March 12 – Fourth Saturday of Lent

Posted on March 12, 2016 by - Lent Reflections

trustGodToday’s Scripture

“For to you I have entrusted my cause!” (Jeremiah 18:20).

Daily Lent Reflection

Jeremiah initially did not believe himself to be worthy to be a messenger for God. But God knew differently and here Jeremiah puts all his trust in the Lord; in this reading he says he “was like a trustful lamb being led to the slaughter-house.”

What a challenge for us! Not simply to trust God, but to trust that God knows what plans there are for each of us – and that God is to be trusted even when it might feel like we are being led to the “slaughter-house.”

Daily Lent Challenge

Today I will ask myself do I trust God that much? What would it be like to open myself to experience that level of trust? Are there small steps I can take today to try that?

Teresa Keogh, Archdiocese of Southwark

March 11 – Fourth Friday of Lent

Posted on March 11, 2016 by - Vibrant Parish Toolkit

knowGodToday’s Scripture

“For their wickedness blinded them, And they did not know the hidden counsels of God, (Wisdom 2:21-22).”

Daily Lent Reflection

This reading from the book of Wisdom talks of the misguided reasoning of the godless. It describes a judgemental way of viewing God-fearing people. Perhaps we could try to read this today with a degree of humility, placing ourselves in the reading as a godless person rather than our usual stance of God-fearing Christians.

Daily Lent Challenge

Today I will ask myself how it feels to place myself in this reading as a godless person? Do I judge others in that way? How might this challenge to the norm change my view of myself? How might the fruits of this reflection change the way I view other people?

Teresa Keogh, Archdiocese of Southwark

An Everyday Steward is Committed

Posted on March 10, 2016 by - Everyday Stewardship

committmentFor each Sunday of Lent and Passion Sunday, the Everyday Stewardship reflection will look at each of the six characteristics of an Everyday Steward, as contained in the book of the same name.

This week we explore how an Everyday Steward is committed.

Click here to read the full post

Past posts:

If you missed the reflection, An Everyday Steward is Gracious, you can read it here.
If you missed the reflection, An Everyday Steward is Accountable, you can read it here.
If you missed the reflection, An Everyday Steward is Prayerful, you can read it here.
If you missed the reflection, An Everyday Steward is Mindful,  you can read it here.

March 10 – Fourth Thursday of Lent

Posted on March 10, 2016 by - Vibrant Parish Toolkit

godsWitnessToday’s Gospel

“’I came in the name of my Father, but you do not accept me; yet if another comes in his own name, you will accept him,’ (John 5:43).”

Daily Lent Reflection

In today’s gospel, Jesus rebukes the Jewish leaders who refuse to accept or believe in Him despite the evidence He gives them that He has been sent by the Father. He provides four witnesses: the witness of John the Baptist, the commissioning of the Father, the witness of the Old Testament, and the evidence from His own works.

Daily Lent Challenge

Who are the witnesses in my life that have pointed me to Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God? How can I provide witness to others today in order to help them accept and believe in Jesus too?

Teresa Keogh, Archdiocese of Southwark

March 9 – Fourth Wednesday of Lent

Posted on March 9, 2016 by - Vibrant Parish Toolkit

godsWillToday’s Gospel

“’I cannot do anything on my own; I judge as I hear, and my judgment is just, because I do not seek my own will but the will of the one who sent me,’ (John 5:30).”

Daily Lent Reflection

Jesus put his trust in the Father and was obedient to his will. How often do we put our trust in God and allow him to work through us? We see God in others but do others see God in us? What is it we see when God works through someone?

Daily Lent Challenge

Today I will think of someone I know who allows God to work through them. What qualities do they exhibit? I will ask God to work through me and exhibit similar qualities to others.

Teresa Keogh, Archdiocese of Southwark

5 Characteristics of a Contagious Staff Culture

Posted on March 8, 2016 by - Vibrant Parish Toolkit

Church StaffMany churches struggle with building a staff culture that is healthy, vibrant, and contagious. Oftentimes it seems like people are playing on different teams, facing off against one another rather than unifying around a common mission that glorifies God and strengthens the church.

I ran across an article last week where Father Michael White addresses this very topic and shares 5 characteristics of a contagious staff culture.

Click here to read the full article

The Letters

Posted on March 8, 2016 by - Everyday Stewardship

The LettersEven in a world that at times seems lost and lacking in love, there are good stewards everywhere that serve as good role models for us all. They demonstrate to us that holiness is not just for those we read about in a Book of Saints. They remind us that we all have the capacity to love and be loved and that compassion is one of God’s greatest gifts.

Blessed Mother Teresa is certainly one name that comes to mind. There is a film coming out on March 22 on DVD entitled, The Letters. The trailer is in the full post below and you can get a sense of how moving this film can be for the viewer.

Click here to read the full post

Liberating Mercy

Posted on March 8, 2016 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

For Sunday, March 13, 2016, 5th Sunday of Lent

Person holding a rock depicting answer by Jesus from John 8:7.

