14 15 Sacrifice for Greater Love When I was a boy, my father belonged to the parish Nocturnal Adoration Society. Once a month on the weekend he would arise in the middle of the night, drive to the church, and take his solitary hour in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament exposed on the altar. He was accustomed to call this practice his “Saturday night fast.” Those nocturnal pilgrimages cost him, surely, especially on cold winter nights, but they also blessed him and his family in untold ways. At his funeral Mass, I remembered this with gratitude. The comment by Jesus that they will fast when the bridegroom is taken away from them is muchmore a statement about love than an exhortation to penance. It is love that provokes sacrificial impulses with their proper motive. When sacrifices are done out of love, they inevitably draw us closer to our Lord in our prayer. Fasting, in a sense, can involve many forms of self-denial besides simply giving up food. Fasting fromunnecessary internet use in order to pray more is an example. When we sense that our Lord is somehow not as close as before, perhaps because we have distanced ourselves from him, it is time to find him again. Acts of mortification, like my father’s monthly “Saturday night fast,” when done with love, will always inflame a deeper longing for Jesus. Reflection based on Matthew 9:14-15 Father Donald Haggerty Father of mercy, may we have the grace to seek a fervent Lent of sacrifice and prayer and so come to know your love in a greater depth of spirit. Today’s suggested penance: Skip a meal or part of one. F r i d a y , F e b r u a r y 2 4 Fr iday af t er Ash Wednesday Called to the Fullness of Life After Easter SundayMass, throngs of relatives and friends would come to our house for breakfast to feast on my mother’s traditional ham pie, cheesecake, and loaves upon loaves of Easter bread. One Easter the doorbell rang, and someone yelled, “Come on in.” There stood two Jehovah’s Witnesses! Silence fell upon the whole kitchen. Our visitors began to preach about how Jesus was only “spiritually” raised from the dead, and our celebration was based on a pagan festival. Well, a great uproar ensued, and our visitors were shown to the door. But my mother shouted, “Wait!” and handed them an Easter bread, and off they went. The friends of Levi gather to celebrate his call by our Lord. The Pharisees and scribes scoff at their celebration and upbraid Jesus and his disciples for associating with sinners. Jesus’ response is a comfort to us all. During Lent, we prepare ourselves by acts of fasting, prayer, and charity for the celebration of Jesus’ Resurrection from the dead, body and soul. Our celebration is only a foretaste of the great feast of Heaven. The way we live and celebrate our call to share in the fullness of life that Christ offers us will hopefully influence and change those who live in the sickness of sin and doubt. It can even begin with a small loaf of Easter bread, a sign of hope, life, and joy. Reflection based on Luke 5:27-32 Bishop Gerardo J. Colacicco God of mercy and love, we give you thanks for calling us. Bless our Lenten sacrifices so we may celebrate with joy the Resurrection of your Son. Today’s suggested penance: Call or visit a homebound person or nursing home resident. S a t u r d a y , F e b r u a r y 2 5 Saturday af t er Ash Wednesday

16 17 But the serpent said: “[…] The moment you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods.” (Gn 3:4-5) A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew 4:1-11 At that time, Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert […]. The tempter […] said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread.” He said in reply, “It is written: One does not live on bread alone,/ but on every word that comes forth/ from the mouth of God.” Then the devil took him to the holy city, […] and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written: He will command his angels […],/ lest you dash your foot against a stone.” Jesus answered him, “Again it is written, You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.” Then the devil took him up to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world […], and he said to him, “All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.” […] Jesus said to him, “Get away, Satan! It is written: The Lord, your God, shall you worship/ and him alone shall you serve.” Then the devil left him and, behold, angels came and ministered to him. The Gospel of the Lord. “Sunday, the ‘Lord’s Day,’ is the principal day for the celebration of the Eucharist because it is the day of the Resurrection. It is the pre-eminent day of the liturgical assembly, the day of the Christian family, and the day of joy and rest from work. Sunday is ‘the foundation and kernel of the whole liturgical year’ (SC 106).” