(Here is a little help preparing for the Lenten season and allowing the message of the gospels to rest in your heart. This retreat text was first published in 2006 in Portland, OR)
Rev. Ronald Patrick Raab, CSC
Lent is a time to take seriously the love our God has for each and every one of us. It is a time to strip away the distractions that keep us from acknowledging love, to fast from the things that keep us numb and our real hunger suppressed, and to give of our real selves and not just out of obligation or rule keeping. This Lenten journey leads us to a revitalized understanding that Christ’s death and resurrection continues to give genuine life to us.
We are all faced with much suffering and pain. Our young wonder about the future of our society, and we are faced with difficult decisions about how to live today. Many are facing illness and disease, and we are stressed over how to care for people we love. So many face the barriers of mental illness, and we struggle with how to build communities of support and wholeness. People are unemployed, and we all wonder about how to use our gifts for the common good. We are all wondering about the future and authentic voice of the church.
Lent is a season of renewal and hope in the center of our struggles. We all need to enter into the pain that surrounds our hearts and not run from it, ignore it, or think it is some one else’s responsibility. The cross we carry within our lives is boldly and beautifully the truth of whom we are in the world. God does not abandon us. Live richly in the desert time, lovingly in this time of letting go and sacrifice.
This retreat is meant to be a time of personal prayer and reflection. Take some quiet time daily to enter into the Gospel for Sunday. Slow down. Let go of fear. Know you are loved. Release your burdens in the healing power of Jesus. Pray daily for the healing of the world, the hope for peace, and the needs of those you love.
The GOSPEL is taken from the Sunday readings, Cycle B. The THEME is meant to offer a spiritual path into the reading but do not be distracted by it. Make sure you take the quiet time you need to create your own theme of the Gospel, the ways Christ is speaking to you. The GUIDANCE is simply meant to spark your imagination about your life and the place of faith. Perhaps this could be the beginning of creating a journal for your thoughts and prayers. The PRAYER is simply a summary of the reflection session and perhaps you can take the time to write your own prayer and use those to add to your spiritual journal.
Wednesday February 18, 2015
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Take care not to perform righteous deeds
in order that people may see them;
otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.
When you give alms,
do not blow a trumpet before you,
as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets
to win the praise of others.
Amen, I say to you,
they have received their reward.
But when you give alms,
do not let your left hand know what your right is doing,
so that your almsgiving may be secret.
And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.
“When you pray,
do not be like the hypocrites,
who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners
so that others may see them.
Amen, I say to you,
they have received their reward.
But when you pray, go to your inner room,
close the door, and pray to your Father in secret.
And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.
“When you fast,
do not look gloomy like the hypocrites.
They neglect their appearance,
so that they may appear to others to be fasting.
Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.
But when you fast,
anoint your head and wash your face,
so that you may not appear to be fasting,
except to your Father who is hidden.
And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.”
The journey begins with a mark of ashes on our foreheads. For the next forty days we take the mark on our foreheads and place them on our hearts, so our lives can bear witness to what we believe. We pray not to say prayers, but to grow closer to the mystery of God’s love. We fast not to lose weight, but to hunger for the love God has for each of us. We give alms, not to make us feel better about ourselves, but to understand all we have in life is a gift.
Create space in your life for this journey of Lent. Offer to God your life as it is and not how you think it should be. Be ready for the journey of new life and goodness in Christ’s dying and rising.
- When I was a child, I thought Lent was ______________________________.
- Today, I see this Lenten journey as _______________________________.
- I want to fast because ______________________________________.
- I long to pray because___________________________________________.
- I need to give alms because ___________________________________.
Today I begin again, to pray, to fast, and to give.
Give me courage to pray in my pain.
Sustain my desire to fast from numbness and doubt.
Open my heart to give my life to others in love.
On this day of ashes,
I become your servant and friend, again.
Feed me from the feast of your presence,
And bring me back to you.
First Sunday of Lent
Sunday February 22, 2015
The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert,
and he remained in the desert for forty days,
tempted by Satan.
He was among wild beasts,
and the angels ministered to him.
After John had been arrested,
Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God:
“This is the time of fulfillment.
The kingdom of God is at hand.
Repent, and believe in the gospel.”
The desert days of Lent are in fact a fertile time. When entered into with prayer and faith, the desert can give way to a new honesty about our lives. Silence can form us into beings that speak boldly of God’s trust. Temptation can break into a new awareness of God’s call in our lives. Repentance springs a new fidelity in the promise of God’s forgiveness and mercy we travel the desert path. The loneliness of the journey can lead us to follow Christ in a new way.
