As we begin this Lenten season, there may be a variety of things running through our minds and hearts. Some people I know experience Lent as a true season of penance; they can’t wait until it’s over for another year! Some take it in stride as a necessary part of the liturgical year; they more or less invest in the practices of the season. Then there are those I know who truly look forward to this season, not because it’s easy but because the purpose of Lent speaks to something deep within.
As I received my ashes at Mass this morning, I found myself wondering just what difference this Lenten season would make in my life. Will I truly be more in love with Jesus Christ and live more like Him as a result of the coming weeks? Isn’t that what the conversion of Lent is all about? I want to choose those resolutions that will help make me a closer and more faithful disciple of Jesus.
If anyone knows what it means to follow Jesus, it is Mary. She knows the heart of her Son better than any other. She understands that truly knowing him invites us to experience all of life with him – the joys and struggles, sufferings and successes that we encounter. If we are open, she can help us find Jesus in every moment of every day.
Let’s pray for one another on this Lenten journey that the difference these days make will be real, and we won’t end the season with a regretful “So what?” How will you grow this Lenten season?
Today’s Gospel reading from the Gospel of Mark is one of my favorites. As I reflect on the friends of the paralytic who brought him to Jesus for healing, I’m reminded of the power of intercessory prayer and the gift of so many in my life who have helped me grow closer to Jesus.
But today, my reflection on this Gospel took me in a different direction. As I look forward to the beginning of Lent this Wednesday, I found myself asking, “What is the sin that paralyzes me and keeps me from true inner freedom?” What is it that keeps me from being whole, holy and healthy?
This is one of the reasons I look to Mary for guidance. She was able to set aside anything that would be an obstacle to her being loved by God and loving Him in return. She will be a good companion for me this Lent as I hear Jesus’ invitation to be truly free.
What’s paralyzing you and holding you back from being healed by Jesus?
St. James’ letter in the New Testament is a reminder of how practical our faith is to be. In today’s first reading, he exhorts, “Act on this word. If all you do is listen to it, you are deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22). Another translation speaks of Christians as “doers of the Word.”
There are certainly many calls to “do the Word” each day, in big and little ways. I think, among many others, of our Sisters in food service. Sister Virginia Marie Myers and Sister Arlene Marie Hoffman play a key role in food preparation here at our Provincial Center. Sister Janet Marie Smith uses her knowledge of food service as a Dietary Manager with the Lucas County Senior Nutrition Program. These Sisters take seriously the Word, “When I was hungry, you gave me to eat.” It is not only putting food on the table but the care and attention they give that make their service part of living God’s Word.
Mary modeled a similar living of the Word at Cana. Not only did she experience concern for the wedding couple in their shortage of wine, but she did what she could to alleviate their embarrassment. Whether I put food on the table for our family, help in a soup kitchen to serve those who are hungry, or work to change systems that redistribute the world’s food, I am “doing the Word.” How will I put my faith into action today?
The Scripture readings for today’s liturgy speak of signs and faith. In the Gospel, we read of one of the few times that Jesus expressed frustration over an obvious lack of faith. The Pharisees request — We want a sign. We want proof. — ended with Jesus leaving their midst and finding others to whom He could minister.
It seems to me there is a difference between asking for proof and asking for clarity. After experiencing the angel Gabriel’s message, Mary also asked a question, but her question sought a further clarity that would enable her to do God’s will. She didn’t ask for proof that the angel was real or that all would turn out well in the end. She asked how she could be part of the unfolding of God’s plan.
Sometimes I can also get caught in “proof”-seeking or wanting to know the end result. It’s not that God forbids me to ask questions, but He desires that I ask in faith. What do I need to know in order to have the clarity needed to live His will?
Lord, I do believe. Help my unbelief.
Today, we celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, a day when we commemorate the first appearance of Mary to St. Bernadette. Along with the appearances at Fatima and Guadalupe, Mary’s appearances at Lourdes are among the most popular in Church tradition. In reflecting on this feast, I was struck by the fact that Mary herself, the children at Fatima, and Bernadette were all quite young at the time of their unusual divine encounters. Their youth only added to the incredulity of the adults who heard their stories.
There seems to be something in us as adults that hesitates to believe children and yet longs to do so. To what else can we attribute the recent popularity of the book Heaven is For Real? Perhaps there is something innate in us that yearns to see life and what really matters with the innocence of childhood, that strips away the masks and layers we tend to accumulate as we grow older. The young seem to be able to approach God (and Mary) with the freedom of having nothing to lose.
