Lenten Longings, Year B: For the Life of the World Sample Session

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Len en Longings



Life of



Year B Reflections on the Sunday Readings

Catherine T. Nerney, SSJ, Ph.D.

Contents Presenting RENEW International . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . v Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . vi Faith Sharing in a Small Community . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . viii Faith-Sharing Principles and Guidelines . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xi The Structure and Flow of a Session . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xiv Session One Remembering, Reforming, Repenting . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 Session Two Recognizing the Gift, Trusting the Giver . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 Session Three The Freedom to Be Foolish . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 Session Four Becoming the Message . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21 Session Five Learning to Love Like God . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28 Session Six The Point of Such Extravagance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35 Music Resources . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43 Faith-Sharing Resources from RENEW International . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44

Why Catholic? Journey Through the Catechism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44

Other Faith-Sharing Resources . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46

More Lenten Resources . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 48


Introduction The Lenten Longings series is based on the three-year cycle of the Lectionary. Each book contains six sessions corresponding to the six weeks of Lent and presents themes drawn from the year’s Lenten readings. Let Yourself Be —Year A: Encourages participants to embrace the teaching of Christ that authentic loving involves self-surrender. For the Life of the World—Year B: Calls participants to commit to works of justice and to the ongoing conversion of hearts. Seeing with God’s Eyes—Year C: Invites participants to see themselves, the other members of their group, and the world at large with the eyes of God. These Lenten reflections are intended to empower Christian communities “to do the right and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). They seek to call forth and strengthen communal commitments to the work of justice and to the ongoing conversion of hearts. Only such a response can genuinely embody the gospel imperative. The capacity to live such radical, communal lives is not something we can give ourselves. It comes to us as gift. Our own attitudes may prove our biggest stumbling blocks. The heart of the Lenten mystery and its deepest lessons are about surrender. To such a life, we must give ourselves over. We must let ourselves be ultimately transformed by the One in whom “we live and move and have our being” (Acts of the Apostles 17:38). For this reason, these reflections on the Sunday readings of Lent invite us to “let ourselves be …” so that together and alone we may be moved during this holy season by the Loving Presence who longs for us more than we long for life itself. To this God of our longing, we entrust ourselves throughout this paschal journey, asking only that—little by little or in one great flaming of our hearts—we may let ourselves be set ablaze.






Remembering, Reforming, Repenting … For The Life Of The World

Suggested Environment A small table with a burning candle and a Bible opened to the Gospel reading for this session. Consider decorating the table with violet, the liturgical color of the Lenten season.

Lenten Longing 1 The leader asks a participant to recite the aim for the session: To renew our covenant with God and all creation by a willingness to follow the Spirit’s lead into this sacred time and space. Here is where our demons need to be confronted and our hearts long to be changed for the sake of God’s reign in our world.

Invitation to Pray The group gives itself over to several moments of deepening silence as each member pays attention to her or his breathing and slowly prays for stillness. Leader: Th is time of communal prayer seeks to encourage the awareness that, because of our baptism, God is in us and we are in God. Our greatest longing is to see and taste, feel and savor this truth. We are God’s dwelling place in the Spirit. Our prayer begins as we let ourselves be held in God’s embrace.


Song: “We Remember,” Marty Haugen

Scripture Readings for the First Sunday of Lent Genesis 9:8-15; 1 Peter 3:18-22; Mark 1:12-15 Review the readings. The leader invites a member of the group to proclaim the Gospel. 1

Lenten Longings: For the Life of the Word

Silent reflection Take a moment to reflect on what word, phrase, or image from the Scripture passage touches your heart or speaks to your life.

Invitation to Share The leader invites those so wish to repeat a key word or phrase in the Scripture passage that touched them.

Prayer Leader: Let us pray the following together: Spirit of God, source of all truth and judgment, who alone can undo the powers that grip our world, in our times of temptation, give us your discernment. When we are drowning in self concern, save us by your grace. Call us this Lent to genuine conversion of heart. Make us bearers of the Good News in our words and deeds. Take us by the hand and lead us, Holy Spirit of God, into the ways of peace. Amen.

