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The Servant Leader

Feb. 15, 2013

Weekly Winner

Congratulations Joey Zarate, our weekly winner for February 18

Joey will receive a copy of The Catholic Youth Prayer Book, an $18.95 value.

Help youth understand the meaning of Christian prayer. Introduce them to traditional and devotional prayers of the Church, as well as to contemporary styles and methods. Assist youth in developing the habit of daily prayer. This all-in-one resource for prayer forms was specially written for teens, in the PRAY IT! STUDY IT! LIVE IT!® model, like The Catholic Youth Bible® and The Catholic Faith Handbook for Youth. It is the most expansive prayer book for teens. But The Catholic Youth Prayer Book does more than teach about prayer. It helps teens become prayerful people.

The Catholic Youth Prayer Book

ISBN: 978-0-88489-559-6, paper, 232 pages

Focus on Faith

Getting to Yes in Lent

Ah, Lent. Let us join together for a short excursion into my childhood’s Lenten "Land of No." On a personal level, no candy. On a family level, no ice cream for dessert. (We all got a reprieve on my birthday, which usually landed in the middle of Lent and was declared exempt from the family penance.) Sometimes it was (gasp!) no TV—or, at least, no stupid TV. Educational programming was, again, exempt. Of course, we could always read books.

On a superficial level, Lent looks much the same to me today, even though I try to balance "no" with "yes": yes to prayer and spiritual reading, yes to service, yes to living Christian life better in general. But no still seems to be a persistent factor. I can’t seem to ignore it. Saying yes to prayer, fasting, and almsgiving often means saying no to their opposites—to my agenda, my favorite foods (ice cream and chocolate at the top of this list), my wish-list of purchases. As an adult, I find that, year after year, these Lenten practices are no easier. And maybe they are not supposed to be.

Yet, after years of struggle, I have come to see the wisdom in saying no to immediate gratification. Could it be, I realized, that saying no in small things prepares one to say no in larger things—in situations when no really counts, when no is really very necessary for growth and peace for myself and others? Well, imagine that!

Jesus himself seems to think so: "Whoever is faithful in small matters will be faithful in large ones; whoever is dishonest in small matters will be dishonest in large ones" (Luke 16:10, GNT). One reason for saying no in small things is to help us to say no in greater, to say no before temptation becomes sin, before a small lie becomes bigger, before something small becomes something totally out of hand. It’s really not about the chocolate or the ice cream. Those are only the beginning. It’s about something else that could present itself, years from now, and that must be confronted with a firm no.

Another question: Do our Lenten sacrifices have anything to do with the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus on the cross? Lent is a time to remember that Jesus sacrificed his life and put himself into the hands of the human beings he loved, even though they were planning to kill him. It is a time to journey with the catechumens and to ask ourselves how we are fulfilling our own baptismal promises. It is a time to become better followers of Jesus, and to share his journey from death to life. We realize intuitively that discipleship will involve sacrifice. And we need only look around to find role models of discipleship—those who trust in Jesus’ risen presence with them and follow in his footsteps. Who are these people? We can recognize them by their sacrifice of themselves. Those are the ones saying no to their own agendas and yes to elderly parents, yes to those who are hungry and homeless, yes to extra hours of volunteering with teens and middle-schoolers, yes to school or parish needs.

Sacrifice—saying no to something we like or want—is a necessary part of life and growth. We have all had the experience that sacrifice in small things helps us to accomplish greater goals. The purpose of no is to help us get to yes—to the Yes that is Christ: "He is God’s ‘Yes’; for it is he who is the 'Yes' to all of God’s promises" (2 Corinthians 1:19–20, GNT). During Lent, we take every no, small and big, and turn it into a yes: Yes, Lord, I remember you. Yes, Lord, I remember what you did for all of us—and for me. Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.

Blessings on your ministry!

In joy and peace,

Joanna

P.S. The news has just reached me of Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation. What a lesson for us as we begin Lent, a lesson in saying no to one thing (power and responsibility) and yes to another (a peaceful conscience). May we all know, in our own situations, when to hang on and when to let go!

Lenten Reading: The Rule of Saint Benedict calls for the reading of a "Lenten book." This book was to be read, alongside Scripture, of course, during the season of Lent. It was specially chosen by the abbot or abbess to help meet the spiritual situation of each particular monk or nun. The following is a list of books suggested by my colleagues here at Saint Mary’s Press. You may want to choose one to read as your Lenten book. Or, it might be fun to get together with a group of friends or colleagues and choose books for one another!

