Open Our Hearts: Year A Sample Session

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Open Our Hearts Sister Donna L. Ciangio, OP Father Thomas B. Iwanowski Lenten Reflections RENEW INTERNATIONAL FOR 2023–YEAR A

Lenten Reflections YEAR A

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

Scripture texts used in this work are taken from The New American Bible, revised edition, copyright © 2010, 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 Copyright © 2022 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.

NIHIL OBSTAT

Msgr. Robert J. Wister, D. Eccl. Hist. Censor librorum

IMPRIMATUR

Joseph W. Cardinal Tobin, C.Ss.R., D.D Archbishop of Newark

Cover and interior pages designed by Kathrine Kuo

ISBN: 978-1-62063-198-0

Printed and bound in the United States of America.

CONTENTS

Book

Part I: Weekly Small-Group Sessions

Week One: Enticing!

Week Two: An Aerial View

Week Three: Hunger or Thirst 30

Week Four: Now We Can See 38

Week Five: Future Present

Week Six: Through Our Experience 53

Part II: Weekday Reflections

Ash Wednesday 63

Thursday after Ash Wednesday

Friday after Ash Wednesday 64

Saturday after Ash Wednesday

First Week of Lent 65

Second Week of Lent

Third Week of Lent 69

Fourth Week of Lent

Fifth Week of Lent

Holy Week 75

The Easter Triduum

Welcome 5 Using This
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ELCOME to Open Our Hearts! This book 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, and 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. We all 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 a journey of faith. As Christians, we are part of a community of believers who need others to support us along the way. 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 when we witness how God is working in each group member. Small groups are also a great means of connecting people with each other and inviting 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, realign your priorities, and go forth to do good works!

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PART I Weekly Small-Group Sessions

Week One: Enticing!

READINGS FOR THE FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT

Genesis 2:7-9; 3:1-7

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Romans 5:12, 17-19

Matthew 4:1-11

SETTING THE ENVIRONMENT

On a table in the center of your group, covered with a Lenten (purple) colored cloth, place a crucifix, a bible, and a lighted candle. Begin the session by slowly making the sign of the cross together.

OPENING HYMN

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

GATHERING PRAYER

Pray together:

Redeeming God, Be with us as we begin our Lenten journey to resurrection. Open our hearts that we might listen deeply to your call to deeper communion with you and all of our brothers and sisters. Give us a deeper understanding of discipleship and service that we may eagerly live the gospel. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

CONNECTING WITH LIFE

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

Those in the business of selling things to the public know the importance of showing their products in attractive and enticing ways. They do their best to make sure their displays of

◗ Psalm
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merchandise and their advertising catch the attention of potential customers.

We certainly see that as soon as we enter a department store like Macy’s or Nordstrom. From the moment we walk through their doors everything is geared to capture our attention and to make us believe that the items we see are things we need and should buy.

Companies that sell online do the same thing. Their ads are designed to catch the attention of those surfing the net or checking social media. Products and services are presented in attractive and clever ways that entice us to click on what we see. We are then led to websites that are filled with images, videos, sounds, and testimonials designed to convince us that what we are viewing is what we need to buy.

REFLECTING ON YOUR LIFE

◗ Did an advertisement ever lead you to buy something that you really did not need or really want, or even live up to the advertisement claims?

◗ What company does a particularly good job in selling its products or services?

◗ What do you believe is the most effective form of advertising?

LISTENING TO THE WORD

Take a quiet moment to pray 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.

Gospel Reading: Matthew 4:1-11

At that time Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was hungry. The tempter approached and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread.” He said in reply, “It is written:

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One does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.”

Then the devil took him to the holy city, and made him stand on the parapet of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written: He will command his angels concerning you and with their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.”

Jesus answered him, “Again, it is written, You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.”

Then the devil took him up to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence, and he said to him, “All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.”

At this, Jesus said to him, “Get away, Satan! It is written:

The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.”

Then the devil left him and behold, angels came and ministered to him.

APPRECIATING THE WORD

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

The first “seller” to know the importance of enticing people with his products appears in this Sunday’s first reading and gospel passage. There we see the devil working at persuading people to buy what he was selling.

In the first reading (Genesis 2:7-9, 3:1-7), the serpent, the devil, entices the woman to consider the beauty of the tree that she and her husband were forbidden to touch. After the devil’s sly words, the woman concludes “that the tree was good for food, pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for gaining wisdom.” So, she eats of the tree and shares the fruit with her husband. They find the devil’s enticement irresistible.

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In the gospel reading (Matthew 4:1-11), the devil does the same thing. That is especially evident in the third and final temptation. The devil takes Jesus up a high mountain and shows him “all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence.” He promises all this power and glory can belong to Jesus if Jesus just prostrates himself and worships him. Jesus, however, rejects the devil’s enticement. He says, “Get away, Satan! It is written: The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.”

The devil, who successfully tempted the man and woman in the garden but failed with Jesus, continues to try and seduce humanity today. He entices us with attention-grabbing things that can pull us away from God, from the Church, and from our relationships with other members of the human family.

The devil can entice us with our smartphones. He can lead us to believe that constantly looking at our phones is more important than paying attention to the people God has placed in our lives, even more important than spending time with the Lord. Rather than looking up in prayer to God, we end up looking down at the glowing screens in our hands.

The devil can enthrall us with the cult of celebrity. He can make us want to be seen as an influencer in the world of social media. He can make us think that we find meaning in life not by following the Gospel but in collecting digital followers.

