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Contents: Volume 2 - LENT IV (B)
- March 14, 2021

 

  LENT

  IV

   2021


1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP

2. -- Carol & Dennis Keller

3. -- Brian Gleeson CP

4. -- Paul O'Reilly SJ

5. --(Your reflection can be here!)

 

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1.

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Lent 3B 2021

 

Our world seems to be a bit overwhelmed by the sudden but seemingly lasting changes in people's lives, with difficult struggles, too much uncertainty, or added responsibilities caused or deepened by the pandemic. Most of the time, these deep feelings are temporary, but sometimes they do linger. How can we Christians follow the Gospel message and come to the light and be light in the face of so many shadows and feelings of darkness?

 

Personally, I feel that acknowledging the power of grace helps me immensely. The reading from the Letter to the Ephesians reminds us of "the immeasurable riches of his grace in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus." God indeed has loved us by sending us Jesus and God still does love us. Sometimes God is silent, but God is there, loving each of us. In the situations in which we may find ourselves these days, remembering that is not so easy.

 

A spiritual director once shared the benefit of still thanking God on "one of those days", surprisingly that the day had ended. I've shared that concept with my other 3 live-with family members, including my now 12 year old grand daughter, when it is clear that we all need a respite of sorts, individually and collectively. If that prayer of thanksgiving is the beginning of my personal evening prayer, I often just breathe a deep sigh of gratitude and snuggle under a cozy blanket, somehow secure that "God's got this"!

 

Interesting type of prayer, for sure, but it does seem to energize me to feel and then come closer to the Light the next morning. While it is a bit more difficult to be an optimist on some days, being hopeful in view of God's love and care for us, is a necessity. Sharing the struggle and the hope because of God's immeasurable graces embraces reality, but I think it also helps us all walk together to the Light.

 

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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2.

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Fourth Sunday of Lent March 14, 2021

 

2nd Chronicles 36:14-16 & 19-23; Responsorial Psalm 137; Ephesians 2:4-10; Gospel Verse John 3:16; John 3:14-21

 

The gospel has Jesus referencing the story of the Seraph serpents that attacked the Israelites in the desert. It has always been a matter of curiosity in that narrative -- that by looking on the brazen image of the serpent that afflicted them the Hebrew tribes were saved from certain death. In this Sunday’s gospel Jesus refers to the incident: “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up.” It is an easy matter, based on our tradition, to understand Jesus was referring to his being lifted up and Jesus being crucified – how does these incidents impact Christian lives? What is there about looking on an image of a deadly serpent that causes those Hebrews to be saved from death? Isn’t the molded image of a deadly serpent a form of idolatry? There are so many questions about this. Perhaps we should instead ignore this passage in Exodus and this saying of Jesus. But we cannot. Above our altars of worship, of sacrifice, and of communion we place the image of Christ crucified. In most of our Catholic homes, there are representations of the crucified Jesus placed on walls of bedrooms, of living rooms, and dining areas. Why are we so fixated on a dead savior and the tool that murdered him?

 

Perhaps in the first reading there is a clue to this dilemma. The reading from Second Chronicles gives us a broad overview of the Jewish leadership and the holders of civil and religious power in the years before the Babylonian conquest of Judea. In an effort to appease rival empires and avoid siege and domination by pagan foreign powers, kings, royalty, priests, and Sadducees (the capitalists in the time before the Christ) forgot the faith in the God who claimed to be present to the people. Faith in the “I am who am” was pushed aside in favor of man-made pagan gods made of clay, wood, silver, and gold. The present-God was supplanted by carved and molten images of spirit lacking man-made gods. Prophets shouted against these abominations, insisting the nation must stay true to trust in the God who led them out of captivity in Egypt. But the prophets’ testimony was derided and rejected. Those prophets were routinely stoned or exiled. Eventually, after a revolt against occupation by the Babylonian empire, the city was destroyed and the temple burned. In that siege, Jerusalem’s citizens were slaughtered in the streets – men, women, and children. The blood of domesticated animals and fowl mingled with the blood of their owners. The nation and all its leadership and citizenry had trusted in the gods of pagans. And those gods failed to deliver them! Yahweh’s covenant, recorded in stone tablets in the ark of the covenant, was secreted out the city and walled up in an undisclosed cave by the prophet Jeremiah. Its location remains a secret even to this day. The presence of God with his people was ignored and even rejected by the people. God did not leave – the people left God and chose to be governed by pagan gods.

 

The venom of Seraph serpents poisoned and killed many Hebrews in the desert. It was only when that poison was recognized and its source held up to the light so the people could see what was killing them – only then were the people, the nation healed and made whole. Recognition of the source of death lifted the people from certain death. When despair gives way to faith, when fear gives way to hope, when survival is moves from individualism to community, then there is life even in the face of certain death. The presence of God as healer, as life-giver is the solution to certain death. Surely that has been the Christian experience and before Christianity, the experience of the Chosen People.

