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SUNDAY SCRIPTURES FOR FEB. 25 | The rhythm of the paschal mystery is reflected in our lives

This Lent, take time to examine what part of the cycle of living, dying and resurrection we are currently experiencing

There is a blessed rhythm built in to all of God’s creation. This rhythm consists of continuous living, dying and rising; we call this the paschal mystery. This rhythm continues throughout a person’s life. This rhythm of living, dying and rising can happen in extraordinary and outstanding events or in very small and almost unnoticeable ways.

Many of us experience more of the living and rising events than we do the dying. In fact, we come to believe that that is the way we deserve to live, wishing the dying part to go away or seeing it as a curse. For those of us who live in very poor conditions or conditions that are beyond our control, we may see more of the dying portion of the cycle. We experience doing without, having things taken away from us or not having access to sufficient resources.

For the first Sunday of Lent, the Gospel was about Jesus being sent into the desert to be tempted. Now, for the second Sunday of Lent, the Gospel is about Jesus going to the mountaintop with Peter, James and John and experiencing His glory revealed. One Sunday is about the dying part of life and the next Sunday is about the rising part of life.

You might notice that after the disciples see Jesus’ glory revealed to them, they want to stay on the mountaintop trance in the glory of God. Jesus insists that they leave the mountaintop and begin the ordinary part of their life, which we would call living. Living, dying and rising happen naturally with the way creation is formed, giving us the opportunity to taste each and every part of this paschal mystery. But if we’re not careful, depending on the circumstances and situations of our lives, we can get fixated on one particular part of the paschal mystery. Once fixated, we begin to believe that that’s the only way that life should be and it’s the only way that we deserve.

I would suggest that a fruitful exercise for this week of Lent might be to become clearly aware of the particular part of the paschal mystery that we are living right now. Are we living, dying or rising?

There are many of us who are engaged in the ordinary things of living. We go about our day, following our normal routines without much of an experience. Whether it’s good or bad, we get used to the patterns and live our ordinary lives, without being very conscious. If you notice the way that Jesus lived, He spent time noticing those who were around Him, especially those on the outskirts. Are we able to do that as we live our ordinary life?

Some of us have been in the rising stage of our lives for a long time. Our lives have been ascending, through increasing wealth or success at business or growing healthy families, or deepening and enlightening relationships with God. We have been on a relative high, enjoying being lifted up by the extraordinary things that life can give us. If we are in that place, is our life gushing with gratitude or have we made an assumption that this is what we deserve? Does being in the rising stage of life allow us to be more generous or more protective of the gifts that we’re receiving? Have we become afraid, wondering when all this will go away?

Many among us are experiencing the dying stage of the paschal mystery. We may have experienced the death of a child or a loved one, the loss of a job, the constant pressure to pay bills or to meet other people’s schedules, or to get everyone where they need to be without any consideration for ourselves. We may have lost hope because of a disappointment that happened and we have allowed the bottom to fall out. Have we allowed the emptiness that we were experiencing to be an opportunity to invite God into that emptiness? Have we ever offered that dying to God, asking Him to consecrate it and make it holy? The dying that Jesus has done for us certainly is consecrated and made holy.

Father Donald Wester is pastor of All Saints Parish in St. Peters.

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