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Lent 2019 | Volume 38, Number 4

Inside this issue. . . God So Loved the World Turn to Me and Be Saved A gracious call from a loving God.

Alinari/Art Resource, Ecce Homo. 1891. Antonio Ciseri Galleria d’Arte Moderna, Florence, Italy


Did God Really Say That? The story of Adam and Eve is our story as well.


Love, Mercy, and Grace What can we expect as we turn to the Lord this Lent?


Return to Me An examination of conscience for Lent.


The Goodness of God Words from the saints.


Daily Meditations March 6–April 21

page 25 This Issue’s Special Features


Spirit of Catholic Living

A Daily Approach to Prayer & Scripture

Unless a Grain of Wheat Dies St. Oscar Romero lived and died defending his people.


More than a Healing When God gives you a second chance to live.


The Gift of Closeness Jesus held my heart through my son’s darkest struggles.


Online at, or call us at 1-800-775-WORD (9673).

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,


appy Lent! We don’t usually think of Lent as a “happy” time, but we should. This is perhaps the most important season of the Church year, when God invites you and me to draw even closer to him. When we respond to God’s invitation, we discover how blessed we are to have him as our fortress and our refuge. And being blessed by God is the meaning of true happiness. So happy Lent! I want to welcome those of you who are reading The Word Among Us for the first time. If you can set aside ten or fifteen minutes each day to pray and reflect on the daily Mass readings using this little magazine, you will be joining more than one million Catholics in one hundred countries doing the same thing. Together, may we all come to see more clearly the goodness and love of our heavenly Father!

Encountering the Goodness of God. The main articles in this issue explore just how good our God really is. Think back on all that God has done since he created the world, and you’ll see him as a Father

who is always loving and always caring toward us. Imagine: every time God creates another person, he goes so far as to stamp that person with unique, never-to-be-repeated fingerprints. Those prints are like his own personal signature saying, “This is my own child.” Even when we stray from his path, God is so good that he never gives up on us—not even for a moment. And when the time was just right, our good Father loved the world so much “that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life” (John 3:16). Insert your name into that sentence! “God loved me so much that he sent his only Son, Jesus, so that I would not perish but would live with him forever.” When you see a friend at church, remind yourself that God “loved that brother or sister in Christ so much” that he considered it worth the cost of giving up his only Son. That’s how deeply God loves each of us—how deeply he loves the entire world! Brothers and sisters, we have a good, good God. So how can we “repay the LORD for all the great good” he has done for us (Psalm 116:12)? Of course, we could never repay him

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fully for the immeasurable love he has poured out on us. But we can do a few things. First, we can commit ourselves to praying every day. We can tell Jesus, “I love you, Lord, more than anything else in my life, even the good things.” We can receive Jesus in the Eucharist and thank him for leaving his throne in heaven just to redeem us. And sometime during Lent, we can


meet Jesus in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and hear him speak these words of comfort and pardon: “Neither do I condemn you” (John 8:11). Your Father in heaven knows how to give good gifts to his children. May we all be willing to receive those gifts. And may we all have a happy Lent! Jeff Smith President

Spirit of Catholic Living

Editorial Director: Leo Zanchettin Managing Editor: Susan Heuver Content Editor: Patricia Mitchell Features Editor: Kathryn Elliott Assistant Editor for International Editions: Lynne May Assistant Editor for Meditations: Hallie Riedel Contributing Writers: Ann Bottenhorn, Jill Boughton, Mary Cassell, Bob French, Theresa Keller, Christine Laton, Joel Laton, Laurie Magill, Lisa Sharafinski, Patty Whelpley Art Direction: David Crosson Design: Suzanne Earl Theological Advisors: Fr. Joseph A. Mindling, OFM Cap, Fr. Joseph F. Wimmer, OSA Proofreader: Ginger Roché Founder: Joseph Difato, PhD

President: Jeff Smith Chief Information Officer: Jack Difato General Manager: John Roeder The Word Among Us Press Publisher: Beth McNamara Managing Editor: Jessica Montgomery Business: Don Cooper, James Mannarino Production: Nancy Clemens Data Entry: Jody Mcllmail Customer Service: Shannan Rivers Parish Service: Mary Callahan Internet Services: Theresa Keller Distribution: Diane Menapace Information Services: Darla Forbes, Melanie Goggin WAU Partners: Orlando Barros, Angela Burrin, Ryan Petrillo

