Third Sunday of Lent

 

Icon of the Fig Tree
The Fig Tree icon

 

 

Cycle C: Luke 13: 1-9


The parable of the fig tree exhorts us not to live a fruitless life.


 

In 1970, during a protest at Kent State University, national guardsmen shot and killed several students. Shortly afterwards, psychologists interviewed parents of college-age children. Among other questions, they asked whether the students who had been killed were campus radicals or innocent bystanders. Overwhelmingly, the parents believed that the slain students were campus radicals. Applying to their findings Attribution Theory, which tries to explain how and why people make sense of their world, the psychologists concluded that the majority of parents held that the slain students were radicals because it was too frightening for them to believe otherwise. If they believed that the slain students were innocents bystanders, then they would have to admit that in a similar situation their own children were vulnerable. Whenever disaster strikes, we tend to attribute it to a cause that will protect us from a similar disaster.

This is what the people in today’s gospel were trying to do. They had to believe that those killed by Pilate or the falling Tower of Siloam were sinners. This belief protected them from living in an unpredictable world. They were reasoning thus: “All we need to do in order to be safe is to keep the Law, for bad things don’t happen to good people.” Jesus challenges their thinking by telling them the Parable of the Fig Tree, which teaches that to avert spiritual disaster it is not enough to keep the Law. Our lives must bear fruit.

The Greek word translated “wasting (katargeo) the soil,” means unused, idle, inactive, or useless. From a spiritual perspective, our life is useless and barren, if, like the fig tree, we provide shade only for our selves and offer no nourishment to others.

The parable is consoling, for it proclaims a season of grace, a second chance, a stay of execution. Each day when we wake up, we are given another opportunity to truly live life by loving our neighbor. But the parable is also sobering, for it warns us that our opportunities are not endless. Thoreau wrote that he wanted to live deliberately in order to avoid the ultimate disaster of life, that at the moment of death he would “discover that [he] had not lived” (86). This is what we must fear.

~ A Meditation by Marc Foley, O.C.D.

 

 

The Lord’s Abundant Crop

Lord you’re doing
So much in our lives
To bring a deeper growth
A time of pruning
The withered branches
So healthier ones can grow

Though it is painful
And hard to endure,
It is needful in our lives —
For without it we’d be
An unhealthy tree
And may wither away and die

To keep on producing
The fruit of the Lord,
We need to have sin cut out
Then new branches will come
And we’ll flourish again
As the new shoots begin to sprout

Then we will produce
From the seeds God planted
Fruit that will never rot
Ripened by God
And picked in its season,
Is the Lord’s abundant crop!


A poem by Michelle Lowndes
© By M.S.Lowndes

Into the Desert

 

 

Christ man of sorrows
Art by William Dyce (1860)

 

 

Is Lent
and I feel the interior call to walk
by your side during these 40 days
united to you, 
my Beloved.

These 40 days in the wilderness
where the earth is barren and quiet,
I can feel your loneliness, 
my Beloved.
Silence engulfs this desert
and I can only hear  
your footsteps as we walk 
side by side.

I can’t wait for the night to arrive.
So I can view the magnificent sky
filled with all the beauty
of your Father’s creation.
The moon and the stars —
the sky looks like a blanket
of shooting stars covering us from above
giving us light and protection
marked by the beauty
of His love.

All those bright stars are speaking to you
they bring you messages from above,
from your Beloved Abba!
They prompt you to persevere,
and remain in His presence
all along this journey.
Giving you strength for your mission ahead,
consoling your weary heart,
my Beloved.

They urge you to keep going,
to keep focused,
to keep praying.
To stay and remain
in His perfect love.

Following you along this desert,
my Beloved,
is not an easy task.
At times 
I have so many questions,
so many concerns,
so much restlessness in my own heart.
But you only ask me
to trust in you,
to hold your hand and continue
to walk together,
side by side
these 40 days.

My heart is united to yours
and is finding true calm now,
being in your presence
is all I need
during these long 40 days.

In quietude and awe,
my heart is waiting,
and preparing.

Your beloved child, sister and friend,
Redeemed by your love!

 

~ My Personal Reflection

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Second Sunday of Lent

 

(c) The Fitzwilliam Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
The Transfiguration, art by Giovanni Battista Moroni (c. 1520-1525-1578) The Fitzwilliam Museum

 

 

Cycle C: Luke 9: 28-36


Jesus is transfigured on Mount Hermon and resolves completely to accept his impending death.


