The Fourth Sunday of Lent ~ Lost in the Wonder of God’s Love ~ the story of the prodigal son

The Fourth Sunday of Lent ~ Laetare Sunday ~

The Sunday of joy halfway through Lent.  the color of the vestments is rose rather than violet–a little more festive.

Today’s Gospel is the Story of the Prodigal Son. It’s been called the greatest short story in the world.

By way of introduction to the story of the Prodigal son, our scripture scholar William Barclay tells us it was an offense to the scribes and Pharisees that Jesus associated with men and women who the orthodox Jews labeled as sinners. The Pharisees  called the people who didn’t keep the law  the People of the Land, and they kept a solid barrier between the Pharisees and ‘those’ people.

The regulations they observed were: Entrust no money to these people, take no testimony, trust no secret to them, don’t appoint them a guardian of an orphan, don’t accompany them on a journey. A Pharisee was forbidden to be a guest at such a person’s house or have them as a guest. A Pharisee was forbidden so far as possible to do business with such people. It was their deliberate aim to avoid every contact with such people who were not only outsiders but sinners. Contact with them would necessarily defile. The strict Jew said not, “There will be joy in heaven over one sinner who repents,”, but “There will be joy in heaven over one sinner who is obliterated before God. They looked forward not to the saving but to the destruction of the sinner. (Think of the story of the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11.).  (We’ll see how this applies in the in the second part of the story.)

Under Jewish law a father was not free to bequeath his property as he liked. The elder son must get two-thirds and the younger one-third (Dt. 21:17). It was unusual for a father to distribute his estate before he died.  And there’s a kind of heartless callousness in the request of the younger son. He said in effect, “Gimme my part of the estate; I’ll get it anyway when you’re dead, and get outta here.”

The father didn’t argue. He knew his son had to learn from the hard knocks of life, and he granted the request. Without delay, the son collected his share of the property and left home.

He soon ran through the money; and he wound up feeding pigs, a task forbidden to a Jew because the law said, “Cursed is he who feeds swine.”

So the son decided to come home and plead to be taken back not as a son but in the lowest rank of the slaves, the hired servants, the men who were day laborers.

He came home, and his father never gave him a chance to ask to be a servant. He broke in before that and gave him a robe that stands for honor and a ring for authority. If a man gave his signet ring to another it was the same as giving him power of attorney. And shoes for a son as opposed to a slave, for children of a family wore shoes but slaves did not.(The slaves dream in the words of the spiritual—when ‘all God’s chillun got shoes’, for shoes were a sign of freedom.)

Barclay makes several points about Jesus’ famous parable . . . .

(1) It should never have been called the parable of the prodigal son, for the son is not the hero. It should be called “the parable of the loving father,” for it tells us more about the father’s love, than a son’s sin.

(2) It tells us a great deal about the forgiveness of God. The father must have been watching and waiting for the son to come home as he saw him a long way off. When he came, he forgave him, with no recriminations.

When forgiveness is as a favor—that’s not real forgiveness. It’s even worse when someone is forgiven but always by hint or word or threat the sin is held over the person.

Once Abraham Lincoln was asked how he would treat the rebellious southerners when they were defeated and finally returned to the Union. His answer: “I will treat them as if they had never had been away.”

But this isn’t the end of the story.

Then enters the elder son who was actually sorry that his brother had come. He stands for the self-righteous Pharisees who would rather see a sinner destroyed than saved.

Barclay points out . . . .

(1) His attitude shows that his years of obedience to his father had been years of grim duty and not loving service.

(2) He has absolutely no sympathy for his brother. He refers to one returned home not as my brother, but as your son. He was the kind of self-righteous character who would gleefully have kicked him farther into the gutter.

(3) He had a nasty mind. There’s no mention of harlots until he mentions them. He probably suspected his brother of the sins he would have liked to have committed.

Barclay concludes with this . . . .

