Thursday of the First Week of Lent

Reading I Est C:12, 14-16, 23-25

Queen Esther, seized with mortal anguish,
had recourse to the LORD.
She lay prostrate upon the ground, together with her handmaids, 
from morning until evening, and said:
“God of Abraham, God of Isaac, and God of Jacob, blessed are you. 
Help me, who am alone and have no help but you,
for I am taking my life in my hand.
As a child I used to hear from the books of my forefathers
that you, O LORD, always free those who are pleasing to you.
Now help me, who am alone and have no one but you,
O LORD, my God.

“And now, come to help me, an orphan.
Put in my mouth persuasive words in the presence of the lion
and turn his heart to hatred for our enemy,
so that he and those who are in league with him may perish.
Save us from the hand of our enemies;
turn our mourning into gladness
and our sorrows into wholeness.”

Responsorial Psalm 138:1-2ab, 2cde-3, 7c-8

R.    (3a)  Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me.
I will give thanks to you, O LORD, with all my heart,
    for you have heard the words of my mouth;
    in the presence of the angels I will sing your praise;
I will worship at your holy temple
    and give thanks to your name.
R.    Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me.
Because of your kindness and your truth;
    for you have made great above all things
    your name and your promise.
When I called, you answered me;
    you built up strength within me.
R.    Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me.
Your right hand saves me.
The LORD will complete what he has done for me;
    your kindness, O LORD, endures forever;
    forsake not the work of your hands.
R.    Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me.

Verse before the Gospel Ps 51:12a, 14a

A clean heart create for me, O God;
give me back the joy of your salvation.

Gospel Mt 7:7-12

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Ask and it will be given to you;
seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds;
and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. 
Which one of you would hand his son a stone
when he asked for a loaf of bread,
or a snake when he asked for a fish?
If you then, who are wicked,
know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will your heavenly Father give good things
to those who ask him.

“Do to others whatever you would have them do to you. 
This is the law and the prophets.”

– – –

Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

St. Tarasius: Saint of the Day for Thursday, February 25, 2021

St. Tarasius was subject of the Byzantine Empire. He was raised to the highest honors in the Empire as Consul, and later became first secretary to the Emperor Constantine and his mother, Irene. When being elected Patriarch of Constantinople, he consented to accept the dignity offered to him only on condition that a General Council should be summoned to resolve the disputes concerning the veneration of sacred images, for Constantinople had been separated from the Holy See on account of the war …

Prayer for Gods Guidance: Prayer of the Day for Thursday, February 25, 2021

Father in Heaven,
You made me Your child
and called me to walk in the Light of Christ.
Free me from darkness
and keep me in the Light of Your Truth.
The Light of Jesus has scattered
the darkness of hatred and sin.
Called to that Light,
I ask for Your guidance.
Form my life in Your Truth,
my heart in Your Love.
Through the Holy Eucharist,
give me the power of Your Grace
that I may walk in the Light of Jesus
and serve Him faithfully.

The Thought Of Losing Me

“At the judgment,” Jesus says in today’s Gospel, “the queen of the south will rise with the men of this generation and she will condemn them….(T)he men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it.” Why will “this generation” be condemned? Because they will not accept him as their salvation! The people of Nineveh and the Queen of Sheba were open to the truth, and so, even though they were not part of the Chosen People, they accepted the wisdom of their God. They recognized Truth when they heard it.

Will they really “condemn” others? Not in the sense of exercising the power of judgment against them (this belongs to Christ alone), but only in the sense that their actions and choices will be seen to be superior to the actions and choices of “the Jews” of Jesus’ time, according to Venerable Bede.

Jesus is again pleading with the people to see and accept the Truth that he has come to proclaim, so he points to familiar events of the past to say, “Even THESE people recognized and were open to the Truth – these Gentiles! Surely, you are in a better position to choose rightly than they were!” And he seems to give a little “clue” that will make sense to them later, if they dare to consider it after the Resurrection: Just as Jonah spent three days in the belly of a whale (during which time he would be presumed dead) and came out alive, so Jesus will be killed and spend three days in the earth and emerge alive and glorified. Will they accept him then?

We might take these words of Jesus to prayer and ask him to show us any hidden or subtle resistance we have to accepting Him fully. Lent is the time set aside each year when we examine our hearts more thoroughly, and ask for the grace to see what obstacles we may yet have to God’s Truth and saving action in our lives.

