Lenten Audio Conversations

Transcript of First Week of Lent Conversation

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M = Maureen McCann Waldron
A = Andy Alexander, S.J.


M: Welcome to another conversation with the Creighton University Online Ministries, talking about Lent. And this week, we will be talking about the first full week of Lent.

A: It’s remarkable that year after year, the church uses this time to teach us. It’s preparing the catechumens and candidates for this journey to the font, to the Easter vigil, to the celebration of the paschal mystery, and inviting us to be a part of it. And so going through the first week of Lent is like beginning Catechism again. Learning lessons that we’ve already known, and learned, but forgotten. But that’s only part of it – the foundations give us the themes, the spirit of it, but it still involves our prayer, our repentance, it involves using acts of penance to help us be pure in our desires, and of course it involves almsgiving, or care for the poor. That is all part of our program of Lent, and we are looking at these readings to be part of our formation.

M:  And here, especially at the beginning of Lent, I like the way that so many of the prayers talk about our hearts being renewed, and made new again. And the catechumens are going through this process, and we are kind of along as a parish cheering them on, but we’re going through the process ourselves. We are being renewed as Christians, and being renewed in our hearts and faith life.

A: The first day of course is Sunday, and Lent always begins being reminded of the Temptation in the Desert. This is Jesus, after his private hidden life for 30 years at home, goes down to the Jordan, and is baptized. He didn’t have to be, he wanted to be one with us. He enters even into this reality of us as sinners, comes out, the Father says “This is my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased. Listen to him” and the Spirit leads him then out into the desert to be tempted.
M: And that’s where we pick up today’s gospel. And what I like about it is everybody knows about the temptations, but it’s the Spirit that lead him there.  

A: Right. To be tested and prepared. In the same way, we are beginning our 40 day Lent en journey. We aren’t in the desert, but we can place ourselves in a place that’s separate from our everyday life that we normally go through less conscious of our journey. And so,

M: Heighten the awareness of our own temptations, just as Jesus was tempted. In what ways am I being tempted in my life every day?

A: There is a three year cycle for the Sunday readings, and we have a different evangelist for each year. This year, we are looking at temptation through the eyes of Luke. The first thing Jesus is tempted to is - in his hunger, the evil spirit tempts him to use his power to turn stones into bread. We cannot immediately see what that can mean, until we think about using our own power to feed ourselves. There are ways in which you and I, every day, manipulate, twist, turn a situation to feed ourselves or, to say it the other way, to avoid being hungry. We don’t like emptiness; we don’t like hunger in any way. And it’s not just eating too much. It’s I don’t like to be alone, I don’t like to be lonely, and so I use lots of things.

M: And there’s fear there, it’s all based on fear I think, that fear of what you’re saying, loneliness, fear of hunger, and instead of turning to God, we fill it with something else. I fill it with decorating my house. I fill it with making fancy foods. I fill it with things that are not caring about other people; they’re not based in a relationship with God.

A: We hate emptiness. And the decision of Jesus to overcome that temptation, by accepting emptiness, accepting his hunger, places him with the poor, who are hungry. The second temptation again is subtle, but powerful and real. It’s the temptation that Satan says - you know, “you want to do good Jesus, see this whole world out there? I’ll give you power over this world, if you make an alliance with me, if you worship me, if you let me be where you turn”. And it’s the temptation that all of us know to really let evil be a part of our process of doing good: cutting corners, lying, cheating, manipulating, and before long it doesn’t seem evil at all. It becomes part of what we want to do to succeed, to accomplish our goals, even to do good.

M: And it doesn’t have to be all that dramatic. There’s so many everyday ways that we manipulate. Am I pouting? Do I have to be right all the time in an argument? It’s ways that it’s about me.

A: You can control others.

M: Yeah. And it’s ways that I manipulate others, because if you don’t think I’m right, I’m going to punish you. 

A: Exactly. And all of us can find creative ways to examine our conscience and hear that temptation; experience it in our own heart. And finally, the evil one takes Jesus on top of the temple and he says “look, I know you want to win these people over. Jump. Let God’s Angels catch you. That’ll impress them.” It’s a temptation, sounds silly, until we examine ourselves; it’s a temptation to show off. It’s a temptation again to manipulate, to not endure the rejection. You can almost hear the evil spirit saying to Jesus – “what’s the deal with trying to cure people, hanging around sinners, lepers, the poor, women, you’re not gonna win these people over that way. The only way you’re going to win them over is to do something spectacular. Be a magician, not a healer.” And that’s what we tend to want to be. We want to be an all-star. We want to be attractive, stunning, knock their socks off, hit a home-run, all of those things, and it’s not bad to succeed. But it’s to choose that kind of success, rather than the call to be with the poor.

M:   Almost all of the temptations we are talking about aren’t bad things in themselves. Shopping isn’t a bad thing. Fixing up your house isn’t a bad thing. Food isn’t a bad thing. But it’s the place that it has in your life that makes it skewed. It’s the focus it has, the priority you put in your life that takes you away from your relationship with God; that takes us away from the poor.

A: Relying on God alone, and accepting the mission of Jesus. So, our first week of Lent starts there.

M: These foundational readings are so wonderful, because there’s a real flow to them and as we remember that these are designed for the catechumens, to teach them about the foundations of our faith life and for us, to renew us in that.

A: And we don’t have to take a lot of time. We should take more time and chewing these readings help, but the key is that this is a more reflective time. I’m being aware that I’m being formed, and I don’t want to miss any of this. We always do what we want to do, all of us are busy, we’ve got lots going on, but with just a little more attention, maybe we’re a night person, maybe we’re a morning person, give ourselves a little more time to look at these readings, to ask for what we need. The prayers alone, the opening prayers for each of these liturgies, you can find in the missalette. You can find on our daily Online Lenten Prayers, we begin with the opening prayer of each day’s liturgies of the hours, or mass, and that prayer alone guides us in what we’re doing here.

M: You know, and it’s so easy. This is the first Monday of the first week of Lent , for us to get sidetracked and to say “well, we’ve all had these Lent s where you get to the end”, you get to Holy week and you think - oh it’s over and I haven’t changed anything. I was going to do something different”. In the smallest ways, by taking time every day, we can have a different Lent.

A: This is a six week journey too, with two parts, and we enter into it and we let one layer build upon another layer, and this starts with the fundamentals.

M: The first three weeks, which is the first part of Lent, we start with these readings.

A: The gospel on Monday is Matthew 25. It’s the story that shapes and helps us understand Jesus’s ministry and what he asks us to do. Many of the things we worry about are not here. This is what Jesus tells us, is the Shepherd will separate the sheep and the goats at the end. God will separate us the way a Shepherd separates sheep and goats, and it’s powerful because he says, you know, he’s gonna say to the goats, “depart from me, because when I was hungry, you weren’t there. When I was thirsty, you weren’t there. When I was sick or imprisoned or abandoned, you weren’t there for me”. And they’re going to say defensively, like we probably say, “when did I fail to do those things for you”.

M: We didn’t see you, we would’ve taken care of you, we just saw all these poor people there.                
A: He said whenever you fail to do it for the least of my brothers and sisters; you fail to do it for me. He has so completely identified with us, so completely identified with us; he can say that “I was hungry. I was thirsty. I needed you and you weren’t there”.

M: And he has such a sense of who he is, and he knows that his life is about the poor. It’s what he rejected in the temptations in the Sunday gospel.

A: He will reward the just by saying “when I was hungry, you gave me to eat. When I was thirsty, you gave me to drink”. And they’re going to say, “When did we do it for you?” and he’s going to say “whenever you did it for the least of my brothers and sisters”.

M: And that line is so key and so core to all of his teachings. What you did for the least, is what you do for me.

A: And it’s a good way to begin Lent. This is not about a bunch of praying, this is not about fixing a few bad habits. This is about re-orienting our lives toward the end for which we are created. This is re-orienting our life for our salvation. This is almost selfish, because if I want to be saved, I begin this journey to figuring out what do I need to be saved. And so we can ask ourselves this week, “Who among my family and friends and the people I contact, are hungry, or thirsty, or somehow sick or in jail, imprisoned”, that’s where we start.

M: Yeah, it’s easy for us to say “oh, the least of my brothers and sisters, they’re over there, they’re in another country, in another part”. And so many times, as you’re saying, they’re in our families, they’re in our neighborhoods.

A: And the only way I’m going to hear the cry of the poor around the world is if I hear it close at home, if my heart’s attuned to the needs of others. And I see that I can do what Jesus calls me to do in loving. So that’s the first part, it opens our hearts to love.

