3rd Sunday of Lent – March 7, 2021

3LB21.   Exodus 20:1-17. God proclaims his authority to act as God over his people when he says, “I, the Lord, am your God.” Then he reminds his people of the salvation He, as only God could do, had worked for them by taking them out of slavery in Egypt.  Next he gives them the Ten Commandments as the first step in establishing his rule over them as an introduction to giving them the whole Law or the Torah in the first five books of the Old Testament.  By choosing to rule or reign over his people, God is embracing them as his own as parents embrace their children with love by bringing order into their lives.  The order that obedience to God brings to our lives is the root of all true goodness.

John 2:13-25.  The Old Testament Law required that the Jews offer specific animal sacrifices or cereal offerings. The money changers and the animals that Jesus drove out of the temple area were there to fulfill the requirements of the Old Testament Law.  When questioned about his action, Jesus responded in cloaked language that meant that he was establishing a new law through his death and resurrection.  By the one sacrifice of himself on the cross all the sacrifices of the animals in the Old Testament were being done away with.

This Sunday’s gospel goes on to say, “But Jesus would not trust himself to them because he knew them all, and did not need anyone to testify about human nature.  He himself understood it well.”  Jesus worked miracles in order to help people to come to recognize him as the Son of God.  However the peoples’ human nature led them to follow him, not because of who he was and so to put faith in his being the divine person that he was and is, but rather to put their faith in an endless procession of miracles.  Human nature had made of the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament Law just external actions that people offered without sacrificing or giving themselves over to their loving God.  So too people viewed Jesus’ miracles just as actions to be believed in, and not to give themselves over to the person Jesus, who was demonstrating himself to be the Son of the loving God.  They were looking for someone who would save their bodies from sickness before they died, but not someone who would give them the health and holiness that was for all eternity.  God is the Ruler of our lives and the only One who can give us true life today and forever.  Jesus’ miracles were actions that said ‘make me your life and you will have eternal life.’  The sick people whom Jesus cured one day were going to die later, but by taking Jesus into their hearts as the love that is life, would give them a life that would never die.

1 Corinthians 1:22-25.  Paul wrote: “Jews demands signs and Greeks look for wisdom,” in other words, the Jews wanted miracles and the Greeks, high intellectual logic and reasoning.  Human nature puts its faith in human wisdom and human strength, but wisdom and miracles are not to be worshipped as if they were our God.   Wondrous works or words lead us to God who gives them through human beings but they are not be worshipped in the place of God.  What God makes is not greater than or equal to God but lead us to the Maker.  We do not adore creation but only the Creator.

3rd Sunday of Lent – 2018

3LB18.   Exodus 20:1-17.   Of course, these are what we have always called the Ten Commandments.  There is a somewhat similar version at Deuteronomy 5:6-21.  These were given by God to his Chosen People with Moses as the intermediary.  The first three deal with their relationship to God; the second seven, with their relationship with other persons.  Only two are stated in positive terms, whereas the other eight in negative terms, using the initial words “You shall not.”  They all deal with specifics.  My own sense of this approach is the way  parents deal with their children who do not yet have the maturity to manage their life out of a directive that is general as opposed to being a long list of specific ‘do’s and do not’s, such as Jesus gave to his disciples when he said to them in Matthew 5:48, “So be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

John 2:13-25.   Jesus found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves, as well as the money changers seated there.  He made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area.”  “Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.”  As I understand this to mean that Jesus is now overturning the old covenant to be replaced by the new; the endless sacrifices of animals now replaced by the one and unique sacrifice of Jesus himself.  As an explanation for what he was doing, Jesus said, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” “He was speaking about the temple of his body,” and not the Jerusalem temple.  Only later did the disciples know how to interpret what Jesus had said in the light of the resurrection.