“Once again we have the amazing truth that it is easier to confess to God than to another person; that God is more merciful in his judgments than many orthodox people, that God’s love is far broader than human love; and that God can forgive when we refuse to forgive. 

In the face of a love like that we cannot be but lost in wonder, love and praise!”

So, as you can see our Lenten journey fills us with the joy of God’s love for us. Pope Francis is fond of saying “mercy upon mercy upon mercy.”Yet, there is no story of Jesus ~ none in the entire Bible more poignant, more revealing of God’s love, God’s mercy towards us than the story of–not the Prodigal son, but the Prodigal Father!

Do you know what the word prodigal means?  It means, according to my trusty “Synonym Finder” ~ wasteful, squandering, extravagant, excessive, generous, open-handed, abundant, plentiful, bounteous, lavish, exuberant, measureless, bottomless, limitless, overflowing. 

That, dear friends, is what Jesus was trying to tell us in his most famous parable about who his Father wants to be for YOU and ME! 

This morning in prayer, I  caught myself realizing that my relationship with the Father fell short. I wasn’t even sure I loved him! Then I got to thinking that my relationship with my own father was always obscure too. And I felt really sad for a while. I know. I know I love God. And I know he loves me. But I had that moment of obscurity. But there’s still the wonder and the love.

Now, before you go, here’s a beautiful hymn with a slide show to fit our theme, There’s a wideness in God’s Mercy. Click here. Be sure to enter full screen and turn up your speakers. (I invite you to listen to it a second time; the words are amazing. Get Lost in the Wonder of God’s Mercy and Love!

And here are today’s Mass readings. Click here.

Acknowledgement: William Barclay / The New Daily Study Bible / The Gospel of Luke /John Knox Press / Louisville KY 1975 – 2001 – pp. 236-7; 242-5.

With love, 

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

The Third Sunday of Lent ~ the Warning of the Fig Tree

The Third Sunday of Lent ( Year C) ~ The Warning of the Fig Tree

Before we begin, there are two liturgical texts for this and the following two Sundays.  An alternate set from Year A is often used when Catechumens are present.  But these are the prescribed texts for the day from the Gospel of St. Luke.

I must say that I found the first part of today’s gospel obscure–as did our scripture scholar, William Barclay. However, we can salvage this much: There’s a line in the first section about two catastrophes–incidents that are unknown to us, but then Jesus goes on to warn his hearers that if they did not repent they too would perish. What did he mean?

Jesus was warning them of what he foresaw and foretold: the destruction of Jerusalem, which happened in AD 70 (cf. Lk. 21:21-24). He knew, sadly, that if they went on with their intrigues, their rebellions, their plottings, and their political ambitions, they were going to commit national suicide. He knew Rome would obliterate the nation, and that is what happened.

And there is a warning for us today. For years I’ve been imploring my readers to pray personal transformation for the sake of the transformation of our nation. And in the present atmosphere of our country, looking ahead to the next election, again such prayer, and Jesus’ warning is quite apropos, as is the second part of today’s gospel—the parable of the fig tree . . . .

Barclay offers us several things to learn about this famous parable that I hadn’t realized before.

First, the fig tree occupied a specially favored position. It was not unusual to see fig trees, thorn trees and apple trees in the same vineyards. The soil was so shallow and poor that trees were grown wherever there was soil to grow them but the fig tree had its chance, and had not proved worthy of it.

Very often, Jesus reminded people, and by implication in this parable, that they would be judged according to the opportunities they had.

Second, the parable teaches that uselessness invites disaster. The whole process of evolution in this world is to produce useful things, and what is useful will go on, while what is useless will be eliminated. The most searching question any of us can ask is—“Of what use were we in this world?”

During this Lent, it might be well to take stock of the opportunities that we’ve had in life and how we responded to them. Now that I’ve returned to my Diocese of Orlando this spring, that’s kinda what I’ve been doing.

