March 12, 2010

Seeking the Face of the Lord

Jesus calls us to journey with him in faith

We approach the fourth week of Lent, and it is time to take stock of our journey thus far.

The way to Easter is an especially gifted journey of faith. It forecasts the great act of faith, and the culmination of a journey when we arrive at the great Easter sacraments at the Easter Solemnity.

Faith is a gift from God that gives us supernatural knowledge. Rightly, during Lent, do we call it a journey made possible because God loves us. How are we doing as the valuable time of special grace speeds by?

One of the most famous religious journeys ever was the exodus of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt. Do you remember stories of the Israelites traveling through the desert?

Rabbi Lawrence Kushner says that the Jewish people consider the parting of the Red Sea on that journey to be the greatest miracle the Lord ever worked. But he goes on to tell the story of two fellows, Reuven and Shimon, who had a different experience of the parting of the sea.

He writes: “Apparently, the bottom of the Red Sea, though safe to walk on, was not completely dry but a little muddy, like a beach at low tide. Reuven stepped into it and curled his lip. ‘What is this muck?’ Shimon scowled, ‘There’s mud all over the place!’ ‘This is just like the slime pits of Egypt!’ replied Reuven. ‘What’s the difference?’ complained Shimon. ‘Mud here, mud there; it’s all the same.’

“And so it went for the two of them, grumbling all the way across the bottom of the sea. And because they never once looked up, they never understood why, on the distant shore, everyone else was singing songs of praise. For Reuven and Shimon, the miracle never happened” (God Was In This Place, and I, I Never Knew, p. 27).

The Lord parted the Red Sea, but they never saw it. Because they never looked up with the eyes of faith, Reuven and Shimon never saw the great miracle of the Lord.

For us Christians, the greatest miracle is the mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection from the dead. Christ took the cross for us and rose from the dead. It’s what we anticipate during this season of Lent and journey toward Easter.

On Good Friday, when we look up at the Cross with eyes of faith, will we see the miracle of God’s love for us on that Cross? How sad it would be to journey through life and not look up with eyes of faith to see the great love of God all around us.

It is good to realize that indeed, because we celebrate our call from Christ—and we choose to accept this call—it is something larger than our own individual decision. Through the Church, Jesus calls us to journey with him in faith as his disciples.

What does Jesus ask of a disciple? In the Gospels, we find that a disciple is one who understands, one who looks and observes, and one who hears and absorbs the spirit of Jesus.

A disciple seeks the Kingdom of heaven. A disciple is steeped in tradition and in the Gospel. A disciple takes to heart the words of Jesus: “For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother” (Mk 3:35).

A disciple cares for the down and out, the poor and the sick—even though he or she might not recognize that in doing so it is Jesus who is loved in the least of our sisters and brothers. A disciple’s first loyalty is to Jesus Christ. In a word, a disciple is someone who is free to journey with Jesus.

Lest we be alarmed to hear such challenging words—we are consoled by other words of Jesus. He tells us that he has come to heal the sick and to seek out the lost sheep. A disciple is moved by the compassion of Jesus.

Jesus began his public ministry with a simple and forthright teaching: “Turn away from sin and return to the Gospel” (Mk 1:15). It is the clarion call we heard on Ash Wednesday.

As we begin the fourth week of Lent, we should remind ourselves that we are given a special grace to help us turn our hearts from sinful ways in order to walk with Jesus as his disciples and friends.

Maybe we need to be more intentional about offering our fellow travelers support on the way to the Easter Eucharist and the renewal of our baptismal profession of faith.

After all, we are privileged to be part of a procession of faith, not only to the Easter sacraments, but also on the way home to the House of the Father. †

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