Easter and the Cornerstones

On Sunday, we celebrated the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, accompanied by crowds who cheered and waved palm branches in celebration. By Good Friday, many of this same crowd would have been present, and were, perhaps, even among those who mocked Him, as He made His tortured way to Golgotha and His death on the Cross. What an incredible turnaround – and certainly not a change for the better! How such a change of heart, of commitment, could occur is perhaps a real puzzle to us. And yet…

Virtually every one of us reading this reflection has encountered a similar, even though opposite (and probably not quite so dramatic), change in our lives after a week at Nazareth Farm. We leave with a determination to “bring the Farm home with us” – as we promise ourselves to live more simply, to help create a greater sense of community in our homes, neighborhoods and schools, to grow in our ability and commitment to do service, and to make God and prayer a more integral part of our daily lives.

But life goes on – and the world we re-enter has not seen or experienced what we have seen or experienced during our time at the Farm – the end result is that many of our resolutions either become weakened or totally fade away over time. Holy Week brings with it (at least for a good number of us) the opportunity to spend extra time in reflection and prayer. Can we take some of that time to reinvigorate the cornerstones in our lives?

Simplicity – Is it time to clean out a few closets? To buy one extra thing at the grocery store (even if it’s the result of a “buy one get one free” sale) to donate to a food pantry? To make one dish a week “from scratch” instead of prepackaged?

Prayer – Can I try to get to Church even just a few minutes early on Sunday for some extra prayer time, or stop for a quick visit at a Church I pass on my way to work or school, or even turn off my phone for ten minutes before I go to bed so I can “chat” with Jesus?

Service – If I have elderly or homebound neighbors, can I bring them some of that “from scratch” dish, or run an errand, or provide a listening ear (even though I’ve heard the same story many times)?

Community – Can I invite a few people (or even one) to join me in any of the above activities, especially those who might be shy about doing the activity “on their own”?

Easter, coming as it does in the Spring, the season of renewal in nature, is an ideal time to renew in ourselves the spirit of the Farm and its cornerstones. Let us spend at least some of our time this Holy Week finding ways to incorporate them ever more fully into our lives!

Sr. Paula Gallant, longtime friend and supporter

Finding Joy in Sacrifice

There is joy in sacrifice!

This is the overriding message of Lent. There is no Easter without Lent. There is no resurrection without the crown of thorns, the scourging, the carrying of the cross or the crucifixion.

Jesus showed us the way — we must suffer before we can rise!

I came to know this during my first week at Nazareth Farm twenty-three years
ago and rediscover it each time I return to the Farm.

In the summer of 2000, our parish Youth Minister asked if I could chaperone a
group of six high school students for a week of service at a place in West Virginia
called Nazareth Farm. I said, “Sure!”

I knew nothing about Nazareth Farm and thought I would simply be a chaperone driving a van. Little did I know I would be transformed forever! I was not just a chaperone. That week was a little piece of Heaven.

I had no idea agreeing to go on the trip would impact me and my faith life so deeply. However, it would not come easily. The words simplicity, service, community, and prayer became real to me that week. I learned why it’s important to incorporate them into my daily life. My first experience at the Farm was the most difficult, sacrificial, strenuous week of my life, yet it brought more joy than I thought possible.

My life’s goal is seeking eternal life in Heaven, but I know that won’t be easy. We are called to be open to experiences, to love God and love others, to serve others first, and to work toward a right relationship with God. These directives require work; they require sacrifice. During that first week at Nazareth Farm, I came to understand this message.

When we arrived at the Farm – six students and two chaperones – we were greeted by the staff with hugs, smiles, and enthusiasm. While exciting, it made me a bit apprehensive, nervous as to what to expect. After hearing about what we would be doing that week, I wondered, “What have I gotten myself into?”

Ultimately, I found my little piece of Heaven.

One day, my group’s assignment was to cut wood with Butch. Seemed doable, I thought. Butch greeted us with, “Get in your van and follow me.” I followed Butch’s truck, driving a big, awkward 15-passenger van. We turned off the gravel road, drove through a field, and pulled up to a path that ran through a row of trees. Butch stopped, got out of his truck, and informed me, “The path ahead is narrow, but don’t slow down. Keep driving and be sure stay to the right of the path so your van doesn’t slide into the creek.” That was comforting.