M: Who’s isolated in my family, who’s difficult? I can pray for them in a special way.

A: Tuesday, the second day, we have the Our Father. Just imagine being in the catechism here learning how to pray, turning to God and recognizing who God is. “Hallowed be thy name”.

M: It’s such a wonderful prayer because it starts with that praise, you know, “Our Father, who art in heaven”, and then it says give us, on earth, what we need. “Your kingdom come, your will be done, give us our daily bread”. Give us the bread. It doesn’t say give us everything, it says give us what we need.

A: Don’t let me die of hunger. Don’t let me die of hunger in this journey. That’s what we fear, that’s why we’re not generous or heroic, we think we aren’t going to have enough. And this first day, this first week helps us get oriented.

M: Especially when we get to the next part of this prayer, which is forgiveness. It’s forgiveness. It’s part of our penance, it’s part of our Lenten journey, is forgiving those who need forgiving.

A: For some of us, that’s the whole season of Lent for us. To grow through something in me that I haven’t forgiven yet in others. Might be I haven’t forgiven myself for something. And I need the sacrament of Reconciliation to be fully healed. For some of us, it’s that someone has hurt us so bad; I need the sacrament of reconciliation to forgive them, to be healed. Or I need to ask the Lord for those graces. And the purity that happens, to be purified so I can let go and not be married to that resentment or bitterness that is like a cancer in my own heart.

M: I somehow think that there is something about forgiving ourselves that it so important, God forgive us so freely and so lavishly. If we can remember that and take that into our hearts, and feel how much we are loved by God, it is easy for us to turn then, just as the prayer says “As you have forgiven us, we are forgiving other people”.

A: Wednesday’s the Jonah story. Jonah is wonderful, it’s like a novel in the Old Testament, and it’s a terrific story. God says to Jonah, “I want you to go to Nineveh”, which is a big city in present day Iraq, and “I want you to go there and call people to repent”, and Jonah says “oh no, they won’t listen, and I’ll get really beat up by them”. And he runs away, and he gets on a ship, and they have all kinds of problems, storm at sea, and

M: the captain says “this is Jonah’s fault”, and they throw him overboard. 

A: Throw him right in the sea, and a whale comes up, picks him up, spits him back on the shore to do his mission. And so God calls him again, where we begin todays’ reading, and says “Go to Nineveh. He goes to Nineveh, walks just a third of a way through the city, and they do. They sit, they wear sack cloth. It must be a powerful sign to take off your comfortable clothes and put on burlap, gunnysack type material, and use Ashes as a sign of repentance. Even the King calls everyone to repent.

M: Even the king takes off his robe, takes off all of that. I love this story because it reminds me of how many times I run away, how many times I want to get in a little boat and get far away from where God is calling me. That’s not what I want, I want something easier. And he keeps coming back, he says you’re back on the beach Jonah, you’ve spent three days in the whale, now will you go to Nineveh, because that’s still what I want you to do.

A: Right. And so it’s about a call, but it’s also about the Ninevites who respond so incredibly with repentance. God calls them to admit with sorrow that they have been sinners. We are going to hear this all through Lent on Wednesdays and Fridays, a more penitential call. Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays are going to be more uplifting, hopeful readings. And so it’s a great day to examine our conscience. What is it that the Lord is calling me to do that I have failed to do? Jesus uses it the other way when the people are asking for a sign. He says “no sign is going to be given, except for the sign of Jonah who was in the belly for three days being brought back to his mission”. And so it’s pretty wonderful.

M: And he says there is something greater than Jonah here.

A: Exactly. The call we have is quite literally the call to join Jesus in his mission.

M: Thursday as you said, gets a little more uplifting, and it’s about prayer again. Tuesdays and Thursdays are about praying and about how to pray better. This is more of that instruction through the catechumen.

A: Confidence building, saying “Ask and you shall receive, seek and you’ll find”. This is not a hard thing. God wants what we’re asking for; God wants to give us what we are asking for, and so it’s very encouraging.

M: And as a parent, I love the part where it says “which one of you would hand his son a stone if he asked for a loaf of bread, or a snake when he asked for a fish”. Well you just recoil at that. I would never do that. Why do you think that your loving God would not give you what you need?

A: Exactly.

