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Lenten Cyber Retreat - Week 5

- Fr. Tim Hayes, EGL 1


Theme:  Fanning into Flame our Faith in the Word of God Among Us
 
Petition for Week V –  That Deacons, Priests and Bishops may joyfully witness to the power of the Word of God in their preaching, teaching and shepherding of the People of God.
 
Lent Sunday V             April 10, 2011
 
Year A Readings          http://www.usccb.org/nab/041011.shtml 
 
The Third Scrutiny promises us New Life
 
The human heart is touched by the reality of death and the hope for new life.  Even the Heart of Jesus, Who IS the Resurrection and the Life, was moved to tears at the experience of the death of Lazarus and in the face of the grief of Martha and Mary.  When we scrutinize our hearts, we discover the limitations placed upon us by this world and its promises that go unfulfilled.
 
From the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini
By The Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI
 
Our Response to the God Who Speaks
 
Called to the covenant with God
 
By emphasizing the many forms of the word, we have been able to contemplate the number of ways in which God speaks to and encounters men and women, making himself known in dialogue. Certainly, as the Synod Fathers stated, “dialogue, when we are speaking of revelation, entails the primacy of the word of God addressed to man.” [Propositio 4.] The mystery of the Covenant expresses this relationship between God who calls man with his word, and man who responds, albeit making clear that it is not a matter of a meeting of two peers; what we call the Old and New Covenant is not a contract between two equal parties, but a pure gift of God.
 
By this gift of his love God bridges every distance and truly makes us his “partners”, in order to bring about the nuptial mystery of the love between Christ and the Church. In this vision every man and woman appears as someone to whom the word speaks, challenges and calls to enter this dialogue of love through a free response. Each of us is thus enabled by God to hear and respond to his word. We were created in the word and we live in the word; we cannot understand ourselves unless we are open to this dialogue. The word of God discloses the filial and relational nature of human existence. We are indeed called by grace to be conformed to Christ, the Son of the Father, and, in him, to be transformed.
 
God hears us and responds to our questions
 
In this dialogue with God we come to understand ourselves and we discover an answer to our heart’s deepest questions. The word of God in fact is not inimical to us; it does not stifle our authentic desires, but rather illuminates them, purifies them and brings them to fulfillment. How important it is for our time to discover that God alone responds to the yearning present in the heart of every man and woman! Sad to say, in our days, and in the West, there is a widespread notion that God is extraneous to people’s lives and problems, and that his very presence can be a threat to human autonomy. Yet the entire economy of salvation demonstrates that God speaks and acts in history for our good and our integral salvation. Thus it is decisive, from the pastoral standpoint, to present the word of God in its capacity to enter into dialogue with the everyday problems which people face. Jesus himself says that he came that we might have life in abundance (cf. Jn 10:10).
 
Consequently, we need to make every effort to share the word of God as an openness to our problems, a response to our questions, a broadening of our values and the fulfillment of our aspirations. The Church’s pastoral activity needs to bring out clearly how God listens to our need and our plea for help. As Saint Bonaventure says in the Breviloquium: “The fruit of sacred Scripture is not any fruit whatsoever, but the very fullness of eternal happiness. Sacred Scripture is the book containing the words of eternal life, so that we may not only believe in, but also possess eternal life, in which we will see and love, and all our desires will be fulfilled.” [ Prol: Opera Omnia V, Quaracchi 1891, pp. 201-202.]
 
In dialogue with God through his words
 
The word of God draws each of us into a conversation with the Lord: the God who speaks teaches us how to speak to him. Here we naturally think of the Book of Psalms, where God gives us words to speak to him, to place our lives before him, and thus to make life itself a path to God. [Cf. Benedict XVI, Address to Representatives of the World of Culture at the “Collège des Bernardins” in Paris (12 September 2008): AAS 100 (2008), 721-730.] In the Psalms we find expressed every possible human feeling set masterfully in the sight of God; joy and pain, distress and hope, fear and trepidation: here all find expression. Along with the Psalms we think too of the many other passages of sacred Scripture which express our turning to God in intercessory prayer (cf. Ex 33:12-16), in exultant songs of victory (cf. Ex 15) or in sorrow at the difficulties experienced in carrying out our mission (cf. Jer 20:7-18). In this way our word to God becomes God’s word, thus confirming the dialogical nature of all Christian revelation, [Cf. Propositio 4.] and our whole existence becomes a dialogue with the God who speaks and listens, who calls us and gives direction to our lives. Here the word of God reveals that our entire life is under the divine call. [Cf. Relatio post disceptationem, 12.]
 