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Articles in this booklet may be reproduced with prior approval of the publisher for use in Bible studies, discussion groups, religion classes, and the like. Excerpts from the New American Bible with Revised New Testament and Psalms, Copyright © 1991, 1986, 1970, by the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. Used with permission. All rights reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

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Turn to Me and Be Saved A Gracious Call from a Loving God

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Even now, says the LORD, return to me with your whole heart. (Joel 2:12)


Godong / Alamy Stock Photo

e hear this passage, taken from the Old Testament prophet Joel, at Mass every Ash Wednesday, just as we begin our forty-day journey of Lent. For the people of Israel, it was a call to turn to God in the midst of a national crisis. Hurry! Come to the Temple and beg the Lord to save us from this catastrophe! For us, Joel’s words are more personal. They urge us to turn to God with our whole hearts so that he can save us each individually—not from an external disaster, but from the sin that clouds our relationship with him. Joel’s words call us to examine our lives and find the ways we have wandered from the Lord or have hurt one another. They also ask us to open our eyes to the ways that God wants to bless us and draw us closer to him during this season. In short, these words capture the spirit of Lent perfectly. You would think that, with such a gracious invitation, we would look at Lent as one of the most blessed, uplifting times of the year. But for all the promise of this season, we Lent 2019 | 5

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can still be tempted to look at it as a time of gloom and sadness. Maybe we focus on what we have to give up instead of what God wants to give us. Or we might think about our sins more than God’s mercy or fret over our need to change rather than rejoicing in his overflowing grace. Let’s try to approach Lent a little differently this year. In this issue, we want to look at it as a time of promise and hope. We want to look at the call to turn to the Lord as an invitation to discover something new and uplifting—about ourselves and about God. We want to look at the goodness of God, his work of freeing us from sin, and his invitation to receive his love, mercy, and grace this Lent.

A Good God. The first and most important thing to remember is that God is good. We are used to saying that God loves us or that God is love, but by saying it so often, we risk losing sight of how radical this statement is. So it’s helpful every now and then to consider his love from a different angle—from his goodness. When we say that God is good, we are repeating what St. John considered “the message” that Jesus commissioned him and the other apostles to preach: “God is light, and in him there is no darkness at

all” (1 John 1:5). We are also echoing St. James when he called God “the Father of lights, with whom there is no alteration or shadow caused by change” (James 1:17). God’s goodness toward us never changes. The prophet Joel knew the goodness of God as well. In the midst of his urgent plea for Israel to turn to the Lord, he spoke words of assurance and promise: “Return to the LORD, your God. For he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love, and relenting in punishment” (Joel 2:13). He wanted the people to know that God wasn’t the cause of their troubles; he was the cure! God loved the people too much to leave them to face the crisis alone. Come to me, he called. Let me help you and deliver you. This Lent you will hear again the call to turn to the Lord with your whole heart—a call to fasting and repentance. You might imagine these words coming from a harsh judge preparing to punish you for your misdeeds. But imagine them coming instead from a Father who loves his children and who mourns over how they have distanced themselves from him. Imagine them coming from a good God who created you and who has blessed you “with every spiritual blessing” (Ephesians 1:3). Your God

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loves you. He is goodness itself, and he wants nothing but good for you. Can you picture the look of love on his face as he calls out to you?

A Good Creation. A clear night sky filled with stars. The touch of a cool breeze on a fine spring day. The sound of water as it tumbles through a stream on its way to a river. Who hasn’t stood in awe at the beauty of the natural world? Who hasn’t felt the same way the psalmist felt when he looked up and proclaimed, “The heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalm 19:2)?

God has fashioned this whole world as a home just for us. We believe that God in his goodness made this beautiful world out of nothing. But even more astounding, we believe that he fashioned this world into a home just for us—for the men and women he would create out of love. The Book of Genesis tells us that God placed our first parents in a lush garden and charged them with cultivating the earth and making it fruitful. He blessed them as husband and wife and charged Lent 2019 | 7

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them to be fruitful as well. He gave them everything they needed for happiness in this new world—a loving relationship with him and with each other; the joy of bearing children; meaningful labor; and a safe, beautiful environment that would always reflect his love and care for them. Take some time this Lent to ask the Holy Spirit to show you how all the beauty, vastness, and majesty of the world points to a loving, generous God. Ask him to open the eyes of your heart so that you cry out in joy, “All the earth falls in worship before you; they sing of you, sing of your name!” (Psalm 66:4).

