Franciscan Renewal Center

Simple Thoughts: 5th Sunday of Lent

Oftentimes our human experience and condition can get in the way of us seeing a deeper reality. This roadblock can be especially present when we are dealing with death. Grief and loss are feelings natural to the human condition. Death seems like such a final moment, the end. We mourn what was and what will not be. Jesus feels these emotions in the Gospel today. Jesus is “troubled” at what is to come; His death. However, He doesn’t remain troubled. He reveals the deeper reality; death is not the end. It is a means to a different end. Jesus tells us that when He is “lifted up from the earth [He] will draw everyone to [Himself].” His death will open the door to new life with Him.

Our second reading echoes this. We hear that Jesus, through the cross, “became the source of eternal salvation for all.” This is God’s new covenant with us. In the first reading God, through the prophet Jeremiah, proclaims a covenant that will be written on our hearts. This covenant is for all. God tells us that, “All, from least to greatest, shall know Me.” This covenant becomes reality in Jesus.

We can see Jesus. We can know Jesus. His love is written in our heart. He entered into humanity, to be in relationship with us, to reveal that even in our human condition there is a deeper reality. We are God’s people and He is our God.

Scripture Reference (Cycle B):

1st: Jeremiah 31:31-34

Response: Psalm 51

2nd: Hebrews 5:7-9

Gospel: John 12:20-33

Simple Thoughts: 4th Sunday of Lent

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that he who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” This is one of the most familiar lines in all of Scripture and we hear it again this weekend. Death becomes life. Jesus was obedient even to the point of death on the cross. The cross does not bring death, but life. It becomes the greatest display of love the world has ever seen. Jesus, lifted up in death, shines light into darkness.

In one of the Lenten Preface prayers from our Roman Missal we hear, “By the mystery of the incarnation, Christ has led the human race, that walked in darkness, into the radiance of faith.” John’s Gospel uses the images of light and darkness to set up for us a basic truth of human condition. There is good and evil, what is right and what is sinful, and in to this, Jesus comes to show us light, to shine light, to be light. We hear in the second reading, that because of God’s great love and mercy, we too are raised up with Christ. We too are a light in the darkness. ~ During this season of Lent, let’s look to the light and live in the light of God’s love, shining bright for all to see.

Scripture Reference (Cycle B):

1st: 2 Chronicles 36:14-16, 19-23

Response: Psalm 137

2nd: Ephesians 2:4-10

Gospel: John 3:14-21

Simple Thoughts: 3rd Sunday of Lent

“Zeal for your house consumes me.” ~ Merriam- Webster defines zeal as a strong feeling of interest and enthusiasm that makes someone very eager or determined to do something. In the Gospel, Jesus saw injustice. He saw how the moneychangers where taking advantage of the poor. They were abusing their power and Jesus cleaned house. Zeal consumed Him and He did something about it. He removed the distractions and the barriers that were keeping people from experiencing the presence of God and restored the people’s focus. This act was about more than just the building itself; it was about the dignity due to the place where God’s presence is. After He showed the dignity due to the Temple, Jesus established himself as the new Temple, revealing that this dignity must extend beyond the doors of a building.

In the first reading, we are given the Ten Commandments. These are key “words of everlasting life” that we sing about with our Psalm. They guide us in our relationships with God and our relationships with others. They establish dignity to those relationships. Our relationships, our very lives reveal God.

We, too, are temples where God dwells. In Built of Living Stones, our Church teaches us that, “From the altar of the cross, Christ accomplished our redemption, forming a holy people, a ‘temple of God built of living stones, where the Father is worshiped in spirit and in truth.’” Zeal for God’s house should consume us. ~ May we uphold the dignity of the Temple of God, both the buildings where God’s presence is and in us, temples of God.

