The Resurrection Means Seeing With The Eyes Of The Heart
Mary Magdalen is sad and confused. She has seen the grave and found it empty and not desecrated. She cannot understand what has happened, so she calls the disciples, who are also bewildered. Then she sees another person who, she thinks, may possibly be the gardener. Not until she hears his voice does she realize that it is Jesus himself. This failure to recognize Jesus is, in itself, remarkable, but it is consistent with a theme that recurs again and again in the accounts of the Resurrection. The two disciples on their way to Emmaus are joined by the Lord, but they, too, fail to recognize him. It is only in the breaking of bread that their eyes are opened; but at the moment when they recognize him, he disappears. Such events make it clear that Jesus is not just someone like Lazarus or the young man of Naim who has returned from the dead. If he were, recognition after an interval of only two days would hardly constitute a problem. But Jesus does not simply take up his life again where he left it on Good Friday. He lives a new life, yet he is the same Jesus. It is only when the heart sees him that the eyes can recognize him. This becomes fully apparent in the further conversation between Jesus and Mary Magdalen. His calling her by name alerts her and enables her to know him. The Cross is forgotten now. She replies: “Master!” and expects everything to be as it was before, but she is disappointed. “Do not touch me”, the Risen Lord says to her (perhaps a better translation would be “Do not try to hold on to me”) because I have not yet ascended to my Father. But go to my brothers and say to them: I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God” (Jn 20:17). What does that mean? After the happy encounter on Easter morning, Mary Magdalen wants nothing more than to return to the former familiar status quo, to leave the Cross behind her as though it were just a bad dream. She wants to have “her teacher” as she had had him formerly. But that conflicts with what has transpired. No one can have Jesus as “his teacher” while disregarding the Cross. He has been exalted to the Father and is now forever accessible to everyone. He can be touched only as one who is with the Father, the Risen One. He can be touched only if we seek him at the Father’s side, if we let him lead us on our way. “To touch” has now become “to worship”.
Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (pp. 128–129). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
It’s easy to imagine those two disciples, grieving and confused, leaving Jerusalem because of their sorrowful disillusionment over Jesus’ crucifixion. Discussing and debating, they are caught up in their own conversation, no doubt reinforcing their disappointment. Nothing remains of the high hopes they had placed in Jesus. Although their whole conversation centers on Jesus, they don’t recognize him when he walks right up to them.
Instead they stop, as if exasperated and ready to give up. They have had it with hope, promises, and dreams. Discontentment is contagious, and quickly clouds our vision. The two disciples impress on Jesus their disappointment, coming to a halt in their walk as if to emphasize that their dreams have died. Unbidden and uninvited, Jesus takes the initiative and draws near to them. Perhaps he discreetly places himself between the two, respectfully interrupting the cycle of disillusionment.
The text doesn’t reveal when they start walking again. But after listening to the disciples’ sorrow and disappointment, Jesus takes the lead in the conversation, and probably in the walk as well. He’s not about to leave them where they are, at a dead end. Nor does he allow us to give up hope, if we let him take the lead in our lives. “Beginning with Moses and all the prophets,” Jesus explains the Scriptures to them. He recounts for them salvation history, so familiar and yet strangely new, winning their full attention. It somehow seems right to let Jesus take the lead, set the pace, and direct their journey. The disciples follow him to Emmaus, are moved to insist that he remain with them, and receive in exchange the fullness of joy: “their eyes were opened and they recognized him.” How often does it happen that we too have the Lord right with us, but we fail to recognize him? As Christians, we walk by faith, not by sight. Let us entrust ourselves to the Lord, even when we do not see him by our side.
Lord, through Baptism you dwell in each Christian, but how often I fail to recognize you! You dwell also in me through my baptism, and yet many times I go through the day unaware of your presence. Help me see more often with the eyes of faith, Lord. Help me see you in the people in my life and help me be aware of your sacred presence within me.
Stay with me, Lord, and let me stay with you.
Daughters of Saint Paul. (2011). Easter Grace: Daily Gospel Reflections. (M. G. Dateno & M. L. Trouvé, Eds.) (pp. 12–13). Boston, MA: Pauline Books & Media.
From ancient times the liturgy of Easter day has begun with the words: Resurrexi et adhuc tecum sum—I arose, and am still with you; you have set your hand upon me. The liturgy sees these as the first words spoken by the Son to the Father after his resurrection, after his return from the night of death into the world of the living. The hand of the Father upheld him even on that night, and thus he could rise again. These words are taken from Psalm 138, where originally they had a different meaning. That Psalm is a song of wonder at God’s omnipotence and omnipresence, a hymn of trust in the God who never allows us to fall from his hands. And his hands are good hands. The Psalmist imagines himself journeying to the farthest reaches of the cosmos—and what happens to him? “If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. If I say, ‘Let only darkness cover me’ …, even the darkness is not dark to you …; for darkness is as light with you” (Ps 138:8–12). On Easter day the Church tells us that Jesus Christ made that journey to the ends of the universe for our sake. In the Letter to the Ephesians we read that he descended to the depths of the earth, and that the one who descended is also the one who has risen far above the heavens, that he might fill all things (cf. 4:9ff.). The vision of the Psalm thus became reality. In the impenetrable gloom of death Christ came like light—the night became as bright as day and the darkness became as light. And so the Church can rightly consider these words of thanksgiving and trust as words spoken by the Risen Lord to his Father: “Yes, I have journeyed to the uttermost depths of the earth, to the abyss of death, and brought them light; now I have risen and I am upheld for ever by your hands.” But these words of the Risen Christ to the Father have also become words which the Lord speaks to us: “I arose and now I am still with you,” he says to each of us. My hand upholds you. Wherever you may fall, you will always fall into my hands. I am present even at the door of death. Where no one can accompany you further, and where you can bring nothing, even there I am waiting for you, and for you I will change darkness into light.
