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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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