March 31: Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Lent

Anthony van Dyck, Moses and the Serpent, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1621

Readings for Mass
First Reading: Numbers 21:4-9
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 102:2-3, 16-18, 19-21
Gospel: John 8:21-30

And the Lord said to Moses, "Make a poisonous serpent, and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live (NRSV, Nm 21:8)."

Let us pray.

Father, at no moment is it clearer to us that the Word made flesh gives of himself totally to you than as he lay dying on the cross. That moment sums up everything that Jesus is: He receives his life from you and he gives all that he is in return. This giving, receiving and sharing in Love, however, takes place not only on the cross. It is, Father, your very life as God. You, Father, give life to the Word. The Word receives that life from you. You, Father, and the Word share your life in Love who is the Holy Spirit.

The Cross is our salvation, indeed, but so is every moment a saving moment. Your act, Father, is one and cannot be separated from your being. In the one act that is your being, Father, you generate the Word and the Holy Spirit proceeds from Father and Word. In this same act that is your being you create the world and each one of us, you share your life with us through the Word, you become one of us in Jesus Christ, and you manifest yourself in Church and sacraments.

We, Father, have a history, each one of us and your people as a family, but you are beyond time and place. You are at once nowhere and everywhere and because of this your salvation for us is always available.Thank you, Father, for the gift of your life and for the gift of your Son. You are made manifest for us in him and your salvation is made visible in his life and death. May we understand you ever more clearly by keeping our eyes up the cross of your Son. May we find everlasting life through his life and death.

Through Christ our Lord. Amen

March 30: Monday of the Fifth Week of Lent

Lorenzo Lotto: Christ and the Adulteress
Private Collection, 1530-32

Readings for Mass
First Reading: Daniel 13:1-9, 15-17, 19-30, 33-62 or 13:41-62
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 23:1-3, 3-4, 5, 6
Gospel: John 8:1-11

Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again (NRSV, Jn 8: 11).”

Let us pray..

Father, the forgiveness which you offer us through the Word is without condition. There is nothing that we must do to earn it. It is gift, only to be accepted and to allow it to transform us so that we are ready in turn to offer it to those who have offended us.

Jesus never inquires into the past of a sinner. He never demands a promise for the future. He merely offers forgiveness with the challenge to sin no more.

Father, may we in our sinfulness always be responsive to your Word, made flesh in the Lord Jesus, who in every instant offers us your life. May we accept the gift of new life, allow it to change us, and then share it with others. Thus may we become one with you Father, in the Spirit, through the Word, and may we ever grow in that unity which for us who are your created daughters and sons a neverending journey.

Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

March 29: Fifth Sunday of Lent

Duccio di Buoninsgna, Jeremiah, Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, Siena, 1308-11

No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, "Know the Lord," for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more (NRSV, Jeremiah 31:34).

First Reading: Jeremiah 31:31-34

Let us pray.

Father, we used to think that prophets were persons specially chosen by you and then given secrets about a future already determined, passed on to us as warning and challenge. But if the future is already fixed, if history is indeed a play already written in advance, what need is there to speak of it? What could be done in any case to redirect it?

No, prophets do not really speak of a pre-determined future. It is the present of which they speak and its implications for the future, what will happen if we who are truly free by God’s favor, do not choose well.

Nor is the prophet specially chosen by you because, we have learned, you do not choose this one or that one over the other, but rather reveal yourself to all through your ever-present Word, once and for all, yet in every moment at the depth of our being, even from the womb. You speak your truth to all and offer your divine life to all. As the saints are those who respond best by living well, the prophet are those who respond best in understanding and then share what they have grasped with the rest of us, challenging us to live out our lives more fruitfully.

At Mount Sinai, our spiritual forebears came to understand for the first time what you speak to all in every moment: that you are one God and that you are God for your people, that you call us to a future, and that you require that we love you and one another. They saw, as best they then could, the future to which you call them as life in the land for your people and they hammered out, as best they could, the manner in which the people should live, inscribed as it were on tablets of stone.

If Moses is the prophet, it is also to Jeremiah that we owe so much for Jeremiah realized that the Law has not been given, not written out, in stone, but given within us, written in our hearts.

Prophet that he was, so very sensitive to the revelation given to all, Jeremiah sensed that it was not really from the prophet or any created being that we learn the truth but from you alone who speaks to all.

In Jesus, your only begotten Son, truly your Word made flesh, we have come to understand, Father, ever more fully your revelation to all. You are truly our God, but a God for all people. You love us all and call us not to the land but to an ever greater share in your own divine life in which we are called to grow continuously in this world and beyond. There is no law written in stone once and for all but spoken to each and every one of us at every moment and we are called to grow in our understanding of that Word and to apply it ever more effectively in our lives and in all of our actions. However well we grasp that law, you call us always to move beyond whatever understanding we have reached. And when we fail in understanding and in action, when we err and when we sin, you are always there in your Word challenging us to begin again and to move forward. Every moment, we now understand, is the saving moment.

And all of this we now see so clearly through Christ our Lord. Amen.

March 28: Saturday of the Fourth Week of Lent

Anonymous French Master: Jeremiah Being Stoned to DeathKoninklijke Bibliotheek, The Hague, c 1297-1320

Readings for Mass
First Reading: Jeremiah 11:18-20
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 7:2-3, 9-10, 11-12
Gospel: John 7:40-53

God is my shield, who saves the upright in heart (NRSV, Ps 7:10).

Let us pray.

Father, you reveal yourself to us at every moment, even from the first moment in our mother’s womb, through your Word, who challenges us to accept and to grow in your life. Even though you reveal yourself once and for all in each moment, because of our finite human condition intensified by the sin of the world, we can only grow gradually in understanding as in grace. Even the psalmists and your prophets, so sensitive to your presence and your call, only see in part. They often cry out for you to swoop down and rescue them from an oppressive situation and then to wreak vengeance on those who maltreat them.

Father, you anticipate all our needs. You have in every situation one gift that you offer to us even before we ask: a share in your divine life. This gift is all we ever need. It does not rescue us however bleak the situation may be. Rather it empowers us to transform the darkest moment into blessing for ourselves and others. Strengthened by your grace, Father, we can always be victors even as Jesus was victor on the cross.

