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Showing posts from February, 2021

Second Sunday of Lent - February 28, 2021

Genesis 22:1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18 Romans 8:31b-34 Mark 9:2-10 “Brothers and sisters: If God is for us, who can be against us?” Up until last year, without hesitation, hearing this verse from the second reading always gave me feelings of solid comfort, unquestionable security that there is nothing that can stand in the way of God’s love for us. Of course, God’s love always prevails; no question; period. As I read this verse now, my initial reaction was quite the opposite - what isn’t against us? We have a deadly virus that has changed how we live, an extremely polarizing election year, and rising racial tensions over police shootings. The nightly news provides us with a seemingly insurmountable list of adverse forces facing us. Honestly, this has not been my best year - faith wise. Most of all my daily activities outside of home were deemed “non-essential” including helping my newly widowed mother adjust to a new retirement community, visiting hospice patients, and preparing breakfast at

Saturday of the First Week of Lent - February 27, 2021

Deuteronomy 26:16-19 Matthew 5:43-48 The common theme throughout today’s readings is the command that we observe the statutes of the Lord. If these rules are strictly followed, as today’s reading from the Old Testament says, we will be “blessed.” My early Catholic education was immersed in the Baltimore Catechism that laid out the statutes of the Church in exquisite detail. Each statute had to be strictly followed and believed as absolute truth in order for us to be worthy of being called “Catholic.” I was taught that the universe is ordered. There were no shades of gray, no room for doubt. Follow the rules and all would be right in the here and now, and in the hereafter. As the turbulent 60’s passed and the twentieth century became the twenty-first, the ordered universe of my childhood continued to unravel. Making nine First Fridays, or understanding the doctrine of the Trinity could not explain why races, nations, ideologies, and “tribes” became more polarized. Nor could it explain w

Friday of the First Week of Lent - February 26, 2021

Ezekiel 18:21-28 Matthew 5:20-26 As a mother of five young kids, there seem to be eyes on me at all times. I tend to be very hard on myself, constantly questioning my decisions and how they will play out for myself and my family down the road. When Lent rolls around every year, I like to think of it as a hard reset, a time to set new goals, grow deeper in my relationship with the Lord, develop new good habits, and, at long last, ditch those bad ones. So I’m not going to lie, when I read this fi rst reading, I had to swallow the lump in my throat and press on. “None of his virtuous deeds shall be remembered, because he has broken faith and committed sin; because of this, he shall die.”  Well, shoot! What happened to that really good day I had on Monday!? I guess my sins of Tuesday wiped them all away? There go my chances of getting into heaven. But it wasn’t until I finished all the readings that I realized there was a common theme. God is forgiving. He doesn’t judge or condemn me. As a

Thursday of the First Week of Lent - February 25, 2021

 Esther 12:14-16, 23-25 Matthew 7:7-12 It took me many prayers to get through 2020. I prayed for myself mostly. I felt sad, scared, lost, worried, and hopeless at times this year. Like Queen Esther, I felt alone with no one to turn to but the Lord. I wouldn’t say this was always my first course of action, but with so much more time to reflect this year, it seemed like a good time for spiritual growth. Early last year, my friends were sharing how they started their day and discussing how we could incorporate more prayer into our daily lives. We were asking one another how they stay connected to God with so much going on around us. One friend shared that she prays a daily novena, that is sent to her phone via email, before she even sets a foot on the ground in the morning. That was something I could do, or at least give it a try! Through my friend, I asked God how I could fi nd a way to be closer to Him and I was given the daily pause I needed to get through 2020. I love the message from

Wednesday of the First week of Lent – February 24, 2021

Jonah 3:1-10 Luke 11:29-32 The first of today’s readings is preposterous. The story about the prophet Jonah (not the story about the whale—also preposterous) concerns the conversion of Nineveh. As knuckle-headed a prophet as ever there was, God sent Jonah to the “enormously large” city to command the people to repent of their violent and evil ways, all within forty days or the city would be destroyed. He delivered this message upon his arrival…and they complied! Just like that! What’s more, the king commanded man and beast alike to fast and don sackcloth for this atonement. Sackcloth is a kind of goat-hair shirt, which must surely be a penance to wear; and Nineveh must have needed all of the goats in the Middle East to produce enough sackcloth for the city’s humans and cattle. Imagine that: penitent goats wearing goat-hair shirts. What a tall tale! Yet tall tales can tell big truths. The takeaway for me is that God gives second chances. “Who knows,” said the king, “God may relent and f

Tuesday of the First Week of Lent – February 23, 2021

Isaiah 55:10-11 Matthew 6:7-15 Reflecting on today’s readings I sense a theme of rhythms of comfort. Isaiah tells us that the rain and snow water the earth and make it fertile. The fruitful seed from the sower gives us bread to eat. And the “word that goes forth from my mouth shall not return to me void, but shall do my will,” achieving the end for which it was sent. These are things and events that reveal the rhythms of God’s plans. The Psalmist exhorts us to “extol the name of Lord, as he delivers us from our fears, look for radiant joy.” The Lord saves us from distress. When the just cry out, the Lord hears them. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. I know that the Lord is omnipresent for us if only we seek him. In the Gospel, Jesus reminds us that our Father knows what we need before we ask. Then he shows us how we are to pray. Christ’s words, that we recite in the Our Father, conclude with a condition for forgiveness of our transgressio

