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2024 Daily Lenten Meditations

Psalm 51:10 reads, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.”

Reflect on your newness in Christ as you journey through Episcopal Relief & Development's Lenten Meditations, written by Miguel Escobar, and discover new ways your faith is guiding you through the world. Use this space to read and re-read the Lenten Meditations each week.

Lenten Meditations for February 19-25, 2024.


For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.

Matthew 25:35–36


Growing up in a small Texas town in the 1980s and ‘90s, I was surrounded by versions of Christianity that placed great emphasis on God’s coming judgment. To a surprising degree, my first encounters with Christians involved people who were trying to “save me” from the fires of hell and who were obsessed with the impending rapture. Needless to say, I found this experience both fascinating and strange.

It is comforting—indeed, healing—then to reflect on Matthew 25:31–46 decades later. In this passage, Jesus offers us a different image of God’s coming judgment. Jesus describes a time when God separated the sheep from the goats. Critically, however, the criteria for judgment center on how we treated God’s “least of these” in our earthly life. This text on judgment specifically names the treatment of groups still incredibly vulnerable today: the hungry, the thirsty, the sick and the imprisoned.

Jesus is notably silent on so many of the issues that inflamed my schoolmates’ imaginations, yet he spoke eloquently about serving the most vulnerable in our midst. “Truly, I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40).


Today’s readings
Psalm 19:7–14 | Leviticus 19:1–2,11–18 | Matthew 25:31–46


What does it mean to you that in a text on God’s judgment, Jesus identifies with “the least of these”?




Pray then in this way.

Matthew 6:9a


A common theme in Lent is repentance and seeking forgiveness from God for our sins. Today’s reading, however, turns the tables and asks us to consider the extent to which we forgive others.

In the Gospel lesson appointed for today (Matthew 6:7–15), Jesus instructs his followers on how to pray. He says we are not to pray “as the Gentiles do” by heaping word after word upon each other but to pray using the simple and direct formula that we’ve come to know as the Lord’s Prayer.

At the end of Matthew’s version of the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus circles back and re-emphasizes how forgiving others is closely related to being forgiven by God: “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others,

neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” This is a problem. Or at least it is for anyone (like me) who tends to hold onto righteous anger. As a fairly creative thinker, I’m skilled at coming up with all sorts of reasons why I should not forgive someone. How can I forgive them when they’ve never acknowledged any wrongdoing? How can I forgive them when nothing about their behavior has changed?

Those are good questions, and yet Jesus is telling us something important about the power of forgiveness to be a saving grace for its own sake. For our own healing, then, Jesus asks us to forgive.


Today’s readings
Psalm 34:15–22 | Isaiah 55:6–11 | Matthew 6:7–1


Even as we hold others accountable for their actions, how might we take Jesus’ emphasis on personal forgiveness to heart? What does taking a step toward such forgiveness look like today?




Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.

Psalm 51:11


In today’s passage from the Book of Jonah, Jonah proclaims to the inhabitants of Nineveh that God will destroy them. Shockingly, the king and inhabitants of the city listen and change their ways. This is not how things normally go. In most books of the Bible, we hear prophets proclaim God’s message to hardened hearts. And yet, because Nineveh repented and changed its ways, God “changed his mind” (Jonah 3:10). God does not destroy the city, and everyone is left happy.

Well, almost everyone.

The one unhappy soul is Jonah himself. After all, God’s merciful act has left Jonah hanging out there looking like a fool. God received what God desired, and the city of Nineveh was saved, but Jonah’s credibility and ego are sorely bruised.

Part of the reason why I love the book of Jonah, and this story in particular, is because it became part of a later tradition that reflected how following God will sometimes end up making you look like a fool. This resulted in a Christian Holy Fool tradition that drank deeply from the Book of Jonah, a spiritual path in which imitating Christ meant becoming a fool to respectable society, albeit a kind of holy fool ultimately grounded in God’s love.


