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Contents: Volume 2 - 5th Sunday Lent  – A & B –
March 18, 2018


 

5th

SUNDAY

LENT

2018

Contents: Volume 2 - Fifth Sunday of Lent A and B March 18 2018

1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP

2. -- Carol & Dennis Keller

3. -- Brian Gleeson CP

4. -- Paul O'Reilly SJ

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

 

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1.

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Lent 5 A 2018

We hear the Gospel story of Lazarus today, a familiar one that tells of Jesus bringing Lazarus back to life, but also of the prefiguring of Jesus' death and resurrection and our resurrection as well. I am struck by all of the many human touches present in this account, such as Thomas's bravado, Jesus weeping, and the different ways of mourning shown by Martha and Mary. Sitting with the details of this long account opens many opportunities for spiritual growth which is really what is intended for those in RCIA and us!

It is a reminder from the first reading from the book of Ezekiel that stays in my heart, however: "I have promised, and I will do it, says the LORD." That is the one that is a type of mantra for me, my "go to" when I struggle. I often ask myself what is it that I have been promised? What I first think may not be really accurate, so a trip to Scripture gets me back on track.

Each person who delves into that question will find that the Lord's promises are many... but they do not include things we may desire at that moment such as an easy life, riches, fame, or even a "pass" on suffering. Two of the Lord's promises that resound strongly within me are the ones about "life to the fullest" and the promise the Lord will be "with you"/us. When I recall those promises, my focus turns to the Lord and away from myself and the drama of the moment.

In our Gospel reading, Jesus' s thoughts, words, and actions are intentional and incredibly human. He shows us how to live fully even in the face of profound grief at the death of his friend and his own impending death as well. His presence with his close friends brings comfort, both immediately and for what is to come at his own death and resurrection.

For me, it is hard to live in the present (a good thing) at the same time as remembering that the future holds the fulfillment of even a better promise!! Reviewing such Scripture passages helps me blend the two a little bit more easily into my everyday life. It helps me live whatever my life is more authentically with those promises both as the foundation and the reward. What promises do you trust the Lord will do for you as you face your daily trials?

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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2.

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Fifth Sunday of Lent March 18 2018

Jeremiah 31:31-34; Responsorial Psalm 51; Hebrews 5:7-9; Gospel Acclamation John 12:26; John 12:20-33

The gospel of John is very different from the other gospels. John seems to lack a straight forward declaration of historical events – encounters are listed out of the order of the other gospels. In addition, John writes of events Matthew, Mark, and Luke seem to know nothing about. One of those is the scene in this Sunday’s gospel. Only John has this story of Greeks wanting to see Jesus.

Some Greeks have come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Jewish feast of Passover. This is strange: Greeks celebrating Passover? There was something about the Jewish ritual that attracted them. These are not persons considering conversion to Judaism. They find meaning and purpose in the rituals and stories of the Jews. They have heard about Jesus and they wanted to know more. They approached the two Apostles with Greek names – Andrew and Philip. They wanted to "see" Jesus. Clearly this "seeing" was more than a meet and greet. They wanted to know what he was about. We don’t know if these Greeks were men or both men and women. We do know that Greek culture of the time viewed men and women as equals in many respects. More importantly, we don’t know what they asked Jesus. They were seekers, looking for answers to the dilemma of human life, as were many of their philosophically inclined countrymen. The answer Jesus gives their un-recorded questions gives little clue as to what their questions may have been. Jesus’ statement about losing one’s life to gain it, amplified by the parable of a seed falling into the ground to die so it might rise up and bear a rich harvest, is in clear opposition to Greek philosophical thought. Jesus’ answer would shock an educated Greek. Such a statement would be rejected by any Greek committed to commercial enterprise. Jesus claiming his death would glorify him is a contradiction to their way of life, their culture, and their hope for a successful future. Jesus speaks of his impending trial, passion, death, and resurrection. He doesn’t sugar-coat what is about to happen to him. It’s going to be terrible, very painful not only physically but also emotionally and spiritually. The pain of rejection by his nation, the denial of friendship by his apostles and disciples were anticipated by Jesus. Jesus promises to accept these horrors and being raised up subsequently. Such thinking was in contradiction to the hundreds of years of philosophic discoveries of the Greeks. If we think about this speech to the Greeks and work to apply it to our lives, how do we reconcile Jesus’ words with the reality of the world? Who can tolerate thinking about dying to self as something good? Who among us would accept horrific suffering for the benefit of others even for those we love?