A “Very Good” People. Not only did God create the world we live in, but he created each of us individually. We are not the random result of evolution. Unlike any other creature on earth, we are made in God’s own image and likeness (Genesis 1:27). We have gifts and abilities that no other creature has. Using our gifts of reason, memory, and imagination, we can rise above our environment and determine our own future. We can fall in love. We can imagine new possibilities for ourselves and each other. And most important, we can have a relationship with God that gradually transforms our heart and mind.

We can see the goodness of humanity every day in family life, in parishes, in hospitals and schools, and in community centers. We see it in people caring for the poor and needy. We see it in all the unnoticed acts of kindness that happen every day. We see it especially when two or more people gather in Jesus’ name. Of course, we also see evil. Sometimes it can seem as if it’s all around us. It can even seem as if evil is just as powerful as good—a natural force that is just as much a part of us as goodness. But our faith tells us that there is only one “principle” in creation: God’s goodness. “God looked at everything he had made, and found it very good” (Genesis 1:31). It’s this goodness—this innocence and wholeness—that God wants to deepen in us as we turn to him in Lent. He doesn’t want to condemn us for our sins. He wants to remove our sins so that the beauty of his creation can shine through us all the more. We might shy away from the idea of repentance and self-denial because it sounds so difficult. But these are avenues of grace for us. They are good gifts from a good God who wants to come into our hearts more deeply.

The Last Word. God is good, and everything he created is good.

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God is asking us to give up something

good so that we can Remember this when you think about your resolutions this Lent. God is asking you to deny yourself some of the pleasures of life so that you can focus on him more fully. This doesn’t mean that these pleasures are bad. There’s nothing wrong, for example, with dessert after dinner. God is asking you to give up something good so that you can receive something better: Jesus, who gave up the goodness of heaven in order to save you from sin. If you get discouraged by the sin you see around you—or even by the sin in your own heart—remember this truth as well: evil doesn’t have to win out, and sin doesn’t have to

receive something better—Jesus. have the last word. Especially during Lent, as you turn to the Lord, you can experience Jesus’ victory over sin as your own victory. You can find the extra grace to say no to a particular sin or to finally forgive someone who has hurt you. We have a good, good God, and he has made us “very good.” May the grace of this Lenten season bring us even closer to him and help us display his goodness in our lives. n Lent 2019 | 9

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These next forty days offer us a wonderful opportunity to enter into the blessings of a routine. If we can commit to praying every day this Lent, we’ll be well on our way to forming a permanent habit of spending time with God and letting his word change our hearts. If we can Wednesday, March 6 commit the next six weeks to fastAsh Wednesday ing—from some food or activity or Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18 attitude that has too tight a grip on Do not blow a trumpet before you. us—we stand the chance of becom(Matthew 6:2) Let’s say you were an avid jogger. ing less attached to this world and more attached to Christ. If we can Every morning, rain or shine, you commit to giving some of our time were out on the road, getting your and money to helping the poor on three miles in. How often do you think you would tell your coworkers a regular basis, generosity and comor neighbors that you ran that morn- passion will begin to flow from us ing? Probably not very often. It’s just more naturally. Jesus is inviting you to “return to something you do because you know how good it is to establish a healthy the LORD, your God” this Lent (Joel exercise routine. 2:13). Every journey begins with the It’s this kind of attitude that Jesus smallest, most ordinary of steps. So is asking us to have when it comes get into the daily habit of turning to to the traditional Lenten practices him through these three ordinary of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving. spiritual practices. Then watch to They should be so much a part of our see whether something extraordinary everyday routine that we would see comes of them. no reason to boast about doing them. “Jesus, help me embrace the Of course, we know how chaleveryday, ordinary practices of Lent lenging it can be to keep to these so that I can grow closer to you.” practices. Life tends to get in the way. But isn’t that the whole purpose of ! Joel 2:12-18 Lent? To step back from the busyness Psalm 51:3-6, 12-14, 17 of life a bit so that we can grow closer 2 Corinthians 5:20–6:2 to God?



