Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 620 : A Reflection on the Book of Acts (Acts 4 : 32-37)
32 The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common.
33 With great power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great favor was accorded them all.
34 There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale,
35 and put them at the feet of the apostles, and they were distributed to each according to need.
36 Thus Joseph, also named by the apostles Barnabas (which is translated “son of encouragement”), a Levite, a Cypriot by birth, 37 sold a piece of property that he owned, then brought the money and put it at the feet of the apostles.
“The community of believers was of one heart and mind” (Acts 4:32). This unity of the community fulfilled Jesus’s words, “In this shall all know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (Jn. 13:35). Jesus described true love for his disciples. “There is no greater love than this, that one would lay down his life for his friends” (Jn. 15:13). Those who have been grafted to Christ in baptism have been drawn by Christ, near to the heart of the Father. As John put it in his first epistle: “God is love. All who live in love live in God, and God lives in them” (1Jn. 4:16). Our homeland is the household of God (CF. Phil. 3:20), and our resting place is close to the Father’s heart (CF. Jn. 1:18).
The love that binds the community together is the fruit of Christ’s self-sacrificing love for them. It is important to recall that as Jesus died, he breathed out his life-creating spirit on the disciple he loved. That which was received by the beloved disciple is ours to claim as disciples loved by Christ and his Father. This is confirmed by the comment of the prodigal father, “My son, you are always with me and everything I have is yours” (Lk. 15:31). The disciples confirmed the love they preached by the love they lived.
The Father has entrusted all that possesses to us through His dearly beloved Son. Everything we have we have received as a gift from the God and Father of us all. In obedience to the Master, we are to share with others all that we have received freely and without charge. The unity of the community reflected the communion of love of the Trinity. Love graciously received was freely shared. He who promised to be with us until the end of the age wants us to accompany each other throughout our journey to our heavenly homeland. No one should walk the path alone.
Detachment from worldly possessions frees us to be at the service of others. Having nothing to give but an open hand and an open heart enables us to seek out and find those that are lost. If we allow ourselves to be consumed by the fire of divine love, we can become lights of hope to all who walk in the valley of darkness and death. Our task is not to condemn those in darkness. Our task is to be guideposts for them, pointing the way to the light. As they come into the light, they will discover the Truth that will set them free. Because God has been so gracious to us, we should be gracious to all we meet.
Christ is Risen! The empty tomb demonstrates God’s judgment of the world. The barbarity of sinful mankind is overcome by God’s abundant mercy and love. Christ did not come into the world to condemn it. Rather, he took our condemnation to himself and became the fount of mercy to all who would believe in him. He was stripped and in his nakedness, he clothed us in robes of righteousness. In his total self-emptying, he filled us with grace. The Lord who is risen from the dead calls us to display the riches of his mercy by seeking people who are anxious or worried that their past behaviors make them unlovable and rejected. Then, having found them, we need to show them God’s loving-kindness and compassion.
Fr. Jerome Machar, OCSO
Quote from a Saint: “Jesus does not want us to be attached to possessions, to human honors, to creatures. He asks humility. But His love and His generosity make this detachment less difficult and less cruel to our nature. Nothing else matters to me anymore, nothing has any value for me but Jesus, no place, no thing, no person, no idea, no feeling, no honor, no suffering, nothing that can turn me away from Jesus. For me, Jesus Himself is my honor, my delight, my heart, my spirit, He whom I love, what I love, my home Heaven here on earth. Jesus is my treasure and my love and Jesus crucified is my only happiness.” --St. Bernadette Soubirous
Prayer: “O Jesus, Who didst choose a life of poverty and obscurity, grant me that grace to keep my heart detached from the transitory things of the world. Be Thou henceforth my only treasure, for Thou art infinitely more precious than all other possessions. My heart is too solicitous for the vain and fleeting things of the earth. Make me always mindful of Thy warning words: “What does it profit a man if he gain the whole world, but suffer the loss of his own soul?”. Grant me the grace to keep Thy holy example always before my eyes, that I may despise the nothingness of this world and make thee the object of all my desires and affections. Amen”
Questions for Reflection:
“The love that binds the community together is the fruit of Christ’s self-sacrificing love for them.” This is true today, not just in the time of the apostles. Do you see the love of Christ as the thing that bind the community of the Church together? If so, how? If not, what are you seeing? What would it look like to have a community that was bound by His love?
How could you be a better conduit of God’s love?
If you consider that all we possess is a gift from God, does that change the way you think of your possessions? If you lived with that in mind, would that change how generous you are in your giving?
How would you feel if you did not have to worry about worldly possessions? What are some ways you could start to detach yourself from your possessions and begin to feel that freedom?
In what ways can you fulfill your responsibilities (as a spouse, parent, citizen, etc.) while still detaching from worldly things? Do you think detachment is the same as not owning anything?
How can Christ’s example of total self-emptying be imitated by Christians?
How can you become a guidepost to those who are in darkness?
Who has been a guidepost in your life to lead you closer to Jesus? Have you ever used what you experienced on your journey to help others?
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 619: The Empty Tomb : A Reflection on the Gospel According to John (John 20: 1-9)
1 “On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb.
2 So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.”
3 So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb. 4 They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first;
5 he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in. 6 When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, 7 and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place.
8 Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed. 9 For they did not yet understand the scripture that he had to rise from the dead.
Today we celebrate the greatest feast of the Church year and yet, in the Gospel chosen by the Church there is no appearance of the Risen Christ and He is only mentioned insofar as His body, it seems, has been taken from the tomb. It is Mary of Magdala who ran to Peter and his companion and broke the news, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put Him!”…notice the “they” – who might they be?
Rather unusual isn’t it that on this solemn day of the Lord’s Resurrection, the Gospel revolves around these three individuals – Mary deeply grieving comes to the tomb while it was still dark and Peter and the disciple whom Jesus loved, come when anxiously summoned by Mary – Mary, Peter and John – just these three. There is an urgency, a calamity, a stealing – she runs to them and they run back – they look, they examine, they notice the burial cloths rolled up neatly – but no body of the Lord – an empty tomb – what could they make of this?
St. John reports that the disciple who arrived ﬁrst, the beloved, “saw and believed.” Believed what? – one might ask because the very next verse states, “For they did not yet understand the Scripture that He had to rise from the dead.” A little later the Risen Jesus will appear to Mary who thinks He is the gardener and on the evening of the same day the Risen Jesus will appear to Peter and those gathered in the Upper Room – their confusion, grief, loss, a whole gamut of fearful, painful feelings will dissipate – and they will begin to understand “..that He had to rise from the dead.” But, ﬁrst their shock!
