Monday, May 2, 2011

Memorial of Saint Athanasius, bishop and doctor of the Church

(Acts 4:23-31; John 3:1-8)

Ramon used to drink a lot. We would say that he had a drinking problem. He might have even called himself an alcoholic bound to nowhere except, perhaps, an early death. One day, however, he decided to stop drinking. The decision came in the midst of prayer and its outcome was nourished by prayer. Since that moment Ramon has never been drunk again. In fact, he never takes a drink although he will sip the Precious Blood when it is offered at Mass.

Such a radical turnabout seems to be what Jesus has in mind when he speaks of being born again. He does not intend to say that one has merely to undergo the Baptism ritual to see the kingdom of God. No, he has a more fundamental experience in mind. He means being transformed so as to live in a completely new way. Like Ramon those who experience such a change know that it is primarily not their doing but a work of grace. Evidently many of the baptized in the early Church were so changed as they were preparing for the sacrament.

Then what about those of us who were baptized at a tender age? Do we have a legitimate place in the kingdom of God, or are we like squatters in the park soon to be removed? Perhaps we could test ourselves. Do we see radical change for the better in ourselves? Do we find ourselves becoming more God-like? If we used to like talking about ourselves, are we now ready to listen to those needing to share their burden? If we used to look at women or men as objects of desire, are we now seeing them as God’s children? Such transformations are the true outcomes of water and the Spirit.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Friday in the Octave of Easter

(Acts 4:1-12; John 21:1-14)

Resurrection means, of course, that Christ is no longer dead but alive. His body has ascended to heaven, but his Spirit is free to be with us. We should not think of this Spirit as merely a common sentiment like people share when reminiscing about the “the good old days.” Rather his Spirit -- the Holy Spirit -- is a dynamic force that transforms us interiorly so that we might fulfill Christ’s mission. Today’s gospel describes the working of Jesus’ Spirit with rich symbols.

Have the disciple’s really returned to their old fishing profession? It would be extraordinary after receiving the commission of the Lord in his previous appearances to them. But perhaps fishing is the metaphor for their preaching. They have become “fishers of men.” It is laborious work which may yield nothing unless blessed by the Lord. Under his tutelage, however, its results are bountiful. The crew actually meets Jesus in the meal to which he invites them. There they hear his words which guide them and consume his food which nourishes them.

The gospel passage suggests Jesus’ presence to us as well as to his immediate disciples. He engages us in our daily occupations. There we too can produce marvelous results on behalf of our families, communities, and society. Attentive to the words he speaks in the gospel and fortified by his body and blood received in the Eucharist, we are prepared to bring his mission of redemption to completion.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Thursday in the Octave of Easter

(Acts 3:11-26; Luke 24:35-48)

For the crime of executing an innocent man, Christians have more than excised repayment from the Jews. Their crimes against Jews through the centuries are extensive and bloody. At times Christian leaders supported or, at best, turned a blind eye to racist atrocities. Interestingly, the Gospel according to Luke and Luke’s Acts of the Apostles takes a judicious approach to the Jewish people’s complicity in Jesus’ death. On the cross in Luke’s passion narrative Jesus prays, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” In today’s reading from Acts, Peter likewise mitigates Jewish responsibility for Jesus’ death. Addressing himself to the Jews of Jerusalem, he says, “’ acted out of ignorance, just as your leaders did.’”

The ignorance of which Jesus and Peter speak here regards the inability of the Jews to recognize who Jesus is. As he says, Jesus is God’s “Holy and Righteous One” sent to bring new life to the people. It is a large truth for us to grasp even after two millennia of spiritual reflection. We continue to sin, and our sins conspire with those of the Jews and the Romans in Jerusalem to crucify Jesus. Like the Jews addressed by Peter then, we are not fully aware of all that we are doing when we ridicule others or take something that does not belong to us. And, yes, we too become beneficiaries of Jesus’ prayer for forgiveness from the cross.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Wednesday of Easter Week

(Acts 3:1-10; Lucas 24:13-35)

In the novel A Day with a Perfect Stranger an agnostic, who is having trouble understanding her faith-filled husband, goes on a business trip. She strikes up a conversation with the man sitting next to her on the airplane who also seems impatient with religious zealots. During their conversation the man not only resolves the woman’s doubts about God but also helps her discern what the Spirit is saying in her heart. In the end the woman realizes that it is no ordinary person that she is conversing with. It is the resurrected Jesus whom she has met.

