The following weekly Lenten reflections were written by Sister Christine Kresho to share with parishioners at Our Lady of Grace Parish in Silver Spring, MD. Each reflection is tied to a prayer in her book, Second Childhood: Aging into Divine Relationship. Click on the reflection you would like to view.
Remembering the many Lents I have “lived through” I am aware that I have changed. From the Lents of fasting and abstinence (with the added penance of giving up chocolate!) to new understandings of fasting and doing rather than merely refraining, the one reality that looms in my face is that by now I should be nearing perfection! Yet, as another Lent begins, I am painfully aware that is not true. Maybe that is why I was drawn to these words in the First Letter of Peter for the first Sunday of Lent, “while God patiently waited in the days of Noah during the building of the ark….” What an awesome picture of God: the One who patiently waits for us to build our ark; to become the inclusive face of God to all we meet. May I suggest that God is patient because God is also stubborn; just like a stubborn parent who refuses to give up on a wayward child; just like a stubborn shepherd who insists on finding the lost sheep. The one reality that we need to face is that God’s patience is not based on what we do or who we are becoming; God is patient because God is stubbornly in love with us.
Let us pray:
O God, I abandon myself into your loving care. I hang onto you as my protector, my companion, my friend. I believe that you are always with me. If I make a decision that hinders my growth, you will gently coax me into conversion; when I fail, you will stay with me until I find my way. When I insist on saying “no” you will entice me into an absolute “yes.” When I try to hide from you or when I run away, you will pursue me with your alluring persuasions. Like Jeremiah I will finally surrender: “Lord, you have enticed me, and I was enticed; you have overpowered me, and you have prevailed.” (Jeremiah 20:7) At long last, I will discover that you, O God of unconditional love, are the stubborn One! (Prayer from Chapter 8 in Second Childhood: Aging into Divine Relationship.)
The first time I read about Jephthah (Judges 11:30-34) I felt great sorrow for him. Jephthah had made a vow that if God gave him victory in battle, he would sacrifice whoever first came out of his door when he returned home. That person was his daughter; I could see her ecstatic smile as she came running to meet him, and I was horrified that Jephthah’s image of God would result in her death. The first sentence in the first reading for the Second Sunday of Lent says, “God put Abraham to the test.” (Gn 22:1) Both men seem to believe in a demanding God, even when the vow is foolish as in Jephthah’s case or the obedience is misunderstood as a test in Abraham’s case. How close are we to this mentality when we believe that we are justified by the law or that we are good because we keep the rules?
Let us pray:
O God, I tried so hard to be good. I learned all the rules and wanted so much to please you by my obedience. The laws showed me the straight and narrow path to you. I thought that I could become perfect in your eyes so that at the end of my life you would give me eternal happiness with you. I worried about the people I loved if they broke some of your rules; I was afraid that we might not see each other in heaven. It is so hard to surrender the worthiness I have worked so diligently to achieve. Help me let go of my proud satisfaction with my own righteousness. Help me to understand that you love me unconditionally, that you love me not because I am good but because you are good. (Prayer from Chapter 10 in Second Childhood: Aging into Divine Relationship.)
On the third Sunday of Lent, St. Paul in his letter to the Corinthians tells us that “we proclaim Christ crucified.” Have we ever asked ourselves if we really want to be a disciple of a crucified leader? A leader with integrity becomes a stumbling block and truth seems like foolishness when crucifixion is the end result. When my faith convictions lead to loss of reputation, loss of friends and family, and loss of consolation do I look to the crucified One who knew abandonment as he cried out, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” Can I be healed by the One who was broken and learn to dance with One who was resurrected?
Let us pray:
O God, whoever and wherever I have been, I was never lost in your eyes; I was never alone. You have always been within me and beside me even when I forgot or did not know. Help me to give my past to you with all its hurts, mistakes, wrongdoing by me and to me, and all that stunted my growth. Help me to learn how to see you in all of creation, to welcome you in my brothers and sisters, to hear your music and dance with you throughout the universe. (Prayer from Chapter 13 in Second Childhood: Aging into Divine Relationship.)
In the reading for the Fourth Sunday of Lent St. Paul reminds us that it is “… by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast.” Surrender is difficult, especially for us who relish productivity, who are justly proud of our successes accomplished by much hard work, and who value and praise those who never give up. Many who give generously are reluctant to receive. When we come face to face with unconditional love we tend to dismiss the gift because we want to earn it.
Let us pray:
O God, more gracious and generous than I can imagine, how do I thank you for you? I have finally come to realize that you have no need of my good works or my prayers of praise. And because I am so loved by You, O my awesome God, I love you in return and I am stirred with such gratitude that my gift to you is a life of loving others as your son taught us. May I do nothing to obscure your revelation of yourself through me. And may I see you in the beauty of creation that envelops me. May I recognize you in the good I witness in others. May my heart be so warmed by gratitude it will melt gloom and pessimism and doubt. (Prayer from Chapter 3 in Second Childhood: Aging into Divine Relationship.)
In the Gospel for the Fifth Sunday of Lent (John 12:20-30) we hear this request of Philip. “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.” Who is this Jesus that we see in the Gospels? The one who told stories about forgiveness, caring for the neighbor, and searching for the lost; the one who intervenes when a woman is caught in adultery; the one who welcomes Mary when she joins the men who are listening to him; the one who speaks to the Samaritan woman at the well; the one who promises Paradise this very day to a convicted thief; the resurrected one at whose feet Thomas proclaims, “My Lord and my God?” Would we have followed this Jesus, or would we have found him too radical, too good to believe? Would we accept his God or prefer the God made in our own image?
Let us pray:
O God, open my eyes so that I may welcome the Divine within me and bow to your Spirit within the dear neighbor. Allow me to be overwhelmed by your song in my heart, by your music that invites me to dance, by your embrace that lifts me up when darkness threatens. Help me to reverence your Presence all around me. In the kindness and generosity of others may I understand your goodness. In the beauty of creation let me see your magnificent splendor. In my pain and sorrow may I become aware of your care for me in the compassion and empathy of others. When I see evil allow me to experience the ache in your heart. O God of overwhelming love, wear down my resistance to your unconditional love and help me emerge from the security of my box. Help me believe in your hope and faith in me as we work together in your beautiful world. (Prayer from Chapter 9 in Second Childhood: Aging into Divine Relationship.)
On Palm Sunday and again on Good Friday the crucified Jesus will hang before us in his naked vulnerability. His clothes, having been stripped from him, become the object of a game. Taunts and jeers surround him. Most of his followers have gone into hiding. He has no power. How reasonable it is to protect ourselves from such exposure to helplessness. Only in the presence of unconditional love and acceptance can we submit to our naked reality.
Let us pray:
Oh God, help me to let go of all the barriers I have set up to keep me from knowing my true self in you. Rather than hiding from the naked reality of your Presence everywhere and your life within me, help me to recognize the person I am now and who I am becoming in your embrace. May all that prevents me from loving you and everything you have created dissolve in your love. May I rejoice in realizing that you know everything about me; you know that which I keep hidden from others and what I hide from myself. You know my secrets; you even know what I do not know about myself. And you love me as I am! Thank you. (Prayer from Chapter 11 in Second Childhood: Aging into Divine Relationship.)