Reading that Jesus lashed out with whips may seem to be offensive to us.  Because the loss of heaven and the eternal fires of hell were the consequences of a rejection of Jesus, he spoke and acted in the strongest ways.  When those invited to become subjects of the kingdom of God rejected that invitation and even killed the prophets that were sent to invite them, Jesus says in Matthew 22:7, “The king was enraged and sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city.”  Looking forward to the persecution that was to come against himself and those who followed him, Jesus said in Matthew 10:34, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth.  I have come to bring not peace but the sword.” The devil and the ways of the world are at war with God. Jesus came into this world to offer himself up as sacrifice on the cross, I. e. to suffer violence.  The violence of hell in turn would be the consequence for those who reject his mercy and love.  Life is a serious challenge for us in this world.   Choose life by living out each day the choice to follow Jesus and his will for us or choose the death that is an eternity in hell.

“But Jesus would not trust himself to them because he knew them all, and did not need anyone to testify about human nature.  He himself knew it well.”  Our humanness joins us to the dirt of the earth.  We can live in this world as just another animal creature or choose to let God pull us up daily to a spiritual level above the world around us.  Jesus himself in his humanness went up the mountain to pray and to appeal to his Father to keep him above what was just natural and earthy.  Should not we all be doing the same?

1 Corinthians 1:22-25.  In some places where Paul preached, the Jews rejected Jesus as the Messiah.  In the Acts of Apostles 17:15-34, Paul had tried to convert the Greek Athenians who were steeped in the wisdom of the great Greek philosophers of the past but he failed.  He went instead to the working class people of the port city of Corinth and received a much better reception.  Paul writes in this Sunday’s second reading: “Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.”  God’s infinite love for us led him to offer up his only Son to suffer and die for us on the cross to enable us to come home to our Father in heaven.  To believe in God’s infinite love for us requires that we reject all sorts of thinking that this world imbues us with.  We can only do this by humbly submitting to the work of the Spirit within us.  The road to heaven is a narrow road that has many appealing temptations along the way that divert us from the only genuine truth that is God himself.  Everything else is an alluring invitation to believe in a lie.

2nd Sunday of Lent – February 28, 2021

2LB21.    Genesis 22:1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18.   This reading tends to challenge my conception of God as the loving God.  “Then God said (to Abraham): “Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love,” to offer “up as a holocaust.”  Because Abraham was so absolutely obedient and utterly trusting in God, choosing God to be his God in spite of every reason to reject God, God through Abraham chooses the descendants of Abraham to be his Chosen People.   God chooses those who choose him, in the good times and the bad.

Mark 9:2-10.   In Mark 8:31, Jesus said to his disciples that he “must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days.”  Six days after Jesus made had that prediction, he was transfigured before Peter, James and John.  Traditionally we understand the appearance of Moses and Elijah to indicate that Jesus was the fulfillment of the Law and the prophets.   In Mark 1:15b&c, Jesus proclaimed: “This is the time of fulfillment.  The kingdom of God is at hand.”  The work of God in the Old Testament culminates in Jesus.  In this Sunday’s gospel it is presumed that the voice from the cloud is that of God the Father announcing, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.”  The message of the glorious Transfiguration of Jesus as the Son of God would become clear later to the Apostles after Jesus’ resurrection from the dead and his appearance to his disciples.  God’s command that we listen to Jesus means that we must obey his Son just as Abraham had obeyed God.

Romans 8:13b-34.  God had spared Isaac the son of Abraham but did not spare his own Son.  So great is God’s love for us that he offered up his own Son so that we might have eternal life in heaven. The martyrs gave up their lives, because they knew that no matter how great were the worldly forces against them, in the end the victory was theirs.

