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Father, I come before you
with a desire to grow in love.
Through your Son Jesus, send your Holy Spirit
to enlighten my mind and open my heart,
to grant me wisdom, hope, and peace.
May the Holy Spirit help me grow
in gifts of discernment, knowledge, and compassion
so that I may serve you more completely.
May this same Spirit help me be present to others,
responding to the Good News of your Son.
May my actions reflect his gospel of love,
today and always.
Amen.

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

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A reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah
(Chapter 58:7-10)
 
“Thus says the Lord: Share your bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless; clothe the naked when you see them, and do not turn your back against your own. Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your wound shall quickly be healed; your vindication shall go before you, and the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. You shall call and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say: Here I am.”
 
This passage was written by a prophet in the tradition of Isaiah sometime after the Jewish people returned from the Babylonian Exile. Finally, home after all those years, they needed to remember where they came from, be thankful for the end of their exile, and help those who were in great need. Taking care of the poor, the homeless, widows, and orphans has been a strong part of Jewish tradition through multiple centuries right up to today. It is also an important part of our Christian belief. Please ask in your parish how you can share your time, talent, or material resources.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 112: 4-5, 6-7, 8-9)
 
“The just man is a light in the darkness to the upright.” Are you now or have you ever been a “light in the darkness” to another person? Has anyone been that light for you? Do you ever think about who has given or received light from you and what that has meant for you?
 
A reading from Saint Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians
(Chapter 2:1-5)
 
Paul is writing this letter or perhaps dictating it from prison. He does not know how long he will live, but he probably figures it will not be long. He knows that there are several teachers who are his competition, including people who have become Christians in name but who want to hedge their bets and expound on the teachings of Greek philosophers and other non- believers. Paul writes that he does not have the wisdom or eloquence of such teachers but offers something more valuable and true, the mystery of God.
 
“When I came to you, brothers and sisters, proclaiming the mystery of God, I did not come with sublimity of words or of wisdom. For I resolved to know nothing when I was with you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear and much trembling, and my message and my proclamation were not of persuasive words of wisdom, but with the demonstration of Spirit and power, so that your faith may not rest on human wisdom but on the power of God.”
 
Paul is no longer in town. He is in prison and is feeling threatened by those other preachers. His power is not in words but in “the demonstration of spirit.” He believes in the power of the Holy Spirit which dwells in all his converts. It is that same Holy Spirit that lives in all who are baptized. As I have said so often in these commentaries, that is the mystery of God in us—the Holy Spirit!
 
I never knew that as a child and teenager going to Catholic school, but when I finally “got it,” it made all the difference in my life. I hope it will in your life as well.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew
(Chapter 5:13-16)
 
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. … Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.”
 
We Christians must not hide our light. That does not necessarily mean that we must constantly talk about our faith but rather that we must live it in our family lives, our neighborhoods, our places of business or school, and in our wider society, by standing up for the gift of life, social and economic justice, and peace, and by acting on behalf of those in need of our help, support, prayers, and most important, our loving presence.
 
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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On each Monday in February, we will share some thoughts from Sr. Terry
about preparing for and really experiencing Lent,
which begins with Ash Wednesday on February 26.

 
At one summer barbecue with friends and family, a neighbor sat down to chat with me. It was generally known that he was “antireligion.” Although I had met him a few times, we had never had a real conversation. People like him either avoid me completely, because I’m “the nun,” or they seek me out for the same reason. He began to share with me about his childhood in a very strict Christian Church. There was no drinking, women wore very modest attire, and there was no openness to other religions or their adherents. He found the faithful in his family’s church harsh, cold, and judgmental. As soon as he was old enough, he left his church and his Christian faith and did not look back. His wife is agnostic, and they chose not to raise their children in any faith tradition. They’re both good people—altruistic, reflective, and highly ethical—and, after all these years, they seem to be seeking God, or at least a higher being.
 
He told me, as I’ve heard many times before, that the people in his church experience did not live faith; it was all about the rules, giving up worldly things, and the fear of hell and damnation. This description of a Christian community is so opposed to the biblical view of the movement that Jesus initiated! How do good, well-intentioned religious people get so far from authentic Christian worship and living? It is the human thing to become self-righteous and judgmental, not the God thing. I tried to just listen and not become defensive—which is not easy for me. I obviously believe organized religion is essential, but I also know all churches including the Catholic Church, sometimes fall short of Jesus’ vision. I, too, am angered and frustrated by the way we sometimes fail God’s people and ultimately fail God when we are merciless and unwelcoming. Pope Francis exhorts us over and over again to be a Church that is merciful, listening, and accepting—to meet people “where they’re at.”
 
