Lent

PURPOSE OF LENTEN ALMS GIVING

The Purpose of Lenten Alms Giving

There is a radical thought that has been making its way around my soul. In perspective, this is how the thought has developed and finds its conclusion. It has to do with the truth that Christmas and Easter are dependent on one another. Easter is the greatest feast in our faith – the revelation of its greatness beginning back in the Book of Genesis at the promise of a redeemer born of a woman. We know that the Son, born of Mary at Christmas, was the promised redeemer, through the events of Holy Week culminating in the Resurrection. All that Jesus proclaimed and lived eventually led to his arrest and death – it was so counter culture, so counter the lived faith of his people – especially the Religious Leaders. Attempts by Herod to kill Jesus in his first years of life, failed. The rage of Herod, threatened in his kingship, along with the rage of the Leaders of the Jews thirty some years later, stemmed from basically the same motives – threat to political power, to cultural position and to religious prestige.

Now with this background I want to challenge our feeding the secularization of the event of these two Solemnities of our faith which are actually one event – the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. We begin our solemn
celebration of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus with the celebration of his birth – Christmas – God become man and dwelling among us. Let us remember that the announcement of Jesus’ birth upset the social equilibrium. For most people who ‘celebrate’ Christmas, whether religiously or secularly, it isn’t Christmas unless there are gifts and a big dinner –with decorations and a tree. Social security and plenitude is central to the feast. All of this has become the fabric of wintertime – a winter holiday celebration that brings big bucks into the economy. Society lives on an emotional high, or low depending on the state of their family. The economic preparation for the winter holiday begins in October reaching a frenzied pitch by December – parties, parties, parties – at home, at work and at church. The economy is given a boost, lending establishments flourish as usury has a hay day!   So much worldly expense for one who was born into poverty! And we, Christians are well ensconced in the economic frenzy!

We declare with high acclaim, our redemption – the redemption of the whole of creation – in the solemn celebration of His death and resurrection – Easter. The latter takes place almost entirely as a liturgical celebration within our faith life. And even though there is profound liturgical celebration – Easter like Christmas, has succumbed to secularization. In some ways it is even more horrific, because the secularization of Easter has been allowed to invade the fiber of our faith – the education of the young in the faith! For many, so called pragmatic reasons, we have allowed what were called and celebrated as ‘Easter holidays’ to become ‘spring break’. When this ‘spring break’ occurs is decided upon by the public education sector.

We run our catholic education – with 50% support from the government. Why do we succumb to the secularization of Easter? Is it fear of losing the support?
If the students are not in class for the holiest week in our lived faith, then Holy Week is up for grabs, jostling for importance against the price of airline tickets, holiday resorts and the like. Are our churches packed with families coming to celebrate the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday? No! Why not!
Are whole families present for Good Friday Liturgy? No! Some will say – “We have to put in an extra celebration.” If we were truly living Holy Week we would have to put in 3 or 4 celebrations!
Do believers understand that Holy Week is actually one continuous celebration, lasting for 3 days embracing every human emotion and spiritual challenge to love, mercy and forgiveness!? – it is heaven on earth in indescribable reality! Why are we not proclaiming this truth in our lived faith?

The teachings of Jesus, both verbally and in his lived experiences, give us the guide for the daily living of our faith. We find the main teachings in the Sermon on the Mount which of course includes the Beatitudes, and within the Last Supper Discourse and the Last Judgement. All of these teachings summarize Jesus’ parables, and responses to various situations and events. The teachings have their great exclamation point in the total gift of love, lived out in his final Passover week, culminating in the Cross and Resurrection.
Has the extraordinary become so ordinary to us that it is okay to call it ‘spring break’. Christmas is the ‘holiday season’.

The birth, death and resurrection of Jesus is the ground upon which our lived faith is planted. How is the birth, the death and resurrection of Jesus being lived? The word ‘lived’ encompasses the reality of daily life within the world –that is the living described in Acts, – “See how these Christians love one another” (Acts 4), and more than just one another – everyone – take the story of the Good Samaritan as an example. And since Christmas and Easter are the bookends of our faith, they are holding up the lived faith 365 days of the year!

There seems to have developed a perception that we have fulfilled the call to recognize the poverty of Jesus, at his birth by giving out ‘hampers’ to some needy amongst us – given out sometime during advent. And this suffices looking after the needy in our faith and secular community. Jesus’ whole life was lived in poverty! He died in poverty – material, and communal.

We have somehow deduced that the poor among us should find deep thanksgiving within their hearts for eleven months (from Christmas to Christmas) – and if they cannot, or even if they can, then they should take a deep breath, put on a smile, try hard not to become red in the face, swallow deeply, and go to the food bank in sickness and in health. And, when the collection basket comes around on Sunday, try not to turn red in the face as they pass it on.

In all of this we forget Jesus’ simple words to the Disciples who were aware of the need to feed the crowd. They wanted to send them away – maybe they could find a store, maybe they had some money to buy bread. Jesus’ response was very radical! It is very rarely referred to in the living out of our daily faith!

Jesus’ response was “Feed them yourself!” Yes, the disciples were dumb struck! It could only be accomplished with prayer and a profound personal /communal faith relationship with Jesus, and with each other.

In other words it demanded something very much ‘other’, than our normal assessment of how to do the works of God! The disciples had to take from very meagre supplies, forget about themselves, and believe that the Lord loved them, and all the others, in a very unusual way. Common sense – whatever that is – dictates what the disciples suggested. In our vernacular it would be – ‘send them to the food bank’. Common sense says that one packs extra for a journey – not trusting that you will be given what you ‘need’! Not the directives of Jesus to take nothing extra with you. Common sense says that you make sure that you are going to be welcomed at your destination, with a roof over your head. Again, not the directives of Jesus about staying wherever you are welcomed, eat whatever you are given, move on when you are not welcomed. Common sense does not say that “Your light will shine” when “you deprive yourself” for the hungry, homeless, those in darkness – not only at Christmas but everyday of your life.(Is 58) Commonsense does not say that in a life of constant giving your internal “Wound will heal over”, and “your waters will never run dry”. (Is 58) The same chapter warns that you will feel like a ‘scorched land’, but “the lord will always guide you and satisfy your needs”. And, are we ever good at rationalizing this! Somehow, we tend to apply this verse, about feeling the scorching heat of the reality of living in faith and trust, to those who are living daily on the brink of having nothing. Common sense says that the teachings of Jesus, the Sermon on the Mount, the Last supper discourse, and the Last Judgement passage are all crazy, unlivable teachings – making no sound economical sense for a progress, secure society.