Third, the parable teaches that nothing that only takes, survives. The fig tree was drawing strength and sustenance from the soil; and in return was producing nothing. That, Barclay says, was precisely its sin. There are two kinds of people in the world—those who take out more than they put in, and those who put in more than they take out. We’ve inherited a Christian civilization and the great freedoms of this land. It’s our responsibility to hand them on to the generations to come, perhaps better than we found them. As for me, I am grateful for the opportunities for education my parents and my bishops have provided me, and the gifts God has given me to serve him and his people.

Fourth, the parable tells us of the gospel of the second chance. A fig tree, our scripture scholar tells us from his research, normally takes three years to reach maturity. If it doesn’t bear fruit by that time, it’s not likely to bear fruit at all. But this fig tree was given a second chance. In our sinfulness, it’s hard for us to realize the true depth and nature of our sin. This Lent is a good time to make a thoughtful review of our life and create a clean heart. Won’t you make a good confession before Easter?

It’s Jesus’ way to give us chance after chance after chance. Peter and Paul would gladly witness to that. God is forever kind to those who fall and rise again.

And that perhaps is the most important meaning for us to receive from this parable today, God never gives up on us! He will never give up on you! Ever! Ever, Ever! God doesn’t abandon us; it is we who abandon him. And that perhaps may be our sin. That we think that we aren’t any good. That we’re not worth it. But that’s really a sin of pride, isn’t it?

Fifth, the gospel makes it quite clear there’s a final chance. If we refuse chance after chance, if God’s appeal and challenge come again and again without us even turning towards him, the day finally comes, not when God has shut us out, but we by deliberate choice we refuse his grace and turn our back on him definitively.

But even in that, there may be something psychological that is operative in that person that would diminish that person’s guilt, and save him in spite of himself.

Awake, O sleeper, rise from death,

And Christ will give you light,

So learn his love ~ his length and breadth

It’s fullness, depth and height 

For he descended here to bring

From sin and fears release

To give the Spirit’s unity

Which is the bond of peace. 

For us Christ lived, for us he died

And conquered in the strife. 

Awake, arise, go forth in faith,

      And Christ shall give you life!  

And now here’s a Lenten hymn for you, “Beyond the Days of Hope and Mystery.” Click here

And here are today’s Mass readings. Click here.

With love,

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

William Barclay the New Daily Study Bible the Gospel of Luke / Westminster John Knox Press / Louisville, KY  1975-pp. 204-9.

Have you been to the mountain?

ac41068bbc62b251c480536bf778d8c4The Second Sunday of Lent ~ March 13, 2022

Jesus takes Peter, James and John to a mountaintop and there they have–well–a “peak” experience extraordinaire. 

It’s a great story.  It contrasts with last week’s story of Jesus in the desert being tempted by the devil.  Today Jesus is receiving a wonderful affirmation.

According to our Scripture-scholar friend William Barclay, this story is another of the great hinges in Jesus’ life on earth—and we’ll see why. He was just about to set out for Jerusalem, setting his face toward the cross.

In Luke, when prayer happens, something significant usually follows. (Magnificat)

He took his favorite disciples, Peter, James and John up on the mountain to pray, On the mountain top, Moses and Elijah appeared to him. Moses was the great lawgiver of the people of Israel; Elijah was the greatest of the prophets. It was as if the princes of Israel’s life and thought and religion were affirming Jesus to go on. (Barclay)

There’s a vivid sentence here about the three apostles . . . .

            “When they were fully awake they saw his glory.”

 In life we miss so much because our minds are often asleep.

~ There are many of us who are so clamped in our own ideas that our minds are shut. “Someone may be knockin’ at the door” but we are often like sleepers who will not awaken.

~ There are others of us who refuse to think about anything. “The unexamined life, said Socrates, “is not worth living.” How many of us have thought things out and thought them through?

~ We can drug ourselves mentally against any disturbing thought until we are sound asleep and “Big Brother” can taken over. Ever seen the “Matrix?”

