Category Archives: Almsgiving

Have to Get It Right!

Matthew 5:48   “You therefore must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Want to know what you need to do (and, if you are anything like me, you’re probably not doing it very well at all.)  Read Matthew Chapter 5.  You know, the one with the beatitudes, plucking out eyes and cutting off hands, and anger, and adultery, and divorce, and swearing, and retaliation, and loving one’s enemies.  One can’t read this Chapter without realizing what little worms we are when it comes to the whole perfection thing.  I read Chapter 5 before and after going to confession.  This and Chapter 25 are all I need to trot myself off to the confessional.  Add the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, and I can go all gooey on the inside contemplating my long stay in Purgatory.

And yet. . .

God gives us grace and forgiveness and mercy to help us to prioritize the pursuit of holiness in our lives.  Pursuing holiness begins with having a strong, true, and ardent love for God and for our neighbor.  It means praying and fasting and making each word and act and little daily sacrifice the means of proving our love for our Savior who died on the cross for Love of us.  An effective love can transform a dry, cold heart into a furnace of charity.  Then we can burn with Love of God even while we must live here below.  I hope you, like myself, pursue this ardent charity.

We got to get this right.

“Lord, with your loving care, guide the penance we have begun.  Help us to persevere with love and sincerity.  Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.”  Liturgy of the Hours: Evening Prayer for the Friday after Ash Wednesday.


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Righteousness – A Word Study

Just finished reading Chapters 3 and 4 of Matthew’s Gospel.  There is so much there that it would take pages to discuss.  It is about His baptism by John and His temptation in the desert.  Satan was tempting Jesus’ identity as the Son of God.  He wants Him to embrace an earthly and political mission and thus subvert from His real mission of suffering and dying for our salvation.

Unlike us, Jesus could not have sinned at any time during His earthly life.  His “temptations” were entirely the suggestions of the devil and had nothing to do with any kind of inner struggle or disordered desire of a fallen nature.  We, of course, experience temptation because of our fallen nature.  However, just because He couldn’t sin, doesn’t mean that He didn’t show us how the devil should be treated when he comes around with his “suggestions.”

According to St. John Chrysostom, Jesus gives us a perfect example of Christian obedience.  Earthly life is our wilderness.  Our goal is to get to the “land” of heaven.  This life is like a probationary period for us.  God wills that we  overcome temptations (from the world, the flesh, and the devil) through the practice of penance and obedience to God’s word.   We must desire Christ’s humility.  And this is how we can increase the gift of righteousness:  penance, obedience, and humility.

Righteousness is a gift from God.  The word itself is used 7 times in Matthew and 85 times in the rest of the New Testament.  Christ first gives us this gift in Baptism when we are restored in our relationship as an adopted son or daughter of God.  It always means (from the Greek) the uprightness and faithfulness of God and His people.  It is part of the unique covenant vocabulary that runs throughout the old and new testaments.  God’s righteousness is because He is holy and is revealed as He takes care of Israel.  Now, He has demonstrated His righteousness through the saving work of His Son, Jesus Christ.  Jesus wants us to be righteous, like He and His Father, are righteous.

“Submit yourselves therefore to God.  Resist the devil and he will flee from you.  Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.  Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you men of double mind.  Humble yourselves before the Lord and He will exalt you.”  Jn 4: 7-8, 10

And, I might add, fill you with righteousness.

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The Fig Tree

“Behold the fig tree, and all the trees.  When they put forth their buds, you know that summer is near.  Even so, when you see these things coming to pass, know that the kingdom of God is near.”  Luke 21: 29-31

The Advent season in an invitation to sanctity.  Yes, we wait “with joyful hope for the coming of our Savior.”  We have hopeful expectations that He will come again in all His glory.  We even look for signs like Jesus told us in Luke’s gospel.  We pour over the signs of our times and wonder if the end is near.  Some of us long for the end of the world with a longing that is so deep in our soul that we fear we will die from the longing.  We ask with the Psalmist, “How long, O Lord?”

