The first full week of Lent is upon us folks, and I urge you to check out Father Robert Barron's daily Lenten Reflections on his WORD ON FIRE website, which can be accessed here. Additionally, I invite you to start off your mornings this Lent with a visit to THE REFECTORY, where you will be able to access some my contemplative/monastic reflections, along with excerpts from the writings of Pope St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI as we journey through this Lent together- on our way to eternity.
Above all else, let us pray for one another during this season of penance and renewal of mind and heart!
Folks, we once again enter the Holy Season of Lent ever mindful of our need of God's mercy, forgiveness and healing. My blog will be the primary source of our Lenten reflections. Please be certain to visit it on a daily basis as together, we journey through the desert of Lent to the glory of Easter joy and new life!
A blessed Lenten Season to all!
ON THIS SIXTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME we are reminded in one brief and to-the-point sentence at the end of today’s second reading what our life in Christ should be about: “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” Folks, each and every one of us is called to imitate Christ and to set the example, like St. Paul, so that others may emulate us. St. Paul is one in a line of saints whose actions were a living commentary on the modern expression, “What would Jesus do?” In today’s Gospel we see what Jesus did and what each of us are called, with St. Paul, to imitate. The leper – an outcast because of their disease – came up to Jesus, knelt down and begged Jesus to cure him. Lepers have a bacterial infection that eats away at their flesh and gives them a sickening odor. At the time of Jesus, leprosy was considered so contagious that those with it were quarantined for life apart from the rest of the community. They had no one with whom to associate with or to care for them — except other lepers. They were cut off from their family, from their jobs, from the synagogue and the temple. These poor people were cut off from all love and mercy. They were outcasts, ostracized from all things human. They had to wear ripped clothes and keep their hair messy so that others would be able to spot them more easily. Whenever they needed to travel to obtain something, they were mandated by Mosaic Law, as we hear in the first reading, to shout out “Unclean!” “Unclean!” They were forbidden to come within a certain distance of others. Anyone who touched a leper became, in Jewish mentality, unclean. That the man with leprosy in today’s Gospel broke all convention at the time to come close to Jesus was already a sign of his desperation. And what was Jesus’ response to this leper? Jesus stretched out his hand and did something unheard of – Jesus actually touched the leper. One can almost hear the shrieks of onlookers two thousand years later. It was probably the first time a non-leper had touched him in years. Then Jesus said the words that were the answer to the man’s prolonged prayers: “Be made clean!” After the leprosy miraculously left him, Jesus gave him instructions to go see the priest and go through the rites of the Mosaic law for testimony of a cure of leprosy so that he, so long an outcast, could return to the human community. Folks, this is the Jesus we’re called to imitate. The Lord turns to each of us today and says, “Come, follow me!” What Christ is calling us to do is to love the outcasts of our world, of our society, with the same love that He does. To “be doers of the word, not hearers only” (James 1:22).
HEALING vs. MAGIC
The miracles Jesus performed during his public ministry were not feats of magic. They were significant events because they were signs of his God-given power to heal. The miracles of Jesus were also a living, loving, and tangible sign that the Kingdom of God had finally arrived on earth. Jesus shows his loving concern in today’s Gospel by healing Simon’s mother-in-law, who was ill with a fever. Jesus approaches the woman, and in the presence of Simon, Andrew, James, and John, takes her hand and helps her up; by this very action of healing, the fever left her, and as the Gospel account tells us, “she waited on them.” Jesus’ action of healing was the foreshadowing of his resurrection, in which we will all share at the end of time.
In what ways are you in need of healing? Allow Jesus to take you by the hand and raise you up.
Folks, Lent 2015 is just two and a half weeks away, and for those of you who are not on Facebook, I've decided to have a very Benedictine focus on Lent this year. I'll have both my homily blog and THE REFECTORY BLOG up which will feature posts on the assigned excerpt of the Holy Rule. Pope Saint Gregory the Great, who himself was a Benedictine Monk, once reflected that if anyone wanted to truly amend their lives, they should look to the Holy Rule, "this little book", and they will come to know themselves as God sees them.
Blessings to you in abundance in the week ahead!
During these early weeks of Ordinary Time in the church calendar, our scripture readings are related to the beginnings of Christ’s ministry on earth. It started with the Old Testament reading about Samuel last week, as the young boy hears his name being called but does not at first realize that the call is coming from God. Once he understands that, he answers the call to become one of God’s great prophets.