1) Benedict XVI. Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week: From the Entrance Into Jerusalem to the Resurrection.
http://www.amazon.com/Jesus-Nazareth-Entrance-Jerusalem-Resurrection

How did Jesus view his own suffering and death? And how should we? Did Jesus really rise from the dead, and what does his Resurrection mean? A good study of the person of Jesus and why everything happened the way it did in that final week. A wonderful book!

2) Ghezzi, Bert. Saints at Heart: How Fault-Filled, Problem-Prone, Imperfect People Like Us Can Be Holy.
http://www.amazon.com/Saints-Heart-Fault-Filled-Problem-Prone-Imperfect

This book contends that holiness is not about being perfect but is about putting God first. Through each of the ten saints in this book, the author highlights a particular spiritual practice that can help ordinary people like us to live lives of true holiness.

3) Martin, James. The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life.
http://www.amazon.com/Jesuit-Guide-Almost-Everything-Spirituality

A contemporary introduction to Ignatian spirituality as a means to experience God in daily life in real and practical ways. The author’s goal is to help bring Ignatian spirituality into the mainstream, to help people understand how God is working in their lives.

4) Sheed, Frank. To Know Christ Jesus.
http://www.amazon.com/Know-Christ-Jesus-Frank-Sheed

Recommended by Bert Ghezzi (see above) as "one of the best Lenten books out there."

Frank Sheed and his wife Maisie Ward were the founders of Sheed & Ward Publishers, and, as lecturers for the Catholic Evidence Guild, preached the faith on street corners in New York City. This book is a classic. (The Catholic Evidence Guild still exists, has a Web site, and the New York City chapter meets regularly.)

Make It Happen

God Can: An Exercise in Letting Go

Two of the things we might say no to in Lent are worry and anxiety. The following exercise may help your teens to say no to worry and anxiety by handing their problems over to God. Whatever our difficulties, let us say yes to trust in God this Lent.

Overview
In this activity the young people create a "God can," that is, a receptacle for the problems they face that they cannot seem to fix on their own. The can becomes a visual reminder of the need to let go of our difficulties and hand them over to God. This activity can be used in any setting and with any group.

Suggested Time
About 20 minutes

Group Size
This strategy can be done with any size group.


Materials Needed
Empty, clean soft drink cans, one for each person
8.5-by-11-inch plain white paper, one sheet for each person
pencils
markers
a variety of craft supplies, such as used magazines, stickers, fabric, glue
sticks, and so forth
cellophane tape, one roll for every three or four people
1.5-by-4-inch pieces of plain paper, about three or four for every person

Procedure

1. Ask the young people to think about a time when they worried about something that they really could not do anything about. For some it may have been an athletic event, for others, a family problem or a social event. If anyone wants to share the incident with the group, invite them to do so. Then lead a discussion around the following questions:

·What do you do when you’re worried about someone or something?
·Does worrying about something help the problem? Why or why not?
·What are some positive steps a person could take to lessen the worry in his or her life?

Be sure that the answers to the last question include giving one’s worries to God. Conclude the first part of this activity by reading Matt. 6:25–26.

2. Give each young person an empty soft drink can, a sheet of white paper, and a pencil. Tell them that they are going to turn an ordinary soft drink can into a symbol of God. Explain the following process in your own words:

Fold the paper so that it fits around the can up to the top and bottom edge.

Mark with a pencil where the paper meets itself, so that you know how much surface you have to use.

Write the words "God can" in big, bold letters on the available area of the paper.

Make a variety of markers and other craft supplies available. Invite the young people to decorate the surface of the wrapper any way they want to. Encourage them to be creative and cover the surface entirely. The can represents God’s concern over their worries.

3. When the young people are finished decorating their wrapper, have them tape it to the can. If you have time, have them share their cans with one another.

4. Give everyone a few small pieces of paper. Tell them to think about what it is that they need to give over to God, who is quite willing to hold on to the worries for them. Encourage them to be as honest as they possibly can because no one will see their concerns but them. When they are ready, they should write their concerns on a piece of paper and put them in the God can. Encourage them to take their God can home, keep it in their room, and add to it whenever they are feeling anxious and overwhelmed. Each time they add a concern to the can, they should take a deep breath and say to themselves,

"I give this over to you, God. Be with me today."

