Lenten Reflection Series: Abandoning Our Digital Idols

Throughout the season of Lent, we’re featuring the Millennial Lenten Reflection Series, co-sponsored by Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good and Franciscan Mission Service. Each small reflection will be written by a young person, focusing on that day’s Mass reading. You can sign up for the series here.

Today’s Gospel is a simple, straightforward exchange between Jesus and a scribe—you could almost call it “The Commandments for Dummies.”

There are two commandments that stick out before all the others: honor your one and only God and no other, and love your neighbor as you love yourself. We have taught our children from day one to treat others as they would like to be treated, and, for the most part, the Golden Rule stays with us well into adulthood. But honoring no other God but ours sometimes gets away from us, it seems.

We are so constantly distracted by texting, tweeting a play-by-play of our day, or binge-watching Netflix that we have basically turned our phones into modern-day deities. I’m just as guilty as anyone else of this, constantly watching and rewatching shows.

But there is no better time to question where our attention is going than Lent. Instead of being glued inches away from anything with a digital screen, take a step back and realize these things in our hands are distractions and often lead to temptation, and they don’t forgive sins. Only God can do that. Show Him a little extra love instead of creeping on Facebook for the hundredth time.

Nate Marsh is the communications associate at Franciscan Mission Service in Washington, DC. He is a 2014 graduate of La Roche College in Pittsburgh, PA.


Lenten Reflection Series: Looking Both Inward and Outward During Lent

Throughout the season of Lent, we’re featuring the Millennial Lenten Reflection Series, co-sponsored by Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good and Franciscan Mission Service. Each small reflection will be written by a young person, focusing on that day’s Mass reading. You can sign up for the series here.

For much of Lent, our attention is turned inward as we examine our sins and ask God to remold our hearts. While this internal examination is important, today’s first reading invites us to broaden the scope of our reflection. Moses tells the Israelites that Yahweh’s laws are perfectly just and that in abiding by them, their wisdom will be evident to all nations.

Moses’ declaration makes us examine how we’re seen by other nations. Is our nation known for its just policies? How would our allies—or even our enemies—describe us?

What about our Church? Are we known as welcoming or exclusive? Are we known for our efforts to protect the vulnerable?

If the institutions of which we are a part—our businesses, schools, cities, nations, and Church—are not known for their promotion of justice, then we must hold them accountable; we must become involved in our communities, build relationships with our lawmakers, and become active members of our churches to bring our world closer to God’s perfect justice. This Lent, may we not only look inward but also outward and take action to better promote God’s wisdom and justice in our world.

Rachel Malinowski is a third-year Master of Divinity candidate at Yale Divinity School and an alumna of Fordham University. Her primary areas of interest are the Catholic social tradition and faith formation.


Lenten Reflection Series: How Committed Do I Really Need To Be?

Throughout the season of Lent, we’re featuring the Millennial Lenten Reflection Series, co-sponsored by Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good and Franciscan Mission Service. Each small reflection will be written by a young person, focusing on that day’s Mass reading. You can sign up for the series here.

The question posed to Jesus in today’s Gospel speaks to our Lenten journey. We’re in the third week, we’re starting to get cranky without chocolate, and wouldn’t it be nice just to sing the Gloria in mass? Just once?

Peter asks, “How often must I forgive?” Now, weeks into this Lent, we might be asking “How committed do I really need to be?”

The answer is unequivocal: We must learn from the Lord and be truly 100% committed to walking in Jesus’ example. No, we can’t sing the Gloria. Rather than allowing ourselves a small respite from our chocolate-less existence, we must redouble our efforts towards not just our own self-sacrifices, but to the sacrifices the Lord asks of us.

In a time of strife for the Jewish people, “brought low” by sin, Azariah pleads with the Lord to accept merely their presence and “unreserved” following as appropriate sacrifice. Indeed, by the end of Deuteronomy, the Jews have been shown mercy and found the Promised Land.

To find the same in our own lives, to remove the desert from our own hearts, we must remain committed during the struggles of Lent and through those of the rest of our year. Not seven but seventy-seven times shall we reinforce within ourselves that we follow the Lord “unreservedly” and seek to be fully present with God.

Matthew Gritzmacher is a freelance writer.


Lenten Reflection Series: Ready and Willing to Welcome Jesus?

Throughout the season of Lent, we’re featuring the Millennial Lenten Reflection Series, co-sponsored by Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good and Franciscan Mission Service. Each small reflection will be written by a young person, focusing on that day’s Mass reading. You can sign up for the series here.

For Christians all over the world, Lent is a season of prayer, almsgiving, penance, and repentance. In short, it is a time of preparation.

In today’s readings, we see Jesus proclaim, in a sense, his mission statement.

Jesus spoke of extending the boundaries of his mission past what the crowd had anticipated. The people of his hometown, Nazareth, wanted to see miracles done in their own backyard. I don’t blame them.These people had been waiting for the promised Messiah to come, just as generations had before them.

