Lent 2021 Reflections

February 17 – Ash Wednesday – Isaiah 40:31
February 18 – Hebrews 10:23
February 19 – Colossians 1:26-27
February 20 – Ephesians 1:18
February 21 – Psalm 25:8-9
February 22 – Jeremiah 29:11
February 23 – Psalm 9:19
February 24 – Psalm 33:22
February 25 – Romans 15:4
February 26 – Psalm 130:5
February 27 – Romans 8:24-25
February 28 – Hebrews 11:1
March 1 – Romans 8:31-32
March 2 – Job 11:17-18
March 3 – Psalm 147:11

 


February 17 – Ash Wednesday – Deacon Joe Janocha

“They that hope in the Lord will renew their strength, they will soar on Eagle’s wings; They will run and not grow weary, walk and not grow faint.” 
– Isaiah 40:31

Imagine being removed from your home and town and being relocated to a distant area with which you are totally unfamiliar, forced to work for an enemy with no expectation of return to your home. Imagine further that you realize that this situation was avoidable and totally brought on by your own failure to heed warning signs.  This is the exact situation of the people of Israel when this passage was written.  Yet, it offers hope, not despair.  Even in the most difficult circumstances, hope in the Lord promises to bring great things.  The images of soaring and running do not simply convey a message of perseverance through hard times, but rather joy and triumph.

In His infinite love, God can provide the greatest of things for those who hope in Him, even if they have fallen and ignored His promptings in the past.  In this season of Lent, let us look to build our hope in the Lord and renew our commitment to Him, confident that we can never fall beyond the reach of his saving grasp, as long as we are open to extending our hearts to it.

 


February 18, 2021 –
Laurie Power

“Let us hold unwaveringly to our confession that gives us hope, for he who made the promise is trustworthy.”
– Hebrews 10:23

Do you recall the first time someone broke a promise to you?  How hurtful and discouraging it was?  As we grow older, we soon realize that this is an all too common experience, yet our hearts still yearn for something more.  The promises of God are not like human promises.  God’s promise is unchanging, unconditional and unfailing.

What is the promise to which this verse refers?  It is God’s promise that those who are cleansed by the blood of the perfect sacrifice, Jesus Christ, and remain faithful to Him will reach eternal life.  While the Hebrews faced persecution and experienced weariness in the practice of their faith, this letter encouraged them to hold fast to Jesus and their confession of faith in Him because no one but Christ could offer them the hope of eternal life.  This Lent, may find hope in the knowledge that God always keeps his promises and gives us all the graces we need to be faithful to Him.

 


February 19, 2021 –
Laurie Power

“But now it has been manifested to his holy ones, to whom God chose to make known the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; it is Christ in you, the hope for glory.”
– Colossians 1:26-27

The Christians in Colossae to whom Paul was writing this letter were encountering false teachers who encouraged them to worship celestial beings thought capable of bridging the gap between God and man. Paul makes it clear that it is Christ who is preeminent (Col 1:18) and that all things in heaven and on earth, including celestial beings, were created in Him, through Him and for Him (Col 1:16). It is Christ alone who possesses in totality the power to save us. It is Christ alone who can bridge that gap between God and man and reconcile us to the Father. Christ dwelling in us is our hope.

How often do we look outside Christ to find hope? To our own accomplishments, to political leaders, or to our horoscopes to assure us of what our future holds? Does Jesus hold the preeminent position in your life? This Lent, may we rediscover the riches of the glory of the mystery that is Christ and place all our hope in Him.

 


February 20, 2021 –
Deacon Joe Janocha

May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call, what are the riches of glory in his inheritance among the holy ones.
– Ephesians 1:18

God is constantly at work revealing himself to us.  As we come to know and understand him with our minds, we come into relationship with him through our hearts.  As St Paul beautifully phrases it, “the eyes of our heart.”  It is then that the full appreciation of that relationship is revealed.  It is then that we can appreciate the hope of eternal life that springs from that relationship.  The hope of his call, the hope we have, is to enter fully and eternally into the love of God.

 


February 21, 2021 –
Fr. Christopher Mann

Good and upright is the LORD, thus he shows sinners the way.
He guides the humble to justice, and he teaches the humble his way.
– Psalm 25:8-9

Will I ever be good enough?

How can I ever become as good as God calls me to be, when someone far greater, Saint Paul, says in Romans 7:15-20:

 I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.  Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good.  So, then it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells within me.  For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it.  For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.  Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells within me.

 If sin is caused by pride, then forgiveness is gained by humility.

Hope in the goodness and uprightness of the LORD is ultimately rooted in humility.  He shows sinners the way…and He teaches the humble.

You will be as good as YOU let God make you.