But life is full of things designed to awaken us.

~ There is sorrow. Often sorrow can rudely awaken us, but in a moment, through the tears, we will see the glory.

~ There is love. Barclay references a poem by Robert Browning telling of two people who fell in love: She looked at him; he looked at her—“and suddenly life awoke.” 

I remember a similar experience in reading Thomas Merton’s Seven Story Mountain for the second time several years ago. When I finished it I found myself immersed in joyous tears for weeks on end—filled with love for Jesus that this young monk and elicited in me. This Lent, I’m trying to re-enable that experience–true!

~ There is a sense of need. It’s easy enough to live the routine life half asleep; then all of a sudden there comes some completely insoluble problem, some unanswerable question, some overwhelming temptation, some summons to an effort that we feel is beyond our strength. And that sense of need can awaken us to God.

We would do well to pray, “Lord, keep me always awake to you.” 

Source: William Barclay /Gospel of Luke pages 147,8.

But here’s a couple of other observations from the February 2016 issue of the Magnificat liturgical magazine:

After the disciples witnessed Jesus conversing with Moses and Elijah, this appears in the text . . . .

While he was still speaking, a cloud came and cast a shadow over them,
and they became frightened when they entered the cloud.(Luke 9:34)

The overshadowing of the divine Spirit does not darken, according to Saint Ambrose, but reveals secret things to the hearts of people. It is the luminous cloud the soaks us from the dew that sprinkles the minds of people with faith sent by the voice of the almighty God.

He’s talking about mystical experience that arise from deep prayer or centering prayer sometimes or even just experiencing an amazing sunset or an exhilarating conversation with a friend.

Anyway, what a gorgeous sentence that is “a luminous cloud that soaks us / from the dew that sprinkles the minds of people with faith . . .  Wow!  Think on that one.

Immediately following, we here from the cloud a voice that said,

       “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.”

It is a call to heed Jesus’ teaching about his Passion and our need to take up our cross and follow him: Jesus is he Messiah who suffers.

       “After the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. They fell silent” . . . . 

Their silence was a mark of awe. As it was on the last day of Jesus’ life, when he said, “It is finished.”

You may never have had a mountain top experience like Peter, James and John have had.  Yet even ONE mountain top experience  — one “peak experience” as Abraham Maslow likes to call them can be life-changing.

Any close encounter with God can be life-changing.

As I conclude, I encourage you to make the intention to be open to joyous experience of your own when such moments come.  When they come, embrace  them.  Try not to resist or deny them as many of us do.  Surrender to the moment and experience it as deeply and richly as you can.

And now before you go, here is the Eucharistic hymn sung by the boy choir at King’s College in Great Britain Ave Verum Corpus. Click here.

And here are today’s Mass Readings.  Click here.

Acknowledgements: William Barclay / The New l Study Bible / The Gospel of Luke                                                                                     Westminster John Knox Press / Louisville, KY / 1975, 2001

Magnificat.com / Yonkers, NY

With love, 

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

 

 

The First Sunday of Lent: The Fidelity of Jesus ~ May we learn to be faithful too!

 

First Sunday of Lent ~The Fidelity of Jesus 

March 6, 2022

This is a story about fidelity in the face of temptation.

This is a story about the Jesus I know and love.

Before I get into my own thoughts on this important opening story in the life of our Lord, I’d like to share some notes from our Scripture scholar-friend William Barclay.

He says that the word to tempt in Greek peirazein has a different emphasis than its English counterpart. We always think of tempting as something bad. But peirazein has a different emphasis; it means ‘to test.’

One of the great Old Testament stories makes this clear. Remember how Abraham narrowly escaped sacrificing his only son Isaac?  God was testing him, not tempting him!

So, with Jesus, this whole incident was not so much a tempting as the testing of Jesus.

