Tag Archives: signs

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 our 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 has come from Galilee to plead for his son who is near death. God wants life for us and so Jesus tells the official “your son will live,” and the deadly fever leaves him, even though he is far away.

Can we see in the father who pleads for his son’s life an image of the Father who wishes life for his only Son? Jesus affirms repeatedly his union with his Father. “The Father and I are one.” “My Father is at work until now, so I am at work.” It’s a theme we’ll hear often in these final days of lent. Jesus trusts in his Father’s love even in death.

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

John’s gospel was a favorite source for St. Paul of the Cross who sees our spiritual journey in the light of Jesus’ death and resurrection. We have another life before us, so we must mystically die to this one. We’re called to rest in the bosom of the Father.

“I recommend to you never to rest in the gifts or the spiritual joy such gifts God bring, but with one sweet glance of faith and love journey further to God in nakedness and poverty of spirit, losing all in him, not looking back on your suffering or on any spiritual understanding you have, but rest in naked faith and pure love on the bosom of God, completely clothed in Jesus Crucified.” (Letter 914)

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
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.

Friday, 5 Week of Lent

Lent 1
Readings

Jesus celebrated the Feast of the Dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem, John’s gospel says. (John 10,31-42) It’s a feast celebrated sometime in late November to late December and recalled the rededication of the temple after its profanation by Antiochus Epiphanes in the 2nd century BC.

John’s gospel looks at the Jewish feasts as signs that reveal Jesus and inspire his teaching and miracles. On the Sabbath, (chapter 5) he heals the paralyzed man at the pool at Bethsaida; the Son will not rest from giving life, since his Father never rests from giving life. On the Passover (Chapter 6), 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, he claims to be the true temple, who dwells among us and makes God’s glory known.

Once more in today’s gospel, Jesus proclaims his relationship to the Father “the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” Yet, once more hostile listeners are blind to the signs and accuse him of blasphemy, trying to stone him or have him arrested. But Jesus evades them and goes to a place across the Jordan where John baptized. “Many there began to believe in him.”

Many signs are given to us– the scriptures, the sacraments, the witness of the saints. It would be tragic not to follow them to the Word made flesh!

“To maintain this divine friendship, frequent the sacraments, namely confession and holy Communion. When you approach the altar do so for this one reason alone, to let your soul be melted more and more in the fire of divine love. Remember that you are dealing with the holiest action that we can perform. How could our dear Jesus have done more than to give himself to be our food! Therefore let us love him who loves us. Let us be deeply devoted to the Blessed Sacrament. In church we should tremble with reverential awe.” ( St. Paul of the Cross, Letter 8)

Lead me on, O Lord,
Through your holy signs,
through them, let me come to you. Amen.

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.