Lent is forty days of telling us to turn around – ‘Convert’ – ‘change’. When one delves into all the Readings for the season of Lent, there is a radical challenge being issued to all facets of our daily life, and our secular values.   Isaiah 58 is often used, as are other passages giving the same message. So, why then do we not heed the message of Jesus’ total self giving to death, – forgetting himself, giving his all, by taking up our cross, and the cross of all who suffer want and need – as the First community of Christians did – and as the early Father’s of the Church tell us to do? Why do we not hear the call for a profound heartfelt response to such an all pervasive, wrenching act of self-giving love?

Why do we not respond in utter Mercy to the most merciful act of Jesus – by attempting to feed and clothe the naked within our midst at Easter!? This is the end and beginning of all alms giving! It is our Christian call to live the Beatitudes, to take to heart the Last Judgement (Mt. 25), and thus strive to build a just world. The word ‘just’ scripturally means ‘to be at rights with God’.

If we cannot do this within our local community of faith where we rub hearts, minds, and bodies in a family of faith, with Jesus and with one another, then, we are missing the very personal, familial question of Jesus in the agony in the garden – “Are you sleeping? Can you not watch with me one hour?” Jesus uttered this to his community of apostles! Jesus is carrying the pain of sin with all of the division, isolation, fear, and selfishness that it spawns – even amongst those whom He dearly loves! The pain is worse when it is inflicted by those who are ‘friends’, fellow members in the family of faith. We do the same when we turn aside from those suffering among us – especially at Easter. We probably are saying something to the effect – “After all, we did it at Christmas, so why do we have to do it again!” We are missing the point! The meal of all meals to be celebrated, happened in the Triduum! It is the meal that we are called to live in communal thanksgiving! It was prefigured at the multiplication of the loaves. The powerful, merciful, soul searching liturgies of Holy Week should be propelling us out to all around us! It is our way of taking to heart, and living the ‘washing of the feet’, becoming ‘one’ in love as the Father and Jesus are one! To go out to our brothers and sisters in need at this time of ultimate merciful love is the living expression that we know that we have been forgiven, been reborn! It is announcing new life, washed in the Blood of the Lamb; new hope – He is alive! We have seen his glory! (John 1:14) Imagine spreading this message at Easter. Such a message would go out to all the world.

Jesus has called together all of his loved ones to journey with him through the Passover from worldly sin, by spilled blood and tears, torn flesh, mockery and death – to new life – renewed love, mercy, forgiveness only accomplished by the values He lived. These values had little to do with feeling good, with mushy feelings that come with being able to count hampers given out. Jesus fed us with his very flesh and blood during this Triduum week – Jesus who had nowhere to lay his head – not only at his birth, but throughout his life! The one place he had to lay his head in life, was on the cross as he was nailed to it! Then there was no pillow! Only a crown of thorns! And, this pillow of thorns came the day after teaching us – imploring us at the Last Supper discourse – to live as one, to care for one another, wash one another’s feet, to be friends with one another! Why do we not live this in a very dramatic, outgoing, visible, physically demanding way at our Passover to new life, celebrated every Easter? It is not a time to take a ‘spring break’ it is a time to live radically all that Jesus taught and did. It is the time for profound mercy that can only be lived in a profound loving, faith relationship with Jesus – spilling over into loving him within all his friends! This is very counter culture – not caught up in what has become a secular hype of Christmas. At Easter our faith is calling us to respond to the call given to the rich young man – “If you would be perfect – go sell all your belongs, give the proceeds to the poor – and then come follow me!”   Follow him where? Follow him to the Cross! Lived daily!

Easter is the time to evaluate our living faith in the face of the crowds, and those lost in the crowd. Are we living our life to have two, or multiple tunics; numerous sandals, the best possible ‘haversacks’ designed with numerous pockets for all types of conceivable items, cards to all the best dining spots at home, and around the world, assured always of the best of dining (in the face of knowing deep within that the best dining is Jesus himself); calling cards to Hotels, motels, resorts and the like – living esteem with the Jones. And of course bank cards are a must. They assure that we never have to touch, or look upon the unclean – or be touched by them! Is Easter bringing us to the point within, that yearns to daily meet the face of Jesus in the vacant faces of those who intellectually, spiritually and psychologically have little or no foundational meaning in their lives – those who have become cold, calculating, cruel and consumed by fear? – This is the crowd that Jesus wept over because they were like sheep without a shepherd! Are we a part of the crowd, or a part of its healing?

In worldly terms – how utterly simple is our saviours call! It is a prophetic call to proclaim the loving, merciful call of Jesus given to everyone, everywhere. And, he had a preferential love of the poor, as nearly all of his teachings proclaimed. So, again the question begs to be answered – where is our lived, merciful love of Jesus that he dramatically proclaimed at Easter? Why are we not visually living it within our family of faith so that it over flows into our society. What a way to spend the celebration of Easter for 50 days! Our whole preparation for Easter is supposed to entail prayer and alms giving. Surely the alms giving is not to refurbish churches, or enrich parish coffers. Surely these things will come if that is what the Lord wants. And if it is what He wants, the fulfillment of these plans will come as a result of our responding to the needs of his people. It is in giving that we receive. Bread caste on the waters, comes back to us in the tide of love. Building bigger houses and barns is the work of fools. Lk 12:16-21)  Jesus does not care where the tabernacle is in the church, or whether it is within the church, or in an outside chapel. Such things are as changeable as whims and traditions. He does care that we are his living, loving, giving, caring tabernacle – church! He does care that we are willing to carry him within us, as we carry his cross in the day to day dying in love for him, and his lost and forgotten sheep. He does care that we hold the mangled, maimed people of his world, personally loving them with His love flowing from us – from hearts that were stone – that have been turned to flesh by his redemptive love. It is this daily living and giving that is the alms giving of Lent. Let us learn from his first followers to love one another, to look after the physical needs of one another, to share all that we have with one another – since what we have is all gift! This is the sign that we have repented, are forgiven, are converted, have been reformed by the 40 days with him in the desert. Not just an esoteric giving, but a living reality – bread for the hungry, clothes for the naked, care for the sick, homes for the homeless, welcome for the stranger, forgiveness for the sinner – all right within our midst within the community of faith.  This is true evangelisation. This is the shining of Easter from the depth of our being – from the poverty within, and its resultant simplicity within our lives. Such living is responding to the designation that Jesus gave us – “friends”! Not a passive word, but a designation of a mission to be lived.

