Journey through Lent with our seminarian community by receiving weekly Gospel reflections written by your future parish priests. Take a few moments each week to reflect on your personal journey of prayer, fasting and almsgiving in preparation for the joy of Easter Sunday.
Holy Saturday | April 11, 2020
The fire, the many readings from Sacred Scripture, the ringing of bells, the sacrifice of our salvation made present to us in the Body and Blood of Christ—this is the celebration of the Easter Vigil. After a season of penance, we are used to rejoicing in the victory Christ won for us, that victory of the Resurrection which we someday hope to enjoy.
This year, however, in many places, this joyous night will be one of silence and restrained outward celebration as the weight of the coronavirus continues to weigh upon us. As this crown (Latin: corona) of thorns presses ever more deeply into our minds, we might be especially aware of the weight of our sufferings at this time. We might grow close to despair and think, “We can’t even celebrate Our Lord’s Resurrection in a fitting way.”
Yet, this opportunity to celebrate the Lord’s Resurrection in a silent way, reminds me of an overnight prayer vigil some of my classmates and I made at Our Lord’s Tomb last year on Mundelein’s Holy Land pilgrimage. During this time for prayer, I was blessed to pray inside Jesus’ Tomb—in silence. In a certain way, the silence of that prayerful night seems similar to that first Easter, when even the first witnesses of the Resurrection, as silence and fear swirled about them, celebrated with joyous hearts, with minds enlightened by Faith, with voices announcing the Lord’s Resurrection to their companions as though they were beautiful sounding bells.
This year, amidst our own silence and fears, let us strive to celebrate as those saints did that first Easter—with minds enlightened, hearts ablaze with joy, and in little ways proclaiming Our Lord’s Resurrection to any of our family and friends whom we might be blessed to see.
Deacon Andrew Buchanan
Diocese of Joliet
Good Friday | April 10, 2020
The atmosphere in the refectory was silent, but one could hear the tension in the air. We had just been told by our rector that due to the coronavirus pandemic our beloved Mundelein Seminary would be closed, and we would go back to our various dioceses to journey with the people of God. The refectory, which was one of the places for beautiful discussions and joyful exchanges over meals was the first place of gathering, after the rector’s announcement. To me, that Friday, March 13, was the eve to this COVID-19 journey of uncertainty and suffering that we are now experiencing. As always we gathered in the refectory, a place we had often met for meals, on that day.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, the Gospel of today – Good Friday – opens in the same way. It opens with Jesus gathering his disciples on the eve of the greatest suffering humanity has ever known. The suffering of Jesus – God made flesh among us. The Gospel of John (18:1-2), tells us that Jesus went out with his disciples to a garden where they had often met. During these uncertain times, times of suffering, fear and worries, we are compelled to gather in our homes where we have often met, we are gathered in our shared humanity with the rest of the world, to weather the storm. While the scientists, medical experts and first responders gather and are doing their very best; we, as people of faith, are also invited to gather in prayer. We are called to gather our sufferings and uncertainties at the foot of the Cross. For right there, in the depths of our suffering stands the ultimate Man of sorrow, who understands human suffering. May we hold firm to our crosses, as we look up to the saving Cross of Jesus, the author and finisher of all.
Deacon Angelbert Chikere
Diocese of San Jose
Holy Thursday | April 9, 2020
Holy Thursday marks for us the beginning of the saving events that Jesus did for us. These events are captured in three days, better known as “Triduum” (Three Day). During the Triduum, we journey with Jesus from the Last Supper with his disciples to his Resurrection. Today we start the commemoration of the Mystery of Salvation.
Today we do not only commemorate the Institution of the Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist, but we also commemorate the priesthood. In the midst of this present pandemic and given the fact that most of the Churches have their doors closed, big gatherings have been prohibited for the welfare of everyone, especially the most vulnerable. One might be led to think that the priests are doing “nothing.” On the contrary, we have experienced and seen a new awakening in the priests. These past couple of weeks we have seen Masses live-streamed on different platforms, we have seen our parish priests praying the Rosary, doing Holy Hour, praying the Divine Office, and so many other things with which they are filling up the Internet.
