Tag: Lent

Abide with the Lord

Lent begins this month, which makes it a perfect time to share the following reflections by Ralph Martin, on resting—abiding—with the Lord. The following article is compiled from a talk that Ralph originally shared at a recent Renewal Ministries’ staff retreat.

Why do we have this time on earth? We are here to get ready to be with Jesus. To prepare to be with our Lord, we must strive “for the holiness without which nobody will see the Lord” (Heb 12:14).

Sometimes we miss how clear and absolute what Jesus says is. An essential aspect of striving for holiness is “abiding in the Lord”—simply being present with Jesus.

Picture an image of the beloved disciple John resting his head on Jesus. What amazing confidence in His trustworthiness, fidelity, loyalty, and love! Only the love of God is perfectly reliable—something we can rest the whole weight of our lives on. God wants us to live in surrender, confidence, and trust. In order to do this, we must take the time to be attentive to the Lord, to be in His presence.

Christ loved the Church by sacrificing Himself for us so He could present Himself wholly and without blemish—and He asks us to love in this same way. To live in this way, we must tap into the supernatural. He says, “apart from me, you can do nothing” (Jn 15:5). Thankfully, He also says, “for God all things are possible” (Mt 19:26).

However, while we must offer the Lord all of our loaves and fishes (Mt 14:17-18), we also must then dispose ourselves to God’s action; we can’t try to force God’s action. We must be open to receive from the Lord, instead of taking, even the good things that we think may be His will for us. This is why it is important to work from our rest, from our abiding with Jesus. We need to act in a way that allows God’s power to come into our actions. Abiding has value.

The Lord wants to be close to us. He had us in mind before He created the universe. He really chooses us. “He destined us in love to be His sons” (Eph 1:5). He created us to be holy and to love. Ultimately, there is no other vocation than holiness and love.

In order to live this way, we must get clear in our thinking. We must be sober. As 1 Peter 1:13 says, “Therefore gird up your minds, be sober, set your hope fully upon the grace that is coming to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Christian hope, hope in Jesus, consists of sins forgiven, death overcome, eternal life, and union with God. The gift that’s coming to us is the gift for which we were created—perfect love and community.

Consider the simplicity of it all: Fatima, Guadalupe, and Lourdes—the mysterious action of God. At Lourdes, our Blessed Mother appeared to a fourteen-year-old girl, Bernadette, in a difficult family situation, in dire poverty, living in an old jail cell that was not fit for prisoners. She appeared to Bernadette eighteen times and eventually described herself as the “Immaculate Conception,” which indicates our Blessed Mother’s conception without sin, a title that the Church had given her only four years before the appearances at Lourdes. Bernadatte was uneducated and could not read or write; as her local priest later wrote, “She could never have invented this.”

After one of the apparitions, in which our Blessed Mother asked Bernadette to dig in the ground for a spring and to wash her face, Bernadette both humiliated herself by covering her face with mud as she drank and uncovered a spring that had not been known to previously exist. People continue to flock to Lourdes today, and many healings have been attributed to their prayers at the waters there.

After each of her visits with the “Beautiful Lady”—which is how Bernadette originally described our Blessed Mother—Bernadette’s own face was transformed and radiant with joy. Lourdes is not heavy on messages—it’s heavy on the reality and beauty of heaven and the supernatural. Bernadette would bow down to the ground and show profound reverence for the holiness of heaven revealing itself. She also made the Sign of the Cross with such reverence that it showed the holiness of the Trinity.

After the last apparition, Bernadette stayed in Lourdes another eight years and became illuminated every time she told the story of Mary’s appearances. She eventually joined a convent and lived a quiet life of prayer and suffering. Bernadette experienced ill health throughout the rest of her life and died at age thirty-five. In fact, our Blessed Mother had told Bernadette that she did “not promise to make (her) happy in this life, but in the next.” Now, almost 140 years later, Bernadette’s body remains incorrupt.

Much of Mary’s message at Lourdes was personal to Bernadette, about Bernadette joining her suffering to the suffering of Christ for the salvation of souls. However, Mary also called all of us to penance, penance, penance—prayer and sacrifice, just like in Fatima.

The last time Bernadette saw Mary was from across a river, because she couldn’t go to the grotto. For fifteen minutes, Bernadette said “all Mary did was look at me with love, and I’ve never seen her so beautiful.”

How often do we take time to abide with the Lord and ask Him to show us His love for us—to look at us with love? That is the only way we can go forward in His will, better loving Him and others.

Bernadette’s simplicity should reinforce our understanding of the fact that, unless you become like a little child, you will not enter the kingdom of God. Being like a little child affects our ability to receive the word He speaks to us. Let’s keep pressing on while resting in the heart of Jesus, allowing Him to little by little transform us into His likeness.

