Thursday of the First Week of Lent

Reading I Est C:12, 14-16, 23-25

Queen Esther, seized with mortal anguish,
had recourse to the LORD.
She lay prostrate upon the ground, together with her handmaids, 
from morning until evening, and said:
“God of Abraham, God of Isaac, and God of Jacob, blessed are you. 
Help me, who am alone and have no help but you,
for I am taking my life in my hand.
As a child I used to hear from the books of my forefathers
that you, O LORD, always free those who are pleasing to you.
Now help me, who am alone and have no one but you,
O LORD, my God.

“And now, come to help me, an orphan.
Put in my mouth persuasive words in the presence of the lion
and turn his heart to hatred for our enemy,
so that he and those who are in league with him may perish.
Save us from the hand of our enemies;
turn our mourning into gladness
and our sorrows into wholeness.”

Responsorial Psalm 138:1-2ab, 2cde-3, 7c-8

R.    (3a)  Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me.
I will give thanks to you, O LORD, with all my heart,
    for you have heard the words of my mouth;
    in the presence of the angels I will sing your praise;
I will worship at your holy temple
    and give thanks to your name.
R.    Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me.
Because of your kindness and your truth;
    for you have made great above all things
    your name and your promise.
When I called, you answered me;
    you built up strength within me.
R.    Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me.
Your right hand saves me.
The LORD will complete what he has done for me;
    your kindness, O LORD, endures forever;
    forsake not the work of your hands.
R.    Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me.

Verse before the Gospel Ps 51:12a, 14a

A clean heart create for me, O God;
give me back the joy of your salvation.

Gospel Mt 7:7-12

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Ask and it will be given to you;
seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds;
and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. 
Which one of you would hand his son a stone
when he asked for a loaf of bread,
or a snake when he asked for a fish?
If you then, who are wicked,
know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will your heavenly Father give good things
to those who ask him.

“Do to others whatever you would have them do to you. 
This is the law and the prophets.”

– – –

Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Persistence In Prayer

We hear in today’s reading and Gospel about the importance of not just prayer, but persistence in prayer. Queen Esther spends the day praying to God for help in freeing her enslaved people, the Jews.  She is described as being in “mortal anguish” as she lay on the ground begging God to give her the right words. This passage is just the beginning of a much longer prayer but in it we see elements of a perfect prayer. She begins by praising and blessing God. She knows he is the God of her forefathers and that he answers prayers. She acknowledges – twice – that she is alone and dependent on God. She approaches him with humility and faith in his good will. 

Then she asks God for what she desires – help in saving her people from death. Her husband, the king and his chief minister were planning to kill all the Jews in the empire. Being Jewish herself, Esther couldn’t let this happen and knew she was in a position to help but she didn’t know how. So she turned to God fully believing that as he had saved the Jews in the past, he would do so again. She knew that it would be him working through her that would save them.

Today’s Gospel follows the theme of persistence in prayer. Jesus exhorts us to ask, seek, and knock. He assures us we will receive and draws the parallel of God as our father. If we as sinful people, would grant our own children’s request, so much more will the perfect Almighty Father give good things to us. Jesus assures us all we need to do is ask him. 

We can be bold in approaching the Father because Jesus came to earth to restore our broken relationship with God. He is the door to our Father; he is the Way. God is not an unreachable deity in the sky who sits dispassionately in judgment. Rather he is a loving Father who desires good for us. Does this mean we can ask for and receive a money tree for our backyard or anything else equally silly? No. What it means is that we can go to Him in prayer, praising him, thanking him, and knowing he sees us and hears us. With our faithful hearts we believe that while we may not get what we think we want, we will get what God knows we need and that is always perfect. 

We are blessed to be the children of a Father who will not be outdone in generosity. When we go to him, whether it is in sorrow, fear, confusion, or anxiety, we are assured that he is with us and will give us what we need to continue to grow more in love with him. 

Contact the author

Merridith Frediani’s perfect day includes prayer, writing, unrushed morning coffee, reading, tending to dahlias, and playing Sheepshead with her husband and three kids.  She loves finding God in the silly and ordinary.  She writes for Ascension Press, Catholic Mom, and her local Catholic Herald in Milwaukee. Her first book Draw Close to Jesus: A Woman’s Guide to Eucharistic Adoration is expected to be released summer 2021. You can reach her at merridith.frediani@gmail.com

Feature Image Credit: waldryano, https://pixabay.com/photos/woman-praying-prayer-faith-1932952/

The Thought Of Losing Me

“At the judgment,” Jesus says in today’s Gospel, “the queen of the south will rise with the men of this generation and she will condemn them….(T)he men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it.” Why will “this generation” be condemned? Because they will not accept him as their salvation! The people of Nineveh and the Queen of Sheba were open to the truth, and so, even though they were not part of the Chosen People, they accepted the wisdom of their God. They recognized Truth when they heard it.