What does this Gospel hold for us who believe in the Resurrection yet have never seen the Lord? I believe the Church, inspired by the Holy Spirit, is calling us to center on the three – Mary, Peter, and the disciple Jesus loved. What can they say to us for our lives? What word of truth comes through them? As humans we can, I believe, in one way or another, identify with them – Jesus cured Mary of 7 devils and who of us does not have a devil or two – Peter a man of good will in a moment of fear deny Jesus and who of us has not in some way, some action denied Him as our Lord – John and his brother James with their mother were a bit pushy in desiring to have seats next to Jesus in the kingdom and who of us have not tried to put ourselves ﬁrst, get the ﬁrst seat, the ﬁrst place, the best. And with all that, these three, with their unique histories, are people of the
Resurrection and so are we!
We gather on this Solemnity of Solemnities because, by our Baptism, you/I are caught up in Jesus’ rising from the dead. Jesus raised up the lives of Mary, Peter, and John and He does so to us. We are raised up in faith so that we believe without seeing, raised up in hope although we do not live with crystal balls, raised up in charity so that we will extend ourselves to others – all this means living as men and women of the Risen Lord – living in extraordinary ways in our very ordinary lives because we are people of the Risen Christ.
In the second reading from the Letter to the Colossians, St. Paul shares truth from his own “raised up life” – a message that should ring in our ears, imprint itself in our hearts and ﬁll us with the joy that only the Lord gives: St. Paul proclaims, “For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Col 3: 3) – it is worth repeating often “For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” – even to changing the pronoun to: “For I have died and my life is hidden with Christ in God!”
Fr. John Denburger, OCSO
Quote from a Saint: “When the holy women reached the tomb, they found that the stone had been rolled aside. This is what always happens! When we make up our minds to do what we should, the difficulties are easily overcome.”—St. Josemaria Escriva
Prayer: “God of undying life, by your mighty hand you raised up Jesus from the grave and appointed him judge of the living and the dead. Bestow upon those baptized into his death the power flowing from his resurrection, that we may proclaim near and far the pardon and peace you give us. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, first-born from the dead, who lives with you, now and always, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever. Amen.”
Questions for Reflection:
What can the three people in today’s reading say to us for our lives? What word of truth comes through each of the three?
Imagine yourself as Mary in this reading from the Gospel. How was she feeling after the crucifixion? What might she have been thinking when walking to the tomb? When she found it empty? While she was running to the apostles?
Imagine yourself as Peter and John in this reading from the Gospel. How were they feeling after the crucifixion? When Mary ran up to them and told them of her discovery? As they ran to the tomb? When they found the tomb empty? When they saw the burial cloth?
Peter, Mary and John are very different people yet all people of the Resurrection. What does that tell us about the people that make up the body of Christ?
What makes someone a person of the Resurrection?
How can you relate to Peter, Mary and John as one who believe in the Resurrection yet have never seen the Lord?
When a loved one dies or life is difficult, how does the Resurrection of Jesus help you deal with your pain?
Jesus is missing in this scene. What do you do when you find that you are missing Jesus in your life?
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 618: Keep Those Lamps Trimmed : A Reflection on the Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25 : 1-13)
1 “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.
2 Five of them were foolish and five were wise.
3 The foolish ones, when taking their lamps, brought no oil with them, 4 but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps.
5 Since the bridegroom was long delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
6 At midnight, there was a cry, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’
7 Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps.
8 The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’
9 But the wise ones replied, ‘No, for there may not be enough for us and you. Go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.’
10 While they went off to buy it, the bridegroom came and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him. Then the door was locked.
11 Afterwards the other virgins came and said, ‘Lord, Lord, open the door for us!’
12 But he said in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.’
13 Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.
In the traditional Cistercian rite, the Gospel for Tuesday of Holy Week focuses on the Parable of the Ten Virgins. St. Seraphim of Sarov expounded this parable in the light of the gift of the Spirit. The goal of Christian existence, he would say, is to acquire the Holy Spirit. The relative quantity of oil in the Virgins’ lamps wasn’t a measure of accomplishment or moral virtue, but of their configuration to the Spirit.
We all received the Spirit at baptism — unknowingly if we were baptized as infants; then we said “yes” to the Spirit at Confirmation, resolving to be its vessels. And in each Mass, the Spirit is called down on the assembly with the prayer that they might become one spirit, one body.
On the threshold of Easter, it matters to ask: Do I fully live as a member of Christ’s Body? If I’ve separated myself from it by my decisions or actions, it’s a good time to make reparation, to seek forgiveness. A hymn for Great Week in the Byzantine rite sums it all up:
“Behold the Bridegroom drawing nigh!” O hear the oft-repeated cry!
Go forth into the midnight dim; For blessed they whom he shall find With ready heart and watchful mind;
Go forth, my soul, to him.
“Behold the Bridegroom coming by!” The call is echoed from the sky:
Go forth, you servants, watch and wait: The slothful cannot join his train:
No careless one may entrance gain: Awake, my soul, it’s late!
“Behold, the Bridegroom drawing near!” The warning falls on every ear:
That awesome night shall come to all: Behold, my soul, your lamp so dim, Rise, rise the smoking flax to trim:
Soon shall you hear his call.
Fr. Justin Sheehan, OCSO
Quote from a Saint: “All praise be yours, my Lord, through Sister Death, From whose embrace no mortal can escape. Woe to those who die in mortal sin! Happy those she finds doing your will! The second death can do them no harm. Praise and bless my Lord, and give Him thanks. And serve Him with great humility.”—St. Francis of Assisi
Prayer: “Lord, our God, grant that we may be ready to receive Christ when he comes in glory
and to share in the banquet of heaven, where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen”
Questions for Reflection:
What does it mean to fully live as a member of Christ’s Body?
If someone has separated themself from Christ’s Body by their decisions or actions, how does one enter back into the Body?
Do you ever meditate on the fact that one day you will die? Does that reflection influence how you live your life?
If you were to consider your death more often how would that change what you spend your time and energy doing?
Why is it important to be vigilant in our relationship with Christ?
What do you do to keep your lamp lit?
What do you do in moments of darkness in your life?
Consider this verse from the Judgement of Nations (Matthew 25:40) “ This points to the Beatitudes. How should we live our lives based on the Beatitudes so that we are doing God’s will on Earth and are prepared for our judgment?
What are some specific things you can do to improve your readiness? What is one specific thing that you will do this week?
