Tag Archives: lenten reflections

Saturday, 5th Week of Lent

ReadingsLent 1
The reading today (John 11,45-56) describes what happens after Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. Unable to accept him, the Jewish leaders decide to put him to death. Their meeting anticipates the final meeting of the Sanhedrin, which will seek the death sentence from Pilate, the Roman procurator, before the feast of Passover.

Caiaphas, the high priest,  sees political consequences if Jesus isn’t stopped– the Romans will step in at the slightest sign of a political troublemaker. But  John’s gospel sees divine consequences when evil is pitted against good. The high priest’s own words predict God’s reversal: “ he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation, and not only for the nation, but also to gather into one the dispersed children of God.”

The passion and resurrection of Jesus is God’s great sign that good triumphs over evil. God has the last word and, difficult as it is, we’re called to believe in his power to triumph over evil, however entrenched it may seem to be in our world and in our lives.

Mystics like Paul of the Cross firmly believed in God’s power to reverse evil and turn things to the good; their vision was nourished by meditation on the passion of Jesus.
“Just as our dear Jesus spent his life here on earth to be ever spent in the midst of hardships, labors, privations, anguish, scorn, calumnies, thorns and the cruel death of the cross, so he made me realize that in embracing him, I must live my life in the midst of suffering. And oh, with what joy did my poor soul embrace every kind of hardship!” (Letter 51)

Lord, I thank you for dying on the cross
and bringing life to the world.

Give me faith to believe in your victory over evil.

Wednesday, 4th Week of Lent

Lent 1
READINGS
In today’s reading from John’s gospel, the cure of the paralyzed man at the pool of Bethsaida sets off criticism of Jesus by the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem who accuse him of working on the Sabbath. Jewish leaders before them had questioned an absolute proscription of Sabbath work; after all, God maintained creation on the Sabbath, babies were born, people died, God passed judgment on that day.

But now the leaders’ criticism is based on a greater charge– Jesus claimed to be God’s Son. He said he continued his Father’s work; he had power over life and death; he will judge the living and the dead. These are divine powers.

“Who do you say I am?” is a question Jesus asked then and he asks us now. John’s gospel will give answers to that question in the readings that follow for the remainder of this week and into Holy Week.

“Who do you say I am?” is an important question we must answer when we look at the One who dies on the cross. In our public prayers we say:
“He is the Word of God, through whom you made the universe,
the Savior you sent to redeem us…
For our sake he opened his arms on the cross,
He put an end to death,
And revealed the resurrection…” (Eucharistic Prayer 2)

Our personal prayer too rests on this powerful belief. “ Often turn to our holy faith and let it lead you into the bosom and the arms of God. You’ll be blessed if you faithfully follow my advice. When affliction lays heavy on you, you can go to your room, take the crucifix in your hands and give yourself a sermon from it. What a sermon you will hear! How quickly your heart will be calmed.” (Letter 1464)

Lord Jesus,
I believe you are God’s Son,
true God from true God,
I believe you have come to save us.

Friday, 3rd Week of Lent

Lent 1
Readings
Love God and love your neighbor, Jesus says in today’s gospel.(Mark 12, 28-34) We would expect to hear about love on a lenten Friday since every Friday of the year is associated with the Friday called Good. The lenten fridays especially prepare us for that great day of love.

The gospels dwell on what took place that day in great detail. On their part, historians, scholars, artists approach the mystery of Jesus’ passion and death in different ways. What political or religious factors were behind it? Who were the people involved? What was crucifixion like? The day is a fascinating conclusion to a fascinating life. But, above all, it’s a day about love.

Why did Jesus suffer such a death, we ask? As God’s Son, no one could take his life from him. The only answer we can give is that Jesus gave himself up to death and he accepted death on the Cross out of love for his Father and out of love for us. Love caused him to say in the Garden, “Your will be done.” Love called words of forgiveness from the cross:”Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

The cross was not something Jesus endured; he embraced  it with his whole heart, his whole mind and all his strength. Before his cross, we stand before Love.

“When you experience dryness in your prayer, gently stir your spirit with loving acts then rest in God. Softly say to him, ‘How bruised your face, how swollen, how disfigured with spit. I see your bones laid bare. What suffering, what blows, what grief. Love is one great wound. Sweet are your wounds, sweet is your suffering. I want to keep you always close to my heart.” (Paul of the Cross:Letter 23)

Lord Jesus Christ,
the scribe in today’s gospel repeated the command to love
and you praised him for it.
May I keep before me the great commandment
to love God and my neighbor
and live it as you did.
Give me that grace. Amen.

Thursday, 3rd Week of Lent

Lent 1
Readings
Talk of devils and demons and miracles by God, so common in the bible, sounds strange to people today, especially in the western world. We think other forces are at work when something remarkable happens, as it did to the man in today’s gospel who couldn’t speak.(Luke 11,14-23) Must be a natural explanation–maybe the power of suggestion; whatever it was, we’ll discover it. We find it hard to see “the finger of God” causing miracles today.

