The Transforming Presence of God: A Reflection for the Second Sunday of Lent

By Sr. Princess Mary Dawson, MHSH

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The readings of the Second Sunday of Lent are a like a roadmap, guiding us and grounding us in hope. At times we may feel like Abram in the first reading, unsure how things will unfold.

But the Lord made a covenant with Abram, promising that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars. We can be comforted that even when we cannot see what lies beyond, God walks with us in our fears and doubts.

Then we turn to the Transfiguration account in the Gospel and watch Peter, James and John take the journey to Mount Tabor. There had to be some soul searching going on in them about who this Jesus was. Perhaps they were even hesitant as they journeyed. Imagine reaching the top of the mountain and seeing Moses and Elijah conversing with Jesus. Like Peter, we might want to memorialize this encounter. The encounter is nonetheless memorialized with the proclamation from the clouds “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.” Silence follows this event.

The words from the clouds were enough to ponder in their hearts. Possibly they left in fear or in confusion regarding the meaning of what transpired. Even so, Jesus was with them though they did not fully understand what it all meant. We can be comforted that no matter what we face, whatever we do not understand or whatever struggles we confront, we can be certain that Jesus is with us. May we always listen to the beloved Son of God. Amen.

 

 

 

A Sacred Time – A Reflection for the First Sunday of Lent

By Marilyn Dunphy, MHSH

[Readings: Genesis 9: 8-15; Ps. 25: 4-5, 6-7, 8-9; 1 Peter 3: 18-22; Mark 1: 12-15]

As you contemplate the season of Lent, you might consider reflecting on its meaning to you now as well as at other times in your life.  For me, growing up in the ‘50s and early ‘60s, Lent was a time set aside for repentance, for “giving up” things that I liked, such as desserts or movies or even the sleep I could have had if I didn’t attend daily Mass.

In the parochial school I attended, participation in the weekly Stations of the Cross on Friday afternoons was mandatory, thus adding to the sense of obligation. While even then I appreciated the sacred nature of Lent experienced through the “smells and bells” of the pre-Vatican II Church, the emphasis was on self-denial and sinfulness.   The season often seemed interminable, oppressive and stark.

Today, Lent is a time that I actually look forward to, as the season seems to invite me to deeper contemplation.  My focus is not on deprivation, but on deepening my relationship with Jesus through prayer.  I think the change occurred when I started to go on weekend and then week-long silent retreats each year.  At first, these retreats truly felt like desert experiences.  Even though there were 30 or 40 other people in the retreat house, we passed our time (and each other) in silence.  Time took on a whole different feeling, with no particular structure to the day.  All the familiar distractions of television, email, internet browsing, phone calls etc, had been left behind.

In that environment, I was tempted to throw myself into reading the many spiritual books in the library, but I had a graced insight that this would only be a further distraction.  So I entered into what at first seemed like the unwelcome, solitary work of looking deeply into my own heart and mind, asking myself where I was in relationship to God, and what I (and God) wanted that relationship to be.

At first, this situation seemed almost as frightening as facing any amount of wild desert beasts.  I was not sure I wanted to head in this direction, and was afraid of what I might hear as answer in prayer.  But with trust in God and the patience of a skilled spiritual director, I was able to pass out of that narrow, somewhat desolate place in which I found myself.  What opened up for me was an abundance of new life.

The God who made a covenant with each of us waits for us to approach.  The psalmist reminds us that God’s ways are love and truth, that God is kind and full of compassion, desiring to guide us through our own personal and communal wildernesses.  With humility and trust, perhaps we can all spend some sacred time with God this Lent, knowing that God will provide us with what we need.

Lenten Prayer

Give yourself permission to carve out some time each day for prayer.  Give it whatever time you can, although 30 minutes or more is desirable.

You can pray with the scripture passages of the day, or with the many fine Lenten reflection books and guides that are available.  You can also simply pray from your own experience.

Tell God what is on your mind and in your heart.  Be sure to include a time of interior silence to listen to what God is saying to you.  Sometimes, just resting in the presence of God is the best prayer.

Reflections for the Second Week of Advent – Isaiah’s Dream

By Judy Allison

The young mother sat in a pew a few rows ahead of me with an older toddler snuggled between her and her husband and an infant no more than six months old in her arms.  She rocked gently so as not to disturb the others seated close to her. She looked down at the infant with a gentle love, and he looked back at her. Their gaze locked for a long moment.  Then, for no apparent reason other than that love must express itself, he smiled up at her.  And for that moment, all of us who saw it were touched by love as if by starlight and angel song.

It was the stuff of which dreams are made.

On the second Sunday of Advent, we hear from the prophet Isaiah, whose vision dreams of a new and powerful king who comes to save the people – God’s people.  This king’s power emanates from the spirit of the Lord.  Different from all earthly kings, this “good” king will possess wisdom, understanding, good counsel, right judgment, knowledge, strength and he will “delight in the Lord God.”

Under the reign of this “good” king, the wolf and the lamb, the leopard and the kid, the lion and the calf, the bear and the cow “shall browse together – with a little child to lead them.”  This, too, is the stuff of which dreams are made.

We long for an era of peace where love is abundant; where neither animals nor people prey upon each other; where no one goes to sleep in fear; and where home is more than a cardboard box or a tent or a 10’ x 12’ FEMA trailer; where drinking water is clean and plentiful and bread is everywhere broken and shared.

As we enter more deeply into this season of Advent, let us remember that we are called by our Baptism to help bring about the dream that is revealed through the life, mission, death and resurrection of Jesus, the Christ.  We are called to dream the dream.  We are a people of the Covenant.

Sometime during this week, find a quiet spot to rest, take a deep breath and let it out slowly.  St. Augustine asked, “What good does it do for Jesus to have been born in a stable so long ago, if he is not born anew in our hearts today?”  Sit with this for awhile.  What words and images come to mind?

Judy Allison is a long-time friend of the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart.