Lent, Peace Spirituality

Lent 2019: Reflection for Second Sunday of Lent – Time for making space in silence

by Rev. Paul Lansu
Senior Policy Advisor, Pax Christi International

[Ed. Note: This is the third in a series of reflections throughout Lent from Rev. Paul Lansu. Reflections on the Sunday readings will be posted each week on the Friday before the Sunday which the reflection references. Holy Day reflections will be posted the day before the actual Holy Day. See all of these reflections and other resources at this link.]

Gen 15:5 –18 | Ps 27 (26) | Phil 3:17 – 4:1 | Lk 9:28 – 36

How can silence be a calling? Abraham experiences it in his sleep. In addition, Jesus practises silence during prayer. A silent protest may sound louder than shouts and screams. The silence after the peace agreements in countries such as Guatemala or Colombia cries out over injustice and negligence. What call do we hear in silence? Is it the call to repentance? The call for engagement and commitment can sound strong. Do we listen to the cry we hear from silence or not?

The gospel of today shows us Jesus as a signpost. He takes us up the mountain. He invites us to pray. That clearly shows where he lives from. That is from his connection with God. His face starts to shine. It is a “mountaintop” moment for him. According to tradition, Mount Tabor is the mountain of the transformation.

Heaven and earth meet at the top

Biblically, a mountain is the place where heaven and earth meet. A mountain is always the place to meet God. On top of that mountain, Jesus also meets two other significant figures from the history of God with the people: Moses and Elijah. Those are testimonials in faith. Two shining examples. Through them Jesus may be guided in his mission. As a second Moses, he wanted to free the children of Israel from the land of their fears; as a second Elijah, he called them away from their idols, to the true religion and the true human service: love God and love your neighbour. Just like we can give light to each other on our way.

The top of a mountain is not a holiday resort

However, mountaintop moments rarely last long, as it is also today. It is no permanent residence on top of the mountain. Peter and his companions get to hear that when they want to build three tents. Life demands that we have to go down the mountain again, into the valley, to share the life of the people in its true form. That life is often raw and hard. We sometimes experience it ourselves.

Jesus is also waiting for another mountain. That is Mount Golgotha, that of the cross and of the totality of God’s abandonment. On his way there, Jesus will show solidarity with the innumerable many who ask in desperate suffering where God remains and when there will finally be justice for them.

“I have been to the mountaintop,” Martin Luther King, Jr said. With that vision in mind, he managed to hold himself in valleys of deep darkness. We must remain faithful to our calling on earth. We keep the vision on the mountaintop in mind so that we can trust that in our valleys of darkness nothing can separate us from God’s love.

Every person is equal and entitled to solidarity, giving and receiving

Lent helps us to focus on two things. Firstly, it emphasises that everything in life is fragile, for suffering and death are both a part of life. Scripture says that we should treat each other as equals, use our time and talents well and not just rely on our own strength in life but make some space for God too.

Secondly, Lent tells us that, because we are all vulnerable in different ways, we should practise solidarity. If we feel down, then faith in the goodness and meaning of life can be restored when someone helps us back on our feet again. When we are in a position to help, then we should do so, for it is a luxury and a privilege to be the helper. Who knows what tomorrow may bring — we may then be the ones needing help. People of faith are problem solvers!

It is true that solidarity has been deeply impacted by individualism and materialism. We are glad to see that the many services and the strong grassroots social presence touching all layers of society – yet with an option for the poor, the marginalised and the suffering – are a stabilising asset for all communities and, politically speaking, for democracy. Nobody can be left behind.

Serving the common good

Living in solidarity entails striving for the common good, or the ‘bonum commune’, together. Society should develop in harmony with every person and his/her environment, and to everybody’s content. Solidarity calls for tangible acts. It is a time for action. Every person deserves help, especially in situations of war or other needs, such as people on the run.

As a human being, one inevitably lives in the company of others, both locally and globally. Society belongs to everyone and people thus live in a participatory manner. The social fabric in which people live has both local and global characteristics. That social fabric should be, or is, the medium for life in peace and harmony with other people and our surroundings.

Let silence speak in circles of solidarity

Jesus, a vulnerable human being, is in solidarity with our need, the one in whom God’s face is here as a promise, a hope of life. That may be called a Tabor experience. It is a foretaste at Easter, on our passage from death to life. I wish you a Tabor experience occasionally, one in which we may experience God’s light occasionally in our lives. This is possible if we are guided by God’s word as it comes to us in Scripture, in prayer, in silence, in the life of Jesus. It is possible when we meet people who are as good as God is. Such people make us shine, recognising our deepest being. Let us be such people for each other.

The formation of silence circles for an hour or so to reflect on injustice and suffering of people can mean listening to the call to connectedness and change, listening to the cry of the earth and of the poor. An hour of silent prayer – or just silence in a circle – can be a strong testimony to our solidarity with the weak in our society and elsewhere. The silence speaks and the circle of solidarity grows.