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Thursday, March 7 Luke 9:22-25 If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. (Luke 9:23) Ed was in the habit of spending chunks of his weekends on the golf course. That often meant ducking out early from Mass and missing out on time with his wife and kids. One weekend, however, Ed and his wife attended a parish retreat. As Ed prayed before the tabernacle, he had an overwhelming sense of God’s love. Ed knew he needed to draw closer to God. That meant making some changes, starting with less golf and more time with the Lord and his family. Ed’s story is a perfect illustration of Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel: “He must deny himself” (Luke 9:23). Those words might give the impression that following Jesus means living a joyless, austere existence. But God loves you too much to want you to be miserable all the time. Most likely, he is asking you to deny something that’s keeping you from him. Perhaps a hobby or pastime has taken over too much free time. Maybe you need to cut back on your time binge-watching TV or surfing the Internet. Maybe you

are too focused on your career, and your prayer life suffers. What’s getting in your way? Ask the Lord to show you in prayer. He might surprise you. If you cringe at the thought of denying yourself something you enjoy, don’t worry. If it’s nothing sinful, Jesus is probably not asking you to give it up completely, only to put it in its proper place. Ed’s decision to cut back on golf came after a dramatic experience of God, so it was only natural that he would pursue his faith with more enthusiasm. Who wouldn’t want to spend more time with God after an experience like that? But in today’s Gospel, Jesus says that it works both ways. Rather than always waiting for God to do something, we could take some of the initiative ourselves. If we want to get closer to him, we should check to see if there’s something blocking us. If we can put that aside, it will be easier to feel his love. Remember, you can never outdo God in generosity. Whatever you give up for him, he will give you so much more in return. “Lord, help me to deny myself anything that is keeping me from following you.” !

Deuteronomy 30:15-20 Psalm 1:1-4, 6

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Friday, March 8 Isaiah 58:1-9 This, rather, is the fasting that I wish. (Isaiah 58:6) Of the three practices that we focus on in Lent—prayer, fasting, and almsgiving—it’s the last that we can find the most challenging, especially if it means going beyond putting some money in the poor box. While many of us are already in the practice of giving to the needy during Lent, it can be harder to find opportunities to serve the poor in person. Often we begin Lent with a sincere desire to help people who are in need, but somehow the whole season gets away from us before we are able to find a way to serve. With today being just the third day of Lent, we still have plenty of time to make a concrete decision about what we will do! Are you not sure where to start? Maybe a call to your parish office would be a good first step. Ask about opportunities to help with a parish clothing drive, a food pantry, or the local Society of St. Vincent de Paul. More than simply giving a donation—which is always good— look for opportunities that bring you into direct contact with those less fortunate than you. That’s when your heart changes—when

you look into the eyes of those you are serving and recognize them as your brothers and sisters. If you don’t find something at first, keep looking. Check your diocesan newspaper, or visit the local charities in your area. Catholic newspapers often have listings of area charities that are looking for volunteers. Who knows? Maybe you can even turn this into a permanent thing once Lent is over. After all, Jesus reminds us that the poor we will always have with us, not just during Lent (Matthew 26:11)! Today’s passage from Isaiah is a dramatic reminder that Jesus is looking at the motives of our hearts just as much as our outward actions. As much as he loves it when we fast, he is also looking for people who are seeking to set the oppressed free, share their bread with the hungry, shelter the homeless, and clothe the naked (Isaiah 58:6-7). What’s more, if we do this, God promises, “Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your wound shall quickly be healed. . . . You shall cry for help, and he will say: Here I am!” (58:8, 9). “Jesus, show me how I can serve you in the poor and needy this Lent.” !

Psalm 51:3-6, 18-19 Matthew 9:14-15 Lent 2019 | 27

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Saturday, March 9 Isaiah 58:9-14 The LORD will guide you always and give you plenty even on the parched land. (Isaiah 58:11) Those who invest in stocks or corporations do so in order to make a certain percentage of money on top of what they first invested. In the financial world, this is known as an “ROI”—a Return on Investment. This concept from the world of business and high finance can help us understand a key spiritual principle: God rewards us when we invest our time and effort in him. In today’s first reading, the prophet Isaiah explains that those who spend time caring for the needy and honoring the Sabbath will be rewarded with a “spring whose water never fails” (58:11). That’s like having an infinite return on investment! But Isaiah isn’t talking only about the time we invest in doing; he is also asking us to spend time resting, or keeping the Sabbath holy. It’s easy to think that Sunday is a good time to catch up on work and other projects. But God promises that if you take time to step back from your own endeavors on the Sabbath, he will renew you. If you can find a way to put aside your to-do list—even if it’s just for a couple of hours—he will make up the