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1193) S u n d a y , F e b r u a r y 2 6 F i r s t Sunday of Lent The Victory of Love The musician who leaves the group to become a solo rock star. The athlete who leaves the team he started on so he can be a bigger sports star. The politician who wants to become a rising star in his party. There are many who fall into these categories. But there is only one Jesus, and he is not a superstar; he is the Father’s Son. Satan tempts Jesus to doubt the Father and go solo, asserting his own power for worldly gain. But Jesus sees the emptiness of these promises, the lie that fleeting worldly glory will satisfy the heart. A lie played out in so many sad stories of famous and successful people. Jesus does not come to affirmpower; he comes to reveal the Father’s love. Love is what the human heart seeks. The devil is smart enough to know that his temptations to power can only work on one who is not certain of being loved. His first move must be tomake Jesus doubt his Sonship, doubt the fatherhood of God—the same doubt that tempted Adam and Eve. The devil is no match for the love between the Father and the Son. We see this first in the desert; we will see it culminate on the cross. This love will be offered to us in the Resurrection, and poured out upon us at Pentecost. Reflection based on Matthew 4:1-11 Father Richard Veras Lord God, may our Lenten observances deepen our certainty in your fatherly love, which can deliver us from temptation and evil and lead us to newness of life. Today’s suggested penance: Spend tenminutes reading the Bible. lil

18 19 Editing Our Lives I once participated in a Bible study that took today’s Gospel for its inspiration. The sheep and the goats—or so I thought. Looking at the handout our leader had prepared with the passage to be discussed, I discovered that all reference to the goats had been removed. At first I was puzzled, and then I was distressed. Why were those verses kept back from me? Were they too long? Were they too repetitive? The real reason, I fear, was that they had been deemed too “difficult” for us. In the judgment and condemnation of the goats, we behold the possibility of ultimate failure in all its terrible reality. The leader of my Bible study wanted to protect me from this prospect by carefully editing the text. Unfortunately, though, his intention was misbegotten. The only one who can protect us from this prospect is Christ. And to accomplish that saving work, we must permit him to edit our very lives. So, while we do not enjoy confronting the reality of hell, we know—deep down—that we must, for we will not be saved by feigning ignorance. We will be saved by appealing to the mercy of God. Ultimately, we turn to Christ not because he has nice things to reveal but because he has true things to reveal. For only the truth has grace, and only grace saves. Reflection based on Matthew 25:31-46 Father Gregory Pine, o.p. Merciful Father, give us the grace to confront the reality of our lives in the light of Christ and spare us the sorrows that would keep us from you. Amen. Today’s suggested penance: Do something concrete to help the poor. M o n d a y , F e b r u a r y 2 7 Monday of t he F i r s t Week of Lent “Do not babel” Anger and hurt were written on my kids’ faces. Unkind words had led to blows, and I was stuck in the middle wondering what to do. My house can get amazingly loud in such conflicts. Noise becomes a weapon to beat down opponents, and confusion reigns. I often join in, trying to be loudest so my will may be done. Even when this approach works, it leaves a sour taste, a clear indication that this is not the ideal way for a family to communicate. I’m reminded of the tower of Babel, where noise replaces communication, and family harmony disappears. In today’s Gospel, Jesus presents a gentle antidote to all pagan babbling, including calling, so to speak, on gods of anger. The Our Father, founded on our identity as children of God, is a confident, practical prayer. Taking twenty seconds or less to pray, it leaves plenty of room for silence inwhich to listen for a response. Amidst the Babel of family conflict, the Our Father was my remedy. Surrendering the need to yell for power, I made our Lord’s words my own. “Our Father who art in Heaven, I offer you this messy situation. What should I do?” And the answer came, “Forgive those who trespass….” Though uncertain where justice lay in the sibling battle, I realized that teaching the practice of forgiveness is a fruit always in season. Reflection based on Matthew 6:7-15 Thérèse Obagi Heavenly Father, through the prayer of the Word, grant all families the tranquility that comes from recognizing your providential leadership and practicing true forgiveness. Today’s suggested penance: Spend tenminutes slowly meditating on the Our Father. T u e s d a y , F e b r u a r y 2 8 Tuesday of t he F i r s t Week of Lent