"What man can learn the counsel of God?" This is the question posed at the start of SUNDAY’S OLD TESTAMENT READING [WISDOM 9: 13 - 18b]. In a fundamental way...
A Journey of Renewal
SUNDAY 30 MARCH
Scripture: John 9: 1 – 12
It blows my mind! How could anybody, with an ounce of humanity in them, not rejoice to see a man, who was blind from birth, experience the miracle of sight ! Furthermore, should it matter what day he had healed – even if it was the sabbath? How hard their hearts must have been. They fail or find it impossible to see goodness when goodness stares at them in the face. Makes you wonder – who was really blind? This is the irony of the healing of the man born blind.
This same blindness permeates our modern society. We are so busy labelling and categorising people that we cannot see the goodness within them and the good that they do. We focus on trivialities (like being healed on the sabbath) and fail to see the bigger picture.
Jesus said: ‘As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.’ He is the source of our light. It is Jesus who turns the darkness of our judgements, pettiness, prejudice and discrimination into light. When we have Jesus in our hearts and our lives then our attitude changes. Jesus, the light of the world, helps us to emerge from our darkness and to walk in the light of faith and truth.
Later in this passage (vs. 35 – 37) Jesus, as he did with the Samaritan woman at the well last Sunday, reveals his identity to the blind man (after he had restored his sight). The man’s response is immediate ‘Lord I believe.’
This is what Jesus wants to do with each of us. We all have areas and aspects of life where we are blind, especially to the goodness in people. (why is it that we find it so easy to see people’s faults and not their goodness?). Lent is our journey from the darkness of the past to the light of faith – and a new beginning in Christ.
Can you even begin to imagine what it must have been like for the man born blind to have the gift of sight. For all those years he had lived in darkness. This was a new beginning for him. He could no longer depend on the charity of other (while he was blind he had resorted to begging).
When we have the blindness of judgements, pettiness, prejudice and discrimination removed from our hearts and lives we also have the opportunity to make a new beginning, to be liberated from the darkness which enslaved us. Sometimes, however, we grow so accustomed to and comfortable in the darkness that invades our lives that we are reluctant to emerge from the darkness.
At the beginning of his ministry Jesus proclaimed that he had come to give new sight to the blind (Luke 4: 18). Do you want this gift of new sight? Would you like to experience the light which Jesus came to bring? Or, do you prefer to stay in the darkness?
A little introspection is needed today and this is not easy to do. Do your best, however, to identify the areas of darkness in your life which you need Jesus to fill with his light.
Turn my darkness into Light O Lord. Fill me with your healing presence. Forgive the sins and failings which bring darkness into my life and help me to rid myself of all that prevents me from following you and experiencing the light of your presence. Amen.
MONDAY 31 MARCH
Scripture: Psalm 3o (29)
“For his anger is but a moment, and his favour is for a lifetime “
Do we live our lives celebrating how much God loves us or do we live it contemplating His anger all day long? Once I had read this verse from Ps 30 (29) it struck me that I spend too much time meditating of Gods “anger“ and too little time meditating on his favour. It hit me like a bombshell. This Psalm is very revealing – His anger is just for a moment compared with his favour being for a lifetime.
Like a loving parent who sees their child make a mistake the anger quickly disappears because the lifetime of Love is just so much greater and more real. Anger is like a storm – it can be destructive but the rejuvenating nature of creation eventually covers up the destruction and replaces it with new life.
I am starting to believe that if I live my life keeping this verse in mind I will be a happier person in myself, in my family and in my faith community. In this year of the family I need to realise I suppose that my love for my family members must be for a lifetime and if and when there is anger it should only be for a moment.
Print this verse and stick it on your fridge, face book page, tattoo it on your heart… anywhere where you will be able to allow its essence to sink into the very depth of your being.
Almighty God I have spent too much time dwelling on your holy anger and not nearly enough time accepting your lifetime of love you have for me. I am sorry. Help me to believe your love surpasses all the things I do to make you angry. May I swim in the waves of your love and fly in the wind of your grace. Amen
TUESDAY 01 APRIL
“Do you want to be well again?”
