Introduction to the Lenten Reflections
Since its inception, JSerra Catholic High School has dared to set itself apart. As one of the only high schools in the region to conduct a weekly all-school Mass, our identity is totally centered around this spiritual core. Our Wednesday Masses have come to represent a focal point, a hub, and a stake in the ground that keeps our community anchored. Like Peter walking out on the water to meet Jesus, everyone in the school puts down what they're doing for one hour to follow our Lord. Our days can be filled with distractions from our true purpose. Distractions are like waves tempting us to look away in fear. If we only keep our eyes on Jesus, we can walk on water.
During this season of Lent, we invite you to join us in keeping our focus fixed on the Lord. Each Wednesday and every day during Holy Week, we will post a reflection on a Gospel reading, including writings, music, and art pieces from contributors within our community.
Contact Director of Campus and Sports Ministry Zach Eckert at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Explore the Lenten Reflections
Gospel Reading: Mt 6:1-6, 16-18
Jesus said to his disciples:
"Take care not to perform righteous deeds
in order that people may see them;
otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.
When you give alms,
do not blow a trumpet before you,
as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets
to win the praise of others.
Amen, I say to you,
they have received their reward.
But when you give alms,
do not let your left hand know what your right is doing,
so that your almsgiving may be secret.
And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.
"When you pray,
do not be like the hypocrites,
who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners
so that others may see them.
Amen, I say to you,
they have received their reward.
But when you pray, go to your inner room,
close the door, and pray to your Father in secret.
And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.
"When you fast,
do not look gloomy like the hypocrites.
They neglect their appearance,
so that they may appear to others to be fasting.
Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.
But when you fast,
anoint your head and wash your face,
so that you may not appear to be fasting,
except to your Father who is hidden.
And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you."
People often don't look forward to Ash Wednesday or the Lenten season. Childhood memories of giving up candy or sitting through weekly Stations of the Cross come immediately to mind. Words like "sacrifice," "discipline," and "self-denial" are often used in ways that suggest that Lent is something to be endured rather than a time of grace and spiritual growth.
Have you ever thought of Lent as a yearly second chance? Each year the Church gives us six weeks to take a long, loving look at our lives to see if our values and priorities are in line with God's desires for us. Since most of us find that we've wandered from God's path, Lent becomes that second chance, or do-over, to "return to God with our whole heart."
I know a father that told me that he had urged his children to move beyond giving up candy to giving up some habit of sin that marked their lives. About halfway through Lent he asked the children how they were doing with their Lenten promise. One of his young sons had promised to give up fighting with his brothers and sisters during Lent. When his father asked him how it was going, the boy replied, "I'm doing pretty good, Dad — but boy, I can't wait until Easter!"
That response indicates that this boy had only partly understood the purpose of Lenten "giving up." Lent is about conversion, turning our lives more completely over to Christ and his way of life. That always involves giving up sin in some form. The goal is not just to abstain from sin for the duration of Lent but to root sin out of our lives forever. Conversion means leaving behind an old way of living and acting in order to embrace a new life in Christ. May you have a spiritually fruitful and joyful Lent of 2021, and please be assured of my prayers for everyone in the Jserra community as I will remember you at the holy sacrifice of the Mass.
- Fr. Damien Giap
Norbertine Priest & Chaplain
About Fr. Damien
Fr. Damien is currently the Rector at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church and School in Costa Mesa, where he is responsible for the spiritual formation of the students, families, teachers, and staff. Previously, he was JSerra’s Chaplain for 11 years, beginning in 2007. He still maintains a close relationship within our community and is beloved by students, parents, staff, and alumni.
About Jonathan Telles
Since joining JSerra in 2011, Mr. Telles has taught English and Religion. He is also the Music Minister for Wednesday Masses. He received his Bachelor of Arts in English and Philosophy, with a minor in Theology, from Franciscan University of Steubenville, where he graduated magna cum laude. He also holds a Master of Arts in English from the University of Dallas. Mr. Telles approaches teaching literature as an opportunity for students to explore humanity’s most profound experiences in order to better comprehend the consummate but mysterious Answer given to us in Christ. He also enjoys indie rock music, art house films, and the occasional photography excursion.
