Thursday, March 20, 2014

Lent Day 35 - The Lesson of Lough Derg and Never be Afraid to come Back to Jesus

Consider this scene. A lynch mob of Pharisees and scribes, zealous for the letter of the law, use the occasion of a woman caught in adultery to trap Jesus. They want to kill her, but they also hope to get Jesus entangled in a no-win situation. If they can only get Him to say something in public that can be interpreted as contrary to the law, they’ll surely have him in a vise grip.
But what does Jesus do? He simply bends down and starts doodling in the sand! He is not fazed or intimidated by their antics or schemes. Jesus is not all that easily thrown off center! He can’t be manipulated out of His position of love and mercy. In the midst of all the turmoil and commotion, He remained calm, and with one clear and piercing statement, He defused the situation and disarmed His adversaries completely (John 8:7). And, in the process, He saved a woman from death.
Jesus can do the same thing with us – no matter what the situation, not matter how bad the sin, and no matter how tumultuous the circumstances. Nothing fazes Jesus. He has come in love and mercy to save us and set us free. He is always focused on His mission. Nothing can distract Him from His purpose of delivering us from every evil and transforming us into His image. Whatever chaos might surround us, Jesus is right there with us, calm as ever, offering us His strength.
May we never think that Jesus will reject us or fail to come to our aid! He knows all the answers. He is able to foil every attempt of the enemy to accuse us or condemn us. He is the Good Shepherd, always able to guard His flock, always ready to seek out and save the sheep that have gone astray.
Dear Sisters and Brothers, never be afraid to come back to Jesus. He looks upon us with eyes of love and awaits us always with mercy and compassion.
Jakarta, 7 April 2014
A Christian Pilgrim

Lent Day 35 - The Lesson of Lough Derg
By Father Robert Barron

I don't know any other place on earth that better exemplifies purgative suffering than Lough Derg. Otherwise known as St. Patrick's Purgatory, this Irish island was purportedly visited by St. Patrick in the 5th century. The saint came in order to spend a penitential retreat of forty days and forty nights. And from the Middle Ages to the present day, pilgrims have journeyed there, in imitation of Patrick, to do penance and to pray. 

When the retreatants arrive, they are instructed immediately to take off their shoes and socks, and they endure the three day process barefoot, regardless of the weather. That first day, they fast (eating nothing but dry bread and a soup composed of hot water and pepper), and they move through a series of prayers and spiritual exercises. The first night, they are compelled to stay awake, fasting from sleep. If someone dozes off, his fellow pilgrims are expected to wake him up. The following day, they continue with their fast and their exercises, but they are allowed to sleep that night. The third day involves still more prayer and culminates with confession and Mass. After the liturgy, the pilgrims put their shoes back on and are ferried across to the mainland.

Those who come to Lough Derg take their spiritual lives with utter seriousness, and that is precisely why they are willing to endure hardship-even imposing it on themselves-in order to deepen their communion with God. They know that there are certain tendencies within their bodies and souls that are preventing the achievement of full friendship with God and therefore they seek, quite sensibly, to discipline themselves. John Henry Newman commented that the ascetical principle is basic to a healthy Christianity. He meant that Christians, at their best, understand that our sinful nature has to be chastised, disciplined, and rightly ordered. When the ascetical instinct disappears (as it has in much of Western Christianity), the spiritual life rapidly becomes superficial and attenuated, devolving into an easy "I'm okay and you're okay" attitude.

The whole point of the Christian life is to find joy, but the attainment of true joy comes, in a sinful world, at the cost of some suffering. That's why I, for one, am glad that a place like Lough Derg exists.  

Lent Day 34 - Dazzling White

In the account of the Transfiguration, we hear that, "While [Jesus] was praying, his face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white." The reference here is to Moses whose, face was transfigured after he communed with God on Mt. Sinai, but the luminosity is also meant to signal the invasion of God.

In the depths of prayer, when we have achieved a communion with the Lord, the light of God's presence is kindled deep within us, at the very core of our existence. It then begins to radiate out through the whole of our being.

That's why it is so important that Luke mentions the clothing of Jesus becoming dazzling white. Clothes evoke one's contact with the outside world. When our clothes become radiant, we become light-bearers in the shadowlands.

The God we discover in prayer should radiate out, through us, into the world, so that we become a source of illumination. In prayer today, ask the Lord to transfigure your soul, making it dazzling white. 

Lent Day 33 Do not Be Afraid
By Father Robert Barron
The fear of death is like a cloud, a terrible shadow that falls over human life and experience. All of our proximate fears are reflections of, and participation in, this primordial fear. It cramps us, turns us in on ourselves, makes us defensive, hateful, violent, and vengeful.

Further, most of the structures of oppression in the world are predicated upon the fear of death. Because a tyrant can threaten his people with death, he can dominate them; because a dictator can threaten people with killing, he can perpetrate all sorts of injustice. Whenever the strong (in any sense) overwhelm the weak, we are looking at the ways of death.

But what would life be like if we were no longer afraid? What if death had finally lost its sting?

Then we would live as the saints do--not immune to suffering, but, if I can put it this way, unaffected by it. We would know that we are loved by a power that transcends death, and this would fill us with an exuberance beyond measure.

Jesus came to inaugurate this fearless and death-defying love. Therefore in the great words of John Paul II, which were really the words of Christ, "Do not be afraid."


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