Sunday, March 31, 2019
The Man Believed
Thus, says the LORD: Lo, I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; The things of the past shall not be remembered or come to mind.
Instead, there shall always be rejoicing and happiness in what I create;
For I create Jerusalem to be a joy and its people to be a delight. Isaiah 66:17-18
The royal official said to him, "Sir, come down before my child dies." Jesus said to him, "You may go; your son will live." The man believed what Jesus said to him and left. John 4:49-50
I praise you, LORD, for you raised me up
and did not let my enemies rejoice over me
O LORD, my God,
I cried out to you for help and you healed* me. Psalm 30:2-3
We start out Lent in the dark, cold, late winter days. As we move through the five weeks toward the Holy Week, spring approaches. We have more hours of sunlight. Daytime temperatures begin to get warmer. The cherry blossom trees bloom. The crocus and the azalea bloom. Death yields to new life.
The passage from Isaiah reminds us of the “remnant” theology of the Old Testament. No matter how bad things get, the Lord is there to come to the rescue. He rescued Job. He rescued the Jews in Egypt and led them back to the Promised Land. He rescued Joseph once sold into slavery. Isaiah reminds us that no matter who dies, who is exiled, or who is sick, “everyone left in Jerusalem Will be called holy.”
If there remain a tenth part in it,
then this in turn shall be laid waste;
As with a terebinth or an oak
whose trunk remains when its leaves have fallen.
Holy offspring is the trunk. Isaiah 6:13
Faith really is just the basis for hope that we will face a better future. If you don’t believe that, then check in with the Roman official whose son was cured.
I used to think that God in the Old Testament was the fire-and-brimstone God. After all, the first stories I learned were that God banished Adam and Eve from the Garden. God who sent forty days of rain on Noah’s ark and family. God’s chosen people were exiled to Egypt and wandered in the desert for forty years.
My old theology was based on the idea that Jesus changed everything about God. However, now I realize that Jesus changed nothing about God.
The Hebrew Bible is the story about how people forgot how good God was. Prophets like Isaiah tried to keep the flame of hope alive. Jesus was sent as a reminder to restore us to our senses. Jesus replaces the old with the new. He replaced the plain water with celebratory wine in Cana. He replaced ignorance with knowledge of the Spirit and Truth in the mind of Nicodemus. He replaced sickness with a healthy son in the Roman official’s house. All these signs and more are there to replace our doubt with faith.
Look around this week for signs of life. Easter will be here soon. But life grows. It is not a magic trick from one day to the next. It is an evolution. What signs of life do you notice today that you did not notice last week?
There might be remnants of Winter remaining…but the signs of Spring are emerging.
Saturday, March 30, 2019
“Can You See the Glow?” by Sam Miller
Year C, 2nd Reading: Brothers and sisters: Whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come. And all this is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ… So, we are ambassadors for Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:17,18, 20a)
Year C, Gospel: But now we must celebrate and rejoice. (Luke 5:32a)
Year A, 1st Reading: …anointed David in the presence of his brothers; and from that day on, the spirit of the LORD rushed upon David. (1 Samuel 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a)
Year A, 2nd Reading: Sisters: You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth. (Ephesians 5:8-14)
Year A, Gospel: “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered and said, “Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, the one speaking with you is he.” He said, “I do believe, Lord,” and he worshiped him. (John 9:1-41)
Glorify the LORD with me,
let us together extol his name.
I sought the LORD, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears. Psalm 34:4&5
Study? The 152nd Arlington Women’s Cursillo Team has been studying since the summer of 2017!! Although the Team wasn’t exactly wandering around in the desert like the Israelites, they weren’t able to lead their flock into the Promised Land, San Damiano Spiritual Life Center, until Thursday, 28 March 2019!! Each of the Team members studied her part, wrote her talk, and learned the “must do’s” and the “don’t’s!” Please, Lord, clear the remaining obstacles!!
Yes, I’m getting ahead of myself because this is Wednesday (when I am writing and editing the reflection). The “called and chosen” Daughters of God haven’t officially gathered yet. However, as of this morning’s Group Reunion, which involved about half of the Team members and two sponsor/volunteers for the weekend, we are prayed up and the Lord has calmed us down to be able to stand in His presence and minister to Him through His Candidates!!
By Sunday’s Closing, we fully expect to all be new creations in Christ; reconciled to God through Christ and ambassadors for Christ. Please, Lord, grant that celebrating and rejoicing abound throughout Your weekend. Holy Spirit, pour out Your anointing on these our new Sisters in Christ and rush upon them from this time forward. Keep us all in Your light that we may produce every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth. We have met and seen You, Lord, in each of our Sisters. Help us to live our belief in You, Lord, and may Your love glow and grow in our hearts all ways!!!
Help us to live our belief in You, Lord, and may Your love glow and grow in our hearts all ways!!! Amen!
Cursillistas all, please welcome into the Cursillo Community our newest Babe Chicks from the 152nd Arlington Women’s Cursillo Weekend!!!
To Live in His Presence
"Come, let us return to the LORD, it is he who has rent, but he will heal us; he has struck us, but he will bind our wounds. He will revive us after two days; on the third day he will raise us up, to live in his presence. Let us know, let us strive to know the LORD; as certain as the dawn is his coming, and his judgment shines forth like the light of day! He will come to us like the rain, like spring rain that waters the earth." Hosea 6:1-3
But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, 'O God, be merciful to me a sinner.' I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted." Luke 18:13-14
How lovely on the mountains are the feet of Him
Who brings good news, good news;
Announcing peace, proclaiming news of happiness:
Our God reigns, our God reigns!
Our God reigns! Our God reigns!
Our God reigns! Our God reigns!
The tax collector stood off at a distance. The Pharisee was probably in the front pew, if not on the “predella.” Yet who was closer to a right relationship with God? (No answer needed.)
How much did you pay for the rain last Friday? (No answer needed.).
No amount of money can deliver rain. Rain is freely given. Sometimes we get less than we need. Sometimes we get more than we need (Superstorm Sandy, Hurricanes Irma or Harvey or fill in your least favorite storm). Yet no amount of cash will get us more rain nor less rain.
No amount of money can deliver God’s reign. We are born and raised to live in His presence. There is no ticket for admission that can be bought with money. We cannot get more grace. No matter what we do, we cannot get less grace either. The only ticket is friendship with Jesus. The only way to get into friendship with Jesus is through the greatest commandment…and after all, that boils down to piety, study, and action. Our God rains and reigns over the weeds and the wheat, over all the living and the dead including the tax collector in the back of the church.
Lent gives us time to adopt the attitude and disposition of the tax collector. It gives us time to ask the question, “What can we do to get closer to God?”
Tomorrow is the Fourth Sunday of Lent. In two weeks, we celebrate Palm Sunday. There is still time to get the interior “dinner table” set for the Paschal meal. Jesus does not set his altar above us. He sits right down at the table with the Denier (Peter), the Tax Collector (Matthew), the Doubter (Thomas) and even the Betrayer (Judas).
Our time of preparation is waning but it is not over. We still have time to get to the back of the church with the tax collectors and other sinners.
"Weeds spring up and thrive; but to get wheat how much toil we must endure." Lent gives us time for the piety, study, and action needed to pull the weeds out of our lives and give the wheat a chance to grow.
Friday, March 29, 2019
Love Them Freely
I will heal their apostasy, says the LORD, I will love them freely; for my wrath is turned away from them. I will be like the dew for Israel: he shall blossom like the lily; He shall strike root like the Lebanon cedar, and put forth his shoots. His splendor shall be like the olive tree and his fragrance like the Lebanon cedar. Again, they shall dwell in his shade and raise grain; They shall blossom like the vine, and his fame shall be like the wine of Lebanon. Hosea 14:5-8
And to love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices." And when Jesus saw that he answered with understanding, he said to him, "You are not far from the Kingdom of God." And no one dared to ask him any more questions. Mark 12:33-34
What have I done to deserve this? Or more popularly, “Woe, is me!”
Did you ever think that? If you are like me, when those words pass through your mind or across your lips, we are usually expressing a more “Woe-is-me!” attitude. We complain about our bad fortune. Do we ever complain about our good fortune? Do you hear lottery winners saying, “No! Take these Mega-Millions winnings away from me.” “Sorry Publisher’s Clearing House Giveaway, I do not need this $5,000 per month for life.”
This phrase (or more properly it's Hebrew ancestor – Jewish uncle?) occurs in the Bible in Job 10:14-15.
If I should sin, you would keep a watch on me, and from my guilt you would not absolve me. If I should be wicked, alas for me! Even if righteous, I dare not hold up my head, sated with shame, drenched in affliction!
The Book of Job is one of the oldest books in the Hebrew Bible. The author or authors of the book are unknown; it was probably composed sometime between the seventh and fifth centuries before the birth of Christ.[i] That makes “Woe is me” as an expression more than 2,500 to 2,700 years old in its original language. (The thesaurus tells us that the first occurrence of it in English would have been Wycliffe's Bible translation in 1382.)
