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3/22/20 8:14 P

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Sunday, March 22

“…live as children of light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth.” Ephesians 5:8-9

Key thought:
It’s not always easy to “live as the light,” especially if you’ve had a bad day, or someone has been critical of you.

Suggested practice:
Instead of choosing the easy route today—such as meeting unkindness with unkindness, or lashing out—practice taking the high road. Ask, “What example do I wish to set for others today?”

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

Keep Walking With Jesus-Leader

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3/1/20 10:02 P

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Sunday, March 1

“Just as through one transgression condemnation came upon all, so, through one righteous act, acquittal and life came to all.” Romans 5:18

Key thought:
Our faith reminds us that through Jesus’ selflessness, we will enjoy the reward of eternal life.

Suggested practice:
What does selflessness mean to you? Spend some time reflecting on this today, and the positive impact it can have in others’ lives. Resolve to perform one small selfless act each day this week.

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

Keep Walking With Jesus-Leader

Hopeful Hearts Breaking Free From Hurts - Leader

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2018 Summer 5% Challenge for the Shooting Stars Team - EL Leader

Driven by Faith - Leader


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2/26/20 9:36 P

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The Lenten season is upon us.

Wednesday, February 26 – Ash Wednesday

“‘Even now’ says the Lord, ‘return to Me with your whole heart…for I am gracious and merciful…’” Joel 2:12-13

Key thought:
Even when we stumble in our quest to live righteously, God is ready to welcome us back. He is not vindictive; He does not hold a grudge. All He asks is our sincere repentance.

Suggested practice:
Set aside some quiet time to examine your conscience and commit to pursuing your Lenten journey in good faith.


Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

Keep Walking With Jesus-Leader

Hopeful Hearts Breaking Free From Hurts - Leader

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2018 Summer 5% Challenge for the Shooting Stars Team - EL Leader

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4/14/19 10:54 P

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Second Reflection

“Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it, and struck the servant of the high priest, and cut off his right ear. And the name of the servant was Malchus.” (John 18:10)
The Redeemer acted differently with Malchus. When He replaced his ear, cut off as a result of Saint Peter’s zeal, Our Lord certainly wanted to grant him a temporal good. However, by healing his ear, Our Lord wanted, above all, to open the ear of his soul. So, He Who had healed the spiritual deafness of a few with the forcefulness of His Divine voice, cured the same spiritual deafness of Malchus with words of sweetness, and a physical miracle.

We live in an epoch of terrible spiritual deafness. If there was ever a time when mankind needed to listen to God’s voice, ours is such a time; but ours is also an era that certainly has the hardest of hearts.

Our Lord’s Internal Struggle and Ours

The Divine Master shows us that, if we want to cure our own spiritual deafness, as well as our neighbor’s, He is the only one who can do so, as mere human means are useless.

Let us be one with the blind man of the Gospel who shouted to Our Lord, “Domine, ut videam!”—“Lord, that I may see!”

Let us take advantage of the celebrations of Holy Week to ask Him to help us to hear, “Domine, ut audiam!” — “Lord, that I may hear!” We don’t know how Our Lord will heal our spiritual deafness—nor does it matter. Let us fulfill His Divine will whether He speak with the terrible voice of reprimand and punishment or with the sweet voice of consolations. What really matters is that we beseech Him, “Lord, that I may hear!”

Let us at least listen wholeheartedly to Our Lord’s voice and, by sincerely opening our souls to the graces He grants us, bring about within ourselves the fullness of the kingdom of Jesus Christ, which the enemies of the Church hope to banish from the face of the earth.

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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4/12/19 10:35 P

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I found some great reflections for Holy Week, as we prepare to celebrate our Lords death and Resurrection. I am posting Sunday's reflection because I am on the road at Brad's house for the weekend watching the grandbabies and not sure how much free time. I hope you will take time to read these and let's discuss them to further prepare ourselves for these holiest of days.

The Agony in the Garden

First Reflection
“Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come upon him, went forth, and said to them: ‘Whom seek ye?’ They answered him: ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’ Jesus saith to them: ‘I am he.’ And Judas also, who betrayed him, stood with them. As soon therefore as he had said to them: ‘I am he; they went backward, and fell to the ground. Again therefore he asked them: ‘Whom seek ye?’ And they said, ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’ Jesus answered, ‘I have told you that I am he. If therefore you seek me, let these go their way.’” (John 18:4–8)
When Our Lord was arrested, He did two seemingly contradictory things. On the one hand, He spoke in such an authoritative voice that His listeners fell to the ground. On the other hand, He stooped to pick up Malchus’ ear, severed by Peter’s sword, and reattached it to the man’s head. He Who terrified also consoled. The same One Who speaks forcefully replaces the severed ear. Is there not some teaching here?

Our Lord is always infinitely good. He was good to those who sought Him that night as Jesus of Nazareth, and also good when replacing Malchus’ ear. If we desire to be good, we should learn to imitate Our Lord’s goodness. We should learn from Him that there are moments when it is necessary to know how to energetically hurl the enemies of the Faith to the ground, as well as to know when it is necessary to show compassion to those who want to hurt us.

Why did Our Lord say, “I AM He”? Was it only to physically shake those who wanted to arrest Him? Why do such a thing when He would, a little while later, voluntarily give Himself up? The reason is that if He spoke so loudly to the ears, it was only so He could speak even more loudly to the hearts.

We do not know if those men ultimately profited by the grace they received, but the fear they certainly felt when falling at the sound of the Master’s voice was just as valuable as when that same voice shouted, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?”

Our Lord spoke loudly to the ears. Though they fell to the ground, the same voice that struck the bodies and deafened the ears raised the souls that were prostrate by opening the ears of the spirit that were deaf. Sometimes it is necessary to speak forcefully in order to heal.

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

Keep Walking With Jesus-Leader

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3/7/19 8:18 P

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I have a number of friends who are afraid to pray. They’re afraid of what God might call them to do, and rightfully so.

In prayer, we experience God’s love. In our response, we humbly return that love. And, if we have ears to hear, God always pushes us to go deeper. He says, “I love you, Jurell. Now, these are your brothers and sisters—go and love them as I love you.”

Jesus’ life shows us that prayer always extends to our neighbor; it pushes us to notice the divine spark in all of God’s children, to show love without reservation. It is this love that bears much fruit for the Kingdom.

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

Keep Walking With Jesus-Leader

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3/7/19 8:07 P

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I have a number of friends who are afraid to pray. They’re afraid of what God might call them to do, and rightfully so.

In prayer, we experience God’s love. In our response, we humbly return that love. And, if we have ears to hear, God always pushes us to go deeper. He says, “I love you, Jurell. Now, these are your brothers and sisters—go and love them as I love you.”

Jesus’ life shows us that prayer always extends to our neighbor; it pushes us to notice the divine spark in all of God’s children, to show love without reservation. It is this love that bears much fruit for the Kingdom.

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

Keep Walking With Jesus-Leader

Hopeful Hearts Breaking Free From Hurts - Leader

Gastric Sleevers - Leader

2018 Summer 5% Challenge for the Shooting Stars Team - EL Leader

Driven by Faith - Leader


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3/6/19 8:10 A

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Today’s Readings

Joel 2: 12-18
2 Corinthians 5: 20-6: 2
Matthew 6: 1-6, 16-18

Beginning Lent and ending some bad habits. Trying to open our hearts and possibly close our mouths. Improving our morals, spirits, thinking and deconstructing inappropriate behaviors and thoughts.

Today is a great day to remember we are all made of dust with clay feet. Looking at ourselves we may also try to be a little more patient. Looking at others we may extend that patience, too. This is a good way to begin Lent and end some bad habits.

Prayer for Today

Lord, help me to make one good step today, to hold my tongue from hurtful speech and use it to heal and praise. May I praise You and heal others who are made in Your image and likeness. Amen.

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

Keep Walking With Jesus-Leader

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3/27/16 3:00 P

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Easter Sunday
The Resurrection of the Lord

When we welcome others, we welcome the risen Christ.


Scripture
“Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.”
Luke 24:27

Reflection
We can imagine the inner turmoil of the two disciples who were travelling to Emmaus that morning. A week earlier, they had witnessed the songs of praise for Jesus on Palm Sunday; they had seen Jesus debating with the religious authorities during the week. Along with the Apostles, they must have hoped that Jesus would finally reveal himself to all as the expected Messiah. But by the end of the week, this hope was displaced by despair as they witnessed the final indignity of Jesus’ Crucifixion and Death.

The disciples must have been emotionally exhausted. They probably felt sorry for themselves, believing that they had been drawn in by Jesus and, in a way, betrayed by him for not fulfilling their ambitions.

Then they met a traveler on the road and were surprised that he did not know the news out of Jerusalem, how they had placed all their hopes in Jesus only to have them broken when the authorities arrested Jesus, tortured him, and crucified him. Finally, the disciples shared their bewilderment over the stories they heard from some of the women who told them Jesus’ tomb was empty.

The stranger then instructed them about what they did not understand. He reviewed with them the teachings from the Scriptures. He reminded them of what Moses and all the prophets had taught about the Messiah: how he should suffer and then enter into his glory.

They came near a village and stopped for an evening meal. The stranger began to move on until the two disciples invited him to share their meal with them. The stranger stayed with them, and when he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, the disciples’ eyes were opened and they recognized Jesus as the risen Lord. At that moment, Jesus disappeared and in amazement the disciples returned to Jerusalem to share their story.

Think of the dynamic of this story. After a time of initial conversion and hope, the disciples were disillusioned by what they thought was a failure on the part of Jesus. Then they met the unrecognized Jesus on the road who took them more deeply into the Scriptures to teach them that their initial hopes were misdirected.

This exploration of the Scriptures also happens during the Easter Vigil. The celebration is enriched with the readings from the Old Testament. Knowing and understanding the Old Testament is an essential foundation for knowing and understanding Jesus. By exploring the Scriptures with the disciples, Jesus was preparing their hearts for what followed.

When the disciples were ready to stop for an evening meal, they invited Jesus to dine with them. This reflects Luke’s central theme of hospitality: in welcoming others, we welcome Jesus. When we break bread and share with others, especially the poor, we are breaking bread with Jesus. The disciples would not have discovered Jesus’ true identity if they had not welcomed him to share a meal.

So this sets Jesus’ agenda for us. In reading and contemplating the Scriptures—both the Old and New Testaments—we learn the essential story of Salvation for all. In welcoming one another, especially those most in need, we welcome the risen Jesus Christ in our midst.

Rejoice in the Resurrection
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Just like stained glass, our lives can only yield their true meaning if seen by God’s divine light. This Easter, we celebrate anew the divine light of the Risen Christ emerging triumphant from the tomb. Let us rejoice in Christ’s triumph!

Please enjoy this reflection on Canterbury Cathedral’s stained-glass depiction of the Resurrection.
Pope Francis
“Read a passage of the Gospel every day. Remember it well: read a passage from the Gospel every day, and on Sundays go to Communion, to receive Jesus. This is what happened to the disciples of Emmaus: they received the Word; they shared the breaking of bread and from feeling sad and defeated they became joyful.”
Regina Caeli, 4 May 2014

Mercy in Action
► Reflect on the Gospel for Easter Sunday Mass with the Sunday Connection.
► Enjoy the Arts & Faith: Easter video.

Prayer
We give thanks to you, O Lord, for you are good and your steadfast love endures forever.


Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

Keep Walking With Jesus-Leader

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Gastric Sleevers - Leader

2018 Summer 5% Challenge for the Shooting Stars Team - EL Leader

Driven by Faith - Leader


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3/26/16 11:15 A

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Holy Saturday

God continues to walk with us; may we walk in the newness of life.


Scripture
“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”
Romans 6:3–4

Reflection
Folio, “The Women at the Tomb; The Descent into Limbo,” 1386We now come to understand why the Death of Jesus is different from any other death. Jesus’ Death was not simply another sad example of an unjust killing. In human history and in the daily media reports we have too many examples of such deaths. Jesus’ Death is essentially linked to his Resurrection from the dead. And in his Resurrection we find hope for new life.

The Gospel of Luke tells the story of the women who came to the tomb with spices to prepare Jesus for his final resting. They arrived to find an empty tomb. Then two men in shattering bright clothes stood beside them. The men asked the women why they were looking for Jesus among the dead. He was not in the tomb; he had risen. They told the women to remember what Jesus had told them in Galilee: he would be handed over to sinners, crucified, and on the third day would be raised again (Luke 24:6‒8). Then the women remembered Jesus’ words.

The Easter Vigil is a night of remembering, with readings from the Books of Genesis, Exodus, Isaiah, Baruch, and Ezekiel. These readings are not proclaimed simply so we can recall the events of the Old Testament. Each reading reminds us—with ever deepening power and insight—that God continues to journey with us today, and this journey comes to fulfillment in the Resurrection. All the pain, suffering, mistakes, sins, successes, and failures of the human family are brought to new life in the risen Jesus. “To remember what God has done and continues to do for me, for us, to remember the road we have travelled; this is what opens our hearts to hope for the future” (Pope Francis, Homily at the Easter Vigil, 30 March 2013).


