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Loving and caring God,
we thank you for Jesus’ love for us that led him to the cross.
Help us to embody his love
in the way we live our lives,
following his path of love, justice, and peace.
Free us from trying to create our own paths,
and help us to proceed on your path,
guided by your light
so that we can experience your joyful peace
even in the midst of the sufferings.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
Amen.

 
Adapted from The Word on Campus © RENEW International.

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Note: We can pray with the Sunday readings even if Sunday liturgies have been suspended due to the coronavirus.
Bill Ayres continues to offer his reflections to help our prayer.

 
Gospel at the Procession:
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew

(Chapter 21:1-11)
 
This is Matthew, a Jew writing especially for Jewish converts to Christ. He wants to make sure he conveys that Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promise for the Messiah. That is why he has Jesus “riding on a donkey” as the prophet Zechariah foretold and has the crowd cry out “Hosanna to the Son of David, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” from Psalm 118.
 
There are supporters who believe Jesus to be the Messiah, and yet not long after, in this same city, another crowd yells, “Crucify him.” Have you ever wondered why the people of Jerusalem changed sides so quickly? As we hear later in the story, it was the Pharisees and other religious leaders who were threatened by Jesus that wanted him dead and roused up many of the people to turn against him even though it was not in their best interest. It is a pattern that has continued throughout history.
 
A reading from the the Prophet Isaiah
(Chapter 50:4-7)
 
This is one of the four poems called “Suffering Servant Songs” that depict a messenger sent to convince the people to be true to the covenant they had with God. The Servant suffers rejection and even death while being faithful to his mission. The early Church saw Jesus as the embodiment of the Suffering Servant, as do we today.
 
Have you ever suffered for doing the right thing, for standing up for the truth, for helping someone in need? At times, we all may be called to be suffering servants but not people without hope. Our hope is in Jesus, especially in times of suffering.
 
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Philippians
(Chapter 2:6-11)
 
This passage was probably a hymn sung at early Christian liturgies that incorporates the image of the Suffering Servant that was familiar to the Jews of the time. But it goes beyond this image to one obedient to the point of death: “Because of this, God greatly exalted him” … “and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord”
 
This was a radical statement for any Jew to make. For Judaism, God is totally other, not embodied in some aspect of nature. God is God. That’s it. But here, the early Christians boldly sing of their belief “that Jesus Christ is Lord.” That may be easy for us to say now, but it was a dangerous song back then.
 
The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Matthew
(Chapters 26:14-27:66)
 
This is the most important part of the Gospels, and so we read the whole passage reverently. It is impossible to get all the many parts of the story all at once. Please try to read all four of the gospel Passion stories, or at least one of them, sometime this week if possible and talk about it with someone who shares your faith.
 
There are so many interesting characters and stories within stories. Let’s look more closely at Judas and Peter. Both betray Jesus but in different ways and for different reasons. Peter is afraid, afraid for his life. He knew how hideous the Roman crucifixions were. So, here he is the one chosen by Jesus to be the leader, the “rock,” and he crumbles. We do not know why Judas betrayed Jesus to the Romans. Was it just for money or were there other motives? In any case, Judas becomes so wrapped in guilt that he kills himself. He does not believe that he can be forgiven. That means that he did not really understand who Jesus was, the healer, full of compassionate forgiveness, and so he cut himself off from the gift that Jesus offered him. Peter recognized his tragic mistake and turned himself around, had a change of heart, and asked for forgiveness. Later, of course, he gave his life for Jesus and for the message of forgiveness. And what of Judas? Did his suicide mean that he was forever condemned for his lack of faith in forgiveness? No! Who are we to judge?
 
As we celebrate this Palm Sunday in the midst of a global pandemic and remember all the horrible suffering that Jesus endured, let us pray to the suffering Jesus who bore the suffering of his people and the risen Jesus who overcame suffering and death and is now with all who suffer throughout the world.
 
