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Thursday, February 25, 2010
A Lenten Reflection
I have a wonderful confessor. He is a Benedictine monk from Asia, who has a very interesting accent. His voice has many highs – and many lows. He is not afraid to chastise when necessary – he has the uncanny ability to make you listen to yourself and hear how foolish you sound. His ability to bring to light the very heart of the matter is amazing. His devotion to the prayer of the rosary is second to none – except maybe St. Louis de Montfort and our Dear John Paul II. He is the preferred confessor in his monastery, and when he is on-duty, during every season, the waiting room is full to capacity. This certainly says a lot about this extraordinary priest. Many times during confession, my confessor addresses Jesus as doctor. “Welcome back to the good Doctor Jesus” he says. At first it sounds amusing - then - thinking about it; it makes a lot of sense. For what do we go to confession for? To be healed! Jesus is the doctor who comes to heal us of all our iniquity. I bring this to mind today as this is the first full week of Lent; we are beginning a very special season in the Church calendar. We all have come to know Lent as a time of sacrifice, a time of penance. We should recognize Lent as a gift, a healing gift from Doctor Jesus. This Doctor does not ask for insurance, this doctor asks for your love. Lent is the most perfect time to offer your love to Jesus.
In last Sunday's reading from the Book of Deuteronomy, Moses speaks to the people, reminding them of how God acted in their lives. The people cried out to God and their prayer was answered. They were healed – granted the gift of freedom, released from the bondage of Egypt. Lent is a time to renew our conversation with God and asking Him for the fortitude to sustain it.
In the second reading, Paul reveals to the Romans what they must do to be saved.
Confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord - believe in your heart that Jesus was raised from the dead - all who call upon him will be saved. Lent is the time to examine our past – and present. Are we living the Christian life faithfully? Do we know the Lord as we should? Have we made the effort to know Him more? Do we believe Jesus is Lord – in our hearts? Let us use this time for reflection – make a resolution to change.
Over the last five years, I have made yearly retreats to St. Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer, Massachusetts. It is a Trappist (Cistercian) Monastery sitting on acres and acres of forest, streams, open fields and hills. Needless to say – it is a very quiet place. All you hear is the singing wind through the forest and the monastery bells calling all to prayer.
In Sunday's Gospel reading, Jesus also seeks a quiet place – in the desert. I have had the good experience of camping in the Mojave Desert. It is certainly a quiet place – it is also very hot and a scary – the desert is full of creatures, namely rattlesnakes and scorpions. Every night I would be sure to secure the tent doors – as I did not want any unwelcome visitors. Jesus entered the desert and stayed for forty days! I was in the desert for three days – and that was enough! What does Jesus seek in the desert? Jesus seeks silence. We all need silence. Blessed Mother Teresa said “In the Silence of the Heart, God speaks.” In our busy noisy world, we can barely hear ourselves think – we can be completely deaf to the voice of God. If we are closed to the voice of God, we can forget our true identity. In Thomas Merton’s poem “I Seek”, there is an intuitive line “If you seek a heavenly light I, Solitude, am your professor.” In the desert, the quiet place, the silence, we can grapple with temptation, and find ways to overcome our sinfulness – with prayer and fasting.
In the desert, Jesus was hungry – His hunger was mortification. The very nature of the desert is mortification - hot - uncomfortable. But in our suffering, we move closer to God.
During this time of Lent, let us try to find a quiet place. That place may be at a remote monastery, or in your own room. Let us pray to Doctor Jesus, ask for his gift of healing – seek a deeper presence of the Lord. May the sacrifices and penances of this Lent bring us to a greater joy in the Lord.