Pope Francis
“Let the risen Jesus enter your life, welcome him as a friend, with trust: he is life! If up till now you have kept him at a distance, step forward. He will receive you with open arms. If you have been indifferent, take a risk: you won’t be disappointed. If following him seems difficult, don’t be afraid, trust him, be confident that he is close to you, he is with you and he will give you the peace you are looking for and the strength to live as he would have you do.”
Homily at the Easter Vigil, 30 March, 2013

Lenten Action
► Pray for those entering the Church tonight at the Easter Vigil.
► Reflect with Arts & Faith: Holy Saturday.
► Pray with a 3-Minute Retreat for the Easter Vigil.

Prayer
Create in me, O Lord, a new heart, open to all the possibilities you offer for loving, sharing, and reconciliation.


Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

Keep Walking With Jesus-Leader

Hopeful Hearts Breaking Free From Hurts - Leader

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Driven by Faith - Leader


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3/25/16 12:40 P

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Good Friday

On this holy day, let us reflect on who God is calling us to become.


Scripture
“Pilate asked him, ‘So you are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.’ Pilate asked him, ‘What is truth?’”
John 18:37‒38

Reflection
Andrea Mantegna, “The Dead Christ (Lamentation of Christ),” 1475–1478In many ways Pilate’s question to Jesus on the first Good Friday is the culmination of all the misunderstandings and deliberate lies that have led to this fateful, sacred day. In the reading from John 18:1—19:42 we see that Jesus’ disciples consistently misunderstood him and did not understand his words and actions until after his Crucifixion, Death, and Resurrection. Peter misunderstands Jesus’ intentions and draws a sword, striking out at a temple servant only to be rebuked by Jesus (John 18:11).

Understanding Pilate’s question to Jesus means understanding the meaning of his question “What is truth?” (John 18:37). In the common understanding of that question today we would have Pilate asking “Is that a fact?” Whenever we have political debates on mass media the opposition parties always have “fact checkers” whose task it is to discover all the miscues or misremembered facts of a candidate so as to destroy their credibility. But this was not the question Pilate was asking.

The question Pilate was really asking was “What is the meaning of life?” This is in line with the philosophical tradition of the Greek and Roman search for truth. Pilate dismissively rejects the word of Jesus, the embodiment of truth standing before him. And part of Pilate’s tragedy is that when he asks Jesus if he is the King of the Jews, Jesus replies, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” (John 18:34). Pilate has let others set the agenda for him and does not bring his own question. As an arrogant Roman he thinks he has nothing to learn.

This brings us to the questions we ask Jesus on this sacred day. When we reflect on his suffering, Crucifixion, and Death, do we simply observe with gratitude the fact that Jesus has done this for us? Or do we reflect more deeply on the question of what it means to be Christ to one another? Do we understand that Jesus embodies who the Father is calling us to become? What decisions are we being called to make in our lives today so that we can faithfully follow the path Jesus has set out for us?

Image: Andrea Mantegna, The Dead Christ (Lamentation of Christ)
Pope Francis
“Teach us that the Cross is the way to the Resurrection. Teach us that Good Friday is the road to an Easter of light; teach us that God never forgets a single one of his children and never tires of forgiving us and of embracing us with his infinite mercy. Teach us, also, to never tire of asking for forgiveness, of believing in the boundless mercy of the Father.”
Address, Good Friday, 3 April 2015

Lenten Action
► Pray the Stations of the Cross today.
► Reflect with a Good Friday poem by Vinita Hampton Wright.
► Reflect with Arts & Faith: Lent for Good Friday.

Prayer
Lord, let your face shine upon us, your servants, that we may follow you in truth and steadfast love.


Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

Keep Walking With Jesus-Leader

Hopeful Hearts Breaking Free From Hurts - Leader

Gastric Sleevers - Leader

2018 Summer 5% Challenge for the Shooting Stars Team - EL Leader

Driven by Faith - Leader


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3/24/16 12:36 P

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Holy Thursday

Through Baptism, we are committed to living a life of service.


Scripture
“Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him.”
John 13:3‒5

Reflection
Mosaic in Basilica di San Marco in Venice, “Christ Washing the Feet of His Disciples,” circa 1210As people gathered for meals coming in from dusty roads wearing sandals, it was courtesy on the part of the head of the household to have the lowest slave wash their feet. So when Jesus wrapped a towel around himself and kneeled to wash the feet of the disciples, they were shocked. It was a troubling sign for them. After the great welcome in Jerusalem at the beginning of the week, they were sure that Jesus would claim his rightly owned earthly crown; they were still arguing among themselves as to who was worthy to sit at his right and left hand.

Peter, as was usual in the Gospels, spoke for them all in his initial refusal to submit to Jesus’ act of humiliation. If this is behavior that Jesus submitted to himself, what would be his expectations of his followers? Jesus makes it clear that this is exactly what he is proposing for them. If they are unwilling to accept that role in their lives, he would have no part of them. Peter responds, in what is the Gospel of John’s allusion to Baptism, by asking Jesus to wash not only his feet, but his head and hands as well (John 13:8).

Jesus’ act is symbolic of the sacrificial Death he is anticipating. Through Baptism Jesus’ followers commit themselves to a life of service to one another. As he began to wash the disciples’ feet, Jesus told them that they would not fully understand what he was doing, but would later understand (John 13:7). As they had not yet witnessed Jesus’ Death, Resurrection, and Ascension, the disciples would not understand the full implications of what Jesus was teaching. There is less excuse for us. As baptized Christians who hear John’s Gospel every year, we know that we are called to a life of service to others.

Image: Mosaic in Basilica di San Marco in Venice, Christ Washing the Feet of His Disciples
Pope Francis
“And with us too, don’t we have to wash each other’s feet day after day? But what does this mean? That all of us must help one another. Sometimes I am angry with someone or other . . . but . . . let it go, let it go, and if he or she asks you a favor, do it.”
Homily at the Mass of the Last Supper, 28 March 2013


Prayer
Lord, help us as we pray to receive the grace to love one another as you have loved us.


Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

Keep Walking With Jesus-Leader

Hopeful Hearts Breaking Free From Hurts - Leader

Gastric Sleevers - Leader

2018 Summer 5% Challenge for the Shooting Stars Team - EL Leader

Driven by Faith - Leader


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3/23/16 1:14 P

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Wednesday of Holy Week

In the midpoint of Holy Week,
let us pray that our hearts remain open to God’s love and mercy.


Scripture
“Let the oppressed see it and be glad;
you who seek God, let your hearts revive.
For the LORD hears the needy,
and does not despise his own that are in bonds.”
Psalm 69:32‒33

Reflection
It is the middle of Holy Week and the opponents of Jesus are now gathering to close the deal on his betrayal. As we have seen, Judas was the holder of the common purse for Jesus and his followers. He also embezzled from the common fund, so approaching Jesus’ opponents for his own financial gain is not that surprising. Judas asks what it is worth. He is told thirty pieces of silver—a paltry sum, and the amount of compensation paid to one whose slave has been gored by an ox owned by another man (Exodus 21:32). By accepting the offer, Judas puts his trust not in Jesus, but in treacherous commerce.

When thinking of the roots of Judas’s betrayal, one need only follow the money. His corruption probably began in small ways, a denarii here, a denarii there. Who would notice? As he was trusted by Jesus to hold the common fund, he abused that trust. And in so many ways it is easy to follow Judas’s lead and see money as the singular route for happiness.

Millions of people line up to buy lottery tickets, hoping to win millions—sometimes even billions—and what they think will bring them earthly paradise. The stories of the winners of such giant windfalls belies that hope. Winners have found themselves alienated by family and friends; winners are accused of not sharing the wealth at a fair rate; they are constantly hounded by people who want to sell them the latest financial plan, the latest invention, or the latest scheme to suck the winner dry. Winners are unable to have a normal lifestyle. They cannot go out to eat at their favorite restaurant, go to a movie, or shop at the mall without the constant hounding from envious neighbors who want to strip them clean. Money given generously to younger members of families has been spent on recreational drugs leading to overdoses and death. The stress has led to divorce in decades-old marriages. Money has not brought them freedom and paradise but a golden cage.

So many “winners” are discovering what Judas ultimately discovered: “In a heart possessed by wealth, there isn’t much room for faith: everything is involved with wealth, there is no room for faith” (Pope Francis, Angelus, 2 March 2014).

Lacking faith, and having no room in his heart to ask for love and forgiveness, Judas could not live in the insane world his distorted desires had led him to.
Pope Francis
“Judas wasn’t the one who sinned the most . . . I don’t know who was the most sinful. . . . Poor Judas is that one who closed himself to love and this is why he became a traitor. . . . All of the Apostles fled at the difficult moment of the Passion, and they left Jesus alone. They are all sinners.”
General Audience, 27 March 2013

Lenten Action
► Read Pope Francis’s words at the general audience for this day in Holy Week 2014.
► Pray with The Ignatian Workout for Lent retreat.
► Read “Holy Week: A Time Apart for Renewal.”

Prayer
Lord, let me praise your name, for in your love you revive my heart.


Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

Keep Walking With Jesus-Leader

Hopeful Hearts Breaking Free From Hurts - Leader

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2018 Summer 5% Challenge for the Shooting Stars Team - EL Leader

Driven by Faith - Leader


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3/21/16 6:55 P

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Monday of Holy Week

Holy Week is a time to celebrate the beauty of the Lord.


Scripture
“Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my spirit upon him;
he will bring forth justice to the nations.”
Isaiah 42:1


Reflection
Six days before Passover, Jesus is in Bethany eating at the home of Lazarus and his sisters Martha and Mary. Mary on this occasion pours a pound of pure nard, a costly perfume, on the feet of Jesus and dries them with her hair. Judas Iscariot objects saying that the perfume could have been sold for 300 denarii and the proceeds given to the poor. A denarii was a day’s wage, and the equivalent price for the nard in today’s terms would be about $30,000.

We see two radical differences in attitude between Mary and Judas. Mary sees in Jesus the infinite beauty of him as a person, and her extravagant gift celebrates his presence in her life. Judas, whom the Gospel of John identifies as an embezzler of the common purse (John 12:6), sees Jesus as a commodity. He follows Jesus as a source of financial gain. Were he to get a hold of 300 denarii, it would not be for the benefit of the poor but for his own. In today’s world Judas would be among those who do not believe they can be true ministers of Jesus without their private jet transportation.

This week we will be celebrating Jesus’ final journey on earth with some of the most beautiful liturgies and music of the liturgical year. And it is most appropriate that we do so. The Church today is the conservator of much of the beauty of the Christian tradition. Priceless paintings, chapels, and sculptures enrich places of worship for all to see and reflect upon. There are those who say these priceless objects should be sold so that the money can be given to the poor. If this is done, these beautiful artifacts would disappear into private collections; this world of beauty would be the preserve of the wealthy and connected and no longer enrich us all.

In response to Judas’s criticism, Jesus reminds us that Mary is celebrating the beauty of his person, who will soon disappear. The responsibility for caring for the poor is ongoing, and there is no contradiction between celebrating the precious moments and the Christian vocation of caring for those who are poor. Quite the contrary—the celebrations of Holy Week energize us in our vocation of mercy.

Special Note
As our Lenten Moments of Mercy series comes to a close this week, we look forward to starting a new series on Easter. We’ll reflect on feast days and saints of mercy through the rest of this Jubilee Year in the Moments of Mercy series. Beginning on Easter Sunday, messages will come automatically to your inbox three to five times each month. You may unsubscribe at any time using the link to our E-mail Preferences page found at the bottom of each e-mail.
Pope Francis
“Jesus was like a commodity; he was sold. He was sold at that moment . . . and has also very frequently been sold in the market of history, in the market of life, in the market of our lives. When we opt for thirty pieces of silver, we set Jesus aside.”
Morning Meditation, 27 March 2013

Lenten Action
► Review the materials on almsgiving from the USCCB and if you are able, give a Holy Week donation to a charity that cares for the poor.
► Explore the Arts & Faith: Lent series to see the beauty of the Gospels as shown in art.

Prayer
Be with us, O Lord, this week as we wait to see your beauty and goodness in the land of the living.


Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion

As we walk with Jesus during Holy Week,
may we also walk with those who are in need.


Scripture
“But you, O LORD, do not be far away!
O my help, come quickly to my aid!”
Psalm 22:19

Reflection
Wilhelm Morgner, “Entry of Christ into Jerusalem,” 1912We are entering into the most sacred week of the liturgical year during which we celebrate Jesus’ final days. The journey begins with shouts of praise as Jesus enters Jerusalem and is welcomed by exultant crowds. This only serves to heighten the tension between Jesus and his critics, who work all the harder to bring him down.

As he goes through the week, Jesus teaches in the temple arena, he scatters the money lenders, and he challenges the religious authorities. Jesus has long known what would be the result of his mission, but he faces his critics with courage. This is the culminating path of his journey in mercy.

At the beginning of the week, Jesus seems to have all the friends that he needs. But as the week goes on, the crowds become silent, his disciples become more nervous, and Judas plots with the leaders in the temple to betray him. By the end of the week, Jesus will find few companions on this road of mercy as he prepares to die on our behalf.

