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That we may understand more deeply the transforming power of God active in our lives. That we may let ourselves be amazed by wonder while committed to work for justice.
God of mountaintop experiences
and God who accompanies us down the mountain,
walk with us again.
You invite us to a place apart.
Do you want to show us Jesus’ “face dazzling as the sun”?
Is it your desire that we, too, be overcome with your glory
and utterly amazed?
Place us near your Son.
Let the Spirit of Jesus shine on us
and teach us to recognize your voice
in the cries of your “beloved” poor and suffering today.
Make us people of vision,
willing to wait and suffer
until the gift of new life is available to all
your dearly loved children, our brothers and sisters.
May your vision for our world be revealed more clearly to us
as we pray and share.
Transform us through his Spirit
into your image and likeness, the Body of Christ,
still growing to full stature. Amen.

Excerpted from
Lenten Longings – Year A: Let Yourself Be…, available from RENEW International

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Pope_Francis_First_SpeecAmong the things that fascinated me in my young life were the objects from Italy that were strewn around my grandmother’s kitchen.
There were calendars, leaflets, prayer cards, icons, and illustrated books about exotic places such as Rome, Naples, and Pompeii.
One of those items was a small hard-covered book that contained black-and-white photographs of Pope Pius XII, who was elected in 1939, three years before I was born.
On the cover of this book was a profile portrait of the pope, who appeared to be severe if not imperious.
For most Catholics in those days, the pope was a remote figure.
Popes rarely left the Vatican and never left Italy. They were seldom the subject of news stories in American media, and their pronouncements were formal and obscure, comprehensible only to academic minds.
In a way, this almost forbidding atmosphere around the pope seemed appropriate to me, because it went well with the triumphalism that was part of Catholic identity.
My conviction that ours was the one, true Church went beyond the assurance and direction it should have given me; it extended to dismissal of other expressions of Christianity and other religions in general.
I wasn’t alone in that attitude; in fact, my generation was conditioned to think that way.
But over the next six decades, the atmosphere gradually changed.
The warm personality of Pope John XXIII, the influence of the ecumenical council that he convoked, overseas travels introduced by Paul VI, the demystification of the papacy begun by John Paul I, the profound impact on individuals and nations of John Paul II, and the pastoral insights of Benedict XVI—all coinciding with the rapid advances in communications—made the pope more a part of everyday life and made the Church a more open and less formidable institution.
And then he came.
One year ago, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina was elected pope and began with the simple words “buona sera.”
The unpretentious tone of his first appearance as Pope Francis set a pattern that changed not only the accoutrements of the papacy—where the pope lives, what he wears, what he drives—but, far more importantly, the manner in which the Catholic Church addresses its own members and the rest of the world.
The Church, he says, must resist the temptation to turn inward but instead should go out like the father in the parable and meet those with whom it differs.
The Church, he says, should set an example of showing mercy before passing judgment.
The Church, he says, should take the risk of leaving its sanctuaries to find the poor where they live.
The Church, he says, should administer the sacraments as agents of healing, not as instruments of punishment.
The Church, he says, should think deeply about the place it has provided for women and about its ministry to young people, divorced people, single parents, gay people, and families of every configuration.
People at large, he says, should adopt these same principles of open-mindedness, mercy, hospitality, and justice—should shake off the lure of consumerism and live as though we share rather than own the goods of this world.
Pope Francis has upheld all of the fundamental teachings of the Church, but with his gentle and plainspoken message about how we treat one another he has captured the attention of people around the world in a way that no pope before him has done.
All of us, I am sure, have heard acquaintances—Catholics, non-Catholics, non-Christians alike—remarking that they “really like this pope.”
But in only a year, Pope Francis has given all of us a lot more to think about than the fact that he is humble and accessible and at times even funny.
If he has been the easiest pope to understand, he has been, for that very reason, the most challenging.
Charles Paolino is a member of the RENEW staff and a permanent Deacon in the Diocese of Metuchen.

