Saturday, March 16, 2013

5th Sunday in Lent - Year C

Gospel: John 8: 1-11

As this morning’s Gospel concerns judging others I was attracted to spending extra time with it during the week in the hope that it would help me with my failings in this area.

In the course of the Gospel the Pharisees and Scribes, who are sinners like the rest of us, accuse this poor woman of her specific sin in front of Jesus and all those present.

Jesus, with great wisdom, compassion and courtesy bends down to write on the ground, thus avoiding embarrassing the poor woman by staring at her and later, even avoiding embarrassing the Pharisees and Scribes as they leave one by one admitting their own guilt as sinners themselves when responding to the words of Jesus – “if there is one of you who has not sinned, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”

Even as Jesus pronounces the following beautiful words of forgiveness and freedom to the woman “Neither do I condemn you, go away and don’t sin any more,” he looks up at her from his stooped position of humility, reminding me of the Gospel text spoken by  Jesus, “Learn from me for I am gentle and humble in heart and you shall find rest for your soul” (Mt 11:29).

He saves this poor woman from both physical and spiritual death in an instant.

This Gospel teaches me that in the light of Jesus’ own silent suffering for all of us during his passion and horrific death on the cross, that every accusation by one of us against another has to fall silent for as the text in Romans says “ God has imprisoned all people in their disobedience - not to punish them, as the Pharisees and Scribes  wanted for this woman, and as we too, in our own sinfulness may want for another  – but that he might have mercy on all” ( Rom: 11:32)- on accusers and accused alike. Jesus has suffered for all of us in order to gain heaven’s forgiveness for all of us  and for that reason no one can pass judgment on, or accuse anyone else in God’s presence.

There are many stories in the tradition of the Desert Fathers to help and guide us in this area. I give these three examples:

 Abba  Arsenius was once asked by a disciple: “ Why is it that I pass judgment on my brothers so frequently’?  He answered him: ‘Because you don’t yet know yourself. Whoever really  knows himself doesn’t see the brothers’ mistakes. If anyone is bearing his own sins, he does not look on those of his neighbours.”

When Abba Agathon saw something and his heart wished to pass judgment on the thing, he would tell himself: “Agathon, don’t do it.” And thus his thinking came to rest.”

Abba Poemen said “If you see someone sinning pray to the Lord and say: ‘Forgive me if I have sinned’.”

And so I pray that I and all of us may renounce the temptation to be accusers of,  or to pass judgment on our brothers and sisters and that we may be given the grace to reflect the compassion, wisdom, courtesy, forgiveness and love of Jesus, as portrayed in today’s Gospel - Jesus, who lovingly and willingly silently  suffered and died to gain heaven’s forgiveness for all of us,

Sunday, March 10, 2013

4th Sunday of Lent - Year C

I think if I had to choose just one Gospel passage to reflect on for the rest of my life I would choose the parable of the Prodigal son. Already I have probably spent more time with it than any other piece of Scripture mainly because it raised issues for me and I knew that if I could stay with it until it revealed God’s word to me, it would change me. For a long time I couldn’t get my head around the idea that the Father could love these two sons so much, that they could be in the presence of such love, and not experience it. How could it be? I can understand it happening with a human parent. Many of us I’m sure only under stood how much our parents loved us, when we got to the stage in our own lives, where we were able to see how much we loved others in spite of our woundedness and oft times the damage our unresolved issues may have caused. But this is God. His love is untarnished by human sin or weakness. There are no projections, no hidden agendas, no demands. Then how is it that one son takes off and the other stays but seems to resent being deprived the very thing he stays for, his Father’s love and approval? He was physically present but was as oblivious to the depth of his father’s love for him as his brother was. And I, when I let the unsettled feelings I had around all this surface, found myself resenting God, blaming God for not getting through to them, or not making it clearer. In my head I knew the fault couldn’t lie with Him but time after time I had to grapple with it. I was identifying, with these sons. I was n’t experiencing God’s love either, not with the certainty I wished to have, not as a felt experience, even though I professed to believe that ‘He loved me with an everlasting love and was constant in his affection for me’. But God doesn’t give up, on them or on us. No matter where life brings us to, God is always present, always active in the situation, always wanting to bring us home. In truth the sole purpose of all our journeying is to bring us to a place where we are confronted with the Father’s unquestioning love , a moment of truth that still contains a choice, Do I enter the Feast or do I remain outside?

God’s love is unconditional and perhaps the reason we don’t experience it is because we are unable to conceive of or receive an utterly gratuitous love. When we are ready to receive freely then we will experience what is freely given. Our motives don’t even have to be pure we just have to know our need. We just have to accept the invite to enter the banqueting hall. There we will discover that his banner over us is love.

These two young men, one a long distance away, the other close at hand, have in fact one and the same journey to make. We are put on this earth to discover God’s love for us, to share that love with others, to be participants in the heavenly banquet. If we are outside whether we are a foot away or miles away God’s eyes will be ever watching, yearning for a glimpse of us, ready to usher us in so that his joy and ours may be complete.

We are left hanging at the end of this story.  Does the elder son hear what the father says? Even as he expresses his anger, jealousy and resentment, are the Father’s coaxing words, that most beautiful affirmation, the words he had so longed to hear, ‘You are with me always’ do they get through? In the very moment when he brings his bitterness into the light is he set free? Can he now hear his Father who is aware of all the negativity in him, telling him that he sees something more. He knows that his son is with him always. We don’t know for certain how the son responded but surely this text is given to us in Lent to provide us with the opportunity to place ourselves in the story and finish the tale.


Sunday, March 3, 2013

3rd Sunday of Lent - Year C


“Strong is His love for us” –
we could say that this phrase from the responsorial psalm sums up the message of today’s Mass readings.

Our God is a ‘consuming fire’ who “forgives all our guilt” and “heals our ills” (Ps 102).  He is “compassion and love, slow to anger and rich in mercy.”

In the Gospel Jesus explains in the parable of the fig tree which did not bear fruit that he is always prepared to give us a second chance, to give us more time, in the hope that we will repent of our sins and failures.  “Give it (ie the fig tree) one more year and give me time to dig round it and manure it – it may bear fruit next year!” (Gospel - Lk 13:1-9).

It is the same God who appeared to Moses while he went about his daily work of tending the flock and spoke to him from the burning bush.  Moses was standing on “holy ground” without knowing it!  God reveals His name as I AM.  When we live in the present we live in the PRESENCE of our God who knows all about the plight of His people and their desires for freedom. 

As God sent Moses to the people of Israel to be His mouth-piece and His instrument in freeing them from their bondage, so today He needs each of us to tell others of the love, compassion and forgiveness of our God.  We need not be afraid to open to Him for He will surpass all our expectations and dreams with the abundance of His love - “Strong is His love for us!”

“Only where God is seen does life truly begin.  Only when we meet the living God in Christ do we know what life is.  We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution.  Each of us is the result of a thought of God.  Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary.  There is nothing more beautiful than to be surprised by the Gospel, by the encounter with Christ.  There is nothing more beautiful than to know Him and to speak to others of our friendship with Him.”  (Pope Benedict XVI).