Benedict XVI. (2013). Homilies of His Holiness Benedict XVI (English). Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana. (April 7, 2007)
God raised this Jesus; of this we are all witnesses. (Acts 2:32) Remember a time when you had exciting news? You couldn’t wait to tell your family or a close friend. You walked with an extra bounce in your step. Smiling came easy, and your heart was filled with hope. Well, today we have more than enough of a reason to not be silent: Jesus is risen from the dead! He has triumphed over sin and broken the chains of death. Now he offers a new life to all of us. Because of the miracle of Easter, it is clear that nothing is impossible for God. Everyone needs to have something to hope in. The problem is that the world tells us to limit our hopes to this world—the hope for a peaceful life, the hope for a better future for our children, the hope that we can get ahead a little bit in the world. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with these hopes, but they don’t satisfy the deepest yearnings of our hearts. Only Jesus and his promise of the resurrection can do that. And only Jesus can give meaning to the other hopes we cherish. God wants to open our eyes to the beauty of a life lived in and through his Son. He wants to show us a life that includes the mysteries and wonders of heaven along with a sense of vision and purpose for our earthly lives. Peter was excited because something new and wonderful had touched his life. As we recall how Jesus has touched our lives, we will feel compelled to share our own sense of hope and excitement with the people around us. And likewise, the more we step out of our comfort zones to talk about Jesus, the more excited we will become. Why? Because just as Peter discovered, there is power in the message of the gospel. People’s lives change when they hear it—even if it comes from everyday people like ourselves. So don’t be afraid to tell people about God’s love. Don’t be afraid to tell them about how Jesus’ resurrection can overcome their fear and sin. People are longing for the answer—and you can give it to them!
“Jesus, risen Lord, give me the boldness to share the good news of your victory today. Help me not to stay silent but to proclaim that you are our best and brightest hope!”
Daily Reflection from The Word Among Us (www.wau.org)
Meditatio “… she ran …” Mary Magdalene hastens to the tomb in the darkness before dawn. She cannot remain alone; she cannot hold back her longing to be near her beloved; she cannot wait for dawn. Mary is the model for all of us who must rouse our love in the sleepy hours of the night, when we feel cold, alone, perhaps abandoned by God, who seems to have failed us and all our dreams. She leads us by the hand, urging us to rouse our love and seek for God when he seems to have died and left us behind. This Gospel passage is full of love’s running haste. Mary runs to Peter and John, fearing that after Jesus’ death she may have lost his body also, the last remaining physical connection to him. Peter and John run to the tomb. What is Peter thinking? Is he pondering the burden of leadership now that Jesus has died, wondering how to handle it? Or does he faintly hope that his Master, who had claimed he was God’s Son, will surprise them in a wonderful way? John runs faster. Is it only because he is younger? Or does he—the disciple whom Jesus loved, the only apostle who kept vigil on Calvary as Jesus hung dying on the cross—does he keep love burning in his heart? Does he hold onto a love that can see beyond the dark days and hope in God’s power to raise from the dead? John is the first one who sees the burial cloths and believes. Mary, Peter, and John teach us to run in hope, in love, and in belief. We need to run first, even in the dark, to search for the Lord, to commit our hearts to love, and then we will witness the Living Christ in our midst. The resurrection means that Jesus lives—here, now, forever—and has taken us to live as his brothers and sisters, sons and daughters of the Father, for all eternity.
Oratio Lord, my Love, may I seek you in haste in the darkest days of my life. May my heart thrill at the empty tombs in my life where I discover the power of your strength and see the weight of your glory. O Risen One, may I know you alive in my life, in the world, in the Church, in the Eucharist, at the right hand of the Father. Amen.
Contemplatio I will awake the dawn.
Daughters of Saint Paul. (2011). Easter Grace: Daily Gospel Reflections. (M. G. Dateno & M. L. Trouvé, Eds.) (pp. 6–7). Boston, MA: Pauline Books & Media.