We have to note further where this test took place. The inhabited part of Judea stood on a central plateau that was the backbone of southern Palestine.  Between it and the Dead Sea stretched a terrible wilderness, fifteen miles by thirty-five miles .  It was called Jeshimmon, which means ‘the Devastation.’  The hills were like dust-heaps; the limestones looked blistered and peeling; the rocks bare and jagged, with heat like a vast furnace and ran out to the precipices. 1,200 feet high, that plunged down to the Dead Sea. It was in that awesome devastation that Jesus was tempted or rather the Father was shaping him–testing his mettle–for his mission.

Then there are these other points to take note .  .  .  .

First, all three gospel writers seem to stress the immediacy with which the temptations follow the baptism.  As St. Luke describes it: “Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days to be tempted by the devil.”  Barclay suggests to us that we would do well to be on guard when life brings us to the heights since that’s when we’re in the gravest danger of a fall.

Second, we should not regard this experience of Jesus as an outward experience. It was a struggle that went on in his own heart and mind and soul.  The proof is that there is no possible mountain from which all the mountains of the earth could be seen. This is an inner struggle.

It is through our inmost thoughts and desires that the tempter comes to us. His attack can be so real that we almost see the devil.

(Pope Francis in a meditation in the Magnificat liturgical magazine was saying that Christian life is a battle. And then cautioned when someone said “you’re so old-fashioned; the devil doesn’t exist, ‘Watch out! The devil exists. We must learn how to battle him in the 21st Century. And must not be naïve. We must learn from the Gospel how to battle him.’)

Third, Barclay goes on, we must not think that Jesus conquered the tempter and that the tempter never came to him again.  Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom. In Christian warfare, says Barclay as well as Pope Francis, there is no release.  Some people think they should get beyond that stage; Jesus himself never did, even in his last hour in Gethsemane.

Forth, one thing stands out about this story—these temptations could only come to a person who had special powers and knew he had them.  We are always tempted through our gifts.  We can use our gifts for selfish purposes or we can use them in the service of others. (A word to some of today’s political leaders perhaps?)

Fifth, the source must have been Jesus himself. He was alone in the wilderness.  No one was with him in his struggle, so he must have told his men about it.

We must always approach this story with unique and utmost reverence, for it is lay lay laying bare his inmost heart and soul.

The story of Jesus moving into the desert this year, this year, is from the Gospel of Luke.

Here’s what Barclay has to say . . . .

No sooner than Jesus has been immersed in his own baptism by John in the Jordan River and basks for a moment in that glory, the battle of temptations begins.

Luke tells us that  the Spirit led Jesus out into the wilderness for his testing time. The very Spirit that came upon him during his baptism.

In this life it’s impossible to escape the assault of temptations; but they’re not sent to make us fail. They’re sent to strengthen the nerve and our sinews of the mind and heart and soul. They’re not meant for our ruin, but for our good.

The Lord once found his people in a wilderness, a wasteland of howling desert (Dt 32:10) That’s where we first find Jesus and that’s where he first finds us—in a wasteland of sorrow, confusion, suffering, sin. Magnificat

Barclay gives the example of a football player who is showing signs of real promise. The manager isn’t going to put on the third team where he’ll hardly break a sweat, but on the first team where he’ll be tested and have a chance to prove himself.

That’s what temptation is meant to do—to enable us to prove our strength of character and to emerge stronger for the fight.

From this episode, our first lesson should be that human life on earth is a life of warfare and the first thing Christians must expect is to be tempted by the devil. Reading in the Gospel that Jesus was tempted right after he was baptized, they will not grow fainthearted and fearful if they experience keener temptations from the temptations from the devil after their conversion or baptism than before—even if persecution should be their lot. Magnificat

And then there’s this: Forty days is not to be taken literally. It’s the regular Hebrew phrase for a considerable period of time. Moses was said to be on the mountain with God for forty days.

And it was Satan that tempted Jesus.. The word Satan in Hebrew means adversary.