Is Jesus insisting we should seek persecution and death for his sake? Who would give more than a passing consideration that insists we suffer for others? The truth is that we suffer not because God is a monster wanting to enjoy his creation twisting and turning in agony. We suffer because the world will not allow us to live according to the truth of creation. When we live according to the covenant of the Christ, we live according to the commandments written on our hearts. Last week we heard that Jesus came into the world not to condemn the world, but to save it: he came so that we might be saved. Christians living the Way of the Christ are out of step with the self-centeredness of the World. Christians stand in contradiction to the values of the world. But we live in the world, earn our living in the world, and are educated to understand ourselves and how the world works by the values of the world. Everything seems to work against us. If we’re honest with ourselves we discover ourselves parsing the words of Jesus and watering them down. Without such compromise, Christians will be seen as unwilling to compete in the real world of commerce, politics, wealth, power, and influence peddling. Are there many Christians who place the common good of community above personal power, wealth, influence, or pleasure? Isn’t the motivation of the common good how we apply Jesus’ instruction?

Jeremiah’s statement in our first reading is about midway in the book of Jeremiah. It is about the time when the Jews were in the Babylonian captivity. It is the promise of the return of the tribe of Judah to their homeland. They were conquered and taken into captivity because of their idolatry and because of their abuse of orphans, widows, and laborers. Jeremiah understands the pain of exile and captivity to have been a purification of the nation. In that purification, God creates a new covenant to replace the covenant of the Law of Moses. The Law of Moses was found to be lacking in some way. The ten commandments of the Mosaic Law are in effect even today. Jesus summarizes those commandments in the two great commandments of love of God and love of neighbor. The difference the pain and suffering of the Babylonian Captivity makes about the Mosaic Law lies in the hearts of the people. This covenant is new because it moves writing on the stone tablets to the hearts of the faithful, that part of us that moves us with greater commitment than law. The movements of our hearts encourage us to great efforts, unthinkable sacrifices, and to selflessness. The heart has always been understood as the source and power of love of other.

During the Babylonian Captivity, the books of Moses in the Hebrew Scriptures were written down. This religious renewal brought the people together because of a more intense understanding of their history in relationship with God. The ancient stories of Genesis, Numbers, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, and Exodus were collected and written. It was a time of study, contemplation, and understanding for the people. In a sense the Babylonian Captivity was a seventy year Lent for the Jews. Their suffering and despair paved the way to discovery of a greater depth to Jewish faith. True, the great conversion of mind and spirit brought on by the suffering of Babylon was gradually dissipated by legalism and a rote celebration of the worship rituals. When remembering deteriorates into an empty routine that is merely play-acting rather than a reliving the liturgies of remembering those liturgies become empty and lack energy. The Babylonian experience and energy that sprang from became real in the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem and the Temple and a re-establishment of the presence of God among the nation.

The new covenant of Jeremiah is written on the hearts of his people. Such a covenant is not a matter of compliance to a law: that new covenant is a matter of love for others. That love finds expression in working for the common good of all. It is contradictory to selfishness.

The continual problem with Judaism and its growth into Christianity is that it’s not practical. It contradicts the ways of the world. The ways of the world are understood as the pursuit of power, of wealth, of influence, and of pleasure. The way of the world is always about me and excludes the other. Jesus’ answer to the Greeks flies in the face of our culture. Who can tolerate such a message? Remember when Jesus told the crowds unless they ate his body and drank his blood they would not have everlasting life? Many turned away and no longer followed him. Is the message this Sunday a "choosing" moment as well? Our culture is focused on self, on me. The negative truth of God’s salvation is that selfishness creates a personal spiral to nothingness and personal, permanent death. It is only when we live the covenant of God written on our hearts that we enter into everlasting life --- not only in the future but also even now in the present moment.

