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A life-changing Lent, one week at a time – Our Sunday Visitor

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Every year around this time Catholics ask the same question: “What will I do for Lent?” We know our Lenten practice should be spiritually enriching. We know it should be a sacrifice. However, we might be tempted to take on a commitment that offers us a physical benefit, too. For example, how many of us give up some kind of food with the secret hope of losing weight?
Ideally, a good Lenten practice becomes a lifelong habit. However, sadly we often count the days until we can give up our “penance.” Our celebration of Easter becomes a celebration of the fact that we can stop our Lenten routine.
If a 40-day commitment just doesn’t seem to inspire us this year, maybe we can take Lent one week at a time. Maybe we could spend six weeks exploring a variety of ways that God might be calling us — through the Gospels — to sacrifice, to pray and to give. Ways that might even make a lasting difference for us. Turn the page and see the possibilities.
Deuteronomy 26:4-10; Psalm 91:1-2, 10-11, 12-13, 14-15; Romans 10:8-13; Luke 4:1-13
TemptationTesting God
“You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.”
— Luke 4:12
If Satan would dare to test Jesus, imagine how he tries to trick us each day. One of Satan’s favorite ploys is to get us to doubt or to test God. Our world has gotten very good at challenging God. We demand to know why he lets COVID continue to rage or why innocent children must die. We don’t worry so much about how we have failed God but rather complain how God has failed us. We need to remember that God always wants the very best for us. However, sometimes the road to that good and holy spot is along a path that is as scary and lonely as a desert. But Jesus is always there with us in that desert.
How can we fast this week?
When Jesus is tempted to turn the stones into bread, he says, “One does not live on bread alone” (Lk 4:4). Maybe, we could fast by trying to give up bread not as a diet trick but rather as a reminder of how we, too, have tested or failed to trust God.
How can we pray this week?
The Divine Mercy Litany is a prayer of trusting rather than testing God. Let us try to say it every day. You can find it at daily-prayers.org/divine-mercy/the-litany/.
How can we give this week?
Our Lord’s 40 days in the desert was a time for him to be alone with his Father. Maybe we can’t give 40 days, but maybe we could find ways to carve out some extra time to be with our family — maybe extra time to visit older relatives or more time at dinner to talk with our children.
Genesis 15:5-12, 17-18; Psalm 27:1, 7-8, 8-9, 13-14; Philippians 3:17–4:1; Luke 9:28b-36
TransfigurationSeeing God’s glory
“Becoming fully awake, they saw his glory.”
— Luke 9:32
At the Transfiguration, Peter, John and James saw a fleeting glimpse of Our Lord’s amazing glory. They immediately wanted to put up some tents to mark the spot. God stopped that idea. Today, however, God’s glory is often blocked by tall structures of glass, steel and concrete. In some places, buildings make it impossible to even see the dawn or the sunset. God told Abram, “Look up at the sky and count the stars if you can” (Gn 15:5). Yet, in most metropolitan areas, too much artificial light blocks out the vast number of stars. We need to wake up to the many ways we are blocking the glory of God in our world today.
How can we fast this week?
Try to give up a little sleep or screen time to go out and see the glory of God in the heavens. Make time and find a place to walk in the dawn, bask in the sunset or gaze up at the stars in the night sky. Notice that the sun is always more glorious when there are a few clouds at dawn or dusk. So, it is in our own lives. God’s glory is more beautifully appreciated when we face our own clouds on life’s road.
How can we pray this week?
Pray for our environment. You can download Pope Francis’ powerful prayer for the environment at laudatosi.org/pope-francis/a-prayer-for-the-earth.
How can we give this week?
Donate to an organization that helps protect the glory of God’s creation. A quick internet search will show you the best rated of these environmental groups.
Exodus 17:3-7; Psalm 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9; Romans 5:1-2, 5-8; John 4:5-42
Drinking from God’s spring
“The water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
— John 4:14
A spring is a beautiful thing. Fresh, cool water endlessly bubbles up from the earth. People stop to drink from it, swim in it, be refreshed by it. Jesus promised the Samaritan woman that he would make such a spring well up in each of us. Do we appreciate this gift? Do we sit quietly and let this sacred spring refresh us, wash over us, inspire us? Do we drink from these waters of eternal life? Or are we just too busy to even think about it?
