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Suffering God,
open our hearts to the many abuses
of human life, liberty, and dignity.
We believe that in each person is found the Creator’s image
and that everyone who tramples it offends God.
As holy defender of God’s rights and of his images,
the Church is called to cry out.
It endures as spittle in its face,
as lashes on its back,
as the cross in its passion,
all that human beings suffer, even unbelievers.
Whoever tortures a human being,
whoever outrages a human being,
abuses God’s image.
The Church takes as its own that cross, that martyrdom.
Give us the courage to accompany those who suffer, speak truth,
and fight injustice in the name of Jesus, the suffering Messiah.
Amen.
[Based on Saint Oscar Romero’s words from December 31, 1977, in the compendium
The Violence of Love]

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

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AT THE PROCESSION WITH PALMS
 
A reading from the Gospel according to Luke
(Chapter 19:28-40)
 
Luke tells us of a joyous procession of the followers of Jesus into Jerusalem. You would think, just from this reading, that Jesus is about to be accepted as the true Messiah, not crucified as a dangerous criminal. How did the situation change so radically and lead to his death just a few days later? On one level, the politics of the time, Jesus is obviously a threat to the Roman rulers, and on the religious level he is also a threat to the Pharisees and Sadducees whose seat of power was the Temple in Jerusalem. Suppose the majority of the people turned against them and wanted Jesus as their leader. The Romans would never have let that happen, and they had the military power to prevent it. At the same time, the religious leaders’ power existed only with the support of Rome, which would not be happy with some upstart prophet leading a rebellion against their authority or that of the Temple.
 
On another level, however, there was God’s plan that was not about any specific earthly power but rather about salvation, through the death and resurrection of Jesus, for all people for all time.
 
READINGS AT MASS
 
A reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah
(Chapter 50:4-7)
 
Isaiah tells of a Suffering Servant. “The Lord God has given me a well- trained tongue, that I may know how to speak to the weary a word that may arouse them. Morning after morning he opens my ear that I may hear; and I have not rebelled, have not turned back. … The Lord God is my help, therefore I am not disgraced.” Throughout history, Jesus has been seen as the Suffering Servant Isaiah envisioned, the one who came not to be served but to serve, the one who came to die for us.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 22:8-9, 17-18, 19-20, 23-24)
 
“My God my God, why have you abandoned me?” Jesus prayed these words on the cross, but this is not an utterance of disbelief or despair. We can assume that Jesus knew the whole psalm, including the strong expression of hope that follows these words.
 
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Philippians
(Chapter 3:8-14)
 
“Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
 
This is a remarkable passage from St. Paul who, like all the followers of Jesus, was trying to make sense of who Jesus was. He put together the two parts of the mystery, the human and divine dimensions of Jesus. It is the mystery of our faith: Jesus was not only a prophet and a healer, but also the Son of God who shared the divine life. Paul “got it” and gave his life for it. In this letter, he shares the mystery with his contemporaries and with us.
 
The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Luke
(Chapter 22:14-23:56)
 
At the beginning of this long reading, Luke recounts the story of Jesus sharing a Passover meal with the apostles. “When the hour came, Jesus took his place at table with the apostles. He said to them, ‘I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer, for I tell you, I shall not eat it again until there is fulfillment in the kingdom of God.’ Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and said, ‘Take this and share it among yourselves; for I tell you from this time on I shall not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.’ Then he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is cup is the new covenant in my blood, which shall be said for you.’”
 
This is the beginning of our Eucharist, the one we share today and at every Mass. Yes! It comes from Jesus himself, and for two thousand years people have gathered to celebrate the presence of Jesus in our midst and in our very bodies. The Eucharist binds us to Jesus and to one another every time we celebrate in his name.
 
There is so much more in today’s Gospel. Please listen carefully and read it again. Each time, you will be rewarded with new insights and a growing closeness with Jesus. It is the story of our faith living in us now.
 
Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved.
 
Bill Ayres was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. He has been a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years and has two weekly Sunday-night shows on WPLJ, 95.5 FM in New York. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.

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My Lord and my God,
you who are slow to anger and
abounding in kindness and compassion,
pour forth your mercy upon me.
Help me to drop the stones of
self-righteous judgment,
and the stones of retribution.
Let me always look with compassion and empathy
on the actions of others.
May I always leave judgment to you.
May I learn to choose forgiveness and love.
Thank you for quietly inviting me
to drop the stones I cling to.
Give me the grace to be held in your abundant love
so I may unclench my fists and be free.
Amen.

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

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A reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah
(Chapter 43:16-21)
 
“Remember not the things of the past, the things of long ago consider not; see, I am doing something new. Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? In the desert I make a way, in the wasteland, rivers.” “I put water in the desert and rivers in the wasteland for my chosen people to drink.”
 
