Lenten Reflection: March 15
John 4:5-15, 19-26, 39, 40-42
Jesus came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob's well was there. Jesus, tired from his journey, sat down there at the well. It was about noon. A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, "Give me a drink." His disciples had gone into the town to buy food. The Samaritan woman said to him, "How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?" For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans. Jesus answered and said to her, "If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, 'Give me a drink, ' you would have asked him and he would have given you living water." The woman said to him, "Sir, you do not even have a bucket and the cistern is deep; where then can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us this cistern and drank from it himself with his children and his flocks?" Jesus answered and said to her, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." The woman said to him, "Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water. "I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain; but you people say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem." Jesus said to her, "Believe me, woman, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You people worship what you do not understand; we worship what we understand, because salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth; and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him. God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and truth." The woman said to him, "I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called the Christ; when he comes, he will tell us everything." Jesus said to her, "I am he, the one who is speaking with you." Many of the Samaritans of that town began to believe in him. When the Samaritans came to him, they invited him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. Many more began to believe in him because of his word, and they said to the woman, "We no longer believe because of your word; for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the savior of the world."
Reflection by Iris Bertin, 12th Grade Student
Throughout this reading, we see a woman content with the water that she was given to drink by Jacob. She questions Jesus and asks him if he is greater than their father, Jacob. However, Jesus tells her that she will thirst with this water she was given from the well, but He has life-giving water to offer. During this Lenten season, we get reminded that we will also thirst from not seeking God. Through worldly desires and seeking happiness from material objects, we often get distracted from remaining focused on the Lord and His calling. During Lent, we are called to give up or make a promise to better ourselves through prayer and sacrifice. This leads us to find the water in which we will not thirst from. Similar to the Samaritan woman, we are able to ask God for this water, for this joy that we are seeking through him. Throughout Lent we can find this water and grow with Him while learning and understanding the true meaning of joy.
Lenten Reflection: March 16
Luke 4: 24-30
Jesus said to the people in the synagogue at Nazareth: "Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place. Indeed, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah when the sky was closed for three and a half years and a severe famine spread over the entire land. It was to none of these that Elijah was sent, but only to a widow in Zarephath in the land of Sidon. Again, there were many lepers in Israel during the time of Elisha the prophet; yet not one of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian." When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were all filled with fury. They rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong. But he passed through the midst of them and went away.
Reflection by Scott Reason, Counselor
If you're anything like me, these two words conjure up an instant melody by one of the world's greatest crooners. Now, I enjoy a good Frank Sinatra ballad as much as the next person, but is it possible there is a worse song in the history of humanity to understand the Christian call? Before any of you Frank Sinatra fans start to send me angry hate mail, please bear with me.
In today's gospel, Jesus recites the familiar phrase, "no prophet is accepted in his own native place." I can just imagine his audience thinking to themselves incredulously, "who does he think he is? Where does he get off telling us this stuff?" If only they would ask these questions sincerely with a desire to understand and truly know Jesus and the abundant life to which He is calling them. Instead, like us, they make the classic mistake of trying to fit God into their finite and limited notion of who God should be and how He should conduct His affairs. Jesus provides a couple of examples to illustrate this point and, almost as if they didn't hear a word He said, they react in precisely the same way as did Naaman, the subject of Jesus' second example.
If you have time, I would encourage you to read the first reading (2 King 5: 1-15) for today because it is all about Naaman and how he got angry with Elisha when the prophet didn't cure his leprosy in the way he thought it should have been done. Just so, Jesus' listeners were all "filled with fury" and they had every intention of hurling him off a cliff because His words challenged their preconceived ideas. Wow! That's gratitude for ya'! Fortunately, Naaman eventually overcame his anger, trusted in Elisha's words, and experienced the healing he so desperately sought. He comes to praise God whose ways he could not understand and provides for us a model to emulate. How often though, do we miss an opportunity for real healing, real connection, real transformation because God doesn't do it "my way." We pray, "God heal me/my loved one, improve my finances, make me more patient" as if God doesn't see the thought bubble trailing behind those words, "in my way/on my time schedule, by letting me win the lottery, by making my spouse/child/student/teacher more agreeable." We can't help it, I guess. We are finite creatures bound by time. But, if we remember that God does not suffer the same limitations, that He is the God of the here and now, and that His ways are not our ways, then perhaps, like Naaman, we may simply allow our natural irritation to dissipate, trust that Jesus truly does have the words of everlasting life, and do as He asks us.
So, Frank, I love ya', but I'd like to recommend a different ending to your song. I pray that together we may all resonate with one loud voice, "I did it God's way!"
