If one were to read or hear today's readings from the Third Sunday in Lent with a critical ear or eye, one might arrive at an apparent contradiction. In the first reading from Genesis, God makes a covenant with Abram and promises to bestow upon him and his descendants a large tract of land as a perpetual heritage. In a subsequent covenant with Moses, God again promises to lead the Israelites into a "land flowing with milk and honey." In the book of Leviticus there are a number of laws laid down by God regarding the possession of the land and care for it (c.f., Lev. 25). Without a doubt, the land and this world figured prominently in the Jewish faith. In the second reading from Paul's letter to the Philippians, Paul declares to his readers that "our citizenship is in heaven." The apparent contradiction is this: how did the Judeo-Christian covenant, beginning with Abram, go from being a "land based" covenant to a "heaven based" covenant? Another, more practical way of posing the question might be "should we be committed to this world or to heaven?" To grapple with this difficulty, one must begin with the principle that "God does not go back on God's Word". Therefore, one must hold that the promises made to Abram are not annulled in the Christian covenant but, rather, reach their fulfillment. In looking for a key to "unlock" a possible answer to this dilemma, we need look no further than today's Gospel reading of the Transfiguration.
Sunday, February 28, 2010
2nd Sunday of Lent (Gen. 15:5-12, 17-18; Phil. 3:20-4:1; Lk. 9:28b-36): The "Transfiguring" Space Between
Thursday, February 25, 2010
Lent is a time for sharing in the great stories of salvation history and allowing our own stories to be drawn into this larger drama! Today's first reading from Mass (Est. 12: 14-16, 23-25) is a great example of someone who models for us how a personal story can transcend an individual and become a part of the great drama of salvation. Queen Esther finds herself and her jewish people between a rock and a hard place and appeals to the "God of Abraham, Isaac, and Joseph" for deliverance. She speaks of how she has heard the stories of her fathers about God's marvelous deeds and calls out to God as an "orphan." What Esther is doing, in essence, is pulling at God's heartstrings! She knows well that the great stories she has heard about God describe God as one who has a deep and abiding concern for "the alien, the widow, and the orphan." What Esther is also doing that should command our attention is modeling for us how we should approach the Lenten Season.
Thursday, February 4, 2010
In discussing how we wanted to decorate the Care for Creation Center at St. Bernadine's Monastery in Hollidaysburg, PA, we decided on art that reflected the natural beauty and culture of Central Pennsylvania. The Care for Creation Project has inspired a number of participants to donate such artwork or to create it. In the above pictures, two painted gourds are displayed and held by the artist, Cathy Schwartz (if you look carefully, you can see that one of the gourds is decorated in a Franciscan Habit!). These gourds take nearly two years to cure and are hand painted. They are wonderful additions to the C4C Center and we are greatly appreciative of Cathy's contribution and for all who have helped to decorate the C4C Center. Pat, TOR
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
This past weekend I had the opportunity to preach and preside at the Sunday Masses for St. James the Greater Parish in Charlestown, West Virginia. To my mind, the readings for the 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time lent themselves to a reflection on the theme of vocation in general and a vocation to religious life and Priesthood in particular. The reading from the book of the prophet Jeremiah has God declaring that "before I formed you in the womb I knew you." This suggests that Jeremiah (and all persons by extension) are known in the bosom of God's creative imagination and heart long before they begin gestating in the womb. If we allow our imaginations to mull over such a prospect, it suggests that God, in a sense, "dreams" us into being and has a dream for our lives. Note carefully that a "dream" is much different than a "blueprint." Some Christians might believe that God has in mind all the things that God would like for us to do down to the minutest detail. The problem is that such a notion doesn't gel well with the idea that humans are endowed with freedom. On the contrary, when God "dreams" our lives into being, God, in a sense, "infuses" our being with creative potential and than partners with us in creatively "unlocking" this potential to live as fruitfully as possible for the world, others, and ourselves. Very basically, when persons strive to "unlock" their potential so as to serve others and God, this is what is meant by "vocation."