The familiar story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus provides the storyline for A Day with a Perfect Stranger. Two travelers from Jerusalem are bereft with the death and rumored resurrection of Jesus. Along the road they meet another traveler who explains all that is troubling them. His insights into Scripture make their hearts burn with love of God. Then they recognize that their interlocutor is their risen Lord as he shares with them the evening meal.

The Emmaus story is meant to help us appreciate the presence of Christ in both word and sacrament at mass. We may also find it a parable indicating that he accompanies us along the journey of life. As youth, we find him teaching us to play fairly and to exert ourselves if we hope to achieve success. In middle age, we meet Jesus forgiving our excesses and strengthening us to carry out his Father’s call for our personal life. At journey’s end we recognize Jesus as the thread that has held our life together and the hope that old age is not our downfall but our catapult to a new and more abundant life.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Tuesday in the Octave of Easter

(Acts 2:36-41; John 20:11-18)

A teacher was worried about her job. Economic realities had forced her school district to announce cuts of a considerable number of teaching positions. The woman was competent enough to have received a number of teaching awards. Still she was unsure that she would survive a brutal competition of credentials. The woman prayed and started thinking about how she might cut back her lifestyle if necessary. It turned out, however, that she not only retained her job but was given a raise in salary.

Mary Magdalene’s search for the dead Jesus in the gospel today likewise results in more than she imagined possible. Her devotion to the Lord takes her to his tomb. Evidently she only wants to be near his remains for in this gospel she does not carry oil for anointing. Her faithfulness, however, brings more consolation than she could have dreamed. Joy floods her heart as she recognizes her risen Lord.

Life is full of uncertainty and setbacks. As much as we try to avoid them, they are inevitable for every one of us. But when we remain faithful to our Lord in trials with prayer and effort to follow his commands, then we too are likely to be surprised by more benefit than we ever imagined.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Monday in the Octave of Easter

Acts 2:14.22-33; Matthew 28:8-15)

The behavior of the chief priests in the gospel of Matthew might make a saint anti-clerical. They pay to arrange the arrest of an innocent man. They seek false testimony to condemn Jesus. They show no compassion for Judas as struggles with a guilty conscious and less for Jesus on the cross as they ridicule him. After Jesus’ death, they ask Pilate for a guard to prevent the abduction of Jesus’ bodies. And, in today’s gospel, we see them bribing the same guard to lie about what took place. Because the veracity of these incidents cannot be confirmed, it may be best to attribute them to the animosity between the Jews and the Christians when Matthew wrote.

The last two assertions here about the chief priests point to one of the reasons Christians give for belief in the resurrection. His tomb, which is marked in a definite place by all four gospel accounts, was found to be empty that Sunday morning, again in all gospel narratives. Unless the body was stolen as the Jews in Matthew’s account allege, there is no other explanation for its disappearance than the resurrection.

However, our faith in the resurrection is based on more than circumstantial evidence. Jesus also appeared to many people after his body was found missing from the tomb. Today’s gospel speaks of the first appearance to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary. St. Paul will give us a list of his appearances: Peter, the Twelve, five hundred Christian brothers, and, of course, to Paul himself. Based on their testimony, the empty tomb, and our own experience of the power of Christ acting in our lives, we do not hesitate to affirm that, yes, he rose from the dead to save us from sin and death.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday: Celebration of the Lord’s Passion

(Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Hebrews 4:14-16.5:7-9; John 18:1-19:42)

Gloria was recently diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She is a middle-aged wife and mother and deeply committed to God. Because the first kind of chemo-therapy did not halt her disease, she has begun another, more powerful regimen. She has started to lose hair and feels tired. Yet Gloria’s faith remains strong. She knows that there is no need to worry. The gracious Lord, who has blessed her abundantly so far in life, will not leave her side. She can count on him as much as a runner on the track beneath his feet.

Gloria’s faith derives its strength from the vision of Jesus undergoing death in the Gospel according to John. He is entirely in control of what happens. The cohort of soldiers does not surprise him in the garden; rather, he goes out to meet it. When Jesus identifies himself, the soldiers fall to the ground as if they were worshipping him. When Pilate tries to intimidate Jesus, Jesus calmly tells him that any power he has comes “from above” where he is from. On the cross Jesus gives consolation to both his mother and beloved friend and dies only when his mission “is finished.” Finally, Jesus is buried like the king that he is and that the world has recognized by the sign on his cross in three languages.