We also hear of John the Baptist’s cry to the people of his generation to repent and be baptized because the chosen one of God is coming. John’s call to repentance ultimately cost him his head, but he is exalted in heaven because he heard God’s call and answered. Jesus himself heard the call of God when he came up out of the water at his baptism in the Jordan River. That was his call to begin his ministry of calling all people to repentance and devotion to God and to their neighbors and promising eternal life through his death and glorious resurrection.
You and I have also been called directly and individually by our baptism to be a son or daughter of God and follower of Jesus our Lord. More than half the world has not heard about God’s plan for salvation in Christ. They have not yet been called individually, as you and I have.
The crucial question for us is whether we have really heard his call, and, if so, how do we respond? We don’t necessarily have to follow in the footsteps of many early Christians into martyrdom. Some of us
may have been called by God to serve him in religious life through ordination or consecrated life. Most of us are called to carry the Gospel to the ends of the earth through the whole of our lives as a testament to all mankind of God’s will for all of us.
People are at the heart of our lives: incidental people in stores and on the street, constant people in our work, essential people in our family and circle of friends. And Jesus wants us to understand that what we do to them, we do to him.
When we turn away from sin and our worldly desire to focus all of our attention on ourselves and instead express our lives in love to the people around us, we not only give love directly to Jesus, but we also reveal Jesus to those who we meet and with whom we interact. In this way, we, too, answer the call to be prophets, disciples, and evangelists.
God is calling us with an important message... Don’t leave him on hold!
Listening to God
Today’s first reading, from the book of Samuel, underscores in the clearest terms the importance of listening to the voice of the Lord. Eli understood that the voice the child Samuel heard might just be the voice of God. Eli told Samuel that should the Lord call him again, his reply should be simply, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” Eli did not dismiss or trivialize Samuel’s experience, but encouraged him to be open to the voice of the Lord with patience; then he would discover God’s will in due time. The heart of the story is Samuel’s acquiescence: “I am listening, Lord. Whatever you ask, I will do.” There was no predetermined plan or course of action, no glimpse into the future. He was simply invited and with humble submission said yes to God.
God calls us into intimate relationship of our own free will. In what ways will we listen and respond to this call?
Two important themes are evident in today’s Gospel account. One is wonder and the other is change in direction. Both are connected with the magi, the astrologers, the “wise men.” Both are connected with our own journey, our own pilgrimage through life. Just as the magi went back to their home by another route after experiencing Jesus, so too do we, in our day, journey back home to heaven, now by a different route, a route unknown to the secular world. Now we know that life can no longer be lived as if God did not exist. We know that darkness and evil exist along this world’s ways. We know that death awaits all who live in ways not directed toward our only true home, the home of our heavenly Father. Like the prodigal son’s father, our heavenly Father watches and waits for us and runs to us as we make our way back. We know now, surrounded as we are by God’s presence, that the path through life, the pattern of the life we are called to live, the route of our life’s pilgrimage, has been eternally altered on this day of Epiphany.
We have experienced the presence of the Word-made-flesh for us. Which route will you now take to complete the journey to eternity?
My Dear Friends:
"The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light…" At midnight during the darkest time of the year, we walk through darkness, drawn by the light of our Churches, light echoed these past weeks by store lights and house lights and street lights that not only show us the way but encourage us to find our way with others. No one wants to live in darkness. We feel unsafe and unsure. Two thousand years ago, God decorated the world with the light of Jesus, his Eternal Word become visible in our flesh. The invisible God took on our human nature so that we could see the glory of God in an infant and so that our lives would be brightened by the truth about God and about ourselves.
Christmas Mass brings us again into the real presence of our Savior. A baby was born, God's word was made flesh two thousand years ago; we recall this unique historical event and we celebrate in our hearts and in our families, mindful of those brothers and sisters in need of food and shelter and, like all of us, in need of the truth and the hope that it brings. At Mass, at the words of consecration in each Eucharistic celebration, bread made by human hands becomes the flesh of the Eternal Word of God. The same flesh born of the Virgin Mary is given to us under the form of bread, so that we might partake here of the seeds of immortality, of the risen life that this new born baby came to share with us. We cannot understand how God took on human flesh, nor can we understand how a crucified human body rose from the dead and is now free to be really with us sacramentally; but these are the most important truths in human history. These are the truths that light our way tonight and each day of our lives, until we come into the presence of the living God at the moment of our death to this world.