 

When we look upon the crucified savior in the Lenten time of introspection and examination of our living, we see conflict that each of us experiences. In every age of history, conflict exists between what is good for people and what benefits those who gain by dominating and abusing people and creation. Violence erupts from the choices of leadership. It is the ploy, the play book of those who practice tyranny. Such persons seek to be served, to gain from the back breaking labors of underpaid, under appreciated persons. Such persons depend on cultic worship of themselves. Such manipulators of truth and good shout loudly, sow dissention, and slander and libel good people by the retelling of conspiracy stories that paint their opponents as scum. It is by division that despots gain power. Those who suffer – those who are lifted up for derision, for mockery, for scapegoating – these are the ones who live again the agony, the pain, and the deaths of the savior. Whoever follows in the Way of the Christ will soon discover their choice brings suffering for failure to fall in step with evil. Evil serves evil. The common good falls prey to a worship of a cult of rugged individualism. Abuse of others is considered a victory that proves that might makes right. Worship of power and of wealth becomes the gods served by those who practice evil.

 

For Christians who look upon the Crucified One there is a remembering of his last words: “Father, forgive them. For they know not what they are doing.” Persons who follow the Way of the Christ realize the plight of the Savior is also their plight. Who can overlook that the Messiah suffers even to death at the hands of failed religious leaders and powerful rulers who court power for their own benefit? Those who follow in the Way of the Christ conquer hatred by forgiveness, heal division by participating in communities of care. Those who are Christian lift up the fallen, heal the wounds and infirmities of all people. That is how a new kingdom, the Kingdom of God is born and is expanded. That Kingdom is established by the crucified one and confirmed by the Creator God, who is Father to all. It is the raising up of the Son from the tomb. But it is in acceptance of the serpent that seeks to kill us, in continuing to work and live according to the ministry of the Son of Man that persons of faith will ultimately shrink the power and influence and wealth of those who seek to divide us from the God who is with us.

 

Paul insists that the cross is a sign of contradiction. It is fighting to the very death against the way of the world that brings the ultimate victory. Death loses its sting. In the thousands upon tens of thousands of deaths of those who love rather than hate, those who heal rather them maim, of those who feed instead of starving, of those who look beyond themselves to the good of all – it is in these billions of “good” people, purified by the love of the Savior that the world is transformed and brought to fullness of life.

 

We should not forget that lines in the gospel Jesus speaks. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.” We should not think we must deny the world. It is truly a part of our faith that we view our efforts, our attitudes, our love and concern for others and the world that through our work the world and its inhabitants are saved from never ending death. The world is worth saving from death, from untruth, from division, from violence. Working for the common good of all is a significant part of this. In our prayers, in our fasting for collection of resources to benefit the poor; in our Lenten practices we join with the Christ as he is lifted up only to be buried and then confirmed in his sacrifice by resurrection. That is the trajectory of our living.

 

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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3.

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GOD’S LOVE IN JESUS CHRIST:4th SUNDAY OF LENT B

 

Are you and I being saved? If so, how?

 

When I was going to Catholic elementary school a long time ago, Christian teaching was taught by the question-and-answer method. One question the catechism asked was this: ‘Why do we call Good Friday “good”?’ It answered in these words: ‘We call that day “good”, on which Jesus Christ died, because his death has shown how much he loves us, and has brought us so many blessings.’ The answer endorses the famous and treasured saying in the gospel of John today: ‘God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life’ (3:16) So St Paul of the Cross, Founder of the Passionists, has called the Passion and Death of Jesus, ‘the greatest and most overwhelming work of God’s love’.

 

But in telling and re-telling the story of what Jesus did and what happened to him, not everyone has highlighted God’s love. Take the stirring hymn, ‘How Great Thou Art’, which ranks in the top five of nearly every survey of most-loved hymns in the English-speaking world! (It rocketed to fame in Billy Graham’s 1954 London Crusade). I can comfortably join in the singing about wandering through the forests, looking down from lofty mountain grandeur, feeling the gentle breeze, and praising the greatness of their Creator. I can join in the fourth verse about looking forward to the joy of that day, when Jesus will come to take me home to God. But when it comes to the third verse, I have to stop singing the words, because they seem to suggest that Jesus died as a substitute sacrifice for my sins!

‘And when I think that God his Son not sparing

Sent him to die, I scarce can take it in.

That on the Cross my burden gladly bearing

He bled and died to take away my sin.’

No! God the Father did not send his Son into the world to die on the cross. Only a monster God would do such a thing. The Father sent his Son to live and love - to show and tell everyone, just how real and deep, how everlasting and unchanging, is God’s love for all human beings, bar none.

