Deacon Lincoln’s Log 3-12-17

“When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate and were very much afraid. But Jesus came and touched them saying, ‘Rise, and do not be afraid.’ And when the disciples raised their eyes, they saw no one else but Jesus alone.”
Mt. 4:11

“We… look upon the transfiguration above all as the celebration of that presence of Christ which takes charge of everything in us and transfigures even that which disturbs us about ourselves. God penetrates those hardened, incredulous, even disquieting regions within us, about which we really do not know what to do. God penetrates them with the life of the Spirit and acts upon those regions and gives them God’s own face.”
Kathryn Spink

Every year, on the second Sunday of lent, we hear the story of the Transfiguration of Jesus. It seems like an odd time to hear this story which so clearly foreshadows the resurrection. Some scholars speculate that we read this story near the beginning of lent to give us the courage to persevere in our lenten discipline.
I have a different theory, at least for this lent as we focus on being forgiven.
Read as a story of forgiveness, the Transfiguration takes on new meaning. Jesus reveals His glory to Peter, James, and John. He also reveals their need for forgiveness. They are confronted with Jesus’ majesty and see how pitiful they are in comparison. They fall short of their calling. Jesus glory confronts them with their sinfulness. They fall prostrate and are overcome by fear. They see their brokenness for what it is. In the light of the Transfiguration, sin is exposed for what it is.
But the story doesn’t end there. After revealing His glory (and the disciple’s sinfulness), Jesus comes to them with the healing words, “Rise, and do not be afraid.” They are forgiven. There is still a long journey of healing and transformation ahead, but Jesus assures them that he will be with them. He is not a judge, but a savior. He does not condemn but forgives.
What is true for Peter, James, and John is also true for us. Jesus brings us face to face with our sin. He does not let us off the hook. The close we come to His glory, the more we realize our need for forgiveness. But the story doesn’t end there. Jesus also assures us that He is our savior, not our judge. He releases us from fear and invites us to continue to follow Him.
We are forgiven. Let’s follow Jesus!

Peace,

Dcn. Lincoln A. Wood

 

 

 

Deacon Lincoln’s Log 8-31-14

Albrecht Altdorfer 016.jpg

Albrecht Altdorfer 016” by Albrecht Altdorfer – The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH.. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.“ Mt. 16:24

Last weekend’s liturgy taught us about the need for a personal relationship with Jesus (“Who do you say that I am?” (Mt. 16:15).  We are called to follow Jesus who is “the Christ” and we come to know Jesus through the grace of God.  God wants to be in relationship with us.  That is good news!

The Gospel for this Sunday picks up right where that one left off.  In it we discover that entering into a personal relationship with Jesus does not take away the struggle of life or make life easy.  The fact is that life is not easy.  Suffering is a part of every life.  Being a disciple of Jesus means taking up our cross, and accepting the suffering that comes our way.

It may seem like the good news from last Sunday suddenly takes a darker turn this Sunday.  However, there is still good news here.  In our suffering we are not alone.  Jesus has entered into the place of pain and suffering in our life and in the world.  He is found there.  That is good news indeed.  Jesus teaches us that, “… whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Mt. 16:25).  When we “take up” the suffering that comes our way and allow it to be transformed by the loving presence of God we find the meaning of life!  The good news is that Jesus redeeming love cannot be stopped.  Where we think God is absent, Jesus assures us that He is there revealing himself to us.  Thanks be to God!

Peace,

Dcn. Lincoln A. Wood

 

 

Deacon Lincoln’s Log 8-24-14

Byzantinischer Maler um 1020 003.jpg
Byzantinischer Maler um 1020 003” by Byzantinischer Maler um 1020 – The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH.. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

“Who do you say that I am?”  Mt. 16:15

This week’s liturgy invites us to ponder the question Jesus asks all of his disciples, “Who do you say that I am?”  As disciples of Jesus we each must answer that question for ourselves.

While no one can answer the question for us, the witness of other disciples can shed light on our own experience.  For example, Jesus is…

Carpenter. Mercy. Crucified Lord. Christ. God-Man. Son of Man. Good. Risen Lord. Giver. Rabbi. Guardian. Gift. Leader. Redeemer. Anointed One. Messiah. Counselor. Suffering Servant. Savior. Holy One. Light. Love. Son of Mary. Son of God. Risen Lord. Good Shepherd. Master. King. Resurrection. Truth. Lord. Light. King. Miracle Worker. Deliverer.

