Open Our Hearts - Year B - Sample Session

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Lenten Reflections

YEAR B

Sister Donna L. Ciangio, OP Father Thomas B. Iwanowski

Scripture texts used in this work are taken from The New American Bible copyright © 1991, 1986, and 1970 by the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, DC, and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All rights reserved. No part of The New American Bible may be reproduced in any form or by any means without permission in writing from the publisher.

Open Our Hearts – Year B copyright © 2023 by RENEW International

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever, except in the case of reprints in the context of reviews, without written permission from RENEW International.

Cover and interior pages designed by Kathrine Kuo

ISBN: 978-1-62063-208-6

Printed and bound in 2023 in the United States of America.

CONTENTS Welcome 5 Using This Book 9 Part I: Weekly Small-Group Sessions 15 Week One: Identity Theft 17 Week Two: Listening Choices 22 Week Three: What Angers You? 28 Week Four: Consequential Decisions 34 Week Five: Who Is the Winner? 41 Week Six: Happy Endings 47 Part II: Weekday Reflections 55 Ash Wednesday 57 Thursday after Ash Wednesday 58 Friday after Ash Wednesday 58 Saturday after Ash Wednesday 58 First Week of Lent 59 Second Week of Lent 61 Third Week of Lent 63 Fourth Week of Lent 65 Fifth Week of Lent 67 Holy Week 69 The Easter Triduum 70

ELCOME to Open Our Hearts! This booklet was created with you in mind—Catholics who will gather in small groups this Lent to learn from and encourage one another. It is designed to help you open your hearts and minds to the Good News of Jesus Christ and to live according to that Good News. The purpose of Lent and of this faith-sharing program is not simply to listen, pray, and learn about our faith, but also to put that faith into action. The purpose of Lent and of your time with your small group is to help change the way you live each day so that your life will more closely reveal to the world the Kingdom of God.

Open Our Hearts invites small-group participants to deepen their faith and their service by linking reflection on scripture to their lives as individuals, family members, parishioners, and as Catholics engaged in civil society. Lent is the perfect time for renewal. It is the Church’s opportunity to be on retreat—for each of us to take quality time to see where we are with God and how we serve others because of our faith. All of us are called to deepen our relationship with God every day of our lives, and Lent helps us review and recommit ourselves to that relationship and to the good works it calls forth from us.

During Lent, Catholics often gather in small groups to read and reflect on the scriptures. This is a great way to pray and learn and get to know others in a deeper way. The small-group process helps us to understand that we are continually invited by God into a loving relationship. It is God who leads us on this journey of faith. As Christians, we are part of a community of believers who need others to support us along the way. The process of sharing our faith involves reflection on the Tradition of the Church as we experience it in our scriptures, doctrines, pastoral initiatives, liturgy, and devotions. This Tradition is necessarily set alongside current events and issues being explored in both the religious and civic arenas. By reflecting with others, we affirm what we believe and how we live out our faith, which should lead us to actions that improve our world in some way.

Faith sharing is a form of prayer in which we witness how God is working in each group member. Participating in small groups is also a great way to connect people with each other and invite them into parish ministry and outreach. We hope you find this a great benefit to you in your faith development. May you use this Lent to assess your relationship with God and neighbor, realign your priorities, and go forth to do good works!

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confidentiality the personal stories and thoughts that are shared in your time together.

A WORD ABOUT THE MUSIC

Songs are suggested for the moments of prayer at the opening of each weekly session. Music selections are provided by our partners at OCP. The music is available as individual songs or as a digital album or “virtual CD.” The individual songs and the digital album may be purchased through RENEW International at www.ocp.org/renew-music.

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Week One: Identity Theft

READINGS FOR THE FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT

◗ Genesis 9:8–15

◗ Psalm 25:4–5, 6–7, 8–9

◗ 1 Peter 3:18–22

◗ Mark 1:12–15

SETTING THE ENVIRONMENT

On a table in the center of your group, covered with a Lenten (purple) colored cloth, place a crucifix, a Bible, a lighted candle, and ashes or a picture of the desert. Begin the session by reverently making the sign of the cross together.

OPENING SONG

“Lord, Who Throughout These Forty Days.” To download, visit www.ocp.org/renew-music.

GATHERING PRAYER

Leader We gather in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

All God of new life, as we begin our Lenten journey, call us to a deeper understanding of what it means to be your disciples. May we keep our covenant of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, and generously care for others. Amen.

CONNECTING WITH LIFE

The facilitator or another member of the group reads aloud the following introduction and initiates discussion of the questions that follow it.

Identity theft is a serious and increasing crime. It happens when criminals gain access to our personal information, such

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as the place and date of our birth, our social security numbers, our mother’s family name, our present and past addresses, employment history, financial information, and passwords. Criminals use this personal information to open credit accounts, apply for loans, claim tax refunds, seek government benefits, withdraw money from our bank accounts, and access medical benefits, all in our name.

