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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 Holy Week, March 25-31, 2024.


You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.

John 12:8


We begin Holy Week with one of Christianity’s most provocative texts on wealth and poverty, when Jesus says, “you always have the poor with you.” In the United States, this statement has become a rationale to dismiss Jesus’ numerous teachings about compassion and care for the most vulnerable. Many point to those words from Jesus as a way to justify indifference to poverty.

But if we look more closely at the story, we see an entirely different message than indifference. In the passage, Judas voices a desire to gather money for the poor, but in reality, Scripture tells us he intends to divert these funds for his own gain. The Gospel of John reveals Judas has a special role as keeper of the common purse and is embezzling from it. Jesus’ uncharacteristic statement thwarts Judas from taking another opportunity to steal.

Tragically, Judas’s corruption is not an isolated incident in the story of Christianity. The church is made up of imperfect people, and corruption and embezzlement happen. This underscores the need for strong safeguards and transparent standards to ensure that gifts directed to the most vulnerable are used as intended.


Today’s readings
Psalm 36:5–11 | Isaiah 42:1–9 Hebrews 9:11–15 | John 12:1–11


It may seem unusual to broach the topic of financial transparency and safety measures at the beginning of Holy Week. But stewardship and care for the poor are intrinsically bound. It would be a disservice if I did not acknowledge that Episcopal Relief & Development has established such safeguards. As a regular donor to Episcopal Relief & Development, I contribute with complete confidence that my donations to “the least of these” are used as intended.




While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.

John 12:36a

As we approach Good Friday, Jesus begins to collect and sum up his most important teachings and messages with his followers. In today’s passage from John, he reemphasizes the unique relationship Christians have with death: when a grain of wheat falls to the ground, what appears to be an end is, in fact, just the beginning. He then imparts a message that well applies to our long journey together this Lent: “The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in darkness, you do not know where you are going. While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.”

This passage encapsulates Jesus’ sense of urgency. Clearly, Jesus is referring to his own time on earth when he says, “The light is with you for a little while longer.” However, I believe his words are paradoxically timeless and universally applicable. In addition to urgency, he speaks of light as a symbol of hope, humanity, love and life—a primordial flame representing humanity’s resilience over the forces of evil in the world.

Our time on earth is brief, and our moments with our loved ones are rare and precious. As Jesus faces his impending crucifixion, he also understands the formidable forces converging on his followers. While we are in the light, we must walk in it, taking steps forward in response to the Gospel’s call, even as we acknowledge the day is growing shorter.


Today’s readings
Psalm 71:1–14 | Isaiah 49:1–7 | 1 Corinthians 1:18–31 | John 12:20–36


When you feel like darkness is overcoming you, how can you return to the light? Think of a particular passage of Scripture, prayer or a hymn that draws you near to Jesus. Say—or sing—it today.




After he received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “Do quickly what you are going to do.”

John 13:27


Today’s passage from John’s Gospel portrays an intimate and dramatic scene of pain and betrayal. Jesus is eating supper with his close friends when he becomes troubled in spirit and announces to the group that one of them will betray him. He then signals with a piece of bread dipped in a dish who it will be, and knowing full well what is to come, Jesus tells Judas to carry out his betrayal quickly.

Sometimes when I reflect on the Last Supper, I picture the famous painting by Leonardo da Vinci that depicts Jesus and his disciples all seated on one side of a very long table. John’s portrayal, however, suggests something less formal and much more intimate.

In this small group of friends, Jesus is able to dip his piece of bread, hand it to Judas, and get his message across immediately. Not only is this group of friends physically close, Judas is portrayed as being even closer. John’s Gospel makes a point of saying that Judas has been entrusted to make preparations for the celebrations and offer donations to the poor. The one who has been entrusted with great responsibility heads out into the night to carry out the ultimate betrayal.


Today’s readings
Psalm 70 | Isaiah 50:4–9a Hebrews 12:1–3 | John 13:21–32


What is John’s Gospel trying to say to us here? What is the Gospel writer attempting to warn us about? How can it be that sometimes those who are seemingly closest to Christ betray all that he represents?




Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.

John 13:16–17


On Maundy Thursday, we see Jesus using every part of his body to convey a single message: he and his followers have come to serve. After washing the disciples’ feet, Jesus states, “If I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you as an example, that you also should do as I have done to you” (John 13:14–15).

Since Jesus mentions his role as a teacher, I want to reflect on his teaching methods. Jesus frequently conveys his messages at a slant. He teaches in parables, and Christians have been puzzling over their meanings for centuries. Jesus uses intentionally obscure gestures. For instance, when he faces a tough line of questioning, Jesus raises a coin and proclaims, “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

In contrast, during the Last Supper, Jesus throws his full body weight to convey one clear message. He uses every tool at his disposal—dramatic, symbolic action and words—to emphasize his message that those who follow him are there to serve, not to be served. He desperately doesn’t want his future followers to get this part wrong.

And yet we do. It is mildly funny to see how Peter immediately misunderstands what Jesus was trying to convey. Peter first refuses to have his feet washed and then he goes to the other extreme and asks Jesus to wash every part of him.


