4th Sunday Lent

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Contents: Volume 2 - 4th Sunday Lent  – A & B –
March 11, 2018






1. -A- Lanie LeBlanc OP

2. -B- Barbara Cooper, OP

3. -B- Carol & Dennis Keller

4. -B- Brian Gleeson CP

5. --

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





Lent 4 A 2018

Long readings. Involved stories. It is true: God's ways are not our ways! It usually takes us awhile to tune in to what God wants us to do. I think the sentence from the simpler reading from Ephesians says it well: "Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord."

The messages in our main readings tell us that the Lord looks into our hearts (not just at our appearance). Moreover, we are to be light to the world through Him. Just reading or listening to the many parts of the story of the seven sons or the intricacies in the Gospel story of the man born blind makes most of us lose focus or perhaps lose interest, however.

Our world is far more fast paced and complicated than in the time of David or Jesus. Have you read a newspaper lately or watched a TV news report on a BIG SCREEN? Trying to process the "spin" on a smartphone or tablet would surely send your own head spinning! Yet, reality seems to be descending into a new normal where this whirlwind pace seems OK by today's standards.

I don't think it is OK, but I do think we, as Christians, need to be able to process it in an authentic Christian way. For me, that means going back to the main messages here: The Lord looks into our hearts and does not judge solely by appearances. What does that actually mean to us in 2018 where truth and integrity are often ridiculed, where people are often purposefully demeaned and bullied and abused, and where there seems to be little remorse or consequences for deliberate misdeeds?

Ahh, "try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord"!! How can we find ways to stick to the values that Jesus demonstrated and fostered without railing at the insanity that we see and hear? We are told "to take no part in them" and "to expose them" . I think the way (and I hope it is close to God's way) is to be a gentle light, a light in the darkness rather than a blinding light that stuns or disorients. Hmm.

Maybe both lights are needed to get our attention and reverse this downward course toward the darkness of destruction. We can not become lulled into complacent inaction when things are obviously drastically wrong. Did I say our world was complicated?

I personally tend to "stomp around" rather than "use honey"... I am of Italian and Russian heritage and married long time to a Cajun French man after all! This Lent, however, I am looking at the gentler ways to shed light on the things that impact me, my family, my community, and the world that will be my grand daughter's inheritance. That is a truly sobering thought, one that makes me slow down a whole lot more and listen carefully to what Jesus said and did. It is an interesting Lent.


Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity





Fourth Sunday of Lent - B – March 11, 2018

The book of Chronicles is something like a genealogy, remembering ancestors and some of their actions. Today's reading is the finale, written after Judah's return from exile in Babylon. After listing the infidelity of kings and people to their covenant with their God, the author ends with redemption and renewal. The people have gone home, and started to rebuild their lives.

The author of the letter to the Ephesians writes of a God "rich in mercy", of "great love for us", of "immeasurable riches of grace". Even when we are "dead", in exile or in weakness or in sin, we are encouraged back to life because of God's great love.

And then, there is Nicodemus. A Pharisee, a member of the ruling council, he sneaks around under cover of darkness to talk with Jesus. He has questions that he doesn't want to publicly ask. He is curious, but not committed. Jesus meets him "half way", and it is Nicodemus who finds the courage to claim the body of Jesus after the crucifixion.

Today's readings tell me, in different ways, that we are immensely loved. Our "luck" or "lack of luck" are not signs of God's love. We are caught up in Divine Love when life is easy and when life is difficult.

God's love does not depend on our works or observance. We cannot "buy" it, it is "grace-fully" given, free of charge. We can embrace and be grateful. We can "refuse" and reject, but God's love is still here, waiting for us to respond.

God's love fills the Universe, and is present within each of us. It knows no limits of race or gender or rich or poor. I dare say it includes the animals, trees, all the earth, stars and planets into the vast, unknown universe.

The Divine Mystery is infinite, and near. And it is Love.

Barbara Cooper, OP

Vancouver Island, BC Canada





Fourth Sunday of Lent March 11 2018

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

There’s nothing like a walk through history to put perspective on current events. In the short reading from 1st Chronicles, we find a summary of faith in the Kingdom of Judah over hundreds of years. Judah, the remnant of the nation of the twelve tribes freed from Egypt, seems to lack the ability to understand their history. Repeatedly they fell into the religious and cultural practices of the times and of their neighbors. Their sense of belonging to God faded over time and they drifted from the covenant fashioned by God at Mount Sinai. In the story of Mount Sinai Moses spent forty days and forty nights on the mountain top conversing with God. When he returned to the camp he discovered his brother Aaron had given into the fears and wishes of the people. He fashioned a golden calf out of the gold and silver "borrowed" from their Egyptian neighbors before they left that land. They offered sacrifice this fashioned image and then participated in orgies that accompanied the Canaanite fertility worship of Baal and Astarte. That cult made images of Baal standing on the back of a calf. Thus the Hebrew people made of their Creator God a statue they could control by keeping in in a place. That terrible transgression was repeated frequently in the centuries after years in the desert. Even with God’s continual presence among them, this people frequently fell into idolatry led there by political expediency, cultural pressures, remembering rituals that lost their meaning, and the subsequent loss of faith.

