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Posts Tagged ‘fasting’

Cleansing of the Temple: Jn. 2.13-25

By Sister Mary Regina Robbins, SND

The story of Jesus cleansing the temple area is shocking. He is definitely center stage in this scene. We see a side of his character that we were not expecting! Jesus in full stature, with energy and anger, makes a whip and drives people, oxen and sheep out of the area in front of the temple. We can picture the tables upturned and money splatting all over. He tells those who were selling doves “Get them out of here. Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace!” What’s not to run from? This man is in a rage! And along with this gesture Jesus proclaims without compromise, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” So Jesus, what was going on with you that day?

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I get it. Jesus manifests divinity and humanity. However, I find myself thinking: In Rome, Lourdes and Assisi haven’t we seen folks selling souvenirs and bargaining with people? And they do this right in front of the most holy and beautiful basilicas! In fact the economy of cities are enhanced by tourism purchases. So Jesus, what are we supposed to do with this “sign”?

Certainly our first reflection echoes the minds of the disciples describing prophets in the Old Testament: “Zeal for your house consumes me.” Jesus demonstrates a passionate love for his Father and true worship. Jesus knows motivation and sees through what is going on. As the last line in this account reads, “He was well aware of what was in man’s heart.”

And this leads us deeper into a second reflection: Jesus is well aware of what is in my heart. Am I well aware of what is in my heart? As we journey through Lent; as we enter more deeply into the basilica of true Paschal Mystery worship of God through, with and in Jesus, what clutter stands around the entrance? What moneychanger tables block my humble contrition and my sincere desire to know, love and serve God?

Now picture Jesus with that same energy helping you to dash out the junk, sins and the bad habits that the Holy Spirit keeps nudging you to get rid of. Hear Jesus say directly to you: “Get them out of here! Stop turning your beautiful Temple of the Holy Spirit, into a marketplace of detractions.”

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Second Sunday of Lent
The Transfiguration: Between Two Mountains
By Sister Mary Kathleen Burns 

Two mountains figure prominently in Jesus’ Life: Mount Tabor and Mount Calvary.

On Mount Tabor Peter, James and John were given a glimpse into Jesus’ divinity. Jesus stood before them, bathed in Trinitarian Light, with Moses representing the Father as Giver of the Law on one side, and Elijah representing the Spirit who has spoken through Prophets on the other.

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How beautiful Jesus must have been! The three apostles basked in the glow. So enthralled were they that Peter suggested they build three tents and remain there. Peter, like us, wanted to stay on the mountain to continue to savor the experience, but Jesus refused to allow him to create a permanent retreat center. He said Peter must go back down the mountain and begin living out this experience in day-to-day life and ministry to God’s people, and ultimately in his own experience of suffering.

Having seen Jesus in glory, we marvel at how quickly the glow faded after coming down the mountain! We wonder how the apostles could have doubted Jesus after all they had witnessed. How could they have betrayed him after seeing his glory? After all, Jesus’ gift of the Transfiguration was to strengthen them for the coming crisis. Mt. Tabor was preparation for the next mountain Jesus would climb where he would be disfigured, hanging not between Moses and Elijah, but between two others, common criminals.

Like the apostles, we too have been chosen and gifted with an experience of God’s love in Jesus Christ. We have the benefit of a long tradition of rich teaching, the Holy Scriptures which are so accessible to us, and the life and grace of the Sacraments, especially the opportunity to receive Eucharist. These are our Tabor experiences which are given us not to revel in, but to prepare us to go down into the valley of life, living out our discipleship in our day-to-day encounters, which at times will challenge us to climb mount Calvary where Jesus seems disfigured.

The Transfiguration teaches us that Jesus is fully present in all these experiences, whether in glory, in the mundane duties of our life, or in suffering. Ultimately, God gives us moments of glory, clarity and insight so that we can also see Him in the ordinary, in the darkness and especially in suffering.

