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“The Church is essentially human and divine,
visible but endowed with invisible realities…”
Sacrosanctum Concilium (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy), 2

The Catholic Church has traditionally relied upon symbols and sensual experience in order to convey the truths of its greatest mysteries including Christ’s Incarnation, his Crucifixion and Resurrection, the resurrection of the faithful at the end of time, the Real Presence of Christ in the bread and wine, the power of prayer, and the sacredness of all of creation.
The Lenten season and its liturgies provide us with ordinary elements and materials of life that point to deeper religious meanings.
Water—On the Third Sunday of Lent we hear the story of the Samaritan woman who is ultimately thirsting for new life but asks Jesus merely for a drink. He invites her to a new understanding of living water that goes beyond the literal, beyond what she can see and touch. We are reminded of the embryonic water of our mother’s womb, the baptismal water that made each of us a child of God and disciple of Christ, and the water in the font where we dip our hand as we enter the church and sign ourselves with the cross. Increase our thirst for you, O God.
Light and Darkness—On the Fourth Sunday of Lent we hear of the man born blind. There are many allusions to seeing and blindness in this reading, to choosing light or living in the dark. For many of us, judging by appearances is the primary obstacle to seeing the light. Sometimes clinging to our own partial piece of the truth and refusing to listen to God’s voice in another person highlights our blindness in everyday experiences. We need desperately to be healed of the blindness of our resistance, the prejudices that exclude others from our circles, our inability to see as God sees. Help us to see as you see, O God.
Bindings—The Fifth Sunday of Lent we meet Lazarus bound and already buried. In response to the request of his sisters, Jesus calls Lazarus forth from the grave to new life. For Christians, the cycle of dying and rising characterizes all of life. Each night we close our eyes and die to the day; each morning we rise to a new day of possibilities. Each spring we bury seeds in the ground only to see them burst forth as flowers and fruits, vegetables and grain. The risen life does not begin simply after we die. Eternal life breaks into time. There is so much more to life than we can see; there is so much more to love than we can hold; there is so much more to our intimate belonging to each other than we can contain. Symbols can help. When the eternity of God invades our mortal time-bound bodies, loosens our bindings, and sets us free, we begin to live as resurrected people. O God, set us free.
Sister Honora is the Assistant Director at RENEW and a Dominican Sister of Amityville, NY.

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That we may understand more deeply the transforming power of God active in our lives. That we may let ourselves be amazed by wonder while committed to work for justice.
God of mountaintop experiences
and God who accompanies us down the mountain,
walk with us again.
You invite us to a place apart.
Do you want to show us Jesus’ “face dazzling as the sun”?
Is it your desire that we, too, be overcome with your glory
and utterly amazed?
Place us near your Son.
Let the Spirit of Jesus shine on us
and teach us to recognize your voice
in the cries of your “beloved” poor and suffering today.
Make us people of vision,
willing to wait and suffer
until the gift of new life is available to all
your dearly loved children, our brothers and sisters.
May your vision for our world be revealed more clearly to us
as we pray and share.
Transform us through his Spirit
into your image and likeness, the Body of Christ,
still growing to full stature. Amen.

Excerpted from
Lenten Longings – Year A: Let Yourself Be…, available from RENEW International

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Lead us to greater self-understanding and to reverence anew God’s way of leading us to our deepest peace and truest potential through life’s rhythm of joy and struggle.
Tender God of the garden and the desert,
you give life graciously as overflowing gift.
You pour out your lavish grace on us
even when we see and feel you not.
Give us the courage
to let ourselves be led by you
to those places and persons
where you wait to meet us.
Open our hearts and our lives
to your quiet and unsettling stirrings.
Come to us in both the ache and the awe
of our human journeys.
In the company of one another,
deepen our faith to see
that in each discovery of our true selves,
we discover you, and each time we recognize you, our Father,
we come to know a little more of our true selves.
We place ourselves in one another’s keeping
and together praise you, through, with,
and in the Spirit of Jesus, now and forever. Amen.

