30 March, 2014
29 March, 2014
22 March, 2014
Third Sunday in Lent (A) 23 March 2014
At ease with God
José Antonio Pagola
It’s a charming scene. Tired from the journey, Jesus is sitting at the well of Jacob. Soon a woman arrives to draw water. She belongs to a semi-pagan people, despised by the Jews. Quite spontaneously Jesus begins to talk to her. He is incapable of despising anyone. Rather, he pleads with great tenderness: “Woman, may I have some water.”
The woman is surprised. How dare he make contact with a Samaritan! How does he stoop to speak to an unknown woman? The next words of Jesus will surprise her still more: “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
There are many people who, through all these years, have been distancing themselves from God, without noticing what was really happening in their hearts. Today God happens to be a stranger to them. Everything to do with him seems empty and meaningless to them: a childish world ever more remote.
I understand them. I know exactly how they feel. I, too, have gone on slowly distancing myself from that “God of my childhood”, who awakened in me so many fears, discomfort and unease. Probably, without Jesus I would never have found a God who today is for me a Mystery of goodness: a friendly, welcoming presence in whom I can always confide.
I have never felt drawn to the task of verifying my faith with scientific proofs: I think it is a mistake to treat the mystery of God as if it were a task needed to be proved in a laboratory. Neither have religious dogmas helped me to find God. I have quite simply allowed myself to be carried by a trust in Jesus that has kept growing through the years.
I would not be able to say exactly how my faith is sustained through a religious crisis which also shakes me up as it does everyone else. I would only say that Jesus has drawn me to live faith in God in a simple way from the depths of my being. If I listen, God does not remain silent. If I open up to him, he does not close up. If I open my heart to him, he accepts me. If I surrender to him, he sustains me. If I collapse, he raises me up.
I believe that the first and most important experience is to find ourselves comfortable with God because we find him a “saving presence.” When someone knows what it is to be at ease with God because, in spite of our mediocrity, mistakes and egoism, he receives us just the way we are, and encourages us to face life peacefully, he will not easily abandon his faith. Today many people abandon God before having known him. If they had the experience of God Jesus communicates, they would seek him.
THEMES AND CONTEXT
José Galarreta S.J.
This fragment is one of many in which the people of Israel, journeying through the desert find themselves without water and violently protest against Moses, all the while longing for Egypt, the land of their slavery. Moses goes before the Lord and draws water from the rock for the people. But the deepest meaning is found in the final phrase. Israel asks:”Is the Lord in the midst of us or not?” This is the fundamental question of the man of Faith, of one who has put his faith in God, but is always tempted to give up half way.
THE TEXT OF THE LETTER TO THE ROMANS
The message of this text, complex as are all those of Paul, is clear: the hope of the children of God is founded on Jesus, on the death of Jesus, the proof that God loves us. The relation of God with human beings is love: the love shown in Jesus. The Spirit makes Jesus, the presence of the love of God, capable of going all the way, even to death. And this fact is the foundation of our faith. If the first text ended asking: Is the Lord in our midst or not? Paul finds the answer in Jesus, in the fact that we see the presence of God in our midst.
THE TEXT OF JOHN
It is one of the most beautiful and famous texts of the Gospel of John. The marvelous staging of the scene, the development of the dialogue, the many details that place the story perfectly in its setting...Far more important to us, however, is its meaning. Jesus is the living water. They may seem to be stories, they very probably narrate details that took place, but they are above all treatises of theology.
The event most likely happened, the details capture the atmosphere perfectly in all its details. Jesus’s passing through Samaria on the way to Jerusalem is not mentioned in any other gospel, but it is not impossible: the well could be that “of Jaco”, even though it’s location of Sychar has caused discussions. The text also reflects perfectly the religious position of the Samaritans with regard to the Jews.
On this story John builds his “Theology of Living Water”. It would seem to be an invitation to speak of baptism; the text, however, has a much wider baptismal implication. Water is taken in a more biblical meaning, as appears in the Book of Exodus, exactly as we see it in the first reading today. It doesn’t mean to submerge oneself, to wash oneself, but “to “drink”. In this sense, the text throws light on baptism, because there we begin to drink the water of Jesus.
On these three Sundays of Lent (3rd, 4th, and 5th), we are going to read three narratives of the fourth Gospel. Today we read the one of the Samaritan woman, the theme of which is “the living water”. On the Fourth Sunday it is the man born blind, whose theme is “light”. The fifth Sunday is the resurrection of Lazarus, the theme of which is “Life”. The three are perfect symbols of Jesus and through him, of God.
R E F L E C T I O N
Jesus and the Samaritan woman: a world full of surprises. Jesus is tired and thirsty, and he cannot draw water because the well is deep. Our faith is not founded on Jesus as a magician, free of getting tired and weaknesses. We will never tire of insisting too much on the fact that we believe in that man.