"The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light." We are safe, we are loved, we are God's family now and forever. That is the truth about Christmas!
May the Lord bless you and those you love with Christmas joy and growth in holy living in the coming year! You can access my additional reflections for Christmas here.
Uncertainty is part of the human experience. How can any of us be certain that we are embracing the particular vocation to which God is calling us—the life of a college student, the ordained or vowed life, the married or single life, a particular occupation in the marketplace? If we are not sure that any of these vocations—or even the tasks that confront us in the course of daily living—are part of God’s plan in our lives, we should have no reason to fear, because we see in today’s Gospel that Mary faced this same uncertainty. Like us, Mary questioned and wondered what Gabriel’s announcement to her really meant. Yet, after the angel told her about what God was asking of her, Mary freely surrendered her total being, placing her life at the service of God’s plan without reservation. Her fiat, her yes, opened the way for the completion of that plan—the conception and birth of her Son and our salvation, Jesus—the event that transformed our world.
When was the last time you stood on the horizon of something wonderful, but were afraid to trust?
Today’s first reading (which is also proclaimed at the annual Chrism Mass during Holy Week) is the familiar passage from Isaiah with which Jesus will announce his own mission after his baptism. The prophet declares that the spirit of God has anointed him to be a bearer of glad tidings, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and release to prisoners, to announce God’s favor to the world. Through our own baptism and confirmation, we likewise have been anointed with the spirit of God. Like Isaiah, we have been sent by the Lord to be prophets in our own time, announcing glad tidings to those whose lives are lived on the margins of society through loneliness, alienation, rejection, uncertainty, or hopelessness. As followers of Jesus, we are called to be attentive to and serve the needs of those around us. Imagine Jesus calling you to rejoice in him and do his work.
What holds you captive, unable to experience this joy and proclaim it to others?
WELCOME TO ADVENT, AND HAPPY NEW CHURCH YEAR!! While the new civil year is little less than a month away, I invite you to reflect on the 2015 Year of Grace that begins today, and to offer the following reflection for your contemplation and reflection.
Advent occurs when we have our shortest, darkest days of the year. They literally cannot get any shorter by the end of Advent. Then, all of a sudden, that person that we have waited for-- that light-- bursts onto the scene and takes away our darkness, and the days literally become longer. Light literally enters our world, and that light is Jesus Christ. That is what hope should do for us, especially in the time of Advent. It should help us endure joyfully whatever might come our way, because we know that the darkness of our lives and the rainstorms that chill us to the bone will always end, and that the light of Jesus Christ will warm and soothe us-- that very light we yearn for with all of our hearts, minds and spirits. if we only welcome and be grateful for that light, it can and does change the very experiences of our lives!
We begin a new liturgical year by looking back and asking ourselves where we have failed to be Christ for one another...and we look forward as we encounter the chief protagonist of the Advent Scriptures, John the Baptist, whose voice echoes in the desert of our lives, "Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand."
Let us then indeed heed John's plea...let us cleanse our hearts and await in eager hope through prayer for the Lord's renewed coming among us. The homily for today's Mass can be found here.
MARANATHA....COME, LORD JESUS!
We come to the end of the Liturgical Year with today's celebration of the Feast of Christ the King. If we have been less than loyal to our Lord and one another, let us seek pardon and begin anew as Advent draws near.
Peace and al Good!
ON THIS SOLEMNITY OF PENTECOST,we come to the end of the Easter Season, and celebrate the great beginning of the Church. Be certain to view my blog for the usual weekend reflections.
Let us remember that EVERYBODY- from Pope Francis to the cook at McDonald's to Mrs. Murphy the housewife- in short, YOU AND I have been called and empowered by the Holy Spirit to witness the Gospel of Christ to those around us. You and I are called to bring good news to the poor; to bring liberty to those who are being held captive by addiction, alienation, rejection and indifference. We are called to heal the hearts overcome with great sorrow and loss. We are called to announce God's favor and glory among the people we encounter on the journey of life. Moreover, the Holy Spirit renews the Church in every time and place, in order that it might introduce us once again to Christ!
LORD, SEND OUT YOUR SPIRIT, AND RENEW THE FACE OF THE EARTH, AMEN, ALLELUIA!
