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Contents: Volume 2 - The Fifth Sunday of Lent

04-07-2019  Years A and C


 

The 5th

SUNDAY

of LENT

2019

 

1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP

2. -- Carol & Dennis Keller

3. -- Brian Gleeson CP

4. --

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

 

 

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1.

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Lent 5 A 2019

The Gospel story about Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead is long and complicated and filled with many wondrous revelations. Since it is such a familiar story, I find it helpful to re- read it and just "sit" with it a bit. More often than not, some quiet time helps me reflect on something I need to learn more about at that particular time.

This Lent, I need to learn more about accepting God's ways. It is becoming more and more obvious to me that they do not always align with the "good" I want to see in my life, now and in the future. I do know that I should be aligning what I want with God's ways, not the other way around, but......!

Yet still, I find it hard to see beyond what I feel will be life-giving and beneficial. How could God not want that, I think!? Well, ultimately, God is God, omniscient and in charge... and I am not. Sometimes we have to wait and accept God's answer, "Not now, not yet." Sometimes, the answer is a firm "No."

I just finished reading the novel The Next Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Ablom. The book is not a religious treatise but it came to mind as I prepared to talk to my grand daughter about why Jesus just didn't go and cure his friend, Lazarus in the first place. I think that most things are connected in this world so that the Good that God wants ultimately is accomplished either with our help or with the help of someone else. The book weaves a story that shows how lives and misfortunes blend to produce good after all is said and done. This is not a great book review on my part here, but rather a possible connection to how to try to understand and then manage life's ups and downs and tragedies, a little sooner than after we die.

Jesus's last words in this Gospel selection are ""Untie him and let him go." What is it that binds each of us, that something about which we need to learn more? How will we allow God to set us free to live in God's ways not ours? Let us pray that God, perhaps in some unimaginable way, will show us His ways a little more clearly these last weeks of Lent.

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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2.

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Fifth Sunday of Lent April 7 2019

Isaiah 43:16-31; Responsorial Psalm 126; Philippians 3:8-14; Gospel Acclamation Joel 2:12-13; John 8:1-11

The four Evangelists collected stories and sayings of Jesus in four different ways. Each wrote for a particular audience and from a particular point of view. In doing so, the collection of the four gospels gives us information, advice, understanding, wisdom, and inspiration for daily life. It amazing that our Scriptures – both Hebrew and Christian – are applicable to our living two and three thousand years after they were written. However, it takes effort to put ourselves into the stories and sayings. The stories reach deep into the hearts and minds and wills of every person. These Scriptures are old but ever new. The catalogue of events and relationships apply even in our time and place. But there must be an effort to visualize ourselves as persons in those stories.

In this Sunday’s cycle C reading of John’s gospel we are faced with a story about mercy, compassion, and forgiveness. It’s easy to imagine the woman caught in adultery. In our era of "Me, too" we question where is the man with whom she committed adultery? Our imagination pictures the crowd roused by scribes and Pharisees as only men. These men would have no sympathy for this woman but would react with righteous indignation at the her failing. There are of course the scribes and Pharisees who judged this woman and wrote her off as trash. Again, where is the man with whom she committed adultery? Perhaps he was a Pharisee or a scribe. Maybe he was a merchant or a laborer. Perhaps he was one of the priestly class. We’ll never know. But we can put ourselves in the place of that un-accused adulterer. While someone else takes the heat we slink away, unnoticed, un-accused, not judged as worthy of death dealing stones and rocks.

What about the crowd. They have been called together by shouts of "adulterer, adulterer!" They are quickly led to being judge, jury, and executioner. There is anticipation of blood spilt, of violence enacted. It’s like watching the violence and spilt blood of our current day entertainment. The crowd becomes righteously indignant, forgetful of their own sins. They lose their guilt and shame by joining the mob in denial of God’s merciful compassion. They surrender their freedom to the intentions of demagogues. Crowds are always controlled by creating scapegoats. Persons with self-serving motives always divide by denying dignity and worth to another group or race, or language, or color of skin, or economic condition. The scene in our gospel is manufactured by scribes and Pharisees who wish to rob Jesus of his message. If he shows compassion, he goes contrary to the law that says adulterers and rebellious children are to be taken outside the city walls and stoned. If Jesus decides to condemn this woman, he goes contrary to his message and miracles of God’s love and compassion and mercy. The Pharisees and scribes must have rubbed together their hands in delight at this trap they devised to destroy Jesus’ popularity.

Are we part of the crowd, easily led into hatred, vengeance, and violence? Or are we the manipulators who see a way of making ourselves look good? Are we the ones who form rallies to divide and thus claim and exercise power? Have we forgotten our own condition in allowing ourselves to be galvanized into loud, raucous, unthinking, and hateful mobs? Have we found ways of gathering followers at the expense of other human beings? Have we joined crowds that slowly and systematically harm the ecology of our fragile world without thinking?