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 617: Christ sets us free from what binds us : A Reflection on Ezekiel and the Gospel of John (Ezekiel 37:12-14, John 11:1-45)
(Ezekiel 37) 12 Therefore, prophesy and say to them: Thus says the Lord GOD: Look! I am going to open your graves; I will make you come up out of your graves, my people, and bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 You shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and make you come up out of them, my people! 14 I will put my spirit in you that you may come to life, and I will settle you in your land. Then you shall know that I am the LORD. I have spoken; I will do it—oracle of the LORD.
(John 11) 1 Now a man was ill, Lazarus from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 Mary was the one who had anointed the Lord with perfumed oil and dried his feet with her hair; it was her brother Lazarus who was ill. 3 So the sisters sent word to him, saying, “Master, the one you love is ill.” 4 When Jesus heard this he said, “This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” 5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So when he heard that he was ill, he remained for two days in the place where he was.
7 Then after this he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.” 8 The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just trying to stone you, and you want to go back there? 9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in a day? If one walks during the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. 10 But if one walks at night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” 11 He said this, and then told them, “Our friend Lazarus is asleep, but I am going to awaken him.” 12 So the disciples said to him, “Master, if he is asleep, he will be saved.” 13 But Jesus was talking about his death, while they thought that he meant ordinary sleep. 14 So then Jesus said to them clearly, “Lazarus has died. 15 And I am glad for you that I was not there, that you may believe. Let us go to him.” 16 So Thomas, called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go to die with him.”
17 When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 18 Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, only about two miles away. 19 And many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them about their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him; but Mary sat at home. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 [But] even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.”
28 When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary secretly, saying, “The teacher is here and is asking for you.” 29 As soon as she heard this, she rose quickly and went to him. 30 For Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still where Martha had met him. 31 So when the Jews who were with her in the house comforting her saw Mary get up quickly and go out, they followed her, presuming that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32 When Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who had come with her weeping, he became perturbed and deeply troubled, 34 and said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Sir, come and see.” 35 And Jesus wept. 36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him.” 37 But some of them said, “Could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man have done something so that this man would not have died?”
38 So Jesus, perturbed again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay across it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the dead man’s sister, said to him, “Lord, by now there will be a stench; he has been dead for four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus raised his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you for hearing me. 42 I know that you always hear me; but because of the crowd here I have said this, that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 And when he had said this, he cried out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth. So Jesus said to them, “Untie him and let him go.”
As I reflected on today’s readings, I had a flashback to my years in the parish. At the risk of showing my age, RCIA was just coming into vogue around the time I was ordained. In the old days, instructions were given in private. This created a bond between the individual and the priest, but not with the broader church community. The practice of individual instruction tended to privatize the faith. RCIA, on the other hand, reclaimed the ancient practice whereby the individual is initiated into the faith life of the community. The Church is a communion of love. Its members are drawn into the bond of Love of the Blessed Trinity. On the Fifth Sunday of Lent, the third scrutiny of the candidates for initiation into the church is celebrated.
This might be a good time to reflect upon our faith journey and reassess our commitment to gospel living. The scrutiny allows us to take our spiritual temperature, so to speak. Are we hot or cold in our commitment to the Lord? What areas of our lives remain unconverted? What are the things I should be doing, but am not? What aspects of my history need healing? The beauty of the scrutinies is that they allow us to take an honest look at our frailties and failings. With those insights, we can reach out in prayer asking God to protect us from all evil, bind up our wounds, and heal our brokenness. The season of lent is an excellent time to grow in awareness of our need for forgiveness and grace. It is an acceptable time to purify our minds and hearts. As we examine our consciences we can come to a deeper knowledge of Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
The purpose of the scrutinies is to uncover all that is weak, defective, or sinful in our lives, and then present it to the Lord for healing. As we ponder our dry bones, God the Father causes the breath of life to blow over us and brings us to the fullness of life in Christ. It is so easy to take our faith life for granted. Many of us were baptized as infants and completed our initiation rites according to the schedule set by the school we attended. Often, little expectation was given to anything but the accompanying party and gifts. In light of the abuse scandal and its subsequent coverup, we tend to get bogged down by the bad news of the church, rather than pondering the Good News of salvation in Christ. The prayer of today’s liturgy is that like Lazarus, each of us hears our name and as we respond to the Lord’s voice, leave the tomb and enter into the newness of life. At their core, the scrutinies are not about our sinfulness but about the overwhelming grace and abundant mercy of God in Christ.
The liturgy invites us to join the prophet Ezekiel in the middle of that valley full of bones. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we are encouraged to walk the length and breadth of that valley until we find ourselves. Like those piles of sun-bleached and dry bones, we feel lifeless and scattered, gnawed by hopelessness and despair. But, all is not lost. God so loved the world that he sent his only Son to walk with us in the valley of death. There he bowed his head and breathed his life-creating Spirit into us just as he had breathed life into Adam in the garden.
The liturgy transports us from the valley of death to Lazarus’s burial site. I have always been intrigued by John’s attention to detail. For instance, Martha’s comment to Jesus when he tells the bystanders to roll the stone away from the entrance to the tomb. “Master, he has been in there four days. By now his body has started to decay. The putrid stench will be nauseating” (Jn. 11:39). He who walks on the wings of the wind (CF. Ps. 104:3) is portrayed as standing at the gates of death. He who calls the stars by name, calls to his friend. “Lazarus, come out.” At the call of the Master, dry bones and rotting flesh become a vessel of the breath of life. He who takes no delight in the death of a human being, calls Lazarus out of darkness into the light of life. Hearing the voice of his beloved Lord, Lazarus leaped up and made his way out of the abode of death, bound hand, and foot by the winding sheet. Not only did Jesus call him back to life, but he also set him free from the bonds of sin and death. “Unbind him and set him free” (Jn. 11:44). As the Lord calls Lazarus into the fullness of life, he calls upon the people around him to do their part in removing the bonds that remain. The struggles of others allow us opportunities to be Christ to them.
Each one of us is tied up with things that hold us captive. We believe that these will never change. We believe that we are doomed to stay trapped in some dark and lonely place. Jesus came to Bethany and raised Lazarus from the grave. Standing at the door of our tomb, Jesus calls us by name, “Come Out!” The evangelist Matthew recorded Jesus saying: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Mat. 11:28). Allow me to play with the words. “Come out of your tomb, and I will set you free from all that binds you.” We don’t have to struggle on our own because Christ has come to make all things new. Believing is a personal decision to respond to the call and entrust our lives to the One standing just outside our darkness. Lent is the acceptable time for us to receive the gift God has promised: “I will open your graves.” That’s just what God did for Jesus and now does for us. It is a time to accept God’s offer of life; repent of our sins; embrace the resurrected Jesus and the new life he gives us. At this Eucharist, let us ask God to restore us to the newness of life and to breathe his life-creating Spirit into us.