Clear out the old yeast, so that you may become a fresh batch of dough, inasmuch as you are unleavened. For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed. Therefore, let us celebrate the feast, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
Today, during this Holy Thursday of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, I would like to speak of two areas in which the Lord shows excess in mercy. Based on his example, we also should not hesitate in showing excess. The first area I am referring to is encounter; the second is God’s forgiveness, which shames us while also giving us dignity. The first area where we see God showing excess in his ever-increasing mercy is that of encounter. He gives himself completely and in such a way that every encounter leads to rejoicing. In the parable of the Merciful Father we are astounded by the man who runs, deeply moved, to his son, and throws his arms around him; we see how he embraces his son, kisses him, puts a ring on his finger, and then gives him his sandals, thus showing that he is a son and not a servant. Finally, he gives orders to everyone and organizes a party. In contemplating with awe this superabundance of the Father’s joy that is freely and boundlessly expressed when his son returns, we should not be fearful of exaggerating our gratitude. Our attitude should be that of the poor leper who, seeing himself healed, leaves his nine friends who go off to do what Jesus ordered, and goes back to kneel at the feet of the Lord, glorifying and thanking God aloud. Mercy restores everything; it restores dignity to each person. This is why effusive gratitude is the proper response: we have to go the party, to put on our best clothes, to cast off the rancour of the elder brother, to rejoice and give thanks… Only in this way, participating fully in such rejoicing, is it possible to think straight, to ask for forgiveness, and see more clearly how to make up for the evil we have committed. It would be good for us to ask ourselves: after going to confession, do I rejoice? Or do I move on immediately to the next thing, as we would after going to the doctor, when we hear that the test results are not so bad and put them back in their envelope? And when I give alms, do I give time to the person who receives them to express their gratitude, do I celebrate the smile and the blessings that the poor offer, or do I continue on in haste with my own affairs after tossing in a coin? The second area in which we see how God exceeds in his ever greater mercy is forgiveness itself. God does not only forgive incalculable debts, as he does to that servant who begs for mercy but is then miserly to his own debtor; he also enables us to move directly from the most shameful disgrace to the highest dignity without any intermediary stages. The Lords allows the forgiven woman to wash his feet with her tears. As soon as Simon confesses his sin and begs Jesus to send him away, the Lord raises him to be a fisher of men. We, however, tend to separate these two attitudes: when we are ashamed of our sins, we hide ourselves and walk around with our heads down, like Adam and Eve; and when we are raised up to some dignity, we try to cover up our sins and take pleasure in being seen, almost showing off. Our response to God’s superabundant forgiveness should be always to preserve that healthy tension between a dignified shame and a shamed dignity. It is the attitude of one who seeks a humble and lowly place, but who can also allow the Lord to raise him up for the good of the mission, without complacency. The model that the Gospel consecrates, and which can help us when we confess our sins, is Peter, who allowed himself to be questioned about his love for the Lord, but who also renewed his acceptance of the ministry of shepherding the flock which the Lord had entrusted to him.
To grow in this “dignity which is capable of humbling itself”, and which delivers us from thinking that we are more or are less than what we are by grace, can help us understand the words of the prophet Isaiah that immediately follow the passage our Lord read in the synagogue at Nazareth: “You will be called priests of the Lord, ministers of our God” (Is 61:6). It is people who are poor, hungry, prisoners of war, without a future, cast to one side and rejected, that the Lord transforms into a priestly people. excerpt from the Chrism Mass Homily of Pope Francis (March 24, 2017)
Dear Brothers and Sisters, “Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (Jn 13:1). God loves his creature, man; he even loves him in his fall and does not leave him to himself. He loves him to the end. He is impelled with his love to the very end, to the extreme: he came down from his divine glory. He cast aside the raiment of his divine glory and put on the garb of a slave. He came down to the extreme lowliness of our fall. He kneels before us and carries out for us the service of a slave: he washes our dirty feet so that we might be admitted to God’s banquet and be made worthy to take our place at his table—something that on our own we neither could nor would ever be able to do. God is not a remote God, too distant or too great to be bothered with our trifles. Since God is great, he can also be concerned with small things. Since he is great, the soul of man, the same man, created through eternal love, is not a small thing but great, and worthy of God’s love. God’s holiness is not merely an incandescent power before which we are obliged to withdraw, terrified. It is a power of love and therefore a purifying and healing power. God descends and becomes a slave, he washes our feet so that we may come to his table. In this, the entire mystery of Jesus Christ is expressed. In this, what redemption means becomes visible. The basin in which he washes us is his love, ready to face death. Only love has that purifying power which washes the grime from us and elevates us to God’s heights. The basin that purifies us is God himself, who gives himself to us without reserve—to the very depths of his suffering and his death. He is ceaselessly this love that cleanses us; in the sacraments of purification—Baptism and the Sacrament of Penance—he is continually on his knees at our feet and carries out for us the service of a slave, the service of purification, making us capable of God. His love is inexhaustible, it truly goes to the very end. “You are clean, but not all of you”, the Lord says (Jn 13:10). This sentence reveals the great gift of purification that he offers to us, because he wants to be at table together with us, to become our food. “But not all of you”—the obscure mystery of rejection exists, which becomes apparent with Judas’ act, and precisely on Holy Thursday, the day on which Jesus made the gift of himself, it should give us food for thought. The Lord’s love knows no bounds, but man can put a limit on it. “You are clean, but not all of you”: What is it that makes man unclean? It is the rejection of love, not wanting to be loved, not loving. It is pride that believes it has no need of any purification, that is closed to God’s saving goodness. It is pride that does not want to admit or recognize that we are in need of purification. In Judas we see the nature of this rejection even more clearly. He evaluated Jesus in accordance with the criteria of power and success. For him, power and success alone were real; love did not count. And he was greedy: money was more important than communion with Jesus, more important than God and his love. He thus also became a liar who played a double game and broke with the truth; one who lived in deceit and so lost his sense of the supreme truth, of God. In this way, he became hard of heart and incapable of conversion, of the trusting return of the Prodigal Son, and he disposed of the life destroyed. “You are clean, but not all of you”. Today, the Lord alerts us to the self-sufficiency that puts a limit on his unlimited love. He invites us to imitate his humility, to entrust ourselves to it, to let ourselves be “infected” by it. He invites us—however lost we may feel—to return home, to let his purifying goodness uplift us and enable us to sit at table with him, with God himself. Let us add a final word to this inexhaustible Gospel passage: “For I have given you an example” (Jn 13:15); “You also ought to wash one another’s feet” (Jn 13:14). Of what does “washing one another’s feet” consist? What does it actually mean? This: every good work for others—especially for the suffering and those not considered to be worth much—is a service of the washing of feet. The Lord calls us to do this: to come down, learn humility and the courage of goodness, and also the readiness to accept rejection and yet to trust in goodness and persevere in it. But there is another, deeper dimension. The Lord removes the dirt from us with the purifying power of his goodness. Washing one another’s feet means above all tirelessly forgiving one another, beginning together ever anew, however pointless it may seem. It means purifying one another by bearing with one another and by being tolerant of others; purifying one another, giving one another the sanctifying power of the Word of God and introducing one another into the Sacrament of divine love. The Lord purifies us, and for this reason we dare to approach his table. Let us pray to him to give to all of us the grace of being able to one day be guests for ever at the eternal nuptial banquet. Amen!
