After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.
The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”
So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
Mary Magdalene came back to Jesus’ tomb in the dark of early morning of the first day of the week. She is grief-stricken without the light of her life. Her heart searches for his presence. In Matthew the day arrives dramatically for her and the other women. As the earth quakes an angel rolls away the stone, sits on it, and from his radiance announces: “Do not be afraid!” [Jesus] is not here, for he has been raised just as he said” (Matt 25:5-6). Mary and the women believe and are sent to announce the good news to the others, meeting Jesus on the way.
Belief in Jesus risen and with is may have come to us in some dramatic episode pointing to a presence beyond the ordinary — an “earthquake or angel” moment in our lives. It may have come through an “empty tomb” realization — some letting go of a lost dream or love that made way for us to open to the transcendent mystery of the risen Christ’s Spirit within us. Or the good news of that presence may have been passed on to us by women and men who believed — our fathers and mothers, our Christian community.
Today we renew our baptismal commitment to believe in Jesus risen and with us, even though we do not see him. Christ is a hidden presence; our lives are “hidden with [him] in God” (Col 3:3)
Take time to remember how you came to believe. Rejoice in Christ’s hidden presence within you and pray for his Spirit to “clear out the old yeast” of sin and doubt, and make you and all into a “fresh batch of dough” (1Cor 5:7).
Rejoice, heavenly powers! Sing choirs of angels!
Exult, all creation around God’s throne!
Jesus Christ, our King is risen!
Sound the trumpet of salvation!
Rejoice, O earth, in shining splendor,
radiant in the brightness of your King!
Christ has conquered! Glory fills you!
Darkness vanishes for ever!
Rejoice, O Mother Church! Exult in glory!
The risen Savior shines upon you!
Let this place resound with joy,
echoing the mighty song of all God’s people!
My dearest friends,
standing with me in this holy light,
join me in asking God for mercy,
that he may give his unworthy minister
grace to sing his Easter praises.
The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them up to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give him thanks and praise.
It is truly right that with full hearts and minds and voices
we should praise the unseen God, the all-powerful Father,
and his only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.
For Christ has ransomed us with his blood,
and paid for us the price of Adam’s sin to our eternal Father!
This is our passover feast,
When Christ, the true Lamb, is slain,
whose blood consecrates the homes of all believers.
This is the night,
when first you saved our fathers:
you freed the people of Israel from their slav’ry,
and led them dry-shod through the sea.
This is the night,
when the pillar of fire destroyed the darkness of sin.
This is night,
when Christians ev’rywhere,
washed clean of sin and freed from all defilement,
are restored to grace and grow together in holiness.
This is the night,
when Jesus broke the chains of death
and rose triumphant from the grave.
What good would life have been to us,
had Christ not come as our Redeemer?
Father, how wonderful your care for us!
How boundless your merciful love!
To ransom a slave you gave away your Son.
O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam,
which gained for us so great a Redeemer!
Most blessed of all nights,
chosen by God to see Christ rising from the dead!
Of this night scripture says:
“The night will be as clear as day:
it will become my light, my joy.”
The power of this holy night dispels all evil,
washes guilt away, restores lost innocence,
brings mourners joy;
it casts out hatred, brings us peace,
and humbles earthly pride.
Night truly blessed,
when heaven is wedded to earth
and we are reconciled to God!
Therefore, heavenly Father, in the joy of this night,
receive our evening sacrifice of praise,
your Church’s solemn offering.
Accept this Easter candle,
a flame divided but undimmed,
a pillar of fire that glows to the honor of God.
Let it mingle with the lights of heaven
and continue bravely burning
to dispel the darkness of this night!
May the Morning Star which never sets
find this flame still burning:
Christ, that Morning Star,
who came back from the dead,
and shed his peaceful light on all mankind,
your Son, who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.
There are many scripture readings for tonights Vigil Celebration:
Gen 1:1-2:2 , 1:1, 26-31, 22:1-18, 22:1-2, 9, 10-13, 15-18 Exod 14: 15-15, Isa 54:5-14, Isa 55:1-11, Bar 3:9-15, 3:2-4:4, Ezek 36:16-17, 18-28, Rom 6:3-11
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and He separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.
And God said, “Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water.” So God made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above it. And it was so.God called the expanse “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day.
And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good.
Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day.
And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set them in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day.
And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky.” So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the fifth day.
And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, [b] and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.
God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.
I quite prefer this reading of the Gospel story over Matthew from today’s reading. Because it speaks of the exchange between Mary Magdalene and Jesus on Easter Morning.
The Empty Tomb
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.)
Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene
Then the disciples went back to their homes, but Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”
“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.
“Woman,” he said, “why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”
Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”
Jesus said to her, “Mary.”
She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).
Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ “
Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.
This is the night, that we recall the readings from the Old Testament, the stories of creation, the Exodus of the Jews from Israel and all the major readings that carry such great importance to us as Christians. We listen to these readings and we imagine ourselves back in those times, when God created the Heavens and the Earth, and we are with the Jews as the choirs sing “Go Down, Moses, tell ole pharoah, Let my People Go!!!”