A humble, contrite and complete Confession—not just once but often—is the sacramental medicine that is our hope.

We get better one Confession at a time.

 


February 22, 2021 –
Vince Brandolini

“For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope.”
– Jeremiah 29:11

It is said that after slipping in the mud on the way to her Convent, St. Teresa of Avila’s immediate prayer was reported to have been “If this is how You treat Your friends, no wonder why You have so few of them!”

Just as God never changes, His love for us and His desire for our salvation (same thing, actually) never changes. But it bears remembering that all things, including our most painful difficulties, are of God: He either causes them directly or He allows them to happen. Either way, though, the reason is the same. As St. Paul tells us, “in all things God works for the good of those who love Him” (Rom 8:28), for He “desires all people to be saved” (1 Tim 2:4).

Thus it is that even Divine Love sometimes manifests itself as “tough love”, and when love becomes “tough”, one might be tempted to think “If this is love, perhaps I could do with less of it!” But Proverbs cautions us to “not despise the Lord’s discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves” (Prov 3:11).

Like many things, this is easier to hear when things are… easy. But when things get difficult… well, that’s another matter entirely. Christ Himself went through the same experience: He spoke frequently about His death, but it was only on the night He was betrayed that He sweated blood in the Garden. But of the many things that this brief interlude in the Savior’s life can teach us, one of the most disturbing and yet comforting lessons is that God makes good use even of our pain, as it can be an instrument of salvation for both ourselves and others.

In the end, the suffering and difficulties endured will be a badge of honor for those who are saved. As the wounds of Christ say “See how much I have loved!”, our own wounds can speak the same words right along with Him.

And for all eternity, there are no words more glorious than these.

 


February 23, 2021 –
Deacon Joe Janocha

The needy will never be forgotten, nor will the hope of the afflicted ever fade.  -Psalm 9:19

We will all be subject to difficult and trying times in our lives. In other words, we will all be needy and afflicted at some point.  It is in times like those that we are tempted to believe that we are alone and forgotten.  Scripture tells us the exact opposite.  It provides us with the wonderful hope that we are not forgotten; that God, aware of our needs and suffering, is there for us to turn to.  We can count on the consolation of God.  Perhaps it will be provided through an encounter with someone, or maybe a brief moment of calm and peace.  Our inner hearts need to open to the path God’s consolation takes.  In as much as we need to be attentive to the hope God provides us in our time of neediness, we also need to be ready to be the vehicle of God’s consolation and hope to others.  In either case, we need to take the time to build that relationship with God that allows us to more fully open our hearts to the power of His love.

 


February 24, 2021 –
Deacon Al LaMonaca

May your mercy, Lord, be upon us as we put our hope in you. – Psalm 33:22

Life in God’s care gives certainty.

With the increased numbers of the world’s population receiving the COVID-19 vaccines, it appears  that we stand at the threshold of recovering a sense of comfort for approaching life beyond the virus’ grip. We do not know what the future holds. But we know who holds the future. It is none other than the faithful, loving God who created all things, who in His mercy,  sent His Son to save us not only from our disobedience and its punishment, but also to protect  all His children from all things out of our control. It is Him, who has promised in His covenants from the moment of creation, to make all things new and who at present causes His Kingdom to advance through the world. The road may be rough, but God will be our guide and bring us safely to our destination. When it comes to God, past experience guarantees the future. With Hope in Him we are always comforted.

“Pray, Hope and Don’t Worry” – St. Padre Pio

 


February 25, 2021 –
Laurie Power

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope. -Romans 15:4

How do you engage with Scripture? Here, St. Paul is writing to the Christians in Rome about the immense riches of the Word of God, which not only teaches us, but gives us the encouragement we need to persevere in faith and hope. If the Bible remains just words on a page for us, which we read, but do not prayerfully engage, we may never know the depths of its richness. The Lord invites us to encounter Him in the Scriptures, meditate on his Word and put it into action in our lives.  Then the Word will be “living and effective” (Heb 4:12), bearing spiritual fruit in our lives and achieving the end for which He sent it (Isaiah 55:11).

 


February 26, 2021 –
Deacon Steve Bertonazzi

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits and I hope for his word.  – Psalm 103:5

Do you remember waiting for your parents to come and get you after school. It probably felt like an eternity, especially when we were kids. But we trusted and waited there for either mom or dad, knowing that they would come and get us. We had hope that was founded on our trust in our parents’ love for us, even if it took longer than usual sometimes. We should have the same, rather, a greater hope in God. We trust in His promise to us, not because of who we are, but because of who He is. When God promises to do something, we can have confidence that He is going to accomplish it, not necessarily according to our timeline or expectation. We need to have faith that even when things seem to be at their lowest and we feel alone in our struggle against sin and temptation, God has not forgotten us or His promises. As it is said in Isaiah 49:15, “Can a mother forget her infant…? Even should she forget, I will never forget you.”(NAB)  Let us have hope and confidence that the Lord is with us and will never abandon us.

