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Reflections on the Triduum (Holy Saturday/Easter Sunday)
Adapted from Josephine Lombardi, Living with the Liturgical Year (available on Shop page)
April 8, 2023
Holy Saturday: Light that Overcomes Darkness
The early Church celebrated the night before Easter by illuminating the churches and even entire cities. Liturgies started around three in the afternoon and ended with the Mass of the Resurrection on Easter morning. At the Easter Vigil we celebrate this ancient rite. On this day, we reflect on the time Christ remained in the tomb, his descent to the realm of the dead, and his resurrection. The Easter Vigil fills us with hope and expectation as it inspires us to stop and reflect on the great gift of the paschal mystery. We die and rise with Christ in the past, present, and future as we wait at the empty tomb with wonder and awe. We are reminded that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). Holy Saturday is a good time to reflect on how well we wait on the Lord. Holy Saturday challenges us to be like Martha’s sister, Mary, who chose the better part (Luke 10:42). Waiting for prayers to be answered, and for lives and relationships to be restored, requires trust and rest in the Lord. Jesus waited for the resurrection. God’s timing is the best timing. Are we mindful of those times we are called to be still and wait?
Easter Sunday is the feast of feasts, the solemnity of solemnities. It is, writes, St. Athanasius, the Great Sunday. Easter Season begins on Easter Sunday and ends with Evening Prayer on the Solemnity of Pentecost. The Church teaches that “the fifty days from Easter Sunday to Pentecost are celebrated in joyful emulation as on a feast day, or better as on ‘Great Sunday.'” (General Norms for the Liturgical Year, #22). Through his death, Jesus conquers the power of sin over our lives, reminding us that with his grace we will not be overcome. Through his resurrection, Jesus conquers the power of death, reminding us love and life endure forever.
How is the Date of Easter Set?
Church rules govern setting the date of Easter. Easter is the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox. (The vernal equinox is fixed as March 21). Easter can fall as early as March 22 and as late as April 25. That is why the date of Ash Wednesday and Pentecost move as well.
Easter is the reason for the liturgical season and for the spiritual journey. It is the season of restoration, healing, and reconciliation. Easter is a reminder that
-the resurrection of Jesus really happened,
-we, too, will be resurrected and received a glorified body
-death, darkness and sin have been conquered once and for all,
-we can be made new, despite our pain and loss,
-brokenness is healed,
-creation is restored, and
-eternal life with God is possible.
Our baptism reminds us of this mystery. We die and rise with Christ, signalling a new life in Christ. The darkness has been overcome by the light of Christ. Moreover, St. Paul reminds us that the same power that brought about the resurrection will make us a new creation (Ephesians 1: 18-23). Do you believe this?
Reflections on the Triduum (Good Friday)
April 7, 2023
Adapted from Josephine Lombardi, Living with the Liturgical Year (Available for purchase on Shop page).
Good Friday: Spiritual Drought
Good Friday is a painful day as we meditate on the events leading up to the death of our Lord. It is not unusual for Christians to place themselves at the scene. Do we relate to the crowd? To the women? To Mary, Jesus’ mother? To his apostles? To Jesus himself?
Many who have experienced the loss of a loved one find themselves relating to Mary and to the many others who loved Jesus. Grief can be lonely and isolating. The waves of grief come and go and can leave us emotionally paralyzed from time to time. The good news, however, is that Jesus conquered death: the loss of our loved ones is temporary. When Martha is grieving the passing of Lazarus, Jesus says: “Your brother will rise again…Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:23-26). Similarly, St. Paul discourages us from grieving, as those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). The separation we experience is not forever. Our pain can be healed; our hope restored.
While we honour Good Friday in the present, we live it within the reality of the paschal mystery: Jesus died, Jesus rose from the dead, ascended into heaven, and Jesus will come again. This mystery consoles us in times of grief and reminds us that God can and will redeem our losses. By virtue of our baptism, we participate in the fullness of the paschal mystery, dying and rising with Christ. The grace we receive with this sacrament and others sustains us in times of struggle.
Good Friday reminds us that Jesus died for us, loving us with a sacrificial love. Through his death, Jesus conquers darkness and sin. Sometimes God can use what we perceive as a setback or a disappointment to bring about a greater good. God can redeem our suffering and disappointments with renewed strength, insights, and emotional healing. The key is to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus Christ and his promise of eternal life. Love endures forever.