Benedict XVI. (2013). Homilies of His Holiness Benedict XVI (English). Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.
Meditatio “My appointed time draws near.” Throughout the Gospels, Jesus shows us that fidelity to one’s vocation is lived one minute at a time. Jesus’ fidelity is a lived out in a continuous stream of “now” moments: announcing the Kingdom of God, healing the sick, forgiving the sinful, all leading up to the appointed hour. The Passover is beginning. Pilgrims are streaming into Jerusalem, including Jesus and his closest disciples. Jesus knows what is coming. “My appointed time draws near.” Already in chapter 26 of Matthew he has foretold his crucifixion during the Passover (v. 2). He has declared the anointing at Bethany a preparation for his burial (v. 12). He knows, too, that one of his own disciples will betray him—an inside job. In the face of betrayal, torture, and death, what does Jesus do? He goes on with his vocation of revealing the faithful love of God for his people. At this precise moment it means preparing and celebrating the Passover meal. Betrayal is devastating. It is hard to say what is worse, to be caught off guard or to see it coming. Either way the sin of betrayal kicks us in the gut when we experience it. The example of Jesus is all the more astounding because, while he acknowledges Judas’ betrayal as it is happening, he does not change his plans to avoid the situation. Neither does he lash out at Judas or retaliate in any way. Jesus, the absolute expression of God’s love, is not sidetracked. Instead, he continues to freely give of himself. Today we stand on the brink of the Sacred Triduum, and the Church gives us the calm deliberate choices of Jesus to continue his mission. He knows this will lead to Calvary. We also ponder the calculated moves of Judas, which will lead to his duplicitous kiss. Fidelity (or its opposite) is lived out moment by moment, choice by choice. What is God calling me to in this “hour” of my salvation?
Oratio My God, I want to be with you completely in these days when we remember your passion and death. When I think of your fidelity to your vocation, your total self-giving in the face of the betrayal and the cowardice of your disciples, I am overwhelmed. Time is a precious gift; help me to spend it wisely as you did in your public ministry. Strengthen me so that in my moments of crisis I may choose faithful love no matter the cost. Contemplatio Faithful love is lived out moment by moment.
Daughters of Saint Paul. (2008). Lenten Grace: Daily Gospel Reflections (pp. 114–115). Boston, MA: Pauline Books & Media.
THE LONGINGS OF OUR HEARTS MUST BE EXAMINED AND MODERATED
THE VOICE OF CHRIST MY CHILD, it is necessary for you to learn many things which you have not yet learned well. THE DISCIPLE What are they, Lord? THE VOICE OF CHRIST That you conform your desires entirely according to My good pleasure, and be not a lover of self but an earnest doer of My will. Desires very often inflame you and drive you madly on, but consider whether you act for My honor, or for your own advantage. If I am the cause, you will be well content with whatever I ordain. If, on the other hand, any self-seeking lurk in you, it troubles you and weighs you down. Take care, then, that you do not rely too much on preconceived desire that has no reference to Me, lest you repent later on and be displeased with what at first pleased you and which you desired as being for the best. Not every desire which seems good should be followed immediately, nor, on the other hand, should every contrary affection be at once rejected. It is sometimes well to use a little restraint even in good desires and inclinations, lest through too much eagerness you bring upon yourself distraction of mind; lest through your lack of discipline you create scandal for others; or lest you be suddenly upset and fall because of resistance from others. Sometimes, however, you must use violence and resist your sensual appetite bravely. You must pay no attention to what the flesh does or does not desire, taking pains that it be subjected, even by force, to the spirit. And it should be chastised and forced to remain in subjection until it is prepared for anything and is taught to be satisfied with little, to take pleasure in simple things, and not to murmur against inconveniences.
Thomas à Kempis. (1996). The Imitation of Christ (pp. 120–121). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems.
Lectio Luke 22:14–23:56 Meditatio “Father, forgive them.…” The events of the passion are so many and so oppressive that they almost smother us. In reading this account from Luke, I find it helpful to focus on Jesus himself, rather than on what is being done to him. What does Jesus do and say? What thoughts and attitudes does he seem to have? Throughout his Gospel, Luke focuses on the Lord’s compassion. He continues to do so in his account of Jesus’ sufferings and death. The Savior meets the women of Jerusalem and tells them not to weep for him, but for themselves and for their children. He promises the good thief that on that very day they will be in paradise together. Of his executioners, Jesus says, “they know not what they do.” We know that the executioners were only following orders. But were the men who gave the orders also ignorant of what they were doing? That wouldn’t surprise me. Motives don’t have to be totally evil to generate injustice. All too often in this world someone will act from self-interest, or for the benefit of a particular group, and cause other people to suffer because their needs and rights have not been taken into consideration. People who wage war in the name of religion, or in the name of atheism, or even in the name of justice—don’t most of these “crusaders” think their motives are good, even though their actions wreak havoc? On this Passion Sunday that cry rings in my ears: “[T]hey know not what they do.” Every Good Friday, the Church prays special petitions for all the people in the world. This year, I want to join in that prayer with special fervor, asking that the light and love of Jesus may reach far and wide.