Excerpted from
Lenten Longings – Year A: Let Yourself Be…, available from RENEW International

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“Lent” is an Old English word for springtime. It is an appropriate word because as the season of spring prepares the earth to break forth into new life the season of Lent is a time to prepare to break forth, spiritually, into new life. As a gardener I love this image. Removing rocks from the soil, pulling out weeds, nurturing the soil with supplements, planting something new — these all remind us that we are not perfect and are always in need of conversion, of and renewing again and again our commitment to be faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. This is the purpose of the season of Lent.
Historically, Lent was a 40-day retreat for those adults who were choosing to become committed disciples and followers of Jesus Christ. In the early church, those who wanted to become members—the catechumens—gathered for a year or two with those who were already committed to Jesus Christ. The catechumens learned the stories, participated in the Liturgy of the Word, and learned the way of being Christian. At the Easter Vigil they would be formally and completely initiated into the community. In preparation for this reception at the Easter Vigil, catechumens would enter into a more intense 40-day time of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving — Lent. On the Thursday before Easter, the community would gather with the bishop in the place of worship. As they gathered and prayed, the catechumens and a deacon would go to a place of living water (a lake or river) where they would enter the water. The deacon would submerge each catechumen’s head in the water and as he assisted the person up, would ask, “Do you believe in God the Father?” He would repeat this submerging twice more asking, “Do you believe in Jesus Christ his only Son? Do you believe in the Holy Spirit?” The catechumens would then be wrapped in white garments and brought into the waiting assembly (baptism). Here the bishop as the leader of the community would generously pour blessed oil over the head of the newly baptized adult, (origin of the sacrament of confirmation), confirming in public what had been ritualized at the water. The bishop would then continue with the liturgy. At Communion the newly baptized and confirmed persons would receive the Eucharist for the first time, completing the sacraments of initiation.
Baptism and the sacraments of initiation for adults are best celebrated at the Easter Vigil where the whole story of salvation is told (seven readings from Hebrew and Christian Scriptures) and the already baptized Christians renew their baptismal promises.
Baptism of infants is best celebrated at Sunday Mass where the community gathers.
For your reflection:
1. What are the rocks and/or weeds that you need to remove from your life this Lent? How will you do this?
2. Rather than give up something this Lent, secretly do something for someone in need.
3. Find out who is receiving the sacraments of initiation in your parish this Easter and pray for them by name; maybe send them cards telling them this.
Sister Honora is the Assistant Director at RENEW and a Dominican Sister of Amityville, NY.

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The_Road_Not_TakenSpiritual writers speak of becoming holy as “willing the one thing.” For me, this means being focused on God’s will and way and not my own. God’s will is always for us to choose the most loving and compassionate way which is often the most difficult one. Acts of self-denial are the pavers that line the path of discipleship. Lent is a season that offers us a choice of paths to follow. We can continue living as usual or we can choose to use the time to live the gospel more fully. This reminds me of one of my favorite poems, The Road
Not Taken
by Robert Frost:

I shall be telling with this sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

When the Scriptures speak of denying ourselves, they usually mean we are to deny that part of ourselves that leads to sin, to be anything other than who we truly are. Other times we deny ourselves not as an avoidance of sin but as a sacrifice out of love. Self-denial is not part of our culture’s image of the “good life.” But neither is Jesus’ call to deny oneself to be understood as self-abasement or giving up things for just for the sake of doing it. Just giving up things does not make us Christian; it will only make us bitter and empty.
Pope Francis in his Lent 2014 message reminds us: “Lent is a fitting time for self-denial; we would do well to ask ourselves what we can give up in order to help and enrich others by our own poverty. Let us not forget that real poverty hurts: no self-denial is real without this dimension of penance. I distrust a charity that costs nothing and does not hurt.”
Before making that next purchase, reacting to someone who has hurt you, looking away from the suffering eyes of a hungry child, or avoiding the grief of a neighbor or friend, ask yourself this fundamental question: Is this who God created me to be? Is this the most loving way? It is not always easy to choose the path of discipleship. We don’t know whether the poet chose the right path but we do know that for us the path of discipleship—the road of self-denial for the sake of love of God and love of neighbor—can make all the difference.
Sr. Terry is the Executive Director of RENEW International and a Dominican Sister from Blauvelt, NY.

