These reflections are a result of more than 40 years of ministry as a Roman Catholic priest. Most of these years I spent in the Diocese of Charlotte which covers Western North Carolina. Now I am retired, and live in Medellín, Colombia where I continue to serve as a priest in the Archdiocese of Medellín.
Thursday, Week I, Lent
Queen Esther, seized with mortal anguish, had recourse to the LORD, 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. Save us from the hand of our enemies; turn our mourning into gladness and our sorrows into wholeness." (Est C:12, 14-16, 23-25)
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. (Mt 7:7-12)
Queen Esther is a great model of faith and prayer in action. As the Lord reminds us, we have only to ask in order to receive the courage and grace to confront the evils of our time.
Wednesday, Week I, Lent
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. (Jon 3:1-10)
The story of the prophet Jonah is very funny. The pagan city of Nineveh believes the word of the Jewish prophet, repents, and is saved by God—all to the chagrin of the prophet!
Tuesday, Week I, Lent
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. (Is 55:10-11)
God’s Word can water even the desert of our hearts and souls and make us fruitful in good works for our neighbor.
Monday, Week I, Lent
You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Lv 19:1-2, 11-18)
He will answer them, 'Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.' (Mt 25:31-46)
The readings from these first few days of Lent give us the true purpose of this whole season—to lead us to love of neighbor.
Sunday I, Lent
For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so, through the obedience of the one, the many will be made righteous. (Rom 5:12-19)
Sometimes we forget the Good News of Lent—there is salvation. As the Easter Exultet joyfully proclaims: “O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam, that won for us so great a redeemer!” This First Sunday used to be the beginning of Lent. So if you missed Ash Wednesday, don’t worry, you can begin today!
Saturday after Ash Wednesday, Saturday of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Lent
Levi gave a great banquet for him in his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were at table with them. The Pharisees and their scribes complained to his disciples, saying, "Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?" Jesus said to them in reply, "Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do. I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners." (Lk 5:27-32)
Eating and drinking with sinners was one of the first charges against Jesus. Whenever the church tries to play purity games with the Eucharist, it runs up against the prayer that the liturgy itself places on our lips before communion: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”
Friday after Ash Wednesday
This, rather, is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; Setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke; Sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; Clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own. (Is 58:1-9a)
If our Lenten practices of fasting and abstinence don’t lead us to works of justice and mercy, then we’re doing it wrong. God is not fooled by our pretense and religious buffoonery.