Unscramble each of the clue words.
Copy the letters in the numbered cells to other cells with the same number. Click HERE for the texts.
Saturday, April 19, 2014
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts10:34, 37-43; Col 3:1-4 John 20:1-9
John Donne the sixteenth century poet ends his poem “Death Be Not Proud” in the following manner: “One short sleep past we wake eternally, And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.”
This is a good summary of the Easter event. Death is no more; death has died because of the Resurrection of Jesus. Easter is primarily a feast of hope. Light has conquered darkness, truth has conquered untruth and eternal life has conquered death. No more will death hold sway, no more will death be a threat, no more will death be something to be feared. Those who believe in the Resurrection can look death in the face and not be afraid. The hope that Easter brings is that no matter how bleak the present might look, no matter how daunting the road ahead might seem, no matter how intimidating the situation at hand might be, one need not give in to despair, one need not give up or give in, one needs only to hope, trust and believe. Jesus went to his death believing his father would raise him on the third day and his Father did.
The Gospel text of today brings out this fact in the narrative of the Empty tomb. Unlike the Synoptic Gospels where Mary Magdalene is accompanied by other women, in the Gospel of John she comes to the tomb alone. John alone mentions that “it was still dark”. John is not stating here a time of the day or narrating the physical situation, he is saying that no matter what time of the day it is, no matter how brightly the sun might be shining, it will continue to be dark, because Jesus is not present. The absence of Jesus is what causes the darkness. Once Jesus appears, it will always be light. This darkness that Mary experiences is the darkness that all of us experience when Jesus is absent from our lives. Ordinary problems of life seem overwhelming, small difficulties seem intimidating and life becomes a burden. However, with the appearance of Jesus, darkness retreats and only light appears.
The fact that the stone is rolled back does not necessarily mean that the Lord is not in the tomb, yet that is how Mary Magdalene interprets it. She goes even further when she interprets the absence of the body of Jesus as his having been taken away and lack of knowledge of where his body has been placed. This is indeed the mystery that all of us encounter. We cannot capture Jesus, we cannot confine him, and we cannot know where he comes from and where he is going. We have only to dare to follow and believe.
Peter and the beloved disciple act on Mary’s information and like her, they too run to the tomb to see for themselves what has been told them. If Mary saw only the stone rolled back, the beloved disciple sees this and also the linen cloths used to wrap the body of Jesus. Peter sees even more. Besides what the beloved disciple sees, Peter sees also the cloth that was used to wrap the head of Jesus. There is thus a progression, a development, an enlargement of the picture and the puzzle is not so much a puzzle now.
The leaving behind of the grave cloths is extremely significant since the empty tomb by itself does not signify or mean that Jesus has been raised from the dead. Thus the cloths are an indication of two facts. First, the body of Jesus could not have been stolen by grave robbers since is very unlikely that they would unwrap the body before stealing it and leave the cloths behind. What is more likely is that they would take the cloths and leave the body. Second leaving behind of the grave cloths means that Jesus has left death behind as symbolized by the grave cloths. When Lazarus who was raised by Jesus from the dead came out of the tomb, he did so bringing with him his grave cloths. This was because he would need them when he died again. Jesus, however, will never die again and so will not need the grave cloths. He has risen to a new life; he has risen never to die again. Death has died.
However, as Peter makes explicit in the first reading of today, the conquering of death by Jesus is only one part of the story. There is a second part narrated by Peter and even a third part explicated in the second reading of today.
The second part is that because of Jesus’ resurrection everyone who believes will also partake of the same privilege. For everyone who believes, death will never be the end. For everyone who believes, there is the hope of new life. This is because in Jesus and through his death and resurrection forgiveness of sins has been obtained by all. The colour of the person is inconsequential; the nationality does not matter, the language spoken is unimportant because God shows no partiality. God forgives and welcomes all in Jesus the Risen Christ.
Precisely because God forgives and welcomes, this forgiveness has to be accepted and lived out. The living out of the forgiveness and acceptance follows the forgiveness and the new life. It is not a condition. This is the third part of the resurrection story. The manner in which it is to be lived out is spelled out in the second reading of today which is part of the letter to the Colossians. Those who accept this forgiveness of God in Jesus will be determined to seek only that which enhances and builds up. They will strive only for what is positive and life giving. They will be encouraged and encourage. They will never give in to despair, they will never give up or give in, and they will never lose hope.