Oratio Jesus, heighten my awareness of the many people who don’t know the purpose of life and the reality of the redemption. Inspire me to pray often that your grace may penetrate hearts. May everyone lost in darkness come to the light of your love. Give me a tender heart like yours—a heart of compassion for the whole human family. I want to pray frequently that your light and love may reach everyone, especially those who consider life meaningless and are trapped in hatred or despair. Contemplatio “[T]hey know not what they do.”
Daughters of Saint Paul. (2008). Lenten Grace: Daily Gospel Reflections (pp. 108–109). Boston, MA: Pauline Books & Media.
Our souls may lose their peace and even disturb other people's, if we are always criticizing trivial actions - which often are not real defects at all, but we construe them wrongly through our ignorance of their motives.
Meditatio “[M]any there began to believe in him.” Today’s Gospel begins to prepare us for the momentous events of Good Friday, one week from today. It describes what happened when some people picked up rocks to stone Jesus. He pointed out that he had shown them many good works from his Father and asked, “For which of these are you trying to stone me?” They answered that it was because “you, a man, are making yourself God.” Although they had seen the signs he worked, they did not believe. The people whom John describes at the end of today’s reading, instead, “began to believe in him.” What a contrast: unbelief and belief! We have received the gift of faith, through which we believe all that God has revealed. How does our faith affect our daily living? For example, we know that Jesus redeemed us. Does our belief lead us to confidently ask for forgiveness whenever we sin? Does our belief that God loves us unconditionally enkindle our trust in his provident care for us and for those we love? Faith grows with use—and life presents us with many opportunities. When we wrestle with greater or lesser questions, suffering, or darkness, it is time to delve deeply into our faith, sometimes struggling to believe. We may even be tempted to stop praying, but this is precisely when we need to continue. In our Gospel today, Jesus tries to reason with those who want to stone him, to help them recognize the truth: to have faith. He is willing to do the same for us. Let us go to Jesus, asking him for the answers we need and for his help. He will not disappoint us. Although it may seem that solutions elude us, we will gradually recognize his hand at work. We will receive grace, strength, and eventually understanding. Little by little, our life will become ever more deeply founded on faith. Let us pray, “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.” Oratio As I reflect on today’s Gospel, Lord, I realize how shaky my faith sometimes is, yet I want to believe deeply. Perhaps part of the reason is that I don’t think about the truths that you have revealed until something goes wrong. It is true that I can zip—and sometimes drag—through life without a thought as to why I am living. I don’t even recognize your hand in my day. Lord, I do believe, but please help my unbelief. Increase my faith. Help me to believe more deeply and to live out of my beliefs today. Amen.
Contemplatio Today I am called to believe.
Daughters of Saint Paul. (2008). Lenten Grace: Daily Gospel Reflections (pp. 100–101). Boston, MA: Pauline Books & Media.
See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. 1 John 3:1 Can we begin to comprehend a love such as this? It is beyond our wildest expectations. Jesus will never pressure us to love him; he waits for us to be open. And when we make the slightest motion of wanting him in our life, he takes up residence in our souls as a true Friend, through his Holy Spirit. When we unite our wills to his most loving will, we find joy and peace. He is the Way that lovingly leads to the Father, he is our Redeemer and Lover; he is our living covenant with the Father! This courteous God struggles to get through to us one simple message: “Delight in me; rejoice in me!” Prayer: Lord, open my heart so I can truly receive you.
Hermes, K. J. (2009). Minute Meditations for Lent. (C. S. Setticase, Ed.) (p. 46). Boston, MA: Pauline Books & Media.
A man is never just material for the future; he is an end in himself. He is not consumed by his relationships but remains always a new question that reaches into eternity, that demands a personal response, that can never be completely planned in advance. That is why there will never be any relationship that will render superfluous the personal, caring, and loving intervention in behalf of a fellow human being.… But the real heart of Christianity is, and will always be, love of neighbor. For, in very fact, each individual is infinitely loved by God and is of infinite value. Christ says to each of us the words so feelingly formulated by Pascal: “In my mortal agony, I thought of you. I shed these drops of blood for you.” If we are able by our love to give meaning to another person, to just one other person, our life will have been infinitely worthwhile. And it will always be so: that men live by their encounter with the love that gives meaning to their lives—it is true of every relationship; no reform, no revolution, can make this gift superfluous. It is likewise true that in all relationships it would be redemptive if, in a world marred by hostility and alienation, one individual would leave the collective and be a brother. These redemptive encounters, which are recorded in no history book, form the true inner history of the Church, which today, more than ever before, we forget in our concern about the history of institutions. Only by helping to liberate others are we ourselves liberated; only by sheltering others do we ourselves receive shelter; only by caring for others will we ourselves find someone to care for us. Once they recognize the two-sidedness of this relationship, people will be cautious about reproaching us with patriarchalism. If we seriously undertake to concern ourselves about the protection of others, we will soon discover that others will be concerned about us. Perhaps we are so antagonistic today, so notably helpless in our efforts to be Christian, because it is so often ourselves that we are attempting to help.
Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (pp. 290–291). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Meditatio “Jesus spoke to them again, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’ ”
It happened on November 9, 1965. The Great Blackout left more than 30 million people in the Northeast and Canada in the dark. I was only nine years old, but I remember the night and the feeling of suddenly being plunged into the dark. At first it was exciting and even fun. But as the novelty wore off and we tried to make supper and do the dishes while stumbling around in the dark, we missed the light we had taken for granted. People were stuck in elevators, trapped in stalled subway trains, and caught in traffic jams. It turned out that a single faulty relay in one power station had failed. That started a cascade effect as overloaded electrical lines gave out, spreading through the power grid like falling dominoes. As bad as all that was, though, it was nothing compared to spiritual darkness. How many people stumble today in the darkness of unbelief? Jesus called himself the light of the world, assuring us that if we have faith in him, he will lead us safely through life. At times we can take the gift of faith and baptism for granted. Jesus can become for us almost like the light switch on the wall that we never think about until a power failure hits. Lent offers us the chance to renew our relationship with Jesus. Even if we forget about him at times, he always stays with us. Through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, our relationship with Jesus grows. Small things can have big effects, just as the faulty relay caused a major blackout. Four weeks of Lent have passed already. If our initial efforts have slackened a bit, these final two weeks offer a new chance to begin again. We will walk with Jesus along the road to his cross and resurrection. His grace will accompany us. Oratio Jesus, thank you for being the light of my life. May I never take you for granted, but live in a spirit of gratitude for the truth that you teach us, the truth that makes us free. Help me to treasure every word in the Gospel and meditate on it day and night. Your word is “a lamp for my feet, a light for my path” (Ps 119:105). Help me to listen to the words you speak in the silence of my heart.
Contemplatio “I know where I came from and where I am going.”
Daughters of Saint Paul. (2008). Lenten Grace: Daily Gospel Reflections (pp. 92–93). Boston, MA: Pauline Books & Media.
You have committed a sin. It may have been from weakness or with malice. Don't panic. Go to God with humility and confidence. "Look what I can do, O Master. When I trust my own strength, I sin."
Let the Lord know you are sorry. Admit it may have been worse if he had not stopped you. Thank God. Love God. He will be generous toward you. Even though what you have done is offensive to him, he will reach out to help you.
Once you have asked God's pardon, don't begin to wonder whether or not he has actually forgiven you. This is a total waste of time, a sickness of the soul. It may seem like a good and reasonable question, but it is not. Fall into the mercy of God and return to your regular life as though the sin had not occurred.
Maybe you will sin again in a short time. Don't let that shake your confidence in God. Return to him again and again. Each defeat will teach you to trust your own strength less and less. If you have really messed up, first try to regain your peace and calmness. Lift up your heart to heaven. Ask yourself whether you are really sorry for having sinned, or simply afraid of being punished. To recover the peace you have lost, forget your sin for a while and think about the love of God. He does everything possible to call sinners back to himself and to make them happy. After this has restored peace to your soul, then you examine the motive behind your sin. Wake up your sorrow in the presence of God's love and promise to do better next time.
Meditatio “Never before has anyone spoken like this one.”
Today’s Gospel features two groups of people: those who critiqued Jesus from their own viewpoint, education, past experience, prejudice, or fear, and those who listened and tried to discover what Jesus was doing. These are still the two possible ways of approaching Jesus. In fact, these are the two possible ways of approaching the Church, world events, family situations, and other people. Those who saw Jesus through their own lenses argued. They were divided because they could only see and hear what their personal viewpoint allowed them to see or hear. If they did not like someone’s viewpoint, they honestly could not see or hear it. All the time they missed Jesus completely, never authentically encountering him. Those who listened to him, such as the guards and Nicodemus, who earlier had come to talk to Jesus by night, observed Jesus. They stated how they felt; they didn’t argue with the others. They were too much in awe to participate in petty, fragmented conversations. In the third chapter of John’s Gospel, Nicodemus learned that no matter how much he knew as a Pharisee, he had to start over, be born again, keep silence before an event that would reveal something to him that was larger and greater than his own thoughts and judgments. This is a tremendous lesson for us in the Church today. We have to be wise and connect to sources where we can hear and see more than people’s biases, agendas, or fears. We don’t need to depend on the interpretation of the secular news for our information on the Church. We can log on to www. vatican. va and read Church news for ourselves. We can lose our time arguing with others about how we each see things, or we can spend our time nourishing ourselves reading the Bible or biographies of saints, or listening to spoken-word CDs about Scripture and spirituality. We can connect to the Lord directly in Eucharistic communion and adoration. Oratio It is difficult, Jesus, to measure the length and breadth of my worldview. All I know is that it is small and cannot contain the mystery of you or your Church, or any other person for that matter. Help me change from analysis paralysis to listening, observing, asking questions, wondering, and contemplating. Amen. Contemplatio Ask questions. Listen. Pray.
Daughters of Saint Paul. (2008). Lenten Grace: Daily Gospel Reflections (pp. 84–85). Boston, MA: Pauline Books & Media.
