A few weeks ago during mass, Deacon told us the story of growing up with influences who lead him to look down upon and be repulsed by homeless people. He used to feel that they were a “tax” on society and should be working, not relying on people for money. One day while walking down the street, a homeless man dressed for the cold weather walked by him and as usual, he leaned away from the passer-by, hoping not to be bothered by him. Just then he heard a voice say “TURN AROUND”. It was such a commanding voice that he instantly did so, just in time to see the homeless man also turn around and look him right in the eyes. “IT WAS CHRIST,” he said, breaking into tears. “He wanted me to see him in the eyes of every soul, every homeless person, all of the poor”. He went on to explain the shock and shame of his experience and how he was forever transformed.
Not only did our case study this week cause us to ask the question, “Was this Jesus?” but the gospel for this first Sunday in Lent (and every week) challenges us to be transformed. We must, like the gospel reminds us, realize the temptations we face as humans and can only rely on God for the strength to surpass them. Likewise, we must see Jesus in the eyes of everyone we meet and be that transformative love for others, sharing the mercy we have received. Was the man in our case below Jesus? What do you think? First, let’s see what reflections came from praying with this upcoming Sunday’s gospel.
Gospel LK 4:1-13
and was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days,
to be tempted by the devil.
He ate nothing during those days,
and when they were over he was hungry.
The devil said to him,
“If you are the Son of God,
command this stone to become bread.”
Jesus answered him,
“It is written, One does not live on bread alone.”
Then he took him up and showed him
all the kingdoms of the world in a single instant.
The devil said to him,
“I shall give to you all this power and glory;
for it has been handed over to me,
and I may give it to whomever I wish.
All this will be yours, if you worship me.”
Jesus said to him in reply,
“It is written:
You shall worship the Lord, your God,
and him alone shall you serve.”
Then he led him to Jerusalem,
made him stand on the parapet of the temple, and said to him,
“If you are the Son of God,
throw yourself down from here, for it is written:
He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,
With their hands they will support you,
lest you dash your foot against a stone.”
Jesus said to him in reply,
“It also says,
You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.”
When the devil had finished every temptation,
he departed from him for a time.
Reflections From The Group
He ate nothing during those days…
During Ash Wednesday Mass, our bishop asked the question “Why do we fast for Lent?” He reminded us that when ours stomachs growl its because we are hungry, and it should be a reminder to us that our souls are grumbling too. “Our flesh cries out for the Lord.”
It’s noted that when we fast we have much clearer understanding of what is inspired by the Holy Spirit.
…led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days, to be tempted by the devil.
Three times Jesus is tempted by the devil; the first two Jesus rebukes these temptations with scripture passages. The third time, catching on, the devil tempts Jesus with using scripture, perverting it for temptation to sin.
If Christ can be tempted by the devil, and HE IS GOD, why would I not be convinced that I too can be? Additionally, how often also have I been tempted to use a verse from scripture to justify something that may not be God’s intention for me? Do I use passages to justify myself or my decisions for my own sake? Do I coddle myself or use the “warm and fuzzy” parts of God’s love for me to rationalize my own sin? We must use careful discernment and call on the Holy Spirit to discern scripture, as well as well-formed leaders and doctors of the church (the kind with the title of “Saint“) to understand what God may be asking of me.
…he departed from him for a time.
Yikes. The enemy will never just give up on us, but conversely, neither will our loving and most powerful God. Our lives are a spiritual battlefield. We commented that before Vatican II, the focus of the church in general was more about avoiding mortal sin. Many of us who experienced the after-effects of Vatican II, felt the pendulum swing to focusing on God’s love. The answer to the question of faith is a healthy amount of both. God loves us and as a response to that love, let us NOT be deceived into thinking we can sin and not leave damage in our wake. Additionally, we can get focused on our own problems so much that we turn inward, and when we do so we are not looking toward God but into a revolving darkness that seemingly has no solutions. Rather let us turn our hearts and minds toward Christ and those around us who need our love.
How can we arm ourselves for the returning temptations we will face in this battleground? The answer is steadfastness in deep prayer and sacramental life, seeking reconciliation with God frequently, and asking for the help of the angels, saints and Blessed Mother to protect us.
Lastly, we reflected on the fact that we should NEVER give up on anyone. The fight for souls is worth all that we can give to God. We look at those within our extended families, neighbors and work associates and we remember that God loves them so deeply. We are participating in sins of “omission” not to extend that love to everyone. It is our responsibility to reach out and love others, even if they seem to be uninterested. Holiness and joy are the part of the design with which God created the human template. He designed us to seek Him and until we figured that out He has a reckless love that will seek us until our last breath. We should do the same for others, but how does this look on a person? As with the Holy Spirit’s perfect guidance, the gospel reflection lead into just such an example.
