The Fifth Sunday of Lent
In today’s gospel, John the Evangelist has still another incredible story that the church uses to show us how Jesus wants to be for us: He is the One who unbinds our shackles / calls us forth from the tombs of our lives and offers us new and risen life!
When? For all eternity – Yes! But also for right here, right now. (Also you can see the two previous posts for the first two stories in this trilogy by looking in the righthand column “A thirsty man meets a thirsty woman (John, Chapter 4) and “You light up my life” John, Chapter 9). There are marvelous lessons for believers and unbelievers alike in this trilogy.)
The images I use here are of a statue interpreting the unbinding of Lazarus that rests on the grounds of the Diocese of Lake Charles Retreat Center in Lake Charles, Louisiana. My spiritual director had me meditate on it while I was on retreat there in 2010. I titled it: “Addictions.”
As you read this story, try to see it through your own eyes and experience the story for yourself Get into it. It’s filled with emotion. I’ve added a few reflections of my own along the way and use substantial excerpts from the NRSV version to carry the story along. If you’d like to read the complete text first, here’s the link: John 11: 1-45. When you’re done, go to the top left corner of you computer screen and find the < back arrow; click on it and it will return you to this page.
First, our Scripture scholar friend William Barclay notes that one of the most precious things in the world is to have a house and a home in which you can go any time and find rest and understanding. Every afternoon my dog Shoney and I go over to our neighbors to watch the PBS News Hour and hang out for a while. This story is about Jesus and his very good friends Mary and Martha and Lazarus. He often went to their home at Bethany and rest his weary feet. They loved him, understood him, attended to his needs and he loved them very much. He had just received word that Lazarus had died.
Now take a moment to prepare yourself for the meditation I’d like to lead you through. Take a moment to clear your mind from distractions and enter a quiet place. Close your eyes for a moment and focus on your breathing. When you’re ready, begin reading . . . .
NOW a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, “Lord, the one whom you love is ill.”
I can muse that You, Jesus, often went to the home of Martha and Mary and Lazarus. You probably went there to “let your hair down.” To get away from the crowds; even Your chosen and sometimes unruly band of Twelve didn’t ”get” what You were about. I muse that You sometimes felt quite alone even among your friends. But You really seem to enjoy the three siblings’ company. You could be who You were, without pressure, without demand. You could simply “be.” And Your three friends were very comfortable with You as well. . . . . .(Remember the story in Luke 10:38-42 when he came for dinner with them?)
Lord, help us to find friends who accept us as we are — warts and all — with whom we don’t have to pretend to be someone ~ something we’re not. Where we can bind our wounds and be encouraged to become whole. I thank you for the people in my life who are “there” for me when I need them.
But when Jesus heard it, he said, “This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory.
Lord, You have enabled me to realize, that illness and difficult times can end in glory for those who persevere ~ who trust ~ who are willing to understand what such crosses will teach us. . . . . (Bethany is often used as a symbol of a place of retreat, of refreshment and renewal.)
Lord, help us to see the glory hiding in the dark places of our lives. . . .
Though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.
Lord, help us to grow into patience — to wait for God’s time for things.
Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?” [ . . . . ] “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.”
How many of us have fallen asleep to the reality of our lives? Jesus, help me to WAKE UP! and really see and accept the reality of my life — both the good and the bad.
[. . . .] When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days.
Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home.
Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.”
Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
Lord Jesus, I hear you saying this to ME. As a priest I have consoled many who wept at the death of their own loved ones. And throughout my own long years of illness, these words consoled me. Somehow, I realized that, even on this side of the grave, You would grant me new and risen life.
She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”
Yes, Lord, You are the One who is my Friend ~ my Beloved ~ my Redeemer ~ my Shepherd and Companion on my life’s journey!
When Martha had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him.
Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there.
When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
In those few words I feel her grief, Lord . . . and a bit of a reprimand: “Why weren’t You here?”
How often as a priest have I heard people say that! “Why weren’t you here, Father?”
When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved.