I nodded my head nervously. The next few minutes were scary, but we made it through to a clearing. We took a breath and got out of the van.

This day changed my life and my perspective on what’s really important. I’m a city girl, but that day I learned how to use a maul and a gas-powered wood splitter. I also learned I am much stronger and more capable than I ever realized. I have never worked so hard or sweated so much, and yet I loved every minute.

Over lunch, we told Butch about ourselves. He listened carefully and then asked us, “What has been the most challenging thing for you this week?”

The students shared honestly about missing the comforts of home, friends, talking on the phone, showers, and so on. When it came to me, I listed many of the same things the students had already shared. I added that I also missed my morning Diet Coke. This seemed silly to share at the time, but it would become my identity.

Butch Sandora – a friend and neighbor of the Farm for many years – is an honest, straight-forward, hard-working man. He is gruff at times but showed me his thoughtfulness and kindness that day and every other time I had the opportunity to return to Nazareth Farm.

After lunch, we continued splitting wood. Butch left us for a short time, then returned and called us together for a needed break. He pulled a small cooler out of his truck, surprising us with some refreshments. He handed each student a cold drink and the last can out of the cooler was a Diet Coke for me. My face lit up! He looked at me and smiled. From that moment on, I was the Diet Coke Girl. Every trip since, Butch has a Diet Coke waiting for me.

Butch drove back through the treacherous trail just to bring us refreshments. The thoughtfulness of this gruff-on-the-outside man I had just met melted my heart. How sweet!

This was the hardest I had ever worked, but my heart was full of joy. I am an artist, so as a “Thank you” to Butch, I drew a caricature of him – blue work shirt, blue eyes, bandana on his head, and a Diet Coke in his hand. Butch and I have been friends for life.

Over the years, I have returned to Nazareth Farm many times. I served on the Board of Directors for several years. I met and was inspired by the neighbors, staff, and fellow volunteers. They showed me how to live a life here on earth that would lead to eternal life in Heaven.

During the 40 days of Lent, we are called to conversion, to grow through self-sacrifice and love. Often in life, we avoid things that may be challenging or cause us to suffer. However, Jesus showed us the way — we must suffer before we can rise.

Nazareth Farm caused me to grow closer to Jesus. My experience revealed to me that challenges, sacrifices, and suffering can be cleansing, clarifying and rewarding. I am forever grateful for the opportunity to experience a little piece of Heaven – learning to split wood and becoming lifelong friends with Butch Sandora.

Nazareth Farm lives out the message of Lent: There is no Easter without Lent. There is no resurrection without the crown of thorns, the scourging, the carrying of the cross or the crucifixion.

In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed to his Father, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).

Jesus showed us the way — we must suffer before we can rise!

Carol Wagner, longtime chaperone and past board member

The Woman at the Well

The Gospel reading for this Sunday is the famous story of Jesus meeting the woman at the well (John 4:5-42). In short, Jesus encounters a woman who many would consider to be an outcast, proves that he is the Messiah by telling her things a stranger would not have known about her, and she leaves the encounter so moved by Christ that she runs to the community that cast her out, exclaiming, “Come see a man who told me everything I have done.”

Lent is a season for reflection and repentance, and this passage is one of my favorites for this particular theme. The woman at the well first responds to Jesus with her guard up, with almost a sarcastic tone, much like how I would probably respond to a stranger trying to make small talk with me after I’d had a tough day. But what would it look like if I chose instead to respond with kindness, openness, and patience – to both the strangers, and the people closest to me that sometimes get the brunt of my frustration?

Jesus lets the woman know that he is the Lord by telling her he knows about her current relationship status, one that would be marked as scandalous in her community. But he doesn’t do it to embarrass her. He wants her to know that he sees her – for the good and the bad – and he still chooses to interact with her. She doesn’t respond with shame, but with humility, and wonder at God’s love. Usually, when I’m called out on a mistake I have made, my first instinct is to try to justify my actions or explain them away. But what might I be missing if I don’t respond, repent, with the same attitude of humility and vulnerability as the woman at the well? Might I miss out on a chance to see God’s mercy firsthand?

