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A Profound Conversion

On this Saturday of the Fifth Week of Lent, I continue my journey through Scott Hahn’s book, Lenten Reflections from A Father Who Keeps His Promises.

After Solomon’s reign, Israel splits into two kingdoms and then suffers through several centuries of conquest by foreigners, destruction of its cities and infrastructure, captivity and exile of its people.

Whatever happened to God’s promise to David?!

“Your house and your kingdom are firm forever before me; your throne shall be firmly established forever.”  2 Samuel 7:16.

Sure, the people turned from God, disobeyed Him, worshiped other gods, broke every commandment.  But didn’t God promise that David’s house would last forever?  Didn’t He promise of David’s son “I will establish his royal throne forever?”

God gives some insight into the centuries of suffering when He couples His dynastic promise with a fatherly admonition:

If he does wrong, I will reprove him with a human rod and with human punishments.”  2 Samuel 7:14.

God provides Israel—His chosen people—these years of suffering so they can fully prepare for the arrival of their (and our) deliverer.  He knows they are not ready for the fullness of His promise—His Son—and so He “reproves” them and—at the same time—prepares them for the coming of the Messiah.

This concept reminds me of my journey through Lent.  Lent is a season of preparation, a season to put myself into the proper spirit and state of mind to fully celebrate Easter.  Just as God used those centuries to prepare His people for the coming of His Son, I must seek God’s grace to use these 40 days of Lent so that I can better prepare myself to celebrate Christ’s death and resurrection.

The typical formula for Lenten preparations involves three distinct elements:  fasting, special prayer and alms-giving.  Each of these areas requires some measure of sacrifice.  Fasting is an overt denial of self.  Special prayer requires me to dig deeper into my prayer life, reach beyond my comfort level and draw closer to God.  Alms-giving requires I give of my blessings to others.

Ultimately, however, I find that while this sacrifice may involve a modicum of suffering, blessings I receive through the transformative experience far outweigh the sacrifice.

Day 39-1

Sometimes, it may seem that fasting is for naught.  I might feel like I am speaking to myself in prayer.  And my “alms-giving” might appear to go to the wrong people.  Perhaps this is my exile, my Babylonian Captivity.  In those times I must remember that even Blessed Mother Theresa suffered a spiritual desert.  I must remind myself that these spiritual exercises will strengthen me and my faith.
Day 39-2


Humble Means

On this Fifth Sunday of Lent, I continue my journey through Scott Hahn’s book, Lenten Reflections from A Father Who Keeps His Promises.  This week’s theme is “From Kingdom to Exile,” which begins with the establishment of the Davidic Dynasty and takes us through to Babylonian exile.

After God rejects Saul as His king, he sends His prophet, Samuel, on an errand to find Saul’s successor.  God directs Samuel to the family of Jesse and Samuel starts interviewing Jesse’s sons.

He begins with Eliab, Jesse’s eldest.  Apparently Eliab has a stately—perhaps regal—appearance about him and Samuel is taken by Eliab’s bearing.  But God rejects Jesse’s eldest, reminding Jesse:

“God does not see as a mortal, who sees the appearance. The LORD looks into the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7.

And so it goes with the next six brothers.  Each one is rejected, including Abinidab, who later would prove to be a mighty warrior.

Finally, Samuel has Jesse send for his youngest, David, described as “ruddy, a youth with beautiful eyes, and good looking.” 1 Samuel 16:12.  And God chooses David, the youngest and smallest of the brothers.

As David’s life unfolds, we begin to catch a glimpse of why God favored him over his older brothers.  Ultimately we understand that God chose David because David was a man after God’s own heart.  Acts 13:22.

What does this mean, to be a man after God’s own heart?  David reveals this in song:

I say to the LORD,
you are my Lord,
you are my only good.  Ps. 16:2.

David recognizes that he derives value solely from his relationship with God.  Maybe this is the criterion God uses: our voluntary complete dependence on Him.  A desire to seek—and please—Him.

Even Samuel, God’s own prophet, fails to use God’s criteria when seeking a king.  Samuel thinks Jesse’s eldest—Eliab—is good king material.  And after God rejected Eliab, Samuel believes each successive son to be adequate.

But God chooses the youngest son to be the hero of His people.

So I have to ask myself:  how do I choose my role models?  What criteria do I use to select the heroes in my life?

Do I look to athletic prowess or sporting accomplishments, like seven Tour-de-France wins?  Or Cy Young Awards?

Do I look for popularity, intelligence, charisma?

Randy Travis noted that “your heroes will help you find good in yourself.”  Maybe I should seek heroes who will help me to see God’s image in myself and others.

If this is the criterion, who has lived up to this standard?  The teacher who encouraged me to live to my potential.  My Dad who taught me to serve others.  The wheelchair-bound quadriplegic who always had a smile on his face.

Day 33-2

God places many people in my life who help draw me closer to Him.  How can I be a hero to others and draw them closer to God?Day 33-1

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