Lenten Audio Conversations

Transcript of Third Week of Lent Conversation

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M = Maureen McCann Waldron
A = Andy Alexander, S.J.


M: Hello again, and welcome to another version of the Creighton University Online Ministries conversations about Lent.

A: We begin the third week of Lent, move into the middle of Lent. The midpoint of Lent. And for all of us, I suppose, it is good to take stock of where we are, and for some of us who have had a hard time beginning, getting starting, we can jump in right now or make a fresh start. What do you say to somebody who’s having a hard time beginning? Where can I begin? What can I do?

M: Well I think if you just listen to the readings of the week, they’re constantly about an invitation from God, inviting us in. It expresses God’s longing for us that I think meets the longing we have, our own yearning. And we can say “Where is it? What is it that I haven’t done yet for Lent? I want to begin.” That what we keep getting is a lesson about God’s constant love, and we can jump into it right now, God is ever merciful.

A: What about giving up something for Lent?

M: I think, and we actually have a lot of material on our website about this, on the Online Ministries, but I think it’s about looking at the own patterns in our lives, what we give up is anything that  gets in the way of our relationship with God. So if it’s a pattern, I get crabby at night because I’m really tired, that’s something I should give up, become very aware of that at about 8:30 at night, say some prayers, and say this is what I want to give up, this is what I want to sacrifice; picking a fight, I want to give up on spending too much time in front of my computer.

A: Aren’t those patterns the most difficult things to change?

M: They are! They are, which is why you might have to start this every day fresh again, but every day we can make that commitment, this is a journey, this isn’t a destination. It’s a way to free ourselves up to become closer to God.

A: And that’s the journey we’re on; we’re trying to prepare ourselves or let the grace of God prepare us to have our mind and heart renewed to celebrate the paschal mystery. So the things that get us in trouble are often the things we want to get out of the way, so we can have a relationship with the Lord that’s renewed. And those sacrifices that those examinations of conscience can help us be prepared, through the sacrament of Reconciliation, or through a recognition that I need some things to be changed in my life. And of course as you say the readings and prayers carry that on and inspire us. But on Sunday, the first thing we do as we enter into the third, fourth, and fifth week of Lent is the scrutinies.

M: The scrutinies are special masses, usually every parish has the scrutinies at one mass, and it’s where the people taking part in the RCIA program, the catechumens, now they are called the elect, where the elect gather with the rest of the community and where we pray with them in a very special way. They scrutinies are three weeks in a row, where they scrutinize themselves, where am I being tempted, where do I need the water of baptism in my life, and it’s a chance for us as a community to pray with these people, week after week in Lent, as they are learning from this masterful selection of all of these great treasures of the reading, that go through the first three weeks of Lent, it’s like a Catechism lesson, but it’s a chance for us to learn again, and to be renewed in our faith.

A: And it’s an opportunity for us to also think about almsgiving. If we haven’t found some way for us as individuals of families, this is a good time to begin talking about our plan for being generous. It usually comes out of growing in gratitude first, but it is part of our Lenten experience that when we are sacrificing so that others who have so much less than we do, can have more, there’s a transformation and a freedom that happens to us in that, and it’s part of our Lenten journey. But right now, as we look at the readings, we see that the scrutinies which are helping the catechumens, now elect, to examine their consciences, will help us, and even if we don’t celebrate the scrutinies at our parish mass, the parish mass that we go to, we can be aware that this community is in our parish and they are examining, it’s like anything we know in life: the closer we get to doing something good, the more the evil spirit will be ready to mess it up somehow, and we don’t want these people to have temptations, doubts about themselves, about their being a part of the faith, and so we pray “protect them from all evil and affect”, as we pray for them silently for them at that mass and throughout the weekend.