The other title for Satan is the Devil: the word comes from the Greek diabolos, which literally means a slanderer. It’s a small step from the thought of one who searches for everything that can be said against a man (adversary) to the thought of one who maliciously and deliberately slanders man in the presence of God.

In the New Testament, we learn that it is the Devil or Satan who causes human disease and suffering. It is the devil who seduces Judas. It is the devil who is destined for the final destruction.

And I wrote this many years ago. . . .

This is a story about earth-shaking silence that bore the sound of deafening harsh voices and one soft and gentle voice Who sent Jesus among us so we could know we had a father/God who loves us with an everlasting love.

First, a harsh voice prompted Jesus to turn stones into bread as a way of manipulating others to get them to follow him.  Jesus could have made people dependent on him; instead, he shared with them what he realized: Our common dependence on the Father of all, who gives us our daily bread.

Another harsh voice tempted him to throw himself down from the parapet of the temple, a 450 ft. drop,  and have his angels come and raise him up.  He could put together a traveling road show of clever signs and wonders.  Things would be easier that way.  People would easily follow a clever magician.  But this would draw people away from the Father, not toward him.

The soft voice was simply asking Jesus to reveal the real order of the Father’s kingdom.

Jesus realized  his mission in life was to reveal Abba’s love as Father of all.   Jesus was to let the world know that there was a soft voice within us all, who is there to affirm and to love, to test and to guide.

A third harsh voice promised Jesus the whole world, saying: “You’ve got the power to gain the whole world.  You can be king of this world.

And Jesus sadly realized that many of his followers, even in the Church, would succumb to greed of every form.  They would kill in Crusades and Inquisitions in the name of love.

As he was tempted, he was led into a soul-embracing love of the One he was to reveal.  In the desert, Jesus must have knelt down and promised in all simplicity to seek and to do the will of the Father from moment to moment.  And in that act of fidelity, in that decision, the new covenant surely was sealed in Jesus’ heart.

In the desert and its temptations, the whole of humanity was drawn into the possibility of intimate experience of the divine.  Because one person was willing to be led into the holy of holies, we all can go with him.  We can go–provided that we–like Jesus, are willing to be tested and cleansed, strengthened and purified.

In this story, at the beginning of Jesus’ mission, is the answer to the question: Why did Jesus have to die?

The answer was:

To surrender himself into the hands of evil people was the only way Jesus could be faithful.  God could have intervened on behalf of his own Son.  But that was out of the question.

The world could not accept God as a gentle Father.  They found his message of love much too demanding.  And since the authorities could not and would not accept him and his message, the only recourse left to him was simply to give witness to that message–even to the end.

He chose to be faithful to the soft Voice of the Father, not compromise the message, even if it led to his death.

Jesus had to suffer and die because, because tragically, that was the only way the world would allow him to be faithful to the Word he heard ~ and preached.

The Father was more pleased with the fidelity of one son than he would have been with the spread of a message that did not reveal his love.

This is a powerful lesson  for those among us who would COERCE others into being good.

The false voices which Jesus tamed and quieted ~the voices of greed or accolade or power–we must tame and quiet, relying on his power as elder Son.

The soft voice of the Father to whom he was so devoted, the voice that was the source and object of all his fidelity, each one of us should train ourselves to hear.

And then learn . . . day after day after day to love . . . more deeply . . . more intimately . . . more really–the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

This is the Jesus I know and love.

And I ask him to teach me the gentle ways of the Father.  Through Jesus, may we be faithful too.

Luke ends today’s Gospel passage by saying: “When the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from him . . . for a time.”  Words that we should prayerfully consider and take heed.

And before you go, here’s a scene from the movie Godspell   when Jesus’ ‘disciples’ realize something is about to happen and they sing “Where are you going? / By my side”, ending with the prophecy of Judas’ betrayal. Be there with them; it seems quite faith-filled and what the real disciples might have felt. Click here.