Isaiah is writing this toward the end of the exile in Babylon to give people hope in the midst of great suffering. Through the prophet, God reminds the Israelites that he had the power over the waters as they escaped from Egypt, that he opened a path for the chosen people to pass and then closed it on the Egyptian army, destroying it. Now, as the people hope to return from exile, he will produce another miracle, putting water in the desert for the people to drink.
 
To understand this wonderful gift, we need to realize that the desert-like Mideast region that includes Israel today was a desert thousands of years ago when all these events happened. Without water there is no life. God, who is the source of all life, promises this gift of life to his people.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 126:1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 6)
 
“The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.” What has God done for you or your loved ones that has filled you with joy? Sometimes, it is too easy to take God’s gifts for granted. How do you give thanks to God for these gifts?
 
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Philippians
(Chapter 3:8-14)
 
“For his sake I have accepted the loss of all things and I consider them so much rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having any righteousness of my own based on the law but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God, depending on faith to know him and the power of his Resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings.”
 
The Pharisees and Sadducees believed that salvation came from adherence to the Law of Moses. Paul and the early Christians believed that only faith in Jesus would save them, not keeping the hundreds of religious laws imposed on the Jewish people. That was heresy to the Jewish leaders and threatened their whole way of existence. Paul, who was previously called Saul, had been a strict follower of the Law, but he came to believe that everything he had been attached to was “so much rubbish … because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus as Lord.”
 
How do you and I know Jesus as more than an important historical figure from the distant past? How do we see his crucifixion and resurrection as more than past events, as unique and dramatic as they may have been back then? How can we have a personal relationship with someone who is much more than a benevolent and even heroic historic figure? Who is Jesus NOW for us?
 
Knowing Jesus is both like and unlike knowing anyone else. On the one hand, we need to learn as much about him as possible and communicate with him in our prayer life. Yet, we only really know Jesus when we accept that he is a gift to us, coming TO us rather than we coming to him. He is always there, always present to us, even when we don’t realize his presence, when he may seem distant. Have there been times for you when you felt his presence powerfully but then felt that it slipped away? Maybe it was at a time of great rejoicing or a special insight or, more likely, at times when you were down, in need of support to climb out of some deep darkness or danger. Of course, it helps if you, can find time each day to say hello, to say “thank you” or “help me.” But the key thing is to know that the presence of Jesus in our lives is not dependent on our attention. His very Spirit lives within us at all times. Sometimes you can feel it or hear it. At most other times we simply need to trust that he is there.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to John
(Chapter 8:1-11)
 
Jesus is in the temple area, and people are coming to see and hear him. “Then the scribes and Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery and made her stand in the middle. They said to him, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of adultery. Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?’ They said this to test him so that they could have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and began to write in the ground with his finger. But when they continued to ask him, he straightened up and said to them, ‘Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her. Again he bent down and wrote on the ground. And in response, they went away one by one. Then Jesus asks her ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ She replied, ‘No one sir.’ Then Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you. Go and from now on do not sin anymore.’ ”
 
This is a powerful story of the forgiveness of Jesus, but it is much more. The scribes and Pharisees quote the Law of Moses, but Jesus is saying that he is above and beyond that law. No wonder that they wanted to kill him. He had turned their world upside down. Today, the forgiveness of Jesus can turn our world around as well.
 
Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved.
 
Bill Ayres was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. He has been a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years and has two weekly Sunday-night shows on WPLJ, 95.5 FM in New York. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.

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Merciful and Waiting Father,
we thank you for your extravagant and reckless love for us.
You are patient with our wanderings,
understanding of our lapses of fidelity,
and desirous of our return.
Give us the graces we need
to reach out to those who are alienated
from our families, our church and from you.
Teach us to be as welcoming and accepting of others
as we are always welcomed by you.
We pray this trusting in your love for us,
in the name of Jesus, the compassion of God
and through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Amen.

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

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The Pennsylvania grand-jury report in the summer of 2018 and the allegations against former Cardinal McCarrick reopened the wounds of the clergy sexual-abuse crisis and coverup. As I read the detail of the crimes committed against the most vulnerable, I experienced anger, disillusionment, and shame. I wanted to distance myself from it all.
 
As I began to listen to the anger and pain of everyday Catholics while facilitating parish listening sessions, buying groceries in the neighborhood, and attending family gatherings, I knew I had to do something. As I worked through my anger, the Holy Spirit slowly brought me to the truth that I needed to be part of reforming and rebuilding the Church—this Church that I love and that formed me in my faith. I needed to act for the sake of the majority of the faithful lay women and men, clergy, and religious who follow the way of Jesus—these faith-filled Catholics who celebrate the sacraments, pray daily, and are committed to charitable works and just acts. My co-workers at RENEW felt the same way. We needed to do our part to heal our Church.
 