Let us also ask ourselves what we can do to help those who are in danger and who may be hungry.
 
As you may know, I co-founded WhyHunger with the late Harry Chapin. We started the first hunger hotline in America, the New York Hunger Hotline. Some years later, we started the National Hunger Hotline which still operates at 1-800-548-6479. Over the years, we have helped millions of hungry people find food in their neighborhoods. During the past two weeks our calls have gone up 300 percent. If you know people who are hungry, please tell them to call that hotline. And if you can do anything to help hungry people near you or far away, please do.
 
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.
 
Image courtesy of www.LumoProject.com and can be found at FreeBibleImages.org
 
Bill Ayres was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. Bill was a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.

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With the world health challenges, it is an understatement to say that life has been disrupted this Lenten season, and not because of our usual choices of self-discipline and penance.

 

Today we celebrate St. Francis of Paola, Italy (1416-1507), who would probably be in his element if he were here. His chosen life included isolated cave-dwelling and severe dietary restrictions. He, and the orders of friars he founded, shared his focus on pursuing the eternal inheritance promised by the Lord, his “chosen portion and …cup” (Psalm 16:5a), although Francis carried on a ministry of healing and prophecy to the poor and the royal, because he felt called by God to do so.

 

Nowadays when grocery items and what we consider staples are not so accessible, we might be so distracted that we do not take the time to focus on our spiritual life and practices. It is possible, however, that we can draw strength from rising above the material realm and reassessing our needs, losses, and luxuries. True, we probably won’t opt to live in caves and eat a diet devoid of animal products as St. Francis did, but we can take the opportunity to do what St. Paul says he did: “I continue my pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ, Jesus”
(Philemon 3:14).

 

That prize! What a treasure! To attain that treasure, we may struggle with the pursuit; but unlike the grocery stores’ inventories, the supply of this heavenly treasure “that no thief can reach nor moth destroy” is inexhaustible (Luke 12:33).

 

Jesus reassures us in the gospel for this memorial (Luke 12:32-34) that it is the Father’s pleasure to give us the kingdom, that we have no need to be afraid. When there is so much uncertainty and sickness in this world, it is easy to lose sight of the bigger picture.

 

Our faith and the gospels tell us that Jesus understands suffering. We are not alone, even if we are isolated in our houses. Jesus, as he prayed to his Father in the garden on the night before he died, must have felt isolated as his close friends fell asleep instead of praying with him.

 

Ultimately, God is in control and loves his flock so much that he sent his Son as Savior. As Holy Week approaches, we can regroup. We turn our attentive hearts to where our eternal treasure is and to the sacrifice of Jesus that made our inheritance an attainable reality. Today we pray that St. Francis of Paola, who was a devout person of prayer, will intercede for us and help us attain our upward calling.

 

Sharon Krause is a RENEW volunteer whose writing has appeared in several resources for small-group faith sharing. She is a wife, mother, and grandmother residing in Manchester, CT. Over the years, she has served in many parish ministries.

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God of life,
you want us to live and be happy.
The words of Jesus, “I am the resurrection and the life”
assure us that you will not let your life in us
die or be wasted.
Help us to cooperate with you
so that we may follow your inspirations
to choose what is right, healthy, and productive
and to reject what is wrong, unhealthy, and destructive.
Help us to always be alive to your life and goodness.
Amen.

 
Adapted from The Word on Campus © RENEW International.

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Note: We can pray with the Sunday readings even if Sunday liturgies have been suspended due to the coronavirus.
Bill Ayres continues to offer his reflections to help our prayer.

A reading from the the Prophet Ezekiel
(Chapter 37:12-14)
 
The Babylonian Exile (597 BC to 538 BC) was a terrible period in the history of the Jewish people. Many thousands died and many more lost hope. Amid this tragedy, the prophet Ezekiel preached hope. Ezekiel lived in exile in Babylon which for thousands of Israelites was a grave. But Ezekiel has a message from God: “O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them, and bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the Lord…. “I will put my spirit in you that you may live, and I will settle you upon your land…. I have promised, and I will do it.”
 