Not one of us will end this journey of life without suffering, pain, and death. And there are those in our lives who daily suffer the physical, emotional, and spiritual pain of disabilities, loss of motor function, or psychological loneliness. These conditions do not have an easy fix; there is no magic pill that will cure all. With their ongoing issues, it can be easy for us to be impatient with them, not to call them, or not to send a note to indicate that we are willing companions on their way of the cross. Because we fear being inconvenienced, we distance ourselves through indifference rather than accompanying them with mercy in the midst of their suffering.

This week we will accompany Jesus on his journey of mercy. By taking a more active participation with those in our lives who are in need, we will grow in the grace of mercy won for us by Jesus this Holy Week.

Image: Wilhelm Morgner, Entry of Christ into Jerusalem
Pope Francis
“Living Holy Week, following Jesus not only with the emotion of the heart; living Holy Week, following Jesus means learning to come out of ourselves . . . in order to go to meet others, to go towards the outskirts of existence, to be the first to take a step towards our brothers and our sisters, especially those who are the most distant, those who are forgotten, those who are most in need of understanding, comfort, and help.”
General Audience, 27 March 2013

Lenten Action
► Make a commitment to set aside specific time for prayer each day this Holy Week.
► Reflect on this Sunday’s Gospel with Arts & Faith: Lent and the Sunday Connection.
► Learn more about Holy Week with articles, videos, and prayers.

Prayer
Lord Jesus, as you humbled yourself for our sake, help me to walk in humility and truth with my family and neighbors.


Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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Saturday of the Fifth Week of Lent
Solemnity of St. Joseph

St. Joseph models and shows us how to be merciful toward others.


Scripture
“Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife.”
Matthew 1:19, 24

Reflection
In the reflections of the past few days we have seen increasing hostility toward Jesus among those who refused to see him for who he truly was, the Son of God. They based their criticism on their rigid understanding of the Scriptures and refused to see in Jesus the one who fulfilled the intention of the Law. In the beginning of Matthew’s Gospel, we see Joseph facing the same issues.

Joseph was betrothed to Mary. While he had not yet taken her into his home, in the custom of the time, they could legitimately have marital relations, and any children from their union would have been accepted as legitimate. So Mary’s pregnancy was an embarrassment to Joseph. Joseph was a faithful man and a true observer of the Law. But as a merciful man, he wished to quietly end the marital contract with Mary so as to cause the least embarrassment.

In his Gospel, Matthew sees Joseph as being the first man living the tension between understanding the Law and the new life that God is bringing in Jesus. When Joseph listens to the angel revealing the truth of Jesus’ coming and responds wholeheartedly, he is living the heart of the Law and not its letter. He is already living out the higher righteousness of the Kingdom of God (Matthew 5:20). Assessing the demands of the Law against obedience to the Revelation of God, Joseph lets go of his previous understanding of the Scriptures to obey the living voice of God. He takes Mary into his home and becomes the protector of the Holy Family. In this way he models for us what it means to live in God’s mercy toward others rather than in judgment over them.
Pope Francis
“Joseph is a ‘protector’ because he is able to hear God’s voice and be guided by his will; and for this reason he is all the more sensitive to the persons entrusted to his safekeeping. He can look at things realistically, he is in touch with his surroundings, he can make truly wise decisions. In him, dear friends, we learn how to respond to God’s call, readily and willingly, but we also see the core of the Christian vocation, which is Christ! Let us protect Christ in our lives, so that we can protect others, so that we can protect creation!”
Homily, 19 March 2013

Lenten Action
► Learn more about St. Joseph.
► Read “Contemplating with Joseph” at Creighton University’s Online Ministries site.
► Go back and reflect on something that particularly touched you this fifth week of Lent.
Sunday | Monday | Tuesday | Wednesday | Thursday | Friday


Prayer
St. Joseph, intercede for us that we may see others in terms of mercy instead of judgment.


Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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Friday of the Fifth Week of Lent
St. Cyril of Jerusalem

Lent reminds us that the darkness of pain and tragedy cannot overcome
the light of God’s grace.


Scripture
“He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing earlier, and he remained there. Many came to him, and they were saying, ‘John performed no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.’ And many believed in him there.”
John 10:40‒42

Reflection
In today’s readings from Jeremiah 20:10‒13 and John 10:31‒42 we see increased hostility towards the prophet and Jesus in response to their witness to God. Jeremiah heard whispers around him: “‘Denounce him! Let us denounce him!’ / All my close friends / are watching for me to stumble. / ‘Perhaps he can be enticed, and we can prevail against him, / and take our revenge on him’” (Jeremiah 20:10).

Similarly, the religious authorities were increasingly belligerent against Jesus. They did not celebrate his healing acts. They took up stones to stone him to death (John 10:31). Jesus replied, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these are you going to stone me?” (John 10:32). He told them that if they do not believe his words, believe in the works that have been performed in the Father’s name: “But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father” (John 10:38). The reaction of the authorities was to try to put Jesus to death. But he eluded them as his hour had not yet come.

Jesus returned to Galilee where his ministry began. People recalled the teaching of John the Baptist and what he had prophesied about Jesus. They saw that in Jesus, John’s prophesies had been fulfilled and they came to have faith.

The headlines that we read every day show that the message and person of Jesus Christ are ignored. Christians are persecuted throughout the world. There is increasing pressure in our own society to set aside Christian values by people who consider them irrelevant. John’s Gospel shows us that even in the midst of pain and human tragedy darkness has not yet overcome God’s grace.

Pope Francis
“The evils of our world—and those of the Church—must not be excuses for diminishing our commitment and our fervor. Let us look upon them as challenges which can help us to grow. With the eyes of faith, we can see the light which the Holy Spirit always radiates in the midst of darkness, never forgetting that ‘where sin increased, grace has abounded all the more’ (Rom 5:20).”
Joy of the Gospel #84

Lenten Action
► Watch a video meditation on Lent by Vinita Hampton Wright.
► Take some time to consider your plan for living Holy Week, which begins on Sunday. Review the times for local observances of Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday and participate.

Prayer
Lord, be our rock, our fortress, our deliverer as we take refuge in you.


Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

Keep Walking With Jesus-Leader

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Gastric Sleevers - Leader

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Thursday of the Fifth Week of Lent
Feast of St. Patrick

Christ always walks with us, within us, behind us, before us, and beside us.


Scripture
Seek the LORD and his strength;
seek his presence continually.
Remember the wonderful works he has done,
his miracles, and the judgments he has uttered.
Psalm 105:4‒5


Reflection
St. Patrick (c 389–c 461) was born to a Roman aristocratic family in Britain. At the age of 16 he was kidnapped by pirates and taken to Ireland. He was sold to a pagan family and tended sheep as a slave for six years. Tending sheep year after year gave him plenty of time to think and reflect on his life. During his captivity, he started to pray and he opened his heart to God. Patrick realized that God loved him even as he suffered the hard life of a slave. With God's help, Patrick managed to escape his captivity and returned to his family in Britain.

When at home Patrick could not forget Ireland. He recounted a vision he had to return as a missionary:

[T]here, in a vision of the night, I saw a man whose name was Victoricus coming as if from Ireland with innumerable letters, and he gave me one of them, and I read the beginning of the letter: “The Voice of the Irish;” and as I was reading the beginning of the letter I seemed at that moment to hear the voice of those who were beside the forest of Foclut which is near the western sea, and they were crying as if with one voice: “We beg you, holy youth, that you shall come and shall walk again among us.”

Patrick studied for the priesthood, and was later ordained a bishop. He returned to Ireland but his experience was not a triumphal procession or parade. He followed the Way of the Cross. He lived in poverty and had no legal protection as he walked between the warring tribes and clans. He was beaten, robbed, and imprisoned in chains. He never lost his joyful faith and trust in Christ whom he honored in a prayer we know as “The Breastplate of St. Patrick:”

Christ be with me, Christ within me
Christ behind me, Christ before me
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.
Pope Francis
“The cross shows us a different way of measuring success. Ours is to plant the seeds: God sees to the fruits of our labors. And if at times our efforts and works seem to fail and produce no fruit, we need to remember that we are followers of Jesus . . . and his life, humanly speaking, ended in failure, the failure of the cross.”
Homily, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, 24 September 2015

Lenten Action
► Pray “St. Patrick’s Breastplate” today.
► Share the story of St. Patrick with a child in your life.

Prayer
St. Patrick, through your intercession, help us to discover the living Christ so we may be courageous followers of the Way of the Cross.


Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Lent

Let us always remember to accept the gifts of God.


Scripture
“The people spoke against God and against Moses, ‘Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we detest this miserable food.’”
Numbers 21:5

Reflection
For many, conversion to an adult Christian life follows participation in a charismatic event, after which they leave with enthusiasm. They are confident that their life is turned around and there is a smooth path ahead on their journey with Christ. They approach the Christian disciplines of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving with joy and anticipation as gifts received by God. This was also the experience of the Israelites as we see described in the Book of Exodus: they left Egypt with joy and thanksgiving, carrying off treasures from the Egyptians (Exodus 12:35‒36). In the days of hunger in the desert they received the gifts of manna and quail.

In the Book of Numbers, we see the Israelites have become disillusioned and disgruntled. They despise the gifts of God. Then when they began suffering from the bites of poisonous snakes, they came to their senses and returned to God. Moses raised up a bronze serpent, which becomes a sign of God’s continuing healing presence.

For Christians coming off charismatic events there is a similar letdown. Their friends may not accept their transformation, criticize their enthusiasm, and question their motives. Sinful tendencies they thought had been left behind keep intruding. Then the disciplines of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving can become boring and sterile, which leads to further disillusionment. Pope Francis tells us that what is at issue is a lack of gratitude for the gifts God continues to give us. “Not accepting the gift of God in his way, that is the sin; that is the venom; that poisons the soul, it takes away your joy, it doesn’t let you go” (Morning Meditation, 24 March 2015).

To lead us further on our journey, Jesus gives us the reality of the Cross: “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own, but I speak these things as the Father instructed me” (John 8:28). The Way of the Cross is not a way for the few, but the only sure way to live in relationship with Jesus and others.
Pope Francis
“Our wounds, those which sin leaves in us, are healed only through the Lord’s wounds, through the wounds of God made man who humbled himself, who emptied himself. This is the mystery of the Cross.”
Morning Meditation, 8 April 2014

Lenten Action
► Pray the Stations of the Cross.
► Read today’s Living Lent Daily article.

Prayer
Lord, do not hide your face from us in our days of distress but hear our prayer and answer us.


Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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Monday of the Fifth Week of Lent

When we are merciful, we see people as they truly are.


Scripture
“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.’”
John 8:12

Reflection
We find it all too easy to make judgments about people, to stereotype them. If something negative happens to someone we do not particularly like, we can feel a sense of satisfaction. We can think that somehow justice has been served. In today’s readings there are two instances when a false sense of justice and obedience to the Law obscures who the person was standing before those in judgment.

In the first reading from Daniel 13:41‒62, a beautiful woman, Susanna, was being condemned by two corrupt old judges who lusted after her. They entrapped her in a secluded garden and threatened to expose her if she did not bow to their wishes. Susanna refused, and when she cried for help, the corrupt judges called out that they had witnessed her committing adultery. When Susanna was brought before the court for judgment, it was the same old judges who condemned her. Susanna cried out to God for help. As she was being brought away to be executed for her crime, the young prophet Daniel heard her cry and recognized her for who she was as a person. Daniel condemned the proceedings:

Taking his stand among them he said, “Are you such fools, O Israelites, as to condemn a daughter of Israel without examination and without learning the facts? Return to court, for these men have given false evidence against her” (Daniel 13:48).

The people listened to Daniel and they returned to court. Daniel interrogated the judges, who condemned themselves in their false testimony. The judges were executed, and Susanna was returned to her family.

In today’s Gospel reading (John 8:12–20) Jesus continues to face his accusers who could not see him for who he is. They continued to prejudge him according to their legal opinions. In legal terms of the time, a person presenting a case needed two witnesses to support the case. They claimed that Jesus had no one else to support his claims. Jesus answered that he is supported by his Father. The Father had sent him, and he testifies on his Father’s behalf. Earlier in John’s Gospel, they have witnessed Jesus’ healing and merciful presence but have only reacted with hostility. Jesus told them, “You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also” (John 8:19). Clinging to their legal opinions, the religious authorities could not identify who Jesus was. Although Jesus had arrived to fulfill all that the Old Testament had promised in the Father’s name, their distorted sense of legal justice prevented them from accepting and loving the Father’s only merciful Son who stood before them.
Pope Francis
“Where there is no mercy, there is no justice.”
Morning Meditation, 23 March 2015

Lenten Action
► Consider whether you might help an organization that helps women with your time or money.
► Pray with The Ignatian Workout for Lent this week.


Home » Ignatian Prayer » The Ignatian Workout for Lent Retreat: Fifth Week of Lent
The Ignatian Workout for Lent Retreat: Fifth Week of Lent
Posted on April 7, 2014 by Tim Muldoon in Ignatian Prayer // 0 Comments
Jesus faced his suffering with resolve. That’s the message this week in our Ignatian Workout for Lent. Listen to Tim Muldoon’s reflection below. If you’d like, share some of your own reflections in the comments.