Psalmist and prophet sometimes call upon you to take vengeance on their enemies. Father, when we committed the most heinous of crimes by crucifying your beloved Son and banishing him from this world, what was your response? Through your power given to him, Jesus passed in triumph through death to new life and you, Father, poured out your Spirit upon all humankind, as you always do, through the Word, now risen from the dead, that we might in every instance be able to say “yes” to your gift of life.

Father, the gift of your life is salvation in every moment and your vengeance is rather forgiveness to all who will accept it and share it with others.

Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

March 27: Friday of the Fourth Week of Lent

Fritz Eichenberg, Christ of the Breadlines, 1950

Readings for Mass
First Reading: Wisdom 2:1, 12-22
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 34:17-18, 19-20, 21, 23
Gospel: John 7:1-2, 10, 25-30

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord rescues them from them all (NRSV, Ps 34:18-19).

Let us pray.

Father, you reveal who you are to us at every moment at the depths of our innermost being through your Word who is always present to us. This revelation, only brought to conscious comprehension by us gradually, has been made clearer to us through your prophets, who seem to respond to you more sensitively than many of the rest of us, and especially through the Word made flesh, our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom you share our human life with us.

When Jesus lay dying on the cross, your presence to him was most manifest. In Mark’s gospel the pagan centurion at the foot of the cross, alone in the whole gospel, comes to recognize your divine presence in your Son. In Matthew the universe goes into convulsion in union with our Lord. Luke speaks eloquently of the healing that goes from Jesus to those around him. John sums it all up by indicating that passage through death, a human being’s most difficult moment, can be truly an hour of glory.

Father, you were with your Son Jesus as he passed through death and you will be also with us empowering us as you did your Son. As death is the saving moment, Lord, so is every moment. I truly believe that there is no time when you are not present to us. In every moment, even the bleakest, when all others seem to have abandoned us, you are there, sharing your life with us, or, if we are in serious sin, calling us back to you through your Word. Every moment then can be blessing opening up to new and even more glorious future.

May we find you, Father, when we are most troubled and seemingly most abandoned, that we may rejoice in the life that you always share with us.

Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

March 26: Thursday of the Fourth Week of Lent

Emil Nolde, Dance around the Golden Calf, Staatsgalerie Moderner Kunst, Munich, 1910

Readings for Mass
First Reading: Exodus 32:7-14
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 106:19-20, 21-22, 23
Gospel: John 5:31-47

And the Lord changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people (NRSV, Ex 32:14).

Let us pray.

Father, as you at every moment call us, through the Word, to transcend ourselves to grow in your life, we, foolish ones, so often try to bring you down to our size. Because, when we are sinned against, we have a tendency to become angry with the transgressor, we assume, Lord, that you become angry also with us when we sin.

When Moses tarried on the Holy Mountain, the people below became impatient with him and forced Aaron to make for them a golden calf which they might worship. When Moses descended, so outraged was he at the spectacle of the idolatrous dance, that he smashed the tablets of stone. As to be expected, Moses’ anger was transferred to you, Lord, and even intensified. Moses great love for the people soon overcame his rage and then he turned (Oh, how very foolish we are!) to placate you, Father. The psalmist even says that Moses withstood you in the breach to turn away your destroying anger (As if Moses, or anyone, could stand against you, O Lord our God!).

How strange it is that, whenever we sin, we experience this great chasm that separates us from you, Father, but then, when we repent of our sin (And how could we possibly do that without your immediate aid?), there you are, without delay, present once more to us, any anger that we sensed coming from you abated.

Lord, the truth is (if only we could make it permanently ours) that even in sin you never leave us. It is we who reject the gift of your Holy Spirit dwelling in us but through your Word you remain ever present to us. Your Word is unfailing in challenging us to change our ways, to repent, to accept once again the indwelling of your Spirit. You, Lord, are Love and forgiveness. Any anger that we experience coming from you is our projection upon you. Since the anger is really of our making, it vanishes whenever we accept anew the gift of your Spirit and your life.

Father, through your Word, may we recognize that you are all-forgiving, in every situation, however grievous, and may we accept your forgiveness and the renewal of your Spirit and your life in us. Moreover, through your power given to us may we share that same forgiveness with all who have sinned against us.

Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

March 25: The Solemnity of the Annunciation

Fra Angelico, The Annunciation, Convento di San Marco, Florence, 1430s

Readings for Mass
First Reading: Isaiah 7:10-14
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 40:7-8, 8-9, 10, 11
Second Reading: Hebrews 10:4-10
Gospel: Luke 1:26-38

Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word (NSRV, Lk 1:38a).”

Let us pray.

Father, we believe that every moment is the saving moment, that you challenge us through the Word constantly to say “yes” in your Holy Spirit and accept that your life may grow within us.

Reflecting on the mystery of the Word having been made flesh and having left the Church as the continuing sacrament of his presence in the world, Father, the early Church singled out one moment, out of all saving moments, to speak to us with great significance.

Mary, at a particular moment, said “yes,” in such a way that she consented to be the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh.

Father, we recognize that your Word is the only mediator between you and your children on earth. It is only through him that we can accept the gift of your Holy Spirit and grown in your divine life.

Mary agreed to share in that unique mediation by becoming the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh. Mary is Theotokos, God-bearer to the world.

Father, as we celebrate the solemnity of Mary’s acceptance of her role in salvation history, may we too with her say “yes”, that each in his or her own way may also be Theotokos, God-bearer to the world, by announcing the gospel in everything we say and do and by serving one another.

Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

March 24: Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Lent

Artus Wolfart, Christ at the Pool of Bethesda, Ontario Museum of Fine Arts, Toronto, 1620-30

Gospel: John 5:1-3, 5-16

Jesus said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.” At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk (NRSV, Jn 5: 8-9a).

Let us pray.

Father, so often healing comes about in our lives and we are not explicitly aware of how it is taking place. I am not referring now, Lord, to the usual physical healing that occurs following causes within the physical order of things. I mean the deeper spiritual healing that brings forgiveness of sin and which overcomes the alienation which always accompanies sin. This deeper spiritual healing often has effects as well within the physical order, effects which puzzle the natural scientist.