 


February 27, 2021 –
Fr. Christopher Mann

For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?  But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. – Romans 8:24-25

Excerpts from Spe Salvi by Pope Benedict XVI:

In hope we were saved, says Saint Paul to the Romans, and likewise to us (Rom 8:24).…Redemption is offered to us in the sense that we have been given hope, trustworthy hope, by virtue of which we can face our present:  the present, even if it is arduous, can be lived and accepted if it leads towards a goal, if we can be sure of this goal, and if this goal is great enough to justify the effort of the journey.  Now the question immediately arises:

What sort of hope could ever justify the statement that, on the basis of that hope and simply because it exists, we are redeemed?

…The self-understanding of the early Christians was shaped by their having received the gift of a trustworthy hope, when we compare the Christian life with life prior to faith, or with the situation of the followers of other religions.  Paul reminds the Ephesians that before their encounter with Christ they were “without hope and without God in the world” (Eph 2:12).

…A distinguishing mark of Christians the fact that…their life will not end in emptiness.  Only when the future is certain as a positive reality does it become possible to live the present as well.…Christianity was not only “good news”—the communication of a hitherto unknown content.

…The dark door of time, of the future, has been thrown open. The one who has hope lives differently; the one who hopes has been granted the gift of a new life.  To come to know God—the true God—means to receive hope.

 


February 28, 2021

by Vincent Brandolini

Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen. – Hebrews 11:1

“I believe what I can see!” For this reason, many find it easy to set aside “faith”. God is not necessarily “ruled out” completely, but tucked away into a near-forgotten corner of the mind, and into a near-forgotten corner of life.

But the truth is that we ALWAYS believe things we don’t see. We wouldn’t  trust the gas station attendant or the airline pilot if we didn’t. So the question isn’t whether “seeing” is the only way of “believing”; rather, it is WHEN can we believe without actually seeing?

Our faith is certainly NOT a “blind” faith. We do not accept it with our eyes shut. Rather, like the Saints in our religious art, we look it with our eyes wide open. And while we can’t “see” things that the faith promises, we see their effects as clearly as we see the effects of gravity.

We know that many people in the Church have done some very bad things throughout our history. Because they really didn’t believe and live the faith, they pretty much acted like everyone else.

But what of those who really DO just that? We see things we don’t really see elsewhere. We see St. Maximillian Kolbe singing with joy while being starved to death in a concentration camp. We see the Missionaries of Charity devoting their lives to nothing but the welfare of the poorest. And even in the ordinary good priest we find in our own parish, we find someone who gave up all the normal rewards of life – marriage, families, wealth – for our sake. And when we look throughout our Catholic history, we see millions just like these.

The faith might be unseen, but when we see the faith lived out, we are seeing the most wondrous things imaginable…

 


March 1, 2021

by Deacon Joe Janocha

If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all, how will he not also give us everything else along with him?  – Romans 8:31-32

Without including the exact word, this passage is one of the most powerful messages of hope in all of Scripture. In God, we have the strongest advocate possible. God has demonstrated the deepest of love for us by sending his only Son to suffer and die so that we may be saved from sin. If he is willing to do that for us, there is nothing he would not give us. Yet, this is the promise and the hope He gives to those who love Him. This is the source of our ultimate peace and joy when we enter into that deep relationship with Him. Armed with the confidence this message gives us, our prayer takes on a deeper meaning and we can obtain a deeper appreciation of the totality of the love of God.

At another level, this message can give us great comfort in dealing with trials we encounter in this life.  Just a few years after these words were provided to the Church at Rome, the Roman Christians began a period of prolonged persecution. With their church under attack, this same message offered a sense of hope and comfort. Today, it is not hard to see the many threats and attacks the Church continues to endure. While we are not guaranteed the elimination of suffering and persecution, let these words of St. Paul provides with the hope they were intended to provide.

 


March 2, 2021

by Deacon Al LaMonaca

Then your life shall be brighter than the noonday; its gloom shall become like the morning, and you shall be secure, because there is hope.  – Job 11:17-18

The path is always brighter on our Father’s side.

Light and dark are opposites; therefore, it is easy to compare the two. Think of them as being two different paths through life.  The paths taken by the wise and the wicked are as different as light and darkness. Choosing the path to follow is a life or death decision.  The path of the wise is like the dawn’s first rays of light that gradually increase to greater brightness.  The path of the wicked is characterized by complete and utter darkness that causes instability and stumbling.  The path brightened by the Lord and traveled along with Him is full of Hope.