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“Is that all there is?” asks the song of the ‘60s. It is a fact that so many are longing for more—more time, more peace, more health, etc. What is it that you long for? Lent is a time when Catholics traditionally have fasted and prayed with the hope that they would have time to think about the more important things in life. Why not try something different for Lent? In your parish, you can have the opportunity to gather in small groups of eight to ten people, once a week for six weeks starting the week of Ash Wednesday. When the small groups gather, members read Scripture, pray, and share their faith. This experience can provide more than you can imagine. You will not be sorry.
Is your heart ready to be changed? Lent is a time to change one’s heart. That is not an easy thing to do. Jesus, in the midst of activity, always took time for silence and prayer; we realize how important it is for us to do the same. Why not take some time this Lent for quiet, prayer, and sharing in a small community? The change you will find will be well worth the time.
Why small groups? That is a reasonable question as we live in a culture that is so inclined to the philosophy of individualism. There are two reasons:
First, small groups are biblical. Jesus chose his small group—the apostles
(Mark 3:14-15).
Members of the early church followed Jesus’ example. They gathered regularly in their homes for small-group fellowship (Acts 2:42).
The Apostle John stressed group fellowship (1 John 1:7). The Greek word John used for fellowship, koinonia, means much more than a kind of social interaction occurring in many fellowship halls or at church potluck suppers. It is a very intimate, life-sharing type of association. Koinonia is the sort of in-depth camaraderie Jesus shared with his disciples.
Second, scholars recommend small groups as extremely beneficial. For most of history, group life was a given. But in today’s fast-paced global society, the culture is very different. Community scholars concur in describing people in contemporary society as alienated, rootless, lonely, and lacking a sense of belonging. This is heightened because most of us will never get back to the extended family, the parish, and the village of our earlier lives. That’s why there is such a proliferation of support groups in our country for all kinds of causes—a positive development that speaks of the human need to be in community. Sociological studies and scholarly opinions support this.
For example, pastoral psychologist Robert Leslie says:
God is not found in objective law, in sterile formulas, in impersonal rules. God is found in participation, in involvement, in celebration. God is found in relationships, in encounters, in the joys and sorrows of human experience, in the give and take of dialogue. In the miracle of relatedness we discover that we are no longer strangers, but members together in a household, bound together in common loyalty to God.
What happens in small groups? In many church small groups the participants share their experiences in trying to understand and live the Word of God. They experience an openness to talk about the more important things in their lives—to listen and care, to provide support and strength. Group members experience sufficient freedom to be themselves without judgment from others. From such openness and acceptance, including prayer for one another, they experience a powerful kind of bonding or warmth that brings growth and change—a feeling of being rejuvenated.

Fr. Abraham Orapankal is pastor of St. John Neumann Parish, Califon, NJ. He is a member of the RENEW International Board of Trustees. Previously, Fr. Orapankal was a member of the RENEW International
Pastoral Services Team.

What People Are Saying About Lenten Longings
Here are some testimonies from men and women who have experienced
Lenten Longings:
Lenten Longings helped our family connect with cousins, siblings, and each other. We especially enjoyed the trust we built as a group and the singing we shared. We learned more about the importance of reading Scripture before Mass and felt more prepared for Easter as a family. Lenten Longings pushed us out of our comfort zones and challenged us to commit to action in our lives. God always gives us what we need. He provided this tie of fellowship so we could see him at work in our home and in our hearts.”
“The sharing of faith, family, and God’s presence in our lives is already making a positive difference in our daily activities.”
“We are a lively group. I am deeply impressed by the quality of the members’ responses which I find highly spiritual and thought-provoking. We have had such a profound spiritual experience; we now feel we have a much closer tie with the parish community, with each other, and most specially a greater love for our God.”
“The faith sharing has been very helpful in that the readings become more relevant and actionable when discussed from different viewpoints. These are some of the actions that our group has put based on the Lenten Longings experience:
-Greet someone new at church on Sundays. Stay a little longer after Mass to talk
to people.
-Send in food items that are in high demand at the St. Vincent de Paul food pantry.
-Volunteer as a group at the food pantry where a team member volunteers.
-Prepare a meal as a group for the Women’s Shelter.”

