March 8, 2017
By Father William Muench
The Scripture readings for the daily Masses during Lent are the very same every year. The Sunday Scriptures do change each year but not the reading at the daily Masses. I think of these Scriptures at the daily Masses as old friends. They are an important part of my Lenten program each year.
Here is a good example of what I mean. The Scriptures for the Masses during the first week of Lent are like the material for a powerful retreat. They give us a splendid message for meditation and inspiration.
• On Monday, the first reading is from the Book of Leviticus, the third Book of the Torah. This reading describes the giving of the commandments by God to Moses. These commandments are a very basic foundation of our Christian faith as it was for the Hebrew people. In direct contrast, the Gospel reading from Matthew describes Jesus’ presentation of the works of mercy.
He does this in his parable of the final judgment. In this, Jesus says God will welcome the good into the Kingdom because they did something good for the needy, for the hungry, for the thirsty, for the stranger, for the naked, for the ill, for those in prison. Jesus goes on to identify himself with those we help – “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”
• On Tuesday, the Gospel story is about the time when the apostles ask Jesus to teach them how to pray. Jesus teaches them – and also us – the Lord’s Prayer. This prayer is one of Jesus’ great gift to us.
These sacred words are ours, part of our lives since our youngest years ready to be prayed whenever we need them. I think of numerous times when I needed a prayer, when I wanted to invite others to prayer. It might be a time when I was counseling someone or it might have been at, a hospital bed of someone who was dying and I wanted a family to join me in prayer. I knew they were ready with me with the Lord’s Prayer. It is such a powerful prayer: we praise the Father, and we make a promise to be a forgiving people for we are forgiven by our God.
• On Wednesday, in the first reading, we hear the story of Jonah. It is the second part of the Jonah story not the first part that is about the big fish. God sends Jonah to Nineveh to announce to the people that they must do penance or face destruction.
Jonah preaches one day and they all respond to his message and do penance and are saved. Jesus mentions this Jonah story in a talk to his people; he seeks their response to change their lives and follow him. Jesus reminds them that Jonah changed the Ninevites and now they have Jesus, someone much greater than Jonah. We also have Jesus to guide and lead us when we remain open to the Lord.
• On Thursday, we hear the familiar words of Our Lord. Our God is always open to our pleas when we come with a loving and open heart – “Ask and it will be given you – seek and you will find – knock and the door will be opened to you.”
• On Friday, we are presented with a section of the Sermon on the Mount that we heard just a few Sundays ago at Mass. Jesus reminds us that we must not be literal about the commandments. He mentions the Fifth Commandment, thou shalt not kill, which means much more, especially anger and any form of violence. Anger has destroyed many relationship and has made people very unlikeable and nasty. Anger turns them away from the following of Our Savior. Anger must be healed and transformed.
So, I am certain of how powerful just one week of Scripture readings at Mass during Lent is. This first week of Lent becomes a retreat, a time to place ourselves in a truly Lenten Spirit with readings that leads us and guides us on our Lenten journey.
Each of the weeks of Lent will show us the way if we carefully read and study the Scriptures that are presented to us. This is the path to conversion.