There were two meanings in the Gospel on Sunday.  Jesus foretold the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.  Then, He turned to His second coming.  He gives us a reason to be glad for it.  “Now when these things begin to take place, look up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”  Luke 21: 28

Finally, He exhorts us to sanctity.  We have to face the fact that only by being holy as the Father is holy will we enter into heaven.  He is the fountain of life and grace; of strength and holiness.  He has already merited everything that serves for our sanctification; His gifts are unnumbered, yet we can not become saints unless we co-operate with Him.

Sanctity is the fullness of grace.  Jesus wills this for all of us.  Then, why are so few of us saints?  Why am I not a saint?

Sanctity is not obtained by our accomplishments or the number of gifts we have received from God.  Rather it is in the degree of sanctifying grace and charity to which our souls have attained by cooperating with His many invitations, inspirations and actual graces.  The gifts of Baptism and the Holy Spirit and all the sacraments should have already increased our treasure trove of grace.  And, yet, we remain slothful, prideful, and stingy.

It didn’t escape my attention that Luke’s chapter 21 begins with the Widow’s mite–extreme charity from extreme poverty.  What a lesson for us to begin this Advent season.  If we are to prove to Jesus that we are sincere about becoming holy, we need to, with His help, be very, very generous.  We need to overcome our selfishness and attachment to things no matter what it costs us.  We need to say a resounding “yes” to Him even when we would rather let our “hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life.”  Luke 21″ 34  We must not grow lazy in our pursuit of sanctity.

“O Jesus, never allow me to oppose and hinder Your actions in my soul.  Pursue me with Your grace until I give myself entirely to you.”

Have a blessed Advent.  Pursue sainthood with fervor!


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No Matter What the Consequences!

“Hear as Jesus heard; speak as Jesus spoke; suffer as Jesus suffered; die as Jesus died; rise as Jesus rose.”–One Bread One Body for Wednesday, March 27, 2013.

I have been sitting here with pen poised trying to visualize what this day would have looked like for Jesus and His disciples.  Was there an aura of intrigue about the temple and were they aware of it?  Had the disciples relaxed a bit because of the Hosannas ringing out when Jesus entered Jerusalem a few days before?  Were they watchful and anxious or just “hanging out” with Jesus?  Beginning Thursday evening, they will fall asleep, betray, flee, deny, despair, and hide.

I think I’m “hanging out” with Jesus after this post until Saturday afternoon.  I’m praying that I won’t fall asleep, betray, flee, deny, despair, and hide.  What about you?

Well, today, we study the final 9 verses of the Sermon on the Mount:  Matthew 7: 21-29.  I have learned much during this study.  Hope you have, too.

Concerning Self-Deception

Matthew 7:  21-23

7: 22 on that day:  This is the Day of Judgment on which Jesus will be the Divine Judge.  God’s sanctifying grace makes our soul fit for heaven.  We manifest it when we conform ourselves to the Father’s will, by knowing and obeying Jesus.  Sanctifying grace is conclusive evidence of our personal sanctity and membership in the family of God.  Charismatic graces, while heaven sent, are not.  (CCC 2003)

Hearers and Doers

Matthew 7: 24-29

7:24 like a wise man:  true wisdom puts Jesus’ teaching into practice and prepares for the future.  his house:  Physically, this parable alludes to building in New Testament Palestine.  Mud-brick houses were generally built in dry season.  Only a house with a solid foundation would resist erosion and destruction when torrential rains came.  Jesus’ reference to a wise man and his house is a reference to King Solomon who built the temple upon a great stone foundation.  Morally, the enduring house is the soul that is maintained only through labor and the materials of prayer and virtue grounded on Christ.

7:29 One who has authority:  Jesus delivered “new teaching “(Mk. 1: 27).  This teaching excelled over Mosaic Law in perfection.  (Matthew 5: 21-48)  Later, Jesus would denounce traditions that are incompatible with God’s word.  (15: 3-6; CCC 581)

The Ten Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 25:  these are all part of Jesus’ blueprint for Holy living.  I know that I will continue to read and ponder them often during this pilgrimage to heaven.