Fr. Jerome Machar, OCSO
Quote from a Saint: “Trials and tribulations offer us a chance to make reparation for our past faults and sins. On such occasions the Lord comes to us like a physician to heal the wounds left by our sins. Tribulation is the divine medicine.”--St. Augustine of Hippo
Prayer: “Lord Jesus, by raising Lazarus from the dead you showed that you came so that we might have life
and have it more abundantly. Through your Spirit, who gives life, fill us with faith, hope, and charity,
that we may live with you always in the glory of your resurrection, for you are Lord for ever and ever. Amen”
Questions for Reflection:
Take some time to scrutinize your life.
Are you hot or cold in our commitment to the Lord?
What areas of your life remains unconverted?
What are the things you should be doing, but are not?
What aspects of your history need healing?
How can you use the insights gained from looking at your life to reach out in prayer asking God to protect you from all evil? Bind up your wounds? Heal your brokenness?
When you evaluate your life do you look negatively on yourself for your failings or do you use this as an opportunity to reflect on “the overwhelming grace and abundant mercy of God in Christ”? How can switching to this more positive outlook change your relationship with God?
How can an examination of conscience help one to come to a deeper understanding of Christ?
“As the Lord calls Lazarus into the fullness of life, he calls upon the people around him to do their part in removing the bonds that remain.” How can the struggles of others allow us opportunities to be Christ to them? In what ways can we help to unbind other?
How can you experience healing through the help of your community?
Do you have solid relationships with other Christians that support your spiritual growth? If so, how does their support bolster your faith? If not, how can you find some friends who are solid and supportive in the faith?
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 616: God thirsts for us : A Reflection on Exodus and the Gospel of John (Exodus 17: 3-7 & John 2: 5-42)
Exodus 3 Here, then, in their thirst for water, the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “Why then did you bring us up out of Egypt? To have us die of thirst with our children and our livestock?” 4 So Moses cried out to the LORD, “What shall I do with this people? A little more and they will stone me!”
5 The LORD answered Moses: Go on ahead of the people, and take along with you some of the elders of Israel, holding in your hand, as you go, the staff with which you struck the Nile. 6 I will be standing there in front of you on the rock in Horeb. Strike the rock, and the water will flow from it for the people to drink. Moses did this, in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7 The place was named Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled there and tested the LORD, saying, “Is the LORD in our midst or not?”
John 5 So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there. Jesus, tired from his journey, sat down there at the well. It was about noon.
7 A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8 His disciples had gone into the town to buy food. 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” (For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” 11 [The woman] said to him, “Sir, you do not even have a bucket and the well is deep; where then can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us this well and drank from it himself with his children and his flocks?” 13 Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; 14 but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”
16 Jesus said to her, “Go call your husband and come back.” 17 The woman answered and said to him, “I do not have a husband.” Jesus answered her, “You are right in saying, ‘I do not have a husband.’ 18 For you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true.” 19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain; but you people say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Believe me, woman, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You people worship what you do not understand; we worship what we understand, because salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth; and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him. 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called the Anointed; when he comes, he will tell us everything.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking with you.”
27 At that moment his disciples returned, and were amazed that he was talking with a woman, but still no one said, “What are you looking for?” or “Why are you talking with her?” 28 The woman left her water jar and went into the town and said to the people, 29 “Come see a man who told me everything I have done. Could he possibly be the Messiah?” 30 They went out of the town and came to him. 31Meanwhile, the disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat.” 32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat of which you do not know.” 33So the disciples said to one another, “Could someone have brought him something to eat?” 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of the one who sent me and to finish his work. 35 Do you not say, ‘In four months* the harvest will be here’? I tell you, look up and see the fields ripe for the harvest. 36 The reaper is already receiving his payment and gathering crops for eternal life, so that the sower and reaper can rejoice together. 37 For here the saying is verified that ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38I sent you to reap what you have not worked for; others have done the work, and you are sharing the fruits of their work.”
39 Many of the Samaritans of that town began to believe in him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me everything I have done.” 40 When the Samaritans came to him, they invited him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. 41 Many more began to believe in him because of his word, 42and they said to the woman, “We no longer believe because of your word; for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the savior of the world.”
One of the classic expressions of our human longing for God occurs in the Confessions of St Augustine. Towards the beginning of this work, Augustine wrote: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you”. He was speaking of our thirst for God, but there is also a thirst that God has for each one of us, a longing to be received by us, and Christ gave expression to this longing when he met the Samaritan woman. “So ardently did he thirst for her faith, that he kindled in her the fire of divine love.”
The thirst of Christ is the thirst of the One who is closest to the Father’s heart, who knows from experience what it means for God to be burning with infinite love for us. So strong is his love for us, that Augustine’s saying can be reversed and applied to God: God has made us for himself, and his heart is restless until it rests in us. Each of us is a unique resting place for God, and he can only come to rest in us when we have faith and confidence in his love for us, and when we have made him the great love of our lives.
Already in today’s reading from Exodus, there is a hint that God thirsts for us, that he longs to give himself to us. We are told that the people were suffering from thirst, a deeply felt need that could be satisfied by only one thing, something to drink. It was a human need for a physical thing, water, but since we are made in the image and likeness of God, it suggests that there is something in God that thirsts for each one of us, something that longs to find the uniquely personal faith and love that only we can give.
God invites Moses to make an act of faith that God still loves his people, even when he lets them suffer from thirst. He tells Moses that he will be standing on the rock, and if Moses will strike the rock, water will flow. Moses responds with confidence in God. He strikes the rock, and two things happen:
– the people slake their thirst with the water that flowed from the rock.
– and we who listen with faith get an insight into the very heart of God.
Exodus tells us that God was standing on the rock. St Paul tells us that this Rock that the people drank from was Christ (1 Cor 10:4). And St John in another part of his Gospel adds that “out of his heart will flow rivers of living water. Now he said this about the Spirit” (John 7:38-39). So already in the Old Testament reading, the Christian believer sees an image of the triune God giving himself to us in love: God stands on the rock, the rock represents Christ, and the water from the rock represents the Spirit, which would be poured out on all believers. God’s heart is restless: he is forever flowing with living water, looking for the resting place that he has made for himself, in each one of us.