We know by the Agony in the Garden that He expected his friends to be near, to be one with him in his time of suffering, and fear, as he faced the horrors present in life. He showed us how to reach out as he journeyed with the lost, fear filled disciples on the road to Emmaus. The disciples lived this friendship in the first years of the church. Not easy years. They were despised by the Jews, looked at with fear by the Romans, and were ultimately persecuted because their living love resulted in growth in numbers, becoming a political threat.   Our dynamic living of Easter has hardly reached this point yet! But if we radically take on the care of those in our very midst, within each and every parish, we will be winning the hearts and minds of people. By such living, we will then have opened our minds and hearts to prophetically respond to the challenge of euthanasia and abortion. By giving we will learn how love works – how it gives life – by being willing to die in love.

Are we prepared for this lived alms giving, reaching out to touch one another from our meagre personal resources – knowing that the miracle of God’s love will provide – basketsful left over, and hearts that are radiant because our light is shining. (Is. 58) “And none of their members was in want”. (Acts 4:34) Yes, they were persecuted for their lived faith – and the faith grew and spread! The blood of the martyrs, mingled with the blood of Jesus, bringing life.

This is the radical faith that our prayer and alms giving is calling us to. At this very moment, the very life blood of our country is calling us to this radical life, lived daily, that we may be strong in faith, and wise in the Holy Spirit to meet the challenge of life before us.

And It Was Night

Tuesday of Holy Week

John 13:30 “And It Was Night”

 

“And it was night”. This phrase brought to mind the Book of Genesis chapter one – the creation story. In this story everything was “day” as opposed to “night”. This phrase “And it was night” from the Gospel Reading for Tuesday of Holy Week, gave me a jolt today. We hear the same Readings year after year and they are still never the same! We are never the same. We are never in the same internal state. We are always spiritually in a different place, and it is always in the place we are at, in any given moment, that the Lord speaks to us. Today the juxtaposition of the “night” in the Last Supper scene and the “day” in the Creation Story was like a quake within. The first Creation Story, Genesis Chapter One, is so powerful, so full of promise, full of hope and new life. There is no pain in it. We can relive it every time we go out for a walk in nature – day or night. In the early morning we can sing – “Birds of the air praise the Lord”, “Sun, praise the Lord”, “Clouds of the heaven, praise the Lord”, “All God’s children, praise the Lord”; and at night we can sing – “Stars of the heavens, praise the Lord”, “Night and day praise the Lord”, “All beasts wild and tame, praise the Lord”. We can sing the creation story at anytime of the day. “Evening came and morning came, the first day”, “…. the second day”, and so one. And, this story from Genesis Chapter One, we hear in four days time at the Easter Vigil.

But, now, on Tuesday of Holy Week we hear “And it was night”(Jn. 13:30) Not like the night the shepherds heard the angels sing “Glory to God in the highest Heaven, and on earth peace for those he favours!” (Lk 2:14). And not like the night that the three wise men saw the star: “We saw his star as it rose and have come to do him homage”. (Mt. 2:2). But, the “night” of John 13:30 had begun as the duplicity of Herod was unveiled.  In Matthew, chapter 2 we heard of another night, after Jesus’ birth with a warning dream. An “angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream”, telling him to “Escape into Egypt”, because Herod intends “to do away with him, (Jesus)”. (Mt. 2:13).

And there is an account of another night. Nicodemus came to Jesus at “night”, out of fear of his fellow Pharisees. Nicodemus, it could be said, was in a twilight zone. He recognized that Jesus “came from God, as a teacher, because no one could perform the signs that you do unless God were with him.” (Jn 3:2) Jesus tells the hesitant believer, Nicodemus , “though the light has come into the world people have preferred darkness to the light, because their deeds are evil”. (Jn 3:19) In John 11:13, Jesus tells his disciples “Those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them”. Nicodemus was stumbling. The stumbling of Nicodemus found its birth in our first parents. In the Second Creation Story, Genesis chapter 2, “in the cool of the day (that is the evening or night)” the Creator walks in the Garden and meets Adam and Eve in the night of their sin. He promises that through an offspring of a woman good will prevail over evil, (Gen 3:14,15) that is ultimately life over death, day over night, but not without travail.

Now in Holy Week we are brought face to face with the stumbling of the followers of Jesus, and ultimately us. His friends and followers have been at times ardent believers in him and at other times stumbling and awkward. Some have left him. Those who are with him at the Passover meal are the die hard followers, fearful, confused but none the less with him. That is, except for one. Somewhat like us. Deep down we know that he is the “light of the world”, that he has “the words of eternal life”, and like the Apostles we say “To whom else shall we go. You have the words of everlasting life.” We know the truth. We are compelled by Jesus, his message, his way of life. But, around the periphery of our heart there is a nagging hesitancy when the chips are down. There is a darkness, a night, a confusion, a disconnect, between what we know from life and what he calls us to.   We, with the apostles, struggle. Night is not that far from any of us.

In the night in the first garden, the Garden of Eden, God mercifully told Adam and Eve, that the night of their own doing would be overcome. Sin would not prevail. Now in the night, Jesus and his followers would enter another Garden, Gethsemane. In the Garden of Eden, the Father would call out to Adam and Eve, “Where are you?” In Gethsemane, Jesus would say to his friends, the equivalent of where are you. “Have you fallen asleep? Could you not watch with me one hour?” Like Adam and Eve, the test is presented and darkness takes over. We stumble in darkness, in the night. The Garden of Eden and the Garden of Gethsemane are two sides of the coin of promise, forged in the darkness, by love. The immensity of this love will be experienced in Triduum events of Easter! The fullness of day and light!

