As We Forgive

February 25, 2010

Fifth Sunday of Lent c

We are coming close to Easter now, the moment of new life born out of death. Jesus hands over his life for us, and to us. We will live with his life, with new hearts filled with God’s Spirit of love.

This life is present when we live according to God’s kingdom, and do God’s will on earth as it is in heaven. We have an example of God giving and forgiving, and that gives us a model for our life. We do what God does when we forgive. We do what God does. We can face temptation, and we can trust that God will deliver us from evil, because we do what God does.

Forgiveness is a weak word to describe this new life. When we forgive, we accept those around us. We share with them, celebrating the joy in our midst. We do not cast stones in some pitiless fashion. We do not condemn others as sinners. Recognizing our own sinfulness, we see that we are like the sinner who is accused and condemned. The joy we feel at being delivered is a joy we must share with others.

St Augustine told his congregation “Become what you eat.” When we receive the Body of Christ in Communion, we become the Body of Christ, the Church. Christ’s spirit is with us, enabling us to do what Christ does. By receiving, we commit ourselves to a life of forgiving. We offer peace to those around us in Church, and are sent out to offer peace to everyone we meet.


Give and Forgive

February 25, 2010

Fourth Sunday of Lent c

Let us celebrate with a feast,
because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again;
he was lost, and has been found.

With these words, the father in today’s parable welcomes his son home. Joy practically jumps off the page as he strives to give his son everything he can. He gives, and he forgives.

Every celebration of the Eucharist is like this. We have encountered God in the most intimate part of ourselves, and now God welcomes us to a feast. We are not bit players, but a true son or daughter whom God loves intimately. And we are surrounded by others who were formed to be images of God.

Anointed to be God’s priestly people, we join Christ in offering ourselves to the Father. And the Father responds by giving us the Son, and by filling us with the giving and forgiving Spirit.

Thy Kingdom Come

February 25, 2010

Third Sunday of Lent c

Scripture is an important part of our prayer. It fills out the meaning of the words we say, so that they are more than hollow repetitions. Each of us can have a different idea of God’s kingdom, or God’s will, but our prayer becomes unified when those ideas are rooted in scripture.

The Hebrew Scriptures tell the story of Israel as the kingdom of God’s Chosen People. There are victories and defeats as Israel contends with neighbors. There is good and evil, with prophets rebuking kings and kings give wisdom. And there are moments when God flashes brightly into that history, from speaking through the burning bush to using the Persian king Cyrus to bring the people back to the Promised Land.

“Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand.”” This is how the Gospel of St Mark begins to describe Jesus’ public ministry. If kingdom is an important theme in the preaching of Jesus, the will of God is the theme when Jesus prays before his crucifixion. These themes arise when we pray as Jesus taught us.
These themes arise again is our sacraments. Anointing with chrism recalls the anointing of Israel’s prophets, priests and kings, and makes the baptized person “forever a member of Christ who is Priest, Prophet and King.” Prophets speak the Word of God; priests offer sacrifice to God; and kings enact the Kingdom of God. Through Baptism and Confirmation, we are given the strength to do these, enabling the Kingdom and the Word of God to be known.

Hallowed Be

February 24, 2010

Second Sunday of Lent c

When Jesus was baptized, a voice declared “This is my beloved child.” It is something that is true of Jesus every day, though the disciples rarely recognized it. The same voice repeats that declaration at the Transfiguration, with the glory of God’s love on display in Jesus. At that moment, the glory is so impressive, that all recognize God’s holiness.

At every baptism, the Church repeats God’s declaration. “This is my beloved child.” The glory of God’s love is not always obvious in our everyday lives. A parent may see it in his child; a spouse may see it in her husband. Our hope is that God will help us recognize it in others and in ourselves. When we know and see that love, we give glory and thanks to God

The liturgy captures this sense by singing the words sung by the angels at the birth of Jesus. During Lent, we refrain from using “Glory to God in the Highest” in order to heighten our anticipation of the full revelation of God’s glory at the Resurrection. We are preparing for resurrection with Christ, when that song of glory will be our response to seeing God’s glory in one another.

Our Father

February 23, 2010

First Sunday of Lent c

Prayer begins oddly. Why are we talking to someone who is in heaven, while we are still on earth? God creates a shared space by fathering us. Created and raised to be an image of God, we find God within us, in a place that is not physical. Within there is an intimacy that exceeds anything that could happen if we were in the same physical space. Even if there are others in the same physical place, even if Satan himself is there to tempt us, God is always with us in our most intimate space.

Physical spaces do help us learn about that interior place. A quiet chair where we pray every day, or forty days in the desert, isolated from all other voices, can help us discover the place where we speak with God. Churches are special for this. There we discover it is OUR Father, not just my Father, and we learn from others about ourselves and our ability to be with God. The movement from busy lives to Church carries us from our solitude to a physical place where we gather to speak with God, sharing the intimacy of our Father with others.

Every prayer is a choice to turn toward God. Most do not dramatize it visibly with a procession to another building to be with others. The movement in our hearts can still be dramatic, calling us out of our solitary needs and desires to listen and respond to God. We might stop complaining about the rain and discover a rainbow. At the very least, we hope to find God present in our midst.