In times of disaster, there are true prophets, sent from God, and false prophets. Sometimes, it is hard to tell the difference unless we listen to the Spirit dwelling within us and all around us.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 130:1-8)
 
“With the Lord there is mercy and the fullness of redemption.” Mercy is a key word for Pope Francis. He feels he experienced God’s mercy in powerful way when he was a bishop in Argentina in a period of political strife and violence. It changed his life forever. He encourages us to seek God’s mercy throughout our lives.
 
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans
(Chapter 8:8-11)
 
Paul tells the Romans, “You are in the spirit, if only the Spirit of God dwells in you…. If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit dwelling in you.”
 
As you know, Paul was not always a believer in Jesus, but once he “got it” he was all in. He experienced the Holy Spirit in him, and he knew the power it gave him to face adversity, torture, and even death. He believed that his mortal body would be given a new life after death. Jesus died and will live forever, a seeming contradiction but not for Jesus and not for us because God’s Spirit lives in us.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to John
(Chapter 11:1-45)
 
Have you noticed that as we come closer to Holy Week the gospel readings have been longer? Let us try to really get into this beautiful story: “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.” Yes, Jesus loved everyone, but he was also fully human and had an especially deep friendship with this family. So, you would think that when Jesus heard that Lazarus had died, he would have rushed to comfort the family. No! “So, when he heard that (Lazarus) was ill, he remained for two days in the place where he was.” Then finally he said to his companions, “Let us go back to Judea.”
 
Of course, by then Lazarus was not only dead but already entombed. “Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you…. Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise.’ Martha said to him, ‘I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day.’ Jesus told her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will live forever. Do you believe this?’ She said, ‘Yes, Lord….’”
 
So, Jesus went to the tomb and “cried out in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’” John ends the story by telling us, “Now many of the Jews who had come to Mary and seen what had been done began to believe in him.” Still, many more did not, just as many today who are Christians doubt that we will also be resurrected. Yet, there are only two choices: believe in resurrection or there is nothingness. I am going with Jesus and the promise of resurrection. How about you?
 
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. Bill was a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.

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Note: We can pray with the liturgical readings of the day, even if we can’t attend Mass during the pandemic. Sharon Krause continues to offer her reflections to inspire our prayer.
 
“Breaking news!” Accompanied by some special music, the news on television is often interrupted by a breaking news update, and it is usually not good news. The interruption is meant to get the viewers’ attention, but after a while, viewers can become almost unresponsive to the momentary lure.
 
If we want really good news that is worthy of attention no matter how many times we have heard it, we can look at the Gospel reading for the liturgy today (Luke 1:26-38), the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord. This is not just “breaking news,” but more like “Jesus breaking into our lives news!” Our response includes hope, gratitude, and great joy!
 
Mary offers her pure body, her womb, to mother the sacrificial Victim that will establish a new order and life-saving accessibility to God. As with many news announcements, there are a number of details unavailable to Mary in the beginning. Mary, as young as she is, trusts God’s plan, although she does not understand it. There are no reservations in her response, just, “May it be done to me according to your word” (v. 38). Mary’s body would nourish her child; she would carry and protect him. No doubt, Mary would pray for his well-being and her own throughout the nine months until his birth.
 
Nine months from today, we will celebrate Christmas. What can I do to help Jesus’ message grow in me all that time? What can I do to nurture my discipleship so that I can better offer myself to do God’s will? Even if I am tempted to feel that, with my shortcomings and sinfulness, I am occasionally “bad news,” I remember that nothing is impossible for God. We read in the Letter to the Hebrews (10:10), “we have been consecrated through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” Every day there is an invitation to respond: to savor and carry Jesus to others.
 