Prayer

Lord, you know my fears and you yourself knew what it was to be afraid in the face of suffering. Send me the consolation of your Holy Spirit, so that I, too, can face my fears with resolve, knowing that I seek only to do what you ask. Grant me your grace even in those times when I cannot feel you near, and when I walk blindly in the hope that what I do is right.

Action

Identify a goal in your life that has been on the “to do”ť list but which, perhaps out of fear or some other kind of resistance, you’ve been avoiding. Resolve to face it with courage. Do it today.
www.ignatianspirituality.com/18789/t
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-ignatian-workout-for-lent-retreat-fR>ifth-week-of-lent/


Prayer
Lord Jesus, lead us by your light so we may see others for who they are.

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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Fifth Sunday of Lent

The disciplines of Lent bring with them the promise of renewal.


Scripture
“I am about to do a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.”
Isaiah 43:19

Reflection
Palma il Vecchio, “Christ and the Adulteress,” circa 1525–1528The season of Lent brings with it the promise of spring. We are moving out of winter, spring flowers will be budding out of the ground, and the vestiges of the season of cold weather will soon be a memory. Isaiah promised a similar renewal; he told the people that the memories of the hard travels they have had were in the past: “Do not remember the former things, / or consider the things of old” (Isaiah 43:18). Rather, he encouraged them to look forward to the newness God was creating for them.

Even though he was in prison when he wrote his Letter to the Philippians, Paul did not let his imprisonment or the memories of past persecution dampen his hope in Christ. “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).

In today’s Gospel reading, we hear the story of the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1‒11). The religious authorities brought the woman accused before Jesus for judgment. (Note, the man involved was equally guilty and subject to the same penalty, but we hear nothing of him.) The woman was nothing but an excuse for the authorities to entrap Jesus. She was not named―she was an object in their eyes, truly a person on the periphery of her society.

Should Jesus have excused her, he would have been criticized for not obeying the Law. If he told the authorities to carry out the judgment and stone her to death, he would have been seen as heartless. Jesus stooped to the ground and, ignoring the authorities, traced lines in the sand. He then stood and told the authorities, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7). He then stooped to the ground once again. Those who were ready to stone the woman disappeared.

Accepting the woman as a person, Jesus asked who was there to condemn her. “No one, sir,” she said. Then Jesus replied, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again” (John 8:11).

In a personal encounter with Jesus, the woman had received mercy as only God can give, and she was offered the possibility of a new life in a new relationship with God. Jesus offers us that same possibility when we approach him with a contrite heart.

Image: Palma il Vecchio, Christ and the Adulteress
Pope Francis
“Have you thought about God’s patience, the patience he has with each one of us? That is his mercy. He always has patience, patience with us, he understands us, he waits for us, he does not tire of forgiving us if we are able to return to him with a contrite heart. ‘Great is God's mercy’, says the Psalm.”
Angelus, 17 March 2013

Lenten Action
► Reflect on this Sunday’s Gospel with Arts & Faith: Lent and the Sunday Connection.
► Pray with a 3-Minute Retreat on “The First to Throw a Stone.”

Prayer
Help us, O Lord, to approach you with a contrite heart so we may receive your mercy.


Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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Saturday of the Fourth Week of Lent

We read Scripture to discover the Christ who lives among us.


Scripture
“They replied, ‘Surely you are not also from Galilee, are you? Search and you will see that no prophet is to arise from Galilee.’”
John 7:52

Reflection
In the Gospel reading today from the Gospel of John, the question of Jesus’ identity continues to be a matter of dispute (John 7:40‒53). Some are wondering if Jesus is the Messiah. Others argue that he could not be the Messiah as there is nothing in the scriptural record that says that the Messiah would be from Galilee. The religious authorities were anxious to get Jesus arrested. The witness of his teaching and his healing of others did not impress them. The authorities were locked into a literal reading of their Scriptures and could not see who was standing before them.

In every generation there is the temptation to read Scripture in an overly literal way and to judge others from an interpretation imposed on the text. It is easy to use Scripture as proof text, that is, to choose only those verses which are amenable to our own views. To support their views, some also teach that the text itself is infallible in its authority and is not to be questioned. Like the religious authorities in Jesus’ time they are so locked into the text, they cannot see the person.

The Catholic Church is explicit in its understanding of the relationship of the written word of the Bible and belief in the person of Jesus. As stated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church #108:

[T]he Christian faith is not a religion of the book. The Christian faith is a religion of the “Word” of God, a word which is “not a written and mute word, but the Word that is incarnate and living.” If the Scriptures are not to be a dead letter, Christ, the eternal Word of the living God, must, through the Holy Spirit, “open [our] minds to understand the Scriptures.”

The authorities in Jesus’ time could not identify who he was because they were locked in their texts with closed minds. This led to increased hostility towards Jesus which led to his arrest, Passion, and Crucifixion.

In our day we are called to read the Scriptures in a spirit of humility so we can discover in them how we are being called to increase our ability to discover the living presence of Jesus in all whom we meet.
Pope Francis
“The Word of God therefore precedes and exceeds the Bible. This is why our faith is not only centered on a book but on a history of salvation and above all on a Person, Jesus Christ, the Word of God made flesh.”
Address to the Members of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, 12 April 2013

Lenten Action
► Review the USCCB article “The Senses of Scripture.”
► Read “10 Ways to Make the Bible a Part of Your Everyday Life,” by Joe Paprocki.
► Go back and reflect on something that particularly touched you this fourth week of Lent.

Sunday | Monday | Tuesday | Wednesday | Thursday | Friday


Prayer
Lord, let us be numbered among those who do not judge people without first giving them a hearing.


Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

Keep Walking With Jesus-Leader

Hopeful Hearts Breaking Free From Hurts - Leader

Gastric Sleevers - Leader

2018 Summer 5% Challenge for the Shooting Stars Team - EL Leader

Driven by Faith - Leader


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Friday of the Fourth Week of Lent

The disciplines of Lent help us proclaim Christ when his message is resisted.


Scripture
“The LORD redeems the life of his servants;
none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.”
Psalm 34:22

Reflection
Ignatius Loyola (1491–1556) was a Spanish courtier and soldier wounded in battle. During his long recovery from his battle wounds, he wanted to read popular romances that would help him pass the time. Instead he was given a book about the life of Christ and a collection of stories about the saints. These readings transformed his life as he learned how to discern what God was calling him to do. As he grew in his faith, he wrote his notes on the experience of his conversion, which would later become the Spiritual Exercises. When he started to share these insights with others, he attracted the attention of the Inquisition in Spain and was thrown into prison a number of times. Eventually he was ordained, and with a number of colleagues founded the Jesuits in 1540. Today the Spiritual Exercises are given throughout the world and are acknowledged as a classic presentation of the spiritual journey for Christians.

As we see in the readings from the Book of Wisdom and the Gospel of John, the life of one who follows the Holy Spirit is not readily accepted. People who follow the Holy Spirit might be tested with insult and torture so his critics may find out how gentle and forbearing he is (Wisdom 2:19). In the Gospel of John, we read that those who objected to Jesus’ acts of mercy and healing came to arrest him with the hope of condemning him to death. “Then they tried to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him, because his hour had not yet come” (John 7:30).

Pope Francis has also received harsh criticism for his blunt messages against corruption and wastefulness, and his general concern for the care of the poor. In this sense, he is also walking the same path followed by St. Ignatius: to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ in today’s world. The season of Lent and the disciplines that we are called to follow are meant to strengthen us for the days ahead when the message of Christ will be resisted in both our personal lives and the wider society. When we respond to these criticisms with gentleness and forbearance, we will be following Christ as true disciples.
Pope Francis
“All the persons that the Holy Spirit chooses to speak the truth to the people of God suffer persecution.”
Morning Meditation, 4 April 2014

Lenten Action
► Review the statement from Archbishop Joseph Kurtz on the persecution of Christians.
► Learn more about the Spiritual Exercises.

Prayer
Lord, let us call on you in times when facing resistance in proclaiming your Word.


Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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Thursday of the Fourth Week of Lent

When we approach God in prayer,
we tell the truth about who we are and what we need.


Scripture
“They forgot God, their Savior,
who had done great things in Egypt,
wondrous works in the land of Ham,
and awesome deeds by the Red Sea.”
Psalm 106:21‒22

Reflection
There is a well-known story of St. Teresa of Avila (1515‒1582). St Teresa was a tireless reformer of the Carmelite Order in Spain, which meant a lot of traveling. No doubt she met resistance in recalcitrant communities who were not anxious to practice the more severe discipline that St. Teresa was teaching. On one journey she was riding a donkey and fell off into the mud, injuring her leg. In her frustration, she complained to the Lord that this was not what she needed. “If this is the way you treat your friends,” Teresa complained, “it’s no wonder you have so few!”

This had to be the kind of frustration Moses was feeling in the first reading from Exodus 32:7–14. After everything that God had done, the people were incessantly complaining, even forgetting their commitment to the Lord, creating a pagan idol to worship. Moses was feeling the stress of leadership, imagining that God would abandon the people. He pleaded with the Lord to remember the promises made on Mount Sinai. If God abandoned the people, the Egyptians would be proven correct and God would be humiliated. God relented, and Moses returned to the people, strengthened by God’s promise of mercy.

Reflecting on this Scripture, Pope Francis tells us that the behavior of the people had caused Moses to question the promises God had made on Mount Sinai. In prayer, Moses rediscovered the true meaning of God’s promises and was heartened by the experience. He received the courage to continue the journey with the people. Pope Francis explains that it is in the nature of sincere prayer to change our hearts, to help us understand better who God truly is. We can be too cautious in approaching God, somehow thinking God cannot take honest questions or complaints. Quite the opposite is true: true prayer is telling God the truth about our situation, our problems, and our challenges. Pope Francis says that prayer is like “speaking to a friend: in prayer one opens one’s heart” (Morning Meditation, 3 April 2014).

In this Fourth Week of Lent, we might also feel frustrated, not unlike Moses did. The time and energy that we have given to fasting, prayer, and almsgiving may not seem to have produced any results. But God offers us the opportunity to approach him with honesty so we may address whatever issues are of most concern and be more completely open to his promise of mercy.
Pope Francis
“We cannot pray without the Holy Spirit: it is he who prays in us, who changes our hearts, it is he who teaches us to call God ‘Father.’”
Morning Meditation, 3 April 2014

Lenten Action
► Read Living Lent Daily for extra inspiration this week.
► Learn more about St. Teresa of Avila.

Prayer
Lord, let us never forget your wondrous deeds and your promise of mercy.


Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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Gastric Sleevers - Leader

2018 Summer 5% Challenge for the Shooting Stars Team - EL Leader

Driven by Faith - Leader


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Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Lent
St. Frances of Rome

Lent is a time to emulate Jesus’ love and mercy by serving
the needs of the poor and marginalized.


Scripture
“But Jesus answered them, ‘My Father is still working, and I also am working.’ For this reason, the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because he was not only breaking the Sabbath, but was also calling God his own Father, thereby making himself equal to God.”
John 5:17‒18

Reflection
In today’s reading from the Gospel of John we reach a point in which the hostility towards Jesus begins to become more intense. The reading follows the miracle of Jesus healing a man who had been crippled for 38 years (John 5:1‒16). As the man walked away with his mat, Jesus was criticized by the religious authorities for working on the Sabbath. An event that one might expect would be greeted with profound joy, instead resulted in further controversy.

Jesus told the authorities that since the Father is at work on the Sabbath, or else creation would cease to exist, he also works on the Sabbath. The religious authorities were even more incensed as Jesus identified himself in the most intimate way with the Father. In the Gospel of John, this begins a period in which the authorities begin to build what they consider a legal case against Jesus that will eventually lead to his Crucifixion.

The hostility of the religious authorities toward Jesus for healing on the Sabbath might remind us of our own blindness and prejudices when we see others acting on behalf of the poor and handicapped. Blessed Mother Teresa was constantly criticized for the manner in which she cared for the poor and most destitute. All too often people will not contribute to Catholic Charities, the Catholic Bishops Campaign for Human Development, or Catholic Relief Services because they let ideological biases interfere with the efforts that are actually making a difference. In the meantime, the poor are dying of starvation, and the handicapped and marginalized are not receiving the aid that they need to flourish.

This Lent we have the opportunity to emulate Jesus’ love and mercy towards others and more sincerely contribute to those institutions that are serving the needs of the poor and marginalized.
Pope Francis
“Lent is a time of prayer, of more intense prayer, more prolonged, more assiduous, more able to take on the needs of the brethren; intercessory prayer, to intercede before God for the many situations of poverty and suffering.”
Homily, 5 March 2014

Lenten Action
► Review and contribute to the work of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.
► Read more about today’s saint, Frances of Rome.

Prayer
Lord, help us to be near to you with all who call on you in truth.


Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

Keep Walking With Jesus-Leader

Hopeful Hearts Breaking Free From Hurts - Leader

Gastric Sleevers - Leader

2018 Summer 5% Challenge for the Shooting Stars Team - EL Leader

Driven by Faith - Leader


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Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Lent
St. John of God

Through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving,
we see that God is making his dream a reality.


