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Transformation and Conversion

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Over my years in ministry, I have heard many different interpretations for why we take up practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving during Lent. I’ve heard that we take up these practices for the sake of suffering as Jesus suffered. Another common theme is that we do these practices as a form of penance for our sinfulness, or that we take on these practices as a kind of personal testing, as Jesus was tested in the wilderness, to see if our faith holds up. The list goes on.

While there is some element of truth in each of these interpretations, what they lack is that they often make the practices ends in themselves. We suffer for the sake of suffering, or undergo a test for the sole purpose of saying we did it.

But the Gospel for today shows us what we are truly aiming for: transfiguration, transformation. This passage from Mark is widely understood as a revelation of the true reality of the crucifixion—that what on the face of it looks to be gory destruction, is actually the glorification of Jesus Christ. So too, our Lenten practices are not meant to be just brutal sacrifices for the sake of brutal sacrifice; they are meant to be transformative. They are meant to bring about the glory of God through our own transfiguration. The goal of Lent is not suffering, it is conversion. We too are meant to be “dazzling white.”

So this Lent, may we keep this perspective as we strive and struggle to hold fast to our resolutions. May we remember the ultimate goal is conversion, and allow the Lord to use our successes and failures to lead us closer to Christ and make us more Christian, more Christ-like.

Lectio Divina

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There are various ways to pray that we can do on our own. One such way is called Lectio Divina, or divine reading of Scripture. Lectio Divina can also be done with a group. This prayer practice is intended to  build communion with God and increase our understanding of God’s Word. Therefore, it is a great way to prepare for the readings before attending Mass.

To begin, you will need to gather a few items: the scripture readings, (found at usccb.org or in our weekly bulletin), your Bible, (if not accessing the readings online), and a notebook or journal designated for this prayer form.

There are four steps to the Lectio Divina process. To start, you may want to focus specifically on the Gospel. As you become more comfortable with this prayer practice, you can add the first and/or second readings.

Decide on a dedicated time, find a comfortable spot, and get your body and mind ready to pray. Sit down and sit still. Slow your mind and body. Breathe in slowly, hold it, and let it out slowly. Repeat this action a total of three times. You are welcome to close your eyes and put the distractions around you out of your mind in order to focus on the reading.

Read the Gospel passage out loud, even if you are by yourself.

Pause and reflect on a word or phrase that sounds important to you or caught your attention. Write it in your prayer journal. If you are in a group, each person then shares their word or phrase. Do not explain anything. Pause again before moving to the next step.  

Read the same passage again.

Pause. This time, think about how God is speaking to you. What God is saying to you in the passage? Pause again, and then write it in your journal. Again, if in a group, share what you wrote down. Pause before moving to the next step.  

Read the passage a third time..

Pause. Think about how God is calling you to act through that phrase or word. Where is God leading you?  Pause. Write it down in your journal. Share with your group.

You may choose to end with a prayer, continue to do more journaling, or pray in silence.. 

This prayer practice helps us to hear God speaking to us. When attending Mass, it prepares your heart and soul to openly receive what is being proclaimed.

Blessings and prayers on your journey.

Posted by Stacey Irvine
in Prayer

Making Time for Prayer

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I remember learning to pray daily in college. At that time I was convinced I was the busiest person on the face of the planet. How could I possibly add prayer to my already maxed out schedule? I talked to God in bits and pieces throughout the day, wasn’t that enough?

When talking to a spiritual mentor about this, her response to me was the following: “Imagine having a relationship with your boyfriend where you never actually sit down and have a real conversation, you just communicate by short little text messages here and there. What would the quality of your relationship be?” While that metaphor really spoke to me at the time, it means even more to me now that I am married. What if my husband and I didn’t do our nightly debriefs? What if we just texted four or five times a day? What kind of relationship would we have? I can think to points in our marriage where our communication level declined and the tenor of our marriage went right down with it.

The same thing is true of our relationship with God. It is beautiful when we talk to God in little moments throughout the day. But as we know with any friend or partner, if we want to truly grow a life-giving relationship, we have to dedicate set-aside time every day to conversation. It is amazing the transformation that occurred in my own relationship with Jesus once I started making time for this daily conversation. It has been challenging making time for prayer since becoming a mother, but it has always been worth it. The quality of my relationship with God is so much greater when I am taking time every day to sit down and converse with him, even if just for the length of my first cup of coffee.

So how do we do this? First, I would recommend deciding what time of day would allow you to be most present. Are you a morning person or a night owl? Do you have a lunch break that you could use or the kids’ naptime? Once you figure that out, I recommend putting it in your planner. Whatever you use for all your other daily appointments and tasks, add it there so you see it right away and can make sure to hold space for it. You will likely have to make some sacrifices to fit it in—getting up a little earlier or replacing another leisure activity. Finally, how much time? If you are not in the habit of praying every day, start with 5 minutes of dedicated, scheduled conversation with God and increase by 5 minutes a week until you hit your max capability. Typically, 30 minutes at a time is the sweet spot for most adults.

It will take time to develop this habit. Luckily we have the entire season of Lent! So your challenge for this week is to schedule in at least 5 minutes of daily, set aside, dedicated conversation with God. And remember, if you ever need help developing this habit, our staff is more than willing to help! Please do not hesitate to reach out to any one of us.

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