(Joel 2:12-18; Psalm 51; 2 Corinthians 5:20 ̶ 6:2)
KEY VERSE: "When you fast you are not to look glum like the
hypocrites do" (v 16).
READING: In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus asked his disciples to examine their motives when
performing virtuous deeds. He gave three examples characteristic of Jewish
piety at the time: almsgiving (vs 1-4), prayer (vs 5-15), and fasting (vs
16-18). Jesus contrasted the hypocritical behavior of the religious leaders with
the sincere conduct he expected of his followers. Prayer should express
relationship with God. Almsgiving
should convey their solidarity with the poor. Fasting
should represent their sorrow for sin. In the Hebrew scriptures, fasting was
a gesture of mourning that was accompanied by the wearing
and placing ashes on one's head (Jdt 9:1). The prophets warned against outward
signs without interior conversion: "Rend your hearts, not your garments, and
return to the Lord" (Jl 2:13a). Fasting had no value if only done to win
the approval of others. Isaiah said that an acceptable fast should include acts of
justice toward the prisoner, poor, hungry, oppressed and homeless (Is 58:5-7).
Today, our motives in fasting should be self mortification;
to reevaluate our
calling as Christians; to listen to the voice of
Christ in the gospel; and to heed the commandments. The placing of ashes on
our foreheads is a confession
of our sinfulness, but also a sign of hope and trust in a merciful God
"slow to anger, rich in kindness and relenting in punishment" (Jl
REFLECTING: In what ways will I pray, fast and give alms this Lent?
PRAYING: Lord Jesus help me to do everything for the love of God and
Traditionally, the ashes used for Ash Wednesday come from
burning the palm fronds from the previous year’s Palm Sunday, the
Sunday before Easter. They are then blessed by a priest. Ashes are a
biblical symbol of mourning and penance used since the time of Moses
("sackcloth and ashes," Nm 19:9-10, 17-18). They also symbolize
death to remind us
of our mortality. Thus when the priest uses his thumb to
sign the faithful with ashes, he says, "Remember!
You are dust and to dust you shall return." It is also a
reminder of the joy of eternal life: "Repent, and believe
the good news!" Ashes remind us of the day of judgment when
we stand before God. To prepare well for
that day, we must die now to sin
so that we can rise to new life in Christ. Being
marked with ashes at the beginning of Lent indicates our
need for deeper conversion of our lives during this season
Fast and Abstinence Lenten
Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are obligatory
days of universal fast and abstinence. Fasting is obligatory
for all who have completed their 18th year and have not yet
reached their 60th year. Fasting allows a person to eat one
full meal. Two smaller meals may be taken, not to equal one
full meal. Abstinence (from meat) is obligatory for all who
have reached their 14th year.
Drinking of ordinary liquids does not break the fast.
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 23
(Deuteronomy 30:15-20; Psalm 1)
KEY VERSE: "If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his
cross daily and follow me" (v 23).
READING: This is Jesus' first prediction of the passion in Luke's Gospel. Peter
made his confession of faith in Jesus,
declaring him to be the "Messiah of God" (v 20).
helped his disciples understand what it meant to be God's anointed one. The
title "Messiah" had grown in popularity, and among certain groups,
it was applied to a descendant
of the royal family of David who would come to restore the kingdom of Israel
(Acts 1:6). Jesus told his followers not to reveal his true identity as many
would expect a political leader who would set Israel free from foreign
oppression. Jesus' way
through political power or world domination. His way was the way of the cross. All who wished
to follow him must imitate his example. Jesus set down three conditions for discipleship:
to regard oneself with humility, to accept the trials of life with faith, and to proclaim
the Gospel despite rejection. A disciple who wished to share eternal life with
be willing to let go of everything for the sake of the Gospel.
REFLECTING: What self-denial will I
practice this Lent?
PRAYING: Lord Jesus, give me the strength to carry my daily
throughout this Lenten journey.
Optional Memorial of Polycarp, bishop and martyr
Polycarp was a bishop of Smyrna (now İzmir in Turkey) in the
second century (ca. 69 ̶ ca.
