Lenten Reflection Series: Christ is Alive. Alleluia!

Just as those first rays of sun illuminated the empty tomb that resurrection day, may You, God, come and light my soul. Drive out the darkness of doubt and warm the stone of my heart.

Work your miracle in me: Help me to truly rise with Christ today and everyday.

Take this weary person and remind me that I am one of the Easter people.

Cast off all that binds me. Liberate me! Tear away all that shrouds my vision so that I can finally see all of creation—and myself—through your loving eyes.

Breathe new life into me. A heart that beats with compassion for my brothers and sisters. Hands animated to work for peace and justice. Feet ready to follow. Laughter bubbling up until it bursts forth from my lips in joyful invitation, a testimony to Your goodness.

Light! Love! Joy! It is a new day.

Christ is alive. I am alive. Alleluia!

Bridget Higginbotham is the communications manager and former Nonprofit Servant Leadership associate at Franciscan Mission Service.

Lenten Reflection Series: That We All Might Be One

Perhaps the most radical Christian belief is a belief in the equal and innate dignity and worth of every single person. It subverts every cultural, historical, and biological form of unjust prejudice. St. Paul articulates it clearly in saying, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Of course, the history of prejudice and inequality, of dehumanization and depersonalization is long and ugly, and the struggle in our culture and within our faith to accept this belief and translate it fully into just practices persists to this day.

But today’s Gospel shows that this mission, so integral to building the kingdom of God, so radical and subversive, has been with the Church since the beginning. St. Mary Magdalene, the apostle to the apostles, who remains courageous and faithful during the Passion and after the death of Christ while others are afraid and dejected, is the first to hear of the resurrection. Immediately after, we hear from Mark that she is the first to see Christ after the resurrection. In an unquestionably patriarchal society, Christ first appears to a woman to reveal the most important news in human history: death has been conquered. The hope of redemption, the hope of eternal life, the hope of communion with God and one another—all of these are found in the resurrection. And this is not just a message for men or the strong or members of a certain race or ethnicity; it offers universal hope and a universal call to embrace the love that shatters all unjust prejudice and discrimination so that we might all be one.

Lenten Reflection Series: The Redemptive Power of Christ and the Cross

Today Christians around the world commemorate the death of Jesus on a Friday we so strangely call good. On his journey to the cross, Jesus experiences the fullness of human dysfunction: greed, jealousy, disloyalty, fear, abandonment, and death itself.

We too experience this in our own flesh. Good Friday allows us to admit our own destructiveness, our own vanity, and our own failures. Too often we have built our lives on the misfortunes of others. Too often we have preached peace and justice for the world, but have practiced hate and indifference in our own homes and communities. And too often we have ignored the suffering of our families, our friends, and our neighbors because of how busy we imagine ourselves to be.But Jesus enters into all of this to save all of it. Christianity is a human encounter with a person who endured temptation, suffering, and death on a cross to redeem every man, woman, and child.

Today, the Church invites to undertake the paschal mystery of Jesus, a journey that includes the cross. The road is uncomfortable, but it isn’t sterile. With Jesus, we can change, turn around, and be converted. And with his cross, our Easter joy can be complete.

This reflection​ is partially excerpted from an essay the author wrote​for TIME on April 18, 2014​.​

Lenten Reflection Series: The Source and Summit of the Christian Life

Tonight we begin the Triduum. Tonight we gather together in remembrance of Christ. Tonight we celebrate the institution of the Paschal Meal and join in the Supper of the Lamb. This meal is what the Church has called the “the source and summit of the Christian life” (c.f. Lumen Gentium, 11), so it is important to reflect on what it means.

Our readings today help root the meal in its context within the Hebrew Bible, the Passover meal. In this meal, the Israelites gathered together to eat, to watch, and to pray as they prepared for God to deliver them from slavery. The blood of the lamb marked their homes and saved their children from death. In Ex 12:4, God commands that the meal be offered with generosity. The poor must be invited in. A man’s neighbor becomes his responsibility. The one with more was called to invite in the one who had less.

This reminds us today that to eat at the supper of the lamb is to come with open hands. Ready to give and ready to receive. Tonight Christ bends down to wash our feet and invites us to imitate his posture.

Lenten Reflection Series: Into the Hands of the Father

“What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?” (Matt 26:14)

I often wonder how Judas was so ready to give away his friend so quickly. It’s been said that thirty pieces of silver back then would be about the equivalent to four or five hundred American dollars today.  Was it worth it?

Doubt strikes fear in the heart, but trust breeds courage.  St. Francis of Assisi, a great sign of contradiction even today, stripped himself of everything—including his clothing, and out of joy gave himself totally to God.  Being the son of a wealthy cloth merchant, I imagine his outfit probably cost about several hundred dollars.  Francis did for Jesus what Judas couldn’t bring himself to do: place his life entirely into the hands of the Father.

This “seraphic courage,” a courage and trust that the angels possess, is what we’re called to adopt as we begin the holiest week of the year.  Let’s let go of the frustration from our habitual sins, our hurts, our failed Lenten practices, and our constant need for control.  Allow the Resurrection to be the word that rouses our hearts (Is 50:4) to seraphic courage this Easter.

Br. Brian Stacy, OFM Cap., is a solemnly professed Capuchin Franciscan of the Province of St. Augustine.  He’s currently finishing his last year of studies for the M.Div. program at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

Lenten Reflection Series: Doing God’s Will, Pursuing Justice

My mouth shall declare your justice, day by day your salvation (Psalm 71: 15).

During this Lenten season, we are asked to reflect on the times we have failed to uphold the morals that we are supposed to value above all else. In today’s reading in particular, we are reminded of the painful betrayal that is about to be carried out by Judas and Peter’s denial of Jesus and his teachings.

How hurt Jesus must have been, knowing that his closest followers and friends would soon deceive and deny him, leading him to his fate. This makes me think of times when I have not carried out what God calls me to do.

Did I purposefully avoid eye contact with a homeless man on the street? Should I have intervened when I overheard someone’s derogatory remarks?

God calls us to declare and establish justice. By denying this or betraying it, we can’t be fulfilled.

In addition to giving up time on social media or reducing chocolate intake for our Lenten promise, I challenge us all to be mindful of ways that we can spread God’s justice, by standing up for the most marginalized among us.

Elizabeth Nye (@elizabeth_nye) is the Advocacy Associate at the Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach, representing the Columban Fathers in Washington, DC on  issues such as immigration reform, environmental conservation, economic justice, and peace. You can follow their work on Facebook and Twitter @Columban_Advocac.

Lenten Reflection Series: Playing Our Role

Jesus’ hour has almost come; the actors are ready to play their roles and the show is about to go on. With only six days before the great celebration, which role will you play?

There is Martha, giving of herself in joyful service, waiting on the needs of the Lord and the people of God. Mary, sacrificing her time, talent, and treasure to please the Lord. Judas, outwardly standing with Jesus in His mission, but secretly focused only on himself. And finally, Lazarus, transformed and saved by Jesus, standing by Him to share in his persecution.

What’s amazing about this story is that, even though each person does not work in the same way or even for Jesus’ benefit, Jesus is able to use each of them to fulfill his mission. There is great comfort in this—that He is in control, not me. There is great joy in this—that I am a part of salvation history, not just watching.

Br. Casey Cole, OFM, is a temporary professed Franciscan Friar studying at the Catholic University of America and is the writer of the blog Breaking In The Habit.