Lenten reflections 2018 - 02

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 Second Sunday of Lent

 (Genesis 22: 1-18; Romans 8: 31-34; Mark 9: 2-10

`This is my Beloved........................... he enjoys my favour'


In the experience of the Transfiguration Jesus is enabled to make the journey to Jerusalem in the love declared by the Father, a journey that will cost him his life. In the story of the transfiguration Matthew shows us that Jesus is not just the one who is to suffer but that he is the beloved Son of God. Jesus is called in love - he is named and owned by the Father, and we are all directed to listen to him. Jesus, in the presence of God, completely given to Him, radiates God's glory. We become whom or what we gaze upon. As we persevere in our journey towards a more intimate relationship with God, we are enabled to face difficult decisions, secure in the knowledge that, we too, are loved and supported. When we hear our name called in love we can face our road to Jerusalem, whatever that pain may be.


Timothy says that we are called to a holy life and that holiness is not determined by how much we do but by how much grace we receive. The 'work' has already been done through the death and resurrection of Jesus. We have only to receive the grace that continues to pour forth from God's hand. Jesus taught that holiness is about inclusion, a teaching that upset many because holiness of this nature brings hardship to all who follow the principle of unity. Being holy, is about living out of the connectedness that is our fundamental reality. We cannot choose not to be connected. Genuine holiness connects us heart to heart, makes us aware of who we are - co-creators with the Holy One, responsible for choosing life and empowering one another.


Breath Prayer:

 I breathe in:‘Hear God say your name..................

 I breathe out:‘You are my beloved son/daughter’




  Monday - Second week of Lent

(Daniel 9: 4-10; Luke 6: 36-38)


‘The amount you measure out is the amount you will be given back’.


G.K. Chesterton once said: 'Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried'. Lent is a time of greening, of leaping up in faith, of restoring hope, and of repairing earth in order to create a place where promises can thrive. We begin with Daniel, who is the first to receive visions of the coming of the Son of Man. Daniel, who is a prophet, is also a pray-er, one who beseeches God on behalf of his people. The prayer is a sad litany of failure, unfaithfulness and forgetfulness in the presence of the enduring mercy of God. But always the cry comes back to God, to the essence of the covenant: 'But you, oh Lord our God, are compassion and forgiveness! ' The good news of Luke from the sermon on the mount is Jesus' clear command to the disciples, and to us, `to be compassionate as your Father is compassionate'. As we do to one another, so it shall be done to us - even more so when we emulate a loving God.


Lent is about salvation and the recreation of earth. It is about God's compassion being let loose on earth so much so that it covers us, like a quilt, and we experience peace and the sleep of the just; a security in which children are assured that they can dwell in safety. Lent is about living the Kingdom of God into history transforming everything. Difficult? Indeed it is. But when we realize that Jesus lives and loves within us, then we know we have this kind of love to give.


Breath Prayer: Who is going to benefit from your compassion today?

 I breathe in:     'Compassion.'

 I breathe out:    'Compassion'




 Tuesday - Second week of Lent


(Isaiah 10: 16-20; Matthew 23: 1-12)

 `The greatest among you must be your servant ....anyone who

humbles him/herself will be exalted'.


Isaiah continues with the words of God: 'Come now, let us set things right. Though your sins be like scarlet they may become white as snow'. The call is 'let us put things right'. God awaits with open arms to receive us back, to forgive us that we may really learn to dance and sing, to laugh and rejoice at the wonder of a God who cares more for our honest efforts at implementing justice than the actual attainment of goals. God delights in the one who humbly begins again and again and again, at the one whose goal is to serve and bring about a kingdom of unity and peace.


In today's gospel, St Matthew collects into one place many of Jesus' strong criticisms of the Pharisees. These can be divided into two kinds -the strictness and the spirit in which they interpreted the Mosaic Law and the vanity and hypocrisy of the religious leaders. The Pharisees coveted places of honour, they loved the respectful greeting of 'Rabbi', which meant 'My master'. The focus was entirely on themselves and Jesus abhorred this deceitful pretense lived at the expense of being servant to the people. The world is in need of living examples - of people who live in such a way that others will be able to say when they meet us, these persons are Christians because they don't hate, because they are willing to make sacrifices, because they know how to love, because they are joyful - at the service of the family of God.