My Dear Friends:
The See of Saint Peter is now vacant. At 2:00 p.m. EST, the Pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI came to an end, and thus, he will no longer be mentioned in the public prayers of the Church. I do encourage, you, however, to indeed pray for Pope Benedict, that the Lord will grant to him the peace and solitude he so desires in his life. Let us give thanks for the ministry of Pope Benedict, and above all, pray for our Cardinals as they now prepare for the upcoming conclave.
One of my favorite passages in all of Sacred Scripture is contained in today’s Gospel account. It’s where we find Jesus telling us, “I no longer call you slaves, I call you friends.” Jesus is saying something very beautiful in those words, something really wonderful about the humility of God in calling us to be, and making us, His friends. He comes to us not regarding us as slaves; rather He comes to us as His friends. He comes to us with respect, with caring, and in deep down love for us.
Allow me now to offer you some thoughts about friendship.
A friend is one who knows what to say in response to another person's self-disclosure. Friends reveal to each other their deep inner thoughts and feelings. When with respect and interest we accept our friend’s inner self the great likelihood is that a deep and satisfying friendship will blossom. There are few things in life that are more satisfying and wonderful than such a friendship. Jesus calls you his friend.
Hefty helpings of emotional expressiveness and unconditional support are key ingredients --followed by acceptance, loyalty, and trust. Our friends are there for us through thick and thin, but rarely cross the respectful boundaries of friendship. When we respond in kind, when we respond in return with our own acceptance, loyalty, and commitment in trust along with the signs of our affection and even love, something wonderful is born -- something precious is brought to life. Jesus calls you to be His friend.
Friendship is one of God’s choicest blessings, and a friend is the channel through whom great emotional, spiritual, and sometimes even physical blessings flow. Friends will cheer us when we are sorrowful or depressed. Friends will challenge us to go beyond our original limits of shyness and give us encouragement when we allow ourselves to go beyond our fears. Friends will motivate us when we’re ready to give up. Friends can provide strength for our hearts when life falls apart. Jesus is always there to give all that to you as your friend.
Friends are there for us when all is well, and we want someone with whom to share life’s pleasant and memorable moments. We often just want them around, to have a good time, to laugh, to act silly, to enjoy some mutually enjoyed activity. In how many ways have friends enriched our lives and made us feel loved, accepted, respected and cared for? Probably so .many times that we can’t even count them. And yet more will follow. Jesus wants you to be His friend. He literally died for your love.
Friendship gives us courage. What a wonderful thing when a friend gives us courage and when we give courage to our friend. That gift lasts for a lifetime. Jesus offers you His friendship for both this life and for all eternity.
Friends are the only source of bravery in our hearts. When we don't have any friends we won't come out and deal with life when there is trouble. But when we have friends with us we never sit a dark cave of self-centeredness and self-pity. We may not be brave but friendship gives courage to our hearts. Friends will try to save us in many situations. Friends will help us to avoid and to escape from big troubles. Friends will step out in front of us to shield us in times of problems and troubles. Friendship never knows how to run away from us during times of pain, loss, and suffering. A good friend stays with us when there is a problem and never goes away. Jesus is always there for you wanting to be your friend in good times and in bad.
Have you noticed that when you pray, when you are in a close relationship with Jesus, when you experience friendship with Jesus, you find yourself in a place of safety? Have you noticed that you receive strength? “Ask,” Jesus said, “and you will receive.”
Have you noticed that when you are close to Jesus, when you are listening to His voice deep within you, that still inner awareness of His loving presence, you experience inspiration? This is something that goes a step beyond comfort, although Jesus, your friend, really wants to give you comfort. But more than comfort, He wants to inspire you, to inspire your thoughts, to inspire courage within you and give you the strength to act.
There’s a lot of negative news that surrounds us every day, bad news about our world along with bad news about our economy and the numbers of people out of jobs. Negative thoughts about failure can seep into our hearts and souls. Many people are filled with bad news about themselves, bad news about them personally. The Evil One wants us to feel rotten about ourselves. Jesus gives us gives us good news about ourselves in the face of all of the negative news we listen to and tell ourselves. We need to listen to Him and pay attention to His message of love for us, His message of personal love for each one of us.
Friends spend time with each other. That being so, we should allow ourselves to spend some personal time with Jesus; to be aware of His loving presence and to give Him our personal presence in return. Time alone with Jesus isn’t a luxury, it is a necessity. When we tell ourselves that we are too busy we are depriving ourselves of time with Him, time with Him that can be healing, time with Him that can be inspiring, time with Him that allows us to receive His love and His gifts.