Before the coming of Jesus, no one recognized that we are called to share in your divine life, which life always brings healing to us. So many then have, through your Word, said “yes” to you, Father, at the depth of their being without being conscious of the full significance of their response. Such it was with our parents who preceded Jesus and our sisters and brothers who have come after him, never having heard his name or not fully understanding the gift that he shares with us. Even those who openly reject you, Father, and your Son, often do so out of confusion and really embrace you at their innermost being.

Your healing, Father, is accessible to all who accept your life even implicitly. It is available in a tangible way in your sacraments but, even when the sacraments are not to be had or are not appreciated; there is no moment in human experience that is not the saving moment.

Your healing power, made our own, brings forgiveness and new life. It overcomes the alienating effects of sin and is sufficient for us to greet death, with Jesus, as our hour of glory. No wonder then that spiritual healing often brings with it physical healing that confounds the wise of this world.

Father, you heal us and make us whole.

Through Christ our Lord. Amen

March 23: Fourth Monday of Lent

William Blake, The Ancient of Days (God as Architect), British Museum, London, 1794

Readings for Mass
First Reading: Isaiah 65:17-21
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 30:2, 4, 5-6, 11-13
Gospel: John 4:43-54

“For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind (NRSV, Isaiah 65:17).”

Let us pray.

Father, there is no situation in which we find ourselves but that we cry out to be delivered from it. When we were slaves in Egypt we longed for freedom. Yet once across the sea, we murmured in discontent in the desert and longed for something more. Centuries later, we lamented our return to captivity, this time to Babylon. Even when we were released from that captivity by Cyrus the Persian and allowed to return to the land, all still seemed bleak, without reason for rejoicing. There is in fact, Lord, no circumstance, however blessed that it may seem, that satisfies. The reason, Lord, that it is only in you that we find happiness.

You have created us, Lord, to become one with you, to share your life into eternity. From the first moment, Father, your Word, always present to us, challenges us to accept the gift of your life and then to grow constantly in that life. It is this life and the continual growth in it that gives meaning to everything we are and everything we do. It alone gives us the power and strength to serve our neighbor in need. No matter how bleak a particular situation may seem, it is the acceptance of your life into that circumstance and the sharing of that life with one another that makes of it a moment of salvation.

Lord, may we not bless or curse our present condition but rather to lift our eyes up out of the present and to keep them always on you who are our future. We look to your promise of new heavens and a new earth that will overshadow former things and brings us to the fullness of life in you. May we become instruments of that future now by living transformed lives in the service of our sisters and brothers.

Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

March 22: Fourth Sunday of Lent

Taddeo Gaddi, Allegory of the Cross, Santa Croce, Florence, 1330s

And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life (NRSV, John: 3:14-15).

Gospel: John 3:14-21

Let us pray.

Father, from Jesus we have learned that every moment of human existence is a call to die to what are, and have been up to that moment, and to accept the gift of new life. Jesus’ physical death on the Cross is but the summing up of what was every moment in his life and what every moment should be in every human’s life.

Whenever we stop and look back, wondering who or what put us into a particular situation, we are lost. It is only when we look ahead and up, into the future, and ask ourselves what we must do to make this moment, often seemingly so dark and bleak, into blessing for ourselves and others, that the saving reality of the moment, every moment, becomes clear.

The Israelites, on their journey into freedom, paused, murmured, and looked back: all seemed lost. It was only when they were ready once again to look ahead and up, that the journey could recommence.

Father, may we always look to you who are our Future and, in every moment, accept your life more fully into our own, that the cross of the moment, death, may open to resurrection, with blessing for ourselves and others.

Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

March 21: Saturday of the Third Week of Lent

Christian Dare, The Pharisee and the Tax Collector

Readings for Mass
First Reading: Hosea 6:1-6
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 51:3-4, 18-19, 20-21
Gospel: Luke 18:9-14

All who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted (NRSV, Lk 18:14b).”

Let us pray.

Father, the life which you share with us, and in which we are called to grow at every moment, makes us to be divine beings in you, capable of constant increase. Alone of all your earthly creatures we share in the ability to love because, as long as we accept the gift, the Holy Spirit who is Love abides in us. In union with your Word, we are empowered to share in the ongoing formation of the world with the ability to soar to the heights in the creation of great art and music. As companions of your Word who is always present to every one of us, your Word through whom you set in motion and sustain everything that is, we too can utter great works of spoken and written speechcraft. So great is the power that is ours that death, Father, can be for us, as it was for Jesus our brother, an hour of glory, not the unconquerable enemy but a passage to a still greater life.What a glorious existence to which you have called us, Lord, that we alone may raise our heads above all of your earthly creatures in singing your praise.

But how we must be grateful to you, Father, because in the midst of all of this glory which we enjoy, none of it has its origin in us. Of ourselves we are nothing. Everything we are, everything we do, everything we have, it all comes from you. And in the midst of all these gifts, so often, Lord, we turn away from you in sin. We act as if we are center of all things when in reality we are nothing without you. And when we sin, when we turn away from you as if you did not even exist, when we heap abuse upon sister and brother, you, Lord, never abandon us. In your great love, you always maintain your presence with us through your Word, challenging us, pleading with us to accept your forgiveness. Such is your love that no payment is ever required for our waywardness, merely the acceptance of forgiveness and the renewal of your life within us.

How great you are, Father, to call us over and over again, not only out of the nothingness of non-being, but then out of the nothingness of sin. In all the glory of the summons to share in divinity, may we be ever mindful of the nonbeing from which we come and, without the constant presence of Your Word, into which we would return.

Through Christ our Lord. Amen

March 20: Friday of the Third Week of Lent

Vincent Van Gogh, The Good Samaritan (after Delacroix), Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller, Otterlo, Netherlands, 1890

Readings for Mass
First Reading: Hosea 14:2-10
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 81:6-8, 8-9, 10-11, 14, 17
Gospel: Mark 12:28-34

“‘To love the Lord your God with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbor as oneself,’ —this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices (NRSV, Mt 12:33).”

Let us pray.

Father, in each moment that we say “yes” to you, we grow in your life. As we grow in your life, we also grow in love. That, Lord, is because your life is love, love that is the mutual sharing in the Holy Spirit both of you, Father, who gives life to the Word, and of the Word who receives life from you.