Scripture Reference (Cycle B):

1st: Exodus 20:1-17

Response: Psalm 19

2nd: 1 Corrinthians 1:22-25

Gospel: John 2:13-25

Simple Thoughts: 2nd Sunday of Lent

The glory of the Lord shines around us! ~ The season of Lent is not just about sacrifice, suffering, turning away from sin, ashes and the crucifixion. During this season, prayer, penance and almsgiving should help us reflect on the entire Paschal Mystery. The Paschal Mystery does not end with the cross, but with the resurrection.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus gives us a glimpse of what is to come if we follow Him. Jesus’ transfiguration is a revelation of God. This is who He is. His glory shines on the Apostles and on us today. A revelation is more than an observation. It is a life-changing realization of something new. This realization comes with clear instruction. We must listen to Jesus.

Jesus isn’t alone during this experience. He is with two other people who listened to God, and whom God used in the past to reveal His glory. In this wonderful moment on the mountain, we are reminded that God’s glory has always been revealed.

Moses and Elijah both encountered God and their lives were changed. Their realization opened them up to allow God to reveal Himself through them to others. Just like Moses and Elijah, we are called to our own realization and to continue sharing God’s glory. We are called to take a leap of faith and trust, as Abraham does in the first reading. Trusting in God’s promise, he is willing to give up even what matters most, his son, in order to follow God. Because of his faith, God blessed Abraham abundantly.

How has God revealed His glory to us? ~ When we experience His glory, when we have a transfiguration moment of our own, the realization should challenge us to respond as Abraham did. We can let go of where we are and allow our lives to be changed forever. In our journey of new life, we can shine with God’s glory to the world around us. As we do this, take courage from the second reading and be unafraid of what may come on this journey, because our “God is for us, so who can stand against?”

Scripture Reference (Cycle B):

1st: Genesis 22:1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18

Response: Psalm 116

2nd: Romans 8:31b-34

Gospel: Mark 9:2-10

Simple Thoughts: 1st Sunday of Lent

Wednesday began the season of Lent. (If the ashes & purple everywhere didn’t give it away for you, now you know.) As we start this season, our scriptures call us to reflect on the orientation of our heart. If we give up chocolate just because we “have to give something up,” we would be missing the point. Where is the why? Why are we fasting? Why are we trying to find more opportunity for prayer? Why are we giving money differently?

Reflecting on the season of Lent, Thomas Merton wrote, “In the laying upon us the light cross of ashes, the church desires to take off our shoulders all other heavy burdens – the crushing load of worry and obsessive guilt, the dead weight of our own self-love.” Lent helps us remember that God is first. In the 1st reading, we are reminded of God’s promise Noah. He is our God and we are His people, and we are called to be faithful. As Psalm 25 says, God’s ways are “love and truth to those who keep [God’s] covenant. We will fall short, we will fail. Our 2nd reading reminds us that, because of Christ, we are forgiven. “Christ suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that He might lead you to God.” Jesus is the way. In the Gospel, Jesus shows us that even He was tempted, but He focused on His relationship with the Father, and overcame the temptations. We are challenged to focus on God in the same way.

Our prayer, our fasting and our almsgiving during this season help us to drop the dead weight, not focus on our own desires and follow Jesus’ example. Jesus shows us that God is always with us, even in the middle of temptation. With our focus on Him, no evil or temptation can pull us away. Now is the time to make sure our focus in on God. As we hear Jesus say in the Gospel, “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the Gospel.” ~ What “dead weight” can we drop this season? How can we take the opportunity this season offers us to help us reorient our heart?

 

Scripture Reference (Cycle B):

1st: Genesis 9:8-15

Response: Psalm 25

2nd: 1 Peter 3:18-22

Gospel: Mark 1:12-15

Simple Thoughts: 6th Sunday of Ordinary Time

“Do everything for the glory of God!” ~ Our second reading offers a unique frame for the first reading and the Gospel. It calls us to not seek our own benefit but to live for the glory of God, to imitate Christ who offered His life in love for all. In the frame of this challenge, our readings today show us one specific place where we can imitate Christ and do so for God’s glory; Care for the sick.

