By Fr Graham Pugin SJ By now most of you know that I was shot on Monday afternoon. I was standing, empty-handed in the gates of Holy Trinity Catholic Church...
As the season of Lent grows, we continue striving to keep the ‘divine horizon’ in our vision. So, let us take on board two short extracts from today’s scriptures. The first from
THE PSALM [116 or 117] – “I will walk in the presence of the Lord in the land of the living.” The next one from the NEW TESTAMENT READING [ROMANS 8: 31b – 34] – “If God is for us, who is against us?“
If we recall Noah and family having to emerge from the ark the rainbow sign given to them was the reminder that they had to walk the ‘new’ earth on which they found themselves in the presence of the Lord. It was indeed a land of the living. In addition, we recall from last Sunday that the rainbow-covenant-sign promised that God was for them. It followed, then, that no matter what obstacles were to face them in this new endeavour nothing would really be against them. Noah and his family had responded obediently to the challenge which the Lord had presented them.
We come, then, to
THIS SUNDAY’S OLD TESTAMENT EXTRACT [GENESIS 22: 1 – 2. 9a. 10 – 13. 15 – 18]. Now it is Abraham’s turn to be tested for the endurance of faith and obedience. He too had to walk in the presence of the Lord in the land of the living but his faith knew with certainty that God was FORhim and so nothing the Lord asked could possibly go against him.
Once again we hear a similar story to Noah. Abraham was asked to go on a journey and take something specific with him. “Take your son … whom you love, and go to the land of Morah.” There, at the end of the testing period Abraham receives a promise. “I will indeed bless you … as the stars of heaven – and the sand which is on the seashore … because you have obeyed my voice.”
It is more than possible that some using this reflection have been put to the test as Abraham was but so much more was asked of you. Perhaps you had to ‘give’ a son or daughter – in armed conflict, through a terminal illness, or an untimely and tragic death when least expected? Of course, it takes time. There must be good time spent in a struggle of faith, in eventual acceptance, healing and renewed convictions. The Lord’s ‘rainbow horizon’ suddenly vanished. It took time to see it again and break out of the personal prison.
However, the season of Lent does call us to anything remotely resembling this sort of pain and suffering. In fact I do not believe that Lent calls us to any sort of pain or suffering. Rather it calls us to see our Christian lives and living with greater clarity and to
DO this with a little more enthusiasm and renewed sense of purpose. Therefore, we return to the three questions posed in last week’s reflection. Who are we? What are we doing? How are we doing it? These must NOT be asked and answered in relation to Lent but, rather, regarding our general Christian-Catholic life and living – asked and answered as we walk, this Lent and always, in the Lord’s presence, in the land of the living.
If we look at
TODAY’S GOSPEL READING [MARK 9: 2 – 10] we catch a glimpse of ourselves at different stages of our lives. It is so easy to grasp on to the beautiful, wonderful, sometimes spectacular, moment of life. The temptation is to capture them and keep these as the permanent, preferred, reality. “It is well that we are here; let us make ….“
Experience, of course, teaches us all that this is simply not possible. We would forget who we were. We would have nothing of value to do – and so there would be no need to worry about how we were doing it. There are, in the words of our Psalm, vows to the Lord which we must fulfil before the people.
Noah and his family had to begin again – from scratch. Abraham still had to make a further journey and adjust his life to further challenges. The disciples on the mountain had to come down and work out, each for themselves “what the rising from the dead meant.” I suspect we have a more difficult task – to work out, in greater detail, what life and living mean. These Lenten days provide us with another opportunity to do so – and continue
WORKING on our unfinished symphony.