“Save us, save us, Savior of the world, for by your cross and Resurrection, you have set us free.”

Bloch-SermonOnTheMountNext time:  Easter Monday

Have a blessed and holy Triduum and a Joyous Easter!


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The Race to the Empty Tomb Begins

“Mary brought a pound of costly perfume made from genuine, aromatic nard, with which she anointed Jesus’ feet.  Then she dried His feet with her hair, and the house was filled with the ointment’s fragrance.”–John 12: 3

I love this passage from John.  It makes me think.  “Am I willing to give everything I have and everything I am to Jesus without counting the cost?”  Good question to think about during Holy Week.

Now to the second last section of the Sermon on the Mount.

Ask, Seek, Knock

(Matthew 7: 7-12)

7: 7  Ask. . .given you:  Jesus advocates perseverance in prayer.  Answered prayers stem from faith-filled intentions.  (CCC 2609)

CCC 2609 “Once committed to conversion, the heart learns to pray in faith. . .the beloved Son gives us access to the Father. . .He can tell us to “seek” and to “knock” since He Himself is the door and the way.”

7: 11 you then, who are evil:  Jesus indicates the pervasive sinfulness of man.  good things: the material necessities of life as well as the grace to live as God’s children.

7: 12 do so to them:  Jesus states the Golden Rule positively. (CCC 1970)

CCC 1970 the entire Law of the Gospel is contained in the ‘ new commandment’ of Jesus, to love one another as He has loved us.”

The Narrow Gate

(Matthew 7: 13-14)

Cities surrounded by a fortified wall had both wide and narrow gates for access.  Main, wide gates were big enough for whole caravans to pass through.  Small, narrow gates permitted only pedestrians.  Jesus is telling us that many will pass through this “easy” gate to “destruction.”  The “few” must exert some effort to make it to “life.”

False Prophets

(Matthew 7: 15-20)

These so-called prophets appear harmless, yet their ministry breeds error, division, and immorality.  (2 Peter 2: 1-3)

2 Peter 2: 1-3 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.  And many will follow their licentiousness, and because of them the way of truth will be reviled.  And in their greed they will exploit you with false words; from of old their condemnation has not bee idle and their destruction has not been asleep.”

Jesus Enters Jerusalem

Jesus Enters Jerusalem

Wednesday:  Matthew 7:  21-29

Study Question:  In Catholic Tradition, what is sanctifying grace?

Meditation:  Am I ready to carry my small sharing in the Cross of Jesus?


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The Big Three: Chapter 6: 1-18

At the beginning of Chapter 6, St. Matthew writes about the Lenten Big Three:  Almsgiving, Prayer & Fasting.  Let’s see what he has to say, shall we?

(6: 1-18)  Jesus reaffirms these three traditional works of mercy. (CCC 1434; 1969)  He does not challenge these practices in themselves.  He warns against performing them for public esteem. (CCC 1430)

(CCC 1969)  the new law practices the arts of religion:  almsgiving, prayer, and fasting, directing them to the “Father who sees in secret” in contrast with the desire to “be seen by men.”  Its prayer is the Our Father.

Concerning Almsgiving

(6: 2): give alms:  alms are charitable gifts given to the poor.  The exercise of one’s faith CAN be public so long as it flows from proper intentions.  (CCC 2447)

(CCC 2447)  Giving alms to the poor is one of the chief witnesses to fraternal charity; it is also a work of justice pleasing to God.”

He who has two coats. let him share with him who has none; and he who has food must do likewise.  But give for alms those things which are within, and behold, everything is clean for you.

Concerning Prayer

(6: 5-15)  The Our Father is such an important prayer, that my Wednesday blog will cover this alone.