 

Luke tells us that Jesus was transfigured while he was praying. We do not know for certain what he was praying about, but his conversation with Moses and Elijah provides a clue. “They appeared in glory and spoke to him of his departure (Greek exodus) which he was about to fulfill in Jerusalem.” The exodus or departure referred to here is Jesus’ death. In Luke’s gospel, this is the first time that Jesus had contemplated his death.

On Mount Hermon Jesus made a choice: he resolved to embrace his death fully. At his baptism Jesus accepted his mission as the Suffering Servant of Yahweh, but only now does he confront its stark and gruesome reality. It is one thing to say “yes” to suffering that lies in the far future. Imminent suffering presents a completely different reality. Jesus was changed at the transfiguration because he came to a resolution regarding his own death.

We have all experienced the great release of energy that results when, after years of irresolution, we make an important life decision. We do not realize how much energy living in a perpetual state of avoidance, vacillation, or procrastination consumes until we experience the incredible relief that follows such a decision.

The choice Jesus made at the transfiguration also protected him against any inner vacillation. When Jesus came down the mountain, “He set his face (Greek sterrizo) to go to Jerusalem” (Lk 9:51). Sterrizo means to make fast, or to fix with an unalterable purpose. Saint Teresa encouraged her sisters to embrace the cross with a “determined determination.” In doing so, she wrote, “that person struggles more courageously. He knows that come what may he will not turn back” (“The Way of Perfection” 127).

A definitive choice protects us from inner vacillation. In The Lord of the Rings Tolkien portrays this symbolically. At the council of Elrond, a decision has to be made. Someone has to take the One Ring of Power into the evil land of Mordor and cast it into the fire of Mt. Doom. Frodo, who had lived comfortably all of his life, makes a fully conscious choice to be the Ring Bearer. At this point in the story, his uncle Bilbo Baggins gives Frodo a mithril coat.

This coat, as un undergarment made of an extremely strong but light metal, will protect the wearer from many dangers — arrows and the thrusting of spears. Why, asks Jungian analyst Helen Luke, does Bilbo present the mithril coat precisely at the moment that Frodo decides to be the Ring Bearer? What does it symbolize? Luke writes:

It was at this moment of his complete acceptance of exposure to every kind of danger, without thought of success or failure, that he was given the protection of the mithril coat…. It is not difficult to see the relevance of these things to ourselves. It is surely true that in the life of every person there is one major turning point — a moment of choice when one’s basic will (the Frodo in oneself) may say “yes” or “no” to the challenge of one individual way and to the inevitable suffering and danger it involves. It is certain that, if we say “yes” … then in proportion to the single-mindedness of this decision, we too are given protection…. Every day there is the temptation to go back on our choice … but each time we decide to take up a responsibility we have sought to evade … then, in the very moment of our willing self-exposure and conscious acceptance of the task … we can often literally feel a new invulnerability. (75-76)       

Like Jesus, when we decide to embrace the cross with determination, we are transfigured and given courage that protects us against inner vacillation.

~ A Meditation by Marc Foley, O.C.D.

 

 

Christ “was transfigured, not by acquiring what he was not but by manifesting to his disciples what he in fact was; he opened their eyes and gave these blind man sight.”
St. John Damascene

 

 

A letter to St. Francis from a modern-day pilgrim

 

Saint Francis Stigmatization of St Francis c 1594-5 (II Baroccio)
The Stigmatization of St. Francis, art by Federico Barocci (II Baroccio) c. 1594-5

 

Dear Francis
(On the occasion of your stigmata),

As if
you could
know
why a seraph
should appear,
why its six
dazzling wings
should enfold
the dying Christ.
As if
you could ask
the mountain’s
jutting rocks
what provoked
those lonely hills
to illuminate
your fast.
Because
I cannot say
why love and pain
go hand in hand,
I will not
doubt
the sky
tore up
in flames,
that day of joy
and blood—
nor that
you bore
His wounds.

From one unpierced

 

~ A poem by Abigail Carroll

 

 

How did St. Francis of Assisi receives the Stigmata of Christ?

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia:

It was on or about the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross (14 September 1224) while praying on the mountainside, that he beheld the marvelous vision of the seraph, as a sequel of which there appeared on his body the visible marks of the five wounds of the Crucified which, says and early writer, had long since been impressed upon his heart.

Brother Leo, who was with St. Francis when he received the stigmata, has left us in his note to the saint’s autograph blessing, preserved at Assisi, a clear simple account of the miracle, which for the rest is better attested than any other historical fact.

The saint’s right side is described as bearing an open wound which looked as if made by a lance, while through his hands and feet were black nails of flesh, the points of which were bent backward.

After the reception of the stigmata, Francis suffered increasing pains throughout his frail body, already broken by continual mortification. Worn out, moreover, as Francis now was by eighteen years of unremitting toil, his strength gave way completely, and at times his eyesight so far failed him that he was almost wholly blind.