Time is running out for our conversion in this cycle of our liturgical year. The celebration of Easter is the celebration of new life, of life that is far beyond what the world offers. The world’s culture believes only in achievements that increase my power, my wealth, my influence, and my pleasure. The faith written on the hearts of the faithful focuses on the common good of all. Are we capable of such consistent behavior? When we think of our civic, economic, or corporate living, do we seek truth and evaluate how our actions and choices affect our families, our neighbors, our city, our nation, and our world? The opposite of such consciousness is self-centeredness. It fails to understand our God as a community, the Trinity of Father, of Son, of Holy Spirit. It fails to understand the energy that makes our God a living God is unconditional love. This is no fabrication of human imagination, no second hand emotion. God’s love unites each person to the other and saves is from the violence of the world.

How do we, Christians formed and living in the Roman Catholic Tradition, relate to the culture of the world in which we live, must earn our livings, must learn and grow in wisdom, age, and grace? That is the continual and perennial problem. It is an enduring problem through the ages.

Wealth feasts on wealth. Power seeks absolute power. Pleasure never satisfies but always seeks to more pleasure. Influence compels us to universal influence and fears even a single person outside the personal influence. What is there that satisfies? What is there that has permanence? What is there that completes us, makes us whole?

In these final weeks before the end of Lent, before Maundy Thursday, what barriers, what stumbling blocks to living an everlasting life can we achieve? The measure of our completeness comes to us through this Sunday’s gospel. Our prayer is the Responsorial Psalm. May we sing it with understanding, with hope, and with resolve: "Create a clean heart in me, O God!" May it be so!

"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 dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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A TIME TO WEEP AND MOURN: 5TH SUNDAY LENT B

Just fifty-three years ago this year a song for peace called Turn, Turn, Turn by Pete Seeger and sung by The Byrds became the number one hit of the Hit Parade. Its words are based entirely on Chapter 3 of the Book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible. It includes the line: ‘A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance’. Easter will be our time to laugh and our time to dance. But today our Church has brought us to a time of weeping and mourning in response to God’s word to us today about the sufferings of Jesus.

Our Second Reading recalls his agony in the Garden of Olives. There and then the prospect of his passion and death makes him cry out to God in fear and dread. Like any young man he does not want to die. He wants to stay alive and live life to the max. But he knows that his enemies are already on their way to arrest him. By this time tomorrow he will surely be dead, strung up in disgrace on a rough cross outside the city walls. The thought of it all is overwhelming, and although a grown man, reduces him to tears. And yet he does not run away and escape. He does not even think of doing that. He humbly accepts that this is his destiny, in order to bring about God’s better world .

Our gospel according to John, however, has a different angle on the attitude of Jesus to his fate. Even though the prospect is truly troubling and terrifying, far from asking God the Father to save him from his destiny Jesus actually welcomes it. For two reasons! In the first place, to give praise, honour and glory to God! In the second place, to attract the appreciation, respect and love of all human beings, turning to him as their Saviour! This is what he means when he says, ‘when I am lifted up from the earth [on my cross], I will draw all people to myself’.

Jesus sees his coming death from a third angle as well. It’s in his words, ‘whoever serves me will follow me’. He is telling us that you and I and all his other friends have to share in his sufferings and death.

Suffering comes in many forms and so does death. Death also means many little deaths before our time comes ‘to face the final curtain’. There are hundreds of ways in which you and I have to die to ourselves, die to getting our own way, die to our own ease, pleasure and comfort. Probably more than any other group with us here today, you who are parents know the meaning of laying down your lives for others, and dying to yourselves over and over again.

Raising your family! When your children are or were helpless babies – the sleepless nights, the feeds, the colds, the rashes, the nappy changes! And in their growing-up years, the time and care, the attention and skills you give them, are all ways that you have kept dying to yourselves. You do this for the outcomes you hope, expect, and work for. You do this so that your children will grow into adults that live good, useful, and productive lives. In short the sacrifices you parents make are surely another application of what Jesus means when he says that the seed must first die in the ground, before it can spring up as healthy and productive plants.

In later years the roles are often reversed. Now grown children are asked to be the grain of wheat that falls into the ground and dies. Ageing and ailing parents require time, care and energy from their adult children, who are often still caring for their own children. Schedules are changed and plans are altered when e.g., an elderly parent requires an emergency trip to the doctor, falls over at home, can’t find their glasses, or starts losing their mind. Some of you have already been there and done that!

