Lenten Reflection, Thursday, February 14 – By William Thornton

edenI noticed something remarkable the other day.  The Old Testament Mass readings for Monday and Tuesday, the two days immediately before Lent, together make up the Creation story from Genesis.  (Gen 1:1–31; and 2:1–3)  I do not know whether this is what happens every year or whether this year is unique.  What makes this fact remarkable?  Well, the first reading at the Easter Vigil is the very same Creation story.  Therefore, the seven weeks of Lent are set between two tellings of the seven days of Creation.

The liturgical readings for Lent form, in effect, the life and teachings of Jesus, the Word of God. This is the same Word of whom John said:

“All things came to be through Him, and without Him nothing came to be.” (Jn 1:3)

So if the Genesis story represents the all-powerful God, the Lenten liturgical readings tell us that that same all-powerful God lived in the same world as we do, and suffered the same pains as we do, and finally died for us, and for the forgiveness of our sins.

Heart Symphony NotesWe can look at the placement of the Genesis story in a different way.  It could be like the introduction of a symphony that reappears at the finale.  Or maybe it could be like a theme or motif that is integrated into the music at intervals.  Let me see if I can show you what I mean.

The liturgical readings during Lent are a rich sampling of some of the most powerful passages of Scripture.

Later on I will be recommending daily Scripture reading as a Lenten practice; but   going through all of those readings is a task that I am not equal to.   Therefore, I want to focus on the Lenten Sunday gospels.  They are usually the “big” gospel stories –stories that  are depicted in great art and that have titles.  This year, they are, in order:

*the Temptation in the Desert (Lk 4:1-13)
*the Transfiguration (Lk 9:28B–36)
*the Barren Fig Tree (Lk 13:1–9)
*the Prodigal Son (Lk 15:1–3,11–32)
*the Woman Caught in Adultery (Jn 8:1–11; note this story from John’s gospel during this year of Luke)
*and on Palm Sunday, the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem (Lk 19:28–40) and, finally, the Passion (Lk 22:14–23:56).

For a taste of how the Church places the Scriptures before us in this sesason, let me try to put these passages together with the Creation story and see how it comes out.

“In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth … God said:  Let there be light … and there was light.”

“Jesus said to [the devil] in reply, “It is written:  You shall worship the Lord, your God, and Him alone shall you serve.”

“God saw that the light was good.”

“Then God said: Let there be a dome to separate the sky from the seas.”

“Then from the cloud came a voice that said, ‘This is my chosen Son; listen to Him.'”

“God saw that it was good.”

“Then God said:  Let the water … be gathered into a single basin, so that the dry land may appear.”

The gardener said to the owner of the fig tree:  “…I shall cultivate the ground around [the fig tree] and fertilize it; it may bear fruit in the future.  If not you can cut it down.”

“God saw that it was good.”

“Then God said:  Let the earth bring forth vegetation.”

“[The father] said to him, ‘My son, you are here with me always. … But now we must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.'”

“God saw that it was good.”

“God made the two great lights, the greater one to govern the day,and the lesser one to govern the night, and the stars.”

“Has no one condemned you? … Neither do I condemn you.  Go, [and] from now on do not sin any more.”

“God saw that it was good.”

“Then God said:  Let the earth bring forth every kind of living creature.”

“Jesus said [to the Pharisees], “I tell you, if [these people] keep silent, the stones will cry out.”

“God saw that it was good.”

“Then God said:  Let us make human beings in our image, after our likeness.”

And Jesus said to him:  “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

“God looked at everything God had made, and found it very good.”

*     *     *     *     *

There is one man’s take — mine — of the message that the Church is teaching us through some of the readings prescribed to be read at Mass this Lent.  You could look at the same readings –or some of the many other Lenten readings — to come up with a different take, but not a contradictory take.

vittore_crivelli_4_saint_bonaventureHere is what St. Bonaventure has to say about the relationship about God, Jesus, and Scripture:

“If we are to follow the direct path of Scripture and come straight to the final  destination, then right from the beginning — when simple faith starts to draw us toward  the light of the Father — our hearts should kneel down and ask the Father to give us,    through his Son and the Holy Spirit, true knowledge of Jesus and of his love.  Once we know him and love him like this, we shall be , made firm in faith and deeply rooted in love, and we can know the breadth, length, depth and height of Holy Scripture.”

Have you asked yourself this question lately:  What should I
do for Lent?

 Suggested answer:  read some of the Bible every day.  Further suggestion:  read the Scriptures that the Church puts before us for every day of the Lenten season.

Here is the website for Universalis. This is a free service, and I do not get any commission for encouraging its use.  Some of us have from time to time have attempted to pray the Holy Office for Lent.  We have bought the book with its four ribbons.  Then after figuring out how to use it, we found that we needed all four ribbons and a couple of holy cards to make it through one day, and God help us if we missed a day because we would have to go back and reposition the ribbons and holy cards.  Finally, we throw in the towel.

imagesAt Universalis, you can go directly to today’s Office, choose the “hour” that you want to pray, and just read it top to bottom.  If you are not interested in praying all those psalms, you could click on “Mass readings,” [for the readings from today's Mass], “about today,” [for several short readings from the various "hours"], and “Office of Readings.”  At the bottom of the Office of Readings, there is a longish Scripture reading and and a non-scriptural writing by one of the Fathers or Doctors of the Church, something from Vatican II, and other spritual writers.

Here comes Lent.  What am I —  what are you —

going to do about it?

Whatever we do, it probably should include increased exposure to the Scriptures.  There are other sources of Scripture that you could use.  They are all good.  Happy and Holy Lent.

(Bill Thornton is a member of the Hosanna Prayer group that meets every Thursday night at St. Edward the Confessor. Each Thursday during Lent and Advent, the Hosanna prayer group contributes reflections to the blog.)

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2 Comments

Filed under Lent, Lent 2013, Lenten Parish Reflections

2 responses to “Lenten Reflection, Thursday, February 14 – By William Thornton

  1. Bill, there are so many things I want to say about this post. Let me start by saying how grateful I am for your contributions in general – and for the sentiment of this post specifically.

    To immerse ourselves in Scripture is a great gift to ourselves, as we come to know the word more intimately. This is a great urging that you offer us, to have a deeper Lent.

    Your mention of Universalis is a good one – I have never mastered the Liturgy of the Hours, despite a deep longing to do so! How I used to wish that I would get a 4 volume set, but no more. In any case, Universalis +iPad (paid app for me) is great.

    Thank you!

  2. Absolutely wonderful and insightful sharing, Bill. The depth and simplicity of your faith is transforming for the rest of us. Margaret Bryant