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Lenten Readings - Scriptural Readings for Lent

In the Office of the Readings, part of the Liturgy of the Hours, the official prayer of the Catholic Church, the Church has chosen scriptural passages that are appropriate to every day of the Lenten season. These are an excellent way to focus our thoughts and deepen our understanding of the meaning of Lent by turning to the Bible.

Scriptural Reading for Ash Wednesday
Fasting is about more than refraining from food or other pleasures. In this reading for Ash Wednesday from the Prophet Isaiah, the Lord explains that fasting that does not lead to works of charity does us no good. This is good advice as we begin our Lenten journey.

Scriptural Reading for the Thursday After Ash Wednesday
In this reading drawn from the Book of Exodus, we see the oppression endured by the nation of Israel, the Old Testament model of the New Testament Church, at the hands of Pharaoh. The slavery of the Israelites represents our slavery to sin.

Scriptural Reading for the Friday After Ash Wednesday
In this reading from the Book of Exodus, we witness the birth of Moses, his rescue from Pharaoh’s order to kill all newborn male Israelites, and his killing of an Egyptian. To escape Pharaoh’s wrath, he flees to the land of Midian, setting into motion the events that will lead to the exodus of Israel from Egypt.

Scriptural Reading for the Saturday After Ash Wednesday
In this reading from the Book of Exodus, Moses first encounters God in the burning bush, and God announces His plans to have Moses lead the Israelites out of their slavery in Egypt and into the Promised Land. We begin to see the parallels between slavery in Egypt and our slavery to sin, and between Heaven and the "land that floweth with milk...

Scriptural Reading for the Sunday of the First Week of Lent
In this reading from Exodus, Moses, obeying God's command, asks Pharaoh to allow the Israelites to sacrifice to God in the desert. Pharaoh refuses his request and, instead, makes life even harder for the Israelites. Slavery to sin, like the Israelite's slavery in Egypt, only becomes harder with time. True freedom comes by following Christ out...

Scriptural Reading for the Monday of the First Week of Lent
In this reading from the Book of Exodus, God discusses in greater detail the covenant He made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to bring them into the Promised Land. The Israelites, however, will not listen to the good news that God has revealed to Moses, because they have been worn down by their slavery. Still, God vows to bring the Israelites...

Scriptural Reading for the Tuesday of the First Week of Lent
In this reading from Exodus, we see that, as God predicted, Pharaoh will not listen to the request of Moses and Aaron to allow the Israelites to go out into the desert to worship God. Therefore, God begins to send plagues upon the land of Egypt. The first plague involves turning all the water in Egypt into blood, depriving the Egyptians both...

Scriptural Reading for the Wednesday of the First Week of Lent
In this reading from Exodus, Pharaoh continues to refuse to let the Israelites go, so, for three days, God engulfs Egypt in darkness. The only light in the land is found with the Israelites themselves—a sign, because from Israel would come Jesus Christ, the light of the world.

Scriptural Reading for the Thursday of the First Week of Lent
In this reading from Exodus, Pharaoh's stubbornness has come to this: God is going to kill the firstborn of every household of Egypt. The Israelites, however, will be protected from harm, because they will have slaughtered a lamb and marked their doors with his blood. Seeing it, God will pass over their houses. This is the origin of the...

Scriptural Reading for the Friday of the First Week of Lent
In this reading from Exodus, the Israelites have followed the Lord's command and celebrated the first Passover. The blood of the lamb has been applied to their door frames, and, seeing this, the Lord passes over their houses. Each firstborn of the Egyptians, however, is slain by the Lord. In despair, Pharaoh orders the Israelites to leave Egypt,...

Scriptural Reading for the Saturday of the First Week of Lent
Expelled from Egypt after the Passover, the Israelites head toward the Red Sea in this reading from Exodus. The Lord orders Moses and Aaron to tell the Israelites that they must celebrate the Passover every year. Moreover, once they have come into the Promised Land, they must offer every firstborn son and animal to the Lord. The firstborn...