In today’s Gospel we see how Jesus wants to wash his disciples’ feet. We also see resistance from Peter: “you will never wash my feet.” How many times have we acted like Peter? We think that because of our sinfulness Jesus should not wash our feet either. However, it is precisely because of our sinfulness that Jesus wants to wash our feet and make us clean. For this, Jesus has left us the Priesthood and the Eucharist through which Jesus continues to wash our feet every day. The priests, like Jesus, are called to wash the feet of the people that God has entrusted to their care.
This “washing of feet” has manifested itself in a different manner in the Church today. The fact that many priests have been looking for different ways to keep in contact with us, their parishioners, reminds us that not even this virus will keep us apart from God. If we are unable to go to our church, our priests are bringing the church home through the Internet. Certainly, it is not the same, and we should not pretend it is. However, this action speaks of the fact that Jesus is with us. Jesus wants to wash our feet. Just like our priests, our baptismal priesthood is calling us to wash the feet of the ones next to us, our family members, and the people we see every day at work.
Today’s Gospel is calling us to serve, to take action, and to wash our neighbor’s feet. We can do this trusting that Jesus already washed our feet through his Death and Resurrection. One way to do this, in the present situation, is by praying for all those who are affected by the virus and all those fighting on the frontlines. I would like to take a moment and commend to the Lord all those who have died – May the Lord grant them peace.
As we enter into the great Mystery of Salvation let us ask the Lord to once more wash our feet. Let us also meditate on the great gift of the Eucharist that we have not been able to receive sacramentally in these past couple of weeks; and may our love for it grow. Lastly, let us also be thankful for our parish priests who are tirelessly working to keep our faith and hope present in our lives today.
Deacon Edgar Quiroga-ceballos
Diocese of Yakima
Palm Sunday | April 5, 2020
At least, that’s what it felt like for the Apostles. Their teacher and friend was being taken away.
The crowds who greeted him with palms, were now shouting for his execution. The Apostles, his friends, who said they would die for him, had abandoned him. And Peter, the Lord’s Prime Minister and first Pope, who promised never to betray Jesus, now denies even knowing him.
The whole world seemed out of control.
Last summer I was working at a girl’s orphanage in Perú and we had a chance to take the girls to the beach. Many for the first time.
And as the girls nervously got into the ocean water, one of the dad-chaperones from the trip stood next to them. They were up to their necks in water, but he was only waist deep. And as the waves swept them back and forth, they grabbed on to his arms.
He was their sturdy anchor in the stormy sea. Unmoved and totally in control.
Before Jesus is handed over to the enemy in the Garden of Gethsemane, and chaos descends, Peter pulls out a sword and tries to defend Jesus. He tries to restore order.
But Jesus stops him and says, “Put your sword back into its sheath…Do you think that I cannot call upon my Father and he will not provide me at this moment with more than twelve legions of angels? But then how would the Scriptures be fulfilled…”
At some point Peter bought a sword. At some point Peter stopped trusting the plan of Jesus and came up with a backup plan.
If the world feels a little out of control right now, maybe it’s time to remember who was, is, and always has been in control. Our Jesus.
We aren’t big enough to withstand the waves on our own, but if we grab onto him, we can find a sturdy anchor.
Deacon Paul Porter
Diocese of Atlanta
Fifth Sunday of Lent | March 29, 2020
When Lazarus was resurrected by Jesus, four days after his death, the idea of the resurrection was not yet widely accepted in the Old Testament. The followers of Jesus may have heard about this concept in two ancient sacred texts, one from the book of Daniel (12:1-2) and the other from the 2nd book of the Maccabees (chapter 7), which [both] mentioned the resurrection of the bodies.
Jesus wanted to prepare his disciples to accept his own resurrection from the dead. For this reason, shortly before his own passion, death, and resurrection, He arrived in Bethany in order to visit and comfort his friends and to remove the stone that lay across the grave of Lazarus.
Prior to Jesus’ miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead, Jesus told Martha “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” Then, Jesus asked Martha: Do you believe this? And she seemed to be able to understand, however, she did not. Here we must be able to recognize in her, our own uncertain attitudes of anguish and fear.
Like Martha, we have also doubted and lost hope at some point in our lives. Perhaps we believed it impossible to harbor faith while waiting in the midst of our difficulties, or thought that it was too late when we finally needed or wanted to act. Nevertheless, Jesus reminds Martha, and also reminds all of us today, that for Him it is never too late to act, to keep the faith, and to return to God, who is our source of life.