Holy Saturday is best spent in quiet or subdued activity. The great mystery of the Triduum is beyond our comprehension or adequate response. We wait in expectant hope. Though we know that Christ has risen, there is a powerful ritual way of entering more fully into his Passover through death to life in the Easter Vigil tonight.
As we listen with the ears of our expanding hearts and respond in song to the stories of our creation and re-creation, our path to freedom, as we hear and feel the refreshing water of new life and open to the baptismal Spirit stirring in our embodied spirits, as we eat and drink the bread and wine of Christ’s body and blood with loving heart in union with all our sisters and brothers, we will be passing over in Christ to a richer renewed life in his Spirit.
“This is the night,” as we will hear in the Exsultet, the night that “will be clear as day..” The night that “dispels all evil … brings mourners joy… cast out hatred, bring us peace.” The night “when heaven is wedded to earth and man is reconciled to God..” Our hearts leap up in “the joy of this night” believing in Christ, the Morning Star, who came back from the dead, and shed his peaceful light on all mankind.”
No matter who we are, what we have done or not done during Lent or during our lifetime, this is the night to rejoice. Winter is over and gone; spring has come in all its fullness. God in Christ is victorious over sin and death. In Christ we are reconciled and will live forever. Alleluia!
As you go about your duties and interests today, let go of any anxiety-producing thoughts and drop plans to get involved in any more than you need to. As you become aware of thoughts pulling you away from your inner quiet, say calmly in your heart, “In you, O God, my soul is at rest; all my hope is in you.”
The Triduum starts tonight, the three day march towards Easter beginning with Maundy Thursday. Lent ends Holy Thursday evening. Triduum begins with celebration of the Lord’s Supper on Thursday and ends with Easter Evening Prayer. These three days are one ritual celebration of the paschal mystery. Liturgies during this time are not historical re-enactments of Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection, but our celebrations of those events are now lived in our lives.
Jesus Washes His Disciples’ Feet
It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. after that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”
Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” Jesus answered, “A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.
When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.
Jesus loved his own to the end of his life on earth, and to the utmost, that is, giving everything, which in his case is undying, infinite live. Knowing death was near Jesus gathered his disciples to share a meal. That evening he showed us in a humble, simple way the extent of the love he would pour out fully in death. During supper, according to the Synoptic Gospels, Jesus, the host, identifies the bread he breaks and the wine he pours as his body and blood given for his disciples and us.
John’s Jesus also takes the part of a servant, humbly rising from the table to wash his disciples’ tired, dirty, calloused feet. Peter was embarrassed, but Jesus was unashamed to take basin and towel and attend tenderly to every pedestrian bunion, hammertoe, bruise, and cut. Loving to the end for Jesus means freely pouring out his infinitely loving Spirit through the practical gestures of washing and feeding. These are simple and deep signs of his total gift of bodily life for us.
Now Christ continues to serve and feed us through his risen life in us. Christ lives and lives in Eucharist and in daily life. We receive and give that love as we prepare and serve meals, wash feet, wash clothes, clean and bandage wounds, share our bread, our affection, our compassion — and our raspberries — with our companions. Divine love is embodied in our humble actions.
Meditation: Today welcome all the simple gifts of love — food, drink, a kind look, a gentle touch — with genuine gratitude. Give all your humble gifts of bread, wine, housework, and kind words in union with Christ and with his intention of loving to the end.
Jesus Anointed at Bethany
Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, 5“Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.
“Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. ” It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”
Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and putting their faith in him.
During the week before he dies, Jesus seeks the company of his close friends. Martha, Mary, and Lazarus invite him for dinner. Typically Martha serves, Lazarus reclines at table with Jesus, and Mary lavishes her total attention on him. They surround him with love. Jesus’ close disciples, Judas among them, are also there.
Mary’s love is without bounds. Words are not enough to express it. Lavishly pouring “costly perfumed oil” over Jesus’ feet, which she dries with her hair (John 12:3), is a sign of her extravagant love, foreshadowing Jesus’ own humble and lavish love expressed in the washing and drying of his disciples’ feet in John’s version of the Last Supper.
An exquisite banquet humbly served by a widowed, unrecognized French chef in Babette’s Feast comes to mind. (I have seen this film by the way) She freely expends all her financial resources, days of hard work, and all her artistic culinary skill. Hidden in all of us is a Mary, a Babette, who wants to give everything.
Judas cannot begin to understand such waste. Greed has choked off his capacity for love. He tries to cover over his self-interest by mouthing his concern that money from the sale of this ointment could help the poor. He spoke up “not because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief and held the money bag and used to steal the contributions” (John 12:6)
In my mind’s eye I see a scene from the film Zorba the Greek: pinched and greedy townspeople hover around waiting for a woman to die so that they can rush in and steal everything she has. When we are still, we may notice a self-interested, avaricious Judas-side of ourselves waiting for someone to pass out of the picture so that we can benefit, perhaps standing by impatiently until she or he fails, retires, or moved on so we can be promoted.
Jesus, the Word of God, in John’s Gospel, is “sharper than any two edged sword” (Heb 4:12). There is a Mary and Judas in each of us. We have to choose. Will it be love or greed?
Meditation: In what ways are you being called to let go of greed, and lavish your love profusely on Jesus in prayer or in service?