At some point, however, the crowd lost sight of the object of their hope. Their preparation had become warped, disconnected from reality, and we have something to learn from them.

Lent is a time to “forfeit,” a time to work on our posture of waiting in anticipation of the coming of Christ. This is why Lent is so special.

In this Lenten season, do the practices you participate in re-center you? Would you be ready and willing to welcome Jesus in his hometown?

What will your response be when Jesus meets you this Lenten season in unexpected ways?

Cassandra Kienbaum is a follower of Christ, advocate for the homeless, and the Programs Assistant at Catholic Volunteer Network.


Lenten Reflection Series: Continuing to Build the Kingdom of God

Throughout the season of Lent, we’re featuring the Millennial Lenten Reflection Series, co-sponsored by Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good and Franciscan Mission Service. Each small reflection will be written by a young person, focusing on that day’s Mass reading. You can sign up for the series here.

In today’s Gospel, I hear loud voices of men bartering in the temple intermingled with sheep ba-ing, oxen bellowing, and doves coo-ing. Sand and dust swirl around the temple.

I see Jesus entering, his countenance changed; is it astonishment, rage, pity? He overturns the exchangers’ tables that land with a loud thud; the coins tinkle mid-air before scattering on the floor. Moneychangers and animals alike rush out of the temple.

Jesus rebukes the men, “Stop making my Father’s house a market place.” Jesus says if this temple is destroyed he can raise it in three days. But the men do not comprehend Jesus’ words. How can that be when it has taken 47 years to construct?

This exchange reminds me of another misunderstood message from Jesus to the young St. Francis of Assisi. Praying in a dilapidated church, Francis hears Jesus command, “Francis, go rebuild my Church.” Francis takes this command literally and rebuilds the church. Francis comes to understand that Jesus is really asking him to rebuild his spiritual church, something that we are called to do each day.

During this Lenten season let us keep sacred our Father’s house by praying, fasting, and giving alms, and commit to continuing to build the Kingdom of God on earth.

Colleen Kerrisk is the Assistant Director for Ignatian Programs and Retreats at Georgetown University. She served two years in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps in L.A. and D.C.


Lenten Reflection Series: Don’t Worry, Act Faithfully

Throughout the season of Lent, we’re featuring the Millennial Lenten Reflection Series, co-sponsored by Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good and Franciscan Mission Service. Each small reflection will be written by a young person, focusing on that day’s Mass reading. You can sign up for the series here.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life…Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?” (Matthew 6:25).

In today’s Gospel, the rich man ‘did not worry’ and was wealthy in his lifetime.  Although Lazarus was his neighbor, he ‘did not worry’ about Lazarus, who suffered incredibly during his lifetime. Ultimately, where Lazarus and the rich man ended up were as different as heaven and hell, literally.

‘Do not worry’ does not mean to be complacent—quite the opposite.  God calls us to love unconditionally.  This means to be on the side of justice and compassion.  It means our hearts break open and we respond to injustice so that neither Lazarus nor the rich man suffers.

We don’t do this for an eternal reward, just as the rich man didn’t ignore Lazarus because he wanted to suffer eternally.  We do this because we know our small part matters in God’s grand story.  We know that how we live indicates what happens after, so we do not worry about what happens after—that’s God’s job.  Our job is to be present, pray, reflect, and act. The rest is up to God.

Do not worry.

Marcia Lee is co-director of Cap Corps Midwest, a program of the Capuchin Franciscans. Participants live intentionally with each other and work with non-profits based in the United States and Latin America.  She is also a restorative justice practitioner, loves Detroit, and works to create a more just and compassionate world.


Lenten Reflection Series: Do Not Be Afraid

Throughout the season of Lent, we’re featuring the Millennial Lenten Reflection Series, co-sponsored by Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good and Franciscan Mission Service. Each small reflection will be written by a young person, focusing on that day’s Mass reading. You can sign up for the series here.

Fear is an emotion I know well.

I feel afraid daily living as a Franciscan lay missioner here in Cochabamba, Bolivia. I am afraid of being known as imperfect. I am afraid of being vulnerable. I am afraid of being humiliated.

Because it is difficult to live in a foreign culture, to speak a second language, and to move far away from everyone I know and everyone who knows me.

In today’s Gospel, we hear that ever-so-important reminder from the angel Gabriel to Mary, “Do not be afraid.”

And when I hear those words, they encourage me in my own journey.

I know I am afraid but I also know the grace of consolation, the mystery of the spirit moving within me and those around me, and the beauty of the way we can open up to one another and connect when we are at our most imperfect, vulnerable and humiliated.

And I feel connected to Mary, full of fear of the life she is called to live.

I feel connected both to her fear and her faith.

Consolation has given me the courage to confront my fears and the faith to trust in the mystery of how my fears have introduced me to growth.

Annemarie Barrett is a native of the Midwest who has been living in solidarity as a Franciscan lay missioner with Franciscan Missioner Service in Cochabamba, Bolivia since January 2013. Please feel free to read my Franciscan blog here.