Posts Tagged With: the Bible

I was thinking…about temptation

One of my Lenten goals is to be more mindful of my time usage, and part of that is to be more aware of what I’m trying to accomplish each day while simultaneously not beating myself up if life gets in the way of it. (“Life” in this instance being things like “the baby refused to sleep outside my arms,” not “and then Facebook kept being interesting.”) (Though since I do conduct a great deal of socialization via Facebook, I’m not cutting it out completely. But I AM trying to be more mindful, and keep up with my correspondence. Anyway.)

Since I’m usually lucky enough to get a good solid afternoon nap out of the baby (who is TEN MONTHS OLD your pardon is begged), I thought I would try devoting one afternoon nap a week to posting on the blog again. So here we go, with some baby steps, based on this past Sunday’s Gospel reading.

A quick recap: the reading, Luke 4:1-13, is at the bottom of this page. I’ll copy the parts I specifically want to address here:

(vs. 1-2) Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan
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.

Last fall my CWOC group read the first half of Fr. James Martin, S.J.’s Jesus: A Pilgrimage, which is a lovely mix of scholarship, travelogue, and spiritual reflection focusing on grounding the Gospel–and thus, the human Jesus himself–in the physical reality of the Holy Land. It’s given me new tools for considering Christ as well as a better understanding of and perspective on the stories contained within as well as, I have to say, deepening my affection for Jesus as a person. I mean, obviously he’s a person, and a Person, and as a Christian I am striving to love Him while also being infinitely (or finitely, I suppose) aware of my inadequacies and ignorance in that department. And obviously, Ignatian meditation is all about putting yourself in the Gospel scene, so it’s not like this is anything new. But I find myself better able to picture walking alongside Jesus–a guy, a friend, someone who laughed at jokes and liked washing the dirt off his feet at the end of a long day of walking–and with it has come an affection for his human frailties, which he experienced as clearly as I experience my own.

(Perfectly, of course, and with less complaining.)
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Lent: The Halfway Point

I’ll admit it–this year has not been my best Lent.

Sure, I’m pregnant, and hitting the very pregnant stage, and we’ve had two snowstorms trapping us in the house, so we’ve missed Stations twice and haven’t made it to Adoration at all. But for Lent I said I would make a point of spending half an hour in prayer every day, and last week I think the longest I made it was ten minutes.

See, we’re doing this study called Oremus in the CWOC group that I joined, which is all about deepening and enriching your prayer life, right? I came in on week three, so I had to do a bit of catch-up with the exercises, but the general idea is that every week has a set of readings and every day you do the lectio divina, and then once a week you gather with your group to watch a DVD talking about the next week’s focus and then discuss how the previous week has gone. It’s a pretty darn good study, and to me the most valuable aspect is that it a) sets forth a reading plan and b) provides accountability in the form of my fellow ladies. (More on that latter point in another post.)

And then we hit the most recent week, where Day 2 invites you to get up at sunrise and contemplating Genesis 1–not in a lectio divina sense, just in a communining with God in the beauty of his creation sense. Which would be great if a) I could motivate myself to get up at/before sunrise (hahahahahahahaha) (ah ha) (ha) (ha) or b) there had been a morning in the past week that wasn’t so cloudy as to obscure said sunrise. One day I tried to say screw it and just meditate on Genesis 1, but I was so tired I almost fell asleep as soon as I finished reading it, and anyway I feel guilty for not following ALL THE INSTRUCTIONS lest I somehow fail to get out of the program what I’m supposed to be getting out of it. And then our meeting for last week was canceled due to snow, and this week’s meeting was canceled due to Spring Break. So the two things that have been motivating me–the reading plan and the accountability–both fell apart.

