Lenten Reflection: March 8

Matthew 17: 1-9

Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with him. Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, "Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him." When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate and were very much afraid. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, "Rise, and do not be afraid." And when the disciples raised their eyes, they saw no one else but Jesus alone. As they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, "Do not tell the vision to anyone until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead."

Reflection by Caroline Calogero, 12th Grade Student, and her dad, Michael Calogero

As followers of Jesus, we rarely have mountaintop experiences with God. However, God reveals Himself to us in a variety of ways, in our ordinary day-to-day lives, if only we have an eternal perspective, to stop, look and listen for Jesus, for God's still, small voice. In our relationships with others, we can exhibit the love of God as we rely on Jesus to live His life through us. God desires for His people to seek Him in all things, in His created order, in the world He created, among the people Jesus came to live a perfect life for and to die for, literally, that we may have eternal life with Him. God's ways are not our ways, His thoughts are not our thoughts. Peter illustrated this idea during the transfiguration of Jesus. The bright cloud covered them, and God spoke from the cloud and revealed His love for Jesus, His Son. God exhorted them to "Listen to Him!" God spoke with an eternal perspective; Peter's thoughts were in the moment, but God had an eternal message for the three apostles that is also for each of His followers from then until this day. The life of Jesus on earth was pleasing to His Father, and God exhorts us to follow the teachings of Jesus and His perfect love for the world. God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten, that whosoever believes in Him will have eternal life. 

Paul promises that we who have seen the Lord's glory shall also be transformed "into the same image, from one glory to another" (2 Corinthians 3:18). As Christians, we are responsible for showing others Jesus' love. It is incredibly important that we share the face of Jesus with others around us every day so that we can transform their lives in a positive way.

Lenten Reflection: March 9

Luke 6: 36-38

Jesus said to his disciples: "Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. "Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you."

Reflection by Jennifer Richard, English Teacher

Fast From Shame; Feast On Mercy

If you're like me, this gospel comes with a big helping of shame. Reading it immediately brings to mind all the ways I have recently judged others, usually by listening to gossip. And yet, this Lent I am trying to fast from shame and feast on grace in my scripture study. When I read the gospel and experience only shame for my shortcomings, I'm really only encountering (and judging) myself. In this gospel, I can encounter Christ by seeing all the ways God uses me to extend His mercy.

With that idea in mind, I truly believe this is one of the most important scriptures for teachers. Almost daily, I have a student in front of me in need of mercy. Sometimes it's written all over her face, and sometimes it's the whisper of the Holy Spirit in my soul telling me to treat her gently because her cross is heavier than I know. 

Sometimes, as teachers, we struggle with mercy--and mercy isn't the same thing as relativism, where I just throw the rules out the window so my students "love" me.  I want to respect policy, enforce rules, and deserve my students' respect. I want to be just and avoid favoritism. Being merciful doesn't mean I don't write demerits or correct my students or have high standards for them. Mercy informs how I do those things--with a deep love and desire for what is best for each one of them.

My biggest roadblock to mercy--as a teacher, as a wife, a mother, a sister, a daughter, a friend--is a fear of vulnerability. What if I am merciful and later feel foolish when I find out this person took advantage of me? What if I love this person and she doesn't love me back? What if I give her a second chance and she still can't do it? I am deeply thankful my God has no fear of being vulnerable with me, of forgiving me even when I inevitably fail. After all, He sent his son into the world a vulnerable newborn, then allowed him to die broken and shamed on a cross next to criminals. God desires vulnerability in us because vulnerability is necessary for real relationships--and real mercy. 

The irony of this scripture is it will make many of us fear the judgment of God. If that is your reaction, fast from that shame and brokenness by bringing it to reconciliation and encountering God's mercy. Take the vulnerability of that sacrament out into the world. Don't fear vulnerability--use it. Feast on the grace of this scripture in your vocation: be wildly and recklessly merciful to your parents, your brothers and sisters, your neighbor, your lunch table, your teachers, your enemy . . . and perhaps even yourself.

