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“Little lazies” is what I call them. You know them: those small chores or actions you don’t do, because you don’t deem them urgent or important; or, better still, you think someone else will do them. Remember that saltshaker you did not refill, or that paper-towel dispenser that was on its last towel? I think we all give in to them at times. “Little lazies” are just slight lapses in self-discipline that eventually catch up with us, either because necessity forces us to carry out these tasks or because we are confronted by someone else who did.

 

I see someone in a store, and I think to myself how sad that person looks. Even if I don’t know him or her, would it hurt me to smile and just say, “Good morning?” A passerby has a pouting little child in her shopping cart. Would I take a few seconds to compliment the mother and say a few kind words to the child instead of just going about my errands? Openness is a way of overcoming the “little lazies” insofar as we don’t withdraw from our surroundings and selfishly turn inward. Small acts of kindness are little disciplines we can either ignore or lovingly carry out. We don’t have big demands made on us in these simple situations, but we can start somewhere, and practice can help prepare us for the bigger discipline demands.

 

Today the Church observes an optional memorial for St. Peter Damian, who was a bishop in the 11th century and has been named a Doctor of the Church. St. Peter Damian was definitely familiar with discipline. I would guess that he did not give in to those “little lazies” and certainly not big ones! His Wikipedia biography entry tells of his extreme self-mortification all the while being a forceful reformer, a writer, a leader, a cardinal, and a legate for the pope. The readings for his memorial Mass call us to be active, persistent, and fruitful (2 Timothy 4:1-5, John 15:1-8). We cannot be lazy, because, as the Responsorial Psalm proclaims, “You are my inheritance, O Lord” (Psalm 16:5a). We have good reason and motivation to be energized! See what is waiting for us!

 

In St. John’s Gospel, Jesus invites us to be his disciples. Did you ever notice that “disciple” and “discipline” have the same first seven letters? Disciples have to be disciplined, and we can be, because we are the branches abiding on the nourishing vine that is Jesus. If we start to get a little lazy or a little weak, we can confidently pray to our personal Source for strength and perseverance. This is good news that can bolster us again and again!

 

We are close to the end of the week, and sometimes by then we are running out of steam. In my prayer time today, I might ask for a little boost of self-discipline so that I can try to glorify the Father by bearing fruit for his kingdom—even some small fruit!

 

We all might consider making a loving phone call, sharing a comforting Gospel story, spreading an uplifting attitude, praying for a soldier who is deployed, or good-naturedly completing someone else’s “little lazy” chore. We have a strong example of a disciplined person in St. Peter Damian. Best of all, we have the loving example of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Holiness, here we come!

 

Think about it:

  1. What are some of your “little lazies?”
  2. In what small way can you add to your response to the call to be a disciple of Jesus?

 
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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A reading from the Book of Leviticus
(Chapter 19:1-2, 17-18)
 
“Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy.” This is the beginning of a whole series of laws that Moses is proclaiming to the people, including how they are to treat one another. The reading ends with one of the most important: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
 
Jesus taught the same law many years later, and it is still most important today. Imagine how many millions of lives could have been saved and wars avoided if that Law Above All Laws had been not only proclaimed but lived.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 103: 1-2, 3-4, 8, 10, 12-13)
 
“The Lord is kind and merciful…. He pardons all your iniquities, heals all your ills. He redeems your life from destruction, crowns you with kindness and compassion.” Do you know this God? This is the God of Moses and of Jesus. This is our God.
 
A reading from Saint Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians
(Chapter 3:16-23)
 
Paul tells the Christian community in Corinth, “Brothers and sisters: Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells within you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for the temple of God, which you are, is holy.” Throughout the history of the Jewish people, they lived in awe of the temple in Jerusalem and yet, their holy temple was destroyed. Paul is telling them that the true temple of God is within them because the very Spirit of God lives in them.
 
This wisdom that the Spirit of God lives in us is a wisdom that is often neglected or not understood. In Paul’s day, there were many other wisdom teachers, Greek philosophers and so called mystics, and he wants them to know that “the wisdom of this world is foolishness in the eyes of God.”
 
In our own day, there are so many sources of information on the internet and in public media, but where is true wisdom? It is, as always, a gift from the Spirit, given in the spirit of Love.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew
(Chapter 5:38-48)
 
Jesus said to his disciples, “You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes the sun shine on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly father is perfect.”
 
Moses told the people, “love your neighbors.” Jesus goes way beyond that to embrace enemies. He says that even tax collectors, who were universally hated, loved their neighbors. But imagine trying to love the Roman rulers who were killing Jesus’ followers and would continue to murder Christians for almost three hundred years.
 