Perhaps we’re caught in a shameful action. Perhaps we’re the victim of bullying by scribes and Pharisees and threatened by mass hysteria. What of us in those situations? How do we manage our response to being condemned by others? Do we duck and hide by distracting the crowd to other targets? Do we deny our fault with manipulation of the truth? Do we forget who and what our God is? Have we forgotten that our God is known by the magnificence of his creation? Have we failed to see and appreciate the wonder of every individual person? Have we forgotten that each bit of creation, every individual is a unique expression of the Word of God? That expression of the Word of God gives us dignity because it comes from the fingers of God. We are worthy not because we earn it, but because we have been created that way. And it is because God treats us – always has through-out the history of the world – with loving kindness. We are the prodigal son and the elder son. We are the one who tries to hide imperfections and sins even from ourselves. When we are caught we are shamed and try to hide our sins from ourselves and in doing so think we are hiding them from others. We push our damaging moral decisions to the edges of our living and slowly, systematically push them from our consciousness. When caught we tend to extend an apology that is patterned over the apologies of politicians. We apologize not for our sins and omissions but for the sensitivity of those injured. "I apologize if anyone has been harmed."

In all this, this Sunday’s wonderful story gives us an opening for hope. We all sin. Some of us successfully push the responsibility for the evil we do outside our self-consciousness. In doing so we relieve ourselves of guilt and shame. Those who admit their failings with full consciousness of the harm done to self and others receive the mercy and compassion of the loving Father. After all, we each and every one are an integral part of God’s dream.

We’re nearly finished with Lenten time. This week is the final push to the great mysteries of the Three Days. It’s time to turn up the heat on ourselves and get right with our fellow man, with the wonderful world in which we live and in doing so we will get right with the God and Father of us all. Easter will be for those who come home to be reconciled a renewal of the joy of living and a new spring-time of hope and promise.

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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Year C and A


MEETING THE MERCIFUL JESUS: 5TH SUNDAY OF LENT C

The story is told of a young French soldier who deserted Napoleon’s army. Within a couple of hours he was caught by his own troops. The penalty for desertion was death. The mother of the young soldier heard what was happening and went to plead with Napoleon to spare the life of her son. Napoleon heard her out but pointed out that because of the serious nature of his crime her son did not deserve mercy. ‘I know he doesn’t deserve mercy,’ the mother answered. ‘It wouldn’t be mercy if he deserved it.’ She was right. Mercy is not justice. It’s pure gift, grace and graciousness, in imitation of God.

We hear in our gospel today a story about the mercy of Jesus. It illustrates his teaching: 'Do not judge and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven' (Lk 6:6-37). A married woman has been found in bed with another man. At once she is treated like dirt. First, she is thrown out of her house. Then there is talk of hitting her with the full force of the Law, death by stoning (Lev 20:10; Deut 22:23-24). Next she is hustled to some Pharisees, the defenders of the Law. They decide to hustle her to Jesus. For if they can get away with it, they will try to hurt Jesus as well as the woman: 'Master,' they say pompously, 'this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery, and in the Law Moses has ordered us to stone women of this kind. What have you to say?'

They present Jesus with a dilemma. On the one hand, if he defends her they will accuse him of contempt for the Law of Moses. If, on the other hand, he condemns her, that’s the end of his reputation for mercy and leniency towards sinners. His enemies have placed him in a seemingly 'no-win' situation.

Jesus admits that she has sinned, but he does not condemn her, for he has come to seek and save the lost. He does so in a stunning way. While admitting that the woman has indeed sinned, he also knows that in different ways her accusers are sinners too. So he answers with this challenge: 'Let the one among you who is guiltless be the first to throw a stone at her.' His brilliant reply rules out any condemnation of the woman, even by the most zealous follower of the Law. For who would dare to claim: 'I am totally sinless, I am completely blameless, and so I'm entitled to throw stones?'

His enemies are forced by the words of Jesus to drop the stones from their hands and to slink off one by one. So the poor sinner is left alone with the Sinless one. St Augustine comments: 'There they were together, great misery, on the one hand, and, great mercy, on the other.'

As for the woman, she is not abandoned to her fate. Jesus is more concerned for her future than her past. His concern is to show her how much God loves her in her predicament. So he invites her to put the past behind her and make a brand new start. 'Neither do I condemn you,' says Jesus, 'go away and from this moment sin no more.'

These are liberating words, liberating words indeed, words which not only set the woman free from the harshness and hard-heartedness of her accusers, but also from her own feelings of shame, guilt, self-loathing and despair! The promise of God in the First Reading has come true: 'No need to recall the past, no need to think about what was done before. See, I am doing a new deed.' And so, if we too have sinned but repented we have before God no evil past any longer. Having come back to God will all our hearts, we are new men and new women in a new world, and can therefore praise God in the words of today's psalm: 'The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.'