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As we journey into Lent and Easter, let us pray for God to become the subject of our seeing, the One who sees in us. This ability has been given to us through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit into our hearts.
Jesus, our Lord and Savior,
we enter with you into the Paschal Mystery
of your dying and rising to new life.
We pray that your attitude of total self-giving
may more and more be the single desire and response
of your one Church and of your people gathered here.
Walk with us again throughout this week.
Let your Holy Spirit flood our hearts anew
that we may be open to new invitations
to die and rise again for the life of the world.
May your Holy Spirit groan in us until we bring to completion in you
the great work you have entrusted to us
at this our moment in salvation history.
By the grace of these Easter mysteries, may your triune presence,
O gracious God, deepen our faith, rekindle our hope,
and set us ablaze with love, radiant as the Easter dawn.
In faith, lead us through this week of darkness,
confident that you are the Light.
You will shout to the night and conquer death,
revealing the Father’s love to all who long to see the vision of God,
glorious and free. Amen.
Excerpted from Lenten Longings – Year C: Seeing With God’s Eyes, available from RENEW International.

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As we journey into Lent and Easter, let us pray for God to become the subject of our seeing, the One who sees in us. This ability has been given to us through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit into our hearts.
Spirit of Faith, take hold of our hearts.
Refashion them ever more closely into the heart of Christ.
Spirit of Love, move among your people.
Fill us with that same love that turns us toward one another
in friendship and trust.
Spirit of Hope, stand before our eyes.
Reveal the good in ourselves
that we often hide and the good in others
that we often we fail to see.
Spirit of God, lift the clouds of doubting.
Give us a new vision of
the world that you designed.
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
take hold of our hearts and make us your own,
a people set free to love and serve
the world in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Excerpted from Lenten Longings – Year C: Seeing With God’s Eyes, available from RENEW International.

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As we journey into Lent and Easter, let us pray for God to become the subject of our seeing, the One who sees in us. This ability has been given to us through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit into our hearts.
God of our present, our past, and future, too,
be here among us as we begin this time together.
Quiet those places in us that are anxious,
soothe those that are weary, and rouse us
from those places where we’ve grown complacent.
See us as we long to be and help us
to bridge the gap between our actions
and our intentions just a little more this Lent.
Teach us to revel in the faith of your sustaining presence
and give us the grace to see ourselves
and one another with the eyes
of your compassionate love. Amen.
Excerpted from Lenten Longings – Year C: Seeing With God’s Eyes, available from RENEW International.

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As we journey into Lent and Easter, let us pray for God to become the subject of our seeing, the One who sees in us. This ability has been given to us through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit into our hearts.
Great and awe-inspiring God,
Source of all that is,
name beyond all names, who names us,
your love for us is beyond our comprehension,
and your desire that we know you
exceeds the limits of our understanding.
We come to you as we are,
knowing that you are able to change our hearts,
to create us anew.
You see our afflictions and know our sins,
yet you hold us in mercy and call us to mission.
We trust in your ways and await
your ongoing revelation in our lives,
our communities, our Church, and our world.
Keep us attentive to your presence in prayer
and responsive to a world in need.
We ask this in the name of Jesus,
through the power of the Holy Spirit,
and for the glory of God the Father. Amen.
Excerpted from Lenten Longings – Year C: Seeing With God’s Eyes, available from RENEW International.

