Monday, March 25, 2019

Lenten Check-In 2019

Typically, Lent creeps up on me. We will have just finished the Christmas season with a quick couple of introductory weeks in Ordinary Time and then, BAM! It's Lent. But not this year. This year, Easter is LATE. Every once in a while, my birthday (which is on April 22) falls around the Triduum. For example, my 30th birthday was famously on Good Friday in 2011. You may remember my post on my "last supper" in my 20s ;)

This year, Easter is the day before my birthday and for me as a teacher at a Catholic School, that means our Spring Break is oh-so late this year. However, that also means that Ash Wednesday wasn't until early March which gave me sometime to really think about Lent and enter into it more officially.

I feel like I have actually been able to enter into and take advantage of Lent this year. It could also have something to do with the fact that I went to the Holy Land in February. I can't even imagine what the Triduum is going to be like for me this year since I have all these images now of what the places like the Upper Room and Gethsemane and Jerusalem actually look like. In fact, hearing the Gospel each week now is different because I can place on a map where these places mentioned in Scripture actually are and what they look like. If you get a chance or have the means to be able to go to Israel, I highly, highly recommend it.

Today is the feast of the Annunciation. And, yes, we got to go to the place in Nazareth where it is said that this event may have took place. I wrote a little bit about it in my last post.
The Church is built over this 1st century building believed to be Mary's House. This Church is called the Church of the Annunciation. It was a place of great prayer and peace for me. 

The event of the Annunciation is a lot to wrap our heads around. Certainly, angels deliver lots of messages to various people about important children in Scripture (Abraham, Sarah and Isaac, Hagar and Ishmael, Samson's mother in Judges, Raphael to Tobit, and Zechariah and John the Baptist just to name a few!). What makes this encounter with Mary different? Well, a lot as we know. She was without Original Sin. Jesus is the Son of God. Gabriel patiently answers Mary's question (unlike Zechariah before her). Mary was a young girl (Many of the women who become surprisingly pregnant in the Bible are typically much older and thought barren). Mary was promised to Joseph, but unmarried. 

Something that I am doing for part of my prayer for Lent is taking a place that we visited in the Holy Land each day and meditating on it. I think about what the place looked like, think about my feelings from when I was there, and reflect on any Scripture passages associated with that place. Today I had randomly assigned for myself Bethsaida. Bethsaida seemingly doesn't have much to do with Nazareth or the place of the Annunciation. However, it was the home of another important person/people who said an important 'Yes'- Andrew and Peter. 

"Beth" in Hebrew means "house of". Bethlehem, for example, is "house of bread". Bethsaida is the house or home of the fishermen. Andrew and Peter were two fishermen who Jesus called to while they were fishing at the beginning of Jesus' ministry. It was actually Andrew whom Jesus called to first. He was the first apostle who said "yes" to following Jesus. Peter followed and as they say, the rest is history. 

As I have been reflecting on these places I encountered last month, I try to think about how long Jesus knew of these places and people. Nazareth where Jesus grew up is close to the Sea of Galilee, but not necessarily right next to it. It was a bit of a drive for us. Many of the places in which Jesus performed miracles and gathered his disciples were along the Sea. Bethsaida is one of these places. 

I wonder if Jesus was already friends with Andrew and Peter. I wonder if he had seen them fishing there many times before and finally asked them one day to answer the call of their lives. What the call to Andrew and the Annunciation both have in common are these invitations from God answered by individuals with absolute faith and trust. Both Mary and Andrew were put in a position to make decisions that would ultimately shape the course of history. And they both put their faith in God and said yes. They both had intimate relationships with the Son of God because of it. 

We don't hear too much of Andrew's relationship with Jesus. We hear much more of his brother Peter's complicated friendship with Christ. Was this Christ's intention? Even if Jesus hadn't known the brothers prior to that day on the Sea, He had to have known their hearts. Just as God carved out a place and a call for Mary in Salvation History, God had to have known Andrew and Peter's roles as well. 

This feast today of the Annunciation continues to be one that I am fascinated with and gives me a lot to meditate on. I love that it is paired today with my reflection on Bethsaida. These places and these stories will never be the same to me. But I really did learn while in the Holy Land that while it is a blessing to be there, we can feel God's presence and reflect on Him anywhere. 

May we think of the "yes"s that we have said that have changed our lives, especially in regards to our call(s) from Jesus.