Celebrating the unmerited Love that has saved us: Paschal Triduum


Today we are entering into the final two weeks before Easter. In fact, in just ten days we will find ourselves in the most sacred days of the liturgical year, indeed, the most holy days of the year for a Christian: the Paschal Triduum. In these three days punctuated with powerful liturgical moments, we focus as a Church on what is truly essential, on what is, in the words of Pope Francis, “most beautiful, most grand, most appealing and at the same time most necessary” (Evangelii Gaudium, no. 35).

What is this most necessary thing?

The Paschal Mystery is the divine love revealed and made present, efficaciously present, in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The efficacy and benefits of the death and resurrection of Jesus were so important to Paul that he wrote to the Corinthians, “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). And to his beloved Philippians he stated that the one  “who died for me” occupied him so completely that desired only this: “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection” (Phil 3:10).

Our presence, in person or at least in spirit, at the liturgical celebrations of the Triduum reminds us that being Catholic is not about being club of like-minded people gathering around shared core ideas, people who happen to like each other like good neighbors, or a group come together to make a difference in the world. Our gathering as Christians is made possible solely because of the salvation offered by Christ, the crucified and risen Bridegroom who has brought the Church into existence.

We delight in salvation

In the Paschal Triduum we celebrate this unmerited Love that has saved us. Saint Paul often retold the story of the way Jesus sought him out personally on his way to Damascus and through the gift of Baptism refashioned the direction of his life through the blood of the Lamb once slain and now risen. “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ” (2 Cor 4:6).

We too should treasure and share the story of how we encountered the God of all salvation in Jesus Christ. The days of the Triduum should open out in awe and gratitude.

In the Triduum we turn our eyes to salvation, carrying in our hearts the whole world, this whole and entire messy and suffering world of 2023, a world that God loves.

During the Paschal Triduum we delight in the salvation provided us by the Savior. Looking about our world, our neighborhoods, our families, and even our own hearts we see the overwhelming burden of the very darkness that Christ came to dispel. As worries crowd our hearts, we yet cast ourselves at the feet of the crucified and risen Lord.

Jesus washing the feet of his disciples (Albert Edelfelt) Nationalmuseum

Holy Thursday: Total, selfless giving

On Holy Thursday we receive again the love of Christ in the Eucharist that is the very origin of the Church, the reason for its very existence. We learn again from him how to pour ourselves out in total selfless giving and presence, how to see in others those who have become through the blood of the Lamb once slain our brothers and sisters. We immerse ourselves in the Savior’s own courage as he walked into the darkness with his apostles, knowing that the actions of the darkness itself contribute to bringing about the triumph of Life and of the Day.


Good Friday: Trophy of salvation

On Good Friday we venerate the cross which was the instrument of Jesus’ death and the very source of our salvation. The refrain of the Reproaches cries out, “My people, what have I done to you? / Or how have I grieved you? Answer me!” Timothy O’Malley reflects on the suffering of Jesus on the cross:

“The God-man, Jesus Christ, was born to suffer. At his birth, he was wrapped in swaddling bands, an image of the burial clothes he would wear in the tomb. Christ was born for this moment, for this suffering on the wood of the tree. He hungered and thirsted in the desert, he cried at the tomb of Lazarus, because he came to take on the fullness of the human condition.

“Furthermore, the human condition, in all its violence, is on display in the crucifixion. The body of our Lord bleeds and oozes, is perforated by the nails and the spear. The blood and water that comes forth does so not in a gentle manner but in a torrent. The world itself is renewed through this washing, through this river of love flowing from the side of Christ” (“A Guide through the Poetic Theology of the Triduum,” April 10, 2020).

The cross becomes for a hungering and struggling, indeed for a wandering world, the trophy of salvation, the sign of victory, the promise of unending Life. Together we gaze on the cross of Christ that we might cast ourselves into the arms of the Bridegroom, and uniting our sufferings to his we become the instruments of salvation our world today so desperately needs.