Scriptural Reading for the Sunday of the Second Week of Lent
As the Israelite approach the Red Sea in this reading from Exodus, Pharaoh begins to regret letting them go. He sends his chariots and charioteers in pursuit—a decision that will end badly. Meanwhile, the Lord is traveling with the Israelites, appearing as a column of cloud by day and of fire by night.

Scriptural Reading for the Monday of the Second Week of Lent
As Pharaoh's chariots and charioteers pursue the Israelites, Moses turns to the Lord for help in this reading from Exodus. The Lord orders him to stretch his hand out over the Red Sea, and the waters part. The Israelites pass through safely, but, when the Egyptians pursue them, Moses stretches his hand out again, and the waters return,...

Scriptural Reading for the Tuesday of the Second Week of Lent
In this reading from Exodus, the Israelites, free at last from the Egyptians, quickly begin to slip into despair. Lacking food, they complain to Moses. In response, God sends them the manna (bread) from heaven, which will sustain them throughout the 40 years that they will spend wandering in the desert before entering the Promised Land.

Scriptural Reading for the Wednesday of the Second Week of Lent
The Lord has given the Israelites manna in the desert, but, in this reading from Exodus, they still grumble. Now, they complain of lack of water and wish that they were still in Egypt. The Lord tells Moses to strike a rock with his staff, and, when he does so, water flows from it.

Scriptural Reading for the Thursday of the Second Week of Lent
As it becomes clear that the Israelites' journey through the desert will take some time, the need for leaders in addition to Moses becomes obvious in this reading from Exodus. Moses' father-in-law suggests the appointment of the judges, who can handle disputes in small matters, while important ones will be reserved to Moses.

Scriptural Reading for the Friday of the Second Week of Lent
God has chosen the Israelites as His own, and now He reveals His covenant to them on Mount Sinai. In this reading from Exodus, He appears in a cloud over the mountain to confirm to the people that Moses speaks on His behalf.

Scriptural Reading for the Saturday of the Second Week of Lent
In this reading from Exodus, Moses has ascended Mount Sinai at the Lord's command, and now God reveals to him the Ten Commandments, which Moses will take back to the people.

Scriptural Reading for the Sunday of the Third Week of Lent
God's revelation to Moses did not end with the Ten Commandments. In this reading from Exodus, the Lord gives other instructions on how the Israelites are to live, and these are known as the Book of the Covenant.

Scriptural Reading for the Monday of the Third Week of Lent
In this reading from the Book of Exodus, Israel's covenant with the Lord is confirmed with sacrifice and the sprinkling of blood on the people of Israel. Moses then is called by the Lord to go up on Mount Sinai to receive stone tablets of the Ten Commandments. He spends 40 days and nights with the Lord.

Scriptural Reading for the Tuesday of the Third Week of Lent
Before Moses went up Mount Sinai, the Israelites confirmed their covenant with God. In this reading from the Book of Exodus, we see that, 40 days later, they had already apostatized and had Aaron create a golden calf, to which they offered their worship. Only Moses' intervention saves the Israelites from God's wrath.

Scriptural Reading for the Wednesday of the Third Week of Lent
When the Lord revealed Himself to Moses on Mount Sinai, He did not show Moses His face. Still, as we learn in this reading from Exodus, the glory of the Lord was so great that Moses himself reflected it. Coming down from Mount Sinai, his face shone so brightly that he had to cover himself with a veil.

Scriptural Reading for the Thursday of the Third Week of Lent
The Book of Exodus offers two accounts of the Book of the Covenant, and today's reading is the second. We see a restatement of the Ten Commandments and the requirement to celebrate Passover yearly. Most interesting, perhaps, is the fact that Moses fasted for 40 days and nights while the Lord revealed the details of His covenant with the...