The culture of the Middle East was a persistent enemy of the ancient faith in the God made visible in the burning bush, in the miracles of the desert, of water from the rock, of manna formed in the dew of morning and the flights of quail in the evening breezes. These events occurred in the forty years of desert wandering. The rituals of the Hebrew Tribes were formed around an annual remembrance of these desert events. These rituals taught the nation of God’s transforming presence. The Temple sacrifices and the great feast days were the foundation building a strong faith among the peoples. When the rituals lost their through meaning through the ignorance of its ministers or because of the influences of the culture of other nations, the nation lost its purpose and meaning. They became easy prey for the marauding armies of Assyria, Egypt, and Babylon. Their faith was founded on God’s commitment to remain with his people. The very name of God is "Yahweh." Literally translated that means "I am the one who is with you." Yet repeatedly over the next five hundred years this was wallpapered over by competing cultures and history was forgotten and faith lost its content. The God of Loving Kindness and compassion was replaced in the Temple by man-made gods of other nations. The prophet Jeremiah warned that Judah would be held captive for seventy years – "until the land had retrieved its lost Sabbaths." What does he mean, "Lost Sabbaths? In practice of faith, the nation was to observe a Sabbath – a seventh year – in which the land was allowed to rest. Farmers call this letting the land lie fallow. In such a year there was to be no planting. The landowners would harvest for their needs from whatever the fields produced without cultivation. In his promise that the nation would be released from slavery in Babylon, Jeremiah used the seventh year Sabbath for the land to the tenth power – thus seventy years of captivity for the land to rest and recuperate from the stresses and abuse of idolatry.

The Question, however, is "Why would God put up with flaunting the covenant of Sinai?" Why would the God of Truth continually forgive and take back this people of hardened hearts and stiff necks? Who of us would ever consider re-hiring a worker who continually spread lies and worked to ruin the efforts of our company? That is one of the questions this Sunday. According to our way of thinking, God’s continual calling this idolatrous people makes God look like a simpleton. Why does God continually reach out with mercy, compassion and forgiveness to this adulterous nation?

The answer is given in the gospel of John. The answer is overly simple but yet incomprehensible. "God so loved the world that he gave his only son that we may not perish but may have eternal life. God sent his son not to condemn the world but that the world might be saved through him." Simple answer: "God really loves the world and all in it." We focus on God loving people. John insists that God loves not only people but also the world. God loves creation, every bit of it. If God finds creation so lovable, then we who love God must love every bit of creation. This sounds like a radical environmentalist concerned about a spotted owl, or the spawning beds of Pacific salmon, or effects of climate change. It’s not an easy assignment to love mosquitoes or snakes! Do we love and respect the world in all its parts?

This statement of Jesus gives us hope. God’s interest overlooks our worthiness, our achievements, our wealth, our power, our influence, or our notoriety. Our moral or immoral actions do not change this loving God. God loves us as we are but with hope for what we can become with his influence and energy that is his presence among us.

We’re introduced to Nicodemus this Sunday. John tells us he is a man of great power, influence, and wealth. Nicodemus is a leading Pharisee, an intellectual and theological significant person; he’s a chief Rabbi. He is a governing leader of the people, a member of the exclusive, powerful Sanhedrin. He is a man of great wealth. We know this because he brings a hundred pounds of myrrh and aloes to the burial of Jesus. Those spices were expensive. Nicodemus comes to Jesus under the cover of darkness; he sneaks in and sneaks out without others noticing his interest in Jesus. He’s not certain; he’s not ready for a commitment to Jesus and his message. He’s been attracted by the miracles. But Jesus’s message runs contrary to the policy of the Sanhedrin. A second time we run into Nicodemus is at the trial of Jesus before he was handed over to civil authority to be murdered. Nicodemus makes a defense of Jesus in front of the Sanhedrin but is quickly silenced by other members intent on maintaining the religious and political and social status-quo. The final time Nicodemus appears is at the burial of Jesus. He and Joseph of Arimathea bury Jesus with hurried honor and dignity. Then Nicodemus disappears and heard from again. If we think of Nicodemus we can identify with him and understand his shaky faith. When confronted with the culture of the world and its power we may shrink from the tenets of faith.

In the public forum when culture and the ways of the world question Jesus’s value and worth, we may be moved to mount a defense but quickly succumb to the pressures and ways of culture and retreat into the silent shadows. We may have a desire to do more, but are silent because of the pressures of his peers, of the way things are done, of the values of society, of the culture in which we live. The leadership of the Jews was mostly concerned about extermination of the nation and their individual status in the culture of Rome. It was more profitable to go along with tyranny than to stand up for truth. After Jesus dies are we willing to bury Jesus and thus put him out of sight of daily life?

Are we not a lot like Nicodemus? Do we think about our faith in the shadows and allow the darkness of our culture to hide us and keep us from practicing the gift of faith openly and consistently?

