Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Tuesday March 3 Father Robert Barron's Reflection

To the People of the Cross
At the Transfiguration, Moses was there representing the law and Elijah was there representing the prophets. But why were Peter, James, and John present? And what does this event mean to us today?

St. Thomas Aquinas devotes an entire section in his Summa theologiae to this event. His treatment sums up much of the wisdom of the Fathers, so looking at his reflections may give us some answers.

Aquinas says that it was fitting that Christ be manifested in his glory because those who are walking an arduous path need a clear sense of the goal of their journey. The arduous path is this life, with all of its attendant sufferings, failures, setbacks, disappointments, and injustices, and its goal is heavenly glory, fullness of life with God, the transformation of our bodies.

As he makes his way toward the cross, Jesus accordingly allows, for a brief time, his glory to shine through, the radiance of his divinity to appear. We are not meant finally for this world. This event is meant to awaken our sense of wonder at the world to come.

Next, Aquinas asks about the "light" or the "glory" that envelops Christ during the Transfiguration. It "shines." Why have people, trans-historically and trans-culturally, associated holiness with light? Well, light is that by which we see, that which illumines and clarifies. But at bottom it is the fact that light is beautiful. Beautiful things shine. Aquinas says that Jesus, at the Transfiguration, began to shine with the radiance of heaven so as to entrance us with the prospect of our own transfiguration.

Finally, Aquinas talks about the witnesses to the Transfiguration, namely Peter, James, John, Moses, and Elijah. Moses stands for the Law. Jesus recapitulates, perfects, and illumines the Mosaic law: "I have come not to abolish the law but to fulfill it." Christ is the new Moses, the new Lawgiver.

Similarly, Elijah stands for the prophets; he was the greatest of the prophets. The prophets spoke the words of God; Jesus is the Word of God. Therefore, the prophetic books are read in his light.

But why is Peter there? Because, says Aquinas, he loved the Lord the most. Why is John there? Because the Lord loved him the most. Why is James there? Because he was the first of the Apostles to die for his faith.

Who gets access to the glory of Jesus? Those who are tied to him through love.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Monday -March 2 Reflection for Lent by Father Robert Barron

The Transfiguration was, obviously, of great importance for the first Christians. We've been talking about how the early Church related it to the Akeda so let's take a deeper look at its Biblical framework.

The Transfiguration takes place on a mountain, and this right away places it in relation to the Old Testament. Abraham is willing to sacrifice his son on a mountain; Noah's ark comes to rest on Mt. Ararat; the law is given to Moses on Mt. Sinai; Elijah challenges the priests of Baal on Mt. Carmel; Jerusalem is built on the top of Mt. Zion. Mountains are places of encounter with God.

In the New Testament, Jesus gives the law on a mountain, the Sermon on the Mount; he dies on Mt. Calvary; and, in a climactic moment in his public life, he brings three of his disciples to the top of a mountain - and there he is transfigured before them.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Saturday- Sunday -February 28 Reflection by Father Robert Barron to the People of the Cross


Whenever the Bible speaks of Abraham, it is speaking of faith, for he is our father in faith. The story of the Akeda, the great test of faith and obedience, comes near the end of a lifetime of faith. As we enter more deeply into Lent, it would behoove us to take a quick look at where Abraham's story began.

Abram, at the age of 75, was summoned by God to leave his home city and, with everything he owned, to begin a wandering trek in the desert in search of a land that God would show him. The miracle is that he did it since, at first he seems to be wavering in faith. He needs some kind of guarantee.

God makes a formal covenant with him, and he does so in the standard manner of the time. He tells Abram to bring several animals forward and to cut them in two, laying their halves side-by-side. The idea is that the two people entering into an agreement would walk in between the severed pieces and swear that the same would happen to them if they broke the covenant.

Abram falls into a trance and a deep terrifying darkness came over him. Here we see his side of the deal. What does trance imply if not a loss of control? When you fall asleep or unconscious, you are practically defenseless. And doesn't darkness signal the same thing? The fear of the dark is primordial. We don't know where we are going, and that is so frustrating! So it is with the things of God.

But then we see God's side of the deal. "When the sun had set and it was dark, there appeared a smoking firepot and a flaming torch which passed between those pieces." In the form of fire, God signals his covenant fidelity.

God can be trusted, even when he is leading us through the deepest darkness. This means that great faith is justified - for Abram, and for us.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Thursday February 26- Reflection by Father Robert Barron

To the People of the Cross- "The Cross is the Tree of Life"

One of the most dreadful stories in the entire Bible is the one the ancient Israelites called "the Akeda," the binding of Isaac. The story is terrible, not simply because it involves human sacrifice, not only because it involves a father's willingness to kill his own son, but because it seems to set God against God.

After all, Isaac was the son of the promise, the son of Abraham's impossibly old age, the one through whom Abraham would become the father of many nations. Hoping against hope, Abraham had continued to have faith, even as he and his wife became old and then ancient. This faith was finally justified as Sarah became pregnant and gave birth to Isaac.

