The First Sunday of Lent presents the love and patience of God for and with mankind. In our first reading today, we learn that after every calamity God renews his covenant with mankind. In order for God to we have to turn towards God. A covenant is made between parties and can never be one-side. God needs us to put our trust in him completely. God made a Covenant with Noah and his descendants at the time of the great flood. We could call that a total lock-down and isolation. We during this pandemic can imagine how Noah must have felt locked up in that Ark.
However, that is how God saved Noah and his family in the great Ark. The story of Noah shows us that the rainbow will appear after the storm is over. We are going to hard times during this pandemic but God will lead us through it. Eventually the rainbow will appear….in Gods timing. In the story of Noah we are saved also. He reaffirmed the fundamental truth that God truly loves us, no matter what where we come from or what we have done. If we turn back to God he will turn back to us. When you read the Book of Genesis you could get the impression that the Ark was build over night. Or at least in a short period of time. But of course we know that would be merely impossible, looking at the size of the Ark. It is more likely , and is also documented by research, that it took years or maybe even decades to build. And the great thing is that God throughout that time, probably kept on calling people back into his loving arms. He used Noah himself and his building of the Ark for that. But we know from Genesis that the people did not return. Only Noah and his family were righteous in the eyes of God.
no one wanted to change their lifestyle and to embrace God. They rejected him and his mercy, as so many people do in our world. It is not something that God chose but that mankind chose. The Symbol of the Ark could not come on a better time for us. This the right time to use the symbol of the Ark to give hope to people. It looks like we are stuck in the Ark of our homes and shut of from the world and others. But God manoeuvres the Ark through the stormy and most difficult challenges of this time. God will lead those that he has called and chosen. However, for some reason many are also called back into his loving arms. The reason for that we do not know. It is a painful experience that we have to give so many people into the mercy of God. People we love and that were dear to use didn’t survive the Covid storm. And we pray for them to be home in Gods love. In Genesis God chose eight people, the family members of Noah, and kept them from the raging waters of the storm. Why? We don’t know exactly God motivation but this is a learning story to remain close to God.
God saved Noah’s family. They kept their faith, and in the end, God rescued them and made a Covenant with them. The Early Church taught us that through the waters of baptism have been forgiven in Christ. Baptism that countless people had received from the very beginning of the Church. In that way we are called and gathered into the Ark of God, his One Church. It is Christ Himself who is the head of that Church and the Holy Spirit is his Vicar. Christ as the Head will Guide us and navigate us through the stormy ‘seas’ of this world. Even through the stormy ‘seas’ of this pandemic. In the Gospel we hear that Jesus isolated himself from the world and went into the desert. In a way it was not voluntarily but he was led by the spirit. He had to social distancing for a while to overcome the temptations that we are all prone to. The Lord Jesus Himself was tempted by Satan in the desert just right after His baptism at the Jordan. He stayed for days and forty nights in the desert the Gospel tells us. The same amount of time as Noah in the Ark. This is a symbol of a very long time and not necessarily the literal number. The enemy wanted to persuade the Lord to prevent him from doing the will of God. Satan struck hard with his efforts in trying to tempt the Lord.
Satan's temptations were temptations of power, physical needs and egoism. Through this we are also called to resist the temptations, which is not an easy thing. But no one ever said that being a follower of Christ is easy. This is why, during this season of Lent, all of us are called to control our desires and remain ever faithful to the Lord. That is why we are all called to remember our Christian faith and calling in life, to be genuine followers and disciples of the Lord. Especially in this season of Lent. We are all called to follow the Lord with a renewed faith and conviction and love one another as he loves us. We are called to be more Christ-like in our actions. We should be more loving and compassionate towards others. We are called to Christian charity and love.
Let us all make this season of Lent meaningful and fruitful. May the Lord continue to bless us and guide us, and may He strengthen us to fulfill his call. God made a Covenant with us. In order for the covenant to work we need to stay close to the Lord and answer his call to go out in the world and make it a better place. Amen.
Today, as we start the season of Lent, we will be marked by ashes and told, “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” The time of Lent is season of reflection on our own experiences with dust and ashes. We can find new meaning in it again and again. Sometimes we get stuck in life, in our job, in our relationships with family or friends or in our spiritual life. We keep on digging in the dust. When have you found yourself stuck, digging and then find yourself in a big hole. When have we been consumed by anger, regret and grief? When have you desperately tried to fix a situation through your own effort? How many times were we the cause of division and grieve of others? All of that is a part of the dust. It bears no life in it.
Slowly, I began to realize that my frantic activity, desperation and frustration were getting me nowhere. At one point it will dawn on us that we need to increase our prayer life and seek union with God. We need to forgive and let go of all the anger and anxiety. When we pray intimately we are able to experience peace and tranquility. It is then that we realize that we should have get rid of the baggage way before. Sometimes when we are struggling in the dust, God gives us what we need right in that place. As we look back, we can see that God meets us where we are and changes right there. God in Jesus has entered into all the dust, the dirt, the struggle and sorrow of our lives and meets us there. Jesus meets us in the dust and reminds us who we are. He reminds us that we are but dust and that we are dependent on God. Without we are nothing.
