Live Lent Reflections: Week 2

 

Bible reading - Acts 4.1-22

While Peter and John were speaking to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came to them, much annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming that in Jesus there is the resurrection of the dead. So they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. But many of those who heard the word believed; and they numbered about five thousand.

      The next day their rulers, elders, and scribes assembled in Jerusalem, with Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. When they had made the prisoners stand in their midst, they inquired, ‘By what power or by what name did you do this?’ Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, ‘Rulers of the people and elders, if we are questioned today because of a good deed done to someone who was sick and are asked how this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that this man is standing before you in good health by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead. This Jesus is

“the stone that was rejected by you, the builders;

   it has become the cornerstone.”

There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.’

     Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and ordinary men, they were amazed and recognized them as companions of Jesus. When they saw the man who had been cured standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. So they ordered them to leave the council while they discussed the matter with one another. They said, ‘What will we do with them? For it is obvious to all who live in Jerusalem that a notable sign has been done through them; we cannot deny it. But to keep it from spreading further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.’ So they called them and ordered them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, ‘Whether it is right in God’s sight to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge; for we cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard.’ After threatening them again, they let them go, finding no way to punish them because of the people, for all of them praised God for what had happened. For the man on whom this sign of healing had been performed was more than forty years old.

Reflection

Jerusalem was buzzing with a story that hardly seemed credible. Peter and John, two of Jesus’ followers, had apparently healed a beggar who could not walk. This man would have been well known, asking people for money as they made their way to the Temple. The Council of local leaders bring Peter and John in for questioning, but they refuse to be intimidated. When commanded to stop talking about Jesus they respond, “We cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard.” In Acts, which records the activities of the first Christians after Jesus had ascended to heaven, we see that while the preaching of the early Church focuses on the facts of the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Jesus, it also highlights the personal stories of the speakers – “all we have seen and heard.”

    We all have a personal story of God’s presence in our lives. And these stories are powerful.

Prayer

Thank you God for the story of your presence in my life. Please remind me of the power of that story, that I might give you praise. Amen.

Action for the week

This week, take time to think about how God has changed you. Have there been particular moments when you have known God has been at work in your life? Collect your thoughts in your notebook or journal.

 

Bible reading - Mark 5.1-20

They came to the other side of the lake, to the country of the Gerasenes. And when he had stepped out of the boat, immediately a man out of the tombs with an unclean spirit met him. He lived among the tombs; and no one could restrain him any more, even with a chain; for he had often been restrained with shackles and chains, but the chains he wrenched apart, and the shackles he broke in pieces; and no one had the strength to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always howling and bruising himself with stones. When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and bowed down before him; and he shouted at the top of his voice, ‘What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.’ For he had said to him, ‘Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!’ Then Jesus asked him, ‘What is your name?’ He replied, ‘My name is Legion; for we are many.’ He begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. Now there on the hillside a great herd of swine was feeding; and the unclean spirits begged him, ‘Send us into the swine; let us enter them.’ So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the swine; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the lake, and were drowned in the lake. The swineherds ran off and told it in the city and in the country. Then people came to see what it was that had happened. They came to Jesus and saw the demoniac sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had had the legion; and they were afraid. Those who had seen what had happened to the demoniac and to the swine reported it. Then they began to beg Jesus to leave their neighbourhood. As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed by demons begged him that he might be with him. But Jesus refused, and said to him, ‘Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and what mercy he has shown you.’ And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed. 

Reflection

This is one of the most dramatic stories of a person being changed by Jesus that we have. A man unable to function in society, living wild outside the town, harming himself, is transformed into his right mind, apparently in an instant. No wonder people rushed out to see what had happened.  And no wonder that the man wanted to be with Jesus, the one who had brought such a change in him. Yet Jesus, who only two chapters ago was calling people to follow, tells this man to stay where he is. Why? Perhaps because he can do more good sharing his story with those who knew him before.

     Dramatic or not, all of us have a story of how God has changed us. And the people who are likely to be most open to that story are those who know us the best.

Prayer

Thank you Lord for the ways you change us for the better. Please let those changes be visible in us so that others may see them and give you glory. Amen.

Action for the week

This week, take time to think about how God has changed you. Have there been particular moments when you have known God has been at work in your life? Collect your thoughts in your notebook or journal.