Friday, April 18, 2014
Thursday, April 17, 2014
To read the texts click on the texts: Is 52:13 - 53:12; Heb 4:14-16; 5:7-9; Jn 18:1 -19:42
The phrase “God knows” is used most often to indicate lack of knowledge on our part. When something is beyond our comprehension and understanding we use the phrase “God knows”. And in every sense of the word we are right, because God does indeed know.
However, even as we use the phrase, I am not sure whether we really mean it. This is because sometimes we tend to lose heart, we tend to lose faith and we give in to despair and lose hope. This indicates that we do not really believe that God knows.
I want to focus on three characters mentioned in the Gospel of John and try to apply this phrase “God knows” to all three. The first of these is Jesus. Jesus has washed the feet of his disciples and is aware now that he must go to the Cross, he must go to what God knows is to happen to him. Since Jesus believes in his heart that “God knows”, he goes to his cross courageously and without flinching. This is evident in the Passion of John. Having said that, however, I want to insist, that Jesus is not a sadist. He is not looking for trouble, he is not looking for the Cross, he is not looking to die. However, Jesus does what he has to do and only after he has done that leaves the rest ion God’s hands. If being faithful to his Mission means having to go to the Cross so be it. This is because Jesus knows that God knows. Even as Jesus hangs on the cross there is no miraculous rescue, Elijah will not come to save. There is no seeming intervention and interference by God, but Jesus is confident in the knowledge that “God knows”. Those of us who might imagine that Jesus was God and therefore could go to the Cross as he did are very much mistaken. Jesus was fully human and it was in his full humanity that he went to his cross and his death and his annihilation. He did not have any foreknowledge of the resurrection, what he had only was his FAITH that “God knows”.
The second character is that of Mary. She is regarded in tradition as a model of faith, and yet she is not a Mary who is only docile and submissive. She is the handmaid of the Lord surely but she is also courageous enough to ask questions of God and expect an answer. Yet, when she receives an answer that goes beyond her comprehension, she does not persist, but accepts like Jesus humbly and courageously. If it is God’s will that she be the mother of a condemned man, if it is God’s will that her son be crucified to a tree, if it is God’s will that she stand at the foot of the Cross of her son, then so be it. God’s will be done because “God knows”.
Two words and one conviction you must take as you leave this evening the ONE CONVICTION that GOD KNOWS
Aristotle define humans as rational animals, Rene Descartes took it one step further and said “I think, therefore I am” (ego Cogito ergo sum). I want you to take home another revelation today, “God knows, therefore I know”.
Wednesday, April 16, 2014
To read the texts click on the texts: Ex 12:1-8,11-14; 1 Cor 11:23-26; Jn 13:1-15
The English word Maundy comes from the Latin Mandatum which means command. And the reason why Maundy Thursday is so called is because the church celebrates this as the day in which Jesus gave his love command. What Jesus was in effect doing was summarizing his entire life. In bending down to wash the feet of the disciples in Jn 13:1-13, Jesus brings together all that he was, all that he is, all that he does. With Jesus there was no dichotomy, there was no separation between his being and his doing. Jesus did who he was. Jesus said what he did.
And so, on this Maundy Thursday we are called through this event of the washing of the feet, to ask ourselves some serious questions, and the first of these is “Is there a separation between my being and my doing?
Am I one of those persons who say one thing but does another? Or am I a person who does not do what he says?
Am I a person who cannot be trusted to fulfil an obligation?
Am I a person who is known for not keeping his word? Another area that we can look at, is the area of our conditional, of determined love?
Is my love barter exchange? Do I expect something in return for my love? Is my relationship with people a matter of “you give me, I give you”? Is it a matter of how much can I get out of this person rather than how much can I give?
