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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 March 18-24, 2024.


When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”

John 8:7


This past September, I visited Rome and spent several days walking through the streets of this living, outdoor museum. The experience reminded me that being a Christian requires wrestling with 2,000 years of history, one with chapters both inspiring and grotesque. One evening, my spouse and I visited Castel Sant’Angelo, a massive Roman tomb that was later converted into a prison for those condemned by the Roman Catholic Church. We attended an exhibit that told the stories of the heretics, scientists and women who were imprisoned there and later publicly executed in a nearby piazza. I saw the bright red robe and sword of the papal executioner encased in glass.

Against this searing memory, today’s passage comes as a cooling salve. In John 8:1–11, religious leaders and an angry mob are preparing to condemn and execute a woman caught in an act of adultery. Jesus’ response is remarkable. He absolutely refuses to condemn the woman and saves her life by doing so. Further, he calls all who have gathered there to self-reflection about their own sinfulness, at which point the angry mob slowly turns away.

In light of Christianity’s long history of condemnation and judgment, this passage is an incredible gift. May the example of Jesus be our guide as Christians move from condemnation to compassion, and from judgment toward self-reflection.


Today’s readings
Psalm 23 | Susanna (Apocrypha) [1–9,15–29, 34–40],41–62 | John 8:1–11 or 8:12–20


What is the role of compassion and self-reflection in your own Christian journey, particularly in the face of a history marked by condemnation and judgment? 




Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.

Luke 2:48b

I’ve always felt a bit protective of St. Joseph. Carefully referred to as the guardian of Jesus— categorically not his father—Joseph strikes me as the quintessential third wheel.

The Gospel of Luke describes this curious episode in Jesus’ early life when he goes missing for three days. When found in the temple, Mary tells her son, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.” The Gospel writer uses this exchange to clarify who Jesus’ actual father is. Referring to the temple, Jesus tells his mother, “Did you not know I must be in my Father’s house?” Jesus makes an important point, yet I imagine Joseph standing awkwardly by, feeling both relief and perhaps somewhat slighted by the exchange.

Here’s what we know about Joseph’s relationship to Jesus: We know Joseph wasn’t absent. He was a loving and present guardian to Jesus. Further, we know Joseph didn’t shrug off the fact that his son went missing for three days. He didn’t return to work or go golfing with his buddies. Along with Mary, he was consumed with anxiety for the well-being of this child. In other words, he loved Jesus deeply. We also know Joseph helped to raise a moral and spiritual genius.

Something about the space that Joseph and Mary created together helped Jesus grow, flourish and live into his true identity.


Today’s readings
Psalm 89:1–29 or 89:1–4,26–29 2 Samuel 7:4,8–16 | Romans 4:13–18 | Luke 2:41–52


Joseph wasn’t Jesus’ father, but he was Jesus’ fatherly guardian. Give thanks for the parental guardians in your life who have helped you on your way.




But I see four men unbound, walking in the middle of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the fourth has the appearance of a god.

Daniel 3:25


In the early church, when Christianity was illegal, it was dangerous for Christians to make or have images of Jesus Christ. Therefore, Christians often used symbols and select scenes from the Old Testament stories to covertly signal their faith. Among the most famous of these covert symbols is Jonah and the Whale, as Jonah’s three days in the belly of the beast was thought to be like Jesus’ three days in the tomb. For this reason, Roman catacombs where early Christians are buried feature depictions of Jonah getting swallowed and spit up.

Another covert image comes from the famous story in our lectionary today about Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, three men who were thrown into the fire for refusing to bow to a king’s image. It’s worth reflecting on why this became a popular early Christian motif. First, it’s a story of miraculous survival, one that brings their persecutors to faith in God. Second, the three men may have served as reminders to early Christians of the Trinity. Third, and perhaps most importantly, the three Jewish men were persecuted for doing what Christians were refusing to do: namely, worship the image of a king (in this case, the Roman emperor).

These early Christian images—drawn from the deep well of Hebrew Scripture—emphasize struggle, miraculous survival and faithfulness to God amid persecution and adversity. They explore resurrection as miraculous survival amidst encircling flames and in the belly of the beast.


Today’s readings
Canticle [2] or 13 | Daniel 3:14–20,24–28 | John 8:31–42


What do these stories say about the themes of enduring faith and resilience in Christianity?