Scriptural Reading for the Friday of the Third Week of Lent
Today's reading from the Book of Exodus is one of the detailed passages of the Old Testament that we often skip over. But the Church includes it here in the Office of the Readings for Lent for a reason.

Scriptural Reading for the Saturday of the Third Week of Lent
In today's reading from the Book of Exodus, we see more details about the construction of the sanctuary and the Ark of the Covenant. Once the construction was completed, the Lord descended on the tabernacle in a cloud. The presence of the cloud became the signal for the Israelites to remain in one place. When the cloud lifted, they would move...

Scriptural Reading for the Sunday of the Fourth Week of Lent
Today, we leave the Book of Exodus and pass into the Book of Leviticus. The Lord, through Moses, institutes the Old Testament priesthood, which is bestowed on Aaron and his sons. The priests will offer holocausts on behalf of the people of Israel.

Scriptural Reading for the Monday of the Fourth Week of Lent
As the high priest, Aaron has to offer a sacrifice of atonement on behalf of the people of Israel. As we see in this reading from Leviticus, the sacrifice is accompanied by great ritual, and it must be performed again and again to make up for the Israelites' sins.

Scriptural Reading for the Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Lent
In this reading from the Book of Leviticus, we get another restatement of parts of the Ten Commandments and the Book of the Covenant. The emphasis here is on love of neighbor.

Scriptural Reading for the Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Lent
Our brief stay in the Book of Leviticus has concluded, and today we move to the Book of Numbers, where we read another version of Moses' appointment of the judges. The Holy Spirit descends on the 70 elders, and they begin to prophesy.

Scriptural Reading for the Thursday of the Fourth Week of Lent
Israel has come to the edge of the Promised Land of Canaan, and, in this reading from the Book of Numbers, the Lord tells Moses to send a scouting party into the land. They return with the news that the land flows with milk and honey, as God had promised, but they are afraid to enter it, because it is occupied by men who are stronger than they are.

Scriptural Reading for the Friday of the Fourth Week of Lent
The people of Israel are despondent over the news that the Promised Land is occupied by men who are stronger than they are. Instead of trusting in God, they complain to Moses, and God threatens to strike them down. It is only through Moses' intervention that the Israelites are saved. Still, the Lord refuses to allow those Israelites who doubted His word to enter into the Promised Land.

Scriptural Reading for the Saturday of the Fourth Week of Lent
In this reading from the Book of Numbers, we have another version of the story of Moses bringing water from the rock. Even after this miracle, the Israelites continue to grumble against God, and so He sends a plague of serpents. Many of the Israelites die from their bites, until the Lord tells Moses to make a bronze serpent and mount it on a...

Scriptural Reading for the Sunday of the Fifth Week of Lent
In this reading from the Letter to the Hebrews, St. Paul looks back over salvation history and interprets the Old Testament in light of the New. In the past, revelation was incomplete; now, in Christ, everything is revealed. The Old Covenant, revealed through the angels, was binding; the New Covenant, revealed through Christ, Who is higher...

Scriptural Reading for the Monday of the Fifth Week of Lent
All of Creation, St. Paul tells us in this reading from Hebrews, is subject to Christ, through Whom it was made. But Christ is both beyond this world and of it; He became man so that He might suffer for our sake and draw all Creation to Him. By sharing in our nature, He overcame sin and opened for us the gates of heaven.

Scriptural Reading for the Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Lent
In this reading from the Letter to the Hebrews, St. Paul reminds us of Christ's own faithfulness to His Father. He contrasts that faithfulness with the unfaithfulness of the Israelites, whom God rescued from slavery in Egypt but who still turned against Him and were therefore unable to enter the Promised Land.

Scriptural Reading for the Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Lent
In this reading from Hebrews, St. Paul tells us that we should be strong in our faith because we have reason to hope: God has sworn His fidelity to His people. Christ, through His death and resurrection, has returned to the Father, and He now stands before Him as the eternal high priest, interceding on our behalf.

