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Daily Reflections for Lent

EASTER SUNDAY
Sunday, April 16
Rev. J. Daniel Mindling OFM Cap.
Seminary Academic Dean     

 

Missing In Action

 

“I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified. He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.” -Matthew 28:6

 

A young pilot named Frank was shot down and crash-landed in the Pacific. Others in his squadron saw him and his crew climb out, standing on the wing waving their arms. A rescue vessel was dispatched.  It arrived hours later. They found nothing. Nothing at all. No rescue. They never recovered Frank’s body. His older brother told me the story many years later. Frank’s mother’s faint hope that he had been picked up by an enemy sub gave way to empty sadness. No body. No closure. A rubbing of Frank’s name from the monument to the missing in action was all that remained. But Easter sustained that family. They had no body, no  funeral, but they believed. They were raised up by Jesus’ resurrection.  Today’s Gospel tells us about mourners who sought a body to grieve over.   They found no body. Easter faith does not deny the horror or the memory of death. Easter wipes away tears. Today the women went to the tomb overwhelmed, and left it overjoyed. All you who have journeyed this past week through the betrayal, the torture, the death and burial of Jesus, come to the empty tomb with me, these women invite you today. Do you have a loss, has death touched you, does sadness and confusion fill your heart? Come to the empty tomb with me. Has the death of sin-scarred you, has carrying the cross overwhelmed you, has hopelessness overwhelmed you? Come to the empty tomb with me.

 

 O Lord, I am here at Your empty tomb. Today give me joy as a light to dispel whatever darkness shades my world, my country, my city, my family, my heart. O Lord, I am here at Your empty tomb. Send me forth restored,  filled with hope, and overjoyed. Amen.

 

Acts 10:34a, 37-43          Ps 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23 Col 3:1-4             Mt 28:1-10

 

HOLY SATURDAY
Saturday, April 15
Dr. Christa Bucklin
Professor of Spanish

 

The Darkness Before the Dawn

 

“In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formed wasteland, and darkness covered the abyss.” - Genesis 1: 1-2

 

When Jesus had surrendered to death and was laid in the tomb, darkness again covered the earth. Christ, the Light of the World, had been extinguished and the disciples, mournful yet half-hopeful, waited in darkness. How often have we experienced the darkness in our own lives, waiting for the light at the end of the tunnel?  Darkness, as we know, can come in so many forms throughout our human journey:  doubt, sin, loneliness, disease, enmity, injustice, violence, death.  In our humanness, we can often feel overwhelmed by the crushing weight of the darkness and wonder how and when the dawn will break. We ask, what can shatter the darkness that troubles our hearts and minds and bring healing to division and suffering? What can rescue us from our fears and save us from despair? We pray and we wait… and while it is always darkest before the dawn, during the Easter Vigil the Church waits with us in anticipation of the answer. . .

 

Then, from out of the darkness:

Let there be Light!” The dawn breaks and the Church is illuminated!

Christ has risen and conquered death! 

 

“Let there be Light!” The darkness scatters and the Church rejoices!

Christ destroys divisions, disease and doubt! 

“Let there be Light!” Our hope is restored and the Church is alive!

Christ vanquishes our darkness and heals our wounds!

“The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.”      

     -John 1:5

 

Jesus, our Salvation, thank You for conquering the darkness of sin and death. We humbly ask You to shine in our hearts and minds and dispel all darkness. You are the Light of the World! Amen.

 

Gn 1:1-2:2           Ps 104: 1-2, 5-6, 10, 12, 13-14, 24, 35        1 Pet 4:1-8         Mt 27:57-66 or Jn 19:38-42

GOOD FRIDAY
Friday, April 14
FATHER THOMAS J. SMITH
Seminary Faculty, Advisor and
Assistant Spiritual Director

 

According to Your Word

 

Bottom line: Standing at the foot of the cross with Mary, we renew the pledge to God: May it be done to me according to your word.

 

This Good Friday we stand with Mary at the foot of the cross. At her side is the beloved disciple, John. Jesus first says to Mary, "Woman, behold your son." Then to the disciple who represents all the baptized, Jesus says, "Behold, your mother."

 

For Mary, this must have been a deeply emotional moment. Perhaps she recalled the first instance when she received Jesus into her womb, the moment when she said to the angel, "I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word."  She could not have guessed it would come to this. Here she was standing before her tortured Son, hearing the insults thrown at Him. Perhaps they even tossed insults at her. In that culture, one of ugliest ways to offend someone was to insult their mother. She may have asked herself, how could it come to this?

 

Like Mary, when we say yes to God's plan, we do not know where it will lead us.

