Gospel Reflection for March 29, 2020, 5th Sunday of Lent

Sunday Readings: Ezekiel 37.12-14; Romans 8.8-11; John 11.1-45

“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would never have died. Even now I am sure that God will give you whatever you ask,” said Martha.
“Your brother will rise again,” said Jesus.
“I know he will rise again on the last day,” said Martha.
“I am the resurrection and the life: whoever believes in me, though they die, will come to life; and whoever is alive and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
“Yes, Lord, I have come to believe that you are the messiah, the Son of God; he who is to come into the world.”
– John 11.21-27

Like Martha and Mary in Sunday’s gospel we inevitably stand at the graves of those we love. Perhaps it is misting as it was when we stood at my mother’s grave and each shoveled dirt into the place of her resting. It was October. This final family act of love seemed like a fall planting for an as yet uncertain spring.

In our uncertain spring the virus sweeping the globe unites to protect us all and flatten the curve of those who die. Graphs project the effects of our distancing in the news. For those with family in senior homes distance pains. Hands that touch and soothe could infect, so we do love through a window and on the phone. We see how essential are our health workers, grocery clerks, and truckers are. We experience our shared humanity.

Jesus grieves in Sunday’s gospel for three people he loves. He stands with Martha and Mary not only at their brother’s grave but at his own. Raising Lazarus sets in motion his arrest and passion. None of us knows what lies beyond death. We have only our experience of God in our lives and in our holy history to go on. Henry Nouwen compares dying to the trust between trapeze artists. One lets go, trusting the other will catch him or her.

As believers we are companion in hope that the God who creates and sustains the world will raise us up. We live in promise. We walk with Jesus, who did not sidestep death but trust the God he experienced beloving and inspiriting him; he gave himself in human unknowing.

How does creation speak to you about who God is? How does the awakening Earth affect you?

Prayer

God of us all, let us take heart in your loving creativity,
unfolding in the infinity of stars,
in the sun warming and awakening our winter-worn world.
Let us treasure the breaths that pulse with life in our veins,
imagine a world where no one spits on another.

High Sierra Moment

High Sierra Moment

The Tohee
meanders a meadow
home in its grasses
to purple perstemmen,
blue lupin, orange puccoon,
yellow-eyed daisies

mirrors at its wide bend
gray granite mountains,
tamed by distance
but exacting rigor
for every step higher
every broader view

I watch
the mountain water flow—
so incredibly clear,
lucid almost,
as conscious
as purpose grasped,
as transparent
as every brown, beige, taupe, copper, ivory
pebble in its deep

and
slip silently
inexorably on

my heart stays put
at the foot bridge
lifts with a breeze
to push upstream yet,
spirit as unbounded
as the whole

Joseph of dreams, be with us

When Joseph didn’t know what to do about his pregnant fiancée, he slept on it. In his dreams, an angel eased his doubt and gave him courage to act. Pray to Joseph today to fill your heart with hope and with the willingness to see God at work where you never imagined. Joseph is patron of the Universal Church. Ask him to bless Pope Francis’s efforts to dream a more merciful church into being. The Sisters of St. Joseph share one of their favorite prayers below:

Joseph most ordinary, on this your feast,
help us listen to our dreams with compassion and openness as you did.
Help us stretch, hold, and deepen our relationships.
Open our embrace of the future as you opened
your arms to a child not your own.
In these hard times may we, like you, dream compassionately,
provide wisely, and build community that can hold us together.
We ask this through Jesus, whom you claimed and named. Amen.

Gospel Reflection for March 22, 2020, 4th Sunday of Lent

Scripture Readings: 1 Samuel 16.1, 6-7, 10-13; Ephesians 5.8-14; John 9.1-38

“A man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, said to me, ‘Go and wash in the Pool of Siloam.’ Then I went and washed and received my sight” – John 9.11

In John’s gospel Jesus often jumps into people’s lives. Last Sunday he sat down beside a Samaritan woman and asked for a drink. In the course of their conversation she recognizes Jesus is the messiah, leaves her water jar behind, and becomes an evangelist to the other Samaritans in her village. This Sunday Jesus is just walking along and sees a man blind from birth. Without the blind man’s asking, Jesus spits on the ground, makes mud, and puts the mud on the man’s eyes.

Interestingly, Jesus doesn’t give the man sight on the spot but sends him to the pool of Siloam to wash. The pool and washing suggest the story has two levels–an encounter with Jesus in history and an encounter with Jesus in Baptism. For the community that gives us John’s gospel near the end of the first century, the story reflects the experience of people like the villagers in last Sunday’s gospel who believe on the strength of the Samaritan women’s word.