Monday of the First Week of Lent – February 22, 2021

1 Peter 5:1-4 Matthew 16:13-19 In our first reading today, my mind goes immediately into song-mode: “Like a shepherd He feeds His flock and gathers the lambs into His arms, holding them carefully close to His heart, leading them home.” Today Jesus teaches, “tend the flock of God in your midst, overseeing not by constraint but willingly, as God would have it...do not lord it over those assigned to you, but be examples to the flock.” The phrase “be examples to the flock” is a guiding phrase to me as I pray with this reading. This Lenten season is a wonderful time to prepare for the Chief Shepherd to be revealed. This quiet pause is a gift in the hustle and bustle of daily living to gage how we are living spiritually and preparing for his Revelation. Matthew’s Gospel marries well with the theme of Christ’s revelation through the lens of a shepherd. In today’s Gospel Jesus asks the disciples who the people say that the Son of Man is; and it is Simon who shows blind faith and trust in God t

First Sunday of Lent – February 21, 2021

Genesis 9:8-15 1 Peter 3:18-22 Mark 1:12-15 Isn’t it awesome how our God, our Creator, can use a rainbow to make a covenant (a promise) to us, through Noah’s descendants!? This is my prayer today: How gracious and generous are you, my God, to give us an earth so beautiful and bountiful, in which to learn to love and worship You! Please give me the wisdom to seek you through my love and care of all creation. My God, where is my trust in You? Teach me the ways, however small, I must love all so that love and trust can grow. Noah waited patiently, trusting in You during the building of the ark. Teach me patience in these trying times. The rainbow is always there on cue, as is Your love. I see the rainbow and remember, but so easily I forget how You accept me and forgive my failings and continue to trust us as caretakers of Your universe and all its inhabitants. This has been a very hard year to stay aware of Your promises; and therefore even more important that I listen to Your Word! Ther

Saturday after Ash Wednesday – February 20, 2021

Isaiah 58:9-14 Luke 5:27-32 In today’s gospel reading, we encounter another great insight into the healing powers of Jesus through love and acceptance. From the scripture, we see what is, at the surface, just another narrative of Jesus being inclusive and loving to people despite their troublesome pasts or unholy actions. But if you look a little deeper, you can see that there are more profound messages he wishes to convey that are still relevant even in today’s society. Levi, the tax collector that Jesus calls to him, is looked down upon as a religious outcast. Generally treated with disdain, when called upon by Jesus in a forgiving and loving way to join him in  celebration, he accepts and responds to love with love. When the Pharisees and scribes objected, distraught that Jesus would call such a sinner to his own table, Jesus answered saying, “Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do. I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners.” Some Pharis

Friday after Ash Wednesday – February 19, 2021

Isaiah 58:1-9 Matthew 9:14-15 The central theme of today’s first reading and the responsorial psalm is about humility. It would be a huge understatement to say that humility is not one of my greater virtues. As so often happens when I feel the presence of God, my first thought was that the Holy Spirit is nudging me to examine and work on this virtue in my life. Humility is difficult to define, but you know it when you see it. The dictionary I consulted defines humility as “the quality of having a modest or low view of one’s importance.” That just doesn’t work for me. I don’t think I, or any of us, are unimportant. Further, shouldn’t I feel a sense of pride when I accomplish a career goal or when my adult son makes a decision that demonstrates the character I worked so hard to instill? Then I found this other definition on Wikipedia. “In a religious context humility can mean a recognition of self in relation to a deity or deities, and subsequent submission to said deity as a member of t

Thursday after Ash Wednesday - February 18, 2021

Deuteronomy 30:15-20 Luke 9:22-25 When I first encountered the reading from Deuteronomy, I thought, “Good Grief! What happened to mercy?” But then the Psalm reading holds up hope. Today’s Gospel does not deal explicitly with love, but seems to focus on obedience. Although when Jesus tells his disciples they must “deny themselves and take up their cross,” it does open the possibility of seeing Christ in every person by denying self and extending God’s love to others. In these readings we get the impression that the consequence of not following Christ is dire. I think that consequence would be the absence of God, and having to endure a constant, yearning for God. Yet, we are leftwith the questions, “how do I do this obedience thing?” A little more about me: you need to understand that when I was in high school and college, I was  seriously thinking of a religious vocation. But the deciding factor came down to the vows one takes. I thought I could handle poverty and chastity. But obedienc

Ash Wednesday - February 17, 2021

Joel 2:12-18 2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2 Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18 In today’s Gospel from Matthew Jesus tells his disciples not to perform righteous duties (almsgiving, praying & fasting) in public where people will see them and reward them with praise. In this year of COVID-19 and political unrest I find this Gospel to be particularly relevant. The question of what true Christianity looks and acts like has been an issue in the forefront. I believe Jesus is calling us to be true to ourselves and to him. Humans crave attention and praise. Doing the three things we are called to do during Lent - almsgiving, prayer and fasting - publicly can bring us that satisfaction on the surface. We are doing “all the right things” as instructed; but, where is our heart? What are truly “all the right things”? Being true to ourselves and to God will bring us the greatest reward of all - known only to God and us – that feeling of his presence and love within us. The isolation of the pandemic has provided us w

Lent Begins Tomorrow

Tuesday, February 16, 2021 “All of us have in ourselves something of the wounded man, something of the robber, something of the passers-by, and something of the good samaritan…here, all our distinctions, labels and masks fall away: it is the moment of truth…” (Fratelli Tutti, nos. 69-70)                                                   - Pope Francis reflecting on the Story of the Good Samaritan (October 2020) Tomorrow, we begin the season of Lent. As has been our practice at Visitation for now 14 years, our Faith Formation Team has solicited reflections for each day of Lent and Triduum from members of our parish faith community. They are published in a booklet that is mailed to all registered parish households before Lent. As we did in 2020, we are also publishing the reflections on this blog. To protect the privacy of those writing the reflections in this public forum, we are not publishing names or biographical information online as we do in the print version. This blog is meant pr