How can we fast this week?
Sadly, fresh spring water is becoming scarce and polluted in our world today. Try to fast from wasting water. Let’s use only the water we need and appreciate the great gift of it. Become more aware of the ways we waste water or let it run for no reason. Maybe take shorter but more prayerful showers.
How can we pray this week?
The psalms are the living springs of our faith — the oldest and most beautiful prayers we have, yet still fresh, bubbling and inspiring. The Sunday psalms for Lent are Psalms 91, 27, 95, 34, 126 and 22. Pray them and be refreshed by them. Then start working your way through all 150 psalms. Each is beautiful in its own way.
How can we give this week?
Let’s give the gift of water to the thirsty and food to the hungry. Most parishes regularly collect nonperishable food items for the needy. Pick up some bottled water and extra cans of soup and pasta during your weekly shopping and donate it to your parish or local food pantry. It will refresh you.
Joshua 5:9a, 10-12; Psalm 34:2-3,4-5,6-7; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21; Luke 15:1-3, 11-32
Parable of Lost sonFeasting on our own bitterness
“He refused to enter the house.”
— Luke 15:28
We all like to think of ourselves as the younger prodigal son who was warmly welcomed into the Father’s embrace. Sometimes, however, we are the older son who bitterly stands outside and refuses to go in. Or we only go into the feast begrudgingly — complaining about new procedures, policies or personalities that we do not like. Whenever we are too busy being bitter, we miss the invitation to “taste and see the goodness of the Lord” (Ps 34:9). Holding onto bitterness about anything only causes our own unhappiness. The people at the party for the younger son were having a great time. The son who stayed outside was the one who was miserable.
How can we fast this week?
Fast from all bitterness toward anyone — family, friends, strangers or the Church. Let us open our hearts and minds to accept the differences in all our brothers and sisters, realizing that God loves them all as he loves the prodigal son.
How can we pray this week?
Let us pray for those who are missing the feast for any reason. Those who are grieving, lonely, sick, suffering from addictions, or just angry at God. Pick a few people like this and pray for them by name each day. Or pray in general for all those who are too angry to come to Our Lord’s great feast.
How can we give this week?
Give forgiveness and acceptance to those who have been alienated from us for any reason. Send a note or a card. Reach out with a phone call or a text. Wash away the bitterness and enjoy a new peace.
Isaiah 43:16-21; Psalm 126:1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 6; Philippians 3:8-14; John 8:1-11
Judging others
“Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”
— John 8:7
We don’t know what Jesus wrote in the dirt. Some think it was the sins of the men who wanted to throw stones at the woman caught in adultery. But maybe Jesus was writing all of the good things the accused woman had done. After all, none of us know the full story of anyone’s life. That’s why Jesus calls us to be people of compassion — people who put ourselves in someone else’s shoes and imagine the burdens they have carried.
How can we fast this week?
Fast from avoiding those we tend to dislike. Let’s make a conscious effort to reach out to someone who annoys us. Learn their story and appreciate their struggles.
How can we pray this week?
Let us keep a rosary in our pockets. Each time we want to judge another, instead let us say a decade of the Rosary for them. Let us not pray that they change, but rather that we change. That we can open our hearts to them.
How can we give this week?
Give an open mind to all people. Let us try to find a new understanding of the way others feel. We can start by reading an article or watching a video that we normally would have skipped because it goes against our prejudices or politics. Let us look for ways to see the people we judge in a positive light. Let us open our hearts where they have been closed.
Luke 19:28-40; Isaiah 50:4-7; Psalm 22:8-9, 17-18, 19-20, 23-24; Philippians 2:6-11; Luke 22:14–23:56
Going as it has been determined
“The Son of Man indeed goes as it has been determined.”
— Luke 22:22
The Passion of Our Lord involves so much going from place to place. Jesus goes to the Mount of Olives. Then he is arrested and led back and forth all through the night to the high priest, then to Pilate, then to Herod and then back to Pilate. Eventually, Jesus is led away to be crucified. All those sad and aching steps! How exhausted Jesus must have been.
How can we fast this week?
Thinking of all the painful steps Jesus took on his way to Calvary, let us give up close parking spots. At work, church or the mall, let’s pass by the closest spots and walk a little farther with our bundles and burdens. Give the Christ in someone else the gift of a few less steps.
