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Greetings to all who love to wander along the paths of the Holy Scriptures! The purpose of this blog is to share some of the insights of ordinary Catholics who have begun to delve into the mysteries of the Sacred Scriptures. Hopefully you will find these reflections inspiring and insightful. We are faithful to the Church, but we are not theologians; we intend and trust that our individual reflections will remain within the inspired traditions of the Church. (If you note otherwise please let me know!) Discussion and comments are welcome, but always in charity and respect! Come and join us as we ponder the Sacred Scriptures, which will lead us on the path into His heart, which "God alone has traced" Job 28:23.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Reflections on the Readings for the Second Sunday of Lent

By Sharon Nelsen

In this year of Faith, we are challenged to look at our religious Faith.  Today’s readings bring into focus true Biblical Faith, the Faith of Abraham which is trust in the Person of God.  Abraham pre-dates rules; Jesus pre-dates doctrine.  Trust in God, Our Father, Jesus, Our Brother, the Holy Spirit, Our Advocate, moves us beyond unbending adherence to a set of rules; to limiting our “faith” in God to working exclusively by the laws of nature or through the current understandings of science and medicine.

Abram, we are told after his conversation with the Deity, “put his faith in the Lord, who credited it to him as an act of righteousness.”  (Gen. 15.6)  Being in right relationship with God is trusting God beyond natural limits, admitting that God, the Creator of the Universe is “allowed” to trump His own rules.

When we trust in a person, we are not fearful of verbalizing our wondering questions. Abram, when he hears the Deity promise him countless descendants and land, models the wondering question: “O Lord God, how am I to know (experience) that I shall possess it?” (Gen.15.8). Mary wonders how she is able to remain faithful to her vow to God and bear His Son, “since I have no relations with a man?” (Luke 1.34).  Zechariah, on the other hand, when told he will have a son, expresses doubt, not wondering, for he “knows” the limits of the natural law.  (Luke 1.18),

In the section before today’s reading in Philippians, Paul illustrates the difference between rule-based faith and trust-in-a-person-faith:
 “I even consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing (experiencing) Christ Jesus my Lord.  For his sake I have accepted the loss of all things and I consider them so much rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having any righteousness of my own based on the law but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God, depending on faith to know him and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by being conformed to his death (Phil. 3.8-10)

It isn’t about a set of rules, Paul tells us; it’s about a relationship with Jesus, Jesus crucified and risen, the real Jesus, who promises that “He will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified body by the power that enables him also to bring all things into subjection to himself.”  (Phil. 3. 21)

A relationship with Jesus means “experiencing” him—not with a cerebral knowledge that wobbles through crisis after crisis pleading for help, but a personal relationship that sustains and strengthens us as we share in His sufferings---the groaning pains of the Kingdom being born in the here and now of our lives.

And how does Jesus let us experience Him?  The Gospels reveal every way imaginable including glimpses, as in today’s Gospel, of promised transfiguration. 

Like Abram in conversation God, Jesus trusts that the Father will reveal what needs to be revealed for the sake of the Kingdom.  In this instance of providing an experience of citizenship in Heaven, God strengthens Peter, James and John for the upcoming journey of following the Messiah through His suffering and execution.  
Peter doesn’t have a wondering question.  He moves right into action, allowing us to see how we look when we think we need to figure it out all by ourselves.  But God moves the Rock of the Embryo Church into the New Law, The Word Made Flesh: “This is my Chosen Son; listen to him.”  (Luke 9.35)

For us, ordinary laity, frequently the big wondering is how do we go about developing a conversational relationship with Jesus? The psalmist says, “Of you my heart speaks;” (Ps. 27.8) How does my heart speak?  Do I know how to listen to my heart?  How do I trust my heart?

For me, it begins with what I value.   The outside voice was highly valued in the era of my formation.  It took decades for me to believe 1) I had an inner voice; 2) It was “okay” to value it; and 3) It is permissible to act on it!  If I value first and only what others think and their values, I cannot value as primary what I see and hear within my own spirit.

Now, I have come to the place of hearing my inner voice.  The challenge for me is to value what I truly hear from the deepest crevices of my heart.  Out of my true self, I can begin to enter into a real relationship with Jesus. 

But, how do I discard decades of habits based on those “outside voice values” that tend to impede development and growth in a conversational relationship with the Lord?
1) By wanting to change those habits.
2) By asking God for the grace to change
3) By seeking help from all available sources: saints, angels, all who love and desire my wholeness.

Each morning, I ask, “What do I value today?” (Rather than, “What do I need to get done today?”) That question moves me to look within, to listen to the true voice, to put forth my wonderings; to value that voice.

When I value what God has “talked about” with me, I can move from private to public, as Paul shows us in the second reading---it is not about theory; it is about moving outward from our own private transformations.  It is about making my private conversation public, and when I do, I build up the Body of Christ, just as all holy men and women have done throughout the centuries
When I value God’s voice within, all acts that flow out of my conversation strengthen my trust in the Person of God in whom I live and move and have my being. Trust is wealth. It is not something we have because there is nothing else.  It is THE something else!   Our Faith tradition is built on the Faith of Abram, the Father of Faith, the possessor of that something else—Trust in the Person of God.  No greater trust is modeled for us than that of Jesus, who hands the Father His Life, “yet, not as I will, but as you will.” (Matt. 26.39b).  Through that final, trusting relinquishment, Jesus makes true faith, Holy Trust possible for all of us.

As each of us learns to trust God speaking within us, we are able to contribute to the enrichment of the Body of Christ, the Living Church, as God uniquely inspires us.

In over a decade of sustained effort on the groundswell movement for the Cause of Father Flanagan, I learned that the Institutional Church waits for a manifestation of Faith from the People in order to begin the canonization process. Is God waiting for a manifestation of our Trust in His Word within us?

1 comment:

  1. Very good, Sharon. Lots of food for thought here!
    Blessings, Paul


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