Friends, life will always be a sacred good, a precious gift from God. We understand this more clearly now when our lives are threatened by a silent virus that indiscriminately attacks and weakens the body and soul of those who contract it. –I want to stop here and offer my prayers for a quick recovery of all those facing such illness, and for their families—. Victims report symptoms such as a fever, coughing, and difficulty breathing, which are undoubtedly difficult physical and spiritual burdens for a human being to bear. These are heavy burdens that we could even compare today with the heavy stone that for several days lay across the grave of the dead Lazarus.
The good news is that Jesus not only gives us life, but also He removes from us those heavy stones that conceal our true selves, as we see in Martha, and the heavy stones that wrap us in death, as we see in Lazarus. It is our duty to trust fully in God and listen to His voice which invites us to come out of our dark and doubtful graves.
As we conclude this week our Lenten preparation for Holy Week and Easter, let us try to discover our own heavy stones loaded with worries, fears, and anxieties; heavy stones that, like the COVID 19 virus, prevent us from taking a deep breath of life, and refrain us from hearing the voice of the Lord, who calls us to come out of our physical and spiritual graves. Such heavy stones certainly take away our peace and do not let us move freely.
Notice that Jesus never gives up. Rather, Jesus is moved by the pain of His friends and does not remain impassive when they face their difficulties. He expresses his suffering without shame. Jesus even cries and suffers for His friend Lazarus, and it is precisely the pain that He experiences and endures, the source through which the God of the universe uses in order to heal our wounds, lighten our burdens and give us life again.
We must ask ourselves are we able to express our true feelings and desires to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?
Can we find God in the midst of pain and suffering?
Are we able to hear his voice, which calls us to come out of our sinful graves?
Blessed “Resurrection Sunday.”
Deacon Martin Marulanda
Archdiocese of Chicago
Fourth Sunday of Lent | March 22, 2020
On the morning of Friday, March 13 as we entered the classroom building to begin a day of classes, we were told that we were to attend an all-seminary meeting instead. We gathered in a classroom and received the news that the seminary was going to close and shift to online courses. For the deacons and those who would not return to the seminary next year, this meant we had to pack our bags and say our goodbyes. That night we gathered for one last holy hour together, falling to our knees in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament during this time of uncertainty and fear. By the end of the day, many of us had already departed for our home dioceses and parishes.
In today’s Gospel, we read, “As Jesus passed by he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’” (Jn. 9:1-2). Jesus’ answer to his disciples is poignant. “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him” (Jn. 9:3).
During this uncertain time, we may, like the disciples, seek to understand the suffering that confronts us. Notice two movements from the Gospel. First, the disciples turn to Jesus in their uncertainty. And second, Jesus does not offer a theological discourse concerning evil and suffering. Rather, he tells them that the works of God will become visible through it. During this Lenten season, Jesus is on the way to the Cross and his disciples are accompanying him. Or perhaps it is better to say that it is Jesus who is accompanying his disciples to the Cross.
Jesus likewise accompanies us in the midst of this pandemic. And so, like the disciples, we turn to Jesus with our confusion, fear, and uncertainty. And Jesus assures us that he is with us always, that his work will be made visible during this time, and that he is the light of the world, shining forth through the darkness.
Deacon Pat Gorman
Archdiocese of Chicago
Third Sunday of Lent | March 15, 2020
Lent is a time of thirst. We are wandering through this desert of our self-denial. Lent is a time when we strip away what we do not need and focus on what we truly do. This woman that we meet at the well today is thirsty for God. Little did she know that she would encounter his only son. We see that this woman wants her thirst to be quenched eternally. We want the same thing.
We celebrate the season of Lent by our self-denial so that we can have that water to drink that only comes from Christ. We do not take it for granted so much if it is all we focus on.
What do you thirst for this Lent? What is the life-giving water that you seek from Christ? We hear in the Gospel that God wants to give us this water always. If God desires to give it to us and we desire to receive it; what is stopping this from happening?
This Lent ask yourself, what is getting in your way from receiving this gift. Whatever is in your way, give it up. Offer it to God. Ask Christ to draw this water up for you. That is what Lent is. It is a time for us to set aside all that gets in the way of our relationship to God. Our relationship with God is that life-giving water. Our relationship with God is what we need to desire above all else. Ask God to help you have that desire for living water always. Let us drink from that well this Lent. If we are not there yet, let us ask for that desire. Let us drink together from that well.