Alternative Approaches
·Instead of wrapping the can in regular paper, use white contact paper. It will last longer.
·Follow the activity with a prayer service during which the young people hear words of comfort in times of struggle. Include a blessing of the God cans.

Scriptural Connections
·Matt. 6:25–34
·Matt. 11:28–30
·Matt. 14:22–32

Break Open the Word

Second Sunday of Lent
February 24, 2013

Luke 9:28b-36

Opening Prayer
Jesus, thank you for letting us share in your glory through your Passion, death, and Resurrection. In the Transfiguration you gave your disciples a glimpse of that glory. Help us make prayer a priority in our lives, so that we can listen to your word and allow your word to direct our life. Amen.

Context Connection
The story of Jesus' Transfiguration appears in the Gospels of Matthew (17:1-8), Mark (9:2-8), and Luke (9:26-36). To fully understand the Gospel for this Sunday, review the story of the baptism of Jesus (Luke 3:21-22). At both Jesus' baptism and his Transfiguration, Jesus is praying when he encounters God the Father. God also speaks on both occasions. At Jesus' baptism God says, "You are my Son, the Beloved, with you I am well pleased" (3:22). Then, at the Transfiguration, God says, "This is my Son, my Chosen, listen to him!" (9:35).

As the passage opens, Jesus takes Peter, John, and James off by themselves to the top of a mountain to pray. During Jesus' prayer, "the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white" (9:29). In the Scriptures white garments often symbolize joy and celebration. The disciples next observe Jesus conversing with Moses and Elijah about the future events in Jerusalem. As the one who had received the Ten Commandments on the top of Mount Sinai, Moses symbolizes the Law. Elijah, who in 1 Kings 19:8-13 had experienced God's presence on the holy mountain of Mount Horeb, represents the prophets. The Transfiguration shows us Jesus as the successor of Moses and Elijah; he is the ultimate fulfillment of the Law and of the prophets. Luke makes another important point: the conversation Jesus has with Moses and Elijah is about how Jesus will have to suffer and die in Jerusalem. Jesus' Passion, death, and Resurrection in Jerusalem is the center of this story of Jesus, the Son of God.

As Moses and Elijah leave, Peter speaks out, "Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah" (9:33). Peter wants to prolong the glorious moment. The Live It!TM article "Spiritual Highs," in The Catholic Youth Bible, is about the human desire to try to prolong the mountaintop experiences in our lives.

The story continues, "While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them" (9:34). Luke makes the connection between that moment and the cloud that had shrouded Mount Sinai when Moses received the Ten Commandments. The voice of God the Father proclaims, "This is my Son, my Chosen, listen to him!" (9:35). God's words make it clear that Jesus, the Son of God, is higher in stature than even Moses or Elijah. In a dynamic way God is revealing the true nature of Jesus, both God and human, to the three disciples. Luke tells us that Peter, John, and James did not tell anyone about their experience at that time. Only after the death and Resurrection of Jesus did they have a context for sharing that experience of Jesus.

Tradition Connection
On August 6, the Catholic Church observes the feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord. Church Tradition, specifically through the writings of Origen (A.D. 185-232), places that event at the summit of Mount Tabor, a mountain in the region of Galilee. Map 6 in section 2B of the CYB will help you locate Mount Tabor.

The Gospel of Luke shows us Jesus in prayer before each decisive moment in his life. Through his example Jesus teaches that prayer should have the same importance in our life as it did in his. In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the quote used to define prayer is taken from Saint Therese of Lisieux: "For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy"1 (paragraph 2558).

Prayer is the expression of our deep desire to know God, an inner thirst to be in an intimate relationship with God. In prayer we have the opportunity to drink from the vastness of our loving God. Our prayer reveals that God is the first to desire an intimate relationship with us. "Whether we realize it or not, prayer is the encounter of God's thirst with ours. God thirsts that we may thirst for him"2 (Catechism, paragraph 2560).

"According to Scripture, it is the heart that prays. If our heart is far from God, the words of prayer are in vain" (Catechism, paragraph 2562). We believe that only God can fully fathom and understand the human heart. Psalm 139 says, "O LORD, you have searched me and known me (1). . . Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts" (23).