Scripture: John 5: 1 – 16
Cartoon strips are very often a commentary on LIFE. In a “Peanuts” strip some years ago, Lucy says to Charlie Brown, “Life is like a deckchair, Charlie Brown”. Puzzled, he says, “What?” She replies, “When people go on a cruise ship they unfold their deckchairs to sit in the sun. Some face the stern of the ship so they can see where they have been; others face the front so they can see where they are going. On the cruise ship of life, Charlie Brown, which way is your deckchair facing?” He says, “Gee, I’ve never been able to get one unfolded!”
The man in today’s gospel passage has not been able to “unfold his deckchair” for 38 years. For 38 long years he has lain by the “pool of life” and not made progress. Disabled, undoubtedly depressed and dispirited, he is defeated by life, until he meets Jesus, who asks the question, “Do you want to be well again?”
We may think the question is insensitive in some way – surely the answer would automatically be “Yes! That is why I’m here at this pool, day after day!” But in actual fact, sometimes the answer might not be “yes”. Sometimes we become “comfortable” with our disabilities or illnesses – we get attention that way – we are “provided for”. Sometimes we are reluctant or afraid to deal with the changes that “being well” will bring.
So Jesus asks the question, and waits for the answer. He will not do what we do not want, but if we allow Him He will heal our illnesses, take away our disabilities and instruct us to “pick up your mat and walk”.
In this Journey to Renewal, New Life is waiting – all you have to do is ASK!
Reflect on your life up to now. Do you have a need for healing in some way or other? Is there something blocking you from asking the Lord to bring about your healing? Pray about this, and ask for the gift of healing.
If you do not have a problem personally, then perhaps you know someone who does. Pray for that person, and for the gift of healing in their life.
Lord Jesus, help me to see that You and You alone can take away whatever in my life blocks me from experiencing Life to the full. Help me to recognise and remove the blocks that I place in the way of healing, so that I may enter into new life with You. Amen.
WEDNESDAY 02 APRIL
Scripture: John 5: 17 – 30
Jesus really got under the skin of the Jews of his time when he spoke of God as his own Father. The great God of Israel; the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; the God who led his people from slavery in Egypt to the Promised Land; the God who spoke through the prophets; this same God is now being referred to as “Father”. It was difficult for them to digest this and to get their minds around this concept. Praise, worship, honour, glory and sacrifice was what they were accustomed to giving to God and now here is Jesus calling him ‘dad’ or ‘daddy’.
To get their minds around this they had to change their hearts. That, as we all know, is difficult to do. At the beginning of Lent, on Ash Wednesday, we heard the call of God through the prophet Joel ‘come back to me with all your hearts,’ and later ‘let your hearts be broken, not your garments torn.’
That is why Lent is a season for Metanoia – a change of heart. This Journey to Renewal helps us to experience a genuine change of heart. In the course of life we have all seen or experienced someone undergo a ‘change of heart’, a shift from a very hard line or attitude to a softening of the heart which has led to a different mind-set. On more than one occasion I have experience a parent disapprove of the marriage of their son or daughter for one reason or another even to the point of becoming estranged from them – until the grandchild is born. Somehow this reality of a new-born grandchild can have the power to change a person’s heart – leading to reconciliation and acceptance.
The religious opponents of Jesus were not about to do that. Their hardness of heart would lead them to commit murder in order to silence Jesus.
How hard is your heart?
What do you need Jesus to soften and change within you so that you can experience genuine renewal at the end of this Lenten Journey? As on Sunday, a little introspection is needed here again.
Change my heart O God. Break my heart of stone and make my heart for love alone. Amen.
THURSDAY 03 APRIL
Scripture: Exodus 32: 7 -14 John 5: 31 – 47
The theme of today’s readings is how God’s people continually strayed and followed other ways, other gods. In the Old Testament we see them worshiping false idols and being stiff necked. Moses prevailed upon the Lord to relent in the punishment he had threatened.
The people of Jesus’ time searched the Scriptures, looking for eternal life, but did not recognize it in Jesus himself. They made the observance of the Law their god and rejected Jesus, who was eternal life. Jesus – the one John and the Scriptures testified about but who they could not see because they were so concerned with outward appearances and laws. These had become their masters.
Today, we are tempted by many things: technology, images, and sounds. What appeals to you? Is it the iPhone, or the newest app? Is it chatting on Facebook, watching YouTube videos, or an inappropriate trailer for a new movie? Or is it the aroma of fresh baked bread or tasty appetizers simmering on a hot plate as you are doing your weekly shopping?