Scripture
“There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved;
God will help it when the morning dawns.”
Psalm 46:4‒5

Reflection
The prophet Ezekiel received his visions and dreams for the Jewish people during the Exile in Babylon. After the fall of Jerusalem in 587 B.C., he assured the people that while they were living through this shattering experience, God would continue to be with them in his love and mercy. Ezekiel had a number of visions of how God would restore the people of Israel. In one vision, he saw God breathing upon the dry bones of the people, invigorating them with his spirit so they may live (Ezekiel 37:1–14). In another vision, God showed Ezekiel a small trickle of water becoming an abundant stream filled with many fish and on whose banks there would be many trees growing all kinds of food (Ezekiel 47:7–9).

In this season of Lent, we can reflect on how distant God’s dream of abundant streams nourishing everyone is from the reality we face. As Pope Francis noted in Laudato Si’, there is a drastic shortage of quality water for the poor resulting in many deaths due to water related diseases:

Dysentery and cholera, linked to inadequate hygiene and water supplies, are a significant cause of suffering and of infant mortality. Underground water sources in many places are threatened by the pollution produced in certain mining, farming and industrial activities, especially in countries lacking adequate regulation or controls. It is not only a question of industrial waste. Detergents and chemical products, commonly used in many places of the world, continue to pour into our rivers, lakes and seas. (Laudato Si’, #29)

One way we may approach these issues is to grow in our appreciation of how water is God’s greatest natural gift that makes life possible. We can educate ourselves on how we may responsibly use the gift of water by encouraging conservation in our homes (fasting) and contributing to the work of the Church in alleviating the shortage of quality water for so many millions of people (prayer and almsgiving).

Pope Francis
“Yet access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right, since it is essential to human survival and, as such, is a condition for the exercise of other human rights.”
Laudato Si’ #30

Lenten Action
► Review the actions being taken by Catholic Relief Services for those in need of quality water.
► Pray with a 3-Minute Retreat on Caring for the Earth.

Prayer
Lord, help us to appreciate the living waters you have gifted our planet and to help all to have access to water as a universal human right.


Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

Keep Walking With Jesus-Leader

Hopeful Hearts Breaking Free From Hurts - Leader

Gastric Sleevers - Leader

2018 Summer 5% Challenge for the Shooting Stars Team - EL Leader

Driven by Faith - Leader


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Monday of the Fourth Week of Lent
Saints Perpetua and Felicity

The journey through Lent leads us to deeper faith.


Scripture
“Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your son will live.’ The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and started on his way.”
John 4:50

Reflection
When popular filmmakers create stories about coming to the Christian faith, they often depict some marvelous wonder to wow the audience, such as a healing that unexpectedly takes place during a tent meeting or rain that comes to a drought-riven landscape. In the story of Jesus’ temptations in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, Satan tells Jesus to produce such wonders in order to prove his divinity. (Matthew 4:5‒6; Luke 4:9‒10)

When a royal official traveled some distance to Jesus seeking love and mercy for his son, Jesus speculated that he was just another thrill seeker: “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe” (John 4:48). The official responded with his heartfelt petition for the needs of his son. Jesus responded by telling him “Go; your son will live” (John 4:50). The man accepted Jesus at his word and began his journey home. On the way home the official’s servants came to meet him and told him that his son had been healed. When he asked the time, they gave the hour that Jesus had spoken. The official’s whole family and household came to the faith.

By sharing the story in his Gospel, John explains that coming to faith is a process. The official heard of Jesus and took the initiative to travel some distance to meet him. At their meeting, he listened to Jesus and took him at his word; he traveled home in hope, discovering along the way that through his Word, Jesus healed from a distance. Recognizing God’s presence on earth in the person of Jesus, the whole family came to a deeper faith, beginning a lifetime journey.

As we hear the Word proclaimed, as we meditate on Scripture, and as we pray to God with a whole and undivided heart, we come to a faith whose meaning becomes ever deeper as we continue our journey as his disciples. We recognize that through his Word Jesus Christ continuously speaks to us heart to heart, giving us his love and mercy.
Pope Francis
“Faith is giving space to this love of God; it is making room for the power, for the power of God, for the power of One who loves me, who is in love with me and who wants this joy with me. This is faith. This is believing: it is making room for the Lord to come and change me.”
Morning Meditation, 16 March 2015

Lenten Action
► Learn about St. Perpetua and St. Felicity.
► Pray with The Ignatian Workout for Lent.

Prayer
Hear, O Lord, and be gracious to us as we follow you on this journey of grace and mercy.


Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

Keep Walking With Jesus-Leader

Hopeful Hearts Breaking Free From Hurts - Leader

Gastric Sleevers - Leader

2018 Summer 5% Challenge for the Shooting Stars Team - EL Leader

Driven by Faith - Leader


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Fourth Sunday of Lent

God longs for us to return to him.


Scripture
“So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”
2 Corinthians 5:17

Reflection
Rembrandt van Rijn, “The Return of the Prodigal Son,” circa 1668What does it mean to be a new creation in Christ? How do we know when everything has become new? The parable of the forgiving father and his two sons (Luke 15:11‒32) gives us a way of exploring these questions.

This is a very familiar story. At the demand of the younger son, the father divided his property between his two sons. The younger son took his inheritance and left for foreign lands, where he squandered his fortune. Reduced to abject poverty, he found a job feeding pigs, which was a disgrace to his religious upbringing. The son finally came to his senses and returned home to his father, who rushed to embrace him. Overjoyed at seeing the son he had thought was lost, the father gave him a ring and planned a celebration.

When the older son came in from the fields, he heard the celebration and became furious. He refused to enter the house and join the celebration. The father went out to meet him and listened to his complaints. The older son told his father that he had always acted honorably and served him faithfully, but was now made to feel lower than a slave. The father told his older son he could have had anything he wanted had he asked. The older son will continue to feel offended, perhaps for his whole life, for he could not celebrate the grace of mercy his father offers.

So which of the two sons celebrated the new creation offered by Jesus Christ? Paradoxically, it was the wastrel son who had come home repenting for having left his father’s house and losing everything he had. And the older son—the “perfect” son—the one who thought he had done everything right by staying home and never disobeying his father’s orders—stayed out in the cold. He refused to repent, and stood in judgment of his father’s mercy.

Image: Rembrandt van Rijn, The Return of the Prodigal Son
Pope Francis
“Every person’s life, the life of every man and woman who has the courage to draw near to the Lord, will discover the joy of God’s celebration.”
Morning Meditation, 28 March 2014

Lenten Action
► Read what Pope Francis has said about the Parable of the Merciful Father.
► Reflect on this Sunday’s Gospel with Arts & Faith: Lent and the Sunday Connection.

Prayer
Lord, let us be among those who seek you so you may deliver us from our fears.


Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

Keep Walking With Jesus-Leader

Hopeful Hearts Breaking Free From Hurts - Leader

Gastric Sleevers - Leader

2018 Summer 5% Challenge for the Shooting Stars Team - EL Leader

Driven by Faith - Leader


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Thursday of the Third Week of Lent
Memorial of St. Katharine Drexel

The disciplines of Lent help us keep our hearts open
to God’s mercy and forgiveness.


Scripture
Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah,
as on the day at Massah in the wilderness,
when your ancestors tested me,
and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.
Psalm 95:8–9

Reflection
Hopefully, we have all experienced joy. Perhaps we have experienced the joy of the beginning a great relationship, or the joy of starting a new job we are excited about, or the joy of graduating from a school. In moments such as these, the future seems to be filled with possibilities, and we cannot wait to meet the new challenges.

However, as time goes on, not everything works out the way we hoped. Relationships can become argumentative and painful, while jobs may become dull, tedious, and disappointing. It is easy to become nostalgic for the past left behind.

This is the experience of the Israelites described in the Book of Numbers. The excitement of freedom has become the drudgery of everyday life. The gifts of manna and quail no longer satisfy them, and the people long for the time in Egypt when although they were slaves they had grain, figs, vines producing grapes for wine, and pomegranates to eat (Numbers 20:5). So at this stage of their journey the people have consistent complaints against Moses and the Lord as found in the Scripture reference to Meribah and Massah.

God calls us to follow him without reservation. But we are always tempted to live with a false sense of freedom; we will be tempted to fulfill our own desires without thinking about how our actions impact others. These temptations lead us to live with hardened hearts and callous indifference. The Lenten practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are responses to God’s call to remain disciplined in the face of these temptations. Lent is a time for us to respond to God’s grace of forgiveness and mercy so that we do not live with hardened hearts.
Pope Francis
“Today, on this Lenten day, we can ask ourselves: do I listen to the voice of the Lord, or do I do what I want, whatever I please?”
Morning Meditation, 12 March 2015

Lenten Action
► Learn about St. Katharine Drexel.
► Review the Lenten practices described in the free eBook by Joe Paprocki.

Prayer
Lord, give us the grace to listen to your voice and harden not our hearts.


Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

Keep Walking With Jesus-Leader

Hopeful Hearts Breaking Free From Hurts - Leader

Gastric Sleevers - Leader

2018 Summer 5% Challenge for the Shooting Stars Team - EL Leader

Driven by Faith - Leader


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Wednesday of the Third Week of Lent

Lent is a season to reflect more deeply on God’s will.


Scripture
“But take care and watch yourselves closely, so as neither to forget the things that your eyes have seen nor to let them slip from your mind all the days of your life; make them known to your children and your children’s children.”
Deuteronomy 4:9

Reflection
If there is any word that disturbs people in our society, it is the word obedience. When we look for definitions of the verb “to obey” in the dictionary we find that it means to comply with a command or direction, to do what someone says, to carry out the orders of someone in authority. In our hyper-individualistic world, we rankle at the thought of someone imposing his or her will on our behavior. This influences our reaction to the readings from Scripture which call us to obey God and his teachings.

In the languages of both Old and New Testaments, the verb “to obey” means “to listen to.” Obedience in the Bible then has to do with listening to the call of God with an open heart and giving a wholehearted response. Obedience is a heart to heart relationship with God.

So when we ask ourselves the question “what is God calling us to do in our lives?” we find in the Old Testament the basic statutes and ordinances God is calling us to follow, most importantly the Ten Commandments and the important commentaries we find on them from the prophets. God is calling us to understand the centrality of making him the center of our lives which we act out in caring for our sisters and brothers.

In Matthew 5:17–19, Jesus also tells us clearly that these are his most important priorities. We are to listen to who God is calling us to be as his disciples and recognize that through Jesus, the Father’s deepest desires for us will be fulfilled.
Pope Francis
“So how does the Holy Spirit act in our life and in the life of the Church in order to guide us to the truth? First of all, he recalls and impresses in the heart of believers the words Jesus spoke and, through these very words, the law of God—as the Prophets of the Old Testament had foretold—is engraved in our heart and becomes within us a criterion for evaluation in decisions and for guidance in our daily actions. ”
General Audience, 15 May 2013

Lenten Action
► Follow this up with a reading of one of the prophets who especially interests you.
► Pray with a 3-Minute Retreat.

Prayer
Lord, let us listen to your words which are for us spirit and life.


Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

Keep Walking With Jesus-Leader

Hopeful Hearts Breaking Free From Hurts - Leader

Gastric Sleevers - Leader

2018 Summer 5% Challenge for the Shooting Stars Team - EL Leader

Driven by Faith - Leader


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Tuesday of the Third Week of Lent

Today we reflect on the necessity of asking forgiveness.


Scripture
“Then Peter came and said to him, ‘Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.’”
Matthew 18:21–22


Reflection
The Protestant evangelist Corrie ten Boom and her family were arrested in Holland during World War II for helping the Jews escape persecution. As she told it in her memoir, The Hiding Place, Corrie and her sister Betsie were imprisoned with a number of other women, subject to working as slaves and receiving beatings on a regular basis. Unexpectedly, Corrie was released from the prison due to what she later found out was a clerical error. The next week the rest of the women in the prison were killed.

After the war Corrie began an evangelical life she describes in her book, Tramp for the Lord, preaching love, forgiveness, and mercy. In 1947, after giving a talk in Germany, she was approached by a man she recognized as one of the cruelest guards where she was imprisoned. He asked her for her forgiveness. Corrie struggled with the most difficult thing she was ever asked to do—her sister Betsie had died in that prison, and now she was asked to forgive a man who was partly responsible for her death. “Jesus, help me,” she prayed. “I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.” She grasped the former guard’s hands, and wept. She had never known God’s love more intensely than she did at that moment (Tramp for the Lord, 55–57).

Meditating on the readings of this day, Pope Francis distinguishes between shallow apologies and true forgiveness. True forgiveness rests on being open to the grace of God. Unwillingness to forgive is like closing a door to God that we need to keep open. We can allow God’s forgiveness to enter our lives to the degree we are willing to forgive others with open hearts.
Pope Francis
“If I cannot forgive, I cannot ask forgiveness. Jesus teaches us to pray like this to the Father: ‘Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.’”
Morning Meditation, 10 March 2015

Lenten Action
► For more information on Corrie ten Boom see the Wikipedia entry on her life.
► Explore resources on mercy and forgiveness during this Year of Mercy.

Prayer
Help us be mindful of your mercy, O Lord, and to keep an open door in our willingness to forgive and act towards others in mercy and love.


Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

Keep Walking With Jesus-Leader

Hopeful Hearts Breaking Free From Hurts - Leader

Gastric Sleevers - Leader

2018 Summer 5% Challenge for the Shooting Stars Team - EL Leader

Driven by Faith - Leader


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Monday of the Third Week of Lent

This Lent, fast by listening to others;
pray by opening your hearts to them;
and give alms by holding your hands out to them.


Scripture
O send out your light and your truth;
let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy hill
and to your dwelling.
Psalm 43:3

Reflection
On his trip to Africa in November 2015, Pope Francis spoke to the young people of Kenya, warning them of the evils of tribalism, the temptation to value one’s own cultural prejudices at the expense of others. He called for the young people to be open to all who live within their country. Overcoming tribalism is something “we do with our ear: listening to others; with our heart: being open to others; and with our hands: holding out a hand to others.” (Address to the Young People of Kenya, 27 November 2015).

In the Gospel reading from Luke 4:24‒30, Jesus confronts the same attitudes when speaking to the people of Galilee who saw themselves as superior to others who did not share their faith. Jesus points to the example of the Old Testament prophets Elijah and Elisha in 2 Kings. These prophets lived among the faithful, but when they performed miracles it was for a Gentile widow and a Syrian general. God’s grace is not limited to a chosen few. Jesus’ example enraged the people, and they did their best to throw Jesus off a cliff. “But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way” (Luke 4:30).

Whether it is called tribalism or exceptionalism, the temptation to narrow our focus to claim the grace of God for ourselves and deny it to those who make us uncomfortable is universal. This temptation is especially strong during times of stress and unrest. We are tempted to ask God to extend his mercy to us and to deny it to others. So it is a great Lenten practice to humbly listen to others, open our hearts to them, and hold out our hands to one another.
Pope Francis
“We must also learn the wisdom of placing ourselves on the margins so that the Lord will find us. The Lord will not find us at the center of our self- assurance.”
Morning Meditation, Monday, 24 March 2014

Lenten Action
► Go to your local diocesan web pages to learn of the work of Catholic Charities in your area.
► Pray with an Examen for the Third Week of Lent.

Prayer
Lord, help us to find the face of God in all those whom you have called us to love, especially among those who live on the margins.


Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

Keep Walking With Jesus-Leader

Hopeful Hearts Breaking Free From Hurts - Leader

Gastric Sleevers - Leader

2018 Summer 5% Challenge for the Shooting Stars Team - EL Leader

Driven by Faith - Leader


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Third Sunday of Lent

Lent is a time when we respond to Jesus’ call
to build a society based on mercy.


Scripture
“He said further, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.”
Exodus 3:6

Reflection
Alexey Pismenny, “Parable of the Fruitless Fig Tree,”The secular culture in our society has done an excellent job in privatizing religious belief. Religious belief is expected to be kept out of the public sphere. Each person is seen to have the right to believe what they want, just as long as they keep their beliefs to themselves. But in the story of Moses’s encounter with God in the third chapter of Exodus, we see that God has not come to give Moses a personal revelation. God identifies himself as the God of the people. He is preparing Moses to lead a social revolution. The people are suffering under their Egyptian taskmasters, and God is getting ready to lead them to build a new society.

Pope Francis’s call to mercy is clearly in line with the iconic description of God’s purpose in the world that we find in Exodus. God is not a complacent deity who is content to observe the world from a distance; quite the contrary: God is actively concerned for the world, as he most clearly shows by sending his Son Jesus to redeem us and call us to build a society of mercy.

In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus vividly calls all to repentance. The parable of the barren fig tree (Luke 13:6‒9) is for anyone of us who ignores the needs of a world in which 842 million people face hunger every day and suffer under the taskmasters of our age. God continuously calls out to those who ignore him. God is patient, but we will eventually face God’s judgment: “If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.” (Luke 13:9)

Pope Francis
“Doing whatever we can so that everyone has food, but also reminding the world’s powerful that God will call them to be judged one day, and it will be demonstrated whether they have truly tried to provide food for Him in each person.” (cf. Mt 25:35)
Homily, 12 May 2015

Lenten Action
► The number of those hungry every day is from Catholic Relief Services. Review the work of Catholic Relief Services.
► Reflect on this Sunday’s Gospel with Arts & Faith: Lent and the Sunday Connection.

Prayer
Lord, help us to be open to your nurturing word that the seeds of faith you planted may blossom into a life of love and mercy.


Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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Saturday of the Second Week of Lent

We are God’s prodigal children.
God is always waiting for us to come back to him.


Scripture
“But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him.”
Luke 15:20

Reflection
We have all heard of deathbed confessions and about people who return to the sacraments after having led dissolute lives. When we hear these stories we can have feelings of resentment. We think that such grace is undeserved. We think those who have tried each day to follow the commandments have taken a harder way to salvation. We probably have a lot of sympathy for the older brother in the story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11‒32).

Pope Francis addresses these issues in his Angelus homily of September 15, 2013. Pope Francis tells us that there is a danger that we presume ourselves righteous enough to judge others. In this way we also presume to judge God, thinking that he should punish sinners and condemn them to death instead of forgiving them. Such attitudes, Pope Francis declares, risk our being kept out of our Father’s house.

Pope Francis says that if “in our heart there is no mercy, no joy of forgiveness, we are not in communion with God, even if we observe all of his precepts, for it is love that saves, not the practice of precepts alone” (Angelus, 15 September 2013).

We always need to remember that we are the prodigal sons who every day turn our backs on God’s grace. “Each one of us is that son who has squandered his freedom on false idols, illusions of happiness, and has lost everything” (Angelus, 15 September 2013). Fortunately for us all, God awaits our plea for forgiveness, which he will answer with his mercy.
Pope Francis
“The God who waits for us. God who waits and also God who forgives. He is the God of mercy; he does not tire of forgiving. We are the ones who tire in asking for forgiveness, but he does not tire.”
Homily, 28 March 2014

Lenten Action
► Read Pope Francis on the Parable of the Merciful Father.
► Pray in a special way with the story of the Prodigal Son.
► Go back and reflect on something that particularly touched you this second week of Lent.
Sunday | Monday | Tuesday | Wednesday | Thursday | Friday


Prayer
Forgive us for our sins, O Lord, so we may celebrate the joy of reconciliation.


Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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Friday of the Second Week of Lent

We reflect on the Word of God with humility to discern God’s wisdom.


Scripture
“‘The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone
this was the Lord’s doing,
and it is amazing in our eyes’”
Matthew 21:42

Reflection
In the first of today’s readings, we hear about Israel, his son Joseph, and Joseph’s brothers. Joseph was Israel’s favorite son. That is why Joseph received the tailored cloak that was the envy of his brothers. The brothers took vengeance on Joseph, first by planning to kill him, but finally selling him into slavery. The brothers were blind to everything but their own ambition.

The tenants in the Gospel reading were also blinded by ambition. In killing the owner’s representatives, they thought to inherit the land. Instead they inherited the whirlwind.

Pope Francis notes that the vineyard represents an inheritance that God planted and tilled with his own hands. It is God’s Word in the Gospels in which he shares his great love. Unfortunately, there are those who use the Word as a means of making a personal profit, who act as if they own it. They only see the Word in terms of their own desires, and by acting in such a way, they are closed to the grace God offers daily. The Word is dead as it has been hijacked by those who were called to serve it.

The ways to overcome this temptation to control the Word are the dispositions of humility and prayer. When the Word of God is read with humility, the reader listens to the echo of God’s presence in his or her heart; it is an echo that resonates over the centuries. When the Word is approached in prayer the reader discerns the wisdom that God is teaching. There is no attempt to change the Word to fulfill our desires, but to read it in tune with God’s desires.
Pope Francis
“The Lord grant us the grace of humility to look upon Jesus as the Savior who speaks to us: he speaks to me! Each one of us ought to say: he speaks to me! When we read the Gospels: he is speaking to me!”
Morning Meditation, 21 March 2014

Lenten Action
► Read a short passage from the Gospels.
► Pray with the Ignatian Workout for Lent online retreat by Tim Muldoon.

Prayer
Help us to remember, O Lord, to look upon you with humility and discern your wisdom written in our hearts.


Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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Thursday of the Second Week of Lent

The disciplines of Lent help us place trust in God the Father’s loving hands.


Scripture
Happy are those who make
the LORD their trust,
who do not turn to the proud,
to those who go astray after false gods.
Psalm 40:4

Reflection
A good friend told me the story of how his life was changed. He is a good man, active in his parish, and involved in Catholic ministry. He was on a retreat that was an especially moving experience. During the first days of the retreat, he reflected on all that he was doing, all that he was failing to do, and the many insurmountable issues he was facing. He knew no matter how hard he tried, he could not accomplish all that he thought needed to be done. In a moment of private prayer, he cried to God how helpless he felt, that he was in despair. He heard God tell him, “Give me your despair.” At that moment he moved from trust in himself and his own abilities to trust in God.

In a homily given on today's readings, Pope Francis says the central focus of the readings is the issue of trust: do we trust in ourselves, or do we trust in God? Someone who only trusts in himself will ultimately live a life without horizons, without open doors, without windows. Even if we have moved beyond simply selfish desires and sincerely give our lives to others in service, there is still the temptation to put our own agendas forward instead of God’s.

To move beyond trust in our own abilities and our own agendas, we must surrender ourselves into the Father’s loving hands and be open to what he wishes to accomplish in us.

Pope Francis
“May the Lord grant us all the wisdom to trust only in him and not in things or in human strength: only in him.”
Morning Meditation, 20 March 2014

Lenten Action
► Take time for a 3-Minute Retreat.

Prayer
Help us, O Lord, to live only by the life-giving waters of your love.


Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

Keep Walking With Jesus-Leader

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Wednesday of the Second Week of Lent

We reflect on the reason for our service: to bring glory to God.

Scripture
“Whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave.”
Matthew 20: 26–27

Reflection
When St. Francis of Assisi had his vision of rebuilding Jesus’ Church, he was in the broken down chapel of San Damiano. At first, he thought that Jesus was calling on him to rebuild the chapel. So he gathered the stones necessary for the repair. He then went to his father’s textile shop and, without permission, sold some of the goods to finance the repairs.

Francis’s father, Pietro Bernardone, was furious. He had willingly funded Francis’s expensive dreams of becoming a knight as this would raise the status of the family. But he could not tolerate what he saw was the theft of his goods. He confronted Francis before the bishop of Assisi, who told Francis that while his motives may be good, he could not steal from his father. Francis then stripped himself naked, disowned his family, and was given a cloak by the bishop to wear.

Francis had entered into the true Way of the Cross. He discovered the presence of Jesus in the wounds of the world, in the lepers, and in the poor. To reach out to them he stripped himself of his family’s values, becoming poor, so that others may live.

Pope Francis notes that there is a danger among Christians who, like the Apostles in the Gospel, follow Jesus for personal ambition, to accomplish something in life or to be rewarded for good deeds. While such a path may lead us to heaven, ultimately it is a sad life. Only service to the one Lord is the way to true happiness and a true Christian life.
Pope Francis
“He who, being God, humbled himself, lowered himself, debased himself: to serve. It is service in hope, and this is the joy of Christian service.”
Morning Meditation, 11 November 2014

Lenten Action
► Learn more about the Franciscan Order.
► Explore the reflections in Growing in Friendship with God This Lent.

Prayer
Lord Jesus, help me to follow the Way of the Cross and serve with courage.

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

Keep Walking With Jesus-Leader

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Gastric Sleevers - Leader

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Driven by Faith - Leader


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Tuesday of the Second Week of Lent
Feast of St. Polycarp, Bishop and Martyr

Lent is a season during which we reflect on how we bear witness to Jesus.

Scripture
“Seek justice,
rescue the oppressed,
defend the orphan,
plead for the widow.”
Isaiah 1:17

Reflection
We celebrate the feast day of St. Polycarp (d.155?), bishop and martyr. Polycarp was the second Bishop of Smyrna, and said to be ordained by St. John the Apostle. He was one of the last living witnesses to the teachings of the Apostles.

When brought before the stake that would be his pillar of martyrdom by fire, St. Polycarp was given the opportunity to renounce his faith and be spared. Polycarp replied:

“Eighty and six years I have served Him, and He has done me no wrong. How then can I blaspheme my King and Savior? . . . You threaten me with fire that burns for an hour, and after a little is extinguished, but you are ignorant of the fire of the coming judgment and of eternal punishment, reserved for the ungodly . . . I give You thanks that You have counted me, worthy of this day and this hour, that I should have a part in the number of Your martyrs, in the cup of your Christ.”

Polycarp’s martyrdom reminds us of what Jesus taught in John 15:20. “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘Servants are not greater than their master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also.”

We can be inspired by the example of St. Polycarp. The days of martyrdom are not over. We also remember that thousands of Christians continue to be martyred today serving the same Lord, sharing in the cup of Christ.
Pope Francis
“Let us consider: am I ready to carry the Cross like Jesus? To endure persecution in order to bear witness to Jesus like our many brothers and sisters today who are humiliated and persecuted?”
Morning Meditation, 4 March 2014

Lenten Action
► Review the work of Caritas International bringing hope to the suffering and refugees from religious persecution.
► Consider How to Find Time in the Day for Lent.