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As we journey into Lent and Easter, let us pray for God to become the subject of our seeing, the One who sees in us. This ability has been given to us through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit into our hearts.
O radiant light, eternal God,
we pray that you shine on your Church.
Scatter the darkness of our ignorance,
the blindness of our pettiness,
the limits of our self-protecting positions.
May Christ be our light shining within us and around us,
inviting us to the heights of Tabor and sustaining us
in the depths of Golgotha.
Teach us, Holy Spirit of wisdom,
to embrace the rhythm of light and darkness
that flows from your sustaining grace.
Inflame us with courage and trust
to journey together as beacons of hope
whom you enlighten for the sake of this world
that you love.
Lead us, kindly light,
until we reach our journey’s end
and the home of God’s embrace
where we will dwell in triune love
forever and ever. Amen.
Excerpted from Lenten Longings – Year C: Seeing With God’s Eyes, available from RENEW International.

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As we begin our journey into Lent and Easter, let us pray for God to become the subject of our seeing, the One who sees in us. This ability has been given to us through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit into our hearts.
Open us, O Holy Spirit of God. Be yeast in us.
Let our hearts expand to take in more and more of
God’s lavish self-disclosures.
Clear away the blocks that hinder us
from seeing you in the events of our past.
Stir up hope in us, O Holy Spirit,
our refuge and our stronghold.
You bear us up in mercy and go before us always
to deliver us from evil’s way.
Lead us, gently but persistently,
O loving Spirit of God,
toward those people, places, and events
where you desire most to meet us.
Then, in those choices that invite or confront us,
direct us to choose only those things
that are for the Father’s glory,
and reign in our hearts and in our world.
We pray this in the name of Jesus,
our teacher, brother, and Lord. Amen
Excerpted from Lenten Longings – Year C: Seeing With God’s Eyes, available from RENEW International.