Earlier in the gospel Jesus said that when he is lifted up, he will draw all people to himself. He meant that at his crucifixion the world would have the opportunity to reject or accept him. Rejecting him means fulfilling our own desires without regard to his commands. If we follow that road, we have to fret when death threatens because it will take away all that we hold dear. Accepting him, we stretch our concern to do his will despite what it may cost us. Then when death comes calling, we have nothing to fear. As the tomb could not contain Jesus, he will make it a temporary residence for us.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Holy Thursday – Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper

(Exodus 12:1-8.11-14; I Corinthians 15:23-26; John 13:1-15)

At a Jewish Passover meal the youngest at table asks, “Why is tonight different from all other nights?” We might propose a similar question for our meeting this evening. How is this mass different from other masses? The answer is that in this mass we give ourselves in a special way to remembering.

The word remember literally means to put the component parts or members back together. When we remember we recreate what existed in the past in order to make it present to us now. This evening we remember three events found in the Scripture readings. First, we recall God’s liberating the Israelites from their exile in Egypt. Second, we reestablish Jesus’ initiation of the Eucharist on the night before he died. And finally, we bring to mind Jesus’ astonishing humility when he washes his disciples’ feet.

Dogs can remember in a sense, and we regularly pay a false compliment to computers by speaking of their memory. We must distinguish our act of remembering from the trivial memories attributed to animals and machines. When humans remember, we assign to a past event a meaning that shapes our lives. In our first memory this evening we understand the liberation of the Israelites as our own deliverance from the captivity of sin accomplished through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Our remembrance of the first Eucharist allows us to imagine the celestial banquet in which we hope to participate with Jesus, the Father, the saints, and all our beloved. Our final instance of remembering shows us how we will reach our heavenly goal. We are to become like Jesus by imitating his loving service to others.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Wednesday of Holy Week

(Isaiah 50:4-9a; Matthew 26:14-25)

Humiliation seldom sinks lower than to have another spit in one’s face. Spittle may transmit disease. More than that, spitting is a universal sign of contempt. The Book of Deuteronomy instructs a widow whose brother-in-law will not fulfill his obligation to marry her for the sake of his dead brother to “spit in his face” (Deut. 25:9). The action is meant to show that the man is like selfish, low-lying scum.

In the first reading today the Suffering Servant speaks of giving his face to be spit upon. Conscious of this reference, Matthew’s passion narrative underscores how both Jews and Romans spit upon Jesus. Although the gospel does not say that Judas spits in Jesus’ face, it indicates that Judas’ behavior is tantamount to such disgrace. He insults Jesus by calling him “Rabbi” since Jesus expressly forbade his followers to use that title. More gravely, he accepts money for handing Jesus over to his enemies.

Jesus’ humiliation in Matthew’s passion narrative is part of the price that he pays for human disobedience. Only perfect obedience could heal the fracture between God and humanity related in the story of Adam and Eve’s sin and reflected in each of our sins. Jesus carries out God’s will – that he be handed over to his enemies -- which causes him to suffer extreme humiliation, intense pain, and finally brutal death. For this sacrifice he deserves more than our thanks and admiration. He merits our imitation and allegiance.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Tuesday of Holy Week

(Isaiah 49:1-6; John 13:21-33.36-38)

In a NBA playoff gave a few years ago, Cleveland Cavalier star LeBron James gave an especially memorable performance. He was all over the court – shooting, dribbling, and rebounding – to give his team the margin of victory. Somewhat similarly Jesus controls the action in the Gospel according to John.

In today’s passage, Jesus not only predicts that Judas will betray him but gives him the cue to act. Likewise, he foretells Peter’s denial. Earlier in the gospel Jesus said, “No one takes (my life) from me… I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again” (John 10:18). Throughout the passion narrative we see Jesus fulfilling this prophecy.

Hearing the gospel, we can be assured that Jesus will enable us to overcome any difficulty that we face. Whether it be finding a job in a troubled economy or coping with cancer, if we stay close to the Lord Jesus, he will provide us the grace to overcome any obstacle in our path.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Monday of Holy Week

(Isaiah 42:1-7; John 12:1-11)

In one of last week’s gospel passages, the Jews become indignant to think of themselves as slaves of anyone. Their rejection of the term is ironic mostly because the Jews indeed lived as a subjugated people for swaths of history but also because they have seen themselves as the corporate Servant of the Lord as pictured by Isaiah in the first reading. Christians have not been reluctant to see Jesus and themselves as slaves in a metaphorical sense, at least.