Christ Church Cathedral, Sunday March 16th 2008 Palm Sunday Service
Celebrant: The Dean
Gospel Reader: The Rev. Joyce Sanchez
I took a quick shot of the sanctuary Sunday morning before the service started. I was pleasantly surprised that Judy and Donald came to church for the service. I was not so awake, but at least I was present, after staying up all night working on a website that I just could not sleep over Saturday night. Suffice to say, I was there, and I prayed for all of you as Lent draws itself to a close, there is still much to do this week, so if you are in Montreal for the Easter Holidays, come join the chapel for one of their Holy Week Events.
Matt 1:16, 18-21, 24
And Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.
The Birth of Jesus Christ
This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.”
When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.
The Boy Jesus at the Temple
Every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up to the Feast, according to the custom. After the Feast was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends.
When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”
“Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he was saying to them.
Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart.
Joseph doesn’t get too much ink in the New Testament. from what we learn in Matthew and Luke, though, we can hardly help loving him. Reading their accounts of Joseph imaginatively reveals a person of faith and courage, someone willing and able to face practical, exterior challenges and difficulties with vigor and perseverance in spite of fear. Capable of dealing with interior doubts, confusion, and emotional upsets with gentle strength, Joseph is a man of integrity, one whose interior and exterior are in harmony.
Like his namesake, Joseph the dreamer in Genesis, Mary’s husband has a lively interior that provides the guidance needed through dreams. Openness to his inner life and trust in the transcendent make his gentleness possible. When surprised by Mary’s pregnanc, Joseph does not fly into a rage or allow Mary to be stones.
Respect for the law tempered by gentle sensitivity brings him to consider divorcing her quietly. An angel in his dream, however, frees him from any fear about Mary. His openness to light beyond the rational and his trust give him the courage to go on with the marriage. When they traveled to Bethlehem in time for the required census, he ingeniously finds a place for Mary to give birth in spite of the inns being full.
Later alertness to the dream angel who rouses him to flee by night with his wife and child to Egypt makes it possible for them to avoid Herod’s murderous rampage against Jesus.
Joseph was tough, gentle and caring, creative, and able to learn from experience. Even in the midst of fear, doubt, and confusion he was steady — there when you need him. He provided for his family, protected them, got then to religious festivals on time, and probably made all the furniture in their house — maybe even built the house! He seemed happy in a supporting role , though he never shied away from taking initiative quickly and capably. Who could resist loving someone like that?
Meditation: Think about people you know who are like Joseph. You may be one! Thank God for them, and send a note or make a call to express your gratitude to one of them.
Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?”
“We are not stoning you for any of these,” replied the Jews, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”
Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are gods’? If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came—and the Scripture cannot be broken— what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does. But if I do it, even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.” Again they tried to seize him, but he escaped their grasp.
Then Jesus went back across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing in the early days. Here he stayed and many people came to him. They said, “Though John never performed a miraculous sign, all that John said about this man was true.” And in that place many believed in Jesus.
Stones are plentiful in the gospel readings from John this week. Antagonists would have stoned the woman caught in adultery if Jesus had not challenged them. Today Jesus’ enemies have already picked up rocks to hurl at him. Stone throwing is the response of those who cannot stand to see Jesus using his divine power to heal and enlighten.
The stones are weapons meant to kill, to protect power and prestige. Last Sunday we saw a huge stone — one large enough to block the entry to Lazarus’ burial cave. This stone marked a place of death. In stark contrast, in this section just preceding today’s gospel reading, Jesus identifies himself as the one who “came so that [we] might have life and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10); and he has the death-sealing stone from the tomb of Lazarus removed. (John 11:39)
Christ remains the lightening rod for a persistent and wrenching struggle between life and death, tearing down and building up. Today, Jesus us still among us doing good works in our parish, university, local and global neighborhood, family, school, professional organization, youth or senior citizen group, city and labor union.
In these people we encounter, and in ourselves too, Christ is present consoling, teaching, challenging, leading, healing, learning, counseling, preaching and organizing. The enemies of Jesus and his good works remain with us too. The first place to notice them is in ourselves.
Most of us do not literally thrown stones at others, or openly harm ourselves. We tend to be more sophisticated, cultivating a mean thought or a harsh word here, a self-serving, divisive more there. Hurling such rocks at ourselves and others in some way wounds or kills is, and it supports and promotes violence in our society.
With God’s grace, we individually and as communities, cultural groups, and nations can grow in awareness, and learn to drop our stones — or change them into building blocks.
Meditation: Today notice any desire to throw stones at yourself or another. Give that feeling a place in your consciousness; with compassion let it rest there. Invite Christ Jesus to be with you as you accept it. Ask for help to be free of destructive thoughts and attitudes.
Lenten Reflections, March 14th, 2008
I tell you the truth, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.”At this the Jews exclaimed, “Now we know that you are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that if anyone keeps your word, he will never taste death. Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?”
Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and keep his word. Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.”
”You are not yet fifty years old,” the Jews said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!”I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.
This statement by Jesus is startling. If I were not living on this side of the resurrection, I would probably be responding like the Jews in this reading saying, “What can this strange person possibly be thinking! Who does he think he is! We will all taste death! What can he mean by keeping his word and so never seeing death?” This statement has got to have a deeper meaning than that of simply following orders. And it surely doesn’t mean living forever on this earth.