I recently saw the small independent film, The Lady in the Van, starring Maggie Smith, otherwise known as the Countess of Grantham for all you Downton Abbey fans. (As I write this, the series finale is about to air here in the States.) The true story, which is comical and at the same time sad, surrounds Mary Shepherd, an old woman who was homeless, except for her van in which she lived. Due to some twists and turns at the start of the film, she ends up parking her van permanently in the driveway of British playwright, Alan Bennett, for an entire fifteen years. We find out as the story develops that Mary had been a novice in a convent, had been a classically trained pianist, and still had family living outside the area. This woman certainly did not have a background that one would think could lead to such an existence. However, one event truly changed the trajectory of her life. She had hit and killed a young man on a motorbike with her van, and even though she did not realize she was not at fault, she fled from the scene in panic. She lived with a guilt that consumed her and essentially drove her crazy.

Mary Shepherd was a Catholic who would pray constantly for forgiveness, going to confession over and over again to confess the same sin. The movie depicts a priest in the confessional trying to get her to understand that she has already been absolved and there was no need for her to hold onto this burden, let alone confess it again and again. The kindness shown to her by Mr. Bennett, others in the neighborhood, and even her brother who she was able to occasionally see during those fifteen years, did little to ease her paranoia and shame about this wretched event. She was held captive by her actions and fear and, sadly, could not see any possibility for forgiveness and mercy.

How many people do you think live as prisoners because of their sin and inability to believe in the power of mercy? The answer is simply, “Too many!” They believe somehow they are not worthy of love and that not even God can bear to look in their direction. They have bought into the lie of a God of wrath who would rather see his sons and daughters suffer than forgive them and see them reconciled.

This Sunday’s Gospel reading, unless you are present for the third Scrutiny and hear the story of the rising of Lazarus, features a woman caught in sin and facing a possible stoning at the hands of the scribes and Pharisees. If I imagine myself there in the story, I see a woman’s face much like that of Mary Shepherd, taken over by a sense of despair and fear at her current situation. Surely she has seen or heard others before her suffer the same dismal fate that seems to lie ahead. She is trapped and hope is only a concept that no longer has meaning.

But this time is not like the other times. Jesus is present. He stands between the condemnation of these religious figures and the woman who has sinned. The scribes and Pharisees, sensing this is no ordinary situation with Jesus present and filled with hope that he might say something so contrary to their interpretation of the law that they can bring charges against him, question Jesus about what should be done. Of course, Jesus does not disappoint them, for he has brought a new law, one tempered with mercy and love. His questioning of whom among them is without sin surely aggravates and scolds them at the same time. Jesus brings no condemnation to this woman, but instead mercy and compassion. He does not overlook her sin, but he tells her that from this point on she is to engage in this sin no more. The choice is hers and if she chooses to follow the way of life that Jesus brings to her, there will be mercy instead of condemnation, compassion instead of disdain, and life instead of death.

Jesus changes the equation for all of us. Without Jesus the wages of sin are death, but now a new life is possible where our sins are forgiven and our failings are met with mercy and love. This Year of Mercy reminds us, and all the Mary Shepherds of the world, that no transgression is so great that it can keep us from the love of God. We need to come out of the tombs we create from our guilt, shame, and fear, into the Light that gives and sustains life. We must not fear that those who are blinded by their own sin will hurl stones at us. Jesus stands between our accusers and us and brings us redemption. Finally, we must forgive ourselves for what God has already forgiven. Mercy comes not only to lift us up out of our sin, but also to liberate us. This is good news and this news is too important not to proclaim to the ends of the earth, during this Year of Mercy and beyond.

Tracy Earl Welliver, MTS

PRAYER

Loving and merciful God,
through your Son’s death and resurrection,
mercy flowed over all creation,
making all things new.

During this Jubilee Year of Mercy,
may many hearts turn toward you,
seeking the mercy you freely offer,
leading to a peace passing all understanding.

Increase our capacity to love,
and as we seek to offer human mercy to others,
may you shower your Church and the world
with your divine compassion and consolation.

We ask this through the power of your Holy Spirit,
and in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Amen.
A Prayer for the Jubilee Year of Mercy

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March 8 – Fourth Tuesday of Lent

Posted on March 8, 2016 by - Vibrant Parish Toolkit

aNewLifeToday’s Gospel

“’When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been ill for a long time, he said to him, ‘Do you want to be well?,’ (John 5:6).”

Daily Lent Reflection

On the face of it, this seems a bizarre question. The man was by the pool at Bethesda waiting and hoping for the chance to be cured. However, as we all know, change is hard, even when we know we need to change and sometimes it’s easier to stay the way we are. We get used to our ways and can’t imagine life any other way. But Jesus calls us to a new life with Him, which means having to make some difficult choices.

Daily Lent Challenge

Today I will ask myself the question “Do I want to be well again?” I will think about one area of my life that I need to change in order to be more like Jesus and ask Him to help me make that change

Teresa Keogh, Archdiocese of Southwark

Seeking Good That Gives Us Life

Posted on March 7, 2016 by - Everyday Stewardship

seekIt would seem obvious to us that we need to seek out good and not evil, but unfortunately, our society and the limitations of human nature prove to us otherwise. Today’s simple Gospel Acclamation verse reminds us that on the road to good is life and the Lord, the opposite of what is on the road to evil.

A heart that seeks goodness and holiness is alive and in communion with the God. Those who turn from these things can often seem to us, and feel to themselves, lost, alone, and end dead inside.

Click here to read the full post