Will they really “condemn” others? Not in the sense of exercising the power of judgment against them (this belongs to Christ alone), but only in the sense that their actions and choices will be seen to be superior to the actions and choices of “the Jews” of Jesus’ time, according to Venerable Bede.

Jesus is again pleading with the people to see and accept the Truth that he has come to proclaim, so he points to familiar events of the past to say, “Even THESE people recognized and were open to the Truth – these Gentiles! Surely, you are in a better position to choose rightly than they were!” And he seems to give a little “clue” that will make sense to them later, if they dare to consider it after the Resurrection: Just as Jonah spent three days in the belly of a whale (during which time he would be presumed dead) and came out alive, so Jesus will be killed and spend three days in the earth and emerge alive and glorified. Will they accept him then?

We might take these words of Jesus to prayer and ask him to show us any hidden or subtle resistance we have to accepting Him fully. Lent is the time set aside each year when we examine our hearts more thoroughly, and ask for the grace to see what obstacles we may yet have to God’s Truth and saving action in our lives.

What distractions do I allow to keep me from spending more time with Jesus?

What am I still striving for, except Jesus?

What do I think I need to remain safe and happy, beyond Jesus?

Where am I still afraid to surrender fully to Jesus?

What do I think I need to do to become my best self, besides Jesus?

Lent is a time to appreciate again, anew, aright, that the overwhelming love that Jesus has for me drove him all the way to the Cross – because he knew that without the Cross, I could not find joy or security or peace, and I could not be with him forever! It is the thought of losing me that kept him going through his long Passion. The thought of losing HIM should keep me going through the little self-denials of Lent.

Let’s let go of all that is not valuable this Lent, so that our hands are free to embrace our Savior fully.

Contact the author

Kathryn Mulderink, MA, is married to Robert, Station Manager for Holy Family Radio. Together they have seven children (including newly ordained Father Rob and seminarian Luke ;-), and two grandchildren. She is a Secular Discalced Carmelite and has published five books and many articles. Over the last 25 years, she has worked as a teacher, headmistress, catechist, Pastoral Associate, and DRE. Currently, she serves the Church as a writer and voice talent for Catholic Radio, by publishing and speaking, and by collaborating with the diocesan Office of Catechesis, various parishes, and other ministries to lead others to encounter Christ and engage their faith. Her website is https://www.kathryntherese.com/.

Feature Image Credit: djedj, https://pixabay.com/photos/pieta-christ-passion-basilique-1864077/

Blessed Maria Adeodata Pisani

Blessed Maria Adeodata Pisani

Blessed Maria Adeodata Pisani was born into a noble family in Naples, Italy in 1806. Her father was an alcoholic and was exiled after being involved in a revolt. Maria’s grandmother raised her. When her grandmother died, the 10 year-old was sent to a boarding school until she was 17.

During these years, Maria declined several marriage proposals because she preferred to lead a quiet life of prayer.

When she turned 21, she entered the Benedictine Community in St. Peter’s Monastery and took the name Maria Adeodata. She made her solemn profession two years later.

In the cloister, Maria was a seamstress, sacristan, porter, teacher and novice mistress. Her fellow nuns and many people outside the cloister benefited from her charity.

Maria Adeodata wrote various works, the most well-known of these is a collection of her personal reflections between the years 1835 and 1843 titled “The mystical garden of the soul that loves Jesus and Mary”.

She was an abbess from 1851 to 1853 but had to retire from her duties because she suffered from heart problems.

On Feb. 25, 1855, at the age of 48 and in poor health, she dragged herself to the chapel for Mass, against her nurse’s advice. After receiving Communion, she had to be carried back to bed where she died soon afterward.

She had a simple funeral and was buried in the monastery’s crypt the following day.

Maria was remembered for her sanctity, love of the poor, self-imposed sacrifices, and ecstasies so complete that she was seen levitating.

She was beatified by Blessed John Paul II in 2001.