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Provisions for the Journey to Jerusalem

Brief reflections on the week’s Scripture readings.


- Lent Week 4 -

Week of March 26, 2017


Sunday, March 26:  He made clay with the saliva, and smeared the clay on his eyes, and said to him, "Go wash in the Pool of Siloam." So he went and washed, and came back able to see. (Jn 9:1-41)

At the beginning of this passage, we learn the man in the story has been blind since birth. He does not ask Jesus for healing, nor does Jesus ask him if he wants to be healed. Unlike in the story of Bartimaeus, we don’t hear that the man knows who Jesus is or knows he is near. But Jesus begins the healing process and then tells the man to wash in a nearby pool. The man has a step to take in order for the healing to be complete. But how does he find his way to the right pool? Biblical archeological websites place the pool of Siloam outside the temple walls, along with some other pools. It is unsaid, but we can assume someone helps him; someone guides him to the place where he can take what Jesus has given him and make it real in his life.

Today’s Provision—Be a Guide to Healing:  Perhaps it is Jesus’ disciples who lead the man to the pool to wash his eyes. Or maybe it is one of his fellow beggars—I like to imagine that is the story. But someone reaches out for his hand and helps him take the all-important final step in faith. Do you know a person in search of healing? Maybe he or she doesn’t even know Jesus, but they have felt his touch nonetheless. All they need is someone to guide them. We are both Jesus’ disciples and fellow beggars in need of mercy. We are not the healers, but are called by Christ to guide those willing to be healed to faith. Can you reach out today to guide someone from blindness to sight?

Monday, March 27: “I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me. I will extol you, O LORD, for you drew me clear
and did not let my enemies rejoice over me. Hear, O LORD, and have pity on me; O LORD, be my helper."
(Ps 30)

Have you ever noticed the Psalms contain a lot of references to our conditional love of God?  ‘I will praise you because you rescued me. I’ll extol you because you put an end to my enemies. But if you hadn’t, well…I guess I wouldn’t be around to praise you anyway!’ Or, we hear a lament: ‘Where are you? Why have you abandoned me? Come back and I will praise you again!’ It is so much easier to praise God when we get the answer we have prayed for. But do we still praise God when things don’t go our way?

Today’s Provision—Praise Him: I marvel at people who have suffered greatly and still hold tightly to their faith, but most say it is the one thing that keeps them from despair. Being honest and real in our prayers is so important. Like the psalmist, we can reach out to God from whatever emotion we are feeling—anger, grief, joy, confusion. If we don’t, we can grow bitter, and God’s mercy and love cannot comfort us. Look at your life: When has God been most present to you? People often say it is when they have been at their lowest. Praise him! Think about a time when your prayers were answered. Have you thanked God for that gift? Praise him!  When life is chugging along, with few hills and valleys, can you see God in the ordinary? Praise him! Praise him always!  

Tuesday, March 28: (The angel) measured off a thousand cubits and had me wade through the water, which was ankle-deep. He measured off another thousand and had me wade through the water, which was now knee-deep. Again...the water was up to my waist…but there was now a river through which I could not wade. (Ez 47:1-9, 12)

The water flowing from the temple is indeed the life-giving water of the Lord. It starts out as a trickle but grows into a mighty river the farther it gets from the temple. In reflecting on this metaphor, it occurred to me: The deeper the water, the harder it is to wade. The water pressure gets to be such that each step is laborious. At some point, we need to raise our feet off the bottom and swim, reliant on our strength, but also on the current. When I am working “close to the temple” it doesn’t require much effort. It’s pretty easy to wade around, even when I encounter the inevitable cross-current or eddy. But the farther I go into the world, the harder the wading becomes. The world away from the temple clearly needs the steady stream of living water, but I have to be careful not to rely exclusively on my own footing, lest I get knocked for a loop. There comes a point when I need to be buoyed by the strength of my faith and the current of the Spirit’s grace. Oh, and I try to remember: it’s always a good idea to keep one of God’s angels around—someone who can lead me to rest on the shore and call my attention to the wonders and beauty of God’s world!

Today’s Provision—Enjoy the Water: How far are you willing to wade into the water? It’s wise to know our limits, but it’s also important that we continue to strengthen ourselves to withstand the rise of the tide or choppy waters, and to help those who are not as strong. Do you always “swim with a buddy” or use a life preserver? Do you allow yourself adequate rest on the shore? God is in need of strong swimmers to assist and teach others. If you are one who is always in the water, make sure to give yourself time to rest. If you are wanting to wade a bit deeper, find a buddy to be by your side. And for everyone: always, always wear the life preserver of faith!   

Wednesday, March 29: “"My Father is at work until now, so I am at work…."Amen, amen, I say to you, the Son cannot do anything on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing.”  (Jn 5:17-30)

Jesus uses a metaphor of an apprentice, someone who watches and learns from the master tradesman, something he did as a young man as he modeled his carpentry skills after Joseph’s. So what does Jesus see his heavenly Father doing at this time in Israel’s history? If he looks at the temporal world around him, he sees discord, violence, and upheaval. Instead, he looks to the words of Isaiah and the Psalmist: In a time of favor I answer you, on the day of salvation I help you; and I have kept you and given you as a covenant to the people.” (Is 49) “The LORD is gracious and merciful…good to all and compassionate toward all his works…The LORD lifts up all who are falling.” (Ps 145)

Today’s Provision—Do the Father’s Work: Where do you see God at work today? For me, it’s often hard to see or understand what God is doing. This is particularly true if I am too caught up with what’s playing in the media. If you are finding it difficult to find God at work, perhaps you need to “adjust your dial.”  Make sure you are balancing staying abreast of the news with being in nature, serving the less fortunate, reaching out in love, focusing on the good that others do every day for the world and all its creatures. Try to look at things through God’s eyes.