A Talk on the Scrutinies “Unbind him and let him go”

                                                       “Unbind Him And Let Him Go”

All three of the passages of scrutiny are from John’s Gospel: The Woman at the Well, The Man born Blind, and the Raising of Lazarus .
They are experiences of being unbound – – of being freed
– of experiencing new life – not some sense of well-being but – experiencing Jesus himself – new Life!

The Samaritan woman (John 4)at the well is utterly bound by her lifestyle
– she is an outcast – not allowed to associate with the other woman as they get their daily water at the well
– considered a sinner
-not at peace within herself
– and as we see in the story she lives in inner conflict
– because she does have an awareness of what her faith entails
-she is a woman all on her own

The man born blind (John 9) is definitely bound to a life of begging,
– an outcast because he must have sinned to be blind
-he is bound by physical darkness
-even shunned by his parents
-has no identity other than being blind

Lazarus (John 11) has died – been bound in physical death
His family and associates are all bound by the fear of death –
bound by the sense of finality and loss
bound by a sense of hopelessness that comes from stunted faith.

And in all three of these scrutinies the main characters and their associates are tied to the terrestrial
– to the secular understanding of life.
– this is true even of those who are closely associated with Jesus! – Martha. Mary, Lazarus, the Apostles

Just like each of us – they needed to become unbound, converted, reborn, come into the light of life.
– as Jesus says in the account of the raising of his friend Lazarus.
– they need to meet their “friend” Jesus as everlasting life.
– their friend “Jesus” is the Messiah and
– that means that my friend Jesus is the “the glory of God”
– eternal life offered here and now!

Jesus’ apostles are fearful of him going back into Judea because the leaders want to kill him.
– it is necessary, Jesus tells them, to walk in the light!
They are blind and need to learn that he – their friend is “the Light that has come into the world!”

What is that darkness we need to become unbound from? It is internal darkness often the result of unwittingly buying into the secular values and understandings of the meaning of life and death

The woman at the well was in internal darkness
the blind man was in darkness,
Martha, Mary and Lazarus were in internal darkness, darkness of believing but not really believing
Jesus’ Apostles were in darkness – taken up with fear of the authorities

DARKNESS – in particular spiritual darkness – spiritual blindness – leads to fear
as with the parents of the blind man
– is the personal interior death that comes from this blindness
– causes us to create all kinds of external props to hold us up (the mourners at the tomb of Lazarus were paid mourners) – the larger the crowd, the more flowers there are, the richer the casket, the more elaborate the grave site are all there to give external meaning to this finality which is not a finality at all!

Darkness
is not always the result of deliberate sinfulness.
neither the Man born blind – nor his parents had sinned – Jesus tells us.
Martha and Mary had not sinned –
But the here and now were more influential than the words of faith that they proclaimed!
Jesus had to call them deeper – to confront the inner darkness, the tomb within them –
– as he called their brother out of the earthly tomb!
We are called during lent to confront the inner darkness within us and our world!

So what is it that needs conversion here?
We get a hint from how Jesus answers the Elders at the healing of the blind man.
They think that they are the ones who see and know everything
– faith has become a matter of ‘do’s’ and ‘don’ts’
– the heart has gone out of it
– it has become detached from the person of God
– the ‘do’s’ and ‘don’ts’ have become a matter of blind fear
– this is not faith!
– Jesus tells them that they are the ones who are blind!

They need to become unbound from the 623 laws that they have made!!!
– they need to become free like the blind man who is willing and eager to
– meet Jesus
– THAT IS THEY MUST BECOME CONVERTED! They must discover the religion of the heart,
the religion of relationship with God! This is our Lenten Journey in faith!

You see the blind man became unbound from his blindness and gained more that sight
– he gained “INSIGHT”
– he was washed on the outside – but even more so on the inside by
– being unbound from his blindness!
-By “anointing” with mud
and by being washed in the “waters” of Siloam
-He was reborn! Becoming a new man – walking in the Light and Life of Christ
who touched him physically and spiritually
He was unbound physically and spiritually!
This is the conversion each of us needs
being touched by Jesus in every aspect of our person – so that we are living lights of Christ!
TO SEE WITH NEW EYES – To WALK with the internal light of Christ in the darkness of the world!
With new sight and insight the once blind man challenged the faith of his parents and the Elders!
In his healing – in his conversion he was “SENT” – this is the meaning of the name “SILOAM”

The Woman at the Well: – comes to draw water from the well
Jesus draws faith from the depth of her being
she meets the person – Jesus the Messiah “I Am” He tells her!
– she is freed, unbound
she proclaims her faith to the town
Jesus is living water welling up within her to Eternal Life

To The Man Born Blind:       Jesus gives sight and
draws faith from the heart of the blind man
the man comes into the light proclaiming his inner light -that is
his faith in midst of opposition being again banished from the Temple!
then he sees Jesus the light of the world

The Raising of Lazarus:   Jesus loved Martha, Mary and Lazarus as dear friends, from Bethany
(House of the Poor and Sick)
they seek a miracle from their friend and
Jesus draws faith from them – as he drew faith from the Woman at the Well
They see the glory of God!
They are unbound   – seeing their friend Jesus as the Resurrection and the Life –
Eternal Life here and now !
They had believed in him as the Messiah NOW they see who the Messiah truly is! They see the Glory of God here and now! The Stone has been rolled away from their hearts! They are coming out of their graves – becoming unbound!

It is this unbinding of our hearts, minds and lives that Jesus longs for, thirsts for
This conversion experience here and now in the desert of life – during these 4o Holy days!

In the story of the Woman at the Well we hear Jesus say “I thirst!”
He then speaks to her of water that wells up to eternal life
and, if we drink of the water he will give we will never thirst again –

John in the first instance is talking of physical thirst.
This thirst is replaced by a deeper and lasting thirst welling up forever –
IT IS THE THIRST OF LOVE   – his love for her and everyone like her.
God’s love thirsting for us – giving birth to our love for him.
This love compels us to worship him in every moment of our lives – not just in church.

Jesus ‘thirsts’ for the Woman’s love of herself – and for her love for God
The woman thirst for meaning in her drab isolated life that she is bound to

On the Cross Jesus again says “I thirst”.
As with all of John’s Gospel this ‘thirst’ is multi-level:
-the very physical level of one who has been tortured
-his whole life journey has been a thirst to do his Father’ will
-at the Last Supper he expressed his thirst for oneness in love
-I thirst that my friends may be with me where I am

This outcast woman now has a thirst to proclaim to everyone about the one whom she has met
– about what has happened to her – her new found belief.