Simply being alive means all kinds of ways in which we are invited and called to follow Jesus in his sufferings and dying. The challenges which go with our sufferings are these: - Do we accept the sacrifices we are required to make? Do we accept them as he did, i.e. willingly, cheerfully, generously and lovingly? Or do we resent and hate what we have to do? Or worse still, do we ever run away from our responsibilities?

It’s not all pain, thank God! There’s gain as well. The gain of raising good children, even amazing and outstanding children. The gain of becoming better person yourselves, more genuine and generous persons! The gain too of closeness to Jesus in our lives here and now, and the prospect of everlasting life with him in the hereafter! The slogans are simply true: ‘No pain, no gain!’ ‘No cross, no crown!’

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

 

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Year B: 5th Sunday in Lent (the wheat grain).

"Unless a wheat grain falls on the ground and dies,

it remains only a single grain;

but if it dies,

it yields a rich harvest."

Well, yes, but the question I’ve always wanted to ask is: "how is the wheat grain supposed to know that?" All that the wheat grain gets to know is that it’s dying. It never gets to see the happy ending.

Twenty years ago I was sent out as a missionary for the first time to Guyana in South America. The plane brought me from Britain to Barbados and then I stayed over one night in Barbados before I could catch the plane into Georgetown, Guyana. That night I read a book called "Men of Faith". It was an account of the work of Jesuits in Guyana – men who came from many countries in the world to give their lives to the service of the Gospel and the Church in Guyana. There were in the book many fine and inspiring stories of good and holy men giving great and sometimes heroic service to the Faith. Some names figured prominently – Cary-Elwes, Wilson-Browne, and – closer to our own time: Bernard Darke, Bryan O’Reilly, Bernard McKenna, Andy Morrison, Bernard "Breezer" Brown. You’ll never have heard of any of them, but in Guyana, those names are revered by people of faith. I had met some of them and been inspired by their example. These were stories of real men of faith and men of hope. For a young man, embarking on his first real work in the Jesuits, it was a rather heady mixture – a little like a young man’s first shot of rum! How could any red-blooded young Catholic not want to serve alongside such men and continue the work that they had done?

Then, when I got to the back of the book, there was something rather more sobering. It was a list of all the Jesuits who had come to Guyana for the last hundred years and what had happened to them. What was shocking to me was the large number of men who had come and who, within a few months had either died or had become so ill they had to be sent home. Thinking about that and wondering what I had got myself into, I didn’t get a lot of sleep that night.

It wasn’t until next morning that it occurred to me that the extraordinary thing was that, even with such a high death-rate, they never stopped coming. These men came knew the risks they were running – that perhaps they would die or be incapacitated very soon having achieved little or nothing. Can you imagine that happening today? Can you imagine the scandal? Can you imagine the Health and Safety investigations? But those were risks they were prepared to take, because they believed that this was what God was calling them to. Suddenly, I realised that, whatever I did to try to help build the Church in Guyana, I would walk in the steps of many men who gave their lives to the same endeavour – men who knew that:

"Unless a wheat grain falls on the ground and dies,

it remains only a single grain;

but if it dies,

it yields a rich harvest."

We all hope to be grains of wheat. We all hope that we too can contribute whatever gifts and talents we have in service of God and God’s people. Certainly, we would all prefer to stay alive and healthy in doing so. But each of us, in our own little way, hope to be grains of wheat that will be seeds for The Lord’s harvest. We do not know – we cannot know – exactly which of us will yield a harvest some sixty-fold, some a hundred-fold, some a thousand-fold. Some of our attempts may succeed. Some of them may fail. At this point, we cannot know –we are only grains of wheat. In times to come, some of us may be remembered; some of us may even have books written about us. But, if each of us is prepared to give of our best in whatever way is given us to do, then all of us will have contributed to the harvest.

Let us pray that in our day too, we may be given the grace to take risks for the Kingdom. And let us stand and profess our Faith in Christ who leads us to the rich harvest.

Paul O'Reilly <fatbaldnproud@opalityone.net>

 

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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.

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