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Lenten Reflections - Week 5
Lenten Reflections - Week 5

Saturday, April 1 - JN 7:40-53

Some in the crowd who heard these words said, "This is truly the Prophet." Others said, "This is the Messiah." But others said, "The Messiah will not come from Galilee, will he? Does not scripture say that the Messiah will be of David's family and come from Bethlehem, the village where David lived?" So a division occurred in the crowd because of him. Some of them even wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him. So the guards went to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked them, "Why did you not bring him?" The guards answered, "Never before has anyone spoken like this one." So the Pharisees answered them, "Have you also been deceived? Have any of the authorities or the Pharisees believed in him? But this crowd, which does not know the law, is accursed." Nicodemus, one of their members who had come to him earlier, said to them, "Does our law condemn a person before it first hears him and finds out what he is doing?" They answered and said to him, "You are not from Galilee also, are you? Look and see that no prophet arises from Galilee."

Reflection by Beth Ann Simno

These past few weeks the gospel messages have taught us about not judging others and to forgive.

As I read this passage all I kept on hearing . . .

"Love one another as I have loved you." A scripture passage which I remind our school community about often. This is what life is about . . . loving one another with no exceptions, no judgments of any way, shape, or form. This is not what was happening in this gospel since people were saying the Messiah could not come from Galilee, but must come from Bethlehem. How little they knew about Jesus. As Nicodemus said, "Does our law condemn a person before it first hears him and finds out what he is doing?" This is what we are doing when we sit at the lunch table, during a coffee break at work, or in a casual conversation and make judgments about others or when we post something on social media that isn't kind.

The other scripture passages I kept on hearing are:

"I am the way, the truth, and the light." and "Whoever comes to me shall have eternal life."

How much simpler can it be? These words are not written as such in this gospel message, but this is it! If we truly live our lives as Jesus lived - loving one another, not being judgmental, forgiving those who have trespassed against us, and we look at the person next to us as if they are the face of Jesus, we will be living our lives as Jesus did. "Jesus, the way, the truth, and the light, we long to see your face."

Friday, March 31 - JN 7:1-2,10,25-30

Jesus moved about within Galilee; he did not wish to travel in Judea, because the Jews were trying to kill him. But the Jewish feast of Tabernacles was near. But when his brothers had gone up to the feast, he himself also went up, not openly but as it were in secret. Some of the inhabitants of Jerusalem said, "Is he not the one they are trying to kill? And look, he is speaking openly and they say nothing to him. Could the authorities have realized that he is the Christ? But we know where he is from. When the Christ comes, no one will know where he is from." So Jesus cried out in the temple area as he was teaching and said, "You know me and also know where I am from. Yet I did not come on my own, but the one who sent me, whom you do not know, is true. I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me." So they tried to arrest him, but no one laid a hand upon him, because his hour had not yet come.

Reflection by Sr. Mary Ellen Wheelahan O.Carm

Jesus went out among the people openly!

I have to ask myself when I interact with other people if I am speaking openly about God and my faith. Jesus knew he had to speak in the temple area even though there were some who wanted him arrested.

Our call, if we accept the challenge, is to live the gospel and speak the message of Jesus in our families, in school, and among friends. We are sometimes hesitant to speak and share our faith for fear of what someone may say, for fear of how it will be received, or even for fear of rejection. It is always necessary to pray for the graces needed to follow in the steps of Jesus.

Speaking openly about our faith will always be our challenge. Walking with those who are suffering, speaking out for those who are being ostracized or bullied, being present to someone who is in pain is our way of traveling the road with Jesus. I want people to witness by life and say, "I know where she comes from, I know she is Carmel, I know she is a woman of faith."

Thursday, March 30 - JN 5:31-47

Jesus said to the Jews: "If I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is not true. But there is another who testifies on my behalf, and I know that the testimony he gives on my behalf is true. You sent emissaries to John, and he testified to the truth. I do not accept human testimony, but I say this so that you may be saved. He was a burning and shining lamp, and for a while you were content to rejoice in his light. But I have testimony greater than John's. The works that the Father gave me to accomplish, these works that I perform testify on my behalf that the Father has sent me. Moreover, the Father who sent me has testified on my behalf. But you have never heard his voice nor seen his form, and you do not have his word remaining in you, because you do not believe in the one whom he has sent. You search the Scriptures, because you think you have eternal life through them; even they testify on my behalf. But you do not want to come to me to have life. "I do not accept human praise; moreover, I know that you do not have the love of God in you. I came in the name of my Father, but you do not accept me; yet if another comes in his own name, you will accept him. How can you believe, when you accept praise from one another and do not seek the praise that comes from the only God? Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father: the one who will accuse you is Moses, in whom you have placed your hope. For if you had believed Moses, you would have believed me, because he wrote about me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?"

Reflection by Kristi Jacobs

I've read, and re-read this gospel to prepare for this reflection. The word "testify" appears a total of ten times throughout the verses. So it seems I should focus on bearing witness to Jesus, however there is a verse that I keep coming back to..."How can you believe, when you accept praise from one another and do not seek the praise that comes from the only God?"