She has been touched in the depth of her being.
She has felt true love for the first time in her life.
She has a new identity, new life, new hope
– a light is shining deep within her
– she cannot be silent!
Do you and I feel that way about our faith?

We were given this new identity, new life, new hope, a light shining deep within us at our baptism –
during lent we are called to get in touch with it.

When we truly meet the Lord:
– allowing ourselves to be internally embraced by him – casting off the clutter in our life
-we become like the Woman at the Well.
We leave behind the ‘water jars’, THAT IS things that define us in the eyes of the world
and never truly satisfy us!

The woman did not know what she was asking for when she said
“Give me some of this water, then I will never have to come back to the well again”.
During lent we are a bucket being filed at the Well of life.
We do not have to come back to the ‘well’ – it is within us!

What the Samaritan woman was given by the Lord
insight, self awareness and
ultimately an encounter with the Messiah
meant that she would never have to leave the well!
she now had A very different Well within – Jesus Himself!
This is where conversion takes place – deep within!. THE MEETING WITH JESUS!

This is where Lent is meant to lead us!

And we hear of the Blind Man going to wash his eyes in the Pool of Siloam so that he can see physically.
His eyes have been anointed by Jesus with mud.
Where do we hear of Mud – In Genesis.
Man was created out of mud.
A new creation is taking place – by our baptism we are a new creation
–Lent calls us to reclaim this reality!

The Blind Man was sent to Siloam to wash.
Siloam means ‘sent’.
He now is sent and we are sent by our baptism.

In his new sight the man has so much more.
He has insight.
He has Faith.

He must proclaim what he now sees
– not what he sees with his eyes
– but with his heart !
‘See’ means ‘to know’.
Biblically ‘to know’ is to possess and to be possessed, The man ‘knows’ the love of God and is possessed by it.
THIS IS CONVERSION! – TO KNOW THE LOVE OF GOD AND TO BE POSSESSED BY IT!
He has become a new person –
a ‘nobody’, has in the love of Jesus become a somebody –
he is converted!

He is ready to tell the world – the big and the small of the world!
His faith grows as he proclaims what he sees within him –
“I do believe”
He says to Jesus and to all who will listen to him!
From the depth of his soul proclaiming it!

He, in his physical blindness was an outcast from society – condemned as a sinner.
Now he sees with the eyes of faith
and in his proclamation he is to become an outcast again,
but – internally he is free!
He is filled with light! He is a light shining in the world for all to see!

God’s love has freed him physically and spiritually!
If our spiritual blindness is washed away and we see through the eyes of faith –
we will see ourselves loved by Jesus.
We will see ourselves as having meaning beyond all that the powers and accolades the world can give us.

The Blind man’s greatest miraculous experience is the light of faith!
With this light we adore Jesus in the midst of life’s trials as the man with restored physical sight did!
This is what the conversion experience of Lent is meant to bring us to.

This is our Lenten cry!
“Jesus, the one you love is ill!”
Through lent we are meant to re-realize that
we are all called –
Each one of us is called – “The one”, Jesus, “loves”.

Now take a moment to close your eyes and enter the depth of your being,
away from the clutter and clamour of life’s ‘daily-ness’.
Go into the depth of your soul and listen to Jesus speak to “the one he loves”.

He says “I want to open your grave.”
“I want to bring you out of your grave.”
“I want you to receive the Holy Spirit so that you truly experience the fullness of life in you.”
“I am calling you.”
“I want you to know my love for you, a love that is everlasting.”
“I want you to know love that is everlasting life itself – here and now!”

Death, the fear of death,
is the biggest stone that Jesus had to role away!
It is the weight that holds us bound to what is finite, to what has no meaning in itself outside of the Eternal!

We are converted to see Jesus the Resurrection and Life in every aspect of life.

And death is an aspect of life – the window to the eternal!
With new sight we will see the glory of God here and now as did Martha, Mary and Lazarus did
because we will be unbound from the world’s trappings.

Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life and his glory can be seen by us now in this world.

If we believe:

We will see, we will know that we are destined for more than this world can offer.
We will see – we will know!!
the truth:
– that we will make our home with him embraced in the love of the Father and the Spirit –
not bound by the secular clothing of this world!
And, our conversion calls us to unbind the world from its shackles – its imprisonment to what is transitory!

Death will not separate us from life –
It will not, and does not separate us from the Love of Christ!
Death is the step to our everlasting Hope!

When through the conversion journey of Lent we can come to believe this
to become converted to this truth
THEN we are unbound from the shackles of this secular world
Then life,
lived in faith becomes a revelation of the Glory of God here and now!

This final Sign of Jesus became the nails that hung him on the cross!
Jesus, who quenches my deepest thirst,
Jesus, who is the light that illumines my life from deep within me,
Jesus, who is the eternal breath within me!

The living water that sustains me in every event of my journey
is the water that flowed with blood on Good Friday–

We see love flowing in blood and water from the slain lamb.
This becomes my sustenance.
AND in every trial of our life this blood and water flows!
We thirst! We cry out, one with the crucified Lamb – I thirst!
And his love sustains us.

We are, by our baptism, disciples of Jesus.
Each present moment is a revelation of who Jesus is
and what he is calling us to see, to be and to do.

Nothing – nothing is by chance – such as Jesus meeting a woman at the well at the hottest time of the day.
There are no coincidences – such as Jesus meeting a blind beggar at the Festival of Lights –
giving light to his eyes.
There is nothing inconsequential, or meaningless, such as one of his best friends becoming sick and dying.

And, there is no one who is insignificant, such as a blind beggar and a sinful woman   – or you or I.

Through all things the glory of God is revealed.
All things are with, and in, and through the Lord,
and lead to the Lord!
All of creation comes from the hand of God,
has been marred by sin, and has been washed in the blood of the Lamb.

We, during lent, are called to become reconnected with this all encompassing truth,
as we are re-converted – claiming our conversion in the waters of Baptism!
allowing Jesus to embrace us as his friends, into discipleship.

To Believe –
as the Woman at the Well did
As the Blind Man did
As Martha and Mary did
Is To Be A Disciple!