In the Gospel, God shows how much he cares for each particular resting place that he has made for himself. He so loved the woman of Samaria that he gave his only Son to do for her what he had done for the people in the desert. They were thirsty, and he gave them water to drink, the same kind of water that could be found in Jacob’s well. The Samaritan woman had a thirst of a different kind. She had a longing to give her whole heart to someone who would understand her, who would know everything she had ever done, and yet still find it possible to love her. She had already looked for understanding from five different people and was now looking for it from a sixth, but no human being could satisfy this thirst, because it was a thirst of the soul, a longing for God.
Jesus recognizes this thirst and offers to give her water that will turn into a spring inside her, welling up to eternal life. Her past is no obstacle to receiving the living water. All Jesus looks for from her is a faith like Moses, a faith to ask for the living water flowing no longer from a rock, but from the human heart of Christ, the only human being who could satisfy her thirst for God.
Each of us here is dearer to God than the Samaritan woman. She could not receive the fullness of the Spirit, because Jesus had not yet been glorified. But we have proof that God loves us in spite of everything we’ve ever done because we know that Christ died for us while we were still sinners. When we were baptized into his death, the love of God was poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit which was given to us. God’s living water, the Holy Spirit, found the resting place that he had made for himself in our heart.
If at Holy Communion you hear his voice, harden not your heart. Come before him, giving thanks that he knows everything you’ve ever done, and loves you with the fullness of his three-Personed love. Rejoice that you need him, that you can offer him a resting place in your heart. And no longer let your heart be restless: you have found forgiveness and understanding in the compassionate heart of our God.
Fr. Justin Litsec, OCSO
Quote from a Saint: “The reason for our existence is to quench the thirst of Jesus. When he asked for water, the soldier gave him vinegar to drink—but his thirst was for love, for souls, for you and me.”-St. Teresa of Calcutta
Prayer: “O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water."—Psalm 63:1
Questions for Reflection:
In what ways do you see people thirsting for God? What happens when they try to quench this thirst with something other than Him? What happens when they pursue Him?
How do you spend your time, money, and energy? Do these things bring lasting satisfaction or temporary pleasure?
Had you ever considered that God thirsts for the people He created? If not, does this change how you think of God? What does this longing of God for His creation show about the nature our relationship to Him?
In what ways have you found yourself restless because you are not resting in God?
Consider that God knows all that you have ever done and “loves you with the fullness of his three-Personed love.” How does this unconditional love help you to find rest?
Do you ever doubt that God forgives your past sins? How can you move past this doubt?
Does reflecting on Jesus’ conversation with the woman at the well affirm that His forgiveness is open to all, no matter their past?
What do you thirst for? Is it in line with God’s plan for life? If not, what will you do about it?
How can you rejoice that you need God? Does it make you uncomfortable to need someone other than yourself? Reflect on how if can be a comfort to need God and to rely on Him.
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 615: Fear is the Inner Tyrant : A Reflection on The Parable of the Tenants. (Matthew 21:33 - 43, 45 - 46)
33 “Hear another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a hedge around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a tower. Then he leased it to tenants and went on a journey.
34 When vintage time drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to obtain his produce.
35 But the tenants seized the servants and one they beat, another they killed, and a third they stoned. 36 Again he sent other servants, more numerous than the first ones, but they treated them in the same way.
37 Finally, he sent his son to them, thinking, ‘They will respect my son.’ 38 But when the tenants saw the son, they said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.’ 39 They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him.
40 What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?”
41 They answered him, “He will put those wretched men to a wretched death and lease his vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the proper times.”
42 Jesus said to them, “Did you never read in the scriptures: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; by the Lord has this been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes’?
43 Therefore, I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.
45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they knew that he was speaking about them.
46 And although they were attempting to arrest him, they feared the crowds, for they regarded him as a prophet.
The enemies listened to Jesus’ parable but hardly with receptive hearts and when Jesus spoke so pointedly to them “Therefore, I say to you, the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit” - certainly their contempt and hatred for Jesus increased.
As for the chief priests and Pharisees, St. Matthew recounts: “And although they were attempting to arrest Him, they feared the crowds, for they regarded Him as a prophet.” It is a damning statement “they feared the crowds” - not God because they thought they had God in their pocket - they were special, above the common folk but they feared for their own necks, their reputation, power. Their fear had to do with self-love, self-idolatry; a fear had nothing to do with righteousness, with honesty, openness, with love…or with God.
Fear can be a nameless tyrant - directing choices, giving advice, keeping one in a kind of prison that blinds and deafens one to reality, to truth, to God. We all have fears - some minor and some major. Sometimes in the course of a confession or a spiritual conversation, this question might arise: what do you fear? What is at the base of your struggles, your sin? Such questions often stop people in their tracks because they never thought to go deeper, to reﬂect on choices, sins. To go through life under the power, the inﬂuence of fear - the inner tyrant - enslaves and can even exhaust one. What the Lord desires for us is the grace of freedom, true freedom to believe, to hope, to love in the most important relationship one can have - caught up in God’s love, mercy, intimacy.
Lent is a gift of God; we are given this holy season to seriously look to and act upon repentance - not just giving up this or that - but much more importantly - what is at the bottom of my negativity, for example, or my selﬁshness, my dishonesty? A serious Lenten prayer might be: “Lord, that I may see so I can know and love You better - Lord, that I can and will see because I know that fear keeps me from You.” It is a cry of poverty, inner poverty, and the Lord hears the cry of the poor - we are truly blessed to know that our God has a preference for the poor, for us.
Fr. John Denburger, OCSO
Quote from a Saint: “Do not fear what may happen tomorrow. The same loving Father who cares for you today will care for you tomorrow and every day. Either He will shield you from suffering, or He will give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace, then, and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginings.” – St. Francis de Sales
Prayer: “Let nothing disturb you, Let nothing frighten you, All things are passing away: God never changes. Patience obtains all things. Whoever has God lacks nothing; God alone suffices.” -- St. Teresa of Avila
Questions for Reflection:
The Pharisees did not stand up to Jesus for fear of the crowd. What does that show about their priorities? How do you see yourself or others doing the same thing in our day?
Have you ever taken a deeper look at what you fear and why? Have you considered its influence on your life?
Reflect on the passage: “To go through life under the power, the inﬂuence of fear - the inner tyrant - enslaves and can even exhaust one.” Have you ever considered the effect that fear has on a person’s life? What do you think about fear being “the inner tyrant”? How could fear be enslaving and exhausting?
