The snares of the enemy

The snares of the enemy

My Give Us This Day reflection on today’s Scripture readings: Jeremiah 20:10-13 and John 10: 31-42. You can find the readings HERE.

Vengeance takes center stage in today’s readings, just as it often does in our own lives. We might read Jeremiah’s words and feel uncomfortable hearing his in-your-face prayer asking for justice to be brought down on those who mistreat him. But the truth is, we’ve all been Jeremiah at some point. Someone does something to threaten us, and we imagine how sweet it would be not only to be free from the threats but to watch as our enemies get their comeuppance.

Unfortunately, what was once a rarity is becoming the norm. People on all sides seem to have a thirst for vengeance and a willingness to take matters into their own hands. Much like the mob in today’s Gospel, modern-day crowds gather around those considered outsiders and pick up their version of stones. Where are we in this scene? Do we have a rock in hand? Are we in the crowd waiting to watch justice play out? Are we the one who feels threatened? Every one of us has a choice in how we respond. We can choose fear, or we can choose trust.

Do we believe, truly and without hedging, that God is our “rock of refuge,” and we need nothing more? It is only through such deep and abiding trust that we begin to realize we can release ourselves from the snares of the enemy, snares that have no power once we stop giving them oxygen and put everything in God’s hands.

Trust in God, and watch the traps and threats fall away.

From the March 2023 issue of Give Us This Day, (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2023). Used with permission.
Photo by Astrid Schaffner on Unsplash

New podcast: Bravery and fear, two sides of the same coin

New podcast: Bravery and fear, two sides of the same coin

So often we think being brave means being fearless. Not so. Bravery and courage happen in the face of fear, not in the absence of it. What would you do if you did not let fear stop you? Tune into the new episode of the Life Lines podcast, and let’s break it down. And don’t forget to subscribe to my podcast so you don’t miss any future episodes. It’s available on Apple, Spotify, Google and other platforms.

Prayer is a non-negotiable on the Lenten journey

Prayer is a non-negotiable on the Lenten journey

As we move into the second half of the Lenten season, it’s a good time to take stock of our promises and practices. So often we give up sweets or alcohol or social media, or, conversely, we add in service and volunteer work. BUT, if we don’t thread prayer through the sacrifice and service, we are left with nothing more than a diet and philanthropy. Fasting and almsgiving only become such when they are grounded in prayer. Prayer is the air beneath the wings of the other two pillars of Lent.

Prayer is both our overarching theme and our underlying foundation during Lent (and during life!). Without it, nothing moves forward or expands outward. So today, even for just five minutes, sit with God in prayer. Don’t just move your lips; open the “ear of your heart,” as St. Benedict instructed. Prayer is not just talking; it is listening for the Spirit to speak to us, but that can only happen when we settle down in silence and pay attention with our very being.

If you’d like to continue this conversation on prayer, listen to the newest Life Lines podcast: “Living on a Prayer: Inspiration for Lent and Beyond” at the link below. And don’t forget to the subscribe to the podcast so you don’t miss any episodes!


Can you have a “happy” Lent?

Can you have a “happy” Lent?

As I was wrapping up a Lenten retreat recently, someone in attendance approached me afterward and asked if it’s appropriate or even possible to wish someone “Happy Lent!” The funny thing is, I had said those exact words to Father Bob Longobucco as he walked into the church earlier that evening, even though it’s not something I would usually say seriously to anyone. But if you know Father Bob, you know a little levity is always allowed amid the spiritual seriousness.

But this person’s question made me take a closer look at the topic, and I promised I would ponder it and maybe even write about it. So here we are. What I said off the top of my head that Wednesday evening was that I think we hear “happy” with our secularized ears and what we really mean is “joyful.” But does “Have a joyful Lent” ring any truer in a season where sacrifice and the road to Calvary are in view?

I would offer a resounding YES! And here’s why. Look at some of the readings of this season so far. On Ash Wednesday, in the first reading from the Book of Joel, we were urged: “Return to me with your whole heart … return to the Lord, your God. For gracious and merciful is he, and slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment.” What could be more joyful than a God like that? So often we focus on what is wrong with us and how unworthy we think we are, but God reminds us that we are beloved exactly as we are right now. And that should make us both happy and joyful, no matter what the season.

Last week, one of the Gospel acclamations, quoted Psalm 51, saying: “A clean heart create for me, O God; give me back the joy of your salvation.” I used this exact line of Scripture as a breath prayer for my retreat group precisely because of the words “the joy of your salvation.” I wanted to remind people that ours is a faith of joy, even on the road to Calvary, because we know what lies beyond it.

Famed Trappist monk Thomas Merton, in his book “Seasons of Celebration: Meditations on the Cycle of the Liturgical Feasts,” wrote: “Even the darkest moments of the liturgy are filled with joy, and Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten fast, is a day of happiness, a Christian feast. It cannot be otherwise, as it forms part of the great Easter cycle.”

He goes on to say, “There is joy in the salutary fasting and abstinence of the Christian who eats and drinks less in order that his mind may be more clear and receptive to receive the sacred nourishment of God’s word, which the whole Church announces and meditates upon in each day’s liturgy throughout Lent.”

Notice the word he uses there: joy. For many of us, the word “happy” is where we get hung up, because happy in our secular world’s view is about those surface feelings we get when we go on vacation or get a promotion or eat a good meal. There is a big difference between happy and joyful, and we are called to be joyful in our faith, not just when things are going according to plan but even when they feel terribly off course, maybe especially in that case. No easy task, to be sure.

Even if you’re not comfortable wishing your neighbor at church a “happy” Lent, can you spend some time thinking about where the joy lives in this season?  When we discover the joy bubbling up amid the sacrifices we’re making, like a purple crocus pushing up from beneath the snow in our yard, we begin to realize that there is far more to this season than what we see on the surface.

Happy, joyful, blessed Lent!

Mary DeTurris Poust will be offering a Lenten retreat at St. Patrick’s Church in Ravena on Saturday, March 11, at 10 a.m. and via Zoom on Wednesday, March 15, at 7 p.m. For more information, visit:

Photo by Mohamed Nohassi on Unsplash

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