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Provisions for the

Journey to Jerusalem

Brief reflections on the week’s Scripture readings

Sunday, April 2: Pilate …washed his hands… saying, "I am innocent of this man's blood”  (Mt 27:11-54).

As I prayed with the readings this week, one word kept repeating in my head: “expediency.” “Let’s get this whole thing over with.” From Caiaphas (Jn 11:50): “It is better that one man should die so a whole nation may not perish; to Pilate, unsure and afraid, washing his hands of the matter; to the Jews asking for the legs of the crucified to be broken so as not to disrupt the Passover; even to Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, hurrying before sunset to anoint and bury Jesus so as not to violate the Sabbath. “Let’s just put this whole situation behind us and get on with our lives, with what we are supposed to do. Yes, some of us are grieving, but we are stuck living with the status quo, this unholy, tenuous alliance with Rome, no matter how much of a house of cards it really is.”

Today’s Provision: Pay Attention. I ask myself: Do I look at Lent this way? Do I take the lessons Jesus taught these 40 days and put them aside, relieved to be over with this intense time of reflection and contrition? I am a person of hope—I have to be if I call myself Christian—but might I be conveniently… expediently…ignoring words being spoken by today’s prophets, meant to rouse me from my world-weariness? In several weeks, we will be in “ordinary time” again, getting back to routine, the status quo, no big religious events to commemorate. I’m not suggesting we live our lives in perpetual Lent, but that, unlike the disciples at Gethsemane, we strive to stay awake, to pay attention to the voices of modern-day prophets that warn us of what lies ahead for our planet and for humanity. Where might the convenient, expedient status quo be leading you to wash your hands of responsibility for life?

Monday, April 3: Here is my servant, my chosen one with whom I am pleased, upon whom I have put my Spirit; he shall bring forth justice to the nations, Not crying out, not shouting, not making his voice heard in the street. A bruised reed he shall not break, and a smoldering wick he shall not quench, until he establishes justice” (Is 42:1-7).

Old Testament scholars explain that “my servant” in this reading refers to the nation of Israel, and that Israel will speak to the rest of the world, not through war-like dominance, but through its weakness, its dependence on God. Christians see this passage as a prophecy that Jesus, God’s servant, does not resort to violence to bring about justice; who, in his human weakness, displays God’s power. How different are God’s ways from our human ways!  How much courage and patience and trust in God it takes for us to defy the status quo and allow weakness to be our strength!

Today’s Provision: Allow weakness to be your source of strength. We marvel at Jesus’ miracles, and, as we talked about last week, we risk these becoming justification for faith. Raising Lazarus from the dead. Jesus’ own resurrection. Have we ever considered Jesus’ greatest miracle might be the putting aside of his human nature, accepting a shameful death as a way to bring forth God’s kingdom? How much courage, patience, and trust this took! Reflect on Paul’s words in 2 Cor 12:7-10 about “the thorn in his flesh,” the thorn in his humanity. This thorn need not be a physical malady. Give thanks for times you’ve allowed God’s strength to be manifest in your own displays of weakness: biting your tongue, resisting the urge for revenge, showing mercy to one who has wronged you. What might you do today to give glory to God through your weakness? “For the sake of Christ; when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Tuesday, April 4: After Judas took the morsel, Satan entered him (Jn 13: 21-33, 36-38).

There is debate about what motivated Judas to betray Jesus. Thirty pieces of silver won’t set him up for very long. Given the story of his remorse (Mt 27:3-10), some speculate Judas is trying to force Jesus to reveal his true power. When that doesn’t happen, Judas despairs of his sin. This debate is above my pay grade, so let’s instead talk about what we can learn from Judas. We read in Jn 13:2, “the devil had already induced Judas to hand him over.”  In Ignatian Spirituality, we hear the “evil spirit” can sometimes disguise itself as “an angel of light,” tempting us to do things that might on the surface appear to be for a good cause. I dare say we are seeing this today when anti-Semitism and bigotry is preached in the name of Christ. Taking time in prayer and discernment is essential before we act rashly in ways that hurt others. Hurting others is never of God. But perhaps the most important lesson we can learn from Judas is to trust in God’s mercy. Don’t ever despair. We are never beyond the reach of God’s mercy.

Today’s Provision: Return to God in the realm of mercy: There’s a folk story about humanity gathered at the big table in the Kingdom of God. The mood is festive, but Jesus is not there yet. St. Peter goes off to find him: “Everyone is waiting for you!” Jesus replies, “Tell them to be patient. We can’t get started until Judas arrives.” Temptation is ever present in our world. Ideas and images that are not of God pop into our heads, but these are not sins. What we do with them can lead us to sin, so prayer and discernment are vitally important. But when we do fall prey to temptation, Jesus calls us to return. The feast can’t start without all of us being there. Allow God’s mercy to get the party started!