Some parents who are awaiting a birth read to the child even before delivery. When the child is born, it appears that it recognizes their voices when it hears them again. In these three trimesters, as we await the celebration of the saving fruition of the Annunciation, reading and praying with Scripture passages, God’s Word, can help us to recognize God’s voice again and offer us a kind of rebirth.
 
Once a child is born, parents send out birth announcements. None of us has to wait
to start announcing with words and witnessing about the salvation, truth, and kindness of the Lord (Psalm 40:7-8a,8b-9,10,11). With joy, along with Mary, “we shall name him Jesus.” (Luke 1:31).
 
Sweet Virgin, Mary, thank you for giving yourself over totally to our Father’s loving will.
Pray for us as we strive to share your Son, our Savior, with others.
 
Sharon Krause is a RENEW volunteer whose writing has appeared in several resources for small-group faith sharing. She is a wife, mother, and grandmother residing in Manchester, CT. Over the years, she has served in many parish ministries.

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Lord,
we thank you for the inspiration and challenges you have given us.
We need greater insight into ourselves
and the way we look at others around us.
May we enflesh the spirit of Jesus
and reach out to every person
without measuring or judging by external standards.
Help us to reach beyond our blindness,
so that we can rejoice in the new hope
and courage you give us
to accept you as the Lord of our lives
and to live your message day by day.
We ask this through Christ our Lord,
Amen.
 
Adapted from The Word on Campus © RENEW International.

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Note: We can pray with the Sunday readings even if Sunday liturgies have been suspended due to the coronavirus.
Bill Ayres continues to offer his reflections to help our prayer.

A reading from the First book of Samuel
(Chapter 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a)
 
Saul was the king of Israel, but he had fallen out of favor with the Lord. It was time for a new king who would be faithful and just. “The Lord said to Samuel: Fill your horn with oil and be on your way. I am sending you to Jesse of Jerusalem for I have chosen my king from among his sons.” Samuel knew that Jesse had seven sons, but which one would it be? Perhaps Eliab? The Lord said to Samuel, “Do not judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature, because I have rejected him.” So, Jesse presented six of his sons, and the Lord rejected all of them. But there was a surprise. Jesse had one more son whose name was David. “The Lord said ‘There, anoint him, for this is the one.’” Why would God choose someone so seemingly inappropriate and so young? “Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance, but God looks into the heart.” The heart of David was good and strong.
 
Yes! That is the way God chooses—not by appearances but by looking into our hearts. Let us look into our own hearts especially, now as we live in daily crisis. God is there.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 23:1-3a, 3b-4; 5, 6)
 
“The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I should want. In verdant pastures he gives me repose; beside restful waters he leads me; he refreshes my soul.” Whatever you are going through that is painful, stressful, or despairing, God will refresh your soul, even now. Call on him.
 
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Ephesians
(Chapter 5:8-14)
 
“Brothers and sisters: You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth…. Therefore, it says: ‘Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.’’’
 
This theme of darkness and light has been used throughout history, because both elements—darkness and light—are so powerful and relate to our everyday experience. Entering a dark room, having the light go out suddenly, and having to read without good light can be challenging and even scary. Light brings clarity, warmth, and comfort. So, as the author says, “Christ will give you light.”
 
In these times of darkness, ask Christ to give us, give you, light.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to John
(Chapter 9:1-41)
 
This is one of the longest gospel stories, and it has one self-evident meaning and one deeper meaning. Jesus meets a man born blind. In this culture at this time, someone is to be blamed for the blindness—usually, the blind person’s parents. That is why the disciples ask Jesus, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answers, “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him.” Jesus then rubs the man’s eyes with clay and tells him to go and wash in the Pool of Siloam. The man does that, and when people ask him how he can now see, he tells them about Jesus healing him. Then the Pharisees ask him, and he tells them the same story. Some of them condemn Jesus: “This man is not from God, because he does not keep the Sabbath.” Others ask the formerly blind man, “What do you have to say about him since he opened your eyes.” He says, “He is a prophet.”
 