Reflection 1 For many people, the fury of floods, fires, or earthquakes and the subsequent wilderness of loss and abandonment are vivid nightmares and daily, waking realities. We witness such events—most of us from afar—year after year. Such natural disasters affect thousands, even millions at a time. The large numbers can numb us from the human implications of these events, but those numbers—no matter how large—are composed of individual men, women, and children. “They are people like Cruz Breni Osorio, who on October 30, 1998, lost 72 relatives, including his wife, two daughters and six grandchildren” when Hurricane Mitch struck Nicaragua. “A mudslide buried his and a neighboring village at the 2

Session 1: Remembering, Reforming, Repenting … base of a volcano called La Casita. Over 2,000 people died” in that one place, while “Osorio was in his cornfield surveying the damage caused by the rain that had fallen non-stop for four days.’’ “‘I heard a noise like a helicopter. I looked up and saw a sea of mud,’ The poor have need of recalled Osorio, who was saved when brothers, sisters the mudflow swerved south, missing his “The imbalance lies both in the field. He made his way through the mud, cultural and political order and in hoping against hope to find his family the spiritual and moral order. In alive. ‘I heard a woman cry out and fact we often consider only the superficial and instrumental causes thought maybe it was my wife or one of of poverty without attending to my daughters. I called their names, but those harbored within the human no one answered.’ Holding back tears, heart, like greed and narrow vision. Osorio continued, ‘One moment I had The problems of development, everything, the next moment I had aid and international cooperation nothing. But God gave me another day are sometimes addressed without any real attention to the human to live so I must go on as well as I can.’ element, but as merely technical “During the [same] flooding, Julia questions—limited, that is, to Elena Castellón, 19 and pregnant, took establishing structures, setting up refuge in Villa Nueva’s Catholic Church trade agreements, and allocating in the town square, along with 200 funding impersonally. What the people. On October 31, the day the fight against poverty really needs rains finally stopped, she gave birth to are men and women who live in a profoundly fraternal way and a son. One of the women wrapped the are able to accompany individuals, newborn in white garments taken from families and communities on the statue of the Child Jesus. ‘We are journeys of authentic human proud,’ said Father Elberto Silva, pastor development.’’ Pope Benedict XVI of Villa Nueva. ‘Even in the midst of World Day of Peace, 2009 death and destruction, there is life.’” Most of the people affected by that flood were poor; more than half of them were unemployed, and almost a third of their children were malnourished. Nicaragua—now as then—is one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere. A poor Nicaraguan from a coffee farm in La Viola asked, “How did this hurricane know just where the poor people lived?” (Excerpted and adapted from Maryknoll magazine). He might have asked the same question of a tsunami in the Indian Ocean, 3

Lenten Longings: For the Life of the Word an earthquake in Pakistan, or a hurricane in Haiti or New Orleans—disasters that always seem to hit the poorest people hardest. Only wiser land use and a drastic change in some governments’ attitudes to land reform will free the poor from such questions. Why must they build flimsy homes on flood plains? Why must they be exposed, without recourse, to typhoon, drought, and famine? A just solution will require a conversion of hearts, on the part of many, to assure that forces of nature do not have the last word. How do we connect to this? What does this have to say to us? Natural disasters affect many of us on several levels, especially as we witness so vividly the devastation they impose on some of the world’s most vulnerable people. The media coverage and emergency relief appeals are abundant and poignant. For at least a short period of time, we sense our immediate connection with and our responsibilities for the neediest among us. But the rapidity of our lives, as well as the deluge of world, local, and personal events often obstruct our capacity to hold all these needs in our hearts. When asked what we can do about poverty in our world, many who work with the poor respond instantly, “Get to know one poor person.” As we enter this season of Lent, what does all this have to do with our longings for the life of the world?

Invitation to Share Recall your own memories of a human tragedy that affected you spiritually. • Where do you find connections between the suffering of so many poor people and your own call to conversion of heart? • When in your own life have you felt overwhelmed by floods of destruction or events beyond your control? How have you responded? • Where or when have you experienced God’s presence, offering new life in the midst of loss and death?

Reflection 2 Mark’s account of Jesus’ sojourn in the desert is very sparse in detail. We learn only that Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where he remained forty days, amid wild beasts and Satan’s temptations, while angels looked after him. The brevity of the account serves to highlight the divine presence enfolding Jesus, leading and upholding him while he confronted the forces of evil. Satan attempted to lure Jesus toward the reign of death rather than the God of Life. Jesus’ decision to entrust his life to his Father was clear. Jesus turned Satan’s world upside down 4

