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Lenten Reflection: April 5

Matthew 27:11-54

Jesus stood before the governor, Pontius Pilate, who questioned him, "Are you the king of the Jews?" Jesus said, "You say so." And when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he made no answer. Then Pilate said to him, "Do you not hear how many things they are testifying against you?" But he did not answer him one word, so that the governor was greatly amazed. Now on the occasion of the feast the governor was accustomed to release to the crowd one prisoner whom they wished. And at that time they had a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. So when they had assembled, Pilate said to them, "Which one do you want me to release to you, Barabbas, or Jesus called Christ?" For he knew that it was out of envy that they had handed him over. While he was still seated on the bench, his wife sent him a message, "Have nothing to do with that righteous man. I suffered much in a dream today because of him." The chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas but to destroy Jesus. The governor said to them in reply, "Which of the two do you want me to release to you?" They answered, ABarabbas!" Pilate said to them, "Then what shall I do with Jesus called Christ?" They all said, "Let him be crucified!" But he said, "Why? What evil has he done?" They only shouted the louder, "Let him be crucified!" When Pilate saw that he was not succeeding at all, but that a riot was breaking out instead, he took water and washed his hands in the sight of the crowd, saying, "I am innocent of this man's blood. Look to it yourselves." And the whole people said in reply, "His blood be upon us and upon our children." Then he released Barabbas to them, but after he had Jesus scourged, he handed him over to be crucified. Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus inside the praetorium and gathered the whole cohort around him. They stripped off his clothes and threw a scarlet military cloak about him. Weaving a crown out of thorns, they placed it on his head, and a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, "Hail, King of the Jews!" They spat upon him and took the reed and kept striking him on the head. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the cloak, dressed him in his own clothes, and led him off to crucify him. As they were going out, they met a Cyrenian named Simon; this man they pressed into service to carry his cross. And when they came to a place called Golgotha — which means Place of the Skull —, they gave Jesus wine to drink mixed with gall. But when he had tasted it, he refused to drink. After they had crucified him, they divided his garments by casting lots; then they sat down and kept watch over him there. And they placed over his head the written charge against him: This is Jesus, the King of the Jews. Two revolutionaries were crucified with him, one on his right and the other on his left. Those passing by reviled him, shaking their heads and saying, "You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself, if you are the Son of God, and come down from the cross!" Likewise the chief priests with the scribes and elders mocked him and said, "He saved others; he cannot save himself. So he is the king of Israel! Let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him. He trusted in God; let him deliver him now if he wants him. For he said, 'I am the Son of God.'" The revolutionaries who were crucified with him also kept abusing him in the same way. From noon onward, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And about three o'clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?" which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Some of the bystanders who heard it said, "This one is calling for Elijah." Immediately one of them ran to get a sponge; he soaked it in wine, and putting it on a reed, gave it to him to drink. But the rest said, 'Wait, let us see if Elijah comes to save him." But Jesus cried out again in a loud voice, and gave up his spirit. And behold, the veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth quaked, rocks were split, tombs were opened, and the bodies of many saints who had fallen asleep were raised. And coming forth from their tombs after his resurrection, they entered the holy city and appeared to many.The centurion and the men with him who were keeping watch over Jesus feared greatly when they saw the earthquake and all that was happening, and they said, "Truly, this was the Son of God!"

Reflection by Caroline Baehr, 12th Grade Student

As we enter into the holiest week of the year on this Palm Sunday, I think it is important to really recognize the purpose of this Gospel today. While we see Palm Sunday as a more joyous celebration where Jesus was celebrated and revered, we hear the Gospel today describe the painful Passion that Christ suffered. As we see the stark contrasts from the cries of "Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; hosanna in the highest" on Palm Sunday and the cries of "Crucify Him" on Good Friday, it is only natural to question what can come from this suffering. I feel that while Palm Sunday was a day of happiness and joy, we need a Gospel like this one to remind us of the events on Good Friday. It's our human nature to try to block out anything that makes us uncomfortable and challenges us which is completely understandable. We look to days like Easter, Palm Sunday, Christmas, the Annunciation, and other "happy" religious celebrations with excitement and enthusiasm, and we become more uncomfortable with the solemn, darker days like Good Friday. While Easter is seen as the holiest day of the year, I would say Good Friday is definitely a close second. On this day, Jesus received the cross of humanity with such willingness as he carried our sins for us, showing us true selflessness and that there is beauty in suffering. His unending love for humanity showed how impactful suffering can be. Don't get me wrong, no one likes to suffer or experience trials in life and that makes sense. I know that in my perfect dream world, there would be absolutely no pain or suffering and that everything would be faultless, but real life does not work that way. Obstacles and hardship definitely are not fun, but they wake us up and can help us grow into better versions of ourselves. I mean how boring would the tv shows and movies we watch be if the characters were perfect and did not rise up after falling down a few times. Just like Christ did throughout his Passion on the cross, we need to learn to try to see how the challenges and crosses we bear daily can help us grow as the children God called us to be.