Lenten Reflection: March 17
Peter approached Jesus and asked him, "Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?" Jesus answered, "I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times. That is why the Kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who decided to settle accounts with his servants. When he began the accounting, a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount. Since he had no way of paying it back, his master ordered him to be sold, along with his wife, his children, and all his property, in payment of the debt. At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said, 'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.' Moved with compassion the master of that servant let him go and forgave him the loan. When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a much smaller amount. He seized him and started to choke him, demanding, 'Pay back what you owe.' Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him, 'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.' But he refused. Instead, he had him put in prison until he paid back the debt. Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened, they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master and reported the whole affair. His master summoned him and said to him, 'You wicked servant! I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to. Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant,
as I had pity on you?' Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt. So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart."
Reflection by Avery Barfield, 9th Grade Student
Every one of us makes mistakes; that is simply part of our humanity. In this passage, Jesus reminds us that none of us are perfect, and that is okay. Part of our faith is recognizing our faults and forgiving ourselves because Jesus loves us, imperfections and all. When we discover a flaw or make a mistake, Jesus wants us to come to Him and seek forgiveness. Just like the master in the parable, Jesus is saddened when we give in to temptations or disappoint Him, but He will always forgive us. Through confession, we are forgiven by God, but we cannot truly accept the mercy and love God shows us in confession without forgiving ourselves. Take comfort in knowing that when Jesus died for us, He took all our flaws and sins to the cross. He knows all our shortcomings, and He sacrificed Himself, the greatest act of love.
Using God's unconditional love as an example, we learn to forgive ourselves so that we can be forgiven ourselves. When we accept our flaws, it helps us understand the struggle of others better. When others hurt us, it is hard to recall that we too have caused hurt. Jesus is calling for us to forgive as freely as He does. If we hold onto grudges, we purposely keep an attachment to sin. Showing forgiveness is rarely easy, but Jesus has helped show us how to forgive others and ourselves.
Lenten Reflection: March 18
Jesus said to his disciples: "Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the Kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the Kingdom of heaven."
Reflection by Cassidy Chappuis, 12th Grade Student
The beginning of this reading talks about Jesus and his completing, rather than abolishing the law. This is always taught as Jesus is the Son of God, just as the prophets foretold. He is the living Truth of the Old Testament, the completion of its prophecy. This links to the second half, where He asks us to follow and teach his commandments. Rules are often seen as limits to joy. They stop us from doing things that we want to do, things that we think will make us happy. These things that we want to do only give us temporary happiness. God knows what brings true joy: a lasting sense of peaceful happiness. He gives us these commandments to guide us to joy. He completes, not destroys, our longing for joy, just as he completes and fulfills the Old Testament.
Also, this gospel seems pretty straightforward in terms of what it calls us to do: if you follow the commandments, you are blessed among others, and if you don't, you become the lowest. However, there is something more in the text. It is very easy to skip over, but it refers to teaching these commandments. It can be very easy to obey a few rules, but to teach them is a lot more difficult. You cannot simply teach through words, like shouting the Ten Commandments to everyone in the neighborhood. Here, God is calling us to teach by example. He is calling us to love and serve others. He is calling us to reveal the Truth through truly living the Ten Commandments. And it's so hard; it is rarely easy, but it is important to remember that God appreciates every effort to share His love with others.
In short, through Jesus, God shows us how to live in joy. That path just isn't always easy, and Jesus reminds us that even though it's difficult, it is worth the struggle.
Lenten Reflection: March 19
Luke 2: 41-51
Every year Jesus' parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom. After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, "Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you."
"Why were you searching for me?" he asked. "Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?" But they did not understand what he was saying to them.
Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart.
Reflection by Sue Buras, Director of Student Activities
How appropriate that this reading, probably the last time Joseph will be mentioned in the Gospels, falls on St. Joseph's Day, a day that honors Jesus' earthly father.
How worried he and Mary must have been when they could not find Jesus! Little did they know that Jesus understood what He was doing; He knew His mission. It was time for Jesus to reveal Himself to others and begin His work on earth. How do we know this? Jesus refers to God as his Father.
This shows us that Jesus is ready for the task at hand, but is everyone else? I don't think we are ever fully ready for what lies ahead of us. When we were young, we strayed from our parents like Jesus, only to be reeled back in with their love and guidance. Unlike Jesus, we never fully understand God's bigger plan and how our work will factor in.
Did Mary and Joseph realize why Jesus stayed behind? I doubt it. Any parent losing a child is frightened, angry, and probably not thinking clearly; however, in Mary's heart, she knew her Son was destined for great things. She had to let Him go and prepare for what was to come. We, like Mary, need to trust in the fact that we know our Father, even if we do not understand what He is asking of us. (Also, notice that Mary is the one who "treasured all these things in her heart." Her deep connection to Jesus shows she was there now and will be there forever.)
Getting back to the reading, Jesus was destined for great things. We, too, are destined for greatness, but we need to define great in our world. No matter what we aspire to do with our lives, we must always do it with love and respect, being gracious with our words. Live a life that would make Jesus smile and help make the world a better place!
HAPPY FEAST DAY, ST. JOSEPH!