 

I remember the day I pledged myself to God when first I accepted His call to be a priest. Especially on Good Friday, I remember the day of my ordination because part of the ceremony involved prostrating myself on the floor as the priest and servers do at the beginning of the Good Friday Liturgy of the Passion of the Lord. When I said “yes” to God, I did not know where it would lead. In my case, these have been overall good and happy years. For whatever reason, maybe because He knows what a coward I really am, God had mingled in my journey to the Lord’s altar some suffering so that I too could experience the cross in a unique way. I could see the cross witnessed in other people's lives whom I might serve better in the years to come. At the same time, I am aware that most of what I have suffered came because of my own failings and sins.

 

When we stand at the foot of the cross with Mary and St. John, I believe that all of us are aware to some degree of our sins. Those sins have put Jesus on the cross; He is suffering on our behalf. But we are not just aware of our faults. We recognize something much more important, the Divine Mercy. Standing before the cross, we realize that the Divine Mercy is like an ocean, an ocean that absorbs all of our pollution and corruption. Saint Pope John Paul, II, the Great, said; “Divine Mercy is the limit that God places on human evil. The ocean, immense as it is, can only absorb so much. It cannot protect us from all of our human excesses. But that is not the case with the Divine Mercy. If we turn toward Him, He will take our misery upon Himself; He will absorb the punishment our sins deserve.”

 

Now, this does not mean we merrily continue to sin, any more than we should thoughtlessly pollute the ocean and the atmosphere. What we need to do is to renew our pledge to the Lord. We could well use Mary's words, "I am the servant of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word."

 

Heavenly Father, You gave us Mary no only as the vessel by which Your Son was brought forth into this world, but as an example of faith, trust and devotion in Your Divine Mercy. Help each of us by Your Grace to be like Mary; a true disciple of Your Son, so that we can say in her words, “I am the servant of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”  We ask this through Christ Our Lord. Amen.

 

Is 52:13-53: 12   Ps 31:2, 6, 12-13, 15-17, 25   Heb 4:14-16; 5:7-9   Jn 18:1-19:42

HOLY THURSDAY
Thursday, April 13
Deacon J.D. Betzen
Seminary Class of 2017

 

Humbly Accepting Christ’s Humility

 

“He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet.” -John 13:5

 

At the beginning of John’s account of the Last Supper in today’s Gospel, Jesus is “fully aware” of what He is about to do, foreshadowing on that night the sacrifice He will make the following day. He precedes His humiliating sacrifice with a simpler, humble gesture: washing the disciples’ feet.

 

Not everyone agrees with His choice, as Peter chooses at first not to allow Jesus to serve Him in such a manner. As He soon learns, however, the proper response to Jesus’ action is an equally humble reception of the gift He makes. Peter had to say yes to Jesus in order to receive His life-changing grace!

 

Others may make the same mistake today, in two different ways. Some may proudly think themselves too good to receive Jesus’ condescending gift; they think they are not sinful enough to be in need of Jesus’ humble generosity. The opposite can also be true, some may think themselves unworthy to accept such an outpouring of grace, and they think their sins are too great to be forgiven.

 

Jesus gives a firm and clear answer to both of these in His response to Peter: “Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with Me.” Part of being a Christian disciple is humbly accepting Jesus’ humble gift of Himself.

 

Jesus, help me to receive humbly all of the graces You have generously prepared for me, especially the ones I may find difficult to accept. Amen.

 

 

Ex 12:1-4, 11-14               Ps 116: 12-13, 15-16bc, 17-18        1 Cor 11: 23-26  Jn 13:1-15

WEDNESDAY OF HOLY WEEK
Wednesday, April 12
Josey Chacko
Associate Professor of
Logistics & Supply Chain
Management, Business

 

Thirty Pieces of Bling

 

“Judas asked, “How much will you pay me to betray Jesus?’ ” -John 12:3

 

Judas settled for thirty pieces of silver; was the life of Jesus worth only this much?

 

From the Gospel, we learn that Judas was quite good with financial analysis. He was quick to evaluate the nard perfume, which was poured on Jesus’ feet by Mary, at three hundred pieces of silver. So, why was Judas offering Christ at a discounted rate? Should Judas have negotiated for more payment?

 

Though interesting, that is the wrong question. A more appropriate question would be: Judas valued Jesus at thirty pieces of silver; how about you?

 

Is Jesus calling on you today to place value on people, on friends and family? If He is, you should probably listen. He knows a thing or two about human valuation … He gave His life for you.

 

Good Shepherd, challenge me today to see humans the way You do, to value life,  relationships, and the community I share at the Mount. Today, let me stop counting the cost and start counting the blessing. Amen.