And here are today’s Mass readings, if you would like to reflect on them. Click here.

 

With love, 

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

The Jesus I know and Love ~ and I want You to know Him too!

Thursday after Ash Wednesday, March 3, 2022

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

In the first reading, Moses says:

“I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. 

Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live, by loving the Lord, your God, heeding his voice, and holding fast to him” (Deuteronomy 30:15-20).

One often hears the words Choose Life as a Pro-Life message.  That’s important, but we’re invited to choose life again and again, every day.  This Lent is an acceptable time to choose the life that affirms and nourishes us and to deliver ourselves from the dysfunctional communication and game-playing within our own home that damages the souls of our spouses and our children.

Let’s choose Life this day in the way we speak to and about the folks we meet today.

Choice is an act of the will, the highest power of the human person.  We need to choose our words carefully.  To preside over ~ take responsibility for what comes out of our mouths.  To realize our words to create life or death.

And then in today’s gospel, Jesus says,

“If anyone wishes to come after me, he must take up his cross daily and follow me. 

For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.

What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself?  (Luke 9: 22-25)

Jesus gives us a koan here. That’s a Zen word  for a riddle given to a student to mull over until the the student gets the insight.

Try to get into it this great saying of Jesus this Lent. Ponder its meaning for you right now. Copy it on a card and repeat it often until you get it.

Jesus’ message is so counter-cultural In our society people do anything to avoid the smallest bit of pain. There are even numbing pads so that you don’t feel it when you prick your finger for the Accu-check  for diabetes.  And we avoid emotional pain by not thinking through our problems. Some folks do this by getting a hasty divorce to run away from their problems or by dumping a girlfriend who no longer suits them via way of a cruel text message.

Lent places before us the Cross of Jesus and his loving embrace of it as our Savior, but also as a model for us. He willingly stretched out his arms to be nailed. Jesus knew he would have to face a lot of suffering on his journey.  He knew  he would make people angry by proclaiming the truth he saw in his heart.  He knew that it would lead him to death, but he never strayed from the road to Jerusalem.

The issue is Acceptance of whatever life calls us to. Jesus  accepted the Cross because he chose to be faithful to his mission.

He was a person of absolute integrity.  No one was going to dissuade him from being who he was.

This is the Jesus I know and love:  The one who has the strength to love, no matter what.   He’s my Lord, my Savior–my mentor, if you will.  I would like very much to be like Him–if he would grant me that grace.  How ’bout you?

Tomorrow we begin to reflect on Jesus forty-day retreat into the desert’ (the Mass text for this coming Sunday) to prepare for his mission.

Now before you go, here’s  the old hymn “Jesus walked the lonesome valley” Click here.

And here are today’s Mass readings if you would like to reflect on them.  Click here.

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

 

Ashes to Ashes ~ Dust to Dust ~ Can we rise again?

Dear Friends,

Ash Wednesday is upon us once again. Easter is late this year ~ Sunday April 17th.

So, you may ask ~ what are ashes all about?

We Catholics like symbols.  (So does Harry Potter.)

What can they tell us about life? And death?  And reality?

When the priest smears ashes on the penitent’s forehead he says one of two poignant phrases:

REMEMBER THAT YOU ARE DUST AND UNTO DUST YOU SHALL RETURN,

or  REPENT AND BELIEVE IN THE GOSPEL.

So, it’s a sign of humility, a sign that we are part of the earth, that we are dust.

Are we to reflect and ask ~ Are we just dust?

Have made an ash-heap of our life?

Are we sitting in an ash-heap?

Is there nothing but ruin, smoldering embers around us?

If so, do we despair?

Or can we dream of re-building?

Whether or not, the answers to these questions apply to us literally, it is important to humble ourselves before our God.

That’s what the ashes signify. And Ash Wednesday is a day of fast and abstinence from meat to remind us that we should begin this penitential season well.