To be a human being, Father, is to be on journey towards you our future. As well as a journey of growth in life and love, there is also growth in understanding of the one revelation that the Word always speaks to us at the depth of our being. Our understanding of the dignity of life grows as we make progress on the journey as does also our understanding of the meaning of love. Progress can be made as individuals but also as a human family.

There was a time when we first recognized you, Father, as God for us, as we came out of slavery in Egypt, that our understanding of the dignity of life and what it means to love was much more limited than it is today. Thou shalt not kill, we thought, but that was limited only to members of the tribe. Slavery was permissible even within the tribe. Women were treated like chattel, things to be owned. Death was imposed as penalty even for minor crimes.

And the neighbors we were challenged to love were only our own people, not the others.

Much has changed, Father, as we progress on our journey towards you. We are especially thankful for the teaching of the Word made flesh, your only begotten son, Jesus, who has enlightened us in so many ways. May your help, Father, through your Word, continue to increase our understanding of your truth that is revealed to us from the beginning that we may grow constantly in the life and love which in you are one.

Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

March 19: Solemnity of St. Joseph

Rogier van der Weyden: St. Joseph (fragment), Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon, 1445

Readings for Mass
First Reading: Second Samuel 7:4-5, 12-14, 16
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 89:2-3, 4-5, 27, 29
Second Reading: Romans 4:13, 16-18, 22
Gospel: Matthew 1:16, 18-21, 24, or Luke 2:41-51

When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him (NRSV, Mt 1:24a)

Let us pray.

Father, all who believe, who accept you in faith are your children. You offer a share in your divine life to all who will accept it and make it their own. On this solemnity of St. Joseph we look to St. Joseph as a model of faith because he trusted in your revelation, perceived as spoken to him in dreams by the presence of an angel.

Father, you speak your one Word to all of us at the depth of our being, from the first moment of our existence, the same Word that we then hear at every moment of our lives.

To each of us, according to our time and place and our history, this same one Word is appropriately heard. To Joseph it was to care for Jesus, to Abraham to come forth from Mesopotamia, to Moses to lead the people out of slavery in Egypt.

Because of circumstances, many have difficulty acknowledging you, Father, as the source of this Word spoken to us, or even to acknowledge the Word, especially the Word made flesh. Many who have said “yes” to you by committing themselves to a life of Love do not recognize that Love is your Holy Spirit living in them, or much less that you are the source of that Spirit always given through the Word.

Father, we pray that we shall always be a people of faith, trusting in you and committing ourselves to you. May more of your children come to conscious realization of your grace working in them.

Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

March 18: Wednesday of the Third Week of Lent

Philippe de Champagne: Moses Presenting the Tablets of the Law
Milwaukee Art Museum, 1648

Wednesday of the Third Week of Lent

Gospel: Mt 5:17-19

Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill (NRSV, Mt 5:17).”

Let us pray.

Father, in experiencing his resurrection, the apostles recognized that Jesus, the Word made flesh, is the fulfillment of all things. Nothing has been abolished. Nothing has been wiped away. All has come to completion.

Father, through the Word always present to every human being, you have taught us from the beginning that as we say “yes” to you in faith we share your life, united with you, Father, in the Spirit. Bringing to consciousness what has been revealed to us at the depth of our being, however, has been a gradual process. We are blinded principally by the sin of the world, the sum total of the evil that humanity has done, and by our own selfish desires. We have the common experience of being distracted from our pilgrimage of grace by the sins that we commit.

The first time in memory that the people became aware of you, Father, as God for us, was as you led us out of slavery in Egypt to freedom. Once across the sea, there in the Sinai desert, in a mountain storm, it all became so much clearer than ever before. We realized then that you are really one God, not many; that you are somehow one with us; that you love us and want us to love you and one another. In calling us out of slavery, we sensed that there was a special destiny to which you were summoning us. We pondered on all of this and spoke of it as best we could. Our union with you, Father, we reasoned, had to be something like an agreement, the Law, a covenant made between you and us with provisions like a treaty governing how we were to live one with the other. The destiny had to be a land of our own in which we could live in freedom. But how to deal with sin, with our failure to keep the covenant? Payment had to be made, in the form of gifts, of animal sacrifices, of incense and first fruits offered to appease you.

And so, Lord, we continued on our pilgrimage across the desert and into the land. But things were never right. Somehow there had to be a better understanding.

In Jesus came fulfillment. In his resurrection we realized that we are not united to you, Father, by an agreement, by the Law, but by your Holy Spirit that you pour out upon us through your Word. The destiny is not the land at all but everlasting life with you in the world to come, a life that begins even here on earth. Our union with you then is a union of shared life. And the commandments? They were not given once and for all from Mt. Sinai but they are written on our hearts by the Holy Spirit that we may grow in our understanding of how we are to love you, Father, and one another, as we grow in the very life that you share with us, growth possible at every moment.

Father, thank you for your gift of the Spirit who brings us your life and thank you for the Word, made flesh in our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom the Spirit comes and through whom we move towards you.

Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

March 17: Tuesday of the Third Week of Lent

Gianlorenzo Bernini, Daniel, Santa Maria del Popolo, Rome, 1650

Readings for Mass
First Reading: Daniel 3:25, 34-43
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 25:4-5, 6-7, 8-9
Gospel: Matthew 18:21-35

But with contrite heart and humble spirit let us be received; as though it were holocausts of rams and bullocks, or thousands of fat lambs, So let our sacrifice be in your presence today as we follow you unreservedly; for those who trust in you cannot be put to shame (NAB, Daniel 3: 39-40).

Let us pray.

Father, Bernini’s statue of Daniel in Santa Maria del Popolo might just as well be a representation of Azariah as he prayed to you in the fiery furnace: “But with contrite heart and humble spirit let us be received; as though it were holocausts of rams and bullocks.”

How strange it is, Lord, that in the most difficult situations, when all seems on the verge of being lost, that suddenly we see so much more clearly and that actually things are better than we ever could have thought. It was during the captivity in Babylon, when there was no longer temple or priesthood or animal sacrifice and the offering of incense and first fruits was no longer possible, that it became obvious that the true offering to you, Lord, is a contrite heart and a humble spirit.