Jesus speaks with a woman, with a Samaritan woman, and moreover with a woman of bad repute. Even his disciples are surprised. But take into account that he is a doctor, he has come to heal, to save, he has to be where the sick are. Wonderful picture of God. Jesus is least interested in the Temple, in external acts of worship; he is interested in seeing the woman setting her life right. Jesus dreams of saving the whole world: but he needs help. This fact defines our mission: do you want to help God to see his children live as children? Yes, that of Jesus is different.
What water is to normal life, Jesus is to human life. Jesus is Water, Jesus is the Word, Jesus is the one who gives the Spirit. Jesus is not a well where one goes occasionally to drink water. He is a fountain of the spirit: he who drinks from Jesus is a fountain. He himself feels gushing from within him/herself the water that wells out to eternal life, and does not thirst any more for any other kind of water, because Jesus quenches the thirst for all other things.
It is important we acquire the way of speaking of the Bible. We always function through concepts, and we want to comprehend reality through them with precision and clarity. But we are speaking of God and the whole Bible and the Gospels speak of him through images. And what marvelous images they are! The major part of our organism is water. We cannot live without water. Thirst is the greatest agony. To find water in the desert is an incredible miracle. That is what God means in our lives, that is the Gospel. It would be wonderful to be able to say without being surprised, “let’s go to drink from the Gospel of Mark.”
All these symbols express very well the condition of being human, someone who needs food, light and water... to walk the road. It’s once more confirmation of the image of God Jesus gives us. We prefer using other terms: Eternal, Creator, Judge... But Jesus uses terms within our reach: water, light, life, bread, shepherd, door, doctor, father. All of them underline the same tendency: Jesus presents God as an ally, in the same terms as the most ancient Revelation. Man has to walk a road. God is his best help on the road. The Word of Jesus is the best light, water, bread for the road, God is the shepherd and the doctor. We are used to addressing God by saying “My God”. We even say:”Father”. It would be wonderful if it wouldn’t sound strange to call upon him saying: “Oh my Water!”
When the Samaritan woman understands that Jesus is offering her more than water from the well, she immediately changes over to raising customary religious problems that Jesus isn’t interested in: the Messiah, the temple of Jerusalem or the one on Garizim... But all that isn’t the water of Jesus. The water of Jesus is in that true worshipers adore in spirit and in truth. And this is not limited to saying that there must be true worship in the temple by a surrender of the spirit to God, but that there must be true worship that downplays the temple and changes all life into worship.
This “novelty of Jesus” had already been sown in the Old Testament, and Jesus himself quotes the saying of the prophet Hosea “I want mercy and not sacrifices.” But it is in Jesus that it appears most powerfully and in its most radical meaning. God is not in the temple, like a lord living in a palace. He is everywhere and above all in all his children, all human beings’; that’s where we must serve God. Temples and religious places have been for religions places to enclose gods, besides whom there are no others. Hence, for traditional religious concepts there is a difference between the sacred and the profane. With Jesus, this difference disappears, because there in nothing profane. Further still, if life is not sacred, the temple is profane, because it is useless.
A final reflection uniting the two themes we have proposed. The world needs water, it is thirsty. It is thirsty for physical water, for physical bread, for physical housing, and it is thirsty for Living Water, to know God, to know who he is, which is his home. This is the sacred space for those who follow Jesus, this is their worship, this is the Word of which they are the bearers. Too often have we thought that to take the Word to the nations is to preach religion to them. This is all a caricature, a belittling of the The Word. The Word is not our words: The Word is Jesus, a different way of living, a new way of relating to others, a new relationship to God. All this is explained in words, but is only transmitted through deeds. It’s the reason why water appears again in the last “parable”, the final judgment. In it what has value is separated from what is worthless not by what has been preached, nor by juridical belonging to the Church, but by the best of all the phrases that anyone can understand:
“Because I was thirsty and you gave me to drink.”
The fact is that Jesus changes everything: our relationship with God, the Living Water: our relationship with the others, with those with whom we have to share our Water, the very concept of religion, which is the water that makes the life of human beings fertile.
“IS THE LORD IN OUR MIDST OR IS HE NOT?”
This doubt of the people of Israel is perhaps also ours. Where is your God? In a world filled with so much misery and so much evil, where is God? One needs a very strong faith to continue to speak of a God father of all, to continue to assert that he exists, that he knows what’s happening, that he loves us... Why does he continue to allow so much evil his children endure? Jesus has not explained to us the reason for this. Jesus has told us what the Father wants to do, and that he needs us to do it. Jesus has not spoken of the Creator, neither has he explained why the Father allows each one of our hairs to fall, and also allows so much evil. But certainly Jesus has told us that in this desert, the Water, the light, the salt, the bread ... is the Word of God. This is our faith. And it is not easy to communicate it. But it is a mission we have been entrusted with. To offer water in the desert. To be water in the desert. This would take us back to “you are the salt...”
