As we close out the Octave of Easter we should reflect on how the disciples responded to their loss of daily intimate contact with Jesus. We hear over and over again how fear and doubt invades their hearts and minds when Jesus is seemingly absent. Something similar can happen to us if we have meet Christ more intimately in our Lenten Journey and experienced the depths of Christ's Love in the Triduum and eight day celebration of Easter concluding today with Sunday of Divine Mercy. While Easter continues on for another 7 weeks we could, without proper planning, fall back in fear and doubts that preceded our Lent. Jesus left his Word, Deed and Body to maintain intimacy and peace even when physical separation happens. He instructs the community of disciples to remain in close contact with each other and in prayer as they await the Spirit. The Spirit of Christ is the completion of God's gift to us and changes our relationship from God outside to God within so there is no degree of separation possible except of our own making. Use these next 42 days to prepare a larger place for the Spirit to reside in the heart of your soul building off the work you did in preparing for Easter as we move to Pentecost..
Feb 7 - Ash Wednesday is three days away! Hopefully you have had the chance to use this period of Ordinary Time to consider how you might effectively use the Disciplines of Lent (prayer, fast and almsgiving) to grow in the interior life. Each of today’s readings tells us of a person’s spiritual transformation after realizing that they were distanced from God. The distances vary but in each case there is an honest confession made as well as a conscious decision, with the help of God’s grace, to change one’s life!
Our Gospel story tells how Peter cleaned out the boat making room for Jesus. He accepted Jesus desire to enter his boat and trusted in Jesus Word to fill the boat. In his astonishment Peter then demonstrates his willingness to intentionally walk away from the boat and build a new life in the service of Christ.
In the few remaining days before Lent, use this Gospel to consider where you hope to be in relation to Christ when Holy Thursday arrives. Will your boat have more room for Jesus? Will you be re-board and cast away from the shore; possibly even going into deep? Seeing the astonishing love and mercy of Jesus towards you during Lent, will you be able to walk away from life as you now live for a new and deeper life in Christ. Begin your Lent with the intention to become more desirous of Christ and more in control of those desires which separate you. I wish you a most transformative Lenten experience!
What should I give up for lent?
Lent is the perfect time to form new life-giving habits and abandon old self-destructive habits. But most of us just give up chocolate. Then, when Easter arrives, we realize we really haven’t grown spiritually since the beginning of Lent.
Lent is not just about giving things up, like chocolate. Lent is about doing something - something bold to become a better husband or wife, father or mother, son or daughter, friend, neighbor, etc. Do something life-changing! Sign up for Dynamic Catholic’s Best Lent Ever email program that will take you on a 40-day spiritual journey to encounter Jesus—and yourself— in a deeply personal habit of daily prayer.
Sign up today at DynamicCatholic.com/BestLentEver
In my last homily I spoke of the threefold spiritual life expressed by John the Baptist: penitential, contemplative and active. Think of each one as a leg on a three legged stool. While it is possible to sit on a stool with two legs and maybe even one; it is far less stable and significantly more difficult to maintain balance. In other words, the likelihood of falling off the seat is far greater with two and nearly certain with only one leg to hold you up.
In the Gospel for today and for the next two Sundays we see Jesus progressively manifest to the world in a threefold way, suggesting to me the strength provided by each leg on the stool. Jesus who is God has no need for a stool yet he manifests the penitential leg humbling himself in the form of a slave. As a result of this greatest act of humility the world has ever seen, the whole world is now drawn to God. Next Sunday the Word who became flesh will manifest the contemplative leg revealing the Father in heaven by focusing us on the Word Amongst Us made more open by Baptism. Finally, on the third Sunday the active leg is manifest, despite an expression of un-readiness, in the face of the obvious and critical need of others.
As we begin this new calendar year look at your stool to see if all three legs are attached and whether the legs are equally measured to provide the greatest balance and stability in your life. If not than make a New Year’s resolution to repair the stool.
Today and for the next two Sundays our Gospel readings focus on the last and greatest prophet of the Old Testament and the first person to recognize Jesus as the coming Messiah in the New Testament. John the Baptist, who instructs us today, has been living a monastic life dedicated to scriptural study, voluntary poverty and aesthetical practices in the area of the Dead Sea. Some 30 years prior, this same John leapt in his mother’s womb when he first encountered Jesus who was in Mary’s womb. The close encounter with Christ and the later dedication to a contemplative lifestyle prepares John for the active ministry he now embarking on.
Luke’s reintroduction of John is a contrast with the “who’s who” of the rich and famous of the day. These are the folks one would anticipate announcing the messiah’s arrival but their desire for power and pleasure not only blinds them to the fact of Jesus presence but makes them antagonistic towards God’s plan. John on the other hand, removed from the distractions of this world, not only sees clearly but acts definitively to do God’s plan and invites us to do the same.
Advent like Lent is a time of preparing ourselves ‘day by day… to see God’s plan more clearly, love God more dearly, follow Christ more nearly, day by day’. This is a perfect time to reflect on whether we are blindly approaching Christmas the way the culture expects or by contrast are preparing the way of the Lord through scriptural study, asceticism, voluntary poverty and the active ministry of evangelization.
Pope Francis was asked by reporters on his way back from his Papal visit to South America earlier this year why he only speaks to the issues of the poor and not those of the struggling middle class. He said they had a good point that he would have to consider in the future. To date I have not heard him speak to this point and I am grateful that he has not based on Jesus teaching in today’s Gospel. Jesus shows the disciples and us wealth disparity not in terms of things but in terms of attitude toward things, exposing the dangers of being possessed by our possessions. The issues of struggle for the middle class concern “the anxiety of having enough” which is always just a bit ahead of us. In today’s Gospel the scribes are representative of the middle class who in their attachment to things have lost their attachment to God. The widow presents the perfect disciple who by giving from her want makes herself totally dependent on God and therefore totally detached from things. The problem we face in the New Evangelization is convincing our friends and loved ones that the anxiety they experience will only be cured by detaching from the need for more goods and attaching to the desire for more God. This is the real struggle of the middle class!
Deacon Dennis Donahue