We can be slaves to our work. We can be slaves to our schedules. We can be enslaved by so many worries, concerns, and what we consider to be important commitments. Jesus doesn’t want slaves; He wants friends.
The words we heard in today’s Gospel account are important words. They are the words of Jesus calling us to love, calling us to love others but above all calling us to love Him as our friend. He wants you to give Him your friendship and be His friend just as much as He wants to be with you always and in everything – your friend, and unlike our virtual friends on Facebook, who can drop off our list without warning or simply ignore us, JESUS WILL ALWAYS REMAIN LOYAL AND FAITHFUL TO US!
What remains is for us to let Him. Give Him the time and the chance to be your friend. In silence and solitude let Him come to you as your friend and give Him your inner self in return.
We’ve often heard the phrase, “If it’s too good to be true, it usually is.” It’s a warning to us to beware of someone or something that has yet to be encountered or tried, and our natural instinct is to doubt a claim to the contrary because we don’t have faith in the person or the product. Today’s Gospel emphasizes the journey of faith. Thomas reminds us that doubt sometimes is a part of having a committed faith in Jesus. The apostles shared the news Christ’s resurrection with Thomas, but he allowed the darkness of the crucifixion to blind him to the reality of the Lord’s promise of victory over sin and death. Thomas felt that the resurrection was too good to be true- that death conquered Jesus forever. Thomas struggled with this, and yet in his struggle he embraced a deeper, lasting faith. He did not come to believe because he touched the Lord’s wounds. Thomas’ faith in Jesus was prompted by His invitation “do not persist in your unbelief, but believe.”
Like Thomas, we too, tend to allow the disappointments of life to consume us. Do you think it’s too good to be true that Jesus invites you to put your faith in Him and trust Him to bring a greater good out of a seemingly disappointing event or situation? On this Divine Mercy Sunday, do you believe that your sins are greater than God's UNFATHOMABLE MERCY? Do not persist in your unbelief, but believe!
The dawn breaks.
In the east, the black sky fades to gray and purple, a warm glow of pink and yellow warms the horizon, light shines forth over the earth, and a new day is here. It happens every day.
But on Easter morning, it takes on special beauty. On this day, it is more than the start of another day. It is the fulfillment of the promise that, whatever happens in our lives, we have hope and salvation through Christ. It all starts with light. The book of Genesis tells us, “In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth and the earth was without form or shape, with darkness over the abyss and a mighty wind sweeping over the waters—Then God said: Let there be light, and there was light. God saw that the light was good.”
Man was placed on earth to live in the light of God’s creation. But sin was also in the world, and man succumbed to it. And with sin came darkness. Not the natural darkness of night, but the cruel, cold darkness of separation from God and spiritual death.
But in spite of our sinful natures, God always loved mankind and each and every one of us. He did the only thing He could to bring us back to His perfect love. St. John explains: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through Him, and without Him nothing came to be. What came to be through Him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. … And the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us, and we saw His glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.”
The Son of God chose to come among us as one of us. Fully God, yet also fully human, He experienced the full range of our human nature. He grew hungry and ate with us. He grew weary and rested among us. He felt joy, friendship, adulation, and love. He dealt with sorrow, loss, rejection, deceit, and pain. He shared in our humanity so that He could share with us his divinity. We did nothing to deserve any of this. Out of nothing but pure love, He showed us the way. In Matthew’s Gospel, we hear His words, “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your selves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”
But the darkness of sin still pervaded the earth. Christ had to go to that ultimate step of facing and overcoming the final darkness of death to make a way for all of us to join Him in everlasting love and glory. The day after His crucifixion was indeed a dark day – the ultimate darkness, as the very light of God was extinguished from the earth. What pain and desolation His disciples must have felt in that darkness.
But the next morning, the first Easter morning, that darkest of all nights was split by the most glorious of all dawns. Light overcame darkness; life overcame death, Christ was victorious over a sinful world and the door to paradise was opened for all eternity to those who love and follow Him.
Every Easter morning, we rejoice anew to the arrival of the light of eternal joy that is promised to each of us in His presence in heaven.
CHRIST IS RISEN…HE IS TRULY RISEN! ALLELUIA!
We might ask ourselves, “Why is Holy Week so special?” Indeed, why is Holy Week so unique to Catholics and Christians- to the followers of Jesus Christ? We recall the last days, the suffering, death and resurrection of Christ- the Son of God who became man. Not only do we recall, but through the special liturgies of this week, we relive these events from the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem on this Palm Sunday to His death on Good Friday which culminates with His victorious rising from the dead on Easter Morning.