Conversion leads to DISCIPLESHIP!
We are all the Man Born Blind, the Woman at the Well.
Both are outcasts, counted as sinners.
We all face ultimate death-
We are all Lazarus.
We are all dead or dying in aspects of our life – fearful and confused like Martha and Mary-
even though they were good friends of Jesus, who spent time at their home, on his journeys to various parts of Palestine

Sometimes appearances — i.e. — what we see and hear — are deceiving – a sham
perhaps we put on a sham – a lie – a front
maybe what is inside is really darkness
“The Lord looks at the heart”!
Like the blind man,
– to be in the light is to have life,
to be free   – to expose the darkness.
To live by preconceived ideas and fear – is death and darkness,
as it was for the Pharisees and for the parents of the blind man.
Preconception and fear prevent us from –
seeing the truth and rejoicing in the work of the Lord –
– Of Resting in the Lord so that we can truly see!
Preconception and fear prevent us from –
Of seeing with the eyes of Jesus to the heart of man!

What cataracts of fear do we need washed away?
so that we can move : –
From blindness to sight –

From darkness to light –
from death to new life

This is a faith journey!
WE HAVE TO BE OPEN TO internal HEALING TO RECEIVE —–
sight, insight, light, new life, and have our thirst quenched –
So that we can proclaim our baptismal faith –
rolling away the stones in the day to day world around us!

So we ask for this conversion:
Jesus open my grave!
Jesus unbind me!
Jesus let me see with your eyes!
Jesus let me know the depth of my thirst for you!
AMEN!

Lent with the Evangelist John

LENT WITH THE EVANGELIST JOHN

(A Talk given Lent 2013)

“Look!  There is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world!” Jn1:29
John repeats –
“Look!  There is the Lamb of God. Jn 1:35

‘Lamb’ is sign of love
the sign of laying down one’s life for another – the blood of the lamb on the doorposts saved the Jews.

John again refers to the Lamb in the Book of Revelation, Chapter 7: 9-17. The Lamb is sitting on the throne and before him are throngs of people in white robes and holding palm branches, “shouting salvation to the lamb”!
We do the same on Palm, Passion Sunday!

We can take this passage of the Evangelist John, the author of the Book of Revelation, and see that it embraces his Gospel message of the merciful love of Jesus, especially as it is found in the passages used by the Church for the 3rd, 4th, and 5th Sundays of Lent.

“Who are these people, dressed in white robes, and where have they come from?  …
These are the people who have been through the great trial;   (for us at this particular time, “the great trial” is lent)
They have washed their robes white again in the blood of the Lamb.  (“I call you friends”, Jesus at the Last Supper, told those who would betray him)
That is why they are standing in front of God’s throne and serving him day and night in his sanctuary; and the One who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them.     (the Church)
They will never hunger or thirst again;      (Woman at Well, Jn. Ch. 4)
sun and scorching wind will never plague them,  (The Raising of Lazarus, Jn. 11, Everlasting Life)
because the Lamb who is at the heart of the throne will be their shepherd    (The Man Born Blind, Jn. 9)
and will guide them to springs of living water;    (The Man Born Blind) (Woman at Well)
and God will wipe away all tears from their eyes.” Rev  7:13-17   (The Raising of Lazarus)

We have within this passage from Revelation, the fulfillment of the 3 events of John that comprise half of our Lenten season, The Scrutinies. The original purpose of this period we call Lent in the Church Year, was the immediate preparation of those becoming members of the Church.

Lent is Conversion Time  – the particular journey of conversion is called RCIA.
Historically, right up to today the Church in this conversion journey, has used three passages from St. John’s Gospel for this immediate preparation for Easter. We are all called to conversion.  We are all called to wash our robes white again in the Blood of the Lamb, sacrificed for us.  We are called to renew our commitment to the slain lamb at Easter.

These 3 passages will be the main focus for tonight’s presentation:

The Woman at the Well: – the woman comes to draw water from the well
Jesus draws faith from the depth of her being

The Man Born Blind:        Jesus gives sight, insight, and draws faith from the heart of the blind man

The Raising of Lazarus:    Jesus loved Martha, Mary and Lazarus gives them new life, draws faith from  them

.
These Readings:  are central to this conversion experience, not only for new Catholics
but for all Catholics who are called during lent to conversion of
mind, heart and lives during these 40 holy days – “the great trial”.

The Great trial is symbolic of our life journey.
This journey is a call to fall in love with the Lamb, Jesus,
whom John the Baptist points to when he says:           “Look!  There is the Lamb of God”.

Lent is the time to be intimately with the lamb like the 2 disciples who follow the Lamb –
“Where do you stay?”
“Come and see.”
In a very particular way we are called to ‘come and see’ during lent.

We like to think that we initiate what we will do or not do during Lent.
Not so – Jesus does the calling –we respond.

Not only do we come and see at the ‘fourth hour” like the two disciples – the call continues deep into our life.
Each lent we are called by Jesus to go deeper into the well within us – we are called to spend time with Jesus the Light of the world , Jesus living water, Jesus our everlasting life, Jesus the Bread of Life.

The three Readings cited above are called the Scrutinies.
Lent is a time to allow Jesus’ love to show us our true selves and
to lead us into a deeper relationship of love, of oneness with him.

Will we ‘come and see’ not only at ‘ten o’clock’ with the two disciples,
but will we come to be with Jesus  at the hour of his betrayal?

That hour of betrayal is now
in every moment of now in the darkness of the world –
in the darkness of our secularized Christianity that is often reduced to what is convenient, –
Jesus is being betrayed.

And John wants each of us at every betrayal moment to be with him laying our head on Jesus’ chest
because by our Baptism each of us, like John, is the one Jesus “LOVES”

John calls upon us to embrace Jesus so that our robes are ‘washed white again in the blood “ of the Lamb crucified!
This is a paradox, isn’t it!? Whose robes become white in blood! We are called to see with new eyes !

“Clean”, when seen with the eyes of faith  – –  is to be bloody in the love of the sacrificed lamb!

If we have reclined on his chest,
then we with John will be there at the Third Hour, at the foot of the Cross,
embracing with Mary, the feet of Jesus – blood and water dripping on us as he hangs on the Cross.