Jesus, as I (we) reflect on this story, help us to feel ~ to sense ~ to realize that it is your humanness ~ Your humanity that saves us: You are one like us!
He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.”
Jesus began to weep.
Lord, You always weep with and for Your friends . . . and the folks who do not know You are a friend waiting for them.
You cry — even now — over the state of our world. I know. I often cry with you!
So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”
Jesus, I praise You that You were not afraid to express Your love to other men, especially to the young beloved disciple who leaned on Your breast at the Last Supper (John 21:20).
But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”
Jesus, You always worked in an atmosphere of hostility. There were always people around who hated You because you loved. And You taught others to follow You in heroic love.
In these later days of Lent as we approach the celebration of Your passion, death and resurrection — this year — may we be soberly aware that it was the religious leaders who had you killed. Something for us to ponder even today.
Are we for You or against You? Are we on the side of Love or Hate?
Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it.
Jesus, I know many who have heavy stones laying across devastated lives. Particularly my friends who lie in the tomb of addiction. I know families who weep and worry over the death of the spirits of their loved ones.
Jesus said, “Take away the stone.”
Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.”
There are always consequences to devastated lives. They’re always hard to repair.
Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”
. . . . but Jesus reminds us to always have hope in the ones we love — even when matters seem hopeless.
So they took away the stone. And Jesus [. . . . .] cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”
The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth.
Jesus said to them,
UNBIND HIM AND LET HIM GO FREE.”
I have come to realize, Lord, that coming out of our tombs is only the beginning of recovery. Resurrection takes a long time. We need others to unbind us. And I thank you for the people who have helped to unbind me — especially You, Lord!
Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.
May we come to deepen OUR faith in You, Lord, and realize that as we stay close to You, You will unbind us and let us go free to new and risen life and love!
The Gospel of the Lord.
Praise to You, Lord Jesus Christ!
Now here is the song “He will raise you up on eagle’s wings” by Michael Joncas sung at my parents’ funeral and so many others at which I had the honor of presiding. We Catholics truly believe that we will live forever! And for our young people, here is Queen singing Who wants to live forever? Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.
And here are the Mass readings that accompany this Gospel story. Click here.
If you go to a Mass that the readings from Year B are proclaimed, these are the readings. Click here.
This post is dedicated to the young men for whom I’ve prayed and their parents: May they be unbound from the shackles of their addictions and have new and risen life.
The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.All rights reserved. From the oremus Bible Browser http://bible.oremus.org v2.2.5 2 March 2008.
The Fourth Sunday of Lent – The story of the man born blind
John the Evangelist is inviting us to ask ourselves: Who are the blind ones? Who are those who see?
This story is amazing. William Barclay, the great Presbyterian scripture scholar, comments that “there’s no more vivid character drawing in all of literature than this. With deft and revealing touches John causes the people to come alive for us.” So, why not read the whole text for yourself. John 9: 1-41 Click here. Then click the < back arrow on the top left corner of your computer screen to return to this page.
But before we get into the story itself, I’d like to give you some notes from William Barclay’s commentary on the Gospel of John. He says this is the only story in which the sufferer was blind from birth. the Jews had this strange notion that one could have sin in them before one was born ~ “in a sin-affected universe!” They also believed that the sins of their fathers are visited upon their children.
But there is something interesting about the pool of Siloam he mentions. When Hezekiah realized Sennacherib was going to invade Palestine, he had a tunnel cut through solid rock from the spring into the city of Jerusalem. It was two ft. wide and six ft. high. They had to zigzag it around sacred sites so it was 583 yards long. The engineers began cutting from both ends and met in the middle ~ truly an amazing feat for that time. The pool of Siloam was were the stream entered into the city. Siloam means “sent” because the water had be sent through the city. Jesus sent the blind there for his cure. (Barclay the Gospel of John, vol. 2 / pp. 37, 42.)
John causes the people to come alive for us. First, there’s the blind man himself. He began to be irritated by the Pharisees persistence. He himself was persistent that the man who put mud on his eyes had cured him of his blindness. Period! He was a brave man because he was certain to be excommunicated.
