14 February 2021
Lent 2021 – A Journey
Brothers and Sisters,
Each Lent, we set upon a short journey, 46 days. We commit to practice prayer, penance, and fasting. As individuals and families, we hope to strengthen our faith, reducing the grip that sin has on our lives, and become more aware of God’s graces. As we do such it is important to recall we are not the center of this season. God is. We should not place our growth as our primary focus – change will not come by our sheer will power or following our plans’ timing and designs. Grace is necessary; a pure, unearned gift. The gift of the Lord’s presence, holding on to us.
Throughout Lent, we encourage parishioners and families, small groups and ministries, to reflect with eyes of faith upon our God. Allow God to place his name upon our hearts and on our tongues, eager to invoke him. Connect with the Lord. Our goal is not the amount of time but daily mindfulness, where we practice our sight and engage our ears to be aware of the Lord. And as we lose focus, ask for help… keep asking for help.
The God We Believe In, A God Who Saves
Let the truth, God saves wash over you, comfort you, and strengthen you! While this year has included many emotions, like overwhelmed, frustrated, confused, lonely or sad, our God has remained true, constant and present.
When we spend time with our Lord in prayer, we get glimpses of God’s grace and His blessings. A grateful attitude wells up from within. God is still ever-present and close at hand. And whose name should we call upon? Jesus. His name means, “God saves.” And when we are in need of a savior, Jesus is ready during our times of anxiety.
It is for this reason, we encourage you to strengthen or commit to daily prayerful life during our season of Lent. To help guide you we offer a daily (or weekly) plan which flows out of the daily scripture readings with an integration of the Creed.
The Daily (or Weekly) Plan
- Invoke the power of God’s Name
- Pray through daily scripture & OLPH Lenten Reflections
- Pray the Creed
- Thank the God who reveals himself and loves us
- GO DEEPER – Study a paragraph of the Catechism
Invoke the Name of God. Names are powerful. Allow God to choose a name that he places on your heart and use it for him throughout Lent. As our Lenten journey advances, the name we use might change. That’s ok. It may be a name known in Scriptures or one personal to us, like: Beloved, Father, Comforter or Counselor. Maybe we borrow from the Creed and use an attribute of the Lord we seek to know– such as his love. Whichever you choose, don’t simply utter the name. Pray the name, allowing the focus to remain with God. We know the power of God’s name as the meanings associated with Biblical names. Michael means “Who is like God?” which serves as a statement of humility against the pride of the fallen angel, Lucifer. Adam means “from the ground,” signifying his creation, and Eve points to the gift of life as “a living being.” Yet no name is more powerful than the name of our Lord and Messiah. Therefore, as you open your time in prayer with a fervent heart, call upon your God to be with you, BY NAME.
Pray through Scripture. We encourage a focus on the daily scripture readings of Lent because the Word of God feeds and nourishes us. Consider praying with one or all of the daily readings throughout Lent. To deepen our response to Scripture, our staff has crafted daily reflections inspired through personal prayer. Use these as a diving board to jump into reflection, prayer, and further discussion. Then consider the Faith In Action Suggestion for the day. Perhaps carve out 20-30 minutes each morning for this time of prayer and allow how the Lord guides you through his word to set the course for your day.
As you pray through Scripture, be reminded of our focus, God Saves. And along the way to salvation, Jesus draws near, reveals the love of God the Father, our Creator, and sends the Holy Spirit to dwell with us – to unite us in communion with God. The Word spiritual sustenance for our work – of personal conversion and ongoing building of God’s kingdom. Lent is first about Christ with him at the center. But his drawing near calls us to grow in holiness and virtue. Allow God’s Word to reveal the graces given to us, the gifts entrusted to us. Accept that Holy Word convicts us, calling us to perfection by showing our sin and the attachment to vices. The Word heals. The Word strengthens.
