Attentive to the Grandeur of God

Posted on February 16, 2016 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

For Sunday, February 21, 2016, 2nd Sunday of Lent

Photo of Transfiguration of Christ by Carl Bloch.

Oh, to be Peter, James, and John! In the company of others, they walked with Jesus, heard him teach, saw him heal and perform miracles, had dinner with him. Who wouldn’t want to have such everyday moments with the Lord? Then, in Sunday’s Gospel, we hear how they went up the mountain with Jesus, saw him transfigured before their eyes, and heard the voice of the Father. What it must have been like! No wonder Peter asked to build tents for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. Who wouldn’t want to simply stay and soak it in?

Have you ever wished that God would suddenly appear to you, alleviating doubt, giving you direction, providing courage to live selflessly as a person of faith? Most of the time, knowing that God is with us is enough. We spend a little time in prayer, maybe occasionally read a passage from the Bible, or offer some time in service, and all seems fine. Then, something happens. An illness is detected, a family member is in crisis, a job is uncertain or is ended, and we suddenly wish God would simply appear and tell us what to do. Or, an unsettled feeling takes hold and we just cannot figure out how to shake it. The news is filled with stories of tension, violence, and suffering; we wonder how to respond. It is easy enough to say that God is with us, we might think to ourselves, yet far harder to live with faith during such challenging times.

The truth is, even after Peter, James, and John saw Jesus transfigured in front of their very eyes and heard God’s voice, they still struggled, were uncertain, and turned away. It is unlikely that we would respond differently. Manifestations of God’s power and glory would quickly fade in our memories and we would be back to our routines, mundane and self-centered though they might be.

Perhaps we need to think about this in a different way. Like Peter, James, and John, we can walk with Jesus every day, especially in those moments when life is challenging and difficult. We may not physically hear the voice of the Father, but we do hear God’s voice in the words of sacred Scripture, especially during the Liturgy of the Word. Not only do we dine with the Lord at Mass, we receive his body and blood! In The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis encourages us to be open to an encounter, or a renewed encounter with the love of Christ, daily (EG, 3). Such encounters may not be as rare as we think. God is always with us. Christ offers us mercy, love, forgiveness; the Holy Spirit strengthens, guides, and gives us wisdom. All of these blessings are simply waiting to be accepted and lived out, much as the Father waited for the return of the prodigal son.

The difference in this way of thinking comes down to attentiveness. When we pay attention, we see God’s magnificence with our own eyes and hear God’s voice with our own ears. Through encounters with others and with all of creation, we are led to that encounter with God’s love that changes us. We may be drawn to reflect on God’s power and glory through scientific discoveries, such as the detection of gravitational waves by scientists this past week, a phenomenon that had been predicted by Albert Einstein but only confirmed through recent technological breakthroughs. Or, we may be inspired by the actions of others, like the Muslims who tweeted their plans to stand in solidarity with Christians this Lent. We may perceive God’s presence with us during prayer, be struck by the mystery of Christ’s love in the Eucharist, or be prompted to reach out to others in service through the witness of those who have done so in the past, or are doing so now—saints or saints-in-the-making. When we become attentive, life is transformed, transfigured. In the words of Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, “the world is charged with the grandeur of God.”

Peter, James, and John encountered the transfigured Christ on the mountain. No doubt, that experience stayed with them long after Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection. They glimpsed the grandeur of God, and through the power of the Holy Spirit, responded through their actions, as witnesses and servants who stood firm in the Lord. How will we respond to the transforming grace of God in our lives? How will our attitudes and actions be transfigured by the love of Christ? How will we share Christ’s mercy and compassion, as a reflection of that which has been shown to us? These are important things for us to consider this second week of Lent, and throughout our lives as Christian disciples.

Leisa Anslinger

PRAYER

Gracious and merciful God,
in whose presence and love we dwell,
open our hearts and minds to your love in our midst.
Lead us to encounter you through the beauty of creation
and the loving, just, and peaceful actions of others.
Then, aware of your being with and among us,
transform and strengthen us to share your love
as your sons and daughters, disciples of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.
We pray through Christ, who is one with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever.
Amen.

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February 16 – First Tuesday of Lent

Posted on February 16, 2016 by - Lent Reflections

livingWordToday’s Gospel

“So shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; It shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.(Isa 55:11).

Daily Lent Reflection

The Isaiah reading describes the Hebrew concept of Dabhar, the creative energy of God which makes things happen. The creation story is a good example, where God created the universe just by saying “Let there be…”

The ultimate Word of God is of course his son Jesus, the Living Word. The gospel reading takes up the theme of the use of words, this time in the verbalising of prayer. The Lord’s advice is that we should live out our prayer in doing good to others so that the words are not “empty babble.”

Daily Lent Challenge

Today I will try today to be conscious today of how I use my words – in my conversations and exchanges with others, and in my prayer.