Gospel Reading: LK 11:29-32
While still more people gathered in the crowd, Jesus said to them,
"This generation is an evil generation;
it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it,
except the sign of Jonah.
Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites,
so will the Son of Man be to this generation.
At the judgment
the queen of the south will rise with the men of this generation
and she will condemn them,
because she came from the ends of the earth
to hear the wisdom of Solomon,
and there is something greater than Solomon here.
At the judgment the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation
and condemn it,
because at the preaching of Jonah they repented,
and there is something greater than Jonah here."
As last year came to an end, I posted on Instagram about how hard the last half of that year had been for me, as I know most of you can relate. My mental health was quivering like it had never done before, and not being able to interact with others or see my family brought me to a point in my life where I considered myself depressed. However, as I reflected on my struggle and spoke with friends and family about it, I realized that the root of my problem was not isolation or a teenage stage that I had not been through yet – it was unbelief. See, my life has had its periods of trials – between surgeries and moving to another country – when my faith in God was tested by fire, and anyone would have had the right to feel anxious or depressed. However, mentally, those instances went fine because I truly entrusted myself to God. This time was different. I was going through another trial, but what made it the hardest was that I doubted that God could get me through it; I even doubted that He was really there, so I felt like I was by myself.
When I posted my reflection, a fellow student, Mariclare Coffin (coincidentally, the one singing today's musical reflection) told me how she related. I then shared with her my true thoughts. I told her: "If Jesus is there, this is the moment for Him to truly save." What she said to me in response shook my heart: "He has already saved and will not abandon his promises!" He has already saved!
For the Gospel of today, we know by the account in Matthew that the Pharisees were the ones asking Jesus for a sign. You may ask what is the problem with that, right? Well, the problem is that Jesus had been performing all types of miracles, and they had seen them, nonetheless they refused to believe. Jesus called them evil because of their unbelief and contrasted them with the Ninevites, who only heard Jonah preach, and they all repented in sack cloth and ashes; he compared them with the queen of the South, who only heard about Solomon's wisdom, but that was enough for her to travel all the way from Sheba to listen. No signs, only faith.
Now, I know that unlike the Pharisees, many of us have already believed in Christ.
However, during this time of reflection, let us repent from our pride of unbelief in any area and put our trust in the greatest sign of God's love, the sign of Jonah, that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us; that when we are weak, Jesus has already saved us.
- Nathan James Mata '22
About nathan james mata '22
Nathan is a Junior at JSerra and was born and raised in San Jose, Costa Rica. He has two loving parents and one younger sister. With his dad as his coach, Nathan has played basketball since he was 8. Now he plays for JSerra under the direction of Head Coach Keith Wilkinson. He also has an incredible faith life. He is a member of Campus Ministry’s TNL Core Team that leads fellow students every Tuesday night, and he initiated his own weekly Bible study for friends on campus. He loves to spend time with family and people, and is thrilled to be a part of the JSerra community!
About Mariclare coffin '20
Mariclare graduated from JSerra in 2020 and is now a freshman at Franciscan University of Steubenville. While in high school, she was a member of the Choir, Music Ministry at all-school Mass, Campus Ministry retreat program, and Caritas Christi. She has one sister, Sophie, who is a sophomore at JSerra who she thinks is pretty cool. Now in college, Mariclare is enjoying making new friends, camping, getting used to snow days, and still sings every week at Mass.
Gospel: Mt 20:17-28
As Jesus was going up to Jerusalem,
he took the Twelve disciples aside by themselves,
and said to them on the way,
"Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem,
and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests
and the scribes,
and they will condemn him to death,
and hand him over to the Gentiles
to be mocked and scourged and crucified,
and he will be raised on the third day."
Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee approached Jesus with her sons
and did him homage, wishing to ask him for something.