In this first week, set aside some silent prayer time in your home or at your favorite place, a garden or park. Make sure you have a safety of time and space, a place where you can relax in God’s love. Try to enter the desert places of your own heart, the places of non fulfillment. Relax by the fact that our human longing needs to rest in God. The desert will speak as the Lenten journey continues.
- God, help me through this desert of ______________________.
- My loneliness seems _______________________________.
- Jesus, walk with me through the desert so ________________.
- Today, I know I can trust Jesus to _____________________.
- God, help me turn away from _______________________.
Jesus, walk with me through the desert places of my heart.
Reveal a new path because I am lost and alone.
Help me follow and believe.
Jesus, my pain overwhelms the journey.
My suffering shortens my attention.
Help me feel your presence.
Jesus, turn my heart on a new course this Lent.
Open my path to your Kingdom peace.
Help me know your forgiveness.
Second Sunday of Lent
Sunday March 1, 2015
Jesus took Peter, James, and John
and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves.
And he was transfigured before them,
and his clothes became dazzling white,
such as no fuller on earth could bleach them.
Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses,
and they were conversing with Jesus.
Then Peter said to Jesus in reply,
“Rabbi, it is good that we are here!
Let us make three tents:
one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
He hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified.
Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them;
from the cloud came a voice,
“This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.”
Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone
but Jesus alone with them.
As they were coming down from the mountain,
he charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone,
except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead.
So they kept the matter to themselves,
questioning what rising from the dead meant.
The mountain top offers a new perspective on this Second Sunday of Lent. We move from desert to vista during this week. We are promised we will see the past in a new way, and a new light is shed on who Jesus is for us. Let us consider the journey up the mountain for our own hearts and allow Jesus to transfigure our lives in His presence. Let us hear from the Father of how we, too, please Him. Let us be connected to the ancient prophets and believers of the past. This is only the beginning of viewing our sin, doubt, failure, pride, anxiousness and anger in a new way, a transfigured vision of a new heart.
Allow Christ to receive your suffering this week so he can offer you a new vision of yourself and past. Wait, be patient. Offer yourself some space and time to find joy in God’s presence. Wait for the God who calls you by name.
- I long to see my life more clearly because_______________________.
- Jesus, I rejoice in your presence, so give me______________________.
- God, I wait for your voice to offer me ____________________.
- My life seems so dark, Jesus, help transfigure ____________________.
- Today, I see my life ___________________________________.
As I walk up the mountain
I only see my narrow ways.
I am weary to find you.
Guide me and direct my course.
See me for my real self, my searching heart.
Open my ears so I can hear my name.
Call me forth and forgive me past.
Connect my heart to those who love me.
Third Sunday of Lent
Sunday March 8, 2015
Since the Passover of the Jews was near,
Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves,
as well as the money changers seated there.
He made a whip out of cords
and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen,
and spilled the coins of the money changers
and overturned their tables,
and to those who sold doves he said,
“Take these out of here,
and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.”
His disciples recalled the words of Scripture,
Zeal for your house will consume me.
At this the Jews answered and said to him,
“What sign can you show us for doing this?”
Jesus answered and said to them,
“Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.”
The Jews said,
“This temple has been under construction for forty-six years,
and you will raise it up in three days?”
But he was speaking about the temple of his body.
Therefore, when he was raised from the dead,
his disciples remembered that he had said this,
and they came to believe the Scripture
and the word Jesus had spoken.
While he was in Jerusalem for the feast of Passover,
many began to believe in his name
when they saw the signs he was doing.
But Jesus would not trust himself to them because he knew them all,
and did not need anyone to testify about human nature.
He himself understood it well.
Our journey leads to the temple of the Body of Christ. Our worship is now centered in the temple of Jesus’ dying and rising. This pattern becomes our home. His life is all we need to discover the Kingdom of God within our lives. But our lives are cluttered, needing to be cleaned of self-sufficiency, hatred, obsessive behavior, neglect and arrogance. The journey is to clean up our house as well from the faith we have in Jesus’ dying and rising.
Use your pray time now to clean your own heart. Silence is the great housekeeper. We come to know and understand our motivations, our burdens, our sin in the love and passion God has for us. Silence burns through the numbness that clings to our heart which threatens our relationship with God, and stifles our worship. Enter into the silence of your heart without fear. Your heart is the holy place of God.
- Today, my heart speaks out to _____________________________.
- Jesus, clear away the clutter of my life so ______________________________.
- My prayer in your temple today is ___________________________.
- Guard my heart from _________________________________.
- I am so distracted by _______________________________________.
I long to find you
in the temple of my heart.
Help me feast on
the love you have for me.
My life is cluttered
with distractions and compulsions.
Clean out my heart and
unburden my desires and hopes.
Give me the joy of your presence
with heart-felt peace.