 

2nd Sunday of Lent – 2018

L2B18.   Genesis 22:1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18.  “God said: “Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love.”  “You shall offer him up as a holocaust on a height.”    Abraham, having made the arrangements as the Lord required of him, he “took the knife to slaughter his son; but the Lord stopped him and said, “I know now how devoted you are to God, since you did not withhold from me your own beloved son.”  “Because you acted as you did in not withholding from me your beloved son, I will bless you abundantly.”  God the Father later did not withhold his own beloved Son Jesus because he was not looking for only obedience to his Will but also the necessary sacrifice to redeem us and open the gates of heaven.  God is love and so his Will is love especially when it requires total surrender on our part.  The total surrender to God’s will by Abraham was like a death to his own will that gave birth to a nation, the Chosen People of God.  The total surrender of Jesus to his Father’s will was a death to his own natural demand to hold on to natural life that gave birth to having human beings become God’s holy people in heaven.

God finished speaking to Abraham by saying, “And in your descendants all the nations of the earth shall find blessing—all this because you obeyed my command.” The Hebrew people were chosen by God not only for their own sake but also to be a living lesson in the darkness of a pagan world of God to the brightness of God’s love for the Hebrew people.

Mark 9:2-10.  “And he was transfigured before them.”  “Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses, and they were conversing with Jesus.” Jesus appears to Peter, James and John as the heavenly figure that he has the right to claim but had not shown himself as such before this.  What he had proclaimed verbally before when he said, “This is the time of fulfilment; the kingdom of God is at hand,” he now proclaims visually.  What God had begun before in the time of the Old Testament with such figure as Moses and Elijah, he now brings to fulfilment in Jesus. God the Father announces, “This is my beloved Son.”   As the Our Father prayer says, “Thy kingdom come,” Jesus brings to fruition the kingdom of God in the hearts, souls and lives of all who choose to listen to him and obey him.  “He charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone, except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead.”  In the scene of the transfiguration he was making known to them the glory of his resurrection from his death on the cross, but all of that was beyond their capacity to comprehend at this point in time.

Romans 8:31b-34.   “Brothers and sisters: If God is for us, who can be against us?”  This is a rhetorical question that means to say that, since God is with us or allied to us in this life’s venture to be a holy people of God, it is useless, utterly futile, to be opposed to us.  God is so intent on bringing us to salvation that he even sacrificed his only beloved son for us.  And so Paul goes on to write, “How will he not also give us everything else along with him?”  Paul again reasserts the worthlessness of opposing those who stand with the Lord when he writes, “Who will bring a charge against God’s chosen ones?  It is God who acquits us.”  Besides that, it is Christ Jesus, “who also is at the right hand of God, who intercedes for us.”

1st Sunday of Lent – February 21, 2021

1L21.    Genesis 9:8-15.   God establishes a new covenant that promises “that never again shall all bodily creatures be destroyed by the waters of a flood.”  The waters are a symbol of the force that can both destroy and generate life.  For us the waters of baptism destroy the life of sin that can come by being governed by the flesh alone but give life to those who are alive in the flesh yet draw life from the Holy Spirit.

Mark 1:12-15.   Jesus lived in Nazareth preparing for his public ministry for thirty years.  For his initial entrance in that public ministry, the Holy Spirit put him on a sort of novitiate or boot camp of living “in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan.  Jesus was being reoriented from ordinary daily village life to his new full time work of bringing souls to the Father.  Jesus proclaims: “The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel.”  Our forty days of Lent are also given to us to reorient us from being lost in the petty routine of worldly, material living to the real purpose of life, the sanctification of our souls.

1 Peter 3:18-22.   While there is no certainly what Peter meant when he wrote the words “Jesus went to preach to the spirits in prison,” my interpretation is that Jesus went to those who had imprisoned themselves in a life that was lived only based on what their flesh and bodies demanded of them but ignored any or most spiritual needs.  The waters of baptism, as did the water of the flood, call for the washing away of all that is not of God so that we might have the “clear conscience” of a holiness of life.  In this Lenten season Jesus calls us to live subject to his kingship over us.

1st Sunday of Lent – 2018

1LB18.   Genesis 9:8-15.  God washes away sin by washing away the sinners.  With the saintly survivors God makes a covenant to never again devastate the earth and its mortal beings by another flood.