The Responsorial Psalm for this week, “If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts” (Psalm 95), is a beautiful reminder of this Gospel message. If we listen, we can hear God’s voice all around us – and hopefully, in the spirit of Lent, that can leave us with open, patient, and vulnerable hearts as we reflect on the mercy and love of God.

Jackie Kruk, Board Member

An Ash Wednesday Reflection

St. Therese of Lisieux said, as quoted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “For me, prayer is a surge of the heart, it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.”

As we begin the journey of Lent, this quote from “The Little Flower” resonates as a reflect on how time spent at Nazareth Farm really changed my understanding of prayer to be more focused on a relationship with Jesus. Because Ash Wednesday is a time for introspection and fasting, it is a great time to bring more focus to our prayer life. The Lenten season is an opportunity to re-set our priorities and look to God, asking for his help to unblock those things that prevent our gazing at the Lord. In addition to giving up something this Lent such as chocolate, soda, or TikTok, what if we prioritized our relationship with Jesus by asking him some direct questions: “What are you asking of me, Lord? What would you like to talk to me about this Lent? In what way can you transform my heart and reveal yourself to me?” Partnership with the Lord is the foundation of prayer and the foundation for everything in our life. We can seek union with Jesus by making more room in our hearts to learn and understand his plan for our life. This journey of Lent is an amazing opportunity to strip away the noise and the clutter and, through simplicity, focus on our relationship with Jesus to move more deeply into oneness with the One that made us. What a gift this Lent if we grow in that oneness.

The season of Lent can be a springtime for the soul–a time for us to allow the Holy Spirit into our lives to do some “spring cleaning,” restoring our desire for him and taking away anything that is out of order. Our friendship with Jesus can lead us to open and transform our hearts through his tenderness which guides us into a deeper union with Him. Let Jesus guide and lead us instead of letting so many other worldly things be our guide.

But how can we make space in our busy lives to get into the Lord’s gaze? One of the greatest and most powerful gifts we have in the Catholic Church is Eucharistic Adoration. When you are there in Jesus’ gaze during Adoration, other things melt away and his desire for us can become clearer. Saint John of the Cross says the gaze of God is active, “for God’s gaze is to love and to work favors. His gaze is love and love does things. God’s gaze works four blessings in the soul: it cleanses the person, it makes her beautiful, it enriches her and it enlightens…making her like himself.” So how do we lock eyes with Jesus? Seeing ourselves the way Jesus sees us is one of the most beautiful ways to journey with Jesus this Lent. As Pope Benedict XVI explained, “Communicating with Christ demands that we gaze on him, allow him to gaze on us, listen to him, get to know him. Adoration is simply the personal aspect of Communion. God is waiting for us in Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. Let us not leave him waiting in vain! Let us not, through distraction and lethargy, pass by the greatest and most important thing life offers us.” Visit Him, Follow Christ and there is no doubt you’ll be changed for the better this Lent.

Ann McElhinney, Board Member and Parent Volunteer

Entering the Upper Room

Whenever I encounter the Scriptures telling of Jesus and His disciples together in the Upper Room, my heart and mind automatically travel to the O’Connor Room at Nazareth Farm.  Wood grain walls, sunlight streaming in through the windows along with a gentle breeze, and a not-so-subtle reminder that we are truly on Holy Ground. I wonder if this is what the Upper Room was like.

For many of us, the O’Connor Room is a sacred space. The Holy Spirit is so present at the Farm, but especially in the OCR. Times of prayer and tranquility can quickly transition to spirited singing, laughter, and group games. We share prayer together and share our hearts and minds in conversation. There is a palpable warmth up in the O’Connor Room (and not just on humid summer nights!)

The disciples probably weren’t sure what to expect when they gathered with Jesus in the Upper Room, a feeling that is often echoed on the first night of volunteer weeks. But they trusted Him and were willing to be a part of His journey. They were transformed by Jesus, and so are we if we let Him be an active part of our lives. 

