New Life: A True Gift!
We are a week away from the start of the Holy Week. This coming two weeks, we are about to live the Gospel passage of passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
On the fifth Sunday of Lent in Year A, in the first reading prophet Ezekiel reminds Israelites, during their Babylonian captivity, of the Lord’s promise to bring them back home. During exile Israelites were struggling to keep hope. The divided kingdoms of Judah and Israel represented a chasm that seemed a long way from healing. Ezekiel’s vision of the dry bones revealed God’s power to turn Israelites defeat and destruction into an occasion of renewal and restoration. It also gives hope to people of the Israelites who die before the new exodus. Ezekiel’s vision, the bones coming to life and being covered with flesh could also point to the new life in Christ and resurrection on the last day. We read in the book of Revelation 11:11 “But after the three and a half days, a breath of life from God entered them. When they stood on their feet, great fear fell on those who saw them.” St. Paul, in the second reading, assures us that the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead and who dwells within us will give life to our mortal bodies.
In the Gospel, the revival of Lazarus is a sign anticipating the resurrection of Jesus. Jesus cries at the tomb of Lazarus. When confronted with death, Jesus reacted the same way you and I react. He cried. But then Jesus did something. He called Lazarus out of the grave. He did this not just because he wanted his friend to live. He did this because he wanted us to know that he was the Lord of Life. In the light of Ezekiel, the raising of Lazarus proves that Jesus is the Lord, since he can raise Israelites from their graves. Similar miracles are recorded in the Synoptic Gospels, such as the raising of Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5:21-43) and the raising of the widow’s son from Nain (Luke 7:11-17).
Christ waited two days before leaving for Bethany, knowing that Lazarus would be already dead. When he arrived he worked the most amazing miracle by bringing Lazurus back to life. In the raising of Lazarus, Christ showed not only that he has power to raise the dead to life but also that he himself is the Resurrection and the Life.
Death and resurrection takes place in our daily life. Lent invites us to death and resurrection. There are times we feel powerless, but he has the power to call us and say, Lazarus “come out.” Ezekiel gave hope to Israelites by saying that God will take them back to the home and at the same time gave them hope in the resurrection on the last day. Our ultimate goal is to get to heaven, but while we are here on earth death and resurrection takes place every day. The Sacraments are the special ways we meet Jesus and receive grace to live. Through the Sacraments, Jesus gave us the grace we needed to resurrect everyday life and embrace the goodness of the Lord. In other words, Sacraments give us the grace to love God and express that love in action in our daily life.
We have wonderful news! All of the lights are paid for. We will be ordering them soon. I would like to express my gratitude to each one of you who came forward to pay for each light. THANK YOU!
We are on Fourth Sunday in Lent. Traditionally this Sunday is known as “Laetare Sunday,” from the Latin word for “Rejoice!” It sets a tone of joyful anticipation of the Easter mystery. The theme of the reading is new life and spiritual sight.
The fourth Sunday of Lent gives us a review of salvation history. The first reading is a historical moment of salvation history. Israelites were governed by Judges. Israelites looked at the surrounding kingdoms and asked God for a King of Israel. Saul was their first king, but he offended God, and the kingship was taken from him. The Lord asked Samuel, the last Judge in Israel, to go to Bethlehem to anoint Jesse’s son the next king. Samuel followed God’s command and anointed David and the Holy Spirit came upon him. This anointing is a type of baptism. We read in the book of Isaiah 1:12 “A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots, a bud shall blossom. The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him.”
When Samuel met Jesse, Eliab was there and God told Samuel not to judge the appearance. Jesse’ presented seven of his children; God didn’t choose any of them. God chose the unexpected one, David. In the eyes of Jesse, he was a young and just shepherd. Samuel tried to make a decision based on appearance, but God had a different plan. God said to Samuel, “God does not see as a mortal, who sees the appearance. The LORD looks into the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).” We read in the Book of Psalms 78:70&71, “He chose David his servant, took him from the sheepfolds. From tending sheeps God brought him, to shepherd Jacob, his people, Israel, his heritage. He shepherded them with a pure heart; with skilled hands he guided them.” God anointed David to shepherd the Israelites. Though he had moral flaws, David was generally willing to do the will of God and being faithful to God’s covenant. His Royal line would lead directly to the Incarnation of the Son of God, Messiah.
The Gospel reading is also a symbolic catechesis on baptism. Isaiah prophesied and Jews believed that when Jesus comes he will heal the blind and other diseases. We read in Isaiah 42:7, “To open the eyes of the blind, to bring out prisoners from confinement, and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.”
Jews believed that wherever there is suffering there is sin. So the disciples brought up this question to Jesus’ attention. Jesus tells them that it is a providential plan of God. Jesus gave the physical sight to the man who was blind; it is a sign that Jesus gives spiritual sight to see the world in the light of heaven. Jesus says, “I am light of the world.” Jesus is the source of truth, faith, and life. The Man who received the sight received the light of faith.