Miracles of healing were among the signs that pointed out Jesus to his early hearers, but they weren’t the most important. After Pentecost, Peter describes Jesus of Nazareth as “a man attested to you by God with deeds of power, wonder and signs that God did through him among you, as you yourselves know,” But the culmination of signs, the apostle says, is his own death and resurrection.

No one can explain this mystery, surpassing all others. Taking on himself all human sorrows– the sorrow of the mute, the deaf, the paralyzed, the possessed, the dead, the sinner far from God– Jesus gave himself into the hands of his heavenly Father on the altar of the cross. And he was raised up and gave his life-giving Spirit to the world.

Some deny this sign too. but it’s the great sign that we celebrate in this holy season.

“You have signs clearer than day that God loves you and he’s at work in you. Humble yourself, nothing as you are, and let your nothingness disappear in the Infinite All that is God. Then lose yourself and take your rest adoring the Most High in spirit and truth.” (Letter 954)

I see the great Sign you have given, O God,
the mystery of the death and resurrection of your Son.
Place it in my mind and heart,
let it guide my thoughts and draw me to love.

Monday, 3rd Week of Lent

Lent 1
Readings

Scholars say that the story of the death and resurrection of Jesus was the first story told by his disciples and the first story they wrote down. The other gospel stories were written down after it and point to it. Whatever gospel story we read–we’re reading about the rejection of Jesus at Nazareth  from Luke’s gospel today, for example–is part of the mystery of his death and resurrection.     

Luke  brings us  to Nazareth, where Jesus lived most of his life among “his own.” (Luke 4,24-30) As he begins  his ministry  he is rejected by ” his own”  in their synagogue. It was a rejection Jesus must have carried with him;  how could he forget it?

The crowds welcoming  him to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday call him “the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee,”  but  few from Nazareth accompany him there.  Some women from Galilee  stand by his cross as he dies. Still, from what we know of Nazareth and its subsequent history, Jesus didn’t find much acceptance there. “He came to his own and his own received him not.”

The great Cross we see on Calvary draws attention to the physical sufferings of Jesus in his passion–the scourging, the thorns, the crucifixion. But let’s not forget his interior sufferings, especially the increasing rejection he experienced from “his own,” from those who knew him from the beginning and those who follow him into Jerusalem.

The lenten gospels prepare us to share in the great mystery of Jesus’ death and resurrection. We may never share in his physical sufferings, but rejection by “our own,”  maybe someone close to us, will always be one of the ways we share in the sufferings of Jesus. At the same time let’s not forget that rejecting “our own”  brings suffering to others.

Nazareth where Jesus was rejected is not far from the people and the places where we live.

Lord,

help me  face the slights the come from those close by,

from my Nazareth, from “my own.”

The mystery of your Cross is not played out on Calvary alone,

It’s played out in the places and people close by,

where we live now.

Give me the grace to live in my Nazareth

as you did in yours.

I ask this grace through Jesus Christ.

 

Saturday, 4th Week of Lent

Lent 1
Readings
The lenten readings from John’s gospel for today and the next week of lent (chapters 7-10) describe Jesus‘ activity in Jerusalem during the eight- day Feast of Tabernacles, the popular autumn feast that brought many visitors to the city to celebrate the grape harvest and pray for rain. Water was brought into the temple courtyard from the Pool of Siloam and lighted torches were ablaze during the celebration.

Arriving late for the feast, Jesus taught in the temple area and revealed who he was, using the images of water and light. His cure of the blind man, in the 9th chapter of the gospel, is a sign of the light he bestows on a blind world.

Yet, some don’t see. Those hearing him are divided; some want him arrested, some believe, some question his Galilean origins and his upbringing as a carpenter’s son. How can he be the Messiah, a teacher in Israel?

We’re surprised at unbelief before the Word of God on his way from Nazareth to Jerusalem. Why didn’t all see and believe? People doubted him then, and they will doubt him now. Even his disciples are slow to believe. “How slow you are to believe…”Jesus says to the two on the way to Emmaus.

But the Word continues to teach in our world and to instruct disciples weak in faith. His mission is not ended. Saints like Paul of the Cross knew that. However fierce the opposition, the Word of God, Jesus Christ, brings light and life.

“All the works of God are now attacked by the devil, now by human beings. I now have both at once. Don’t be dismayed when contrary factions and rejections arise, no matter how great they are. Be encouraged by the example of St. Teresa who said that the more she was involved in enterprises for the glory of God, the more difficulties she experienced.” (Letter 1180)

The Lord is my light and my salvation,
Whom should I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life,
Of whom should I be afraid?