Christ is the proof of all this. Our faith in the divinity of Jesus is going to be put to the test on seeing his humanity. To see him suffer and die is a scandal. Can such a thing happen to God? “If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” The same thing happens to us on seeing the cross of so many crucified people on earth. It’s the strongest challenge to our faith. If, after the cross, we continue to believe in God, it’s because we know that precisely on that account he did not come down from the cross...Our faith is in a crucified Jesus, that is: we believe in the love of God, in spite of evil in the world, in spite of the desert, because we have seen Jesus give his life for us, for sinful men, simply because we need to believe in love, in spite of the fact that we see evil, hatred. Perhaps for that reason we do not have the Risen Christ as a symbol, but of Jesus crucified. Remember the perfect saying of John 3,16: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,” endorsed by Paul in his letter to the Romans 8,32 “God, who did not even keep back his only Son, but offered him for us all!”
I KNOW WHOM I HAVE TRUSTED
The Israelites kept asking in the desert: “Is the Lord in our midst? Is he or is he not?” It’s the fundamental question of faith? Can I trust? Is all this true? We read the story of the Samaritan woman and from our hearts the fountain of faith in Jesus flows. I can certainly trust this One. There is no Teacher like this, no Word like this, , no Religion like this. If this is who God is, this is Water for my life, this is what I can trust, put my faith in.
FOR OUR PRAYER
1. A simple way of praying is to re-read the passage from John. Everyone of his words can lift our spirit. Repeat the reading, very slowly, stop at words, savor them, allow them to penetrate your spirit.
Jesus and the Samaritan woman. It’s a whole new world. Jesus is tired and thirsty, and he cannot draw water. This is the man we believe in. Jesus speaks to heretics, with a woman of doubtful morals, Jesus saves all he comes into touch with. Jesus does not speak of external worship nor of petty differences between forms of worship.
And how wonderfully well Jesus handles the conversation! From the thirst of the body to the need for God, from the pseudo-religious talk on useless topics, to the most serious point of his message, the urgent need for conversion.
2. The disciples surprise Jesus dreaming of the salvation of the world.
Jesus is dreaming of quenching the thirst of the whole world; the whole world is thirsty, the harvest is ready, and there is need of laborers for so much work. Jesus has no thirst for any of the things for which we thirst so much. Whoever drinks of the water Jesus gives no longer wants any other; whoever finds the treasure of the Kingdom no longer wants any other wealth.
Let us contemplate this scene. We are seated next to Him, and we regard the world, so full of men, women, and children, being born, needing things, suffering, dying, needing Water from God without knowing it. Dream with Jesus of the salvation of the world, in the happiness of all people. Listen to Jesus who says: Look at the fields glistening golden with the harvest. The harvest is great, but the laborers are few.
You lack one thing: come, follow me. Come with me, I will make you fishers of men.
As the Father sent me, so I send you
3. And so, we too are surprised : we speak to God to have him solve our problems and we find ourselves faced with an unexpected answer: Do you want to help me save?
4. Prayer of petition for our desert. Ask God for water for our lives. Ask the Father confidently, beginning with all our needs, knowing that He hears me, knowing that he will give it to me, making an act of faith in that he knows all that I need and that he gives me even more. And I think him.
MY WORDS FOR YOU
An exiled priest longs for his priestly duty in the temple, yearns for the House of the Lord:
As a deer longs for running streams, so my soul yearns for You, my God.
12 March, 2014
Though we like novelty and want to see changes around us, yet basically we are traditional and prefer to go on the way we always did. Yet, life is full of changes. Sometimes we wish we would change but often we do not believe that we can change. We give a lot of reasons why we cannot change and so we never change. Lent is about transformations made possible by faith. May His Word challenge and transform us. With His Spirit have a transfiguring Lent weekend! –Fr. Jude
Sunday Reflections: Second Sunday of Lent Called to be transformed …. 16-Mar-2014
In the first reading from the Book of Genesis we have the inspiring story of the call of Abraham. At the age of seventy-five, when most aged people have retired or are written off, Abraham sets out on a journey of faith, moving from the familiar, secure and well-ordered routine in his native place to an unknown destination, literally to ‘God knows where’! All he can rely on is the promise of God. In obedience to God’s call he sets off. Abraham is blessed and in turn becomes a blessing to his people. It is never too late to change, to respond to God’s call.
Transformed by love
“Picture an old lamp covered with layers of dust and dirt. How wretched and useless it looks. Then someone comes along, cleans off the layers of dirt, and polishes it until it begins to sparkle, and then lights it. Suddenly the lamp is transformed. It positively glows, radiating light and beauty to every corner of the room. Whereas prior to this it was disfigured with dust and dirt, now it is transfigured with beauty by the light. Yet, it is the same lamp. When an object (or a person) is loved and cared for, it is redeemed, and rendered brighter and worthier.”