In our minds we may distinguish servant from slave but in Hebrew the same word serves for both. A servant in ancient society was not a free person who hires him or herself out for domestic work but a person owned by a household. It was a degrading position as countless witnesses of American slavery attest. Yet Jesus put himself in the position in as much as he did the dirty work for the salvation of the world. In the gospel Jesus does not flinch from being anointed with costly oil because he knows that he is about to suffer in a worse way than the most abused slave and also because he is aware of the good intentions of the person who anoints him.

As much as Jews since the Holocaust see themselves as God’s corporate Servant of the Lord, the Church identifies with Jesus, whose life and death clearly reflect the description in Isaiah. We serve the world by deeds of justice and charity. When we support a poor child in Honduras or campaign for worker rights in Mexican maquiladoras, we add further testimony that Jesus brings justice to the nations.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Friday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

(Jeremiah 20:10-13; John 10:31-42)

Cell telephone numbers may help us understand the prohibition of blasphemy mentioned in the gospel today. If you know your boss’s cell number, you are not likely to use it without good reason. Nor would you share it with everyone who may ask you for it. God’s name -- certainly in the ancient world and still so today -- serves a purpose similar purpose. It invokes God’s immediate presence. Blasphemy, the flagrant use of God’s name, includes more than making light of it. Taking a false oath incurs the charge of blasphemy as does prophesying without due authorization and arrogating to oneself the place of God.

In the gospel the Jews accuse Jesus of blasphemy for calling himself the “Son of God.” The incident takes place outside evidently near an open field where the Jews can find rocks to stone Jesus for the well-attested Old Testament crime. Nevertheless, we must understand the charge as more serious than that of a few zealous thugs taking the execution of the Law into their own hands. John’s gospel lacks a trial of Jesus before the Sanhedrin (ruling council) of the Jews. Especially the Gospels of Matthew and Mark show Jesus in this much formal setting responding to the same charge. If Jesus were not the person he claims to be, he would justly be found guilty of a very serious crime.

When we pray “hallowed be thy name,” we give testimony to the seriousness of blasphemy. For good reason, we do not penalize everyone today who curses, takes a false oath, or acts as if s/he were God Almighty. Yet we must take care not to betray the reverence we have for God’s name and for Jesus’ by blaspheming ourselves or by allowing tolerance for such barbarity to melt into acceptance.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Thursday of the Fifth Week in Lent

(Genesis 17:3-9; John 8:51-59)

It’s ten o’clock Saturday morning, and your eldest son Bobby is bouncing down the stairs for breakfast. He has slept through the promise he made his younger brother to take him to soccer practice. You ask coolly, “Have you had enough sleep, Robert?” Of course, you are not really concerned about his health. Your question ironically intends to make your son aware that he has failed to keep his promise. The Gospel of John frequently uses such irony.

It is ironic for the Jews in the gospel today to say, “Abraham died as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘Whoever keeps my word will never taste death.’” They lack understanding that Jesus is speaking of eternal life whose fullness comes with the resurrection at the end of time.

We need not be hard on the Jews in the gospel for not appreciating eternal life. Its significance escapes many of us as well. It is not merely life without end. Nor is it spiritual life as some envisage a colony of ghosts in heaven. Eternal life is new, extraordinary, challenging to the imagination. At the same time recalling glimpses of the resurrected Jesus, we can say that it is conscious, corporal, and joyous. We might compare it to witnessing Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with a finale of fireworks, but it is really beyond ourselves to comprehend. We can only wait in hope to experience it.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Wednesday of the Fifth Week in Lent

(Daniel 3:14-20.91-92.95; John 8:31-42)

A woman recently published an article in the Christian Science Monitor with the intriguing title, “Do brothels and bikinis mark progress for Arab women?” The author believes that the revolutions shaking the Arab world would be counter-productive if they bring to power chauvinists who allow women to be exploited in the name of freedom. In a sense she takes a position not far from Jesus’ in his debate with the Jews about true freedom.

Jesus speaks of freedom as a quality of the soul that shuns sinful desires when he tells the Jews, “If you remain in my word…you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” We see as captive the addict who cannot “say no to drugs.” Equally un-free, although there may be no civil crime impugning him or her, is the habitual liar or blasphemer. The Jews, on the other hand, are using the popular notion of freedom when they say that they have never been enslaved to anyone. This statement not only misses Jesus’ point; it also denies history as the Jews were enslaved to the Babylonians (as the first reading indicates) and even in Jesus’ time are under Roman rule.