difference in ways you might not expect. You’ll discover the divine irony that doing less actually results in greater gains! So what can you expect to happen if you set aside a portion of each Sunday this Lent to rest in the Lord? Perhaps by slowing down and relaxing, you’ll find it easier to sense the Lord’s presence. Maybe you’ll discover that you have more time to sit down with your spouse or a child or friend, and learn more about what’s on their heart. Then when you come to the end of the day, you might feel more grateful because you have been able to see more clearly the many ways God has blessed you. Sharp investors are always on the lookout for a solid return, but they know there is always a risk involved in any transaction. And that’s precisely where this analogy breaks down. There is no risk with the Lord. Anyone who invests in him—especially on his day of rest— is guaranteed to reap a wonderful return. That’s how faithful God is! “Lord, help me to honor the Sabbath this Lent by resting with you.” !

Psalm 86:1-6 Luke 5:27-32

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Daily Mass Readings March 6 – April 21, 2019


Wednesday, March 6 Ash Wednesday

Each year, Lent . . . stimulates us to rediscover the mercy of God so that we, in turn, become more merciful toward our brothers and sisters. —Pope Benedict XVI Entrance You are merciful to all, O Lord, Antiphon and despise nothing that you have made.

You overlook people’s sins, to bring them to repentance, and you spare them, for you are the Lord our God. Wis 11:24, 25, 27 Collect Grant, O Lord, that we may begin with holy fasting

this campaign of Christian service, so that, as we take up battle against spiritual evils, we may be armed with weapons of self-restraint. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. First Joel 2:12-18 Reading Even now, says the LORD,

return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning; Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the LORD, your God. For gracious and merciful is he, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment. Perhaps he will again relent and leave behind him a blessing, Offerings and libations for the LORD, your God.

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Wednesday, March 6 Blow the trumpet in Zion! proclaim a fast, call an assembly; Gather the people, notify the congregation; Assemble the elders, gather the children and the infants at the breast; Let the bridegroom quit his room and the bride her chamber. Between the porch and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep, And say, “Spare, O LORD, your people, and make not your heritage a reproach, with the nations ruling over them! Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’” Then the LORD was stirred to concern for his land and took pity on his people. Responsorial Psalm 51 Psalm R. 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. R. 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.” R. 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. R. 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. R.


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Wednesday, March 6 Second 2 Corinthians 5:20–6:2 Reading Brothers and sisters: We are ambassadors for Christ, as if God

were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him. Working together, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says: In an acceptable time I heard you, and on the day of salvation I helped you. Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

Let us give thanks to God for the mystery of his crucified love; authentic faith, conversion and openness of heart to the brethren: these are the essential elements for living the season of Lent. —Pope Francis Gospel Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ, King of endless glory! Acclamation If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts. Cf. Ps 95:8

Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ, King of endless glory! Gospel Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18 Reading JESUS SAID TO HIS DISCIPLES: “Take care not to perform righteous

deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father. When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. “When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. LENT 2019 | M3

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Wednesday, March 6 “When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.� Blessing of Dear brethren (brothers and sisters), let us humbly ask God Ashes our Father

that he be pleased to bless with the abundance of his grace these ashes, which we will put on our heads in penitence. O God, who are moved by acts of humility and respond with forgiveness to works of penance, lend your merciful ear to our prayers and in your kindness pour out the grace of your blessing on your servants who are marked with these ashes, that, as they follow the Lenten observances, they may be worthy to come with minds made pure to celebrate the Paschal Mystery of your Son. Through Christ our Lord. Amen. OR O God, who desire not the death of sinners, but their conversion, mercifully hear our prayers and in your kindness be pleased to bless these ashes, which we intend to receive upon our heads, that we, who acknowledge we are but ashes and shall return to dust, may, through a steadfast observance of Lent, gain pardon for sins and newness of life after the likeness of your Risen Son. Who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen. Distribution Repent, and believe in the Gospel. of Ashes OR

Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.