Here’s an article that explains the theological significance of the season of Lent.

Consisting of forty days, in commemoration of the time the Lord Jesus spent in the desert before starting his public ministry, Lent is a time of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving in which we believers prepare ourselves for the joyful celebration of the Paschal Mystery.

While the phrase “paschal mystery” is fundamentally Christian and should be a term readily known by every Christian disciple, most believers are unaware of its meaning and miss its significance.

With this observation in mind, let’s ask: What is the Paschal Mystery? Why does it require a penitential season to prepare for its celebration?

The Paschal Mystery is nothing more or less than the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is the fulfillment of ancient prophecies, the purpose of his messianic mission in destroying sin and death, and the unfolding expression of his immense love for us. The Paschal Mystery is the source of our belief in eternal life and the foundation of the hope we have of dwelling forever in heaven.

Anyone who claims the title of “Christian,” therefore, must realize what the Paschal Mystery is and what its role is in our desire for redemption.

It is for this reason that we believers needs Lent. The mystery of the Lord’s Passion, Death, and Resurrection requires constant reflection and re-living in the lives of believers in order for the mystery to be fully assimilated in our hearts and appreciated in our everyday lives. With the pace of life and the multiple distractions presented by our world, it’s too easy for a Christian to miss the mystery. And so, Lent comes and commands a pause. It orders us – through various penances, some universal to all believers, while others of a more personal choosing – to slow down and see the mystery, feel the love, and desire heaven above all things.

And so, Lent is not a season about self-help or self-improvement for their own sake. It’s not just about giving up caffeine or chocolate (although these could be good penances) or about eating right or being more punctual (although it could be good to improve these habits). No, above all these things, Lent is about the believer deepening in her knowledge and experience of the Suffering, Crucified, and Resurrected God who loves her and seeks to be with her. It’s about grasping – and being grasped by – the radical and self-emptying love of Jesus Christ.

A good Lent, therefore, is reflected in a devout and attentive celebration of Holy Week and Easter. The rejoicing that’s a part of these holiest days should not occur because the believer sees it as a reprieve from a dislikable and contested time of penance but because the believer has been purified even more from darkness and is able to more profoundly understand and share in the Lord’s Paschal Mystery.

The purpose of Lent, therefore, is a microcosm of the life and worldview of the Christian believer. Knowing ourselves to be the sons and daughters of the Resurrection, everything we think, feel, and do is placed in the light and hope of eternity. This gives the disciple of Jesus Christ the strength to forgive an enemy, control their sexual passions, suffer patiently, and selflessly serve others. When the Resurrection is lived and heaven is seen as a real possibility for the righteous, then everything is worth it and everything becomes ordered to it.

It doesn’t do a Catholic much good who show up on Ash Wednesday, get a smudge of ashes on their forehead without the slightest intention of doing what they symbolize:  CHANGE.

And so, dear friend, don’t just give up something  for Lent. Get at the root of your life where you need to look at the real stuff.

I invite you to go deeper into the practice of your faith.

Make the sign Mean Something!

Let it transform you from inside out.

The question is:  Do we ~ you and I ~ have the COURAGE TO CHANGE?

So, let’s do Lent well ~ together.

During Lent, be ready to walk with Jesus to Jerusalem.

Find out who this Jesus is ~ for you.

And what wisdom he has to offer us that will help us to change and enrich our lives for the better.

Whether you are  Catholic or not, perhaps you will find some wisdom,

some meaning for your life in these pages.  Join us as we walk the journey together

as Jesus did ~ through suffering to death to new and risen life these six weeks of Lent 2019.

God of  pardon and of love,

Mercy past all measure,

You alone can grant us peace,

You, our holy treasure.   

Now before you go, here’s a short hymn about an offering of ashes. Click here.

And here are today’s Mass readings if you’d like to reflect on them. Click here.

With love,  

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer  

Thursday~ The Jesus I know and Love