Today’s readings
Psalm 51:11–18 | Jonah 3:1–10 | Luke 11:29–32


Let’s be honest: choosing to follow Christ can occasionally feel like a strange and surprising choice. If it sometimes feels like foolishness, how can this be a way of identifying more deeply with figures like Jonah and Christ, whose journeys with God led them to the margins?




In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.

Matthew 7:12


Today’s reading from the Gospel of Matthew contains Jesus’ famous moral formula, his “Golden Rule,” which appears across many religions and moral philosophies throughout the world: “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets” (Matthew 7:12).

In the centuries since Jesus uttered these words, many Christian teachers have reflected deeply on this teaching and have offered their own variations on this theme. My personal favorite comes from the fourth-century theologian Lactantius, who, in his Divine Institutes, considered how Jesus’ teaching touched on public life and justice. Knowing how deeply Roman society valued family, he restated Jesus’ Golden Rule for his culture: “The whole nature of justice lies in our providing for others through humanity what we provide for our own families and relatives through affection.” He asked Romans to provide for vulnerable families what they so freely provided for their own.


Today’s readings
Psalm 138 | Esther (Apocrypha) 14:1–6,12–14 | Matthew 7:7–12


In many cultures, it is traditional to draw strict boundaries around who we consider family, yet God asks us to consider whether children across the globe are also, somehow, our children. What does it mean to “provide through humanity” for an expanded sense of family?




Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison.

Matthew 5:25


In today’s reading from the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus warns about anger, grudges and simmering feuds. The Jesus we meet here is a practical peacemaker. Rather than trying to resolve conflicts with acts of vengeance or through a shaky court system, he urges his followers to seek a peaceful resolution first even if it literally means doing so on the way to court.

Biblical scholars frequently note that Jesus was speaking to a society obsessed with questions of honor and shame. While this is a sweeping generalization, it wasn’t uncommon for insults to be “resolved” through acts of vengeance. More striking still is Jesus’ portrayal of the arbitrariness of a judge’s decision and his sense that, whether a party is innocent or not, even the innocent may have to pay dearly. “Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny” (Matthew 5:26).

Jesus is seeking a culture change. He observes how his community keeps spiraling into violence and how a corrupt judicial system rarely achieves justice and instead urges peaceful ways forward. It is practical advice that still feels both radical and resonant today.


Today’s readings
Psalm 130 | Ezekiel 18:21–28 | Matthew 5:20–26


Conflicts, large and small, happen all around us every day. How can we be peacemakers today?




If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.

John 15:7–8


Last summer, I was on a crowded train and had the opportunity (if that’s the word) to overhear a young man in his 20s loudly and confidently decrying how lazy everyone had become. Speaking to his girlfriend, he even denounced people who took a week off work due to illness and declared that not only had he never done so but also his father hadn’t done so either. He declared that top achievers, outperformers and successful people don’t take time off

At this point, I began desperately searching for my headphones, open windows, available exits—anything to get away from his bravado.

I mention all this because the idolization of productivity is all around us. Yet the Gospel points us in a very different direction in defining fruitfulness. In today’s readings, Jesus offers beautiful organic imagery. He describes himself as the “true vine” and God as “the vine grower,” and he says that those who “abide” in God’s love bear much fruit.

The active verb here is to “abide” in God. It isn’t to achieve in God. It isn’t to outperform or level up to God. Heck, it isn’t even to succeed in God. All Jesus asks today is that we abide and be like trees planted by streams of water, trusting that we will yield fruit in due season.


Today’s readings
Psalm 15 | Acts 1:15–26 | Philippians 3:13–21 | John 15:1,6–16


Amidst so much talk about efficiency and productivity, what does it mean to abide and bear fruit in God’s time?




Grant to us, Lord, we pray, the spirit to think and do always those things that are right, that we, who cannot exist without you, may by you be enabled to live according to your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.


The Book of Common Prayer, p. 232

Today’s readings
Psalm 22:22–30 | Genesis 17:1–7,15–16 | Romans 4:13–25 | Mark 8:31–38