Jesus is all of these and much more.

Yet ultimately, we only know who Jesus is when he reveals himself to us.  “Blessed are you, Simon son of John, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven”  (Mt. 16:17).

Jesus comes to us in prayer and in the day to day experiences of our life.  This week, pray for the grace to know Jesus better.  The Father will reveal him to you as he did to Simon Peter.

Peace,

Dcn. Lincoln A. Wood

 

Deacon Lincoln’s Log 8-17-14

A Carmelite nun in her cell, meditating on the Bible.

“The hard fact is that nobody finds time for prayer. The time must be taken. There will always be something more pressing to do, something more important to be about than the apparently fruitless, empty act of prayer.”Joan Chittister O.S.B.

She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” (Mt. 15:27)

Prayer is the heart of the Christian life, but many of us have heart disease because we misunderstand what prayer is.  It is easy for us to get caught up in the idea that prayer is about “feeling close to God”.”  Like good consumers, we shop around for techniques or methods that will make us feel good during our prayer time.  We want to “get something out” of our time in prayer.  A little voice whispers to us, “With as hectic as my life is, don’t I deserve some consolation during prayer?”

And prayer can be a wonderful, joyful, peaceful experience.  But it isn’t always that way.  If consolation is our primary motive during prayer, we will be disappointed when prayer stops “feeling good.”  At that point we may even stop praying altogether.

What we overlook is that prayer is often a struggle.  The catechism has an entire section dedicated to “The Battle of Prayer.”  A large part of prayer, just like in any relationship, is showing up.

In today’s Gospel the woman’s prayer (her conversation with Jesus), isn’t what we might expect.  At first her request is met with resistance and harsh words.  But she persists!  Her persistence leads her to move beyond pleasantries and eventually into a deeper insight into Jesus’ identity.  She recognizes who Jesus is: the Savior of all people; and her request is granted.

Our prayer life requires that same kind of persistence.  Resistance in prayer can be an invitation to deepen our prayer life, rather than abandon it.

Peace,


Dcn. Lincoln A. Wood

Deacon Lincoln’s Log 5-11-14

Pasture gate...

Pasture gate… by Richard Reeve (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

“Let the whole house of Israel know for certain that God has made both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”  Acts 2:36

Jesus said, “I am the gate.  Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.”  Jn. 10:9

We continue our journey through the Easter season and ponder the meaning of the new life that we received through the gift of Jesus’ resurrection.  Jesus is the gate to eternal life.  Through him, we will “come in and go out and find pasture.”

We come in through the gift of faith.  The gift of faith makes us children of God.  We have been claimed by the God of Jesus Christ.  Jesus calls us to be his disciples and we come to him week after week and day after day in prayer and the celebration of the sacraments.  We follow Jesus in faith every day.

We go out by the love born of the Holy Spirit.  This weekend, our candidates for confirmation receive the gift of the Spirit in a new way.  They are empowered and sent forth to witness to Jesus.  They have been given the gifts of the Spirit, not for their own sake, but for the sake of the world.  They have new wisdom and knowledge, their hearts are filled with mercy and compassion.  And so our ours.  We go out by the power of the Spirit.  We go out in love.

We find pasture in the hope of eternal life.  As disciples following Jesus we know our destination is eternal life.  Jesus resurrection reveals where he is leading us.  He has been established as Lord and Christ.  As Lord he has defeated the power of death.  Our pasture is not of this world.  We are destined for eternity where faith, hope, and love find their fulfillment.  As disciples, we live the way of faith, hope, and love.

Peace,

 Dcn. Lincoln A. Wood

The Conversion of the Samaritan Woman

by tribalicious is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The story of the Samaritan Woman at the Well found in the fourth chapter of John’s Gospel is a powerful story of conversion.  It is a story that works on many levels.

On the surface, there is an encounter between a weary traveler and a lonely woman.  The traveler begins a conversation with the woman by asking for a drink.  Through their conversation, the woman is changed.  She returns to her village sharing the excitement of this powerful encounter.

On a cultural level, the encounter is one of breaking through prejudice.  Jesus is a Jewish man.  As a man, he would not enter into a conversation with an unaccompanied woman.  Relationships between men and women were strictly regulated.  According to cultural traditions, Jesus should not have addressed a woman he did not know in a public place.  Yet, that is exactly what he does.