How can we pray this week?
In the midst of all our busy coming and going, let us pray with song. Let us fill every moment we are in the car with spiritual music. We can put together playlists of our favorite hymns or tune into a Christian radio station.
How can we give this week?
Just as Jesus was stripped of his clothes at the crucifixion, let us strip our closets of some of our shoes and clothes. Find an organization that can make good use of the things that we do not use enough and donate a large box.
Forgive me, dear Lord, for the times when I test you. Forgive me when I become angry because you do not make the world turn the way I think it should.
Help me to trust you more with each passing day.
Open my eyes to your goodness especially when I am hungry, lonely or lost.
Show me how to surrender to your holy will. Remind me that your will is always good … it is very good. Let me rest in the confidence of knowing your plan is always better than my plan, even if I cannot see that right now.
Teach me to find hope and joy in believing that you will always lead me out of every desert in my life.
Thank you for catching me when I fall and holding me in your loving arms even when I am having trouble feeling you there.
Thank you, dearest Lord.
Dear Creator of all, please help me not to miss the glory of you that surrounds me every day. Nudge me to look up and see how you paint your love in shades of rose across the clouds. Help me to marvel at the dawn, find peace in the sunset and delight in the magic of stars scattered in the dark sky.
Show me how to take just a few minutes today to appreciate the beauty of all that you have made. Help me to see you in the power of a storm and the miracle of a rainbow.
Give me joy in your glorious creation when I see flowers poking through the frozen ground and hear birds singing your praise.
Please show me how to protect and treasure all you have created for us, so that others may also see and feel the power and glory that is you, my dear God.
Thank you, dearest Lord.
Lord, I know that you are a spring of holy grace and eternal goodness that forever bubbles up within me.
Teach me to go to that spring again and again each day. Help me to immerse myself in it. Refresh me with its healing waters!
Let it wash away all that is stagnant, dry, parched or dusty in my heart and soul. May it cleanse me of the negativity that has settled into my sad, lonely, bitter and judgmental little cracks and crevices. Washed by this spring, may I sparkle and shine for you and those in my life today.
May your gurgling whisper bring peace and hope to my tired heart. May it quench my thirst.
Stop me when I try to dam up this amazing spring. Help me to bring its wonderful healing waters to the surface of my life so I may share you with others in need this day.
Thank you, dearest Lord.
Dear Lord, please help me to see when bitterness prevents me from enjoying the feast you spread before me. Let me accept your invitation to “Taste and see the goodness of the Lord” (Ps 34:9).
Please take away the negative emotions that tie me in knots. Show me how being bitter hurts me more than anyone else.
Open my heart to the gifts of others. Open my heart to joy and laughter. Open my heart to community and goodness.
Help me live each day as your invited guest, knowing that you are the one in charge of this party. You are the perfect host. You will make sure that I have all I need when I need it. You offer me kindness, mercy and gentleness. Help me to accept these great gifts and pass them along to the other guests at your vast party.
Thank you, dearest Lord.
Dear Lord, please forgive me for the times I judge others harshly. Help me, today, to give to all people the same love, patience and mercy you give to me. Help me radiate acceptance, goodness and peace to every person I encounter.
Teach me how to look with compassion on those who are different from me. Let me understand the burdens they carry and the journeys they have had to make.
Open my eyes and my heart to the ways I judge others — friends and strangers alike — without fully knowing their story.
Let all people of faith remember that you created and love those who belong to all races, all creeds, all religions. Show us how to have that same kind of open, accepting love. Help us to recognize and respect the dignity of every person.
Inspire us to put down our stones and walk away before we hurt someone. Before we hurt you, alive in each of us.
Thank you, dearest Lord.
Dear Lord, with every step I take today, please help me to remember the pain and agony of your last steps.
Thank you for coming into our world and living among us. Thank you for teaching us good and beautiful lessons. Thank you for showing us how much you truly love and care for us.
Please help me to be better at following you and going when and where you call me to go.
Show me how you still suffer every day in those who do not have the basic necessities of life, in those who are sick and in those who are handicapped.
Please lead me to offer some kindness to make this day a little brighter for someone who carries a cross much heavier than mine.
Through my giving may I make Easter more glorious in the life of someone else and in my own heart, too.
Thank you, dearest Lord.
Susan M. Erschen writes from Missouri.
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