MARCH 24: THIRD SUNDAY OF LENT
"If you do not repent you will all perish as they did." In today's culture, we assume, or rather presume, God's mercy will be ours. But our readings today, show that mercy is only one side of the coin. The other side of the same coin is justice. In the today's Psalm, we pray the response that the Lord is kind and merciful, but he also secures justice and the rights of all who are oppressed. St. Paul warns us today that the Lord, who is slow to anger, does indeed get angry. So, let us take the time he has given us, reflect on our lives and repent of any sin we have committed. Let us avail ourselves of God's infinite and gracious mercy, so that one day, we may inherit the Kingdom. And then, let us go and be merciful to others.
This week's resource is a series of FREE Professional Development webinars for parish ministers from Ave Maria Press. Many of you will be familiar with their publications and probably have more than one of their books on your bookshelf. On their website (https://www.avemariapress.com/webinars/parish/) , you can sign up for free upcoming webinars by authors of books Ave Maria publishes Upcoming webinars include:
Humble Leaders, Lasting Impact with Joel Stepanek, author of Chasing Humility
Pro-Life and Pro-Woman: How to Empower a Culture of Faithful Feminism with the author of Girl Arise, Claire Swinarski
Does Your Parish Need a Fresh Approach to Marriage Preparation? Presented by Dcn. Stephen Bowling, who is the director of Family Ministries for the Archdiocese of Louisville.
The 5 Habits of Prayerful People: Fresh Strategies for an Overscheduled Life by the Michael St. Pierre who has written a book on the same title.
Of course, not every webinar will appeal to every person, but in addition to the upcoming webinars that you can watch live and interact with via text, there is also a page with over 50 past webinar recordings, free for your viewing at your convenience. The archive of past webinars is available here: https://www.avemariapress.com/webinar-videos/ covering topics from Youth Ministry, Parish Leadership, Small Groups, Prayer, Scripture, Evangelization, Midlife Ministry, Faith Formation, Ministry to people with special needs, Catholic Social Teaching … every topic they have covered over the past 8 years.
Even though these are video webinars, many of them are simply people talking, so that you don't really need to watch which allows you to listen to them while doing other things. I often play one on the my phone, while I am crocheting or simply doing some house cleaning.
MARCH 17: SECOND SUNDAY OF LENT
Today's readings speak to us about promise. We receive a glimpse of heaven in both the first reading from Genesis and the recounting of the Transfiguration in the Gospel. Abraham, while in a prayerful trance, glimpses the Promised Land. The Lord promises the land to his descendants. In the Gospel, the three disciples watch Jesus at prayer and he is transfigured before them. They glimpse his glory and are so overwhelmed that they want to stay on the mountain. While on the mountain, they receive the Word of the Father: This is my chosen Son, listen to him. We, too, from time to time, receive glimpses of the Lord. Perhaps at mass, while at prayer or when reading scripture. Perhaps we see him when looking into the face of a child or grandchild, or simply when we experience the love of neighbor or friend. We must not take these glimpses for granted, but give thanks and allow them to strengthen our faith for difficult times to come.
This week's resources is a television show/podcast/website called The Journey Home which is a show created by The Coming Home Network. It is a show that airs on EWTN where those who have converted to Catholicism tell their stories. Sometimes it is a protestant minister who converted, sometimes it is a cradle Catholics returning to the faith.
Sometimes, as practicing Catholics, we can take the beauty of our faith for granted. We forget what makes our faith unique, what gifts we have in the Church, how incredibly consistent our faith is. For this reason is it wonderful to listen to stories of converts who can point out to us the wonder and awesome beauty and truth and reason in our faith. Whether they are attracted by the doctrines, or the authority, or the history, or the mystery of Catholicism, when they begin to explore the faith (sometimes for the purpose of trying to prove it wrong) they find themselves irresistibly attracted. Their enthusiasm, their wonder, and their joy at discovering the depths of Catholicism can stir into flame our own faith when we find that our faith is running a little flat.
Check out the website: https://chnetwork.org/converts/ or the EWTN YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL97DC29A06F85B07E
To download the podcast, simply look for "THE JOURNEY HOME" in your favorite podcast app.