Lenten Reflection: March 10

Matthew 23:1-12

Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying, "The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice.  They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on people's shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them. All their works are performed to be seen. They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels. They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues, greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation 'Rabbi'.  As for you, do not be called 'Rabbi.' You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers. Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven. Do not be called 'Master'; you have but one master, the Messiah. The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

Reflection by Christine Johnson, Religion Teacher

"Praise God, you're human."

Jesus says of the Pharisees, "They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on people's shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them." I am struck by the stark contrast of this image with the image of Jesus carrying the ultimate heavy burden during his walk to Golgotha. I sat with that image for a while and was reminded in my prayer that Jesus, our fullest example of servant leadership, was willing to accept the heavy burden. He was also willing, however, to accept help.

I assume that like me, many of you hold some kind of position in which you are entrusted with the care of another person--maybe a teacher, counselor, administrator, or parent. Students, maybe you serve as a club officer, a big sister, or a role model to one of your younger classmates. We are meant to do the hard work of serving those we lead, and we are meant to do so in humility, without the expectation of praise. But we are also meant to follow the fullness of Jesus' example by allowing ourselves to be human--fully human. Leadership does not mean placing the load on others as the Pharisees do, but leadership also does not mean that we carry the load alone.  

During my first year of teaching, after a particularly rough week of emails I forgot to answer, announcements I forgot to make, and grading that I could not finish, I had a meeting with a veteran teacher who was helping to assess my progress. I was so embarrassed to tell her how things were going. After I finished, she simply said, "Praise God, you're human. I'm so glad I'm not the only one." 

It was the best thing she could have said. Today, I invite you to look at the full picture of Jesus' example---the leader who was willing to carry the heavy load and the fully human person who had the humility to accept help in carrying it. And if you feel like you've been messing up a lot lately and can't seem to get everything done, praise God, you're human. I'm so glad I'm not the only one.

Lenten Reflection: March 11

Matthew 20: 17-28

As Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the Twelve disciples aside by themselves, and said to them on the way, "Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death, and hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and scourged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day." Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee approached Jesus with her sons and did him homage, wishing to ask him for something. He said to her, "What do you wish?" She answered him, "Command that these two sons of mine sit, one at your right and the other at your left, in your kingdom." Jesus said in reply, "You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the chalice that I am going to drink?" They said to him, "We can." He replied, "My chalice you will indeed drink, but to sit at my right and at my left, this is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father." When the ten heard this, they became indignant at the two brothers. But Jesus summoned them and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and the great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many."

Reflection by Ella Spiers, 8th Grade Student

In our lifetime, we are often overwhelmed by the idea of doing something good in return for great payoff. This is because of how you may stand with wealth, how much power you may have, or your reputation. Having power, wealth, and a certain reputation has nothing to do with our relationship with God; it has to do with being a servant to our faith. We should look on our service as our key to heaven, and the love that God gives every one of us in return. Jesus sacrificed himself for us, and yet he still gives us his love when we work to make our faith stronger. We are able to walk the Earth and use our faith to spread his word because of him. Our work and payoff of God's love should be centered around helping other people, including ourselves.

"Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant." A servant is someone who wants to become closer to God and is willing to do their best when practicing their faith. Choosing to be God's servant is a daunting task for many, especially if you are not in a strong relationship with God. If you continue to work at becoming God's servant, and remember that God is by your side, you will continue to grow in faith and love.

"When the ten heard this, they became indignant at the two brothers." Indignant or, in other words, anger was used to describe the ten and their emotion against the two brothers. This anger was centered around their thought of the comparison between the amount of power they had. We learn from Jesus' response to this that no matter if you are one of the ten, if you are working and doing your best to serve God, you are one step closer to reaching heaven. We are all one, though diverse, in the Church. No one is set apart from one through power or social class because God created us in his image and likeness. Every action we take that involves serving and sacrificing for God with the intention of growing our relationship is a step farther on our path to the Promised Land.

Power is not to be used on how we stand with God. All God wants from us is our work that we do to serve him. We should use the opportunity of Lent to grow our relationship so that we are able to go farther on our path to his kingdom. Our wealth, reputation, or power is not God's focus for us. His focus is on our practice to work hard on growing our faith and spreading his word. Do the best you can do to serve him, and do not let the power or wealth of others intimidate you because, at the end of the day, God made everyone in his image and likeness. Do the very best you can this Lent to sacrifice and grow your relationship and keep your mind on your goal to get one step closer to heaven.

