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Feb 18, 2015

A Message of Encouragement for Our 90-Day Challenge Readers

Sarah Christmyer

Dear Fellow Journeyer on the Great Adventure,

Recently we passed the half-way point on our 90-day trek.  How are you holding up?

Personally, about this time in the readings I find myself slipping.  I need the 6287240997_53ff1460da_zdiscipline of Lent to keep me on track!  Fortunately, Lent adds another “journey” into the mix that offers a helping hand.  Every Sunday until Easter, the Church draws us back into the Story with a kind of “mini-timeline” that runs through the first readings and which we enter and respond to in the Responsorial Psalm:

Feb 22, 1st Sunday of Lent – Early World

God establishes a covenant with Noah, with a sign “for all ages to come” (Gen 9:8-15).  The Psalm reminds us that God’s ways “are love and truth to those who keep [his] covenant” (see Ps 25:10).

March 1, 2nd Sunday of Lent – Patriarchs

Abraham offers his son Isaac to God, willing to sacrifice his only son.  Because he obeys God’s command, he receives his son and confirmation of an amazing blessing that extends to all the nations of the earth (Gen 22). “I will walk before the Lord, in the land of the living,” reads the Psalm response.  Obedience leads to life, not death.

March 8, 3rd Sunday of Lent – Egypt and Exodus

God brings his children out of slavery in Egypt and gives them the Ten Commandments:  laws to help them live as His children (Exodus 20).  Then Psalm 19:  the law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing, and trustworthy! – the Ten Commandments are, in fact, “the words of everlasting life.”

March 15, 4th Sunday of Lent – Conquest & Judges, Exile, Return

God sends prophets “early and often” to call his people back to his covenant love.  They refuse and are sent into exile, then the Lord draws them out to return and rebuild (2 Chr 36).  “Let my tongue be silenced, if I ever forget you!” we respond with Psalm 137, along with the exiles in Babylon.

March 22, 5th Sunday of Lent – Announcing the New Covenant

As the people head into exile, Jeremiah announces a day when God will make a new covenant within them and write it on their hearts! (Jer 31:33-34).  We reply with David’s great penitential psalm (51), “Create in me a clean heart, O God.”

March 29, Palm Sunday – The Goal of the Journey

Old and New are drawn together in the words of Isaiah’s Suffering Servant, who says “I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard…” (Isa 50:6).  Then “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” – Jesus himself takes up this refrain from Psalm 22.  Everything in the Old finds its fulfillment in the New, and we enter Passion Week reliving our baptism into his death and awaiting the glorious resurrection.

 

Israel’s story is your story, too!  Hear this from Paul’s letter to the Romans:

“Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope” (Rom 15:4).

There’s hope for you, personally, in what you are reading.  As you continue on with the 90-day plan, take a minute to step back from the travails of Saul and David to remember the “big picture.” And (as St. Paul continues)–

“May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 15:5-6).

Will you take the time to meditate on the Sunday readings as they come up, and allow them to infuse life into your 90-day journey?

Blessings!

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  • Thanks Sara, for pointing out this mini-timeline that will take us through Lent. This also coincides with my study of The Prophets: Messengers of Mercy. Yesterday, we studied Jeremiah. How beautiful it was to receive the Eucharist this Ash Wednesday accompanied by the hymn “Deep Within”, with words from Jeremiah and Ezekiel. And then minutes later, we began our study by singing “I Have Loved You” also derived from Jeremiah.

    Pope Benedict XVI references St Paul to the Romans in his Encyclical Letter on Christian Hope, Spe Salvi, “In hope we are saved” (Romans 8:24) “Here too we see as a distinguishing mark of Christians the fact that they have a future: it is not that they know the details of what awaits them, but they know in general terms that their life will not end in emptiness.”
    http://w2.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_ben-xvi_enc_20071130_spe-salvi.html

    “The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I
    will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.” (Jeremiah 31:31-34)

    This Lent, let us listen more closely to the Word planted in our hearts. Our Hope lies in the promises of the New Covenant.

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