Peace be with you,
This weekend we begin the drama of Holy Week. Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem amidst the joyful cries of “Hosanna!” by the people who believe him to be the long-awaited Messiah is up-lifting indeed! This joy-filled acclamation at the beginning of the week increases our sense of shock and wonder at his arrest, mock trial and brutal death on Friday. How could the mood in Jerusalem change so quickly? How could some of the people who acclaimed him one day, turn around and hatefully condemn him a few days later? We are moved to consider our own fickle behavior. It seems like Jesus is lifted up only to be thrown down by betrayal and corruption. How did Jesus endure and keep his faith through this erratic drama? The readings from Isaiah and the Philippians give us some insight: Jesus was committed completely to God his whole life. He was familiar with the fickleness of human beings and found that God was his final hope. He chose obedience to God above all things even though it brought suffering and death, he believed God would reward him. As Holy Week unfolds, we are reminded of our own call to holiness, to faithfulness and obedience to God’s will. If we are disciples of Jesus, we too can expect to have hardship, suffering and even persecution in our own lives. These forces are brought about by sin. It should make us feel remorseful to know that our sins brought this injustice and pain upon Jesus and we should be acutely mindful of our treatment of others. It is also uplifting to know that when we suffer for Christ and remain true to his teachings, we can be confident that that God will not abandon us but will sustain us and give us strength to persevere. This week, let us draw closer to Jesus by uniting our YES to God with him so that through our suffering we remain constant in faith and grow in holiness giving increase to a rightful hope in the joy of his resurrection! May God bless you always! +++ Fr. Peter
The story of Lazarus helps us enter into a deep and real encounter with Jesus. Although Jesus is the All Powerful Lord and Savior of all; he is also human and weeps at the death of his friend and he grieves with Martha and Mary because of their loss. Jesus is not afraid to cry, to weep and to grieve. He is not aloof or separated from our pain, longing or suffering any more than he is separated from our feelings of joy, hope and gratitude! Jesus is not afraid to feel and express his emotions in a healthy way with other people. Jesus’ words to unbind and set Lazarus free are directed to us today.
Let us think about Lazarus for a moment. He is bound up in a dark cave and he is dead. These are the effects of sin. Jesus has come to show that he can free us from these effects if we trust and believe in him!
Close your eyes, try to identify the places of injury on your body or soul that have been damaged or died because of sin. Think about your personal Spirit, has part of it died or been diminished in some way?
If you feel that you are in darkness and have lost sight of hope, If you feel unable to give or receive love, If you can no longer voice your true thoughts and feelings, If you did something bad or were made to do something bad, If you are unable to move forward and make changes in your life, If your mind is constantly dwelling on negativity, fear, guilt, or caught up in anger obsessing on past hurts and trauma, If you feel ashamed, If you have been carrying the burden of an unspoken secret, If part of your body is suffering from the damage of abuse, or anything else– ask Jesus to free you!
If you feel that you are cut off from God and are unable to pray: pray in the name of Jesus! Pray with a humble, sincere and repentant heart. Pray from the heart and simply be honest with Jesus. Ask him to help you pray.
Remember: You cannot have lust or a wrongful attachment in your heart. You cannot be effective in prayer if you mistreat your spouse or your children or neglect the poor. You cannot harbor a grudge. You must have faith in your heart and no bitterness toward someone else. Pray with great hope and in secret. Pray according to God’s will with an obedient attitude and live that way. Pray in agreement with other believers and with delight in God’s goodness and love! Fast and pray while abiding in God’s Word, Jesus Christ! May the All-merciful Lord raise you to eternal life! +++ Fr. Peter
The blind man in today’s Gospel is a very important figure for all of us to consider. From our birth, we have all been affected by sin and the spiritual blindness that comes with it. But thanks be to God, through our baptism, we know about God and we believe in Jesus as God’s Son, our Savior and Redeemer. Baptism has given us the light of faith and understanding. But our blindness is not entirely removed. There are still blind spots that affect us and the people around us. We are not able to discover them or change without God’s help. Today is a day that we open ourselves to God’s grace: to be touched by Jesus and begin a new life!
In the story, Jesus uses his saliva and earth to make clay. We remember the story of creation in Genesis when God formed man out of the slime of the earth. Jesus smears the slimy clay on the man’s eyes and instructs him to wash in the pool—symbolizing baptism. In baptism we were washed clean from our sin and we became born again; that is born again or created anew as a child of God. The darkness of sin has been removed and we walk as children of God by the light-vision of faith. But our journey of faith is not an easy path. At times we are misled or wander astray not entirely certain of the right way to go. We experience doubt, confusion, fear, love, passion and pleasure. Some of what we experience or perceive to be good we discover later on wasn’t good; it what we thought it was. When that happens, we turn to God asking for pardon and begin again our journey of faith renewed by God’s cleansing mercy. Through this process, we experience an increase in our faith. We are more enlightened with spiritual vision and understanding. We are more firm at applying our faith to daily life.
Remember, Lent is a season of Kairos , that is a special time when the Lord is at work with us helping us to see more clearly the path for a closer life with him. If we are sincere, Jesus will help us avoid things that cause us problems by revealing them to us and showing us His way. May God bless you all during this holy season! +++ Fr. Peter
Peace and grace to you all!
In the first reading, the Israelites’ physical fatigue and thirst reveals the deeper level of their spiritual aridity and lack of faith. This happens even though God has been providing everything that they need in a unique and powerful way. Moses is frustrated with their hardness of heart and their constant doubting, bickering and complaining rather than trusting in God. Change is not easy.
In the Gospel story, Jesus encounters the Samaritan woman and surprises her in a special way. She carries an empty jar to the well each day to satisfy her bodily thirst. But in the encounter with Jesus, it becomes clear that the empty jar also represents her spiritual emptiness. What she thirsts for spiritually is grace and mercy from God. She has had a hard life and she longs for intimacy and fulfillment. She comes to the well at mid-day to avoid the scorn and ridicule of the other townspeople. She quickly discovers that Jesus doesn’t treat her the way other people do. He is kind and understanding toward her. He knows her whole life story with the bad decisions, the embarrassing failures, the mistakes, the losses and the pain. Instead of ridicule and rejection, Jesus offers her a remedy. For her part, she has only to put her faith and trust in him. Her response is to leave the jar behind—her emptiness, pain and spiritual thirst. As she leaves, something has already begun springing up inside of her, it is faith! She believes in Jesus’ love, understanding and care for her! The wellspring within her is the grace and mercy of God flowing upon her life through baptism. We come to realize that Jesus came to the well on that day and at that hour to satisfy the longing that she had for God and to save her from her sins. Jesus came to the well thirsting too. He was thirsting for her faith and trust. We are reminded of our own thirst for God and God’s thirst for our faith and trust in him! This is a change that brings joy. We are also reminded that baptism has brought us into the life-giving waters of grace that flow from God’s faithful love and mercy through Jesus. May God continue to fill you with the life-giving water of divine grace! +++ Fr. Peter