What distractions do I allow to keep me from spending more time with Jesus?

What am I still striving for, except Jesus?

What do I think I need to remain safe and happy, beyond Jesus?

Where am I still afraid to surrender fully to Jesus?

What do I think I need to do to become my best self, besides Jesus?

Lent is a time to appreciate again, anew, aright, that the overwhelming love that Jesus has for me drove him all the way to the Cross – because he knew that without the Cross, I could not find joy or security or peace, and I could not be with him forever! It is the thought of losing me that kept him going through his long Passion. The thought of losing HIM should keep me going through the little self-denials of Lent.

Let’s let go of all that is not valuable this Lent, so that our hands are free to embrace our Savior fully.

Contact the author

Kathryn Mulderink, MA, is married to Robert, Station Manager for Holy Family Radio. Together they have seven children (including newly ordained Father Rob and seminarian Luke ;-), and two grandchildren. She is a Secular Discalced Carmelite and has published five books and many articles. Over the last 25 years, she has worked as a teacher, headmistress, catechist, Pastoral Associate, and DRE. Currently, she serves the Church as a writer and voice talent for Catholic Radio, by publishing and speaking, and by collaborating with the diocesan Office of Catechesis, various parishes, and other ministries to lead others to encounter Christ and engage their faith. Her website is https://www.kathryntherese.com/.

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Wednesday of the First Week of Lent

Reading I Jon 3:1-10

The word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time:
“Set out for the great city of Nineveh,
and announce to it the message that I will tell you.”
So Jonah made ready and went to Nineveh,
according to the LORD’s bidding.
Now Nineveh was an enormously large city;
it took three days to go through it.
Jonah began his journey through the city,
and had gone but a single day’s walk announcing,
“Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed,”
when the people of Nineveh believed God;
they proclaimed a fast
and all of them, great and small, put on sackcloth.

When the news reached the king of Nineveh,
he rose from his throne, laid aside his robe,
covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in the ashes.
Then he had this proclaimed throughout Nineveh,
by decree of the king and his nobles:
“Neither man nor beast, neither cattle nor sheep,
shall taste anything;
they shall not eat, nor shall they drink water. 
Man and beast shall be covered with sackcloth and call loudly to God;
every man shall turn from his evil way
and from the violence he has in hand.
Who knows, God may relent and forgive, and withhold his blazing wrath,
so that we shall not perish.”
When God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way,
he repented of the evil that he had threatened to do to them;
he did not carry it out.

Responsorial Psalm 51:3-4, 12-13, 18-19

R.    (19b) A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.
Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness;
    in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense.
Thoroughly wash me from my guilt
    and of my sin cleanse me.
R.    A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.
A clean heart create for me, O God,
    and a steadfast spirit renew within me.
Cast me not out from your presence,
    and your Holy Spirit take not from me. 
R.    A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.
For you are not pleased with sacrifices;
    should I offer a burnt offering, you would not accept it.
My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit;
    a heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.
R.    A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.

Verse before the Gospel Jl 2:12-13

Even now, says the LORD,
return to me with your whole heart
for I am gracious and merciful.

Gospel Lk 11:29-32

While still more people gathered in the crowd, Jesus said to them,
“This generation is an evil generation;
it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it,
except the sign of Jonah. 
Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites,
so will the Son of Man be to this generation.
At the judgment 
the queen of the south will rise with the men of this generation 
and she will condemn them,
because she came from the ends of the earth
to hear the wisdom of Solomon,
and there is something greater than Solomon here. 
At the judgment the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation
and condemn it,
because at the preaching of Jonah they repented,
and there is something greater than Jonah here.”

– – –

Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

The Perfect Prayer

In the First Reading we hear, “So shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; It shall not return to me empty, but shall do what pleases me, achieving the end for which I sent it” Isaiah 55:11. This verse is reassuring. It reminds me that God always has a plan and a purpose, and nothing is wasted. I think this is one reason why it’s necessary to know God’s word. Scripture is full of truth, beauty and goodness. When we know the Word, we know Truth. 