Second, there were his parents. They were uncooperative with the Pharisees, but they were also afraid. The authorities had a powerful weapon. They could excommunicate them as well, whereby they could be shut off from God’s people and their property could be forfeited as well.
Third, there were the Pharisees. At first, they didn’t believe the man was cured. And then they were annoyed they could not meet the man’s argument that was based on scripture: “Jesus has done a wonderful thing; the fact that he has done it means that God hears him; now God never hears the prayers of a bad man; therefore Jesus could not be a bad man.”
The consequence of this for the man was that the authorities cast him out of the temple. But Jesus the Lord of the Temple went looking for him. Jesus is always true to the one who is true to him.
And secondly, to this man Jesus revealed himself intimately. Jesus asked the man if he believed in the Son of God. The man asked who that was. And Jesus said it was He.
And so, this man, who is not given a name in this story, progresses in his perception and understanding of Jesus. At first, he says, “the man they call Jesus opened my eyes.”
Then when he was asked his opinion of Jesus in view of the fact that he had given him his sight, his answer was, “He is a prophet.” Finally, he came to confess that Jesus is the Son of God.
Before we leave this wonderful story, I want you to take note of the final line that surely sounded Jesus death knell and is a warning to us all.
Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.”
Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, “What? Are we blind too?”
Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.
So in our world today, we ask, “Who are the blind ones?” “Who are those who see?
The movie The Matrix portrayed us as blind to reality. We don’t want to really see or know what’s going on as long as our private little worlds are not disturbed.
When we ~ um ~ “converse” with people online, we often don’t really know whether they’re presenting themselves for who they are or giving a false persona; or we probably don’t get to know them very well.
Some people only see the appearances of things. Many of us don’t have the eyes to see the unseen and the unknowable.
A lot of advertising today only shows handsome young men and women.
What do you See when you wander around town?
Are you on the lookout for the truly beautiful?
Like Cindy, the bag lady I found sitting in the park knitting one day next to the main library in downtown Lauderdale.
A while back I took a double take when I noticed her on a cold morning just outside the door. She caught my eye because she was polishing her nails a luminous pink. She had on a fuzzy cardigan to match. I backed up ten steps to say hello.
What impressed me the most was the twinkle in her eye, her cheerful demeanor and her ready smile.
I wasn’t nearly as self-possessed when I was homeless for a short time in the early Eighties. It ain’t pretty. I was scared to death. Or just last year when I was flat broke for months and couldn’t pay my mortgage. (But then, I was more trusting.)
What DO you See with those eyes of yours, my friend?
Are you able to see the truly Beautiful People, like Cindy?
Can you distinguish between the real and the unreal / the true and the false / the True Self from the false self .
In the first reading the Lord teaches Samuel, his prophet not to judge by appearances, but to SEE BEYOND / to see into.
“Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance
but the Lord looks into the heart” (1 Samuel 16:10.)
We need to realize that “t’is ever thus!” We must not allow the hypocrites — or as I call them the “lipocrites” — to blind us from the beauty that is available to anyone who does have eyes to see.
No! Don’t excuse yourself from finding God or love or a loving community of faith just because there are some who don’t get it.
Jesus healed the blind man;
he let the sensuous woman wash his feet with her hair;
hung out with sinners and the tax collectors whom the lipocrites got off on thinking they were better than;
told people to “Love one another as I have loved you”;
let the youngest disciple lean on his breast during the last supper;
kept his mouth shut when he was accused;
and, most importantly, simply did what his Father told him to do: be obedient (stay on message) until the very end.
And . . . and they killed him for that.
Just remember, if you choose to preach this gospel,
if you tell people to see the beauty — the Christ — in the person in front of you,
whether that one be a bag lady / homosexual / fallen down drunk / drug addict /
mentally ill, crazy man / Muslim / Republican / Democrat / Jew / Catholic / atheist /
pro-lifer / pro-choicer / Martian / immigrant / anybody who thinks differently than you,
they may will crucify you too or cast you out of their life,
stop their ears to anything you say or do —
just as did with the guy in this Gospel story John tells so dramatically today.
