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Posts Tagged ‘Lent’

The Second Sunday of Lent – Transfiguration of Jesus

By Sister Mary Lisa Megaffin, SND

The account of the Transfiguration, a rather mysterious segment in the life of Christ, provides many reflection points about the presence of God.

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It almost seems as if Peter, James and John experienced a bit of an emotional roller coaster. First, they had heard (but probably not grasped) Jesus’ previous challenging messages as recounted in the gospel of Mark:

  • That the Son of Man should suffer many things—a message which Peter tried to discount,
  • The necessity of losing one’s life for the sake of the Gospel,
  • That genuine disciples of Jesus must be ready to deny themselves and take up their personal crosses.

What a juxtaposition: from hard and potentially painful sayings, to the radiance of Christ’s clothing and countenance, to the ecstasy of the apostles–“it is good that we are here.”  It is no wonder that Peter was at a loss for words–“he hardly knew what to speak because they were so terrified.”

What we can learn is that even in times of emotional turmoil, or perhaps especially in times of emotional turmoil, God is present and he will reveal himself to those whose hearts are ready to listen. During Lent, we have many opportunities to unplug, still our hearts, be led up a high mountain apart by ourselves, and embrace and surrender to the deep graces which this solitude fosters. Deep within, I hear “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” In this solitude, I can experience the radiance of God’s presence as I grow even closer in my personal relationship with Jesus, asking him:

  • How is he, as the Son of Man, suffering today in my brothers and sisters around the world?
  • What does losing my life for the sake of the Gospel mean, in light of this suffering?
  • For the grace to be aware of the radiance of God’s presence even in difficult moments, as I deny myself and take up my cross, becoming a source of that radiance and grace for others.

“The grace of the Transfiguration is not just a vision of glory…its primary purpose is something greater: to empower us to live in the presence of God and to see the radiance of that presence in all events, people, the cosmos, and in ourselves.” …Thomas Keating.

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The First Sunday of Lent – One Does Not Live on Bread Alone

By Sister Julie Marie Bruss, SND

Today we hear the message, “repent and believe in the gospel.” It is remarkable how much the gospel can speak to us when we are open to the messages contained there. When we are open and listen, really listen, we can take in what is in the words and what lies beyond the words. When we sit with and savor the words of the gospel we connect with all that Jesus has modeled in disposition and attitude, in tenderness or challenge, always wrapped in mercy and compassion and an invitation to forgiveness. There is power in His interactions with individuals. We can learn so much from regular reflection on the words of scripture.

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We live “on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” We are fed by the word in the scriptures, and also by the words that come from God in many ways. God’s word comes to us in every moment, if we are mindful and attentive to the reality. God speaks in the situations in which we find ourselves, through the persons who are with us and in all of the creation that surrounds us.

God wants to interact with us as individuals, so we ask ourselves: What might God be speaking to me in my current life situation with its realities of joys and struggles? What is God saying to me through the people that I encounter each day? Is there someone about whom I can change my attitude, something that I can consider from a different point of view, someone or something that has the power to transform my life if I will just choose and allow it to happen? How might I grow if I take in the word that is in the sights and sounds of nature that are present and just waiting for me to enjoy?

This Lent we are offered another opportunity for personal transformation in our life’s journey. In the coming weeks, let us listen for the word of God coming to us in new and different ways.

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Ash Wednesday – Mirroring the Face of Christ

By Sister Mary Regina Robbins, SND

Lent may be a good time to look into the mirror of our own lives and see how much we resemble Christ, i.e., the goodness, compassion, love and Gospel values which we are graced with by Baptism. On any given day we look into a mirror and we get only a glimpse of who we are, because that reflection is not the complete truth. It is an external image of how we look as we look into the mirror. We are much more than this. Within our heart, soul, mind, life experience and memory, is our unique, beautiful personhood. As Christians we want to reflect God who dwells within, and say with Mother Teresa of Calcutta, “When people look at me they see no longer me, but the Face of Jesus.”