Jesus applied the clay mixed with saliva on man’s eyes and asked him to go and wash in the 'Pool of Siloam.’ In the second book of Kings (5:1014) Elisha commanded Naaman the Syrian to “go and wash '' in the Jordan river to be restored to health. The pool of Siloam was in the southern district of ancient Jerusalem to serve as a water supply for the city. Siloam means sent. Here Jesus is the source of living water. This miracle anticipates the administration of baptism.
Jews said that it is unheard of that anyone opened the eyes of a person who was born blind. When they threw him out, Jesus came and asked him whether he believed in the Son of Man. He made the profession of faith.
This Gospel passage is associated with baptism. Just as the blind man went down into the waters of Siloam and came up whole, so also believers who are immersed in the waters of Baptism come up spiritually whole, totally healed of the spiritual blindness with which all of us are born. Let us renew our own baptism with our Candidate who is preparing for the Easter Vigil.
Third, fourth and fifth Sundays of Lent, we choose the reading from Year A, because we have a RCIA Candidate preparing for Sacrament of Confirmation. This weekend the readings are centered on the Sacrament of Baptism and new life. The first reading, from the Book of Exodus chapter 17, tells us the story of Israelites complaining about their thirst. In the previous chapter, they had complained that Moses brought them to the wilderness to die of hunger (16:3). Here they grumbled that Moses meant for them to die of thirst. So Moses asked the LORD, “What shall I do with this people?” Moses followed God’s instruction and strikes the rock. In Deuteronomy 32 in Moses’ song, he called God the Rock. St. Paul says that the rock was the Christ (I Corinthians 10:4). The spiritual rock followed Israelites in the wilderness and satisfied their thirst. The place Israelites quarreled was called Massah and Meribah which means the place of the test. Psalm 95:89 says, “Do not harden your hearts as at Meribah, as on the day of Massah in the desert. There your ancestors tested me; they tried me though they had seen my works.” Several generations of the Israelites were slaves in Egypt and they forgot about their God who made Covenant with them and they complained that in Egypt they at least were not thirsty.
In the Gospel, Jesus was talking to a Samaritan woman. Samaritans were half Jews, ritually impure, and therefore Jews were forbidden to drink from any vessel they had handled. The original twelve tribes of Israel that settled in Canaan, eventually divided into the Southern Kingdom, two tribes centered in Jerusalem and the Northern Kingdom consists of the other ten tribes centered in Samaria. In the eighth century BC, Assyrians conquered the Northern Kingdom. We read in the Second Book of Kings chapter 17 that the king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath, and Sepharvaim, and settled them in the cities of Samaria in place of the Israelites. The Israelites in Samaria had defiled themselves by assimilating the practice of those pagan people and intermarrying with them. This caused enmity between Jews and Samaritans. Geographically, Judea is in the extreme south, Samaria in the middle, and Galilee in the extreme North. Normally, Jews avoid Samaria to go between north and south. But Jesus went through the Samaria and made a stop at Jacob’s well. This well was located on a piece of land that had been bought by Jacob (Genesis 33:1819), and later given to Joseph (48:22). Jesus oversteps the boundaries of Jewish traditions by conversing with women in public, sharing a drink with a Samaritan woman, and mingling with a sinner. When Jesus reached the well, it was hot midday, and he sat there and the disciples went to town to get some food. Jesus was thirsty from traveling and asked the Samaritan woman for water. We see in the Old Testament the meetings between future spouses at wells. Isaac meets Rebekah (Genesis 24:1067), Jacob meets Rachel at the well of Haran (Genesis 29:130), and Moses and Zipporah meet at a well in Midian (Exodus 2:1521). Here Jesus is the divine bridegroom in search of believers to be His covenant bride. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” His thirst was for the soul of the Samaritan woman. On the other hand, the Samaritan woman thirst for real love. Normally women used to go to fetch water in the morning or in the evening when it was not too hot. But she came to fetch water at noon. She may be trying to avoid the crowd. Jesus came to her level to reach out and walk with her and lead her to faith. Jesus reveals himself as the source of Living Water.
The liturgy makes use of the symbol of water to refer to our relationship with God. It represents God’s Spirit coming to us in Baptism. The water that Jesus promises is closely linked to conversion and the forgiveness of sin. The miraculous water from the rock is a type of “living water” that would flow from the pierced side of Christ signifying the Sacrament of Baptism and Eucharist. Water also symbolizes the grace of the Holy Spirit. In the second reading, Saint Paul asserts that, as the savior of mankind, Jesus poured the living water of the gift of his Holy Spirit into our hearts.
A Samaritan woman, in the Gospel once embraced the faith, the living water, became a missionary who brought others to Jesus. Once she had a life changing experience, she couldn’t hold it for herself. Jesus’ THIRST is for our faith. Lent invites us to renew our faith, through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Let us pray for one another, in a special way please pray for our RCIA candidate.