God sees differently, you know. He does not divide. God unifies.
God made us all as his children. God sustains all of us in the present moment.
God loves us all. No matter what!
All he wants us to do is accept his love.
And so, ask yourself, dear friend, can you see your world and the people in it —
family / friend / foe — with God’s eyes?
Can you see yourself with God’s eyes, my friend?
Many people think they’re a piece of junk and so they pretend to be somebody else.
But God made you just-as-you-are.
He wants you to See YOURSELF as he sees you.
When you can do that, then you will change.
The good in you will increase; the not-so-good will fall away
because God himself will do the transforming.
The man who was blind was able to see that.
That was the second gift of sight Jesus gave him –
not just the ability to see trees and people and flowers
but to See with the eyes of the heart.
Why? Because Jesus did more than give him his sight.
He Touched him!
He drew him close!
He treated the man as a person!
And that, very simply, is all Jesus wants US to do:
Treat one another as PERSONS! Someone just like you.
Try it today. With your honey who treated you like vinegar this morning.
Your hyper kids. Your nasty neighbor. Your lousy boss. A bedraggled stranger on the street.
That’s the message of this gospel story.
You are truly My Light.
You help me see the beauty in myself and all around me.
My life and my world are SO different because of You!
I love You. I delight in You.
I never know what to expect when You’re around. I can SEE!
You have given me true sight,
the ability to see into things.
To have the courage to look at My Reality — good and not-so-good.
To see the beauty in the people in my life instead of their faults.
And I praise You for you have given me the ability to use the awesome gifts
our heavenly Father has granted me so that I may help others see beauty as well.
I want to help people see their own beauty!
To call it forth from them.
To walk around this world and See the beauty our Father has created all around me.
I love You, Lord.
You are My Light!
I believe that You truly are the Light of the World!
And St. Paul in today’s second reading sums it up:
“Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead,
and Christ will give you light” (Ephesians 5:8-14.)
Now here’s Joe Cocker singing “You are so Beautiful” Click here. I always think of Jesus when I hear it.
And here are all of the Mass readings that accompany this Gospel: Click here.
If you attend a Mass that uses the readings from Year B, these are the readings: Click here.
The Story of the John 9 was taken excerpted from William Barclay’s the Gospel of John ~ Volume 2 / Revised Edition
The Westminster Press / Philadelphia, PA 1975
The First Sunday of Lent ~ The Fidelity of Jesus (February 22, 2015)
(All the Scripture texts for this Mass can be found at the link that follows. After you’ve looked at this site, to get back to this page, at the top Left corner of your computer screen look for the tiny arrow ( <) pointing left. Click on it. Here’s the link for the Mass readings: Click here.
This is a story about fidelity in the face of temptation. In Mark’s Gospel, the author condenses the story to two sentences, beginning with the fascinating line, “The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert . . .tempted by Satan.
Let’s begin with a couple of qualifications. First, I was God’s idea. Jesus was driven out there, Mark says. Mmmm. William Barclay in his commentary on sacred scripture tell us that the purpose for this “was for a testing time.” Temptations are not sent to make us fall, but to strengthen our nerve and our will. They are not meant for our ruin but for our good.
Second, “forty days” is not meant to be taken literally. Moses was on the mountain forty days; the Israelites wandered in the desert 40 years. This is just a Hebrew phrase meaning “a considerable a mount of time.”
Third, the word Satan in Hebrew simply means advesary. In the book of Job, Satan is one of the sons of God (Job 1:6). And, of course, the other title of Satan is the devil from the Greek diabolos, which literally means slanderer. Through their captivity to the Persians, they learned something: there are two powers ~ one of darkness and light. Thus, in this world, there is God and God’s adversary. Satan becomes in essence everything that is against God. (Barclay Gospel of Mark pp.21-23.)