How can one become free of fear through Jesus? What changes would you expect to see in that person’s life?
If one was free from fear what spiritual changes and opportunities could that lead to?
What can be some of the root causes of negativity in a person’s life? In your life? In what ways can inner poverty lead to conquering this negativity?
How can getting rid of fear lead us to know and love God better?
How can we make sure that we are the “people that will produce its fruit”? How can we use the examples of the lives of the saints to make sure that our lives produce fruit?
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 614: Trust in God: A Reflection on the Book of Esther (Esther C: 12, 14 – 16, 23 – 25)
12 Queen Esther, seized with mortal anguish, had recourse to the LORD.
14 She lay prostrate upon the ground, together with her handmaids, from morning until evening, and said: "God of Abraham, God of Isaac, and God of Jacob, blessed are you. Help me, who am alone and have no help but you, 15 for I am taking my life in my hand.
16 As a child I used to hear from the books of my forefathers that you, O LORD, always free those who are pleasing to you. Now help me, who am alone and have no one but you, O LORD, my God.
23 "And now, come to help me, an orphan. 24 Put in my mouth persuasive words in the presence of the lion and turn his heart to hatred for our enemy, so that he and those who are in league with him may perish.
25 Save us from the hand of our enemies; turn our mourning into gladness and our sorrows into wholeness."
Chapter 11 of the Letter to the Hebrews begins: “Faith is conﬁdent assurance concerning what we hope for and conviction about things we do not see.” There are things we do not see with our physical eyes but can see with the eyes of the heart, eyes of faith. In the most terrible, painful, devastating happenings, not denying those realities, one can see, be convinced of, some hidden good without knowing what that good might come to be – in fact, often surprised when it ultimately comes to light – of course, it does involve listening and then acceptance on our part and that might take time.
Queen Esther knew that there were plans to annihilate her Jewish people and so she and her handmaids prayed, “Save us from the hand of our enemies; turn our mourning into gladness and our sorrows into wholeness.” In that petition no despair, no futility is expressed, only trust and belief in God’s goodness. He has the power to give life, to grant light and peace without necessarily changing the circumstances. Esther believed it and made it her prayer.
Isn’t this what happened at Calvary? First, there was His horrendous, inhuman death – the grief of His mother and those with her – the confusion of His disciples and then there was the incomprehensible joy of His Resurrection and appearances. From the evil victory of His enemies, from the darkness of His death came Light, unconquerable Light – Our Lord Jesus Christ – The Resurrection and the Life!”
Jesus tells us: “Ask and it will be given to you, seek, knock”…for you will receive, will ﬁnd and the door will be opened. The loss, the pain, the sorrow might remain and often does but there can be the gift of inner peace, of a deeper faith, a discovery of hope, of love, a healing of woundedness, even of gratitude – the gifts are miracles of grace that do happen and countless people can witness to these. For the conviction to look deeper is our faith life.
In the Book of Sirach, the author shares his wisdom: “Wait on God with patience, cling to Him…Accept whatever befalls you, when sorrowful be steadfast, in crushing misfortune be patient…Trust God and God will help you; trust in Him! (Sirach 2: 1 – 11)
Fr. John Denburger, OCSO
Quote from a Saint: “Lay all your cares about the future trustingly in God’s hands, and let yourself be guided by the Lord just like a little child.” Saint Edith Stein
Prayer: “Father, I am seeking: I am hesitant and uncertain, but will you, O God, watch over each step of mine and guide me.”--Saint Augustine
Questions for Reflection:
Queen Esther put all her trust in the Lord when she was most in need. Do you do this in times of trial? Do you depend on God’s strength even when it is a hard thing to do?
Esther is about to go into the presence of the King uninvited and there is a great possibility that he will have her killed for it. Despite this, we do not see her begging for her life in her prayer. What does that show about her relationship with God? To the Jewish people?
In what ways does Esther’s prayer show patience and hope in God?
How can you use Esther’s example of prayer in your own prayer life?
Have you ever asked God for the right words to say in a difficult situation? If so, what happened?
Esther did not pray alone. “She lay prostrate upon the ground, together with her handmaids.” How does prayer and fasting in community bolster personal prayer?
How do you prepare to do God’s will when it isn’t easy? Have you ever fasted? Why? With what result?
How does Jesus, during His passion, show this same trust and patience in God?
Jesus says, “Ask and it will be given to you, seek, knock…” How does this happen through prayer?
Have there been times where you have seen prayers not answered in the way expected but still peace followed?
How do you find comfort in God’s ultimate sovereignty?
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 613: Listening to the Holy Spirit: A Reflection on Lent and the Gospel of Matthew (Matthew 4:1-11)
1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. 2 He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was hungry. 3 The tempter approached and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread.” 4 He said in reply, “It is written ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.’”
5 Then the devil took him to the holy city, and made him stand on the parapet of the temple, 6 and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you’ and ‘with their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.’”
7 Jesus answered him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.’” 8 Then the devil took him up to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence, 9 and he said to him, “All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.”
10 At this, Jesus said to him, “Get away, Satan! It is written: ‘The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.’” 11 Then the devil left him and, behold, angels came and ministered to him.
We tend to think of temptation in terms of will-power. For Lent, we resolve to do or give up something, to take on some practice that aligns with our ideas about what might be spiritually good for us…
If we’re disinclined to stay with it at some point, we stir ourselves up to push through or berate ourselves if we fall. To “prepare ourselves for trials” means to work ourselves up into a froth of effort and spiritual ambition. But this doesn’t really have much to do with the gospel.
In fact in a passage concerning the need to follow the Spirit rather than our own arbitrary plans, that great classic of the spiritual life, Abandonment to Divine Providence states simply: “Conscious effort is directly contrary to inspired action: this only comes through peace and serenity.”
When we are aligned with the Spirit the right action arises with a sense of inevitability. It may then require strenuous work but there’s no real question of doing otherwise.
The heart of the gospel is trust. Jesus preaches about trust more than any other subject, and demonstrates the deepest possible trust in going to the cross, when he says like Job, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.”
The heart of the gospel is trust because the heart of the passions and so the root of temptation is fear. Fear that we are not really children of God, fear that we’ll be abandoned.
Satan challenges Jesus: “IF you are the Son of God…” he sows doubt, demands proof, and invites presumption.
Jesus is hungry and alone in the wilderness. Satan touches the fear that Jesus is not the son, that God will not provide. His extreme physical hunger adds urgency to the temptation to provide for himself instead of waiting on God.