In today’s first reading, the Lord is speaking. Yet the message really is the opposite of “woe is me.” The Lord is saying that He alone will reverse our sins. Woe is NOT what we can expect when we are in a “right relationship” with the Lord. Even if we relied upon foreigners, human power, or idols, the Love of the Lord would help us to overcome all these betrayals and misplaced trust. Simply put, all that we need to do is trust in the Lord alone.
The opposite of “Woe unto me” is “Love unto me.” But more correctly, Love is the Lord and Love of the Lord is the elixir that will help us endure any woe whether we deserve it or not.
The scene painted by Hosea is pretty amazing.
Dew for Israel. Today, one of the major challenges of living in the Middle East remains to have fresh water.
Blossom like the lily. In a desert?
The root of the Lebanon cedar? The Cedar is a symbol of holiness, eternity and peace. In the Middle East? Today?
Dwell in the shade? Blossom like the vine? Despite the hot desert sun and lack of running water?
These verdant signs of abundant life appear in the dark, hot, unforgiving place to live -- the deserts of ancient Palestine. All that is possible thanks alone to the Love of the Lord freely given, we can overcome these obstacles and so much more.
Our money might say, “In God We Trust.” However, our lives do not. Scandals like the college admission bribery issue prove that we really do pursue the almighty dollar so solve all ills rather than trusting alone in our time, talents and treasures and supplication to get ahead on our own accord.
The Scribe recognized this. THE SCRIBE!??!! Tomorrow, the tax collector recognizes how to pray. Not the Pharisee or the Sadducee or the rabbi. These were supposed to be defined by their mission from and to God. Instead, the humility of the scribe puts on the path to the Kingdom thanks to his humility and obedience and service.
His work did not define him.
Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB reminds us that work is not what defines the Benedictine or the disciple, either. Rather, the “single-minded search for God” defines Benedictine spirituality. That is what the monastic (and the Cursillista) pursues beyond everything every other pursuit.
That is what gives the monastic life meaning. That is what frees the monastic heart. The monastic does not exist for work. Creative and productive work are simply meant to enhance the Garden and sustain us while we grow into God.[ii]
Let’s use the remains weeks of Lent to truly prepare to go lightly but firmly into the preparation for the holy days to come.
“God’s Law – An Enviable Gift” by Colleen O’Sullivan
|Moses receiving the tablets (c. 1553), Tapestry by Jan de Kempeneer, |
based on a painting by Michiel Coxie, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco,
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
Observe them carefully, for thus will you give evidence of your wisdom and intelligence to the nations, who will hear of all these statutes and say, 'This great nation is truly a wise and intelligent people.' For what great nation is there that has gods so close to it as the LORD, our God, is to us whenever we call upon him? (Deuteronomy 4:6-7)
He has proclaimed his word to Jacob, his statutes and his ordinances to Israel. He has not done thus for any other nation; his ordinances he has not made known to them. (Psalm 147:19-20)
Jesus said to his disciples: "Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. (Matthew 5:17)
Thank you, Lord, for your words about loving you above all else and for your guidance on loving ourselves and our brothers and sisters. Grant us the ability to hear what you say and the wisdom to put it into action this very day.
When I was a child, the commandments Moses was given seemed like anything but a gift. They were the checklist God used to tally up your failings. The sisters would draw a soul on the chalkboard, a round circle colored in solid white. But as you sinned, bits and pieces of the white fill were erased. A person with only venial sins on their account would have a soul that looked like a piece of Swiss cheese. Commit a mortal sin, however, and the entire thing was wiped off the board. We were told that periodically God checked on the state of our souls. I pictured my soul as an invisible plate residing somewhere near my diaphragm. I couldn’t feel it, so there was no way of telling how often God was sliding it out and scrutinizing it. Those were hardly the sort of thoughts or images that would have one thinking of the Law as evidence of God’s closeness to us or God’s love for us.
But as we grow up, hopefully, those flat, two-dimensional images give way to a fuller, more nuanced picture. Today God is the one who breathed life into me, named me, and called me his precious child. Yes, God is very aware of my sinfulness, but God isn’t keeping a book of marks against me as much as God is whispering, “Remember my love. Come back to me. Let me pick you up where you have fallen and set you on the right path. I desire that you be with me for all eternity.” This is the God the writer of Deuteronomy has in mind, one who wants to help us in every way, including giving us a set of statutes that clearly puts life into perspective. Faith in and obedience to God comes first. Loving and, therefore, treating our brothers and sisters with respect comes in a close second. The commandments are meant to help us do that. I can see why other people, worshipping other gods, would be envious.