Another theme that we can look upon during this reflection is the prophetic gesture that Jesus performs when he washes the feet of the disciples. Many interpret this gesture as an action of a slave. However, John is very clear that the washing was not before the meal as slaves would do but when they were in the midst of the meal. And even though Jesus knows that Judas is going to betray him, even though Jesus knows that Peter is going to deny him, he washes their feet. And this is what is prophetic about the gesture. First, that it was done after the meal had begun, something totally unexpected, and second, that he could wash the feet of the betrayer, of a denier and of the others who ran away. So there was nothing within the disciples that would have prompted anyone to wash their feet; there was nothing within the disciples that would have made anyone reach out to them. It was what was in Jesus that made him even to look at the disciples with the eyes, the heart, the mind, of love. And even as he washed the feet of Judas and Peter, he was loving, forgiving and accepting them. This is the true meaning of forgiveness; it is the true meaning of love, it is the true meaning of Maundy Thursday.
So, If Jesus was able to bring together his being and his doing, his word and his action, I need to ask myself whether I can do that myself. If Jesus was able to love unconditionally, expecting nothing in return, I need to ask myself whether I’m capable of such love. If Jesus was able to love, forgive, and accept and pardon even those who he knew would reject him, deny him, betray him, am I capable of such forgiveness and acceptance? This is the theme of the life of Jesus, of the ministry of Jesus and of what Jesus is calling us to do before we enter, to reflect on his passion. And we need to ask ourselves what have I done for Christ, what am I doing for Christ, what ought I do for Christ?
During this time and before we can enter the passion proper, our hearts, our minds, our whole being must get ready for this challenge. In the gospel of Lk 9:57-62, we read about the would be disciples of Jesus, those who had the intention, may be even the desire of following, but those who had excuses ready why they could not follow. Am I like those would be disciples, am I like those who are ready with an excuse why I cannot love or cannot forgive, am I like those who are ready in fact that being and doing do not coincide and so can find an excuse. Or am I going to rise up to that challenge of Jesus who invites me today to take up your cross and follow him. And even as I spoke about love and forgiveness, I want to speak about your own love and forgiveness; I want to speak about your own love for your husband or your wife, for your children or parents, for your neighbour or your colleague, and I would like to ask you whether your love is unconditional or whether it can be termed barter exchange. A very good way to find that out is to ask yourself this question – Do I love this person? Is it because of an obligation, is it because of a duty, is it because many years ago I made a commitment in the church, and so now I have to stick to that commitment? If that is the case, then it is very likely that your love is a barter exchange. But, if your love is without any kind of wanting from the other person then it can be like the love of Jesus.
And even as you are unable to forgive, I would like to direct your attention to this beautiful scene, and picture in your mind’s eye of Jesus washing the feet of Judas, looking at him possibly, looking at his eyes and seeing in there the betrayal, and yet having the ability to wash his feet and forgive. If you can think, reflect, pray and know in your heart that you are capable of such love, then you can enter with the Lord into his passion.
Tuesday, April 15, 2014
Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - Do you often blame God and others when things do not go the way you want them to go? Will you grow up and accept responsibility for your actions today?
To read the texts click on the texts: Isa50:4-9; Mt 26:14-25
The text on the day before Maundy Thursday invites us to reflect on the initiative taken by Judas in going to the chief priests and agreeing to betray Jesus, the preparation for the Passover and the prediction of Judas’ betrayal.
Matthew’s reason for the betrayal by Judas is greed. Judas wants something if he agrees to betray Jesus and agrees to the thirty pieces of silver offered to him, a detail mentioned only by Matthew. Unlike in Mark where the money is promised, in Matthew Judas is paid on the spot. Some see the reference to the thirty silver pieces as taken by Matthew from Zech 11:12-13 in which there is an obscure reference to the wages of a shepherd, who puts money back into the treasury. In Exod 21:32 thirty silver pieces is the price of an injured slave.
According to Exod 12:1-20, the Passover lambs were to be killed on the afternoon of the 14th of Nisan, and the festival itself began with the ritual meal on the evening that began the 15th of Nisan. The Festival of Unleavened Bread began on the 15th and continued for seven days, during which no leaven should be found in the house. By the first century, the two festivals had merged and their names were used interchangeably. In addition, the pious practice of removing leaven one day early, the 14th, had become common.