The Gospel gives us the prayer Jesus taught. How often do we pray the Lord’s Prayer? It is part of liturgies, of other prayers, and it may be one of the first prayers we learned as children. Jesus taught it to his disciples to remind them that prayer, to be effective, is best when it is sincere. Long winded prayers which attract attention are not God is looking for from us. I think about this also when I am praying with a group and ask if anyone has prayer intentions. Some people give you so much information about the person and situation that I get more wrapped up in the story than the prayer needed. I tend to be more of a minimalist, a first name and short request, relying on the fact that Jesus said, “Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” 

And what about the prayer itself? It really does cover all our needs. Notice though, before it gets to “me” we give honor and glory to God. We pray for the coming of his kingdom. Then we pray for ourselves, for our physical and spiritual well-being. Of course, Jesus would give us the perfect prayer. Now it is up to us to make good use of it. Sometimes when we pray the same prayer repeatedly, it becomes words that come out of our mouth without any thought of meaning or intention. 

Today might be a good day to slow down and pray the Our Father slowly. Taking time with each phrase to pray for specific intentions. For example: Our Father (thank you for being the perfect Father, help me to love and care for others as you do), who art in heaven (I give you glory Lord) hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come (may all people come to know that you are God, who made them and wants their good), they will be done (Father, I want to do your will, guide me today to follow you). I think you get the idea. If this is not appealing to you, then simply slow down, carefully enunciate the words so that you hear them, and they lift your heart and mind to God. After all, isn’t that what prayer is?

Just as God’s word fulfills the purpose it is meant, our prayers, said in faith in trust, fulfill their purpose.

Contact the author

Deanna G. Bartalini, MEd, MPS, is a Catholic educator, writer, speaker, and retreat leader. She has served in ministry for over 40 years as a catechist, religious education director, youth minister, liturgical coordinator, stewardship director and Unbound prayer minister. For all of Deanna’s current work go to DeannaBartalini.com. 

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Tuesday of the First Week of Lent

Reading I Is 55:10-11

Thus says the LORD:
Just as from the heavens
    the rain and snow come down
And do not return there
    till they have watered the earth,
    making it fertile and fruitful,
Giving seed to the one who sows
    and bread to the one who eats,
So shall my word be
    that goes forth from my mouth;
It shall not return to me void,
    but shall do my will,
    achieving the end for which I sent it.

Responsorial Psalm 34:4-5, 6-7, 16-17, 18-19

R.    (18b)  From all their distress God rescues the just.
Glorify the LORD with me,
    let us together extol his name.
I sought the LORD, and he answered me
    and delivered me from all my fears. 
R.    From all their distress God rescues the just.
Look to him that you may be radiant with joy,
    and your faces may not blush with shame.
When the poor one called out, the LORD heard,
    and from all his distress he saved him.
R.    From all their distress God rescues the just.
The LORD has eyes for the just,
    and ears for their cry.
The LORD confronts the evildoers,
    to destroy remembrance of them from the earth.
R.    From all their distress God rescues the just.
When the just cry out, the LORD hears them,
    and from all their distress he rescues them.
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted;
    and those who are crushed in spirit he saves.
R.    From all their distress God rescues the just.
 

Verse before the Gospel Mt 4:4b

One does not live on bread alone,
but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.

Gospel Mt 6:7-15

Jesus said to his disciples:
“In praying, do not babble like the pagans,
who think that they will be heard because of their many words.
Do not be like them.
Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

“This is how you are to pray:

    Our Father who art in heaven,
        hallowed be thy name,
        thy Kingdom come,
    thy will be done,
        on earth as it is in heaven.
    Give us this day our daily bread;
    and forgive us our trespasses,
        as we forgive those who trespass against us;
    and lead us not into temptation,
        but deliver us from evil.

“If you forgive men their transgressions,
your heavenly Father will forgive you.
But if you do not forgive men,
neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.”

– – –

Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Are You Blessed by Faith?

Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” The answers varied from a prophet to John the Baptist. He then asks the question each of us should carefully contemplate our answer to, “But who do you yourselves say that I am?”

Who is Jesus in your life? Simon Peter knows He is “the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Remarkably not by the words of man but through God—from heaven above.  For this proclamation, Jesus responds to Peter, “Blessed are you.” In the Scriptures, we meet others, who were likewise referred to as blessed for believing the revelations of God. At the Visitation, Elizabeth cries out to Mary, “blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.”

