Tag Archives: 3rd Sunday of Lent

3rd Sunday of Lent

Some of the biggest  questions we have about God are found in the scripture readings at Mass today. Is God  punishing us through tragedies like earthquakes, or accidents or  acts of violence that suddenly happen. Does God care?

Those question were asked of  Jesus in today’s gospel. (Luke 13,1-9)  His listeners wonder why 18 people were killed in a recent construction accident in Jerusalem. A tower fell on them? Why did those people  die in a riot that the Roman procurator, Pontius Pilate, put down  by slaughtering everyone in sight?

Jesus answers that  God’s not punishing those involved in those tragedies. Tragedies are part of life; they’re sharp reminders that life on earth isn’t permanent or without risk. Jesus says  be ready for the moment that God calls you.

There’s another question, though. Does God care about it at all? And here we can turn to the 1st reading from the Old Testament about Moses and his vision of God on Mount Horeb. (Exodus 3, 1-15) Moses at the time was a man on the run. He’d killed an Egyptian and had fled from Egypt to hide as a shepherd in the Sinai desert. His people, the Jews, were slaves in Egypt.

As he ascends the mountain tending his sheep, he sees a burning bush and suddenly hears a voice. “Don’t come any nearer. Take the shoes off your feet; you’re on holy ground…I’m the God of your ancestors, of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” Moses was afraid, a normal reaction to God who is beyond anything we know.

But then God begins to speak words of love and concern.

“I know the affliction of my people in Egypt; I hear their cries of complaint against their slave drivers; I know well what they are suffering.
So I’ll rescue them from the hands of the Egyptians and lead them out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey.”

“I am the God of your ancestors, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,” God says. “I have ties with the world before you were born and I will care for the world when you are long gone.”

The encounter that Moses has on the mountain is our encounter with God too.

We know what followed Moses vision on Mount Horeb.  He returns to Egypt and with God’s help brings his people out of Egypt. God’s presence isn’t always obvious as they journey through the desert for 40 years. But God is faithful and he brings them to “a good and spacious land, flowing with milk and honey.”

Does God care for us. Yes, he does.

As we go further into the lenten season, we come to another mountain that’s burning with fire too. We’ll see  a Cross and a man hanging there. He knows our sorrows and shares them too. He’s God  come to us, to lead us and all the world from slavery to freedom, in a good land where sorrow and pain are no more, where we will be with our good God forever.

I’m preaching a mission at  the Sacred Heart Cathedral in Raleigh, North Carolina this week. It begins at all the Masses this weekend. Each evening at 7 I’m preaching during an hour service and at Mass 12.15 each day, Monday to Thursday. I’ll put some material from the mission on this website. Pray for the mission.

3rd Sunday of Lent: Jesus comes to CNN

 

To listen to today’s homily, select the audio file below:

CNN is running a series on Jesus at 9 on Sundays this Lent exploring the usual questions the networks and cable TV like to explore. Did Jesus really exist? Is that his image on the Shroud of Turin? Are other gospels out there that contradict the four we know? Have the archeologists found out anything about him? Was he married?

According to The Hollywood Reporter the CNN series entitled Finding Jesus: Faith, Fact and Forgery was viewed by over 1 million people last week and beat out all other networks. I watched the first episode on the Shroud of Turin last week.

I was glad to see the advice Father James Martin, SJ, offered on the CNN site about a series like this one:

“With Lent beginning, and a new CNN series on Christ coming up, you’re going to hear a lot about Jesus these days. You may hear revelations from new books that purport to tell the “real story” about Jesus, opinions from friends who have discovered a “secret” on the Web about the Son of God, and airtight arguments from co-workers who can prove he never existed.

Beware of most of these revelations; many are based on pure speculation and wishful thinking. Much of what we know about Jesus has been known for the last 2,000 years.”

Father Martin’s right. A lot of the supposed new revelations and new disclosures about Jesus are unproven and based on speculation and wishful thinking. They don’t negate what we have long known about Jesus. So, I’m not waiting for the final word on the Shroud of Turin to decide whether Jesus existed or not.