Psalm 25:4-5, 6-7, 8-9.  “Good and upright is the Lord, thus he shows sinners the way.”  Now he wishes to conquer sin by personally guiding each sinner.  The refrain is: “Your ways, O Lord, are love and truth to those who keep your covenant.”  Through his truth and love God shows the way to heaven to those who wish to be obedient to Him.

Mark 1:12-15.  For forty days Jesus remained in the desert so to call us to remain the desert of Lent to repent of our sins, replacing our sinful ways with the spiritual life that comes to us through the gospel.  The never-ending temptations of the devil serve to force us to become more consciously dependent on the Holy Spirit and less complacent and careless about our spiritual life.  As long as we are alive in this world, i.e. in the flesh, we are, so to speak, “among the wild beasts,” i.e. the powerful allurements of this world.  Everyday our baptismal commitment or covenant to be members of the kingdom of God is challenged.

1 Peter 3:18-22.  By suffering and dying for us on the cross, Jesus enabled us to follow him in his resurrection and ascension to heaven.  The flood prefigured our baptism, our being cleansed of sin, so that we can join Jesus in heaven where he reigns with the Father.  Perhaps the sentence: “In it (death in the flesh) he also went to preach to the spirits in prison” recalls the sentence in the Apostles’ Creed: “he descended into hell.”  I can only guess that St. Peter means to say that Jesus went to those who died before his act of redemption, including those  who died in the flood, to offer them a chance to also be redeemed.

6th Sunday in Ordinary Time – February 14, 2021

6B21.   Leviticus 13:1-2, 44-46.  Among the Hebrews sickness, especially leprosy was considered to be the result of one’s sinfulness.  The word ‘unclean’ then meant to be unclean in every way.

Mark 1: 40-45.   Our gospel begins, “A leper came to Jesus and kneeling down begged him and said, ‘If you wish, you can make me clean.’” Jesus then said, “I do will it.  Be made clean.”  “And he was made clean.”  Although the leper was physically cured of leprosy, some day he would die from something else.  More than being clean of leprosy, being clean of sinfulness would give him the life that is everlasting health.  In John 6:68c after many of Jesus’ disciples chose to no longer follow Jesus because he told them they must eat his body and drink his blood, Peter, refusing to abandon Jesus said to Jesus, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”  Jesus’ fame and popularity because of his miraculous works were meant to challenge people to believe in him as their eternal Savior, to take them beyond the physical that dies, to the spiritual that never dies.  All too many of the people embraced the miracles that benefited their bodies here and now, but not the life in Jesus that would give them eternal salvation.

1 Corinthians 10:31—11:1.     Paul wrote: “Do everything for the glory of God.”  Paul did that by trying “to please everyone in every way, not seeking my own benefit but that of the many, that they may be saved.”  He wrote in last Sunday’s epistle: “I have become all things to all, to save at least some.”  Paul was always attempting in his person to reflect the Savior.  So he wrote: “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”  We are also called to show something of Jesus in ourselves through our daily life of faith in Jesus so to bring some to Jesus.  Our lives should be the life of the good news that is Jesus within us.

6th Sunday in Ordinary Time – 2018

6B18.   Leviticus 13:1-2, 44-46.  This is one of the commands of the Torah or Law of the Lord for the Hebrew people.  People who had leprosy were considered both physically and morally unclean and sinful.  Any contact with them would make one unclean and so lepers needed to cry out to warn people to stay their distance.

Mark 1:40-45.  I imagine that this leper has heard of how powerful Jesus is and so says to Jesus, “If you wish, you can make me clean.”  “Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched him, and said to him, ‘I do will it. Be made clean.’”  We give glory to God when we, recognizing our needs, humble ourselves before the Lord and request his power to make us clean and whole and holy.  This is something of the daily bread that we petition for in the ‘Our Father prayer’.  What we cannot do, God can do but we need to ask so to receive.  We must live with a never ending sense of having needs we cannot fill and the willingness to ask the only one who can fill those needs.

