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A reading from the Book of Genesis
(Chapter 15:5-12, 17-18)
 
This is the story of God making a covenant with Abram who from then on was known as Abraham. He had a new identity and a new role as the leader of his people. All of this came about through the power of God who told Abraham, “To your descendants I give this land.” This covenant binds the Jewish people to God forever.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 27:1, 7-8, 8-9, 13-14)
 
“The Lord is my light and my salvation. Whom should I fear?” The word fear that is used here means that we have an awesome respect not a cringing, terrifying relationship with God. Many Christians have been misled into thinking that their relationship with God was primarily that negative fear instead of love. May we never fall into that trap. It has ruined the lives of many throughout the centuries.
 
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Philippians
(Chapter 3:17-4:1)
 
Everyplace Paul went there was always controversy, not only with pagans but also with his fellow Jews who were still tied to the old ways of following the Law. That was true of the Philippians, so Paul refocused them on Jesus. “Their minds are occupied with earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will change our lowly bodies to conform to his glorified body. . . . Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and my crown, in this way stand firm in the Lord.”
 
Paul, who had been a persecutor of Christians, was converted after having a personal encounter with Jesus several years after the resurrection. Paul then became the greatest of all the apostles, traveling Asia Minor and Europe, converting thousands of people to Jesus. Life was never easy for Paul but he never gave up, even when he suffered in body, mind, and spirit. May his powerful determination and courage be with us in our times of need and suffering.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke
(Chapter 9:28b-36)
 
“Jesus took Peter, John and James and went up the mountain to pray. 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 and spoke of his exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem.” The role of a mountain is important here, because God gave the Covenant to Moses on a mountain as well. Peter, John, and James were asleep and suddenly awoke and saw the two great men standing with Jesus. Peter was so taken by the power of this experience that he wanted to stay on the mountain and make three tents, one for Jesus, one for Moses, and one for Elijah. Luke tells us that Peter “did not know what he was saying.”
 
Have you ever had a powerful spiritual experience in which you felt especially close to Jesus? Maybe, like Peter, you did not want it to end, but of course, it did end, and you went about your life. Jesus gave the apostles this extraordinary experience knowing that they would suffer with him throughout the whole of his crucifixion and beyond. If you have been blessed with a special experience of God’s presence, rejoice and be glad and allow it to strengthen you for your own suffering and help you to reach your own resurrection, whenever it may occur.
 
Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved.
 
Bill Ayres was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. He has been a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years and has two weekly Sunday-night shows on WPLJ, 95.5 FM in New York. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.

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Loving God,
we put our trust in your abiding presence in our lives.
Strengthen our faith in times of adversity and suffering.
Give us a new awareness of God moments
in our everyday lives,
and help us gain
from these experiences
a deepened desire to follow your will and way.
Give us the grace to share with others
how you are working in our lives.
We ask this in the name of Jesus, the risen Lord.
Amen.

 
Adapted from RENEW International’s LIVE LENT! Year C by Sr. Terry Rickard, OP and Deacon Charles Paolino.

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God of mercy and compassion,
forgive me for the times I fall into temptation,
release and free me from the trap of sin.
Give me the grace to be a more aware
and self-reflective person,
a person who takes responsibility
for my actions and emotions
and does not project those painful emotions on others.
Help me to let go of the false gods that I cling to and
give me a deep trust in your desire
to fill the needs of my heart.
I ask this in the name of God who is a loving Father,
in Jesus, the compassion of God,
and through the Holy Spirit,
the One who makes all things new.
Amen.

 
Adapted from RENEW International’s LIVE LENT! Year C by Sr. Terry Rickard, OP and Deacon Charles Paolino.

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Jesus_desertA reading from the Book of Deuteronomy
(Chapter 26:4-10)
 
Moses gives the people a short summary of their history—the call of Abraham, their suffering in Egypt, and finally their deliverance by God, as Moses puts it, “with his strong hand and outstretched arm with terrifying power, with signs and wonders; and bringing us into this country, he gave us this land flowing with milk and honey. Therefore, I have now brought you the first fruits of the products of the soil which you O Lord have given to us.”
 
This is a powerful creed that the Jewish people have recited throughout their history, and it is part of who we are as Christians as well. In our Eucharist, we join with Jesus, who is the first fruits of God’s new covenant with his people.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 91:1-2, 10-11, 12-13, 14-15)
 
“Be with me O Lord when I am in trouble.” Later in the Psalm, God says, “I will be with him in distress.” But then God promises much more: “I will deliver him and glorify him.” That is quite a promise, and it is right there for us now, in our lives NOW.
 
Are you truly in awe of God, enthralled with his goodness, in wonder of his great creation? Or are you still caught up in the words you may have heard in your childhood: “You better be good, or God will punish you.” How you answer that question may either bring you a powerful sense of God’s peace and protection or encourage that little voice that sometimes in your head that says, “You’re not good enough.”
 
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans
(Chapter 10:8-13)
 
Paul tells the Romans, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
 
Some of our Christian brethren have believed for centuries that this is all they need, faith, to be saved. We Catholics believe that it is faith and good works that save us. Jesus gives us the gift of faith, but as with all gifts, we need to put it into practice for it to be fully accepted. We are in partnership with Jesus throughout our lives to truly live this gift.
 
When many of us were children, we were told that we needed to do certain things or avoid other things to “get to heaven.” That got things backwards. Salvation starts with a gift from God. We can’t earn it. It all starts with God, with a gift from God that we then need to accept through our words and actions.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke
(Chapter 4:1-13)
 
Here we have the famous three temptations of Jesus. It is no coincidence that they take place in a desert. Deserts have often been seen in history as dark places where danger lurks. Our spiritual ancestors, the Jewish people, were tempted several times in the desert, but God was on their side, and they ultimately made the right decisions. So, just as the people were tempted by real hunger—not the kind you and I experience but life-threatening hunger—so, too, is Jesus tempted by this most primal threat: “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” But Jesus is on a whole other level: “It is written, one does not live on bread alone.”
 
The next temptation has to do with power: “Then he took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a single instant. The devil said to him, ‘I shall give to you all this power and glory. … All this will be yours if you worship me.’ Jesus said to him in reply, “It is written, You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve.’”
 
You might think that the devil had just pulled out his best trick, his most powerful promise. But no, there was one more—the temptation about life itself and trust in God in the most sacred of all places, the parapet of the temple in Jerusalem. “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written: He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you, and with their hands they will support you lest you dash your foot against a stone. . . . Jesus said to him in reply, It also says, you shall not put the Lord, your God to the test.”
 
That was it. The devil had played his strongest card and lost. We might think Satan was defeated, but the last line says “he departed from him for a time.” As we know, the temptations of Jesus followed him to the cross.
 
Sometimes, when we have overcome a difficult temptation, we feel good about it, as well we should. However, we need to be aware that there will be more and that Jesus is there to help us navigate our own dangerous deserts.
 
Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved.
 
Bill Ayres was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. He has been a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years and has two weekly Sunday-night shows on WPLJ, 95.5 FM in New York. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.

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Lord Jesus,
your life on earth was a model of humility.
Help me to imitate you in that virtue,
showing my devotion not through
extravagant displays,
but rather through quiet
and heart-felt prayer.
Amen.

 
Adapted from RENEW International’s LIVE LENT! Year C by Sr. Terry Rickard, OP and Deacon Charles Paolino.

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