The Pharisees, who are supposed to be the truly religious people, condemn Jesus because he healed on the Sabbath and did therefore did not follow the letter of the Law. For Jesus, the Law of Love that came from his Father was the true Law. The Pharisees remain in darkness, but the man has come into the light and can see because of his faith in Jesus.
 
Do you ever feel a sense of darkness in your life or in your very soul? It can come from within for any number of reasons: illness, disappointment, the loss of mental or physical abilities, or a loss of faith. It can also originate from outside events, threats, or broken relationships—or a combination of such things. It may even be just one thing in the midst of an otherwise happy life. Where can you find the light in the midst of darkness? Is there an action you can take? Can you ask for someone’s help? The one source of healing and light that is always there is your Spirit, your lifelong partner who lives within you. Keep saying hello to the Holy Spirit
 
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. Bill was a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.

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I believe that while I was on a Lenten weekend retreat, the Lord showed me my own personal parable. With no apparent provocation, I was reminded how, many years ago, when I was a little child, I was sitting on my front porch steps waiting for my daddy to come into view as he walked home from his job as a bookkeeper at the New York, Ontario & Western Railway Company a few blocks away. At last, I spotted him, and I got up and started running towards him. But I tripped and fell flat on my face on the concrete sidewalk, which was in a sorry, crumbly state. My dad rushed to my side, picked me up, and carried me the short distance to our house. I had a skinned knee and little pebbles on my face and some in my crying mouth. Once we were in the house, my mother came to my aid and cleaned up her pride and joy.
 
I wondered why that incident from decades ago came to mind during my quest to get closer to God. Almost immediately, I sensed that the Lord was reminding me of something I had been taught throughout my search: that in my waiting and watching for God, I might stumble and fall, sometimes experience life crumbling beneath me, but my loving Father is watching and will pick me up and carry me. Blessed Mother, Mary, is also there to help me with her loving prayers. Wow! This was, indeed, my own personal parable!
 
My dad died when I was 11. It was good to think of him again and remember his scooping me up in his arms. It was also reassuring to be reminded of my loving Heavenly Father who is always in control and of Mary who is praying for me.
 
St. Joseph, whose solemnity we celebrate today, is another father who loved his child. No doubt, he was a man of strong faith; he is called a “righteous man” in today’s gospel (Matthew 1:19). Joseph must have been a strong and protective influence in the young life of Jesus. And in a passage in the Gospel of Luke (Luke 2:41-51a), which is an optional reading for this solemnity, we read of the “great anxiety” he shared with Mary as they searched for Jesus who, at age 12, was teaching in the Temple.
 
A protective foster father, Joseph kept his child safe by fleeing to Egypt with his family when Herod threatened Jesus’ life. Joseph’s strong faith and loving availability are attributes every parent should strive to possess.
 
St. Joseph was a craftsman, perhaps a carpenter. Let us pray, asking him to help us build a holy and fruitful last two weeks of Lent:
 
St. Joseph, guardian and protector of our Savior, Jesus,
pray for me, that I may measure my life
by your example of faith and willingness
to do the will of our God, our Father.
Help me to hammer out all the temptations
the evil one suggests in his deceitful plan,
and help me to build a holy life
on a firm foundation of love. Amen.

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On this St. Patrick’s Day, parades and parties have been postponed as we respond to the coronavirus. Yet it remains fitting to honor St. Patrick, to ask for his prayers, and to allow him to teach us the holiness we need at this difficult time.
 
St. Patrick was a very poor and humble man who lived in the fifth century. In his autobiographical Confessio, he calls himself “a sinner, a most simple countryman.” After having been taken captive from Britain to Ireland as a teenager, Patrick turned his heart toward the Lord and found his gift of preaching.
 
In the optional reading for the memorial of St. Patrick (1 Peter 4:7b-11), we receive encouragement about using our gifts of hospitality, preaching, and other service to one another to ultimately, and, most importantly, glorify God.
 
