February 21st, 2007 (see other dates)
Discussion Questions for Reading 1It is a Christian custom to "give up" something for Lent. This giving up is its own prayer. When we give up something simple like candy, ice cream, movies, or a favorite TV show, we do not do it to make ourselves miserable. We do it to remind ourselves that God and God?s way of love is more important than these things, that our main focus is on God. Help one another think of one thing to give up for Lent.
In addition to giving up something, like food or entertainment, Lent calls us to positive action. What can you do for Lent? Can you take care of your responsibilities at home without being reminded? Can you try to answer a request the first time rather than waiting to be asked again and again? Can you listen more and interrupt less when someone else is speaking? Help one another think of things to do for Lent.
Reading 1 Joel 2:12-18
Reading 1 ReflectionLent is the time of year when the entire Church throughout the world prepares for Easter. It is a time of renewal, when we all try to be more faithful to our baptismal promises. During Lent, we pray, we fast, and we give alms (money, food, or clothing) to our brothers and sisters in need.
In this first reading, we are told that the invitation to return to the Lord comes, not from ourselves, but from him. In our busy lives, we may lose our way. We let our priorities shift from God's priorities to our own less important, and sometimes self-serving, ones. During Lent, God invites us to come back to him and to his way of love and service to others.
Today we begin the outward signs of our desire for this inward turning toward God. The cross of ashes placed on our foreheads is a sign of turning to God in repentance for all we have not done or been. It is a sign of hope, too, that we will live by the gospel, the good news, from now on. Our abstaining from meat today and on the Fridays of Lent is another sign that we consider God and his ways more important than having "the best of everything" in this world.
In this reading, the prophet Joel assures us that God will bless us. Lent is a time to prepare our hearts to receive "the best of everything" God wants to give us, for God is gracious and merciful.
Discussion Questions for Reading 2Have you checked your "barrel" (your heart, spirit, attitudes, relationships) lately? Do you find any holes? What are they? (You need not say them aloud if you would rather not.) How will you go about the mission of reconciliation ("patching things up") this Lent?
Hint: Put aside an extra ten minutes for prayer. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you patch things up with others and within yourself! A helpful way to pray while at the computer is to go to www.jesuit.ie/prayer. This is a site called Sacred Space sponsored by the Jesuits in Ireland. A Scripture passage and a focus for meditation is given for each day. Try it!
Reading 2 2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2
Reading 2 ReflectionOnce, long ago, there was a farmer. His garden needed both sun and rain. But sometimes, for a week or two or sometimes three, it wouldn't rain at all. His garden would begin to wither. All the farmer could do was hope that the rains would come again. And they did! But he was wondering if there might be a better way to give his garden water more regularly. One day he had an idea. He would save some of the rain in a big barrel. Then, when it didn't rain, he could use the rainwater in the barrel to water the garden while he was waiting for more rain to fall.
He found an old steel drum in his barn. He put it outside to catch the rain. Little did he know, however, that at the very bottom of this barrel was a small hole. Every time it rained, he checked the barrel. It never filled up with rainwater! All that rain was not doing the farmer any good, because the water was seeping out the hole at the bottom. The barrel was receiving the rain in vain!
What do you think the farmer did? Of course, he got out his blow torch and patched the hole in the barrel! The rain is like God's grace. It is always there for us. But sometimes our hearts can't "catch it." Sometimes our hearts and spirits are like that barrel. They have spiritual "holes." Grace, the life and love of God, seems to go right through us without touching us or changing us. We are "receiving the grace of God in vain."
Lent is a time to take a good look at our hearts?our spirits, our attitudes, our ways of behaving toward others. To reconcile with someone is to "patch things up." Let's look at the holes in our lives, in our hearts, in our relationships with God and others. Let's patch them up this Lent. (We can ask the Holy Spirit, the fire of God?s love, to help us.) Then, when God gives grace, we will be open to receive it in all its fullness. We will not be receiving the grace of God in vain.
Discussion Questions for GospelWhen someone speaks too much about the good things they do, it is called "boasting." We do need to know that what we do is good. We do need to know our gifts and talents. We need to know the truth about ourselves. But boasting is done to show off, to try to impress others, or even to lead others to feel envious or less talented. Do you detect boasting in yourself? Tell yourself the truth about yourself. When you talk with others, of course tell them the truth, too. Then say to that person, "Tell me what you are good at or what you like to do." This is a way of sharing.
Do you detect boasting in others? Sometimes people feel they have to "toot their own horn" because no one appreciates what they do. For the next few days, look carefully around your group. Try to notice the good things others do. Try to "toot someone else's horn" whenever possible. You may find that someone will be tooting your horn, too!
Thanking others for the good things they do might be a good positive action for Lent!
Gospel Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18
Gospel ReflectionUsually every song has a refrain. This is the part that is repeated over after each verse. It carries the main theme of the song. This gospel has a refrain. It is repeated after each of Jesus' examples of prayer or good works. The refrain is: "Your Father who sees in secret will repay you."
God our Father sees us all the time, and he sees us with love. This is why we cannot judge one another. We could never see as God sees. We cannot see someone's intentions. We cannot see anyone's heart. But God can. And during Lent, we try to open our hearts to God more and more.
This is why anything we do?even good things, like prayer or giving up things?just to impress others is a complete waste of time and energy. It does not matter what others see on the outside. It only matters what God sees on the inside. God knows when we try to think and act out of love. He knows when we try hard to do right. And he will repay us?with love and joy and happiness inside, in our hearts.
Proclaiming Faith Activities for Primary Grades
Way of the CrossReproduce the cross for each child. Explain that the Liturgical Season of Lent is a time when we focus on Jesus' life and sacrifice. Tell the children that each day of Lent, they must give up something special or do something extra. Each day after doing this, encourage the children to color in one section of the cross. After forty days, the cross will be complete.
Class Prayer BookLent is a time when we are called to spend more time in prayer. Make a class prayer book. Give each child an 8 ½" by 11" piece of white paper. Have him/her write the names of or draw pictures of people that they want to pray for. Collect the pages and make a book by punching holes and placing them in a binder. Throughout the season of Lent, offer prayers as a class for these people.
Proclaiming Faith Activities
A Lenten DecisionMake a Lenten decision card for yourself. Write your name on a 3 x 5 index card. Below it write, "For Lent, I am giving up . . . ." (Fill in the blank.) Then write, "For Lent, I will make a positive effort to . . . ." (Fill in the blank.)
Jesus told us to keep our good deeds secret, but you may show your card to one other person. Ask this person (a parent, a grandparent, aunt, uncle, or a good friend) to encourage you and to remind you to act on your decisions each day.
The Focus is JesusTo keep your focus on Jesus during Lent, make this Lenten calendar.
On an 81/2 x 11-inch piece of paper, draw a border with two parallel lines around the edge. In the middle of the paper, draw the name of Jesus down the middle of the page in capital letters.
There are six Sundays of Lent. On the first Sunday of Lent, color in the border of the page. On each of the following Sundays, look at one letter of Jesus' name. Find a word to use as a watchword during that week of Lent. It must have one of the letters of Jesus' name in it. For example, for the first week, you might choose JOY. Add O and Y to the J in Jesus. (The letter in Jesus can come in any part of your word. It does not have to be the first letter.) Keep this in a place where you can see it easily every day.
When you see it, pray, "Jesus, help me to follow you more closely during Lent. Help me to open my heart. Amen."
For Bibles and other scripture resources, please see the Sadlier Religion Catalog.
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