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This Sunday's Programme

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2nd Sunday Lent B

Sunday 25th February 2024

The Gospel Paraphrased

There are many fine translations of the Gospels readily available. This paraphrase is not meant to replace them. Rather the intention here is to offer a more contemporary rendering so that you can imaginatively translate the Gospel in your own situation.

This Sunday's Gospel Paraphrased

Mk 9:2-10

Jesus took aside Peter, James and John and led them up a high mountain so that they were alone, just themselves. There, he was transformed in front of them. His clothes became glisteningly white – whiter than any earthly bleacher could make them. Then Elijah, together with Moses was seen talking to him. So Peter started talking, saying to Jesus: ‘Master, it is so good to be here. We should make three tents, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ He simply didn’t know what he was saying, they were so terrified. Then a cloud covered them in shadow, and a voice came out of the cloud: ‘This is my Son, the Beloved, listen to him.’ Then suddenly, they looked about and they saw no-one, not one, but only Jesus.

As they came down from the mountain, he cautioned them to tell no-one what they had seen until the Son of Man was risen from the dead. They obeyed him though they did discuss amongst themselves what was meant by ‘rising from the dead’.

Psalm

The Psalms are the ancient prayers of the Jewish people, here paraphrased into contemporary language.

This Sunday's Psalm

Ps 115: 10, 15-19

I believed, even when I was saying,
I am greatly afflicted.
Precious in God’s eyes
is the death of his saints.

O God, I am your servant.
You have freed me from my bonds.
I will offer you a sacrifice of praise.
I will call on your name.

I will keep the vows I made to God
in the midst of his people,
in the courts of the house of God,
in your midst, O Jerusalem.

 

Prayers

Words cannot contain our desire for God but they help direct our minds and hearts towards God's love and express our needs.

This Sunday's Prayer

Loving God, we seek you in the midst of our lives and sometimes you give us the vision of your glory. Give us the wisdom of your Spirit that we may draw life from those moments on the mountain. Then in of our ordinary day may we see Jesus in our midst. We ask this in his name confident that you will hear us.

The Commentaries Summarised

As a Church we are in a web of wisdom that comes to us both from tradition and contemporary writers. This section offers a summary of some commentaries on the Gospel. Also below is a list of the books and articles that have been consulted in compiling this Sunday's "Pray As You Can" and which could be used for further reading.

This Sunday's Commentary

This scene of the Gospel can be called a ‘Christophany’. The Gospel of Mark is structured around three primary events in which Jesus is proclaimed ‘Son of God’. In the first, it is by the Father to Jesus alone at the Baptism. The final one is the proclamation by the centurion beneath the cross just after Jesus has died. Here, in the Transfiguration, the proclamation is to the three disciples and it is given in a scene of glory that is unique in the Gospel of Mark as the original version of the Gospel has no scene of ‘resurrected glory’. It is significant for this Gospel that the reality of Jesus’ glory is shown not after his death but in the midst of his preaching life, his ordinary life. Though their styles may differ vastly, this is a theme Mark has in common with John.

As we have come to expect by now, Old Testament images and episodes are evoked. Moses and Elijah represent the ‘Law’ and the ‘Prophets’ – the twin pillars of Jewish faith. The ‘high mountain’ will remind the reader of God’s revelation to Moses, to the Israelites coming out of Egypt, to Elijah etc. Unlike today when we consider mountains attractive places to visit, in earlier times they were regarded with awe and if one approached it was with trepidation. In spite of, or maybe because of the glory, fear and confusion fills this scene: Peter is essentially babbling, the disciples are overcome. When Jesus warns them not to tell anyone of the scene, for once in the Gospel, his orders to silence are obeyed. Confusion in the face of the mighty works of God is an acceptable stance in the Gospel of Mark. Having our acceptable understanding of reality unhinged is a necessary step to coming to see the reality of God underpinning all existence.

Exposition

Christian conversion is promoted by conversation. This section is a response to and a development on the knowledge gained from the commentary section.

This Sunday's Exposition

‘Remembering’ has a big role to play in our faith. We celebrate Eucharist because Jesus told us to do this in remembrance of him. The Transfiguration was experienced by just Peter, James and John from among the disciples but the experience was well remembered by the early Christian community. In the 2nd letter of Peter, the writing of an old man, we can see that he is still drawing strength and inspiration from it. In each of the synoptics the scene plays a pivotal role in the structure and understanding of that Gospel. Each offers a differing, rich understanding. From this we can see a principle of Christian remembrance. It is not just recalling facts or data, the remembrances unleashes new insight, understanding and grace.

As it was for the early community, so it is for us. We each have our mountain-top experiences – the times when our vision of life and love is expanded by experience of the divine –and these can happen in the most ordinary circumstances. Dad’s happened while surfing. Some of the most important changes in my life have taken place in the bath. These experiences are not meant for that time only. We are to remember and feed on them over the years and allow them to continue to transfigure our lives.