Easter Vigil: Night so blessed

At the Easter Vigil, the crowning jewel of the evening of Holy Saturday and the beginning of the celebration of the resurrection, we are led by the Easter candle into the darkness of the Church, a sign of how the Light of the World leads the people lost in darkness into the wondrous light of salvation. We are meant to follow the Light and to be the light for people who still wander in darkness. We proclaim that all creation, like this candle, has been transformed by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

This is the night, is sung again and again during the Easter Vigil. It is the night of all nights. It is a night of dazzling glory. It is a night full of gladness. For on this night, Israel was rescued in Egypt from slavery, escaping with their very lives through the power of the Lord. On this night, they wandered through the desert led by the pillar of light—forty years of learning that God is the one who fulfills his promise on his own terms and through his own power according to the mystery of his providential timing. On this night, Christ rose from the dead. In all nights, we learn that we receive salvation. We learn a posture of prayer and ministry that transfigures us into instruments of God’s love, the hands and feet and voice and heart of Christ today.

Night, usually a time for terror, is now blessed. The tragedy carried forward in the garden on the night before Jesus’ death through the kiss and betrayal of Judas now gives way to the resurrection of the Light and Life of the World. The stingy selfishness of those who live in the self-preservation and self-promotion of the night is transformed by the pure generosity of Jesus’ excessive love, a love beyond measure, a love that gave itself for us even when we were at enmity with God. As the final verse of the Exsultet proclaims: May the Easter Candle “shine continually to drive away all darkness. May Christ, the Morning Star who knows no setting, find it ever burning—he who gives his light to all creation.”

There is a beautiful Hymn of Light found in the 1995 edition of the Lenten Triodion that would make a beautiful prayer as we end the Lenten season and enter into the Triduum.

Hymn of Light

O Christ, who make the light arise, purify my heart from all sin and save me.
Send forth your eternal light, O Christ our God, illuminate my eyes and my heart and save me.
Send forth your light, O Christ our God, and illuminate my heart and save me.
You make the light shine upon the whole world; enlighten my soul by purifying it of every sin and save me.
O Lord, the source of light, send forth your brightness to illuminate my heart and save me.
Send forth your everlasting light upon our souls, O Lord, and save me.
Enlighten my heart, O Lord, that I may sing to you: teach me to do your will and save me.
O Christ, the everlasting Light, enlighten me completely, and save me. (page 675)


Hymn of the Resurrection

Having beheld the Resurrection of Christ, let us adore the holy Lord Jesus who alone is sinless. We bow to your Cross, O Christ, and we praise and glory your holy Resurrection. You are our God and besides you we recognize no other, and we invoke your name. Come all you faithful, and let us bow to the holy Resurrection of Christ, since, through the Cross, joy has come to all the world. Ever praising the Lord, let us extoll his Resurrection, since he, having endured the crucifixion, has destroyed death by his Death. (page 749)

Image Credit: Cathopic

How to want what truly matters (Horizons of the Heart 18)

The grace we are asking of God: a deeply felt awareness of how God draws us into the unfolding of the mystery of the Word made flesh and how in doing this we enter into a process of healing that we might love Jesus and follow him more intentionally, completely, and wholeheartedly.

Horizons of the Heart is inspired by the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius and my own notes from my thirty-day Ignatian retreat in 2022.

The grace we are asking for in the Spiritual Exercises is the grace to love rightly and the grace to love well.

If we have a deeply felt awareness of how another human being loves us and wants us near them, our response is wonder, gratitude, love, and wanting to be both physically and spiritually close to them. We no longer feel alone. We have a sense of belonging to someone who desires our presence. We feel safe and happy.

Similarly, God’s drawing us awakens in us a desire to return love for love, to offer ourselves in love, to leave ourselves in order to draw near to God in grateful praise. St. Ignatius is having us beg for the grace to deeply feel this in our very bones. We are loved! And love for God is rising like the sun in our hearts. This love overflows with joy.

This love for God, however, needs to be trained. This divine love, just like any love, needs strengthening through focus and practice. Our hearts and desires have become sluggish by loving material things, by being satisfied with what is of the earth and what brings pleasure to our senses. We are bombarded daily by stimulations, memories aroused by sights and sounds, emotional responses to whatever is going on around us. As David Fagerburg, author of Liturgical Mysticism, said, “In both body and soul, the human person is the matrix of a thousand bits of data input.”

St. Paul encourages us to direct our attention upwards:

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:1-4 NIV).

As a good father, St. Paul is instructing us to direct our desires toward what will truly bring us ultimate and eternal satisfaction and glory. This is the telos or end for which we were created: the beatific life.

