Fifth Sunday of Lent, March 29
John 12: 20-23
“I am troubled now. Yet what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name.”
In our Gospel reading for this Fifth Sunday of Lent, Jesus is referring to his coming passion and death on the cross. Jesus’ death on the cross is the triumph over the powers of sin and darkness. The Scriptures tell us that it was the disobedience and sin of the first man, Adam, that brought suffering into the world in the first place. Jesus is often referred to as the Second Adam. The Second Adam undid, repaired the rift, the harm, that the first Adam brought about. But also with that sin of Adam the human race passed from the preternatural to the natural state and the suffering remained. In his poem, Daisy, Francis Thompson, a British poet of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, wrote:
Nothing begins and nothing ends,
That is not paid for with moen;
For we are born in others pain,
And perish in our own.
Jesus took the suffering that he had to undergo as a human being and made it a vehicle of our salvation. Jesus further looked at his passion and death, his suffering, as his “hour of glory” when he would be “lifted up from the earth” and “draw everyone to myself.” To describe this Jesus gave the analogy of the grain of wheat. In order to produce new life, the seed must first be buried in the earth and die so as to produce new life, new fruit. Jesus died for us and rose on the third day. We die though our suffering so we may rise to new life.
The sufferings we undergo as human beings can be the vehicle through which we die to ourselves and then rise again to new life. We can see this happening to people suffering from the pains of an addiction. In order to recover they must die to their own wills, their own selfishness, and allow God into their lives, turn their lives and wills over to him, and then and only then will they experience a new life, a life of freedom from the addiction, happiness and peace. Were it not for that suffering from the addiction, this new life might not have happened. I believe all of our sufferings may be looked at in this same way. Think of the sufferings you have undergone that have brought good into your lives, that have changed your way of looking at things, good that you would not have had otherwise.
We read in the Scriptures that Jesus did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it. Nor did he come to abolish suffering or remove it from us, but rather he came to fulfill it with his purpose and with his presence. Jesus suffered, died and rose. We too suffer, die and rise. Thank you Lord for your saving plan and ways.
Monday of the Fifth Week of Lent, March 30
John 8: 1-11
“Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.”
The story told in today’s Gospel is for me one of the most beautiful and meaningful stories in Scripture: Jesus’ forgiveness of the woman caught in the act of adultery. The scribes and the Pharisees, the self-righteous ones, were all set to stone this woman to death for her crime. But first they decided to try and trap Jesus into an answer contrary to the law. And the answer Jesus gave them will be repeated over and over till the end of time: “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”
I tried to find out something about a woman named Louise Fletcher Tarkington, but I could find nothing. A poem attributed to her is often quoted in connection with forgiveness. The first stanza, in part, goes like this:
I wish there were some wonderful place
In the Land of Beginning Again.
Where all our mistakes and all our heartaches
And all of our poor selfish grief
Could be dropped like a shabby old coat at the door,
And never be put on again.
I like the idea of the Land of Beginning Again. There surely is a place in Christ’s heart that could be given this name or the Land of Second Chances. When God forgives a sin, it ceases to have existence. We have another chance to new life and never have to be reminded again of what we once did. Do we follow this way of Jesus in our forgiveness of others who have hurt us?
Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Lent, March 31
Book of Numbers 21: 4-9
The first reading for today’s Liturgy is taken from the Book of Numbers and in it we learn that all the people being led on their journey by Moses to the land of milk and honey were complaining constantly over the lack of food and water. God would come to their rescue and still they complained. It seems as though God got tired of all this complaining and sent venomous seraph serpents among the people to bite the complainers. Moses then prayed to God to take away the serpents and God told Moses to make an image of the seraph serpent and mount it on a pole. All who gazed upon that image would be healed.
The seraph serpent mounted on the pole that gave life is a sign of Jesus being hung on the cross and dying for our sins. All we have to do is look at him, gaze at him on the cross, and we too will be healed. Human life is full of false gods that “bite” us and turn us away from the Lord. Let us again turn our hearts to the Lord Jesus to light us up, heal us, and make us whole.
Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Lent, April 1
Book of Daniel 3: 14-20, 91-92, 95
The first reading for today’s Liturgy is a wonderful reading from the Book of Daniel in the Old Testament renowned among lectors for the difficult names they must pronounce when reading it. The story is all about Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, and some Jewish men whom he made administrators in Babylon named Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. The King issued a decree that everyone should fall down and worship a golden statue he had set up. Anyone who refused to do so would be instantly cast into a white-hot furnace and that would be the end of them.
As you might guess, the three Jewish fellows Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to worship the golden statue. Nebuchadnezzar’s gods were not their God. So into the furnace they went after the King ordered it to be heated seven times more than usual. Later, when the King looked into the furnace he saw them unfettered and unhurt walking in the fire. The King exclaimed, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel to deliver the servants who trusted in him.”
Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego refused to worship any god but their own true God. Many of us could well imitate these three men and turn from the false idols we are falling down and worshipping in our own lives. Ring any bells?
Thursday of the Fifth Week of Lent, April 2
John 8: 51-59
The first reading for today is from the 17th chapter of the Book of Genesis where God established a Covenant with Abram who later would be called Abraham and be the father of many nations. A Covenant is a coming together, the coming together, the meeting of God and his people. In this Covenant God made an everlasting pact and promised Abraham “to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. I will be their God.”
It was God’s Son Jesus who came to fulfill that Covenant. The old Baltimore Catechism that so many of us studied in grade school tells us that God made us to know him, to love him and to serve him in this world and be happy with him in the next. This is the Covenant that Jesus fulfilled. Jesus revealed to us the Father in revealing himself. He tells us that God is merciful, compassionate, kind, loving, forgiving, serving, and humble. Wow!!
Heavenly Father, thank you again and again for the gift of your Son Jesus.
Friday of the Fifth Week of Lent, April 3
John 10: 31-42
In our Gospel selection for today, the Jews picked up rocks to stone Jesus. Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many good works from my Father. For which of these are you trying to stone me.?” Jesus came bringing nothing but love, compassion, forgiveness and service to the people. Why would they want to stone him to death?
Jesus also comes to us time and time again bringing nothing but good, the way to happiness, joy and peace we all desire deep in our hearts. He has shown us time and time again that he is the way, the truth and the life. He is goodness personified! Why in the world do we keep throwing rocks at him and try to chase him from our lives by doing things our own way, by taking our selfishness to the furthest extremes? I don’t know about you, but I personally cannot think of one good reason for doing so.
Saturday of the Fifth Week in Lent, April 4
John 11: 45-56
Today’s Gospel selection for our Liturgy takes up where yesterday’s left off. In the first reading for today from the Book of Ezekiel, God renews his Covenant promise once more: “I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”
Today’s Gospel comes right before Jesus raised his friend Lazarus from the dead. Lazarus lived with Mary and Martha, his sisters, in Bethany, a small town only a couple of miles from Jerusalem. A few days before, Jesus had fled across the river to where he was safe from the Jews. Now he chose to return to Judea to help his friend, Lazarus. This really infuriated the Sanhedrin. The end is now in sight. Tomorrow is Passion or Palm Sunday and we will read the story of the Passion of the Lord from the Gospel of St. Mark. As we stated a few days ago, Jesus came to fulfill the Covenant God made so long ago with his people. He will do this in his passion and death on the cross. As we begin this holy time of the Liturgical Year, once again let us renew our allegiance to Christ our Lord and his life-giving values. Let this holy time remind us to be a gracious and thankful people.