One book I have on the back burner is a devotional of reflections on things Jesus said. I’ve collected 356 sayings but haven’t made much progress in writing the reflections. Maybe that is why in the Transfiguration story we hear on the Second Sunday of Lent, the words that attract my attention are “Listen to him.”
God the Father speaks twice in the Gospels: at Jesus’ baptism, when he announces that Jesus is his beloved Son, and at the Transfiguration, when he again identifies Jesus as his Son, but adds, “Listen to him.” In other words, “obey him.” (The word obey is from the Latin for “to listen.”) The mother of Jesus says the same thing at the wedding in Cana: “Do whatever he tells you.” This is referred to as Mary’s commandment.
So how do we listen to Jesus, who is called the Word of God? Well, for one thing, his words are preserved in Scripture. Lent is a good time to take up the practice of dipping into the Gospels daily to read a verse or two. In Sacred Scripture, God speaks to us today and personally. Here are seven “words” from Jesus for Lent 2017 and how we might “listen” to them:
- “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” (What in your house can you de-clutter?)
- “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (How can you act against injustice in our city? In our country? Will you purchase Fair Trade products?)
- “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” (What difficult thing can you do or endure this Lent?)
- “Just as you did it to one of the least of these members of my family, you did it to me.” (What can you donate to collections for the needy?)
- “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; nothing will be impossible for you.” (Will you pray for solutions to the problems that plague our country, our world, and perhaps your life?)
- “I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.” (When can you be forgiven in the Sacrament of Reconciliation? In the Cleveland Diocese all churches will be open for this on the evening of March 15.)
- “When you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” (Who can you invite to go with you to a fish fry? To your house for a meal? Can you serve a meal at a hunger center?)
If we listen to Jesus, someday we, too, will behold him glorified as the three apostles did on the mountain.
What Scripture passage sounds loud and clear for you during Lent?
Robert Ellsberg Liturgical Press, 766 pp. $29.95
If you subscribe to the daily devotional Give Us This Day, you are familiar with Ellsberg’s feature “Blessed Among Us,” in which he presents saints and other holy people. The book Blessed Among Us is a collection of these short biographies: two for each day of the year. The book is fascinating because it not only gives an account of familiar saints, but lesser known ones, including Blesseds and Venerables. Moreover, acknowledged Saints and candidates for sainthood are paired with people like Fyodor Dostoevsky, Florence Nightingale, Galileo, and Mahalia Jackson. Each one-page entry concludes with a quotation from the person or someone speaking about them, or from Scripture.
They saints are arranged according to the Church calendar. The contents in the beginning of the book lists the people by date, and an index in the back lists them in alphabetical order. The book is handsome: a hardback book that has icons of some of the people on its dust jacket and end sheets. A ribbon is attached to keep our place as we go through the year with the people as our companions. But you may be like me and not wait a year to finish this book. I agree with one reviewer who called it “a literary treat.”