HOMILY LENT WEEK 05 05 – Year I
Faith, Prayer and Presence
(Jer 20:7-13; Ps 18; Jn 10:31-42)
Faith, prayer and presence sum up the readings for today.
We are invited to place our total trust in Jesus as Son of God, pray to God from the heart out of our need, and live in an intimate relationship with the Father through Jesus.
In the first reading, Jeremiah experiences betrayal, rejection and persecution from even his closest friends. However, in these his darkest hours, he puts his complete trust in God and prays from the heart for deliverance and salvation. He expresses his faith through sincere prayer that ends by singing praises to the Lord.
The psalmist, like Jeremiah, is also in distress, assailed by “torrents of perdition” and entangled by the “cords of Sheol.” His response is to place his trust in God, his shield and salvation, and pray very much like Jeremiah, from the heart and filled with faith in God’s power to work in his life.
In the gospel, Jesus experiences rejection, like Jeremiah and the psalmist, from the Jewish leaders who now want to stone him in their unbelief for what they deem as blasphemy, making himself God. What is different in this passage is the focus on his union with the Father, more so than on prayer: “The Father is in me and I am in the Father.” Jesus was at every moment sustained by his intimate relationship with the Father and the experience of having been blessed by the Father (especially at his baptism in the Jordan and on the Mt. of Transfiguration). So putting all three readings together gives us the message of faith, prayer and presence.
Lectio Divina – praying with the Word of God – involves all three of these elements – faith, prayer and presence. With faith we ponder a passage of scripture (Lectio – reading). Then we think about what God is saying to us through this word (Meditatio – meditation). Next, we have an intimate conversation with God about that word, and use these words of scripture to pray for the needs of the world and our own needs (Oratio – prayer). Finally, we rest in the presence of the Lord, trying not to think or feel anything (Contemplatio – contemplation). This is truly presence – being like Mary of Bethany, sitting in the presence of Jesus, not so much listening to his words, but aware she was in the presence of the Word, soaking up his love and allowing that love to influence and heal her.
Someone who has pondered these themes is Sr. Joan Chittister. Here is what she has to say, in her own poetic way: “The mystics taught that the dark night of the soul was a necessary moment in the development of the soul. Sure of the absence of God, we actually become aware of the presence of God. It is the paradox of faith. It is the unfortunate misadventure of life. By losing everything, we come to the realization that everything is far less than we think it is and for more than we ever dreamed it could be.
Darkness is the winter of the soul, the time when it seems that nothing is growing. But winter, we know, is the fallow time of the year. Winter is the time when the earth renews itself. And so it is with struggle. Unknown to us, struggle is the call and the signal that we are about to renew ourselves. Whether we want to or not. Struggle is what forces us to attend to the greater things in life, to begin again when life is at its barest for us, to take the seeds of the past and to give them new growth.
We fear darkness and we avoid it. Nothing chills the soul more than light-lessness. It threatens our confidence. It jeopardizes our sense of self-sufficiency. To be in new space, to be where we do not know the contours of the place, cannot see the exit sign, cannot control the environment, shakes us to our roots. And then, just then, we begin to believe in God in a whole new way. Darkness is the call to faith.”
The Eucharist is a blend of these three themes – faith, prayer and presence especially in times of struggle. We gather believing this is God’s word, and that humble gifts of bread and wine are transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit into the Body and Blood of Jesus. We pray for the needs of the world and our own needs and after the communion hymn, we spend some moments of grateful silence in the presence of the Lord.
So especially during this last week of Lent, let us sink deeper roots of faith, pray for the world and spend time in the presence of the Lord in contemplation.