Flor McCarthy in “New Sundays and Holy Day Liturgies”
Today’s gospel reminds us, first of all, that transformations take place in the context of prayer. Jesus led his disciples up a high mountain, where they could be alone. The mountain, in the Israelite tradition, symbolized the meeting place with God. Moses had witnessed Yahweh on the mountain and each time he encountered Him his face glowed with the presence of God. Jesus was transfigured in their presence and ‘his face shone like the sun and his clothes became as white as light.’ Secondly, Jesus appears transfigured in the context of his relationship with his Father, symbolized by the presence of the cloud and the heavenly voice. The cloud symbolized Yahweh, who in the form of a cloud accompanied the Israelites as they journeyed through the desert to the Promise Land. Thirdly, this transfiguration is not only a blessing and an affirmation for Jesus, proclaimed by the voice from heaven, “This is my Son, the beloved; He enjoys my favour. Listen to him”, but it is also a blessing for the three disciples, who are witnesses of the transfiguration. They have a privileged viewpoint on salvation history as they witness Jesus in conversation with the father-figures of the Law and the prophets, Moses and Elijah. This vision will reassure them when they hear other voices later opposing Jesus, rejecting his mission, and seeking to destroy him. The transfiguration would be only for a moment. But Peter wanted to capture it and prolong it and make it permanent by building tents or tabernacles to contain this experience. We too want the good experiences, the peak moments of life to last forever. We are afraid to let go and move on, we want to be in the past rather than move on to where the Lord wants us to go. But the reality is that we have to come down from the mountain.” Our transfiguration can happen in the strangest of ways when we let Jesus into our lives.
Van Gogh was not noted for his physical beauty. In fact his face was described by some as being repulsive. Yet as soon as he began to speak about art, his melancholy expression would disappear, his eyes would sparkle, and his features would make a deep impression on those around him. It wasn’t his face any longer; it had become beautiful. It seemed he was breathing in beauty. At times all of us can feel down and depressed, a prey to feelings of failure and worthlessness. But then suddenly something nice happens to us – a friend calls, or we get a letter with some good news in it – and suddenly everything is changed. The truth of course is that nothing has changed. It is just that a spark of joy or hope or love has been kindled in our hearts, and we suddenly see ourselves in a new and better light.
Flor McCarthy in ‘New Sunday & Holy Day Liturgies’
Transfiguration –A change of attitudes?
Rabbi Abraham Twersky tells a story about his great-grandfather who was sitting with other rabbinical scholars studying the Talmud when it was decided to take a break for refreshments. One of the groups offered to pay for refreshments, but there was no one who volunteered to go for them. According to Twersky, in his book Generation to Generation, his great-grandfather said, “Just hand me the money, I have a young boy who will be glad to go.” After a rather extended period, he finally returned with the refreshments, and it became obvious to all that the rabbi himself had gone and performed the errand. Noticing their discomfort, the rabbi explained: “I didn’t mislead you at all. You see, many people outgrow their youth and become old men. I have never let the spirit of my youth depart. And as I grew older, I always took along with me that young boy I had been. It was that young boy in me that did the errand.” –Our transformation, our transfiguration begins in our change of attitude.
Gerard Fuller in ‘Stories for all Seasons’
Finding God on the mountain?
The 17th century English poet, John Donne, tells of a man searching for God. He is convinced that God lives on the top of a mountain at the end of the earth. After a journey of many days, the man arrives at the foot of the mountain and begins to climb it. At the same time God says to the angels: “What can I do to show my people how much I love them?” He decides to descend the mountain and live among the people as one of them. As the man is going up one side of the mountain, God is descending the other side. They don’t see each other because they are on opposite sides of the mountain. On reaching the summit, the man discovers an empty mountaintop. Heartbroken, the man concludes that God does not exist. Despite speculation to the contrary, God does not live on mountaintops, deserts, or at the end of the earth, or even in some heaven, - God dwells among human beings and in the person of Jesus. – Staying on the safety of the mountain is what Peter would prefer. During the transfiguration Peter and his companions got a glimpse of the future glory of Jesus’ resurrection. They want nothing more. However after they come down the mountain they are told by Jesus that the glory they witnessed would be real only after he had gone through suffering and death. We too will share in his glory, only by sharing in his suffering and death.
