When the disciples first begin to follow Jesus, they don't know exactly who he is and what his mission is all about. It's as if they see him through a glass darkly- blurry and indistinct. It's only after his resurrection that the picture comes into focus and the disciples finally see Jesus as the Eternal Word of God made Flesh. There are, however, individual moments on their journey with the Lord when they catch small glimpses or insights into his true identity. Today's reading from Luke's Gospel is all about one such moment of special revelation. While three of Jesus' closest disciples are praying with him on a mountaintop, they see their Lord transfigured, engulfed in the glory of God. Today, we'll take a closer look at this story.
In last week's Bible Study, we talked about how NOT to pray, focussing particularly on what Jesus has to say in Matthew 6:5-8. In this Bible study, we'll focus on the model prayer that Jesus offers his disciples- that which we call "the Lord's Prayer" or the "Our Father" (Matthew 6:9-13). If you're a Christian, you've said this prayer countless times in your life. But, how often do we truly think about what we're saying? Today, I'll take a deep dive into this prayer, verse by verse.
Jesus begins his teaching on prayer with the words, "WHEN you pray" not "IF you pray." Clearly, Jesus wanted his disciples to make prayer an integral part of their lives. But, is there a proper way to pray? Or, to phrase the question differently, is there a wrong way to pray? The answer to both questions is yes. In the first of this two part series on prayer, we will take a closer look at Jesus' teachings regarding how NOT to pray, focusing particularly on Matthew 6:5-8.
Because Jesus is indeed loving and compassionate we may be tempted to mistake him for a tame Messiah- one who stands in our corner, always taking our side. However, the truth that comes across so clearly in today's Gospel reading (Mark 1:21-28) is this: Jesus has come to confront and cast out the power of evil in this world. That includes the evil that exists in our communities and, indeed, within our very own hearts.
Most of us consider ourselves to be ordinary people, stumbling along in life, trying our best to do the right thing. That's why it's easy for us to relate to Saint Joseph- a man who wants to do the right thing in the face of life's complicated dilemmas. In Matthew's account of Jesus' birth, Joseph is most certainly placed in a situation where he is forced to wrestle with that question, "What is the right thing to do?" And (God bless him) at the beginning of the story, Joseph makes the best decision he can possibly make with the limited knowledge that he has. However, it’s only when Joseph has faith in the message that God reveals that he is finally able to pursue the right course of action— the course of action that’s most in keeping with God’s will. Allow me to broaden that statement: it is only when we have faith in the message that God reveals to US that WE are able to act rightly. This will become clear as we take a closer look at today’s story from Matthew’s Gospel.
During her visit with her cousin Elizabeth, the pregnant Mary bursts into song: “My soul doth magnify the Lord,” Mary sings, “And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.” Right from the opening words of the first stanza, we learn that this is a joyful song of praise— Mary is praising God. But why, exactly? And how is that relevant to us? Those are the two questions that I’m going to touch on over the course of the next few minutes as we take a deeper look at the Magnificat.