February 28, 2015
The pattern of the readings for the opening Sundays in Lent is always the same whichever cycle we are following. We heard last week of the temptation of Jesus – albeit in Mark’s terse, clipped style. We also heard about Jesus fasting to prepare himself to preach the gospel. This weekend we hear the story of the Transfiguration. The full nature of Jesus is revealed to his disciples, he is the Father’s Beloved Son.
The temptation sees Jesus alone. The Transfiguration sees him with others – although they do not realise what they have experienced until much later. Both stories are placed together in the Liturgy to tell us about Jesus but also about ourselves.
He is tempted, but overcomes. He is transfigured but his glory is veiled. So it is with us. We can overcome temptation. Who and what we really are is still veiled. But we too are the beloved children of God made so through baptism and the Holy Spirit.
Lent is a time when we pause and rethink, a time for reflection and prayer. If it is true that we are the children of God then why do we not believe that we can overcome sin and temptation. Perhaps because we think it is our efforts that count? Actually it is the life of the Spirit that does and will give us the victory over sin, Satan, and temptation.
February 12, 2015
Next Wednesday is Ash Wednesday. Throughout the world Christians will begin a period of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving to prepare themselves for the celebration of Easter. The message of Ash Wednesday is stark: ‘Remember, O Man, that dust you are and unto dust you shall return’. It is also a message that cannot be gainsaid. It is undeniably true.
But we don’t hear this message and do penance because we’re macabre or depressed or weird. Rather we hear those words in hope, and confidence, and love. Because those words are only the start of the Lenten journey which will end at the Easter Vigil when we celebrate the life that Jesus has won in all its wonder and glory.
On Wednesday we will be marked with ashes. At the Easter Vigil those ashes are washed away by the new blessed water from the font. Although we are sinners by virtue of our baptism we are redeemed sinners. The outcome of Lent is already decided – we triumph because Jesus triumphs. And it is the same with our entire lives.
We are given some sensible lessons about fasting, prayer, and almsgiving in the gospel. We are called to pause in our helter-skelter lives and refocus on what really matters. Lent gives us the space to think and pray.
February 6, 2015
Across the world one can find images depicting the events that we celebrate next Wednesday. Our Lady of Lourdes has proved to be the most popular of all the apparitions of the Mother of God. The tale is well known of the simple girl Bernadette who saw a lady who declared herself to be ‘the Immaculate Conception’, and who, after much personal pain and suffering, convinced the Church that she had indeed had this vision.
The shrine is still packed now over 160 years after the vision took place. It has a special place in Catholic consciousness. This is undoubtedly something to do with the simplicity of the message and the hope that the place embodies.
We are living in a society that increasingly wants to marginalise the sick, the imperfect, and the disabled. We are being sold the lie that we can live without pain and suffering and sickness. But we know that this is not the case.
We do not say that pain and suffering are good things. They are signs rather of our fallen humanity. But we don’t try to pretend they are not there. Rather, Lourdes, and the other shrines, show us a Christian response.
May Our Lady of Lourdes pray for us.