For Christians, prayer expresses a covenantal relationship between God and humans in Jesus Christ because that relationship springs from both human beings and God. Prayer is the opportunity to commune with the Divine, a time to talk about our needs and desires as well as a time to listen to the transforming words of our God.

Wisdom Connection
Luke highlights three significant points in Sunday's Gospel. The first is that Jesus prayed often and fervently before decisive moments in his life. Luke presents Jesus' practice of prayer as the ideal for Christians. Prayer is an essential component of a faithful Christian's life. It sustains and renews one's relationship with God. A Christian is a person of prayer.

The second point Luke makes is that human beings cherish "mountaintop" experiences and desire to preserve them so that they can live in the ecstasy of the moment and not return to the mundane things of life. Peter tries to preserve a "mountaintop" experience by suggesting that the disciples build three dwellings: one for Jesus, one for Moses, and one for Elijah. But it does not happen. Why? Because life happens not on the mountaintops but in the valleys of everyday life where a Christian really affects the lives of other people. In the ordinariness of our lives, we can be Christ to others and minister to their needs.

Third, the voice of God speaking from the cloud is clear about the identity of Jesus: He is the Son of God, the Chosen (the Messiah), and everyone should listen to him. God declares that Jesus is the Son of God, putting him above Moses and Elijah in importance. That is a breakthrough for the early Christians in understanding that Jesus is not just another prophet in the line of many prophets, but the fulfillment of all that the prophets had foretold. Jesus is not just another rabbi offering commentary on the Mosaic Law, but the fulfillment of the promise of the Law, which he accomplishes by becoming the salvation of the entire human race (see Galatians 3:1-14).

Acknowledgments
The scriptural quotations contained herein are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Catholic Edition. Copyright © 1993 and 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. All rights reserved.

The Lord's Prayer and the quotations labeled Catechism are from the English translation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church for use in the United States of America. Copyright © 1994 by the United States Catholic Conference, Inc.--Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Used with permission.

Endnotes cited in quotations from the Catechism of the Catholic Church
1. Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, Manuscrits autobiographiques, C 25r.
2. Cf. Saint Augustine, De diversis quaestionibus octoginta tribus 64, 4: Patrologia Latina (Paris: 1841-1855), ed. J. P. Migne.

Third Sunday of Lent
March 3, 20013
Luke 13:1-9

Opening Prayer
Jesus, in the parable of the fig tree, you help us understand that our lives should show the fruits of love and mercy. Sometimes our actions and choices do not manifest these fruits, and so we need to take time to reflect and seek forgiveness. Thank you for the season of Lent, which reminds us to examine our lives. Help us be attentive to the Holy Spirit's guidance in attending to our own spiritual growth throughout our lives. Amen.

Context Connection
The Gospel opens with an interesting story about the Galileans who were killed by Pilate while they were offering a sacrifice in Jerusalem. The story offers a glimpse of how Pilate used violence to keep his subjects in line. The people telling the story to Jesus see an opportunity to create a conflict for Jesus. If he condemns the action of Pilate and upholds his fellow Galileans, he will be seen as someone who defies the civil authority. On the other hand, if Jesus condones Pilate's actions, he will be seen as someone who does not honor Jewish tradition.

Jesus avoids this trap. His response challenges a different Jewish perception: that untimely death happens to those who are guilty of great sin. Jesus confronts his questioners by asking, "Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans?" (13:2). Of the 18 who died when a tower fell on them, Jesus asks, "Do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem?" (13:4). Jesus' answer is no: "No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did" (13:5). Jesus points out two things. First, God does not directly punish us for sins by sending calamities and catastrophes. Second, human beings commit sin and must be willing either to repent or face spiritual death.

Jesus has set the stage for his parable about the fig tree that begins, "A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard" (13:6). In the Old Testament, when a fig tree and a grapevine grew together, it was a sign of God's blessing (see Micah 4:4 and Joel 2:22). The process of planting and growing fruit trees was regulated by Leviticus 19:23. For the first three years, the fruit could not be eaten. In the fourth year, the fruit was given to God, and only in the fifth year could the fruit be eaten. This background helps us determine that the tree in Jesus' parable is about eight years old and still not bearing figs. It is important to know that the Palestinian fig tree bears fruit about 10 months of the year. Someone could reasonably expect to come to the tree at almost any time and find fruit to eat.

