Category Archives: Lenten Parish Reflections

Lenten Reflection – March 22, 2013 by Chris Hannan

The Prophet Jeremiah

The Prophet Jeremiah

Have you ever walked into a situation where you know, you just know, people are hoping you fail? I’ve been there a number of times. My stomach knots up, my mouth gets dry and I set my listening and eye contact on laser focus. I become very still as I go into self-defense mode, deciding whether it’s time for fight or flight. Then I start working out a plan; because like most people, I don’t like to fail. At anything. And yet, of course, I have failed many times and in many ways. Sometimes it’s because I’ve taken on too much, sometimes it’s because I’ve taken on the wrong things and sometimes it’s just beyond my control and sometimes I’m just plain wrong.

Jeremiah is in a similar situation, everyone is out to get him. Even his so called friends want vengeance. Yet his response is to put his trust in God, instead of working out a plan for himself. He trusts God to walk with him, to be his champion. In other words, not just to get him through this trial so he can come back to fight another day; he wants a full scale victory over his “frienemies.” Not only that, he wants to see it!

I have to admit; sometimes it’s so tempting to want to see the downfall of those who cause my pain. Who hasn’t thought “I’d love to be a fly on the wall when ____ happens.”? But who am I to judge? What do I know of their pain or plight? That’s where I part company with Jeremiah. I pray often for strength to get me through situations where I’m feeling persecuted. I know in my own life that God has been my champion. Sometimes it has taken me a while to recognize it, but He has been my champion in ways small and large. I believe He is also in the life of the ‘other’, the false friend, the ones who hope I fail. Maybe their need is larger, more painful than mine. Maybe my failure is what God knows I need at the moment. Sometimes the unknowing is harder for me than the failure itself. That brings us full circle to trust. Jeremiah and I both trust in God as our champion. I admit sometimes it’s hard to trust and sometimes I fail at it. I want to feel vindicated…but then again…what do I know? God knows.

I don’t always need to know, all I need to know is God is my champion.

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Thursday March 21, 2013 – Lenten Reflection by Bill Thornton

imagesIn Revelation (3:20) Jesus says: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, [then] I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me.” It is always this way. If there is any movement toward a closer relationship between God and us, it always begins with God. The next step is how we respond to God’s approach.

There is a good example of how this works in the story in John’s Gospel of the cure of the man born blind. This is a long story so maybe you can follow this link and read it now.

The first thing to notice is that this story is not like the stories of other miraculous cures, here the blind man does not approach Jesus or ask to be healed. He is just sitting where he always sits, and doing what he always does, being blind and begging. I know just how he felt. I have stayed in the same place doing the same thing and being blind and begging from time to time.

The next thing about the story is that Jesus reveals that God has a plan for this man. Jesus says that the man has been born blind “so that the works of God can be made visible through him.” Wouldn’t we like to think that God’s plan included the idea that the works of God could be made visible through us? I think that God does have that plan even if it does not always include something dramatic like a miracle.

What happens next is rather strange. Jesus does not speak to the man, but rather puts mud on his eyes – dirt and spittle. How rude! How gross! And then Jesus says, “Go wash your face.” The blind beggar does not object or complain, he just moves toward the pool. Has his self-respect been so degraded by others over the years, because of his condition and what he has to do to maintain a living, that he does not even stick up for himself? Anyway, he goes and does what he was told, just like always. By obeying Jesus, when every instinct would be to be angry and fight back, the blind beggar gained his sight.

We will come back to the beggar, but for a minute let’s talk about the other people in this story. Jesus said that the cure was to make the “works of God” visible. The bystanders have, in a sense, seen the works of God. What is their reaction? It is as if they had seen a street magician. The are curious and maybe amused. “Where is he?” they ask, “we want to see more.” Just like the crowds that gathered around Jesus after he had fed the multitude.

What is the reaction of the Pharisees? All they can see is that Jesus broke the rules. They were more concerned with themselves – their rules – than the “works of God.” The beggar’s parents were afraid. They feared that acknowledging the “works of God” would create problems for them within the synagogue.

Back to the beggar: He had no choice but to face the reality – look the miracle in the face, if you will pardon a pun – that he was blind and now could see. He took on the opposition of the religious authorities. He called Jesus a prophet and said that his miraculous power must have come from God. He even took a shot at “evangelization,” when he said, “Do you want to become his disciples too?” When Jesus again sought out the beggar, the man professed faith in Jesus and worshiped him.

At the end of the story, Jesus has a conversation with some Pharisees about what had happened, how the physical cure of the beggar was supposed to be a lesson about their spiritual blindness. And it is clear that they understood the message. Some of them said, “Surely we are not also blind are we?” It makes you want to grab them by the shoulders, shake them and shout “Yes, yes, you understand. Now go change.”