Learning the truth by becoming Jesus’ disciples, we are set free from those inner impulses that can dominate us. He teaches us humility to check pride, simplicity to counter greed, gentleness to curb anger, and much more. We should not make the mistake of saying that these virtues contribute little to happiness. They enable us to do what we most deeply desire and, thus, lead us to our most cherished goal in life.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Tuesday of the Fifth Week in Lent

(Numbers 21:4-9; John 8:21-30)

Folksinger Bob Dylan wrote a song where everyone denies responsibility for the death of a prizefighter. In “Who Killed Davey Moore?” Dylan shows how the referee, the fans, the sportswriter, the manager, and the boxer who knocked the victim out all participated in the killing. Yet each of these conspirators excuses himself or themselves from blame.

Although a prizefighter may seem an unlikely figure for Jesus, we can find a comparison between Bob Dylan’s ballad and the gospel today. Just as many share the guilt of Davey Moore’s death but no one cares to admit it, so too the whole world should recognize that their sins have caused the death of Jesus when he “is lifted up” on the cross, but few will acknowledge their complicity.

Jesus comes to the world as the completely innocent son of God. His mission is to redeem the world of sin. He accomplishes this when he is crucified allowing everyone – ourselves as well as the people who surround him – to recognize that his or her sins have brought about his death. Those who deny involvement remain in sin. Those who admit complicity, he forgives. There is no escaping judgment.
Monday of the Fifth Week in Lent

(Daniel 13:1-9.15-17.19-30.33-62; John 8:12-20)

At the Seder Supper Jews recite a song called "Dayenu", Hebrew for “it would have been enough.” Each verse of the song tells of a wonder that God worked in bringing the Israelites from slavery in Egypt to the Promised Land. The refrain after each verse is "Dayenu", that wonder alone would have been enough for them to believe. So the Jews gave praise to God for bringing their ancestors out of Egypt, for feeding them with manna in the desert, for pronouncing the Sabbath rest, etc. After listening to the gospel story today, we are inclined to say “Dayenu,” that judgment alone on behalf of the woman caught in adultery would have been enough for us to recognize Jesus as God’s Son. But, of course, there is so much more.

The Pharisees’ condemnation of the woman is patently unjust for several reasons. First, the punishment does not fit the crime. Granted that adultery is serious in a society where cohesion is necessary for survival. But it is also a sin especially susceptible to fallen human nature. Capital punishment for adultery is equivalent to beating a child for eating too much candy. Then, there is the question of the whereabouts of the man in the adulterous affair. Justice demands that he too be apprehended, tried, and duly punished. Finally, the Pharisees are using the woman as an arrow to shoot Jesus. Their fading away with Jesus’ challenge about casting the first stone indicates that the woman’s fate is inconsequential as long as the increasingly popular new master is discredited.

It is not hard to follow Jesus as we march onto to Holy Week. Indeed we should see ourselves as the crowd welcoming him into Jerusalem. But to make him our model every day of our lives, even when doing the right thing becomes a steep and rocky climb, requires committed faith. Seeing Jesus’ wisdom as well as his power and his love for others, we echo the Jews’ “Dayenu.” Any of these wonders would be enough for us to believe in him. But taken together, how can we doubt that he is worthy of allegiance?

Friday, April 8, 2011

Friday of the Fourth Week in Lent

(Wisdom 2:1a.12-22; John 7:1-2.10.25-30)

Few Americans have distinguished themselves more than George C. Marshall. As Army Chief of Staff during World War II, he oversaw the military build-up that saved the world from Nazi and Japanese tyranny. Later as Secretary of State, he introduced the foreign aid plan that rebuilt the European economy and assured American prosperity. In recognition of these efforts Marshall received the Nobel Peace Prize. Yet Senator Joe McCarthy attacked Marshall as feeble, stupid, and responsible for China turning Communist!

Today’s first reading from the Book of Wisdom soberly assures us that even the most righteous of people like George Marshall suffer persecution. Certainly the Gospel of John portrays Jesus as being so persecuted. By healing the infirm and teaching with authority, Jesus shows himself to be the long-awaited Messiah. But the Jews, in this account, refuse to acknowledge Jesus as sent from God. They say that no one is to know the origins of the Christ (or Messiah) but they know that Jesus comes from Nazareth.