Preparation for the Passover involved (1) locating an appropriate place within the city walls of Jerusalem, the only legitimate location for eating the Passover meal; (2) searching the room for leaven and removing any items that might contain yeast (bread crumbs, etc.); (3) obtaining a lamb and having it ritually slaughtered by the priests in the Temple; (4) roasting the lamb and preparing it with the other necessary items for the meal in the place previously arranged. While it is important to Matthew for theological reasons that the last supper was a Passover, he narrates none of the details associated with the Passover meal and ritual, concentrating his interest on the meal of the new covenant to be celebrated.
While Judas’ question to the chief priests focuses on himself and what he can gain, the disciples question to Jesus focuses on Jesus and what he wants them to do.
After Jesus takes his place at the table, he announces the fact of his betrayal by one of the Twelve. This announcement leads to distress on the part of the disciples. Each asks in turn whether he is the one. Jesus responds by indicating that one of those who eat with him will betray him, but does not explicitly identify Judas. Judas’ question is left till after Jesus’ response.
The dialectic of divine sovereignty and human responsibility in the passion is brought out strongly in Jesus’ comment that it would be better for the betrayer if he had not been born. Jesus is fully aware of who it is that will betray him. God is not taken by surprise in the betrayal that leads to crucifixion; it goes according to the divine plan expressed in Scripture. But this does not relieve the burden of human responsibility. God is fully sovereign, humanity is fully responsible.
Judas who is in the process of betraying Jesus asks if he is the one. Unlike the other disciples who address Jesus as Lord, Judas addresses him as Rabbi indicating that he is not an insider but an outsider. Jesus’ response “You said it” is a clear affirmation that Judas is indeed the one.
There are some, who because they find it easier, prefer to lay the blame at God’s door for their “misfortune”. These are people who have not yet grown up. If children blame others for the mistakes they make or refuse to accept responsibility it can be understood, but when adults do that it is a sign of not having grown up. While it is true that God remains sovereign, it is also true that we as humans have total freedom and thus must accept responsibility for our actions. We are always free to act as we see fit, but we must also realize that our every action has consequences which we must be willing to accept.
Monday, April 14, 2014
Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - When things do not go the way you plan do you throw in the towel too quickly? Has your arrogance sometimes led to your downfall?
To read the texts click on the texts: Isa 49:1-6; Jn 13:21-33, 36-38
The text of today begins after the action of the washing of the feet of his disciples by Jesus and the words that he speaks explaining the meaning of the event. Thus this text must be read with that background in view.
It begins by an announcement of the betrayal in the context of Jesus’ emotional distress. This announcement is greeted with confusion on the part of the disciples. This confusion is an indication that betrayal can lie in the heart of any disciple and that no one is really exempt or can take for granted his/ her fidelity. This confusion leads to questioning on the part of the disciples. Each wants to know who Jesus meant. “The disciple whom Jesus loved” is introduced for the first time in the Gospel and plays a prominent role from now on. The fact that the disciple is not named points to the fact that it is not so much the person, but his relationship to Jesus that defines and determines who he is. Like the Son who is in the bosom of the Father (1:18) so this disciple reclines in the bosom of Jesus. Prompted by Simon Peter’s nod, the beloved disciple asks Jesus who the betrayer is. Through the gesture of giving the morsel to Judas and his words, the contrast between the intimacy of the meal on the one hand and the betrayal by Judas on the other is brought into sharp relief. Even as he is offered a sign of friendship, intimacy and fidelity, Judas chooses distance, betrayal and infidelity. Though Jesus “knows” who will betray him, he still reaches out in love and friendship.
The mention of Satan entering Judas indicates that the real battle is not between Jesus and Judas but between Jesus and the powers’ of evil, between light and darkness, and between falsehood and truth. Jesus is willing to face head on and immediately the powers’ of evil and so instructs Judas to act quickly. Jesus alone understands the significance of the hour. The disciples remain ignorant and even misunderstand. That Judas leaves immediately is an indication that his commands are followed even as he is going to be betrayed. Jesus remains in control of all the events of his “hour”. The phrase “and it was night” can mean on the surface level a chronological notation. However, it has a much deeper meaning in John. On the deeper level it means that Judas has cut himself off from Jesus who alone is the light and also that he has sided with the darkness which tries to overcome the light.