Scriptural Reading for the Thursday of the Fifth Week of Lent
The figure of Melchizedek, king of Salem (which means "peace"), foreshadows that of Christ. The Old Testament priesthood was an hereditary one; but Melchizedek's lineage was not known, and he was regarded as a man of great age who might never die. Therefore, his priesthood, like Christ's, was seen as eternal, and Christ is compared to him to stress the never-ending nature of His priesthood.

Scriptural Reading for the Friday of the Fifth Week of Lent
St. Paul continues to expand on the comparison between Christ and Melchizedek. In this reading from Hebrews, he points out that a change in the priesthood signals a change in the Law. By birth, Jesus was not eligible for the Old Testament priesthood; yet He was a priest nonetheless—indeed, the last priest, since the New Testament priesthood is simply a participation in Christ's eternal priesthood.

Scriptural Reading for the Saturday of the Fifth Week of Lent
As we prepare to enter Holy Week, our Lenten readings now draw to a close. St. Paul, in the Letter to the Hebrews, sums up our entire Lenten journey through the Exodus of the Israelites: The Old Covenant is passing away, and a New one has come. Christ is perfect, and so is the covenant that He establishes. Everything that Moses and the...

Scriptural Reading for Palm Sunday
In the readings for the Fifth Week of Lent, the Church stressed the eternal priesthood of Christ, the High Priest Who never dies. Today, in this reading from the Letter to the Hebrews, we see that Christ is also the eternal sacrifice. The new covenant in Christ replaces the old. While the sacrifices of the old covenant had to be offered over and over and could not bring those who offered them to sanctity, Christ's sacrifice is offered once for all, and in it, we can all reach perfection.

Scriptural Reading for the Monday of Holy Week
We have an eternal high priest and an eternal sacrifice in Jesus Christ. The Law is no longer imposed externally, as it was in the old covenant, but written on the hearts of those who believe. Now, writes St. Paul in the Letter to the Hebrews, we must simply persevere in the Faith. When we doubt or draw back, we fall into sin.

Scriptural Reading for the Tuesday of Holy Week
As Easter approaches, St. Paul's words in the Letter to the Hebrews are timely. We must continue the fight; we must not give up hope. Even when we undergo trials, we should take comfort in the example of Christ, Who died for our sins. Our trials are our preparation for rising to new life with Christ on Easter.

Scriptural Reading for the Wednesday of Holy Week
As Moses approached Mount Sinai, this reading from the Letter to the Hebrews tells us, we should approach Mount Zion, our heavenly home. God is a consuming fire, through Whom we are all cleansed, as long as we listen to His Word and progress in holiness. If we turn from Him now, however, having received the revelation of Christ, our punishment will be greater than that of those Israelites who grumbled against the Lord and were forbidden, therefore, from entering the Promised Land.

Scriptural Reading for Holy Thursday
In this reading from the Letter to the Hebrews, St. Paul reminds us that Christ is the great high priest, like us in all things but sin. He was tempted, so he can understand our temptation; but being perfect, He was able to offer Himself as the perfect Sacrifice to God the Father. That sacrifice is the source of the eternal salvation of all who believe in Christ.

Scriptural Reading for Good Friday
In this reading from the Letter to the Hebrews, St. Paul explains that the New Covenant, like the Old, had to be sealed in blood. This time, however, the blood is not the blood of calves and goats that Moses offered at the foot of Mount Sinai, but the Blood of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. Christ is both the Sacrifice and the High Priest; by His death, He has entered Heaven, where He "may appear now in the presence of God for us."

Scriptural Reading for Holy Saturday
The Old Covenant, St. Paul tells us in this reading from the Letter to the Hebrews, has passed away, replaced by the New Covenant in Christ. Just as the Israelites whom the Lord led out of Egypt were denied entrance into the Promised Land because of their lack of faith, we, too, can fall and deprive ourselves of the Kingdom of Heaven.

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