Lenten Reflection: March 20
One of the scribes came to Jesus and asked him, "Which is the first of all the commandments?" Jesus replied, "The first is this: Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these." The scribe said to him, "Well said, teacher. You are right in saying, He is One and there is no other than he. And to love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices." And when Jesus saw that he answered with understanding, he said to him, "You are not far from the Kingdom of God." And no one dared to ask him any more questions.
Reflection by Kim Duhé, Educational Technologist
I feel like the best way to begin this reflection is to say that, unequivocally, today's Gospel should end with a mic drop ... BOOM!!!
After Jesus gave his answer, what more could they have wanted him to say?
The scribes thought they were so tricky and that they could catch Jesus saying that one or another of the commandments was the most important. Then they could find fault in whichever one Jesus chose. Jesus was way more savvy to their tricks, and he presented them with an answer that encompassed and superseded the original list of ten commandments.
Jesus succinctly covered commandments one through three - Love God with the very fiber of your being. If we do that, how could anything be more important than remembering God in our daily lives, keeping God's commandments, and spending time with God in communal worship and praise?
Then Jesus covered commandments 4-10 in a seemingly simple second command - "Love your neighbor as you love yourself." Depending on the day, we may struggle to love anyone, even ourselves. Sometimes we allow ourselves to become self absorbed and only concerned with how things will affect our own lives and the people closest to us. But our loving God - who created us out of love and to love - offers us unconditional love and if we heed Jesus' command, how could we continue to do less to our neighbors (and Jesus already told us who our neighbor is in Luke 10:25-37). If we love them, we can't lie, cheat, steal, feel jealous towards, subjugate, demean or dehumanize our neighbors.
So to put it simply, love God with everything in you, and love your neighbor as much as you love yourself.
It really is that simple-- yet also that challenging. Daily I struggle to make time for God, to be kind and loving towards everyone, to take time to thank God for the many gifts I have, to forgive those who offend me or try my patience. Some days I am not very good at being good.
However, if we learn to follow those two seemingly simple commandments, love God and love your neighbor, then perhaps Jesus will tell us, "You are not far from the Kingdom of God."
"And no one dared to ask him any more questions" -- mic drop ... BOOM!!!
Lenten Reflection: March 21
Jesus addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else. "Two people went up to the temple area to pray; one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector. The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself, 'O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity — greedy, dishonest, adulterous — or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.' But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, 'O God, be merciful to me, a sinner.' I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted."
Reflection by Kaitlyn Johnson, Religion Teacher
Today, March 1st, weeks before the day this passage is gifted to us by the Church, I had a bit of a Pharisee moment. You see, Lent for me has not started out in the way I would like. Things have been a little crazy, making it difficult for me to enter fully into this Lenten season. It has been really easy to look around at what is bothering me about everyone else instead of what I myself am doing wrong or struggling with. And today as I sat in Mass I saw myself falling into this trap, which often pops up. I was distracted by a girl my age who was obviously struggling with her baby who wanted terribly to sing along with the cantor. And I couldn't seem to stop thinking about this young woman's story. Why is she here each week with her baby without the help of the baby's father? Why does she come to Mass when she is clearly not getting much out of it, as she is mostly distracted by her daughter? Curiosity and even judgment filled my head. But why do we tend to let this be our response to others? Why do we condemn and complain and put down others? I think it is because it hurts to look at our own failures.
It is hard to reflect on what we're doing wrong, isn't it? It's hard to admit that we are the hot messes we are. It is much easier to complain about the people who are "making our lives more difficult," be that our parents, friends, spouses, teachers, employers, classmates, coworkers, etc. But here's the thing...in this passage, Jesus commands us to be like the TAX COLLECTOR. This may not seem like a big deal at first sight, but during this time the tax collectors were the least of the least. They were members of the Jewish community who betrayed their family and friends. They stole and they cheated and as a result they were not exactly favored by others in their community. Those who heard Jesus actually speak these words would have been scandalized! Anybody but the tax collector! Yet, we often respond in this exact same way!! It is much easier to point out the flaws of others instead of recognizing our own. It is easier to canonize ourselves and thank God for the gifts He has given instead of stopping and recognizing our wretchedness - our NEED for Him. However, this season of Lent is really a gift BECAUSE it allows us a time to reflect on our littleness...to remind us of our neediness. It is a time to recognize what makes us unworthy of standing near God, yet to stand humbly before Him anyway and offer what we have saying, "O God, be merciful to me, a sinner." And the beautiful thing is that to the Pharisee (who believes he has all he needs) God does not offer much, but to the tax collector (who knows he has nothing to offer) God offers EVERYTHING.
So today and the rest of this Lenten season, I encourage you...be the tax collector. Do not be afraid of your mess. Take it courageously into your hands and simply offer it to your Father who DELIGHTS in your littleness. He loves the little one who comes to Him and He will hold your hand and guide you directly into the Kingdom. Be not afraid and watch the freedom that comes!