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Photo credit: https://www.quietrev.com/no-solitude-no-revelation/
Lent, Nonviolence, Peace Spirituality

Lent 2018: Reflection for the Second Sunday of Lent, February 25 – The Beloved Son and the Beloved Community

From the Maryknoll Office for Global Concern’s 2018 Lenten Reflection Guide: Embracing Jesus’ Practice of Nonviolence

Genesis 22:1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18 | Romans 8:31b-34 | Mark 9:2-10

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This week we hear the awe-inspiring story of Jesus’ Transfiguration. Peter, James, and John went up a mountain and spent the night in prayer with Jesus. There they saw Jesus transformed in glory and the prophets of old talking with him. “Then from a cloud came a voice: ‘This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.’”

The Transfiguration conveys two affirmations: God is with us and God can transform us.

When Peter says to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here,” Jesus gives him a firm rebuke. Maryknoll Father Stephen Judd in Bolivia points to the teaching of Spanish Scripture scholar, José Antonio Pagola, on the message of the Transfiguration: Listen to Jesus’ words and apply them in creating the kinds of right relationships that build communities in the here and now. “Peter’s mistaken attitude is one of exclusion, wanting to hoard the presence of Jesus for a select group of followers,” Father Judd says.

Father Judd also reminds us of Pope Francis’ warning against exclusivity in our relationships, which the pope calls ‘the globalization of indifference’. “How many of us, myself included, have lost our bearings; we are no longer attentive to the world in which we live; we don’t care; we don’t protect what God created for everyone, and we end up unable even to care for one another!” Pope Francis said.

This fits well with Dr. King’s second principle of nonviolence: Nonviolence seeks to win friendship and understanding. The end result of nonviolence is redemption and reconciliation and the purpose of nonviolence is the creation of the Beloved Community.

As explained by The King Center, “Dr. King’s Beloved Community is a global vision in which all people can share in the wealth of the earth.” Fundamental to the concept of the Beloved Community is inclusiveness, both economic and social. At the same time, Dr. King believed “conflicts could be resolved peacefully and adversaries could be reconciled through a mutual, determined commitment to nonviolence.”

The central vision of world history in the Bible is that all of creation is one, Walter Brueggemann writes in Living Toward a Vision: Biblical Reflections on Shalom. “Every creature in community with every other, living in harmony and security toward the joy and well-being of every other creature.” … “That persistent vision of joy, well-being, harmony, and prosperity is not captured in any single word or idea in the Bible; a cluster of words is required to express its many dimensions and subtle nuances: love, loyalty, truth, grace, salvation, justice, blessing, righteousness. But the term that in recent discussion has been used to summarize that controlling vision is shalom.”

When asked years later what he saw as a vision of shalom for Christians today, Brueggemann said, “I think it means peaceable life together among the nations and tribes and religious traditions, and economic justice so that everybody has enough resources to live a life of safety and dignity.”

Click here for the rest of this reflection, questions, a prayer, suggestions for fasting and action, and more.

* Photo credit: “Masais” by Flickr/Leon Cabeiro, licensed in the creative commons 2.0 and available at http://bit.ly/2F3F30f.
Lent, Nonviolence

Lent 2017: Reflection for the Second Sunday of Lent, March 12 – Sharing the hardship of the Gospel

by Pat Gaffney
General Secretary, Pax Christi UK

Genesis 12:1-4a | 2 Timothy 1:8b-10 | Matthew 17:1-9

On 18 March, in Bolzano Cathedral, Italy, another ‘Blessed’ will be added to the community of women and men who have witnessed to Gospel nonviolence: Josef Mayr-Nusser, born in the  Austrian Tyrol in 1910. A family man, his faith was informed by the founder of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Frederic Ozanam, a movement in which he showed faithful service, and by his association with the Catholic Action movement. Following the accord between Hitler and Mussolini in 1939, he chose to stay in Italy, unable to associate with Hitler’s project which he deemed incompatible with the Gospel. He was conscripted into the SS in 1944 when South Tyrol came under Nazi control. Unable in conscience to take the oath of loyalty to Hitler, he was arrested, imprisoned and eventually sentenced to death for undermining military morale. He was transported to Dachau where he was to be shot, but with failing health and weakness, he died on 24 February in the cattle wagon transporting him to Dachau.

Almost fifty years earlier, these words were written on the walls of Richmond Castle, Yorkshire, England (used as a prison), by a conscientious objector of the First World War: “Then said Jesus to his disciples, ‘If any man will come after me, let  him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.’” The ‘crucifixion’ was a punishment given to some of these COs in the field in France. They were placed against posts with arms outstretched and wrists tied to cross beams. Here they would stay, in all forms of weather, for hours at a time. [Excerpted from The Way of the Cross: Reflections Drawn from the First World War Conscientious Objectors, a Pax Christi UK publication.]

Timothy’s letter today speaks of ‘sharing the hardship of the Gospel’. We can only hope, looking back at these brave people, that in their harsh sharing, in their witness to peace and Gospel nonviolence, they also experienced the strength that comes from God.

Pat Gaffney is General Secretary of the British section of Pax Christi.