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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Fifth Sunday of Lent

March 21, 2010

We need laws. We also need people to test the limits of the law so that it reflects the changing beliefs of our community, and we need judges who skillfully interpret the laws, which may challenge us and make us reflect upon who we are as a diverse people. We have an ambiguous relationship with the law; at times, we like it and uphold it, at other times, we disregard it without much consideration. We hold onto parts of the law that may advance our particular argument and then we don’t give much weight to another aspect of a law that doesn’t help our case. We are fickle. Personally, we so much desire mercy for ourselves and our wrongdoings, but we may want to exact harsh punishment for others who have transgressed or have erred repeatedly. How can we bring balance to our standards?

Jesus becomes an extraordinary judge as he is teaching at the temple when the elders and people bring in a woman caught in adultery. The Mosaic Law is clear and the woman (and her absent male partner) has committed adultery – a weighty sin against relationships. Jesus is acting as the new Moses, writing in the sand just as God wrote the Ten Commandments and delivered them to Moses. The implication is that Jesus is greater than Moses, the revered patriarch, and that the law and its judgments are fulfilled in him. So what kind of judgment will he make in this clear-cut case? Compassion. Mercy. Forgiveness. No condemnation, but a command to live in right relationship with one’s neighbor by sinning no more. The elders and the people are silenced as they realize the long-awaited merciful judgment of God through Jesus. God’s forgiveness opens us up to a new way of life. When we give this gift of reconciliation to others, we mirrors God’s modeling of judgment. We become a new creation when we forgive or allow ourselves to be forgiven.

The first reading asks us to remember not the events of the past, but to live in the redeemed world of today. “See, I am doing something new,” says the Lord. This is an indication that we ought not to hold on to those ways we have transgressed another’s boundaries or they ours. Once our sins are forgiven, we are free from our history, but we have to find ways to keep on living in the path of right relations. We do that when we imitate Paul in the second reading, “I consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” Our righteousness does not come from the law but from through faith in Christ. When we believe in him and the power of his resurrection, we find ourselves free from the law and able to do incredible and surprising good – maybe even forgiving someone of a grievous sin done to us.

In the Blog this week: Five Part Series on the History of Sin, Poem on the Annunciation, Poem called Fiat, and The Canticle of the Sun by Francis of Assisi.

Quote for the Week

From Isaiah 7:10-14; 8:10, the first reading for the Annunciation of the Lord (Thursday).

“The Lord spoke at Ahaz, saying: Ask for a sign from the Lord, your God; let it be deep as the netherworld, or high as the sky! But Ahaz answered, “I will not ask! I will not tempt the Lord!” The Isaiah said: Listen, O house of David! Is it not enough for you to weary people, must you also weary my God? Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel, which means “God is with us!”

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: The readings for this week are signposts for the Passion of Jesus. We begin with Daniel’s apocryphal account of the innocent Susanna who is condemned to death by false accusations. In Numbers, Moses makes a bronze serpent with healing properties for those bitten by deadly snakes. Those who gaze upon it will live. Back in Daniel, the Lord sends an angel to deliver Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from Nebuchadnezzar’s scorching fire. Jeremiah tells of the solitary suffering one who leans upon the Lord from deliverance from enemies who used to be his friends. In Ezekiel, the Lord God calls the children of Israel to return into a united family; they shall be made holy and the covenant will stand.

Gospel: We continue with John 8 when Jesus calls himself the light of the world as the Pharisees are desperately trying to figure out the source of his authority. He continues, “When you lift up the Son of Man, you will realize that I AM he.” To the Jews, he says that they will die in their sin, but if they believe in him they will become free. Irate, the Jews want to stone Jesus and arrest him, but he eludes them because his hour has not yet come. Jesus retires to the Jordan River, but the Sanhedrin plotted to kill Jesus according to Caiaphas’ prophesy: Jesus was going to die for the nation, and not only for the nation, but also to gather into one the dispersed children of God.

Saints of the Week

Tuesday: Toribio of Mogrovejo was a law professor in Salamanca, Spain and the chief judge of the Inquisition in Granada. Pope Pius V ordained him (as a layman) as archbishop and sent him to Peru. Toribio was appalled at the conducted of the European colonizers who oppressed the native populations. He sided with the natives and set up schools, hospitals, and churches to serve the needs of the people.

Thursday: The Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord is celebrated today as the conception of Jesus to the Virgin Mary. The plan of redemption of the world begins with Mary’s “Yes” to God. The incarnation is celebrated nine months later. Mary becomes the mother of our Redeemer, both man and God.

This Week in Jesuit History

• Mar 21, 1768. In Spain, at a special meeting of the Council of State in the presence of King Charles III, the Suppression of the Society was urged on the pretense that it was independent of the bishops, that it plotted against the State, and that it was lax in its teaching.
• March 22, 1585: In Rome, the three Japanese ambassadors were received by Fr. General with great solemnity in the Society's Church of the Gesu.
• March 23, 1772: At Rome, Cardinal Marefoschi held a visitation of the Irish College and accused the Jesuits of mismanagement. They were removed by him from the direction of that establishment.
• March 24, 1578: At Lisbon Rodolf Acquaviva and 13 companions embarked for India. Among the companions were Matteo Ricci and Michael Ruggieri.
• March 25, 1563: The first Sodality of Our Lady, Prima Primaria, was begun in the Roman College by a young Belgian Jesuit named John Leunis (Leonius).
• March 26, 1553: Ignatius of Loyola's letter on obedience was sent to the Jesuits of Portugal.
• March 27, 1587: At Messina died Fr. Thomas Evans, an Englishman at 29. He had suffered imprisonment for his defense of the Catholic faith in England.

Environment and Symbols during Lent

In Lent, we simplify the environment of the church by eliminating flowers and most plants and bringing a more austere environment to the church. The vestment colors are primarily purple to signal a penitential mood, except for Laetare Sunday is which a mauve or rose colored vestment is used to highlight a celebratory tone that Lent is almost over. The sober environment of Lent stands in contrast to the celebratory atmosphere of Easter.


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