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Thursday, March 7 Prayer As we solemnly offer over the the annual sacrifice for the beginning of Lent, Offerings we entreat you, O Lord,

that, through works of penance and charity, we may turn away from harmful pleasures and, cleansed from our sins, may become worthy to celebrate devoutly the Passion of your Son. Who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen. Communion He who ponders the law of the Lord day and night Antiphon will yield fruit in due season. Cf. Ps 1:2-3 Prayer after May the Sacrament we have received sustain us, O Lord, Communion that our Lenten fast may be pleasing to you

and be for us a healing remedy. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.


Thursday, March 7 Saints Perpetua and Felicity, Martyrs (Optional Memorial)

Entrance When I cried to the Lord, he heard my voice; Antiphon he rescued me from those who attack me.

Entrust your cares to the Lord, and he will support you. Cf. Ps 55 (54):17-20, 23 Collect O God, at the urging of whose love

the Martyrs Saints Perpetua and Felicity defied their persecutors and overcame the torment of death, grant, we ask, by their prayers, that we may ever grow in your love. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. First Deuteronomy 30:15-20 Reading Moses said to the people: “Today I have set before you life and

prosperity, death and doom. If you obey the commandments of the LORD, your God, which I enjoin on you today, loving him, and walking in his ways, and keeping his commandments, statutes and decrees, you will live and grow numerous, and the LORD, LENT 2019 | M5

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Thursday, March 7 your God, will bless you in the land you are entering to occupy. If, however, you turn away your hearts and will not listen, but are led astray and adore and serve other gods, I tell you now that you will certainly perish; you will not have a long life on the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and occupy. I call heaven and earth today to witness against you: I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live, by loving the LORD, your God, heeding his voice, and holding fast to him. For that will mean life for you, a long life for you to live on the land that the LORD swore he would give to your fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” Responsorial Psalm 1 Psalm R. Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.

Blessed the man who follows not the counsel of the wicked Nor walks in the way of sinners, nor sits in the company of the insolent, But delights in the law of the LORD and meditates on his law day and night. R. He is like a tree planted near running water, That yields its fruit in due season, and whose leaves never fade. Whatever he does, prospers. R. Not so the wicked, not so; they are like chaff which the wind drives away. For the LORD watches over the way of the just, but the way of the wicked vanishes. R. Gospel Glory and praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ! Acclamation Repent, says the Lord; the Kingdom of heaven is at hand. Mt 4:17

Glory and praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ! Gospel Luke 9:22-25 Reading JESUS SAID TO HIS DISCIPLES: “The Son of Man must suffer greatly and

be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.”


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The Order of Mass INTRODUCTORY RITES Entrance Antiphon

(See each day.)


In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. And with your spirit. (Other forms of the Greeting may be used.)

Penitential Act

Brethren (brothers and sisters), let us acknowledge our sins, and so prepare ourselves to celebrate the sacred mysteries. I confess to almighty God and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have greatly sinned, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do, (The people strike their breast, saying:) through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault;

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therefore I ask blessed Mary ever-Virgin, all the Angels and Saints, and you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God. May almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and bring us to everlasting life. Amen. (Other forms of the Penitential Act may be used.) Kyrie

(The Kyrie is omitted if it has already been used in one of the forms of the Penitential Act.) V. Lord, have mercy. V. Christ, have mercy. V. Lord, have mercy. Or: V. Kyrie, eleison. V. Christe, eleison. V. Kyrie, eleison.


R. Lord, have mercy. R. Christ, have mercy. R. Lord, have mercy. R. Kyrie, eleison. R. Christe, eleison. R. Kyrie, eleison.

(When it is prescribed, this hymn is either said or sung:) Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will. We praise you, we bless you, we adore you, we glorify you, we give you thanks for your great glory, Lord God, heavenly King, O God, almighty Father.


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Lord Jesus Christ, Only Begotten Son, Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us; you take away the sins of the world, receive our prayer; you are seated at the right hand of the Father, have mercy on us. For you alone are the Holy One, you alone are the Lord, you alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit, in the glory of God the Father. Amen. Collect

(See each day.)