Reflections on the Triduum
April 6, 2023
Excerpt from Josephine Lombardi, Living with the Liturgical Year (available for purchase on the shop page).
The term “Paschal Triduum” means “the three days of Passover.” Passover commemorates God’s deliverance of the people of Israel from slavery. These days are the heart of the liturgical year.
Holy Thursday: The Call to Serve
Holy Thursday is a special day when we recall
-the institution of the Holy Eucharist (the Last Supper)
-Jesus washing the feet of his disciples, and
-the institution of the priesthood.
Holy Thursday establishes us as a eucharistic people and as people of service. Jesus came as one who serves. His humility was overflowing. After he washes the feet of his disciples, he says, “So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you” (John 13:14-15). Just as he did at his baptism, Jesus shows us how it’s done. God honours humility. God blesses humility. This is a radical idea! If everyone lived with humility, family life would change, the workplace would change, school would change, marriage would change, society would change. Those who are called to leadership or supervisory roles are called to acts of humble service and love of neighbour.
Like Passion (Palm) Sunday, however, Holy Thursday presents us with another bittersweet revelation: on the night that Jesus celebrates the Last Supper with his friends, one of them betrays him.
Many of us can relate to this scenario:
-The day we get a new job, we hear that a loved one has been diagnosed with cancer.
-Two years into a marriage, a spouse passes away.
-Three months into a pregnancy, a miscarriage occurs.
-Fifteen years into a marriage, a spouse decides to leave.
-Just weeks after graduation, a beloved child dies in a car accident.
The list can go on and on. We may be living the paschal mystery in our daily lives without making the connections. As Jesus relates to our bittersweet seasons, we relate to his.
Experts in Humanity: The First Cohort
(c) 2022 Josephine Lombardi
Self-knowledge informs servant leadership and opens us up to a lifetime of learning and spiritual growth. Steven Covey, author of the bestselling program and book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, says, “The private victory always precedes the public victory.” Covey calls this the “inside-out approach…We experience the private victory when we learn self-mastery and self-discipline. We reap the public victory when we build deep, lasting, highly effective relationships with other people.” If we apply this approach to the spiritual life, this means working to discipline our thoughts and internal struggles. This is spiritual victory. When we are not dominated by negative thoughts or character flaws, we will be victorious in public life. An internal victory leads to a public victory. When we are in a state of non-contradiction between our thoughts, emotions and actions, we experience freedom and balance. (Excerpt from Josephine Lombardi, Experts in Humanity: A Journey of Self-Discovery and Healing, p. 11).
I designed The Experts in Humanity ProjectTM to promote authentic freedom and self-reflection. The first cohort of the Experts in Humanity ProjectTM completed the course in June 2022. Over sixty participants journeyed together, learning and praying for one another over twelve sessions. We explored the need for self-knowledge and self-awareness, family of origin issues, generational trauma, forgiveness and healing, and much, much more. A new cohort will begin in September 2022. Visit the course page to read testimonials and to watch the newly updated promotional video, including some of the participants of the first cohort. An updated flyer is now available for download. Registration details will be updated in a few weeks.
My award winning book, Experts in Humanity: A Journey of Self-Discovery and Healing, is a companion piece to the course. It can be purchased on Amazon.ca. It is a joy to accompany fellow pilgrims on a journey of self-discovery. Consider joining the next cohort! Live and recorded sessions will be made available. Let’s encourage one another, knowing God is with us.
Lenten Rosary Reflections: The Fifth Sorrowful Mystery (John 19:25-30)
(c) 2022 Josephine Lombardi
John’s Gospel includes a moving moment, another mystery, between Jesus on the cross and his mother, standing at the foot of the cross with Mary the wife of Clopas, Mary Magdalene and John, the beloved disciple: “When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother” (John 19:26-27a).
This mystery takes our breath away. How could this happen? Who is responsible? How do Jesus’ friends feel? How does his mother manage such pain? Do those who shouted, “Crucify him!” feel any regret? Even though the centurion remarked, “Certainly this man was innocent” (Luke 23:47), those who were supposed to defend him abandoned him. When someone is taken from us prematurely, or due to the sins of others, such as through an act of violence, we find ourselves in shock, disillusioned and traumatized.