In the episode described in the optional gospel reading for the memorial (Luke 5:1-11), Jesus tells Simon Peter to cast his empty nets over the side of his boat, and Simon catches a phenomenal number of fish after a very unsuccessful night of fishing. He falls to his knees and, like Patrick, calls himself a sinful man. Jesus reassures Simon and tells him, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.”
 
These readings fit well with the memorial of St. Patrick. In his Confessio, Patrick mentions that he had “baptized so many thousands of people”; he was catching men and women and sharing the Christian message by using his gifts of deep faith and preaching. Patrick refers to the story from St. Luke’s gospel and says, “It behooves us to spread our nets, that a vast multitude and throng might be caught for God.”
 
We have heard many times the story, perhaps the legend, that St. Patrick taught his listeners about the Holy Trinity by using the visual aid of the three-leafed shamrock, i.e., three leaves, yet one plant—three persons, yet one God.
 
It occurred to me that, during Lent, we could use the shamrock to remind us of other aspects of our faith. For instance, the three practices that can make for one Holy Lent are prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. The Sacrament of Reconciliation, one of the great sacraments of the Church, has three main components: confessing with sorrow, doing penance, and metanoia or turning away from sin after having received God’s loving forgiveness.
 
When we think of the culmination of Lent, the shamrock can remind us of the story of our redemption with the three components of the passion, death, and resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
 
What else can the shamrock represent for you this Lent? Maybe you have three favorite prayers or practices in your one morning prayer time? Maybe you can make three caring phone calls or texts in one day to reach out to the sick or lonely?
 
St. Patrick, pray for us all, whether we are of Irish descent or not. Thank you for giving us such a good example of sharing the good news of Jesus!
 
(Reference: The Confessions of St. Patrick, Create Space Publishing, February 21, 2016, pp. 5,21.)
 
Sharon Krause is a RENEW volunteer whose writing has appeared in several resources for small-group faith sharing. She is a wife, mother, and grandmother residing in Manchester, CT. Over the years, she has served in many parish ministries.

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God of life, and giver of all that is good,
give us an unquenchable thirst for the things that matter;
for faith and for meaning in our lives;
for hope in a better world filled with your justice and peace;
for a spirit of committed love that knows how to share itself.
Generously give us all these through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

 
Adapted from The Word on Campus © RENEW International.

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A reading from the Book of Exodus
(Chapter 12:1-4a)
 
The Israelites have been wandering in the dessert for years since their escape from Egypt; they are hungry and, more importantly, thirsty. The complain to Moses:“Why did you ever make us leave Egypt? Was it just to have us die of thirst with our children and our livestock?” In Egypt, they led a horrible existence of slavery and violence; yet, that seems better compared to their present suffering. “So, Moses cried out to the Lord, ‘What shall I do with this people?’” The Lord instructs Moses to go to the rock of Horeb: “Strike the rock, and the water will flow from it for the people to drink.”
 
So goes the continuing story of God’s relationship with the Israelites. With each crisis they face, their faith is tested and often beyond their ability to be faithful. No matter! God is always with them.
 
Thousands of years later, we continue face our own crises on personal and societal levels. A family member dies painfully, tragically, or unexpectedly. Sickness strikes. A relationship shatters. Addiction takes over a family. And then there are the crises of our society: hunger, poverty, injustice, racism, sexism, and now a creeping virus. Our relationship with God is tested in all these crises and many more.
 
The key to our relationship with God and our spiritual, emotional, and physical health is what God has said to us in the Hebrew Scriptures and what Jesus said in the Gospels: “I am with you always.”
 
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 95: 1-2, 6-7, 8-9)
 
“If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” Do you know someone who has a hardened heart, someone who can no longer hear God’s voice? Maybe your prayer for that person will reach his or her. It may take a while, maybe a long while, but do not give up. “I am with you.”
 