I am inspired by a statement by theologian Karl Rahner: “I acknowledge that the Church has caused me much grief, but it is a heaviness I am not willing to put down. I will carry it until it is transformed into life, and the burden becomes light.”
 
We at RENEW recommit ourselves “to carry the Church until it is transformed into life.” With this in our hearts and minds, we developed Healing Our Church and its Spanish counterpart, Sanando Nuestra Iglesia, primarily for “people in the pews”—to face the truth, rebuild the Church, and find a way forward together as a family of faith.
 
Healing Our Church and Sanando Nuestra Iglesia are small-group processes that include prayer, stories of victim-survivors, reflections on Scripture and the sexual-abuse crisis, and faith sharing—all leading to action. The suggested action steps are small and doable and are directed mostly at the local level where effective global action often begins.
 
Developing these small-group resources has been a work of love and a myriad of people— RENEW staff members and advisors—worked unceasingly over the several months to get them ready for Lent 2019. I am grateful to all of them.
 
I am especially grateful to Bishop Alfred Schlert of the Diocese of Allentown, Pennsylvania, for pushing us to get this done because he felt strongly, “My people need healing now.”
 
I am convinced the treatment needed to heal our wounded Church is truth, compassion, transparency, accountability, and prayer. And it will take all of us—empowered lay women and men, priests, deacons, religious, and bishops, working together—to heal and transform our Church.
 
Sr. Terry Rickard is the Executive Director of RENEW International and a Dominican Sister from Blauvelt, NY.

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A reading from the Book of Joshua
(Chapter 5:9a, 10-12)
 
Up until this point in the story of the Israelites’ journey to freedom from Egypt, they have been fed with manna, the mysterious substance God provided in the desert. Now, everything has changed. “On the day after the Passover, they ate the produce of the land. On that same day after the Passover, on which they ate the produce of the land, the manna ceased. No longer was there manna for the Israelites, who that year ate of the yield of the land of Canaan.”
 
This whole story of the Passover from Egypt, the wandering for so long in the desert, all of this is a gift from God. But now, the people have a new gift that challenges them to become active participants. Now, they are out of the desert and in a land that they can farm to grow their own food. The gift is still there but in a different form. It is time for them to grow into a people by doing their part to become self-reliant.
 
You and I have been given great gifts, starting with the gift of life itself and continuing throughout our lives. We too must be active participants, doing our part to become self-reliant. Just as the Israelites were gifted by God throughout their existence and needed to actively accept and embrace their gifts, so too must we be active recipients, accepting the continuous gifts that God showers upon us.
 
Do you give thanks for all the gifts that God gives to you, or do you focus on the negative, all the things you do not have, all the challenges that you face every day? Just as Israel had a partnership with God and had an active role in using their gifts, so too must we be thankful for our gifts and fulfill our role in partnership with God to become fully ourselves.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7)
 
“Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.” Do you ever spend time savoring all the goodness of the Lord, or do you all too often taste the bitterness of what you do not have and the sorrows you face?
 
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians
(Chapter 5:1-2, 5-8)
“Brothers and sisters: whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away, behold, new things have come. And all this is from God.” Wow! You and I are a “new creation,” and every day “new things have come.”
 
Do you experience your life in this dynamic way or is it the “same old, same old” or worse, a series of traps or boxes that keep you from being who you really are? If instead you try to see the opportunities for “new creation” appearing in your life, your life can change. The “old things” that Paul talks about which may drag you down can be transformed by the new life that is being offered to you now, if only you can accept the gifts being offered.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke
(Chapter 15:1-3, 11-32)
 
This is one of the most powerful and hopeful of all the parables of Jesus. It is commonly called the story of the “prodigal son,” but it is more appropriately called the “parable of the father’s love.” You and I have heard the story dozens of times but try to hear it from the perspective of the father.
 
“A man had two sons, and the younger said to his father, Father give me the share of my estate that should come to me. After a few days, the younger son collected all his belongings and set off for a distant country where he squandered his inheritance on a life of dissipation.” The son spends everything, and not wisely, and the country he has traveled to falls into a severe famine. He is starving and hires himself out to take care of pigs, the worst kind of job for a Jewish person.
 
“Coming to his senses he thought, ‘How many of my father’s workers have more than enough food to eat, but here I am dying of hunger? I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and you. I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers. . . .” While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him. . . . (and) ordered his servants, ‘Quickly bring the finest robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Take the fattest calf and slaughter it. Then let us celebrate with a feast, because this son of mine was dead and has come to life again, he was lost and has been found.’”
 
