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?