There we will stay with him who loves us – stay for the day- – as did the first 2 disciples who asked where he stayed and remained with him for the day.

In the story of the Woman at the Well we hear Jesus say “I thirst!”
He then speaks to her of water that wells up to eternal life
and, if we drink of the water he will give we will never thirst again –

John, in the first instance is talking of physical thirst. “I thirst!”  It is noon, the hottest part of the day.

This “thirst” is replaced by a deeper and lasting thirst welling up forever  –  IT IS THE THIRST OF LOVE   – his love for her and everyone like her.
God’s love for us giving birth to our love for him!
This love compels us to worship him in every moment of our lives – not just within the church building.

Jesus ‘thirst’s’ for the Woman’s love of herself, and for her love of God

On the Cross Jesus again says “I thirst”.
As with all of John’s Gospel this ‘thirst’ is multi-level:
-the very physical level of one who has been tortured
-his whole life journey has been a thirst to do his Father’ will
-at the Last Supper he expressed his thirst for oneness in love
-I thirst that my friends may be with me where I am

This outcast Samaritan woman at the well, now has a thirst to proclaim to everyone about the one whom she has met
– about what has happened to her
– her new found belief.
She has been touched in the depth of her being.
She has felt true love for the first time in her life – even though she has had 5 husbands.
She has a new identity, new life, new hope
– a light is shining deep within her
– she cannot be silent!
Do you and I feel that way about our faith?

We were given this new identity, new life, new hope, a light shining deep within us at our baptism –
during lent we are called to get in touch with it.

When we truly meet the Lord:
– allowing ourselves to be internally embraced by him
-we become like the Woman at the Well.
We leave behind the ‘water jars’,
things that define us in the eyes of the world
and never truly satisfy us.

The woman did not know what she was asking for when she said “Give me some of this water, then I will never have to come back to the well again”.

What she was given by the Lord
meant that she would never have to leave the well!
A very different Well  – Jesus Himself!

This is where Lent is meant to lead us!

And we hear of the Blind Man going to wash his eyes in the Pool of Siloam so that he can see physically.
His eyes have been anointed by Jesus with mud.

Where do we hear of Mud – In Genesis.
Man was created out of mud.
A new creation is taking place –
by our baptism we are a new creation
–Lent calls us to reclaim this reality!

The Blind Man was sent to Siloam to wash.
Siloam means ‘sent’.
He now is sent and we are sent by our baptism.

In his new sight the man has so much more.
He has insight.
He has Faith.

He must proclaim what he sees
– not what he sees with his eyes
– but with his heart !

‘See’ means ‘to know’.
Biblically ‘to know’ is to possess and to be possessed,
The man ‘knows’ the love of God and is possessed by it.

He has become a new person –
a ‘nobody’, has in the love of Jesus become a somebody –
he is converted!

He is ready to tell the world!
– the big and the small of the world!
And as he proclaims what he ‘sees’ –
what he ‘knows’  –
to the world
His faith grows – “I do believe” !
He sees –
from the depth of his soul he proclaims it!

And only afterwards –
after he has been ridiculed –
He sees Jesus with his eyes!

He, in his physical blindness was an outcast from society – condemned as a sinner.
Now he sees with the eyes of faith and in his proclamation he is to become an outcast again,
but –  internally he is free!

God’s love has freed him physically and spiritually!
If our spiritual blindness is washed away and we see through the eyes of faith  –
we will see ourselves loved by Jesus.
We will see ourselves as having meaning ,
a meaning beyond all that the powers and accolades the world can give us.

We see Jesus the Resurrection and Life in every aspect of life.
With new sight we will see the glory of God here and now as did Martha, Mary and Lazarus,
because we will be unbound from the world’s trappings.
Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life
and his glory can be seen by us now in this world
if we believe.

We will see that we are destined for more than this world can offer.
We will see that we will make our home with him
embraced in the love of the Father and the Spirit
– not bound by the clothing of this world!

The living water that sustains me in every event of my journey
is the water that flowed with blood on Good Friday!

We see love flowing in blood and water from the slain lamb.
This is my sustenance.
And,
in every trial of our life this blood and water flows!
We thirst! We cry out, one with the crucified Lamb –
I thirst!
And his love sustains us.

We are embraced as one with him from the throne of his cross, bloodying us in love.
“I call you friends” he says at the last supper – “Because that is who you are!”
“Father I prayer that they may be one in us “

Isn’t this what we crave in life – to be so completely loved
that we are absorbed in a total oneness in the other?
And yet, in life it is never really attained.

No two in love, no two married, no parent and child is as one
as we are in the love of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit!

“As you have loved me, Father, so I have loved them!” Jesus prayed at the last Supper! –
“May they be one as you and I are one.  May they be one in us”

He prayed this for his apostles and all who would follow them –
He prayed this knowing he was being betrayed by one that he loved,
being betrayed at that very moment.

Shortly afterward he went to meet his betrayer
– the betrayer being one of those ‘loved’ with the same love as the Father and Son have for each other!

Now, that is love!

That is the love that we abandon ourselves to in Lent
– that ‘great trial’ of Forty Holy Days.

We abandon ourselves to this love so that we like the Woman at the Well,
the Blind Man
and Lazarus, Martha and Mary –
we too may be converted, transformed, brought to life.
So, we come to Easter, with greater conviction, with a renewed heart and mind,
we can say when we are asked “Do you believe?” –
We can say:  “Yes! Lord I believe!”

Jesus is with outstretched arms, embracing us.
Drawing all things to himself (Jn 12:32)
 He is offering us the totality of himself.

With arms outstretched – in pleading love – He asks us:
-do you believe – I am living water?
-do you believe-  I am the light of the world?
-do you believe – I am the Resurrection and Life; that I am everlasting life here and now!

Do you believe? “I am the bread of life”?

He is offering to us all from the cross
– here “this is my body, take and eat;
– this is my blood, poured out for you, take and drink!”

He is saying: “put your finger here; look, here are my hands;
Give me your hand; put it into my side.
Do not be unbelieving any more, but believe.” Jn. 20:27

For John this is what we see when we look at the Cross – utter love!
For John the love of Jesus for each of us is very, very real.

So during Lent  – the great trial,
the forty Holy days
we are being called by the Evangelist John, to recline on the very real heart of Jesus
pierced in love for us and all of creation.

