Meditations for Lent 2018
Theme of this 2018 Lent retreat : “Seeking Peace in Prayer”
"In humility and charity, by fasting and giving, by restraining ourselves and pardoning, by paying out good deeds and not paying back bad ones, by turning away from evil and doing good, our prayer seeks peace and obtains it."
- St. Augustine, Sermon 206, 3
WEEK 1: “IN HUMILITY AND CHARITY”
By St Monica’s Parish Priest, Gabriel Tumba Hassan O.S.A.
“THIS LOWLY ONE CALLED; THE LORD HEARD”
February 20, 2018
God is patient and listens to the words we offer to him in prayer and he knows the thoughts of our hearts. He wants us to be happy always and He is very close and eager to help us through our difficult times.
The ‘Our Father’ prayer is a master class which Jesus taught his disciples. His teaching came immediately after his disapproval of the hypocritical type of prayer. This is done for show and to be seen by other people. The value of prayer does not lie in the quantity of words and mere repetition of formulas, as if accomplishing a task. The value of prayer lies chiefly in our inner attitude of faith and love of God.
We should try to lift our mind and heart to God as a Father and friend, a God who loves us and is always waiting for us to share a silent moment with him. To pray is not to talk too much, but to surrender our lives into God’s loving hands. The greatness and presence of God when we pray was manifested when Elijah prayed and the sacrifice was consumed by the fire from God as against the hypocritical and false god of the Baals (1 Kings 18:20-40).
The ‘Our Father’ prayer tells us what we should ask for and the order in which the request should be made. Most people, in praying to God, make series of requests and demands but It is important to note that our prayer to God should always begin with a thanksgiving for all we have received from God. The ‘Our Father’ prayer gives us a format of how we should order our prayers to God. The prayers we do should also direct us to people around us. Although we pray to God, we should look around us and assist people who need our time, food, clothes and shoes. God answers every prayer but He needs us to be the ‘legs’, ‘hands, and the ‘eyes’ that others will feel and see the presence of God and that their requests are answered through you.
May this period of Lent (and always) lead us to be that link between God and other people.
“YOU SHALL BE HOLY; FOR I THE LORD GOD AM HOLY”
February 19, 2018
Holiness is believing and living out what God has commanded. God is love (1 John 4:8).
The teachings of Jesus are based on love and to be holy is to love God and do what He commands. So, obedience to God is part of the processes of holiness. To enhance our efforts to become holy, a healthy prayer life contributes to making us upright before God. Prayer connects us with God and it also establishes a relationship. We are also encouraged to frequent the Holy Mass and to receive holy communion during this lent and beyond. We need a constant renewal of our faith and believe in God. Prayer is very important to a life of holiness.
Although a prayerful life is necessary for holiness, there is a need to translate our prayers into practice. A guide has been given in today’s Gospel. It is a spiritual recipe for every believer of God in relation to people around you. It teaches us to get involved positively with situations around us such as feeding the hungry, visiting the sick and prisoners, clothing the naked, welcoming strangers and supporting the weak.
Hence, our prayer lives should also extend to people in various difficulties.
“REPENT, AND BELIEVE IN THE GOSPEL”
February 18, 2018
As we continue our Lenten journey, a renewal of commitment to God is vital. This renewal gives spiritual and physical energies to forge ahead in our resolve to become better every day following the principles of God as in the ten commandments.
Like Noah and his household, God will save all those who are righteous. God is always with us to comfort and heal us. But we need to make efforts to repent from our sins (Ezekiel 18:23). The sacrament of reconciliation offers us a wonderful opportunity to encounter Jesus and to savour his abundant mercy, love and forgiveness. Our world is in dire need of reconciliation. However, an effective and meaningful reconciliation is borne out of self-realization of wrong and the willingness to forgive the other person. Nations at war should endeavour to make peace. Families and communities should create an environment of mutual love and fraternity by accommodating everyone in love. There should be genuine reconciliations in the families, with colleagues at workplaces and among friends.
This will deepen our relationship with God and lead us to a fuller understanding of the gospel values. We implore our Lady of peace to intercede for us.
St Augustine teaches that “let him who is ashamed to seek forgiveness of his brother (or sister) overcome this reprehensible shame by honourably fear, so that, with these harmful enmities ended and really dead, you may live” (Sermon 209,1). The ego rules a life of sin and affects our spiritual voyage but a repentant heart finds joy in the Lord.
“I HAVE NOT COME TO CALL THE RIGHTEOUS BUT SINNERS TO REPENTANCE”
February 17, 2018
The language of love should be spoken and understood by all. Love knows no culture, religion, class or status. St Paul says, “Love is patient, kind, without envy. It is not boastful or arrogant, it is not ill-mannered nor does it seek its own interest. Love overcomes anger and forgets offences. It does not take delight in wrong, but rejoices in truth. Love excuses everything, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things”. (Lk 13: 4-7).
The call of Levi (Matthew) justifies the Pauline meaning of love. Tax collectors were regarded as corrupt persons but Jesus’ call of Matthew shows the importance of the person and not the sins. Love the person and dislike the sins but gently invite the person to share in God’s forgiveness and grace. Jesus did not condemn Matthew. We should avoid labelling people or celebrating their misdeeds but to, in Christian charity, encourage them to make amends and live a good life. We should also avoid all manners of vices such as gossip, backstabbing, false accusations and being unkind to one another.