Prayer
Let your face shine on us your servants so we may serve those most in need.

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

Keep Walking With Jesus-Leader

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Monday of the Second Week of Lent
Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, the Apostle

During the season of Lent, we reflect on the question,
“Who is Jesus for us?”

Scripture
“Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’”
Matthew 16:13

Reflection
In the Gospel reading Jesus has come to the district of Caesarea Philippi, a Greek city filled with shrines to pagan idols. Surrounded by these images of false gods, Jesus asks his disciples who they think the Son of Man is. Speaking for all the disciples Simon Peter answers, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16). Jesus blesses Simon Peter for his response, naming him “Cephas,” the word for “rock,” and telling him that upon this rock he would build his Church. The gates of hell would not prevail against it.

Reflecting on this story Pope Francis asks, how would we respond to the question who is Jesus for us? He notes that we learn and study about Jesus in the Catechism, but this head knowledge in itself is not enough. How can we answer this question in our hearts? In order to truly know Jesus, we have to travel the way that Peter continued to travel, one made especially difficult when Jesus made it clear that his way was the Way of the Cross. (Matthew 16:21‒23)

Pope Francis notes that what happened in a unique way with Peter also happens to every Christian who develops a sincere faith in Jesus Christ. Do we let Jesus speak to our heart? Is our heart like a rock, or like sand that is doubtful, diffident, or disbelieving? When Jesus finds a heart with sincere, genuine faith, he sees a living stone on which to build the Church.
Pope Francis
“Peter is the rock, the visible foundation of the Church’s unity; but every baptized person is called to offer Jesus his or her lowly but sincere faith.”
Angelus, 24 August 2014

Lenten Action
► Pray with the Stations of the Cross.
► Read more about St. Peter in an excerpt from Saint Peter by Stephen Binz.

Prayer
Lord Jesus, let us love you with a sincere heart so we may dwell in your house our whole life long.
Lenten Moments of Mercy



Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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Second Sunday of Lent

Lent is a time when we open ourselves to God’s transforming grace.


Scripture
“But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Philippians 3:20

Reflection
Lorenzo Lotto's The TransfigurationIn an interview with the program Witness for Salt and Light Television, Monsignor Dario Viganň, then director of Vatican television, told of the first moments of Pope Francis’s papal ministry. Pope Francis came out of the Sistine Chapel and went to the Pauline Chapel with two cardinals accompanying him. His head was bowed down, as if the burden of the task that he had been elected to was weighing him down. In the Pauline Chapel, instead of going to a prearranged papal throne, he sat in the last pew, compelling the two cardinals to sit with him. He prayed in silence.

Msgr. Viganň says that when Pope Francis got up to go to meet the people, he was a different man. His head was no longer down. He looked straight ahead and was smiling. It was as if God had said to him personally, “Don’t worry. I am here with you.” Pope Francis had an experience of God’s transforming mercy and grace. (Dario Viganň interview with Fr. Thomas Rosica. Witness, October 4, 2013)

In the third chapter of his letter to the Philippians, St. Paul calls on his brothers and sisters in faith to follow his example insofar as he is following Christ. Paul is critical of those who name themselves Christian, but follow their bellies with their minds on earthly things. As long as they act this way they will be closed to the transforming grace of Jesus Christ. Paul promises that for those who follow Christ, they will begin to experience in this world the joy and happiness that will be completed in the next.

Image: Lorenzo Lotto, The Transfiguration of Christ
Pope Francis
“Jesus’ way always leads us to happiness. There will always be a cross, trials in the middle, but at the end we are always led to happiness.”
Angelus, 1 March 2015

Lenten Action
► Watch more of the interview with Msgr. Viganň.
► Reflect on this Sunday’s Gospel with Arts & Faith: Lent and the Sunday Connection.

Prayer
You, O Lord, are the light of our salvation. Whom should we fear?


Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

Keep Walking With Jesus-Leader

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Gastric Sleevers - Leader

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Saturday of the First Week of Lent

Lent is a time to break the cycles of violence—
physical, mental, and emotional—that plague us.


Scripture
“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Matthew 5:48

Reflection
One of the most moving stories in the Old Testament is found in Exodus chapters 1 and 2. Pharaoh had condemned newly born Hebrew boys to death, officially making them enemies of the state. But two Egyptian midwives refused to follow Pharaoh’s orders. After Moses was born, his mother put him in a basket covered with tar to enable it to float. Pharaoh’s daughter found the basket, and also disobeying her father’s command, adopted Moses, thus breaking the cycle of violence that would have killed him.

Jesus calls us to break similar cycles of violence that plague us every day. He teaches us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44). The decision to love our enemies means letting go of our prejudices for the sake of love. Pope Francis teaches: “With forgiveness, with love for our enemy, we become poorer. But this poverty is a seed bearing fruit for others, as Jesus’ poverty became grace for us all, salvation” (Morning Meditation, 18 June 2013).

Finally, Jesus calls us to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48). To be “perfect” in this context means to do all things wholeheartedly committed to God. Not to forgive or to hate our enemies leaves a great emptiness which makes us incomplete. We can only become completely human accepting Jesus’ teaching and the grace of love and forgiveness.
Pope Francis
“Christ came to save us, to show us the way, the only way out of the quicksand of sin, and this way of holiness is mercy . . . To be a saint is not a luxury. It is necessary for the salvation of the world.”
Homily, 23 February 2014

Lenten Action
► Explore the USCCB website for resources on justice and peace.
► View this Lent through the lens of grace.
► Go back and reflect on something that particularly touched you this first week of Lent.
Sunday | Monday | Tuesday | Wednesday | Thursday | Friday


Prayer
Help us with your grace, O Lord, that our way may be blameless as we walk in the law of the Lord.


Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

Keep Walking With Jesus-Leader

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Friday of the First Week of Lent

During Lent, let us fast from the things that fill the heart with bitterness.

Scripture
“If you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire.”
Matthew 5:22

Reflection
When St. Thomas Aquinas was a young Dominican student he was so quiet and seemingly naďve that his classmates called him “the dumb ox.” One day a group of students at the window called to Thomas, telling him to come and see a cart and a horse flying down the road. When Thomas came to look, they laughed that he would be so foolish to believe them. Thomas responded saying he would sooner believe that a cart and horse could fly than a Dominican could lie. The Dominicans learned soon enough that the quiet “dumb ox” would bellow loud enough that the world would hear his voice.

The behavior of Thomas’s classmates in stereotyping, insulting, and ridiculing him reflects behaviors that are all too common in families, neighborhoods, and parishes. Pope Francis reminds us that words can kill. Speaking ill of others, slandering them, and especially, spreading gossip are at the root of separation and alienation within families. It may begin with remarks that may be easily dismissed—“I was just kidding”—but in the end it fills the heart with bitterness and poisons relationships. Gossip is most serious as it can kill the reputation of a person.

A wonderful Lenten practice would be to make a daily decision not to make disparaging remarks towards others, not to share a scandalous story, and to give one another the benefit of the doubt. These can be moments that take us on the path of holiness.
Pope Francis
“Jesus offers the perfection of love to those who follow him: love is the only measure that has no measure, to move past judgements.”
Angelus, 16 February 2014

Lenten Action
► Make a commitment not to read or watch the gossip shows and websites for the season of Lent.
► Be inspired by Living Lent Daily.

Prayer
Give us the courage, O Lord, to turn away from the temptation to gossip or disparage others so that we all may live in peace.

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

Keep Walking With Jesus-Leader

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Thursday of the First Week of Lent

Take time during Lent to discern God’s dream for you.

Scripture
“Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone?”
Matthew 7:9

Reflection
A young man was discussing with his parents what he planned to do with his life. He mapped out a number of career paths to his parents. After he finished his father said, “We support you in following your dreams. But have you ever considered giving your life to Jesus Christ in a religious vocation?” The young man burst into tears; he had a religious vocation in his heart, but he was afraid to mention it. One week later he entered a Catholic community of brothers.

All who are parents or mentors for young people have dreams for them. They usually revolve around the hope that they would lead better lives than we did. All of these dreams can be good and have the potential to help them flourish as individuals and contribute to their communities. But these dreams can be like giving stones instead of bread if they are done without discernment, that is, if they are not considered in the light of God’s will. All of us are called to live holy lives in whatever vocation we follow, whether that is religious life, matrimony and parenthood, or the single life. We can best help others by helping them discern what God’s dream for them is.

Pope Francis tells us that God is always generous, giving more and more: “Perhaps in prayer we ask for this and that, and He always gives us more! Always, always more.” Our greatest contribution to others is to help them discern what this “more” is.
Pope Francis
“Jesus is the companion on the journey who gives us what we ask; the Father who cares for us and loves us; and the Holy Spirit who is the gift, is that ‘more’ that the Father gives, for which our conscience does not dare to hope.”
Morning Meditation, 9 October 2014

Lenten Action
► Explore your diocesan vocation pages to familiarize yourself with the opportunities for serving God.
► Learn about discernment with the article “Discernment in a Nutshell” by Joseph A. Tetlow, SJ.

Prayer
Fulfill your purpose in me, O Lord, with your steadfast love which endures forever.

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

Keep Walking With Jesus-Leader

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Wednesday of the First Week of Lent

Today’s reflection reminds us that we are only successful
through the power of God.

Scripture
“For just as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so the Son of Man will be to this generation.”
Luke 11:30

Reflection
In 1956 Jesuits from the Oregon Province and the Sisters of St. Ann formed a partnership to build a school for native Alaskan children. They recruited lay volunteers who built the school working in 70-below-zero temperatures in the Alaskan winter. This small beginning was the root of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps.

In the first reading we find the prophet Jonah intimidated by the task God has given to him. It took Jonah three days to walk through the “awesomely great” city of Nineveh, bringing the call for repentance (Jonah 3:3). Jonah’s reluctant testimony led to salvation for the city. In their small beginnings the founders of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps may have also wondered what was possible with the daunting task of proclaiming Christ to an indifferent world. But from their small beginnings, the Jesuit Volunteer Corps has become the largest Catholic full-time volunteer program. Over the years, more than 10,000 men and women have worked tirelessly for social justice, caring for communities throughout the world.

The story of Jonah is that of a reluctant missionary who tried to flee the Lord, only to be pulled back in to make his way forward. As the first reading tells us, his half-hearted missionary effort was amazingly successful through the power of God. Volunteers in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps face their future with courage, recognizing in the Son of Man one greater than Jonah. They moved forward in hope to serve the Lord and the world.
Pope Francis
“Am I capable of understanding the signs of the times and of being faithful to the voice of the Lord that is manifest in them?”
Morning Meditation, 13 October 2014

Lenten Action
► Review the material on the Jesuit Volunteer Corps website to see one of the possibilities for the new evangelization.
► Pray with the Ignatian Workout for Lent online retreat by Tim Muldoon.

Prayer
Lord, help us not to be reluctant when you call us to move out of ourselves in service to others.

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

Keep Walking With Jesus-Leader

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Tuesday of the First Week of Lent

Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving help us recognize
those times when we have not been as forgiving as God calls us to be.

Scripture
“And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.”
Matthew 6:12

Reflection
A priest once told this story about his family. Two of his uncles were farmers in the community where he had grown up. At some point, the two uncles had a severe disagreement, and they refused to speak to each other. But, as it turned out, each uncle farmed land that was behind the home of the other. So each day they planted or harvested, they had to drive their tractors past one another. For 20 years, as they went to work in the morning and returned in the evening, they did not speak a single word to one another.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church is very clear in its interpretation of Matthew 6:12. God’s “…outpouring of mercy cannot penetrate our hearts as long as we have not forgiven those who have trespassed against us.” (CCC 2840). No one of us can love the God we cannot see if we refuse to love the sister or brother we do see (1 John 4:20). Refusing to forgive leads inevitably to closing ourselves out of God’s merciful love.

This season of Lent is again an opportune time to let the love of God break through any shell of our unforgiving nature. The disciplines of Lent help us to recognize the blindness in ourselves as we look out at the world and see people we dismiss, hate, or despise, either as individuals or as perceived enemies. It is an especially important time to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation. When we confess our sins, God opens our hearts to God’s grace.
Pope Francis
“If we are not able to forgive ourselves, then we are no longer able to forgive period.”
General Audience, 13 May 2015

Lenten Action
► Daily, practice the expressions: “may I?” “thank you,” and “pardon me.”
► Read the article “Forgiveness, Transformation, and Mercy,” by Becky Eldredge.

Prayer
Lord Jesus, may I forgive others so that I can be a sign of your holiness and presence in the world.

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

Keep Walking With Jesus-Leader

Hopeful Hearts Breaking Free From Hurts - Leader

Gastric Sleevers - Leader

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Monday of the First Week of Lent

Lent is a time we grow in holiness through our actions that reflect God's love.

Scripture
“You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.”
Leviticus 19:2

Reflection
There is a great fear among people about the idea that we are called to be holy. The concept seems to threaten people because holiness is so often related to the meaning that a person is austere and rigid. But we all have in our lives moments of grace in which we let ourselves be open to God’s presence in our lives.

