By Fr Anthony Egan S.J. To the African National Congress last week must surely feel as, at worst, the rumour of defeat to come, at best a loud political wake-up...
Last week it was suggested we focus, primarily, on renewal rather than repentance, and that a genuine renewal makes repentance so much easier – and much more honest. Of course repentance is important – there is a value in facing our sin and failure, and striving to turn around specific aspects of our living. On the other hand, renewal looks at the total picture, provides motivation, strengthens foundations, and leads us to not only to accept the need for change but also the ongoing need for repentance. We are always in need of repentance. Therefore there is a need for constant renewal.
For example – what really strengthens a marriage or a priesthood? Is it the admissions of faults, and the expression of regret or is it the growing effort to understand more fully, value and appreciate what we have together with what we are supposed to be?
Here we could profitably apply by analogy words from
THIS SUNDAY’S PSALM [27 or 26].“Of you my heart has spoken … seek his face … hide not your face … I believe I shall see the Lord’s goodness.” As we seek the value of any living commitment there must be an involvement of the heart. In addition we must not hide ourselves from its reality, and believe that therein exists an essential goodness which is possible to see and experience..
What was the driving force behind Peter’s repentance after his triple denial of Jesus? Was it merely guilt, regret or the recognition of failure? Or, rather, is it not to be found in his ongoing growth of faith, recognition of whom and what Jesus was, and an understanding and appreciation of the value of his relationship with the Lord. This is the real stuff of renewal, our renewal, and should be the primary focus of all our Lenten efforts and endeavours. Is there any lasting value in self-imposed penances and mortifications if divorced from the purpose of strengthening our personal relationship with God-in-Christ? Surely not?
The experience of the Transfiguration as recorded in
THIS SUNDAY’S GOSPEL [LUKE 9: 28b – 36] must have been, for the three disciples, a formative event in their ongoing growth of faith, and deepening of their understanding of real discipleship. On the mountain they saw a different Jesus, a ‘face’ of the Lord they had not yet experienced. They began to understand.
OLD TESTAMENT EXTRACT [GENESIS 15: 5 – 12. 17 – 18] records a similar formative event in the life of Abraham whose life, from that moment on was never the same. It was the beginning of a personal change and renewal. There was still a great deal for him to learn, understand and fully appreciate. It was, as it were, the start of his own personal ‘transfiguration’ – he began to see himself in a new, different, way – and others would also begin to see him differently. On the mountain of Transfiguration the three disciples began to see Jesus differently. A result of this was that they also began to see themselves differently.
It should be the same for us. Our Lenten endeavours should lead us to see Jesus Christ differently. Then, as this begins to take shape so we begin to see ourselves differently. This is precisely what renewal is all about. Is it realistic to speak about ‘transfiguring’ ourselves?
Here it may be helpful for us to reflect on further words from today’s Psalm. There we read,
“wait for the Lord; be strong; be stouthearted, and wait for the Lord.” We should never see ‘waiting’ as a passive thing, an inactivity! It can, of course, become this, and often accompanied by impatience. ‘Waiting for the Lord’ involves making ourselves available to him and his purpose. This involves a certain strength and firm purpose (the ‘stouthearted’ element).
All of this is that to which the season of Lent calls us. This is why last week it was suggested that we do not rush into all sorts of good Lenten intentions and activities. In many ways the experiences of both Abraham and the disciples caught them by surprise – the initiative lay with the Lord. This Lent invite Him to let you know what needs to be done –
WAIT FOR HIM (no impatience) …. BE STOUTHEARTED.
THIS SUNDAY’S NEW TESTAMENT READING [PHILIPPIANS 3: 17 – 4:1]
tells us that “we await a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ … stand firm in this way.” Renewal is impossible unless we are standing firm and making ourselves available to the Lord. Our little penances help to do this.
Jesus took the disciples with him.
LET HIM TAKE US AS WELL.