The media often rely on stuff like this–sometimes true, sometimes not– to get an audience. Ratings are important to them, but it’s not a good idea to rely on CNN or any of the mainstream media as your main source of information about Jesus. You can end up wondering if we can know him at all.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t ask questions or take into account new perspectives and information about Jesus. Not at all. We probably know more about his times and culture than has been known for centuries. We have a better understanding of the bible and the New Testament today, thanks to the efforts of modern scholars. Our challenge today is to incorporate what we know now into the faith we have.

For instance, I can listen to John’s gospel describing Jesus entering the temple in Jerusalem. (the gospel we’re reading the 3rd Sunday of Lent) I can visualize that temple. There’s a wonderful model of it created by archeologists and historians in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. In fact, they have created a model of the whole city of Jerusalem at the time of Jesus.

Dominating the city, the temple was one of the great buildings of the world. It was the religious and political center of the Jewish world of the time. God was present there. It was the center of worship and politics.

When Jesus went into the temple and overturned the tables of the money-changers and those who sold the animals he was challenging the religious and political establishment of his time. It was a dramatic symbolic gesture by which he claimed that the kingdom of God was greater than all the beauty, all the power, all the splendor of our earthly kingdoms. He wasn’t just asking for reform; he was announcing a new world. It was present in him. He was the true temple. In his dying and rising he brought resurrection and new life to our world.

Do I think this happened? Yes, I do. Is this what our gospel today is saying? Yes, it is. Jesus made a tremendous claim during his lifetime. He claimed to be divine, to be God’s Son, to be God himself.
“God from God, light from light” we say in our creed. “Born of the Virgin Mary, he suffered under Pontius Pilate, he was crucified, died and was buried, and on the third day he rose again.”
He will come again to judge the living and the dead. He’s told us there is a forgiveness of sins, a resurrection of the body and life everlasting. He’s with us all days. He’s with us now.

Rembrandt and the Woman at the Well

Samaritan woman
Though he’s known best for his portrayal of the Dutch world of his time, Rembrandt was very interested in stories from the Bible, both from the Old and New Testament. Possibly one third of his work is devoted to biblical subjects, about 700 drawings among them.

What led him to paint and draw biblical events? It wasn’t mainly a patron’s commission, as was the case of his contemporaries– Rubens, for instance. Rembrandt seems genuinely attracted to the bible and felt compelled to draw from the biblical narrative, not because he could make money on it, but because it spoke to him and his situation in life.

“Rembrandt’s relation to the biblical narrative was so intense that he repeatedly felt impelled to depict what he read there. These sketches of Rembrandt have the quality of a diary. It is as though he made marginal notes to himself…The drawings are testimonies, self-revelations of Rembrandt the Christian.” (Rembrandt’s Drawings and Etchings for the Bible. p. 6)

It seems this interest in the bible came, in part, from his mother, a devout woman, who had a Catholic prayerbook that featured the Sunday gospels with illustrations on facing pages. As she prayed from this book, did she show them to her little boy growing up?

His portrayal of scriptural stories are so insightful. Just look at his portrayal of Jesus at the well with the Samaritan woman, which is found in John’s gospel. Jesus deferentially asks for a drink of water, bowing to the woman as he points to the well. And she stands in charge, her hands firmly atop her bucket. She’s a Samaritan and a woman, after all. He wont get the water until she says so. Jesus looks tired, bent over by the weariness of a day’s long journey.

Certainly, this is no quick study of a gospel story. Obviously, Rembrandt has thought about the Word who made our universe and humbled himself to redeem us. Perhaps he’s also thinking of the way Catholics and Protestants at the time were clashing among themselves, their picture of Jesus a strong, vigorous warrior. But here he stands humbly outside a little Dutch village that the artist’s contemporaries might recognize. Some of them may be pictured looking on at the two.
Artists have a powerful role in relating truth and beauty.
And what about Rembrandt’s mother? A 19th century French Sulpician priest, Felix Dupanloup, who had a lot to do with early American Catholic catechetical theory said to parents:
“Till you have brought your children to pray as they should, you have done nothing.”
Looks like she did her job.