Jesus commands the cleaned leper not to broadcast the miracle because he would be deluged with miracle seekers.  Instead the leper did not do as he was commanded.  He had gained a healthy body but, by rejected the will of God, he lost the holiness of soul.

1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1.  Paul implores us, “Do everything for the glory of God.”  We will be working for the glory of God if we always seek to please God in all things, to accomplish his will.  Reading the lives of the saints helps us understand how to please the Lord above all things.

5th Sunday in Ordinary Time – February 7, 2021

5B21.   Job 7:1-4, 6-7.   Filled with a sense of desolation, Job says, “I shall not see happiness again.”  Why does something like this appear in the Bible?  The importance of being empty and in deep need is to have nowhere else to go except to God.  This Sunday’s Psalm 147 says, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” “The Lord sustains the lowly.”  Our weakness is an invitation and opportunity to live in God’s strength.    Psalm 147 goes on to say: “Great is our Lord and mighty in power.”  If we think that we can do all on our own without God because we read something or have some rules to follow, we are lost.  That was the downfall of the Pharisees.

Mark 1:29-39.  The demons that Jesus drove out knew that he was “the Holy One of God.”  However, they could not and would not accept him into their hearts as the God of their lives because Satan had already taken possession of that position.  To know who Jesus is to have the door open and to intellectually see who he is.  Far more important than to know who Jesus is in our minds is to invite him into our hearts and have him as the love that is our life that makes us the rich soil that bears the fruit that is called holiness.

Jesus went off to pray in a deserted place.  In his humanness he sought to be filled with the divine strength of his Father.   Through prayer God filled Jesus’ humanness, as God does with our humanness, with his divine strength.  Through his miracles and preaching Jesus sought to fill the people with the saving love and life of his Father.  Earthly life dies at the grave as does the life of all the living creatures of this earth.  Eternal life is Jesus’ life within us that knows no grave.  Choose to live the life that never dies!

1 Corinthians 9:16-19, 22-23.   Paul wrote:  “All this I do for the sake of the gospel, so that I too may have a share in it.”  The recompense that Paul seeks is to win the prize (1 Corinthians 9:24) that is eternal life in heaven.  For him it is superfluous to think of anything else.  True life is God and only God is genuine life.  Everything else is an eventual garbage heap.

5th Sunday in Ordinary Time – 2018

5B18.   Job 7:1-4, 6-7.  Job says, “I shall not see happiness again.”  He feels hopelessly lost, unable to help himself to find any sense of happiness or self-worth.  It is time for him to turn to God to do what he cannot do on his own.

Psalm 147:1-2, 3-4, 5-6.  God rebuilds and gathers together those who cannot help themselves, “for he is gracious.”  He is all powerful and uses his power to help the powerless.

Mark 1:29-39.  “Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever” unable to help herself.  Jesus raised her up from her sickness and continued on to help others who were helpless with sickness and demon-possession.  He was able to bring God’s powerful aid to those in need because God worked through him in his humanness.  “Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed.”  Jesus, in his humanness, sets an example for all humanity to go to God to find the help we need and to appeal for help for others.

A river of the needy people came to him.  “They brought to him all who were ill or possessed by demons.  The whole town was gathered at the door.”  They said, “Everyone is looking for you.”  He poured out from himself all the goodness that God had given him to give, not for his own good but for their good.

1 Corinthians 9:16-19, 22-23.  Paul feels obliged to preach the gospel but without expecting or requiring any compensation from those to whom he preaches.  He goes to all possible lengths, he says, “to save at least some.  All this I do for the sake of the gospel, so that I too may have a share in it,” the good news that Jesus has saved us from our sins to give us eternal life.  Jesus said in John 14:23: “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.” The good news is that, when we love Jesus by giving over our lives to his will, God will love us by sharing with us his life by living within us.