Sometimes we find it difficult to deal with the troubles or illness of others. It is easier to quarantine, push aside or keep them at a distance. Sometimes we do this because of fear. We don’t want to catch what is causing the other person to suffer. Sometimes that fear is justified, but even then, we are called to imitate Christ. Our avoidance can lead the person who is suffering to feel isolated, rejected and alone. We see this in our first reading. A person with a skin disease (a much broader definition of “leprosy” than we have today) was declared unclean and cast out until the disease was gone. In the Gospel, Jesus meets one of these outcasts from society. He takes pity and heals the man, and in doing so, Jesus upholds the man’s dignity revealing to us the greater good. No one is without dignity and no illness can take that away.

If we are to be imitators of Christ, we are called to see the dignity of every person, the top of society and the outcast, the friend and the stranger, the healthy and the sick. We must make sure that in the care of those who are ill in our society, we also maintain their dignity. We must be the hand of Christ reaching out to those who live the words of the Psalm and turn to God in times of trouble.

 

Scripture Reference (Cycle B):

1st: 1 Leviticus 13:1-2, 44-46

Response: Psalm 32

2nd: 1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1

Gospel: Mark 1:40-50

Simple Thoughts: 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time

“Praise the Lord, who heals the brokenhearted.” ~ Our readings this weekend are full of broken hearted people. In the first reading, Job is filled with despair. He has lost everything. This reading is an honest expression of pain and suffering, but we know that even though his hope of happiness on earth was gone, Job never lost faith. Saint Paul faced criticism and ridicule and eventually imprisonment and death because of his preaching. Even in the middle of all of this, we hear in the second reading, that he still is compelled to preach the Gospel, to share the Good News. He still has faith.

Where does this faith come from? Our Gospel gives us reason to believe, even in the midst of suffering and despair. Simon’s mother-in- law was sick, and Jesus healed her. He also heals many in the town and then moves on to the next, continuing to work miracles in the lives of those suffering. We can hope in the promise of our God. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (#164) says, “The world we live in often seems very far from the one promised us by faith. Our experiences of evil and suffering, injustice, and death, seem to contradict the Good News; they can shake our faith and become a temptation against it. It is then we must turn to the witnesses of faith.”

Look to Job, Saint Paul, Abraham, the Apostles and martyrs and to all of those in your own life who have shared the Good News with you. I am sure you will see their life was not free from suffering, yet they had faith and where compelled, like St. Paul, to share that faith. As we look to those who have gone before us, those who have struggled, those who have suffered, let’s also look to their faith, through it all they believed and had the courage to pray Psalm 147, let’s join with them and say, “Praise the Lord, who heals the broken hearted.”

Scripture Reference (Cycle B):

1st: Job 7:1-4, 6-7

Response: Psalm 147

2nd: 1 Corinthians 9:16-19, 22-23

Gospel: Mark 1:29-39

Simple Thoughts: 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time

“If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts.” ~ Genuine teaching authority comes from God. Throughout history, and in to our own lives today, God gives the prophets His words to speak. They teach, not on their authority, but with God’s authority. Are we listening?

In the first reading, Moses is tells the all people that God will send them a prophet from among them, and that they are to listen to him. God will put His words in the prophet’s mouth. This announcement also comes with a strong warning. If someone does not listen, they shall die. God continues to raise up prophetic voices for us today. We are called to listen to God’s word revealed to us just as those in Moses’s time did. We are also given the same warning. We must be open to hear God’s word. It may be difficult, especially if God chooses to “raise up” the prophetic voice from someone we do not expect. That is what the people were experiencing in the Gospel. They didn’t expect Jesus, the simple carpenter’s son, to teach with such authority. They had difficulty recognizing God’s voice. Those who did, and do, recognize the voice of God, are called to help others see, to spread the message, to spread God’s “fame” throughout the world.

