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2018 Lent Reflections

Reflections on the Gospel readings during Lent, offered by parishioners and presented by the Center for Spiritual Formation.

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Lent Reflections
 
Monday, February 19, 2018
 
 
Matthew 25:31-46
 

"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, 'Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.' Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?' And the king will answer them, 'Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.' Then he will say to those at his left hand, 'You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.' Then they also will answer, 'Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?' Then he will answer them, 'Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.' And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

 
 
 
 
 
 

It's all about blessings. Verse 34 above says, "Come, O Blessed of my Father" and sit at my right hand — join my sheep. Then verse 41 deals with those on His left side with the goats, cursed because they didn't share their blessings.

 

God told Abraham in Genesis, Chapter 12, that He would bless him so that he would be a blessing and by him, all the nations of the world would be blessed. We received our blessings at baptism.

 

We are aware of the hungry and thirsty, the insecure and the imprisoned. We see them on street corners. We read about them. We cry for them and we usually respond.

 

But what of those among us-our neighbors, friends, and families who are hungering for spiritual food and drink and release from the bonds that hold them? We are also called to share our blessings with them. A smile to a stranger gives a blessing. A visit or phone call passes on a blessing. An honest sharing of faith blesses both parties. A hug gives a blessing. Donating food, money, and time are giving blessings, which are never ending as long as we give them away.

 

We are called to let our light shine on others so that they, and we, will sit on the right side of God. We don't share our blessings to earn our spot (we can't). We share because, acknowledging and accepting our blessing, it is contagious and glows naturally from our blessed lives. Praise and thank God! We are so blessed! Share yourself.

 
 
 
 
 
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Lent Reflections
 
Sunday, February 18, 2018
 
 
Mark 1:9-15
 

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased."

 

And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

 

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news."

 
 
 
 
 
 

What is it about this astonishing moment when the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all three present…together in this glorious act of baptism, this wondrous act of love? Christ's baptism marked the beginning of the good news, the amazing gift of redemption for God's children. Here are some things I ponder. When the invisible curtain of Heaven is opened for me and for you, and the veil on our eyes is lifted, are we aware of the Holy Spirit's presence within us? Do we hear the delight in God's voice saying, "(Put your name here), you are my beloved child"? Yes, sometimes we may have these moments when we know we are standing in the presence of God. We know that God has spoken to us through the Holy Spirit, but soon we may find ourselves among the wild beasts in the wilderness of temptation. As difficult as these times are, we try to feast on prayer and remember God's words of love to us. We know that His holy angels are present, assuring us that our Father is watching over us. When we receive God's word and His love, even in the desert, we are strengthened to go and share the good news that God in Christ has acted to save mankind. This gracious rescue act calls us to turn away from temptation and turn towards our loving God, who speaks to us through His still small voice in our hearts. We are washed and cleansed and called into a new creation. Thanks be to God!

 
 
 
 
 
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Lent Reflections
 
Saturday, February 17, 2018
 
 
Luke 5:27-32
 

After healing the paralytic, Jesus went out and saw a tax-collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, "Follow me." And he got up, left everything, and followed him.

 

Then Levi gave a great banquet for him in his house; and there was a large crowd of tax-collectors and others sitting at the table with them. The Pharisees and their scribes were complaining to his disciples, saying, "Why do you eat and drink with tax-collectors and sinners?" Jesus answered, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance."

 
 
 
 
 
 

"Follow me."

 

I hear this call every day in so many ways and it is often ignored. The stuff of this world often gets in the way. Things to do. Places to go. Stuff to acquire and coddle. All inconsequential, but easily distracting.

 

On occasion, that still small voice is heard, acted upon and the Levi within me is softened, becomes less dominant and one does what Jesus is asking us all to do — all the time.

 

The Pharisee within me can take over so quickly, slyly, and incognito! Who am I to render my opinion of what others think, say, or do? What makes me better than others — any others? We are sinners all — from Pharisee to Levi.

 

Jesus urges us to model our thoughts and behaviors after His. Jesus calls us all to the banquet table to taste of the Grace of God. His constant call is "Follow me."