In his autobiography, Out of My Life and Thought, Albert Schweitzer said that one of the main things his parents did for him as a child was to take him to worship services, even though he was too young to understand much of what was going on. He claimed it is not important that children understand everything. What is important is “that they shall feel something of what is serious and solemn....” Can you see Peter, James, and John as they contemplated what it meant to be in the presence not only of Jesus but also Elijah and Moses, and then on top of all that, to hear the Voice of God as well?
Second Sunday of Lent we hear from the Gospel of Luke, the Transfiguration story: Jesus took Peter, John, and James, and went up a mountain to pray. Jesus’ face changes, his clothes become dazzling white, and Moses and Elijah appear. What did they talk about? They talked about the Exodus. We know in the first exodus Moses led Israelites from Egypt to the Promised Land and finally built the city of Jerusalem. Jesus came to lead humanity to lead from slavery of sin to freedom.
In the Gospel we see Jesus was conversing with Moses and Elijah, the two figures of the Old Testament law and the prophets. Jesus is the fulfillment of the law and prophets. They talked about Jesus' New Exodus. At the first exodus there was a lamb shed blood (Exodus 12). In the new exodus Jesus is the new lamb who is going to shed the blood for the entire humanity. The old exodus started from Egypt, traveled through the wilderness for forty years (Joshua 5:6) and reached the earthly Promised Land, and finally built Jerusalem. In the new exodus Jesus came to Jerusalem to begin a new exodus to lead us to the heavenly Promised Land, the New Jerusalem; heaven. His exodus is passion, death, resurrection and ascension. It is a great exodus.
Transfiguration takes place in the Gospel right after Peter’s proclamation of faith and prediction of Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection. Jesus’ transfiguration confirms his divine Sonship and it strengthens Peter, James and John. As at the Baptism of Jesus (Luke 3:21-22), Father declares of Jesus, “This is Son, my chosen, listen to him” (Luke 9:35).
Jesus, at the transfiguration before Peter, James and John, revealed his glory, later he manifested in the resurrection (Matthew 28:2-3). At the transfiguration Peter said to Jesus, "Master, it is good that we are here; let us make three tents…” Peter loved that mountain top experience, and loved to remain there, but they had to go down for the new exodus. Jesus shows his glory at the transfiguration, but transfiguration points us to the Cross, the Sacrifice, death, resurrection and ascension.
Every time when we gather to celebrate the Eucharist, it is our opportunity to participate in Jesus’ new exodus, his passion, death, resurrection and ascension. Every time we kneel in front of the Blessed Sacrament, we have a great opportunity to adore and praise him. Do I use the opportunity to prepare and celebrate the Eucharist? Do I use the opportunity to spend time in front of the Blessed Sacrament? Jesus gives us nourishment and strength in the Eucharist for daily life.
Lent - a season of grace…
The first Sunday of Lent starts with forty days of Jesus' fasting and his battle with the tempter, the devil. The number forty is an important number in the Bible. It rained for forty days and nights while Noah and company were in the ark (Genesis 7:1-23).
In the Book of Exodus 34:28, we read, “Moses was there with the LORD for forty days and forty nights, without eating any food or drinking any water, and he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the ten words.” IKing chapter 19, we read that Elijah traveled forty days in the wilderness.
In the Gospel, we read today, the temptation of Jesus. If we look at the life of Jesus, it is the fulfillment of the Old Testament. In the Book of Exodus, Moses led Israelites through the Red Sea and wandered in the desert, and was tempted for forty years before they reached the Promised Land. The new Moses: Jesus, after the Baptism and led by the spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. The Israelites fall in the temptations, but Jesus brings victory over the temptation.
In the desert, the devil tries to tempt Jesus by quoting the Bible passage. On the other hand, Jesus faces the temptations by quoting Bible passages. Each time Jesus says, it is written…if we look at those Words we can see them in Deuteronomy chapters 6 and 8. These two chapters of Deuteronomy give us the Word of God while Israelites were in the desert.
In the desert, Jesus was hungry, and the first temptation: the devil tempts Jesus to use his power for himself. Jesus defeated the tempter by quoting from the book of Deuteronomy 8:3, “...so you might know that it is not by bread alone that people live…” God was telling Israelites in this passage about his love and care for them.
Then the devil tells, if Jesus worships the devil, he can have all glory and power. Again Jesus quest from Deuteronomy 6:13 and tells that one should serve God alone.
Then the tempter asked Jesus to throw him down and let Father send angels to rescue him. Are we tempted to pray to God something like this? Jesus’ answer to this temptation is Deuteronomy 16:16, “You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.”
Pope Francis in his message for the Lent reminds us that “Do not grow tired of doing good.” ‘Lent invites us to conversion,’ Pope Francis wrote, ‘to a change in mindset, so that life’s truth and beauty may be found not so much in possessing as in giving, not so much in accumulating as in sharing and sowing goodness.’ During Lent let us ask God for the grace to turn away from the tempter.
The essence of evil is a turning away from God. Our mind has the tendency to run away from God. Lent is time to give up our head and give in to our heart. We need to set aside our mind for some time to be with God and sowing the goodness.