Simon K. in ‘The Sunday Liturgy’
One Sunday morning in summer when I was twelve, I was waiting for my friend Juanita to come over. We had planned a morning together and she was quite late. I was fretting and complaining and generally making a nuisance of myself. In fact I was becoming rather obnoxious to everyone else in the house. Finally, my father said to me, “Get a book, a blanket and an apple, and get into the car.” I wanted to know why, but he only repeated the order. So I obeyed. My father drove me about eight miles from home to a canyon area, and said, “Now get out. We cannot stand you any longer at home. You aren’t fit to live with us. Just stay out here by yourself today until you understand better how to act. I’ll come back for you this evening.” I got out, frustrated, and defiant and angry. The nerve of him! I thought immediately of walking back home; eight miles was no distance at all for me. Then the thought of meeting my father when I got there took hold, and I changed my mind. I cried and threw the book, apple and blanket over the canyon ledge. I had been dumped and I was furious. But it is hard to keep up a good rebellion cry with no audience and so finally there was nothing to do but face up to the day alone. I sat on the rim kicking up dirt and trying to get control of myself. After a couple of hours as noon approached, I began to get hungry. I located the apple and climbed down to retrieve it- as well as the book and blanket. I climbed back up and as I came over the top I noticed a tree. It was lovely and full. As I spread the blanket and began to eat the apple, I noticed a change of attitude. As I looked through the branches into the sky, a great sense of peace and beauty came upon me. I began to see my behaviour in a new light. I found myself thinking of God. It began to be prayer time; I wanted to be a better person. I just lay there in silence. By the time my father returned I was restored. I was different and he knew it.
May the reassurance of His transfiguration and our own encourage us to move on!
Fr. Jude Botelho
PS. The stories, incidents and anecdotes used in the reflections have been collected over the years from books as well as from sources over the net and from e-mails received. Every effort is made to acknowledge authors whenever possible. If you send in stories or illustrations I would be grateful if you could quote the source as well so that they can be acknowledged if used in these reflections.
These reflections are also available on my Web site www.NetForLife.net Thank you.
*Second Sunday of Lent (A)
Matthew 17, 1 to 9
LISTEN ONLY TO JESUS
After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified.
But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.
As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” Jesus takes with him his closest disciples and leads them to a high mountain. It is not the mountain to which the tempter took him to offer him the power and glory of all the kingdoms of the world. It is the mountain on which his closest disciples are going to discover the path leading to the glory of the resurrection.
The transfigured face of Jesus shines like the sun and shows them where his true glory comes from. It does not come from the devil but from God his Father. It is not acquired by the diabolical ways of worldly power, but by the patient way of hidden service, suffering and crucifixion. Moses and Elijah appear next to Jesus. Their faces do not shine but look subdued. They do not begin to instruct the disciples but converse with Jesus. The law and the prophets look to and are subordinate to him.
Peter however fails to sense the uniqueness of Jesus: “If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” He puts Jesus on the same plane as Moses and Elijah. Each one gets a shelter. He does not understand that you cannot equate Jesus with anyone.
God himself silences Peter. “He was still speaking” when between light and shadows they hear a mysterious voice: “This is my Son, whom I love”, the one with the face glorified by the resurrection. “Listen to him”, and nobody else. My Son is the only lawgiver, teacher and prophet. Do not confuse him with anyone else.
The disciples fell facedown on the ground “full of terror”’. They are afraid” to listen only to Jesus” and follow his humble way of serving the Kingdom up to the cross. It’s Jesus himself who frees them from their fears. He came to them as only he knew how to. He touched them as he used to touch the sick, and he said to them ”Get up, do not be afraid” to listen to me and to follow only me.
Even today we Christians fear to listen only to Jesus. We do not dare to place him at the centre of our lives and our communities. We do not let him be the only and decisive Word. It is the same Jesus who can free us from so many fears, cowardice, and ambiguities, if we will let him come to us, and touch us.
Two DVDs from Gurjarvani
1. Paskha Jagaran 2014
Readings of Easter vigil are visualized for use in the service of Easter vigil.
“ He muj Atam “the first response after the first reading is also part of the DVD.
There are two versions of the Easter Gospel.
1 Gujarati – taken from St John visual Bible movie, and dubbed into Gujarati.
2. Hindi – taken from Khristayan movie of Geo George SVD
Any of them cane be used for Easter vigil Gospel presentation.
Thanks to Mamta Desai for directing the artists for audio dubbing.
Balidan ane Punarjeevan
This DVD contains the Passion and resurrection of Jesus taken from the movie, “The Visual Bible of St John” and dubbed into Gujarati.
The voice track is exactly the text of the Gospel according to St John.
The first part can be used for Good Friday or both together for faith formation purposes. The second part can be used for Easter.
Thanks to Mamta Desai for directing the artists for audio dubbing.