Cathopic: lulitobal

“The beatific life requires a sort of integrity from us…. Integrity means being a person who wants, instead of a person who is a collection of wants” (Liturgical Mysticism, page 102). This kind of response to the drawing of God, this kind of wanting demands a true attentiveness, a spiritual and steady awareness sustained over time. We need to train our wants to discover how insipid are the things that simply give passing pleasure, episodic and trivial desires, and how beautiful is the taste for worthwhile things, consequential things that order the mass of sensations that harass us daily toward “the things above.”

In the Spiritual Exercises we learn to want steadily what truly matters. They train us to keep our eye on the target, so to speak. We become sensitive to those behaviors in which we engage that contribute to our desires dissipating, losing their fragrance. And we feel a greater attraction to what contributes to a deeply felt knowledge of that to which God is drawing us in his immense and illimitable love.

You may wish to reflect on what is drawing your heart right now.

What are behaviors that dissipate your spiritual strength?

What are the desires that give you peace? That make you feel closer to God? How can you train those desires?

Image Credit: Rawpixel, public domain.

Examen on Acceptance

Place yourself in the presence of the Lord and pray for enlightenment. Relax. Breathe deeply. Run quickly over the past few hours or days, allowing your real feelings to surface about the events that have been part of your life, the feelings you’ve buried so that you could make it through the day.

Pay attention to the way in which the Lord has been present to you. Where have you felt drawn to the Lord or moved to acceptance? Where have you met the Lord when you felt afraid … misunderstood … tempted … relieved … happy? Turn to the Lord with gratitude.

Choose one incident or reaction that stands out particularly for you at this time and which is still not settled for you. Recall to mind the details of the incident and its context, the people involved, and how you feel about it.

Read in the Bible Peter and the Risen Jesus (John 21:15-19)

Allow Peter to show you how to accept a challenging reality by trusting in the Lord’s love.

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ A second time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Tend my sheep.’ He said to him the third time, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ And he said to him, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep. Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.’(He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ (Jn 21:15-19)

This scene is the first time that the evangelist John shows Peter speaking with Jesus after he denied him three times during the Passion. Surely Peter is nervous; he knows that he has abandoned the mission that God gave him in a very real sense. He does not run away in shame, however. Instead, he draws close to the Lord’s love, knowing that it is exactly where he belongs.

And so, Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves him, giving him an opportunity to make up for each of the three times that he denied him. Peter accepts the reality of his past, but does not allow his past mistakes to prevent him from confidently saying that he loves Jesus. It is this acceptance that allows Peter to fully live the life that God has planned for him to help start the early Church.

As you reflect again upon the incident or reaction you have chosen for your examen, imagine that you are in Peter’s place. Are you willing to tell the Lord everything that happened, not only in the situation but in your own heart? If you feel any resistance to sharing an aspect of the incident with the Lord, why do you think that is? Jesus knows every aspect of the situation and he looks at you with great love. He does not want you to live in a past with regret, but to accept his love in the present. What would it be like to entrust the incident that you chose for your examen to the Lord’s care?

God’s great love for you is made manifest in the experiences of your life. As you make this examen, the Lord is right now moving your heart toward acceptance.

Spend some time talking over with the Lord what you are learning and experiencing. With simplicity express your sorrow for any times that you have been unable to accept the reality of a situation in your life and your gratitude for any movements you sense toward greater acceptance through God’s grace.

Identify one step toward acceptance that you want to take going forward, a step that is actually possible for you. Pray for the grace to accept God’s plan for you.

What is the working image of your life? (Horizons of the Heart 17)

The grace we are asking of God: a deeply felt awareness of how God draws us into the unfolding of the mystery of the Word made flesh and how in doing this we enter into a process of healing that we might love Jesus and follow him more intentionally

Horizons of the Heart is inspired by the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius and my own notes from my thirty-day Ignatian retreat in 2022.

I invite you to read the passage below from the second chapter of the Gospel of Luke a couple times. There is a Gospel contemplation on this passage here. In this meditation we will be expanding on the Gospel contemplation, exploring the fruits of your conversation with Jesus and Mary, helping you getting a sense of how Jesus is calling you to follow him more intensely and more closely.

