Start your meeting with the Sign of the Cross and a prayer
From Ephesians 2:4-7
"But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ - by grace you have been saved - and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus."
Read the Reflection
I don't know about you, but I love maple syrup and have friends in Canada where it is produced. Are you planning or perhaps you have already had pancakes with maple syrup on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday? The day is also called Shrove Tuesday, Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras (the French for "Fat Tuesday") which sounds a lot nicer. It is the last day of feasting before Lent and comes from a time when any rich foods were used up on that day, so nothing was wasted as fasting begins. Since the middle ages, "Lent" is the word for the forty days of fasting from Ash Wednesday to Easter, excluding Sundays. Originally for non-Christians, it simply meant Spring. Now we have freezers and modern storage options we don't always appreciate the significance of the Feasting before the Fasting and perhaps we also lose some of the meaning of Lent being in the Southern hemisphere. My Canadian friends experience the seasons opposite to our own which brings me back to Maple syrup.
In Canada as the coldest part of winter ends, usually late February-March, the maple trees are 'tapped' for sap which is harvested when the nights are below freezing but the day's mild. That weather triggers sap to flow from the roots to the branches, preparing and renewing it for new growth. The sap harvest lasts about 4-6 weeks and done right causes no lasting damage.
I think it offers a good image for Lent. The 4-6 weeks of sap rising stimulates new growth and that is our motivation in Lent; we try to endure a little sacrifice and make extra effort to grow deeper in love with God. Tapping into the sap causes no harm while producing sustaining goodness to be shared. The more we contemplate Jesus and tap into the vitality and mercy of the Trinity flowing through us, the greater is our capacity to share the rich sustaining experience of his love. How does seeing Lent as a time of expectant preparation for new growth and sap rising challenge or encourage you? Have you ever thought about it in this way before? How might the image help in explaining Lent to children or non-Catholics?
The seasons of the Church year begin on the First Sunday of Advent, and this year Pope Francis proclaimed an Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. The title sounds promising. Should we be expecting something good? The answer is an adamant 'yes'. A Jubilee year in the book of Leviticus (25:8-24) happens every fifty years and is a special experience of liberty. There was to be no agricultural work; all landed property was to revert to its original owner and slaves were to be set free. It was a year of renewal and revitalization to re-focus on God and on restoring right relationships between one another and with the earth. Jubilee offered mercy and forgiveness for all. (Leviticus 25:8-24).
Pope Francis proclaimed this Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy on the fiftieth anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Council. He sees a great need for the Church to keep this event alive because in that Council "we entered a new phase of church history." He states, "The Council Fathers strongly perceived, as a true breath of the Holy Spirit, a need to talk about God to men and women in a more accessible way… The Church sensed a responsibility to be a living sign of the Fathers love in the world." MV 4
A door of mercy has been opened this year in St Peters, Rome and in every Diocese of the world offering a fresh opportunity for anyone passing through it, to experience the love of God who consoles, pardons and instils hope. Pope John XXIII at the opening of Vatican II said:
"Now the Bride of Christ wishes to use the medicine of mercy… to show herself a loving mother to all; patient, kind, moved by compassion and goodness toward her separated children".
This Lent the Pope invites us to meditate on Scripture and rediscover the merciful face of the Father! He asks every Diocese to offer a Sacrament of Reconciliation celebration of "24 Hours for the Lord" over the Friday and Saturday 4th/5th March. He wants us to rediscover the Sacrament of Reconciliation as a place of mercy and healing, which opens the way back to the Lord and to make it available to those who are so far away.
The Jubilee year of mercy is "dedicated to living out in our daily lives the mercy which the Father constantly extends to all of us." Pope Francis prays: "may the sweetness of Mary's countenance watch over us in this Holy Year, so that all of us may rediscover the joy of God's tenderness." Let's support and encourage each other as mothers, as family members, as women, to invite God to use Lent as a time of sap rising within us and as Pope Francis says "allow God to surprise us."
Then Share Your Thoughts
on any of the suggested questions or on your own ideas on the topic.
Do you celebrate 'pancake day' and did you know it's origins?
Had you heard about the special '24 hours for the Lord' to celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation? Can you encourage your parish to take part?
Pope Francis speaks of the sacrament of reconciliation as 'a medicine of mercy' (c.f. our Scripture reference to "God being rich in mercy").
Anything you have experienced that you wish to share about this?
Can you imagine a short term difficulty of confessing, (which could be likened to tapping the maple tree for sweet sap), worth the long term gain of 'love beyond measure' flowing into your life, to experience yourself and to share? Could this thought overcome any possible fear of 'going to confession'?
No. 4 From our Charter – for your reflection this month
A Christian mother knows she is loved by God. God gives her many personal gifts; Jesus offers His friendship and love; and the Holy Spirit strengthens her.
"What the Spirit brings is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness, and self-control." Galatians 5:22
Challenge for this Lent:
Take yourself and your children to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Try to prepare before going so as to make it a joyful celebration.
For your own intentions and other needs
Conclude the meeting with the following:
Adapted from: The way of the cross with Jesus and Mary by Fr. Barbaric
Jesus, now with Mary we pray for all parents who are suffering because of their children.
We pray for those who cannot meet again, because they are prevented by human injustice or war.
We pray for those who do not want to meet again because love has grown weary and been replaced with mistrust and pain.
Mother Mary, caress with your gentle hand all those who are looking for you,
and all those who are not, because it is so sad to be without a loving mother.
Please ask your son for all mothers to be graced in their motherhood.
Embrace all of us in your tender care.
Renew us and the church, because the church looks to you as the star which guides us to salvation.
Jesus and Mary thank you for inviting us to walk in mercy once again.