Among the common definitions of “to keep” are these: Hanging on to, holding on to, clinging to, or caring for something we cherish, something of value to us. And any use of “word” in John’s Gospel carries the depth of its meaning in that gospel’s prologue, which declares that the Word who is God became flesh in Jesus.
Jesus the Word made flesh, is God’s gift of God’s Self which is Love. God’s inner life of Love is united with the created world and us. In him infinite Love suffers all the particular limitations of any human person” a particular ethnic identity, a particular sex and gender, life in a particular place and time. The divine Word speaks through a specific body in the unique words and actions of the historically limited Jesus.
These good words spoken by the Word-made-flesh are violently silenced by opposition, torture, crucifixion, death, and burial. But even such cruel and total resistance cannot kill the dynamic Word of divine Love that bursts through death into risen life. Now that Word of God, the Risen Christ, fills the universe with the Spirit of Love.
Keeping that Word has the deeper meaning of intentionality welcoming and clinging to Christ, the Word of God, in faith, hope, and love. That kind of whole-hearted, personal relationship with the Word makes is possible for us to live according to Christ’s teaching, and it will see us through death into eternal life.
Meditation: In imagination, open to the Word of God alive in your presence. In faith welcome that Word and enter through it into the loving heart of Christ. Rest in that love. Imagine that divine love pouring out through you to others in all you do today.
Lenten Reflections, March 13, 2008
The Children of Abraham
To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”
Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. I know you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are ready to kill me, because you have no room for my word. I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you do what you have heard from your father.”
“Abraham is our father,” they answered.
“If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would do the things Abraham did. As it is, you are determined to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. 41You are doing the things your own father does.”
“We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.”
The Children of the Devil
Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own; but he sent me.
Quite a long time ago there was a sign on our novitiate bulletin board that read “The truth will make you free, but first it will make you miserable.” We do not have to live too long before we can empathize with that.
In Genesis God affirms the goodness of creation, including women and men made in God’s image. In baptism we celebrate our incorporation into the body of Christ. Our deepest reality is united with the goodness of God. We are each able to think and act in harmony with this goodness.
But in the human heart are also inclinations towards evil. These come out of our largely unconscious and illusory fears that we are alone, separated from God and others. In our distress we are tempted to act to make ourselves secure, powerful, and appreciated even if it requires cutting down, discounting, or stepping on someone else.
These destructive inclinations may arise only in interior thoughts and attitudes. Sometimes they spill over into action: gossip, put-downs, cheating, power struggles, the silent treatment, harsh words and actions. These hurtful tendencies enslave us and infect society. They keep us from the freedom to love as God loves.
The truth that will make us free is twofold: the truth that we are good, united with God in the Spirit of Christ, and the truth that we have evil inclinations we sometimes act out.Realizing the deep reality of the first truth will bring us to freedom. When we open our hearts to God in prayer and try to follow the guidance of the Spirit in throughs and actions, we grow in awareness of God’s love dwelling in us.
In the light and warmth of this love we are able to face our own destructiveness. Although our initial awareness of such evil tendencies can shock and sadden us, when it is accompanied by trust in God;s merciful love and our basic goodness, such self-knowledge is key to the process that frees us from destructive ways so we can love as God loves.
Meditation: AS you are able, invite the Holy Spirit to open your inner eye to the truth of your own goodness and that of God’s love for you. Ask also for the grace of self-knowledge and acceptance, and the freedom to let go of obstacles you put in the way of that goodness and love.
Lenten Reflections, March 12, 2008
Once more Jesus said to them, “I am going away, and you will look for me, and you will die in your sin. Where I go, you cannot come.”
This made the Jews ask, “Will he kill himself? Is that why he says, ‘Where I go, you cannot come’?”
But he continued, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins.”
“Who are you?” they asked.
“Just what I have been claiming all along,” Jesus replied. “I have much to say in judgment of you. But he who sent me is reliable, and what I have heard from him I tell the world.”
They did not understand that he was telling them about his Father. So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.” Even as he spoke, many put their faith in him.
In the divine self-revelation to Moses in the burning bush, God calls him to lead the Israelites out of slavery into freedom. God tells him: “This is what you shall tell the Israelites: I AM sent me to you” (Exod 3:14) The Hebrew for I AM is a verb form: God is a verb — the One whose mysterious identity will be known through loving action in the concrete circumstances of history, for example, leading the people out of slavery to freedom in the Promised Land.
That God is love in action is made even clearer in the New Testament through the divine incarnation in Jesus who goes about preaching God’s reign of love and manifesting it in teaching and healing.
Today’s Jesus tell us that when he is “lifted up” we will realize that he is “I AM” (John 8:28). Being lifted up in the Gospel of John identifies both Jesus’ death on the cross and his resurrection. In other words, it is in Jesus’ dying and rising that we know the full extent of God’s dynamic love.
That divine love brings him body, soul, and spirit through death into risen life. One with the great I AM, the risen Christ lives at the heart of the universe, and reaches out to fill and transform it and each of us by the power of that divine love.
Our way to transformation is the very way of Jesus, a sometimes overwhelming prospect. But we travel not by our own strength. God assures us in a stanza of a well known hymn echoing Isaiah 43:2.