Francis died in 1226 at the age of forty-five. He was canonized in 1228 by Pope Gregory IX.

 

 

 

 

Prayer and God’s Mysterious Providence

 

 

Praying art by elvira amrhein
Art by Elvira Amrhein

 

Matthew 7:7-12


“Ask and you will receive.” While God always answers our prayers, he does not always grant our requests.


 

In Somerset Maugham’s autobiographical novel Of Human Bondage, young Philip Carey, a boy born with a clubfoot, prays that God will heal him. He wakes up the next morning to find that he has not been cured. His faith is shaken, for he has been told that whatever you ask for in prayer will be given. Throughout his life, Philip’s deformity causes him much shame and humiliation, but it also brings about his transformation. At the very end of the novel, Philip comes to the following realization:

And thinking over the long pilgrimage of his past, he accepted it joyfully. He accepted the deformity which had made his life so hard, but now he saw that by reason of it he had acquired that power of introspection which had given him so much delight. Without it he would never had his keen appreciation of beauty, his passion for art and literature and his interest in the varied spectacle of life. The ridicule and contempt, which had so often been heaped upon him, had turned his mind inward and called forth those flowers which he felt would never lose their fragrance. Then he saw that the normal was the rarest thing in the world. Everyone had some defect of body or of mind. He had thought of all the people he had known. He saw a long procession, deformed in body and warped in mind. At that moment he could feel a holy compassion for them all. He could pardon Griffiths for his treachery and Mildred for the pain she had caused him. The only reasonable thing was to accept the good of men and be patient with their faults. The words of the dying God crossed his memory: Forgive them, for they know not what they do. (680-81)

God always answers our prayers, but does not always grant our requests. We are promised that we will receive if we ask, but we are not told what will be given to us. The door will be opened to us, but we do not know what God has in store for us on the other side. We are told only that God knows how to give.

The ways of providence are mysterious indeed. Like Philip Carey, we should reflect upon the long pilgrimage of our past in order to apprehend the pattern of God’s loving wisdom in our lives. Like Philip, we may realize what we once considered to have been our greatest curse was the occasion of our greatest blessing. We realize that what we once judged a stumbling block actually is a cornerstone. Conversely, think of how disastrously your life may have turned out had God granted your specific request.

 

~ A Meditation by Marc Foley, O.C.D.

 

 

“Cast yourself often into His arms or into His divine Heart, and abandon yourself to all His designs upon you” II, 673.
~ Saint Margaret Mary 

 

Life’s Only Meaning

 

Jesus the Beloved art by Amy McCutcheon
Art by Amy McCutcheon

 

 

Life is this: to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
(John 17:3)

 

Each day of our lives holds within itself the possibility of this knowledge of God, this holy wisdom. How deeply we should long for this revelation of the Father.

Let us seek, let us listen with all our hearts and care for nothing else. Then perhaps we shall be able to exclaim with perfect truth: ‘My heart knows you now, Jesus Christ my Lord, and everything worldly has lost its meaning. ‘

With perfect truth. That is, my life henceforth will reveal the truth that nothing has any meaning to me except Jesus Christ my Lord.

There is no easy way to this, only that the grain of wheat must die; the humble acceptance of our painful human lot; no complaint, no rebellion, no dodging . . .
Becoming identified with the Son of Man, the sacrificial Lamb who takes away the sin of the world by bearing the full weight and effect of it with no vestige of responding evil — only worship of his Father and infinite compassion for us.

 

~ A Meditation by Ruth Burrows, O.C.D.

 

 

Happy The One Who Loves God

How happy the heart that by love is elated,
in which only God all its thought has embraced,
renouncing for him every thing that’s created,
and finding its glory and joy by him graced.
Thus living with all thought of self so negated,
because in God all its intention is placed,
and so in great happiness and joyfully
it travels the waves of this turbulent sea.

 

~ A poem by Saint Teresa of Ávila, O.C.D.

 

 

 

 

 

Ukřižování (Crucified)

 

Jesus crucified art by Ladislav Zaborsky
Art by Ladislav Záborský

 

My hands were crucified,
I cannot do what I like.
My legs were crucified,
I cannot go where I want.
Thus was I likened
to Your Son,
so that in me might be born
a new person
who will not fulfill his own desire,
but who seeks Your desire.
Hence I am suspended on this cross,
but salvation quickly approaches me.

