Saturday, March 31, 2012
Thursday, March 29, 2012
Monday, March 26, 2012
Sunday, March 11, 2012
Mutual Thirst: Our Rest is in God Alone (3-11-2011 Cycle A for RCIA)
St. Augustine of Hippo is famous for many things, but one of his best quotes is this: “Our hearts are restless, O Lord, until they rest in you.” This summarizes what we find in the readings today.
In today's Gospel, a Samaritan woman, whose heart is wandering in a desert looking for water like the Israelites, meets a man, and something incredible happens: the more she gets to know him, the more she discovers about her deepest self, a process that for her brings trembling, fear, some old pains, and ultimately the peace of being fully known and still unwaveringly loved. Here in this encounter we see these words from the Catechism (142) come to light: By his Revelation, "the invisible God, from the fullness of his love, addresses men as his friends, and moves among them, in order to invite and receive them into his own company."1 The adequate response to this invitation is faith.
The Lord clearly invites this woman into a relationship today, and she responds, but slowly and in stages. At first, she refers to him simply as a Jew, but then only “Sir” and later on he becomes for her a “prophet.” Finally she discovers him to be the Christ, the Messiah who is to come, who has come right before her. This process ultimately breeds in this woman a great faith that drives her to invite others into the mystery of who this man is. By her words, “can this indeed be the Christ?,” we see someone touched so deeply that she keeps the full truth of her experience secret, offering others the opportunity to enter into the same life-giving encounter with their God. CCC 143 By faith, man completely submits his intellect and his will to God.2 With his whole being man gives his assent to God the revealer. Sacred Scripture calls this human response to God, the author of revelation, "the obedience of faith".3
That faith wasn't something that came instantly full-grown for the woman, and neither does it for us. We have to be guided into faith with Christ. In these next three weeks, we as a parish walk with our Catechumens who are preparing for Baptism (and our Candidates for full communion), who have journeyed slowly deeper into Christ and His Church. Are we ourselves making similar progress? Hopefully we aren't in the same place we were last year. Have we talked with Christ? Have we brought to him our questions and fears? Has he drawn out our wounds to heal us? Have we rested in Him presence, aware the He knows us and still loves us?
Faith leads us to concrete activities which come to the fore during Lent: prayer, fasting, good works of charity and compassion. As we are quenched of our thirst by Our Lord in this Eucharist, let us beg Him that the gifts of the Holy Spirit will overflow within us and help us to make these Lenten practices a part of our daily life.
Friday, March 9, 2012
Tuesday, March 6, 2012
2nd Sunday of Lent – A Higher Perspective
When I was in seminary in Winona, MN (for my last two years of undergrad), I loved to enjoy the bluffs that were on the back edge of campus. Whether it was a nice jog, cross country skiing, or even a game of disc golf, it was great to see the world, and the university, from up there. The best view of campus was from what we all called “the rock” that jutted out and over the trees for a spectacular vista.
In our life on earth, we don't get enough opportunities to see things from that distant, far-reaching perspective: too busy about the day-to-day things that are always urgent but rarely important, we fail to spend time examining our past and future to see what God is weaving with our lives, and thus we can get wrapped up in the challenges and difficulties (some big, some small) that haunt our present.
I can't imagine the depth of suffering that Abraham must have been feeling in today's first reading – because I don't have a son and so God can't ask me to give him back. However, I have seen my own grandparents and other parents in this parish lose a child, and I can guess that the anguish Abraham must have been experiencing on an emotional level must have put him intellectually and spiritually into a huge dilemma about who God is: Does God change his mind? Have I done something so wrong? What is he trying to make of all of this mess?
And somehow in the midst of that terror, Abraham is able to trust in God. Even though he is a mess internally, he carries on his obedience to the God who has never abandoned him in all of his trials, and eventually he comes to see that God's plan was much bigger than what it seemed at the time. He was given a foretaste of God's enduring faithfulness. Up on that mountain, he is able to glimpse the events of his life from God's perspective. And this is exactly what the Fathers of the Catholic Church had noticed: that the story of the binding of Isaac foreshadows the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, where God Himself offers his own Son on Mount Moriah-Calvary after Christ carries the wood for the sacrifice on his own back in the cross.
The ability to trust in God's boundless Mercy when everything seems a disaster is exactly what the Apostles receive in the Transfiguration. On another mountain, they are given a foretaste of the future: what God's providential plan has in store for Christ and for them. This is because they are about to be traumatized by the horror of the passion, death, and crucifixion of the Messiah, the Hope of Israel, to whom they have devoted their entire lives. It is the Transfiguration that keeps the Apostles united in prayer until they encounter the Lord in the Resurrection.
In our lives, God has shown Himself to us, if we only take the to step back and reflect on where we have been. Allow God to remind you of those glimpses of His Plan that you have seen – for it is only from them that you will be able to draw the strength, (just as Abraham did, just as the disciples did) to endure in the difficult times. May the Eucharist, the Transfigured Lord, be our food along that road.
1st Sunday of Lent - - - The Desert: Hand-to-Hand Combat with Evil
The story of Noah may seem a peculiar start for Lent, but, as St. Peter reminds us in the second reading, in that story we are presented with the peculiar quality of water to both give life, and to destroy it. Just as in our Baptism water has given us life in the Holy Spirit, it has also destroyed the evil of original sin within us, although the misdirected heart continues to need of further healing by God's restoring Grace. Another beautiful aspect of this story is that while God restrains himself until the ark is complete, he further shows his abundant mercy by promising by means of a covenant, that his “bow” of power will be restrained for evermore: he hangs up his rainbow in the sky when the rains come as a token of peace. Thus God shows that he no longer wishes to fight the evil of our world from the safety of his castle ramparts in the sky. Casting aside his bow, He instead wishes to fight evil in hand-to-hand combat on this earth, in human flesh. And Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begins that battle concretely today in the desert, where there is nothing that can protect him, distract him, or hide him from the evil of our world. And that battle against evil eventually will bring Our Savior to the cross, where the Son of God takes the ultimate casualty against evil, offering His life as the final victory through the power of his resurrection. And the wood of the ark that saved the righteous of Noah's age from the flood, now reveals itself in the wood of the Cross that saves us.
As we embark on the Season of Lent, we too find ourselves in a desert: purifying ourselves of unnecessary distractions, we have to face the evil in our individual lives and in our world. The Lord is asking us to join him in that hand-to-Hand combat, to struggle against that evil, and with the strength that comes from God, to experience the life that He gives on the other side of death – death to our sinful ways, and life in God's will. Indeed, it is only in the cross that we are saved, and the spiritual battle of the christian life is fought in our hearts this Lent. May the Lord God, the mighty warrior who has conquered sin and evil, do the same in our souls through this Lenten Season. Amen.