155) . He is recognized as a saint
in both the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches. It
is recorded that "He had been a disciple of John," the
author of the Fourth Gospel. Polycarp was a companion of
Papias another "hearer of John" and a correspondent of
Ignatius of Antioch. Ignatius addressed a letter to him, and
mentions him in the letters to the Ephesians and to the
Magnesians. Polycarp's famous pupil was Irenaeus. Polycarp
fought the heresy of
Gnosticism. The Asia Minor churches recognized Polycarp's
leadership and chose him as a
representative to Pope Anicetus on the question
of the date of the Easter
celebration. Only one of the many letters written by
Polycarp has survived, the one he wrote to the Church of
Philippi in Macedonia. At 86
years of age, Polycarp was to be burned alive in a
stadium in Smyrna. The flames did
not harm him and he was finally killed by a dagger, and his
body burned. The "Acts" of Polycarp's martyrdom are the
earliest preserved reliable account of a Christian martyr's
death. When arrested, the police captain asked, "What harm
is it to say, 'Caesar is Lord,' and to offer sacrifice and
to be saved?" Polycarp answered:
"Eighty-six years have I served him and he has done me no
wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me? You
threaten me with the fire that burns for a time, and is
quickly quenched, for you do not know the fire which awaits
the wicked in the judgment to come and in everlasting
(Isaiah 58:1-9a; Psalm 51)
KEY VERSE: "People do not put new wine into old wine skins"
READING: The followers of John the Baptist were curious to know why the disciples of
Jesus did not fast as they and the Pharisees did. Jesus compared his presence among the people to a bridegroom at a marriage feast.
anticipated the Messianic banquet in which Jesus would be united with his bride,
the Church (Rv 19:7).
A wedding banquet was a time
for rejoicing, so fasting and mourning were
inappropriate. When the bridegroom was "taken away"
(through his death on the cross), then the
people would fast. Jesus said that the old ways were incompatible with the new.
Just as a worn out garment
could not be
patched with new fabric and must be discarded,
so too an
old wine skin (symbolizing the old religion)
flexible enough to contain the new and fermenting wine and
would burst. Likewise, the new ideas that Jesus came
to offer required fresh and elastic minds.
REFLECTING: How can I help others thirst for Jesus'
new wine in word and sacrament?
PRAYING: Lord Jesus, help me to grow in my
understanding of you this Lent.
(Isaiah 58:9b-14; Psalm 86)
KEY VERSE: "I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but
sinners" (v 32).
READING: Tax collectors were regarded as sinners because
they were suspected of exacting more than their due from their own people. Moreover,
they were viewed as traitors because they worked for the
government. Jesus accepted people as they were, and he invited a tax
collector named Levi
("Matthew" in Mt 9:9) to leave his post and follow him as a disciple. In gratitude, Levi
gave a banquet
in Jesus' honor and invited a large number of other people
who were considered public
sinners. When the religious
leaders criticized Jesus because of his table fellowship with so
"sinners," he told them that he had not come for those who
self-righteously believed they had no need for repentance, but for those who recognized their need to change
REFLECTING: Where do I need conversion in my life?
PRAYING: Lord Jesus, help me to see my own faults this
First Sunday of Lent
(Genesis 9:8-15; Psalm 25; 1 Peter 3:18-22)
"The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the
gospel" (v 15).
The Church marks the 40 day Lenten observance as an opportunity to make a new
beginning with God. In the bible, the desert was
a place of special encounters with God. The Israelites spent 40 years wandering
in the desert after the exodus. Elijah spent 40 days in the desert until he was
strengthened by God to resume his prophetic task. After Jesus' baptism,
the Spirit sent him into the desert to fast and pray for forty days.
There he confronted the powers of evil,
which Mark termed "the wild beasts" (v
13). In contrast to the
disobedience of God's people on their wilderness journey, Jesus rejected every temptation to earthly power. The
ways of the world were not the ways of Jesus. As
disciples of Jesus, we reject the so called wisdom of the world with its
political power and military might. In Jesus, God's kingdom
had arrived and the Messianic era had begun, a time for the restoration of all creation
(Is 11:6). Like Jesus, we must
go forth with the gospel message to repent and believe in the good news.
REFLECTING: What are the temptations
that I need to overcome this Lent?