The verses which follow and complete the reading of today can either be seen as a conclusion to the previous episodes of the washing of the feet and the prediction of the betrayal or as an introduction to the Farewell Discourse. They speak of the glorification of Jesus as Son of Man and also of the glorification of the Father. While it is true that the mutual glorification began when the father was manifested through the Son at the incarnation and continued in the words and works of Jesus, it will be completed and reach its fulfilment in the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus to the Father. This final departure from the world and return to the Father is here seen as a seal of the disciples’ new relationship with God, with him and with one another. Jesus responds to Simon Peter’s question about his final destination by predicting Peter’s denial of him. Though Peter protests by offering his life to Jesus in keeping with the command to lay down one’s life for one’s friend, he speaks more from a misplaced enthusiasm than from the reality of the situation. When confronted with reality, Peter will in fact deny Jesus three times.
There are numerous times in our lives when things do not go the way we plan. It is as times like these that we tempted to throw in the towel like Judas and Peter did. However, the challenge is that even at times like these to continue to trust and believe that even though we may not fully understand why things happen the way they do, that God is still in control and will never let anything happen to is that is not for our good and for his glory.
Remaining with Jesus, following his commands and living the life that he demands is thus not an easy task. The numerous laws, rules and regulations of the Jews have been summarized into one command which is to love God by loving neighbour. This reduction of the numerous into one does not mean that the one is easier; it means that the focus has changed from external observance to internal disposition and from personal achievement to grace. That grace is at the heart of the command is made evident in the cases of Judas and Peter who both fail in keeping it. While Judas’ betrayal may be seen as a dramatic and extreme case of refusing to remain with Jesus and follow his commands, the denials by Peter indicate that every disciple is at risk of failure if he/ she depends on his/her own strength and not enough on the Lord.
Sunday, April 13, 2014
Monday, April 14, 2014 - How will you make the unconditional love of Jesus tangible for at least one person today?
To read the texts click on the texts: Isa 42:1-7; Jn12:1-11
The story of the anointing of Jesus is found in all four Gospels. Yet, the manner of the anointing, the reason for the anointing and the anointing on the head as mentioned by Mark and Matthew and the feet as mentioned by Luke and John indicate that each evangelist interprets the anointing differently. While in Mark and Matthew the anointing is as a preparation for the burial of Jesus’ body and is thus just before the Passion, in Luke the anointing of the feet of Jesus by a sinful woman is an explication of her love and respect for Jesus and his love for her shown in the forgiveness of her sins. The woman is named only in the Gospel of John and is not Mary Magdalene. In John, she is Mary, the sister of Lazarus. Though it is not the head but the feet of Jesus which Mary anoints, the focus of the anointing here is the “hour” of Jesus. The dinner that Jesus is attending here is an anticipation of the last dinner that he will have with his disciples soon.
The story begins with the dinner given for Jesus by Lazarus and his sisters Martha and Mary. The anointing by Mary is narrated immediately after this. Though Mark also points to the quality of the ointment, only John mentions the quantity. By wiping the feet of Jesus with her hair, Mary anticipates the wiping of the disciples’ feet by Jesus at the last supper. The anointing here therefore points to the washing and wiping of the feet of the disciples by Jesus. The protest about the extravagance of the gesture is voiced in John by Judas alone. This is already an anticipation of the betrayer’s role that Judas will play later in the garden. The protest of Judas is not genuine, because his concern stems from his own desire to steal. Jesus’ response to Judas is to point to the revelatory significance of Mary’s act. It is an anticipation of the final anointing after the death of Jesus and thus confirms that it will take place. Jesus also reminds his disciples of the limited time before his “hour” and invites them to recognize it like Mary did. They need to respond like her.
Since many of the Jews were going to Jesus and began to believe in him, the chief priests make plans to kill Jesus. They also plan to kill Lazarus so as not to leave any trace of the miraculous powers of Jesus and also to stop people from believing in him.