If we trust in ourselves we are left to our own strength we will fail at one point. We will find ourselves stuck in sin and shame. All human efforts and activity will lead us deeper into the dust. We are dust…. But God makes beautiful things out of dust. Let’s not forget that he created us out of the dust. In the beginning, God formed us all from dust of the earth and breathed into us the breath of life. And God keeps on breathing his life in us. Each moment, life is given to us from a Divine origin, we don’t have to do anything for it. And at the final breath, God takes us up in his eternity. God makes beautiful things out of dust. He breathes his Holy Spirit in it and makes it to come alive. The word for spirit in Greek and Hebrew is the same as the word for breath. God’s spirit is as close as our breath. We have it available every moment of our life. We only have to accept that free gift from God.
We have the intention to refuse the breath of Gods spirit and instead breathing in toxic air full of anger, gossip, anxiety, despair, judgement, aggression, division, pride and shame. We get filled up with things that leave us depleted and makes us long for fresh air. No matter how toxic the air is that we breathe, God always seeks to cleanse us from all of that. He breathes into us the Holy Spirit, as an individual but also as a community. The Season of Lent allows us to intentionally seek that cleansing and renewal. We can do that through practices of confession (repentance), fasting, prayer and almsgiving. The Lenten practices are meant to step away from our self focused attitude and open us up for the life-giving Spirit of God. They’re intended to draw us more fully into God. We are called to loose the bonds of injustice and setting the oppressed free.
In Lent, God works on our renewal in the Spirit. We are set free from focusing on our self, so that we might serve others. In Lent, God works to make us who are just dust a blessing to the world. Remember that you are dust but also that God makes beautiful things out of dust. Let’s us pray that we make room for God in the Season of Lent so he can breathe in us his spirit so we will be a blessing to the world. Amen.
Today is the last Sunday of Epiphany or the Sunday next before Lent if you want. The readings point out to the transfiguration, so it is a kind of "second" transfiguration Sunday, though this feast is in August. It is also St. Valentines day today, which connects with the them of the Love of God. The Lectionary gives us two beautiful readings from Second Kings and the Gospel of Mark. Elijah’s ascent to heaven and Jesus’ transfiguration. These are mystical stories where heaven and earth meet in an extraordinary way. The narrative combines the eternal with the human experience. The Transfiguration describes a Theophany, God’s eternal presence. Mark tells the story with a beautiful simplicity. Jesus goes to a mountain to pray, accompanied by his closest friends, his inner circle.
They see him transfigured in dazzling white clothes. They see him surrounded by the glory of God, and talking with the great prophets Moses and Elijah. This reflects Moses’ transfiguration in Exodus 34. If you remember, he comes down from Mt. Sinai with the tablets of the covenant, his face shining so brightly from his encounter with God. The people were scared and covered their faces. The mountain is a a bridge between heaven and earth. The Transfiguration describes a mystical moment. A visible manifestation of the union of human and divine in Jesus. Like the Israelites in Exodus, Jesus’ friends are terrified by what they have seen. Terrified and in awe of that glimpse of God’s eternal glory. In the climax of the scene, Gods voice speaks and confirms Jesus identity as the Son of God. “This is my Son the Beloved; listen to him!” This experience is a turning point. Jesus, reminds us of his unity with God. The Transfiguration is a bridge between Jesus’ public ministry and the road to his passion, death, and resurrection in Jerusalem.
Transfiguration Sunday is a bridge between Epiphany and Lent, where Jesus’ journey to the cross is the central point. The Transfiguration is a revelation of Christ’s glory. It uncovers for us the veil between heaven and earth. The story of Elijah’s ascent to heaven is another such meeting of heaven and earth, an experience of God. Elijah knows where he is going; the company of prophets know where he is going; his student and protégé Elisha knows where he is going. In an echo of Jesus’ instruction to tell no one, Elisha insists: keep silent. He knows, but he is not ready. It is touching and profoundly human that Elisha will not leave his master. He stays with him as long as possible. He accompanies him on his journey as long as possible. This is a reflection of Peter who was not able to stick with Jesus until the end. Elisha holds on to his friend, human mentor, inspiring prophet and healer. The holy man who is in intimate communion with God. He pleads with Elijiah: “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit,” he says.
These revelations of God’s glory—are stories of human grief. Elisha accompanies his beloved mentor as far as he can, until he can no longer see him. He then tears his clothes in lamentation. Peter, James, and John too are reluctant to let go of the human manifestation of God’s eternal light. They want to make make dwellings for the prophets, to keep them with them. They do not want their beloved to leave them behind. Today we’ve heard two stories of crossing over, journeying toward the threshold of life and death, the temporal and eternal. It could be a scene from a hospital or hospice! Family and friends are gathered to hold vigil at the threshold of life and death. They want to accompany their loved one as far along the journey as they can. There may be a glimpse of the light shining around the traveler, which embrace the person in awe. He might already heading to the light even heading has already turned his or her face. “Please, while those that are surrounding him/her plead “to build them a house” so they may stay. Or maybe, since you must go, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit”.