I spent the last several days at the Louisiana High School Speech League Tournament of Champions as my students competed in Speech & Debate categories. All of the students there hoping to walk away a member of the All State Speech Team. For every round the students compete a ballot is filled out by a judge offering them praise for what they've done well, and suggestions on what they could do better. The students spend much of the school year preparing for this tournament by competing at local tournaments where they receive ballots with praises and suggestions.

We all hope for praise of our good works. We want our boss to acknowledge when we've done a good job, our teacher to write positive comments on our papers, our parents to be proud of our accomplishments, and on and on. Ultimately this praise means nothing. Sure we feel really great for a day, sometimes a couple of weeks, maybe even a month, but eventually the euphoria wears off. We are back to seeking a pat on the back for our next job well done.

We should be living our lives for the praise and the glory of God. Everything we do should be in his name. If we are focused on what other people think about what we say and do we aren't able to focus on living a Christ-like-life. Our energy and attention should be put towards doing good in his name. At the conclusion of the Tournament of Champions we didn't have any members of the All State Speech Team. I was disappointed and saddened by this outcome immediately thinking of the lack of praise my team and I would receive. Then I came back to this gospel.

Wednesday, March 29 - JN 5:17-30

Jesus answered the Jews: "My Father is at work until now, so I am at work." For this reason they tried all the more to kill him, because he not only broke the sabbath but he also called God his own father, making himself equal to God. Jesus answered and said to them, "Amen, amen, I say to you, a Son cannot do anything on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for what he does, the Son will do also. For the Father loves the Son and shows him everything that he himself does, and he will show him greater works than these, so that you may be amazed. For just as the Father raises the dead and gives life, so also does the Son give life to whomever he wishes. Nor does the Father judge anyone, but he has given all judgment to the Son, so that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes in the one who sent me has eternal life and will not come to condemnation, but has passed from death to life. Amen, amen, I say to you, the hour is coming and is now here when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For just as the Father has life in himself, so also he gave to the Son the possession of life in himself. And he gave him power to exercise judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Do not be amazed at this, because the hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and will come out, those who have done good deeds to the resurrection of life, but those who have done wicked deeds to the resurrection of condemnation. "I cannot do anything on my own; I judge as I hear, and my judgment is just, because I do not seek my own will but the will of the one who sent me."

Reflection by Seth Fox - "The Father and the Son"

As an English teacher, I have a special love for analyzing word choice. As someone who lacks the basic social skills necessary for accurately reading non-verbal cues or picking up any sort of verbal subtext, I also like it when someone spares me some mental gymnastics and just comes out and tells me what I'm supposed to know or do. Today's gospel is, for me then, the best combination of the subtle and the direct.

Jesus has just been reproached for daring to work a miracle on the sabbath and compounds the issue by having the audacity to justify it by stating that he is the son of God. The language of Jesus' answer is fascinating. It appears as though he is launching into one of his trademark parables: "...a son cannot do anything on his own, but only what he sees his father doing." This immediately rings true as I am reminded of my own sons' behavior. I hope that when my older son insists on saying Grace before I so much as sneak a bite of French fry that it is somehow as much a reflection of me as it is when he spends the day repeating a word I shouldn't have said in front of him (or said at all).

But Jesus immediately kills the notion that this will be a parable. He switches from "a son" and "his father" to "the son" and "the father," for the remainder of his answer, indicating that he is no longer speaking in analogy but is referring to two, and only two, specific people. He then spells out two ideas as clearly as they can be said: His work and our work. He is there (and here) on behalf of His Father to bring life and just judgment to the world. Our work is to believe and honor the Son as we honor His Father so that we can have eternal life.

When one of my students gives an answer that is as clear and concise as the one Jesus gives the angry crowd here, I tell the class, "I hope you all heard that because if I try to restate it, I'll only make it worse." I will now offer Him the same courtesy.

Tuesday, March 28 - JN 5:1-16

There was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem at the Sheep Gate a pool called in Hebrew Bethesda, with five porticoes. In these lay a large number of ill, blind, lame, and crippled. One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been ill for a long time, he said to him, "Do you want to be well?" The sick man answered him, "Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; while I am on my way, someone else gets down there before me." Jesus said to him, "Rise, take up your mat, and walk." Immediately the man became well, took up his mat, and walked. Now that day was a sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who was cured, "It is the sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to carry your mat." He answered them, "The man who made me well told me, 'Take up your mat and walk.'" They asked him, "Who is the man who told you, 'Take it up and walk'?" The man who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had slipped away, since there was a crowd there. After this Jesus found him in the temple area and said to him, "Look, you are well; do not sin any more, so that nothing worse may happen to you." The man went and told the Jews that Jesus was the one who had made him well. Therefore, the Jews began to persecute Jesus because he did this on a sabbath.