Rest in Him. Abide in Him. Be a child.

The Fruit of Fasting

All of us are praying for people—for healing, for conversion, for a good job, for a good marriage, for financial provision, and many other intentions as well! In my own life, I’ve often noticed an acceleration in answered prayer for specific intentions when I’ve added fasting to my prayer. It is something that the early Christians practiced regularly and something that Mary in some of her apparitions has encouraged us to do. And now Lent becomes an opportunity for us all to join fasting to our prayer.

Not all of us can fast from food because of health conditions (although that is the primary meaning of fasting), but all of us can fast from something significant that really counts as a sacrifice. Is it media? Deserts? Eating between meals? Putting sugar in our coffee or tea? Going to movies?

We all should keep Mark 9:14-29 in mind this Lent (you can find it below.) Some oppressive holds on people and situations only yield to prayer and fasting. And that’s good news. There’s a certain pain to fasting and a fleshly reluctance to do so, but once we do, let’s do it with joy and experience the intensification of our prayer and the joy of being willing to suffer a little for those we love.

The Healing of a Boy with a Spirit

“And when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd about them, and scribes arguing with them. And immediately all the crowd, when they saw him, were greatly amazed, and ran up to him and greeted him. And he asked them,

‘What are you discussing with them?’ 

And one of the crowd answered him,

‘Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a dumb spirit; and wherever it seizes him, it dashes him down; and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid; and I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.’ 

And he answered them,

‘O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.’ 

And they brought the boy to him; and when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. And Jesus asked his father,

‘How long has he had this?’

And he said,

‘From childhood. And it has often cast him into the fire and into the water, to destroy him; but if you can do anything, have pity on us and help us.’ 

And Jesus said to him,

‘If you can! All things are possible to him who believes.’ 

Immediately the father of the child cried out and said,

‘I believe; help my unbelief!’ 

And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it,

‘You dumb and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him, and never enter him again.’ 

And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse; so that most of them said,

‘He is dead.’ 

But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately,

‘Why could we not cast it out?’ 

And he said to them,

‘This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer and fasting.’”

(Mk 9:14-29)


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Live Lent Differently

Live Lent Different

Too often, we associate Lent with negative images that involve, in different ways, giving up something. Meanwhile, most of us have a hard time wanting to give up anything.

I encourage you to live this Lent in a manner that may be different than what you have done before:

  • Take the first two weeks of Lent (Feb. 14-28) to think about the love God has for you. Read carefully, slowly, the Gospel of John, Chapters 14-17. I urge you, if you can, to read those four chapters out loud in some quiet space. (Receiving the Word through two senses—sight and hearing—helps the truth penetrate our hearts.)
  • Take the second two-week period of Lent (March 1-14) to look at the Gospel of Matthew and read aloud Chapters 25 and 26.
  • Take roughly the last two weeks, from March 15-24, to read the Gospel of Mark, Chapters 14 and 15.
  • In the last week—Holy Week—pay attention to the selected readings for the Mass of the Day.

One major step that can help you receive the Word of God and know God’s presence more than ever before is this: Consider putting some restrictions on yourself regarding your use of cell phones and other media devices during Lent. If you want a genuine personal relationship with God, you need time to be still and listen to God as He speaks to you in the Scriptures. Remember, His Word is “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword” (Heb 4:12). His Word convicts, counsels, and consoles. Give God room to move in your life and heart this Lent!

As you read each of these Scripture passages, pause and ask yourself how God is showing His Love for you! Remember, He did not die for crowds of people—He died for you. In His living Word, God wants to touch your heart with the realization that when He died on that cross, He already knew you. He wanted to obey the Father that you might be with Him forever. You were on His mind when He died on that cross, though you had not yet been created. (With God there are no time limits; God has no limits).

Ask God for the grace to receive and accept His love for you! Ask God to give you the grace to renew your promises to Him or to make your personal commitment to follow Him for the first time. Talk to Him about wanting to be more His son or daughter. Talk to Him about wanting to thank Him for all He has done for you. Tell Him you want to follow Him more closely. Ask Him to help you make a decision or two that will assist you in living out your relationship with God as both your Father and Savior.

Remember God hears every word of every prayer you pray—of every word you speak. Give Him your mind and your heart and ask Him to lead you in the ways He wants you to go.

If you live Lent this way, and if you make a good confession during Lent, you will come to see, by His grace, how dearly He loves you and wants to walk closely with you from now until eternity.


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Consider Motives When Serving Others

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The following article by Sr. Ann Shields originally appeared in the March 2017 issue of Faith, a magazine published by the Diocese of Lansing, Michigan.

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.

Continue reading here.

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