Start your meeting with the Sign of the Cross and a prayer
A reading from the Gospel of St John 20:24-29
Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord!" But he said to them, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe."
A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe."
Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!" Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."
Read the Reflection
Lent is a sacred time in the Catholic Church for deepening our relationship with God. On Ash Wednesday we are symbolically anointed with ash reminding us of the reality of our lives. Sometimes the words from the book of Genesis are used when God said to Adam, "Dust you are and to dust you will return." (Gen 3:19) We come from God and we return to God. That is the simple yet huge backdrop of everything else that happens to us. We were born out of love, we live in love and we will die to eternal love. Hence the alternative words of Ash Wednesday, "Turn away from sin and believe in the good news." The good news is that we are loved by God, the other news is that we sometimes fail and need to "come back" or "start again." For some people, their first conscious meeting with Jesus is a conversion. For many of us, life consists of regular reformation and turning back to the love we sometimes ignore. That is part of the task in Lent.
The following is a brief testimony from Anca Flueras from Romania who in 2001, together with her husband, settled in Auckland where they now live with their six children. She is one of our Marian Mothers. Her story may help us to appreciate our own gift of faith, God's love for us and our need to begin yet again. Pat Devlin sm
I was born in Romania during the Communist times. My family was Greek Orthodox, a religion tolerated by the authorities, but we didn't often go to church. The government had imprisoned the Romanian Catholic bishops, priests, religious and many lay people who refused to give up their religion. As a child I was often on my own as my parents had to work and my older siblings were away. I would wander the streets with other children sometimes getting into trouble. One day when I was about 11, my best friend told me that she was learning catechism in the Catholic Church and that there was this amazing nun, Sister Antonina. I started going with her and felt drawn by Jesus through the goodness of sister and the group.
We Romanians were forbidden to be Catholics but the Hungarian people living amongst us were able to attend their church because they were not considered a threat to the government. When I mentioned my desire to learn more about the Catholics my father forbad me. He said, "Do you want your Daddy to be taken into prison?" I used to go to my sports sessions three times a week, so I would miss one session and secretly attend the catechism classes. I struggled in my conscience between disobeying my father and doing what I felt Jesus wanted. I had also to avoid being known as Catholic.
Because my grandmother was Hungarian and we knew the language I could be mistaken as Hungarian and enter their church. Then we Romanian children would slip into a little secret room up near the choir loft. There sister would teach us and prepare us for the Sacraments.
My happiest day came when I was to make my First Holy Communion. A week before I packed my white clothes, socks, skirt and shirt, in a bag and hid it in the long grass of the school near the church because it was the school holidays. Then on the Sunday I retrieved them and went into the church for my Holy Communion Mass. The families that were underground Catholics attended but I was alone without my family present. Afterwards I again hid the bag and a week later when I went to retrieve it, the men were cutting the grass in preparation for the new school term and I just managed to get my stuff unseen and smuggle it back home. I hid my framed certificate and photos under my bed. A year later, in 1989 the Revolution overthrew the Communists and the Catholics were free again. But our churches were not immediately returned and for some years our Sunday Mass was in a public park even when it was snowing. It took some years for my parents to be reconciled to what I had done, especially since my sister also joined me as a Catholic after the Revolution.
My husband, Christian, had a different experience. He was born into a Catholic family that secretly continued to practice their faith. His mother's sister was a nun and she lived, unnoticed in the home. They built a room onto their house where a priest who was about 60 years old, hid for six years until the Revolution. The neighbours didn't know he was there and he could sneak out only at night. Mass would be celebrated secretly in the house. As a growing boy Christian leant much from Fr Montiano who was a wise teacher and a friend for many years.
When I am asked what empowered me during those times and until today, I can only say, "The love of Jesus." At the beginning I felt so close to God and I loved Sister Antonina. She was so nice. I experienced a profound conversion during my first Sacrament of Reconciliation. I wanted to change my life. I felt saved from what might have happened to me if I remained wandering the streets and knew that Jesus loved me and wanted something else of me. I felt from my heart that I am called. I felt a love for Jesus and am happy as a Catholic.
For me, as the Catechism says, "Conversion is first of all a work of the grace of God who makes our hearts return to him: 'Restore us to thyself, O Lord, that we may be restored!' (Lamentations 5:21) God gives us the strength to begin anew." (Catechism of the Catholic Church #1432)
Share your responses:
Who has helped me in my faith?
Whilst we may not be living in the same political circumstances as Anca was, our society is still imperfect.
In what ways am I able to find Jesus in the woundedness around me?
Have you had a 'conversion experience' / new beginning in your faith journey?
How do I share my faith with others?
If time allows, some may wish to share ways in which:
your faith is challenging you at present; or what is challenging your faith.
For your own intentions and other needs
Conclude the meeting with the following:
God, You are the deepest ground of our being
and you love us infinitely more that we love ourselves.
Help us to open ourselves up to your life-giving
and challenging presence in us.
Enlighten the eyes of our heart to discern your most holy will,
in which all that is good has its source and sustenance
today and every day forever and ever. Amen