Reflection

Reflection is an essential element of our growth in Christ. As we reflect over what we have learnt and ponder it in our hearts, we come to recognise the presence of God in our lives.

This Sunday's Reflection

If God put on a better show in church, the ratings would go through the roof. Imagine if at every Eucharist, our experience was like the Transfiguration – all of us stunned with the glory, filled with the most awesome fear, an experience so rich and wonderful that, like Peter, we want to stay permanently. Well, maybe not every week. With the assurance that it would happen once a year, many, many people would turn up each and every week. So why doesn’t God put on a better show? Why are those insights into the reality of God’s love so rare?

I don’t know. I do know that if I, and many of us, were running a religion we would make it much more attractive than what it mostly is. Much as we tend to blame the preaching, the translation, the choice of hymns or whatever, God could still put on a fireworks display… and doesn’t. What I’ve come to in my understanding is this. God wants us to:
Come freely offering the love of our hearts,
Come freely, even in the midst of ordinary life,
Come freely, in the midst of suffering,
Come freely, even when the shadows of this world fall away and we see the true reality of God’s love underpinning all reality.
True love is given freely and God treasures the true love of our hearts so much that he will not coerce our response in love.

 

Visual Meditation

Looking at art works or movies is a great way to open ourselves to the meaning of the Gospels. Seeing can bypass our preconceived notions, giving us new vistas of enlightenment. With painting or sculpture one needs to sit quietly and absorb the dynamics of the piece. The drama of movies more easily engages us and offers a way to conversation about the Gospel with other members of your family.

This Sunday's Visual Meditation

– This is a well known painting by Fra Angelico
– In this painting by Carl Earnest Bloch notice the cross and thorns in the right hand corner.
– These two drawings by Matthias Grunewald are preparatory work for a painting. This disciple seems almost lifted up himself. This is another disciple. Unfortunately, the finished piece, if indeed it was finished, does not appear on the internet.
– John Armstrong  gives a surrealist interpretation of the Transfiguration. These notes on the site give an understanding of his work.
“During the 1940s, Armstrong developed a new technique. He covered the surface with one single colour and then built up the painting brick by brick, as it were, using short strokes of colour with a square-headed Courbet brush, which allowed the ground to show in between as part of the finished surface. The base colour he first experimented with was black, which expressed the sombre mood of the war. However, the mood in Transfiguration is one of positive energy and hope for the future.”
– Macha Chmakoff’s Transfiguration Blue.

Mulling Meditation

The purpose of mulling meditations is to offer a few ideas that one can mull about while doing other occupations. There are many things we do in our day that do not require our full attention - some things which are largely done on automatic pilot - like driving a car or peeling the potatoes. While we give these our attention, part of our mind is still at work mulling on other things and unless it is given something positive to feed on, we easily feed on negative thoughts. Personally I find mulling time the most likely time for God to get through to me. Because I am not so conscious of myself, God gets through the cracks and opens my heart to look at life differently.
Two practical times for mulling can be when exercising and when driving. Some small preparations for integrating such prayer into these exercises can be helpful.

Exercising
As you do your preparatory stretches, pray the line of the Psalm "I praise you God for I am wonderfully made!"
Similarly when doing your concluding stretches use the prayer of St Clare "Praised be you, my God, for creating me!"

Driving
Have some music that you find helps you turn you mind and heart to God and play that for the first 10 minutes or so of your trip.

This Sunday's Mulling Meditation

As you go through this week, mull on what type of presence Jesus offers you in your ordinary life.  Notice the times and places where prayer comes easily, notice the times and situations in which you feel the need of grace.  In all of those times, places and situations, quietly ask Jesus to be with you.

Mirror Meditation

In the Letter of James, we are told that the Scriptures are like a mirror in which we can see ourselves. In this type of meditation we take a piece of Scripture, hold it before us and consider what echoes within our heart. These echoes help us to see who we are before God and how we are loved. What usually echoes in us are situations that we are dealing with in our lives. When something strikes us, we do not actively try to solve the situation or work it through. Rather we sit holding it in God's love. The point of such a meditation is to make space within the situation for God's love to be. In 'sitting with' such a situation, painful or sad, we come to recognise the love of God that is at work on our lives. The suggestions for Mirror reflections can also be used for Exercise reflections but wouldn't be advised for Driving Prayer as often some degree of emotion or distraction might rise in such prayer.

This Sunday's Mirror Meditation

Rest in the love of your God

Recall the significant moments in your life – the times when your saw your life as part of something greater. Amongst those moments, focus on one. Slowly recall what happened, where you were, what was happening, how the moment unfolded. As you recall this moment, ask the Spirit to show you what grace it has for you now. What happened then can enrich you now.

Rest in the love of your God.