Then, some twelve years later, when Isaac was just coming of age, Abraham heard a voice commanding him to sacrifice this son to God, this beloved, bearer of the promise of God. God asks obedience of Abraham.

Now I know many of us might grate against calls to be obedient to authority. But obedience (which means, fundamentally, "listening") is absolutely essential to the Biblical perspective.

Obeying God is nothing like obeying a politician or a president or a king. Such people are flawed and sinful and sometimes have to be opposed. But God isn't like that. God is love right through; he wants only what is for our good.

Another important point: politicians and presidents and kings put out policies that we can readily understand, but God is essentially mysterious. We cannot, even in principle, fully understand what God is up to, what his purposes are. His commands - which will always be for our good - are nevertheless often opaque to us. And this is precisely why we have to obey, listen, and abide - even when that obedience seems the height of folly.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Wednesday Lenten Day Febrary 25 Reflection by Father Robert Barron

Remember, as ISIS Reminded us,
We are People of the Cross
and proud of it.

This past week we have looked at the temptation of the garden and the temptations of desert. All temptations have one thing in common: they entice us to resist the Lordship of God in our lives.

The first temptation began with the Great Lie in the garden; the lie that says we can live our best life outside the rules of God, that freedom requires unrestricted autonomy.

The three temptations Jesus faced in the desert are temptations we all face. Not the exact same things, of course, but his temptations represent three classic ways that we resist the Lordship of God in our lives.

First, we place sensual pleasure at the center of our concerns. We make eating, drinking, and sex the dominant concerns. But this is a source of great mischief, for only God can legitimately fill that central position. This is why Jesus must confront this temptation, feeling its full weight, and then resist it for us.

Next, we are tempted by power. From political dictators to tyrants within families and friendships, power is alluring. This is the temptation Jesus faces as he is brought to the highest mountain and offered all the kingdoms of the world. Once more, on our behalf, Jesus resists this temptation.

Finally, we are tempted to make honor our central pursuit. We want to raise our own reputation, be seen by everyone, be admired, be esteemed - this is the temptation Jesus faces when he is taken to the parapet of the Temple, the highest place in the society of his time and the place of supreme visibility. For the third time, Jesus confronts and resists this temptation for us.

This Lent, I ask you to reflect on where you are right now. What are you doing in the garden? Who is luring you and how? Are you buying into the Big Lie?

Where are you in desert? How do you stand up to the three great temptations: to sensual pleasure, honor, and power?

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Tuesday, February 24- LENT for The People of the Cross

The first two temptations were straightforward enough: sensual pleasure and power. But this third one is more elusive. It is the temptation toward glory. It is the temptation to use God, to manipulate him, instead of becoming his servant: "Then the devil led him to Jerusalem, made him stand on the parapet of the Temple, and said to him, 'If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here...'"

What does the Temple have to do with glory? There was no place more central in Jewish society than the Temple, no place more revered. Therefore, to stand at the very pinnacle of the Temple is to stand highest in the eyes of the world, with everyone watching you - even God. As the devil says to Jesus, "He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you...With their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone."

This is the temptation to place ourselves above God, a temptation that all of us sinners are susceptible to. But Jesus replies, "You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test." Jesus himself is God, so he's issuing a reminder to all of us: God remains God, and we must become his servant.

Having dealt with these three classic temptations, Jesus is ready for his mission. He knows who he is and who he is not. This is our challenge throughout Lent.

The Gospel passage then ends on an ominous note: "When the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from him for a time." Notice the words "for a time." This is warning to all of us that temptation will return throughout our lives, often at key moments. It's a summons to be ready, always ready.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Saturday February 21 Father Robert Barron's Reflection

At every point in the Gospels, we are meant to identify with Jesus. God became man that man might become God. We participate in him and thereby learn what a godly life is like. Nowhere is this clearer than in the Gospel story of the temptations in the desert.

Jesus has just been baptized. He has just learned his deepest identity and mission and now he confronts - as we all must - the great temptations. What does God want him to do? Who does God want him to be? How is he to live his life?

Now watch how, at every turn, Jesus undoes the damage of Eden caused by the Great Lie. The devil first tempts him to make his own sensual pleasure the center of his life, to measure good and evil by what sensually satisfies him. But Jesus reverses the momentum: "One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God."

Next, Satan takes Jesus to the parapet of the Temple and tempts him to make his ego the center of his life, to make his own glory the measure of good and evil. But Jesus again counters: "You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test."

And then the devil takes him to a high mountain and shows him all the kingdoms of the world: "All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me." The temptation is to make power the center of his life, to make of his own authority the measure of good and evil. But Jesus replies: "Get away, Satan! It is written: 'The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.'"

The account in Matthew ends with a critical line: "Then the devil left him." At the word of Jesus, even Satan must depart. Let us remember that fact when we are tempted by the Great Deceiver.