Instead Jesus “overaccepts” the challenge, as though to say, “Yes, I am a weak creature and very hungry, but I am a human being and have a still deeper hunger for the bread of God’s word. And I already have this bread in abundance, it is on my lips and in my heart…”
From tempting him to not trust the devil shifts to enticing Jesus to reckless presumption: “Throw yourself down!” But Jesus leaves God free and will not put him to the test. On the cross, he will embrace death and be raised up but in God’s time and way, when his mission has reached its ripeness. Jesus waits on God and refuses to run ahead in an attempt to assuage his own fear.
In the third temptation, Satan again changes tactics. He reveals to Jesus the extent of his influence: how all the kingdoms of the earth are within his power. Jesus must trust that God is still God, despite his seeming absence in the face of evil.
“Conscious effort is directly contrary to inspired action: this only comes through peace and serenity.” Jesus goes into the desert not because he thinks he ought to do a little spiritual weight-lifting but because he is driven by the Spirit. His responses to temptation are “inspired action” and flow from trust, waiting, and acceptance, not will-power.
On Tuesday we read the beautiful text from Sirach, “When you come to serve the Lord…prepare yourself for trials.” At its root, the trial concerns whether we trust God or give into fear.
Sirach invites us to the kind of radical equanimity Jesus models: “incline your ear and receive the word of understanding, undisturbed in time of adversity…Wait on God; accept whatever befalls you and be patient; trust God and God will help you…trust in him and he will direct your way.”
It’s not that God doesn’t help us if we fail to trust but the more we trust the more we open ourselves to receive and savor his peace and guidance.
So this Lent instead of focusing on giving up or taking on this or that we could really listen for the voice of the Lord day by day. That’s the reason after all that we step into the desert, reduce the distraction and stimulation in our everyday lives. Not as an end in itself, but to better hear and respond to his voice.
If we really simplify our lives and move into the desert, then before long our fears will surface. In God’s time and way, we’ll be stretched and challenged to grow in trust. We’re not alone in this desert struggle. In the eucharist this morning Jesus shares with us his own spirit of trust and gives us courage to face whatever temptations await us this Lent.
Fr. Isaac Slater, OCSO
Quote from a Saint: “Lent is a time for us to empty ourselves of worldly distractions and allow God to fill us with His love, His grace, and His peace.” St. Teresa of Calcutta
Prayer: Almighty, ever-living God, make us ever obey you willingly and promptly. Teach us how to serve you
with sincere and upright hearts in every sphere of life. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Questions for Reflection:
In your spiritual practices, do you find yourself rigidly following those plans that you have come up with or do you listen to the will of the Holy Spirit? What happens when you follow your own plans? How can you tell if your plans align with His?
How do you react when you fail at maintaining your Lenten discipline or other spiritual practices? Do you consider that you might be forcing a practice that is not in line with the how the Holy Spirit would direct you? How can you tell if you need to practice better willpower versus the Holy Spirit directing you somewhere else?
Reflect on this passage: “Conscious effort is directly contrary to inspired action: this only comes through peace and serenity.” Have you ever found that your planned efforts lead to stress or disappointment? What times in your life have you found that listening and following God’s will has worked out better and led to greater peace?
Just because something is difficult does not mean that you should not do it. How to you discern between the human tendency to give up when things are difficult versus not forcing a spiritual practice? Do you have someone, like a spiritual director, priest, etc. who can guide you?
When we follow God’s plan it may lead to trials. What trials have you endured for the sake of God? What trials have we seen others endure for His sake?
How can you still have peace and serenity in times of trial? What role does patience play in times of adversity?
Do you ever feel that you are alone in this desert struggle? What can you do to feel the accompaniment of God in your journey? How can the sacraments help alleviate this loneliness?
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 612: The Transfiguration: A Reflection on the Gospel of Mark (Mark 9: 2-13)
2 After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, 3 and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them.
4 Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses, and they were conversing with Jesus.
5 Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here! Let us make three tents: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
6 He hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified.
7 Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them; then from the cloud came a voice, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.”
8 Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone but Jesus alone with them.
9 As they were coming down from the mountain, he charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone, except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead.
10 So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what rising from the dead meant.
11 Then they asked him, “Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?”
12 He told them, “Elijah will indeed come first and restore all things, yet how is it written regarding the Son of Man that he must suffer greatly and be treated with contempt?
13 But I tell you that Elijah has come and they did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written of him.”
“Jesus took Peter, James, and John and led them up a high mountain, apart by themselves. And He was transﬁgured before them.” I believe for this to happen Jesus sensed a movement, a call in His heart – the Spirit of the Father was upon Him. He perceived that something was coming, something special from His Father. “He was transﬁgured” – notice the “was” – Jesus did not transﬁgure Himself – He received this from His Father as an extravagant affirmation of love, as a conﬁrmation of His life which will end “in great suffering, in great contempt” – Jesus’ own words.
This transﬁguration, a manifestation of awesome splendor, of unspeakable glory enveloped the three disciples, the ones closest to Jesus’ heart. Peter speaks but confusedly because they were terriﬁed and then it was over. “Suddenly looking around, the disciples no longer saw anyone but Jesus alone with them” and they were sworn to secrecy by Jesus Himself.
Let us recall another scene – a garden where Jesus is assaulted, taken prisoner, led away. There Peter reacts with a sword in hand and then disappears. Later he is confronted by a maidservant of being with Jesus which Peter strongly – the very Jesus he saw transﬁgured. An intense experience of grace on a high mountain and then sometime later a threefold denial – a fear ﬁlled reply “I do not know the man!”
“All scripture is inspired of God and useful for teaching – for reproof, correction and training in holiness.” (1 Tim 3: 16) What might this passage teach us on our own journey to holiness? Because of God’s goodness and love, we too can have an intense experience of grace, of God’s presence – in Holy Communion, at Mass, at prayer, anywhere at any time, and then fail in some way. It happens – in life no one is exempt.
We are very aware that we do not become Christians, believers, monks in an instant; it is a journey of becoming – a life-long journey. Experiences of grace do not take away our humanness infected with original sin. Grace can move us along to grow stronger despite our sinfulness, i.e., if we desire that strength, conviction to move on.
Like Peter, we can be lifted up and like him we can fall down yet there is always our Jesus, the merciful Lord. After the Resurrection Jesus appeared to Peter and called him to love three times “Peter, do you love Me? Feed My sheep!” – a call to personal mission and the gift of personal forgiveness – imagine Peter deeply moved, perhaps in tears.