3rd Sunday of Lent

Lent 1
readings (Please read further for Spanish and Swahili versions)

John’s gospel says that Jesus, setting out from Jerusalem for his native Galilee, “had” to pass through Samaria and meet the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well. So it was not by chance that Jesus, the Savior, enter that land whose people were so bitterly opposed to their neighbors, the Jews of Judea and Galilee.

“It was about noon, and Jesus, tired after his journey, was sitting by the well.” A Samaritan woman came to the well for water. What a strong, unconventional woman she was! She came alone at noon, not the usual morning or evening time when women of the town came in groups with their water jars. Nor does she hesitate at the sight of a man sitting alone at the well.

How forceful and sarcastic her answer when Jesus asks for a drink! “What! You a Jew, ask for a drink from a Samaritan woman?” The ancient feud between Jews and Samaritans rises in her blood.
Yet the weary man persists, talking of human thirst and the living waters God provides. Gradually, as he talks of higher things, the woman recognizes he has more to give than water from the well; he fulfills all the memories associated with this ancient sacred place. He says something, however, she would rather not hear. “You have had five husbands, the man you are living with now is not your husband.”

She must have heard it less as an accusation than as the truth, for she doesn’t turn away. More than accusing her, she felt him refreshing her soul’s thirst. Eager and inspired, she put down her water jar and hurried to the town to tell her neighbors about the one she met. For two days Jesus stayed in that town. The tired gentle Jew, who sat by Jacob’s well, was welcomed as a Savior.

We must welcome him too; he comes to us and never tires of us. “Feed yourself on Jesus, drink his Precious Blood, quench your thirst from the chalice of Jesus. Yet, the more you drink, the more you will thirst.” (Letter 662)

O Jesus,
is the woman,
sure and strong,
our reflection:
sure but unsure,
strong but so weak,
seeking but afraid to find
our Savior so close by?

Spanish

Domingo, 3ra Semana de Cuaresma (Año A)
Juán 4. 5-42

El evangelio de Juán dice que Jesús, viajando de Jerusalén hacia su nativa Galilea, “tenía” que pasar por Samaria y encontrarse con la mujer samaritana en el pozo de Jacob. Así que no era por coincidencia que Jesús, el Salvador, entrara en esa tierra donde los ciudadanos estaban tan agriamente opuestos a sus vecinos, los judíos de Judea y Galilea.
“Era cerca del mediodía y Jesús, cansado del camino, se sentó junto al pozo.” Una mujer samaritana vino al pozo a buscar agua. Qué mujer tan fuerte y poco convencional! Ellla vino sola a la hora del mediodía, que no era el tiempo usual de la mañana o el atardecer cuando las mujeres del pueblo venían en grupos con sus jarras de agua. Tampoco ella vaciló al ver un hombre sentado solo al lado del pozo.
Qué potente y sarcástica su respuesta cuando Jesús le pide agua! “Qué, tú, un judío pidiendo un trago de agua de una mujer samaritana!” Se le subió en la sangre la riña antigua entre judíos y samaritanos.
Pero el hombre cansado persiste, hablando de la sed humana y del agua viva que Diós provee. Gradualmente el habla de cosas más sublimes y la mujer reconoce que él tiene más para dar que agua de un pozo; él realiza todas las memorias relacionadas con este antiguo lugar sagrado. Entonces él dice algo que ella hubiera preferido no oír. ” Tú haz tenido cinco maridos; el hombre con quien vives ahora no es tu marido.”
Ella tiene que haber oído esto menos como acusación y más como hecho, verdad, porque ella no le da la espalda. Más que acusándola , ella lo sintió refrescando la sed de su alma. Entusiasmada e inspirada, ella deja su cántaro y corre hacia el pueblo para decirle a sus vecinos sobre El que ha conocido. Por dos días Jesús se quedo´en ese pueblo. Ese judío, apacible y cansado, que se sentó junto al pozo de Jacob, fué bienvenido como Salvador.
Nosotros tenemos que darle la bienvenida también; él viene a nosotros y nunca se cansa de nosotros. San Pablo de la Cruz dice: “Alimentate de Jesús, toma su Preciosa sangre, sacia tu sed con el cáliz de Jesús. Pero, lo más que tomes, lo más que aumentará tu sed.” (carta 662)
¿O Jesús,
es la mujer
segura y fuerte,
nuestra reflexión:
segura pero insegura,
fuerte, pero tán débil,
buscando, pero con miedo de encontrar
nuestro Salvador tán cerca?
Lent