LITURGY OF THE WORD Readings Profession of Faith

(See each day.) I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible. I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages. God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father; through him all things were made. LENT 2018 | L3

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For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven, (At the words that follow, up to and including and became man, all bow.) and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate, he suffered death and was buried, and rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets. I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. I confess one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen. (The Apostles’ Creed may be used instead of the Nicene Creed.) Prayer of the Faithful


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Ken Hawkins / Alamy Stock Photo

Unless a Grain of Wheat Dies

St. Oscar Romero Lived and Died Defending His People by Todd Walatka

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“Today, in the cathedral, it is the blood of a priest who is crying out: Rafael Palacios!”


ear-stained faces listened raptly inside the cathedral of San Salvador, the capital city of El Salvador. Archbishop Oscar Romero was preaching at the funeral Mass of Fr. Rafael, a Catholic priest who had just been killed by government forces on June 20, 1979. “In his dead silence, Father Rafael denounces the sin of the world; but I will also say with respect: denounces the sins of the Church,” he told his listeners. El Salvador was on the precipice of civil war, with a few dozen wealthy families wielding power over the government and military and even influencing the Catholic Church. Five priests and hundreds of lay catechists who resisted had already been slain. Millions of other Salvadorans were turning to their archbishop for guidance, asking, Why did they kill Fr. Rafael? What does Christian holiness look like in a country that is deeply divided? What does it look like to follow Jesus when political and economic divisions are creating disunity within the Church? Through weekly homilies, Archbishop Romero crafted answers to these questions. Answers that did not duck away from the causes of wrongdoing but that invited hearts to conversion.

Seeing the Face of Injustice. Oscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdámez was born on August 15, 1917, in a small village in El Salvador. A studious and prayerful child, he entered the seminary at the age of thirteen. After studying theology in Rome, he returned to El Salvador during the 1940s and began his priestly ministry. Over the next twenty-five years, Romero was given charge of countless ministries at the cathedral. He became rector of the seminary and editor of the diocesan newspaper. Romero was known as a rather traditional priest, and he was sometimes critical of fellow priests who worked closely with the poor. But his perspective started to change when he was asked to lead the rural diocese of Santiago de María as its bishop in 1974. He later called the assignment a “coming home” to his roots. To learn more about the lives of his people, Romero traveled by horseback throughout his diocese. He found migrant workers with Lent 2019 | 7 3

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no place to sleep, so he opened up churches at night to give them shelter. When he saw the peasant farmworkers, campesinos, working long hours, he came and celebrated Mass in the coffee fields. He encountered workers paid far less than a living wage, children who died due to lack of medicine, and Catholics who were murdered for protesting these injustices. Yet in the midst of this, his flock was still coming together to learn about the Bible and the social teachings of the Church. Romero’s heart was moved; the evolution was beginning inside him. On June 21, 1975, military forces brutally murdered five innocent campesinos in the small village of Tres Calles. Romero came as quickly as he could to console the families. Grieving for them, he protested to the local military commander. He expected to be heard; he was the bishop after all. Instead, he received a warning: “Cassocks are not bulletproof.”

Leading a Divided Nation. In 1977, Romero became the new archbishop of San Salvador and faced a nearly impossible situation. The divisions in the country had only increased. Thousands of campesinos had organized for land and labor reform. Others called for an armed

revolution. In response, military and paramilitary groups aligned with the government began a violent campaign of repression. In all of these groups, many of the people still saw themselves as faithful Catholics. What was Romero to do? He had been named archbishop in part due to strong support from the wealthy and the political leaders of the country because they believed he would support the status quo. They would soon be greatly disappointed. On March 12, Fr. Rutilio Grande, a Jesuit priest who was a friend of Romero’s, was murdered alongside two peasants as he was traveling to celebrate Mass in the small village of Aguilares. Fr. Grande had been committed to serving and upholding the rights of the poor—“subversive” activity that resulted in his being targeted by the government. Yet again, Romero was called to the site of a tragic murder. When Romero approached the three bodies that evening, he was devastated. He knew Fr. Grande. He knew he was a deeply faithful priest. Romero stood in silence for a long while. He didn’t know what to say or what to do. The campesinos of Aguilares spoke of Grande’s work and their trust that Jesus would continue to be with them. Romero listened carefully. He

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Romero’s heart was moved by the needs of his people.

spent time in the Adoration chapel. That week, he made a controversial announcement: all parish masses would be canceled the following Sunday. There would be one Mass, La Misa Unica, for the entire diocese at the cathedral. The Church would stand as one to affirm the witness of Fr. Grande. More than one hundred thousand people came to the cathedral that Sunday. Romero welcomed them and rejoiced in their presence. He urged them, “Remain united in the authentic truth of the gospel,” and he reassured them that he was with them. “The one who attacks one of my priests, attacks me.”

