Make Lent a time of love in your family. Visit goodgroundpress.com to print this free poster and hang it on your fridge. When members of your family do any of the loving and thanking actions, highlight or circle those words. By Easter you will have a 40-day history of love.
Lent encourages us to slow down so we can recognize what drives us and to fast from food and fashion that consumes us. As Sisters of St. Joseph we celebrate the feast of our patron on March 19 and take a break from Lent for festivities. Joseph is also the patron of the universal Church, so March 19 is a feast we can all claim. Joseph gives us an example of an ordinary husband and father who faces extraordinary challenges. Here is a prayer to him.
Joseph, most ordinary, on this your feast,
help us listen to our dreams with compassion and openness as you did.
Help us stretch, hold, and deepen our relationships.
Open our embrace of the future
as you opened your arms to a child not your own.
In these hard times may we, like you,
dream compassionately, provide wisely,
and build community that can hold us together.
We ask this through Jesus, whom you claimed and named. Amen.
These are the last suggestions for your Lenten cross.
- Plant heirloom or organic seeds.
- Start annuals from seed instead of buying flats at the greenhouse.
- Sort through your clothes and shoes. Donate what you don’t need.
- Minimize the electricity you use for a day. Eat by candlelight.
- Count your blessings. Develop a habit of recognizing ten a day.
- Pray for an enemy.
- Read Barbara Kingsolver’s book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, about her family’s experience of raising their own food for a year.
- The Year of Mercy continues until November 20. Read Matthew 25.31-46. Go to goodgroundpress.com for a list of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.
FAMILY AND FRIENDS
- Tell friends and family ways they matter to you.
- Make family meals or meals with friends a priority. Eat and talk together.
- Join or start a faith-sharing group or bible study.
- Participate as a family in a local spring clean-up.
Sunday Readings: Luke 19.28-40; Isaiah 50.4-7; Philippians 2.6-11; Luke 22.14-23.56
“Surely this was an innocent man.”
Luke’s passion account emphasizes Jesus’ innocence. When the crowd, the chief priests, and temple guard come to arrest Jesus, he says, “Am I a criminal that you come out after me armed with swords and clubs? When I was with you day after day in the temple, you never raised a hand against me. But this is your hour — the triumph of darkness” (22.53-53).
Pilate and Herod can find no evidence of a crime. One of the criminals crucified with Jesus insists Jesus has done nothing wrong. The centurion who is at the cross as Jesus dies expresses Luke’s view, “Surely this man was innocent.”
Innocence is a powerful agent of change. The photo of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi found drowned along the Turkish coast went viral and raised awareness of the plight of immigrants fleeing the civil war in Syria. Turning the fire hoses on children in the Montgomery bus boycott stopped the violence. We cannot justify the violence to children that we do to other adults.
How does violence against the innocent affect you?
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This Lent, I have been doing a lot of breathing exercises. My breath follows me everywhere, is a constant companion. The sound and the rhythm of my breath calms me when I am intentional about listening. It’s a built-in tool for reflection.
Focusing on my inhales and exhales, I settle into the tension and balance in the space between the two. Inhales feel like striving, reaching, growing. They bring in new life, new breath, new opportunity. Exhales feel like grounding, centering and contracting. They expel toxins and invite me to let go.
In our quest to find God, we reach and explore. We seek out the Bible and theologians, nature and friends. Sometimes I stop there. God is outside of me, and I go searching. But every inhale requires an exhale. If I believe I am made in the image of God, I have to trust that God is dwelling in me, too. In addition to turning outward and striving to find God, I have to sit still and let God find me. I have to turn inward and acknowledge the indwelling God.
What if part of the work is to find myself? And in finding myself, I will also encounter God. This is not to say that I am God. Thank goodness. I think this is part of what is scary about the turning inward. We know that we may be disappointed by what we find. We are limited. We are human. We fall short. Yet the same spirit that dwells in nature, that is alive in the scriptures also dwells inside of us all. It is a flame that benefits from kindling, from our turning inward with a quiet mind, body and heart. This Lent, in my breathing, I am honoring both the inhale and the exhale. Both the striving and grounding, both outward and inward quests. The courage to venture inward comes from the belief that I don’t have to be enough. My God is.
What’s more Catholic than fish dinners?