~ By Ladislav Záborský (poems written from prison)
translated from Slovak by Harold B. Segel

 

 

 

First Sunday of Lent

 

Sandro_Botticelli_-_Three_Temptations_of_Christ_(detail)_-
The Three Temptations of Christ, art by Sandro Botticelli

 
Cycle C: Luke 4: 1-13


Satan tempts Jesus to turn stones into bread and to worship the forces of evil in order to acquire an earthly kingdom.


 

At the beginning of Macbeth, as Macbeth and Banquo are riding home from war in the flush of victory, three witches greet Macbeth with three titles. The first is his own title, “Thane of Glamis.” However the other two, “Thane of Cawdor” and “King hereafter,” belong to other men. Then the witches vanish into thin air. As Macbeth and Banquo continue their journey, a messenger from the King meets them upon the road and bestows upon Macbeth the title “Thane of Cawdor” as reward for his valor in war. Macbeth is confused; he knows that the Thane of Cawdor lives. But when he learns that the King intends to execute the Thane of Cawdor shortly for treason, Macbeth begins to tremble.

Why do I yield to that suggestion
Whose horrid image doth unfix my hair
And make my seated heart knock at my ribs
Against the use of nature?
(1.3.147-49)

Why does Macbeth’s murderous ambition to become king awaken? Since the witches’ first prediction has come true, he sees the second as a real possibility. Possibility is the form of all temptation. We are not tempted in our weaknesses but in our strengths and talents. The charming are tempted to seduce others by their wiles because they know that they are likely to succeed; the knowledgeable are tempted to make an impressive show of their knowledge; bullies or those with strong personalities are tempted to intimidate others. Those who know how to manipulate another’s guilt are tempted to make people do their bidding….

None of us has ever been tempted to turn stones into bread because we don’t have the power to do so. It is not a possibility; therefore, it is not a temptation. The particular forms of Jesus’ temptations are not our own, but what he was tempted with is the same — the abuse of power.

In one sense, all temptations are temptations of power, for power provides us with what we want, be it wealth, pleasure, possessions, prestige or revenge. Nothing entices us more than the possibility of getting our own way. But nothing corrupts us more than its pursuit. For the insatiable lust of getting what we want will not be satisfied until it devours our mind, heart, and will.

 

~ A Meditation by Marc Foley, O.C.D.

 

Not Garden Any More

 

Jesus art by daniel bonnell
Art by Daniel Bonnell

 

God is not garden any more, to satiate the sense
with the luxuriance of full exotic wilderness.
Now multiple is magnified to less.
God has become as desert now, a vast unknown Sahara
voicing its desert cry.
My soul has been arrested by the sound
of a divine tremendous loneliness.

I write anathema on pool, on streams of racing water.
I bid the shoot, the leaf, the bloom no longer to intrude.
Beyond green growth I find this great good,
a motionless immensity of oneness.
And Him I praise Who lured me to this edge
of uncreation where His secrets brood,
Who seared the earth that I might hear in silence
this infinite outcry of His solitude.

~ A poem by Sister Miriam of the Holy Spirit (Jessica Powers), O.C.D.

 

 

“Listen to God’s speech in his wondrous, terrible, gentle, loving, all-embracing silence.”
Catherine Doherty
 
 

The Mystic

mystic heart by deborah nell
Mystic Heart, art by Deborah Nell

 

The mystical state is one of loving. Only love can build a bridge. Graces given and received are the materials that go into making this immense, indestructible bridge between earth and heaven. The graces used call for more grace, and the bridge grows, and eyes that are quiet behold God everywhere.

But seeing is not enough. It is seeing and arising and giving all of oneself to him, in all his creatures, that builds the bridge in spans immense. A mystic is a lover, a bridge-builder, a heart made ready for the burning fire that is the Lord. A mystic is rest amid turmoil. A mystic is a broken vase that had been filled with perfumed oils and now lies in pieces, wet with tears. A mystic sees God’s love in every face; and the Father sees another, full of grace.

A mystic is a miracle of love who, at one and the same time, hangs crucified upon the hill of skulls, and rises up in Christ’s ascension, and rests upon the heart of God. The mystic alone can stand the burning coal upon his lips, the burning coal of love and fire that cleanses and makes it possible for men to hear the voice of God again, spoken as men speaks. A mystic is a vessel of peace, while he himself is nothing but a flame of pain.

A mystic is a humble soul to whom belongs the earth as well as heaven. A mystic is silence enclosed in speech. He serves all men, and is served by angels. A mystic bears the seal of God, yet doesn’t know he is a mystic, except to catch an echo here and a glimpse there, of things unseen, unheard by other men. Such are mystics, builders of bridges and houses of love.

~ A Meditation by Catherine Doherty, ‘Madonna House Apostolate’