In the parable, the owner has been coming to the tree for three years and has never found any fruit. So he demands that the gardener cut down the tree because it is sucking nutrients from soil that could give life to something else. The gardener asks for just one more year for the tree. If it does not bear fruit in that time, then the gardener will cut it down. During that year the gardener intends to fertilize the tree (put down manure) in hopes the tree will bear fruit. Luke portrays the gardener as a person of great patience and perseverance. The parable ends there, and we do not know whether the tree ever bears fruit. But we will examine the parable's meaning in the Wisdom Connection.

Tradition Connection
In Catholic parishes that celebrate the RCIA this Sunday, the elect (candidates for the sacraments of initiation) will experience the first of three scrutinies--rites of self-searching and repentance. The intention of the scrutinies is to uncover and then heal all that is weak or sinful in the hearts of the elect as well as to bring forth and strengthen all that is good and strong. The scrutinies are celebrated on the third, fourth, and fifth Sundays of Lent.

For the whole Church, Lent is a time when Christians are called to examine their lives and acknowledge what is weak or sinful and what is good and righteous. By their Baptism, Christians are incorporated into Christ--become part of the body of Christ--"'dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus and so participate in the life of the Risen Lord"1 (Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1694). Because of their Baptism, Christians are "children of God"2 and thus "partakers of the divine nature"3 (Catechism, paragraph 1692). Therefore, Catholics are challenged to live a life "worthy of the gospel of Christ"4 (Catechism, paragraph 1692). Christians are called to be saints, as Paul writes to the Corinthians: "To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints" (1 Corinthians 1:2). As saints, Christians are imitators of God's love here on earth through words, actions, and thoughts. They are prompted by the Holy Spirit to "act so as to bear 'the fruit of the Spirit'5 by charity in action" (Catechism, paragraph 1695).

Lent is a good time to evaluate how well our life reflects the love of God, how well we are living as a child of the light. It is a time to recognize the parts of our lives that are wounded and in need of healing. Assisted by the Holy Spirit, we can be healed and spiritually transformed--a foretaste of the resurrection to new life.

Wisdom Connection
The Psalm response for this Sunday is "The Lord is kind and gracious" (103:8). Some translations use merciful instead of gracious. The whole verse includes these words: "slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love" (103:8). What a powerful image of God!

This is the God that Luke speaks about in his Gospel. The parable of the fig tree is really an understanding of God's patient mercy for human beings. The gardener who had tended the barren fig tree is willing to invest even more time and energy, though it seems unreasonable to do so. God is the patient gardener who perseveres because God has faith in us and believes that we can be transformed by God's abounding steadfast love and mercy. Once transformed by God's love, we can enthusiastically share God's love with one another.

The second point Luke makes in the parable is this: nurturing one's faith over a lifetime is important even when no fruit seems to be present. Our spiritual growth and development span our entire lifetimes and do not just occur at isolated moments. Therefore, persistence and patience are key.

Lent is a significant time to look at our lives and ask, "What fruit am I bearing? What needs tending in my spiritual life so that I will bear spiritual fruit in the future?"

Acknowledgments
The scriptural quotations contained herein are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Catholic Edition. Copyright © 1993 and 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. All rights reserved.

The Lord's Prayer and the quotation labeled Catechism are from the English translation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church for use in the United States of America. Copyright © 1994 by the United States Catholic Conference, Inc.--Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Used with permission.

Endnotes cited in quotations from the Catechism of the Catholic Church
1. Romans 6:11 and cf. 6:5; cf. Colossians 2:12.
2. John 1:12; 1 John 3:1.
3. 2 Peter 1:4.
4. Philippians 1:27.
5. Galatians 5:22,25.

Saint Spotlight

The Chair of Saint Peter

Do we really have a special day to celebrate a chair? No, we do not. As in committee meetings ("The chair has the floor"), we refer to the chair-holder, that is, Saint Peter. Saint Peter was many things—a husband, a fisherman, an Apostle, and the first leader of the early Church.

On this day, we celebrate Peter’s saying yes to leadership and responsibility. As indicated by the current pope’s recent courageous decision to resign—the first decision of its kind in 600 years—there is a time to say yes and a time to say no. Let us ask Saint Peter to guide us in our decisions as we continue to follow Jesus in the ministry to which he has called us. Let us ask Peter’s intercession especially for Pope Benedict XVI and for the cardinals who will choose our new pope.

Read more about the feast of the Chair of Saint Peter at http://www.americancatholic.org/Features/Saints