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During this Year of Faith, we will blog reflections and stories to accompany you on your faith journey.
“God does not look at the caterpillar we are now, but the dazzling butterfly we have in us to become.” -Desmond Tutu
A caterpillar, which can only crawl, seems to have limited potential. But as it grows, it renews itself over and over by shedding the skin that can no longer contain it and growing a new one. When it has shed the last confining skin, the caterpillar seems to disappear within a fragile shell but re-emerges in a glorious new life marked by color and flight. From its beginning as a tiny egg, the caterpillar is destined to that new life; everything it does moves it closer to the day when it will spread those colorful wings and, to paraphrase an aviator, slip the bonds of earth and touch the face of God.
Bishop Tutu picked the movement of a caterpillar into a butterfly as an analogy for the transformation to which God has called each one of us. Our response to that call is at the heart of the season of Lent, which begins on Ash Wednesday, February 13. During Lent, the Church encourages us to devote time and attention to the process of conversion in our lives, the process of becoming our best and truest selves, the process of growing beyond the worldly things that burden us and taking flight in the freedom that comes only through friendship with God.
This conversion does not happen on one day or during one season of Lent. Although we have moments of insight or elation — and although we may have setbacks — conversion is for most of us a step-by-step movement forward. The goal of this gradual progress is what philosophers such as the Jesuit Bernard Lonergan have called “self-transcendence,” an ability to see the world as bigger than ourselves. This doesn’t mean that we are insignificant in that bigger world; it means that each of us has an indispensible part to play outside of our own pleasures, interests, and concerns.
In other words, “self-transcendence” is the opposite of self-absorption, the opposite of going through life thinking only of ourselves, of our own security and convenience and comfort. Although self-absorption is an expression of selfishness, a self-absorbed person isn’t necessarily malicious. On the contrary, a self-absorbed person is just as likely to simply be stuck in place, used to a certain safe routine designed to avoid risk — especially the risk of opening the heart to other people and particularly to people in material or spiritual need; to people who are different from us because of their race, their ethnicity, their religion, or their sexual orientation.
That’s where Lent comes in. Lent is an invitation for Christians to ask ourselves if we are stuck in place. As we think about this question, we have a model in Jesus himself whose life was defined by generosity and self-sacrifice, by unconditional love. We become authentic human beings, the human beings God intended us to be, when we imitate that love; Lent is a time to pause and consider how far we have moved toward that ideal, to ask what may stand in our way, and to commit ourselves to taking even modest steps forward.
We may pray during Lent; we may attend daily Mass, engage in spiritual reading, participate in works of charity, and practice self-denial. None of these practices is an end in itself, but any of them can help us feel the Spirit of God stirring within us and turn it loose to spread its wings and grace the world.
• Reflect on ways in which you are becoming the authentic human being that God intends you to be. What Lenten practices could help you on this path?
“Dios no mira a la oruga que somos ahora, sino a la delicada mariposa que se está formando en nosotros”.
Una oruga, la cual solo puede arrastrarse, a simple vista parece tener posibilidades limitadas. Pero al tiempo que va creciendo se va renovando a sí misma una y otra vez con cada muda de piel que no la puede contener por más tiempo. Cuando ha mudado la última piel que la atrapa, la oruga parece desaparecer dentro de su frágil concha, pero re-emerge a una gloriosa y nueva vida caracterizada por bellos colores y la habilidad de volar. Desde su principio como un pequeño huevo, la oruga está destinada a una vida nueva; todo lo que hace la acerca cada vez más al día en que podrá extender esas coloridas alas y parafraseando a un aviador, abandona sus límites terrenales y toca el rostro de Dios.
El obispo Tutu escogió el paso de una oruga a su conversión en mariposa como una analogía de la transformación a la que Dios llama a cada uno de nosotros. Nuestra respuesta a tal llamada es central a la Cuaresma, que empieza con el Miércoles de Ceniza el 13 de febrero. Durante la Cuaresma, la Iglesia nos anima a dedicar tiempo y atención al proceso de conversión en nuestra vida, al proceso que nos convierte en personas mejores y más auténticas, al proceso de crecer más allá de las cosas mundanas cuyo carga nos impide tomar el vuelo de la libertad que solo podemos encontrar en la amistad con Dios.
Esta conversión no se hace en un día o durante una Cuaresma. Aunque tengamos momentos de iluminación o de júbilo –y aunque tengamos tropiezos– la conversión, para la mayoría de nosotros, ocurre paso a paso. La meta de este progreso gradual es la que los filósofos como el jesuita Bernard Lonergan han llamado “la autotrascendencia”, la capacidad de ver el mundo como algo más grande que nosotros mismos. Eso no quiere decir que seamos insignificantes en este mundo más grande; quiere decir que cada uno de nosotros tiene un papel indispensable que jugar aparte de nuestros propios placeres, intereses y preocupaciones.
En otras palabras, “la autotrascendencia” es lo opuesto al ensimismamiento, lo opuesto a ir por la vida solamente pensando en nosotros, en nuestra propia seguridad, conveniencia y confort. Aunque el ensimismamiento sea una expresión de egoísmo, una persona ensimismada, no es necesariamente una mala persona. Todo lo contrario, una persona ensimismada es alguien que tal vez esté estancada en el mismo sitio, que no sale de una misma rutina cuyo objetivo es evitar riesgos, especialmente el riesgo de abrir el corazón a otras personas, particularmente a personas con necesidades materiales y espirituales; a personas que sean diferentes por su raza, sus antecedentes étnicos, su religión o su orientación sexual.
Ahí es donde entra la Cuaresma. La Cuaresma es una invitación que se nos hace a los cristianos a que nos preguntemos si nos sentimos estancados en el mismo sitio. Al pensar en esta pregunta, tenemos un modelo a seguir en Jesús, cuya vida fue definida por la generosidad, el sacrificio y un amor incondicional. Nos convertimos en auténticos seres humanos, los seres humanos que Dios quiere que seamos, cuando imitamos ese gran amor. La Cuaresma es tiempo de detenerse y reflexionar hasta dónde hemos llegado persiguiendo ese ideal, preguntarnos qué puede estar interfiriendo en nuestro camino, y comprometernos a ir dando pasos, aunque sea modestos, en esa dirección.
Podemos rezar durante la Cuaresma; podemos ir a misa diaria, hacer lecturas espirituales, participar en obras de caridad y practicar la abnegación. Ningunas de esas prácticas son un fin en sí, sin embargo cualquiera de ellas puede hacernos sentir el Espíritu de Dios que actúa en nosotros, y liberarlo para desplegar Sus alas y llevar Su gracia al mundo.
• Reflexiona sobre las maneras en las que estés convirtiéndote en el ser humano auténtico que Dios quiere que seas. ¿Cuál de las prácticas cuaresmales te puede ayudar en esa senda?
Sr. Terry is the Executive Director of RENEW International and a Dominican Sister from Blauvelt, NY.

