vendredi, février 22, 2008

Sermon for Second Sunday in Lent

Meditation puts the soul in the presence of God and predisposes it to prayer. Devout thought engenders prayer. I would say that it engenders prayer naturally as its natural and logical consequence, but let us not forget the absolute necessity of grace. In fact nature and grace collaborate together, the first one needing the second one in order to reach God.
On a natural level, when two or more persons are gathered together, a dialogue generally follows between them. A dialogue means a certain reciprocity on each part, a certain ability to listen to the other and then communicate to the other. A fruitful dialogue also needs a good disposition on each part. There are some social conventions and rules of courteousness that would be preferable to follow in order to set a good basis for a dialogue. For example, I personally hate to receive a phone call and hear the person ask something without introducing himself first. In this kind of situation, I am usually not very well disposed to establish a dialogue and consequently I am not inclined to respond to your request in a favorable manner. Politeness is a mark of respect toward others, and as such is not stranger to the virtue of charity. Let us not forget this!
Let us now suppose that you have to meet someone important such as a Bishop, or the Governor. Let us suppose that you have an important request to ask him. You would certainly take a particular care in your behavior and give some importance to every little detail: how you are dressed, what you say and so forth. Even though your request is legitimate, you may obtain a refusal just because you do not express yourself well or show proper respect. If you think that everything is due to you, you might be deceived and disappointed.
What is true on a horizontal level between men is a still stronger and more certain reason on a vertical level between men and God. You cannot enter into communication without certain rules and a good disposition. First you have to know to whom you are speaking when you speak to God. We can read in the Epistle to the Hebrews that it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Heb.10:31) Fear is necessary if you want to approach God.
Here we have to avoid two opposite pitfalls. The first one, which unfortunately is common today, is to reject the notion of fear. A certain contemporary preaching, which is more directed to sentimentality than of a sound theology, has accustomed us to a certain casualness in manner toward God.
The desecration of the liturgy in so many places certainly does not encourage the faithful to have the proper respect for God. The liturgy is really instructive and has the wonderful ability to forge some habits of prayer, for the best, when it is conformed to the teaching and the mind of the Church, or for the worst when it is the fruit of the creative imagination of various individuals. When you are at church, you should remember the words of the liturgy of the dedication: Terribilis est locus iste – This place is terrible; this is the house of God and the door of heaven.
Today’s gospel shows us the disciples in the presence of the Lord when He was transfigured. Saint Matthew reports that they fell upon their face and were very much afraid. Certainly for us, we do not see the power of God, but we should recognize it in our faith and approach Him with fear and humility.
The opposite pitfall would be to over emphasize the fear that we should have. God is certainly the King of tremendous majesty, as we say in the liturgy of the dead, but He is also our Father. It is a filial fear that we should have, which means that it has to be marked with love. It is the fear given by the acknowledgment of our indignity due to our condition as sinners, but this fear does not exclude confidence. Yes, I am not worthy to appear in front of God, but I know that if I go to Him with humble feelings, He will listen to me. Like the prodigal son, who certainly feared his father, we know that if we return to Him with a good disposition of soul, God will not reject us. Thus, confidence leads to other feelings of gratitude and love and gives us a genuine peace.
With such feelings, we can start or continue our ascension toward Mount Thabor. A deep and regular life of prayer is necessary to reach the top of this mountain and to see our Lord in His glory. This ascension is hard and requires constant effort, because you cannot stop on the way. If you stop, you immediately begin to descend to the valley. In the spiritual life there are only two possibilities: you progress in the love of God or you turn away from Him, but there is no stationary stage.

Going to the Mount Thabor in order to see Jesus. Prayer is our ascent!

Yes, it is a difficult ascent, but once you are on the top, you will realize like Saint Peter, how good it is to be there. So, may Our Lady encourage us and push us toward the top of the mountain. When our ascending seems to be too hard, when we are tempted to say that it is not possible, when we are discouraged and about to give up everything, let us invoke her and ask her to seize us from this valley of tears and to lead us to the top of the mountain of the Beatitudes.

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