Tag Archives: lent

Happy St. Joseph’s Day!

19 Mar


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.

Finish coloring in your Lenten cross!

17 Mar
Click on the image to download your Lenten cross.

Click on the image to download your Lenten cross.

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.


  • 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.

Gospel Reflection for March 20, 2016, Passion/Palm Sunday

14 Mar
Photo via Flickr user Thomas Hawk

Photo via Flickr user Thomas Hawk

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 23.47)

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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And Inward

11 Mar
Photo via Flickr user Tarcio Saraiva

Photo via Flickr user Tarcio Saraiva

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.

Feed Your Spirit

10 Mar

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:

IXOYS-FishThe 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.

I        Jesus

CH   Christ

TH   God’s (the Greek word is Theos)

U      Son

S      Savior

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.


Click on the image to dowload your Lent cross.

Click on the image to download your Lent cross.

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.



  • 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.

God as Light and Darkness

4 Mar
Photo via Flickr user Wendell

Photo via Flickr user Wendell

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.

Celebrate Mercy

3 Mar
Click on the image to download your own Lenten cross.

Click on the image to download your own Lenten cross.

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.


  • Walk and talk with a grandchild or grandparent.
  • Plan to send Easter cards.


  • Skip the Easter candy and give a flock on chicks to your children or grandchildren instead. Go to heifer.org to find out how to make this gift.
  • Make an Easter gift to Catholic Charities.

Standing on the Border

26 Feb
Photo via Flickr user Mars Hill Church Seattle

Photo via Flickr user Mars Hill Church Seattle

It’s near impossible to think about Jesus as a slave, but this word is repeated in his death story enough to catch our attention. Jesus took on the form of a slave and died on the cross. People treated Jesus like he was less than human. He was disrobed and whipped and spat on and ridiculed and ultimately put to death like a common criminal. Like someone easily discarded. Like someone the world has forgotten, someone who doesn’t matter at all.

Jesus chose to really live as a human. He chose to really die as a human. He makes this brilliant move, a move our whole faith is centered around. Our God chose to die as a human slave, looking human darkness in the eye and suffering greatly so that we might love each other more deeply. He had to be a ransom. There had to be a real, tangible transaction. At the center of our faith is the cross. At the center of our faith is suffering, so at the center of our faith can be love.

Jesus’ death is hard to read about because it reminds us what we are capable of. Lent is a hard time because we have to come to grips with the darkness inside of us, the darkness in the center of society. We can say we’d never do it. We’d never put God on a cross. We’d never own another person. We can’t understand how people could make other people suffer so much for their own enjoyment.

Yet last week, Pope Francis brought our attention to injustice happening in our country on our watch. In the middle of our Republican primaries where talk of walls and immigration reform run free, Pope Francis ventured into no-man’s land between El Paso and Ciudad Juarez to pray for compassion toward immigrants before saying Mass in the Mexican border town. It was quite a moment. During his trip to Mexico and the border, he spoke of forced migration and the slavery of human trafficking, as well as poverty and corruption. It was a strategic trip with a powerful message for our country.

Sadly, slavery is still real. It still happens today on our watch in brothels, factories and fields. We support systems that value some lives over others. We are capable of putting God on a cross. Pope Francis, by standing between the US and Mexico to pray for compassion, is challenging us to look at the slavery of Jesus this Lent and reflect on its meaning for our own lives today.



Moving On In Lent

25 Feb
Click on the image to download your free Lenten cross.

Click on the image to download your free Lenten cross.

The parable of the fig tree reveals God’s hope and compassion for people. The gardener, who cares for each tree, pleads for more time and more care. Leave it for another year. A little loosening and manuring of the soil, a little more nourishment, and maybe it will bear fruit. Think this week about what fruit you want to bear.

Following are suggestions for actions to do that will add color to your Lenten cross.


  • Buy a crocus. It will remind you to notice the Earth rejuvenating itself.
  • Plant an indoor herb garden on your windowsill.


  • Fast from fast food.
  • Fast from too much television. Give a dime to Catholic Relief Services (crs.org) for every commercial you see this week.


  • Pray with the people of God as often as you can during Lent by going to daily Eucharist.
  • Wash your windows and thank God for what you see more clearly.


  • Read God’s promise to the people in Jeremiah 31.31-34. What do you want inscribed on your heart?
  • You can look up poems on the internet by searching just a few words you remember. Rediscover a poem that meant something to you in the past. Use it to pray.


  • Compliment colleagues and coworkers on ways they do their jobs and on how their work matters to the whole enterprise.
  • Talk more, or talk less.


  • Take part in a group that provides families in poverty with needed household supplies and furniture.
  • Volunteer to tutor immigrants in English.

Gospel Reflection for February 28, 2016, 3rd Sunday of Lent

23 Feb
Photo via Flickr user Nate Angell

Photo via Flickr user Nate Angell

Sunday Readings: Exodus 3.1-8, 13-15; 1 Corinthians 10.1-6, 10-12; Luke 13.1-9

“For three years now I have come looking for figs on this tree and found none. Cut it down. Why should it take up space?”

(Luke 13.7)

Jesus’ parable of the fig tree reveals God’s hope and compassion for people. The gardener who cares for each tree pleads for more time and more care. A little more hoeing and fertilizing. Maybe it will bear fruit. In announcing the Jubilee Year of Mercy, Pope Francis begins, “Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy.”

Mercy lives visibly in Jesus. As we journey with Jesus to Jerusalem this Lent, Sunday’s gospel calls us to cultivate our capacity to show mercy, to love and care for one another, to abound in kindness as God does toward us.

What or whom will you give one more chance to bear fruit in your life? What special care will this require?

If you enjoy this Gospel Reflection,
please visit the Sunday By Sunday page
to order a subscription or request a free sample.
Start a small bible study. Be a leader.
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