Right now, I think we are all experiencing our own Good Friday as we bear our own crosses. We suffer from this virus that is plaguing our world and isolating us from one another, but like Jesus, we know that our Easter Sunday is coming. As a senior, I know throughout this time off, I have constantly questioned the future. Will this virus affect Graduation? Prom? All of the numerous, fun things all of us seniors have been looking forward to for years? At times like these, I like to look to Romans 8:18 which says, "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." I believe that there is something to be learned in every challenge that we face. So I challenge everyone to see how we can grow from this experience and become better versions of ourselves as we strive to see the power of this challenge in our lives. Personally, I know this challenge has shown me to truly never take anything for granted, to appreciate the many blessings God has given me, and to fully put all of my trust in God. I miss and love all of my MCA family so much, but I look forward to when we all experience our own "Resurrection" from the hardships we have faced these past few weeks and can be together once again!

Lenten Reflection: April 6

John 12: 1-11

Six days before Passover Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. They gave a dinner for him there, and Martha served, while Lazarus was one of those reclining at table with him. Mary took a liter of costly perfumed oil made from genuine aromatic nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and dried them with her hair; the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil. Then Judas the Iscariot, one of his disciples, and the one who would betray him, said, "Why was this oil not sold for three hundred days' wages and given to the poor?" He said this not because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief and held the money bag and used to steal the contributions. So Jesus said, "Leave her alone. Let her keep this for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me."The large crowd of the Jews found out that he was there and came, not only because of him, but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. And the chief priests plotted to kill Lazarus too, because many of the Jews were turning away and believing in Jesus because of him.

Reflection by Ivana Taliancich, 12th Grade Student

In today's gospel, Mary anoints Jesus' feet with oil, but it wasn't just any oil. Mary uses the best of the best for Jesus. This perfumed oil is very expensive and of high quality. In fact, the scent of the oil is so predominant that it spreads throughout the entire house leaving its mark. Towards the end of the passage, Judas questions Mary's choice of oil claiming that the expense of it could have been spent on more important things instead of being used to anoint the feet of Jesus. Jesus commands Judas to respect Mary's choice and says, "You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me."  

Just as Mary chose to give the best for Jesus, we must try to do the same in our own lives. This task is difficult because as humans it is hard for us to give so much to someone who we cannot physically see or be with. However, if we learn to trust in God just as Mary did throughout His life, death, and resurrection, we will find it easier to devote ourselves to God in our everyday lives. In doing so, the result will not be temporary. God shows us throughout scripture and even in everyday life that His love for us is abundant and everlasting. His love will spread into every facet of our lives just as the aroma of oil spread throughout the entire house. When we give ourselves to God in prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and sacrifice, His grace fills our lives and draws us closer to Him.  

However, that sacrifice we desire to make in our lives is often faced with challenges. Giving up in order to gain can be a difficult reality because we are constantly surrounded by temptation. Just as Judas questioned Mary's choice and attempted to change her intention, temptations challenge us all the time and attempt to weaken our relationship with God. It is important to remember your intention and the reason for sacrifice. When reminding yourself of the ultimate sacrifice, Jesus' crucifixion, you begin to ignore temptation and to remain focused on your intention to give up something in order to gain a deeper understanding of Jesus' sacrifice and His love for you.  

The passage ends with a large crowd coming to see Jesus because they heard of the miracles He performed and began to believe. One of the most rewarding aspects of receiving God's love through devotion to Him is being able to share it with others. When we give our all for God and live every day for Him not only does it bring joy into our own lives, but it radiates into the lives of those surrounding us. To be able to share God's love and joy with others is a gift worth sacrificing for. This Lenten season, may we all grow closer to God through devotion to Him and spread His love and joy to those who have lost sight of it.