Breath Prayer: Call to mind an attitude of pride

 I breathe in:     'Gentleness, humility'

 I breathe out: 'The need to impress, the need for power 'over' another'



Wednesday - Second week of Lent


(Jeremiah 18: 18-20; Matthew 20: 17-28)

 `Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?'


Jeremiah questions God: 'Must good be repaid with evil that they should dig a pit to take my life? Remember that I stood before you to speak in their behalf. Does this sound familiar? We may say - I have given everything to develop this or that project and now I am to be retrenched? I spent myself completely at the service of my work, my family, my church and my friends and even they stab me in the back with their gossiping and criticism. The people in the time of Jeremiah could not tolerate the truth or the presence of those who speak of justice, conversion and forgiveness. Jeremiah knew that the only protection from such people is God, so he turned to God whom he believed to be his only protection.


In the gospel, Jesus knows the effect his presence is having on the structures and powers of his own nation and Temple. He tries to help his disciples understand the vehemence with which evil confronts pure goodness and the lengths to which human beings will go to avoid facing the truth which demands atonement for evil committed. At Mass we hear the words of Jesus, 'Take and eat, take and drink - do this in memory of me' - a total outpouring of love, of forgiveness, of life itself. Do we really want to partake of the chalice that demands all. 'All' meaning not only the radical loving of God, myself and neighbour, but accepting non recognition, non-appreciation, allowing the effects of anger, jealousy and threat to strip me of egocentricity so that I may indeed be a chalice of God's outpouring love to the other. Jesus speaks of his own brutal death but the disciples do not want to listen. Am I willing to take the risk to listen.................. accompany Jesus to the cross?


Breath Prayer:

 I breathe in:      'Oh God, lead me from the unreal'

 I breathe out:    'To that which is real'




 Thursday - Second week of Lent


(Jeremiah 17: 5-10, Luke 16: 19-31)

 `A blessing on those who put their trust in God.

Such persons will be like a tree planted by the waterside that thrusts

its roots into the stream: when the heat comes it feels no alarm, its

foliage stays green; it has not worries in a year of drought, and never

ceases to bear fruit'.


Today's readings are heart-wrenching. The story of Lazarus at the palace gate is both a favourite and at the same time a challenging one. The parable is stark. The rich man dies and is buried and finds himself in the abode of torment. He sees Lazarus resting, like a child, in the bosom of Abraham. And his torment? He sees what he is without and yearns for it. Now the rich man has become the beggar at the gate of Paradise. This parable demands that we do some serious reflection. We need to begin by looking at the gates, the entrances and exits to our own life and see if we suffer from the same inhospitality and insensitivity. Who is waiting for us and what are they waiting for?


Jeremiah uses two images - the first is a barren bush in the desert. It stands in a lava waste, in a salted and empty earth - dead already. The second is a tree planted beside water. The bush is disconnected; the tree is bound to a source of nourishment and life. Which mirrors our state of soul and quality of faith and behaviour? Do we give shade, a place of rest, abundant fruit, life and hope, or are we tied up and shrunken inside ourselves with no stretching out toward the other? Maybe a friend can help me answer this question. It is a day of deciding where our hearts are rooted, whom we court and where our loyalties lie.



Breath Prayer: Who is standing at the door of your life?

 I breathe in:      'A sense of openness of heart'

 I breathe out:    'Whatever I know this person is asking for’





Friday - Second week of Lent
(Genesis 37: 3-4, 12-13, 17-28; Matthew 21: 33-43; 45-46)

 `Here comes the dreamer, here comes the heir. Come on let us

kill him'.


