Throughout the Lenten season, we will post reflections for holy days and Sundays from this year’s Lenten reflection booklet, Witnesses on the way, which includes all-new reflections written by National Council Chair Charlene Howard and her husband Michael Howard (and daily reflections from newly-named Ambassadors of Peace)Click here to see all reflections as they are posted as well as links to other Lenten resources on our Lent 2023 webpage.

If you are looking for a daily reflection booklet specially curated for Lent, you can still purchase and download this year’s e-booklet, Witnesses on the way: Reflections for Lent 2023. Read more about the booklet at this link or click here to order and download now.

REFLECTION FOR Sunday, February 26, 2023

by Michael Howard

Genesis 2:7-9; 3:1-7 | Romans 5:12-19 | Matthew 4:1-11

He fasted for 40 days …
Matthew 4:2

Our gospel today shows our Lord fasting on this first Sunday of Lent. Jesus is preparing for ministry work. When beginning or doing ministry work, fasting is necessary for strength and discerning God’s will.

In the 1940s, as a young teenager full of exuberant joy, Bertha Bowman felt her vocation to join the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration. Since Bertha’s Protestant parents rejected the idea, she fasted for strength and discernment on whether to enter this particular religious order. Mr. Bowman said, “They are not going to like you up there, the only Black in the middle of all the whites.”

Bertha responded, “I’m going to make them like me.” Sadly, her father was right, as a Franciscan nun told Bertha, “Black people go to n***** heaven together with dogs and other animals.” Abusive language and other offensive behavioral practices were attempts to make Bertha into “a southern Wisconsin white woman.” How could anyone endure this incomprehensible formation method to become a Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration?

Fortunately, Bertha fasted and prayed about this vocation. At a young age, the Holy Spirit prepared this Black girl to be a woman of faith who accepted a divine call to religious life. Like Jesus, Bertha, when hearing offensive language towards her, said, “One does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God” (Mt. 4:4). Some said she would break out in song when she was down and out until her superiors disapproved. Bertha still sang her songs with “inexpressible groanings” (Romans 8:26). The Spirit strengthened her soul to finish her formation. Today, Bertha Bowman is Servant of God, Dr. Sr. Thea Bowman. Her canonization is next.

When you fast, anoint your head and wash your face,
so that you may not appear to be fasting,
except to your Father who is hidden.
And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you

Matthew 6:17-18

Sr. Thea Bowman’s quotes are taken from Subversive Habits: Black Catholic Nuns in the Long African American Freedom Struggle, by Shannon Dee Williams.


Are you planning spiritual practice of fasting this week?

>> Join the Pax Christi USA community on Monday, February 27, for the first of our weekly series of Lenten prayer services over Zoom. Click here for more information and to register.

>> Click here to see more resources for prayer, study and action this Lenten season.

Evangelist Michael Howard, MACS, is the founder of Eat the Scroll Ministry developed through an encounter with the scriptures. Mr. Howard received his MA in Church Ministry/Spirituality at St. Mary’s University Seminary, Ecumenical School of Theology and holds a B.A. in Biblical Studies at Washington Bible College. Presently, Mr. Howard facilitates and teaches online courses for the University of Dayton. He instructs the certification program “My Catholic Faith Delivered” for parishes in the Archdiocese of Washington, has served as an “Inculturation Consultant,” and is a National Speaker for Sadlier’s Publications. Mr. Howard is a Prayer Leader for “Young Neighbors in Action” Catholic Service Learning, Youth With Heart. Mr. Howard worked as a Coordinator of the Religious Education for St. Margaret of Scotland, Pastoral Associate at St. Francis De Sales and Director of Religion at Incarnation Church. Through Eat the Scroll Ministry he conducts retreats, Bible Study programs, and revivals.

2 thoughts on “Reflection for the first Sunday of Lent, February 26, 2023

  1. I I found great inspiration reading about Bowman family. would love more informative
    articles such as these. More persons could use inspirational articles. Thanks

  2. Let’s spend less time in adoration of God and more time in dialogue with our neighbor in response to the Pope’s call for a synodal church.

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