An old technique for reading and meditating on the Scriptures is to put yourself in the place of each of the characters in the story. Am I like a bystander and simply curious, like a parent and fearful, like a Pharisee who is blind and more concerned with ancient rules than the “works of God,” or can I be like the man born blind.

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It’s hot in here – Lenten Reflection for March 22, 2013

In today’s first reading we hear the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and their visit to the fiery furnace. This tale has a powerful message for all of us, just like all Scripture does, if we simply stop and listen, holding the words in our hearts.

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This image is from the Catacombs of Priscilla, Rome, Italy.

What would you do if faced with serving another god and making homage to an idolatrous statue and by doing so, reject God? And let’s up the ante… the punishment for not doing this would be a horrifying death in the fiery furnace?

If you are like me, perhaps you will say that you would never reject God. Well, that may be the case for you, but if I even think about this for a minute, I can see just where and how I reject God all day long. Perhaps it is even worse, because I do it so mindlessly, God forgive me.

We are at a critical point in our Lenten journey with Jesus. Jerusalem is calling to us; not a fiery furnace, but the cross awaits us, just as it awaits Jesus. Certain death. Suddenly this whole Christian thing is looking very uncomfortable. Very, very uncomfortable.

Most likely, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, could have rationalized their way out of this. I know that I could! “Le’s see, I think. I ‘pretend’ to follow King Nebuchadnezzar’s god, and when I get out, I will make good on what I have done wrong! Phew! No fiery furnace for me!”

Now as our new Pope Francis recently reminded us that “the Lord never tires of forgiving,” true enough. However, do we ever tire of making the wrong choices? I know that I feel like I tire of making them, but somehow, I… keep… making… them… *sigh*

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are a reminder, forerunners of Christ, of what happens when we make the correct choice. Often we lose it all – or seemingly so. Do we really lose it? Or do we gain? If our life is solely grounded in the material, then forget it. If we are solely grounded in how many hours we spend in church or in prayer, looking up at God, we might want to forget that, also. Once again, we find ourselves in the great both/and of life. We have certain obligations and responsibilities to our material life, true enough. And wouldn’t we want time in church and in prayer?

How do we hold the tension between heaven and earth and make the correct choices? Sometimes we have to choose the most difficult thing. Jesus lived that for us, he died for us. There were many before him who foreshadow what was to come, from Moses to Abraham to – I could go on and on – and including, our three friends in the hot spot.

This Sunday we will hear the Passion, and then we enter Holy Week. What awaits us? The same things that awaited Jesus. Choices between life and death, with the counter-intuitive choice of death bringing new life.

The fiery furnace and the Cross attract me, but do I really choose them? Luckily for us, our tireless God forgives us, but ultimately our choice will have to be made.

What will we do?

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Lenten Reflections – March 17, 2013 by the Wasielewski Family

March 17, 2013 Fifth Sunday in Lent
tumblr_linziwvcNR1qdrmhno1_400This Gospel reading has to be one of our favorite as it is the foundation of the teachings of Jesus, and the grace of God’s forgiveness for our sins and shortcomings.

How often in our society do we judge and condemn others? You simply pick up the newspaper, and the headlines scream Guilty, person held without bail. As a society, we quickly jump to conclusions – we have tried and convicted the person – the jury of popular opinion. Yet, if we take a minute to really reflect, and place ourselves in the other person’s shoes, I know that we would pray for compassion and a just trial.

Who has not made a mistake, whether out of poor judgment or extreme emotional distress. Yet it seems that we expect God to forgive us, but forgiving others in the way that Jesus forgives us day in and day out is an entirely different matter. We attend Mass every week, and prayer the “Our Father”…forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us…”

But do we really forgive as Jesus forgives us?

The Wasielewski Family

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Lenten Reflection – March 14, 2013 by William Thornton

jeremiah17_9-10“The heart is more devious than any other thing, perverse too:
who can pierce its secrets?
I, the Lord, search to the heart, …” Jeremiah 17:9-10

It was not modern psychiatry nor TV soap operas that first discovered the complexity of the human heart and its tendency to sink to the lowest level. The prophet Jeremiah knew all about it. He probably did not need divine inspiration to get this point right. He could cetainly look at the people around him and perhaps into his own life. Lately, the Lord has been reminding me that I can be (and have been) as devious and perverse as any one. You will forgive me if I do not go into detail.