Concerning Fasting

(6: 17)  anoint your head:  Fasting was often a public practice accompanies by wearing sackcloth and putting ashes on one’s head.  (Esther 4: 3; Dan 9: 3)  Hypocrites utilized this to appear devout to others.  Washing and anointing outwardly symbolize happiness and disguise one’s inner commitment to God.  (Ruth 3:3; Ps 23: 5; Is 6: 1-3; CCC 1438)

(CCC 1438)  The seasons and days of penance in the course of the liturgical year (Lent and each Friday in memory of the death of Our Lord) are intense moments of the Church’s penitential practice.  These times are particularly appropriate for spiritual exercises, penitential liturgies, pilgrimages as signs of penance, voluntary self-denial such as fasting and almsgiving, and fraternal sharing (charitable and missionary works.)

The Return of the Prodigal Son.

The Return of the Prodigal Son.

Next time:  Matthew 6: 5-15

Study Question:  How is the Our Father divided?  What are the 7 petitions?

Meditation:  “. . .and the greatest of these is love!”

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Conclusion of Chapter 5: 33-48 Probably the Toughest!

Next week, we will pick up the Sermon on the Mount in Chapter 6.  We are moving right along as we are over half-way through Lent.  It’s “gut-check” time.  Is our Lent helping us to get holy?  Are we praying, fasting, and giving alms (practicing works of mercy?)  Are we rushing less and reading more?  Are we getting to know Jesus; so we can better know the Father?  Are we attending Mass more often?  Have we gone to the Sacrament of reconciliation, yet or planning to go soon?  Or is it time for a course correction?  There’s plenty of opportunity to turn things around.

Concerning Swearing Oaths

(5:33) not swearing falsely:  Jesus forbids private oath swearing.  In the context of a public oath, God’s Holy Name is invoked to bring blessing to the upright and curses to those who violate their oaths.  Evidently, during Jesus’ time, people swore by heaven, hell, and Jerusalem (5: 34-35) for their own personal advantage and therefore, did not take their oaths seriously.

(5: 37)  Let what you say be simply “yes” or “no”; anything else is from the Evil One.

Concerning Retaliation

(5:38)  an eye for an eye:  Jesus forbids the misuse of Mosaic Law to justify private vengeance.  Exodus 21:24 was meant to limit retribution; (cf. Lev. 24-20; Deut 19: 21)  The punishment had to fit the crime and not exceed it.  Jesus eliminates a policy of retaliation from personal life.

(cf. Rom 12: 17)  Repay no one evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all.

(5: 41) if any one forces you:   Roman soldiers in NT Palestine could recruit and compel Jews into temporary service. (i.e. Simon of Cyrene in 27: 32)  Jesus wants ungrudging generosity beyond the call of duty.

Love for Enemies

(5: 43)  Jesus considers this one of the two great commandments of Mosaic Law.  Unfortunately, the Jews had a very narrow definition of “neighbor.”  It had to be someone exactly like them.  (CCC 1933)  hate your enemy:  Israel’s warfare laws were meant to wipe out Gentiles so the Jews wouldn’t imitate their idolatry.  Jews in NT Palestine disdained the Gentiles that lived among them.  Jesus broadens the definition of neighbor to include the Gentiles; even the Romans.

(5:48)  You. . .must be perfect. . :  New Covenant righteousness has a standard of mercy.  Jesus calls us to imitate God’s perfect compassion.  Our Father is kind and merciful to good and evil alike; so we must extend mercy even to our enemies.  (CCC 1968; 2842)

(Lk 6: 36)  Jesus gives holiness a new focus, defining it as mercy that reaches out to others.

(CCC 2842)  . . .it is impossible to keep the Lord’s commandment by imitating the Divine Model from outside; there has to be a vital participation, coming from the depths of the heart. . .

So there you have it: chapter 5 of the Sermon on the Mount.  This is Jesus’ recipe for a good and holy life here on earth and an eternity with Him in Heaven.  Let us pray that we will hold Him and His precepts in our hearts and live the two greatest commandments as He explains them in St. Matthew’s Gospel.

Good Samaritan

The Good Samaritan

Next week:  Begin Chapter 6: 1-15

Study Question:  (CCC 1933)  How does this explain our duty to expand our definition of who is our neighbor?

