April 8, 2011

Seeking the Face of the Lord

Take time for reflection and prayer to open your heart to God’s love

(Listen to the archbishop read this column)

If we page through the New Testament, the ordinary picture of Jesus is a very human one.

Jesus is the son of a carpenter. He is the son of Mary. He was a man who tired, a man who lost his patience. He had friends like us, and when his friend, Lazarus, died, Jesus wept.

During this time of Lent, we focus on the fact that Jesus was a man who suffered. He was mocked and scourged. He died on the criminal’s cross.

The disciples of Jesus were distressed and discouraged to hear from Jesus that he must suffer and die at the hands of the chief priests, elders and scribes. And so to encourage them, Jesus gave them a glimpse of his glory in the Transfiguration.

Unlike the disciples, our recollection of Christ as a suffering and courageous person is a source of consolation to us.

We, in our joys and sorrows, easily identify with him, and we are encouraged to pray to him for help.

Yet it is a good thing for us, too, that the Church recalls to our minds the mystery of the Transfiguration on the way to Holy Week.

Christ, after all, is more than a suffering, patient and brilliant teacher. Like the disciples, we need to know that Christ is divine.

The Christ of our faith is the God man. His glory must shine through, and give us confidence in our prayer.

We can be grateful that in our times of trouble and need, we have someone who can offer us even more than consolation. We have the Christ to whom all power in heaven and on Earth has been given.

The beautiful mystery of the ­Transfiguration, which the Church presented to us earlier in Lent, takes us to the mountain and helps us remember, once more, what is important about life and what is important about death.

As it did for Peter, James and John, the showing of the Lordship of Jesus for one, brief, shining moment assures us that the fullness of love indeed wins out over the pain and power of evil.

Day after day, we look at the many faces of evil. During Lent, we are ­dramatically reminded to seek the face of Jesus and to listen to him. We are reminded that we share in the glory and fullness of God’s love. In this season, we are reminded that there is much more to life and reality than meets the eye.

But how forgetful we are. Like Peter, James and John, we get confused. The face of the Lord Jesus gets lost in the crowd. Pain and suffering and all kinds of painted masks veil the simple glory of God’s love and presence all around us.

As Christians, we promise to love God as simply and as faithfully as we can.

During Lent, once again, we are called to be as single-hearted and honest as we can be.

Soon, at Easter, when we renew our baptismal promises, we testify to do our part to let our lives and our loves be transformed by God’s love. We struggle to remember that his love is the truly consistent thread in our lives. We prepare to renew our radical faith in the powerful and faithful love of Jesus.

We need Lent because our promise to carry God’s love gets lost in the busyness and challenges of everyday life. How easily we forget why we do what we do in life. Daily, we face the hazard of having our fundamental faith gradually dry up and, with that, the meaning of life and death is confused.

Both the Christ of human sorrow and the Christ of joyful power is present to us in this sacrament of the Eucharist. As Christians, we need to contact the human and the powerful Christ.

Our observance of Lent and our remembering the Lordship of Jesus in the midst of his suffering gives us a chance to renew our faith in the constancy of God’s love.

And we still have the opportunity to refresh our Christian mission to carry Christ to others—the Christ who suffers and the Christ of joy. What a marvelous Lenten grace—to remember more clearly why we live and why we die.

Maybe during the fifth week of Lent, we need to seize the opportunity to renew our resolve to come closer to Jesus and to prepare the rest of this week for a truly prayerful and faith-filled Holy Week.

Perhaps we need to take a little more time for reflection and prayer to open our hearts to receive God’s love, especially the sacrificial love of his Son.

It is not too late to be still and quiet in the prayer of our hearts. †

Local site Links: