The blog of the Dominican student brothers at Blackfriars, Oxford.

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Sunday, February 28, 2010
Readings: Genesis 15:5-12, 17-18; Philippians 3:17-4:1; Luke 9:28-36

In this weeks Gospel Jesus ascends the mountain to pray with his disciples Peter, John and James. The mountain has a very deep significance in Scripture. It is the place of encounter with God, the place where God chooses to utter his word. Moses ascends Mount Sinai in order to hear the word of God and receive the Law. Elijah goes up Mount Horeb to converse with the Lord. For Jesus, the Word of God made flesh, the mountain will mark different times in his life of teaching, prayer, glory, suffering and fear.

Unlike the Transfiguration accounts in Matthew and Mark, Luke begins his account with Jesus at prayer, communing with the Father, and it is while Jesus is deep in prayer, united in heart and mind with his heavenly Father, that he is transfigured before the amazed eyes of his startled disciples. “As he prayed his face was changed and his clothing became brilliant as lightning” (Lk 9:29). It is then that the great prophets of the past, Moses and Elijah, appear with Jesus, speaking to him about the path of suffering that he was soon to undergo in Jerusalem, preparing and encouraging him.

This story begins with the prayer of Jesus. Prayer is at the heart of our very identities as Christians. It is in prayer that we commune with God, listen as He quietly speaks his word in the depths of our hearts. It is in prayer that God pours his loving grace into our lives, healing, forgiving and transforming us whether in suffering or in joy. It is in prayer, as essential to the soul as oxygen is to the body, that we draw ever closer to that pure light that is the glory of God and we become slowly transformed and transfigured. St Paul assures us of this truth in the second reading for this Sunday. “For us, our homeland is in heaven, and from heaven comes the saviour we are waiting for, the Lord Jesus Christ, and he will transfigure these wretched bodies of ours into copies of his glorious body. He will do that by the same power with which he can subdue the whole universe” (Phil 3:20-21).

Often our experience of prayer does not lead us easily to see this transfiguration at work. Prayer often feels like a real effort in which God seems to be far away or indeed not present at all. When we are really low and knocked down by life, the temptation is just to drop the practice of prayer altogether and to seek to rely only on our own efforts or to give up altogether. But fixing our gaze on Jesus, who reveals the truth about God to us, we learn a simple fact. God is faithful to his promises and will act with his transforming power in ways we often do not see or feel in the moment. He calls us to trust in his love that will not fail. As Jesus’ body lay lifeless and broken on the cross, the disciples had every logical reason to give up hope. But in the silence of the tomb, God’s power was at work, leading to the glory of the resurrection and the victory over sin and death. God was and is faithful to his promise: “Destroy this temple and I will raise it up on the third day” (Jn 2:19). The disciples were confused when Jesus uttered this when preaching. It was only after his resurrection that they saw that God fulfils his promises to us in ways beyond what we can hope or imagine.

This Lent we are called to renew our trust in the power of prayer, to take time apart more frequently each day to listen and commune in prayer with the God who loves us and wishes to transform us in glory. Whatever the ups and downs we face, let us never forget that God is always faithful to those who call on him in trust and openness. In the words of Blessed Angela of Foligno: “Therefore if you want to begin and receive this divine light, pray. If you have begun to make progress and want this life intensified within you, pray … If you want faith, pray. If you want hope, pray. If you want chastity, pray. If you want some virtue, pray … The more you are tempted, the more you should persevere in prayer ... But by the very perseverance in your prayers you will be freed from temptations. Finally, it is through prayer that you will be enlightened, liberated, cleansed, and united with God”.

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Lent Retreat - Week 1, Saturday

Saturday, February 27, 2010
Readings: Dt 26:16-19; Ps 119:1-2,4-5,7-8; Mt 5:43-48

The recent car bomb in Newry in Northern Ireland marks a troubling development in the long history of the region. Troubling, of course, because it brings back memories of the violence and conflict that marked the region for many years, days that most had hoped belonged to the past. And yet, despite this, the local tradesmen were adamant that business would return to normal as soon as possible, and that acts of violence and hate would not be allowed to dominate.

When hatred takes a hold, between individuals, or between groups in a community, something always has to give in order that a new, improved relationship may be forged. Today's Gospel reminds us that the most powerful force to break hatred is love. Love disarms hatred because it compels us to look at those we hate in a different way. Jesus reminds us that we need to look at the world with a God's eye view. This means recognising that the distinctions that we make between those who are for us and against us are ours, and not God's. We are reminded that all are equal in dignity and loved by God, and that the challenge for us is to see others with that same dignity, and to want the good for them as much as we want it for ourselves.

Of course, this is not easy. It doesn't mean that we have to pretend that conflicts and tensions do not exist between us and others. Loving properly requires us to start from a realistic point, to recognise that these divisions and conflicts do exists in our lives. It is then that we can make the choice, to decide that the status quo is not the way we want things to be. And then we need to put in the prayer and the work required to bring about the changes. Changing our attitudes and behaviour towards those who challenge us the most will often present the greatest challenge to true conversion. But what is on offer to us is the blessed life that comes from being true children of God

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Lent Retreat - Week 1, Friday

Friday, February 26, 2010
Readings: Ezekiel 18:21-28; Matthew 5:20-26 Read more

Clash in the Capital

Friday, February 26, 2010

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Lent Retreat - Week 1, Thursday

Thursday, February 25, 2010
Readings: Esther 4:17; Psalm 137; Matthew 7:7-12 Read more

Lent Retreat - Week 1, Wednesday

Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Readings: Jonah 3:1-10; Psalm 50; Luke 11:29-32 Read more

Lent Retreat - Week 1, Tuesday

Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Readings: Isaiah 55:10-11; Matthew 6:7-15 Read more

Lent Retreat - The Chair of St Peter

Monday, February 22, 2010
Readings: 1 Peter 5:1-4; Matthew 16:13-19 Read more


Sunday, February 21, 2010

Lent Retreat - Saturday after Ash Wednesday

Saturday, February 20, 2010
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