 
 
 
 
 
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Lent Reflections
 
Friday, February 16, 2018
 
 
Matthew 9:10-17
 

As Jesus sat at dinner in the house with Matthew, many tax-collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax-collectors and sinners?" But when he heard this, he said, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners."

 

Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, "Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?" And Jesus said to them, "The wedding guests cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old cloak, for the patch pulls away from the cloak, and a worse tear is made. Neither is new wine put into old wineskins; otherwise, the skins burst, and the wine is spilled, and the skins are destroyed; but new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved."

 
 
 
 
 
 

Our Lord was always being questioned by the Pharisees, lawyers of the Law. Their attempts were to trap Him in a mistake in his response, this revolutionary rube from Nazareth. (Myopic Pharisees.) Furthermore, His habit of keeping the company of notorious sinners emboldened their distrust of Him. How could the Law of Moses, the cornerstone of Israel, be enhanced by keeping the company of sinners? What must have been of particular dismay to Jesus was that the disciples of John the Baptist, now leaderless, questioned his methods as well. They could not know then what St. John the Divine would reveal, decades after Christ’s Passion and Resurrection, in Revelation 21: 5, "And he who was seated on the throne said, 'Behold, I am making all things new.' Also he said, 'Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.'"

 

Christ is our prism of holy light, the holy truths of his Gospel, the Law of Moses refracted in a new way. A counterintuitive way. Are we seeking holiness? Perhaps this is best done in the company of sinners, not pious preachers. Sinners have great sermons to deliver. The Gospel of Our Lord commands we strive for the comfort of our fellow sinners and thereby, perhaps, find holiness for ourselves. The Resurrection which we prepare ourselves to observe at the end of Lent is not merely a Resurrection celebration of our Lord's body, but of our own souls, which must die to an old way of thinking and be risen anew to Christ’s Gospel of love and service to fellow sinners. 

 
 
 
 
 
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Lent Reflections
 
Thursday, February 15, 2018
 
 
Luke 9:18-25
 

Once when Jesus was praying alone, with only the disciples near him, he asked them, "Who do the crowds say that I am?" They answered, "John the Baptist; but others, Elijah; and still others, that one of the ancient prophets has arisen." He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Peter answered, "The Messiah of God."

 

He sternly ordered and commanded them not to tell anyone, saying, "The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised."

 

Then he said to them all, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves?"

 
 
 
 
 
 

This scripture reading poses two essential questions to me in my life as a Christian: first, who is Jesus; and second, what is required of Christian discipleship? Responding to the first is a joy for me. Jesus is the Son of the Living God, of one substance with the Father by Whom all things were made, Alpha and Omega, before and beyond the Big Bang, eternal! Jesus is with me always, and His presence is a huge source of calm, comfort and peace in my life. The second is much harder. While I certainly understand that I take up my cross daily, in the sense of carrying the burdens with which life confronts me, denying myself is a much trickier proposition. So, while I recognize my selfishness and self-centeredness, I strive through the love of God and the presence of Christ in my life to be more loving and giving, more self-less, more able to love my neighbor as myself.

 
 
 
 
 
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Lent Reflections
 
Ash Wednesday, February 14, 2018
 
 
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
 

"Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.

 

"So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

 

"And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

 

"And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

 

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

 
 
 
 
 
 

Did you survive?! Perhaps a strange question to be asking on Ash Wednesday. However, it seems there is no place on earth that has more of a contrast between pre-Ash Wednesday and Lent, than southern Louisiana. Our days of reveling and celebrating Mardi Gras have come to a screeching halt, and we now find ourselves in a season of repentance, fasting, and prayer. Although Jesus does caution us in the gospel to be mindful of how we pray, the point is, to pray. To turn from ways that are not life giving, and take advantage of this season given to us by the church. To examine our lives, and make changes where necessary. Not an easy task, but one that we might consider to be of upmost importance, as our spiritual journey continues.

 
 
 
 
 
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