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“And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed. But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen and done in God” (John 3:19-21).

In Jesus’ time, light was a valued and scarce resource. Oil for lamps was expensive and carefully rationed. Moving away from the light of a village campfire was risking danger. Traveling in the darkness of night meant exposing oneself to wild animals or criminals.

For Christians around 100 AD, the metaphor of Christ as the light would have particular resonance. They frequently lived in dark times of persecution, and to attest to believing in Jesus was dangerous. They looked forward to a time when their belief in Jesus could be safely expressed in the full light of day.

Today, for those of us fortunate to live in a country where religious freedom is protected, the “darkness” we encounter manifests itself in things like greed, exploitation, violence, racism, and sexism. These aspects of life can cloud our vision and lead us to choose evil over good. Jesus lights the path for us to pierce the darkness and come into the light of goodness, truth, and faith.

Think of a dark time in your life. Who or what did you reach out to?

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

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Gracious God,
thank you for the gift of life
and for always giving me another chance
to be forgiven and renewed in faith.
Help me to clean my own house this Lent
and set my priorities according to your will.
Renew the Church,
focus us beyond ourselves,
and help us become more powerful witnesses
of peace, justice and authenticity.
Amen.
 
Adapted from RENEW International’s LIVE LENT! Year B, available in our online bookstore.

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“Since the Passover of the Jews was near, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves, as well as the money changers seated there. He made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen, and spilled the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables, and to those who sold doves he said, ‘Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace’” (John 2:13-16).

This Sunday’s reading invites us to examine the underlying tension that runs through all of the Gospels. Jesus’ mission brought him into conflict with the powerful institutions of religion and state. This tension ultimately led to Jesus’ arrest, trial, and execution.

For pious Jews in Jesus’ day, and for Jesus himself, the Temple in Jerusalem was a sacred place. It was a center of pilgrimage for Jews from all over the world, a place where ritual sacrifices and prayers were offered. The presence of money changers and merchants was common in the outer courtyard of the Temple. Pilgrims who traveled a long distance to make a ritual sacrifice would find it easier to buy an animal on the spot than to bring one from home. In order to make this purchase, they would need to change their foreign currency for the only coins accepted in the Temple.

Faith is not a matter of convenience. When religion exists solely to keep the wheels of commerce rolling or exploits the poor, it is fraudulent and disgraceful. Jesus was not an avoid-conflict-at-any-cost kind of character. He made a whip and chased the moneychangers out of the Temple.

Jesus’ actions are a reminder that Christians can, and at times should, resort to the kind of righteous anger that cries out against hypocrisy and against the exploitation of the most vulnerable.

In Jesus, Christians have a model of someone who had the courage to challenge and question. Those who claim to follow Jesus can do no less.

About what in your life have you felt justifiably angered? What action did you take?

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

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Lord God,
you entered human history
in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.
Through Jesus, you invited us
to an intimate friendship with you.
We thank you for that gift
and pray that the divine life
that is revealed to us in him
will inspire us and support us
as we carry out your will each day.
Help us to reflect your love to others
by being kinder and more affirming
to those we interact with each day.
Amen.
 
Adapted from RENEW International’s LIVE LENT! Year B, available in our online bookstore.

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“Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them; from the cloud came a voice, ‘This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.’ Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone but Jesus alone with them. As they were coming down from the mountain, he charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone, except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what rising from the dead meant”
(Mark 9:7-10).

This week’s Gospel reading offers us a brief look at God’s glory at a moment when Jesus was speaking of his coming passion, which was the focus of conversation immediately before and after the event described in this passage. Jesus had brought to this mountaintop several of the disciples, who had just learned that he would suffer, die, and, three days later, rise from the dead.. Jesus was transfigured before their eyes, and they were left awestruck. The voice of God proclaimed, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him” (Mark 9:7).

The disciples were given a glimpse of the glory of God, and then were charged with the task of listening to Jesus. They listened even as he was rejected, as he suffered, and as he was put to death. They listened to Jesus and knew that even death would not defeat him, for he would be raised from the dead. The disciples continued to listen to the risen Christ until the day they too would share fully in his glory.

Just as the disciples were charged with the task of listening to Christ, we are also invited to listen. Through the events of our lives, however ordinary or extraordinary they may be, Christ is present and calling out to us. Christ is in our walking and talking, in our daily encounters, and in our travels.

Christ is present, but are we listening?

Christ often speaks to us through those who have no voice in our world. He speaks through the poor, the elderly, the prisoner, and the immigrant. We may listen to Christ speaking through our friends and family, but do we listen to Christ in the rejected, the lonely, and the outcast?

Where or how is Christ speaking to you at this point in your life? Are you listening?

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

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Gracious God,
accompany me as I navigate the conflicts
and struggles in my life.
Help me to trust in your covenant love
and your desire to lift me up
when I stumble in the face of temptation.
Thank you for your faithful love
and for never giving up on me.
Guide me through this Lenten season
to a renewed and deeper relationship with you.
Amen.
 
