In whom do you place your trust? Our first reading from Jeremiah shows us that those who trust in the Lord are like trees planted beside waters with roots stretching to the stream. That is for us a picture of grace. Trust in the Lord places us next to the living stream of His grace. The tentacles of our heart plunge into this grace and deepens that trust.
I'm convinced that trust is the name of the game when it comes to living the spiritual life well. Since the garden of paradise when our first parents sinned and then hid from God; God has been trying for all of salvation history to get us to trust Him. We are skittish creatures. It is so important to God to get us to trust Him and His ways that He even became one of us, and offered Himself for us on the Cross as expiation for our sins. Then He conquered sin and death by His resurrection. What keeps you from trusting more deeply in God?
If you want to grow in trust, then make acts of trust to God each day. When you notice anxiety or doubt or fear creep into your life, immediately close your eyes and pray, "Jesus, I Trust in You," a few times. Pray each morning for a deeper trust. Each day, entrust yourself to the God who loves you enough to give His life for yours. See if your trust doesn't deepen.
So many failed to believe in the miracles of Jesus. They continued to ask for signs. Jesus promises only this one sign, the sign of Jonah. Jonah was charged by God to go to Nineveh and preach repentance to a massive pagan city. He tries to run away from it but is swallowed by a large fish. Unlike the Disney version where he is camping out in there, the Scriptures point to the death of Jonah in the big fish. He is then spit out onto the beach and God tells him to arise (the same word for resurrection).
He rises after three days in the belly of the beast. He then goes throughout the pagan city of Nineveh preaching repentance, and they heed his preaching. The sign of Jonah promised by Jesus is that after three days in the belly of the beast of death Jesus too will rise. He rises to a new pitch of existence. His small group of followers begins to preach repentance to the world. In a very short period of time the pagan nations (the gentiles) come to faith in Jesus.
The greatest sign Jesus offered is the repentance and conversion of the world. There are over one billion Catholics in the world today and over two billion Christians. This is the sign of Jesus promises. To this day, when we speak of Him and His love others are drawn to Him. This is the sign that all Jesus said and did is true. Do we stake our lives on the reality of Jesus? Is He the center of our lives? This Lent surrender to Him and share the Good News with others.
"Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who have trespassed against us;"
When Jesus speaks of the forgiveness of God, it is always conditional on our forgiveness of others. Later on in Matthew's Gospel (18:21) Peter asks Jesus how many times he should forgive someone, seven times? Jesus responds with I do not say seven times, but seventy times seven. In other words, we must forgive every time it is required. This seems humanly impossible, because I believe it is, naturally speaking. Forgiveness of others requires supernatural help, grace.
Forgiveness is not reconciliation. Forgiveness is letting go of the wrong done to us by another with or without their asking for it. Reconciliation requires both persons to take steps to forgive and reestablish the relationship.
Sometimes we are wronged by others without them even realizing or recognizing the hurt and pain they have caused. It is in these moments when we are angry and annoyed and hurt that forgiveness is the only answer. Forgiveness is not an event that happens, but a process that we go through with God. We have to surrender the person and the situation to Our Lord through prayer. That means we have to pray for that person and pray for God to help us forgive them as well.
Here is a way to practice forgiveness with God. When the situation/person arises in your mind and heart and all the feelings of pain, hurt, and anger show up with it; you say, "God I pray for so-and-so bless them abundantly and help them to know your love and mercy in their lives. God help me to forgive them for this offense. I choose to forgive them, help me to experience this forgiveness. Help me to let go of the hurt that blocks me from experiencing more deeply your love and mercy for me. Me, who has been forgiven so often and for so much by You."
It's not easy, but absolutely necessary and required by God. Try it and see if the tentacles of un-forgiveness don't begin to unravel from around your heart. Going on this journey of forgiveness with God will lead to an amazing freedom - a freedom that leads to joy and peace!
Daily Lenten reflections by Father Browning.