The reading from Leviticus is very clear how we may act in accordance with God’s holiness. When we read Leviticus 19:11‒17 we recognize that we are called to treat one another with fundamental human decency. We are not to steal, lie, and swear falsely towards one another. Laborers are to receive fair wages. Those with disabilities are to be treated with respect. We are not to hate, nor are we to take vengeance or bear grudges. We are to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

In Matthew 25:31–46, Jesus offers practical steps to love our neighbors: give food to those who are hungry, give drink to those who thirst, welcome the stranger, clothe those who are naked, care for those who are sick, and visit those who are in prison. Jesus also promises the eternal joy that those who follow these practical steps will receive and spells out the consequences for those who do not.

The journey to holiness begins with a moment of grace, and each step in this journey is itself a moment of grace. As we grow in holiness, we become more aware of these moments of grace, especially as we consider those closest to us in our families, among our neighbors, and in our parish. These provide the foundation for noticing other moments of grace God is preparing for us.
Pope Francis
“If you have some time at home today, take the Gospel, Matthew’s Gospel, chapter five. At the beginning there are the Beatitudes; in chapter 25 the rest. And it will do you good to read them once, twice, three times. Read this program for holiness. May the Lord give us the grace to understand his message.”
Morning Meditation, 9 June 2014

Lenten Action
► Take the Pope’s advice and read and pray with the Beatitudes.
► Learn about Catholic Social Teaching.

Prayer
Lord, may we be holy as you are holy. Let the words of our mouths and the meditations in our heart be acceptable to you.

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

Keep Walking With Jesus-Leader

Hopeful Hearts Breaking Free From Hurts - Leader

Gastric Sleevers - Leader

2018 Summer 5% Challenge for the Shooting Stars Team - EL Leader

Driven by Faith - Leader


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2/14/16 4:54 P

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First Sunday of Lent

Lent is a season when we are tested as we focus more intensely
on who God is calling us to be.


Scripture
Those who love me, I will deliver;
I will protect those who know my name.
Psalm 91:14

Reflection
Limbourg Brothers Painting of the TemptationSoon after the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist, Jesus is led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness where he fasts for 40 days. Note that this time of discipline and potential hardship was not the result of any fault on Jesus’ part. This is a period not unknown by any of the great Christian mystics—after a period of consolation, there is a period of a “dark night” or “desolation” in which the commitment made in a period of joy is tested.

Weakened by hunger Jesus is tempted by the Devil. The Devil offers three possibilities for Jesus. The first is to fulfill the basic need of hunger, to turn stones into bread. The second is to become the ruler of the world as payment for worship of the Devil. The third is to wow the world by leaping from the highest point in the city and be caught by angels for an easy landing on the ground. Jesus responds to each of the Devil's temptations by citing Scripture: one does not live by bread alone (Deuteronomy 8:3), God is not to be put to the test (Deuteronomy 6:16), and only God is to be worshipped (Deuteronomy 6:13).

The season of Lent is a period of testing for all Christians as we recognize that we are being called by the Holy Spirit to a deeper relationship with God and with others. This means that in following the disciplines recommended by the Church—the disciplines of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving—we learn to become more dependent on the grace of God and we keep ourselves focused on who he is calling us to be.

Image: Limbourg brothers, The Temptation of Christ
Pope Francis
“The devil exists even in the 21st century. And we must not be naive. We must learn from the Gospel how to battle against him.”
Morning Meditation, 11 April 2014

Lenten Action
► Review the Lenten practices at the USCCB website.
► Reflect on this Sunday’s Gospel with Arts & Faith: Lent and the Sunday Connection.

Prayer
O Lord, help us to be open to your grace to recognize the ways in which you rescue and honor us in times of trouble.


Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

Keep Walking With Jesus-Leader

Hopeful Hearts Breaking Free From Hurts - Leader

Gastric Sleevers - Leader

2018 Summer 5% Challenge for the Shooting Stars Team - EL Leader

Driven by Faith - Leader


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2/13/16 3:27 P

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Saturday after Ash Wednesday

Lent is a time for us to take an honest look at ourselves
and receive the grace of Jesus’ healing love.


Scripture
“Jesus answered, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance.’”
Luke 5:31‒32

Reflection
After he had renounced his family and was walking on a country road, St. Francis of Assisi saw a leper. In a moment of grace, he ran toward him, embraced him, and carried him to a river to clean his puss-filled wounds. Instead of disgust at the leper's unwashed, diseased body, Francis felt joy and compassion. He discovered the vocation he would live for the rest of his life.

In the Gospel reading today, Jesus sees Levi (or Matthew in the Gospel of Matthew) at a toll booth collecting taxes. In the social world of Jesus, Levi was as a moral leper. Tax collectors paid the Romans a fixed sum of money in order to have the legal right to squeeze all that they could from the people. Because they were considered traitors to the people, tax collectors were seen as public sinners and shunned in polite company.

Jesus sees Levi and calls him to be a disciple. Levi leaves his booth and hosts a party for Jesus, with his fellow tax collectors in attendance. Jesus is criticized for his behavior. Jesus responds that he has come to heal the sick, to bring sinners to repentance.

What we need to recognize is that we are not among the righteous—we are the sinners whom Jesus has come to save. We have an infinite capacity to hide the truth of our own moral leprosy from ourselves. We are given this season of Lent to face ourselves honestly, make a true examination of conscience, and celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Pope Francis
“I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else.”
Interview in America magazine, 30 September 2013

Lenten Action
► Plan to take one of the many opportunities to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation during the season of Lent.
► Download the free eBook 7 Ways to Practice Lent by Joe Paprocki.
► Go back and reflect on something that particularly touched you these first days of Lent. Wednesday | Thursday | Friday


Prayer
Help us, O Lord, to be open to the grace of repentance. Show us your compassion and heal our wounded hearts.


Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

Keep Walking With Jesus-Leader

Hopeful Hearts Breaking Free From Hurts - Leader

Gastric Sleevers - Leader

2018 Summer 5% Challenge for the Shooting Stars Team - EL Leader

Driven by Faith - Leader


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2/12/16 2:00 P

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Friday after Ash Wednesday

Today’s reflection reminds us that by opening our hearts
to those who are poor, we open our hearts to God’s grace.

Scripture
“Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide yourself from your own kin?”
Isaiah 58:7


Reflection
In his study of St. Francis of Assisi, G.K. Chesterton tells of the time Francis was working in the family store selling velvets to the rich. He was interrupted by a beggar whom he shunted aside. Francis continued his sale with an uneasy conscience. He was a courteous man, and he had not treated the poor man with courtesy. After completing the sale, Francis rushed into the street looking for and finding the beggar, giving him what money he had. Francis made a commitment to serve the poor whenever he could.

Chesterton commented that in the simple society of Francis’s day, there were no laws to punish a starving man for begging such as have been established in our more “enlightened” age. There were no organized police to keep such persons from pestering the wealthy. There were no civic laws that made it a crime to feed the homeless. Today, it is easier to keep those who are poor at a distance; after all, are there not charities to care for them?

In a homily on today’s readings, Pope Francis asks, “Am I ashamed of the flesh of my brother? When I give alms, do I let the coins fall without touching his hand?”

Pope Francis continues to say that to fast without concern for our brothers and sisters in need is to practice a “hypocritical” fast, one which is self-serving and keeps us closed to the grace of God.
Pope Francis
“When I give alms, do I look at my brother or sister in the eyes? When I know a person is sick do I visit him? Do I greet him with tenderness?”
Morning Meditation, 7 March 2014

Lenten Action
► Explore the possibility of volunteering in a local soup kitchen or other venue that gives direct services to the poor.
► Learn about the Year of Mercy the Church is celebrating.

Prayer
O Lord, give us the grace to lose our life in order that we might be saved.

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

Keep Walking With Jesus-Leader

Hopeful Hearts Breaking Free From Hurts - Leader

Gastric Sleevers - Leader

2018 Summer 5% Challenge for the Shooting Stars Team - EL Leader

Driven by Faith - Leader


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Thursday after Ash Wednesday
Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes

Jesus calls us to choose life—to live for God and for others.


Scripture
“They are like trees
planted by streams of water,
which yield their fruit in its season.”
Psalm 1:3

Reflection
We are all impatient. Sometimes that impatience shows in feeling that we are getting stuck in life. For many younger people impatience is seen in being dissatisfied in whatever life has to offer, an inability to make long-term commitments, or looking always to see what is around the next corner. Relationships can be seen as a series of short-term happenings. One result of these short-term happenings over time is their lives “are like chaff that the wind drives away.” (Psalm 1:4)

The first Scripture reading from Deuteronomy is a final instruction from Moses to the people as they are getting ready to enter the Promised Land. This is the end of a long, fractious journey of 40 years in which an impatient people complained about the food and the trials in the desert; they wished for a return to slavery where they could eat fish, cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic. (Numbers 11:5)

The people had a choice. They could dwell in their impatient attitudes and return to the slavery of their individual desires, or they could choose life and hold fast to the teachings of God.

Jesus also calls us to choose life. We can dwell in impatience, thinking that we are making free choices. But that will always draw us into the latest fad. On the other hand, if we take up the cross every day—meaning that we will live for God and others rather than just for ourselves—that will lead to the joy only God can give. In this joy we will flourish.


Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

Keep Walking With Jesus-Leader

Hopeful Hearts Breaking Free From Hurts - Leader

Gastric Sleevers - Leader

2018 Summer 5% Challenge for the Shooting Stars Team - EL Leader

Driven by Faith - Leader


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2/10/16 9:35 A

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Ash Wednesday

As we enter Lent, let us open our hearts to respond to God’s grace.

Scripture
“Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and put a new and right spirit within me.”
Psalm 51:10

Reflection
“Self-help” books are very popular. They tell us how to improve ourselves. We turn to them for advice on how to have a more appealing personality, to become better business people, or to grow in personal relationships. In these books we find a set of disciplines which promise the reader success in life. All it takes is belief in yourself and commitment to the process.

All too often when we approach the season of Lent, we might think of it as a period of self-improvement. We commit ourselves to the Lenten disciplines of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. We might make a list of what we can accomplish. Perhaps we will give special attention to daily prayer. Maybe we will place an alms box on the dining table to remind ourselves to give to the poor. Maybe we will give up chocolate. All of these actions are good in and of themselves, but we lessen their effect on our spiritual lives by believing that they are personal accomplishments.

Psalm 51:10 helps us enter the season of Lent. It helps us recognize that the meaning of the season is to respond to the grace God offers. We begin Lent by petitioning the Lord to create in us a clean heart.

Lent is the season when we take time to listen to God, to ask what he requires of us, and to respond to his grace. In this way, the disciplines we practice—prayer, fasting, and almsgiving—will not be personal accomplishments, but ways in which we can open ourselves to becoming the person God wants us to be.

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

Keep Walking With Jesus-Leader

Hopeful Hearts Breaking Free From Hurts - Leader

Gastric Sleevers - Leader

2018 Summer 5% Challenge for the Shooting Stars Team - EL Leader

Driven by Faith - Leader


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Finding time for Lent....

How to Find Time in the Day for Lent

Find TimeThe fast pace of your life may seem to leave little time and energy for the traditional Lenten practices. But you can weave moments of spiritual awareness and service into even the busiest of schedules. The trick is to see Lenten practice as part of, rather than in addition to, each activity of your ordinary hectic day.

The three foundational practices of Lent are prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Here’s how to think about them in a new way:

Praying Daily

If you make a habit of saying a little prayer whenever someone irritates you, cuts you off in traffic, or makes life difficult; when someone does you a favor, you experience great and friendly service, or when something joyful happens to you—you will soon find yourself praying your way through the day. Try this simple practice and you will be observing the Catholic Church’s call for greater prayer during the Lenten season. You will also find that this habit makes your life flow smoother, your self more centered, and your Spirit more aware of God’s presence.

A Different Type of Fasting

There are many ways to fast. Why not fast from criticism, gossip, judging others, or passing on rumors? Why not abstain from unwarranted fear and anxiety? You can also tell that inner voice inside your head that criticizes you to abstain from eroding your ability to be the confident, blessed person God calls you to be. These are beautiful ways to observe the Lenten call to fasting and abstinence. In the book, Praying Lent, the authors offer suggestions on different ways to fast during Lent.

Give of Yourself

Daily life also offers countless opportunities to give of yourself to others (alms), and most don’t involve dipping into your wallet. Give encouragement to the doubting, give a word of praise to the insecure, show kindness to someone who could use a friend, and offer a word of thanks to those whose service of others often goes unappreciated. Give the gift of your attention to someone who simply wants to be noticed. Tell your children stories about people whose values you admire when you gather at mealtime. Don’t be stingy with your smiles—give them freely to everyone you meet. And most important, give your love to those close to you. Hug them, hold them, and tell them what they mean to you. In this way you open your heart to God and others.

So no matter how busy your are in life, with some greater awareness and new perspectives you can consciously pray, fast, and give of yourself this Lent—and you will be ready to celebrate when a joyful dawn breaks upon you Easter morning.

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

Keep Walking With Jesus-Leader

Hopeful Hearts Breaking Free From Hurts - Leader

Gastric Sleevers - Leader

2018 Summer 5% Challenge for the Shooting Stars Team - EL Leader

Driven by Faith - Leader


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