Catholic Contemplative Affiliation

Sunday Readings


Third Sunday of Lent; Cycle C, March 24, /2019
Readings: Exodus 3.1-8,13-15; 1 Corinthians 10.1-6,10-12; Luke 13. 1-9

We desperately need God as our Savior.  The practice of silent contemplative prayer must ultimately lead to the experience of God’s infinite, personal love for us.  But on the other hand, this same practice of prayer in this season of Lent makes us keenly aware of our personal need for redemption and reformation.
This sense of sinfulness is not a play act of false humility.  The longing for salvation and redemption comes from insight into the deviance of our heart.  And the Word for this Sunday is not a chummy "forget about it—you’re a nice person."   Sin is real and has consequences; we have sinned through our own grievous fault.
Let’s face the reality of our human condition during Lent so we can move on to resurrection and new life.  The Word of God confirms that we are sinners and that we need reform. If we do not give ourselves to the Savior, our Divine Physician and Therapist what will become of us here in this life and in the judgment to come?  God is ready to save us.
The ground of our being stands on the work of salvation.  We declare that in Christ we live and move and have our being in a merciful and loving God-Savior.  Creation is not enough; the earth is not enough; the powers of my own nature are not enough.  I need a Savior whose power extends beyond merely human capacities! 
The First Reading comes from deep within the Old Testament Covenant and gives us the underlying pattern of God's relationship with us.  God knows how much we are in slavery to our fallen nature.  This human, original condition of estrangement from God is the Egypt of our captivity.  Hear this from the First Reading:
I have witnessed the affliction of my people in Egypt and have heard their cry of complaint against their slave drivers, so I know well that they are suffering.  Therefore I have come down to rescue them from the hands of the Egyptians and lead them out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey. 
But then the Second Reading quickly puts us in contact with the other part of the Covenant of Salvation.  The other essential component of salvation is our acceptance of grace.  We must give our own positive response to grace.  We must cooperate with the grace of salvation.  St. Paul shows the oneness of salvation's work in the old and new Covenants.  Christ was present to the Israelites in their deliverance from slavery in Egypt because the paschal Exodus is really the beginning of the salvation of all peoples:
  All drank the same spiritual drink (they drank from the spiritual rock that was following them, and the rock was Christ.)

But there is the other side of the salvation drama:
 Yet we know that God was not pleased with most of them, for “they were struck down in the desert.”
So much of present day spirituality is preoccupied with the "care of the soul" without mentioning the need for Christ's death and resurrection. We hear the popular call for self-development:  “Become all that you can become.” In a large metropolitan church I saw a poster done in a purple hue with the sign of the Lenten ashes with this motto: "Know who you really are."  The problem is that we don't know who we really are and we don't want to hear the Liturgical word that tells us that we are dust and into dust we shall return.  That's who we are.  We are basically dust without God.
The grace of new self-awareness given in Lent is the solid beginning of conversion.  I am dust, Lord, and I have plunged myself so much in the things that are really dust. Now rescue me; make my dead bones come alive; breathe life into my soul; give me a new heart and a new mind; teach me who I really am.
Our spirituality must face the reality of God’s judgment.  Then, aware of the full extent of God’s saving love for us, we can fully respond to God's love.  What really has been our response to God in Christ Jesus and His Gospel? 
These things happened as an example to keep us from wicked desires such as theirs.  Nor are you to grumble as some of them did, to be killed by the destroying angel.  The things that happened to them serve as an example.  They have been written as a warning to us, upon whom the end of the ages has come.  For all these reasons, let anyone who thinks he is standing upright watch out lest he fall!  (Second Reading)
We fool ourselves if we say, "But that's Paul!  We expect as much as this from Paul because he many times changes the simple, loving teaching of Jesus."
We should not be deceived by such hermeneutics.  Such commentary goes contrary to the absoluteness of the Gospel which saves and demands reformation at the same time.  "Your sins are forgiven" but then the second part of the whole message: "Go and sin no more."
In the Gospel Reading Jesus is stern in His demand for repentance and for the gift of our selves to the Savior:
  But I tell you, you will all come to the same end unless you reform.  

And then again in this Gospel Jesus says the same thing a second time:
But I tell you, you will all come to the same end unless you begin to reform.
The Gospel Reading ends with the parable about the barren, fruitless fig tree.  The farmer will lovingly give it a second chance and tend to it for another year.  The judgment of extinction is present in the love message of concern: 
Sir, leave it another year while I hoe around it and manure it; then perhaps it will bear fruit.  If not, it shall be cut down. …if not, it shall be cut down.
Lent is severe it its confrontation of our sinfulness, of our laziness, of our mediocrity in the face of salvation.  An honest assessment is the beginning of our transformation in Christ.  One of the Psalms says:  “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom."  It is not a servile fear, but awe at the seriousness of the work of salvation and at the absolute character of our positive response to God's love.
We base much of our practice of silent, contemplative prayer on the anonymous classic, "The Cloud of Unknowing."  “The Cloud” teaches that our prayer is a basic response to the work of salvation.  It is sin that we are repenting of, and it is the fallen nature of original sin that is being transfigured in the grace and love of Christ.  And so in our contemplative practice we must always be in the state of repentance until we are one with God in the next life.
The author of "The Cloud" presumes
that his                                                                                                                                                                              his disciples are following the sacramental life of the Church which includes the reception of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the Sacrament of Penance.  Where does that Sacrament fit in our life as contemplatives?  Our rule of life should call for regular, frequent reception of this healing Sacrament.  Each reception is another participation in the Christian Paschal Exodus. 
The Triune God calls us to share in the divine life of relationship and transformation.  The Father calls us to the joy of living with the Son in the Spirit in the bosom of the Father and among our brothers and sisters in loving service in the Church.  That vocation call to joy and peace is the heart of the Christian life.  But first, we must leave Egypt and renounce our slavery and allow God to make us free.  Let us celebrate that process and that victory in the Holy Eucharist and in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

-William Fredrickson, Obl. Secular OSB; D.Min.


For questions, comments or other communication, please contact:
William Frederickson