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans
(Chapter 5:1-2, 5-8)
 
Paul tells his brothers and sisters in Rome, “Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith to this grace in which we stand, and we boast in hope for the glory of God. And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
 
Let’s read that last line again: “The love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” It is not as though the love of God is something outside of us. No, it is within us, because the very Spirit of God is in us. Do you believe that God’s Spirit is alive in you?
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to John
(Chapter 4:5-42)
 
This is the story of Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman at the well, and it links with our first reading about water flowing from a rock through the power of God.
 
“Jesus, tired from his journey, sat down there at the well…. A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her ‘Give me a drink.’” The Samaritan woman then asks, “‘How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman for a drink? For Jews have nothing to do with Samaritans….’ Jesus answered and said to her, ‘If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you ‘Give me a drink’ you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.’”
 
The woman is skeptical and asks him, “Are you greater than our father Jacob who gave us this cistern and drank from it himself?” Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I will give will never thirst; the water I will give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
 
This woman has had a hard life, with five different husbands, but Jesus does not condemn her. She believes in him and tells everyone in town about him. Jesus winds up staying there two days, and, “Many more began to believe in him because of his word.”
 
The fact that Jesus is speaking in public to a woman who was not his wife—and speaking to a Samaritan at that—shocked his disciples at first, but Jesus does not care. He wants to reach out to someone whose neighbors may see her as a great sinner, so he says, “the Father seeks such people to worship him.” She did, and so did the other Samaritans who were considered by Jewish people to be heretics. We can declare with them: “We know that this is truly the savior of the world.”
 
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 over 40 years. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.

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Life in the 21st century is anything but slow-paced. With the high-speed internet, high-speed transportation, and high-speed food preparation—just to name a few fast things—humans are able to find time to accomplish many tasks and often simultaneously. Multitasking is faster, more popular, and easier than ever.
 
On the Church calendar for March 9 is the optional feast of St. Frances of Rome (1384-1440). Frances apparently was very adept at multitasking centuries ago. With a huge capacity for loving, she poured herself into a life of service to her husband and children and, at the same time, assisted a group of like-minded women in giving aid to the poor people of Rome. Prayer was a major component of her life, and I am sure that such a boundless resource is better than high-speed anything in sustaining a Christian wife, mother, and caregiver. Her example must have been such an inspiration to all those around her.
 
The optional first reading for today’s Mass (Proverbs 31:10-13,19-20,30-31) describes a “worthy wife.” That expression may sound patronizing in the 21st century, but the woman described in the reading is busy not only at home but also in the community where she “reaches out her hands to the poor” and “extends her arms to the needy.” St. Frances was like that. Chris Lowney, in his book What, Me Holy? from RENEW International, says sometimes a woman has to be both a Martha and a Mary (Luke 10:38-42), and clearly St. Frances worked tirelessly at being both. The rewards of living such a multitasking life—when the tasks include seeking the Lord, taking refuge in the Lord, and praising the Lord at all times—are recounted in the psalm for today, “Taste and see the goodness of the Lord” (Psalm 34:2-3,4-5,6-7,8-9,10-11).
 
Lent is a special time of multitasking with love: a time of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. The Gospel passage for the memorial of St Frances (Matthew 22:34-40) tells of the two great commandments, love of God and love of neighbor as we love ourselves. Prayer intensifies and sustains our loving relationship with God. We pray for ourselves and others. Fasting helps us to keep in mind what is truly valuable and important in life and how to keep things in right proportion. Thus, fasting is loving ourselves, too. Almsgiving teaches us to be generous as our faithful God is generous. We love others selflessly.
 
Being good Christian multitaskers, we can pray, fast, and give alms all at once! Try it! Be creative! Here is an example: on a day when you are fasting from a certain food you enjoy, volunteer at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter and pray a silent prayer for each person as you are serving them! How about fasting from electronic devices for a day, while bringing a person who needs transportation to church to make a visit and pray together in front of the Blessed Sacrament?
 