Romero: The Target. Over the next three years, Romero became a

passionate and courageous defender of the poor and oppressed. His popularity among the people grew tremendously. He had been transformed from a shy and timid man into a prophetic voice demanding more of his people and his country. Romero’s homilies became the country’s most popular radio program each week. It was said that you could walk through any small village in El Salvador and follow Romero’s homily as it emanated out of every window. Week after week, Romero proclaimed a consistent message. A society that does not defend the rights of the most vulnerable is not a Christian society; a society that does not defend the oppressed fails to reflect the light of Christ. And the Lent 2019 | 7 5

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same is true of the Church. Romero was uncompromising: “A Church that does not join the poor in order to speak out on behalf of the poor and against the injustices committed against them is not the true Church of Jesus Christ.” This preaching turned many people against Romero. The revolutionary movements criticized him for not supporting their calls for violence. In the early months of 1980, forces aligned with the government and the military made numerous threats on his life. Every time he got in a car, his life was at risk. But Romero refused offers to take sanctuary by leaving the country. He even told a newspaper reporter that if he was killed, he wanted his killers to know that he loved them and forgave them. Yet he was also afraid. During the first week of Lent, Romero went on a retreat and spent a great deal of time with his confessor. He lamented the divisions among the bishops of the country, some of whom had called for his removal. He sought guidance on how to better serve his priests. And he called upon God to be near him if his life came to a sudden end. He wrote in his diary that until then, “my principal concern will be to become more identified with Jesus each day.”

“I Beseech You . . . Stop!” On Saturday, March 22, Romero spent the evening discussing his next day’s homily with human rights lawyers and priests in the diocese. These friends told him that his message could be seen as treasonous but left it up to him to decide what he should say. As he often did on Saturday evenings, he spent much of the night in prayer. The next day he entered the cathedral resolute. At the conclusion of his lengthy homily on Christian salvation, he made an urgent plea to the armed forces of the nation. He called for them to obey their consciences, to obey the law of God rather than an unjust order to kill innocent campesinos. Strengthened by the applause within the cathedral, Romero slowly came to his final call: “In the name of God, and in the name of this suffering people, whose laments rise to heaven each day more tumultuous, I beg you, I beseech you, I order you in the name of God: Stop the repression!” With these words, Romero unknowingly triggered a plan that had long been brewing to kill him. The next evening, he was preaching at Mass at the hospice center where he lived. Remembering the witness of those who had already

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Alamy Stock Photo Romero met with Pope Paul VI in 1977 and 1978. The pope told him to be patient, to be strong, and to remain courageous.

died, he reminded his audience that every Christian must be willing to give up all for Christ. “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit,” he said (John 12:24). At the conclusion of his homily, a car pulled up outside the chapel. A military sharpshooter stepped out and shot Archbishop Romero at the altar. He died within minutes.

God Is with His Poor. Almost immediately after his death, Salvadorans declared him St. Romero of the Americas. Many people repeated the saying “In Archbishop Romero, God passed through El Salvador.” And on October 14, 2018, he was officially canonized by the Catholic Church.

Oscar Romero was a powerful voice against injustice. He drew close to those who suffered. He was moved by their stories and their faithfulness to Jesus. In a deeply divided nation, he said that the way forward to true unity was a deep and uncompromising commitment to the life of the poor. Romero’s life and death call for all Christians who find themselves in the midst of division to unite around a common concern for the poor and vulnerable. Coming closer to people who are suffering is a visible way to come closer to Jesus. “Fasting” from our anxieties, we make room to carry new burdens that Jesus allows us to carry so that his love can lift others up. n Todd Walatka teaches theology at the University of Notre Dame. Lent 2019 | 7 7

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Profile for The Word Among Us

The Word Among Us Lent 2019  

The Word Among Us Mass Readings Edition Lent 2019 (sample)

The Word Among Us Lent 2019  

The Word Among Us Mass Readings Edition Lent 2019 (sample)