Crucifixion is a brutal form of corporal punishment and was used only on non-Roman citizens, because it was such a dishonourable kind of execution. Jesus’ loved ones must have wailed at the sight of his pain, reduced to thoughts of despair and confusion. Mary is left in the land of the living with her own emotional crucifixion. “And a sword will pierce your own soul too, ” Simeon had said to her at the beginning. Jesus is crucified and Mary’s heart is crushed.
Grief is an emotional response that we must work through. We feel it in our bodies and spirits. The raw moments that follow a death are paralyzing. Death separates us from our loved ones, leaving us with the challenge to trust and believe that the separation is temporary. Thankfully, our faith reminds us that we will see our loved ones again. St. Paul writes: “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died,” (1 Thess. 4: 13-14). This passage gives hope to the bereaved. The challenge becomes managing the intense waves of grief as they overcome us with thoughts of discouragement. No doubt, the love of friends and family, together with God’s grace, accompanies us as we work through our pain.
For every person who suffers the brutality of an agonizing death, there is another person who suffers the agony of a pierced heart–the ripple effect of trauma and pain.
Let us pray for all people dying in great pain, in need of proper pain control and consolation. Let us pray for their loved ones that they be strengthened with God’s grace, consoled by the hope of the resurrection.
Lenten Rosary Reflections: The Fourth Sorrowful Mystery (Mark 15:31-32)
(c) 2022 Josephine Lombardi
The Carrying of the Cross
The scourging leaves open wounds on Jesus’ back. No doubt, the wood of the cross presses into these sores. The Gospel writers tell us that Simon of Cyrene is asked to help Jesus and carries the cross part of the way. Simon is an example of how we can join our own pain and losses to those of Jesus. Simon’s assistance gave Jesus some relief during this excruciating ordeal.
Our loved ones walk with us whenever we face a life-threatening journey. Their comfort alleviates the pain we feel when a new cross comes soon after another, making the pain feel unbearable. Our crosses involve them, too. We suffer in ways unique to us, and those who love us suffer in ways that may be unknown to us.
Has a loving act of kindness given you relief in times of distress? Can we discern those crosses we are not to carry? Sometimes our good intentions, our desire to protect our loved ones, to cover up for their mistakes or to carry their crosses may lead to a delay in their own conversion process. It takes prayer and discernment to know what type of help is needed. What is certain, however, is our baptismal identity and how it informs our understanding of service and acts of charity.
By virtue of our baptism, we participate in the three fold office of Christ: prophet, priest, and king. Like Jesus, we can offer up our own sacrifices for the sake of others. Pope Saint John Paul II reminded us there is redemptive power in suffering that is joined to the suffering of Jesus. We are an extension of His body. St. Paul was very much aware of this mystery when he, too, offered up his own suffering.
Let us pray for all people who have experienced or witnessed trauma, abuse, and torture. Let us pray for all people who feel overwhelmed with grief, suffering due to the tragic and sudden death of loved ones.
Lenten Rosary Reflections
The Third Sorrowful Mystery: The Crowning with Thorns (John 19:2)
(c) 2022 Josephine Lombardi
Not only is Jesus beaten and humiliated, but the Roman soldiers “wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head.” No doubt the pain of the thorns pressing into his skull causes him great agony. The blood would have covered his face, obstructing his vision. They mock him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!”
Humiliation and shame often go hand in hand with abuse–the victim is slandered and shamed as part of the cruelty. The aim is to destroy a person’s sense of self, paralyzing them with fear. Jesus knows how this feels. Unfortunately, for some, this sense of shame can lead to self-loathing. This calls for healing, as some people may be convinced that their woundedness and pain are greater than the power and mercy of God. Some may be tempted to create a “god” of their wound and feel they cannot be redeemed or made whole.
Jesus shows us that redemption and restoration are possible. God’s love and grace are greater than any wound that holds us hostage. We do not have to choose struggle and fear, for we can choose Christ, who is in us.
Today, let us pray for all people experiencing anguish and mental health struggles. The inability to perceive correctly, whether it is due to biological, social or psychological factors, can be disabling. Victims of torture and abuse should be remembered here as well. May they be delivered from all evil and may their minds be made well, finding joy and peace in the Lord.
Lenten Rosary Reflections The Second Sorrowful Mystery: The Scourging at the Pillar (Mk. 15:15)
March 23, 2022
(c) 2022 Josephine Lombardi
The Gospels tell us that Jesus was physically beaten and verbally abused throughout his trial. Jesus, an innocent man, is misunderstood, betrayed and tortured for proclaiming the truth. When the crowd is asked to choose between Barabbas, a criminal who was in prison for committing murder, and Jesus, the one who healed many and fed the multitudes, the crowd chooses Barabbas. Emotion, misunderstanding, poor judgment and fear have led to this choice. When we are afraid, our ability to reason is compromised.