And so, with this as background, I’d like to elaborate on the story from my imagination here . . . .
This is a story about the Jesus I know and love.
This is a story about earth-shaking silence that bore the sound of deafening harsh voices and one soft and gentle voice Who sent Jesus among us so we could know we had a father/God who loves us with an everlasting love.
This is a story of confrontation and testing.
Dramatic confrontation with the elements ~blinding sun and penetrating darkness, blistering wind and numbing cold, impassioned hunger and parching thirst.
Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to pray and fast.
There, he would shape his mission. He was searching for the answer of the question: What kind of spiritual leader would he be?
There, he was also tempted by the devil, who sought him to distort that mission.
First, a harsh voice prompted Jesus to turn stones into bread as a way of manipulating others to get them to follow him. Jesus could have made people dependent on him; instead, he shared with them what he realized: One does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.
Another harsh voice tempted him to throw himself down from the parapet of the temple and have his angels come and raise him up. He could put together a traveling road show of clever signs and wonders. Things would be easier that way. People would easily follow a clever magician. But this would draw people away from the Father, not toward him.
The soft voice was simply asking Jesus to reveal the real order of the Father’s kingdom.
Jesus realized his mission in life was to reveal Abba’s love as Father of all. Jesus was to let the world know that there was a soft voice within us all, who is there to affirm and to love, to test and to guide.
A third harsh voice promised Jesus the whole world, saying: “You’ve got the power to gain the whole world. You can be king of this world.
And Jesus sadly realized that many of his followers, even in the Church, would succumb to greed of every form. They would kill in Crusades and Inquisitions in the name of love.
As he was tempted, he was led into a soul-embracing love of the One he was to reveal. In the desert, Jesus must have knelt down and promised in all simplicity to seek and to do the will of the Father from moment to moment. And in that act of fidelity, in that decision, the new covenant surely was sealed in Jesus’ heart.
In the desert and its temptations, the whole of humanity was drawn into the possibility of intimate experience of the divine. Because one person was willing to be led into the holy of holies, we all can go with him. We can go–provided that we ~ like Jesus, are willing to be tested and cleansed, strengthened and purified.
You see, dear friends, in this story, at the beginning of Jesus’ mission, is the answer to the question: Why did Jesus have to die?
The answer is: to surrender himself into the hands of evil people was the only way Jesus could be faithful. God could have intervened on behalf of his own son. But that was out of the question. The world could not accept God as a gentle Father. They found his message of love much too demanding. And since the authorities could not and would not accept him and his message, the only recourse left to him was simply to give witness to that message–even to the end. He chose to be faithful to the soft Voice of the Father , not compromise the message, even if it led to his death.
Jesus had to suffer and die because, tragically, that was the only way the world would allow him to be faithful to the Word he heard and preached.
The Father was more pleased with the fidelity of one son than he would have been with the spread of a message that did not reveal his love.
This is a powerful lesson for those among us who would coerce others into being good ~ church leaders, or any one else in authority.
The false voices which Jesus tamed and quieted ~ the voices of greed or accolade or power–we must tame and quiet, relying on his power as elder Son.
The soft voice of the Father to whom he was so devoted, the voice that was the source and object of all his fidelity, each one of us should train ourselves to hear. And then learn . . . day after day after day to love . . . more deeply . . . more intimately . . . more really–the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
This ~ is the Jesus I know and love!
And I ask him to teach me the gentle ways of the Father. Through Jesus, may we be faithful too.
And now, before you go, here’s a song I’ve always loved with a lovely slide show ~ Be Not Afraid. Click here. Remember to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.
William Barclay: the Gospel of Mark Revised Edition / The Daily Study Bible Series / The Westminster Press Philadelphia / 1975
Thursday after Ash Wednesday, February 19th, 2015
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
In the first reading, Moses says:
“I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse.
Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live, by loving the Lord, your God, heeding his voice, and holding fast to him” (Deuteronomy 30:15-20).