The liturgies of this most sacred week are not mere ‘stage performances’ or even the yearly unfolding of the familiar Passion play. What we commemorate and relive during this week called “holy” is not just Jesus’ dying and rising, but our dying and rising in Him.
Thus, we need to ask ourselves, “Will I bring my REAL self to Jesus this week, especially on this Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday? Will I really bring all that is in need within myself of forgiveness, healing, reconciliation and redemption? Will I go to the Lord, so that He who suffered horrific pain and death on the cross for my salvation can forgive my sins, especially in the Sacrament of Penance, heal my wounds and reconcile myself again with Him and with one another?” Simple questions….How will we respond?
The great Blessed John Paul II once noted: “The heavenly Father’s saving plan was completed in the free and total gift to us of the only begotten Son. ‘No one takes my life from me, but I lay it down of my own accord’ (John 10:18), Jesus declares, leaving no doubt that he decides to sacrifice his own life for the salvation of the world. In confirming so great a love, the Redeemer goes on: ‘Greater love has no one than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends’ (John 15:13).”
Each of us then, must follow the example of our Savior by freely laying down our lives during the Holy Week liturgies to allow Him to forgive our sins, heal the wounds in caused by our sins and the sins of others, transform us more closely into the image and likeness of God and, thereby, live the divine life we received at Baptism.
Saint Gregory Nazianzen put it this way: “…We must sacrifice ourselves to God, each day and in everything we do, accepting all that happens to us for the sake of the Word, imitating his passion by our sufferings, and honoring his blood by shedding our own. We must be ready to be crucified.”
This is the holiest week of the year for all of Christendom, and yet the world goes on- regular television programs, regular work schedule, preparing our tax returns, preparing for vacations, and so forth. I’m also issuing another Facebook Challenge…SHUT DOWN YOUR PAGES FOR THREE DAYS…beginning on Holy Thursday and re-activate on Holy Saturday!!! God knows we have far too much ‘entertainment’ that keeps us away from what matters the most. I urge you to set aside the time you would spend on Facebook or Twitter or any other of the social networks and enter into a time of deep prayer, conversion, repentance and renewal. Visit the Serve Faithfully Website (servefaithfully.webs.com) and pray the online Stations of the Cross which are provided, and above all, set aside the time to attend the Chrism Mass at your local Cathedral and be a part of the blessing of the oils with your bishops, along with attending Mass on Holy Thursday Evening, the Liturgy of Good Friday and the Solemn Easter Vigil of Holy Saturday.
Let us journey this Holy Week together, by being united in prayer for one another. Let us journey together from sin to grace, from darkness to light, from discouragement to hope, from boredom to enthusiasm, as we, united with Christ, pass-over from death to life.
I wish you and your families a very beneficial Holy Week with its great culmination in a joyful Easter.
"It is wonderful for us to be here!" From the depths of our heart we give thanks to the Church that, on this second Sunday of Lent, we are permitted to see the mystery of the Transfiguration and to make our own the astonished and tender words of Peter, the Apostle, who welcomed the light of Christ.
The Transfiguration is a deep mystery and by meditating on it, Christians of all times have received new graces. The Church puts this Gospel reading forward at two different moments of the liturgical year: on the second Sunday of Lent and on the Solemnity of the Transfiguration. That feast falls on August 6th, in the middle of the northern summer, as if to say that the brightness of creation is a symbol of that eternally new Light of the Paschal mystery which glows victoriously.
Therefore, during this time of Lent, we have a brief experience of summer's light and joy. Notwithstanding the real struggle against sin and temptation, we see something of the joy which comes from being on the right path, which leads us by prayer and radical conversion to Easter.
Our Lord Jesus, who knows the hearts of men, wanted to preserve the three disciples - and therefore all of us - from the 'scandal' of the Cross. The Transfiguration is really a Theophany, a manifestation of Christ's Divinity. By showing just a glimpse of his glory, Jesus reveals to His disciples who He really is, and the source of the truth of his teaching and the power of his actions: "This is my Son, the Beloved: listen to Him!" (Mk 9:7).
