Daily Scripture Reflections for the 4th Week of Lent
Below are brief reflections on the weekday Gospel written by our pastoral staff, which consists of Msgr. Duncan, Fr. Pham, Deacon Morris, Mr. DeMent, Mr. Mueller, & Mrs. Regan. As reflections are posted, you'll be able to access them by clicking the "Read" button to the right. The Gospel itself may be accessed by clicking on the scriptural citation found at the top of each reflection.
Monday, March 30, 2020: Monday of the Fifth Week of Lent
We have entered that period known as Passiontide. Traditionally, Crucifixes and statues are covered in purple cloth so that our eyes “fast” from those sacred images which mean so much to our devotional life. With the current coronavirus situation, we have a different “fasting” imposed upon us in order to keep people safe and in order to contain the spread of the virus. We are asked to remain patient and understanding until that day when we can be together again for the celebration of Mass. Meanwhile, our Church remains open for visits to the Blessed Sacrament on weekdays from 9:00 A.M. until 4:00 P.M., on Saturdays until 5:00 P.M., and on Sundays from 10:30 A.M. until 3:00 P.M.
Saint John the Evangelist describes the very moving episode in the life of Jesus when a woman caught in adultery was brought to Jesus to judge her case. Humiliated before everyone and shamed by the scribes and Pharisees, the woman is exposed by heartless men who merely want to use her to trap Jesus. Imagine how that woman felt, knowing that she faced a sentence of death! But, instead, she was able to look into the merciful eyes of Jesus. Our Lord called out everyone: “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” After her accusers slipped away, the woman is left alone with Jesus, who acknowledge the woman’s sin, but sent her away forgiven and with a new beginning: “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.”
This beautiful passage is for us a stirring reminder of the Sacrament of Penance. We sinners approach the sacrament weighed down by the burden of our sins. But instead of judgment, we find, through the ministry of the priest, the merciful gaze of Jesus. There, He waits with great eagerness to forgive us! After we confess our sins, Jesus forgives us through the absolution spoken by the priest. There, Jesus also tells: “Go, and from now on do not sin anymore!” (Confessions are heard –in the main Church – on Saturday afternoons from 4:00 to 4:45 and on Tuesday evenings from 7:00 to 7:45.) Pope Francis recently stated: “Lent always focuses on this conversion of the heart which, in Christian practice, takes shape in the sacrament of confession” (March 20, 2020).
Tuesday, March 31, 2020: Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Lent
During this Coronavirus Pandemic, some of us may ask: How can there be an all-loving and an all-powerful God if there is so much suffering and evil in our world? This is the most difficult religious question. We don’t understand why God does not act immediately to help people in this crisis.
There have been many attempts to answer this question. Harold Kushner (When Bad Things Happen to Good People) believes that God would help us if he could, but God isn’t all-powerful. Innocent suffering exists because God cannot stop it. Peter Kreeft, CS Lewis, and Teilhard de Chardin use Christian theology to defend God saying God respects our freedom. He gives us freedom and refuses to violate it, even when it would seem beneficial to do so.
In the gospel of this 4th Sunday of Lent, Jesus reveals to us that God is not so much a rescuing God as a redeeming one. God does not protect us from pain, but instead enters it and ultimately redeems it. We see this in the story of the death of Lazarus. The sisters of Lazarus, Martha and Mary, send word to Jesus telling him that Lazarus is gravely ill. Jesus is not far away but he does not immediately rush off to see Lazarus. Instead he waits until Lazarus is dead, and then sets off to see him. When Martha sees Jesus she says to him: “If you had been here, my brother would not have died!” That means “Why didn’t you come and heal him?” Jesus does not answer her question but instead assures her that her brother will live.
When Mary arrives she asks the same question. This is also our question. We want to know where God is when innocent people suffer. For the second time, Jesus does not engage the question; instead he becomes distressed and asks: “Where have you put him?” When Jesus sees people weep for Lazarus he begins to weep. This is his answer to suffering: he enters into peoples’ helplessness, hardship and pain then raises Lazarus from the dead for the glory of God.