Jesus didn’t come to throw out the gift his Father had given us. He came to fulfill the Law, to show us that the Law is all about love and loving relationships, between us and God, us and ourselves, and us and other people. Jesus faulted the Pharisees because they didn’t have love or mercy in their hearts when it came to dealing with others.
Many of us resist rules and regulations or think we’re above them. We would like to set our own standards and make our own rules. But, imagine what a better place it would be if we all followed God’s Law. We could set aside all the idols that lead us into so much trouble because God would be the only object of our worship. There would be no more school shootings in the news or murders in our streets because we would follow God’s injunction not to kill. If we carried that out to the extreme, maybe there would be no more wars! Think how much trouble in the world is caused by not being faithful to one another. Affairs, broken marriages, heartbroken children, children born outside of marriage – think how many people would be happier if they let God’s laws be their guide. And what if we stopped telling lies about ourselves and others? The gossip columns and the publications sold at grocery store checkouts would disappear. Our judicial system could then be more about the truth than who’s got the smarter lawyer. Or what if we truly honored our fathers and mothers? The rampant disrespect for elderly people that has swept across our land would be no more.
When you are praying today, commit a few minutes to reflect with Jesus on your attitude toward God’s Law.
Editor's note: Apologies first to Colleen who delivered this reflection for you on time. However, due to a recent illness, the Lighthouse Keeper was off trying to replenish his supply of lamp oil during a short but fruitful stay at Fairfax INOVA Hospital. The wicks are now trimmed and the lights are back on. Your regularly scheduled reflections will re-commence for Saturday.
Monday, March 25, 2019
“Pity on Your Fellow Servant” by Melanie Rigney
|"The Unforgiving Servant" by Claude Vignon [Public domain].|
“Do not let us be put to shame, but deal with us in your kindness and great mercy. Deliver us by your wonders, and bring glory to your name, O Lord."
Remember your mercies, O Lord. (Psalm 25:6a)
“The master summoned (the unforgiving servant) and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to. Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?’ Then in anger, his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt. So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart.” (Matthew 18:32-35)
Lord, help me to forgive others as You forgive me.
Over and over again, Jesus tells us in parables and sermons that His Father loves us exceedingly and will forgive anything, as long as we come to Him with a contrite heart. Sometimes that’s hard; we can’t even forgive ourselves for our sins, so how can we expect the Lord to do so? And yet, He can and does. He longs to, in fact.
And if we find it so difficult to believe we can be forgiven, perhaps it’s not surprising that offering that forgiveness to others can be challenging.
Back on February 28, 1981, in my hometown, a newborn was found in a ditch. He’d died of exposure. The placenta was still attached. It was all anyone could talk about for days. A fellow reporter anonymously arranged for a burial and funeral, which I (and about fifty other people) attended. We all wondered if the circumstances of Baby Andrew’s life and death would ever be known.
Thanks to DNA databases, those circumstances came to light a few weeks ago. The mother, Theresa Bentaas, was nineteen at the time, just five years younger than me. She says she was young, single, and stupid, telling no one about the pregnancy or birth, not even the baby’s father, whom she later married. Now facing murder charges, she was arrested on what would have been Baby Andrew’s thirty-eighth birthday, which struck me as something less than compassionate.
A lot of hard things have been said about Baby Andrew’s mother, especially in the past month since her identity was revealed. I don’t know Theresa Bentaas. I hope I would have made a different choice if I had been in her situation; I haven’t been there. But as a Christian, I have to believe she can receive the Lord’s forgiveness if she seeks it. I hope she does. As for me, I’m praying for her and for the little baby who never did a thing that required forgiveness in his few hours of life and offering Masses for them both.
Offer a Mass for someone who has committed what you see as an unforgivable act.
Sunday, March 24, 2019
Then Isaiah said: Listen, O house of David! Is it not enough for you to weary people, must you also weary my God? Therefore, the Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel, which means "God is with us!" Isaiah 7:13-14, 8:10C
“I delight to do your will, my God; your law is in my inner being!” Psalm 40:9
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” Luke 1:35
We might be guilty of oversimplification. Today’s Psalm reads: “Here I am. I come to do your will.” And indeed, I am guilty of using exactly that phrase as the theme of the Men’s 128th Cursillo Weekend. When you really read Psalm 40, this is not a hymn of mere presence. The spirit goes far deeper than that. This is a hymn that demands radical humility complete obedience.