I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.

Genesis 17:7


Today’s Old Testament and New Testament readings center on the figure of Abraham. In Genesis 17, God bestows a new name, Abram, to Abraham, forging a covenant “between me and you.” This covenant carries with it the promise that Abraham will be “the ancestor of a multitude of nations.” The reading from John also focuses on Abraham. In mystical language, Jesus cryptically proclaims, “Very truly, I tell you, before Abraham was, I am.” In this rich tapestry of texts, I add my personal favorite New Testament portrayal of Abraham found in the Gospel of Luke within the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (16:19–31).

The parable of Lazarus at the Rich Man’s gate paints a stark portrait of excessive wealth and abject poverty coexisting side-by-side. Lazarus, a beggar afflicted with painful sores, languishes in hunger at the gate of a wealthy man who indulges in lavish feasts every day.

Upon Lazarus’s death, he finds solace in the compassionate embrace of Abraham. In contrast, when the wealthy man meets his demise, Abraham becomes the herald of God’s judgment. When the rich man implores Abraham for a miraculous sign to warn his wealthy brothers, Abraham tells him the sign he is hoping for is already present: “If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead” (Luke 16:31).


Today’s readings
Psalm 105:4–11 | Genesis 17:1–8 | John 8:51–59


In our daily lives, how can we become more aware of those who “dwell at the gates” of our existence? How can we be like Abraham in responding with both compassion and justice? 




I have become a laughingstock all day long; everyone mocks me.

Jeremiah 20:7b


While living in Spain this past year, I saw a lot of medieval Christian art, perhaps more than I ever expected to in my life. One thing I’ve been struck by is how often the Christian figures in medieval scenes appear calm and serene, even when they are being shot by arrows or crucified upside down or holding their own severed heads. Even in the midst of great suffering, many are depicted as serenely unmoved.

As wonderful as these images are, the prophet Jeremiah is something of a relief because he is far more relatable. In the face of persecution and suffering, Jeremiah is vexed, passionate and conflicted. He doubts God; he wrestles with his people; he complains bitterly.

Biblical scholar Judy Fentress Williams puts it well in her book, Holy Imagination: A Literary and Theological Introduction to the Whole Bible, when she writes, “Jeremiah exposes the inner life of the prophet who stands in the liminal space between God and God’s people,” and that “he is, for the most part, rejected by his people, and he has a tormented relationship with the God who called him.”

I appreciate Jeremiah’s witness and the opportunity to go beneath the still surface and witness the inner turmoil of a prophet. Our spirituality is enriched by a long line of prophets and thinkers who questioned and wrestled with God. Jeremiah’s experience can be an inspiration for us today.


Today’s readings
Psalm 18:1–7 | Jeremiah 20:7–13 | John 10:31–42


In what ways can the experiences and doubts of individuals like Jeremiah serve as valuable sources of inspiration and guidance in navigating your relationship with faith, calling and community?




So the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the council, and said, “What are we to do? This man is performing many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation.”

John 11: 47–48


I’ve been reading a book on the history of theological education. I promise this is more exciting than it might seem at first. As it turns out, the history of how Christians have formed and educated followers of Jesus cuts to the very heart of the faith itself. And this is especially so when in the season of Lent.

In the early church, one of the main vehicles for formation was a multi-year catechesis prior to baptism. Created at a time when Christianity was persecuted by Rome, this catechesis sought to prepare disciples to faithfully live out Christian values in a culture that opposed the faith at every turn. Rome, for instance, had little tolerance for Jesus’ many critiques of wealth and power, nor did Roman officials understand or value Christians’ compassion for the poor.

Interestingly, as the centuries passed, this multi-year catechesis was shortened until it became the 40-day period of Lent. This stretch we are walking together, then, is what’s left of a very ancient road that many walked before us, training Christians to be an alternative and countercultural community throughout time.


Today’s readings
Psalm 85:1–7 | Ezekiel 37:21–28 | John 11:45–53


Do you approach the season of Lent as a time of learning? How can you be more intentional in embracing Lent as a period of catechesis and religious instruction?




Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.


The Book of Common Prayer, p. 833

Today’s readings
Psalm 31:9–16 | Isaiah 50:4–9a | Philippians 2:5–11 | Mark 14:1—15:47 or 15:1–39,[40–47]