Remember that Jesus is telling his audience a story that creates an image of God that may not be familiar to them. On one level, this is a story of the younger son’s repentance, but on a deeper level it is a story about who an all-forgiving, all-loving God—represented by the father. Jesus wants to reorient his audience, whose idea of God has been focused on divine punishment. With this story, Jesus tells his audience that the love of God is indeed a “crazy love” beyond their imaginings. Everything else is secondary, including the sins of the younger son and the anger of his brother. Jesus wants people to broaden and deepen their understanding of who their God really is.
 
And for us today, can we see the all-powerful “crazy love” of God? Or do we judge God’s love and forgiveness according to our own limited human standards. Do you believe that God will forgive you anything if you truly repent? That is the God of Jesus, the God who is our Father.
 
Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved.
 
Bill Ayres was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. He has been a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years and has two weekly Sunday-night shows on WPLJ, 95.5 FM in New York. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.

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A reading from the Book of Exodus
(Chapter 3:1-8a, 13-15)
 
This is the famous story of God speaking to Moses from a burning bush. God says to Moses, “‘Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground. I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.’ Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. But the Lord said, ‘I have witnessed the affliction of my people in Egypt and have heard their cry of complaint against their slave drivers, so I know well what they are suffering. Therefore I have come down to rescue them from the hands of the Egyptians and lead them out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey.’”
 
Moses does not know what to make of this and especially he does not know who is this God, so he asks what he should say if the people ask who this God is. God’s answer is both enigmatic and revealing. “This is what you shall tell the Israelites: I AM WHO AM. This is my name forever.”
 
Over the centuries people have speculated about what this means. Is God saying that he is all that is or all the people can know? In any case, the God who called himself I AM was powerful enough to lead the people out of slavery into freedom.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 103:1-2, 3-4, 6-7, 8, 11)
 
“If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” Have you ever hardened your heart toward anyone or anything? It could be an understandable reaction to an injustice or hurt you have received, but if it remains it could do you and perhaps others harm. That is the time to “hear his voice,” a voice of forgiveness, mercy, and a new understanding. It is a very different voice than the one you might have in you that has not done you any good. It is time to listen to this voice, his voice.
 
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans
(Chapter 5:1-2, 5-8)
“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 of 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.”
 
That’s right, even though many Christians do not realize it, the Holy Spirit lives within each one of us and fills us with grace, the very life of God. Imagine that! No matter how bad or disappointed we may feel with our lives, if we look more deeply we will find the presence of God. It may reveal itself in prayer but also from another person or in the deepest moments of our hopelessness and pain.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to John
(Chapter 4:5-42)
 
This is one of the most powerful and unexpected stories in the gospels. “A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink.’ The Samaritan woman said to him ‘How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?’ 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.’ Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.’”
 
There are several things that we need to know in order to understand this text. Jews considered Samaritans to be heretics. A good Jewish man would never have talked to any Samaritan, much less a woman. And this is taking place at a well which was a familiar place to meet prostitutes, and this woman has a checkered past. Jesus is risking scandal speaking to a woman, who is a heretic, at a place of sin. But he is talking about something so important that he takes the risk and talks about truly living water, the water of eternal life.
 
You and I were given that living water when we were baptized, and the very Spirit of God lives in us. God is present in us always even if we do not think of it often. We all know that water is essential for life, and this living water is essential for eternal life that has already begun in each of us. Let us rejoice in the Spirit who has given us this eternal life.
 
Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved.
 
Bill Ayres was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. He has been a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years and has two weekly Sunday-night shows on WPLJ, 95.5 FM in New York. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.

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Lord, thank you for your great mercy
and the urgency of your call to live as your disciple.
Thank you because, even when I mess up,
you give me another chance.
Help me to bring the good news of your love to others
so that they, too, may turn back to your love.
Give me the courage to shake off my complacency
and choose this Lent to live more fully in your love and grace.
I pray this knowing that you desire the fullness of life for all.
Amen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Jesus,
it’s hard to comprehend just how privileged we are.
You have chosen us as your students, your disciples,
and you want us to fully mature
as teachers of your Word and Way.
No matter what our job, our career,
and the daily tasks we embrace,
you want us to follow your Way
and represent you in every encounter we have.
Please help me to spend
some of my best time each day
getting to know you better.
Help me learn how to love as you loved
and be an instrument of your love to others.
This I ask in your name,
you who live and reign with the Father,
and the Holy Spirit,
world without end forever and ever.
Amen.

 
Adapted from The People’s Prayer Book, © RENEW International.

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