Even more astonishing is that Jesus addresses a Samaritan.  In Jesus’ world, Jews and Samaritans had a long history of animosity (see Ezra 9-10).  Samaritans were detested by Jews even more than pagans.  If Jesus were to speak to a Samaritan according to the customs of his time, his words should have been insulting.  Yet, Jesus responds differently.

Finally, the woman is described as having had five husbands.  She comes to the well in the middle of the day.  Most women in her day would have gone to the well in the cool of the morning.  The well was a place for building community and the women would talk and share stories while gathering the day’s water.  The Samaritan woman avoids the society of other women by coming in the middle of the day.  Perhaps the woman was ashamed of her past (the five husbands) or perhaps the other women had shunned her.  Regardless, she comes to the well alone, most likely because of a scandal, perceived or real.  Jesus would have easily put this information together.  Yet he reaches out to the woman and invites her to conversation.

Ultimately, on a cultural level, we discover that Jesus is not bound by the customs and traditions of his time.  His vision is broader and deeper than any culture bound values.  “Believe me, woman, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem” (Jn. 4:21).

The words Jesus speaks are important and move us to another level, even deeper than the cultural level… the spiritual level.

Jesus initiates the conversation.  He is waiting for the woman at the well.  God is always waiting for us.  This meeting is not accidental; it has a divine purpose.  Jesus loves her before she even arrives at the well.  He desires her from the depths of his heart.  His first words to the woman are “Give me a drink” (Jn. 4:7).   His thirst is not simply a desire for water; it is a thirst for her soul.  These words open up a spiritual conversation.

I believe that what John records in his Gospel is a bare bones outline of what actually transpired.  As the biblical scholar William Barclay notes,

Now it is certain that all we have here is the briefest possible report of what must have been a long conversation.  Clearly there was much more to this meeting than is recorded here.  If we may use an analogy, this is like the minutes of a committee meeting where we have only the salient points of the discussion recorded (Daily Study Bible, John vol. 1).

Whatever the details, this conversation has a clear progression as the woman reveals more and more of herself and discovers more and more about Jesus.  She begins by confronting Jesus with his cultural limitations, “How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” (Jn. 4:9).  She sees all the boundaries between them.  However, she soon moves beyond those limitations.  She next addresses Jesus as “Sir” (Jn. 4:11), a respectful form of address.  She is beginning to recognize Jesus’ wisdom as she converses with him.  He is no longer an enemy but a respected teacher.  As she reveals more about herself and trusts Jesus more, she dares to ask the question:  Could Jesus possibly be the Messiah?  Jesus clearly states that he is.

The woman has discovered what she has been looking for her entire life.  She leaves to share this good news with her friends.  She has found the source of life, the fountain of living water, that wells up to eternal life (Jn. 4:13-15).

This simple story of one woman’s conversion teaches us a lot about the dynamics of grace in our soul.

Photo Credit: “Jesus and the Samaritan Woman” by tribalicious under CC BY 2.0

Deacon Lincoln’s Log 2-23-14

“… be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect..”  Mt. 5:48

This is a dangerous Gospel.  It is dangerous because we misinterpret Jesus teaching in two ways.

One way we misunderstand Jesus teaching to “be perfect” as God is perfect is to think that it means to be perfect by human standards.  It is easy to think that God wants us to be like “Little Miss Perfect” whose hair is always in place, who dresses immaculately, and who always has the right thing to say.  Or we think that God wants us to be like “Mr. Perfect” who is liked by everyone and always has the right answer.  We may even think that God wants us to be like the “perfect” child who is seen but not heard, gets straight A’s, and always obeys their parents. Jesus is not talking about human perfection.

The other mistake we often make in understanding this teaching is to think that Jesus wants us to “try harder” at being good.  This can play into our natural perfectionism and lead to burnout.  We get so busy trying to be good that we lose track of what God wants from us. Inevitably we will fail to live up to this teaching of Jesus.  This failure throws us into the arms of the merciful Father (the very Father we are called to imitate) who “makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust (Mt. 5:45).”

And mercy is the heart of the matter.  The perfection Jesus is calling us to is not human perfection.  It cannot be brought about by human effort.  It is the perfection of the Father,  a perfection of mercy and forgiveness.  Like our heavenly Father we are called to respond with gentleness instead of judgment, forgiveness instead of retaliation, generosity instead of frustration.  This is the perfection Jesus is calling us to.

Peace,

Dcn. Lincoln A. Wood