Pray the Creed In response to God’s Word, we pray the Creed. Formally, there is no introduction nor prompting from the presider. The Creed is intended as an impromptu (albeit prescribed) response from our hearing God’s Word and encountering him in that Word made Flesh. I believe. It’s similar to our Amen at the Eucharist – our profound affirmation of belief. Collectively, I believe the Scripture – I believe the God who reveals himself. I trust. And while none of us would claim our belief to be a mandate of complete trust or that we rarely experience moments of curiosity or doubt. Still, we affirm what the Church has come to understand and that which the Church ever seeks a deeper understanding of an unsolvable mystery to the human mind. We cannot know God. Yet we do – because God chooses to give us this knowledge.
The Church formally maintains both the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed (often referred to as the Nicene Creed). At Mass, we will pray the Nicene Creed during Lent and the Apostles’ Creed in Easter. The formulation of the Apostles’ Creed though not documented, is a simpler expression of belief. Several ancient Church authors mention the Apostles’ Creed – and there is a definite possibility that the version we state today was not finalized till centuries later than its earliest editions. It is powerful to remember that despite threats, early Christians proclaimed these creeds and at times met martyrdom as a result.
Thank the God Who Reveals Himself and Loves Us.
In gratitude for all he has done for us, not just 2000 years ago, yet today, while in our midst, let us Praise his Name. Offer thanks to our Lord. Close your time of prayer, with a simple prayer of gratitude from your heart, knowing that every good blessing is from the Lord and praiseworthy. Your prayer may be as simple as these words: “Lord, save me.” or “Help us – help my family.” or “Jesus.” or “Thank You.” The name of Jesus suffices when we cannot put words to our prayer. He remains transcendent, beyond our full understanding. He is “God with us,” a truly “beloved friend.”
Go Deeper – If your day permits and you would like to take a deeper dive, each week, sections of the Catechism will be offered. An alternative is to watch the series Symbolon (found on formed.org) which goes through the Creed and breaks open each segment of our belief.
Focus on the Lord – A Short Encouragement
As the winds stirred and the waves pounding upon their boat, the disciples caught a glimpse of Jesus walking on water. Of course, they do not recognize him at first. We likely have had a similar experience where we only recognize the Lord when he’s already in our midst, or at times, our understanding is received in hindsight.
In a moment of profound faith, Peter hears the words of Christ, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid,” and is encouraged to step away from the safety of his boat and join Jesus on top of the water. His focus lasts for but a moment, and when he loses it, he begins to sink.
Sieger Koder, a German priest and artist, captured this moment in his painting, “Stronghold,” (click here for image) where we notice the disciples gazing from the boat at this incredible scene. They have yet to overcome their fear with their friend Peter submerged, crying out to the Lord, “Lord, save me!” And the Lord does just that. He grasps the hands of Peter and will not let go.
Koder’s captured moment is beautiful to reflect upon. If we feel the pressures of life, experiencing doubt, worry, or anxiety, if we are struggling to accept God’s providence – that God has a plan and is caring for us, then we ought to call out to our savior. Like Peter, we may have caught a glimpse of the Lord or heard his comforting words, even with distorted vision or muffled voice, Christ is with us. Our Lord is reaching out to offer us a firm Grasp to hold.
As a parish, let us aim to place God – Father, Son, Spirit – at the center of our focus. Our Lenten focus as a parish is to open up the beauty of the Creed, line by line, week by week. Let us draw in and be caressed by the image of God. The sufferings, the pains, the loss, the heartaches, the failures, and even more so, the success and pleasures of life can distort our image of God. God is not vindictive. God is not petty. God is not distant. God always saves.
Let us also entrust our prayers to Mary under her title of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. She trusted in God’s will and will aid our vision of God, helping us to enter into the same mysteries – as Jesus approaches us and the Holy Spirit dwells with us.
In this year dedicated to St. Joseph, let us ask his intercession as well. Joseph may have been deceased before Jesus’ ministry began and did not witness in person Jesus’ passion, but Joseph has immense compassion and understanding. He is a protector and caregiver. May our prayers unite us with Jesus and with all his followers who are bearing the cross this Lent.
Our Lady of Perpetual Help, pray for us.
St. Joseph, pray for us.
Live Jesus in our hearts, forever.
Rev. Michael S. Triplett