Reflection by Christine Johnson - "Pray Anyway"

I have to admit that if I were the sick man in this passage, I would likely be a little annoyed by Jesus' question: "Do you want to be well?". I can hear myself, in all my unfiltered frustration, replying with something along the lines of "No thanks Jesus. I have SO enjoyed being sick for 38 years that I thought I'd just come sit on the side of the healing waters".

Praise God in all His infinite wisdom that I am not a character in any of the Gospels.

This story reminds me, however, of a lesson I learned in my early 20's—there is power in speaking your needs. Jesus knew the man wanted to be healed. He knew this man had been trying to reach the pool only to be blocked by others who were similarly desperate for the restorative waters. He asked anyway.

I used to pray with the simple words, "God, you know what's on my heart. Please help." While there may be beauty in that kind of trust and brevity, I now imagine God replying with, "Well yes, I know your needs, but do YOU?" I try to remind myself that prayer is not for God's benefit but for ours. It is a chance for us to speak into existence all of those things for which we are thankful, fearful, resentful, or remorseful. God knows what I need. I pray anyway.

This lesson, by the way, does not apply only to prayer. Just like the sick man, we too may be encouraged to share our needs with another even if it seems that they cannot possibly help. Our reading today gives us an example of the wonderful surprise that can happen when we make our needs known. The sick man, after all, didn't ask for Jesus to heal him—all he wanted was someone to help him into the water. Imagine his astonishment when Jesus instead completely healed his ailments!

The sick man could have never anticipated Jesus' response. Similarly, we can never fully anticipate what another person has to offer. Maybe they have been through our struggle before. Maybe they know something we don't. Maybe there is consolation to be found in simply being heard. Or maybe we are speaking to the one person who will say to us, "Rise, take up your mat, and walk."

Monday, March 27 - JN 4:43-54

At that time Jesus left [Samaria] for Galilee. For Jesus himself testified that a prophet has no honor in his native place. When he came into Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him, since they had seen all he had done in Jerusalem at the feast; for they themselves had gone to the feast. Then he returned to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine. Now there was a royal official whose son was ill in Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, who was near death. Jesus said to him, "Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will not believe." The royal official said to him, "Sir, come down before my child dies." Jesus said to him, "You may go; your son will live." The man believed what Jesus said to him and left. While the man was on his way back, his slaves met him and told him that his boy would live. He asked them when he began to recover. They told him, "The fever left him yesterday, about one in the afternoon." The father realized that just at that time Jesus had said to him, "Your son will live," and he and his whole household came to believe. Now this was the second sign Jesus did when he came to Galilee from Judea.

Reflection by Beth Anne Merida - "Fair Weather Fan"

Remember the way it felt on February 7, 2010 when the Saints won Superbowl XLIV against the Colts 31 to 17? It was the first Superbowl appearance and win in our beloved team's history. I remember the experience well. I sometimes think back to all the signs and wonders throughout the season that led up to that final victory in Florida's Sun Life Stadium. I remember going out to the airport to welcome home the team after away games. People lined up along the street like it was Mardi Gras: waving signs, chanting, and cheering as the players arrived. They returned home to the kinds of crowds that you might expect to greet royalty or celebrities or heroes. You know what I don't remember? One single thing really great thing about last season. There were no signs or wonders last season, and I certainly didn't make my way to the airport to welcome my team home. Looking at this objectively, I realize that this is not what a true fan does. A true fan roots for her team no matter what and never gives up hope. I have to wonder: am I a fair-weather friend to my home team? Am I really the kind of person who only shows support to the team when they are doing well; who only participates when I get something out of the interaction?

I imagine Jesus may have felt similarly when he returned to Galilee. After all, he "testified that a prophet has no honor in his native place." Jesus got back to his hometown after performing his first miracle, and found no crowds of people lined up along the road to welcome him, no cheers or applause. Just a fair-weather friend. The only greeting he received was an official who asked something of him (though in the scripture it sounds more like a demand). How must that have made Jesus feel? To me, the tone of his reply to the official, that people only believe when they "see signs and wonders" sounds pretty exasperated. Yet, through his unconditional love, Jesus still heals the man's child. He is certainly no fair-weather fan.

As we go through our daily lives, do we greet Jesus with demands for the things we want? Or do we welcome him with the love and thankfulness he deserves? I sometimes catch myself asking for a sign or making a request without stopping to think that maybe the question has already been answered. That maybe my need has already been satisfied, just as Jesus had already healed the royal official's son. I sometimes forget that I don't need any signs or wonder to believe in Jesus' redeeming love—for that promise is all around me. When I remember that, I go from fair-weather fan to true believer. Because the truth is, we are surrounded by wonder: like the flowers that bloom each year, the birds that sing, the challenges we overcome, and the students who bring me more joy today than they did the day before. These are things that a fair-weather friend may overlook: the daily blessings that Jesus has granted to each of us.

I want to welcome Jesus into my daily life the way that I welcomed the Saints home the night they won the Superbowl. I encourage you to join me in that number.