Is this where you and I recline during these 40 holy days?

We are, by our baptism, disciples of Jesus.
Each present moment is a revelation of who Jesus is,
and what he is calling us to see,
to be and to do.

Nothing is by chance – such as Jesus meeting a woman at the well at the hottest time of the day.
There are no coincidences – such as Jesus meeting a blind beggar at the Festival of Lights – giving light to his eyes.
There is nothing inconsequential, or meaningless, such as one of his best friends becoming sick and dying.
And there is no one who is insignificant, such as a blind beggar and a sinful woman.

Through all things the glory of God is revealed.
All things are with, and in, and through the Lord, and lead to the Lord.
All of creation comes from the hand of God, has been marred by sin, and has been washed in the blood of the Lamb.
We, during lent, are called to become reconnected with this all encompassing truth, allowing Jesus to embrace us as his friends, into discipleship.
To Believe Is To Be A Disciple!
Will we be there in the Upper Room and hear him call us “friend”?
Will we walk out of the Upper Room on our own, or with Jesus our “friend”?
Will we be in the Garden and see him betrayed by a kiss from a “friend”?

Will we be at the foot of the Cross in the embrace of John and Mary,
while Jesus’ blood drips on us?
Will we say at the end of Lent “I have seen the Lord!”

With open hearts and minds let us begin our forty days of retreat in the day to day of our life,
seeing each day,
each event of each day
through the eyes of faith – the eyes of the Love of Jesus calling us ‘friend’.
Let us hear him in the depth of our being say: “I call you friend!”

And let us take the risk of allowing ourselves, to see ourselves as Jesus loves us – with no pretenses.

Let Jesus, with the Father and the Holy Spirit love us into DISCIPLESHIP!

During these 40 Holy days  –

Let us be quiet so that we can hear him say “I call you friend.”

Conversion Time Lent Part 1

Lent is conversion time and the particular journey of conversion is called RCIA.
Historically, right up to today, the Church has used three passages from St. John’s Gospel for this immediate preparation for Easter. Every Parish that is celebrating the Reception of New Catholics into the Church must use these passages, through which we all radically discover the meaning of our baptismal life.

These 3 events recorded in John’s Gospel account, comprise half of Lent which originally was only about a week long – the week that we know as Holy Week.  It gradually grew in length to become what is now our 40 Holy days.  Always, Lent has been the time of immediate preparation for those becoming initiated into the Church.  We all need conversion.  We all need to renew the commitment of our Baptismal call.  We all need to scrutinize our hearts and minds.  We all need to be washed clean in the blood of the lamb – to rediscover God’s love for us and all of his creation – to claim it and proclaim it.  This time of being washed in the blood of the lamb is called the “great trial” in the Book of Revelation.

We all need to say – “I thirst”, “Sir, give me this living water”;
“I was blind and now I see”;
“Yes, Lord I believe you are the one who has come into the world”;”Lord you have the words of eternal life”;
“Come and see the one who has told me all about myself”.

The Church calls us to conversion by asking us to enter into three meetings with Jesus taken from The Gospel of John:

The Woman at the Well  (Jn 4:1-42)- the woman comes to draw water from the well. Jesus draws faith from within the depth of her being and she becomes a disciple.

The Man Born Blind  (Jn 9)  –    Jesus gives sight and insight –  that is faith to the blind man, and in the face of ridicule and abandonment by his family he becomes a disciple. This takes place at the end of the Feast of Tabernacles also called the Feast of Lights.

The Raising of Lazarus(Jn 11:1-44)  –  Jesus “loved” Martha, Mary and Lazarus and calls them to new life and draws faith from them, revealing to them eternal life with God..  This becomes the most immediate reason for the arrest and death of Jesus at Passover.

These Readings are central to the conversion experience, not only for new Catholics but for all Catholics as we are called to conversion of mind, heart and lives during these 40 holy days – “the great trial” – the way of the Cross, not only in Lent but throughout life.

We are all the Man Born Blind, the Woman at the Well.  Both are outcasts, counted as sinners.  We all face ultimate death- which is in truth the mystery of Eternal Life.  We are all dead or dying in aspects of our life – fearful and confused like Martha and Mary- even though they were good friends of Jesus who spent time at their home on his journeys to various parts of Palestine.

These 3 Readings are called the Scrutinies.  They comprise 3 weeks of looking at the Lord and seeing ourselves through his eyes, as he loves us into internal healing, peace, new life and commitment.  This can only truly be the time of renewal that it is meant to be by our deliberately putting aside what clutters our life.  In fact, lent calls us to go on retreat in the midst of the ‘dailiness’ of our life. If we look at the three episodes that comprise the Scrutinies we see that in each of them Jesus is journeying with his disciples.  They happen in the day to day of their lives, as Jesus journeys to his final visit to Jerusalem. Our final journey is to the heavenly Jerusalem and can only be entered through the way of suffering, The Way of the Cross.

We are, by our baptism, disciples of Jesus.  Each present moment is a revelation of who Jesus is and what he is calling us to see, to be and to do.  Nothing is by chance – such as Jesus meeting a woman at the well at the hottest time of the day.  There are no coincidences – such as Jesus meeting a blind beggar at the Festival of Lights and giving light to his eyes.  There is nothing inconsequential, or meaningless,such as one of his best friends becoming sick and dying.  And there is no one who is insignificant, such as a blind beggar and a sinful woman. Through all things the glory of God is revealed. All things are with and in and through the Lord and lead to the Lord.  All of creation comes from the hand of God, is marred by sin, and has been washed in the blood of the Lamb.  We, during lent, are called to become reconnected with this all encompassing truth, allowing Jesus to embrace us into discipleship.  Will we be there in the Upper Room?  Will we walk out of the Upper Room on our own or with Jesus?  Will we be in the Garden?  Will we be at the foot of the Cross in the embrace of John and Mary, while Jesus’ blood drips on us?  Will we say at the end of Lent “I have seen the Lord!”

With open hearts and minds let us begin our forty days of retreat in the day to day of our life, seeing each day, each event of each day through the eyes of faith – the eyes of the Love of Jesus. And let us take the risk of allowing ourselves to see ourselves as Jesus loves us – with no pretenses.