08 March, 2014
FOR WOMEN’S DAY MARCH 8, 2014 - by Pearl Drego
There are women who are hungry …… feed them
There are women who are voiceless … let them speak
There are women who are lonely, spend time with them
There are women who need sleep … stop the noise around them
There are women who are sick .. get them treated
There are women who are outcast …. help them belong
There are women who are thirsting for skills … teach them how
There are women who are studying … support their learning
There are women who have no roof … give them shelter
There are women struggling to keep their land … give them expert legal advice
There are women who work too hard … give them a picnic
There are women who are longing for God … teach them to pray
There are women who are composing new songs … learn their music
There are women who are washing dishes … do the washing for them
There are women who are crying with grief … comfort them lovingly
There are women who are rejected and scorned … find them a home
There are women who are tilling the soil … ensure them a livelihood
There are women who grow our vegetables … pay them their worth
There are women who are dying … hold them and accompany them
There are women who are cooking the food … give them a break
There are women who live in the prison of silence … let them shout
There are women who fight for their rights … help them to campaign
There are women who think they are no good. give them self-confidence
There are women who face daily battering … bring them to safety
There are women losing their profits … work to change the economy
There are women facing abuse … free them permanently
There are women who reject unborn girls … teach them to value the
life of the girl child
There are women in danger of violence … give them protection
There are women deprived of affection … hug them tenderly
There are women who are wrongly condemned … declare them innocent
There are women cooking fresh snacks … buy from them
not from the market
There are women birthing new life … give them warmest care
There are women dancing with mirth … join them with joy.
There are some who find themselves assaulted by temptations in the circumstances they find themselves in. There are others who court temptations and let themselves be tempted though they know the situations in which they are likely to fall. We may pray: 'Lead us not into temptations!' and yet let ourselves be tempted. However, temptations by themselves are neither good nor bad. Jesus himself was tempted and saints struggled against temptations. It is how we handle them and grow in spite of them that makes all the difference. Let's pray that with the Spirit's power we fight against evil always! Have a Word-empowered 'combating' weekend! Fr. Jude
Sunday Reflections: 1st Sunday of Lent - "Led by the Spirit! Fighting temptations in the desert with God's power!"
The first reading from Genesis reminds us that Noah alone was spared during the flood. God made a promise, a covenant that man would not be destroyed by the floodwaters and the sign of his covenant was the rainbow. God is faithful to his promise and each time we see a rainbow, it should remind us of a God who is faithful to His promise. All kinds of situations test us and there are times we will falter and fail, we may be unfaithful to our God, but God will not destroy us, He is faithful to his promise, He will save us.
First Sunday of Lent A - 9 March 2014
José Galarreta S.J.
The liturgical year is developed in three years. There is an Ordinary Time, the normal Sundays of the year, which can be up to thirty three. And two special cycles – usually called “the heavy seasons” which are the Christmas Season and the Easter Season.
We have just finished celebrating the Christmas season. Now, after a few intervening Sundays taken from the Ordinary Time, we enter the Paschal Season. Basically, we are always celebrating the same thing, God the Savior with us, but during Easter, we enter more deeply into the human and into the divine. The human is seen from its more disturbing dimension:”man is a sinner”. And God seen from his most hopeful dimension: “made sin for us, obedient unto death of the cross: died, risen, and triumphant at the right hand of the Father.”
This teaches us once more, what God is like and what the human being is like. We not only discover the love of God, the Savior, but also the possibilities and the destiny of man. Just as Jesus did, we go through the cross to the resurrection, from death to life.
The Season of Lent
The two ‘heavy’ seasons are preceded by four or five weeks of preparation. Advent prepares the Nativity with a basic theme: prepare the way of the Lord who is coming. Lent prepares Easter by symbolizing human life: we come from sin, pain, and the encounter with God fully. It is very important to situate ourselves well: it is not a matter of a season in which, so that God forgives us, we devote ourselves to do penance for sins which we do not do the rest of the year. We are dealing with a season in which we remember more intensely a fundamental constituent of human life: to accept a Savior God, to emerge from darkness and death to meet with the light and life manifested in Jesus.
Neither do we do penance to obtain God’s forgiveness. It seems as if we were to buy the forgiveness of God, and that’s not true. God always forgives us, loves us, calls us. Neither is it a time of sadness; on the contrary, it is a time of celebration and being energized: we celebrate the fact that life is a meaningful struggle. We celebrate the fact the struggle , the overcoming of sin, is the work of God for us, and has a glorious end. We celebrate the fact that even though we commit errors, God is there to make up for them. And we celebrate all this looking up to Jesus, who had a life of difficulties and darkness like all of us, who died a disgraceful death because he was faithful to God, and who is alive and triumphant because he has reached the height, the first of all of us, the one who shows us that victory is possible.
Five weeks, forty days till Easter. For forty years the Israelites journeyed through the desert: they were coming out of slavery, the Lord was leading them in the form of a column of light, the Lord went with them in the Tent, fed them with manna. They were going towards the Land, the fatherland. What a marvelous image of human life, full of trust in God, guide and strength for the way to the Fatherland!
Who is it that has robbed us of the happiness of Advent and Lent? Who has reduced the message to penance before a God sitting in judgment? Why have we forgotten that what we celebrate is “GOD the LIBERATOR”? Who is it that has been left with only ashes and has forgotten that it is God who gives life to ashes?