The devil can beguile us with non-stop entertainment available through television, radio, podcasts, video games, the internet, cable and streaming services – diversions that are as close as our smartphone or tablet. That never-ending entertainment overcomes the silence we need to hear the gentle voice of God.

The devil can trick us into thinking that drugs, alcohol, gambling, casual sex, power, and fulfilling our every desire is the way to happiness rather than living the way revealed by Jesus.

The devil, the clever salesman, is always tempting us to buy what he is selling, for he knows if we do, we will end up just where he wants us, outside the garden with Adam and Eve. This Lent is the time for us to become more aware of the devil’s enticements so that like Jesus we too can say, “Get away, Satan!”

REFLECTING ON YOUR LIFE

◗ Looking back over the past 12 months since last Lent, has your relationship with Jesus changed in any way? Is it stronger, weaker, or holding steady?

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◗ In what ways do forms of communication and social media today make it easier for the devil to place his temptations before us?

◗ What temptations do you think the devil is particularly using today to draw people away from the Jesus and his Church?

WRITE IT DOWN!

This week, observe ways that you are tempted to put other things before God. How do you make time for prayer and quiet time with God? What are your resolutions? Spend a few minutes jotting them down.

REFLECTING ON YOUR HOME

◗ What can you do to make Lent a sacred time at home?

◗ How might you involve other family or household members in an active Lent?

REFLECTING ON YOUR PARISH

◗ How does your parish community help you to reflect on the journey of Lent?

◗ What opportunities does the parish offer to help you this Lent to enter more deeply into communion with God? What will you take advantage of this Lent?

AFFECTING YOUR WORLD

Choose a good work to do for Lent individually or as a group. These are suggestions:

◗ Contact your parish social-concerns committee to find out what opportunities are available for service.

◗ Pope Francis has called us to care for the environment and the earth in his encyclical letter Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home. What will you do this Lent to focus on care for the earth?

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Volunteer to serve in a soup kitchen, food pantry, or homeless shelter.

As a group, sacrifice a cup of coffee or snack each day and donate the money to a specific charity, such as Operation Rice Bowl at Catholic Relief Services (CRS). Contact your parish or diocese, or CRS at 1-800-222-0025 (orb.crs.org) for information.

Get involved in a neighborhood group or project that serves the community.

Invite a friend to your Lenten small group.

SENDING FORTH

Leader Let us take a moment of quiet to listen to how God calls us to turn from sin and temptation and choose the path of life as we pray the words of Psalm 51.

Pause for silent prayer.

Reader 1 Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned. Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness; in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense.

Thoroughly wash me from my guilt and of my sin cleanse me.

All Have mercy on us, O God, in your goodness.

Reader 2 Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned. For I acknowledge my offense, and my sin is before me always:

“Against you only have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight.”

All Have mercy on us, O God, in your goodness.

Reader 3 Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.

A clean heart create for me, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew within me. Cast me not out from your presence, and your Holy Spirit take not from me.

All Have mercy on us, O God, in your goodness.

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(Psalm 51:3-4,5-6,12-13,17)

Reader 4 Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned. Give me back the joy of your salvation, and a willing spirit sustain in me. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.

All Have mercy on us, O God, in your goodness as we walk the Lenten journey. Amen.

Leader Let us go forth in peace to love and serve God and each other.

All Amen.

Share a sign of peace with each other.

PART II Weekday Reflections

Connecting with Life

The scripture readings of Lent are full of imagery about turning away from sin, reforming our lives, admitting our faults, reaching out to those experiencing poverty and oppression, and serving our brothers and sisters so that we may be transformed by having our hearts ready and open to follow Jesus completely.

The 40 days of Lent are like being on a retreat—a time to look deeply at our lives and how we are doing on our journey to spiritual wholeness. For each weekday of Lent, the daily Mass readings are listed, followed by a short reflection and question for examination of your heart. Make some quiet time each morning and/or night to read, pray, write down your thoughts, and assess how you are living out the scriptural call each day.

Ash Wednesday

◗ Joel 2:12–18

◗ 2 Corinthians 5:20–6:2

◗ Matthew 6:1–6; 16–18

Turn away from sin and be faithful to the gospel!

Gather the people! Blow the trumpet and proclaim a fast! We begin our Lenten journey—a 40-day retreat for the whole Church. Once again, we repent and call upon our loving God to help us grow stronger in our faith and to live it in love. God, who is rich in mercy and slow to anger, will purify and renew the hearts of all who ask it in prayer and who fast, serve others, and give to those living in poverty.

What will you do this Lent to make it a sacred time?

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Thursday after Ash Wednesday

Deuteronomy 30:15–20

Luke 9:22–25

Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.

Choose life! Those who walk in the way of God are promised life. Jesus makes “the way” specific: to be disciples, we must deny ourselves and take up our own cross.

How are the choices you are making today “choosing life”?

Friday after Ash Wednesday

◗ Isaiah 58:1–9a

Matthew 9:14–15

A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.

The fast God requires of us is a fast from indifference to the plight of others. We are to do what is just. Repeatedly, scripture spells out what makes for justice: to set free the oppressed, feed the hungry, release the imprisoned, shelter the homeless, and clothe the naked.

How will you reach out to a person in need, support a just cause such as prison reform, contribute to a food bank or homeless shelter, or visit someone who is ill?

Saturday after Ash Wednesday

◗ Isaiah 58:9b–14

◗ Luke 5:27–32

Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth.

Follow me! What a simple command—an invitation by Jesus to be transformed. He came to heal the sick and change the hearts of sinners. As Jesus’ disciples, we not only ask for his healing hand upon our hearts but must follow his example by caring for the weak and oppressed.

What have you left behind to follow Jesus?

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