Lord Jesus, I reject Satan, and all his works and empty
promises, so that I might live in the freedom of God's children (Renewal of
Rite of Election
During the Rite of Election
the Church formally announces the names of those who will soon celebrate the
sacraments of initiation. The ceremony may also be called "enrollment of names." Generally, the
rite of election takes place at the cathedral with the bishop. Because of the
cathedral’s limited space and sometimes remote location, parish communities
celebrate the rite at a Sunday Mass. After
the homily, a catechist may present the catechumens to the priest, who calls
them forward with their godparents and asks if the catechumens are ready. Have
they taken their formation seriously? Have they given evidence of their
conversion? Do the godparents judge them ready for the rite of election? The
questions have real significance. The
Church must verify the readiness of the catechumens. We do not baptize based
only on their desire. "There should be a deliberation prior to [the rite of
election] to decide on the catechumen’s suitableness." This is carried
out by those who help form the catechumens, by godparents, and members of the
community (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults 122). In some places, the
catechumens sign the book of the elect at the parish during the rite of sending.
In others, they sign it at the cathedral during the rite of election. The ritual
concludes with prayers for the catechumens.
This bulletin insert by Paul Turner is an excerpt of an
article originally appearing in MINISTRY &
LITURGY MAGAZINE, a pastoral planning resource
for your parish as an aid for better liturgy, Copyright by Resource Publications,
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 27
(Leviticus 19:1-2, 11-18; Psalm 19)
"Come, you who are blessed by my Father" (v
In his last discourse in Matthew's gospel,
Jesus gave an illustration
of those who were either blessed or chastised at the
final judgment. Jesus' picture was
drawn from the sheep and goats that were pastured together during the day
were separated at nightfall. He said that thee favored "sheep,"
those who would inherit
God's reign, would be placed at
his right hand (the place of authority).
"goats" would be punished for having failed to heed God's commands. The
criteria that Jesus used for this sorting out was the corporal works of mercy
shown to the poor, alienated, sick and oppressed. Christians who recognized
suffering Christ in the world's unfortunate ones would be eternally blessed by
God. St. John of the
Cross wrote: "When the evening of this life comes, we will be judged on love."
What works of mercy do I plan to do this Lent?
Lord Jesus, help me to see you in all those in need.
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 28
(Isaiah 55:10-11; Psalm 34)
KEY VERSE: "This is how you are to pray..." (v 9).
READING: Unlike the pagans who sought their god's approval by lengthy repetition
in their prayers,
Jesus taught his followers a simple prayer, which we call
"The Lord's Prayer." Jesus told his disciples that they
God as "Father," a loving parent who was intimately present and already
needs. At the same time, they were to reverence God's
name and obey the divine will
so that God's reign would be established "on earth." Just as Israel had to depend upon God's
providence during their wilderness journey (Ex 16:4,15), Jesus' disciples
were to put their trust in God on their spiritual
journey to their eternal home. God was merciful to them
when they sinned; therefore, Jesus' disciples must offer
forgiveness to others. They should pray that they would not fail God in the
REFLECTING: Do I pray the Lord's prayer with faith and
trust in God's loving care?
PRAYING: Abba Father, help me to follow your
Son each day.
THE LORD'S PRAYER BACKWARDS: A
Journey Toward Freedom Through The Exodus" by
the Lord's Prayer and experience the Exodus. It's true. If you meditate
on the Lord's Prayer - beginning with the last phrase and going
backwards to the first phrase - you move from the world of evil to the
world of the Father. You recreate, in effect, the journey of the
Israelites out of Egypt. Kay Murdy builds her provocative book on this
insight, moving in eight steps from an all-too real world to intimacy
with the Holy One. Along the way, she builds powerful connections
between Scripture and Tradition and the Old and New Testaments.
Discussion questions make this a useful tool for introducing catechumens
to the Lord's Prayer.
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WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 29
(Jonah 3:1-10; Psalm 51)
"This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will
be given it, except the sign of Jonah" (v 29).
When the people demanded a sign from Jesus as proof that his miracles were genuine,
he accused them of lacking faith.
He declared that the only sign he would give
them would be the sign of Jonah's "death and resurrection" from the belly of the fish
(Jonah 2). When Jonah was sent to preach to Nineveh in Assyria
the prophet was
astonished when these pagan people repented and turned toward God (Jon 3:1-10). Jesus
prophet greater than Jonah, yet the Gentiles were more
receptive to his message than were his own
people. Jesus noted that the Queen of Sheba had come from afar to learn the wisdom of
King Solomon (1 Kgs 10:1-10), whereas Jesus,
the wisdom of God, was spurned and rejected
even though he came from God to offer them the gift of eternal
Am I like Jonah, reluctant to speak God's words to
Lord Jesus, help me to repent
of my sins and heed your words.