
Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar,
and there recall that your brother
has anything against you,
leave your gift there at the altar,
go first and be reconciled with your brother,
and then come and offer your gift.
Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court.
Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge,
and the judge will hand you over to the guard,
and you will be thrown into prison.
Amen, I say to you,
you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.”

– – –

Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Hope in the Lord

The Psalm today ends with the line “My soul has hoped in the Lord.” What does it mean to have hope?

We use the word hope in many different ways throughout our day. We could hope that the pizza we ordered is delivered on time. We could hope that we get the promotion at work. Or we could hope that the weather cooperates so we can enjoy a day outside.

But the Catholic Church sees hope as more than that. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “hope is the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ’s promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit.” It goes on to say: “The virtue of hope responds to the aspiration to happiness which God has placed in the heart of every man; it takes up the hopes that inspire men’s activities and purifies them so as to order them to the Kingdom of heaven; it keeps man from discouragement; it sustains him during times of abandonment; it opens up his heart in expectation of eternal beatitude. Buoyed up by hope, he is preserved from selfishness and led to the happiness that flows from charity.”

Wow! When we read that, we can’t help but feel encouraged. Hope is so much more than a wish or a desire.

When we put it in a theological perspective, we understand that hope is what will lead us to Christ. Yet we see also that hope requires action on our part. We can’t just hope that we get to heaven and then sit back and not work toward attaining it. Further, we must allow God to work through us. As the Catechism says, hope as a virtue takes that innate desire for happiness and purifies it, or makes it good, so that any resultant desire or action will glorify God, thereby leading us to Him.

It is our hope in Christ that convinces us that He walks with us through our trials, that He carries us in times of extreme difficulty, and that He will never leave us. It is our hope that tells us there is something more than our lives here on earth. It is our hope that tells us that, even though our lives may be complicated or even when we experience personal tragedies, Christ loves us and wants us for all eternity. Imagine that! He wants us! We can’t help but rejoice in that knowledge!

We need this hope today! Divisions within the country and even divisions within the Church can drain us. Like a dried-out sponge that needs liquid to fulfill its sponge-like nature, we crave a nourishment that will enliven us and make us new. That nourishment is our Lord.

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Susan Ciancio has a BA in psychology and a BA in sociology from the University of Notre Dame, with an MA in liberal studies from Indiana University. For the past 17 years, she has worked as a professional editor and writer, editing both fiction and nonfiction books, magazine articles, blogs, educational lessons, professional materials and website content. Eleven of those years have been in the pro-life sector. Currently Susan freelances and writes weekly for HLI, edits for American Life League, and is the editor of Celebrate Life Magazine. She also serves as executive editor for the Culture of Life Studies Program-an educational nonprofit program for K-12 students.

Feature Image Credit: Leonel Rodriguez, https://www.cathopic.com/photo/8873-rodillas-frente-padre

Daily Prayer for February 26

I lift up my eyes to the mountains – where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. Psalm 121:1–2, NIV

Lord God Almighty, Lord our God, our refuge for ever and ever, bless us as we gather in your presence and turn to you. May we be your children, who can simply believe and stand firm in our lives and in our calling. We thank you for giving us your grace and constant help. In your grace we can be joyful, praising and honoring you. You are our father. You never forsake us. May your name be praised by us all. May your name be praised above and in the whole world so that all people may acknowledge you and receive what they need from you. Amen.

Thursday of the First Week of Lent

Reading I Est C:12, 14-16, 23-25

Queen Esther, seized with mortal anguish,
had recourse to the LORD.
She lay prostrate upon the ground, together with her handmaids, 
from morning until evening, and said:
“God of Abraham, God of Isaac, and God of Jacob, blessed are you. 
Help me, who am alone and have no help but you,
for I am taking my life in my hand.
As a child I used to hear from the books of my forefathers
that you, O LORD, always free those who are pleasing to you.
Now help me, who am alone and have no one but you,
O LORD, my God.

“And now, come to help me, an orphan.
Put in my mouth persuasive words in the presence of the lion
and turn his heart to hatred for our enemy,
so that he and those who are in league with him may perish.
Save us from the hand of our enemies;
turn our mourning into gladness
and our sorrows into wholeness.”

Responsorial Psalm 138:1-2ab, 2cde-3, 7c-8

R.    (3a)  Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me.
I will give thanks to you, O LORD, with all my heart,
    for you have heard the words of my mouth;
    in the presence of the angels I will sing your praise;
I will worship at your holy temple
    and give thanks to your name.
R.    Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me.
Because of your kindness and your truth;
    for you have made great above all things
    your name and your promise.
When I called, you answered me;
    you built up strength within me.
R.    Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me.
Your right hand saves me.
The LORD will complete what he has done for me;
    your kindness, O LORD, endures forever;
    forsake not the work of your hands.
R.    Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me.

Verse before the Gospel Ps 51:12a, 14a

A clean heart create for me, O God;
give me back the joy of your salvation.

Gospel Mt 7:7-12

Jesus said to his disciples:
“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. 
Which one of you would hand his son a stone
when he asked for a loaf of bread,
or a snake when he asked for a fish?
If you then, who are wicked,
know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will your heavenly Father give good things
to those who ask him.

“Do to others whatever you would have them do to you. 
This is the law and the prophets.”