The ongoing challenge for all of us is to live faith and to embrace the call from Jesus to love God and neighbor. Lent is an opportunity to spend 40 days focused on becoming more authentic lovers of God and followers of Christ—to live Lent with the resolve to make real change in our lives. This year, we strive to Live Lent! so we can live faith more authentically each and every day—to make God real and present in our hurting world through our loving actions.
 

Excerpt from the Introduction to Live Lent! Year A
by Sr. Theresa Rickard, OP, President of RENEW International,
© 2019 RENEW International

 
Live Lent! contains daily meditations and weekly small-group faith-sharing sessions beginning on Ash Wednesday. It includes prayers, reflections on Old and New Testament readings, questions with journaling space, and action prompts to help us Live Lent! in our daily lives. Learn more and order Live Lent! at www.renewintl.org/livelent. Use Promo Code TRLENT20 to save 25% on your order of Live Lent! or any of RENEW’s Lenten resources.
 
Please share this with anyone who might be interested in making the most of this season of preparation, renewal, and transformation. Don’t just observe Lent—live it!
 
Sr. Terry Rickard is a Dominican Sister of Blauvelt, NY and President of RENEW International.

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Jesus,
you are the light that pierces the darkness.
Open our hearts to encounter your presence,
and to recognize your divine Spirit among us.
Give us the courage to seek you
and boldly proclaim the Good News.
Transform us into faithful disciples
that we might bear the light of Christ
in the darkest places of our world.
We ask this prayer in Jesus’ name.
Amen.

 
Adapted from The Word on Campus © RENEW International.

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A reading from the Book of the Prophet Malachi
(Chapter 3:1-4)
 
“Thus says the Lord God: I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me. And suddenly there will come to the temple the Lord whom you seek. … But who will endure the day of his coming? And who can stand when he appears? For he is like the refiner’s fire. … He will purify the sons
of Levi.”
 
Who is Malachi, and who is the messenger he writes of? The name “Malachi” means “messenger.” This book was probably written after 500 BC by one or several prophets. The text talks about the sins and lawlessness of the people—especially the priests of the temple, who were not being just to the poor, widows, orphans, and aliens, and not paying their own contributions to the temple. These priests and other offenders will be purified “like gold or silver.” Throughout the history of Israel, there were many prophets who delivered this kind of message to the people, but especially to the priests of the temple who, above all, should have been examples for the people.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 24:7, 8, 9, 10)
 
“Who is this king of glory? It is the Lord” “King” is a kind of a foreign word for us who overthrew a British king to gain our freedom, but for the Israelites it conveyed the greatest of honors. It is in that spirit that we pray this Psalm of praise to God.
 
A reading from the Letter to the Hebrews
(Chapter 2:14-18)
 
The author wants his audience to know this about Jesus: “Through death he might destroy the one who has the power over death, that is, the devil, and free those who through fear of death had been subject to slavery all their life.” This is important, because at that time many people believed that the devil controlled life and death. No! It is Jesus: “He had to become like his brothers and sisters in every way that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest before God to expiate the sins of the people. Because he himself was tested through what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.” As we read today in the prophecy of Malachi and can read in the words of other prophets, the high priests were not always faithful and holy. They could not be effective ministers for the people in life and death. Jesus could and can.
 
Do you experience the presence of Jesus in your life? He is present always, especially in our times of greatest suffering, doubt, and need, and yes, even when death threatens us or those whom we love. Jesus is there for us in life and in death.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke
(Chapter 2:22-40)
 
Biblical scholars tell us that Luke was probably a Gentile convert who had studied the Jewish scriptures. He also wrote the Acts of the Apostles and was a companion of Saint Paul on some of his journeys. His Gospel was written sometime after those of Mark and Matthew but well before that of John, which is believed to have been written around 90 AD. That is important, because it means that Luke wrote well after the death of Jesus, when the Church had spread throughout the eastern Mediterranean. Luke wrote as dozens of churches had sprung up, and many people had died as martyrs for their faith.
 
Luke’s Gospel is often referred to as the Gospel of the Spirit, because he uses that term, “Spirit,” more than any other gospel writer, and he sees Jesus as the fulfillment of a long line of Jewish prophets, but as much more. Simeon, described in this passage, has been waiting all his life for the Messiah: “It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Christ of the Lord. He came in the Sprit into the temple; and when the parents had brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him, he took him into his arms and blessed God saying: ‘Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in the sight of all the peoples: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.’” As always, Luke makes the connection between his Gentile roots and his Jewish faith fulfilled in Jesus.
 
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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