Unfortunately, the word “hate” has entered into our political and social discourse with increasing frequency. We hear it every day from all sorts of people and groups. Even when there is serious reason for disagreements, there is no excuse for hatred. It only breeds more hatred and division, not love. It is not the way of 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.
 
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.

 
For me, the Lenten season has always been a time to refocus on God and get my life in right order. I want to Live Lent! so I can live faith with greater integrity and in deeper communion with God and my neighbor. As a child I thought Lent was about giving up things like candy and fighting with my sister, Mary. I have come to realize that it is not so much about giving up things but about seizing the opportunity to be all that God has called me to be—a holy, healthy, and loving person—a disciple of Jesus Christ committed to transforming my faith into real-life action.
 
So, let me suggest not ways to fast but things to do and things not to do this Lent.
 
First, things to do:
 
Consciously surrender to God. Whenever we say the Lord’s Prayer we ask that God’s will be done on earth. And Lent reminds us that leading a Christian life means setting aside our will—our desires and wishes and priorities—and asking God to help us behave only according to God’s will.
 
Let go of old self-images. Imitating Jesus, who died on the cross, is to empty ourselves of ego and see ourselves as who we really are— creatures totally dependent on our Creator, but also living reflections of God’s love and compassion. We are flawed and fabulous, and we need to let go of denigrating ourselves and old tapes that tell us that we are not good enough or smart enough or attractive enough. Lent is a time to see ourselves clearly—as Father Richard Rohr’s says, to find our true selves, our God selves, our Christ selves.
 
Focus on engendering life from within. No matter what we own or what we lack in the way of material possessions or wealth, our greatest gifts to each other, to the world at large, will always come from within us. Be conscious of the Holy Spirit encouraging your powers of love, compassion, and justice; realize the potential in these gifts; find ways to use these gifts to bless the lives of others in large ways and small.
 
Ask for the grace of transformation. Pray each day that you will emerge from this Lenten experience as a new person. Leave the details of your renewal up to God, and thank God for this grace.
 

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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God of earth, sea, and sky,
God of plants, animals, and persons,
you alone have power over life and death.
Cleanse my heart of all feelings of revenge.
Change my heart of stone
to a heart of flesh
so that I may recognize your image
in all persons, regardless of their deeds.
I make my prayer through Christ our Lord.
Amen.

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

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A reading from the Book of the Prophet Sirach
(Chapter 15:15-20)
 
This is in our liturgy because the author, a scribe named Yeshua ben Sira, writing about two hundred years before the birth of Jesus, alludes to a thought from the wisdom of Moses: “If you choose you can keep the commandments, they will save you; if you trust in God, you too shall live.” Then later, he writes, “The eyes of God are on those who fear him.” The word “fear,” when related to God, has been often misunderstood. It means a sense of awe, not the cringing kind of fear that was often taught to children and adults to keep them subservient. True love of God “casts out fear.”
 
Have you grown up in the wrong kind of fear of God, one that has not allowed you to be close to the true God of unconditional love? I hope not, or, if you were taught that as a child, you have learned the truth as an adult, that our Father has the kind of “crazy love” that Jesus taught us in the powerful parable of the Prodigal Son.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 119:1-2, 4-5, 17-18, 33-34)
 
“Blessed are those who follow the law of the Lord.” Jesus said that the whole Law was this: “Love the Lord, your God, with your whole heart, your whole soul, and your whole mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.” Easy, right!
 
A reading from Saint Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians
(Chapter 2:6-10)
 
“But as it is written: What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love him, this God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit scrutinizes everything, even the depths of God.” Paul tells us that the mystery of God is revealed to us through the Spirit who lives in us.
 
Do you tend to think of God as “up there” or “out there,” far away, not near to us? Yet here, Paul tells us that “God has revealed to us through the Spirit.” This is the same Spirit that lives within us.
 
So, that is the clue to prayer. It is not so much reaching out to God—who knows where?—but listening to the Spirit who is within us, and being aware of what is really happening in our lives every day. In our encounters with other people, in our daily routines, we can experience the mystery of God—momentarily or for a while. It need not be earth-shattering but rather a gentle presence. Rejoice in the Spirit!
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew
(Chapter 5:17-37)
 
This long Gospel passage has some strong language from Jesus: “I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” The scribes and Pharisees interpreted the Law of Moses and how it was to be observed in people’s lives. Jesus challenged their hypocrisy and the control the exerted over the people. Jesus also looked beyond the letter of the Law: “You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, ‘You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgement. But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgement…. Therefore, if you bring your gifts to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” Jesus follows with several other challenges, often using extreme language that was not meant to be taken literally, like throwing away an eye or cutting off a hand. The people at the time knew this to be what was called “Semitic exaggeration.” Jesus was calling people then as he calls us now to go beyond written law and live by the Law of Love.
 
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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