When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of woe shall not thee overflow;
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to the thy deepest distress.
(John Rippon, “How Firm a Foundation”)
The great I AM, Christ risen, in whom we live and who lives in us, will bring us through all our trials, even the waters of death, to eternal freedom in the everlasting Promised Land of love, peace, and joy.
Meditation: In what “Troubles” and “Distress” do you want Jesus, the living, loving “I AM” to be with you?
But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
“No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
You may have noticed that in this gospel story about the woman “caught in adultery,” the scribes and the Pharisees who publicly confront her do not mention the man involved, even through according to the Mosaic Law both adulterous parties were guilty and subject to the death penalty (See Lev 20:10 and Deut 22:22).
More intent on putting Jesus on the spot than in acting justly, they press him to state whether he agrees with their interpretation of the Law of Moses, that is, that “such women” are to be stoned. If he is true to his mission of manifesting god’s mercy to sinners, he will appear as a rebel and law-breaker.
Jesus avoids their trap; but he does not respond with aggression to their harassment. Instead he stoops over and doodles in the sand, saying nothing. AS they continue to pester him he straightens up and answers. His answer brings then up short. Each aware of his own sinfulness quietly turns and walks away.
Jesus did not condemn the woman caught in adultery. After reassuring her that her accusers have dropped their case against her, Jesus restores her dignity, saying “Neither do I condemn you” (John 8:11). Neither did Jesus condemn the Pharisees and scribes who had accosted her. He didn’t excuse anyone’s sinfulness either. He quietly and forcefully brogght the scribes and Pharisees to acknowledge that they were sinners, and he gently told the adulterous woman to go and sin no more.
Jesus confronts evil with strength and firmness but does not judge harshly. He accepts us as we are with whatever weaknesses and sin are ours. God’s mercy and love for us in the Spirit of Christ is the boost we need, the energy within and around u, that makes us able to change so that we in turn can speak and act mercifully towards others.
Meditation: As this gospel scene plays out in your imagination, where are you in this picture? What words of Christ are you hearing or speaking?
John 11: 1-45
The Death of Lazarus
Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair. So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days.
Then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”
“But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews tried to stone you, and yet you are going back there?”
Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? A man who walks by day will not stumble, for he sees by this world’s light. It is when he walks by night that he stumbles, for he has no light.”
After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”
His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.
So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”
Then Thomas (called Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”
Jesus Comforts the Sisters
On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”
Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
“Yes, Lord,” she told him, “I believe that you are the Christ,[b] the Son of God, who was to come into the world.”
And after she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.
When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked.
“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.
Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”
But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”
Jesus Raises Lazarus From the Dead
Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. “Take away the stone,” he said.
“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”
Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”
So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”
When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.
Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”
The Plot to Kill Jesus
Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him.
Today’s gospel reading has some strange twists and turns. When Jesus gets word from Martha and Mary that their brother Lazarus, Jesus’ close friend, is very sick, “he remained for two days … where he was” (John 11:6) How puzzling! We empathize with them, convinced that if Jesus had gone he could have cured Lazarus. When Jesus could have kept Lazarus from death (John 11:21, 32).
Often we cry out in the same way: “God, if you had been here my child, my friend, my sister, my brother, my spouse would not have died!” “Jesus, if you had been here, you could have saved me from failure!” What good are you if you cannot keep my health from failing, my faith from weakening, my spiritual life from dryness and doubt?” The Jesus of John’s Gospel gently and powerfully teaches us that his deepest, most enduring presence does not necessarily prevent, but will always bring us though experiences of God’s ansence. It guarantees lasting life on the other side of dying.
We will die physically; we are also called to die daily to distorted notions and compulsive drives for what we think will make us happy: power over others, security in earthly possessions, the never failing esteem and admiration of others. Jesus weeps with us in whatever grief we experience as we die to self and to life as it has been, just as he wept with Mary and Martha.
But he does not save us from all suffering, nor from death. Through our dying we, along with Lazarus, Martha and Mary, will rise again to new and lasting life in Christ! As we accept inevitable suffering and death in trust our faith is strengthened, and Jesus’ words take root at ever deeper levels of our being.
“I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me will never die” (John 11:25-26)
Meditation: Get in touch with a time when you said, or wanted to say, “God is you had been here, this would not have happened!” in what way, if any, did that experience deepen your faith in Christ’s enduring presence in your life?
On hearing his words, some of the people said, “Surely this man is the Prophet.”
Others said, “He is the Christ.”
Still others asked, “How can the Christ come from Galilee? Does not the Scripture say that the Christ will come from David’s family and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?” Thus the people were divided because of Jesus. Some wanted to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him.
Unbelief of the Jewish Leaders
Finally the temple guards went back to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked them, “Why didn’t you bring him in?”“No one ever spoke the way this man does,” the guards declared.
“You mean he has deceived you also?” the Pharisees retorted. “Has any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed in him? No! But this mob that knows nothing of the law—there is a curse on them.”
Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier and who was one of their own number, asked, “Does our law condemn anyone without first hearing him to find out what he is doing?”
They replied, “Are you from Galilee, too? Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come out of Galilee.”