Wednesday, April 5: “The Lord GOD has given me a well-trained tongue, that I might know how to speak a word that will rouse them…and I have not rebelled”  (Is 50:4-9).

“A word that will rouse me.”  Typically, I hear more words that “rile” rather than rouse me. I talk to a lot of people who feel the same way. The “well-trained” tongues of the media, politicians, and “spin doctors” cause me at times to rebel, to “set my face like flint” with an attitude of either defiance or apathy. In Hebrew, the words “a well-trained tongue” translates as “a disciple’s tongue.” I have to ask: “disciples of whom?”

Today’s Provision: Fast from the media. Remembering our theme this Lent has been fasting, consider taking these last few days to be roused by God’s words and fasting from being riled by the ever-present news and social media. There’s a big difference between being roused to positive action and love by the words of God’s prophets and being riled to disgust, disillusionment, and disdain by those whose only motivations are power and greed. I’ve not been as religious as I had hoped with my fast from doom-scrolling this Lent, but I will use the Triduum to put my phone away. Might you be willing to join me?

Holy Thursday, April 6: "What I am doing, you do not understand now, but you will understand later” (Jn 13:1-15).

This oft-overlooked line in the moving story of the washing of the feet speaks to much of what we’ve been reflecting on this week: God’s ways are not our ways; God’s time is not our time. When we are in the throes of grief and sorrow, it’s hard to see how God is working. We may hear or even utter empty platitudes about it being God’s will, but that’s just a distraction to keep us from experiencing Christ’s passion. (Remember, Jesus understands what is happening to him, but that doesn’t keep him from sweating blood and calling out to God to save him!) What keeps us keepin’ on is faith in God’s promise and the essential truth: all that God does is for good.

Today’s provision: “Trust in the slow work of God.” Have you ever experienced a loss or a major disappointment, only to look back and see God’s hand working in your life? For young people, accustomed as they are to immediate gratification, it’s essential they hear this message. The rate of suicide among young people is alarming, and as their elders, we must try to model, as Jesus does, patience with God’s plan. I’m not always the best model of this virtue so I try to remember that much of my impatience is actually a lack of trust in God. A great thing to share is Tielhard de Chardin’s beautiful prayer he wrote for his niece:

Good Friday, April 7: “What is truth?”  (Jn 18:1-19:42).

I wonder what happened to Pilate after Jesus’ death. Historians say he was relieved of his governorship after an incident with the Samaritans, circa 37 CE. Early Church scholar, Eusebius, says the oral tradition was that he committed suicide after losing his position, but that’s not documented. There are many little clues in the gospels that indicate he had his doubts and knew the Jewish elders were jealous of Jesus’ growing power. When he writes “King of the Jews” on the cross, he counters the objections with “What I have written, I have written.” But his question to Jesus, “What is truth?” rings throughout the ages, and in some ways, is even more pertinent today with the internet-fueled proliferation of mis- and dis-information.

Today’s Provision: Discern, discern, discern. The term is “information literacy” and, in this age of artificial intelligence (the name says it all, doesn’t it?), it is knowledge critical to learn and to teach our children. One only has to reread books like Fahrenheit 451, Brave New World, and 1984  to see science fiction becoming reality right under our noses. How do you define what is true and what is false? It takes patience, research, and discernment to sift the facts from the lies. For me, truth is of genuine love, goodness, mercy, compassion, and justice. Anything that strays from that path—hate, vengeance, bigotry, violence—is not of God. Let’s have patience and take the time to discern what is “the God’s truth.” “And no one knows what is true who knows not what is false” (E.L. Masters, Seth Compton).

Holy Saturday, April 8:

Today’s Provision: Rest and pray. What are your plans for today? There are no readings for us to ponder on this day marked by sadness and confusion for the disciples. They of course don’t have the benefit of knowing what is to take place in the early hours of the morning, but it is the Sabbath, so as good Jews, they follow the Law. As such, there are no plans I guess other than to spend the day grieving, debating, weeping, questioning, and worrying about the future.

For us, we might be debating about who sits where at the Easter dinner table, questioning, worrying about whether we have enough food for everyone. For some of us, there is grieving and weeping for those we have lost or for our fractured families and communities. And maybe worry about the future is our constant companion.

I implore you to take time to rest and reflect today. Think about what you have learned through your fast, prayer, and almsgiving this Lent. We spend a good part of our lives “in between” Good Fridays and Easter Sundays, between episodes of sadness and joy. This “in between” life we lead requires patience, courage, and trust in God—things that Jesus modeled for us. Pray that we and our children will come to understand and see God’s merciful hand at work in our everyday lives. Happy Easter to you all!

(We will continue Provisions through the Easter season and return to Come and See in ordinary time.)

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

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© 2023, Elaine H. Ireland.

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