Meditation:  Chapter 5: 46-47


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You Have Heard that it was said: But I say to you

Before we get into today’s verses, I’d like to relate something very humorous that happened in my fourth grade religious ed class.  We read Sunday’s Gospel about the parable of the fruitless fig tree together.  Then, I gave them two coloring sheets related to this Gospel and parable.  I hadn’t really looked at them closely because I had printed them off a Catholic mom’s web site.

The first sheet was a picture of Jesus speaking in the synagogue.  When the girls began to color the second sheet, they began giggling.  When I looked at the sheet, there was the fig tree, the gardener, and (drum roll, please) a chainsaw.  We all had quite a time and laugh about that.

My husband suggested that it could have been water powered.  The deacon suggested that it could have been a “steal.”  However, I was just impressed that the girls understood that they probably did not have chainsaws when Jesus was living.

Concerning Adultery (Matthew 5: 27-30)

(5:27)  Jesus forbids adultery as does the Mosaic Law.  However, He extends the prohibition to impure and lustful thoughts even if they aren’t acted upon.  (CCC 2380)

(CCC 2380) The sixth commandment and the New Testament forbid adultery absolutely.  Jesus condemns even adultery of mere desire.  The prophets see it as an image of the sin of idolatry.  (Hos 2:7; Jer 5: 7; 13:27)

(5:29)  Pluck it out: this is NOT a literal command for self-mutilation.  Jesus uses alarming images because sexual sin is so severe.  Extreme measures are needed.

  1. to avoid occasions of sin
  2. to avoid the sins themselves
  3. to avoid the eternal punishment they lead to

Concerning Divorce (Matthew 5: 31-32)

(5: 31)  a certificate of divorce:  the Old Covenant permitted divorce and remarriage because of Israel’s sinfulness (19:8; cf Deut 24: 1-4)  In the New Covenant, divorce and remarriage leads to adultery.  Matthew adds an “exception clause.”:  (CCC 2382)

(CCC 2382)  The Lord Jesus insisted on the original intention of the Creator who willed that marriage be indissoluble.  He abrogates the accommodations that had slipped into the Old Law.

figtree Next Time:  Jesus on Marriage and Divorce

Study Question:  If possible, read about matrimony in the preaching of Jesus.  (CCC 1612-1617)  What questions come to your mind regarding this teaching?

Meditation: Prayerfully consider the following questions:

  1. Have I been faithful to my marriage vows in thought and action?
  2. Have I engaged in sexual activity outside the bond of matrimony?
  3. Have I used artificial birth control?
  4. Have I respected people of the opposite sex?
  5. Have I been guilty of impure actions?
  6. Do I dress modestly?
  7. Do I practice the virtue of chastity in all my thoughts and actions?


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The First Antithesis: Anger

Matthew 5: 21-48

     Jesus acts with divine authority to perfect and deepen the moral code of the Mosaic Law.  Each antithesis follows a similar format:

  • Jesus cites the Old Law  “you have heard that it was said. . .
  • He then responds with but I say to you. . .

This pattern shows us that Jesus is the New Moses and the lawgiver of the New Covenant.  He teaches them and us with the authority of God’s only Son.  This is my beloved son, my Chosen.  Listen to Him.  (Lk. 9: 35)

Concerning Anger (5: 21-26)

(5:21) You shall not kill: Jesus reaffirms that murder is unlawful but introduces a new dimension to the civil law.  And, Jesus adds escalating punishments depending upon the severity of the sin.  Anger is “liable to judgment.” (local court verdict)  Insult is “liable to the council.” (Jewish Sanhedrin)  Calling your brother “a fool” is liable to the “hell of fire.” (CCC 2302)

CCC 2302: Our Lord asks us to have peace in our heart and denounces murderous anger and hatred as immoral.  If anger reaches the point of a deliberate desire to kill or seriously wound someone, it is a mortal sin; a grave sin against charity.

(5:22) you fool: this is a translation from the Greek.  The Greek translates the Aramaic that Jesus used as an insult like “numbskull” or “empty-headed.”

