Second Sunday of Lent
In the first reading for this Sunday’s Liturgy, we read about Abraham’s “giant leap of faith and trust” in God who calls him from his homeland to become the father of all nations. In return God promised him his blessing and to make his name great. Abraham’s faith in following God’s call signals a new era of salvation in which God would give life to his people. Abraham’s transfiguration, his conversion, and all the good that came from it, reminds us of the necessity of our own faith and trust in God that will bring transfiguration for us as well.
Our Gospel for this Second Sunday of Lent narrates Matthew’s account of the transfiguration of Jesus. This Gospel is read several times a year in the Liturgy and it is an important one for all of us. It is particularly a good Gospel for the Lenten Season because it reminds us of the necessity of transforming our own lives from the self- centeredness and selfishness that is typical of all of us. You know, the old, “It’s all about me.” syndrome.
I was reading a little blurb on Lent a while back in which the author maintained that Lent should lead us all to compunction. I knew compunction had something to do with guilt and when I looked it up, I saw the definition given: “anxiety caused by guilt.” But then I noticed the etymology of the word compunction and realized what this author was talking about. It comes from the Latin cum-pungere which means to puncture, to make a hole in, to deflate, to let the air out. Then I agreed that Lent should lead us to compunction. All of us, I believe, need to let the air out of ourselves, deflate ourselves, be humble, realize who and what we really are.
The Gospel for Ash Wednesday is really all about being humble, getting rid of our pride. We are not supposed to give alms, pray and fast so others will see us and think how wonderful we are. Rather we are to do these things in secret so our Father who sees in secret will reward us. The Bible of AA, the Big Book, touches more than once on this very point. It tells the alcoholic that if they wish to have quality sobriety, lasting sobriety, they must “deflate themselves in depth.” An alcoholic was once defined by someone as an egomaniac with an inferiority complex. The egomaniac part has to go.
The egomaniac has to go in all of us. It is not all about me. It is all about service to God and neighbor. This is why Isaiah insists that the kind of fasting God wishes us to do is giving food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, clothing to the naked, and to visit the sick and those in prison. These go to make up the so-called corporal works of mercy. There are also the corresponding spiritual works of mercy. In performing these works, we are loving and serving both God and our neighbor. And this is compunction, deflating ourselves, letting the air of pride out. Indeed, this is what Lent is all about and how we are transfigured.
MONDAY of the Second Week of Lent
Didn’t you just love it when you went to a bakery, bought a dozen doughnuts, and then when you got home you found 13 doughnuts in the bag? I wonder if they still do that? We called this the “Bakers Dozen.” And this is kind of how God is with us. The Gospel for today tells us: “Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.” Another way of stating the Golden Rule.
The funny part about all of this is that it works just the way it says in the Gospel. We have probably all experienced this. Each of us at some time in our lives has given something or done something for another that we really had to sacrifice to give or do. And later on, it would come back to us in the form of someone else helping us. We see this at the Retreat House. We’ll send a donation to someone instead of using the money for something we wanted and then someone will donate whatever it was we were saving the money for in the first place. Our God of the baker’s dozen is a gracious God.
TUESDAY of the Second Week of Lent
“The greatest among you must be your servant.”
Service is another one of the elements that is very important in being a Christian and certainly should be reflected upon during the Lenten Season. Serving others is where it’s at; serving others is what life is all about. Jesus shows us the value of service on almost every page of the Gospels. This is one of the greatest lessons the Teacher taught us.
A great many people that I speak with have a real problem with their own self-esteem. For one reason or another, they think they are at the bottom of the barrel, that they cannot do anything good, that they are useless individuals. It really helps this problem if such a person can take a little time out to really look at themselves and see the wonderful gifts and talents God has given to them and then take them and use them to help others. This, along with thanking God for his gifts, produces a wonderful feeling in us, that we are really good and worthwhile. This is so important.
It is OK for us to tell ourselves how good we are and then take this goodness to help others. That is why it was given to us in the first place. And helping others gives us a good feeling about ourselves.
WEDNESDAY of the Second Week of Lent
“Whoever wishes to be great among you should be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you should be your slave.”