He said to her, "What do you wish?"
She answered him,
"Command that these two sons of mine sit,
one at your right and the other at your left, in your kingdom."
Jesus said in reply,
"You do not know what you are asking.
Can you drink the chalice that I am going to drink?"
They said to him, "We can."
"My chalice you will indeed drink,
but to sit at my right and at my left,
this is not mine to give
but is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father."
When the ten heard this,
they became indignant at the two brothers.
But Jesus summoned them and said,
"You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them,
and the great ones make their authority over them felt.
But it shall not be so among you.
Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant;
whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.
Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve
and to give his life as a ransom for many."
Since Jesus was such a popular teacher and preacher, where crowds constantly followed him so closely he and his Apostles sometimes did not even have time to eat (sound like our lives?), perhaps this was their guaranteed "alone" time with Jesus as a group. Perhaps that time on the road was the best time he could teach the Apostles about the things that are close to his heart.
The Gospels record Jesus telling those closest to him about his Passion and death on multiple occasions. He told them exactly what was coming. Like a good teacher, he was preparing his pupils for the difficulties he knew they would encounter. But who wants to believe that the person you are seeing raise the dead, multiply bread, and cure lepers and demoniacs with the touch of a hand or a word, is going to die a cruel, tortuous death? It must have seemed impossible that the Lord they had come to trust was going to be so quickly cut down in his prime.
This passage does not record the Apostles reaction. Instead, Matthew reports an episode that brings to light more of what Jesus' followers were really thinking about: power. Wanting to be a strong lobbist for her own two sons, James and John's mother asks Jesus to make them the most powerful men in his kingdom. Even though he makes it clear that position will not determine power in his kingdom, he puts James and John to a question anyway: can they take the suffering that he will endure?
Inside this privileged group, Jesus was building the "upside down kingdom." In this kingdom, one grows up to become a child; one loses one's life to gain it; and leaders humble themselves in order to serve their subjects. Jesus' thinking seems to be opposite of his Apostles. It's no wonder that no one understood him, and he had so few friends.
Although James and John seem inappropriately ambitious prior to Jesus' death, they are in fact the leaders of the Church after Jesus' ascension, with Peter as the head. James as head of the Church in Jerusalem will be the first Apostle to give his life, being beheaded by the occupying Romans. John will be the last to die, the only Apostle who witnessed firsthand Jesus' crucifixion, and the only Apostle not to be martyred.
The reality of Jesus' Passion and death re-orders these two Apostle's ambitions. Seeing and witnessing Jesus' public ministry taught them to turn their ambitions upside down, that one may get them right side up for God. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you to reorder your ambitions so that you, too, will be prepared for the joys and sufferings that come with winning entry to the "upside down kingdom."
- Sr. Maria Catherine, O.P.
About Sr. Maria Catherine
Sr. Maria Catherine, O.P. is from the great state of Texas. After graduating from the University of Texas at Austin, she worked in various industries but mainly banking and administration before entering the convent. Sister has traveled widely and has been one of a few representatives of her community on The Oprah Winfrey Show. She is a published author in the Catholic San Francisco, The Imaginative Conservative, and Homiletic and Pastoral Review. She loves teaching English and Theology and continues to be grateful for the opportunity to study Aquinas at Ave Maria University. She is currently teaching English at JSerra.
About Andrew Laubacher
Andrew is a current seminarian for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. After graduating from Franciscan University of Steubenville, Andrew served as a Campus Minister and Worship Leader at JSerra. He spent many years traveling the country as a speaker and worship leader for youth and young adult conferences, ministering to thousands of people every year. He also wrote and produced his own worship music, which can be listened to on Apple Music and Spotify under his nickname, ALOB. Now in seminary in Camarillo, CA, Andrew is enjoying his time of formation, surfing, and spending time with family in Ventura. He is passionate to bring the sacraments to the people of southern California, and is committed to praying for everyone in the JSerra community.
Additional Lenten Opportunities