Did you know the fish is an ancient Christian symbol? The word for fish in Greek is ichtus, pronounced ick-toose. The word fish in Greek letters look like:
The first Christians, who were sometimes persecuted for their faith in Jesus, made an acrostic out of this word. In an acrostic, each letter is the first letter of a word.
TH God’s (the Greek word is Theos)
When Christians wanted to show someone else they followed Jesus, they might draw a fish symbol on paper or on the ground. The fish meant the person drawing it believed in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, our Savior.
So patronize your local fish dinner this Friday. Bring a neighbor or carry fish back to a shut-in person. Do it in the name of Jesus.
Choose an activity each day to keep Lent alive. Add color your your cross.
- Work in your yard. Meet and visit with neighbors.
- Plant a tomato in a large pot. Put it in a sunny spot and wait for your first BLT.
- Organize a storage area.
- Turn off the TV for the whole evening.
- Thank God for spring. Make a litany of life, using each letter of the alphabet.
- Pray for Pope Francis and the future of the Church.
- Part 6 of the Lent online retreat is on forgiveness. Do you need to forgive or be forgiven?
- Read a Gospel Reflection for March 13.
FAMILY AND FRIENDS
- Tell a family member five lovable things about him or her.
- Let go of a grudge you have held on to long enough.
- Go to a fish dinner.
- Contribute to a food shelf at church or in your neighborhood.
Last week I hear Addie Zierman talk about her book When We Were on Fire in the context of the darkness of Lent. She grew up in an Evangelical setting that pushed the metaphor of God as Light. She thought God was only real when she felt the light shining on her. God was near when she felt on fire. God was supposed to be exciting and startling, and a life of faith was supposed to be filled with mountaintop moments of light.
Then she started suffering from depression. She tried to fill her life with artificial light, which took the form of wine, television and service. Her instinct was, instead of dwelling in the darkness, to switch on the light. It didn’t keep. The darkness loomed. Consumed. It felt like her chest was filled with cement. She was living in darkness, and she couldn’t find God anywhere.
Since being diagnosed with depression, Addie has had to acknowledge that seeing God as light is just too narrow of a metaphor for her. She had to form a new theology of darkness.
She turned to the Bible to try to find God in the darkness as well as the light. In Genesis 1, we see that God and darkness were all that existed at first. God created light, but the darkness did not go away. God looked at day and night and said that it was good. Indeed, the light needs darkness. We need them both. God dwells in the light, but God is in the dark, too. When God formed a covenant with Moses, it was not in the light of the burning bush. It was at Mount Sinai, where Moses left the people to enter into the thick darkness where God was. It was there a promise was made, and it was from there, when Moses emerged from the darkness, that his face was radiant.
In the darkness of Lent, we seek Jesus in the desolate corners of our hearts. We do not look for God in the burning bush, but in the thick darkness of our neighborhoods. It is a season not to flick on the lights, but to dwell in the darkness and know that God is there with us. We hope, come Easter, when we emerge from the darkness, our faces will be radiant from our encounter as well.
When Pope Francis announced the Year of Mercy last April he said, “Wherever the Church is present, the mercy of the Father must be evident. Wherever there are Christians, everyone should find an oasis of mercy.” The Gospels for the 3rd, 4th, and 5th Sundays of Lent have vivid pictures of mercy. One more chance for the fig tree. A party for the sorrowful son, a reprieve for a sinful woman. Read the Sunday by Sunday reflections on mercy here and let God’s merciful love sink into your heart during the week.
Use any of the following Lenten practices that speak to you. Add color to your Lenten cross. Lent is half over! Easter is near.
There are only three weeks of Lent remaining. Easter is coming as sure as the earth is greening and flowers are poking up through the dirt. Take time this week to follow one or more of the Lenten practices below. Color your Lenten cross if you have downloaded one.
- Treat yourself to a flowering plant or bulb that will flower soon.
- Make plans for a garden. Get a child to help you.
- Forgive a debt.
- Remove three things from your living area – each day!
- Thank God for all you have learned from a painful failure.
- Take a page of your address book and pray for everyone there.
- Read chapter 1 of the book of Genesis. Spend the day complimenting God as you notice the “very good” work of creation around you.
- Look over the Seder supper. Gather a group of friends to celebrate a Seder meal.
FAMILY and FRIENDS
- Walk and talk with a grandchild or grandparent.
- Plan to send Easter cards.