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“At noon darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And at three o’clock, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?’ which is translated, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ Some of the bystanders who heard it said, ‘Look, he is calling Elijah.’ One of them ran, soaked a sponge with wine, put in on a reed and gave it to him to drink saying, ‘Wait, let us see if Elijah comes to take him down.’ Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. The veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom. When the centurion who stood facing him saw how he breathed his last he said, ‘Truly this man was the Son of God!’” (Mark 15:33-39)

Coming from Jesus, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” can be a troubling statement because it seems to undermine his faith in his own mission and in a God who loves him. Doesn’t Jesus know what’s to come? Doesn’t he believe that God is always with him?

We can all relate to Jesus’ cry. In our times of trial, we, too, may want to call out to God and ask why we have been abandoned. The times in our lives when we feel most vulnerable are often the times when God seems distant.

Jesus’ cry is taken from the beginning of Psalm 22. The anguish and pain of feeling alone pours out in the opening lines. Nevertheless, the author of the psalm does not turn away from God. On the contrary, he says, “you (God) are holy” (Ps 22:3) and “All the end of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD; and all the families of the nations shall worship before him” (Ps 22:27).

The psalm as a whole is not a cry of great despair and obstacles, but of great hope and faith.

Jesus does not deny the profound physical and emotional pain of his situation. But through his pain, he challenges us to identify with the author of the psalm who cries out to God and praises God in the same breath. This challenge goes to the heart of one of the great mysteries of the Christian faith: simultaneously loving a gracious God and not denying the sorrows of human life.

We are invited to remember that while pain is real, it is also temporary. But the love God has for us is eternal.

When have you experienced love coming out of a painful situation? What did it teach you?

Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International

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God of promise and power,
thank you for sending Jesus into the world
to die for me and for all
and for inviting me to be part
of the community of disciples.
I pray in gratitude
for sharing the gift of Jesus’ life,
the gift that leads to eternal life.
Give me the grace of letting go
of possessions, preoccupations, conveniences,
and security—all so that others might live more fully.
Help me to live well and more fully
by giving myself more completely to you.
Adapted from RENEW International’s LIVE LENT! Year B, available in our online bookstore.

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I recently spoke on a Friday night at a parish Stations of the Cross. The title of the Lenten series is “The Way Walkers.” I love the image of being a “way walker”—one who walks in the Way of Jesus.
St. Paul, before his conversion, took prisoners who “belonged to the Way” (Acts 9:2; 22:4). During Paul’s trial before Felix, a Roman procurator, Paul said, “I admit that I worship the God of our ancestors as a follower of the Way, which they call a sect” (Acts 24:14). Early Christianity was not a new religion but a movement within Judaism—a movement that embraced Jesus as the Christ. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6).
Wherever the early missionaries traveled, they formed small communities of believers in the Way. It was a movement that emphasized Jesus’ call to unconditional love and forgiveness and his suffering, death, and resurrection as the path to transformation. Jesus is the Son of God, but he is also “the Way”—the way of the cross which not only led Jesus from suffering and death to new life but also leads each one of us who have said yes to the Way.
Pope Francis, in one of his reflections on Lent, says, “Lent is a time when Christians are asked to return to God with all their hearts, to refuse to settle for mediocrity and to grow in friendship with the Lord.” A way walker is on the path to deeper friendship with the Lord. So, if you are not growing in friendship with the Lord this Lent and have wavered from your Lenten plan, it is time to get back on the Way.
I offer you three ways to get back on the Way:

  1. Take time for self-reflection— I have learned that to be a holy person you must practice self-reflection that leads to self-awareness. The most important way to becoming self-aware is to regularly take a long honest look at ourselves—always in light of God’s unconditional love. In our noisy and fast-paced society, we need to set aside times of quiet and allow God to enlighten and transform our hearts and minds. Literally, to take time for deep breaths—breathing in God’s love and breathing out all that keeps us from being loving and authentic persons.

  3. Keep getting back up—Jesus fell three times on the Way of the Cross. Two things strike me about his stumbling and falling—Jesus let another person help him up, and when Jesus got on his feet, he continued on the Way. Sometimes what knocks us down comes from outside of ourselves, and other times it comes from within. No matter how far along we are on the spiritual journey or how deep our friendship with God may be, we take missteps. We find ourselves stumbling and falling. The most important part of our life journey with God is to get back up. Perhaps walking humbly with God means not that we plan on falling, but that we not be surprised when we do fall.

  5. Enter fully into the suffering of life and love—If we run from pain it comes back to bite us. Even worse, it can harden our hearts and isolate us from others. One of the enlightened themes that develops in the Judeo-Christian Scriptures, and particularly those from the prophecy of Isaiah that we read during Lent, is the transformative significance of human pain and suffering. Jesus, the suffering servant, teaches us how to hold, make use of, and transform our suffering into a new kind of life instead of an old kind of death. Pain teaches a most counterintuitive thing: we must go down before we even know what up is.

We are in mid-Lent, and it is a good time to take some quiet time to talk with God about how you are doing with your Lenten promises and if and how they are helping you grow in friendship with the Lord. If you have failed in your Lenten plan, ask God for the grace to get back on the Way—for it is the only path to truth and life.
Sr. Terry Rickard is the Executive Director of RENEW International and a Dominican Sister from Blauvelt, NY.

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“Jesus answered them, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be. The Father will honor whoever serves me’” (John 12:23-26).

What does it mean to lose one’s life in order to gain it?

Throughout life, we come across people who live fearlessly because they are inspired by the conviction that they have been called to do what they do. Perhaps it is a colleague who is energized by her work. Maybe it’s a friend whose indignation at an obvious injustice has inspired him to dedicate his time to changing things. Or it is a priest or sister whose devotion to ministry comes from a deep desire to serve.

In this Gospel passage, Jesus is speaking of how we act in this world. Sometimes, we may stand out of the mainstream and seem dead. Other times, we may appear alive but are actually ignoring our core potential. Jesus is saying that we should lose the life the world wants us to have and save the life within that is given to us by God.

Think of the politician who entered public life wishing to serve, but is now afraid to answer a question honestly for fear of alienating voters. Think of the salesperson who pushes a product she knows is inferior just because it means a better commission.

What about you? Maybe you began your career with zeal and now are just concerned about accruing vacation days. Or maybe you have struggled with the pressure of choosing a vocation that will help you make a good living over the call to do something more spiritually gratifying.

When have you needed to lose something in your life in order to save the person God calls you to be?

Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International

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Loving God,
we thank you for giving Jesus in love to all people.
Your great love, that knows no bounds,
gives life to faith.
Give us the grace to accept
the gift of Jesus into our hearts
so we may be born anew.
Thank you for the gift of eternal life
that begins now as we say yes
to walking with Christ each day
and living in the unending presence of God.
Adapted from RENEW International’s LIVE LENT! Year B, available in our online bookstore.

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