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Transfiguration“Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with him. Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, ‘Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.’ While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.’
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.
As they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, ‘Do not tell the vision to anyone until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead’
(Matthew 17:1–9).”
Theologians have tried to explain the context of the Transfiguration—the meaning of Elijah and Moses appearing on either side of Jesus, the meaning of the clouds, the shining light, and so forth. Although we still do not fully understand what happened, we do know what effect it had on Jesus and his disciples.
First, for Jesus, it was a moment of great consolation. He had already begun his mission of bringing God’s message to the people, and his preaching and miracles drew great crowds. Many praised him, and a handful joined him as followers. But he also had enemies who tried to discredit him. As the opposition mounted, anyone could foresee that it was going to end in a violent confrontation. For Jesus, it was not easy to accept rejection by the very people he came to save, and he needed reassurance. The Transfiguration experience gave him exactly that — a boost to his soul. “This is my Son, the Beloved, with him I am well pleased.” Words of affirmation and encouragement from his heavenly Father.
The Transfiguration helps us to realize that we need the comforting presence of God just as Jesus did. We need to be assured that our actions are right, that we are on the right track. The good news is that if we listen to God, we can hear those words, too. God speaks in many ways, and we need to be attentive. And we need to trust enough to bring our plans, our dreams, and our desires to God and then listen patiently. We will hear those encouraging and consoling words.
Second, the Transfiguration did something precious for Jesus’ disciples. They were shattered by Jesus’ statement that he was going to Jerusalem to suffer and die. That was not what they hoped for in a messiah. They were experiencing doubt, bewilderment, and incomprehension about their leader. This moment of his glory on the mount of the Transfiguration reassured them as well, so much that they wanted to stay there.
This is our story too. Most of us want to stay in the place where we feel safe, secure, and happy. We don’t like to leave people we love and with whom we are comfortable. We want to hold on to times of great joy and do not want to experience pain and hardship. The Transfiguration shows us that life is not static but is constantly moving forward. While we will experience moments of beauty and reassurance, life comes with thorns, too. As the disciples had to leave the mountaintop and face what was to come, we must also be ready to confront the challenges that each day brings us.
- Where do you look for affirmation and assurance in your life?
Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International

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Lead us to greater self-understanding and to reverence anew God’s way of leading us to our deepest peace and truest potential through life’s rhythm of joy and struggle.
Tender God of the garden and the desert,
you give life graciously as overflowing gift.
You pour out your lavish grace on us
even when we see and feel you not.
Give us the courage
to let ourselves be led by you
to those places and persons
where you wait to meet us.
Open our hearts and our lives
to your quiet and unsettling stirrings.
Come to us in both the ache and the awe
of our human journeys.
In the company of one another,
deepen our faith to see
that in each discovery of our true selves,
we discover you, and each time we recognize you, our Father,
we come to know a little more of our true selves.
We place ourselves in one another’s keeping
and together praise you, through, with,
and in the Spirit of Jesus, now and forever. Amen.

Excerpted from
Lenten Longings – Year A: Let Yourself Be…, available from RENEW International

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“Lent” is an Old English word for springtime. It is an appropriate word because as the season of spring prepares the earth to break forth into new life the season of Lent is a time to prepare to break forth, spiritually, into new life. As a gardener I love this image. Removing rocks from the soil, pulling out weeds, nurturing the soil with supplements, planting something new — these all remind us that we are not perfect and are always in need of conversion, of and renewing again and again our commitment to be faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. This is the purpose of the season of Lent.
Historically, Lent was a 40-day retreat for those adults who were choosing to become committed disciples and followers of Jesus Christ. In the early church, those who wanted to become members—the catechumens—gathered for a year or two with those who were already committed to Jesus Christ. The catechumens learned the stories, participated in the Liturgy of the Word, and learned the way of being Christian. At the Easter Vigil they would be formally and completely initiated into the community. In preparation for this reception at the Easter Vigil, catechumens would enter into a more intense 40-day time of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving — Lent. On the Thursday before Easter, the community would gather with the bishop in the place of worship. As they gathered and prayed, the catechumens and a deacon would go to a place of living water (a lake or river) where they would enter the water. The deacon would submerge each catechumen’s head in the water and as he assisted the person up, would ask, “Do you believe in God the Father?” He would repeat this submerging twice more asking, “Do you believe in Jesus Christ his only Son? Do you believe in the Holy Spirit?” The catechumens would then be wrapped in white garments and brought into the waiting assembly (baptism). Here the bishop as the leader of the community would generously pour blessed oil over the head of the newly baptized adult, (origin of the sacrament of confirmation), confirming in public what had been ritualized at the water. The bishop would then continue with the liturgy. At Communion the newly baptized and confirmed persons would receive the Eucharist for the first time, completing the sacraments of initiation.
Baptism and the sacraments of initiation for adults are best celebrated at the Easter Vigil where the whole story of salvation is told (seven readings from Hebrew and Christian Scriptures) and the already baptized Christians renew their baptismal promises.
Baptism of infants is best celebrated at Sunday Mass where the community gathers.
For your reflection:
1. What are the rocks and/or weeds that you need to remove from your life this Lent? How will you do this?
2. Rather than give up something this Lent, secretly do something for someone in need.
3. Find out who is receiving the sacraments of initiation in your parish this Easter and pray for them by name; maybe send them cards telling them this.
Sister Honora is the Assistant Director at RENEW and a Dominican Sister of Amityville, NY.

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