And I let them.
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Hannah and Eli

When I was a kid, we had a book on tape (complete with finger puppets) about the story of Samuel (1 Samuel 1-3), starting with Hannah’s prayer and ending with his calling. We listened to it many, many, many times, and I can still hear the narrator’s soothing voice, the deep call of “Samuel! Samuel!” It’s always been one of my favorite stories, in part because it is a story, a narrative with dialogue and everything, and in it we hear very human reactions to the trials of life and to God’s call in the midst of them. And we hear people answering that call, making that choice and understanding it means both joy and sorrow, humility and greatness.
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Hearing and Answering

Sunday morning I was all ready to make a post talking about how since the new translation I’ve noticed a trend in churches to just do whatever psalm setting is in the missalette for the day rather than incorporating the wide variety of psalm settings available, but then I went to Mass and lo and behold they did Rory Cooney’s setting of Psalm 40, which happens to be exactly the psalm and setting we used at our wedding, so! I tried to find you a version to listen to, but as is so often the case with church music finding a recording that matches what you actually hear at Mass (as opposed to a talented-if-sometimes-trying-too-hard soloist with a backup band) is downright impossible, ESPECIALLY if you’re also looking for one that actually has the harmony parts. (It’s four-part. It’s gorgeous. It’s not on Youtube. I looked.)

Anyway.

Recently, Meg over at Pierced Hands confirmed something I was aware of but had never articulated: on Sunday, while the first reading and the Gospel almost always correspond, the second reading follows its own track. This caused me no little amount of grief as a teen lector, when I would spend hours practicing to proclaim the epistle only to have it ignored in the homily because it didn’t quite fit with the other themes. This past Sunday’s readings followed the same pattern, but all the homilies I saw floating around focused on the second reading, the “Don’t you know your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit?” one. Which, I mean, okay, March for Life is this week, it’s an important message anyway, that’s fine. So today I wanted to talk a little bit about the other two readings.
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I was thinking…about today’s readings

in which I abuse bullet points beyond redemption.

  • This time last year might not’ve been the first time I recognized it, but it’s the first time it’s made enough of an impression that I remember it all the way to this time this year. “It” being the pattern of Gospels during Ordinary Time. I’ll have to wait till next year to know if it’s the same every cycle, but I’m guessing it is. That would be a very Church thing to do.
  • Anyway, after Easter, the Gospels are grouchy, one might say–heavily focused on the nature of sin, and what constitutes sin, and wailing and gnashing of teeth. We’ve been revitalized by Easter and confirmed by Pentecost and now we’re back to the grind of daily life, nothing special, and in the U.S. it’s the hot days of summer, which are at once busy and dangerously lazy. So, a good time to remember sin, but also a bit of a downer after that fifty-day party we’ve been having. On the other hand, a sobering reminder of the struggles that we face on the way to that Easter joy.
  • Those weeks are a downer. They’re hard, and they don’t let up. Jesus is constantly hitting us with the requirements: love God, love neighbor, no really, every neighbor, no, even if you’re just thinking you’re still guilty, you gotta love, you gotta follow the commandments, no, really, you gotta give everything and then some, no, give everything, I am going to die on a cross for you okay kids look there’s gonna be wheat and there’s gonna be chaff so listen up because nobody wants to be chaff.
  • I don’t like those weeks. They make me anxious about my every action.
  • But I like these weeks that come next! Last week’s first reading was one of my absolute favorites, and this week’s–well, read them.
  • And then after these next few weeks we’ll start heading into the eschatological readings that lead into Christ the King–you know, the end-of-the-world, final-judgment, remember-what-I-said-about-the-wheat-and-the-chaff, I-was-serious readings. Also not much fun.
  • But sandwiched between the sin and the end we are given the beautiful respite of God’s love and God’s support and God’s goodness, how God nourishes and feeds us, how God will call us to him and catch us when we stumble along the way. It’s the model of the love that Jesus was telling us we had to live, the love that we must be if we are to be wheat; it’s not only the model, it’s the reality of what is already ours. It’s the outline for how to hear God, how to know when he is calling, how to listen to his voice. It’s a picture of what is to come, a reminder that no matter how scary and uncertain life or the devil or the end times might be, God is constant, and constantly for us (and so, we smile, who can be against us?).
  • Come to the water, and when (because it’s always when, not if) the river turns into a tempestuous ocean, do not be afraid.
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