The word of God and faith
 
“‘The obedience of faith’ (Rom 16:26; cf. Rom 1:5; 2 Cor 10:5-6) must be our response to God who reveals. By faith one freely commits oneself entirely to God, making ‘the full submission of intellect and will to God who reveals’ and willingly assenting to the revelation given by God.” [Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation Dei Verbum, 5.] In these words the Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum gave precise expression to the stance which we must have with regard to God. The proper human response to the God who speaks is faith. Here we see clearly that “in order to accept revelation, man must open his mind and heart to the working of the Holy Spirit who enables him to understand the word of God present in the sacred  Scriptures.” [Propositio 4.] It is the preaching of the divine word, in fact, which gives rise to faith, whereby we give our heartfelt assent to the truth which has been revealed to us and we commit ourselves entirely to Christ: “faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes from the word of Christ” (Rom 10:17). The whole history of salvation progressively demonstrates this profound bond between the word of God and the faith which arises from an encounter with Christ. Faith thus takes shape as an encounter with a person to whom we entrust our whole life. Christ Jesus remains present today in history, in his body which is the Church; for this reason our act of faith is at once both personal and ecclesial.
 
* * * * * * *
Reflection:
 
Faith is a living relationship with God.  It is not a matter of abstract believing of doctrines and dogmas, but a dynamic interchange with the very source of Being.  When we see God for Who He IS, as He has revealed Himself to be – a Trinity of Persons in Communion made available to us through His Word – we come to a new and deeper understanding of our own identity.  There is an intimacy with God that we can experience only if we believe in Him.  Taking to heart the Word He speaks to us, we discover God’s Personal Love for us.  Each unique soul is given a “taste” of God that is the answer to our deepest longings.  God hears us and God answers the cry of our hearts. God provides for what we truly desire.  When we learn from His Word in all the ways that Word is spoken to us, we find our true selves and we find in our own being the very Life that lives forever.  Our response to this call through Faith is the return we make to the gift of God.
 
4/11 MONDAY: “Do not neglect the gift you have, which was conferred on you through the prophetic word with the imposition of hands of the presbyterate.” [I Timothy 4:14]
 
What does the Word of God proclaimed this week tell you about the Gift you have received from God through the Sacramental Life of the Church?
 
4/12 TUESDAY: “I remind you to stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands.” [II Timothy 1:6]
 
What Sacraments have empowered you to live in response to the Word?  How do you continue to stir into flame the Sacraments and to share the Gift of God you have received?  Are there any Sacraments you need to approach to allow God to rekindle in you what you have been given?
 
4/13 WEDNESDAY:  “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David: such is my gospel, for which I am suffering, even to the point of chains, like a criminal. But the word of God is not chained.” [II Timothy 2:8-9]
 
What is the nature of your suffering and what are your chains?  How does the world treat you like a criminal?  Are you able to discover the freedom to which you are called in the midst of these constraints?  What is the Word of God being spoken through your response in Faith to the events and circumstances of your concrete situation?
 
4/14 THURSDAY: “Be eager to present yourself as acceptable to God, a workman who causes no disgrace, imparting the word of truth without deviation.” [II Timothy 2:15]
 
Are you eager to find acceptance from God first?  Are you a willing worker for the Kingdom?  How do you speak the Truth without deviation or compromise?  What truths do you hold with ever fiber of your being?  To whom are you called to speak a word of truth today?
 
4/15 FRIDAY: A Day of Abstinence from meat with the whole Church.
 
“All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”  [II Timothy 3:16]
 
What Scriptures belong to you?  Are there particular texts that help you to express your Sight of God, your unique knowing in Faith Who God IS?  What texts express your call, the ministry entrusted to you through Faith?  When you teach, refute, correct and train for righteous living, what texts do you rely on?  What Scriptures equip you for the work assigned to you in the building up of the Kingdom?
                       
4/16 SATURDAY: “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingly power: proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching.  For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine but, following their own desires and insatiable curiosity, will accumulate teachers and will stop listening to the truth and will be diverted to myths. But you, be self-possessed in all circumstances; put up with hardship; perform the work of an evangelist; fulfill your ministry.” [II Timothy 4:1-5]
 
How do you fulfill your ministry in Christ?  Who charges you to be who God calls you to be?  How do you proclaim the word by your life?  Where do you experience the need to be persistent? Whom are you being invited to convince, reprimand or encourage by your teaching?  What enables you to be self-possessed as you share the Gospel with others?
 
4/17 PALM SUNDAY            Worship with the community. 
 
Pray for the Catechumens and Candidates for Full Communion in the Catholic Church as they enter into the Liturgies of Holy Week and prepare for the Easter Vigil.
 
 “Indeed, the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.  No creature is concealed from him, but everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must render an account. Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin. So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.”  [Hebrews 4:12-16]
 
How do you find the Word of God as living and effective in your life?  What is the word spoken to you at this moment and to what does it call you?  What is the timely help you need?  How do you cry out for mercy and grace?  Who is in need of the mercy and grace that God allows to flow through your life of Faith? 
 
Make plans to be part of all the events of Holy Week: The Chrism Mass, the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion, the Easter Vigil, and the Masses of Easter Sunday.

 

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