((The earliest and most reliable manuscripts and other ancient witnesses do not have John 7:53-8:11.))
Then each went to his own home.
It is not always the most learned and influential who recognize the truth and have humility and honesty to acknowledge it. We all know some version of Hans Christian Andersen’s tale of the emperor who had clothes made of invisible fabric. Only a small child had the honesty to cry aloud, “The emperor is wearing no clothes!”
The temple guards in today’s gospel reading were ordinary citizens without much education or influence. But they, not the Pharisees and authorities, saw and heard in Jesus something beyond the usual, something that sparked their honest response to his uniqueness. They were not afraid to say what they saw and heard.
On the other hand, neither learning nor worldly power cut us off from seeing and speaking the truth. Nicodemus, one of these very Pharisees, was on the same wavelengeth as the guards. He challenges his colleagues, saying: “Does out law condemn a man before it first hears him and finds out what he is doing?” (John 7:51) Earlier he had gone to Jesus because he had recognized him as “a teacher who has come from God.” (John 3:2). The guards spoke freely without concern to save their jobs — or necks. Risking the ridicule of his colleagues, Nicodemus calmly challenged then to be open to Jesus.
Jesus’ life and words speak to all of us, the learned and uneducated, those with worldly power and those without. Dropping our pretensions, with the help of grace, gives our insights a chance to emerge. Hearing God’s Word more clearly, we respond more totally, not only with interior awe and love, but in appropriate, simple, and honest affirmations of our faith experience.
Meditation: In a quiet atmosphere let yourself become aware of inner fears or pretensions that may keep you from speaking the truth about your personal or religious convictions in a straightforward, simple and humble way. Ask God for the grace to continue becoming simple and honest in spite of your fears.
“If I testify about myself, my testimony is not valid. There is another who testifies in my favor, and I know that his testimony about me is valid.
“You have sent to John and he has testified to the truth. Not that I accept human testimony; but I mention it that you may be saved. John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light.
“I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the very work that the Father has given me to finish, and which I am doing, testifies that the Father has sent me. And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.
“I do not accept praise from men, but I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts. I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?
“But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set. If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?”
For us to believe that a person is a good human being can be a detached, intellectual conclusion. But if we believe in another, we have a personal relationship. Religious faith has an intellectual component: for example, belief that God exists. But faith is not complete unless it is a personal relationship: belief in Jesus, in God. Believing in Jesus means trusting him, and even more important, loving him.
Sometimes we note that love is blind; at other times we are amazed at its sight. Love can see a deeper truth, goodness, or beauty in a person that cane a disinterested view, which sees nothing but the exterior — and misses even some of that. “what can she possibly see in him — or her?” we comment! As lover, friend, parent, sister, or brother, we see not only the blatantly obvious, the life of the chin.
Some subconscious, inner openness and connection, sometimes called chemistry, enables us to notice and accept the minutest details of external presence, and to see in and beyond these into the heart of the beloved.
Jesus’ compatriots were offered the grace, the interior divine love, the most reliable “chemistry,” to attend sensitively to his works, signs, and to be drawn in and through them into belief in him. Some of them refused.
In today’s passage Jesus tells them very directly that their failure to believe in him is basically a matter of choice”…[Y]ou do not want to come to me to have life,” he declares (John 5:40) Jesus is challenging us as well as them to be open to the divine “chemistry,” the interior grace,”[God's] words remaining in us.” That divine word within gives the insight and will, that is, the light and love to say “Yes” to his desire for us to believe in him, to trust and love him. “the one whom [God] has sent (John 5:38). To make this choice is “to have life” (John 5:40).
Pray simply, “I believe in you, Christ Jesus, help my unbelief. I trust you, Christ Jesus. Free me from my lack of trust. I Love you Christ Jesus, deepen my love.”
Lenten Reflections, March 6th, 2008
Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.” For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.
Jesus gave them this answer: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these.
For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.
“I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.
For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.
“Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.
By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.
Our lives may not be in immediate danger as was the life of Jesus in today’s gospel. Still, each Lent seems to bring unexpected challenges, no matter what practices we may have chosen for our spiritual renewal. In these unforeseen struggles it is important to remember that God is always at work through Christ’s dying and rising in our lives. No matter how dark or painful the day, the Love and Life of our life is with us.
God’s love reaches out to us through the Old testament readings this week. On Sunday unexpectedly chooses as king for Israel Jesse’s youngest son, the shepherd David — a subtle, loving reminder of our divine unassuming shepherd who in the responsorial psalm comforts us saying: “[I am your] shepherd; there is nothing [you] shall want” (Psalm 23:1) God’s guarantee that we are destined for happiness touches our souls in Monday’s words from Isaiah “…there shall always be rejoicing and happiness/in what I create…”
The gospel also confronts our refusal of God and the divine goodness manifested in Christ. In today’s reading Jesus’ opponents are in a murderous rage because of his good work on the sabbath and his revelation that it is God, his Father, who is working in him.
They mirror to us our sometimes blind or hardhearted failures to accept God’s work in Christ today, both in ourselves and in our neighbors, especially when it doesn’t occur according to our rules. Christ pleads with us to let go of our resistance to that divine work, inviting us to say “Yes” wholeheartedly to God wherever God is found.