As God’s children, let our words and actions be geared towards uplifting the other person to the level of joy and happiness through our fraternal corrections and praise.
Like Jesus, we should always seek out the good in the other person and not to throw the baby with the bath water. The encounter of Jesus and the woman caught in adultery (John 8: 1-11) teaches that wrongdoings should be avoided and condemned but the person is ‘an image and likeness of God’.
Every human being should be accorded that respect and dignity. Jesus says to the woman, “…neither do I condemn you. Go from now on do not sin anymore” (Jn 8:11). During this Lenten period, give hope and do not discourage, do not be angry but be kind and gentle.
“IS IT NOT TO SHARE YOUR BREAD WITH THE HUNGRY, AND BRING THE HOMELESS POOR INTO YOUR HOUSE!”- IS 58:7
February 16, 2018
Prophet Isaiah challenges us on the nature and practice of our Christian life.
He denounces a hypocritical worship of God. Our life should reflect the true meaning and teaching of Jesus and not just a mere show of piety to win the approval of people around us.
The true worship involves meeting people in their most difficult moments and offering them hope. Jesus went about doing good in the different communities he visited. He had no favourites as he performed miracles and preached the Gospel. Jesus proclaimed in the synagogue, “The spirit of the Lord is upon me. He has anointed me to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to the captives and new sight to the blind; to free the oppressed and to announce the Lord’s year of mercy” (Lk 4:18-19).
The earth is a temporary home in which we are encouraged to conduct ourselves in accord with the values of God our Father. We have a home in view – Heaven but we need to merit entrance into this beautiful paradise prepared for all who do the will of God. The story of Lazarus and the rich man comes to mind (Lk 16:19-31). The earth has many resources and space to accommodate everyone but for the greed and selfishness of few people, many are in difficulty and desperate situations.
We pray for a change in attitude and for sincere love among people cutting across culture, class and religion. In our daily encounters with people, we should endeavour to help the poor, the oppressed, the marginalised and those in all forms of difficulty.
Put a smile on the face of someone this period of Lent and beyond.
“IF ANY MAN WOULD COME AFTER ME, LET HIM DENY HIMSELF AND TAKE UP HIS CROSS DAILY AND FOLLOW ME” – LK 9:23
February 15, 2018
The parables of the Lost Coin (15: 8-10) and Lost Sheep (Matthew 18:12-14) show the deep love that God has for us his children. He wants everyone to inherit eternal life in Heaven. We have to make the efforts to have a place in Heaven.
St Augustine advises that “God who created you without you, will not save you without you” (Sermon 169,13). In helping us to be good disciples and heirs of God’s kingdom, Jesus gives us three ways which are interconnected:
(1) “to deny oneself” is an invitation to a humble life. It involves being considerate and supporting others in Christian charity. We are to say like St. John, “He must grow greater, I must grow smaller” (John 3:30).
(2) “take up the cross daily” – our acceptance of God should not be seasonal but an every day witnessing. Jesus accompanies us on our heavenly pilgrimage with the reassuring words in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me all you labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest”. The daily taking up of our crosses is the belief in the practical living of the ten commandments of God with love. It becomes for us a sweet yoke which guides our lives every day.
(3) “Follow me” – the virtue of obedience is essential in becoming a follower of God. As pointed out, the ten commandments are platforms on which we build a deep intimacy with God by relating to people we come across every day.
“REMEMBER THAT YOU ARE DUST, AND TO DUST YOU SHALL RETURN”
February 14, 2018
The season of Lent prepares us for Easter. However, its importance goes beyond Easter because it offers us a guide on how to live our lives every day.
The three pillars on which lent is observed are Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving.
In prayer, we enter into a relationship with God for guidance, strength and wisdom. Prayer supports us on our life’s journey. Jesus’ victory over the devil (Matthew 4:1-11), encourages us to remain steadfast in God and we will triumph over the trials and temptations in the wilderness of life. Prayer should be done every day in the families, in the communities and as individuals.
The second pillar is Fasting. This is the conscious process of denying yourself food and other material things so as to make other people who are in need happy by sharing with them. Fasting from food should not be an excuse for dieting or a process of weight loss. It is a spiritual exercise aimed at helping others to be joyful by donating what we have denied ourselves from. St. Augustine says, “what you deprive yourself by fasting add to your almsgiving…” (Sermon 205,2).
Fasting should naturally lead to the third pillar which is Almsgiving. Here, we share material and spiritual food with the needy around us. Although we share food, clothes, shoes, money to the needy, it is also very important to share spiritual food, that is, spending time and listening to people who are in dire need of a companion. Let us spend less time on social media and more on face to face time with people. An attentive listener helps to ‘heal’ the other person’s pains and troubles. Make efforts to create time for your family members, friends, community members, work colleagues and the persons you might meet on the streets. It's a Christian charity.
With the ashes imposed on our foreheads with the words “Repent, and believe the Gospel” or “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return”, it brings to mind our human frailty but with the assurance of Heaven when we repent and live good lives.
As Ash Wednesday coincides with St. Valentine’s day, may we place Jesus first by our adoration and abstinence on this day to Him who is love and died for us because He loves us and we are heirs of His Kingdom of Heaven.