We need the Lord to rescue us for the same reason today as three millennia ago: “But evils surround me until they cannot be counted. My sins overtake me so that I can no longer see. They are more numerous than the hairs of my head; my courage fails me.” The Psalmist of y could not even imagine the temptations of modern, western society. Sloth (television/Internet). Unbridled consumerism (shopping malls/Amazon/eBay). Envy (movie stars, careerism). Lust (advertising and entertainment). Television. Shopping Malls. Gluttony (fast food/expensive food and the opposite -- food deserts). Trust in the wrong direction. Lack of respect.
If ever we need a new song, now is the time.
All who trust God will experience the Lord’s Holy Protection.
How then are we to express our thanks for such protection? Not the old-fashioned ways but through the open and enthusiastic proclamation of the salvation we experience. Giving thanks is not merely a human response but is itself a divine gift. For Gob, humble obedience is far more welcome an expression than any sacrifice.
Our salvation is a very physical act. The Lord picks us up out of the muck we are in (March Madness anyone?) and sets us on firm soil.
The Lord bends down from distant heaven to touch us as if we were Michaelangelo’s Adam in the Sistine Chapel. The Lord reaches out to call us from distant heaven as if we were Levi in the counting-house. The Lord whispers in our ear from distant heaven as if we were Mary, scare, alone and obedient in her clay hut. "Be not afraid!"
Now, with our feet on the ground, our ears are opened. The scroll is opened before our eyes. Doing God’s will is not just a New Year’s Resolution. It compels my inner being replacing every deadly sin and temptation.
When I sing of your righteousness in a great assembly, See, I do not restrain my lips; as you, LORD, know. I do not conceal your righteousness within my heart; I speak of your loyalty and your salvation. I do not hide your mercy or faithfulness from a great assembly. Psalm 40:10-11
When we are so thoroughly predisposed to obedience and humility, the Lord has no choice. Our rescue is inevitable.
Skip ahead to the Good News – because the town crier appears in the form of Gabriel. "Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you." We say the “Ave Maria” so many times, we are probably numb to the meaning that comes out of Psalm 40. The Lord is with Mary precisely because the Lord has no choice. He has looked upon his handmaiden and found out how so thoroughly she turned over her life to God’s will. The Annunciation is inevitable. The miracle was not that the angel appeared to Mary. The bigger miracle was that Mary was born at all in a world so filled with temptation all around.
Gabriel had no choice. There might have been 150-200 million people living on earth at the time. Yet only one was to be the recipient of such a message…such a grace…such a blessing.
In return for putting herself in the present moment with the Lord, she gets the ultimate gift: The spirit of the Lord is upon her. This also is the mark that sets Jesus apart from the world throughout Luke’s Good News at his Baptism and during forty days in the desert. The Spirit of the Lord is upon Jesus when he is reading from Isaiah in the temple. Jesus senses the woman with hemorrhages because the power of the Spirit is drawn out of him to her faith. On the cross.
In fact, at the very end of his life, the “spirit” is what Jesus sets free when he commands from the cross: “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”
In its absence, fear and sin can overtake us as it did to Zechariah. By our faith-in-action, the finger of God will save us. That is the lesson of the Annunciation.
ActionWhat do we need to do to be so blessed that the Spirit of the Lord overshadows us? If ever we need a new song, now is the time.
Saturday, March 23, 2019
|"Here I am."|
“Bear Fruit” by Phil Russell
Piety“Here I am.” Exodus 3
“Therefore, whoever thinks he is standing secure, should take care not to fall.” 1 Corinthians 10:12
“Repent, says the Lord; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 4:17
“Jesus said: I tell you if you do not repent, you will all perish, as they did.” Luke 13
The images in the First and Third Readings today are very similar. A living plant: the first a Burning Bush, the second a Fruitless Fig Tree.
Almost twenty years ago, I planted several fig trees. While it took several years for them to mature; the full sun needed for them to produce fruit, was not enough. As the “Gardner” in my small “orchard,” I lovingly transplanted them to a “full-sun” position elsewhere in my “Little Acre.”
