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St Matthews Church Oxhey Hertfordshire

Fr. David's sermon


20th February 2005

Fr David Shepherd

Lent II

Lent is time when we're invited to grow closer to Jesus. He calls us as his friends to spend more time in his company. Unlike Nicodemus who came to see Jesus by night because he was afraid of what others, especially his colleagues, might think, we can come in the full light of day because we already have that intimate relationship with him - friend to friend. How can we do this, how can we get to know Jesus better? One way is to think of where Jesus is to be found in the gospels. By the prayerful use of our imagination we can join him there deepening our friendship. We can do this in the privacy of our room as we pray, or by meeting people or going to places. Here then are some of those gospel places where Jesus is to be found.

  1. The wilderness. You'll remember that we thought about this last week so no need to say much about it again this week, save to remind ourselves that paradise is to found there as we resist the temptation to flee to the place of comfort. Spending time with Jesus in the wilderness is a Lenten priority.
  2. In the hills and by the sea. Jesus maintained a good balance in his life between working and leisure. He often withdrew into the hills to pray and to be with his father. (Cf. Ps. 121) He also spent time by and on the sea. Going to such places alone or with others can be a means of renewing our relationship with Jesus as well as with others. Even the remembrance of such times and places can be beneficial and recreating.
  3. With friends. Jesus enjoyed the company of friends - his disciples and others mentioned in the gospels like Mary, Martha and Lazarus. They shared meals together and relaxed. As we foster our own friendships during Lent so we can deepen our friendship with Jesus who is in the midst of such gatherings as an unseen guest. We might try and befriend the friendless too.
  4. With those in need. As well as in teaching much of Jesus' ministry was spent with 'fringe' people - the sick, the mad, outcasts and the like. As we spend time with such people we can draw especially close to Jesus. To care for people in such need whether near of far away, whether practically or in our prayers is meet with Jesus.
  5. On the Cross. Lent as well as being time for reflecting on Jesus' 40 days in the wilderness is traditionally a time of preparation for Easter that involves accompanying Jesus through his passion. Ss. Mary and John are often depicted simply being with Jesus at the foot of his cross. When confronted with human suffering especially of those we love we can feel totally helpless. In the accepting of our role of simply and prayerfully being with others we can discover that we are not completely useless after all. The Christian experience is that as we spend such times with those who suffer we enter deeply into the mystery of Christ's passion and crucifixion. It was in his farewell discourse that he called his disciples 'friends'. (You did not choose me, I choose you.)
  6. In the Eucharist. Just as the disciples experienced Jesus' friendship in their many meals together, so they continued to know him as risen Lord, post Easter in the Eucharist as they obeyed his command to 'do this in remembrance of me'. The Eucharist with its receiving of the sacramental body and blood of Christ, with the sharing of the word, (the Emmaus 'did not our hearts burn within us') and our fellowship with one another is the supreme means by which we cement our friendship with Jesus and he with us as well as with one another.

Six ways then in which we can deepen our friendship with Jesus during Lent as we go to the gospel places where he is to be found. We can do it as we pray, as we go for a walk or sit by the sea. We can do it as we celebrate with our families and friends and with those in need. We do it at the foot of the cross with those who suffer and supremely as we join together in the Eucharist.

'This is my Friend,
in whose sweet praise
I all my days could gladly spend.'

Amen

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