 

Is 50: 4-9a          Ps 69: 8-10, 21-22, 31, 33-34        MT: 26 14-25

TUESDAY OF HOLY WEEK
Tuesday, April 11
Sarah Bonson
Class of 2017

 

God Gives Strength to His Faithful Servants

 

“Before birth , the Lord called me.” -Isaiah 49:1

 

How beautiful is the reality of the truth we hear in the first reading today? Before you were born, the Lord knew you and called you to be a faithful servant. Not only did the Lord fashion us, but He “shielded us by His hand” (Isaiah 49:2). The Lord cares deeply about His people, who were fashioned from His very heart in His image and sent to earth as His servants. In the work of His great mission, we are called to be a “light to the nations” (Isaiah 49:6). In this mission, the Lord does not leave us. He gives strength to His children (Isaiah 49:5) and never abandons us. He did not even spare His only Son for us. Jesus, too, came to Earth as God’s servant. Through Jesus, the triune God is able to sympathize with our suffering and our triumphs. In the Gospel today, we hear that the fully human Jesus “was deeply troubled” (John 14:21) as He approached His betrayal and death on the cross. Despite His suffering to save us, Jesus’ disciples did not understand the mission or actions of Jesus, as we hear repeatedly in the Gospel (John 14:22, 24, 28). Though the purpose of Jesus’ mission seems obvious to us, the disciples did not understand what was going on in the moment. Even when we do not understand what God is asking us to do or why some things happen during our life on Earth, we will always have God as our “rock of refuge” (Psalm 71:3). From before the first moment of our earthly existence, the Lord has been our strength (Psalm 71:6). Though we may not always feel God’s presence or understand His work, He will never leave us alone.

 

Lord, help us to turn to You, our source of strength. Deliver us from our misunderstanding and teach us to be faithful servant in our time here on Earth. Amen.

Is 49:1-6              Ps 71: 1-2, 3-4a, 5ab-6ab, 15, 17          Jn 13: 21-33, 36-38

 

 

MONDAY OF HOLY WEEK
Monday, April 10
Liz Bullard
Class of 2020

 

Waiting… still waiting… God, where are You?

 

“Wait for the Lord, take courage; be stouthearted, wait for the Lord!” -Psalm 27:14

 

It can be hard to see God as a loving Father when He doesn't seem to be answering your prayers, and you feel as if He is nowhere to be found. Did He hear me? Why don't I feel anything when I pray? God, why would You let this happen? Why won’t You just tell me what You want me to do?

 

To those who are experiencing this spiritual dryness, or whose hearts are hurting while waiting for God to make His will known to them: you are not alone, and God allowed you to feel this way for a reason. Why? When you can no longer rely on your understanding and recognize that God is all you have left, you are allowing yourself to fall into the arms of Jesus, fully dependent on Him. If God is all you have, you have all that you need. The Footprints in the Sand poem perfectly demonstrates this: our faith journey is a constant walk with Jesus. When the second pair of footprints disappears, it’s not because He has deserted, or left you. He is carrying you.

 

During times filled with desolations and waiting, I have found great comfort in the song While I’m Waiting by John Waller. A few of his lyrics read:

 

                I’m waiting on You, Lord.

                Though it is painful, patiently I will wait.

                While I’m waiting, I will serve You.

                While I’m waiting, I will worship.

 

Let this be your prayer. Don’t stop giving of yourself, don't stop showing up to Mass, do not stop clinging to Jesus with every bit of strength you have left. Even if you feel like you’re just going through the motions, do it anyway. It is when we are suffering that we are closest to Christ. Unite your pain to the cross; He died for you.

 

Lord, help me to rely on You fully. Help me to trust You. Help me to understand how much You love me. Help me to know that Your plan is perfect, and so is Your timing. Amen.

 

Is 42: 1-7              Ps 27:1, 2, 3, 13-14            Heb 9:11-15        Jn 12:1-11

PALM SUNDAY
Sunday, April 9
Sean Gordon Lewis, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of English
 

God Is Dead and We Have Killed Him

 

“I am innocent of this man’s blood.” -Matthew 27: 24

 

The readings for Passion (Palm) Sunday are inexhaustibly rich, containing the most vital episode of the story of our Redemption: the loving, sacrificial death of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Christ’s death was allowed to happen by the Roman governor Pontius Pilate, and Pilate’s words are particularly worthy of consideration. Pilate clearly knows that Jesus Christ is innocent, both through his own reasoning (Matt 27:18) and through the prophetic dream of his wife (Matt 27:19).  Yet even with this knowledge, Pilate literally washes his hands of the whole affair, claiming to be innocent of the Blood of Jesus. 