The words “devious” and “perverse” are related in thought, if not in derivation. “Devious” comes from the Latin word “via” meaning “way,” as in “I am the way.” “De” means “off” or “away.” I am devious if I am off God’s way or even some expected or “normal” way. Those around me can’t figure out where I am or where I am going or why. “Perverse” is based on the Latin “versus” meaning “against” just as it does in English. The prefix “per-” in this case means “very much,” as in very much against or against for no reason.

So, in one way, the prophet is saying that the heart is the seat of our free will. I do not know what “Original Sin” is. I never understood the whole idea. What I do understand – somewhat – is free will. God gave me my free will so that I can freely choose to love him the way he freely chose to love me. However, I have spent a good deal of my life making a different choice (deviating, if you will) and opposing him (being perverse). That just makes me human, and it makes me like all other humans. If grandparents call kill their young grandchildren, as we have seen in two recent instances, then I am capable of doing the same thing – not that I am planning to do something like that nor is it likely that I would do something like that. But it is something that a human person – like me – could do.

So what stops me from doing that or some other terrible crime? You have heard the old saying, “ There but for the grace of God, go I.” That’s really the answer, that God’s grace freely given to me keeps me from doing the worst things that I am capable of. You may ask why God does not give his grace to others who do do the worse things that they are capable of. God actually does give them the grace, but why do they continue to exercise their free will in a deviant and perverse way? There is an answer but the theology is far to difficult for me to explain.

But still God searches “to the heart.” He loves, he forgives. I obviously can not search to the heart of any one, but if I could, I probably would not find it to be more devious or more perverse than my own. How then can I be judgmental, how can I be unforgiving, how can I be “holier than thou?” The lesson is clear: if God loves and forgives me after he has searched to my heart, how can I fail to love and forgive those around me? Oh, wait, is that what the Lord’s prayer means?

We are rushing headlong to the end of Lent. In the readings for the Holy Office for today we hear Isaiah tell us, “Seek the Lord while he is still to be found, call to him while he is still near. Let the wicked one [with the devious and perverse heart] abandon his or her way” Is 55:6-7 And we hear from Hebrews, “Continue to have confidence since the reward is so great. You will need endurance to do God’s will and gain what he has promised.” Heb 10:35-36.

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Lenten Reflection February 27, 2012 – The Chemist and The CEO

This was a reflection based on yesterday’s Gospel, Matthew 5:1-12. I am posting it today, because I offered it at Evening Prayer last night and did not get to put it up when I returned home last night.

5113f6469e198d56afff4ac8b8843fc7Although I am a member of this parish community, I work in the office of another parish. Recently, two men of that parish died. When people come in to get a mass card, they often tell a story about the deceased person. In the past few weeks, I have heard so much about these two men, much more than usual. I knew one of them, but not the other; they both appeared to live lives of generous service and were highly esteemed in their careers and their lives. It is the work of a lifetime.

One of the men was a CEO, the other was a chemist, both were highly successful, both following the rules to achieve that success. Someone told me that the CEO would always spend time with his all of his employees, especially those with the most menial jobs. He would talk with them as they worked, ask them questions, and even help with some aspect of their jobs. The other man, the chemist, long retired, could have spent his days relaxing, but he did not. I knew this man – he was Continue reading

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Lenten Reflections – February 21, 2013 by Charles Burre

Meditation on the readings for February 21, 2013
Esther C:12, 14-16, 23-25; Psalms 138:1-3, 7-8; Matthew 7:7-12

Queen_Esther_2002Today’s

readings focus on prayer. Queen Esther pleads with God for help in confronting a conspiracy against her people. The psalmist overflows with gratitude because “On the day I cried out, you answered.” Jesus promises that our heavenly Father loves us infinitely more than any earthly father could and will fulfill our every need.

How

do we pray and what do we expect? Do we present God with a shopping list and expect that all items will be delivered or, at least, we will get a few of the important ones? Do we raise the same request over and over and think “God why don’t you hear me?” The image of the door being opened to the one who Knock_pennyknocks reminds me of the TV character, Sheldon Cooper of The Big Bang Theory. Sheldon is portrayed as an immature, obsessive-compulsive person so impatient that, when he knocks on a door, he waits less that a fraction of a second and then knocks again, and again, and again frantically calling out the person’s name whom he expects to answer. This is certainly not how God wants us to approach his door.

The

readings on Tuesday of this week also pertained to prayer. The reflection by Kristin Armstrong in daily devotional Living Faith beautifully describe how when we open our hearts in prayer, God opens the door. She writes:

“When

we talk things over with him in prayer, the Holy Spirit enlightens us in the conversation. As our layers peel back, our vulnerability is exposed. The light of the divine filters in, and we begin to see that perhaps we are asking for the wrong things. Gently, through relationship, God aligns our hearts with his purposes, and our prayers become echoes in the hallways of heaven.”