At the Last Supper, Jesus transformed the very basic elements of bread and wine into His Most Precious Body and Blood. During our visits to Nazareth Farm, we too are transformed. Our selfish and wasteful habits give way to focusing on community and conservation. Service becomes less of something to do and more a part of who we are. We make time for prayer and let our work for others become an offering of ourselves. Seeds are planted, vocations are sparked, friendships are formed, and our God is a part of it all. 

When we are open to the Holy Spirit in our lives, great things can happen. We can be transformed into people who consistently and joyfully live out Catholic Social Justice Teachings no matter where we are.

During the Holy Thursday Liturgy, we celebrate both the institution of the Eucharist and the washing of the Disciples’ feet, strong reminders that our God is a God of sacrifice and service.  How can we incorporate these elements into our lives? As we journey through Holy Week and into the Easter season, let’s be mindful of the times and places where God wants to transform us into his modern-day disciples. May our lives always be a reflection of the love of our Savior. 

Wishing you and those you hold most dear a faithful Holy Week and a blessed Easter! 

– Catherine Werner, board member and volunteer

Starting the Journey

Today, Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion, marks the beginning of Holy Week, as we journey with Jesus through Jerusalem, to Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and ultimately to the joy-filled Easter Sunday. While there are so many layers and key moments found within today’s Gospel, I am continually brought back to one theme: love. The Gospel may evoke some of us to question the presence of love amidst the suffering, pain, and agony that Jesus endured, and for me, it is in that endurance through faith and love, that I see God’s love in abundance, leading to the glorious resurrection.

Every year for the past five years, our school would travel with a delegation of our high school students from San Jose, California to Doddridge County, West Virginia. Early that Monday morning right after Easter Sunday, we would hop on a plane, pick up our two rental vans and make our way to the Farm. And as soon as I pulled up closer to the red barn, I already knew that I was home. For that next week, we would be surrounded by love all around – in and out of inspiring conversations with strangers turned friends, and opportunities to engage in activities to learn more about community, service, prayer, and simplicity, while experiencing it with joy and laughter all at the same time! 

While Jesus’ Way of the Cross was an incredibly painful, lonely, journey, we rejoice with his resurrection and with the Easter season. For me, coming to Naz Farm for a week after Easter Sunday was indeed the best way that I could imagine to celebrate light, renewal, and authentic joy. God was always present! Love is palpable at Naz Farm when working on home repairs, when playing games, when enjoying dinner together outside, and I believe that my Easter celebrations have been that much better because of the opportunities we’ve had to be in community with our friends at Nazareth Farm.

May you and your friends and family be blessed this Holy Week, and together, we await the coming of Easter!

– Crystal Catalan, volunteer

“I am troubled now.” You and Me Both, Jesus.

Every time I read Jesus’s prediction of his impending death, I am troubled and confused. What does he mean when he says his death will glorify God’s name? How am I supposed to “lose my life?” Now more than ever, I feel like I have already sacrificed so much due to a global pandemic. Where is the good news in any of this Gospel?

I think the latest Pixar movie, Soul, can provide some insight into what Jesus is saying to us. The movie follows Joe, a middle school band teacher, who has great ambitions to play music outside of a classroom. Just as he catches his big break to perform jazz music in concert, he finds himself in the Great Beyond. Unwilling to accept that he might die, Joe makes his way to the Great Before and is forced to team up with 22, a sassy and stubborn “soul,” who does not want to live on Earth. In their search for 22’s spark or talent, they find something much more significant. 

22 asks, “Is all this living really worth dying for?” For her, to live meant to give up the comfort of her life in the Great Before and to take on a body in the world. She had to risk being rejected or failing at whatever her spark might be in order to really experience all that life has to offer. In doing so, she finds joy in the ordinary things of the world. Much like 22, we are forced to live an embodied experience of the world. We cannot escape the earthly suffering of the world – poverty, illness, shame, mental illness, and so much more. Nonetheless, we are called to live into that reality and we have the freedom to enter into the messiness of it all.

In the end, what is essential for Joe and 22 is their soul – what I might like to call their belovedness. Our belovedness is imprinted on our souls, reminding us of who created us and for what purpose. We are born of Love and for love. It can be difficult to uncover that belovedness, but it is there for each and every one of us. It is in the giving of our soul – our belovedness – to another that we find purpose, community, and joy. It may be through the hands-on work of building a ramp for a neighbor or sitting on the porch swing in company with a new friend or hearing the stories of resilience told by community members.

