Tag Archives: signs

Friday, 5th Week of Lent

Lent 1


Readings

In St.John’s gospel, read these final days of Lent and into Easter, Jesus goes regularly to Jerusalem to celebrate the Jewish feasts. For him the Jewish feasts are signs that say who he is and what he does.

For example, in Jerusalem Jesus heals a paralyzed man at the pool at Bethsaida on a Sabbath feast (Chapter 5); The Son does not rest from giving life as the Father never rests from giving life. At the Passover (Chapter 6), Jesus teaches he is the true Bread from heaven, the manna that feeds multitudes. On the Feast of Tabernacles (chapter 7-9) he reveals himself as the light of the world and living water. On the Feast of the Dedication, which celebrates the rededication of the temple after its desecration Jesus claims to be the true temple, dwelling among us and making God’s glory known.

The feasts are signs that what Jesus says and does is from God. “The Father is in me and I am in the Father,” he claims on the feasts. 

But those listening to Jesus in Jerusalem are blind to the signs and accuse him of blasphemy, St. John’s Gospel says. They try to stone him and have him arrested. Instead of accepting him, Jerusalem rejects him. In today’s gospel, Jesus leaves Jerusalem and goes to a place across the Jordan where John baptized. 

He will come back as a new sign. God will give a new sign, not in the temple or the worship that goes on there, but in One who is lifted up on a cross. John’s gospel, more than the others, finds glorious signs in the sufferings of Jesus. It’s so intent on finding God’s glory that its narrative of the passion of Jesus often seems to ignore what really happened. 

The soldiers who come to arrest Jesus in the garden fall to the ground before him. Pilate shrinks before him on the judgment seat, Jesus speaks calmly, majestically from the cross. Realists that we are, We find it hard to accept suffering revealing God’s glory and power. We find it hard to see glory in someone suffering and dying on a cross..

We’re finding it hard to see anything but absurdity in the pandemic we’re experiencing now. That’s why John’s Gospel may be an important guide  today. “Look for the signs,” it says.  If we believe God is with us, there are signs of glory and a promise of resurrection even in suffering and death.

Pope Francis’ most important response to the pandemic took place a few days ago when he walked all alone on a rainy night into St. Peter’s square and approached an ancient crucifix there and asked for wisdom and strength. The world is caught in a storm, like the disciples caught in their boat at sea, he said. We need to know you are not asleep.   

Lead me on, O Lord,

through your holy signs, especially the sign of your Cross.

Through the One lifted up, show me the glory I don’t see. 

.

Monday, 4th Week of Lent

Lent 1


Readings
From now to Holy Week our gospel readings at daily Mass are mostly from the Gospel of John, which also provides us with the story of the Passion of Jesus on Good Friday and many of the readings during Easter time, as we celebrate the Lord’s Resurrection.

In John’s Gospel what Jesus says and does are continuing signs revealing God  through his Son.

“Your son will live,” Jesus tells the government official from Capernaum, who in today’s reading comes to Cana in Galilee where Jesus is staying to plead for his son near death.

“Your son will live” Jesus tells him and the official returns to Capernaum “believing” until his servants meet him on the way announcing his son’s cure. “Your son will live,” Jesus tells him and the deadly fever left his son.. But the official did not see it at once, he must believe till he sees it himself.

God is not heartless before the mystery of death, our story says. He’s not less loving than the father from Galilee, the official who pleads for his son. The Father of Jesus, our Father, never wavers; he brings life to the world through his own Son.

But God’s mercy doesn’t appear immediately, our story reminds us. The official leaves Jesus “believing” not seeing. He has to wait. We see this also in the Lazarus story read this coming Sunday. “If you had been here, my brother would not have died,” Martha says to Jesus.She too has to wait, believing.

O God, let me rest in you
even now, before my earthly journey’s done.
For you bring me life even in death.
May I live believing
through the merits of Jesus Christ, your Son. Amen.

5th Sunday of Lent: Strengthening Signs

 

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


Our gospel today (John 12,20-33) is part of the Palm Sunday event, when crowds acclaimed Jesus by casting palm branches before him as he entered Jerusalem, crying “Hosanna to the Son of David.” We will celebrate that aspect of his entrance into Jerusalem next Sunday.

But this Sunday we enter into the mind of Jesus as he enters the city. He’s troubled as he enters the city, as well may he be. “My soul is troubled now, yet what shall I say, “Father, save me from this hour. But it was for this hour I have come.”

He understands what’s going to happen to him. It’s a critical moment. Jerusalem’s religious establishment, resenting his words and actions, want to dispose of him. He has just raised Lazarus from the dead; his popularity is growing; he could easily topple the uneasy balance at a volatile time and place for the Jewish nation.

So he enters Jerusalem a marked man. But as he enters the city, he’s given a sign to strengthen him, a very simple sign. Some Greeks, pilgrims for the feast no doubt, approach Philip and Andrew and say, “We would like to see Jesus.” In their request and eagerness to meet him, Jesus sees the lasting fruitfulness of his mission on earth. “Like a grain of wheat I will fall to the ground and die,..”

The gospel of John is known for signs like this, signs that point to glory. They are signs that say it is not the end, but the beginning. The Greeks who come as Jesus approaches his death are like the Magi at his birth. They are people from afar, we don’t see what will happen by the coming, but they are the first of many. There will be consequences of their coming, People will come from the east and the west; they will come from centuries beyond his own.

Like a grain of wheat, he falls to the ground and dies, but his life and his death bring much fruit .

We ask the Lord to help us see signs like he saw, signs so small, like a grain of wheat, they may be missed.
Yes, signs are there in our lives, especially as we struggle. Sometimes it’s an outsider whom we never expected help from at all. Sometimes it’s something unexpected we never thought about before. Sometimes it’s as small as Bread, the Bread of the Eucharist, which tells us we shall be fed.
God works great wonders, but we know them most through simple signs: words, things, moments that seem like nothing but they tell us all will be well.

