2nd Sunday of Lent, Year A
Psalm 33:4-5, 18-19, 20, 22
2 Timothy 1:8b-10
March 12, 2017
In our responsorial psalm verse today we sang, “as we place our trust in you.” We come here to place our trust in God is “upright” and “trustworthy” but sometimes we are not sure. By that, I mean we are not sure what God wants us to do.
Abram, who will become known as Abraham, is the example of complete trust in the Lord. “The Lord said to Abram: Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you.”
His father’s house is what was familiar to Abram. He knew what to expect there. God tells him to go to a land that He will show him. He doesn’t even tell Abram where the land is. Abram could have been afraid. What is Abram’s response? He “went as the LORD directed him.”
Would you do the same?
I like to think that if I knew it was the Lord I would do it but I said “if”. It’s not that I don’t trust God. Rather, I have to admit that even as a priest, sometimes it can be hard to know what is God’s will versus my own desires or just pressure from others.
Sometimes it can be hard. I try not to let any “hardship” discourage me. For if we are doing God’s will we can remember Paul’s words to Timothy, “Bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God.” God doesn’t make everything easy but He will give us the strength we need to do whatever He asks of us.
It is here that I turn to the story of Jesus’ transfiguration. In the gospels there are times when Jesus goes off to pray by himself and we don’t know anything about what happens then. This time, as Jesus goes up on the high mountain, He takes Peter, James, and John with him.
On the mountain, the three disciples see something incredible. They see Jesus transfigured, “his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light.” That alone would be an incredible experience, to see Jesus as we will see him in Heaven. Yet, there is more. Moses and Elijah appear with Jesus.
Peter, amazed by what he sees, says, “Lord, it is good that we are here.” Peter is right. They have been given an incredible blessing to see Jesus in his glory, a new step in their faith. Clearly, this must strengthen faith and trust in Jesus. Moses’ presence signifies that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law. Elijah’s presence signifies that Jesus is the fulfillment of what the prophets foretold. Point being – We can believe in Jesus.
Peter is so amazed at what he sees that he offers to make three tents. He wants the experience to last.
Then, they hear God’s voice, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”
We can place our trust in Jesus. Peter, James, and John are blessed by their experience and we are blessed that their experience is written down that we know of it.
It is a blessing for us to being able to reflect on this scene but how can we experience God’s presence today?
We experience God’s presence in listening to his words as recorded in the Bible. That’s why we read from the Bible at every Mass (and some of our prayers come from scripture passages). We can also read the Bible on our own. We can read as a story. We can read as God’s teaching. We can read it as prayer in Lectio Divino.
We receive Jesus himself in the Eucharist. It is not simply bread and wine at Communion. It is the Body and Blood of Jesus.
We can also experience God in private prayer. Here I want to turn to what we call “Contemplative Prayer.” As soon as we hear this phrase, we might think of cloistered nuns and monks in monastery who spend their whole day in prayer. That can seem impossible for us but contemplative prayer does not require us to be nuns or monks.
In thinking about private prayer, we might tend to think of prayers we say like the Rosary, St. Michael’s Chaplet, the Divine Mercy Chaplet, or other devotions. Our petitions of need that we offer to God are also prayer. These are important prayers and they can certainly help us be aware of God’s presence in our lives.
All these types of prayer can involve us using lots of words. Contemplative Prayer is not about words. It is about seeking simply to be aware of God’s presence. In fact contemplative prayer (more specifically centering prayer) calls us to let go of all the thoughts that come into our hearts.
The first time I heard that my response was to think it impossible. I have so many thoughts going through my head that I can’t imagine a time without thoughts but I gave it a try.
I have to admit it isn’t easy but when I am successful (by God’s grace) it is awesome. It is a blessing to be able to let go of all the thoughts and simply be aware that God is with me.
The form of contemplative prayer that I was taught calls for 20 minutes a day, twice a day. I don’t do that often. Actually, lately, I don’t get to it much at all but when I do, I am blessed.
Now you don’t start out at twenty minutes, twice a day. You might start with just five minutes and learn the process of getting yourself centered. I can’t give you all the instructions here, partly because it would take too long, but also, honestly, because I don’t remember it all. If you want to find out more, you can go to my own website (www.renewaloffaith.org) and look under the (contemplative/centering) prayer section or Google contemplative and/or centering prayer.
More simply, I encourage to just begin by including a couple of minutes of silence in your prayer. You don’t have to do all the talking. Just be still and let the Lord come to you.