Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Fifth Sunday in Lent

March 25, 2012
2 Chronicles 36:14-16, 19-23; Psalm 137; Ephesians 2:4-10; John 3:14-21

                Parishes with catechumen who will be baptized at the Easter Vigil celebrate the Third Scrutiny today. (An alternate set of readings for Year A can be used: Ezekiel 37, Romans 8, John 11.)
          The divine plan's final piece is in place for Jesus to be glorified through his Passion when some Greeks come to worship at the Passover feast. They want to see Jesus. The Evangelist John tells us that these Greeks represent the entire Gentile world fulfilling the belief that all peoples will recognize Christ as the world's Light. The Greeks come to Jerusalem because they recognize him as the Messiah. One purpose of Christ's presence in the world was to gather up everyone to himself for the Father. Once this happens, the "hour" of Jesus can begin. The early conversation in the Gospel is awkward. The Greeks approach Philip who brings him to Andrew, a close disciple of Jesus. Together, they bring them to Jesus, but Jesus answers a different question. He realizes his "hour" has finally come when he will be glorified by the Father.

          Jesus realizes that being glorified by the Father means that he will suffer greatly through crucifixion. He does not want to suffer, but accepts it as his fate. The portrait painted of Jesus by John is that he is in full control of the unfolding events. Therefore, Jesus acknowledges that he will die in a cruel way, but he can brace himself up to get through it because it is all part of the divine plan. It would be cowardly for him to ask the Father to take suffering away from him. He is to be lifted up so he can draw everyone to himself.

          Pastorally, the suffering of Jesus in John's Gospel does not help people move through their own trials and tribulations because his humanity is overshadowed by his divinity. Jesus is portrayed as God within a human. He is omniscient and is the eternal Logos and Lady Wisdom incarnate. In this view, he is separate from our suffering. The Letter to the Hebrews gives us a helpful view of his humanity. It simply tells us that Jesus prayed hard and petitioned God with loud cries and tears. In other words, Jesus feared his death as we fear ours; he flinched when faced with pain just as we do. He did not want to die though he concluded that it would be his fate. Because of his reverence, God heard his cries. Jesus learned obedience from his suffering. Because of his faith, those who obey him are saved.

          It is helpful to view Jesus fully as a man as the author of Hebrew describes. If we lose the reality of his humanity in his earthly life, we've lost the point of his mission. Because he was so much like us, we are to imitate his life. He gave us a model for living as full a life as is possible. Therefore, when we struggle, we are to pour out our hearts to God because pain simply hurts. It does no one any good to hold it in. Pain is to be shared. Suffering isolates us and we need to stay connected to the one who hears us and saves us. Especially in our suffering, we want to be seen and known and heard by God.

          Jesus was vindicated because of his fidelity that led him to the unfortunate Cross. His teachings, healings, deeds, and viewpoints were validated by God in the resurrection and are set up as a model for us to emulate. When we read the first reading from Jeremiah in this context, we see that Jesus is the fulfillment of the new covenant. The covenant that was brought about by fidelity to the Law is now replaced with a new knowledge of the Lord. All people shall come to know God through Jesus and will receive the gifts of salvation, which brings about the blotting out of the memory of sins. Jesus will not stop offering his cries and prayers to God until everyone has been restored to God. His mission of gathering up continues until everyone is brought home. Jesus will remain faithful to his mission - because he cannot act otherwise. His "hour" has come. This is truly good news.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading:  (Annunciation: The Lord instructed the prophet Ahaz to ask for a sign, but Ahaz held his ground and would not tempt the Lord. Isaiah then reported, "the Lord will give you a sign" the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel.") In Numbers, the people grumbled that Moses took them out of Egypt and placed them in harm's way in the desert. The people were bitten by snakes; Moses made a bronze serpent and lifted it up so that we stricken people gazed upon it, they would be saved. In Daniel, King Nebuchadnezzar sent Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego into the fiery furnace because they would not worship is god; when the King saw a fourth man standing in the furnace with the three unharmed men, he let them go serve their own god. In Genesis, Abram is renamed Abraham when the covenant was given to him; long life, descendents. and a promised land was their reward. In Jeremiah, the innocent man was tested from terror on every side; the faithful one prevails with the Lord's steadfastness. In Ezekiel, God will take all the children of Israel from all dispersed lands and will make then one nation upon the land; He will be their God and never again will their nation be divided into two kingdoms. They shall have one shepherd and a covenant of peace.

Gospel: Early in John's Gospel, Jesus is speaking to the Pharisees of going away to a place where the Jews will not be invited because they cannot see that Jesus is the same as the Father. They remain confused and condemn him. Those who believe in the words of Jesus will know the truth and will be set free. The Jews fail to understand because, as descendents of Abraham, they have never been enslaved to anyone. The Jews speak of Abraham as their Father while Jesus speaks of God as Father. Confusion reigns. Jesus states that his followers will never see death, and the Jews see it as physical death. Jesus confuses them more by telling him Abraham rejoiced to see his day come. Jesus notes that he pre-existed Abraham because he and the Father are one. The Jews want to stone Jesus for blasphemy. Jesus points to his works as proof that they are of the Father. The works testify to their origins. The Jews want to arrest him so Jesus withdraws to the place where John first baptized for protection. Many came to see him and believed in him.

The Pharisees collude with the Sanhedrin and other religious authorities because they fear the influence Jesus has on the multitudes. They decided it was better for one man to die instead of the people so that the whole nation will not perish. They planned to kill him. Jesus no longer walked about in public, but stayed in the desert town of Ephraim. The Sanhedrin waited for him because the Passover was near. They knew he would come to the feast.

Saints of the Week

March 26: The Annunciation of the Lord celebrates the announcement that God chose to unite divinity with humanity at the conception of Jesus. God sent the angel Gabriel to Mary to inform her of God’s intentions to have her conceive the future Messiah. The boy’s name was to be Jesus – meaning “God saves.” This date falls nine months before Christmas Day.

The Annunciation falls on March 25th unless it is preempted by the Lord's Day or other major feast. It is transferred to the next available day.

This Week in Jesuit History

·         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.
·         March 28, 1606: At the Guildhall, London, the trial of Fr. Henry Garnet, falsely accused of complicity in the Gunpowder Plot.
·         March 29, 1523: Ignatius' first visit to Rome on his way from Manresa to Palestine.
·         March 30, 1545: At Meliapore, Francis Xavier came on pilgrimage to the tomb of St. Thomas the Apostle.
·         March 31, 1548: Fr. Anthony Corduba, rector of the College of Salamanca, begged Ignatius to admit him into the Society so as to escape the cardinalate which Charles V intended to procure for him.