How do we support the needs of others–Reflection for the First Sunday of Lent

Temptation of Jesus in desert. HOLE, WILLIAM: ...

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“The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among wild beasts,and the angels ministered to him.  After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God:”This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”--Mark 1:12-15

The Gospel question: “How do we support  the needs of others?”

As we turn to the First week of Lent, Sunday’s Gospel reminds us of the need for balance in both our active and contemplative life. We see in the Gospel of Mark that “the Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert” and that the “angels ministered to him.”  These two phrases reminds us of the purpose of Lent–to drive us “out into the desert” for the purpose of contemplation and purification, but also to know what it means to be ministered to.  Think about it, Jesus was drove into the desert to be tempted by Satan and in the midst of this he was ministered to. What if the season of Lent is about creating a space in ourselves (a desert) to be open an vulnerable to another person?

The imagery of the desert is an image of an extreme, an image that when one is driven (or thrown) into the desert cannot help but try to find a way through it.  Belden Lane reminds us  in tell of the story of our ancestors journey in the desert that “God’s people are deliberately forced into the desert–taking the harder, more onerous and hazardous route–as an exacting exercise in radical faith.  They are shoved down the difficult path so there will be no thought of ever turning back.  They cover grueling miles of terrain so tortuous they will never be tempted to recross it in the quest of the leeks and onions they remembered in Egypt. Perhaps others can go around the desert on the simpler route toward home, but the way of God’s people is always through it.”

As we hear the Gospel story for today, we are reminded that in the desert, there is temptation and a death, but there is also comfort and peace.  Ultimately, this is also a place where one finds their own mission “Proclaiming the Gospel of God.”  We are reminded that we need both moments that we are thrown into the extremes of contemplation and action–however these extremes are to be held in creative tension.  So how do we support the needs of others who need time for their desert experience?  Or time for their commissioned experience?

Generally speaking, the image of Mary and Martha are used to talk about the active and contemplative life.

Meister Eckhart in sermon 21[1], explores the needs of both Mary and Martha in relationship to their response to the presence of our Lord in their midst.

“Now there are three things which caused Mary to sit at the feet of our Lord. The first was that the goodness of God had seized her soul. The second was an inexpressible desire: she was filled with longing, but did not know what for. She was filled with desire, but did not know why. The third thing was the sweet consolation and the bliss which came to her from the eternal words which flowed from the mouth of Christ.

There were three things too which caused Martha to move about and to serve her beloved Christ. The first was her maturity and the ground of her being which she had trained to the greatest extent and which, she believed, qualified her best of all to undertake these tasks. The second was wise understanding which knew how to perform those works perfectly that love commands. And the third was the particular honour of her precious guest.”[2]

Eckhart says in sermon 6[3]

“I accept God into me in knowing; I go into God in loving.  There are some who say that blessedness consists not in knowing but in willing. They are wrong; for if it consisted only in the will, it would not be one.  Working and becoming are one. If a carpenter does not work, nothing becomes of the house. In this working God and I are one; he is working and I am becoming. The fire changes anything into itself that is put into it and this takes on fire’s own nature. The wood does not change the fire into itself, but the fire changes the wood into itself. So are we changed into God, that we shall know him as he is (1 Jn. 3:2).

When we think about our desert experience this Lent and in supporting the needs of others and ourselves, combined with Eckhart’s reflection on Martha and Mary–how is our experience of Lent moving us into a deeper maturity with Christ and a greater connection to the needs of our community?

[1]      selected and translated by Oliver Davies, Selected Writings (London: Penguin Books, 1995), 193-202.

[2]      Ibid., 193.

[3]      translation, introduction by Edmund Colledge, and Bernard McGinn, Meister Eckhart, the Essential Sermons, Commentaries, Treatises, and Defense (New York: Paulist Press, 1981), 188-189.

Rend your hearts-not your garments..Reflection on Ash Wednesday- Lent

“Even now, says the LORD, return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning; Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the LORD, your God.”—Joel 2:12.

This week the Church throughout the world begins the solemn celebration of the season of Lent. I also join with our brothers and sisters who join us for Catholic Blog Day.  Most folks when they think about Lent think of “giving up” something, sacrificing something physical, but if we look at the first reading for Ash Wednesday it say is clearly “rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the LORD, your God.”  The purpose of the intense prayer, fasting and almsgiving is to see our life as more connected and grow deeper in our relationship with God.

As we begin these 40 days of prayer, fasting and almsgiving, what is important to note is what is happening to our heart during this time.

  •  Is it making us more passionate?
  •  Are we becoming more aware of our neighbor?
  •  Do we see ourselves more clearly as instruments of God in service to our community?Our world suffers from one of the most distressing sins of our time—Apathy. Like, Jesus, we are driven into the desert to pray and fast for 40 days.  This time for us is to give our hearts the time to combat apathy. This intense time of prayer is meant to give us a chance to connect on a deeper level to God and to each other, thus driving from apathy to a passionate response.How can we create a space in our hearts and in parishes/communities o move us from be apathetic to being a passionate voice for the poor and marginalized? How do we welcome the stranger to our communities?  How do we move to be a community that is a transformative agent in the community that we exist?

How do I find a way?

Okay, so it has been a while since my last post, so I am working on the practice of posting.  Actually for Lent this year, I am making a commitment to more reflections being posted.  I will begin by joining on Ash Wednesday with reflections that join with Catholic throughout the world on Catholic Blog day.  So for now, as a preparation for Lent, my reflection was on Valentine’s Day.

Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15If the foot would say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16And if the ear would say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 18But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20As it is, there are many members, yet one body. 2126If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it. (1 Corinthians 12:14-20;26)

For many health care workers, we came to work in health care to help save lives or to make the lives of those around us better. The work of health care contributes to healing many people in society and in turn contributes to our own health.  This interconnection between healing one another and healing ourselves is quite profound.  Many of us in healthcare contribute in ways beyond our paychecks and positions.  We hear stories of co-workers going beyond their “job description” to make their units/departments more efficient, more caring, more loving and extending better care to patients and contributing to sustaining the healing ministry. This week we celebrate St. Valentine’s Day.

There are several different St. Valentine’s to which this day has been attributed and all of them are listed as martyr, one who dies for their faith, under the date of February 14th.  This date is alluded to in Chaucer’s Parliament of Foules when we hear about birds choosing their mate. It is half way through the second month of the year that we are reminded to reach out to those we love and to build upon our commitments we made to serve in love.

 To bring healing and health to others and in turn to bring healing to ourselves, our community and to build up the healing ministry of Jesus, is what our work is about.

 —How can I find a way to enrich my life by helping others?

–What is one way in which I am an expression of God’s love for God’s people?

–How can I contribute to another person’s health by finding moments to be inspired or to inspire others to loving service?