Lent and Easter ($3.95)
Six-Week Meeting Guide for Small Groups
Order from: http://catalog.americancatholic.org/product.aspx?prodid=B16688&pcat=119
Synopsis and Sample Reflection Questions
by Margo Doten
“Lent and Easter,” one of the eight titles in the “Gathered In His Name” series of small group meeting guides, offers an overview of the major themes and Scripture readings of the seasons of Lent, Triduum and Easter. This is a 32-page paperback booklet in 8-1/2x11 format. Each participant would need his/her own copy. Each meeting is approximately 90 minutes long (allow another 30 minutes for treats and socializing).
Meeting One: The Season of Lent
At a time of year when nature is at its least appealing, the church presents us a great gift: the season of Lent. The change from winter to spring can mirror the growth and new life we find during this beautiful season. Lent gives us a chance to simplify and focus so we can become the person God intended. Lent began not as a penitential season, but as the Catechumen’s time of preparation for Baptism. The Bishops at the Second Vatican Council connected the two meanings of the season by saying “there are two elements which are especially characteristic of Lent – the recalling of Baptism, or the preparation for it, and Penance…More use is to be made of the Baptismal features…” Both Baptism and Penance lead us to conversion. Prayer, fasting and outreach help us on the road, the Lenten Scriptures invigorate us and the Eucharist nourishes us. Lent can be a time of “purification and enlightenment” for us all.
Sample reflection question: Share a time when Lent, Holy Week or the Easter season had a special meaning for you.
Meeting Two: The Call to Identity
“Know yourself, know Jesus, become Jesus” (the words of an elderly retreat master).We need to know where we’ve been and where we are now if we are to keep moving on the journey of faith. Lent “cries out for each of us to know ourselves, build on the good that is in us and change what needs to be changed, not on our own, but with the strength of the Spirit and the prayers of the whole church.” Our primary teacher is Jesus, who retired to the desert before beginning his public ministry. How can we take these 40 days to listen to the Spirit? Lent reminds us we are “anointed ones,” chosen for a special purpose. “That’s why Lent is such a wonderful season of hope. It is a 40-day reminder that we are always on the move from Ash Wednesday to Easter, from death to life, from sin to conversion, from darkness to the blazing light of God’s grace.”
Sample reflection question: You have been anointed for a special purpose. What do you think it might be?
Meeting Three: The Call To Simplicity
The liturgies, environment and hymns of Lent lead us to strip down to the essentials. The ancient Lenten practice of fasting can help us simplify our lives, feel our solidarity with the poor of the world and recognize that without God, we are empty. If we take the time and/or money we save and give it to those in need, our fast becomes even more fruitful. “The simplicity of Lent asks us to give away what we don’t need and don’t use and to spend our time and money on things that count…. Lent reminds us that ‘“tis a gift to be simple’ … and in that simplicity we find freedom.” Life in the desert can be “stark, emptying, mysterious and clarifying.” After Jesus’ 40 days in the desert, he returned “full of the Holy Spirit” and began his public ministry. Our own desert experiences may be illness, the loss of a family member, foreclosure, unemployment, etc. “We ourselves may choose to cut back on the nonessentials, or events beyond our control may force that choice upon us… the result can be a clearer understanding of who we are and what is important…”
Sample reflection question: On a scale of one to ten (with one being the simplest and ten the most complicated), where is your life right now? Where would you like it to be?
Meeting Four: The Call To Prayer
Prayer has always been first on the list of Lenten practices, and our Lenten Scriptures teach much about types of prayer. “Prayer doesn’t have to be lengthy or filled with special language. It is simply a sincere attempt to recognize that God is present in our lives, that God is good and that we want to be filled with that goodness… We want to be people of prayer: people who stay awake, listen and let God fill our lives with light.”
Centering Prayer and lectio divina are two forms of prayer that may help our Lenten journey. The meeting concludes with a guided lectio divina, using Second Corinthians 5:17-18, 20.
Sample reflection question: What word or phrase did you “hear” during the reading from Corinthians? What did it mean in terms of your own life?
Meeting Five: The Call To Conversion
Opening prayer: Mother Teresa’s “Jesus to Me.” The call to repentance is probably the part of Lent we understand best. “Today the official regulations are looser, but the challenges are all the more profound.” The Sunday Scriptures focus on repentance and continuing conversion. “We are always beginning again, and always making a new start on the path toward wholeness… But every time we are ‘doing justice, loving kindness and walking humbly with our God' we’re on our way.” Following Jesus also means reaching out to others. “The bishops of Vatican II made it clear that during Lent penance should be not only internal and individual, but also external and social. Pope John Paul II… stressed the modern-day need for solidarity… Mother Teresa’s prayer speaks to the same point.” Jesus was constantly reaching out to the poor and those on the margins of society. “Feed my lambs,” he says to Peter. “Tend my sheep.” Our Lenten fasting and outreach can help us do just that.
Sample reflection question: When have you felt a connection to a stranger in distress? What did you do about it?
Meeting Six: Fully Alive
Opening Prayer: “We are prophets of a future not our own.” St. Irenaeus said, “The glory of God is a human fully alive.” In the beauty of Lent, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and the entire Easter season we find life and hope. The procession of readings during Lent speak to “transformation – from sadness, loneliness, sin and despair into joy, light and victory.” In the intensity of Jesus’ last supper, passion, death and resurrection, “we remember, relive and celebrate the deepest mysteries of our faith, and we take a full 50 days after Easter to keep on celebrating.” And we are not alone. We have the power of God and of our church community with us. The opening prayer reminds us that we can each do something to build the kingdom. “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation,” Paul writes. We are in Christ, and again this spring, in our lives, everything has become new.
Sample reflection question: How are you a “new person” since last year at this time?