To the no longer doubting Thomas, Jesus says, “Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” There seems to be a pattern emerging of how one becomes blessed. It is not through some heroic deed but through faith—the kind that comes from the heart and not through the eyes. I long to be known as blessed, to imitate the trust exemplified in Mary, Peter and Thomas, not superhuman actions but acts of incredible faith.

The author of Hebrews illuminates the meaning of faith, writing, “Now faith is the certainty of things hoped for, a proof of things not seen…By faith, we understand that the world has been created by the word of God so that what is seen has not been made out of things that are visible.” Then, one by one, he shares the power of and the remarkable results to be someone living by faith. 

By faith, they received approval from God and his righteousness. By faith, they found heaven and were taken into the presence of God. By faith, they could do the impossible. By faith, they were saved and not condemned. By faith, they were called out of a place and into their inheritance, into the Kingdom of God. Hebrews 11 unfolds blessing after blessing of living your life by faith. Although considered people of old, their legacy is ours as daughters and sons of a Heavenly Father. By faith, we, too, by simply believing, can do great things for the glory of God and have the resolute assurance of the promises of Christ.

How do you answer Jesus’ question?  Who do you say Jesus is? Do you believe what you read in the Gospels? Do you believe the prophets, do you trust what you feel in your heart, laid there by the power of the Holy Spirit? Do we need to be like Thomas and touch Jesus’ wounds, or can we be blessed because we believe, although we do not see? Like Mary, we can choose to believe that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken by the Lord. Lastly, like Peter in today’s Gospel, we too can be blessed by proclaiming with our lips and from our hearts that Jesus is indeed the Christ, the son of God, our Savior and Redeemer.

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Allison Gingras works for WINE: Women In the New Evangelization as National WINE Steward of the Virtual Vineyard. She is a Social Media Consultant for the Diocese of Fall River and CatholicMom.com. She is a writer, speaker, and podcaster, who founded ReconciledToYou.com and developed the Stay Connected Journals for Catholic Women (OSV).   

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Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter, Apostle

Reading I 1 Pt 5:1-4

Beloved:
I exhort the presbyters among you,
as a fellow presbyter and witness to the sufferings of Christ
and one who has a share in the glory to be revealed.
Tend the flock of God in your midst,
overseeing not by constraint but willingly,
as God would have it, not for shameful profit but eagerly.
Do not lord it over those assigned to you,
but be examples to the flock.
And when the chief Shepherd is revealed,
you will receive the unfading crown of glory.

Responsorial Psalm 23:1-3a, 4, 5, 6

R.    (1)  The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
    In verdant pastures he gives me repose;
Beside restful waters he leads me;
    he refreshes my soul.
R.    The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
Even though I walk in the dark valley
    I fear no evil; for you are at my side
With your rod and your staff
    that give me courage.
R.    The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
You spread the table before me
    in the sight of my foes;
You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
R.    The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
Only goodness and kindness follow me
    all the days of my life;
And I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
    for years to come.
R.    The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

Verse before the Gospel Mt 16:18

You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church;
the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.

 

Gospel Mt 16:13-19

When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi
he asked his disciples,
“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah,
still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter said in reply, 
“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.
For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.
And so I say to you, you are Peter,
and upon this rock I will build my Church,
and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven.
Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven;
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” 

– – –

Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

God’s Covenant

Gn 9:8-15 is one of our first introductions to the word “covenant”. The word speaks of God’s promise to us. It is not through our works that we will receive grace, but through God’s goodness. In His covenant to Noah, God vows to make a covenant between Himself and the earth. Is this not a foreshadowing of the ultimate covenant He establishes for us in sending His only begotten Son, God incarnate, to us? 

As we recall in today’s Gospel, Christ came down to live the human experience, both its joys and its sorrows. His forty days in the desert are only the beginning of this great sacrifice. Through Christ, God shows that His love for us surpasses all. In times where we may question “where are you Lord?” we must recall that God is always with us through His beloved Son Christ. How infinitely blessed are we, who, made from dust, can now encounter the joys of eternal salvation! 

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Dr. Alexis Dallara-Marsh is a board-certified neurologist who practices in Bergen County, NJ. She is a wife to her best friend, Akeem, and a mother of two little ones on Earth and two others in heaven above.

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