For worthy wives and their worthy husbands, how about being extra “worthy” for the day and refrain from complaining about that little habit your spouse has, while saying some extra prayers of gratitude for him or her and, perhaps, helping each other clearing closets of perfectly good garments, outgrown or no longer worn, and then delivering those clothes to the local clothing bank?
 
I am sure you can come up with your own multitasks of love. “Taste and see the goodness of the Lord” this Lent!
 
(Resource: franciscanmedia.org)
 
Sharon Krause is a RENEW volunteer whose writing has appeared in several resources for small-group faith sharing. She is a wife, mother, and grandmother residing in Manchester, CT. Over the years, she has served in many parish ministries.

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Loving God,
open our eyes to our need to hear
that we are your beloved daughters and sons.
May we become conscious that you are the God who cares for us,
the God interested in our well-being,
and that you walk with us always
giving us the inspiration to make the right decisions in our lives.
We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.
Amen.

 
Adapted from The Word on Campus © RENEW International.

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A reading from the Book of Genesis
(Chapter 12:1-4a)
 
“The Lord said to Abram: ‘Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you and curse those that curse you. All the communities of the earth shall find blessing in you.’ Abram went as the Lord directed him.”
 
Abram’s conversation with God marks the beginning of the Jewish people. God tells Abram, whom he soon will call Abraham, “I will make of you a great nation.” These words often have often been a comfort and source of hope to the Jewish people during their historic suffering and their frequent dispersion.
 
The same is true for us today amid turmoil throughout the world and in our own country and perhaps a worldwide health crisis. Let us ask in hope for God’s blessing for our country and our world. And let us ask for that blessing in the name of our Brother and Savior, Jesus Christ.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 33:4-5, 18-19, 20, 22)
 
“Lord, let your mercy be upon us, as we place our trust in you…. May your kindness, O Lord, be upon us who have put our hope in you.” Let us remember that our hope, in God, is ever present and eternal. Do you believe that?
 
A reading from the second letter of Saint Paul to Timothy
(Chapter 1:8b-10)
 
Paul is writing to his disciple Timothy at a time of persecution and death for the early Christians, and Paul wants to encourage them. “Beloved: Bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God.” How does your strength come from God? Do you ask for strength? How do you respond when it seems that no strength comes?
 
Paul write that God “saved us and called us to his own design and the grace bestowed on us in Christ Jesus before time began, but now made manifest through the appearance of our savior Christ Jesus who destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” The word “gospel” means good news, and the good news, as we know it, is that Christ Jesus destroyed the finality of death “and brought life and immortality.”
 
Do you believe the amazing promise that death is not the end, that we will live another life, that we are immortal? That is the teaching of Jesus, and it has been the teaching of the Church for more than two thousand years. It is the gospel, the good news, of our salvation.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew
(Chapter 17:1-9)
 
“Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with him.”
The Book of Genesis tells of God making himself known to Moses. Matthew, who is writing for a mostly Jewish audience, wants his readers to know that Jesus too had such an experience and that Moses himself and Elijah were there. If Matthew’s readers were good Jews, they believed in God’s manifestations to Moses. So, now too, they should believe in the apparition that Jesus and the three apostles experienced.
 
Of course, Peter is overwhelmed, especially when he hears a voice saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased, listen to him.” Peter does not want to come down from the mountain. He is ready to build three tents, one for Jesus, one for Moses and one for Elijah. “But Jesus came and touched them, saying, ‘Rise, and do not be afraid.’’’
 
Have you ever had moments when you were, in a sense, “on the mountain with Jesus”? Maybe it was at Mass or in prayer or at a time of healing with someone you were present with in a deep way. Or perhaps it was simply being in nature or anywhere that you felt the presence of Jesus. Did you feel as Peter did and not want to “come down from the mountain”? These special moments with Jesus or with the Spirit or with our Father occur to help us deal with our everyday challenges, hurts, disappointments, failures. The key is being open to the mystery of God being with you.
 
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.
 
Image courtesy of freebibleimages.org.
 
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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