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Weekly Lenten Reflections from our Seminarians

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.

REFLECTION FOR THE THIRD WEEK OF LENT

Being an avid fly fisherman, I have spent countless days and nights in search of fish and solitude – from the deserts of Arizona and New Mexico to the wilderness of Idaho, Wyoming and Montana. No matter how many times I walk into these quiet and desolate places, there is always a heightened sense of awareness that accompanies it. It is peaceful, yet you are aware of the dangers that exist out there. You become sensitive to your surroundings as you listen to the wind, the leaves, the river, the birds, the animals, the gravel beneath your feet, and most importantly, your thoughts.

There is a reason why Jesus leads us into the desert for Lent, and that is to strip away the distractions of our daily life. The desert solitude gives room for us to readjust our lives towards God’s will for us. The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us “The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself. Only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for.”

Our challenge is to make Lent less about sacrifice, and more about right ordering through our Lenten practices. Lent is a beautiful gift given to us by God through his Church. It is not about losing weight or curbing our vices – both of which are good and noble things – but it’s about reordering our lives toward God, and remembering that we are made for God. Our sacrifices and almsgiving are designed to increase our conversations with God, and to remind us that Jesus is in the desert preparing himself for the march towards Jerusalem.

In the desert of Lent we can cultivate the virtuous habit of caring for God’s people. Here, during Lent, we can refocus our relationship with Jesus through acts of justice in almsgiving to those who are not as fortunate as ourselves. Our Lenten sacrifice should be an agent of justice to both God and neighbor.

The most important event in the history of the world was the Resurrection of Christ. We must not waste this time of preparation on the foolishness of this world, but focus on preparing ourselves for heaven.

Jesus meets us every Sunday with hope, and with food for the journey out of the slavery of sin and selfishness. In reflecting on today’s beautiful parable of the fig tree from the gospel of St. Luke, we can come to understand that the Eucharist is a great fruit of Christ made available through his Church. Let us cultivate ourselves in our desert and prepare to meet him.

Deacon Mark McGeary
Diocese of Des Moines, IA

REFLECTION FOR THE SECOND WEEK OF LENT

At times, we can allow darkness to consume our lives: listening to and spreading the latest and juiciest gossip, turning our backs on the least among us who desperately need assistance, or allowing a sense of apathy to keep us from actively working to help build the kingdom of God here on earth. The movie Star Wars puts it very succinctly: do not underestimate the power of the dark side. Thankfully, we have assistance in turning away from this darkness, and that assistance comes from Jesus.

Our Responsorial Psalm this Sunday declares that “The Lord is my light and my salvation.” Jesus also provides us with a glimpse into his light and glory in today’s Gospel. “While he was praying, his face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory…”

Being human and imperfect, we can sometimes find ourselves outside of Jesus’ light…walking in darkness, stumbling and colliding with the obstacles in that darkness. But we are not out of luck. We are not doomed to continue walking in darkness.

We are called to walk in the light of Jesus. We are also called to act in the light of Jesus, for in the light of Jesus we find goodness, righteousness and truth. This light that we walk in can be seen in the ways we behave and treat others. By walking and acting in the light of Jesus, we become beacons for others to join us in Jesus’ light. We help light the path for them to walk and live as children of light.

We turn to Jesus and his Church to help us find our way out of the darkness through our Lenten practices, including the sacrament of Reconciliation. These Lenten practices cleanse us and prepare us to encounter the light and glory of Jesus, just like what the disciples encountered on that mountain. In this Lenten season, let us work on rebuilding our relationship with Jesus so we may once again become children of light—walking and acting out of goodness, righteousness, and truth.

Deacon Jim Goerend
Archdiocese of Dubuque, IA

REFLECTION FOR THE FIRST WEEK OF LENT

Dear brothers and sisters, on this First Sunday of Lent, we are presented with the narrative of Jesus’s experience of temptation. If we read the preceding chapter to the Gospel today, we will notice that it wasn’t until after baptism at the Jordan river that our Lord was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted.

This is the same Lord who invites us at our baptism to come and share in His life. After our baptism, we are sent on mission by the Lord of all into the world. In the desert of this world, we encounter all kinds of experiences that draw our attention to the fact that we need help. Experiences that move our hearts toward the Lord who hears us whenever we cry out to Him for help.

Without the Lord, where else can our help come from? We are reminded again to hold onto our Lord, recognizing our dependence on His graces. Through the ministry of the New Family of God – the Community of Faith – we are nourished by God Himself. The sacraments we receive truly provide us the graces we need.

The Spirit of God is always at work in and through us, enabling us to make use of our gifts which bear lasting fruits. With these graces we proclaim our salvation as we open our hearts to the Lord and speak of His goodness.

May we continue to pray for one another in this wonderful season of spiritual renewal; that we may have the grace to grow in love as we spend ourselves for the sake of the Lord and share our gifts with others.

May God bless us with a Spirit-filled, holy, and fruitful Season of Lent. Amen.

Deacon Justin Agbir
Diocese of Tucson, AZ


REFLECTION FOR ASH WEDNESDAY

At one point in the Gospels, Jesus tells his disciples: “You are the salt of the earth” (Matt 5:13), then he sends them out to season the world with their own lives. Today the priest reminds us that “You are dust,” then he sends us out with a very strange seasoning indeed: bearers of gray ash into a culture that is too often painted with a falsely-colored palette. Our own foreheads humble us as we pass through the streets, marked men and women, forcing others to reflect on their own fragility. They may initially stare with disdain, but a glimpse of the ashen cross is penetrating and will not soon be forgotten.

“But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned?” (Matt 5:13) Tomorrow the ash will be worn away, but will the ash-bearers have lost the humility with which they were tasked to humble the world? The gray crosses are only symbols of the humility we bear: frustrated dreams, damaged marriages, chronic illnesses, unrecognized achievements, shame and guilt…. If we can resist the temptation to simply wipe away the humbling reality in our hearts like yesterday’s ashes, we open ourselves to a Lenten journey of discipleship in humility—openly bearing our recognized need for conversion into a world which fights to deny that such a need even exists, even while knowing deep down that something is terribly wrong.

So wear your ash: explicitly on this day and implicitly for the next 40. Be a catalyst for holiness by injecting your own humbling self-awareness into your relationships and encounters. Personal encounter will always be the most powerful route to Christ, whether you be the sojourner or the guide. And the more readily we bear our humility, the less likely we are to deny our need for it.

You are the ash of the earth. But if ash loses its grit, with what can it be humbled?

Father John Kartje
Rector of Mundelein Seminary