THE TEXT OF GENESIS
It is a summary of parts taken from Chapters 2 & 3. Its author (whom we call the “Yahwehist” because he calls God Yahweh) is taken up with the task of the creation of man and of his condition on earth. He sees that there is suffering and laborious work for the human being. He sees, above all, that there is a dangerous tendency to evil, to believe they are gods, to enjoy what they like against the law of God. And he builds up this precious story to express all this: his message is magnificent:
God has created the human being. The human being is a living element of the earth, like all others, but God has put in him his spirit, and has given him laws so he lives. The human being despises those laws, believing himself to be wiser than God, and thence come all his problems.
Of course, this is the account of something that happened. Historically this is not how human life began, neither was there ever a Garden of Eden. It’s a story invented by the Yahwehist author to send us this magnificent message. The author isn’t interested in knowing out of scientific curiosity what happened a million years ago. He is interested in knowing what a human being is, and he expresses with this story, something fundamental about his faith: with God you have light and order; without God, chaos and misfortune. This will be one of the most important lines of argument of the whole book of Genesis and even of the whole Bible.
The Letter to the Romans
Paul makes use of the text of Genesis and develops it. He accepts the symbol of Adam,the first man, and presents Jesus as the “new Adam”. From Jesus we receive new life, the life of sons. Adam symbolizes man subject to sin. Jesus is man, Son of God, who triumphs over sin. Through him, through Jesus, we can all be sons, conquer temptation, enter the Kingdom.
But this text is obscure. It seems to indicate that Paul was using the story of Genesis, taking it to be historical, or applying it as such. In short, it creates more problems than it solves. I suggest changing it for Romans 7,5.
THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW
The story contains much symbolism. It is possible that Jesus would retire, on this occasion and in many others, to the desert, to fast and pray. It was a habitual practice; it was so among Christians throughout history, and it continues to be so. The text shows us also that Jesus suffered temptations in his life; this confirmation of the temptations of Jesus is very important to know him, and to build a proper Christology, in which the humanity may not seem a mere appearance.
The story of the temptation is evidently “staged”. The most profound temptations of Jesus are presented in a single story, the ones which he undoubtedly suffered in his spirit during his whole life. Jesus was tempted like any human being, as was symbolized in the story of Genesis. Temptations to power, to use the Word for his own advantage, to serve the powers of the world... Jesus shows himself as the conqueror of temptation, able to conquer it to follow the Word and serve God alone.
We are overwhelmed by the human reality of Jesus. He needs to pray , experiences temptations... This trend will culminate in various stories in which Jesus “retires to pray” or “spends almost entire nights in prayer”, and, of course, in the garden of Olives and in the vocal prayer with which he fights his abandonment on the cross.
A significant fact: neither the temptations in the desert nor the anguish in Gethsemane are mentioned in the fourth Gospel. It would seem that in such circumstances Jesus would appear “too human” for the author.
During forty days we portray the life and we illustrate it with the Word. Forty is the biblical number for human existence (400 years in Egypt, 40 years in the desert, forty days Elias spent on the road to Horeb...) It represents “a “provisional time”; this is only a way; on the way is the cross. On the horizon is the Resurrection, the Ascension, the freedom, the fullness.
The first theme of our Lenten meditation is our human condition. We are sinners. At times we simplify this concept giving it the meaning of “we are guilty of disobeying God”. The meaning is more profound. Our condition of sinners means above all that we do not know to distinguish what is good for us, and that we feel strongly attracted to things which seem good to us but which spoil us. All this is included in the concept of “temptation” .
The first temptation is to consider ourselves “gods”. Immediately after comes the second temptation: to live to satisfy our likings, to pay attention to only what we like. In this way, we make this life our final destination: making this life the most agreeable possible. Then we turn to God to help us to make this so. And since God does not help us in this, we think “God does not hear us, God does not help me... there is no God.” The greatest temptation.
It’s wonderful the way the author of Genesis represents all this. He has invented a story in which we feel ourselves portrayed. The irresistible attraction for what is forbidden, the suspicion that although forbidden it is not bad, to prefer what I think and feel to the Word of God... The author of Genesis is a wonderful writer; he knows how to create images that describe us perfectly; he is also a profound theologian. He has been able to give a body to our condition as sinners.
Quite often we have diminished these ideas and these stories by giving them a historico-juridical dimension. There was a first man, a first couple, who disobeyed God. Juridical dimension: God punished them, and now all of us their descendants are paying the consequences. In short: our parents lost their riches and we are born disinherited. It is a sad caricature of the human condition. Our “original” sin does not lie in its historical origin. We call our human condition original sin, drawn by what does not suit us and deceived as to good and evil, which is the origin, the source of all our errors, of all our sins. The story of Genesis does not relate what happened, but represents the way we are, the most profound and obscure aspect of our human condition.