(5:22) the hell of fire:  The Greek expression denotes the Valley of Gehenna; a garbage dump south of Jerusalem where garbage was burned continually.  Jesus wanted to illustrate the reality of damnation.  (CCC 1034-35)

(CCC 1034-35)  The unquenchable fire of eternal damnation is reserved for those who for their whole lives to the very end refuse to believe and be converted.  Both body and soul will be lost.

The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity.  Those who die in a state of mortal sin descend to hell where they suffer eternal fire.

Hell (Mk. 9: 43)

     Jesus refers to Gehenna 11 times in the Gospels as a dreadful symbol of hell.  Jesus evokes this imagery to tell us that hell is not a place of purification but one of fiery, eternal punishment.

The DecalogueNext Time:  Concerning Adultery (5: 27-30)

Study Question:  Discern other sins that would be sins against charity and the Fifth Commandment.

Meditation:  Examine your conscience focusing on sins against charity.

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Alertness to the cross; Being Salt and Light

Some thoughts on the Transfiguration

     When Jesus talks about the cross, the apostles tend to fall asleep.  Luke says that about a week after speaking of His suffering, He took Peter, John, and James and went up the mountain to pray.  They were “heavy with sleep.”  (Lk 9: 31-32) Some translations of Luke read, “Peter and those with Him had fallen into a deep sleep.”  In Luke 22: 45, when Jesus was suffering agony in the garden, the three apostles He took with Him to pray fell asleep, not once, but twice.

     It appears that the apostles in Luke’s Gospel were using sleep as an escape of the unpleasantness of the cross that each of us is asked to pick up each day.  Are we asleep, too?  Unless we pick up that cross, we will not enjoy the Transfiguration and the glory of heaven.

     Perhaps another Lenten practice would be to thank God for our small sharing in the cross each day; then being alert enough to recognize when it comes and embrace it passionately and gratefully.

The Kingdom of Heaven IV

     The Kingdom of Heaven is ethical, ecclesial, and eschatological.  We’ve already discussed how it is ethical and ecclesial.  Ultimately, the “kingdom of heaven,” will have an eschatological fulfillment in the future.  While it is present here through the Church; this is only a prelude to its full and final manifestation at the end of time.

     We read in Matthew 16:28, the “coming” of the kingdom awaits the return of Christ in glory.  the Church prays with hope for this to the Father (6:10) and makes preparation. (the Wise and the Foolish Virgins 25: 1-13)  Finally, when at last Jesus appears, He will send the righteous and wicked their separate ways.  And the righteio0us will be given the everlasting inheritance of the “kingdom of heaven.” (25: 31-46)

Salt and Light (Mt. 5: 13-14)

     The two illustrations of salt and light show that the disciples must be true to their calling if they are to remain useful to the kingdom.

salt of the earth:  we are to season and preserve the world with peace (Mk 9: 50) and gracious speech. (Col 4:5)

“Salt is good; but if the salt has lost is saltiness, how will you season it?  Have salt in yourselves and be at peace with one another.  (Mk 9: 50)

“Conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders, making the most of the time.  Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer every one.” (Col 4: 5)

light of the world:  we are to bear witness to Jesus and His message.  (Jn 1: 9; 8:12)

“Again, Jesus spoke to them saying, “I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (Jn 8: 12)

a city set on a hill: this refers to Jerusalem on Mt. Zion and is a visible sign of the eternal city that awaits the saints in heaven.  (Gal 4: 26; Heb 12: 22; Rev 21: 2)

“And I saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” (Rev 21: 2)

your Father:  In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus calls God “Father” a total of 17 times.  God’s Fatherhood is the deepest mystery of His identity.  (Jn 1:1; 1:12; Gal 4: 4-7)

purple-cross_-lent-212x400Next time:  Matthew 5: 17-20  The Fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets.

Study Question:  Read Galatians 4: 4-7.  These verses speak of the Divine Mission of the Son and the Spirit.  What is this mission?

Meditation:  How can I be salt and light to others during Lent?


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