This

captures so well my own experience in prayer. In those times in which I have been in greatest anguish over some problem, I have come before the Lord in prayer knowing that he is aware of my distress. I don’t propose my solutions to the problem or ask God to grant my wishes. Rather, I just allow God to guide my thoughts and give me confidence in the steps that I must take to resolve the problem. Sometimes it just involves the “serenity to know the things I cannot change.”

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I

believe that God takes his time at answering the knock at the door so that we can think over what we really want to ask of the Master when we come into his presence.

The

person sharing this reflection is a member of the Hosanna Prayer Group, which meets each Thursday at a few minutes after 7:30 PM in one of the classrooms, here at St. Edward the Confessor.

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Fast day? I’ll have the rocky road, please!

In 1990, I went on a pilgrimage* as a means of thanksgiving for something that had happened. One day, I was part of a small group attempting to climb a path strewn with rocks, on a very, very hot day.

Someone decided, quite sincerely as I recall, that they should go up on their knees, an idea that lasted about sixty seconds. Others were known for doing it, so this person thought it was possible desirable even. I must admit, I agreed, but I was not going to try it.

A discussion of this practice began as we stopped to rest; it was a very hot day as I recall. Our guide, who had led people up and down this path many times, very gently asked why any of us thought we should do this. A few answers sprung up, most of them saying that we thought that God wanted us to make sacrifices. She shook her head, I recall thinking that her large blue eyes looked like seas of compassion, and she said that maybe we shouldn’t always be deciding what God wants. She went on to say that what if God wanted us to go home and forgive the person we had the greatest grudge against, rather than climb rocks on our knees?

Our small group fell silent. Who wanted to do that?

Can’t we climb rocks on our knees, please? I’ll have the rocky road, please!

Today’s first reading delivered me back to that rocky path in an instant, as I read Continue reading

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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 Continue reading

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Lenten Reflections – Holy Thursday, April 5, 2012 by William Thornton

I have often said that there is a piece of Gregorian chant that fills my head during some liturgical seasons and acts as a “theme song” for the season. For Holy Week, it is to me one of the most beautiful melodies. It was once was the Gradual for the Mass on Holy Thursday.

The text is taken from Philippians ch. 2.

“[Christ became] obedient [for us] to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name.

The brackets at the beginning of the quotation is to indicate a change made to shorten the text. The second set of brackets enclosing “for us” indicates as addition to Paul’s original text made by the Church to stress the redemptive purpose of the Cross. The composer of the music stressed this addition to the text, in Latin “pro nobis,” by setting it to a lilting musical phrase that makes the singer[s] spend a little more time on these words so he can meditate on them briefly.

As I was listening to Mark’s passion on Palm Sunday, one verse jumped out at me.

“Abba, Father, all things are possible to you. Take this cup away from me …”

Have you ever heard a more poignant prayer? And we already know how the Father would answer it. The author of Mark put the word “Abba” at the beginning of the prayer. This is not in the other two versions of the passion that recount this prayer. “Abba” is a word often heard today in Jerusalem and other parts of Israel, as well as in heavily Jewish neighborhoods in this country. Jewish children use it as our children use “Daddy.” Mark used it here to stress the intimate nature of Jesus’ plea.

The next phrase, “all things are possible to you,” is also missing in Matthew and Luke. [Actually, Matthew inserts “if it is possible.” Seemingly the opposite to Mark's approach.] It seems as if Mark wants us to understand that Jesus’ suffering was not necessary to save the human race; that God could have saved His people without suffering and bloodshed; and, perhaps more importantly, that Jesus knew it.

Mark seems to want us to ask, “Then why didn’t God just “rear back and pass a miracle” to pardon our sins without the necessity for Jesus to suffer?” I don’t know the answer, but I do know this: Lover’s never stop at “good enough.” They want to go as far as they can to prove their love to their beloved. And when the Lover is love itself, and when he loves with an unlimited and everlasting love, “good enough” is nowhere near good enough.
St. Paul marveled at the overabundance of our salvation in Colossians where he wrote:

“Even when you were dead in sin and your flesh was uncircumcised God gave you new life in company with Christ. He pardoned all our sins. He canceled the bond that stood against us with all its claims, snatching it up and nailing it to the cross.

[As translated in the New American Bible, 1970 ed. More recent revisions to the NAB are more literal and, therefore, less colorful.]

With respect to this last sentence, I have a visualization [certainly not a vision] of it that gives me a great deal of consolation and confidence. I see the legal document itemizing all my sins and failures nailed to the cross just below Jesus’ left hand. The blood streams from his wound onto the bond, and, as it does, the stream turns into handwriting that spells out “ Paid in Full – Jesus.”

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