Lenten Reflection: March 12

Luke 16: 19-31

Jesus said to the Pharisees: "There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day. And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man's table. Dogs even used to come and lick his sores. When the poor man died, he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried, and from the netherworld, where he was in torment, he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he cried out, 'Father Abraham, have pity on me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering torment in these flames.' Abraham replied, 'My child, remember that you received what was good during your lifetime while Lazarus likewise received what was bad; but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented. Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go from our side to yours or from your side to ours.' He said, 'Then I beg you, father, send him to my father's house, for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they too come to this place of torment.' But Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.' He said, 'Oh no, father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.' Then Abraham said, 'If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.'"

Reflection by Jaime Carroll, English Teacher

Although it's tempting to read this Gospel and believe Jesus was speaking solely to the Pharisees (the group of religious leaders who highly valued riches, fame, and religious power), I know it's just as relevant for me as I reflect on my place as both the rich man and Lazarus. Though the man's garments, linen, and dining budget would likely not correlate with mine, I know my riches are grand. I've been blessed with great health, wonderful family and friends, excellent education, meaningful work, and innumerable blessings that provide comfort and peace in my earthly journey. Yet on this side of heaven, the sores of life can quickly turn the greatness of gratitude into the pain of poverty, and Lazarus's seat outside the house seems all too familiar. Whether I or people I love experience a scary medical diagnosis, financial struggles, painful betrayal, or other debilitating wounds, it's tempting to exclaim "Why me?" or "Why them?" and scrounge only for the scraps discarded from the table.

After their deaths, Abraham tells the rich man he received blessings during his lifetime while Lazarus suffered, and now the roles are reversed with a "great chasm" between heaven and hell. This is certainly an important warning from Abraham to reconsider our priorities and the glory we give to our material blessings, but I'm reminded here who is actually telling this story – Jesus. Jesus, the King who lays aside all the fine linens and sumptuous meals to walk a humble earthly life and bring us back to the Father's house; Jesus, the Son of God and Son of Man whose purple garment was ripped and gambled upon as He lovingly endured the sores of a scourge, thorny crown, and wooden cross; Jesus, the Savior who has risen from the dead and closes the great chasm between heaven and hell with His victory so that we may join Lazarus in the bosom of Abraham. 

So whether this Lent finds you living as the rich man or resonating with Lazarus, rest in the grace that Jesus offers you forgiveness and love in comfort and in torment. In Him, we have riches beyond our comprehension, and our sores are healed by His outstretched arms and pierced hands. Unlike the rich man concerned about his brothers in the reading, we've heard this message of grace from the One who died and rose again to call us His own. Let's share that good news with someone we love today!

Lenten Reflection: March 13

Matthew 21:33-43, 45-46

Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people: "Hear another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a hedge around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a tower. Then he leased it to tenants and went on a journey. When vintage time drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to obtain his produce. But the tenants seized the servants and one they beat, another they killed, and a third they stoned. Again he sent other servants, more numerous than the first ones, but they treated them in the same way. Finally, he sent his son to them, thinking, 'They will respect my son.' But when the tenants saw the son, they said to one another, 'This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.' They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?" They answered him, "He will put those wretched men to a wretched death and lease his vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the proper times." Jesus said to them, "Did you never read in the Scriptures: The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; by the Lord has this been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes? Therefore, I say to you, the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit." When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they knew that he was speaking about them. And although they were attempting to arrest him, they feared the crowds, for they regarded him as a prophet.

Reflection by Sister Camille Anne Campbell, O. Carm,  President

As I read the Parable of the Tenants who were chosen to care for the landowner's vineyard and to have the produce ready for him at vintage time, my thoughts turned to what God has asked me and you to do with the gifts in our lives. Am I doing what I can with what God has given to me? Will God find the produce He wants from me and you? Pondering the rest of the parable, I realized that Jesus was telling the people who were listening to him, and that included the Pharisees, a short version of the stories of the Old Testament that we have heard and learned. So many messengers and so little following God's commands.