When we pursue what is good, we will sometimes find our efforts criticized and our intentions misconstrued. It happened to Jesus, and as his followers, we can expect it to happen to us. But suffering persecution is no reason to give up doing what is right. We should check our work and question our motives to assure that they are properly ordered. If they are, then there is reason to stay the course. After all, Jesus promises the Kingdom of heaven to those who suffer persecution for the sake of righteousness.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Memorial of St. John Baptist de la Salle

(Exodus 32:7-14; John 5:31-47)

Sometimes the language used to describe God in the Old Testament becomes disillusioning. Rather than the epitome of holiness, God is pictured like the warrior Achilles who allows the Greek army to flounder on the beaches of Troy as he sulks about not being given respect. Theologian Robert Barron recommends that we understand God’s anger ("snits," he writes) in the Old Testament as a symbol of His passion for justice. God’s outrage over the golden calf in the reading today, for instance, is to be taken as His alarm over the people’s pursuing wealth and power instead of the path of righteousness on which He has guided them.

St. John Baptist de la Salle reflects the righteousness of God. He gave up the fortune he inherited to found schools and an order of religious men to teach in them. When he died, he left behind a legacy of education that can dwarf any family treasury.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Wednesday of the Fourth Week in Lent

(Isaiah 49:8-15; John 5:17-30)

Lent is rightfully associated with the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt. Our forty days of sacrifice to overcome selfishness mirror roughly the forty years of purification the Israelites underwent in the desert. But other Biblical passages as well give meaning to the Lenten experience. The reading from the prophet Isaiah in today is a good example.

In the sixth century before Christ the Babylonians conquered the Kingdom of Judah and carried many of its people into exile. It was a terrible experience of subjugation and humiliation. The prophets write of it as a punishment for the excesses of the people during the almost 500-year period of Israel’s kings. During that time many Jews took up the idolatrous practices of their neighbors. Often the rich squandered fortunes in sumptuous living while ignoring the plight of the poor. But after decades of mortification in Babylon, Isaiah declares enough is enough. The people have learned their lesson. God is ready to bring them back to their own land.

We should hear the voice of Isaiah today as an indicator that Lent is almost over. God has noticed our sacrifices and is coming to forgive our sins. True, we have to hold the line for two and a half more weeks. But just as sure as daylight has overtaken the night (in the northern hemisphere, anyway) so can we count on God liberating us through Christ’s resurrection. He will crown our efforts of charity, prayer, and fasting to make us God-like in mercy, holiness, and generosity.

Tuesday, Arpil 5, 2011

Tuesday of the Fourth Week in Lent

(Ezekiel 47:1-9.12; John 5:1-16)

Some places in the world have continual outages of water and electricity. When Honduras was experiencing regular disruptions of these services fifteen years ago, someone from there was asked which was worse – not having running water or not having electricity. The man answered in an instant – not having water. So what that we cannot eat microwave popcorn as long as we can cook beans and take a shower!

The reading from Ezekiel today manifests the healing power of Temple prayer by describing the waters that flow from its side. In the gospel Jesus shows his ability to cure as more efficacious than that of the Temple. He instantaneously heals the sick man who lacks the wherewithal to plunge himself into the Temple waters. The gospel invites everyone to bring their difficulties to Jesus in prayer.

We may see Jesus as a kind of river of plenty. Like the Ganges in India, he heals us of infirmities. Like the Nile in Egypt, he provides us the means for sustenance and growth. Like the Mississippi in the United States, he transports us home.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Monday of the Fourth Week in Lent

(Isaiah 65:17-21; John 4:43-54)

We have crossed a threshold in Lent. As if we have dominated our sinful tendencies completely, the readings today take us beyond repentance to new life in the Lord. They are to prepare us for the celebrations of Christ’s glory in less than three weeks.

Does the royal official believe that Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah or is he just desperately seeking a remedy for his son’s disease? Jesus indicates that he is only looking for some help such that his next stop may be a drugstore. But that fact does not deter Jesus from meeting the need. He challenges the man to believe by sending him off with his word that the boy will live. The man’s desperation turns into trust as he leaves without further entreaty.

We come to Jesus with a barrow of needs every day. If we are honest, we may have to admit that we are usually looking for a shortcut to resolve our problems. Jesus challenges us also to believe. Letting go of our urgency and trusting in his care, we too will find a newness of life.