Today, in the risen Jesus, we recognize that a contrite heart and humble spirit are really the acceptance of your life, Father, into our own and of our being caught up in your inner life of giving, receiving and sharing in love that is true sacrifice. This true sacrifice, the archetype of all others, is offered to you, Father, in the Holy Spirit through your Word who became one of us and died with and for us. It is the sacrifice made present for us visibly in the Eucharist.

Father, may we realize that there is nothing that we can give you on our own. All we can do is accept with gratitude the life that you share with us. But, once having received life from you through the Word, we are empowered to share that very life with you in the love of the Holy Spirit.

Father, as you heard the prayer of Daniel, and of Azariah in the fiery furnace, hear also our prayer that we too may offer back to you, in sacrifice, through your Word, the gift you give to us: a contrite heart and a humble spirit.

Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

March 16: Monday of the Third Week of Lent

Anonymous German Master, The Naaman Plaque, The British Museum, London, 12th cent.

Readings for Mass
First Reading: Second Kings 5:1-15
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 42:2, 3; 43:3, 4
Gospel: Luke 4:24-30

And Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown. . . There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian (NRSV, Lk 4:24,27).”

Let us pray.

Father, how often some of us among your holy people attempt to put a claim on you. It is so easy for us to consider you as “our” God instead of God “for us.” We try to use you in so many ways, as if we are the only ones to whom you speak or the only ones whose interests are yours. We pray in our holy places pretending that you listen only to us. We even go to war against our neighbors convinced that it is you who lead us into battle against sons and daughters who are also yours.

Luke tells us, when Jesus spoke in the synagogue in Nazareth making reference to the wonderful things that you did through Elijah in feeding the Widow of Zarephath and her son in Sidon and through Elisha in healing Naaman the Syrian of his leprosy, that the people rose up in their anger and tried to kill Jesus.

Father, may we realize that you speak the same one Word to all peoples, in every time and place. In fact, it is the presence of your Word to everyone of us at the depth of our being, a presence that is never denied or abrogated, that finally makes us to be human beings. It is the share in your own divine life, first offered in our mother’s womb through the Word and accepted by us in the power of the Spirit, that begins our everlasting pilgrimage as human beings.

Each of us, Lord, comes to a fuller understanding of you admittedly in different ways influenced by so many factors that surround us. Help us, Lord, to recognize you and your truth in all of our fellow human beings even when it is dressed in cultural garb that may at first seem alien. Truly it is by listening to the many voices of your one family that we can all come to a greater understanding of the same Word spoken to everyone of us.

Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

March 15: Third Sunday of Lent

Raymond Balze, Jesus Clears the Temple, Musée Ingres, Montauban

Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up (NRSV, John 2:19)."

Gospel: John 2: 13-25

Let us pray.

Father, Jesus told his challengers: "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." We realize now that he was not speaking of a building at all. A building may be set aside as sacred space to assist us in concentrating on your presence but you do not live in a building. You live in a person. You live in the person of Jesus who was speaking of his own body that might pass through physical death but, because of its divine life, could not be conquered by death.

If we say “yes,” Father, to the gift of your own life, offered to us at every moment at the depth of our being, even in our sinfulness, then these words of Jesus can also be our words: "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." Death, enemy that she may often seem to be, because of the divine life that you share with us, is really our sister and passage to a fuller life of union with You. Death cannot touch us, if, with Jesus, we live in union with you, Father, in the Holy Spirit, because we are already resurrected in this life, as Jesus was resurrected at every moment of his earthly existence.

Father, we live in the already but not yet. May we always respond to your gift and call, accepting your divine life into our own at every moment and growing constantly in it, resurrected already in this life and called to an even greater resurrection in the world to come.

Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

March 14: Second Saturday of Lent

Giorgio de Chirico, The Prodigal Son, Museo d’Arte Contemporanea, Milan, 1922

Readings for Mass
First Reading: Micah 7:14-15, 18-20
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 103:1-2, 3-4, 9-10, 11-12
Gospel: Luke 15:1-3, 11-32

Then Jesus said, ‘There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, “Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.” So he divided his property between them (NRSV, Luke 15:11-12).

Let us pray.

Father, for time out of mind and in places all over the globe, human beings have been trying to placate the divine power for their own wayward actions by offering gifts in payment. Jesus, in one story, perhaps the best attributed to him, puts it all to rest. There is never need for payment to you, Lord, for anything. Everything from you, Father, material creation, divine life that is shared, and most importantly, forgiveness for sins, all is freely given. All is gift.

Like the prodigal son who has squanders his father’s inheritance, we wonder what we must do to find forgiveness from you for our sins. What possible payment? The father in the story is only waiting for his son’s return. When he sees the son approaching in the distance, he rushes out, embraces him and orders the fatted calf killed to celebrate. The father is so effusive in expressing his welcome that the son never even gets to express his contrition.

And so it is, Father, with you and us. Even when we commit the most grievous of sins, your Word never abandons us even though we may try to flee his presence. He remains always with us, pressing in upon us, offering us your forgiveness, Father, and the renewed gift of your life. All we must do is accept it and allow it once again to transform our lives.

Renewed in your grace, Lord, we go out to others that we have sinned against in an effort to undo as best we can the evil that we have wrought. The forgiveness we have received, we too will share with those who have sinned against us. Hopefully then sinner and sinned against will together accept even a further growth in the divine life of your Spirit that you always offer to all through your Word.

Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

March 13: Friday of the Second Week of Lent

Marc Chagall: Joseph the Shepherd
Musée national message biblique Marc-Chagall,
Nice, 1931

Friday of the Second Week of Lent

Reading I: Gn 37:3-4, 12-13a, 17b-28a

They said to one another, “Here comes this dreamer. Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits; then we shall say that a wild animal has devoured him, and we shall see what will become of his dreams (NRSV, Gen 37:19-20).”

Let us pray.

Father, Jacob met you in a dream and wrestled with you only to realize more clearly who he was and who he was to be become, the father of your people. His son Joseph was a dreamer as well. His dreams turned his brothers against him at first but eventually led to their rescue from famine. There was another Joseph, much later, who also learned from you in his dreams. Others, among your servants, like Isaiah, experience you in visions.

Some of your children, like Thomas Aquinas, search for you in your creation, like examining footprints left in the sand. Artifacts always speak, if only indirectly, Lord, of the artisan. Your creation, Father, reveals to many your very existence and much about who you are.