Call to mind ways you may be opposing God’s work in the world by discounting or rejecting the good done by others who seem to you to be living or acting outside norms acceptable to you.
The Healing at the Pool
Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed.
One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”"Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”
Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.
The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, and so the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.”
But he replied, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’ “So they asked him, “Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?”
The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there.
Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.
Jesus is everywhere, in your home, on the battlefield, in every board room and classroom. Imagine Jesus at your house today. Seeing you sit in your kitchen knowing all your burdens and joys, his heart is moved with compassion. He sees that you are suffering. Wanting to relieve you of your distress, and realizing you have not yet thought to ask for help, he asks in the words of today’s Gospel, “Do you want to be well?”
Perhaps like the man at the pool in Bethesda who had been suffering his illness for thirty-eight years, you do not answer the question directly. You have assumed that there is only one way you could be made well. Like him you also say, “No one helps me. I cannot do it by myself.”
The risen Christ Jesus is here now saying, “Rise, take up your mat and walk” (John 5:8). Our pain may not be alleviated immediately, or even fully in this life. But the Spirit of Christ, the healing Water of Life, does respond. The self giving love of God in Jesus cannot withhold itself. The more often and deeply we open in simple, humble desire to welcome the tide or ripple of the life-giving love, the more we will experience its healing effects in ways we cannot even imagine. Even when our bodies cannot walk, our hearts run in the energy of that love.
What do you want help with? In what ways have you been disappointed with the lack of help from those around you? Using your imagination, get in touch with Jesus at your side saying, “Do you want to be well?” Answer honestly, saying whatever comes.
Jesus Heals the Official’s Son
After the two days he left for Galilee. (Now Jesus himself had pointed out that a prophet has no honor in his own country.) When he arrived in Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him. They had seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, for they also had been there.Once more he visited Cana in Galilee, where he had turned the water into wine. And there was a certain royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum. When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death.
“Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.”
The royal official said, “Sir, come down before my child dies.”
Jesus replied, “You may go. Your son will live.” The man took Jesus at his word and departed. While he was still on the way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living. When he inquired as to the time when his son got better, they said to him, “The fever left him yesterday at the seventh hour.”
Then the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” So he and all his household believed.
This was the second miraculous sign that Jesus performed, having come from Judea to Galilee.
Early in the Prologue of The Rule of St. Benedict God calls out to us in the words of Psalm 34: “Is there anyone here who yearns for life and desires to see good days?” Hearing that voice in the enthusiasm of youth, we may have shouted out, “I do!” AS we age and life becomes more burdensome, that question still stirs up and endirung ember of desire. Yes, we want life — renewed and fuller life, life that brings lasting joy, life free of sickness and death, sadness and weariness, hatred and pain.
Nobody wants life more than the royal official in today’s gospel reading. Like a loving parent, he wants it for “his son, who is near death” (John 4:47) He would not be put off by Jesus’ challenging comment that he and others there are looking for some superficial, sensational sign. His desire is deep. He responds in a heart beat with an intense repetition of his plea. Jesus immediately says, “You may go; your son will live.”
Then, with never a doubt, the man leaves for home. As we soon learn, his son was cured at the very moment Jesus spoke. John tells us “this was the second sign Jesus did when he came to Galilee from Judea” (John 4:54)
each of Jesus’ seven major signs in John’s Gospel — connected as they are with pouring out of the spirit — are entryways into fuller life, not only for the people of his historical lifetime, but for us during this Lent and Easter. Believing opened that door for the royal official; it opens the same door for us. Faith always brings us with Jesus through suffering, and finally through death, into that eternal life which is ours in him even now.
Get in touch with inner our outer ways you feel life draining out of you, or of someone you love. Pray with the royal official, “Sir come down before [this] child dies.”
Lenten Reflections, Monday March 3rd, 2008
I refer you to “The Pastor of Disaster’s Post” this story is told based on a comment I left him.
This is my box of rocks. It was a gift from a man that I first met when I was exploring coming to Montreal. He sent me this box full of stones, when I lived in Miami Beach. This was during the time of my early sobriety.
I had been severely agoraphobic for many months and I had to work myself out of the house in order to function and go to meetings. It took some time, but eventually i was victorious.
This tradition of throwing stones was useful to me in many ways. One, it got me out of the house. Two, it always took place at night, and Three put me in touch with my creator on a grand scale sitting on the beach at midnight each night with my handful of stones.
You notice that I put out 12 stones. Each step is represented by a stone.
I had cut up pieces of paper small enough to write on and tape to each stone. Every night I would write down my worries, resentments, anger issues or anything else that I needed to “cast off” and I would tape each concern to each stone. I would walk the two blocks to the beach and find my spot where I would sit and pray. Then very methodically I would approach the waves and step into the sea. And one by one I cast off my stones into the sea as I was praying away all those things that stood in the way of me and my recovery.
I did this for months until I moved to Montreal. When I arrived here, I eventually settled in a studio apartment just on the banks of the St. Lawrence in Verdun. (This is before I met my hubby) and in the same way as the sea, I would cast my stones into the river instead.
What do you need to get rid of today? And how will you do that? Do you live near the water and do you have your stones? There are no justified resentments and carrying around excess baggage only holds you back from moving forwards.
