Praying with the Holy Scriptures this Lent: Wednesday April 17

In the spirit of the pastoral letter written by our bishop at the beginning of the season of Lent, where he urges us to "take one step with the Holy Spirit this Lent and so deepen our love for the inspired Sacred Scriptures," we would like to lead you in a prayerful encounter with the scriptures for each day of the season of Lent. This is not a bible study but a heart-felt encounter with the One who has longed to reveal himself to you in prayer.

The manner in which we will read the scriptures is called "Lectio Divina," an ancient method of reading, meditating, praying and contemplating the living word of God. Each day we will take the scripture of the day (the scripture of the daily Mass) and guide you through this beautiful process:

Today, Wednesday of Holy Week
Text: Matthew 26: 14-25

Step One: Lectio:
Slowly read the text below. As in all prayer, it is God who takes the first step, and so God now desires to speak to you through this holy text. Savor the words, but more importantly, savor the love with which the Lord speaks these words to you today.

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 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.”

Step Two: Meditatio:
What does the biblical text say to us? I become aware of the thoughts and feelings I have as I encounter this holy text. The following reflection may help you today to focus on the meaning of the text for your life today.

One might wonder how important was Judas in the whole plot to have Jesus put to death? Did the authorities really need an inside informant? Repeatedly, we hear in the gospels of the public nature of Jesus’ preaching – he could have been arrested any number of times! How important was the information that Judas could provide?

Perhaps we are invited to see that more evil comes from division within than from opposition without. Just as God has a plan, so too does the evil one have a plan – and his plan is to destroy by creating division within the ranks. Internal division creates confusion and discouragement among all the members. In this was Satan’s plan – to intensify the evil of Good Friday by introducing Judas and his betrayal into the plot.

Think about it in terms of the family. A family united in heart and purpose can fight off all kinds of external threats, pull together in tough times and find that the bonds of love will prevail against any outside force. But once there is division in the family, once the bonds of love are compromised, discouragement so weakens us that we no longer have the power to move ahead.

For this reason, in the gospel of John Jesus prays for unity. “That they may be one, as you Father are in me and as I am in you. That they may be one in us.” May we embrace that prayer this day for all families, for our parish, for our community, for our world.

Step three: Oratio:
What do we say to the Lord in response to His word? What are the petitions or praise I offer him? What are the graces I am seeking as I encounter this holy text?

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love; for it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

Step Four: Contemplatio
We take the time to be silent, to allow our heart to rest in the One who loves us so. We simply allow our hearts to be still for all that we need and all that we have asked for has now been placed in the hands of the One who loves us so.

Praying with the Holy Scriptures this Lent: Tuesday April 16

In the spirit of the pastoral letter written by our bishop at the beginning of the season of Lent, where he urges us to "take one step with the Holy Spirit this Lent and so deepen our love for the inspired Sacred Scriptures," we would like to lead you in a prayerful encounter with the scriptures for each day of the season of Lent. This is not a bible study but a heart-felt encounter with the One who has longed to reveal himself to you in prayer.

The manner in which we will read the scriptures is called "Lectio Divina," an ancient method of reading, meditating, praying and contemplating the living word of God. Each day we will take the scripture of the day (the scripture of the daily Mass) and guide you through this beautiful process:

Today, Tuesday of Holy Week
Text: John 13:21-33; 36-38

Step One: Lectio:
Slowly read the text below. As in all prayer, it is God who takes the first step, and so God now desires to speak to you through this holy text. Savor the words, but more importantly, savor the love with which the Lord speaks these words to you today.

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."

Step Two: Meditatio:
What does the biblical text say to us? I become aware of the thoughts and feelings I have as I encounter this holy text. The following reflection may help you today to focus on the meaning of the text for your life today.

Why did Jesus predict the betrayal of Judas at the Last Supper? Was it to let others know that He had this superior divine knowledge of future events? Was it to create a spirit of shame among his closest followers that there was dissension in the ranks?

I would like to think that Jesus was offering Judas one last chance to change his mind. When Judas took the morsel from Jesus, there was a thread, albeit a very thin thread, that still connected Jesus and Judas. There was still time for Judas to confess, repent, be forgiven. What was the look of love and hope in Jesus’ eyes as He gave Judas the morsel? Can you picture Jesus whispering to Judas, “My brother, it’s not too late.”