The Greeks who came to Jesus were like that. They told him all will be well.

Immaculate Conception Parish: Melbourne Beach, Fl

Today we began a parish mission in Immaculate Conception Parish, Melbourne Beach. I’m preaching at the Sunday Masses and Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at Masses at 8 AM and 7 Pm.

Here’s the sermon at the Sunday liturgy.

“We would like to see Jesus”

In his remarkable books on Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict describes his own personal search for God as he follows Jesus through the mysteries of his life, death and resurrection. Jesus is the way to see the face of God. The pope, who spent most of his life as a theologian, understands especially how modern scholarship has influenced the way we see Jesus.

The figure of Jesus has become “more and more blurred” today by different interpretations of him, the pope says. For example, some say  that “Jesus was an anti-Roman revolutionary working–though finally failing–to overthrow the ruling powers.” For others, “ he was the weak moral teacher who approves everything and unaccountably comes to grief.” Jesus loves everybody and everything goes.

What we face today, the pope says, is widespread skepticism about our ability to know Jesus at all. “This is a dramatic situation for faith, because its point of reference (Jesus Christ) is being placed in doubt: Intimate friendship with Jesus, on which all else depends, is in danger of clutching at thin air.” The pope wrote his books on Jesus of Nazareth to affirm who Jesus is and what he means to us and to our world. They’re worth reading.

( Jesus of Nazareth, From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration, Ignatius Press 2008,  foreward xi)

It’s true what he says, isn’t it? If you go into the religion section in a big book store like Barnes and Noble today, you face an array of books about Jesus Christ that see him in totally different ways. If you search the internet, you find the same situation. The figure of Jesus becomes “more and more blurred;” some wonder if we can see him at all. Then, of course, others say he’s totally irrelevant to our times and our lives.

That’s why today’s gospel (John 12,20-33)–part of the Palm Sunday event we’ll celebrate next Sunday– is so interesting. Let’s look at its context. Jesus has just raised Lazarus from the dead.  A crowd is ready to acclaim him by casting palm branches before him as he enters Jerusalem, crying “Hosanna to the Son of David.” Many of them see him as a political messiah, someone who is going to change the government and restore Judaism to its golden age. As his popularity grows, his enemies see him as a dangerous troublemaker in a volatile time and place. Jerusalem’s religious establishment has decided to kill him. Jesus, of course, sees death coming.

Even before he enters the Garden of Gethsemane, he’s fearful about what lies before him.

Just then, some Greeks approach Philip and Andrew and say, “We would like to see Jesus.” It seems like a minor thing, some Greeks requesting to see him, but John’s gospel loves simple signs like this, signs that point to something else, signs that point to glory.

The Greeks who come to Jesus tell us it’s not the end, but the beginning. They come as Jesus approaches his death, like the Magi who approached him at his birth. They’re people from afar; they’re the first of many, the promise that others will come from the east and the west, from centuries beyond his own.

And Jesus rejoices at their coming. At this crucial uncertain time, when so many misunderstand him, when so many oppose him, so many ignore him, these strangers want to see him.

He sees the lasting fruitfulness of his mission on earth. “Like a grain of wheat I will fall to the ground and die, but if I die I’ll bring much fruit.” “My soul is troubled now, yet what shall I say, “Father, save me from this hour. But it was for this hour I have come.” His Father gives him this sign to strengthen him.

The unnamed Greeks received an immense grace when they saw Jesus at this time. An immense grace can come to us when we see Jesus at a time like theirs, when we search for him and find him.

The Greeks see him as seed falling to the ground, as the one rejected by his own, as a suffering man who dies on a cross. Shall we join them?

Help us see signs like those you gave them, Lord,

Unexpected signs like the mystery of your cross,

Dark signs like a church in decline,

Small signs like Bread and Wine

And Words from an old Book.

We want to see you,  Jesus.

 

 

 

 

 

The Finger of God

Lk 11:14-23

Jesus was driving out a demon that was mute,

and when the demon had gone out,

the mute man spoke and the crowds were amazed.
Some of them said, “By the power of Beelzebul, the prince of demons,
he drives out demons.”
Others, to test him, asked him for a sign from heaven.
But he knew their thoughts and said to them,
“Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste
and house will fall against house.
And if Satan is divided against himself,
how will his kingdom stand?
For you say that it is by Beelzebul that I drive out demons.
If I, then, drive out demons by Beelzebul,
by whom do your own people drive them out?
Therefore they will be your judges.
But if it is by the finger of God that I drive out demons,
then the Kingdom of God has come upon you.
When a strong man fully armed guards his palace,
his possessions are safe.
But when one stronger than he attacks and overcomes him,
he takes away the armor on which he relied
and distributes the spoils.
Whoever is not with me is against me,
and whoever does not gather with me scatters.”

(thursday, 3rd week of lent)

Talk of devils and demons and the miracles of God, so common in the bible, sounds strange to people today, especially in the western world. We prefer seeing other forces at work when something remarkable happens, as it did to the man who couldn’t speak. Some natural cause was at work–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 established the identity of Jesus among his early hearers, but they were not the only signs.

‘Listen to what I have to say to you about Jesus of Nazareth, 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,” Peter says to the crowds in Jerusalem after Pentecost. But the apostle goes on from these signs of Jesus’ ministry to the culminating sign of his death and resurrection.

“You crucified and killed him by the hands of those outside the law, but God raised him up…”(Acts 2.22-23)

No human power can explain this mystery, surpassing all others. Bearing  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, to give his life-giving Spirit to the world.

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