Some of Jesus’ actions were misunderstood and criticized. Moreover, Jesus had uncovered the lies of many and had challenged those who were arrogant and proud. Those who are challenged in this way, especially if they lack humility and repentance, will resent the one who exposes their lies and vices. Jesus becomes a scapegoat for the sins of others. Those who fear exposure would rather slander and scapegoat someone else than admit their guilt. The crowd would rather choose illusion and falsehood than truth, because truth demands humility, sacrifice and the exposure of hypocrisy. Many have projected their sins and guilt onto Jesus, and this leads to his suffering and death.
If truth threatens, it is controlled, silenced or killed. Where do you find the strength you need to speak the truth, especially when it is difficult to do so? Have you suffered for proclaiming the truth?
Lenten Rosary Reflections: The Sorrowful Mysteries
(c) 2021 Josephine Lombardi (Excerpts from Living with the Rosary Expanded Edition available on homepage with a $10.00 donation)
The First Sorrowful Mystery: The Agony in the Garden (Matthew 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:39-46)
This mystery reflects the great tension between our individual free will and God’s will. This is especially difficult when we are faced with the possibility of great emotional or physical pain. In the musical Jesus Christ Superstar, Jesus refers to his cup as the “cup of poison.”
Throughout our lives, we need to examine those cups we choose that are not intended for us or for our fulfilment. God may be saying, “I did not ask you to drink from that cup. I did not ask you to make that choice or take on that new cross.” Yet at times, we find ourselves drinking from a bitter cup that we cannot seem to avoid: a new cross has developed in our lives, we are misunderstood, a confrontation needs to take place, a serious illness is diagnosed, or we lose a loved one. The list can go on and on. How many of us ask God to deliver us from these cups? For some reason, known to God alone, there may be times when we are called to drink from them, meaning we are called to endure these crosses. While we know that Jesus is vindicated and rises from the dead, many of us do not know the outcome of drinking our own “cup.” The challenge here is to trust that God’s will does not involve our destruction. God is in the restoration business, not the destruction business. God’s will involves transformation and new life because God can redeem those painful “agonies” when we feel alone. Since the resurrection vindicates love and truth, God will redeem our sorrows as well. There will be “angels” who sit with us as we wait for restoration. Pain can be harder to bear, however, when our pain is made public.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his Meditations on the Cross, wrote that it is infinitely easier to suffer publicly with great honour; it is infinitely harder to suffer publicly with great shame. Has the thought of your pain being made public made you vulnerable? Have you ever publicly shamed someone? “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me,” Jesus says (Matthew 25:40). Mary was bound up in the public pain of her Son. To be public with our pain and vulnerability can be humbling and difficult, especially when we desire privacy.
Let us remember all people experiencing vulnerability and public humiliation: Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for all people experiencing vulnerability, drinking from the “cup” of public humiliation.
Preparing in Hope: An Advent Reflection
Prepared by Dr. Josephine Lombardi
(c) 2021 Josephine Lombardi
December 6, 2021
Recently, I facilitated a few Advent reflections on the theme of “Preparing in Hope.” Many participants have asked for some of the content I shared during the retreats they attended. Below, I am happy to share a summary of my reflection.
In his letter to the Romans, St. Paul advises us to “Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, and persevere in prayer,” (Romans 12:12). This verse inspired me to prepare a definition for hope: Hope is the habit of waiting with joy, patience, and perseverance. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews describes hope as a “sure and steadfast anchor of the soul…” (Hebrews 6:19), grounding us as we manage life’s many challenges and desires. This anchor, however, remains firmly planted with discipline and cooperation with God’s grace.
Hope is one of three theological virtues: faith, hope, and charity (1 Corinthians 13:13). Virtues are good habits. Virtues, whether supernatural or natural, are acquired through practice and repetition, sustained with God’s grace.