Starting from a place of being beloved allows us to enter into the darkness of the world, risking vulnerability for the sake of connection. In losing our lives, we give up earthly things and we make room for what matters and feeds our soul. Because as Jesus reminds us, in doing so, “it produces much fruit.” In spaces of “death,” we can find life, find joy, find solidarity with each other. What remains is God’s imprint of our belovedness, which gives us the ability to live in freedom, not for the sake of self-righteousness, but for the glory of God.

It troubles me; yet, it is well with my soul.

-Justin Hoch, volunteer

Nurture Your Faith

This week, the Gospel tells us that everyone who believes in Jesus will have eternal life, and whoever lives by the truth will come into the light, and Jesus will be watching. Sounds pretty straightforward enough, right? Not really.

I believe that if I plant seeds and water them, a flower will grow. The reason I believe this is because I have done it. It is a tangible activity. The flower is my proof. It is easier to believe in things you can see. Can you see God’s promise in the Gospel?

Unfortunately, the only way you will know if your belief in Jesus rewards you with eternal life is to die. Frankly, I’m not ready to participate in that experiment just yet!

Luckily for me I already believe in the Gospel readings because I have faith.

Faith is not tangible, yet some days it feels so real that I can almost touch it. Other days, I have a hard time conjuring it up. And, if I am not careful, it can become fluid and come and go at will. For me, faith is like the flower that needs watering; it needs to be tended to daily.

Thanks to COVID-19 (always finding the silver lining), our parish has been live-streaming daily and Sunday Masses. I have committed to viewing daily Mass as part of my Lenten journey. It is helping me nurture my faith. Are you doing anything different to nurture your faith this Lenten season?

In addition to watching daily Mass, I am actively seeking opportunities for acts of random kindness. I get such pleasure in doing them.

I was in heavy traffic the other day, and a woman was trying to pull out of a gas station. No one was letting her in. I stopped my car and waved her in front of me. I could see the absolute look of relief on her face. She was obviously stressing and probably running late for something. Such an easy gesture that made us both happy.

I am a big fan of paying for the car behind me when at a drive-thru restaurant. That always makes someone’s day!

These small acts of kindness reinforce my faith. Leading with kindness and love is suggested many times throughout the Gospel. These acts take the focus off me since I am seeking opportunities to help others. What acts of kindness have you performed lately?

This week’s reading also says, “Everyone who does evil hates the light and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.”

I choose to live in the light, and I am grateful God is watching what I am doing. I know He is putting opportunities on my path, and it is up to me to recognize them and take advantage of them.

One of the best opportunities God provided for me was time at Nazareth Farm. I had the good fortune to participate in an adult week there a few months back. It definitely reinforced my faith in God, Jesus’s teachings, and eternal life.

No, I didn’t see an apparition at the Farm. What I did see was a group of young adults performing acts of kindness in their community by way of much-needed home repairs. I also witnessed great respect for the environment in the limiting of water and electricity usage. They ate food they harvested from their own gardens.

Community members shared in all the chores. Communal praying and reflection time was a daily occurrence. I witnessed the beauty of God’s creation in the stunning landscape of the mountains and sky. There were dogs and cats to love and colorful birds feasting at feeders. Surely, God was present!

My faith is a continuous work in progress. I need to participate in Mass and dissect the readings so I stay connected to my beliefs. When I am consistent, I am calmer, more understanding of others, and simply more content with myself.

The challenges of everyday life become easier for me when my faith is strong. I know that no matter how difficult things may become with God at my side, I will be just fine. He helped me get through cancer, Sepsis, job loss, and financial stress.

He’ll help you too if you live in the light and seize the opportunities He presents to you. 

Why don’t you ask Him to join you on your Lenten journey this year? Who knows what He has in store for you? 

  • Loretta Rederscheid, volunteer and Erin’s mom


“Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings while the dawn is still dark.”- Rabindranath Tagore

I have never liked the dark. During the camping trips my family took when I was a child, as night came, I felt safe so long as I had the nearby hand or presence of one of my parents. A campfire helped. Alone, though? Forget it. I was sure to be eaten by a bear. 