Pray for the willingness to Let Go and Let God.
As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
Having said this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means Sent). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.
His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, “Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?” Some claimed that he was.
Others said, “No, he only looks like him.”
But he himself insisted, “I am the man.”
“How then were your eyes opened?” they demanded.
He replied, “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.”
“Where is this man?” they asked him.
“I don’t know,” he said.
During the next two weeks we will be reading selections from the Gospel of John, sometime described as mystical. In the New Testament the Greek word for “mystery” means “hidden” or “secret.” All the gospels, John’s in a special way, are designed to draw us into the hidden spiritual dimension of life beneath the surface of the text and concealed within our ordinary lives. John opens our eyes of faith to this divine mystery at work in us and our world by singling out seven special events of Jesus’ lifetime as sings of that work.
In today’s gospel reading John recounts the sixth sign, the cure of the man born blind. Jesus, “the light of the world” (John 9:5), counteracting the hostility of his disbelieving opponents, restores physical sight to this man, showing us that he is here to cure our blindness, especially that of our hearts and minds. Jesus confronts the Pharisees who doubted him and his healing actions saying that if they would realize and admit their own blindness — spiritual blindness– they too could be restored to sight.
But he says, claiming they can see reveals their sin remains (John 9:41). Today Jesus draws us into the depth of our everyday lives, inviting us to admit our blindness and to entrust ourselves in faith to the light of his life-giving Spirit as he lives, dies, and risen in us.
Today take some time to be alone and quiet. Close your eyes and focused in a relaxed way of gently letting your attention drop away from present externals, from anxieties about the future and regrets about the past. Pray confidently, “You are the light of the world, open my eyes to your light.”
To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Looking down on someone or other, or some group or other, is quite a common human stance. When we really face ourselves honestly, most of us have to admit that we thank God — at least in a subliminal kind of way — that we are not like that coworker who is always late; that woman with the loud laugh and bossy attitude; that family down the street; that ethnic group across the world struggling to survive.
Even in a monastery or parish — or maybe especially in a church community — it is, I suspect, quite common for us to measure ourselves against others, looking especially for those who never quite reach our standards of conduct, so that in our own eyes we come out on top. or we moan and groan in self pity because we judge ourselves less than others.
Then we may be suffering from the same myopia and narrowness of heart! We are sad because, until we are able to think of ourselves as better than others, we will not be satisfied. God does not use a measuring stick, at least not ours.
Lenten Reflections, March 1st
Take some time today to consider how you regard yourself in relationship to others. How do you think of people of other races, ethnic groups, orientations and nations? In imagination invite some person or group into the home of your heart for a conversation. What do you expect to hear? What will you say? When they leave, stay by yourself and pray sincerely, “O God, be merciful to me a sinner” Luke 18:13b
It was a quiet day. The weather is holding, maybe it will snow again before morning. We got a foot of snow last night. I took the afternoon to run some errands and take myself out to lunch to Micky D’s which was nice. I enjoy sitting in a shop eating my food because I get to observe people, in all different stages of life. Mums and children, young people and old, boys and girls etc…
Maybe I will write more later. Who knows…
In biblical times, diseases and infirmities that we attribute to natural causes were often looked upon as the work of demons. In todays gospel Jesus cures a man who is unable to speak, “driving out a demon that was mute” Luke 11:14-23:
Jesus was driving out a demon that was mute. When the demon left, the man who had been mute spoke, and the crowd was amazed. But some of them said, “By Beelzebub, the prince of demons, he is driving out demons.” Others tested him by asking for a sign from heaven.
Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them: “Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and a house divided against itself will fall. If Satan is divided against himself, how can his kingdom stand? I say this because you claim that I drive out demons by Beelzebub. Now if I drive out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your followers drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. But if I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come to you.
“When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are safe. But when someone stronger attacks and overpowers him, he takes away the armor in which the man trusted and divides up the spoils.
“He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me, scatters…”
No matter what the cause of his muteness, or of other maladies, Jesus went about healing them. This makes some in the crowds uneasy and suspicious, and they accuse him of casting out demons by the power of the devil. But Jesus declares that it is by “the finger of God” that he heals and frees the afflicted.
When we hear the phrase “finger of God,” one of the first images that comes to mind is that famous section of Michelangelo’s magnificent mural in the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel, God’s creation of Adam. In it divine energy pulses down God’s right arm, coursing through the index finger of God across a visually small divide (bridgeable only by divine power!) into the index finger of Adam’s left hand, bringing humanity into being out of the stuff of the earth.
Another echo that phrase evokes comes from the early Christian Latin hymn, Veni Creator Spiritus, “Come creator Spirit.” In it the Holy Spirit is called the “finger of God’s right hand.” The first line of the hymn emphasizes the creative power of the Spirit so splendidly depicted by Michelangelo. In a later verse the Spirit’s healing power is invoked to fill our hearts with love, and to fortify the weaknesses of our bodies with lasting strength.
The “finger of God’s hand,” the Holy Spirit, was at work in Jesus’ historical life, and continues to reach out and touch us and our world today. We can reach out in desire to welcome that transforming energy in our lives.
Lenten Reflections, February 28th…