Fourth Sunday of Lent
Sunday March 15, 2015
Jesus said to Nicodemus:
“Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert,
so must the Son of Man be lifted up,
so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him might not perish
but might have eternal life.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world,
but that the world might be saved through him.
Whoever believes in him will not be condemned,
but whoever does not believe has already been condemned,
because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
And this is the verdict,
that the light came into the world,
but people preferred darkness to light,
because their works were evil.
For everyone who does wicked things hates the light
and does not come toward the light,
so that his works might not be exposed.
But whoever lives the truth comes to the light,
so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.
From love God created us and is still creating, changing and challenging us. Love is not destructive, but sustaining. We lift up to Christ what needs to die in us so new love can be born. This birth of new love is Christ’s light for the world. This becomes the truth of our lives and the life that is given us by the God who loves us until the end. This Lenten season is an opportunity for us to look at the darkness of our lives and to allow the Light of Christ to purify our intentions, calm our restlessness, steady our actions, and release our fears.
In your spiritual journal, write about the experiences you have of God raising you above your anxiousness, heartaches, and broken relationships. Pray from your resistance, your insecurities, and you will find a new love.
- God, today I long for you love to ______________________________.
- The world is anxious, and my heart is ___________________________.
- Raise up in me ________________________________________.
- My darkness seems _________________________________.
- The path to finding your love seems __________________________.
Lift up in me a new day of hope.
Sustain my life from your love.
Give courage to my actions,
Hope in my failures,
Peace in my transitions,
Calm in my decisions.
Offer new life in my heart
Deadened by the violence
I cause myself.
Teach me to love you.
Fifth Sunday of Lent
Sunday March 22, 2015
Some Greeks who had come to worship at the Passover Feast
came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him,
“Sir, we would like to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; then
Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, “The hour
has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if
it dies, it produces much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life
in this world will preserve it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me,
and where I am, there also will my servant be. The Father will honor whoever serves me.
“I am troubled now. Yet what should I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’?
But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name.”
Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it and will glorify it again.”
The crowd there heard it and said it was thunder; but others said, “An angel has spoken to
him.” Jesus answered and said, “This voice did not come for my sake but for yours. Now is the time of judgment on this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out.
And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to my self.”
He said this indicating the kind of death he would die.
Our lives can become so self protective. We wrap our hearts in narcissism, our lives in self-sufficiency. This is the death of the spiritual life. There is emptying to do within us, letting go that becomes new love for us. But this is not easy. Sometimes the fear we hold seems friendlier than the love we do not know. The faith pattern of life is Christ’s death and resurrection. This is not theory but action. This is not devotion, but courageous steps to freedom. This is not isolation, but communion with others. This is not selfishness, but service to those in need. This is the Lenten journey, taken one step at a time.
Take some time this week to look at the world with new eyes. Ponder our turmoil and our failures, our wars and insecurities. Look into the eyes of those suffer the most. Her you will find for yourself, a new birth of hope. This is following the Master.
- The grain in my heart in need of death is _________________________
- I long to change _____________________________________
- Jesus, grant me courage to explore _____________________________.
- The world needs to die to ____________________________________.
- I bring to the world the gifts of _________________________________.
Change is not easy for me.
I hate to let go.
I am often afraid of new relationships.
Yet, I remain alone.
Help me to trust you.
Nudge me to find you.
Shove me out into new life.
Letting go and receiving.
Dying and rising.
Being and becoming.
You are my life.
Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion
Sunday March 29, 2015
Mark 14:1-15; 47
………When he was in Bethany reclining at table in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of perfumed oil, costly genuine spikenard. She broke the alabaster jar and poured it on his head……………….While they were eating he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, and said, “Take it, this is my body.”………………….Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last…….Then he rolled a stone against the entrance to the tomb……..
God loves us extravagantly. Jesus came to give his life for us and to open up death. We enter into this Holy Week with a new reverence for the gift of letting go and receiving, of death and new life. We come to adore and honor, to break open our hearts and pour them out before our God. We come reminded of our brokenness as we celebrate bread broken and shared, and cup poured out lovingly. We come reminded that we are the real presence of Christ now dying and rising in the world. The tombs of our hearts are quiet as new life seeps through.
Pray this week for those who will be baptized and received into the church. We love them extravagantly as God loves us. Prepare your life for renewal and breakthroughs.
- This week I call holy because_______________________.
- This week my heart longs for ___________________.
- God has loved me extravagantly in ____________________.
- The bread broken and cup blessed speaks __________________.
- The stone rolled from my heart is ________________________.
Heal the world that waits for you.
Roll away the stone
That keeps the poor down,
The lonely discouraged,
The ill isolated,
The broken so fragile.
Break new ground in our world
as strangers share bread and cup.
Let us learn to love.
Let us find our home in the empty tomb.