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“Who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.
Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.”
Philippians 2:6-11

“Like every believer I know, my search for real life has led me through at least three distinct seasons of faith. Jesus called them finding life, losing life, and finding life again, with the paradoxical promise that finders will be losers while those who lose their lives for his sake will wind up finding them again. You do not have to die to discover the truth of this teaching. You only need to lose track of who you are, or who you thought you were supposed to be, so that you end up lying flat on the dirt floor basement of your heart. Do this, Jesus says, and you will live.” —Barbara Brown Taylor, Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith.

Taylor’s powerful image of “lying flat on the dirt floor basement of your heart” is something each of us can relate to at some point in our lives. As Jesus was tossed into the desert, as we read in the Gospel on the First Sunday of Lent, we too have been thrown into the basement of our hearts by life’s events— whether by the death of a loved one, a diagnosis of life-threatening illness, divorce, depression, or a loss of a job.

We are about to enter the holiest week of the Church’s calendar, an opportunity to journey with Christ from death to new life. This short week sums up our life with Christ, an arduous journey with all its times of finding life, losing life, and finding life again. The liturgy on this Sunday, Palm or Passion Sunday, invites us into Holy Week with Paul’s letter to the Philippians. When Paul invites the Christians at Philippi to welcome Christ as the key to life and death, embedded in his message is a hymn that was already being used by Christians. The central message of this hymn is what we refer to as “the Paschal Mystery.” The word “paschal” is derived from the Greek word meaning “pass over.” At its very heart it is less about events and more about movement: it is about both “from…” and “to…”: from slavery to freedom, from finding life to losing life, from losing life to finding life again.

The liturgies we are about to celebrate are not just commemorations of historical events. They make that once and for all supreme act of love real and present here and now. They pull us into that great movement we call the Paschal Mystery. In these celebrations we go down into the tomb—the dirt basement of our hearts—so that we can arise with Christ to new life.

What strikes you most in the way Jesus approaches his passion and death? What could you do to emulate him?

Good and gracious God,
by the paschal mystery of Christ
you conquered the power of death and opened for us the way to eternal life.
Let our celebration of Holy Week
raise us up and help us find life again
by the power of the Holy Spirit that is within us.
Grant this through Jesus the Christ. Amen

Sr. Terry is the Executive Director of RENEW International and a Dominican Sister from Blauvelt, NY.

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I have always loved the season of Lent. For me, it is a time to refocus on God and get my life in right order. As a child I thought Lent was about giving up things like candy and fighting with my sister, Mary. I have come to realize that it is not so much about giving up things but about seizing the opportunity to be all that God has called me to be—a holy, healthy, and loving person.

So here are five things not to do this Lent:

Don’t give up. Instead of giving up something for Lent, try doing something that will bring you closer to God. Here are some ideas: go to Mass during the week, spend time reflecting on the daily or Sunday readings, experience the beauty of God’s creation by taking walks, make donations to your favorite charities, volunteer at the local food bank, light candles and say prayers for the people you know who are struggling.

Don’t sweat it. Whatever it is you committed to do (or not do) this Lent, the point isn’t to do (or not do) it perfectly. Do it (or don’t do it), but if you don’t do it (or if you do do it), accept it as a reminder that you are not perfect. Only God is perfect. Say a prayer and start again.

Don’t starve yourself. Lent isn’t about going on a diet or losing weight; it’s about the conversion of our hearts. Eat healthy, get some exercise, and don’t succumb to our culture’s obsession with physical appearances.

Don’t make it more difficult than it is. The three pillars of Lent are prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Find simple ways to pray, fast, and give to the poor.