The manifestation of the Christ’s Divinity is also a manifestation of God the Father. We are embraced briefly by the mystery of the Holy and Undivided Trinity: the voice of the Father indicates His beloved only-begotten Son. That Son is the man who was born of Mary in poverty, who lived in obscurity for thirty years working as a carpenter, who shared his life with the fishermen of Galilee, who while healing the sick and feeding the thousands with his word and with bread was also subject to sleep, hunger and tiredness just as we are. The Transfiguration also shows us that the eternal dialogue of love between the Father and the Son has entered into human history, and how in Christ all mankind will be drawn up into eternal glory. In Christ the whole of creation and all history are summed up. In Christ the great story of God and Israel is recapitulated.
"Then suddenly, when they looked round, they saw no one with them anymore but only Jesus," (Mk 9:8). The light of the Transfiguration doesn't seem to last long enough and the disciples can soon only see Jesus’ Humanity that they had always known. The hearts of Peter, James and John, and ours too, are strengthened by knowing for certain that in Jesus body lives the fullness of Divinity.
A strong and certain faith in Christ’s Divinity gives us the true strength that sustains us on our Lenten journey. It is the journey that follows Christ to the foot of the cross, where we will see the greatest and most 'scandalous' manifestation of God's glory. The cross is a 'transfiguration' of the Christ’s Divinity, which although seeming to disappear in suffering and death, actually joins itself to our lives so that we can share in the divine sonship.
"With God on our side who can be against us? Since God did not spare his own Son, but gave him up to benefit us all, we may be certain, after such a gift, that he will not refuse anything he can give," (Rm 8:32). Most Holy Mary, who in your womb re-clothed our humanity in the Light of the Most High, guard us and sustain us in our struggle. Look lovingly at us with those eyes.
"The Spirit drove Jesus out into the wilderness and he remained there for forty days, and was tempted by satan" (Mk 1:12-13).
Having introduced the season of Lent with the imposition of ashes, the Church today points out the path for us to journey along. She also tells us the nature of this journey and how we might go about following it.
The Gospel reading shows us how the journey of Lent consists in letting ourselves be led into the desert, allowing ourselves to remain there for forty days, and challenging ourselves to face the temptations of satan. It is like the Exodus of Israel towards the Promised Land; it is the exodus of humanity with each of us journeying as pilgrims towards heaven. We don't look forward to this journey for its own sake, but we are led along it by Another. The journey is signposted by our combat with the temptation of Satan and - with all that implies in terms of fatigue and suffering. It is a long journey which only our sure hope allows us to undertake with faith and courage.
The nature of this Lenten journey is revealed in the collect, the opening prayer, addressed to God, Our Father, that “we may grow in understanding of the riches hidden in Christ and by worthy conduct pursue their effect”.
This Lenten journey is a “sacramental sign” of our conversion. What does this mean? “Sacramental sign” means that on this road, that is common to every man, God has preceded us and has done something for us and now He asks us to play our part. He has already fulfilled this journey of conversion for us.
The model to follow is Jesus Christ. "The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert." It is Christ, true God and true Man, "the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous" (1 Pt 3:18) who has taken upon Himself our sins and by His free choice, as He was without sin and totally immune to it, has decided to also face our temptations. St Augustine wrote: "Christ took his flesh from you and in return gave you the salvation that resides in him; he took your death for himself and gave you his life; he took the share you deserved and gave you the honor that was his. Consequently, he took your temptation and gave you his victory." (Comm in Ps., 60).
It is not asked of us, therefore, to make this journey simply by 'doing likewise'. There would be nothing new in that, because, whether we like it or not, our daily life is already like this with all its hard work and hopes! We are asked, in fact, to welcome what is new about Lent: the Other on this path, who is our companion, who has already journeyed on the path of the Exodus, and who has associated us, by our Baptism, with His Victory.
We are all called to stay close to Christ, giving over everything to him - our flesh, our sin, our humiliations, and our temptations - so that we can receive back so much more. He offers us His Salvation, His Life, His Glory, His Victory! Let’s, therefore, give everything to the Lord in the great gift of sacramental Confession, in Eucharistic adoration and in frequent Communion, where Jesus takes our entirety and gives us His Very Self. Let us trust everything to our “greatest friend”, that God has placed at our side.
And so we offer all our sacrifices and hardships to the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, because she who is the treasurer of heaven, will distribute to humanity the merits of her Son. Obtain for us, we pray, O Mary, that we will keep our eyes fixed on Christ so to defeat, along with Him, the temptations of satan and thus gain the gift of Eternal Life. Amen.