In his First Letter to the Thessalonians (5:8), St. Paul says faith and love are like a breastplate and the hope of salvation is like a helmet. In other words, hope protects the mind, protecting it from discouragement and despair. As a Roman citizen, St. Paul used symbols that would be familiar to others, helping them to understand the gift of faith, making the gospel accessible to non-believers. Moreover, he had hope that our Lord would return (1 Thessalonians 5:23). He encouraged people to be aware and patient as they waited for Jesus’ Second Coming—he was one of the first Christians to prepare other Christians for the Second Coming.
His first two letters, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, were written sometime after 50 A.D. Writing before the evangelists, he urged fellow Christians to be awake and aware, actively preparing for the return of Jesus. We reflect on this theme in the first weeks of Advent when early liturgical readings speak of the signs of the times and the need to be awake, because we do not know the day or the hour when Jesus will return. Furthermore, we are reminded that various signs will accompany His return, inspiring those who are awake to be ready for an abrupt shift in spiritual seasons. The pondering of these themes accompanies the season of Advent.
The word “Advent” is from the Latin Adventus, meaning “going before or coming,” presence,” and “arrival.” Similarly, the Greek word Parousia refers to the Second Coming. John the Baptist prepared the way of the Lord during his First Coming, and we, in anticipation of the Second Coming, cooperate with the Holy Spirit, to welcome Jesus into our hearts and in our communities.
“Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” (Matthew 25:13)
The above verse follows the Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids. Like the bridesmaids, we are challenged to stay awake and be ready for Christ’s return.
During times of preparation and waiting, Christians are urged to examine their consciences and to be reconciled with God and one another. When it comes to the various seasons of our lives, we can learn to adopt this attitude of preparedness. The seasons of our lives can change over night: a new diagnosis, a car accident, a stroke or a sudden loss of a loved one. It’s not a matter of “if,”—it’s a matter of “when,” because we all experience seasons of drought and seasons of plenty. In seasons of emotional and physical drought, we build resilience through trust and hope. In seasons of plenty, we build resilience through building emotional and spiritual stamina. It is in seasons of plenty that we prepare for change. If we are strong and trusting, the abrupt shift of seasons will not overcome us. We will be prepared because we are anchored in hope and strengthened by God’s grace.
As we prepare to celebrate our Lord’s birth, we can transfer this discipline of preparedness to our personal lives, especially if we are waiting for a desire to be fulfilled. It’s challenging to wait, especially when the desired outcome is something that is truly life giving. Are you waiting for healing? Employment? Relationship? Pregnancy? Reconciliation? St. Paul advises us to wait with joy, patience, and perseverance. Below, I include a few reflections to help us wait with joy, patience, and perseverance.
Waiting with Joy
- Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22). This implies that we enjoy this state of gladness or delight when we are connected to the Holy Spirit, the power of God’s love. Joy is not the absence of hardship. Rather, it is the spiritual and emotional state we acquire in an intimate relationship with the Holy Spirit. It is an attitude that must be cultivated. In Nehemiah 8:10, we read: “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” Joy can be understood as spiritual resilience. Have you ever encountered anyone who has carried a heavy cross, but possesses deep faith? Have you noticed a special resilience that carries them through their suffering? When it comes to your own pain and suffering, have you felt a sense of relief whenever you ask the Holy Spirit for help, for strengthening? That relief is deeply connected to joy. Joy, and her sister fruit, peace, come to us whenever we entrust our struggles to the power of the Holy Spirit. In his letter to the Philippians, St. Paul says he is full or sorrow; yet he rejoices, (Philippians 1:25; 3:1). We are not alone—the power of God’s grace carries us during times of struggle.
- St. Ignatius of Loyola advised his companions to set aside time for restorative rest and leisurely activities. Take some time to engage in life giving activities. Pursue truth, goodness, and beauty, that is, transcendentals, or properties of God’s being. Go where there is truth, goodness, and beauty. We have been blessed with the Day of the Lord, Sunday. God commanded us to rest. Give yourself permission to rest.
- St. Teresa of Avila cautioned us to avoid comparison because it robs us of our joy. Don’t compare yourself to anyone. If you must compare, compare yourself with your younger self. Instead, strive for holiness, knowing we are all called to holiness. With God’s grace and our cooperation, it’s a real possibility. Ask yourself, Have you grown? Have you learned from your mistakes? A colleague of mine once said, “Don’t pay attention to what others think of you or are saying about you. Pay attention to what God is saying to you.” Remember, only love is rewarded in the afterlife. Strive to make love your only motivation in all you say and do, and this will keep you from comparing yourself to others.