M: It’s a wonderful invitation.

A: Then we get to Friday, and we hear Matthew teaching, showing us Jesus teaching, saying “You heard it said, you shall not kill”. Well, Jesus gives a new command in saying, watch your anger. The anger inside you is like cancer. It eats at you, and it can be deadly.

M: Forgiveness is such a key in this gospel, because if you bring some gift to the altar, and you remember that your brother is angry at you, God says I don’t want the gift at the altar, what I want is that you leave that altar and go back and make peace with your brother. And I think it’s an invitation to us, on this forty day journey, who is it that I need to forgive, who needs my forgiveness, and what can I do to repair those during these forty days when I am examining my heart, when I am opening myself up more clearly and more closely to God.

A: Who needs my love? Who needs to experience my forgiveness? Again, he is giving us this opportunity, this golden opportunity to receive his grace. And then the next day, Saturday, the end of this week, he asks,

M: It’s Matthew’s gospel. He says, this is Jesus, saying, “You have heard it said you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. I say, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”. It’s easy to love the people that love you, but he is saying the Christian message is to go way beyond that. We have to love the people who hate us. We have to love the people who resent us.

A: So this week that starts with Matthew 25 and saying, you know, he wants us to look for those who are hungry and thirsty, sick and in need, and ending with, He wants us to love, and love the way He loves. That’s really powerful. And our task for this week, now how do we do that. First of all, we listen and let these desires grow in our hearts. It doesn’t happen unless I say “Lord I need your help, to be transformed, to be healed; I need to say I’m sorry. That’s the repentance. I need some penance, some help, something to get me off the dime, so I don’t find myself done with this week and nothing happened. And I need some space to do this, to make it differently.

M: I think it’s easy for us to say, you know, I have a husband, I have kids, I have a job, I don’t have a spare minute in my life. How am I supposed to make more time during Lent ? But, there are times I am going to work by myself. I’m in the shower by myself. I’m taking a walk from one place to another at work. I can use those seconds, those minutes, those

A: Background times.

M: Yeah, the background times, and open my heart again and say, “today’s readings were about forgiveness, Oh Lord, who in my life do I need to forgive? Who needs my forgiveness? Who can I be forgiving, and who can I ask for their forgiveness?”

A: And I think it can be a week in which we begin to imagine, whether we live alone or we live with family or with friends, to say “what’s the almsgiving part of this. How can I not go through this week without being attentive to the poor”. As we said before the poorest people might be among us in need. What am I going to do differently for someone in my family that seems to be in need.

M: Who are the least of my brothers and sisters, as Jesus would say.

A: But we may decide that this is a meatless Friday, the abstinence of the church, all the Fridays of Lent  are meatless, that we are going to do something in some way instead of going out to a restaurant together, we might have that rice and beans, or tuna and noodle casserole, a simple soup,

M: Very deliberately taking the money we didn’t spend at a restaurant, instead of going out to a seafood restaurant and having a lavish Friday, we take that money we didn’t spend and we deliberately put it aside and maybe say a special prayer for the people that this money will help.

A: And be conscious of the people in the world who every day, eat so much less than we do. The solidarity with them to feel a little of that hunger or deprivation and to gratefully say “thank you Lord, I know you are working in me this week”, can transform this from a sort of annoying obligation I have that I never seem to get right, and to something that starts entering my soul and makes me happy. The first preface of Lent says “You have given us this joyful season of Lent, so that we might celebrate the paschal mystery with mind and heart renewed”.
This can be a really joyful celebration.

M: And so in this first week of Lent, we can ask God to help us be generous in our hearts. We can ask God to give us the intention and the focus and to be as open as we possibly can to his word, and to the word that comes to us in the Gospel.

A: Here’s the opening prayer for Saturday of the first week of Lent. We can find those opening prayers on our website for those daily prayers as we said, here’s the final one for this week: “eternal Father, turn our hearts to you. By seeking your kingdom, we prayed may your kingdom come in the Our Father, and loving one another, which we saw in several of these Gospels, may we become a people who worship you in spirit and truth.”

M: That’s part of the prayer we learned in the Tuesday and Thursday Gospels, how to worship, how to talk to God.

A: So let’s pray for each other, we’re not doing this alone, we’re doing this with lots of people around the world, and let this first full week of Lent be a grace.

M: Have a blessed week.

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