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small_groupAt the end of the Lenten faith-sharing season we invite you to take time to reflect on and evaluate your small group’s experience this past season in the context of the Paschal Mystery—the life, death, resurrection, and glorification of Jesus. Christ lived, died, rose from the dead, and returned in glory to his Father—not just for himself but for all. In this mystery he overcame death and gained eternal life on our behalf. We celebrate the Paschal Mystery in the sacraments, and we experience it ourselves when we relate to Christ our own sufferings and joys, the deaths and new births that are a part of life.
The end of the faith-sharing season is not a time to grade yourself or your group. Rather, it is a time to consider how God is at work in your ministry as a small-community leader, in the lives of the individual participants of your community, and through your community as a whole.
Here are some questions to aid your reflection on the Paschal Mystery and your small group:

  • What were the blessings that participants in your group shared? What were the group’s blessings?
  • How has the Spirit led and moved in the sharing among the members?
  • What challenges did participants in the group face? How was God at work in dealing with these challenges?
  • In what ways did your group, or members of your group, experience the Paschal Mystery—the life, suffering, death, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ? Were there illnesses, deaths, new births, or reconciliations?
  • How did group members put their faith into action? Group members may not recognize the impact of seemingly small actions such as sending a card, visiting someone in the hospital, or some other type of outreach. Don’t diminish or neglect to name such efforts. If the action was taken with love, then it matters—especially to the recipient.
  • In what ways were group members drawn closer to God and his Church?

The leader’s role is to lift up and celebrate how God is acting in the participants’ lives and in the community as a whole. Take the time to reflect, name, and savor the goodness of God as experienced in the community, and celebrate God’s presence in your group.

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“On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, ‘They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.’ So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb. They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first; he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in. When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed. For they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead” (John 20:1-9).

John’s account of Jesus’ Resurrection speaks to the tremendous power of personal witness. Mary visited the tomb, mostly likely to anoint the body, since Jesus had been buried quickly to avoid ritual defilement for Passover, but she found the tomb empty. She did not keep this information to herself but ran to Peter and the other disciple—the apostle John. Mary was not afraid to tell them what she had experienced and act on what she had witnessed. She believed in what she saw and shared it. Such trust in God is at the heart of personal witness.

We don’t know when our moment to witness to God’s love for all people will present itself. We don’t know when we will be asked to speak the truth that others may find challenging. We can, however, draw courage from Mary’s willingness to speak and to act.

We are the powerful personal witnesses to Jesus in the world. Like Mary, we are invited to continue to speak the truth of Jesus, never knowing when our words and witness might draw others closer to God.

How do you witness your faith in your daily life? How can you be a better witness to your faith?

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

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Jesus, our teacher and friend,
help us to follow you along the way of the cross.
When the mysteries of human suffering
and sinfulness overwhelm us,
invite us to live in the grace of your redemptive love.
Thus, may our lives be given over
to works of justice on the path of peace
for the life of the world.
May your promise to draw all to yourself
give us the courage to risk and the hope to proclaim
that life will triumph over death,
for the victory has been won for us
in Christ Jesus, our Lord and brother. Amen

Excerpted from Lenten Longings – Year B: For the Life of the World, available from RENEW International

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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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Loving God and Father,
we stand before you as seed that must die.
We have struggled long to hold on to ourselves;
our lofty goals, our hard-earned accomplishments,
our prized possessions, and our cherished loved ones.
But you teach us, in Jesus your Son,
that we must lose our very lives in order to find them.
We thank you for allowing us to catch glimpses of life
welling up in the midst of life’s many dyings.
Walk with us, and move within us, as we enter once again
into the Paschal Mystery of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
We pray that our lives may more and more resemble
the life-giving love of your Son.
We offer you today our YES
to all that you desire to accomplish in us,
as you draw us by bonds of love,
home to your loving Heart,
through Jesus the Christ. Amen.


Excerpted from Lenten Longings – Year B: For the Life of the World, available from RENEW International

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