Fr. Bob

Welcome to our new Sunday Journal!

We are delighted to introduce the first monthly reflection from Fr. Bob Barko, OFM. He serves as the sacramental minister for the Wheaton Franciscan Sisters and our liturgist on most Sundays in our new home in Wheaton, IL. Fr. Bob also serves as the chaplain at St. Francis High School and has a master’s degree in divinity from the Chicago Catholic Theological Union.

And our own Sr. Dianne, OSC, will suggest a social justice issue for your contemplation and prayers; watch for it on the 2nd weekend of the month.

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Feast of the Transfiguration
Mk 9:2-10
February 25, 2024

Learning from the Mountaintop

Have you had experiences in your life that you consider mountaintop events?

Each year the Church uses one of the accounts of the Transfiguration as the gospel text for the second Sunday of Lent. This week we are invited into the disciples’ mountaintop experience as Jesus becomes radiant in glory.

The Transfiguration of Jesus is based in part on some schools of mysticism that believe that humans and animals can change form. The word for transfiguration (metamorphose) literally means to change form.

Movies like the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter contain contemporary expressions of this understanding. In the Jewish tradition, the righteous will take on a new heavenly form. It is not uncommon to meet people who hope that their heavenly bodies will be significantly different from their earthly ones, as they ask, “Will I be skinny in heaven? Will I be free of disease?”

In today’s Gospel, Jesus is transfigured not in the sense of taking on a totally new form, but the way he appears to his disciples is dramatically different. The fact that Peter, James, and John witness this moment makes it a historical event, not one that takes place only in the spiritual world. Nor is it a vision or dream of some experience in the future when the fullness of God’s presence will be revealed.

Jesus is the only one who is changed and enters into a dialogue with Moses and Elijah. The disciples witness and participate in what is taking place: they see the change in Jesus’ appearance, they recognize Elijah and Moses, Peter addresses Jesus, they are overshadowed by the cloud, and they hear the voice from heaven speaking to them. What is taking place occurs so they can experience it and participate in it.

Let’s reflect on the five primary facets of the Transfiguration of Jesus:

  • 1. Divine revelation where Jesus’ true nature is revealed to his disciples.
    2. Identity confirmation where the disciples’ witnessing of the Transfiguration confirms Jesus’ identity as the Son of God.
    3. A glimpse of the Resurrection where we get a foretaste of what the resurrection experience might have resembled in those early days.
    4. The call to listen as God says, “This is my Son, in whom I am well pleased – listen to him.”
    5. The mountaintop experience where the disciples’ witness to this extraordinary event solidifies their faith and understanding of Jesus’ divinity, reinforcing their commitment to follow him despite the challenges they would face.

Take a moment to consider the Transfiguration in your own life. Just as the disciples experienced a pivotal moment in their spiritual journey, how are you and your faith affected?

First Sunday of Lent
Mk 1:12-15
February 18, 2024

As I was browsing a recent issue of National Catholic Reporter, this article’s title attracted me because Lent is very much on my personal horizon. The idea of “let’s try softer — not harder” really spoke to me as we try to walk God’s path, not our own. I hope you enjoy this author’s approach to Lent as much as I did.

Blessings,
Sr. Dianne Doughty, OSC

This Ash Wednesday, let’s try softer — not harder

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mk 1:40-45
February 11, 2024

If Netflix was to make this Gospel into a “limited mini-series” that concluded this very dramatic story with Jesus going off alone to pray (which, by the way, He often did after most miraculous events), there would be a whole lot of disappointed viewers. Mark leaves us with numerous unanswered questions. Is it possible that there are “bonus lessons” to be had from reflecting on what we are NOT told?

How would “Season 2” look?

EPISODE 1: Why did the man disregard The Lord’s instructions to “tell no one?”

In a way, this healing/cleansing was a “sacramental moment,” much like Baptism or Reconciliation, which are “special” graced encounters with The Holy Spirit. Furthermore, this miracle restored the man to the community, which had banished him out of fear. This brings to mind Pope Francis’s remark that Eucharist is not a reward for the righteous, but a healing remedy for those who are sick. When we take advantage of these graced moments…these encounters with the Holy Spirit…how can we not rejoice? How can we keep it secret? The joy simply flows out of us.

EPISODE 2: What happened when the man “showed himself to the priests?”

It would seem that the proper response from all witnesses would have been “wonder and awe.” However, throughout the Gospels, we learn that this was not always the case, even with the religious leaders. How did they respond when the healed man presented himself? Were they skeptical, looking for explanations beyond Jesus’s miraculous powers? Did ignorance or arrogance cause them to ask the question raised on other occasions when The Lord’s Divine Powers were on display, By whose authority does this man do these things?

Jesus touched the leper. Would they have accused Him of endangering the entire community, risking the spread of the disease? They most certainly would have seen Jesus as having been left “impure” Himself in need of cleansing because of the contact with the leper.

What we can say with certainty is that the Lord moved above the Law set out in the Book of Leviticus and responded to the pleas of the leper with LOVE. But then, Jesus directed the now cleansed man to comply with the established Law, sending him to the priests and directing him to make the proper sacrifice. From this, are we to remember that The Law of Love is the first and most important…but that the established Law stands?

EPISODE 3: What happened when the man returned home?

This is one of the more dramatic and detailed reports of the many healing miracles. In desperation, the afflicted man violated the strict laws of quarantine. He approached Jesus at the risk of being stoned to death on the spot. He knelt and pleaded. Of course, The Lord’s response was to brush aside all of the reasons why He should not have engaged in conversation with this person. Moved with compassion, The Lord declared His desire to cleanse the man and restore him to health and to the community. Would the community which had banished him been as accepting? Through this miracle, The Lord certainly made a brilliant showing of His Divine powers. He healed, cleansed, forgave, and restored. All of this was also a challenge to the community to do the same. Would they have welcomed him back?

Conclusion: What are the “bonus lessons?”

How would you conclude this mini-series?

It’s not difficult to change the word “leper” to any number of other words we so often use to justify our snap judgments…righteous condemnations…severe punishments. In order to protect our community…our way of thinking…our privileged positions…who might we marginalize or exclude? Who would we purge in order to protect ourselves? Who do we fear will contaminate us?

How will you deal with “those people?”

Do you have the compassion to end the story with a “graced moment?”

Good-bye…and GOOD NEWS!

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