The God we believe in doesn’t necessarily intervene and rescue us from suffering and death (although we are invited to pray for that). Instead he redeems our suffering afterwards. The only answer to the question of suffering and evil is the one Jesus gave to Mary and Martha. God wants to share our hardship, helplessness, distress, and tears to show his glory. God wants us to trust in him because he is all-loving and all-powerful, and someday he will redeem us. Nothing else can give us a better answer than this.
Wednesday, April 1, 2020: Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Lent
In today’s first reading from the book of Daniel we read about how Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego enraged the Babylonian King Nebbuchanezzar by not worshiping his false god. He threatened the men with being thrown into a “white-hot furnace” for not submitting to his command. He mocked the three men and questioned “who is the God who can deliver you out of my hands?”
The men did not put up a defense against the king but rather expressed their faith in the one true God. They yielded their bodies to the king and were thrown into the furnace but not before saying something rather extraordinary.
“If our God, whom we serve, can save us from the white-hot furnace and from your hands, O king may he save us! But even if he will not, know, O king, that we will not serve your god or worship the golden statue that you set up.”
Upon hearing this profession of faith from the three men, King Nebbuchanezzar cast them into the furnace. The men were then seen walking in the fire, unharmed with a fourth man who looked “like the son of God.” The king exclaimed “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego who sent his angel to deliver the servants who trusted in him..” I guess you could say the king had a conversion of sorts.
During this penitential season of Lent, may we ask God’s forgiveness for the times we have bent our knees to the gods of this world and failed to follow the example of faith professed by these Old Testament men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. It is during these most difficult times that we must place our full trust in God's deliverance and look forward to celebrating his resurrection at Easter.
Give God the Glory.
Thursday, April 2, 2020: Thursday of the Fifth Week of Lent
In today’s First Reading from Genesis, we hear many “I Statements” from the Lord God in the form of promises to his people, saying “I will make you fertile”, “I will make nations of you”, “I will maintain my covenant”, “I will give to you and your descendants land”, and “I will be their God”. These promises made to Abraham make up the first covenant between the Lord and His people.
In our Gospel reading today, we hear a different type of “I Statement”, albeit no less powerful. We read today of Jesus referring to Himself as “I AM”, even “before Abraham came to be.” Jesus is asking the Jews not just to have faith in God, but also to have faith in Him, because it will be through His Cross that the Lord will make a new and everlasting covenant, the fulfillment of the Lord’s promises to us.
Our God is one of promise and love. The Lord God has made many promises to us throughout history, and He is always remains faithful to those promises. How often, though, do we grow weary and impatient as we wait for the Lord to fulfill His promises? How often do we try to take matters into our own hands as we desperately try to take control of our own lives? In times of trial and uncertainty, in times when we have grown weary of waiting for the Lord, we must have faith that the Lord does indeed hear all of our prayers, and He always answers them, but we must also remember that the ways of the Lord are not our ways and that He will fulfill His promises to us in His time and according to His plan for us.
Today marks the 15th anniversary of the death of Pope St. John Paul II, one of the greatest saints of our time! John Paul’s papacy, and even his personal life, were certainly not easy! However, John Paul’s greatness was rooted in this very truth, that our God never forgets His promises or forsakes His people, and He always remains faithful! “The God of creation is revealed as the God of redemption, as the God who is "faithful to Himself", and faithful to His love for man and the world, which He revealed on the day of creation.” (Redemptor hominis, 9). Today, let us remember that God is always faithful to us, and through the intercession of St. John Paul II, let us be steadfast in our resolve to remain faithful to God and His will for us, even when it is very difficult!