Bible reading - 2 Corinthians 5.14-15

For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

Reflection

St Paul makes the point that if we have truly understood the love of Christ for us, then we will feel compelled to share that love with others, in word and deed. Pope Francis, in Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), writes: “The primary reason for evangelizing is the love of Jesus which we have received, the experience of salvation which urges us to ever greater love of him… If we do not feel an intense desire to share this love, we need to pray insistently that he will once more touch our hearts… What then happens is that ‘we speak of what we have seen and heard’ (1 John 1:3). The best incentive for sharing the Gospel comes from contemplating it with love, lingering over its pages and reading it with the heart.” Evangelism at its simplest is opening ourselves to the love of Christ to such an extent that this love cannot help but overflow and touch those around us.

Prayer

Loving Lord, please fill me with your love to such an extent that it overflows from me and touches other people, drawing them to you. Amen.

Action for the week

This week, take time to read one of the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark or Luke) and reflect on the love that Jesus shows there. You might like to use a journal or notebook to record your observations.

 

 

Bible reading - Luke 15.11-32

"To illustrate the point further, Jesus told them this story: “A man had two sons. The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons. A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living. About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve. He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him into his fields to feed the pigs. The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything. When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger! I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.” So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.’ But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.Meanwhile, the older son was in the fields working. When he returned home, he heard music and dancing in the house, and he asked one of the servants what was going on. ‘Your brother is back,’ he was told, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf. We are celebrating because of his safe return.’ The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him, but he replied, ‘All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!’ His father said to him, ‘Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours. We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!’"

Reflection

A lost sheep. A lost coin. And now a lost son. Henri Nouwen writes movingly about his first encounter with Rembrandt’s painting The Return of the Prodigal Son in a book subtitled ‘A Story of Homecoming’. Nouwen was at a moment of his life when he felt bone-tired and alone. As he saw a reproduction of this painting, a poster pinned to a door, what spoke to him was its tenderness. The son has returned, filthy, broken, without any of the wealth the father had given him. Yet there is no lecture from the father, no reluctance to receive and embrace the son. There is just tenderness, acceptance, and love. When we come to God as our loving parent and friend we may be aware of our own poverty and emptiness. Yet God receives us with love, with open arms, with tenderness. We are welcomed home.

Prayer

Loving God, thank you that you look for us and that you find us and you welcome us into your family. Thank you that you receive us with open arms. Amen.

Action for the week

This week, take time to read one of the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark or Luke) and reflect on the love that Jesus shows there. You might like to use a journal or notebook to record your observations.

 

Bible reading - Luke 15.8-10

Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Won’t she light a lamp and sweep the entire house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she will call in her friends and neighbors and say, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels when even one sinner repents.

Reflection

The three parables that Jesus tells in Luke 15 are not just about lost things. In fact, only today’s reading falls into that category. Another is about a lost sheep, a living creature. Those of us who have treasured pets know how deeply another creature can make its way into a human heart. Yet another is about a lost son.

People can be lost too. A person can be “lost” through a set of broken relationships, through addiction, through some kinds of mental illness. Of course, “lostness” in this case doesn’t necessarily mean the person is literally missing. But they may feel that they are lost from others, from the path they were on, from God, even from themselves.

In all these parables, we see a glimpse of God who is always seeking those who are lost. And we are told that when they are found again, there is great rejoicing in heaven.

Prayer

Loving God, I pray for all who are lost in some way. I ask that you would find them and bring them back to yourself with great rejoicing. Amen.

Action for the week

This week, take time to read one of the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark or Luke) and reflect on the love that Jesus shows there. You might like to use a journal or notebook to record your observations.

Bible reading - Luke 15.3-7

So Jesus told them this story: “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!

Reflection

Have you ever lost something? The loss of something apparently quite minor can have a major impact. Your car key is a small thing, but if you lose it a much bigger thing – your car – will not work. Your wallet is a small thing, but if you lose it you may also lose access to your bank account, which is a much bigger thing (or maybe not!) Less dramatically, if you have a complete set of books or records by an artist you love, and one goes missing, somehow it can spoil the whole collection.

This is the first of three parables that Jesus told about things that are lost, all recorded in Luke 15. These stories say something that was very important to Jesus, and Luke doesn’t want us to miss it.

Prayer

Lord, I bring before you something I feel I have lost in my life: whether that is a relationship, a possession, or a dream of how my life would go. Be close to me in that place of loss. Amen.

Action for the week

This week, take time to read one of the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark or Luke) and reflect on the love that Jesus shows there. You might like to use a journal or notebook to record your observations.


Printer Printable Version