To watch it on TV look for it on EWTN on Mondays at 8pm (it repeats Fridays at 1pm)
MARCH 10: FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT
Jesus, fully Man and fully God is tempted and is victorious over the temptation by the devil. I read somewhere once that to be human is to be tempted, but that it also gives us the opportunity to choose to do the right thing. The fact that we are tempted is a sign of our freedom to choose the right thing. And this is what freedom is, not license to do what I want, but the right to do the good. How do we deal with temptations which invariably will come into our life? Do we trust in the presence of God in our life, that he is near and that he will be with us when we are in trouble? The Lord knows our affliction and, in our struggles, asks us to depend on his grace.
MARCH 6 Ash Wednesday
It is Lent again! Be reconciled to God. Let us take time for prayer, fasting and almsgiving, but let us do so joyfully. As today's Gospel tells us: when you fast, you are not to look glum as the hypocrites do. Perform spiritual and corporal works of mercy not for others to see, but simply as a gift of self to God in response to his immense gift of our salvation, which brings us great joy. Let it be the joy of our salvation that others notice during this Lenten season.
Today's recommended resource is a new book by Fr. Damien Ference called THE STRANGENESS OF TRUTH: Vibrant Faith in a Dark World. Fr. Ference has manages to explain the faith and why it matters by connecting personal story and witness to eternal truths. Unlike most religious education texts or catechisms, this little book places such theological concepts as the Incarnation, Resurrection, Sacraments, and Suffering in the context of a life lived. Fr. Ference shows us, through the example and witness of his own life, why it matters that Christ was born, lived, suffered, died and rose and how it affects our lives directly. From an evangelization point, this book is one example of how our personal stories, connected to the teachings of the Church and the preaching of the kerygma (the initial proclamation life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ) can create a powerful witness drawing seekers to Jesus Christ and his Church.
This book would be excellent for anyone who would like to go deeper in their faith, but especially for those who may have been through religious ed classes and sacrament prep courses, but never fully understood the connection between our profession of faith and "real life". This book is for those who have ever asked such questions as why faith matters, why we need a savior, what is the point of the cross, and how can all these strange truths make a difference in my life?
This book would be a great resource for those in RCIA, young adults and older teenagers who are seeking for meaning and purpose, and for anyone who would like their faith to be integrated into all aspects of their lives and not just be an extra-curricular activity on Sunday mornings. This book also lends itself to faith sharing groups or book discussion groups. Fr. Ference has conveniently included discussion questions for each chapter in the appendix along with a short list of suggestions for further reading.
MARCH 3: EIGHTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
What kind of fruit do you produce? In today’s Gospel, Jesus reminds us that, as disciples of the Divine Master, we are called to be like him, to imitate Christ. Rather than focusing on what others do and judging their mistakes and errors, we should work diligently on correcting our own faults and make an effort to love like Jesus. If we wish our lives to be fruitful, to bear good fruit, we need to work on developing virtuous lives in order that we may witness to Christ’s love and mercy in our lives.
Lent starts on March 6: a wonderful season to reflect on how our lives imitate the life of Christ.
This week's resource is a simple aid to prayer through the posting of a weekly image. The resource is called the Angelus Project started by Sister Anne Flanagan of the Daughters of St. Paul and it consists of a weekly blogpost of a single image to reflect on as you pray the Angelus.
The goal of the was stated in the first post on May 17, 2017:
"This blog is at the service of a renewal of the practice of the Angelus by Catholics and other Christians. We all confess Jesus, born of the Virgin, as Lord and Savior: Let us proclaim and renew our faith, and invite others to do so, too."
You are probably familiar with the Angelus, but if you are not, here is a brief video:
The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary
And she conceived of the Holy Spirit.
Hail Mary, etc...
Behold the handmaid of the Lord
Be it done unto me according to Your Word.
Hail Mary, etc...
And the Word was made flesh,
And dwelt among us.
Hail Mary, etc...
Pray for us, O holy Mother of God.
That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Let us pray:
Pour forth, we beseech You, O Lord,
Your Grace into our hearts;
that as we have known the incarnation of Christ,
your Son by the message of an angel,
so by His passion and cross
we may be brought to the glory of His Resurrection.
Through the same Christ, our Lord.
Traditionally this prayer is prayed three times a day: 6am, noon, 6pm. Perhaps your parish still rings the angelus bells calling people to prayer. One of the pillars of Lent is prayer, along with fasting and almsgiving. If you are looking for a simple way to add a little prayer into your daily routine this Lent, consider adding the Angelus as a brief prayer pause in your day. If you can't hear the angelus bells, add a pleasant chime reminder on your cell phone, or simply pray it as you leave for work, for lunch, and for home.