In conversation with Nicodemus, Jesus refers to an incident during the desert wandering. The people grumbled against God because of a lack of water, of food, and of civilization’s comforts. Seraph serpents came into the camp and many died of their venom. God instructed Moses to cast a bronze image of the serpent and all who looked upon it were saved from death. Strange story! It appears as a form of idolatry. Let’s look deeper into this. The serpents in the camp came because of the lack of faith of the nation. They grumbled, distrusted God, declaring him unfaithful to the covenant. By looking on the bronze serpent the people were forced to confront their lack of faith. When we look on the cross, we see two truths. The first is that God loves us to the point of offering his Son for us. His love is to dying for us. When we look on the crucified one, we ought to see and realize that our lack of faith, our clinging to the culture and the way of the world as our salvation are what cause us our pain and suffering. That pain and suffering is the bite of the seraph serpents. Looking on Jesus dying is to remind us of what happens to our spirits when we cling to the culture and ways of the world. In looking on the cross we can be brought to sorrow and repentance. We should realize God loves us so intensely that he willingly suffers a cruel and most painful death as a human person like us.

Noted theologian and philosopher H. Richard Niebuhr writes of the "Enduring Problem." That problem has to do with the relationship of a faith community to its surroundings in a culture foreign to its faith. That problem is not only a problem for Christians, but also for Muslims and Jews as well as the faiths of Buddhism and Hindu. What works for the culture of the world is often contrary to a faith which is the basis for the daily lives of the faithful. It is a problem that faced the ancient Hebrew Tribes as they struggled in the desert to form a national identity. It is the problem the reading from the First book of Chronicles exposes. There is a continual struggle between the cultures of the world and the Christian faith. In our Lenten practice we fast, we pray, we practice the charity of almsgiving. These are efforts to clarify our vision to what is real; to peel away the false hope of salvation offered by wealth, power, fame, influence, and pleasure. It is as though humanity’s terribly tenuous perch between the divine and material is the source of a tension that makes us turn to what we can see, hear, smell, touch and taste. The divine is more than physical. But physical creation carries with it the fingerprints of God. When we rely on the values of the material, the effectiveness of lies, the drugging of our compassion and merciful inclinations by indulgent pleasures, God’s presence is wallpapered over hiding the magnificence of his loving kindness for us. So we are like Nicodemus, fearfully searching in the night spirits for what is true, what is reliable, what is real beyond our senses ability to tell us.

Our Responsorial Psalm this Sunday is a fervent prayer: "Let my tongue be silenced if ever I forget you." The verses are reminder of our Babylonian captivity where the forces of the world ask us to sing of the glories of our home and we are not able to raise our voices in songs of innocence. Our Gospel Acclamation reminds us to shout aloud our faith that "God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so everyone who believes in him might have eternal life." Paul, in the second reading reminds us that God overlooks our transgressions brings us to real life through his Son, Jesus who is the Christ. We have a gift which we can never deserve. May it be so as we work through the final days of our Lenten fast!

"The Lord bless you and keep you! The Lord let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you! The Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace!"

Carol & Dennis Keller






(developed from a story of Fr Paul O’Reilly SJ)

Paul, a Jesuit priest in England. recalls that when he was a seminarian on pastoral placement in a parish he was given a job called ‘Drinkers’ Duty’. Every morning about 8 o’clock, 20 to 30 men would come to the church to tell Paul how much alcohol they had drunk the previous day. Paul’s job was not to say ‘that’s good’ or ‘that’s bad’ but simply to write it down for the record. All sorts of men would turn up from poor hopeless 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.’ At other times one or more would come up looking very sheepish and ashamed and say ‘Er … eight cans, Brother!’

Nobody made them do this. They wanted to do it. They were all men who knew they had a problem with alcohol. They also knew what Jesus tells us today that ‘everybody who does wrong hates the light and avoids it, for fear their actions should be exposed; but those who live by the truth come out into the light, so that it may be plainly seen that what they do is done in God.’

So those problem drinkers needed a place and a person to go to each day where they could feel safe enough to be honest about their drinking.

That, of course, is the deal with the sacrament called ‘Reconciliation’ or ‘Confession’. People who are not Catholics find it hard to understand. They ask, ‘Why can’t I just confess my sins to God? Why do I have to bother with a priest?’

The answer of course is that we can confess our sins to God. Nobody is stopping us. But we all know that we human beings are good at deceiving ourselves. It’s not just alcoholics. We all need a safe place and a person we trust, in order to fess up to both the bad things we have done and the good things we have failed to do. We need that because as Catholic Christians we want to live by the Truth, the Truth that sets us free, the Truth that comes to us in the words of Jesus saying through our priest ‘I absolve you from your sins,’ which is to say ‘I am setting you free.’

Someone has remarked wisely that hearing those words is like being ‘hugged by God’! So, let’s make more use of this gift from Jesus through his Church, this very healing practice!

"Brian Gleeson CP" <>









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