And the Gospel shows that Jesus is one of us: subject to temptation, attracted by apparently good things. Jesus had many other temptations, and they appear in the Gospels. The most terrible one was, doubtless, the one of Holy Thursday, when he felt himself abandoned by his Father, the most bitter of all the temptations of the human being: “Are you there? Is it true there is a Father who takes care of my life? Is it true that all this makes sense?”
Jesus can conquer temptation. From “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”, Jesus can pass over to “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” He does so after a long period of prayer, of vocal prayer reciting psalm 22. God has not freed him from death, he has not taken away from him the chalice of the Passion. But he has given him the strength and the light to carry the cross and to die.
Jesus does not conquer death by escaping from it. Jesus does not use his powers to live well and escape daily life. Jesus makes of his life and his death a triumph of the Spirit, that is, Jesus conquers temptation, lives like a new man. Jesus, a man like us, but “a man full of the Spirit”. The power of the Spirit makes him truly man, a man as he ought to be. That is, that in Jesus we see the complete human situation : the human being burdened with weaknesses and obscurities... and full of the power of God which makes him conquer all that to fulfill the plan of God, which is liberation. Jesus is also a pilgrim and experiences the seductions and the terrors of the road. But the Spirit of God is with him.
A Christology “from above” would read this like Paul: he stripped himself of the divinity” (Philippians 2,7). “Made himself sin for us.” (2 Cor. 5.21).
The incarnation is not to be taken lightly: love is a force that tends to identify those who love each other. That is why the love of God makes him man, truly man, who assumes the human condition totally.
A Christology “from below” would read this like the Synoptics or the Acts: “who is this?” (Mt 8,28) Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you ... handed over... whom you have put to death ...God raised him from the dead and has received from the Father the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2,22...).
All this is presented well in the fragment of Paul. Everything is symbolic in the language of Paul. The kingdom of sin leads to death. The son of Adam is “the old man”, deceived and spoilt. Jesus is the First Born, the first of the “new Men”, who build their lives attentive to the Word, conquering temptation, overcoming sin that tries to seduce them. The language of Paul is very juridical, and seems to understand the story of Genesis as history. It is not true. Within it we ought to learn to understand the profound message. The relation of man with God cannot be reduced to a juridical plane of guilt-satisfaction-pardon. It is far more profound.
So then, we have begun Lent with a consideration about our human condition as sinners. And we have been sent a most important first message: “sinners” does not mean “guilty”. It means we have to seek our life, and we are in danger of being mistaken, through error and because the deceits of the road attract us. The Word of God is profound when it defines the human being.
The concept of sin is much more profound than the concept of “disobedience”. When God presents himself as Savior, Liberator, he does not present himself simply as a bland judge, but as Light so that we do not get lost, Bread and Water to journey with strength, Shepherd who leads the flock to good pastures, Doctor who heals when we fall sick, or are wounded as we journey... And all these images are far more profound and speak of the human being much better than our concepts of “guilt”. “redemption”, “pardon”, which fall far short of and belittle the human being and his relationship with God.
FOR OUR PRAYER
1. Allow yourself to be carried away by admiration. How magnificent is the author of Genesis, who knows the human being so well, and how well he speaks of God! Two thousand nine hundred years ago, a man knew more about the human being and sin than us. In his words we feel the Presence of the Spirit of God, we feel God speaking to us. Experience the Word in the very ancient texts and give thanks to God.
Contemplate Jesus on the pinnacle of the Temple, in the highest tower. Before the eyes of his imagination appears all the attraction of the world: kingdoms, power, pleasures, popularity, fame, glory. For a while feel the attraction of the “world”.
Contemplate Jesus: he smiles, he sees that all this is purely appearance. He does not allow himself to be deceived. And he descends from the Temple, and begins to journey along the roads preaching and healing. He has chosen well. Make an act of trust in him. Jesus knows how to live, Jesus knows how to overcome temptation, the very temptations that can spoil my life.
It is possible that many things bother and worry us. We have fears, doubts... Bring them to the Father, one by one, in a spirit of sonship.. WE are like a little child who is confiding in his Father. He always hears us. Ask him, shamelessly, all that we believe is good. And end with the words of Jesus: “ But not my will, but thine be done.” And give thanks to God, because we know that his will is done.
For all human beings tempted by the appearance of good, for all those who put all their efforts in enjoying this life as if nothing more existed.
For us, Christians, the Church, who have received so much light, who know Jesus but who have not succeeded in trusting him and continue to be tempted between the seductive attraction of this world and trust in his Word.
MY WORDS FOR YOU
King David desired a married woman, Bethsheba. To gain her, he had her husband killed. The prophet Nathan confronted him with his sin. In his repentance, David composed this psalm, PSALM 50. We make it our own. We too feel we are sinners, the condition of sinners weighs on us. With the words of David, we ask God for liberation.
Psalm 50 Have mercy on me, O God, in your kindness blot out my sins.
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