Both stories are encounters with the divine. They are reminders that God walks with us on our journey to unity with the infinite, mystical and what we cannot know. We can feel God’s presence, even if we have to let a loved one go. Because we experience that they will not be lost forever. They are not far from us and we will meet again. In the stories of Jesus’ transfiguration and Elijah’s ascent to heaven, the dead are not lost nor the living left behind. Grief and suffering are transformed by the spiritual knowledge that we shall be together in God’s love again. A wonderful perspective in the light of our human suffering. Let’s thank God for his comforting presence to us. Amen.
Readings Isaiah 40:21-31, Psalm 147, Corinthians 9: 16-23, Mark 1:29-39
If you read some parts of the Gospel you might get the impression that Jesus was some kind of miracle worker. But yet, that comes with the rest of his ministry. His concern is first with the soul of his brothers and sisters and sometimes healing became a part of that. Be it in a physical or spiritual way. Hence, after healing Peter’s mother-in-law Jesus leaves the crowds in order to pray. Everything that he does is inspired by his heavenly Father. In prayer he receives the power to do what he is called to do. Paul follows Christ’s vocation in his famous passage that he has become all things to all people. That means that he preaches the Gospel in a way that people can take it in. He comes to them where they are in life. That is something the Church seems to forget so often. We know all his famous line to the Corinthians: “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me”. We need to accept that fact that not everyone is ready to understand at the same time. Back to the Gospel. Everyone loves it when Jesus shows up. His presence makes a difference. Things happen. Mother-in-laws are healed, the sick are cured and demons are cast out. Lives are changed. This is true not only for the people of Capernaum in Jesus’ time but also for us here and now. Jesus is still able to heal, yes even in the midst of a pandemic.
But just like we go to a doctor when we are sick, we need to come in the presence of Our Lord. We need to confess we cannot do it on our own and He will surely come to us. He comes to our house as surely as he went to the house of Simon and Andrew. It happens when we pray for or with people that miracles happen, little ones and big ones. Those experiences are real. Jesus is present and active in our lives and the world. Those are the kind of things for which people line up at Jesus’ door. These kind of situations helps people’s faith greatly of course. We feel His presence and see the results. God is good!
But what if nothing happens? When wake up into the dark periods of life? We know all that life can be hard and it does not go like we want it. In our eyes the wrong things happen. Faith can be challenging in these moments. In those times it seems if darkness is all around us. We don’t see the presence of Jesus anywhere close. Sometimes people think God abandoned them and so they will abandon God and faith. So what do we do when Jesus walks off, symbolically spoken, and we feel alone? There are times that it happens. In the Gospel Jesus will get up in the early morning hours, in the darkness, and goes to a deserted place to pray. Watch the last two words: to pray! So he is not abandoning us. It is all about prayer for him and for us. It is about what is happening in our spiritual life, between us and God. No matter how dark it may seem, Jesus never leaves us. Maybe it seems that he is absent, but in reality he invites us to move to the deserted place. He calls us out of comfort into the vulnerability of the wilderness. It is a deserted and desolate place where we are alone in prayer with our Heavenly Father. We all have deserted places in our lives: accepting the limitations of disease, the pandemic, broken relationships, loneliness and grief and the struggle to make ends. There are so many wildernesses we are trying to escape. I am sure you could each name your own wildernesses and desert.
We people often don’t like deserted places, we don’t like silence. We want to avoid them because these place make us fearful and sad. There is nowhere we can hide. We have to face ourselves and the dark and lonely places within us. We are confronted by things done and left undone. In the wilderness we have to admit we are not in control. It is a place of great importance and a place where healing can happen. There is a price though! We must trade the comfort of the house for the risk of the desert. The wilderness prayer is a prayer of surrender. It does not ask for things to happen but just let it be and give it to God. Wilderness prayer doesn’t ask for circumstances to be changed but that we will be changed. The wilderness contains great opportunities for spiritual growth. Jesus goes to the deserted places of our lives to draw us there. He went first so we can be alone with him there. It is a sacred place where have communion with him. In the spiritual desert there is only God and nothing but God. Jesus is drawing us deeper into the heart of God. Ironically, it takes that desolate place to make It happen. The place that we thought was barren and without any promise or future. Maybe it is the dark night of the soul that happens and calls our soul alive again in that barren place.
Jesus is in the deserted places of our lives. It is there that the message of the good news starts. Good news comes alive in the empty and desolate places. Jesus eventually leaves this deserted place to go proclaim the Gospel in the neighboring towns. New life arises from the deserted and empty places. The good news of Christ comes from the wilderness. “Everyone is searching for you,” the Gospel says. It was only the disciples that found him. Maybe because they were the only ones willing to go to the deserted place. Where were the others looking for him? Where are we looking for him? Where are we searching when darkness overcomes us. In the safety and comfort places of our houses maybe? We also need to go to the deserted places of our life. The places that we think bring nothing good. These places we think are barren, empty, will be the place where we find Jesus….praying for us and hopefully with us. That is how we regain strength to do what needs to be done…just like Jesus did. Amen.