 

On the part of Jesus, his response to God was to be faithful to his mission from God – to make God’s kingdom of truth, love, healing, peace, and joy, happen everywhere on earth. No matter what happened to him, Jesus would not take back his commitment to that mission. But the response of his enemies was to reject God and kill Jesus. So, it was not God who created the cross, but human beings. Human malice, scorn, and hatred put Jesus on the cross. So, the cross is, first of all, a symbol of human sinfulness. In the second place, it is also a symbol of continuing divine love and fidelity. In fact, ‘God the Father both inspired Jesus with courage and love and waited on his free decision to suffer for mankind’ (Gerald O’Collins, echoing Thomas Aquinas).

 

The response of God the Father to the rejection of Jesus by human beings, and to the fidelity of God’s Son, was to raise him from the dead. So, God remained loving and faithful, despite human infidelity, and hostility. Indeed, in raising Jesus to life and glory, ‘God transforms the brutal and wicked act of crucifixion into an event that brings healing and liberation’ (Denis Edwards) to all who connect to the cross.

 

It would be a big mistake to isolate the death of Jesus from his life and ministry before it. It must be seen as the climax of the way he lived, the result of all he did and endured for the coming of the kingdom of God. The evidence of the bible suggests that Jesus was expecting both a premature and violent death, the lot of the prophets before him. It even seems that he adopted a kind of ‘bring it on’ attitude when he drove out the buyers and sellers from the Temple. But, as he saw it, what awaited him was not disaster but destiny. He accepted his cruel and unjust death, trusting that not only was it necessary for the kingdom of God to happen, but that his beloved Father (his Abba), would vindicate him, and do so personally. His trust, of course, was richly rewarded, rewarded when he rose in his body from the grave.

 

Salvation in Jesus may lead us to reflect with Christopher Monaghan CP:

 

‘God loves us with a love that is so deep that we cannot even begin to plumb its depths… In John’s gospel, Jesus is lifted up to lead us home, not to judge or condemn, but to give us life. We all need beacons in the dark that point us in the right direction, and Jesus lifted up on the cross is that beacon that will bring us safely home.’

 

"Brian Gleeson CP" <bgleesoncp@gmail.com>

 

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4.

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Year B: 4th Sunday in Lent.

 

“The man who lives by the truth comes out into the light,

so that it may be plainly seen that what he does is done in God.”

 

When I was a novice, I used to work in a parish where – because they were giving me all the bad jobs - they put me on what we used to call “drinkers’ duty”. Every morning, from about 7 o’clock onwards, about 20-30 men and women would come up to the church and they would stop in and tell me how much alcohol they had drunk the previous day. And my job was to write it down – not to say “that’s good” or “that’s bad” – just to write it down as a permanent record. All sorts of people came – from poor homeless drug addicts to rich and successful businessmen. Sometimes, they would come very proudly and say “None! And that’s just two pints for the whole week.” Other times, one would come very ashamed looking and say “Err... eight cans, brother.”

 

Nobody made them do this – they wanted to do it. They were all men and women who knew that they had a problem with alcohol. And they also knew what Jesus tells us today:

“everybody who does wrong

hates the light and avoids it,

for fear his actions should be exposed;

but the man who lives by the truth

comes out into the light,

so that it may be plainly seen that what he does is done in God.”

And so they wanted – they needed – a place they could go and a person they could trust enough to be honest with every day about their drinking. Because they knew that they needed that kind of support to help them control their drinking.

 

That, of course, is the spirit of confession. And of all the things I ever get to do, I never feel more useful than when I am hearing confessions. People who are not Christians often find this difficult to understand. They ask, “Why can’t I just confess my sins to God? Why do I have to bother with a priest?”

 

And the answer of course is that you can – nobody is stopping you. But we all know that we human beings are good at fooling ourselves. We all need – not just alcoholics, but all of us – we all need a place where we can go and a person whom we can trust and confess before God what we have done and what we have failed to do. And that is because, as Christians, we are – or at least we want to be - people who live by the Truth. We come out into the light, so that it may be plainly seen that what we do is done in God.”

 

Everyone knows that sunlight is the best disinfectant – but we usually only recommend it for other people. It is part of being a priest, part too of being a doctor, to come to know that just about everyone has some grubby dark little secret which would not bear the light of day and which would cause shame if it ever became publicly known. Sometimes, to an objective outsider, it can seem a small thing, painful but not ultimately important in the great scheme of things, but which secretly shames a person. I’ll tell you for free that my mind often returns in prayer to a single small act of unkindness I did not so long ago, when I was eighteen.

 

Sometimes, it is a great burden which the person who carries it cannot imagine that the World will ever come to understand or forgive. But we do not confess to the world at large; we confess aloud, but only to God and to ourselves.

 

And so, let us put ourselves before the Lord and ask God’s Blessing on our lives – and especially God’s light in those places in our hearts – and don’t forget that nearly everyone has them - where light has never shone. And if it should happen, that there are people here who have no secret shames at all, then please spend the next few minutes in prayer for those many of us who do.

 

Let us stand and profess our Faith in God who is the Truth and the Life.

 

Paul O’Reilly, sj. <fatbaldnproud@opalityone.net>

 

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5.

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