Adapted from RENEW International’s LIVE LENT! Year B, available in our online bookstore.

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Generous God,
we thank you for all that you have given us.
May the fast and prayer of this holy season
help us value your gifts —
not only as blessings in our own lives
but as resources that we can
share with those who are in need
who are our sisters and brothers.
We ask this through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
Amen.
 
Adapted from RENEW International’s LIVE LENT! Year B, available in our online bookstore.

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“The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him. After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: ‘This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel’” (Mark 1:12-15).

As Lent begins, the Church enters a period of spiritual renewal leading to Easter. Lent is a time of retreat. We journey inward to places of solitude and silence to rediscover God’s love for us.

In the passage prior to this Gospel for the first Sunday of Lent, Mark writes that Jesus was baptized in the River Jordan and heard the voice confirming that his future mission was blessed by his heavenly Father.

In this passage, we read that Jesus was driven into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit to prepare for his public mission. He lived among wild beasts, and he was tempted by Satan, but angels of hope and trust ministered to him as he fasted and prayed during those forty days.

For us, there is no physical desert. Our deserts are metaphorical. They are moments of dryness in our lives that come from tensions in family life, arguments with significant others, anxiety about economic distress, war, and many other sources.

This Gospel passage invites us to recognize those times when we experience our own demons of despair, desolation, and fear as times that reveal the face of God to us in an intimate way. These are the times in which we discover our reliance on God, and that leads us to new and greater life.

What have been “desert” moments in your life that have caused you tension, stress, or despair? How has God been a part of these moments?

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

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Share this table prayer with those you will eat with on Easter Sunday.
 
Pray together:
 
Christ has risen! Alleluia!
Loving God, you who create all things
and generously give us all we need,
we praise you and thank you for being present with us now
as we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, your Son.
 
Thank you for accompanying us on our Lenten journey;
please be us during this Easter season, and always,
as we strive to live as disciples of your Son.
 
May the breaking of bread, today and every day,
remind us of the Bread of Life, Jesus Christ,
who died to atone for our sins
and rose again so that we, too, may rise
and live in your presence forever.
 
O God, bless this food and we who share it,
and be with those who cannot share it with us.
 
We ask this in the name of the same Jesus Christ,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever. Amen.
 
Alleluia! Christ has risen!
 
LiveLent
 
 
Excerpted from
Live Lent! Year A by Sr. Theresa Rickard, OP, available from RENEW International.

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We are given the Eucharist, and we must journey with Jesus to the cross.
 
Lord Jesus,
You loved us so deeply that you were
willing to love us unto death, death on a cross.
When we see brothers and sisters
who are suffering and afflicted,
let us see you, and let us respond
with a love “surpassing all understanding”—
your love. Amen.
 
LiveLent
 
 
Excerpted from
Live Lent! Year A by Sr. Theresa Rickard, OP, available from RENEW International.

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As for his beloved friend, Lazarus, Jesus is our resurrection and life.
 
God of freedom, you loose all bonds
that hold us in darkness and sin.
Heal the places where our wounds and pride
have kept us distant from you
and one another.
Free us from our tombs, O Christ. Amen.

 
LiveLent
 
 
Excerpted from
Live Lent! Year A by Sr. Theresa Rickard, OP, available from RENEW International.

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If we are receptive, Christ will heal our blindness.
 
Jesus, Son of Man,
your light shines into human life
and illuminates the places where we are blind and resistant.
Bathe us in the glow of your healing love
and free us from the darkness
that impedes us from seeing and following you. Amen.
 
LiveLent
 
 
Excerpted from
Live Lent! Year A by Sr. Theresa Rickard, OP, available from RENEW International.

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Jesus is the source of new life for the Samaritan woman and for each of us.
 
Lord Jesus, you stopped because you were thirsty
and yet we were the ones who were refreshed.
You are the living water who brings us new life.
Pour your grace into us,
and let it overflow from our cup to others
who need to be restored in your love. Amen.
 
LiveLent
 
 
Excerpted from
Live Lent! Year A by Sr. Theresa Rickard, OP, available from RENEW International.

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God calls us to listen to and believe in his Son.
 
Lord, you are with us on the mountaintops of life.
In those moments,
we glimpse the grandeur of your presence
and the splendor of your promise.
Let us hold these experiences in our hearts
even as we return to our everyday lives.
Let our sight be pure
and our hearts filled with hope this Lenten season
as we await the promised glory of your resurrection. Amen.
 
LiveLent
 
 
Excerpted from
Live Lent! Year A by Sr. Theresa Rickard, OP, available from RENEW International.

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In the “wilderness times” of our lives, our recourse is to God.
 
Lord Jesus, when I experience wilderness times,
let me never forget God’s unqualified mercy.
As I face times of testing,
give me the grace to choose life.
Guide me through this Lenten season
with a renewed desire to entrust my life into your hands. Amen.
 
LiveLent
 
 
Excerpted from
Live Lent! Year A by Sr. Theresa Rickard, OP, available from RENEW International.

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