– – –

Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Persistence In Prayer

We hear in today’s reading and Gospel about the importance of not just prayer, but persistence in prayer. Queen Esther spends the day praying to God for help in freeing her enslaved people, the Jews.  She is described as being in “mortal anguish” as she lay on the ground begging God to give her the right words. This passage is just the beginning of a much longer prayer but in it we see elements of a perfect prayer. She begins by praising and blessing God. She knows he is the God of her forefathers and that he answers prayers. She acknowledges – twice – that she is alone and dependent on God. She approaches him with humility and faith in his good will. 

Then she asks God for what she desires – help in saving her people from death. Her husband, the king and his chief minister were planning to kill all the Jews in the empire. Being Jewish herself, Esther couldn’t let this happen and knew she was in a position to help but she didn’t know how. So she turned to God fully believing that as he had saved the Jews in the past, he would do so again. She knew that it would be him working through her that would save them.

Today’s Gospel follows the theme of persistence in prayer. Jesus exhorts us to ask, seek, and knock. He assures us we will receive and draws the parallel of God as our father. If we as sinful people, would grant our own children’s request, so much more will the perfect Almighty Father give good things to us. Jesus assures us all we need to do is ask him. 

We can be bold in approaching the Father because Jesus came to earth to restore our broken relationship with God. He is the door to our Father; he is the Way. God is not an unreachable deity in the sky who sits dispassionately in judgment. Rather he is a loving Father who desires good for us. Does this mean we can ask for and receive a money tree for our backyard or anything else equally silly? No. What it means is that we can go to Him in prayer, praising him, thanking him, and knowing he sees us and hears us. With our faithful hearts we believe that while we may not get what we think we want, we will get what God knows we need and that is always perfect. 

We are blessed to be the children of a Father who will not be outdone in generosity. When we go to him, whether it is in sorrow, fear, confusion, or anxiety, we are assured that he is with us and will give us what we need to continue to grow more in love with him. 

Contact the author

Merridith Frediani’s perfect day includes prayer, writing, unrushed morning coffee, reading, tending to dahlias, and playing Sheepshead with her husband and three kids.  She loves finding God in the silly and ordinary.  She writes for Ascension Press, Catholic Mom, and her local Catholic Herald in Milwaukee. Her first book Draw Close to Jesus: A Woman’s Guide to Eucharistic Adoration is expected to be released summer 2021. You can reach her at merridith.frediani@gmail.com

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Daily Prayer for February 25

“Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will bring justice to the nations.” Isaiah 42:1, NIV

Dear Father in heaven, grant that we may stand in your grace. Grant that the light of your grace may come to us through your Word. Keep us firm in faith until the promised time when your redemption shall come to all the nations on earth. We are often anxious and ask ourselves if people can bear it. Will they learn to listen to your Word? Will they remain steadfast when hard times come? Will they turn to you alone, to you who know the hour and appoint the time when we may see the promised day? Let the might of your hand prevail over the whole world. You are the only power that can help us out of our great affliction, you our only Lord. Amen.

Wednesday of the First Week of Lent

Reading I Jon 3:1-10

The word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time:
“Set out for the great city of Nineveh,
and announce to it the message that I will tell you.”
So Jonah made ready and went to Nineveh,
according to the LORD’s bidding.
Now Nineveh was an enormously large city;
it took three days to go through it.
Jonah began his journey through the city,
and had gone but a single day’s walk announcing,
“Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed,”
when the people of Nineveh believed God;
they proclaimed a fast
and all of them, great and small, put on sackcloth.

When the news reached the king of Nineveh,
he rose from his throne, laid aside his robe,
covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in the ashes.
Then he had this proclaimed throughout Nineveh,
by decree of the king and his nobles:
“Neither man nor beast, neither cattle nor sheep,
shall taste anything;
they shall not eat, nor shall they drink water. 
Man and beast shall be covered with sackcloth and call loudly to God;
every man shall turn from his evil way
and from the violence he has in hand.
Who knows, God may relent and forgive, and withhold his blazing wrath,
so that we shall not perish.”
When God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way,
he repented of the evil that he had threatened to do to them;
he did not carry it out.

Responsorial Psalm 51:3-4, 12-13, 18-19

R.    (19b) A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.
Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness;
    in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense.
Thoroughly wash me from my guilt
    and of my sin cleanse me.
R.    A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.
A clean heart create for me, O God,
    and a steadfast spirit renew within me.
Cast me not out from your presence,
    and your Holy Spirit take not from me. 
R.    A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.
For you are not pleased with sacrifices;
    should I offer a burnt offering, you would not accept it.
My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit;
    a heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.
R.    A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.

Verse before the Gospel Jl 2:12-13

Even now, says the LORD,
return to me with your whole heart
for I am gracious and merciful.

Gospel Lk 11:29-32

While still more people gathered in the crowd, Jesus said to them,
“This generation is an evil generation;
it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it,
except the sign of Jonah. 
Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites,
so will the Son of Man be to this generation.
At the judgment 
the queen of the south will rise with the men of this generation 
and she will condemn them,
because she came from the ends of the earth
to hear the wisdom of Solomon,
and there is something greater than Solomon here. 
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.”

– – –

Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

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