From the Gospel of Luke:

When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”

Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
    you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
    which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
    and the glory of your people Israel.”

The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him (Luke 2:21-38).

This passage that St Ignatius suggests to the person making the Spiritual Exercises can open up, through the power of the Holy Spirit, our own experience of birth, childhood, family, religious upbringing, and midlife.

It isn’t uncommon, in fact it is actually really healthy, that midway through the various periods of our life we stop and evaluate where we have been, where we are going, where we are currently. Wondering if “where we are headed” based on “where we are coming from” is really “where we want to go” is a great spiritual exercise. Certainly it isn’t couched in mystical and spiritual language. Instead it is downright real.

Am I who I want to be?
Am I who I think I am?
Am I where God has intended me to be?

These mid-way moments can happen in our mid-thirties, half-way through our fifties, or as we turn seventy. They are moments of grace.

Going Deeper

Read the passage from Luke again and notice how the four main figures that appear in the temple that day—Mary and Joseph, Simeon and Anna—all have a history.

Anna once was married and has lived as a widow for many decades.

Simeon is an old man and now his one goal is to see the Savior. What were his goals, I wonder, at the beginning of his priestly ministry?

Mary and Joseph had intended to live a virginal life and unexpectedly have been caught up in the mystery of salvation as the Messiah’s mother and foster-father. They now have different responsibilities than they had thought would be theirs. There is joy. There will be sorrow….

  • What is your “before, present, and projected future”?
  • How has your life been upended by God? By others? By situations outside of your control?
  • How have you changed and grown through these transitions?

Ignatius himself had a before and an after. Very simply, we can see that before his conversion he was fascinated by daydreams and fantasies of winning the hand of a beautiful lady by doing great deeds. He desires to serve the ideal lord as a great soldier esteemed by all for his conquests. After his conversion, he was fascinated by daydreams and fantasies of doing great deeds for the Lord Jesus in service of the Divine Majesty.

“In all of us, there are similar energies that give direction, potency and meaning to our lives. They develop through the processes of our own psyches and imaginations which are influenced in a multiplicity of ways: stories we listened to as children, songs we sang, role models we experienced, images we ingested from movies and television, games we played, poetry and stories we read, historical events and movements of our own time. These archetypal energies coalesce into powerful imagery made up with images, dreams, ideologies, visions, etc., which express our heartfelt desires. The expression of these desires in story form or in some other imaginative figure can be called a myth. These myths draw upon unconscious energies fed by our own history. Myths operate predominantly below consciousness. Myths can express the direction of our lives and help us express what is ultimately ineffable — the world of ultimate meaning. Thus, my working definition of myth is a coalescence of values, images, insights, dreams, meanings that give energy and focus to our lives” (John Veltri, S.J.)

Praying with the Passage

I invite you to stand with the four adult figures of this Gospel passage. Which one of them catches your attention the most? As they meet in the Temple that day how do they represent in different ways a participation in the dreams of God for the world? What does this story make you remember or acknowledge about your own life? Your own following of Jesus?

In praying with this passage I was surprised by a few things God helped me to see about myself. I share them to jumpstart your own imagination:

  • I entered the convent at 15, at almost the same age as Mary in this passage. We both entered the service of the Lord at a young age.
  • I have had sorrows like Anna and have been left bereft and alone as her. Yet I haven’t taken on her stand of “worshipping night and day in the Temple, fasting and praying” so as to attain the mystic vision of seeing the Lord’s presence as he arrives unexpectedly before me.
  • I have had a myth in my earlier years of doing, not wasting time, keeping my nose to the ground, propelled by forces outside me. All four of these figures in the Temple live in a stillness out of which they emerge, speak, receive, act. I have noticed that for the last number of years Jesus has gradually been attracting me to this new spiritual space. This prayer is a confirmation and a challenge to make the transition NOW.

Enter the mystery of the story. As you begin to enter the story more deeply, you will begin to see or hear or touch. You will enter into the event and interact with Jesus and Mary, Symeon and Anna more deeply. Little by little you will become more present to the mystery and the mystery will be present to you. You will feel nudged to something new. You will begin to see a thread through the last days or months or years that suddenly is understandable and makes perfect sense. You will face the option of responding or letting the opportunity go.

What is Jesus and Mary, Symeon or Anna saying to you? Continue to reflect and share a conversation with them over the next few days, noting important points in your journal.