The contrast between the insight of Mary and the blindness of Judas is brought out powerfully in this story. She recognizes who Jesus is and the fate that awaits him and so acts accordingly. Judas on the other hand has closed himself to the revelation of God in Jesus and thus can only act to suit his selfish interests. The anointing of the feet by Mary and the wiping them with her hair is also an indication of the action of a true disciple of Jesus. She anticipates what her master and Lord will do and does it. She does not need to be taught it like the other disciples at the last supper. She has learnt it by observing the actions of the Lord. Judas on the other has shown that he is not a true disciple because he is able to see only the negative in the loving action of service and reaching out. His only response is therefore to protest.
The love command was not only spoken of by Jesus but lived out by him throughout his life. The best manner in which that love command was manifested was not only in the washing of the feet of his disciples, but in the spreading out of his arms in total surrender and unconditional love. This is the love to which we as disciples are challenged today. We can decide to respond like Mary because we are convinced and have experienced the unconditional love of God ourselves, or we can be like Judas who focus on our own selfish interests and so miss out on the beauty and reality of unconditional love.
Saturday, April 12, 2014
To read the texts click on the texts: Isa 50:4-7; Phil 2:6-11; Mt 26:14 - 27:66
In the past, the fifth Sunday of Lent (the Sunday before Palm Sunday) was known as Passion Sunday. However, following Vatican II, the sixth Sunday of Lent was officially re-named Passion Sunday. This Sunday is also called Palm Sunday, since palm branches are still distributed but the focus is on the betrayal, arrest, suffering and crucifixion of Jesus rather than on his triumphal entry into Jerusalem just before his death. Passion/Palm Sunday is the start of Holy Week in which the Church commemorates the Last Supper and the first Eucharist on Holy Thursday and Christ's death on Good Friday. What Jesus experiences for us is a manifestation of God's overwhelming love for each one of us. Further, by our identifying ourselves with the 'mystery' of Jesus' suffering, death and resurrection we ourselves experience a great liberation, a 'Passover' from various forms of sin and enslavement to a life of joy and freedom.
Today's liturgy combines both a sense of “triumph” and “tragedy”. At the beginning, we commemorate the triumph of Christ our King. This is done through the blessing of palms, the procession and the singing. In the liturgy of the word, we hear the story of the sufferings and indignities to which Jesus was subjected. However, we keep in mind that even in this “tragedy” there is “triumph”. This is because Christ came for precisely this purpose, to save in and through his death.
The first reading for the liturgy of the Eucharist is from the prophet Isaiah. The part of Isaiah written in exile (Chapters 40-55) contains four servant songs, sections that interrupt the flow of the book but have a unity within themselves. The first (42:1-7) begins “Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen ...”; in the second (49:1-7) the servant, abused and humiliated, is commissioned anew; in the third (our first reading) he is disciplined and strengthened by suffering; and in the fourth that will be read on Good Friday (52:17-53:12), even the Gentiles are in awesome contemplation before the suffering and rejected servant. In late Judaism, the suffering servant of Yahweh was seen as the perfect Israelite, one of supreme holiness, a messiah. In the gospels, Jesus identifies himself as the servant, the one who frees all people. He will accept like the servant of Isaiah without rebellion and in total obedience God’s will for him. Even in his suffering and ignominy, he is confident that God will vindicate him.
This vindication and exaltation forms the last part of the kenosis hymn of Paul. The hymn summarizes the whole of salvation history succinctly. It begins with the pre existence of Christ, moves on to the incarnation and mission and then narrates his passion and death on the cross before speaking of his resurrection and exaltation. However, there is no room for triumphalism here! There is no room for a feel-good religion that does not take its servant role seriously. There is no room for a victory that does not first know the "fellowship of His sufferings" on behalf of others; no room for piety that does not pour out, yes, even totally empty, oneself for the interests of others.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German theologian who poured out his own life at the hands of the Nazis because he refused to allow the church to be the tool of oppression, wrote: “The church is the church only when it exists for others. . . . The church must share in the secular problems of ordinary human life, not dominating, but helping and serving. . . . It must not underestimate the importance of human example which has its origin in the humanity of Jesus.”