Don’t hold back. Lent will present you with many opportunities to convert your heart and your life, to heal broken relationships, and to grow closer to God. When you find yourself presented with such an opportunity, embrace it.

On further reflection, this Lent I should give up fighting with my sister Mary :). The poor woman had to put up with me all these years, borrowing her clothes and touching her stuff—things I still do. Actually, we don’t fight much anymore. I guess we are getting older or maybe wiser. Today we are grateful to have each other.

So this Lent don’t give up, don’t sweat it, don’t starve yourself, don’t make it more difficult than it is, and, most especially, don’t hold back! May you be moved this Lent by a deep desire for a new heart and a new spirit, and may God answer your prayer.

Cinco cosas que no se deben hacer en Cuaresma

Siempre me ha gustado el tiempo de Cuaresma. Para mi es el tiempo para volver a enfocarme en Dios y para poner mi vida en orden. De niña yo pensaba que la época de Cuaresma era para hacer sacrificios, como por ejemplo, no comer dulces y dejar de pelear con mi hermana Mary. Pero me he dado cuenta que la Cuaresma no es solo para hacer sacrificio de dejar de hacer cosas, sino mas bien es el tiempo de buscar la oportunidad de ser todo eso que Dios quiere y me ha llamado que yo sea, una persona santa, saludable y amorosa.

Así que aquí tienen cinco cosas que no se deben hacer en Cuaresma:

No deje de hacer cosas por sacrificio. En vez de dejar de hacer cosas como sacrificio en Cuaresma, trate de hacer cosas que lo acerque más a Dios. Aquí tiene algunas ideas: vaya a Misa durante los días de semana, tome tiempo para reflexionar en las lecturas de la semana y del domingo, salga a caminar y experimente la belleza de la creación de Dios. Mejor aun haga alguna donación a su institución de caridad favorita, hágase voluntaria en su banco de alimento local, encienda una vela y haga oraciones por las personas que usted conoce que están pasando por momentos difíciles.

No jure en vano. Cualquiera que sea la cosa que se comprometió a hacer (o no hacer) en esta Cuaresma, el punto no es hacerla (o dejar de hacerla) perfectamente. Hágala (o no la haga) pero si no la hace (o si la hace) acéptala como un recordatorio de que usted no es perfecto. Solo Dios es perfecto. Haga una oración y empiece todo de nuevo.

No se eche a morir con el ayuno. La Cuaresma no se trata de empezar una dieta, o de perder peso; se trata de la conversión de nuestro corazón. Coma de manera saludable, y haga ejercicios pero no sucumba a la cultura de la obsesión por la apariencia física.

No lo haga más difícil de lo que realmente es. Los tres pilares de la Cuaresma son: la oración, el ayuno y dar limosna. Encuentre pues un modo sencillo de orar, de ayunar y de dar a los pobres.

No se retenga. La época de Cuaresma le presentará muchas oportunidades para convertir su corazón y su vida, a sanar relaciones rotas, y a crecer más cerca de Dios. Cuando usted se encuentre con tales oportunidades, no se retenga, acójalas.

Pensándolo bien, en esta Cuaresma si debo dejar de pelearme con mí hermana Mary. La pobre ha tenido que luchar conmigo por tantos años, tomándole su ropa prestada, y tocando sus pertenencias, cosas que aun hago. En realidad ahora ya no peleamos tanto. Creo que estamos envejeciendo, o quizás ahora tenemos más sabiduría. Hoy por hoy estamos muy agradecidas la una de la otra.

Así que en esta Cuaresma ¡no ofrezca dejar de hacer cosas, no jure en vano, no se eche a morir, no lo haga mas difícil de lo que es, y muy especialmente, no se retenga! Que en esta Cuaresma usted sea movido por un deseo profundo de cambiar su corazón y su espíritu por uno nuevo, y que Dios escuche su oración.

Bendiciones de Cuaresma

Sr. Terry is the Executive Director of RENEW International and a Dominican Sister from Blauvelt, NY.

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