Now here are my thoughts on Mose’s address to his people. One often hears the word’s Choose Life as a Pro-Life message. That’s important, but each of us are invited to choose life again and again, every day. This Lent is an acceptable time to choose the life that affirms and nourishes us and extricate ourselves from the dysfunctional communication and game-playing within the walls of our own home that cauterise the souls of our spouses and our children. Choose Life this day in the way you speak to and about everyone you meet today. Choice is an act of the will, the highest power of the human person. Choose your words carefully. Preside over ~ take responsibility for what comes out of your mouth. Realize your words create life or death.
In today’s gospel, Jesus says,
“If anyone wishes to come after me, he must take up his cross daily and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.
What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself? (Luke 9: 22-25)
My reflection: Jesus gives us a koan ~ a Zen word that denotes a riddle that often takes a long time for us to get it.
Try to get into it this Lent. Ponder its meaning for you right now. Repeat it often until you get it.
It’s So counter-cultural. In our society people do everything to avoid the smallest bit of pain. They even have numbing pads so that you don’t feel it when you prick your finger for the Accu-check for diabetes. And we avoid emotional pain by not thinking through our problems. We might be tempted to do this by running away. A hasty divorce or a cruel text message to dump a girl friend who no longer suits us.
The Cross of Jesus is about commitment. Lent places before us the Cross of Jesus and his loving embrace of it. He willingly stretched out his arms to be nailed. Jesus knew he would have to face a lot of suffering on his journey. He knew he would make people angry by telling the truth he saw in his heart. He knew that it would lead him to death every step of the way up to Jerusalem. The issue is Acceptance of whatever life calls us to. Jesus accepted the Cross because he chose to be faithful to his mission.
Jesus did a brand new thing. His message was that his Father-God embraces every person without exception. His message was that He, Jesus, transcended the Law; that the only law was to love. This went against the grain of those who saw him as a threat to all they knew.
In the desert, Jesus made a firm commitment to BE the truth that he saw in his heart no matter what. Jesus embodied that highest moral standard: to commit his life to justice and love, no matter what it cost him. His mission was very simple: Stay on message, no matter what. He was a person of absolute integrity. No one was going to dissuade him from being who he was.
Very sadly, many in the church say that they believe in Jesus but are quick to condemn, quick to hate. If you are one who has been condemned by the church or treated hatefully, I, for one, ask forgiveness from you for I know Jesus would never want that for you. And I ask for forgiveness and change of heart for those who do the condemning and the hating.
Yesterday 21 Egyptian Coptic Catholic Christians were brutally martyred for their faith because of such hate and went swiftly and triumphantly to their Lord. Yet Jesus would remind us not put to violence put on top of violence!
Finally, I would like to be in solidarity with so many of us these days who have crosses to face that are profoundly difficult. Let us help each other to bear the cross we must carry. But remember, the key is acceptance. Acceptance ~ the willingness to be nailed ~ is the secret to yours and my recovery.
This is the Jesus I know and love: The one who has the strength to love, no matter what. He’s my hero. I would like very much to be like that. How ’bout you?
Tomorrow we begin to reflect on Jesus’ forty-day retreat into the desert, (the Mass text for this coming Sunday) to prepare for his mission. Now before you go, here’s a concert version of the old hymn “Jesus walked the lonesome valley” Click here.
Ash Wednesday is upon us once again. Easter is early this year ~ April 5th
So, you may ask ~ what’s this Ashes thing”
We Catholics like symbols. (So does Harry Potter.)
What are ashes about?
What can they tell us about life? And death? And reality?
When the priest smears ashes on the penitent’s forehead he says one of two poignant phrases:
REMEMBER THAT YOU ARE DUST AND UNTO DUST YOU SHALL RETURN,
or REPENT AND BELIEVE IN THE GOSPEL.
So, it’s a sign of humility, a sign that we are part of the earth, that we are dust.
Are we to reflect and ask ~ Are we just dust?
Have we made an ash-heap of our life?