During my time on staff if I happened to be alone for the nightly walk to the house, once I got beyond the lights of the parking lot and my feet hit Little Battle, it was a dead sprint, all the way, every single time. To be honest, I still haven’t made much progress. If the compost or trash need to be taken out at night, my husband does it. He knows how I am, and thankfully loves me anyway.

Darkness in the literal sense is disorienting and a little scary. It is also humbling to be tripping and fumbling about as we try to make our way and worry what else is there in the shadows. In the spiritual and emotional sense, it can feel like waves of confusion, anger, isolation, and despair. I don’t know many people comfortable with darkness. 

In either sense, my own experiences with darkness progress through these fairly predictable stages: a good bit of stumbling and denying that I’m anything less than fine; muttering through clenched teeth and wondering what on Earth just happened; varying degrees of crying; and finally accepting that it’s probably best to just stop moving, and breathe, and reorient myself. 

There are two particular lines of a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke that inevitably return to me in these moments. In this poem, Rilke speaks of what God says to us on our journey through life:

“Just keep going. No feeling is final.

Don’t let yourself lose me.” 

I’m reminded by these words that the vacillations of the human experience will persist so long as breath is in me. This, too, shall pass, and that goes for both the moments of heart-bursting sweetness and soul-gripping anguish. This truth helps me to cherish the former and to not be so consumed with anxiety by the latter. 

What Rilke’s words also echo is God’s promise to not abandon us, though we are free to stray as we may choose. Even so, we are never far away. In fact, we are carved in the palm of the Beloved’s hand. This can, in our human folly, be easy to forget. The Faithful Companion’s presence in our lives is perhaps most perceptible once we have finally surrendered to the dark. 

Lent provides us a perfect opportunity to evaluate our spiritual life with a few questions similar to what we may consider when we find ourselves there: 

  1. To what end have I oriented my life? 
  2. On what, or on whom, am I relying? 
  3. Of what am I afraid? 
  4. What am I doing to nurture my faith?

I invite you in the coming week to ask yourselves these questions. Though we can be fairly certain that the darkness will come, we have full assurance that it will not prevail. The Passion of Christ is a part of the Easter story, but it is not the end. I pray that when you find yourselves weighted down with a cross, confused, and lost in the dark, remember to pause, breathe, feel the warmth of the Light beside you, and when you find your voice begin to sing again to the dawn. It is coming.

-Tina Nieport, former staff and board member


Although we are only in the second Sunday of Lent, Holy Mother Church has given us a wonderful and hopeful set of readings in this penitential season. For many of us who have done a service week at Nazareth Farm, the Gospel today will sound very familiar. The story of the Transfiguration is one that is told each Saturday morning of a group week. I often had the honor of sharing reflections on this story while on staff. The mountain top experience had by Peter, James, and John is very relatable to many volunteers as they closed out their retreat week. They encountered God through the cornerstones of prayer, community, simplicity, and service. They felt and perhaps had even seen His presence working throughout the week. Finally, they desired to “make camp” and stay “up on the mountain,” cue Steven Curtis Chapman! (Circle up, sing along dance party, am I right? WOO!) And as great as that is, and as often as I’ve heard this story, today I want to share it with you in a different light.

Before we begin, I want to introduce to 4 words that I’ll ask you to know and commit to memory this Lent. These words are: Created, Captured, Rescued, and Respond. These four words summarize the Kerygma, which is a Greek word that means Proclamation. (In our case it means Proclamation of the Gospel.) Lets begin.

Created. I think anyone who has visited Nazareth Farm knows what it is like to be immersed in the beauty and simplicity of creation. It is one of my favorite parts of being there. I have so many memories of God’s grandeur that I encountered while at Naz Farm, and I’ll share them here for you envision yourself. 

-The view from the top of the hike in the winter or spring when you can see for miles as the gentle breeze blows past your face.

-The smell of the most lovely spring air while the trees are in bloom, riding with the windows down on Route 23

-Driving to a worksite early in the morning on Route 50, seeing the sun rising over the hills and illuminating the heavy fog that still lingers in the air on a humid summer morning.