Deacon Danny Orris
Diocese of Grand Rapids
Second Sunday of Lent | March 8, 2020
One of my best friends just got married this past summer and they couldn’t stop talking about how wonderful their honeymoon was. I came to realize that the point of a honeymoon is to take in the tremendous profession of love. In the book, How big is your God, Fr. Paul Coutinho says, “the man and the woman who get married go on a honeymoon to revel in this love that they have for each other, to take in the mystery and the beauty of their spouse.”
When Jesus went into the desert after his baptism, he was doing much the same thing; he was on a honeymoon with God. This Sunday being the transfiguration, Jesus heard the same words from God the Father that drove him to have this experience in the first place: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” I see this as Jesus continuing to discover God in amazing new ways. Jesus’ experience of God at his baptism, the desert and the transfiguration became the foundation for the rest of his life and sustained him through the ups and downs, all the way through his passion and death.
As we continue this Lenten journey of forty days, let us reflect on the words of Fr. Paul Coutinho, “the only thing that matters is what God says to me and what God feels toward me: I am pleased with you, my favor rests on you, my delight is in you.”
Deacon Senovio Sarabia
Diocese of Joliet
First Sunday of Lent | March 1, 2020
This Sundays Gospel reading is quite familiar. Some of us may be able to quote it verbatim. For others perhaps, images of colored pictures from your childhood bibles may come to mind of Jesus in the desert fasting and praying. And as I reflect on this reading the Holy Spirit is reminding me that Jesus, the good shepherd, is leading the way into the desert, guiding us His sheep into this season of Lent. And like a good teacher Jesus models for us what we are supposed to do in this sacred and holy place of fasting and prayer.
In the desert of temptation Jesus fasted from food, but feasted on prayer. He fasted from water yet drank from the holy scriptures. He curbed his appetites of the will by listening to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. He sharpened his courage and fortitude with the sword of truth, defeating Satan with the Word of God. He forged deeper humility in the furnace of patience and perseverance fighting off Satan’s tempting words of worldly power, honor, prestige, and empty promises. But most profoundly of all, Jesus Christ our God, who had come in the flesh has given us an example of how we His children should enter into this season of Lent. We do this just as Jesus did by fasting from food and feasting on prayer, abstaining from worldly things and drinking in holy scripture, and by asking for counsel from the Holy Spirit with open minds and hearts always ready to experience a new and deeper relationship with our loving Father. Lent is a time of silence and reflection. Even if it is only for a few minutes a day. Because this is where we enter the desert with our Lord who is waiting to hear what we have to say.
May the beginning of this years Lenten journey be one of renewed body and mind filled with the Holy Spirits burning desire for God.
May God’s blessing be upon you this Holy Sunday!
Deacon Dominic Couturier
Diocese of Grand Rapids
Ash Wednesday | February 26, 2020
Over these past years as a seminarian, I have been able to experience Ash Wednesday from many angles—in different parishes and settings, with different congregations, and as both recipient and minister. And in all these experiences, as different as they may be, the one theme that has always shone through without fail is that of humility. For me personally, humility becomes especially apparent if the minister uses the alternate formula of “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return,” as he presses ashes onto your forehead. This unique moment in the liturgy on Ash Wednesday was once described by a professor here as a moment of “humiliation” in its truest form. He reminded us that the Greek root word humus means “earth” or “ground.” And so the minister’s words coupled with the matter of ashes in the form of a cross makes for a profoundly “humiliating” moment. This lesson really stuck with me and I have recalled it every year since.
Of course, in general we understand humiliation to be a bad thing and we avoid it at all costs. We might even avoid situations or people entirely out of fear of humiliation. And this is natural. We want to be perceived well by others and we want to build our social standing. Humiliation is not fun or pleasant to endure. But fortunately for us, we have a God who is fond of transforming bad things and events so that they bear good fruit. Jesus endured the greatest humiliation on the cross, but his cross became the very means of our salvation. When we receive our humiliations, whether they be the ashes on our heads this Wednesday or otherwise, let us unite them to the cross of Christ.
Deacon Ben Johnson
Diocese of Green Bay