Jumapili ya tatu ya kwaresima
Padre Evans Fwamba

Swahilil
Injili ya Yohana inasema kwamba Yesu, alifunga safari kuelekea Yerusalem kwenye nchi yake alikozaliwa. Ilimpasa apitie kijiji cha Samaria ambapo alipofika kwenye kisima cha Yakobo alikutana na mwanamke Msamaria. Haikuwa eti ni bahati kuwa Yesu ambaye ni mkombozi kuingia katika nchi ambayo kuna upinzani mkubwa kati ya Wayahudi na Wagalilaya.
Ilikuwa saa ya mchana na Yesu amechoka kwa safari. Akaketi karibu na kisima. Mwana mke Msamaria akaja kwenye kisima kuchota maji. Mwanamke huyu alikuwa jasiri kwani alikuja pekee yake mchana wala sio asubuhi au jion ambapo ndio ilikuwa kawaida kwa akina mama kuja kuchota maji vikundi vikundi. Hata baada ya kumuona mwanamme aliyeketi pale huyu mama Msamaria hakusita.
Ukiangalia jibu lake, Yesu alipomuomba maji, “Nini!” Wewe ni Myahudi, halafu unaomba maji kutoka kwa Msamaria. Anakumbuka uhasama uliokuwako kati ya Wayahudi na Wasamaria na
kuamsha hisia za uadui.
Lakini Yesu aliyechoka anasisitiza kuongea juu ya kiu ya kibinadam na ya maji ya uzima yanayotolewa na Mungu. Taratibu anavyoendelea kuongea juu ya vitu vikubwa zaidi, mwanamke anatambua kuwa anazaidi cha kutoa zaidi ya maji kutoka kwenye kisima. Anakamilisha kumbukumbu zote zilizohusika na hii sehemu ya wazee iliyo takatifu. Yesu anamwambia kitu ambacho labda asingependa kusikia. Kwamba amekuwa na wanaume watano na hata yule aliye nae sio wake.
Mwanamke yule hakumuona Yesu kuwa anamulaumu bali anamwambie ukweli, kwani mama yule hakukimbia bali alibaki. Zaidi ya kuiona kwamba Yesu alikuwa anamlaum alijisikia kwamba alikuwa anatuliza kiu ya roho yake. Kwa hamu na kuvutiwa aliweka chini mtungi wa maji na kukukimbia mjini kuwaambia majirani juu ya yule mgeni aliyekutana nae. Yesu alibaki katika mji huo kwa siku mbili.
Yesu aliyekuwa amechoka na aliyekaa kwenye kisima cha Yakoba alipokelewa kama mkombozi.
Nasi pia tunapaswa tumkaribishe ndani yetu, anakuja kwetu na hachoki kamwe.
Paulo wa Msalaba anasema kuwa “Ujilishe kwa Yesu, unywe damu yake takatifu, kata/zima kiu yako kutoka kwenye kikombe cha divai ya Kristu. Ingawa vile unavyoendeleal kuinywa, ndivyo hivyo unaendelea kuwa na kiu zaidi.”
(Barua 662, August 9, 1749)

Questions About God

Some of the deepest questions we ask about God are often answered in the scripture readings we listen to at Mass. For example, we ask sometimes if God is punishing us in tragedies like earthquakes, or accidents or those occasional acts of violence that suddenly happen. That’s the question Jesus answers in today’s gospel (Luke 13,1-9) as his listeners wonder why 18 people were killed when a tower fell on them, or why were people allowed to die in some riot that the Roman procurator, Pontius Pilate, put down  by slaughtering everyone in sight.