-Walking back to the staff house on a clear cold January night and stopping to look up at the millions of stars in the sky

It is in moments like this where I am reminded that God, in a plan of sheer goodness, created the world and everything in it. But do you know what God also made? He made us, human beings, in His image and likeness! Out of everything we just mentioned, all the beautiful memories I have shared, in the eyes of God WE are what is “very good” (to quote Genesis). We have an inherent dignity given to us by God because we are made in His image and likeness. Why would He do that? Because God loves us. Plain and simple, God loves you. In fact, He delights in loving you. He desires to be with us always and give us all that is good. So, what happened? Why, despite all the beauty and goodness, are things still so messed up? 

Captured. Let this word sink in. It’s not a word we would often associate with ourselves these days. The reality is, however, we were captured. Our captor is a fallen creature who rebelled against God out of hate of Him and hate for us. This creature is Satan. What is his strategy? To convince us that God is not a loving Father and that we can be happy without Him. Satan’s tactics are accusations, lies, flattery, division, temptations, and discouragement. He is real, he despises you and will do all He can to separate us from God. And because he succeeded in tricking the human race, we all became bound and chained to the powers of Sin and Death. Now, let’s pause for a moment. What I just said is not a small thing. In a modern society like ours, I think its hard for us to understand what it means to be under the rule of a suppressive power. The closest thing I can compare it to in our modern society is suffering under human trafficking, maybe there is another horrible act that resonates with you. This evil fully captures, takes us away from family, friends, and the life given to us. In this, we feel alone, helpless, and in pain. My brothers and sisters, this is humanity without the rescuing actions of Jesus Christ.

Rescued.  For Peter, James, and John, they understood the meaning of the word captured. All their lives, The Roman Empire had been ruling over Israel. There was no true freedom for them. The Romans had complete authority over their lives. One step out of line or false word against Caesar, could lead you to prison, beatings, or even crucifixion. The Jewish people were longing for a Messiah who would lead them out of bondage to Rome and restore them to freedom. But even greater than their bondage to Rome, was the human race’s bondage to the Powers of Sin and Death. And this is what Jesus came to do. He came to recuse us. By His death and resurrection, Jesus bound up the Satan who had captured us and restored our hope that had been taken away. He liberated us from bondage and brought us into the glorious light! This is the good news of the Gospel!! The gospel is not simply that Jesus what a great teacher (which he was), or that he was a miracle worker (which he did plenty of). Or even that he was simply a good and holy man. He is more than that, He is our Redeemer and Rescuer. So what Peter, James, and John were witnessing in the transfiguration was not merely a beautiful encounter with God, it was a foretaste of the glory of Jesus Christ’s victory over Sin and Death!!

Respond. So where does this leave us? What do we do now? We respond to Jesus in worship, prayer, and thanksgiving. We surrender ourselves totally to the one who has defeated sin and death, so that we might be freed from it in our daily life. We read the Word of God in the Bible and encounter Him deeply in the Sacraments. Do we then take this good news and keep it to ourselves? No! We share it with anyone and everyone we meet! Why? Let me put it this way. If you had a life changing experience, whether it was an incredible service trip to Naz Farm, just landed your dream job, or got engaged to the person of your dreams, wouldn’t you be dying to tell people about it? Of course you would, because it is good news worth sharing! Yet why are we so apprehensive to share the greatest news in human history? Are we afraid of what others may think? Do we fear rejection or the apathy of others? Possibly. Do you think that Peter, James, John, and the other disciples were afraid? I’m sure they were! But God gave them His Holy Spirit to send them out on mission to help God get his world back, and He wants to fill us in the same way! We talk so much about changing the world and fixing the problems in this world. I truly believe that this is the best way we can do that on a lasting level. 

My brothers and sisters, there is so much more that could be said here. This Lenten season I invite you to keep going. Dive deep into the Kerygma. Meditate on the 4 words we have reflected on today; Created, Captured, Rescued, Response. And actively grow in your response to what God, in His plan of sheer goodness has done for you. I hope and prayer that this begins a journey for you to bring as many home to the Kingdom of Heaven as you can. And on that day, before God in His glory, we might all be able to say together, “It is great to be here!”

-Josh LaFave, past staff member