All of life, Father, is a process of learning. One of my most precious acquisitions over the years is the realization that you actually speak directly to me, that you speak to all of your created children. It is in your very Word, he who is begotten but not created, that you speak to us. He comes to us even in the womb to summons us into existence and he never leaves us. He speaks to us of you once and for all in every moment. Even sin can not drive him from us. In midst of the worst evil that we do he is there calling us to repentance and new life. His presence to us is what makes us to be human.

How difficult, it is, Lord, to bring to consciousness what your Word speaks and what we hear with our being. All through history we struggle as your people to express it more clearly. We do it through reason, yes, but also in dreams and visions. We do it in ways proper to our different cultures and ways of living. All in the hope of bringing greater clarity to the life bestowed upon us. Help us, Lord, to grow in our understanding of the truth that you always speak to us in your Word that deeper understanding may lead us to embrace your life more fully.

Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

March 12: Thursday of the Second Week of Lent

Masaccio: The Trinity with Mary and John
Santa Maria Novella, Florence, 1425-28

Thursday of the Second Week of Lent

Reading I: Jer 17:5-10

Thus says the Lord: Cursed are those who trust in mere mortals. . . Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord
(NRSV, 17:5a,7).

Let us pray.

Father, your prophet Jeremiah, long before Jesus, had warned us never to put our trust in one another but only in you. Jesus repeated this warning. Only you, Father, and your coming kingdom, are what finally matter in all of human existence. Everything else, chosen apart from you and your kingdom, is distraction and can only bring confusion and destruction into our lives. Jesus warned the rich young man, who was committed to following the Law, that, because of the rule of his riches over his life, it would be better for him if he were to sell all that he had and give everything to the poor. And, Jesus warned that it is not just material things but even loved ones who reap disorder for us. The would-be disciple only wanted first to bury his father before following Jesus. “Let the dead bury the dead,” Jesus retorted.

Over the years, Father, I have been very puzzled by this aspect of Jesus’ preaching. Does it mean that nothing here in this world, not love of spouse, or offspring, or parents or friends, is of any worth? I found the answer, Lord, strangely enough, not in the writings of a theologian or a mystic, but in a fresco on the wall of a church in Florence, a fresco depicting you, Father, your crucified Son and the Holy Spirit, painted by Tommaso di Ser Giovanni, whom we know by his nickname, Masaccio. For the first time in the history of art, Masaccio organized all of the lines of a painting so that they converged on one point. One can find this focal point on the surface of the painting but to the eye it is behind the painting and all lines finally meet visually beyond the painting in the distance. Up until Masaccio, persons and objects in pictures tended to float free of one another without orderly relationship. In Masaccio’s painting all is ordered and in proper rapport because of its dependence on the focal point. It is the focal point that gives meaning to everything within the painting.

And so I realized it is with the kingdom of God. It is in choosing you, Father, and your kingdom above all else, by placing our final trust only in you, that everyone and everything within the world finally takes on its true value. Once all is related to you, Father, beyond this world, all is related to everyone and everything else within the world as well. If the rich young man had ordered everything in his life towards you, Father, he could have used his riches effectively. Having once made your kingdom, Lord, the sole focus of his life, the would-be disciple would have had no choice but to bury his deceased father.

Father, may we always follow the urging of your prophet Jeremiah and of Jesus, the Word made flesh, that you may be the center and focus of everything we are and everything that do, the object of all our trust.

Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

March 11: Wednesday of the Second Week of Lent

Christoph Weigel, A Mother's Request, Biblia ectypa: Bildnussen auss Heiliger SchrifftAlt und Neuen Testaments, 1695

Readings for Mass
First Reading: Jeremiah 18:18-20
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 31:5-6, 14, 15-16
Gospel: Matthew 20:17-28

“Just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many (NRSV, Mt 20:28).”

Let us pray.

Father, it is so often the case when we plan our future that there is really nothing new about it at all. We merely take our present situation which is always impoverished when compared to what could be and dream up a future that is just more of the same. Jesus preached the coming of your kingdom and, of course, we thought of it as just another earthly kingdom, maybe one that might function a bit better than others. What Jesus really preached was a kingdom unlike any other that the world has experienced. It is a kingdom, Father, in which your rule will overcome all evil and everything will be put right. Even death will be finally understood, not as undoing, but as passage to a fuller life.

The wife of Zebedee, the mother of James and John, came to Jesus, Matthew tells us, to seek places of honor for her two sons, that they might sit at the right and the left of Jesus when he would come into his kingdom. Jesus tried to explain that in his kingdom that there would be no places of honor as they are usually understood. Jesus said that all he had to offer was a cup of suffering. In the coming kingdom there would be no lording it over one another. In the kingdom to come the one who would be great would be the one who would place himself at the service of the others, even as a lackey might do. After all Jesus himself had come not to be served, as one might expect of a king, but to serve and to give his life for the many.

Father, we think we know what a priest is, what sacrifice is, what a kingdom is, what a king is, but Jesus shatters all of our preconceptions and opens up for us a radically new understanding of what it means to be human, a radically new understanding of the future. It is a future, not of self-fulfillment, as we might have thought, but a future of self-denial and service of others.

May we, Father, break out of the past, even as it has brought us to the present moment, always open to a future of constantly growing, unexpected newness of life in you and of committed service to one another.

Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

March 10: Tuesday of the Second Week of Lent

Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, Pharisees, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1912

Readings for Mass
First Reading: Isaiah 1:10, 16-20
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 50:8-9, 16-17, 21, 23
Gospel: Matthew 23:1-12

Cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow (NRSV, Isaiah 1:16b-17).

Let us pray.

Father, we first met you in our mother's womb, when you called us into life, a share in your own divine life, through your Word who would remain ever-present to us in the power of the Holy Spirit. We responded "yes" then to become human, indeed divine beings, but how, since then, we have faltered.

You share your very life with us and challenge us to share what we have with our sisters and brothers, especially those who are oppressed and in need, but instead we think first of all of our own selves and of how we can increase our material possessions and our prestige among our fellows.

Father, in the mystery of our Lord Jesus Christ, your Word made flesh in our midst, we have come to understand that you call us to die to sin and self in every moment that we may grow in your life.