Jesus tells them God’s not punishing the people who were involved in those tragedies. Tragedies are part of life; they’re sharp reminders that life on earth isn’t permanent or without risk. Jesus says you have to be ready for the moment that God calls you. “Ask not for whom the bell tolls;” it tolls for you and for me.

Another question we ask is quite different. Does God care about us at all? And here we can turn to the 1st reading from the Old Testament about Moses and his vision of God on Mount Horeb. (Exodus 3, 1-15) Moses at the time was a man on the run. He’d killed an Egyptian and had fled from Egypt to hide as a shepherd in the Sinai desert. His people, the Jews, were slaves in Egypt.

As he ascends the mountain tending his sheep, he sees a burning bush and suddenly hears a voice. “Don’t come any nearer. Take the shoes off your feet; you’re on holy ground…I’m the God of your ancestors, of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” Moses was afraid, a normal reaction to God who is beyond anything we know.

But then God begins to speak words of love and concern.

“I know the affliction of my people in Egypt; I hear their cries of complaint against their slave drivers; I know well what they are suffering.
So I’ll rescue them from the hands of the Egyptians and lead them out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey.”

“I am the God of your ancestors, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,” God says. “I have ties with the world before you were born and I will care for the world when you are long gone.”

The encounter that Moses has on the mountain is our encounter with God too.

We know what followed Moses vision on Mount Horeb.  He returns to Egypt and with God’s help brings his people out of Egypt. God’s presence isn’t always obvious as they journey through the desert for 40 years. But God is faithful and he brings them to “a good and spacious land, flowing with milk and honey.”

Does God care for us. Yes, he does.

As we go further into the lenten season, we come to another mountain that’s burning with fire too. We’ll see the sign of a Cross and a man hanging there. He knows our sorrows and shares them too. He’s God  come to us, to lead us and all the world from slavery to freedom, in a good land where sorrow and pain are no more, where we will be with our good God forever

3 Sunday of Lent.

3rd Sunday of Lent

In Jesus’ time, the temple was the center of Jewish life and worship. Its long history began when King Solomon built the first temple in Jerusalem in 960 BC,  in the city founded by his father, King David. Within it he placed the Ark of the Covenant, containing the stone tablets on which the commandments given to Moses by God on Mount Sinai were inscribed.

The temple was a holy sign of God’s presence and continual guidance of his people.

Solomon’s temple suffered a grave blow when it was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC. Rebuilt by the Jews under the Persian ruler, Cyrus, it was threatened again in 167 BC when Antiochus Epiphanes tried to end Jewish worship in it and substitute a cult of his own. A fierce Jewish revolt under the Maccabees regained its possession and the temple was rededicated to the worship of God in 164 BC.

In 20 BC Herod the Great began a massive rebuilding of the temple on a grand scale as a sign of his own Jewish piety and to impress his overlords, the Romans. Herod’s temple — its ruins can be seen today in Jerusalem — stood till its destruction by the Romans in 70 AD. Jesus worshipped there, while it was still being built.

Jesus’ cleansing of the temple, which three gospels report, was a startling and provocative act. Certainly, his words about destruction triggered an alarm for the guardians of this venerable place and caused them to take steps to stop this trouble-maker from Galilee. If he overturned the tables in the entrance way and drove people out, what would he do next?

But Jesus claimed that he himself was the new temple; he was the new lawgiver who came to fulfill God’s command of love. He is God’s presence; the Word dwelling among us and in whom we dwell.

Lent calls us to personal reform, but doesn’t it call for reform and rededication of institutions as well? We may think right away of some of the world’s secular institutions that need it–like banks and governments. But how about our churches, parishes, our religious communities–don’t they need reform too?

Is this action of Jesus a reminder that God sees the whole world as his temple, and wants it to be a place of  justice and truth?

As once you came into the temple, come to us, Lord Jesus,
and cleanse us from all that makes us unholy.

Silence the noise that prevents us hearing you,
and help us see when we are blind.
Turn over the barriers that block your word,
drive away the distractions that stop our awareness of you.

Give us the wisdom of your commandments.
For you command only what is good,
We are temples of the living God,
help us to know who we are.