M: And this week, if you are in the regular masses, there are some wonderful readings. If you are not in the mass with the elect, where they are probably using the readings from cycle A, which would be the Samaritan woman at the well, these are readings from Exodus, where Moses is tending the flocks and he sees the burning bush. And Moses hides his face, he was afraid to look at God, and God says “I have witnessed the affliction of my people in Egypt. I have heard their cry of complaint against their slave drivers. I know well what they are suffering; therefore I have come down to rescue them from the hands of the Egyptians, lead them out of that land into a good spacious land, flowing with milk and honey”. It’s God’s promise to Moses, saying “I’ll rescue you. I’ll take you out of this land where you have been a slave; I’ll take you to a land of freedom”.

A: The Gospel, as Jesus confronting the question about individual responsibility, some Galileans were attacked by Pilate’s people, and people were asking “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered I this way, they were greater sinners than all other Galileans?” And Jesus says “No, it doesn’t work like that, God doesn’t punish us in that way”, and he talked about a wonderful parable of fig tree, and it’s a wonderful Lenten story. You can imagine the Joy of the elect hearing this story that the master comes out looking for fruit on his tree, and he doesn’t find much, he says three years now this thing hasn’t produced any fruit, and so he says “cut it down, why should it exhaust the soil”? But this wise steward says “Sir, leave it for this year, and I’ll cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it, and it may bear fruit in the future”.

M: It’s a great image of God as a gardener here. You know, and we tend to resist that.

A: Tilling the soil around us, making the soil looser, more receptive.

M: He’s going to fertilize it and we say “I don’t want fertilizer. I can do this myself”. I can resist all of that. I don’t need help. And I think we want to be independent and do it myself, but we can ask “Am I bearing fruit? Am I doing what I was called to do?”

A: In the Gospel for Monday, we have the wonderful story in which Jesus is not received by his people, and he knows that, and tells about the Prophet Nahum, who was a foreigner who received Jesus with faith. And it was amazing when he said, you know, “A prophet’s not received in their own country”, they drove him out of town and tried to kill him, and he escaped from their midst.

M: I think it reminds us that we have to listen to our own prophets today, people who bring us uncomfortable news about the Gospel, and the ways that perhaps I’m not doing anything wrong, but am I doing for the poor? Am I doing anything proactive?

A: Tuesday is beautiful. It’s a story we can all relate to, in Matthew 18, Peter asks Jesus, you know, how many times must I forgive? Are we talking 7 times? And Jesus says no, 7 times 70 times. And it means like God forgives endlessly, and he tells a parable about a servant whose debt is forgiven. And outrageously, this servant goes out and is not forgiving of his fellow servants, who owe him much less. It’s a way in which ingratitude can become a terrible, terrible sin. And so as we go through this Lenten journey, we don’t’ want to be ungrateful. It will be gratitude that will help us be more generous, and it will be gratitude that will help us give thanks and praise to God.

M: This is a good day, I think, to look at forgiveness, and who in my life do I need to forgive, and who do I need to ask for forgiveness? When you think about how God loves us, God doesn’t love us because we deserve it; God loves us because we need it.

A:  And a very important passage, Gospel, on Wednesday, in which Jesus had to observe that there were people who were simply rebellious of everything. He’s trying to help us realize he wants us to go beyond the ways of the Scribes and Pharisees. But he makes it clear. He wants us not to abolish the law, but he came to fulfill the Law; to obey it in its true form, that it revealed God’s care for the marginalized and the poor. But it’s not going to be just about being without faith and religion.

M: Thursday marks the halfway point of Lent. And it is still early enough that we can say again “How do I want to spend my Lent? What intentions do I want to have? How do I want to open my heart to what God wants to give me this Lent”?

A: Jesus heals a deaf mute, and it comes on the heels of our reading of Jeremiah, where this people can’t speak, faithfulness has disappeared, the word itself, the word faithfulness itself, is banished from their speech. And so Jesus comes upon this deaf mute, who wants to be healed. And we think of all the ways in which we are deaf and mute, we don’t hear and we don’t proclaim the word of God, and when Jesus does this healing, it’s a way of preparing us to be open to hear and speak his word. The story turns into a very odd story because they accuse him of healing because of the powers of the evil one, and he says to them, “whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me, scatters”. That we’re all his disciples, and he wants us to go out there and gather people to build community, to bring people to the table of fellowship and sacrifice.

