By Owen Phelps, Ph.D.

Director, Yeshua Institute

It started out as an idea for how my wife, Jane, and I might do something together during Lent that would help us get to know the Gospels and Acts of the Apostles better – and also to better develop the heart and mind of Jesus, which is the real purpose of Lent.

Then, the more I thought about it, the more I came to think that we ought to share our idea with you. Maybe its something you want to do with your spouse or a friend or even a small group that you’re in contact with on a daily basis.

Here’s the idea: Through Lent we’re going to read and discuss all four Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles.

We’re going to do that by daily reading and discussing a short portion of those New Testament books – generally 4-6 pages, including all the footnotes. (Some translations, like the NAB and NABR, both Catholic versions, have extensive footnotes; other translations have none.) We estimate it will take 20-25 minutes a day to read each segment, including extensive notes. Of course, discussions can go as long as you choose or as time permits.

We hope you will consider joining us in this Lenten devotion.

All cut up for you

To give ourselves a roadmap – and now to share it with you – we cut up the Gospels and Acts into 43 daily segments. You can see our one-page outline here.

But why, you may be asking, have 43 daily segments when there are only 40 days in Lent?

Well, as it turns out, in today’s configuration there are actually more than 40 days to Lent -- unless you don’t count Sundays, in which case there are only 38. (In various configurations observed over the centuries, it’s possible to come up with just 40 days – but the “40 days” reference is primarily symbolic of Jesus’ 40 days in the desert at the start of his public ministry.)

We decided to count Sundays in Lent and wrapped up all the readings on the day before Holy Thursday, which begins the Easter Triduum. (Did you know that Lent actually ends with Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday?)

However, for you hardy souls who would like to continue until Easter, we also list relevant readings from all four of the Gospels specifically chosen for Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday.

If you’re looking to become more familiar with the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles, describing the earliest days of the church, get our outline and get started today.

Briefer options

If 20-25 minutes of reading is too much for your busy schedule, here are some options for Lenten scripture devotions:

  • Read the daily segments without reading the notes, which would likely reduce your reading time to 10-15 minutes. (We don’t recommend this, but it’s better than skipping the devotion altogether.)
  • Pick just one Gospel and read it for 5 or 10 minutes a day – either with or without notes. Just stop reading when your allotted time is up. If you finish one of the Gospels before Lent is done, start another one or jump to Acts and see how far you get. (Hint: St. Mark’s is the shortest Gospel.)

Discussion valuable – but not necessary

It’s always best if you have someone to discuss the readings with – and that can be done by phone or even email if necessary. But if you don’t have anyone to discuss with, just go ahead and read and reflect on your own.

Also, don’t forget, it’s virtually certain your local parish will provide other opportunities to grow in your faith during Lent, and we encourage you to check them out.

We also encourage you to try to develop your prayer life, observe the church’s rules on fasting and abstinence (also consider loosening your grip on something that holds you back from growing spiritually), and consider how you might increase your alms-giving by being more generous with your God-given time, talent and treasure.