May we learn, Father, to put the needs of others first, that in constant death and resurrection, we may grow in the one reality that truly matters, your divine life, which share with all who will accept it and live it out in service of one another.

Through Christ our Lord. Amen

March 9: Monday of the Second Week of Lent

Johann Eck: Lesson in Forgiveness
Christenliche Ausslegung der Euangelienn, 16th century

Monday of the Second Week of Lent

Gospel: Lk 6:36-38

Forgive, and you will be forgiven (NRSV, Lk 6:37b).

Let us pray.

Father, everything begins with you. In the order of being you are before the Word whom you beget and the Holy Spirit who proceeds from both you and the Word. We, your created daughters and sons, have received everything that we are from you through the Word. The life that we live is life in your Holy Spirit that is mediated to us through the Word. That life, as all life, has its origin in you.

Forgiveness too begins in you. When, seduced by the sin of the world and our own desires, we turn away from you, Father, to do evil; when we reject life in the Holy Spirit, always offered to us through the Word; you, Father, are, through the Word, ever present to us offering us forgiveness and new life. Every moment is for us the saving moment. It is impossible for us at any moment here in this world to put ourselves beyond the pale of grace and salvation.

Your forgiveness, Father, is freely given. It is the renewed gift of your own life, a second raft always offered, that catches us up once again in your own divine life of giving, receiving and sharing in love.

All of this is revealed to us through the Word at every moment in every place and time at the depth of our being and made manifest effectively for us in the same one act that is your being, Father, in the life, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus the Christ, the Word made flesh.

Your forgiveness then has no price. It need only be accepted by us. But once truly accepted it has its marvelous effect. To accept forgiveness from you, Father, means that we also forgive ourselves for what we have done, task not possible without your divine grace. Forgiveness of self opens the way to forgiveness of those who have sinned against us, so that divine life, mediated to us through the Word, indeed the Word made flesh, is then passed on by us to others through participation in the one mediation of the Word.

Divine life is giving, receiving and sharing in love, not only by Father, Word, and Spirit, but by all who accept your forgiveness, Lord, and take part in everything that you are.

Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

March 8: Second Sunday of Lent

Theophanes the Greek: The Transfiguration
The Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, early 15th century

Second Sunday of Lent

Gospel: Mark 9:2-9

Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them,(NRSV, Mark 9:2).

Let us pray.

Father, as his disciples followed Jesus they were nevertheless not clear about who he was nor even sure of his message. So insecure were they that they easily abandoned him at the moment of his arrest. Peter would even publicly deny him. It was only in experiencing Jesus risen from the dead, Lord, that it all began to make sense to them. As their minds opened finally to understand that the message of the kingdom of God had to do, not with an earthly, but with an otherworldly reality, to which all are called, and that Jesus had himself entered into the fullness of that kingdom in his body; only then did they begin to rethink their previous understanding of who Jesus was. Surely, they now concluded, this Jesus, whom they had followed, was truly Messiah and Lord, your very Son. They should have realized it, they argued, by his message and the power that went out from him, overcoming evil, forgiving sins and healing the sick. Indeed, your life and power, Father, were manifest in him. Of course, the disciples should have been ready for Jesus to pass through death and rise to new life.

Father, from the very beginning, the divine life that you give eternally to your Word shone out through the life of the Word made flesh. We rehearse the story of the transfiguration of Jesus on the mountain but Jesus was truly transfigured in every moment of his life. Your life, Father, given to Jesus was always manifest in him. Father, you share that same life with all of us who are ready to accept it and grow in it. Help us so to say “yes” to you that the same power that filled Jesus and went out from him to help others may also fill us and go out from us that we too may stand against all evil in the world and come to the assistance of our sisters and brothers in need. Father, enlivened and empowered by you, may we too lead transfigured lives.

Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

March 7: Saturday of the First Week of Lent

Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones: Love and the Pilgrim
The Tate Gallery, London, 1896-97

Saturday of the First Week of Lent

Gospel: Mt 5:43-48

“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 (NRSV, Mt 5:43-44).”

Let us pray.

Father, it was as you led us out of slavery in Egypt that we realized for the first time how you are God and we are your people. We learned then of the great care you have for us and how you want us to care for one another. It was at Mount Sinai, as our deliverance continued that we focused our attention on how you would have us live. We continued on our journey after Mount Sinai convinced that we were your covenanted people bound to you by the Law. The Law found expression in precepts to guide our lives, precepts attributed to you.

As we continued on from Mount Sinai we came to understand ourselves as a pilgrim people journeying towards the land of promise. We looked into our past and recognized that the journey had begun long before even with our father Abraham as he left his home in Mesopotamia, surely even before him, right from the beginning. Then your son Jesus, the Word made flesh, awakened in us the understanding which the Word has always taught us in the depth of our being, if hitherto unacknowledged, that we are on pilgrimage not towards the land at all but towards you, Father, to the fullness of the eternal life that you share with us. It is our very nature to be a people on pilgrimage, even from this world into the world to come.

All along this journey, Father, through your Word you teach us. You teach us once and for all in every moment but that teaching becomes ever more real for us as we move forward on our journey. There are certain moments that seemed privileged for our understanding, moments such as at Mt. Sinai or when Jesus taught us on the holy mountain, but every single moment contains within it the possibility of real growth. It is as we grow in your life that we grow in our grasp of what you require of us.

Just as our pilgrimage is everlasting our realization of the meaning of love is continually challenged to increase. No one understanding of love is final as there is always the possibility of growth in comprehension.

If we mistakenly conclude, Lord, that we have finally reached the open clearing of definitive knowledge, that we have at last the answers that we seek, the clearing inevitably becomes obscured in darkness and we are caught in the brambles of confusion and error. It is then that Love herself who is your Holy Spirit, prompted by your ever-present Word, beckons us forward, offering us her hand to help us on our continuing pilgrimage.

Through Christ our Lord. Amen

March 6: Friday of the First Week of Lent

Roger van der Weyden: The Archangel Michael
From the Altarpiece of the Last Judgment (detail)
Hôtel-Dieu, Beaune, 1443-46

Friday of the First Week of Lent

Reading I: Ez 18:21-28

But if the wicked turn away from all their sins that they have committed and keep all my statutes and do what is lawful and right, they shall surely live; they shall not die. None of the transgressions that they have committed shall be remembered against them (NRSV, Ez 18:21-22a).