When God determines a soul is ready, it takes on the light of the Holy Spirit. It becomes God's brilliantly lit place of residence. The soul is clothed with the beautiful glory of the Spirit. It is illumined. In a way similar to those creatures described in Ezekiel, the soul is totally light, face, and eye. There is no place of darkness. It only faces forward. Like the sun, it shines all over. Our soul is given the privilege of becoming the throne of God. Christ rides it, as it were. Christ drives it, directs it, carries it, nourishes it. He gives it spiritual beauty. Jesus said, "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." What he means is that we are not to keep our faith a secret. It is to be shared with others who want it.
In an attempt to open our eyes and show us a way to a deeper spiritual life, God may allow sickness, persecution, and other tests of our fidelity. These things never happen without God's plan or permission.
Our problem is conforming with the will of God. We don't know how to yield to him. We are reluctant to submit to his judgments. We are not able to imitate Christ humbled and crucified. We have not found a way to love our enemies, or to see them as instruments used by God. to train us in self-denial. This is the hazard. Our eyes are blinded by self-love. We do good things and then become proud. We think that we are far advanced as religious people and then look down on our neighbor. Our spiritual pride deepens our blindness. We are beyond help, short of a miracle of grace. Outright sinners can be reformed with less difficulty than those who hide under a cloak of false virtue. The spiritual life does not consist in holy practices that are mere outward appearances. It actually consists in knowing the infinite greatness and goodness of God, It includes an admission of our weakness and our proclivity to evil. It is an act of loving God and denying ourselves. It means renouncing our own will and accepting God's will. The only life-giving motive for any spiritual practice is to please God, because we love God.
Jesus asked the man waiting at the pool an important question: “Do you want to be well?” Although he did want to be well, the man admitted to Jesus that he needed help. Jesus then healed the man, commanding him to “rise, take up your mat, and walk.” As we ponder this man’s experience, we reflect on our own inability to heal ourselves of our spiritual infirmities and sinfulness. We too are weak and incapable of overcoming them on our own. We need Jesus’ help. Lent is an opportunity for us to ponder more deeply the incredible truth that the Second Person of the Trinity became a human being specifically for this purpose. Jesus died and rose to save us from our sins and to sanctify us. This awareness leads us to turn to him in our need. When Jesus asks us, “Do you want to be well?” we cry out, “Yes, Lord, heal me!” Through our experience we know that we will not be changed in a dramatic moment, but over the daily living of our life. God’s grace and action free us from our sinfulness gradually. Little by little our thoughts, attitudes, desires, words, and actions become holier. As our love and commitment to God deepen, our need to try to do everything on our own lessens. This frees us so that we can more trustingly abandon ourselves to the care and action of God. Then he is able to more greatly effect our healing and transformation. Sometimes we will fall. But these become occasions for us to ask pardon, to renew our resolve, and to hear Jesus’ words again: “Do you want to be well?” We repeat our response, “Yes, Lord, heal me,” knowing that his healing words for us will be fulfilled. Oratio When I contemplate your healing of the man at the pool, Jesus, I pause to consider you as my healer. Sometimes I get so caught up in the busyness of my day that I lose sight of my desire to become a more spiritual person. Sometimes I even wonder if I will ever overcome my weaknesses. I recognize that by myself I cannot. You, Jesus, are my hope, my healer. You see my spiritual infirmities and sinfulness. With great confidence I turn to you and open myself to your loving and healing action. “Yes, Jesus, I want to be well. Please heal me.”
Contemplatio Jesus is my healer.
Daughters of Saint Paul. (2008). Lenten Grace: Daily Gospel Reflections (pp. 76–77). Boston, MA: Pauline Books & Media.
Without God, man is stunted. But he is without God if he can no longer talk to God. That is why prayer is not just a private exercise for weak souls, with nothing to offer those who are strong. On the contrary, the real concern of prayer is all that relates to the future of mankind, to the humanity of man as such. For when a person no longer rises above himself in his search for God, he becomes changed—narrower, smaller. Essential organs become atrophied in him. His soul becomes coarser and less discriminating. Eventually he can no longer love the other or even himself. “We can love people only when they bear God within them.” Only when we see God in other people despite all their faults can we be genuinely human. But how can we see a God whom we do not know? And how are we to know him when there is no contact between him and us, when we have forgotten how to speak with him? We must renew the practice of speaking with God; however extensive our knowledge of other languages, we must relearn the noblest use of language—that of speaking with God. To do so, we must let ourselves be guided by the traditional Christian prayers already in existence. I would like just to mention here a prayerful phrase that is especially dear to me because it seems to embody the innermost foundation and the innermost core of every conceivable prayer. I am referring to the words “our Father”, which are the source from which all further prayer flows and by which it is sustained.
Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 97). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Coming to his senses . . . (Luke 15:17) At some time or another, we all stand back and assess our lives. Forward-looking people do this on a regular basis, and people who live in the moment wait for some kind of crisis—but everybody does it. The prodigal son was in this second group. It wasn’t until he found himself in a state of complete misery that he came to his senses. Surely this young man felt like a failure. Surely he worried that his relationship with his father was beyond repair. Still, he reasoned, “Even the most menial servant in my father’s house is treated better than I’m being treated right now. Even the saddest person back home is happier than me.” So he headed for home. Maybe he wasn’t sincere. Maybe he didn’t feel sorry for his sins. Maybe all he wanted was a happier, more comfortable life. It didn’t matter. What mattered was that he decided to walk away from the bondage that he was in. Whether his motives were pure, mixed, or completely self-centered, he returned to his father. And the rest, as they say, is history. Of course his father wouldn’t treat him like just another servant! He lavished affection on him and threw a great party to celebrate his return. Whenever we repent, our heavenly Father greets us just as happily. He doesn’t utter a single word of negativity or rejection. He welcomes us warmly and treats us like the children that we are. The only thing that matters is that we have come back home. He knows that if we stay with him, everything will work out in the end. Don’t wait for a crisis to make changes in your life. Step back today, and carefully assess each area of your life—work, family, finances, recreation. The examination of conscience on page 18 can help you assess your spiritual life as well. Then run to your Father, and ask him for his grace. Stay with him, in his home, and you’ll be far happier.
“Here I am, Father. Let me know your mercy today.”
Daily Reflection from The Word Among Us (www.wau.org)
Human beings are more than the sum of the good they can accomplish. They are children of God, whether they do good or cannot yet manage to do anything. Our Father in heaven does not love us because of the good we do. He loves us for ourselves, because he has adopted us as his children forever. This is why humility, spiritual poverty, is so precious: it locates our identity securely in the one place where it will be safe from all harm. If our treasure is in God, no one can take it from us. Humility is truth. I am what I am in God’s eyes: a poor child who possesses absolutely nothing, who receives everything, infinitely loved and totally free. I have received everything in advance from the freely bestowed love of my Father, who said to me definitively: “All that is mine is yours.”
I heard someone give this testimony on a television program in which I was taking part. He was a last-stage alcoholic who could not stop drinking for more than two hours; his family was on the brink of despair. He and his wife were invited to a meeting about the word of God. Someone there read a passage from Scripture. One verse in particular went through him like a ball of fire and gave him the assurance of being healed. After that, every time he was tempted to drink, he would run to open the Bible to that verse, and in rereading the words he felt strength return to him until he was completely healed. When he tried to share what that well-known verse was, his voice broke with emotion. It was the verse from the Song of Songs: “Your love is better than wine” (1:2). Scholars would have turned up their noses at this kind of application of Scripture but—like the man born blind who said to his critics, “I only know that I was blind and now I see” (see Jn 9:10ff)—that man could say, “I was dead and now I have come back to life.”
A similar thing happened to St. Augustine as well. At the height of his battle for chastity, he heard a voice say, “Tolle, lege!” (“Take and read!). Having the letters of St. Paul nearby, he opened the book with the intention of taking the first text he came across as God’s will. It was Romans 13:13ff: “Let us conduct ourselves becomingly as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy.” He writes in his Confessions, “No further wished I to read, nor was there need to do so. Instantly, in truth, at the end of this sentence, as if before a peaceful light streaming into my heart, all the dark shadows of doubt fled away.
Excerpt from Fr. Cantalamessa's 2nd Lenten Homily 2016
God’s Word, transmitted by Holy Scripture, is a fundamental means by which he calls us and communicates the gift of his life. Living with Scripture is not a luxury reserved for a few people of leisure or those with a taste for biblical exegesis. It is a vital necessity for every Christian, especially in these times of instability, struggle, and confusion. We have an urgent need for Holy Scripture as an inexhaustible source of light and strength, illumination and foundation of our lives. Jesus tells us: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (Lk 21:33).
Meditatio “Whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” I remember a teacher I had in the fourth grade who taught our religion class. I’m sure we learned about the Ten Commandments that year, and probably the Beatitudes, etc. But this teacher yelled at us often and even made insulting remarks to the whole class, especially to certain students. This teacher could have been said to be teaching us the commandments, but she certainly didn’t practice what she preached. The witness of her life contradicted her words, and, unfortunately, her actions are what have stayed in my memory until now, not her class lessons. “Whoever obeys and teaches.…” In order to teach others, we must obey the commandments ourselves. Our way of life needs to be consistent with what we believe. That’s why Jesus also says, “Whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so.…” To give a bad example is to teach others to break the commandments, especially if the bad example is given to someone we have greater influence over. The opposite difficulty can also be found. One could be among those who obey the commandments, living good lives, but fall short, perhaps out of fear, of taking an active part in sharing or passing on the teachings of Jesus. Many of us are blessed to have had in our lives people who both obeyed and taught the commandments of God. Most of us first learned about Jesus from our mother or father. We can probably also think of many other people who were models and teachers to us throughout our lives—schoolteachers, pastors, relatives, neighbors, and friends. The faith is always received through the mediation of others—their teachings and example. And as we have received, so we are called to give. Oratio Jesus, sometimes I find myself in a situation where I could explain something about the Church or your teachings to my friends or coworkers who are not Catholic. Often I’m too timid to do it. Other times, I exempt myself from living according to your way of life, which I hold everyone else to. Help me to live more honestly. Make me your bold disciple and apostle. Contemplatio Jesus, you are the way I want to follow.
Daughters of Saint Paul. (2008). Lenten Grace: Daily Gospel Reflections (pp. 60–61). Boston, MA: Pauline Books & Media.
Do not pay any attention to the kind of work you do, but rather to the honor that it brings to God, even though it may seem quite trivial. Desire only to do the Divine Will, following Divine Providence, which is the disposition of Divine Wisdom. In a word, if your works are pleasing to God and recognized as such, that is all that matters. Work hard every day at increasing your purity of heart, which consists in appraising things and weighing them in the balance of God's will.