Teresa Keogh, Archdiocese of Southwark

Snow Day Stewardship

Posted on February 15, 2016 by - Everyday Stewardship

If you live a part of the world where snow falls at least occasionally in the winter, you probably have experienced the event of a snow day. Schools are cancelled, the government is shut down, and some businesses are closed. In some parts of the world, like here in North Carolina, even two inches can be a reason for panic as everyone rushes to the store before the impending doom of a blanket of white stuff.

But when you think about it, Mother Nature has really provided you with something we often say is in short supply: time.

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February 15 – First Monday of Lent

Posted on February 15, 2016 by - Lent Reflections

beHolyToday’s Gospel

‘Be holy, for I, the LORD, your God, am holy,’ (Lev 19:2).

Daily Lent Reflection

Today’s readings sum up what service to God is about. The Book of Leviticus offers detailed rules which govern the lives of the faithful followers of the Lord; but ultimately, the supreme rule is to “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

In the Gospel reading, the consequences of not seeing God in the weakest and most vulnerable are starkly portrayed in the account of the Final Judgment.  So we are reminded that Lent is not a time for being focused on our own pious practice and feeling justified and self-righteous. Instead, it is about serving God in other people: in this way we will be “holy as the Lord God is holy.”

Daily Lent Challenge

Today I will look for opportunities to serve God in others, without them noticing.

Teresa Keogh, Archdiocese of Southwark

February 14 – First Sunday of Lent

Posted on February 14, 2016 by - Lent Reflections

spiritLedToday’s Gospel

“Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit through the wilderness, being tempted there by the devil for forty days, (Luke 4:1-2).”

Daily Lent Reflection

Our Sunday Lent readings this year begin with an account of Jesus’ time being tested.  Luke tells us that Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness where he was tempted by Satan. However, Jesus did not rely on his own human strength to overcome temptation. He relied on the Holy Spirit to give him strength, wisdom, courage, and self-control. We too are given the Holy Spirit to help us in our weakness and to be our guide in times of testing.

Daily Lent Challenge

Today, I strive to become aware of the choices I make, both small and large, and reflect on my reasons for making them. Am I acting in line with my faith and seeking help from the Holy Spirit, or am I being tempted?

Teresa Keogh, Archdiocese of Southwark

February 13 – Saturday after Ash Wednesday

Posted on February 13, 2016 by - Lent Reflections

followMeToday’s Gospel

‘Follow me,(Luke 5:27).

Daily Lent Reflection

In today’s gospel we hear the call of Matthew; he is called to be a disciple of Jesus.  Matthew is sitting in the customs house and Jesus approaches him and says ‘Follow me’.  These words change Matthew’s life.  But this call is not just something that happened to Matthew: it is a call to each one of us, and it is a call each day. 

Lent is a very good time to take stock and almost conduct an audit of our lives.

Daily Lent Challenge

Today I will reflect on what parts of my life I need to leave behind to follow Jesus more faithfully.

Teresa Keogh, Archdiocese of Southwark

It’s a Friday in Lent, So Why Do I Crave a Hamburger?

Posted on February 12, 2016 by - Everyday Stewardship

burgerYou know, there really aren’t that many Fridays in Lent, so you would think not eating meat for us Catholics would be no big deal. But every year there are people asking things like, “Can I order a pepperoni pizza at midnight?”

I remember being in college, a Catholic college mind you, and at midnight some guys ripping into a can of meat ravioli. The crazy thing is no one should ever be craving canned meat ravioli in the first place!

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February 12 – Friday after Ash Wednesday

Posted on February 12, 2016 by - Lent Reflections

actWithIntegrityToday’s Gospel

“Your vindication (integrity) shall go before you, and the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard, (Isa 58:8).”

Daily Lent Reflection

We are called to act with integrity in all aspects of our lives – and we all have the potential to stray from this. Integrity is mentioned many times in Scripture and it is both a private and a public matter. These lines of Scripture come immediately after the value of fasting – something traditional in Lenten observance. The image we are offered is one where we hold our personal integrity before us in the knowledge that ‘the glory of the Lord is behind us’. We are almost ‘sandwiched’ between these two callings.

Daily Lent Challenge

Today I will examine my life to determine if there is anything I need to fast from in order to act with integrity. I will also meditate on today’s reading to see if it aligns with the way I lead my life.

Teresa Keogh, Archdiocese of Southwark

February 11 – Thursday After Ash Wednesday

Posted on February 11, 2016 by - Lent Reflections

chooseLifeToday’s Gospel

“I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, (Deut 30:19).”

Daily Lent Reflection

Today we are challenged with a choice – life or death. We might be tempted not to engage with something so stark. Perhaps it is easier to see life and death as either a drawing towards or a drawing away from God. God leaves us free to make that choice.

Daily Lent Challenge

Today I will reflect on what makes me most alive and draws me to God. I will always meditate on what gets in the way of me making the choice to live each day to the fullest and see it as a blessing from God.

Teresa Keogh, Archdiocese of Southwark