Session 1: Remembering, Reforming, Repenting … and unmasked Satan’s power to deceive. The focus of Mark’s Gospel now shifts rather abruptly to Jesus’ appearance Lent should inspire in Galilee proclaiming the Good News spirit of service of God. The time of fulfillment has “Every Christian feels called to share come, and with it God’s appeal to return the pain and difficulty of the ‘other’ once more to the covenant made long in whom God Himself is hidden. However, this opening to the needs ago with every living creature for all of others implies a truly warm generations (cf Genesis 9:12). In Jesus, welcoming which is only possible in God’s promise was made manifest; a personal commitment of poverty in goodness would triumph over evil, love spirit. Poverty, in fact, does not exist over hate, life over death. Never again only in the negative sense. There is would “all bodily creatures be destroyed also a poverty which is blessed by God. This the Gospel calls ‘blessed’ by the waters of a flood” (Genesis 9:11). (Mt 5: 3). Thanks to this poverty in But Jesus’ proclamation of God’s reign spirit, the Christian recognizes that comes with conditions: We must change salvation comes exclusively from our hearts and minds and believe this God and makes him ready to serve his brother considering him ‘better Good News. The condition for receiving the than yourself’ (Phil. 2: 3). Spiritual Good News of salvation, for recognizing poverty entails the fruit of the new heart which God gives us. In the rainbow in the cloud, is our the season of Lent such fruit must willingness to change, to allow our hearts mature through concrete behavior and minds to be flooded with the Spirit’s such as: the spirit of service, the gift, to remember the covenant God openness to look for the good of the made with us in our baptism. Here, in other, the willingness to share with the floodwaters of grace, we promised to our brother, the commitment of combatting that pride which isolates die to our individual self-concerns and to us from our neighbor.’’ rise in Christ, to live for God and every Pope John Paul II Lent, 1998 living creature. We promised to become, led by the Spirit, the Body of Christ for the life of the world. The intimate connection between Lent and Baptism invites us to remember, to reform, and to repent. We are the Body of Christ, members of a community that is always in need of renewal and reconciliation. We are, as Christ’s Church, meant to be signs and instruments of God’s salvific love and healing for our world. (See Vatican II, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, 1.)


Lenten Longings: For the Life of the Word

Invitation to Share • How have you experienced a call to conversion in your own life recently? For what particular grace do you pray as the liturgical season of Lent begins? • When, through the integrity of your personal decisions (or in communal decisions) have you seen the deceits of Satan unmasked? • How can the poor, the outcast, the abandoned of the world call you (or us) to repentance? • What is your resolution for the Lenten season?

Invitation to Act Jesus emphasized the connection between faith and action, between what we believe and what we do. In that spirit, decide on an individual or group action that flows from what you have shared in this session. If you decide to act on your own, share your decision with the group. If you decide on a group action, determine among you whether individual members will take responsibility for various aspects of the action. You are likely to benefit most from taking an action that arises from your own response to the session. However, you can consider one of the following suggestions or use these ideas to help develop one of your own: Some Suggestions: • Research current needs in a country or region, resulting from natural disasters such as typhoons, hurricanes, or earthquakes, or other needs that have attracted your attention. As a community, determine an action your group will take to bring Christian hope to this region or country. If you choose an individual action, determine what you will do and share it with the group. • Identify the rhythm of action, prayer, and reflection that you notice in your life this week. How often was your behavior, your disposition, or your attitude influenced by your prayer for God’s assistance? Ask a friend, or a family or community member to help you with one aspect of your behavior that you would like to invite God’s help in changing. • Visit or call a neighbor, family member, or co-worker who has had some difficulty or sadness recently. Reach out in some concrete way to lighten another’s burden. • This week, keep a daily journal of news events, the joys and struggles of our human family. Bring your list to your small community next week and consider how you might respond to one of the needs you’ve discovered. • If you are journaling, pay special attention to a particular grace you are asking for 6

Session 1: Remembering, Reforming, Repenting … during Lent—an area of conversion, reform, or special longing or desire of the heart. A journal can be simply a blank notebook that is compact enough to easily carry with you but expansive enough to let you express yourself. It can also be a book specifically designed for this purpose, such as Gleanings: A Personal Prayer Journal, available from RENEW International. (See page XX.)

Invitation to Pray Listen again to the song, “Change Our Hearts.” Give God thanks (aloud or silently) for desires stirred, insights gleaned, directions clarified, decisions reached, and for the gift of one another’s openness and sensitivity. Pray together the Lord’s Prayer and conclude with the following prayer: God of our desert journeys, you know our needs and our hearts. You fashioned us in secret and love us intimately. We ask your blessing on our goings and our comings in the week ahead. May your Spirit sustain us, your Word impel us, and your desire for us incite us to do good and to choose life for the sake of the world you so love. Bless us in Jesus’ name. Amen.