Thursday, March 30: Our fathers made a calf in Horeb and adored a molten image; they exchanged their glory
for the image of a grass-eating bullock.” 
(Ps 106)

Very little in biblical scholarship is cut and dry, but things that have to do with dates are particularly troublesome. Some scholars say Israel was in slavery in Egypt for over 400 years; others claim the real number is closer to 200. Either way, it was a pretty long time. Long enough for the people to be influenced by the culture of their masters. For the most part, they did live in community and were able to keep to their traditions, but they couldn’t miss the glittering golden statues and temples to the Egyptian gods and royalty. And gosh, now that they were free, it was so much easier to worship something they could see, something they had fashioned with their own hands, something they even sacrificed their own gold to make!

Today’s provision—Identify your gods-Again:  Yes, we talked about this last week, but it bears repeating. This is one exercise we should do on a regular basis. It’s easy to get caught up in the culture in which we live. Things of our own making—our careers, our children, our ministries and religions; our grades, our social lives-can subtly, slowly but surely begin to replace God as the center of our lives. And while we may not actively worship them, they become the focus of what we think about and how we spend our time, so much so that God is relegated to the sidelines, if he’s even on the playing field at all. One way to keep this in check is the nightly examen: “Where did I find God today,” and more importantly, “Where did God find me?”

Friday, March 31:  "The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; and those who are crushed in spirit he saves.” (Ps 34)

“And every human heart that breaks, in prison-cell or yard  ▪ Is as that broken box that gave its treasure to the Lord  ▪

And filled the unclean leper's house with the scent of costliest nard. ▪▪ Ah! Happy they whose hearts can break and peace of pardon win! ▪ How else may man make straight his plan and cleanse his soul from sin? ▪ How else but through a broken heart may Lord Christ enter in?”  (A brief excerpt from the searing poem, The Ballad of Reading Gaol, by Oscar Wilde)

Today’s Provision—Open your Heart: If sorrows and sins have hardened your heart, God needs just a small crack, a tiny opening for the warmth of his light to enter in and soften the treasure he finds hidden there. Sit for a time in silence today. Let the peace of mercy and pardon fill your senses and cleanse and soothe your soul. 

Saturday, April 1: Some of them wanted to arrest him…so the guards went to the chief priests and Pharisees,
who asked them, "Why did you not bring him?"
 (Jn 7: 40-53)

Jesus is a fugitive from the law. These words might be unsettling but they are important to acknowledge and consider, especially today. Jesus is a revolutionary. His crime is sedition. He is stirring up the crowds, making statements like the Kingdom of God is not for the rich and powerful, but for the poor, the imprisoned, the alien; that the Kingdom of God is infinitely bigger and broader than the Kingdom of Israel, and that the coming of the Messiah is not about making Israel great again. If Jesus were to appear today, his treatment would be the same as it was 2,000 years ago. We would convict and crucify him, if not literally, then politically. We know this because he is here—in the poor, the sick, the elderly, the undocumented. How are you treating Jesus these days?

Today’s Provision—Examine your Heart: This is tough stuff, but is the cost of discipleship. In fact, in his book of the same name—The Cost of Discipleship—Dietrich Bonhoeffer calls upon all Christians to look seriously, critically, and deeply into their hearts to see how willing they are to acknowledge Christ—not the Christ of history, but the Christ alive in the world today. Do we hope to get by on “cheap grace” that dilutes Jesus’ revolutionary message and enables us to make peace with the secular world?  Or are we willing to strive for “costly grace” that takes the message of the Sermon on the Mount and Matthew 25 at its word? Yesterday, we talked about opening our hearts. Today, let’s ask ourselves: Am I willing to bring Christ in?
 


© 2017, Elaine H. Ireland.  “Come and See!”

Reflections are available at http://www.preacherexchange.com/comeandsee.htm

To receive “Come and See” via email, send a request to ehireland@loyola.edu


Elaine Ireland has a passion for working with parents and anyone who struggles to maintain a sense of God’s love and peace amid the day-to-day challenges of life. She has a master’s degree in Spiritual and Pastoral Care from the Pastoral Counseling department at Loyola, Maryland, with a focus on developmental psychology and spiritual guidance.  Rooted in Ignatian spirituality, she is a writer, retreat and workshop leader, and presenter on topics such as pastoral parenting, “letting go,” and finding the spiritual in the midst of everyday life. She lives in Ellicott City, Maryland with her husband, Mark and children, David and Maggie.

 

We hope you enjoy "Come and See!" and we welcome your input. Please contact Elaine Ireland at ehireland@loyola.edu with questions, comments, and responses.

 

© 2009, Elaine H. Ireland - Images@FaithClipart.com


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