What do you want to say to Jesus who asks you to follow him more closely today?

Photo by Dhivakaran S via Pexels

Get up and follow Christ (Luke 5:27-32)

Leaving everything behind, Levi got up and followed him.

Jesus invites people individually and personally to follow him. Levi, despite the fact that he was truly an unlikely candidate, was one of these people so blessed. As a tax collector his friends were other tax collectors and sinners. He was not in good standing in the community. His obvious riches, from which he threw a “great” banquet for Jesus in his house, were amassed at the expense of the members of the community whom he had overtaxed. His relationships there were broken, bridges burned through greed and corruption.

Yet Jesus, going out and walking along, saw Levi sitting at the customs post and knew exactly who and what he was.Jesus specifically offered an invitation to Levi to be one of the group who would become the intimate Twelve who would abide with him, build relationships with him, and become with the others the foundation stones of the new Jerusalem.

There was no mistake. Jesus wanted Levi. Jesus chose Levi.

And Levi chose Jesus.

It was Jesus who first called Levi to follow him. Levi did not call himself. He was instead irresistibly drawn. He was encountered by the Savior of the world, the King of Kings and Prince of Peace, the Christ. It was the glorious person of Jesus Christ who exerted such an attraction on him, that Levi immediately got up without hesitation, walked away from his occupation that benefited the Roman occupiers and himself, and began to walk after Jesus.

To follow Jesus is to move. To get up. To leave something behind. To enter into a new and unknown life. To be drawn into relationships where the one inviting sets the terms. To be drawn into utter obedience and submission to the demands of the Gospel.

There is a decision to be made. It may or may not have been easy for Levi to leave behind his lucrative career, but in doing so, in following Jesus, he was walking into poverty. He was walking towards the cross. He was walking into the glorious power of the resurrection.

Leaving everything behind, Levi got up and followed him.

Where have you heard these words from the lips of the Master, “Follow me.” Was it long ago when you attended a retreat, during a sacred moment of Eucharistic adoration, at a decisive moment of your vocational journey?

To follow Jesus is the most important thing you can do with your life.

It doesn’t mean you must sign away your house, your finances, your career. Levi left his tax collector’s post with all the greedy practices by which he overtaxed his fellow Jews. Yet he shortly afterward threw a large and expensive party for Jesus and invited his friends to meet the one who had become such an important part of his new life. He put his considerable wealth, property, and relationships at the service of the Kingdom in one of the first and most astounding moments of evangelization on record. He knew he was following not a project but a Person, so parties and friendships were now a part of his call, his love, and his loyalty to Christ.

So, again, where are you hearing right now the invitation of Christ to follow him? He is walking by and he is choosing you. This, by itself, is astounding. He is worthy of your time, of your attention, of your creative response. He desires your presence at the Mass, for you are his friend. He waits for you in the chapel of Eucharistic adoration because he wants to be there for you in good times and in difficult times. He hopes that you will introduce him to your friends in a way that reflects your temperament and creativity.

Leaving everything behind today. Get up and follow Christ.

Praying with this passage of Scripture

Lectio Divina is a way of listening to God as he speaks in his Word. It is a practice of communicating with God through Scripture and attending to God’s presence and what he wishes to tell us. In this slow and prayerful reading of the Word of God, we allow ourselves to be transformed by the Spirit who forms us into the image of Christ.
There are four movement in Lectio Divina: Read (lectio), Meditate (meditation), Pray (oratio), Contemplate (contemplation).

Begin by finding a still space to pray. Breathe deeply and become quieter within. Abandon any agenda, worries or thoughts you bring to this prayer and entrust these things to the merciful care of God. Ask for the grace to be receptive to what God will speak to you through this Scripture reading. Grant me, Jesus Divine Master, to be able to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God and your unfathomable riches. Grant that your word penetrate my soul; guide my steps, and brighten my way till the day dawns and darkness dissipates, you who live and reign forever and ever Amen.

Read (lectio)
Begin by slowly and meditatively reading your Scripture passage out loud. Listen for a particular word or phrase that speaks to you at this moment and sit with it for a time.

After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. “Follow me,” Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything and followed him.

Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”

Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

Meditate (meditatio) – Read the same passage a second time. As you re-engage the text, let the word or phrase that stood out become your invitation to speak from your heart with God who wishes to share his heart with you. Allow this word or phrase to wash over you and permeate your thoughts and feelings. You may wish to repeat this phrase quietly and gently for a period of time.

Pray (oratio) – Read the text a third time. Listen for what God is saying to you. Speak heart to heart with God. Notice the feelings that this conversation with God raises up within you. Share with God what you notice about your response to this conversation. You may wish to return to repeating the phrase quietly and gently, allowing it to permeate you more and more deeply.

Contemplate (contemplatio)
Read the text a final time. Now be still and rest in God’s embrace. Ask God to give you a gift to take with you from this prayer. You might ask God if he is inviting you to do some action, for instance, make some change in your thoughts, attitudes or reactions, in the way you speak or how you treat others. Thank God for this gift and invitation as you conclude your prayer.

Photo Credit: Giovanni Paolo Panini, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Do not conform to the pattern of this world…

I’ve been thinking about patterns lately. How easy it is to fall into rhythms, habits, mental ruts, ideological stagnation. Patterns of living too small, too tight, too cold. Patterns of living too loud, too dispersed, too dissipated. We easily fall into emotional patterns that become so ingrained we forget that often what our emotions tell us about ourselves and about God just isn’t true. Truth is found in God’s eyes as we look at him, and no pattern—mental or emotional or behavioral—can match what we see in God’s love for us.

Lent is about getting out of some patterns that have us trapped in being smaller than God has made us to be. The Apostle Paul wrote: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world…”

Other translations of this verse are:
Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold. Do not fashion yourselves after this world.

Paul continues, “…but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”


Paul didn’t say: Be transformed by improving your behavior. Be transformed by switching your desires to better things. Be transformed through super Lenten resolutions. Be transformed by giving up chocolate.


Paul said: Be transformed by the renewing of your mind. So what does Paul mean by his use of “mind”? The Greek word used by Paul is noûs.

Here is Thayer’s definition for noûs:

  1. the mind, comprising alike the faculties of perceiving and understanding and those of feeling, judging, determining
    1. the intellectual faculty, the understanding
    2. reason in the narrower sense, as the capacity for spiritual truth, the higher powers of the soul, the faculty of perceiving divine things, of recognising goodness and of hating evil
    3. the power of considering and judging soberly, calmly and impartially
  2. a particular mode of thinking and judging, i.e thoughts, feelings, purposes, desires

The Apostle Paul wasn’t thinking about our everyday patterns of thinking. By his use of noûs he was considering the intellect, the higher faculties of our soul: perceiving and understanding, as well as faculties that have more to do with our will: judging, determining, recognizing goodness and hating evil.

Lent is a perfect time to look at the patterns we’ve fallen into in our lives. Are we being molded by the fashion, enticements, pleasures, of the world around us? By what we see in the media? By our friends? Our fears?

Now is the time to sharpen our capacity for spiritual truth, to strengthen our habit of perceiving divine things, to call forth the will to recognize and choose the good and to despise and reject what is evil.

To die out of love

“No, you will not die!” hisses the serpent in the Garden of Eden, but its human inhabitants do not understand and are seduced.

Beginning with the first pages of Genesis, that demonic hissing has never ceased to tempt our human nature. As if not dying is the solution to the longing for life that we all carry within us, as if avoiding death is the way to find the happiness we so diligently seek. Even the Gospel reading is Jesus’ response to the very human temptation to escape death. A temptation multiplied endlessly in the realms of possession, religion, power–seductive answers to the fear of dying.

But when faced with death, Jesus does not try to protect himself. He dies naked, exposed, defenseless. He is not ashamed of dying, not even on the infamous wood of the cross, because if you love, you strip yourself and give yourself. The macabre dance of Calvary is also a dance of love: blood and passion, pierced hearts and tears, labored breathing and self-surrender: the grammar of love is the same as the grammar of death.

“No, you will not die!” hisses the serpent. “You are all dying even now,” replies the Master. The centurion guarding Jesus declares, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”

Human beings are born anew when they recognize death as an opportunity to perpetuate love. Are we dying out of love for someone? May this be the primary question we ask ourselves as we cross the desert of Lent.

Fr. Alessandro Deho’

This article first appeared on the Daughters of St Paul website.