- Engage in positive, life giving relationships. Love gives meaning to all relationships. Ask God for the grace to avoid negativity, gossip, and worry. Worry cannot change anything, but prayer can.
Waiting with Patience
- The Oxford Dictionary defines patience as the “capacity to suffer without complaint.” Some biblical translations include “long suffering” in the place of patience. St. Paul tells us that love is patient, (1 Corinthians 13:1). Where there is patience, there is love. Although patience, like joy, is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, it’s hard to be patient when we are waiting for an outcome, for God’s will to unfold in our lives. Moreover, we experience time differently when we suffer; it seems to drag on and on. Compare this to a time of rejoicing—time seems to pass quickly; you feel a sense of timelessness, like a foretaste of heaven. If you are waiting for an outcome, especially if it is compatible with God’s will, consider the following insights I’ve pondered over the many years of discerning God’s will:
- There’s a saying attributed to Robert H. Schuller “God’s delays are not God’s denials.” I came across this saying over 25 years ago when I was praying for a desire to be fulfilled. This saying gave me great comfort and peace, knowing God was calling me to be patient. God works in these delays, preparing our hearts and minds for his special blessings. As a fruit of the Holy Spirit, patience is a sign you’re in tune with the activity of the Spirit in your life.
- Another possible reason why you may endure long periods of waiting is God has something better in mind for you. You may desire a certain object, but God knows the best outcome that matches your disposition and vocation.
- Sadly, sometimes the answer to our request is “no.” This is a tough pill to swallow. We may not know God’s reasons until we are on the other side of the veil. In order to avoid despair and discouragement, pray for the grace to stay anchored in heroic trust. Trust and patience are sister virtues. It’s hard to be patient without trust. If you are looking for a patron saint to intercede on your behalf, St. Paul is a great intercessor for these types of crosses. In his Second Letter to the Corinthians (12:7), he speaks of a “thorn” in his flesh and a “messenger of Satan” who torments him. Three times he asks God to deliver him from these afflictions. In response, our Lord tells him that His grace “is sufficient,” that His power will work through St. Paul’s weakness. This means God’s grace will strengthen us during times of affliction, making sure the affliction does not dominate all of our thinking. God’s grace gives us the relief we need to appreciate the many blessings we already enjoy.
Waiting with Perseverance
- Perseverance can been defined as persistence in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving something, (Oxford Dictionary). Perseverance applies to all life giving activity, especially our prayer life: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you,” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). In this passage, St. Paul connects three key actions: to rejoice, to pray, and to offer thanksgiving. Joy helps us to keep praying, and prayer helps us to be mindful of the many material and spiritual blessings in our lives. It’s hard to persevere when we lack joy, stop praying, and neglect the importance of gratitude. On the Third Sunday of Advent, known as Guadete Sunday, Rose Sunday or Sunday of Joy (guadium in Latin), we rejoice because the Lord is near.
- The parable of the persistent widow (Luke 18:1-8) is a wonderful account that inspires hope for desired outcomes. The persistent widow experiences justice because she did not give up. Resist the temptation to quit praying, or to quit believing altogether. Don’t stop praying through the struggle. Although we may not experience the outcome we desire, God will give us the outcome we need to flourish and grow.
- Howard Storm, a Christian pastor, who experienced a conversion due to a near-death experience, knows the power of perseverance. He, like St. Paul, was obnoxious and arrogant before his conversion. He was a professor at the time of his experience, and he shares that, before his near death experience, he was quite abrupt and rude to a nun who was a student in his art history class. He made it clear to her that he did not want her to share anything about faith and religion in class: “There’ll be none of that here!” Many years after his conversion, he ran into her; after telling her about his conversion, he apologized for his behavior. She said something like “It’s about time. I have not stopped praying for you!” She persevered in prayer and God gave her the grace and satisfaction to see the fruits of her efforts. She, like St. Monica who prayed for the conversion of her son, St. Augustine, knew the power of intentional prayer.
- Dr. Larry Dossey, a medical doctor and researcher, has studied the power of intentional prayer. When our prayers are motivated by love, “willing the good of the other for the sake of the other,” (St. Thomas Aquinas) we will see the best fruit. Be persistent; be consistent; and persevere in prayer.
As we continue to prepare our hearts and minds for Jesus’ coming into the world, may we be joyful; may we be patient; and may we persevere.
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice.” (Philippians 4:4) because…
“I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6