We who profess holiness need the unity of mind and purpose to which Paul is calling the Philippians. We need to see ourselves in terms of our obligations to the community of those "in Christ" of which we claim to be a part. Maybe we need to see ourselves less in terms of "those who never sin" and more in terms of "those who serve”. Maybe we need to see ourselves in terms of the Servant-Christ, the "man for others" who bends himself to struggle for the wholeness and healing of a wounded world." Maybe we need to re-examine our own value structures that have been so subtly shaped by the success-oriented society around us. We need to see if we are acting in a manner worthy of the heavenly citizenship we claim. For Paul, to claim that citizenship meant to have a mind-set different from others. It meant a commitment to servanthood, a life poured out in service to others, totally emptied of self.
This passion story arrests us because in it we find God coming to us in utter vulnerability. God seems absent and silent. He does not act in might, power and vengeance to stop sinful people from doing their worst to Jesus his Son. It looks as if God has abandoned his own beloved Son. Why doesn't God do something? Where is God when a righteous Son is gasping for air on a Roman cross? Why is God silent? Why does he not send ten thousand angels and save his son? God remains silent until the fury of human defiance and sin carries out to the fullest extent its gruesome imaginations. When the life of the Son of God is snuffed out, it is then that God speaks. He speaks loud and clear. He speaks not in vengeance, counter-attack and destruction. God does not kill Pilate, the Roman soldiers, the high priests and the passers-by. Instead, he splits a curtain and makes himself open and available and teaches that true worship is now no longer in the Temple or sanctuary, but on the cross. It is at that point that the Roman soldiers realize how pitiful and puny they are and all their bravado melts and the Centurion proclaims, "Truly this man was God’s Son!" God acts in strange ways.
How did Jesus save us? Was it because he suffered and died for us? Was it because he made the ultimate sacrifice? Was it not because, in the words of the from Philippians, he "emptied himself" totally and in so doing became filled with the Spirit of his Father? He clung to nothing; he let go of everything. Do we have the courage to do likewise?
Friday, April 11, 2014
Saturday, April 12, 2013 - Impatience is trying to go faster than the Holy Spirit. Are you by nature impatient?
To read the texts click on the texts: Ezek37:21-28; Jn 11:45-56
The first two verses of today can be seen as the conclusion of the miracle story of the raising of Lazarus. While some of those who witnessed the miracle respond positively, others do not. However, the number of those who believe is more than that of those who do not as is evident in the use of “many” for those who believed and “some” for those who did not. The chief priests and Pharisees respond to the information they receive about the miracle by calling a meeting during which they discuss the fate of Jesus. Their main concern seems to be their own loss of power. They do not seem really interested in the destruction of the temple or even Jerusalem but with the effect that Jesus’ popularity will have on their own selfish interests.
Caiaphas who was high priest speaks on behalf of all of them. Even as he wants Jesus to die so that greater trouble can be avoided, he is in fact unknowingly prophesying about the true meaning of the death of Jesus. Though his sole aim is political expediency, he is collaborating in God’s plan of salvation for the whole of the human race. He uses his power to suppress God’s word but in effect witnesses to him. In his death Jesus would gather together all the scattered people of God to bring them to a union and unity never witnessed before.
Jesus retreats to Ephraim after the Sanhedrin’s decision. This retreat, however, is not to escape death but to control its time. Jesus will not go to his death until his hour arrives. It is God who decides that hour and no amount of human plotting or planning can hasten its arrival.
Even as the Passover draws near, questions remain about whether Jesus will come to the feast or not. It is not clear whether those who are looking for him have a positive or malicious intent. The question, however, reinforces the idea that Jesus acts not according to the will of human beings but of God and if God so ordains then no matter what the threat or consequence, Jesus will do what is required.
God’s ways are not our ways. As high as the heavens are from the earth so are God’s ways different from ours. It is not always possible to accept this simple truth and there are times when we try to go faster than the Holy Spirit because of our impatience. We are reminded as we reflect on today’s readings that there will be numerous times when we will knowingly or unknowingly try to upset the plans of God because they do not fit in with what we think is good for us. At times like these we too behave like the adversaries of Jesus. We have to realize that no matter how much we try we will never be able to upset God’s will for the world though it might seem sometimes that we have and can. When we witness evil overpowering good, selfishness dominating selflessness or fear overtaking love, then it might seem that we have done so. However, these “victories’ are only temporary as was the victory of the ones who crucified Jesus on the cross. In the final race it is always God who wins, it is always selflessness that come first and it is always love that will overcome.