Let us pray.

Father, so many Christians look on the final day as one of judgment in which all of one’s life will be placed on the balance and the good weighed against the evil that we have done. In the late Middle Ages there was a popular artistic representation found all through Europe with the Archangel Michael holding the scales and demons and angels struggling for the souls of the deceased.

But as I read the gospels, Father, I find there a Jesus who announces true forgiveness of sins, a forgiveness which involves a wiping away of the past and a really new beginning. Even the prophet Ezekiel tells us that, as we repent and choose to do that which is good, the past drops away forgotten. We are, Lord, what we make ourselves to be in the moment in response to your gift of forgiveness and new life.

As we accept forgiveness and begin anew we shall always be mindful of the effects of the past evil that we have done and, moved by your divine favor, we shall make every effort to correct the injustices that we have caused.

Father, we are grateful for the gift of divine forgiveness which you offer to us in every moment, even when it is not sought. May we always be ready to change our lives, to let go of our sinful past and to accept growth in your divine life so freely given. May the last day be for all of us not a time of tribulation but of great joy as we accept even more fully the life that you share with us.

Through Christ our Lord. Amen

March 5: Thursday of the First Week of Lent

Andrea del Castagno: Queen Esther
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence, 1450

Thursday of the First Week of Lent

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

Then Esther prayed to the Lord, the God of Israel, saying: "My Lord, our King, you alone are God. Help me, who am alone and have no help but you (NAB, Est C:14)."

Let us pray.

Father, in the story that we rehearse, Queen Esther, desperate to save her people from slaughter, cries out to you as her only hope. We, your people, Lord, minister to one other in our interdependence. Each of us is his own person, distinct and separate, but we depend on one other for so many things. What we often overlook is that everything that we are and everything that we have comes from you. You, Lord, are the source of all. In certain moments, however, moments that only appear more critical than others, we become aware of ourselves as alone. The usual visible supports of our daily life melt away. Perhaps, like Jesus as he underwent his passion, we are even abandoned by all. There is no place and no one to whom we may turn.

Lord, we realized that every moment is crisis; every moment is privileged; but this is a reality that we often brush aside in the coming and going of everyday experience. It is only when all else has failed and we are thrown back upon ourselves with no other human, no other force, to help, that we finally face up to what is the reality of every moment. Ultimately, Lord, you are our only help in every situation. Your help is often mediated to us by others but in the end that assistance, the life and the power that are our salvation, comes from you.
Lord, may I learn from you what you always teach me through your Word that every moment is crisis, that all that I am and all that I have comes from you and that you never abandon me, ever, but are always there for me offering me your life and power in the Spirit through your Word.

Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

March 4: Wednesday of the first Week of Lent

Michelangelo Buonarroti: Jonah
Cappella Sistina, The Vatican, 1511

Wednesday of the First Week of Lent

Reading I: Jon 3:1-10

The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time, saying, "Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you." So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord (NRSV, Jon 3:1-3).

Let us pray.

Father, I have always thought of Jonah as one who could not stand up and face the destiny to which you call us. He hoped, by fleeing to escape from your presence. But there is no escaping, Lord, not that you pursue us but that, in your Word spoken to us, you are always with us calling us to repentance, forgiveness and further growth in your life.

When Michelangelo painted Jonah on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, he envisaged a different Jonah, this one naked and daring, challenging you with rebellious contempt, but also in the process of conversion, his defiance being transformed by the elation and happiness that comes from the reacceptance of your life, Father, and renewal of the sonship that he had once affirmed in his mother’s womb.

All of us, Father, have experienced moments of behavior like those of Jonah when, succumbing to the enticements of the sin of the world or our own delights, we either try to flee from you or to stand defiant in your presence. How grateful we are that, despite what we do, you never abandon us but remain present to us in your Word always offering renewed acceptance and life.

May we, like Jonah, finally listen to your invitation and your challenge. Having allowed your forgiveness and new life to transform us in ever increasing measure, may we too bear witness to your presence and universal call to repentance and salvation to all of our sisters and brothers.

Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

March 3: Tuesday of the First Week of Lent

Christoph Weigel: Our Father Who Art in Heaven
Biblia ectypa : Bildnussen auss Heiliger Schrifft Alt und Neuen Testaments, 1695

Tuesday of the First Week of Lent

Gospel: Mt 6:7-15

“When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him (NRSV, Mt 6:7-8).”

Let us pray.

Father, we realize that you are unchanging and that everything begins in you; yet, when we pray, so often we begin by trying to get your attention and then continue by letting you know our needs and how important it is that they be fulfilled. Finally we ask you to come to our assistance, to do what you have not been doing up until that moment in order that our prayers may be answered. The matters that we pray about are often not trivial. We pray for a friend who is seriously ill even unto death. We pray for the poor and those oppressed. We pray for peace and justice throughout the world. When many of our prayers seem to go unanswered we argue that you, Lord, must have a better plan for us. Acquaintances will often argue that we did not pray seriously enough or believe intensely enough. If only we had sufficient faith, they say, then our prayers would be answered.

How foolish of us, Lord. We begin our prayers by asking you to come, to listen, as if you are not always present to us, you who have sent your Word to dwell with us, your Word who constantly challenges us to accept your Spirit and to grow in your life.

Then we explain our needs, even in great detail, as if you, Lord, did not know everything that there is to know. You are aware of our needs ever much more fully than we are ourselves.

We beg you to come to our assistance when it is you who in every moment offers us through the Word your own divine life in the Holy Spirit.

How unthinking of us, Lord, to ask you who are unchanging to change and help us (as if you were not always helping us and everyone with the fullness of your divine power at every moment).

Father when are we going to learn that pray does not change you? Prayer rather should sensitize us to the life and power that you always offer us so that we might accept it and make it our own, even share it with others in need. How grateful we should be that you respect our integrity and our freedom, that you do not belittle us by acting for us, that you never take over in our lives but in every instant empower us to act if only we would accept the gift of your life. Father, prayer does not change you. Prayer should change us.

Through Christ our Lord. Amen.