I want to celebrate this feast in the spirit of wonder and faith that marked these “young” visionaries. May they intercede for all of us the grace we pray for in a prayer of Consecration to Our Lady of Lourdes: By the fervor of my faith, by the conduct of my life in all its aspects, by my devotion to the sick, let me work with you in the comforting of those who suffer and in the reconciliation of people that the church may be one and there be peace in the world.
Today we celebrate the feast of St. Josephine Bakhita. After being held as a slave for many years, she eventually gained her freedom and entered the religious community of the Canossian Sisters in Italy. Most of her life then consisted of serving in the kitchen and as keeper of the door.
It strikes me that Josephine first was forced to serve as a slave and then later chose to serve God as her Master (her favorite title for God). Her choosing to serve made all the difference! Just as Mary saw herself as the handmaid of the Lord and chose to give her life in humble service, Josephine chose to offer the many facets of her day as service to the ONE she loved.
Whether we see the contents of our day as something forced upon us or as something we can choose to offer makes a world of difference. God desires the generous gift of our lives, freely chosen and freely given.
We all know of people whose presence can light up a room, put everyone at ease, and bring out the best in those present. Today’s Gospel reading from Mark relates that Jesus had this effect on people. Everyone flocked to him, wanting to be near enough to him that they could touch the tassle of his cloak, because his presence brought them healing and made them whole.
I suspect that Mary’s presence had a similar effect on people, since she carried the presence of Jesus in a transparent and unhindered way. While crowds may not have gathered at her door, I think she was someone who had a way of making others feel comfortable, at home, and whole. She nurtured the life of Jesus in herself and in each person she met.
Several of our Sisters have the privilege of being present to others in healing ministries. Sister Mary Camilla Lochotzki serves as a nurse at Rosary Care Center, Sister Mary Maxine Young is a chaplain at Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center, Sister Mary Corese Floyd visits the sick as a pastoral minister, and many of our other Sisters tend to those who are ill and elderly. I thank God for these Sisters and all caregivers who find simple ways of sharing the power of Jesus’ healing presence with those in need.
Just 40 days ago we celebrated the feast of Christmas and the mystery of the Incarnation. Today, Mary and Joseph continue to live faithfully their response to God’s call as they fulfill the requirements of the law and bring Jesus to the temple. Along with Simeon and Anna who faithfully waited for the coming of the Messiah, they witness God’s revelation to His people.
Each of us is also called to live our daily lives in fidelity to God’s call. For our Sisters, this may be Sister Mary Kent Burgard teaching a readiness class at Lial Catholic School, Sister Mary Patricia Snyder hosting a bible study, or Sister Virginia Marie Myers helping with food preparation in our Provincial Center kitchen. We bring our gifts and talents, as Mary did, to furthering the mission of Jesus wherever we find ourselves each day.
Many of our Sisters entered Notre Dame on this Feast of the Presentation and celebrate their anniversaries today. May Mary continue to be their companion as they share God’s goodness and care with others. Happy Anniversary, Sisters!
As we begin the celebration of this Catholic Schools Week, I’m mindful of the powerful gift of education that I have received from so many in my life. First and foremost, I am most grateful to my parents for all they have taught me both by their words and the example of their lives.
In the Gospel, we are told that Jesus grew in wisdom, age and grace before God and men. In his humanity, Jesus needed to learn just like the rest of us. Certainly, Mary and Joseph were primary educators in his life. Many of the parables and images Jesus used in his own teaching were likely ones he learned from Mary in his early years. It’s not hard to make the connection between the compassion and mercy Jesus showed to others and what he must have witnessed in Mary’s example.
As Sisters of Notre Dame, we look to Mary as a model educator. Our ministries of education are privileged ways for us to help others come to know the deep truth of God’s goodness and provident care. Perhaps you have been educated by one of our Sisters or perhaps you are a co-educator. Celebrate the great gift of Catholic education with us this week!
Join us in rejoicing with our Sisters in Papua New Guinea as they celebrate the installation of Sister Mary Lilian as the new delegation superior this weekend. Sister has been with our community since 1992 and has served most recently with the local radio station. We ask Mary, Queen of Apostles, to intercede for her and for all of our sisters as they proclaim God’s goodness and provident care to the people of Papua New Guinea. See Sr. Mary Lilian now!http://t.co/tsnVWoMi