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First Sunday of Lent
The Temptations in the Desert
By Sister Mary Kathleen Burns

Jesus went off into the desert for 40 days to be tempted. Forty in Scripture always signifies a time of birthing, when something new is coming forth, or when God acting in a powerful way through humans. It is, after all, the full term of human gestation- 40 weeks. So something is coming forth here and Jesus is that Fruit which is both God and Man who is now coming out of the desert as if again from the womb.

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The desert is a place of gestation, of birth, growth and testing.  Jesus is challenged on the deepest level of his being and self-understanding. From there, He will come forth with a clear understanding of His identity and his mission.  But how did he get there?  And how were Satan’s attacks targeting Jesus’ deepest desires?

 The First Temptation: Turning these Stones into Bread.
Here, Satan would like Jesus to focus on his own needs and desires. “Turn your ministry in on yourself!” Satan says. Paradoxically, the Jesus who would multiply loaves and fishes for a starving crowd would himself become our food in Eucharist. Jesus’ identity as the Bread of Life is already prefigured here, along with the necessity of his being broken in order to be shared.

 The Second Temptation: Throw yourself off the Parapet and Defy Death.
Jesus is the Lord of Life and He came to give life to the fullest. Jesus was offered a way to show that he could not die without actually having to pass through death. Death without suffering! Don’t we all hope for that? Jesus chose to pass through death, taking on our own vulnerability and fears, having finally let go of life as He knew it and loved it. In the garden of Gethsemane we see just what that decision in the desert cost him, sweating blood and tears at the thought of his impending death.

 The Third Temptation: Worship the Devil and Inherit the Kingdom.
Jesus’ passion was His Father’s Kingdom. Satan offers, “Abandon your Father and I will give you the Kingdom immediately and painlessly.” But outside His Father’s love, the kingdom made no sense. In establishing the Kingdom, there is no easy way, there are no quick fixes. The Kingdom would have to be established over time, through suffering, much misunderstanding and ultimately through his own death.

 In our own Lenten Journey, we can reflect:

  1. We are called to give without counting the cost: Do I give of myself in a way that is truly for others?
  2. Life comes from death: In what ways must I die so that I can be more alive?
  3. The Kingdom comes in stages: Am I patient with myself and others in the process?

Please feel free to share your own answers and reflections in the comments below!

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 Ash Wednesday

Prayer, Almsgiving, Fasting: “Behold now is the acceptable time.”

By Sister Mary Regina Robbins

Each year the Christian liturgical calendar invites us to go deeper into the meaning of our commitment to Jesus Christ as we enter the Lenten journey of 40 days. The ritual of receiving ashes on our foreheads and watching others receive the same, is a reminder that we do not journey alone and that we have not here a lasting home, but are going to die someday as we “pass” into our eternal home.

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The journey of life is wonderful, but also a serious one-time hike! The ashes sober us into reality. The traditional ritual word, “remember” strikes a note of examining who we are and where we are going. As baptized people, graced to live in imitation of Jesus Christ, we wish to “die with him” that we might also “rise with him” in the Paschal Mystery we will celebrate on Easter.

The early Church fathers earmarked prayeralmsgiving and fasting as ways to prepare for baptism at Easter. This tradition soon became a practice for all Christians preparing to renew their baptismal commitment at Easter. But where are we with this today? Underlining all Lenten practices is the motivation of love. Prayer, almsgiving and fasting, when rightly understood and practiced, free a person to greater self-monitoring and discipline in order to overcome innate selfishness and be more loving.

Prayer:  Take time to reflect on prayer in your life. Be quiet enough to listen to God. Spend more quality time being with God. He is always available. Reading scripture and spiritual literature can jump start us into prayer that is truly effective for personal growth and communion with God.

Almsgiving:  Almsgiving requires us to give away generously to someone in need. We can give time, talent or goods and money. In other words, we “sacrifice” for others.

Fasting: Fasting is refraining from something to the point of feeling the emptiness of its absence and being reminded that one must rely on God and delay immediate self-gratification. It means denying ourselves those stumbling blocks to true growth in holiness. Besides the laws of the Church, we need to choose a “fasting” practice peculiar to our unique disposition and situation.

So as we start out on our journey, let us consider how prayer, almsgiving and fasting will accompany us on our way to Easter Joy.

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