Of course, as the reading tells us, Judas snatches the morsel, gets up from the table and leaves – and Satan enters him and it is night. The rest is history. Having said all that, we might go into our head and say, “Well, the events had to go this way because this was the means by which we would be saved.” But before we look at history with that twenty-twenty hindsight, let us consider for a moment that in His mercy, Jesus reaches out even at the last second and says, “My brother, my sister, it’s not too late.”

Sometimes our relationship with God is hanging by a thread – a thin thread that still connects us to conscience, the His loving voice echoing in the depths of our soul. We need not snip that thread. There is always one last hope that we can turn it around. Perhaps the Lord is inviting you to offer that last chance to someone you know who is hanging on by a thread!

Step three: Oratio:
What do we say to the Lord in response to His word? What are the petitions or praise I offer him? What are the graces I am seeking as I encounter this holy text?

In my past, have I experienced moments when God was laboring to move my heart away from that final step that would otherwise lead me to sin? Have I experienced His tenderness in saying to me, "It is not too late to undo all this"? I pray for the humility of spirit to always be attentive to His voice, echoing in the depths of my heart.

Step Four: Contemplatio
We take the time to be silent, to allow our heart to rest in the One who loves us so. We simply allow our hearts to be still for all that we need and all that we have asked for has now been placed in the hands of the One who loves us so.

Praying with the Holy Scriptures this Lent: Monday April 15

In the spirit of the pastoral letter written by our bishop at the beginning of the season of Lent, where he urges us to "take one step with the Holy Spirit this Lent and so deepen our love for the inspired Sacred Scriptures," we would like to lead you in a prayerful encounter with the scriptures for each day of the season of Lent. This is not a bible study but a heart-felt encounter with the One who has longed to reveal himself to you in prayer.

The manner in which we will read the scriptures is called "Lectio Divina," an ancient method of reading, meditating, praying and contemplating the living word of God. Each day we will take the scripture of the day (the scripture of the daily Mass) and guide you through this beautiful process:

Today, Monday of Holy Week
Text: John 12:1-11

Step One: Lectio:
Slowly read the text below. As in all prayer, it is God who takes the first step, and so God now desires to speak to you through this holy text. Savor the words, but more importantly, savor the love with which the Lord speaks these words to you today.

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.

Step Two: Meditatio:
What does the biblical text say to us? I become aware of the thoughts and feelings I have as I encounter this holy text. The following reflection may help you today to focus on the meaning of the text for your life today.

For the first three days of Holy Week, the readings draw us to the tragic figure of Judas, the one who would betray Jesus. Today we see him in his righteousness objecting to the extravagant love of Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus. “This perfume could have been sold and the money could have been given to the poor!” The evangelist comments that Judas had no real love of the poor but, as one who held the common purse, would have helped himself to any money received from others.

That aside, today we might want to look at Judas the crusader. Today he is the self-proclaimed champion of the poor. Others portray him as the disappointed zealot for the cause of Jewish liberation. What was the “cause” he was defending that brought him to betray Jesus? Was he unnerved by the gentleness of Jesus – the one about whom Isaiah speaks in today’s first reading: “a bruised reed he shall not break and a smoldering wick he shall not quench.”

Religion is full of crusaders. Crusaders can be so blinded by the cause that they trample over everything and everyone in the way. As the drama of Holy Week unfolds, it will be easy to identify the crusaders who eventually put Jesus to death. Can we identify that spirit of righteousness in us? Where might the Father be inviting us to embrace a spirit of gentleness?

Step three: Oratio:
What do we say to the Lord in response to His word? What are the petitions or praise I offer him? What are the graces I am seeking as I encounter this holy text?

I prayerfully ask the Lord for the spirit of discernment, to see if there a situation in my life where God is calling me away from a "crusader spirit" to embrace a spirit of gentleness.

Step Four: Contemplatio
We take the time to be silent, to allow our heart to rest in the One who loves us so. We simply allow our hearts to be still for all that we need and all that we have asked for has now been placed in the hands of the One who loves us so.