A CASE STUDY OF THE MAN ON THE PLANE
Many of us board a plane with our work or entertainment downloaded and beverage in hand. She too, was looking forward to spending the flight mentally “checked out” with her headphones inserted, ready to escape from the clamor of the other passengers; but that was not to be the case this flight. A more engrossing scene was unfolding nearby, captivating her attention. An attractive man with a magnetic personality was engaged with a seemingly melancholy young woman in conversation. A noticeable change in her stature and carry were observed after their conversation was concluded just before boarding the plane. As the flight prepared to depart, he was then chatting with an obviously introverted persowho did not seem to want to be bothered by anyone. The introverted young man acknowledge he was a student, studying a complex kind of physical science, and after one or two more questions, the two struck a common ground of interest–Star Wars–about which a more lively conversation ensued. That seemed to lead to an observable melting of the cautious scientist and a warm, friendly–albeit short–rapport that ensued for the duration of the flight. The woman noticed the captivating man, take out a notebook and write down some notes. The young student noticed as well, asking his new friend questions about its contents. “This is my journal,” the friendly man continued, “it’s how I keep track of the things I want to thank God for in my life.”
As the flight continued, her heart was moved to appreciation for the kind, gentle way this man seemed to genuinely care about the things that mattered to those he met along his journey. At the end of the flight, she said a prayer to the Holy Spirit, asking whether or not she should overtly acknowledge the beautiful way he engaged others. Not wanting to seem rude to the stranger, she asked that God “put him right in my path” if it was meant to be.
In the usual deplaning hurry, everyone jumped from their seats, grabbed their bags and headed for the terminal. She was one of the first to leave the plane, only to come up the ramp and encounter, face-to-face, the friendly man who had been just recording his blessings.
“I need to tell you that you are changing the world by the way you engage with people. I observed the way you talked with the other passengers and connected with them and I just have to say how impressed I am.” They went on to exchange names, and chat for another moment. As she walked away, he shouted her name, leaving her with one stunning question: “What are YOU going to do to change the world?”
Virtues of Charity, Justice and Affability
What was so magnetic about this man? The way he engaged others with genuine care and concern for what moved their hearts showed that he knows his mission is to love. The quiet way he gave thanks to God, discreetly and honestly, was intriguing to those around him. He wasn’t trying to convert others, which we know to be the work of God; he was rather trying to CONNECT, to make a way to cultivate the soil of a person’s life in order for a seed to be planted. A perfect demonstration of charity, rooted in the virtue of justice, shows up to us in human virtue of “affability“. Being kind, friendly, open and approachable with a genuine care for what is happening inside the heart of a person before you is critical. This “person to person” theology is at the heart of our spirituality.
How We Will Act
We will focus this week on the person before us. Rather than thinking of our own agenda (whether time-wise or in our hearts) we will listen with BOTH ears; putting aside our own thoughts to be fully present to who is before us. We will push our conversations further; in conversations we will let the other continue to open up or ask more probing questions so that we fully understand what is trying to be communicated to us, with a desire to treat each and every person we meet as Christ within them. We will remember how precious each and every soul is and try to be the one person they encounter this week that they truly feel the love and desire God has for them, through our obedience and openness to the Holy Spirit.
How We Will Pray
We will use our morning offering prayer in our prayer books to especially concentrate on the prayer to the Blessed Trinity to show us how this will happen each day:
Prayer to the Holy Trinity
My Lord, God of heaven and earth – Father and Creator, Son and Redeemer, Holy Spirit and Sanctifier – I adore you and love you with all my heart. I thank you for creating me, redeeming me, calling me to the Catholic faith, and watching over me last night. I offer you on this day my prayer, my work, and my struggles, my sufferings and my joys. Enable me to do everything out of love for you and according to your will. Make me steadfast in living my Christian vocation, patient in suffering, courageous in proclaiming my faith; fill me with wisdom on life’s journey and charity in dealing with others. Free me from sin and from all evil. May your grace always remain with me and with all who are dear to me. Amen.
It isn’t the first time our resolutions for the week have turned our attention to being present to others. One of the first postings I made in recording our Encounter With Christ experiences called us to “be present” in conversations with others, and as I took off these socks when I returned home, I snapped a picture at the irony of it all.