The end of the parable is a true story. They do kill the owner's son, God the Father's son. That Son was not defeated. Jesus rose from the dead changing what seemed to be utter defeat into victory and new life for us who believe and live the belief. History repeats itself. Will we be the people today who strive to live doing justice, loving others, promoting peace, preserving chastity, respecting others, and bringing Jesus to our world? This is how to avoid the idols we have created today. This is how we find what it really means to fall in love with God. Jesus said: "If you love me, you will keep my commandments and my Father and I will love you and we will make our home in you."

Lenten Reflection: March 14

Luke 15:1-3, 11-32

Tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus, but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying, "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them." So to them Jesus addressed this parable. "A man had two sons, and the younger son said to his father, 'Father, give me the share of your estate that should come to me.' So the father divided the property between them. After a few days, the younger son collected all his belongings and set off to a distant country where he squandered his inheritance on a life of dissipation. When he had freely spent everything, a severe famine struck that country, and he found himself in dire need. So he hired himself out to one of the local citizens who sent him to his farm to tend the swine. And he longed to eat his fill of the pods on which the swine fed, but nobody gave him any. Coming to his senses he thought, 'How many of my father's hired workers have more than enough food to eat, but here am I, dying from hunger. I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers."' So he got up and went back to his father. While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him. His son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son.' But his father ordered his servants, 'Quickly, bring the finest robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Take the fattened calf and slaughter it. Then let us celebrate with a feast, because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost, and has been found.' Then the celebration began. Now the older son had been out in the field and, on his way back, as he neared the house, he heard the sound of music and dancing. He called one of the servants and asked what this might mean. The servant said to him, 'Your brother has returned and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.' He became angry, and when he refused to enter the house, his father came out and pleaded with him. He said to his father in reply, 'Look, all these years I served you and not once did I disobey your orders; yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends. But when your son returns who swallowed up your property with prostitutes, for him you slaughter the fattened calf.' He said to him, 'My son, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours. But now we must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.'"

Reflection by Mary Tellier, English Teacher

A few years ago, my students had had a rough few weeks: Between writing research papers, reading novels, and completing vocabulary exercises—not to mention their other six classes—they were struggling to tread the rough waters of the third quarter. On one particularly difficult day, with a big wink, I decided to "forget" to check their grammar workbook page and gave them all homework credit. Much to my surprise, I was met with more complaints than cheers. Many of them had dutifully completed their homework and groused that they were to be treated equally to their less-attentive classmates. They, like the "good" son in the story, resented that I "brushed off" their good work ("But then do we get bonus points or something?").

While I have had my moments, I'm proud to say I have often been more obedient than prodigal, and I can understand the older brother's sentiment: Why should someone selfish and greedy get treated equally to a dutiful son? I think that for us "good" brothers, two questions arise: Why is our Father's love equal when we are more deserving? and if the love is going to be equal no matter what, why should we do the work?

This past Sunday, the priest reminded us of a hard truth: "There is nothing you could do to make God love you less, but there is also nothing you could do to make God love you more." God's love for us is perfect and unconditional, not based on merit. When I feel like I am "Catholic"ing to the best of my ability, I have to remind myself that God is thrilled and proud of me, but His love then is no different than the times when I am struggling to focus in Mass or pray daily. Like the older brother, I have to remind myself that I am not earning God's love; instead, I love Him and act charitably because He loved me first.

And, as I had to remind my "good" students who resented their peers, there is value in the work. Doing the grammar workbook page gave them practice to master a skill, a skill which others might struggle with because they did not get that practice. Similarly, those of us blessed to have developed a relationship with Christ early must see that there is value in knowing the Lord throughout our lives. The work that we are doing in fostering that relationship with God is more important than what we "get" out of it. Just like any married couple can attest, building and sustaining that relationship—one based on consistency, trust, humility, and gratitude—ultimately helps us not to just survive but thrive. While people can find happy moments in a godless life, that happiness is fleeting; pursuing our God, even when it is difficult, leads to true peace and joy.

During this Lenten season, let us truly rejoice at others' joys and temper pride with humility; even when we are doing well, God has so much more for us to do. More importantly, our faith in Christ tells us our work will pay off at the end of our lives. As Christians, we should continue to pray that everyone—whether good or prodigal, lifelong Christians or new converts—gets full credit.



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