February 14th, 2016, First Sunday of Lent
Discussion Questions for Reading 1Remembering the story of God's people?our story?is a very important part of the liturgy and our lives as part of God's family. The "wandering Aramean" referred to here is Abraham. He is the father of the Jewish people. We Catholics also call him, in Eucharistic Prayer I, "our father in faith." Abraham answered God's call to leave his own land and to worship the one true God. Have you ever been asked to leave familiar things behind and go into the unknown? If you have, you know something of what Abraham experienced. How did God help you at that time? What other help did you have?
In this reading, we remember the hard times of God's people. We also "make merry over all these good things" that the Lord has given us. Because we belong to God's family, we are a part of all these events. Without them, we would not be where we are today: inheritors of eternal life in Jesus Christ. If you have ever experienced difficult times, you know what it is to remember them after they have passed! What difficult times do you remember? How did God help you through them? How did they bring you to where you are today?
The liturgy enables us not only to remember the past but to make it present today in action. "Do this in memory of me," said Jesus, as he broke the bread and shared the wine of his Body and Blood. The priest does what Jesus said to do. When we receive the Eucharist, we are "in communion" with Jesus, and in him, with all the people of God?those in the past, those living now, and people yet to come. In Jesus, the Son of God, we become more deeply a part of God's family. Each one of us can say, "My father was a wandering Aramean." We too can rejoice in God's goodness to his people. What good gifts of God will you rejoice in today?
Reading 1 Deuteronomy 26:4-10
Reading 1 ReflectionLent is more than a season of preparation for Easter. It is a time for the Christian community to repent and be reconciled with God and one another. It is a time of journeying with and praying for the catechumens who will be initiated into the Church at the Easter Vigil. We also pray for those baptized candidates who will be confirmed and/or will be receiving the Eucharist for the first time. Finally, it is a time to appreciate and profess our faith, as God's people do in today's first reading. As they celebrate a liturgy of thanksgiving, Moses retells the story of the marvelous way God guided and saved them. He reminds the people that God sees their suffering and hears their cry for help.
Discussion Questions for Reading 2In the early Church, two cultures of people were listening to the preaching of the apostles and becoming Christians: the Jews and the Greeks. These two cultures were very different. What Jews and Greeks thought about religion was very different from one another. The Jews had a long history of worshiping the one true God. The Greeks had always been pagans, with many gods and goddesses. The Jews were used to their own religious rituals and prayers. The Greeks had their own customs. How could these two very different groups of people get along in the same Church? Paul's answer is: Our belief in the Lord Jesus, risen from the dead, makes us one. This is what matters. It is calling upon the name of the Lord that saves us.
Look around your parish and the Church throughout the world. Discuss the differences you find among people?in language, customs, national origin, race, or any other differences. You may want to make a list of the various differences you find. Find pictures to illustrate your list. Above your list, write, "ALL HAVE THE SAME LORD." Show and explain your chart to another group in your school or parish.
The French have a saying that expresses a joyful acceptance of differences: "Vive la différence!" This means, "Long live difference!" or "Hurray for differences!" How do we express our oneness and our differences in our parish? in the worldwide Church?
Reading 2 Romans 10:8-13
Reading 2 ReflectionJust as Moses wanted the people to express their faith, Paul calls on the Christians of Rome to "confess with their lips that Jesus is Lord." He reminds them and us that we must truly believe that Jesus rose from the dead if we hope to be saved. Through Jesus, God's great mercy embraces us and makes us "justified," or right with God.
Name some of the hungers that people experience. How can we nourish them?
Discussion Questions for GospelLook up the Scriptural quotes Jesus uses. They are all from the Book of Deuteronomy 8:3; 6:13; and 6:16. How might you use one of these quotes to protect yourself in a time of temptation?
There is an old folk saying that probably came from this gospel account. It goes: "The devil can quote Scripture, too." This means that good things (like Scripture, or an idea that seems to be harmless or even good) can be used to trip us up or deceive us. We have to be careful and consider how good or trustworthy a person or an idea is. While we are to be open and accepting of everyone as loved by God, we sometimes have to examine how well people can back up the truth of what they say.
Here the devil used a beautiful psalm verse about God's care for us to suggest that Jesus, as the Son of God, could recklessly, for no good reason, throw himself from the Temple. Jesus rejected the idea of "testing" God's love and care for him. Do we ever "test" God's love and care? How might this work against trust in God?
Gospel Luke 4:1-13
Gospel ReflectionLent is a period of forty days during which the whole Church renews itself through prayer and fasting. Today we are reminded that the Israelites wandered for forty years in the desert after God led them out of captivity. We are now observing the forty days of Lent. During the Easter Triduum, we will celebrate being led from slavery into freedom.
According to today's gospel, Jesus retreated to the desert for forty days to prepare for his mission after being baptized by John the Baptist. Luke dramatically describes what happened to Jesus while he was alone in that deserted place. The devil tempts Jesus with promises of bread (a symbol for material comforts), of power (authority over others), and of false glory (to be gained by daring to test God). But Jesus defeats the devil by defending himself with God's word from the Old Testament. Even then the devil does not give up. He "awaits another opportunity" to tempt Jesus.