Jonanthan DeMent - Director of Youth Ministry
Friday, April 3, 2020: Friday of the Fifth Week of Lent
Once again we see the tension building as the threat to Jesus' life becomes real. Always lurking in the backdrop of the Gospels is Jesus' death. He foreshadows it with predictions, yes, but now we are getting a glimpse of the reality on the ground. His opponents mean to kill him, and for what? Blasphemy. He is equating himself with God when he says, "I and the Father are one" (Jn 10:30). Blasphemy was punishable by stoning and it was the only offense punishable by death.
The reaction of the crowd is fierce, but it is clearly based on misunderstanding. We can only know that Jesus is God through divine revelation. That is to say, only by means of God making it known to us. Like many in the world today, there were those in the First Century who rejected this revelation. They understand clearly what Jesus is claiming, but they misinterpret it as blasphemy, and the reason for their interpretation is because they see Jesus as nothing more than a man.
This is significant for us in modern times as we experience a concerted effort by various groups to "debunk" the resurrection story in an attempt to reduce Jesus to a good man, a holy guru, a moral teacher, or just one of many religious figures of times past. C.S. Lewis is quoted as saying, "A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic–on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg–or else he would be the Devil of Hell [i.e., a liar]. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse… You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to."
Take a moment to ponder that this week as we prepare to enter into Holy Week. Who is Jesus to you? Is he Lord of your life? Is he God? And if we believe what God has revealed, i.e., Jesus is God enfleshed, then what Jesus says and does is a matter of eternal significance for us. We cannot parse our way through the Gospels and pick and choose what we will believe and what we will reject. Likewise, when it comes to divinely revealed doctrine, we cannot pick and choose what teachings of the Church we will accept or reject because the Church is in Christ and is the visible Body of Christ. Just as man and woman become one in the sacrament of marriage. Jesus, the Bridegroom is one with his bride, the Church. To reject one is to reject the other.
Jesus challenges those who are questioning what he says to look at the signs they see so that they may come to realize that he is who he says he is – God. Jesus challenges us to do the same.
Dennis M. Mueller - Director of Religious Education
Saturday, April 4, 2020: Saturday of the Fifith Week of Lent
In today’s Gospel, the chief priests and Pharisees resolve that Jesus can no longer be left to his own devices. They viewed Jesus and his ministry as the end to life as they knew it. Furthermore, they saw Jesus’ message as leading to civil unrest. To many of his followers, his miracles were signs that he was sent by God. But the religious authorities saw the greatest of his signs, the raising of Lazarus, as the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Even if those arrayed against Jesus had pure intentions of protecting the people (an objective good), the means they are planning to take would never justify the intended results. In our own lives, we often act in a similar manner. We think we have license to act in accordance with particular sins because, in the end, goodness will win out. In short, we think we can sin with a good intention or for a good reason. This mindset violates the great principle of morality that one may never do evil so good may come of it. Addressing the morality of human acts, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “A good intention (for example, that of helping one's neighbor) does not make behavior that is intrinsically disordered, such as lying and calumny, good or just. The end does not justify the means. Thus, the condemnation of an innocent person cannot be justified as a legitimate means of saving the nation. On the other hand, an added bad intention [such as vanity or pride] makes an act evil that, in and of itself, can be good (such as almsgiving) (1753).
The plans of men are often futile compared to the mind of God. Jesus has gone about his Father’s business in spite of great danger and opposition. In unassuming, but masterful fashion, his life has been preserved, guided by the hand of his Father. The time is coming, though, for Jesus to be handed over to the authorities who despise him.
Jesus is the spotless Lamb of God unjustly led to the slaughter to save the people. The irony of the whole thing is tragic and staggering. The high priest has decided that Jesus must die to guarantee the peace and survival of Israel. God has spoken through Caiaphas, although he is unaware of the meaning of his own prophecy. Christ, the anointed one of God, will shed his blood for the sins of the world. By his very passion and death he will ensure everlasting peace and redemption, not under the empire of Rome, but within the Kingdom of God. A new Israel will be born: The Church.
Christine Regan - Director of Parish Services
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