Lenten Reflection: April 7

John 13: 21-33, 33-36

Reclining at table with his disciples, Jesus was deeply troubled and testified, "Amen, amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me." The disciples looked at one another, at a loss as to whom he meant. One of his disciples, the one whom Jesus loved, was reclining at Jesus' side. So Simon Peter nodded to him to find out whom he meant. He leaned back against Jesus' chest and said to him, "Master, who is it?" Jesus answered, "It is the one to whom I hand the morsel after I have dipped it." So he dipped the morsel and took it and handed it to Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot. After Judas took the morsel, Satan entered him. So Jesus said to him, "What you are going to do, do quickly." Now none of those reclining at table realized why he said this to him. Some thought that since Judas kept the money bag, Jesus had told him, "Buy what we need for the feast," or to give something to the poor. So Judas took the morsel and left at once. And it was night. When he had left, Jesus said, "Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and he will glorify him at once. My children, I will be with you only a little while longer. You will look for me, and as I told the Jews, 'Where I go you cannot come,' so now I say it to you." Simon Peter said to him, "Master, where are you going?" Jesus answered him, "Where I am going, you cannot follow me now, though you will follow later." Peter said to him, "Master, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you." Jesus answered, "Will you lay down your life for me? Amen, amen, I say to you, the cock will not crow before you deny me three times."

Reflection by Arielle Williams, 12th Grade Student

Jesus is talking with his disciples and reveals that one of them will betray Him. Reading this Gospel reminds me that God has a plan for everyone. No matter how bad you mess up, God is always there to forgive you. Jesus speaks about how He will be glorified by God through the injustices of Judas. Every time we sin, we have the opportunity to seek forgiveness and grow in our relationship with Him. As followers of Christ, we struggle without having a hand to hold during tough situations, but we must be mindful Christ walks with us each day. We follow Jesus Christ as we face tough battles in our life but there is one instance where Jesus says "Where I am going, you cannot follow me now, though you will follow later". Jesus foreshadows His death but knows we will be reunited once again in the Kingdom of Heaven.

It is hard to follow someone who allows COVID-19 and many other diseases or viruses to attack our precious world and take hundreds, if not thousands, of lives. Yet at the same time, Christ is with every single patient who is suffering–always. I think this Gospel tries to show us that Christ knows what's in our hearts. That Christ sees within us and understands us when we cannot understand ourselves. All we have to do is trust in Him, no matter how hard times get. That we strive to be recognized and adored and loved, but the only glorification we need/deserve is the glorification from God!

Lenten Reflection: April 8

Matthew 26: 14-25

One of the Twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, "What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?" They paid him thirty pieces of silver, and from that time on he looked for an opportunity to hand him over. On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the disciples approached Jesus and said, "Where do you want us to prepare for you to eat the Passover?" He said, "Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, 'The teacher says, My appointed time draws near; in your house I shall celebrate the Passover with my disciples.'" "The disciples then did as Jesus had ordered, and prepared the Passover. When it was evening, he reclined at a table with the Twelve. And while they were eating, he said, "Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me." Deeply distressed at this, they began to say to him one after another, "Surely it is not I, Lord?" He said in reply, "He who has dipped his hand into the dish with me is the one who will betray me. The Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would be better for that man if he had never been born." Then Judas, his betrayer, said in reply, "Surely it is not I, Rabbi?" He answered, "You have said so."

Reflection by Brenda Miller, Carmelite Spirituality & Mission Effectiveness

"Woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed." (Mt 26:24).  This verse alone ought to strike fear in the heart of anyone who engages in the act of betraying another or possibly even ourselves, for in each of us there also is Christ.  Why do we engage in betrayal? What is there in man that propels us to break the bonds of trust and love, which brings about feelings of shame, sorrow, despair, sadness, and ultimately results in a loss of self-worth and peace in our hearts?  

This Lenten season I have consciously chosen to look inwardly and acknowledge the ways I have betrayed another: gossiping, criticizing, judging, ostracizing, ridiculing, ignoring those in need; and those are just a few that come to mind.  Then there are those ways in which I betray myself by indulging in my fears and anxieties; anticipating obstacles – animate and inanimate - where oftentimes there are none, except in my own fertile imagination. I have to wonder if this is not a betrayal of what I profess when I say I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, of all things, visible and invisible.  Either I do or I don't.  

I ask you, why do we doubt?  Why do we knowingly choose to act on our earthly impulses and willingly betray all that we know to be true in Christ Jesus?  What needs did Judas have that he was willing to 'hand him over to you.' (Mt 26: 15b)? Scripture does not tell us the reason behind this act of betrayal, other than to understand the insurmountable despair Judas felt after his betrayal, resulting in taking his own life.  What I do know as an undeniable truth – brought to the forefront of my mind during this Lenten Season – is my unshakeable belief that Jesus died on the cross for you and for me, with all our imperfections and shortcomings. All that he asks of us is to seek his forgiveness, to choose to follow him all the days of our life, and to bring his light and his unconditional love to others. He left us a blueprint and all we need to do is choose to live our lives accordingly, thus diminishing these senseless acts of betrayal. You can do it, and with your prayers and love for one another, so can I – and that, my friends, is truly our Easter!



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