Again, I waited for growth and development and fruitfulness — finally, several good years of a small number of Figs. Again, the seasons passed by without produce. One late Autumn afternoon, I walked along the edge of my several Fig Trees. As I walked and took stalk; I pondered, just digging them up and using them for compost. But I remembered this Parable of the Fig tree. Jesus said dig deep and fertilize the plant. Right there and then, I took my gardening to Prayer. I prayed “Lord, you said! I believe your word is true. I pray that you are the Lord of the Harvest, you cause everything to produce in its due Season.”
|Cultivate the ground around it...|
I prayed for “fruit” and “harvest.” The Winter gave way to Spring, as Summer came, my Fig Trees were filled with fruit. It was an abundant harvest that late Summer. We ate from the abundance, as did the animals, birds and even the wasps! The next winter there were several sub-zero freezes, I had to prune back my “beloved” Fig Trees severely. Once again, I am waiting for both growth and development. You see, this exercise, in my garden on that afternoon, it was “as if” I had entered into a very “up close and personal” encounter with “I AM” .... and why not?
Why would my God not want me to draw close and enter into “Holy Ground?”
|Unfasten my sandals and draw near...|
The Summer of that “bumper-crop,” I laughed with Joy; for I knew that I was loved, and heard, and cared for.
You see, for me, it was not about, just the fruit; but about “relationship” with Jesus and my own desire to “unfasten my own sandals and draw near.”
Lent, is that wonderful time to take stock and look at the “garden” of our hearts, and to “turn around”
...to Repent and to “take care not to fall” ...
... Lent is that time of Spring gardening: cleaning up old debris, fertilizing, tilling and mulching...so as to “produce” ...for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, Beloved!
Let your own response be, “Here I am.”
Friday, March 22, 2019
Lost and Found
Who is a God like you, who removes guilt and pardons sin for the remnant of his inheritance; Who does not persist in anger forever, but instead delights in mercy, and will again have compassion on us, treading underfoot our iniquities? You will cast into the depths of the sea all our sins. Micah 7:18-19
“'My son, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours. 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.'" Luke 15:31-32
Prayer to Seek and Find God
Father, in Your goodness
grant me the intellect to comprehend You,
the perception to discern You,
and the reason to appreciate You.
In Your kindness
endow me with the diligence to look for You,
the wisdom, to discover You,
and the spirit to apprehend You.
In Your graciousness
bestow on me a heart to contemplate You,
ears to hear You,
eyes to see You,
and a tongue to speak of You.
In Your mercy to confer on me
a conversation pleasing to You,
the patience to wait for You,
and the perseverance to long for You.
Grant me a perfect end, Your holy presence. I ask this in the name of Your Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.[i]
Chapter 15 in the Luke Gospel could be called the Parables of the Lost. Jesus weaves the tales of the lost sheep, coins and son as a way of explaining the merciful God portrayed by the Prophet Micah.
As we concentrate on the Parable of the Prodigal Son, who was the wanderer? Who squandered his Father’s inheritance? That is not a trick rhetorical question. Easily the first son demanded his inheritance and ran away. But the second son also demanded his inheritance and ran away even though he stayed right there on his father’s estate. Even though he was right there, his disposition was miles away.
The man had two sons but both sons failed to learn their lessons from the father. We have the story that shows how one of the sons corrected the course his life was on. We leave the story with the father asking the second son to come back spiritually even though he never moved away physically.
Does he come back, too? Both sons needed to find the right place to seek and find God.
When have you been lost spiritually? What brought you back?
Are you lost now? What is pushing you away? The sexual abuse scandals? The coverup? The grand jury investigations? Or is something else driving you away? Pre-occupation with social media or March Madness?
The merciful God of the Hebrew Bible whom we encounter again today in the first reading is the same merciful God that Jesus re-introduces his followers. In these stories, we encounter Jesus’ particular concern for the lost and God’s love for the repentant sinner.
The time in this season of preparation is “lent” to us as a way to train our heart and soul and mind in the ways of the Lord. How are you doing almost halfway through Lent?
While my voluntary abstinence from social media (except blogging) remains intact, the “advent” of March Madness has presented new challenges with apps and brackets and more. Fortunately, or not, Belmont Abbey College is in Division II. So, there is no risk that my alma mater[ii] will ever find itself as a bracket buster. Yet, 64 teams pose a formidable obstacle to seeking God in Lent.
God, in Your kindness, endow me with the diligence to look for You, the wisdom, to discover You, and the spirit to apprehend You.
[ii] In a general sense, alma mater refers to ‘someone or something providing nourishment.’ It is a Latin phrase that literally translates as ‘generous mother.’ Alma also is the root of the Lenten practice of “alma-giving” or almsgiving, being generous with your charity and providing nourishment to others. The father in our story today is the alma pater.