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Father Muench Says...

A journey through Lenten Scripture

February 28, 2024

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

The Scripture readings at the daily Masses during Lent are truly a course in Sacred Scripture – a perfect Bible study. These Scriptures – from the Old Testament and the Gospels – teach us in a powerful way the story of the life and message of Our Lord Jesus. The Lenten Scriptures present to us what it means to be a Catholic. These Scriptures are the same each Lenten Season – but these Scriptures have a new message for us each year. Today I would like to review with you the Scriptures of just one of our Lenten weeks.

On Monday of this week, the Gospel reading was Jesus’ story of the final judgment. Jesus pictures this final judgment as like a shepherd separating sheep from goats. The sheep are the image of the righteous. I am sure you often wonder, as I do, how that judgment will be determined. St. Matthew remembers Jesus’ description of the decision.

In Jesus’ story, the sheep, those righteous, are placed on the right. They are welcomed by the Lord into the Kingdom of God. They are told why they are chosen. This is a most important message for us to consider: “I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was ill and you cared for me, I was in prison and you visited me.” In Jesus’ story the people are confused, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison.” Jesus then makes it clear in his story and teaches us, “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”

Then on Tuesday of that same week, the Gospel at Mass reminds us of the time that Jesus taught his apostles the Lord’s Prayer. This a time for Jesus to remind us to listen carefully each time we pray this perfect prayer, the Our Father. We begin by recognizing our God as a Father. God loves us like a Father. He likes to be called “Father.” So, we respond in praise and love. Our God is our God and our Father. Each phrase of this prayer is a prayer of honor and love. In addition, right in this prayer we take a moment to sort of make a deal with our Father: “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Lord, we pray that we may be a forgiving, compassionate, loving people. Help us to be like you, Jesus.

Then on Thursday of this same week, we join with the apostles as Jesus teaches them just who he is in the Gospel reading. Jesus asks what the people believe. The apostles remember what the people are saying about Jesus: he is John the Baptist returned, some say that he is an Old Testament Prophet returned. Then Peter steps forward, inspired by the Holy Spirit: “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” We should understand at this point, that Jesus looks at us, you and me, and asks “Who do you say that I am?” Lent is about finding Jesus. Through prayer and study, we must find Jesus, and through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can join Peter and recognized Jesus as our Lord and Savior.

So, each week of Lent leads and guides us to find Jesus and to understand all that Jesus wants to be in our lives. Then we find the proper road of becoming a saint: Do I truly recognized Jesus I each person who turns to me for help? Each time I pray to Jesus in prayer, do I rededicate myself to God as my Father who wants to show me the way to being a loving and forgiving person? As we go through these weeks of Lent, am I truly recognizing who Jesus is, who Jesus is for me? Am I allowing Jesus to be my Lord and Savior?

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