Lent 2024

02-14-2024Reflections and Resources

“Even now, says the LORD, return to me with your whole heart…” So begins the first reading of Ash Wednesday, a reading from the Old Testament book of the prophet Joel. Just a bit later, the prophet further exhorts us to “[r]end your hearts, not your garments, and return to the Lord, your God”. And so, Lent begins with a call to return to God genuinely and wholeheartedly, a call, perhaps a reminder, which we hear every year at this time. The gospel reading for Ash Wednesday, taken from Matthew’s gospel, tells us of three ways in which we can concretely express our return to God: giving alms, praying and fasting. (You can find the Ash Wednesday readings and all the daily Mass readings at bible.usccb.org.) These three spiritual practices are often referred to as the pillars, or disciplines of Lent. Here are some thoughts about how we can carry out each of these means of returning to and encountering God.

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Advent and Christmas

11-29-2023Reflections and Resources

The liturgical season of Advent begins on December 3rd.  It’s a short season this year, having only three full weeks, as the Fourth Sunday of Advent, December 24th, is also Christmas Eve. In Advent, we prepare to celebrate Jesus’ first coming to our world, his Incarnation, on Christmas Day. In addition, we remind ourselves of our need to “be alert” for Jesus’ second coming at the end of time; the gospel on the First Sunday of Advent contains Jesus’ warning to us to be on the watch. And finally, during Advent we are especially aware of Jesus’ presence with us in our daily lives and in our Eucharist; we can truly say that we celebrate Emmanuel, God with us!

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November 2023

11-01-2023Reflections and Resources

We conclude our celebration of the Church liturgical season of Ordinary Time this month; Advent starts the first weekend of December. These last few weeks of Ordinary Time are always focused on the end times, the second coming of Jesus Christ. The gospel readings for the weekends of November 11/12, November 18/19, and November 25/26 all call us to prepare for the end of time.

On November 11/12, we have the parable of the wise and foolish young women who await the coming of the bridegroom…only the wise ones are prepared, however, and the message for us is to be ready, to be alert, for we don’t know the hour that the Lord is coming! On the next weekend, November 18/19, we hear the parable of the talents; we are admonished to use what skills and gifts we have before our Lord and Master returns.

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October 2023

10-01-2023Reflections and Resources

We continue our liturgical journey through Ordinary Time this month. We hear gospel readings on two particular Sundays which remind us that the Hebrew Scriptures (for us, the Old Testament) provided a clear backdrop for Jesus and the people of his time. On October 8 (the Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time), we are presented with the parable of the vineyard owner, whose own son was killed by the vineyard tenants when he sought to obtain his produce. Jesus, after he tells this parable, recites two verses (#s 22-23) from Psalm 118 in the Scriptures, verses which he (and we) believe describe him: “The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone…”

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September 2023

09-14-2023Reflections and Resources

Students have returned to school and we are getting back into the “academic year” rhythm of things. The Church continues its celebration of Ordinary Time, reminding us more and more about how we are to live as followers of Christ. For instance, in the gospel on the 22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time (September 3), Jesus tells us that "[w]hoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” Challenging words, for sure, but ones which are spoken by someone who knows about denial, suffering and death, someone who has “walked the walk and talked the talk”. These are words which also come with a guarantee from Jesus himself that he will always be with us. You can prepare for all of the Sunday readings at liturgy.slu.edu.

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Summer 2023

05-30-2023Reflections and Resources

Church Ordinary Time, which begins anew after the feast of Pentecost and runs until the beginning of Advent (this year, Sunday, December 3), is a time for us to settle into learning what it means to know and follow Jesus. (Note: the first round of Ordinary Time was between the end of the Christmas Season and the beginning of Lent.) We read from the gospel of Matthew this year and hear parables, stories of miracles and Jesus’ words about what it means to be his disciple. We also celebrate a couple of wonderful feasts that help us to know more about Jesus. At bible.usccb.org, the US Bishops post all of the daily readings.  You can prepare for the Sunday readings at liturgy.slu.edu, a website maintained by St. Louis University.

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Easter Season 2023

04-10-2023Reflections and Resources

Alleluia! Jesus is alive!! After spending a number of Lenten weeks walking with Jesus toward his passion and death, and commemorating the events of Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday and Good Friday, we rejoice at Easter, celebrating Jesus’ resurrection. The Gloria and Alleluias return to our worship and we are invited to share in the joy of Jesus’ new life. Imagine how the apostles felt and acted after Jesus was falsely executed as a criminal and then mysteriously, and triumphantly, rose from the dead. They must have been confused and fearful, wondering what would happen to them. However, the Scriptures tell us that they were emboldened to tell the Good News of Jesus’ life and teaching when they received the gift of Jesus’ Spirit, the sending of which we remember on Pentecost.

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Lent

03-08-2023Reflections and Resources

The liturgical season of Lent has long been associated with the preparation of catechumens (people preparing to become Christians) for the reception of the Sacraments of Initiation—Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist—at the celebration of the Easter Vigil. Lent also provides those of us who are already initiated into the Church with the opportunity to ready ourselves to deepen our commitment to our God and to each other, through the renewal of our own baptismal vows. On the Third, Fourth, and Fifth Sundays of Lent this year, we hear gospel stories which have been deliberately chosen for the catechumens. Each of these stories is from the Gospel of John; they are the story of Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well (March 12), his healing of the man born blind (March 19) as well as his raising of Lazarus to life (March 26). We, along with the catechumens, learn from these stories that Jesus is the living water, the light of the world and the resurrection and the life. What a great opportunity to understand more about who Jesus is in our own lives, and in the life of the Church!

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January/February

01-12-2023Reflections and Resources

We are now between the liturgical seasons of Christmas and Lent, celebrating the season of Ordinary Time. (The Christmas season ended on January 9 with the Baptism of the Lord, and Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, February 22.) The season of Ordinary Time gets its name from the fact that the Sundays are numbered (ordinal); the name does not imply that the season is “run-of-the-mill” or just plain and “blah”. These few weeks, and the weeks of Ordinary Time that return after the Easter Season is complete, give us the opportunity to learn about discipleship and experience Jesus’ life and teachings.

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November, a month which is dedicated to the memory of those who have passed from this life to the next.

10-27-2022Reflections and Resources

The month of November is dedicated to the memory of those who have died. It is a time for us to hold fast to the belief that when a faithful person dies, “life has changed, not ended” (Roman Missal, Preface for the Dead). Here is a 2017 article by Clare Coffey (bit.ly/CoffeyNovember) that reminds us that “[t]o mourn as a Christian is to hold both the fullness of loss and the promise of restoration at once.”  You can listen to Marty Haugen’s rendering of Psalm 23, Shepherd Me, O God at bit.ly/HaugenShepherd. Psalm 23 is a psalm of comfort for many people in the face of suffering and death.

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