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Posted January 3, 2011

Book: Open Our Hearts: A Small-Group Guide for an Active Lent [Cycle A]
Authors: Donna L. Ciangio, O.P. and Thomas B. Iwanowski
Ave Maria Press. Notre Dame, IN. 2010. Pp. 86

Excerpt from Flyer:

In this Cycle A edition of their sellout Lectionary-based program, pastoral experts Sr. Donna Ciangio, O.P., and Fr. Thom Iwanowski artfully connect Lenten readings to everyday life. Open Our Hearts provides informative and practical instructions for communal reading and reflection of the scriptures, and the guidance necessary to transform faith into action. Infused with thought-provoking commentary, conversation questions, and insightful advice, this guidebook is an ideal tool for Catholics seeking to deepen their faith and connect with the members of their parish community.

This two-part booklet contains:

– an outline for small-group discussion

– weekday reflections to help participants stay focused between group meetings.

– soup recipes for groups that want to begin faith sharing with a simple Lenten meal.

An Excerpt from the Book:

Week One: The Choice is Ours

Connecting with Life

[The facilitator or another member of the group reads aloud the following introduction and then introduces the discussion questions that follow.

Have you ever considered how many choices you face when going out for a meal? The first choice involves picking a restaurant. Do you want Italian, Spanish, French, American, Japanese, Chinese, or Middle Eastern? Do you want to go inexpensive, moderate or upscale? Once you arrive at your chosen restaurant, you have a whole series of choices involving beverages, appetizers, soup or salad, dressings, entrees, side dishes, desserts, etc. Every choice you make reveals something about you. For example, your choices disclose your taste in food and drink, your financial situation, your concern or lack of concern for your health, the value you place on good nutrition, and whether you think of eating as a utilitarian necessity or a social ritual.

Of course, every choice we make in life reveals something about us. From the kinds of little things mentioned above to major choices involving education, a career, a spouse, whether we will be true to our moral values, whether we will be faithful to our commitments, etc. Every choice you make makes the person ou are a little more apparent.

– When going out with friends, how do you choose a restaurant?

– Describe a recent choice you confronted that put your moral values to the test.

Listening to the Word

Take a quiet moment to pray a prayer such as “O Lord be in our minds, in our hearts, and on our lips that we might listen fully to your Word.

Gospel Reading: Matthew4:1-11

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. . . .

Appreciating the Word

At the start of Lent we hear “at that time Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.” In being tempted, Jesus was presented with a series of choices. Three of those choices or temptations are recorded in Matthew’s Gospel.

Jesus was first confronted with the temptation of using his power to prove himself to the devil and in the process to satisfy his physical needs, to take care of himself. “If you are the Son of God,” the devil says, “command that these stones be turned into bread.”

Then he was tempted to manifest his glory and by doing so to awe the devil and amaze the people of Jerusalem as he was caught by angels before crashing to the temple floor. “If you are the Son of God,” the devil says, “throw yourself down.”

Finally, the devil shows Jesus “all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence” and says “All these I shall give you if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.” Here Jesus was tempted to achieve power and authority and gain all the world had to offer by simply genuflecting at the altar of evil.

When confronted by those choices, those temptations presented by the devil, Jesus chose to remain faithful to the identity announced at his baptism. “This is my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased.” His choices made who he was even more apparent.

In the temptations that come our way in life, we are presented with the same choice that confronted Jesus. Are we going to remain faithful to the identity that was given us at baptism when we were proclaimed children of God or are we going to lessen that identity by selfishness and sin?

During this Lent ask yourself, “What do I reveal by the choices I make?”

Table of Contents:

Six Weeks of Lent

Lenten recipes