We are left with several challenges. What voices do we listen to? What rules our lives? What voices should we listen to? How can we use technology to bring others closer to Christ?
Turn off your cell phones, your computers and your televisions for one hour today and spend the time together as a family.
Gracious Father, you sent your Son into the world so that we could come to know and love you. Open our hearts and minds to welcome him. May we learn to love him more and more each day. We ask this in his precious name. Amen
FRIDAY 04 APRIL
Scripture: John 7 : 1 – 2, 10, 25 – 30
“His hour had not yet come”
What can hold us back from doing the will of God? Fear, especially the fear of death, can easily rob us of the courage and the will to do what is right. Jesus met opposition and the threat of death with grace and determination to accomplish his Father’s will. Jesus knew that his mission, his purpose in life, would involve sacrifice and suffering and culminate with death on the cross.
But that would not be the end. His “hour” would crush defeat with victory, condemnation with pardon and freedom, and death with glory and everlasting life. He willingly suffered and went to the cross for our sake, to redeem us from sin and to restore our relationship with God the Father.
Saint Augustine of Hippo wrote: “Our Lord had the power to lay down his life to take it up again … Our freedom from death comes only through his death … He gave himself to us as the vine to the branches; apart from him we cannot live.”
No one can be indifferent towards Jesus for very long. What he said and did – his miraculous signs and wonders – were done in the name of God.
We can try and mould the Lord Jesus to our own ideas and what to think of him, or we can allow his word of life and truth to free us from our own sinful blindness, stubborn pride, and ignorance.
Do we accept all that Jesus said and did for us with faith and reverence, or with disbelief and contempt? The consequences are enormous, both in this life and in eternity.
Speak to at least one of the Catechumens or Candidates in the RCIA programme who are in preparation for Baptism and/or Reception into Full Communion with the Church at Easter. Offer them some words of support and encouragement as they journey to faith.
“Eternal God, who are the light of the minds that know you, the joy of the hearts that love you, Grant us to know you, that we may truly love you, and so to love you that we may fully serve you, whom to serve is perfect freedom, in Jesus Christ our Lord.” From the Prayer of St Augustine
SATURDAY 05 APRIL
Scripture: John 7: 40 – 53
“The people were divided because of Jesus.” John 7: 43. It is impossible to remain neutral about Jesus – he doesn’t give us that luxury: He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me, scatters. Matthew 12: 30
By trying to remain neutral in the struggle between good and evil, we are choosing to be separated from God, who is good, and are joining the devil’s team.
Neither can we live with one foot in the world and the other in the Kingdom. “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Mammon”. Matthew 6:24.
We, Christians, have chosen to believe in Jesus. Does our lifestyle, however, reflect our choice? Can people see the love, joy and peace of Jesus in us? When they meet us, do they experience the kindness, compassion and mercy of Jesus?
Consider the following: What is the difference between an atheist who doesn’t believe in the Bible and a Christian who won’t read his Bible? What is the difference between an atheist who lives selfishly and a Christian who lives for self and not for God? What is the difference between an atheist who doesn’t even think of supporting the Church financially, and a Christian who will not?
Does my lifestyle reflect that I am a disciple of Jesus?
“Why do you call me Lord, Lord, and do not do what I say?” Luke 6:46. Is this true of me? Do I merely pay lip-service to Jesus’ lordship in my life? In which area of my life is Jesus calling me to change?
Jesus, for so long I have hesitated to make you Lord of my life because I have been afraid of what you might ask me to do or where you would lead me. Help me to believe that you only want what is best for me, and give me the grace to surrender my life to you. Amen
These Lenten Reflections are written by Fr. Desmond Nair, Fr. Stephen Tully, Deacon Peter Venter, Irene Helsdon, Fr. Brett Williams and Deacon Henry Blair and edited for use in the Parish of Our Lady of Fatima, Durban North. They are written for the glory of God and for the good of his Church and so may be freely copied and distributed. Please acknowledge the authors when copying and distributing. We wish you a blessed and fruitful Lenten Season as together we Journey to Renewal.
Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church, Durban North. Lent 2014