Today’s readings
Psalm 116:1,10–17 | Exodus 12:1–4,(5–10), 11–14 | 1 Corinthians 11:23–26 | John 13:1–17,31b–35


To what extent have we received Jesus’ message about service? Do we really see our ministry as one of service or are we trapped in the role of waiting to be served?




The woman said to Peter, “You are not also one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.”

John 18:17


On this Good Friday, I invite us to reflect on the imperfections of Peter. This is the disciple who Jesus calls his rock, and who, in time, becomes “the rock” on which Jesus’ church is built. But John’s Gospel doesn’t present Peter in a particularly positive light. Some of Jesus’ last words to Peter are a chastisement: “Put your sword back into its sheath. Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?” (John 18:11).

Famously, Peter devotedly follows Jesus as he is bound and led away but also saves his own skin by denying three times that he ever knew Jesus. At the moment of Jesus’ arrest, “the rock” that Peter resembles isn’t granite—a rock that you can build on. Rather, he is more like porous pumice, rough around the edges and caving in all too easily.

Why does John’s Gospel include these embarrassing details about Peter, who becomes perhaps the most important disciple? I see these details as a sign of hope.

Through Peter’s fallibility, the story involves all of us. Christianity is not only for the heroic, the unspeakably wise or the extremely brave. It is also a faith for people who overreact, who get it wrong quite often and who run away. On Good Friday, Jesus is arrested and led away to be crucified, and Peter utterly fails to live up to what he had previously promised to do. This is a source of embarrassment, yes, and yet it’s exactly this full and complicated humanity that Jesus redeems in the days to come.


Today’s readings
Psalm 22 | Isaiah 52:13—53:12 | Hebrews 10:16–25 or 4:14–16; 5:7–9 | John 18:1—19:42


Think of your life and spiritual journey. When have you, like Peter, failed to do what you promised? When have you, like Peter, been a rock for others?




So Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock. He then rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb and went away.

Matthew 27:59–60


About a year ago, the United States Surgeon General warned of an epidemic of loneliness. He described acute isolation as significantly more widespread than previously imagined and as equally or more dangerous to Americans’ health as smoking and obesity. I found myself thinking about this epidemic of loneliness while reading Matthew 27:57–66, which describes Joseph of Arimathea wrapping Jesus’ body in cloth, laying the body in a tomb, rolling a stone to shut the tomb and walking away.

Jesus is isolated and shut away, separated by a wall of cold stone.

In Christian tradition, Holy Saturday commemorates the time when Jesus descended into the depths of hell. I recently saw a dramatic, medieval Christian painting portraying Jesus entering hell through the open mouth of a crocodile-like demon. As a person in the twenty-first century, though, I imagine this scene somewhat less literally. Today, as Jesus is entombed, I imagine Jesus entering the hell of acute loneliness, descending to the depths of  isolation and pain.

Tradition has it that Jesus enters hell in order to share in this experience—and to redeem and liberate us from its grip on our lives. Let us pray that this may be so. There is so much isolation and loneliness in our world today and so much hunger for genuine connection. Easter has much to do with the grace found in friendship and community.


Today’s readings
Psalm 31:1–4,15–16 | Job 14:1–14 or Lamentations 3:1–9,19–24 | 1 Peter 4:1–8 | Matthew 27:57–66 or John 19:38–42


Reflect on how the Good News of the Resurrection can take away the sting of loneliness. How can you be Christ’s hands and feet in that work?




Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord.”

John 20:18


This is the final reflection on this journey, and I want to end by saying what a privilege it has been to accompany you along the way during this season of Lent. Having walked through these forty days together, let us now share in Easter joy.

Each Gospel has a different account of the moment the disciples discover Jesus’ empty tomb. In reading the four accounts this year, I was struck by the way angels appear in the texts. In John 20, two angels dressed in white sit where Jesus had been lying. In Mark 16, an angel appears as a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side of the interior of the tomb. In Matthew, the earth trembles as an angel descends from heaven to roll back the stone and sit on top of it. And in Luke 24, two angels assure the women who have come to Jesus’ tomb that Jesus is alive.

Sometimes the angels bring words of reassurance. In other stories, they simply state that Jesus has been raised. And in one instance, the angels are confused as to why Mary Magdalene is crying. Doesn’t she know? Christ is alive and has been raised from the dead. As we come to the end of this season, I am reassured by the physical placement of these angels. The Gospels tell us that these messengers are seated on top of, beside or just inside death’s tomb. They have come to announce a new reality, and I wonder if we, as Christians, aren’t called to join these angels in doing the same.

Fearfully, tremblingly, very imperfectly, we are called to sit in places of darkness and terror and proclaim that death has no victory here.


Today’s readings
Psalm 118:1–2,14–24 | Acts 10:34–43 or Isaiah 25:6–9 | 1 Corinthians 15:1–11 or Acts 10:34–43 | John 20:1–18 or Mark 16:1–8


 Alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia. Christ has risen indeed.