In Sunday’s gospel the man born blind is the talk of the neighborhood. After putting mud on the man’s eyes Jesus doesn’t appear in the story until the end. Meanwhile, everybody weighs in. First, the neighbors ask, “Isn’t this the man who used to sit and beg?” The seeing man explains that he went to the Poor of Siloam, washed and received his sight.

The neighbors take the man with new eyes to the local teachers, who insist Jesus can’t be from God because he breaks the law and heals on the Sabbath. What does the man say about Jesus? “He is a prophet.”

The teachers take the man who now sees to his parents to verify that he was born blind. They affirm he was born blind but about Jesus their son has to speak for himself. “One thing I know,” the son says, “I was blind and now I see.” The teachers continue to argue Jesus is a sinner who can’t be from God. The man insists, “If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”

In speaking out for Jesus, the local teachers put him out of the synagogue. The man with seeing eyes meets Jesus in a final scene and affirms his faith. Jesus asks if he believes in him. The man says, “Lord, I believe.”

The story shows coming to faith as a journey and process. Those in our RCIA parish programs make the same journey to those words, “Lord, I believe.”

For all of us, faith is fundamentally a relationship, a setting of the heart, a seeing that is anchored in our experience of the holy in our lives. This faith calls us to recognize the bonds and sustaining support we are to one another every day and especially in the days of distance the coronavirus epidemic demands.

What and who are you seeing with new eyes from wherever you are sheltering in place? How can our digital world help you support those you love at a distance?

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Patrick was kidnapped when he was 16, enslaved until he was 22, became a priest (not one his bishop appreciated much), and was sent to wild and untamed Ireland to witness to the Gospel. Many of us find a home in the Catholic Church because of Patrick. Pray his breastplate prayer below to celebrate his feast day. Remember, as far back as you can, the hearts of all who love you.

Christ be with me, Christ within me

Christ behind me, Christ before me

Christ beside me, Christ to win me

Christ to comfort me and restore me.

Christ beneath me, Christ above me

Christ in quiet, Christ in danger

Christ in hearts of all that love me

Christ in mouth of friend or stranger.

(390-461 AD)

Visit our website—goodgroundpress.com—for Lenten reflections and activities.

Gospel Reflection for March 15, 2020, 3rd Sunday of Lent

Scripture Readings: Exodus 17.3-7; Romans 5.1-2,5-8; John 4.5-42

The woman said to Jesus, “I know the messiah is coming, the one called the Christ who will announced all things to us.” Jesus said to her, “I am the one, who is speaking to you.” – John 4.35-36

On the strength of a Samaritan woman’s witness, her townspeople come to meet Jesus and believe in him. The Eastern Church gives her the name Photina (light bearer). In her conversation with Jesus, the woman recognizes he has come in spirit and truth to include her people in his community.

Centuries of estrangement stand between the Samaritan woman and Jesus. When Assyria conquers the Northern Kingdom in 722 BCE, the resettle the land with tribes who worship other gods. The Samaritan intermarry with these tribes and Samaria becomes the land of heretics in the eye of the Jews of the south. It is not the woman but Samaria that has had five husbands in the past—the false gods of the settlers. The story is in 2 Kings 17.

Like Peter, Andrew, James, and John who leave their fishing nets to follow Jesus, the Samaritan leaves her water jar that symbolizes her work and goes to tell her townspeople she has found the messiah. The strength of the Samaritan woman’s word and witness bring her people to hear Jesus for themselves. Her witness can inspire our own.

John’s gospel contrasts the noontime when Jesus woos the Samaritan woman, a supposed heretic, and the nighttime in the chapter preceding when Nicodemus, a strictly observant Jew, comes to visit Jesus. Jesus leads both through deliberate double meanings and misunderstandings. Jesus winds up in a monologue with an uncomprehending Nicodemus. The woman, however, questions, objects, and challenges Jesus until in the end she recognizes—aha! He must be the messiah. She models bringing one’s life story into dialogue with Jesus and struggling to break open the word he speaks.

What is your word and witness to others about Jesus? What difference does it make to recognize Jesus is talking to this woman as a representative Samaritan rather than a sinner?

We Can!

When Jesus asks James and John if they can drink the cup he will drink, they speak a bold and brash, “We can.” These two words in Latin form the motto of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondeletpossumus. The pioneering sisters in our community and other religious communities indeed lived bold and brash lives, building up the schools, colleges, hospitals, and orphanages that serve people to this day.

Listen to Sister Joan’s explanation of what it means to say “We can.” Visit goodgroundpress.com and check out our free Lenten resources. Here you will find ways you can keep Lent.

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