God’s voice will challenge us. It will move us out of our comfort zones (like we read about last week), but it is God’s word revealed to us, and we cannot harden our hearts if we want to grow in faith. Now, don’t stress and let this cause you anxiety! In the second reading, Saint Paul tells us that he would “like [us] to be free of anxieties.” Anxieties are distractions that can keep us from clearing hearing God’s word. They can cloud our judgment and keep us living in fear rather than trusting in the love of God. Trust and faith are the keys. ~ When we open our hearts to recognize and hear God’s voice, may we trust it, rely on God’s gift of faith, harden not our hearts, and choose Him.

 

Scripture Reference (Cycle B):

1st: Deuteronomy 18:15-20

Response: Psalm 95

2nd: 1 Corinthians 7:32-35

Gospel: Mark 1:21-28

Simple Thoughts: 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time

A life of faith is not “business as usual.” ~ Comfort is often something we would describe as good. “My life comfortable, secure, sound, and satisfied.” We may even strive to reach a place of comfort in life. We may like the way we live, where we live, and we like our routine, the comfort of our familiar life that is around us. We like knowing what is ahead, what is coming down the path. When we don’t feel this way, we don’t like it. It’s uncomfortable! This is neither a bad or good thing, until we apply it to our faith life. Our readings today call us out of comfort and they promise us that when we leave our comfort zone and step out in faith, God will work great things in and through our lives.

In the 1st reading, Jonah finally arrives at Nineveh. (If you recall the story of the whale and everything leading up to what we hear today, I think its clear that this trip was a bit outside of his comfort zone!) He shares God’s message, and the city repents. In the 2nd reading, St. Paul reminds us that nothing is business as usual. Because of Jesus, the world is changing. This change was experienced first hand by the Apostles in the Gospel. They left their nets, left their comfort zone, and followed Jesus.

God is calling us. May we have the courage to leave our comfort zones, leave all behind, and pray along with the Psalm, “Teach me your ways, O Lord.”

 

Scripture Reference (Cycle B):

1st: Jonah 3:1-5, 10

Response: Psalm 25

2nd: 1 Corinthians 7:29-31

Gospel: Mark 1:14-20

Simple Thoughts: 2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time

 

Psalm 40, which we sing as our response today, can be a frame for the rest of the readings and more than just a frame, it’s also a way to respond to the call we hear in these readings. We should make this Psalm a prayer of our life. “Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.”

In the first reading, Samuel learns how to make this response. He heard a call but did not know who called, or how to answer. Eli helped him to understand that the Lord was calling him. When the Lord called Samuel again, he responded, “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening” and because of Samuel’s response, we are told that the Lord was always with him, ensuring that any word Samuel spoke had an effect. Saint Paul challenges us to see that this response, our own “Here I am,” effects not just what we say, but our entire being. Our very body is part of our response to God, and through our very being, we glorify God. In the Gospel, John the Baptist gives testimony of Christ as savior. From the testimony, the Apostles answer the call with their “Here I am” and they begin to follow Jesus.

We are called to do the same with our life. In all things, we come to do God’s will. Our entire life proclaims Christ in us to all we meet. We can run, but we can’t hide from our call. We can’t put it on a shelf and only take it out on Sundays. But that’s ok. We shouldn’t want to run. When we live our life for God, doing his will, proclaiming His love with our life, we will have the same joy we pray in the Psalm, “To do your will, O my God, is my delight!” ~ Rejoicing that we are “temples of the Holy Spirit,” and called by God to glorify Him; let us sing a new song to the Lord, proclaiming with our entire life that Jesus is “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” and we, like Samuel & the Apostles, are called to answer by saying, “Here I am Lord, I have come to do Your will.”

 

Scripture Reference (Cycle B):

1st: 1 Samuel 3:3b-10, 19

Response: Psalm 40

2nd: 1 Corinthians 6:13c-15a, 17-20

Gospel: John 1:35-42

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