As with Peter, so with us, Jesus is always our merciful Lord “yesterday, today, and forever.” His words “I am with you always” stand as our source of peace, our hope, our permission to self-forgiveness and continue on. Pope Benedict XVI wrote, “He gives ﬁrmness to our inﬁrmity” – truth and beauty found in these words.
Jesus’ love is inﬁnitely greater than any failing on our part – inﬁnitely! Therefore, we are always people of hope and hopefully, becoming His brothers and sisters – more and more by the grace of desire until the “more” becomes perfect in heaven.
Quote from a Saint: "At his Transfiguration, Christ showed his disciples the splendour of his beauty, to which he will shape and colour those who are his." - St. Thomas Aquinas
Prayer: Lord, may I see Your glory and the glory that You have bestowed upon my own soul. May my eyes forever remain fixed on that grace. May I see You and Your glory especially in difficult times. Jesus, I trust in You.
Questions for Reflection:
Put yourself in the place of one of the apostles in this scene. Jesus has invited you to go away with him to a secluded place. You think it is, perhaps, to pray or receive special instruction. Instead, you witness the transfiguration. How would this change your outlook on life? Remember, Peter still denied Jesus three times even after experiencing this.
Peter is shown as being terrified multiple times throughout the Gospels, even to the point of denying Jesus. Have you ever found yourself denying the truth out of fear? How did you rebound from this? How can you use these past experiences to strengthen your resolve in the future?
The spiritual life is a journey. How does your current spiritual life differ from how it was in the past? Are you moving forward or are you struggling to proceed? In what ways do you measure your progress?
What “tools” do you use on your spiritual journey? In what ways have they helped you to progress? What “tools” would you like to try but have not? How do the sacraments help you to experience God’s grace?
“All scripture is inspired of God and useful for teaching – for reproof, correction and training in holiness.” (1 Tim 3: 16) Have you ever had someone provide fraternal correction in your spiritual journey? If so, how did you handle it?
Have you ever provided fraternal correction to others? If so, how did it make you feel? Are there people around you that need to be corrected? How can you share the truth of Christ in a way that reflects Christ’s love?
Since scripture is so useful for teaching, do you feel that you study scripture enough to use it in this way? How often do you read scripture? In what other ways could you incorporate the reading and study of scripture into your daily life?
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 611: Pay Attention to Learn God’s Plan: A Reflection on the Book of Genesis (Genesis 11: 1-9)
1 The whole world had the same language and the same words.
2 When they were migrating from the east, they came to a valley in the land of Shinar and settled there.
3 They said to one another, “Come, let us mold bricks and harden them with fire.” They used bricks for stone, and bitumen for mortar.
4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the sky, and so make a name for ourselves; otherwise we shall be scattered all over the earth.”
5 The LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the people had built.
6 Then the LORD said: If now, while they are one people and all have the same language, they have started to do this, nothing they presume to do will be out of their reach.
7 Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that no one will understand the speech of another.
8 So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city.
9 That is why it was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the speech of all the world. From there the LORD scattered them over all the earth.
“The Lord came down to see the city and the tower that they had built. (Gen. 11:5). It is interesting to read how God descended from his heavenly realm to check out his creatures’ building project. It is reminiscent of His strolling in the garden (CF. Gen 3:8). Unlike Adam and Eve, the people did not run and hide. They just kept going about their business, indifferent to his presence. While they were of one mind with each other, they were not of one heart with the Master of the Universe. When there is no union with the Creator and Sustainer of life there can be no communion among men. The storyline is similar to that of the road to Emmaus, the Master of the Universe was with them, but “they did recognize him” (Lk. 24:16).
God is just and fair in all that he does. His mercy is everlasting. The prophet Isaiah states it quite nicely. “I was ready to answer, but no one asked for help. I was ready to be found, but no one looked for me” (Is. 65:1). The tower builders wanted to ascend the heights but had no desire to worship the divine majesty. They were so intent on their designs that they did not apply themselves to the plans of the Master of the Universe. They were so distracted by their chatter that they could not pay attention to the approach of God in their midst. God patiently waited and watched. In a stroke, he transformed their endless chatter into unintelligible sounds. Those who did not listen to the One in whose image they were made could no longer understand each other. God in his mercy stopped their self-destructive project and set them on a journey that would enable them to discover their need for each other in Him.
Their language was confounded and as a consequence, we who are their descendants find it challenging and often impossible to communicate with one other. But all is not lost. God in his compassionate love has sent his son into the world. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens to door, I will come in, and share a meal with him and he with me as friends” (Rev. 3:20). It is the Lord’s heartfelt desire that all people, even though they have been scattered to the ends of the earth should be one with him as he is one with the father (CF Jn.17:21). God does for us what we cannot do for ourselves. Like the prophet Elijah, we need to listen for God’s gentle, small voice (CF. 1 Kings 19:12). Then having heard his voice, we need to go out and meet him, welcoming him into the innermost recesses of our hearts.
The true disciple hears the Lord call his name, takes up his cross, and follows the Master wherever he goes. The true disciple lets go of his plans and then strives to make God’s plan his own. Only when we immerse ourselves in the communion of Love that is the Trinity, will we have the wisdom we need to build a human society founded on justice, hope, and peace. Pope Francis said it most beautifully, “Let us remember this: if we put the Beatitudes into practice if we embody the wisdom of Jesus, we will give savor not only to our own lives but also to the life of society and of the country in which we live.”
Fr. Jerome Machar, OCSO
Quote from a Saint: “The goal of all our undertakings should be not so much a task perfectly completed as the accomplishment of the will of God.” --St Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face
Prayer: Lord, teach me how to quiet the things of the world so that I can truly listen for God’s small, gentle voice and learn to do Your will. Amen.
Questions for Reflection:
In what ways do you see the people of the world acting indifferent to the Lord’s presence? How can you help people to see God around us?
In what ways are you indifferent to the Lord’s presence? What can you do to be less indifferent? What are some ways that you can encounter God while on Earth?
What have you “built” in your own life that makes it difficult to hear God? To hear those around you? How can you improve your ability to hear others?
Are you able to discern God’s plan for your life? If so, are you living it out or have you ignored it?
In what ways do you connect with the Lord to know what His will is? How do you discern between what is His will and your own?
“When there is no union with the Creator and Sustainer of life there can be no communion among men.” How do you see this playing out in our society? In what ways can you see people unable to communicate with each other? What are the consequences of this?
God sent Jesus into the world in His compassion. In what ways does Jesus restore communication and communion in the world?
In what ways does the Trinity give us the wisdom to build up our society? How does the Trinity exemplify justice, hope, and peace?