These words from the Gospel chosen to be read in today’s Liturgy quite simply reinforce what was said yesterday regarding service in our lives. This idea is so important that it really merits two days in a row of reflection by us. If someone joins the Church with their eye set on achieving greatness and the praise of others, he or she is barking up the wrong tree. Discipleship in Christ’s Church is all about giving, not taking, not achieving the heights of greatness.
Once again, the example for all this is found in Christ himself. He literally gave all of us all he had, including his very life. He humbled himself even to death on a cross. And that is our lot also. I am reminded of an old ejaculation taught to us by the Sisters in school. I really don’t think too much about ejaculations anymore, but in those times they were important. The one we were taught to say everyday was: “All for Thee, O Sacred Heart of Jesus.” And periodically Sister would check up on us: Did you say your, “All for Thee,” today? Ejaculations or not, it is still a good idea to keep in mind that what we are doing during the day should be done for Jesus as well as our neighbor. Once again, that is living the Great Commandment. And it brings us joy and peace.
THURSDAY of the Second Week of Lent
For the past couple days we have been speaking about service to others as one of the chief pursuits of the disciple of Christ. In today’s Gospel, we see how Divis, the name sometimes given to the rich man in this Gospel, blew it. His problem is not so much what he did, but what he didn’t do. He failed to reach out and help Lazarus, the poor man covered with sores. He failed to take this opportunity to serve his neighbor. He could have easily given him something to eat and drink and he didn’t do it. And he wasn’t very happy in the outcome of the parable.
Divis (the word means rich man in Latin) had the attitude of a selfish, rich man. He was no doubt greedy, thought only of himself, and probably wanted more of what he already had too much of. Unfortunately, there are many like this in our society today. Maybe we can, by our example, show them the right way to go, the way of love of God and our neighbor.
FRIDAY of the Second Week of Lent
The Liturgies of the Lenten Weekdays have precedence over Memorials, but give way to Feasts. So today the Church celebrates the Feast of the Chair of Peter. This Chair of Peter represents the Pope’s mission as leader of the Church, the whole of the People of God. The Chair refers to the “throne of Peter,” symbolized by the beautiful sculpture at the far end of St. Peter’s Basilica by Bernini in the 17th century. There actually is an ancient chair used by some of the early Popes encased within the sculpture. The Chair is supported or held up by four of the Great Doctors of the Church.
This whole feast, I think, is concerned with the teaching power and the well-being of the leader of the Catholic Church, the Pope or the Holy Father. It is true that some of the occupants of the Throne of Peter, including Peter himself, had their faults and failings. Some of them probably never should have been in this exalted office in the first place. But for the most part, they were good men seeking to serve God and his people. The Popes that I remember during my lifetime have been good, holy men. Popes are human too, and we must remember that. They need our prayers and support just like you and I need prayers and support. This feast today, I think, is a good reminder of that.
Let’s take the time today to say a special prayer for our Holy Father, Benedict XVI.
SATURDAY of the Second Week of Lent
All of us have favorite parables, Psalms, Gospels, etc., in the Scriptures. Today’s Gospel from Luke contains the Parable of the Lost Son, or Prodigal Son, and it is my favorite. I guess this is so because it meant so much to me in a crisis situation in my life when I needed to forgive myself and was having a lot of trouble doing so. My counselor told me to read this parable over and over and over and over again and when I finished, read it again. And it worked! The method in his madness was that if God could and did forgive me as the Father in the parable forgave the son, who was I not to forgive myself? Am I greater or more sensitive than God?
This parable, the longest in the Scriptures, is a tremendous story of love and forgiveness. There are no “I told you sos” or no-name calling or judgments by the Father toward the son. All he wanted was for him to return home. When he saw him coming, he ran to meet him, hugged and kissed him. He put a cloak on him, a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. These were signs of the son’s son-ship, of his position in the family. The son had already presumed that he had lost this: “Father, I am not worthy to be called your son,” was his prepared speech to be made to his Father. The Father would have none of this. He forgave him and returned him to his place in the family as if nothing had happened. What forgiveness! What love!
Are we having any trouble forgiving those who have hurt us or in forgiving ourselves? I believe this Parable of the Lost Son is the place to go for inspiration, consolation, and courage.