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Father Muench Says...

Powerful lessons in familiar Gospels

March 13, 2019

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

The time of Lent is such a gift of our Savior. The Scripture readings at the daily Masses during Lent are the same every year, every Lent. They are old friends. They are powerful lessons in our faith. Yet, each year there is something new to be discovered in these familiar readings.
Here are some examples:

In the first week of Lent. On Monday, the Gospel reading from Matthew’s Gospel is Jesus’ parable about the end of all time. The story tells us that, at that time, the angels will separate the righteous from the others. This parable speaks about what will be the reason for how the righteous will be separated. The parable of Jesus will be a surprise for some.

The righteous are welcomed into God’s Kingdom because they give food and drink to the needy, they welcomed strangers, they clothed the naked, they visited the imprisoned. Then Jesus declares his identification with the needy: “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine you did for me.”
Lent starts for us with the challenge of the acts of mercy.

On Tuesday of this first week, the Gospel reading describes Jesus teaching his disciples the Lord’s Prayer. This prayer is a profound gift from the Lord. I have found in ministry that I am certain that whenever I would like people to join me in prayer, I can suggest the “Our Father.” Even folks of other Christian churches are familiar with the Lord’s Prayer, and they are always willing to join.

I think of many times I have been with a family at the hospital bed of a loved one. As we join in prayer, I know that they will join me in the Lord’s Prayer.

The “Our Father” is such a power prayer. Jesus teaches the apostles to pray to God as a Father, as “Our Father.” In this prayer that we all can say so quickly, we praise our God and seek his forgiveness and love. The Lord’s Prayer has been an old friend, since we were children. When we need a prayer, we have the “Our Father.”

Wednesday of the first week of Lent, Jesus reminds us of the story of Jonah from the Old Testament. Jonah is called by God to go to Nineveh to lead those people to conversion. At first, he refuses. He tries to run away from God. This is when he is picked up by the great fish. Then he is again called and accepts God’s challenge to go to Nineveh. He preaches to the people for just one day, and they accept his call, and they are converted. When God has a mission for us, he will reach us. If God wants us to accomplish something, he will make it possible.

Thursday of the first week of Lent, the Gospel reading is a section of the “Sermon on the Mount.” Jesus teaches we should not be afraid to ask, to seek, to knock. He will receive us, He will find us, He will open the door. This reading also includes the Golden Rule: “Do to others, whatever you would they do to you.”

Friday of the first week of Lent, the Gospel reading is another section of the “Sermon on the Mount.” This is the part where Jesus explains that there is more to the Commandment of “thou shalt not kill.” We must avoid anger and hate. Jesus adds this challenge: “If you bring your gift to the altar, and then recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” Jesus teaches us reconciliation is more important even than prayer and praise.

Such a week; a whole retreat in this first week of Lent. The Gospels of this one week are such a wonderful Lenten Program.

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