M: You know, it’s a good reflection, we can ask ourselves, “Am I with God?” you know, “Am I scattered away? How do I live my life? Do I have some intention about Lent? “Am I able to relate to God in all of this in these days?”.

A: On Friday, we have a little piece of Hosea the prophet, we rarely read from Hosea, but Hosea was one of those prophets who God wanted to preach to the people and used Hosea as an example. Hosea’s wife became a temple prostitute, and Hosea felt the pain of God at the way that God’s own people abandoned him. He felt the pain of infidelity, and then spoke right from his own heart, the message to God, calling the people to return, saying I will forgive everything; nothing else will save you. So, “I will heal their defection. I will love them freely for my wrath is turned away from them.

M: That is one of those passages in Hosea that reminds me of the love that parents have for their children. I think I first got a real sense of the love of God for me when I realized how I loved my children. How we love our kids is so unsparing. There’s nothing they can do that we won’t forgive. There’s nothing that they can do that can make us love them less. And that’s when I really began to get a sense, that’s how God loves me, only more.

A: Right and it’s helpful at this time in Lent to remind ourselves that this isn’t a time for guilt or a time to beat ourselves up. It’s a time to get ourselves in shape as people who really know God’s love and are asked to do something with it.

M: That kind of guilt becomes more focused on me and myself, and that’s something we can do, if we find ourselves getting caught up in guilt or in being self-absorbed, we can say “where is my focus on prayer, is it on me or is it focused on God?”

A: In Mark chapter 12 for Friday, we hear about the scribe coming up to Jesus and saying, which is first of all the commandments? And what Jesus cleverly does is gives him two, not one, and puts them together, to give us all a sense of the balance of what God asks of us: to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind and with all your strength, is the first one, and then Jesus says the second is like it: love your neighbor as yourself. And he puts all of that together as a combination of love that we are to have. So what happens is that Jesus puts these two together, love of God and love of neighbor, and it continues to be a part of the early church as Jesus affirms this young man, you are not far from the kingdom of God. Finally, on Saturday, I love the prayer, “Lord make this Lenten observance of the suffering death and resurrection of Christ bring us to the full joy of Easter”. This is what we’re about, and we have an earlier Hosea reading from chapter 6.

M: You sense a parent saying, “what can I do with you Eve”, from “what can I do with you Judah”, some frustration there, but always the love is there.

A: And from Psalm 51, the response, “it is mercy I desire, not sacrifice”.

M: And then the Gospel is Luke, where I love the opening line, Jesus addresses this parable, “To those who were convinced of their own righteous and despised everyone else”, and it’s the tax collector who, two people come into the temple to pray, and the Pharisee says, I am so glad that I’m not a sinner like those people, and the tax collector can’t even lift his eyes, he’s just over in the corner beating his breast saying “be merciful of me, I’m a sinner”, and Jesus says “which one of these two do you think is going to be forgiven?”

A: Who went home justified?

M: Who went home justified? I think that this is such a key Gospel because all of us instinctively and automatically judge. We always presume we know the motives of people, and I think if we really focused on that, we could catch ourselves a number of times judging.

A: And exalting ourselves always in some way gets us in trouble, and he says if we exalt ourselves we will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted. It’s a different way of the world.

M: And this is the time when we can remember and intentionally turn away from exalting ourselves and place ourselves with Jesus, who is on this journey of suffering.

A: We can ask all week long, Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner. As we are examining our conscience, we don’t have to feel guilty, we don’t have to dump on ourselves and really beat ourselves down, we just simply have to say “I need your mercy Lord”, and we’ll have it. It can be a great time right here in the middle of Lent to celebrate the sacrament of Reconciliation. If we haven’t done that in a while, especially to take the opportunity to really look and say “what are the things we do that we shouldn’t do”, and “what do we fail to do that we should do”. That’s an important time. So next week we move into the second part of Lent.

M: We will leave all of these day to day treasures of the stories, and we will move into walking with Jesus on the road to Jerusalem as he is drawing closer and closer to his passion.

A: Let’s keep each other in prayer this week.

M: God bless.

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