Identity theft also happens when someone takes over our accounts on Twitter, Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, and other social media sites.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, more than 5.7 million Americans were victims of identity theft and fraud in 2021. They incurred losses in billions of dollars, spent countless hours trying to recover their identities, endured emotional distress, and may have lost friends because of false information posted in their names.

REFLECTING ON YOUR LIFE

◗ Have you ever experienced identity theft? If so, who helped you solve the resulting problems? What do you do to protect your personal information?

◗ What documents do you use to identify yourself? How do you safeguard the information on these documents, and how can you help family members safeguard their personal information?

LISTENING TO THE WORD

Take a quiet moment to say a prayer such as “O Lord, be in our minds, in our hearts, and on our lips that we might listen fully to your Word.”

A member of the group then reads aloud the gospel passage for the First Sunday of Lent, using the Bible from the table in the center of the group.

Gospel Reading: Mark 1:12–15

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:

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“This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

APPRECIATING THE WORD

After a moment of reflection, another member of the group reads the following commentary.

Identity theft is nothing new; it has existed since people started to walk the earth. The Book of Genesis describes Satan as the first identity thief. He steals the identity of Adam and Eve as children of God and leads them to believe they can become like gods. The tempter tells them that if they disobey God and eat the forbidden fruit, “[their] eyes will be opened and [they] will be like gods, who know good and evil” (3:5).

Each year, the gospel reading on the First Sunday of Lent is also about Satan—specifically, Satan’s temptation of Jesus. This Sunday, we hear Mark’s account of that encounter. Mark writes, “The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days tempted by Satan.” In that encounter, Satan tried to rob Jesus of his identity. This is particularly evident in the temptation accounts found in Matthew (4:1–11) and Luke (4:1–13). Satan tempts Jesus to put aside his identity as the obedient, faithful Son of the Father and to be a messiah of earthly power and majesty, a messiah concerned with his own position and status.

But Jesus refuses to let Satan steal his identity. Jesus remains faithful to his message and his mission. He remains true to the identification he received at his baptism, just before he went into the desert: “You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased” (Mark 1:11).

This season of Lent, we are called to remember the identity that is ours through our baptism. We are children of God, able to call him Father. We are brothers and sisters in Christ, marked with the sign of the cross. We are people in whom the Spirit of God makes a home.

This Lenten season is a time to check our identity, to examine if we are truly living as Christians and as members of God’s Church. This is the time to check if we have allowed sin and selfishness— that is, if we have permitted Satan—to lessen and even steal our identity. If we have, then the words Jesus speaks in this Sunday’s

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gospel passage are especially meant for us, “Repent, and believe in the Gospel.” Turn away from sin and be faithful to your true identity!

REFLECTING ON YOUR LIFE

◗ Have you ever thought of your baptismal certificate as an identification card? Why or why not?

◗ Share a time when you found it challenging to be true to your identity as a Catholic.

◗ What can you do to keep in mind your identity as a child of God, especially during this season of Lent?

WRITE IT DOWN!

Make a covenant for yourself. Jot down your resolutions for this Lent and how you will focus on prayer, fasting, and works of justice and charity.

REFLECTING ON YOUR HOME

◗ Make a “sacred place” in your home with the colors and symbols of Lent to remind you each day that this is a time of introspection and sacrifice.

◗ Make it a family activity! Participate in the parish Stations of the Cross or other Lenten services as a family, and let each family member talk about what it means to him or her.

REFLECTING ON YOUR PARISH

◗ Take advantage of Lenten liturgies, activities, and opportunities for service that the parish offers. What suggestions can you offer to encourage fellow parishioners on this Lenten journey?

◗ Reflect on how being with a parish community strengthens your call as a disciple of Jesus. What does it mean to you to be part of that community? How does it strengthen your family?

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AFFECTING YOUR WORLD

Choose a good work to do for Lent either individually, as a family, or with your small group:

◗ Contact your parish or deanery social concerns committee to see what local organizations they are assisting, and pitch in.

◗ Operation Rice Bowl is a program of Catholic Relief Services (CRS). Each Lent, parishes around the country participate in this program, which is a major collection to help victims of disasters worldwide. In faith-sharing groups, each participant sacrifices a cup of coffee or snack each day, and the group donates the money at the end of Lent. Contact your parish or diocese, or call CRS at 1-800-222-0025 (www.crs.org) for more information.

◗ Volunteer at a school or teach English as a second language (ESL) at the parish or local library or community center in order to help people who are new to this country.

◗ Invite a friend or neighbor to your faith-sharing group.

SENDING FORTH

Leader Our Merciful God gives us an example of unselfish love in his Son, Jesus Christ.

All Through prayer, fasting, and works of charity, may we receive countless blessings.

Leader We believe that through his death Jesus rose to give us everlasting life.

All May we live with him forever.

Leader We pray that this Lent will help us reaffirm our commitment as disciples of Jesus to bring the good news to all.

All Amen!

Leader Let us begin our Lenten journey sharing a sign of peace as our commitment to the Lord and to each other to grow deeper spiritually.

All Amen.

Leader Let us go forth to begin Lent by sharing a sign of peace. Members of the group exchange a sign of peace.

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