Are we sitting in an ash-heap?
Is there nothing but ruin, smoldering embers around us?
If so, do we despair?
Or can we dream of re-building?
Whether or not, the answers to these questions apply to us literally, it is important to humble ourselves before our God.
They could very well be true at any moment of our life. There but for the grace of God go I.
I was searching for a song about ashes and I found one by the Rock group Rev Theory in their song The Fire.
Here’s an excerpt of the lyrics; they seem to know something about this stuff:
Tell me that I’m hopeless
Tell me I’m a lost and wayward son
Tell me that I’m callous
Tell me that our life is too forgone
So take a breath and brace yourself
Tell me I’m a lost soul
Tell me I’ve one foot in the grave
Tell me that I’m shallow
Tell me it’s enough to keep you awake
So take a breath and brace yourself
Coz tonight this could be the last chance before we die
Can we rise again from the ashes?
In this final moment
Is the fire still alive?
Notice these guys are dealing with the same issues here.
Of being lost; of needing a change. And, amazingly, they use the metaphor of ashes and ask if the fire is still alive.
What is the fire for them? Love? Creativity? The Holy Spirit perhaps?
But for us, Lent is a season of hope that ends in new life ~ in risen life.
It’s a time to TURN AROUND ~ to make a U-turn ~ when we realize our life has gone in the wrong direction.
That’s what the word conversion means. To simply do a U-turn.
Turn around and head in a different direction.
Get going again.
CHANGE, so you don’t keep on doing the same old thing and expecting different results.
Or of just renewing and deepening our commitments. Or just deepen our fervor.
I have a little bone to pick with Catholics who show up on Ash Wednesday, get a smudge of ashes on their forehead without the slightest intention of doing what they symbolize: CHANGE.
Don’t just give up something for Lent. Get at the root of your life where you need to look at the real stuff.
I invite you to go deeper into the practice of your religion.
Make the sign Mean Something!
Let it transform you from inside out.
The question is: Do we ~ you and I ~ have the COURAGE TO CHANGE?
So, let’s do Lent well together.
During Lent, be ready to walk with Jesus to Jerusalem.
Find out who this Jesus is ~ for you.
And what wisdom he has to offer us that will help us to change.
It seems Rev Theory are on their way to it already.
Whether you are Catholic or not, perhaps you will find some wisdom,
some meaning for your life in these pages. Join us as we walk the journey together
as Jesus did ~ through suffering to death to new and risen life these six weeks of Lent 2015.
God of pardon and of love,
Mercy past all measure,
You alone can grant us peace,
You, our holy treasure.
Now here’s Rev Theory’s ~ The Fire Click Here. Be sure to enter full screen but if you’re not used to rock music DON”T turn up your speakers.
Thursday ~ The Jesus I know and Love
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
Well, this week the Big Easy and Rio have one thing in common — one huge party. And what is so interesting its very Catholic. It’s a time to let your hair down before the strike of midnight on Ash Wednesday when we Catholics fast and abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and the Fridays during the six-week Lenten season.
The root of the word “CARnival is the same as the word “inCARnation”~ a word that means the enfleshment of the Son of God.
Now here’s a bit of carnival or Mardi Gras history for you.
A carnival is a celebration combining parades, pageantry, folk drama, and feasting, usually held in Catholic countries during the weeks before Lent. The term Carnival probably comes from the Latin word “carnelevarium”, meaning “to remove meat.” Typically the Carnival season begins early in the new year, often on Epiphany, January 6, and ends in February on Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras in French).
Probably originating in pagan spring fertility rites, the first recorded carnival was the Egyptian feast of Osiris, an event marking the receding of the Nile’s flood water. Carnivals reached a peak of riotous dissipation with the Roman BACCHANALIA and Saturnalia.
In the Middle Ages, when the Catholic Church tried to suppress all pagan ideas, it failed when it came to this celebration. The Church incorporated the rite into its own calendar as a period of thanksgiving. Popes sometimes served as patrons.