We hear of two stories with a similar plot - a beloved son and a threat to his life. What started the chain of these life threatening thoughts? Was it jealousy? After all Joseph, the son of Israel's old age, was the beloved one. Or was it a feeling of being excluded as Joseph's dreams puts his brothers in a position of having to bow to him? Maybe they were feeling a loss of power as the youngest son - rather than the oldestgets all the attention and love? What about the son sent to the vineyard? Why was he killed? Was it greed, a warped idea that if there is no son the inheritance will be given to the labourers? What makes us do the things that bring death into our relationships? What do we score when we gossip about another, plan the downfall of another, lose our temper, treat others with disrespect? Does belittling another, through whatever means, really give us more power, status, acceptance?


Yet, there is another angle to these stories. We know that down the line of history, Joseph's brothers will come, in need, to bow before him - a path that will lead to forgiveness, reconciliation and a reuniting of the family. Jesus like Joseph also had dreams - a kingdom where peace and justice is the norm of the day. Jesus is crucified, but what seems ultimate destruction becomes the channel of a new inheritance - a life where greed, power and pleasure gives way to relationships marked by service, equality, dignity and honour. And another thought. Could my suffering become a doorway to life, for myself and another?


Breath Prayer: Is there'murder'- jealousy, anger ....in my heart?

 I breathe in:      'Negative feelings within myself or society'

 I breathe out:    'Peace and love' (permeating negative feelings)





Saturday - Second week of Lent
(Micah 7: 14-15, 18-20; Luke 15: 1-3. 11-32)


`Your brother here, was dead and has come to life'
`What God can compare with You, oh Lord'


How often do we find ourselves praying for those who are seriously ill, whether the healing we ask for be on physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual plane. And God listens - and grants healing, maybe not in the way we want it to happen, but greater wholeness all the same.


A story is told of a man who in the dead of night was taken captive and thrown into prison because he fought for the good of his people. They abused him, removed his family and burnt down his house. Beaten mercilessly and finding they could not change his attitude they threw him, almost dead, into the street. His friends helped him and after some time his body began to heal, but he could not walk. They took him to specialists and therapists, but nothing helped. Then they took him to the great Fathers and after a night of deliberation they too decided that there was nothing they could do for him. They loaded him onto a boat and rowed out to the middle of a dam and there threw him overboard. They rowed back to the shore and sat there holding him in prayer.


Shocked, he flayed his arms and tried to stay above water, but down under he went. As he went under, he heard a voice within saying -`Forgive, forgive your oppressors'. He could not believe his ears but so strong was the urge that he cried out: 'God, how can I'. He saw the man who beat him up. The anger, the pain, the feelings of revenge stormed in him. He fought the message 'forgive' but eventually he said; 'I forgive you'. Down under he went again and still struggling to stay above water he saw his life passing by as in a film. He looked at the man responsible for deporting his family and again he heard the command: 'Forgive'. I won't, I can't. Yet, the command remained,


was persistent and grew stronger. He sobbed his grief, he beat the water in his anger and desolation, but eventually he cried out his forgiveness. He used all the strength he had left to stay above water and then it was that he noticed some movement in his legs, yet, under he went again and in that going under he saw the people who burnt down his house and all his possessions. Again he heard in no uncertain terms: 'Forgive'. By now he knew that nothing else will suffice and so after each vision he eventually was able to forgive all his perpetrators. To his amazement he felt the power of his legs moving. His heart expanded with joy at the freedom he felt, at the new lease of life that ran like an electric current of joy though his body. With tears streaming down his cheeks he swam back to the shore. With much rejoicing he was welcomed back to the shore of the living and in laughter and gratitude they celebrated the new life which they saw radiating from their friend.


Breath Prayer: Who or what needs forgiveness in your life - You?

 Your friend, a family member; a stranger? Hold that person inyour consciousness. Recall the incident that caused you pain.

 I breathe in:        'Breathe in the pain'

 I breathe out:   'Forgiveness - touch the person with healing and love. If        too painful, see Jesus stretching his hands over yours as you touch the perpetrator of your pain.'




(Call to mind the person/s you may have hurt. What was the action that may have led to broken relationships?)


I breathe in:      'Image of person/action'

 I breathe out:    'Sorrow and touch the person with gentleness and love'

 Can I this Lent meet with the people I prayed for? Will I in the power of that prayer give expression to the healing and forgiveness I offered in my time of silence?



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