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A good Lenten practice during these holy 40 days could be to allow our faces to communicate Jesus. As we do this, here are a few scripture passages to pray:

2 Cor. 3.18 “Now this Lord is the Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And all of us, with our unveiled faces like mirrors reflecting the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the image that we reflect in brighter and brighter glory. This is the working of the Lord who is the Spirit.”

1 Cor. 13.12 “Now we see only reflections in a mirror, mere riddles, but then we shall be seeing face to face. Now, I can know only imperfectly; but then I shall know just as fully as I am myself known.”

During Lent we want to bring out our inner beauty by cleansing ourselves of all that detracts, all that smudges our faces. We note how often Ps. 51 appears with the humble acknowledgement that we need forgiveness, grace and the cleansing. We pray, “Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness; in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense. Thoroughly wash me from my guilt and of my sin cleanse me.” On Ash Wednesday we pray, “Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.”

What do you need to do at this time to more radiantly mirror the face of Jesus to all you meet? What kind of cleanser will you use for 40 days to see results? And how much will it cost?

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Palm Sunday
 The Beginning of Holy Week
By Sister Marie Paul Grech

The beginning of Holy Week…sometimes called Palm Sunday, sometimes called Passion Sunday….but which is it?

Typical of our day-to-day experiences, life is filled with multiple names for things, and each name has a different story to tell. When we focus on Palm Sunday, for example,  we direct our attention to the glorious reception Jesus receives from a fickle crowd, a crowd composed perhaps of many of the same people who, less than a week later, would call out for his crucifixion.

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When we focus on Passion Sunday, we fix our gaze on that which is yet to come: the humiliating execution of an innocent man. Yet are not both true? Do not both co-exist and call us to a broader understanding of Jesus, the Son of God who deserves the glory and honor, and the Son of Man who gives up everything to be one of us, especially in our suffering? Isn’t this a reality that we deal with all the time? We are called to live in the world, but not be of the world. We are called to work and to pray. We are called to pray in silence and to pray in community. We are called to work for the kingdom and to trust in God’s action in our lives.

There is no either/or in our following of Jesus, only both/and. We are called to follow Jesus on the road to Calvary, while never forgetting the joys of the Transfiguration. We speak the words, “Crucify Him” with dread and guilt, and yet we know that it is our sins that he carries. We are gifted with discipleship, knowing that like Peter there are days we act as though we do not know him. Palms and Passion are two sides of the same coin. One calls to holiness of life, and one calls to celebration and gratitude for all that our good God has given us through his Son, Jesus Christ.

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Fifth Sunday of Lent
 Friendship and Compassion
By Sister Mary Antonine Manning

Jesus had many friends, among them Lazarus and his sisters, Martha and Mary. They lived in Bethany, not far from Jerusalem, and Jesus must have visited them regularly and received food, companionship and needed rest.

Lazarus became seriously ill, and a message was sent to Jesus up north in Galilee. By the time Jesus arrived in Bethany, Lazarus had died and been in his tomb for four days. Mary and Martha must have been longing for Jesus to come to them and they both declared:

“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” What faith they showed! At the tomb of Lazarus, Jesus wept for his dear friend and for the suffering of Mary and Martha. His compassion prompted him to pray to his heavenly Father and then call Lazarus back to life. As a result “many of the Jews who had come. . .and seen what he had done began to believe in him.”

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What lessons can we learn from this? Pope Francis encourages us to imitate Jesus.

“Let. . . Jesus enter your life; welcome him as a friend, with trust: he is life! If up till now you have kept him at a distance, step forward. He will receive you with open arms. If you have been indifferent, take a risk; you won’t be disappointed. If following him seems difficult, don’t be afraid; trust him, be confident that he is close to you. He is with you and he will give you the peace you are looking for and the strength to live as he would have you do.

We must find the Lord who consoles us and go to console the people of God. This is the mission. People today certainly need words, but most of all they need us to bear witness to the mercy and tenderness of the Lord, which warms the heart, rekindles hope and attracts people towards the good. What a joy it is to bring God’s consolation to others!”