 

How easy it is for us to take this stance: We are not a part of the evil and injustice that surrounds us. We surely are not guilty of the Blood of Jesus.  Our Catholic faith, however, teaches us in certain terms that we are all guilty. We cannot blame the Romans or the leaders of the   Jewish people or any other people for the death of Jesus: We are to blame.  For a believing Christian, part of Nietzsche’s nihilistic proclamation is actually true: God is dead, and we have killed Him (The Gay Science, sec. 125).

 

But God, in His superabundant love and mercy, is not content to remain dead. As we shall soon experience in the Easter Liturgy, God has raised Himself, and has given Himself the name which is above every other name (Phil. 2:9). If we die with the Lord, if we recognize our own role in His death (both the death He died once and the deaths He experiences daily in human suffering), if we repent of our sins and turn to Him, then we shall rise with Him, through suffering into glory.

 

Lord Jesus Christ, thank You for Your suffering and death to redeem me and all of the world.  Help me to recognize my own sins, to turn from them, and to participate in Your saving love by loving You and my neighbor, from this day until the days of my own death and resurrection. Amen.

 

Is 50:4-7           Ps 22: 8-9, 17-18, 19-20, 23-24   Phil 2:6-11    Mt 27:11-54 or Mt 26:14-27:66

FIFTH WEEK OF LENT
Saturday, April 8
Nicholaus Jurgensmeyer
Sem. Class of 2018

 

A Renewed Vigor for Lent

 

 

“I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” – Ez. 37:27

 

 

Lent is coming to a close and Easter is just around the corner. The first reading today gives us a renewed hope in the words “… that they may be my people and I may be their God.”  On this day we should have a renewed vigor in our Lenten practices to better anticipate Christ’s Resurrection.

 

But what does that look like today? Have we not already have been making our Lenten sacrifices for nearly forty days? As Lent moves along we can tend to forget why we are making the sacrifices in the first place. What then is purpose of our Lenten sacrifice? As it says in the first reading (Ez. 37:21-28) “No longer shall they defile themselves with their idols, their abominations, and all their transgressions. I will deliver them from all their sins of apostasy, and cleanse them so that they may be my people and I may be their God.” When we allow the idols of the world crowd our hearts, being overly distracted by technology, other people’s opinions of us, even people pleasing, we begin to make less room in our hearts for the love of Christ. 

 

The renewed vigor of our Lenten sacrifices is a reminder of how we are to cast away these idols of the world in order to make space in our hearts for God to dwell forever. 

 

Lord Jesus Christ give me the strength and courage to continue to follow you. As I look to the day of your Resurrection help me in these coming days to prepare my heart, mind, and soul for you. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen

 

Lord Jesus Christ give me the strength and courage to continue to follow you. As I look to the day of your Resurrection help me in these coming days to prepare my heart, mind, and soul for you. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

 E 37: 21-28        Jer 31: 10. 11-12abcd. 13       Jn 11: 45-56

FIFTH WEEK OF LENT
Friday, April 7
Meghan Wittmer
Class of 2018

 

Jesus Helps Us Carry Our Cross

 

“I love you Lord, my strength, Lord, my rock, my fortress, my deliverer, my God, my rock of refuge, my shield, my saving horn, my stronghold!” -Psalm 18:2-3

 

“It will be okay, don’t worry.” How many times have we heard this? How many times do we use this phrase to comfort someone we love? I believe we say it often because, in today’s world, we like to hide our sufferings, dismissing them as if they don’t matter. We don’t want others to know our wounds and, instead of talking about them, we cover them up. However, God gives us trials for a reason. They draw us closer to Him and help us bring others closer to God by sharing our trails with others. When we are going through difficult times, God calls us to rely on His strength and grace to assist us. Once the trial is over, we can look back and reflect, “God got me through that difficult time.”

 

My Mom is an amazing woman. She lost my younger sister to cancer about ten years ago and, just a week ago, she lost my Dad to cancer. Her faith in God has never faltered through it all. She has continuously placed her trust in God and accepted His will for her life, no matter how hard and difficult the situation. My Mom has taught me, and everyone that she meets, the importance of having complete trust in God’s will. She is not afraid to talk about her sufferings with others because they have helped my mother become the woman that she is today.

 

Lean on Jesus during hard times. He will help us carry our cross and follow in His footsteps until we reach the eternal glory of heaven. Hold onto Him, for He is our rock, our foundation, our stronghold, and our salvation!

 

Jesus, help me bear my sorrows for love of You, trusting that You are with me. I know that You will always be at my side, giving me the strength I need to carry my cross. Amen.

 

Jer 20:10-13        Ps 18:2-3a, 3bc-4, 5-6, 7                Jn 10:31-42

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