This true story challenges our tendency to divide the people around us into them and us, and into good ones and bad ones. We might suppose that the good ones are those we belong to, and the bad ones are those they belong to. But that line is a lie. No one is perfect. In different ways we are all sinners. So a wise saying has it: 'There's bad in the best of us, and good in the worst of us. So it makes no sense for any of us, to talk about the rest of us.'

So, ‘what we need to heap up in our own hearts and in our church is compassion that heals, not stones that hurt’ (Verna Holyhead). As part of the process of our conversion in Lent, then, we might ask ourselves today: Do we want to be like Jesus or like the religious leaders of his time? More specifically, if we are ready to accept the understanding and forgiveness of God for ourselves, must we not be ready to understand and forgive others? Don’t we just need to drop our grudges against others once and for all, let bygones be bygones, and move on?

In preparing for Holy Communion today we will be saying to God our Father, 'forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.' And in the Sign of Peace we will be exchanging the sign of a loving heart, which includes the desire and intention to forgive. May we say what we mean and mean what we say!


WEEPING AT ANOTHER’S DEATH: 5TH SUNDAY OF LENT A

‘Jesus weeps’ with sadness at the death of his friend. He does not hide his tears. But then he calls out: 'Take the stone away.’ ‘Lazarus ... come out.’ ‘Unbind Lazarus, and let him go free.’ Clearly Jesus is the Master of life and death, ‘the resurrection and the life’.

Death comes in many forms other than our final exit. We may feel that we have lost our grip on life, that we are broken, defeated and destroyed. A kind of death may happen to us if or when we find ourselves suffering grief, hurt, illness, shame, humiliation, separation, or the end of our marriage. The dreadful experience, whatever form it takes, may even leave us feeling that we have no energy, no future, and nothing left to live for.

It’s not difficult to see Lazarus as a symbol for us all. Perhaps many of us have felt at times that we too have ended up in a tomb! Dead and buried! Cut off from life and the joys of life! Languishing in some cold dark place! Helpless, frustrated, bound up, and falling apart! Feeling too that some huge boulder is blocking our path back to light, life, and freedom! A boulder too heavy for us to roll away on our own!

A particularly virulent form of living death is the disease of alcoholism. It not only destroys the living physical organs of the patient, but destroys their world of meaning and relationships as well. This has come home to me vividly in recent years when I was offering support to someone who Is a recovering alcoholic. One of the things he told me that will always stay with me is that until he finally turned to the AA programme of recovery, he had been slowly but surely committing suicide.

Whatever form living death may take in our lives, we rarely recover without a great deal of help from other people, help which includes friendship every bit as much as professional therapy. This is where we all come into the lives of others. This is where we act like Jesus himself when he intervenes in the death of Lazarus, and in the grief of Martha and Mary. This is where we help the ones we love and the ones we befriend, to get up from their living death, rise to new life, and get moving again.

So it's a matter of being on the ready to be 'Godsends', in fact agents and instruments of the Holy Spirit, to anyone who may need us. It's a matter of being sensitive to, being responsible for, and being compassionate towards. It's a matter of caring enough, reaching out to, and being there for. It's a matter of believing in, hoping that, and supporting the struggling and stumbling ones, to get back on track and rediscover that life is worth living after all, and that they still have a lot of living to do.

Jesus wept at the loss of his dear friend Lazarus. So must we weep at the plight of people who mean much to us. Right now I’m still mourning the murder of innocent Iranian asylum seeker Reza Barati, cruelly killed on Manus Island, PNG,on February 17th.

We cannot belong to Jesus without weeping with him at the tombs of our fellow human beings, and calling them out of those tombs into the light and love of God’s embrace. An alternative Opening Prayer today of our celebration of Christ, our resurrection and our life, spells out beautifully what our communion with him and one another leads us to do and to be:

‘Father ...,’ we pray, ‘the love of your Son led him to accept the suffering of the cross in order that his brothers and sisters might glory in new life. Change our selfishness into self-giving. Help us to embrace the world which you have given us, that we may transform the darkness of its pain into the life and joy of Easter.’

When the much loved Pope John XXIII was dying he pointed to the crucifix near his bed and told those standing around him that it was those open arms of Jesus crucified that inspired his whole programme of life and work.

What an inspiration it is to you and me as well, to take our cue from Jesus, not only weeping at the death and loss of his close friend, but doing all he could to change death into life, darkness into light, and sadness into joy!

For the sensitivity that you and I need, then, to become aware when a sister or brother is close to breaking-point, and for the courage, compassion and generosity to step in and offer our assistance before it’s too late, let us keep praying to the Lord!

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

 

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Volume 2 is for you. Your thoughts, reflections, and insights on the next Sundays readings can influence the preaching you hear. Send them to preacherexchange@att.net.  Deadline is Wednesday Noon. Include your Name, and Email Address.

-- Fr. John


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