Use these questions to guide your reflection:

  • What do I need to do to become a closer friend of Jesus?
  • How am I called to “bear witness to the mercy and tenderness of the Lord which warms the heart, rekindles hope and attracts people towards the good”?

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Fourth Sunday of Lent
The Blind Man Sees
By Sister Mary Grace Leung

 “A blind man sees the light; Our eyes open when we live with Jesus”
John 9:1-41

The text from John’s Gospel invites us to meditate on the healing of a man born blind. As we read the Gospel, we notice how the blind man reacts to the negative reactions of the authorities and the way the blind man opens his eyes concerning Jesus.

The blind man cannot but witness to the truth: “I was blind and now I can see!” The Pharisees question him again and the blind man answers: “I have told you once….Do you want to become his disciples too?” The light of faith grows in the blind man when faced with the blindness of the Pharisees. He does not accept the logic of the Pharisees and confesses that Jesus comes from the Father. The blind man’s profession of faith causes his expulsion from the synagogue because those who professed faith in Jesus Christ had to break all family and community ties. Even today, those who decide to be faithful to Jesus run the risk of persecution or exclusion.

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I was once a catechumen preparing for my full initiation into the Church. Lent is a time of remembrance of the anticipation and hope I felt for my baptism and profession of faith in Jesus Christ. I too was faced with doubt from some of my friends and relatives who did not receive the gift of faith that I had. However, like the blind man, I came to full faith in Jesus step by step. My eyes were opened to see Jesus as my Savior and my God through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA).

Jesus does not abandon those who are persecuted for his sake. He meets the man again, and invites the man to go one step further in his faith. Jesus asks: “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” The man replies: “Sir…tell me who he is that I may believe in him?” Jesus replies: You are looking at him; he is speaking to you.” The blind man exclaims: “Lord, I believe!” And he worships Jesus. He has absolute trust and accepts everything from Jesus. The blind man who could not see ends up seeing better off than the Pharisees; he discovers the light.

We are challenged to face our blindness, whether it’s spiritual blindness or blindness in our thoughts, attitudes or our actions toward others. Jesus comes to heal our blindness and we  see that he is the light of the world. He meets us as we are, in our sinfulness and neediness. Jesus calls us to shed our blindness and to see the world and one another through his eyes!

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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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There was once a woman who had a dream. In her dream she was disappointed, disillusioned and depressed. She wanted a good world, a peaceful world, and she wanted to be a good person. But the newspaper and television showed her how far we were from such a reality. So she decided to go shopping. She went to the mall and wandered into a new store – where the person behind the counter looked strangely like Jesus. Gathering up her courage she went up to the counter and asked, “Are you Jesus?” “Well, yes, I am,” the man answered. “Do you work here?” “Actually,” Jesus responded, “I own the store. You are free to wander up and down the aisles, see what it is I sell, and then make a list of what you want. When you are finished, come back here, and we’ll see what we can do for you.”

So, the woman did just that. And what she saw thrilled her. There was peace on earth, no more war, no hunger or poverty, peace in families, no more drugs, harmony, clean air. She wrote furiously and finally approached the counter, handing a long list to Jesus. He skimmed the paper, and then smiling at her said, “No problem.” Reaching under the counter, he grabbed some packets and laid them out on the counter. Confused, she asked, “What are these?” Jesus replied: “These are seed packets. You see, this is a catalogue store.” Surprised the woman blurted out, “You mean I don’t get the finished product?” “No,” Jesus gently responded. “This is a place of dreams. You come and see what it looks like, and I give you the seeds. Then you plant the seeds. You go home and nurture them and help them to grow and someone else reaps the benefits.” And then she woke up.

Lent is a time for planting seeds…seeds of kindness, of forgiveness, of patience, of compassion, and on, and on, and on. There is no limit to the goodness we have the power to plant during this holy season! Each day allows us the opportunities to dream, to plant, to nurture all the goodness we want to see in our world. Like the old song says, “Let there be peace [or joy, or gratitude, or love…] on earth…and let it begin with me!”

– Sr. Marie Paul Grech, SND

(Story by Rev. Andrew Barakos)

 

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