Fourth Week of Lent, March 27 - April 1, 2017
Our prayer becomes more the work of God when we are willing to hold the Word of God within us without seeking signs, without holding onto the delights of prayer "answered.” Lent has invited us out into the desert. There, the desert prayer is resting in the Absolute of the Word without the desire to experience emotionally or sensibly the Presence. We are in the Word even when we are in the Absence. So, the official in today’s Gospel, seeking a cure for his son, had to be purified of seeking signs. When he received the Word, he left with confidence that his son would be cured without experiencing Christ’s power. In the absence from Jesus he receives the living Word of healing. The fruit of this encounter is more than a cure, it is a living faith, a communal faith of all his household. Every time we pray, Jesus, the Word, draws us into this process of deeper faith. Jesus can say to us: You will not enter into the deep prayer of faith if you seek signs.
John 5. 1-3, 5-16
Jesus asks the paralytic lying in his pallet if he wishes to be cured. Jesus is the source of all life and perfection. He is the Word by whom all things are made and sustained in being. He, the Lord of life, asks the paralytic if he would be cured. Jesus speaks to the very heart of the man's condition. The paralytic answers with all the complaints of his daily life. He answers with his own perspective of personal struggle. He does not fully hear the Word of life. Jesus responds nevertheless to the paralytic's most pressing need. He cures him. He commands him to carry his pallet and to walk. He who is the Lord of the Sabbath does not break the Sabbath but fulfills it, bringing about the completion of all creation. Are we not similarly dull to the day to day moments of Christ's touching us and bringing us into new life? Is our prayer missing the point? Is the obstacle to the miracle of our transformation in prayer the lack of simple attentiveness to the Presence of Him who can do all things?
John 5. 17-30
At any time of the day amid any activity, stop and think: “at this moment God is working.” The dynamism of God's wisdom, power and love is the source of all life and movement in the cosmos. Why is there not a tremendous noise emanating from the movement of the spheres and the pulsations from the living organisms? A silence pervades our presence to the myriad universes. Then there are the myriad spheres of psychic life within the minds and souls of individual persons. “The Father works and I work.” Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath and with His Father in the Spirit is God of God. The work is salvation, the passing from death into life, the reception of life in faith and the coming to judgment at the end. This is the work of God to believe in Him whom the Father sent. At any moment there is the grace to unite our prayer with the work, to lend our minds and hand to the work. The grace of contemplative prayer is to see all in God and so to rest in that oblation of reception and cooperation. At any moment prayer is the consenting to the work of creation and redemption.
Jesus, the Word, the Son of God, arises in presence within our heart only because the Father gives Him to us in the Spirit. The Father witnesses to His Son in our prayer and validates the divine relationship within us in the communion of the Church. Deep within our prayer we must also face the witness of Christ who purifies us. At one time in our life we have been guilty of these accusations coming from our conscience. At some level we still persist in these deviations from the Word. In Lent we seek purification, mercy and rebirth through prayer. The Gospel challenges us as a witness. Do we hear his voice? Do we miss his form because of the denseness of our subtle resistance? Do we have his word abiding in us? Is our searching for God in Scripture in vain? We receive many into our hearts but not the Christ. We gladly receive glory from one another.
John 7.1-2, 10, 25-30
Jesus has opened up his heart to us and we gaze within it. From his heart, Jesus speaks of his relationship with the Father in one simple declaration: "I know him." The Son lives in union with the Father. The Son is consubstantial with the Father, knows himself only in the Father, and he knows only the Father in whom he lives. "For I come from Him." Christ's origin is in the Godhead. God is the Father with the Son in the Holy Spirit. "And he sent me." The Person of the Son is Jesus, whose mission as Savior is one with the mission within the Trinity. The Son is in eternal relation to the Father, ever sent, ever returning, ever fulfilling the mission of recapitulation of all in himself. The mission of Christ is accomplished in spite of his rejection by the world. The rejection becomes the hour of his glory. Meanwhile we draw close into him and through him into the Father. Many believed in him. This belief gives birth to the beginning of the process of divine adoption into the life of God in the communion of the Church.
Does the life of prayer deliver us from exposure to the conflicts of life? Why should prayer be considered a tonic or an escape from difficulty? “If they have persecuted me, they will persecute you. If I have found the road hard in my life, why are you scandalized that you meet opposition and difficulties? If the world has rejected me, why do you think you will find validation within our modern, post-modern culture?” Lent must make us aware of opposition and struggle in our life with Christ. Lent leads us to the reality of the cross and also to its victory in the resurrection of Christ. Nicodemus has come out of the night into the beginning of public confession of Christ. He with Joseph of Arimathea will hold the dead Christ in their arms and bury him before they come to the power of the resurrection.
--William C. Fredrickson, Obl. OSB, D.Min,