Monthly Archives: March 2013

Easter – Abundant Life

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Study:  Reflect on moments where you have experienced new life – in a relationship, in a position, in an opportunity.  Consider how your experience of new life can help you embrace the resurrection of Jesus

Pray:  Through the resurrection of Jesus Christ we have been freed from sin and death.  Take a moment in your prayer to thank God for this gift, and count your blessings.

Serve:  How might you bring the hope of new life to others?  How might your life bring life to those around you?

Easter Sunday Readings

All around us, we see signs of change as we enter the season of Spring.  The weather is (slowly) getting warmer, the snow is beginning to melt, and we await the rain to soften the earth and add much needed moisture to the ground.

These signs point to the simple fact that once again new life is bursting forth upon the land.  Spots of green start to appear on the countryside.  Flowers and plants begin to grow.  What was once dead has now been renewed.

The change of seasons shows us in a simple yet powerful way a fundamental truth in our world: out of death comes new life.  Around us we discover that from the cold and barren Winter, the earth is renewed through the annual cycle of life.  Death cannot last forever; it is shattered by the force and power of life – healing, restoring, and making all things new.

With this season of life comes new hope.  We see the changes in nature and respond with new vitality.  We want to get outside, enjoy the fresh air, maybe start a few projects (I said maybe…!), and live with a renewed sense of energy.  As we experience the signs of abundant life revealed in nature, we desire to take hold of our own lives – that we might live with a passion and intensity worthy of this wonderful gift.

Every year the Church celebrates the central mystery of our faith during this season of life.  Beyond his suffering and death on the Cross we celebrate the victory of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Through this redemption, we have been freed from two of our greatest fears, sin and death, and given the gift of abundant life.

As Christ rose from the dead, not even the grave could contain him, and his triumphant resurrection anchors our hope in eternal life.  We rejoice that through this mystery we now have a path to follow.  We know that death is not the final answer, we know that beyond the suffering and struggle of this life lies our hope in the abundant life of heaven.

Strengthened by our hope in Christ, we are invited to live this moment with our whole hearts.  Having received the gift of life, we are called to share that gift with love and joy, so that the abundant life of the resurrection may pour into this world as well.


Palm Sunday – The Cross of Christ

Station - Jesus in Crucified

Study: Read the Passion narrative again; put yourself in the drama of the Lord’s death. Stand with Mary at the foot of his cross.

Pray: Take time to gaze at the cross. Look beyond the art to the reality of the Lord’s passion. Dwell upon his wounds and thank him for his sacrifice.

Serve: Consider who is in need of healing in your life. Are there people who are carrying a heavy cross? Might you be like Simon of Cyrene – perhaps able to help them with a part of the load?

Palm Sunday Readings

How many times throughout our lives have we made the sign of the Cross? Stop and think: at Mass; meal prayers; morning & evening prayers; special gatherings; and moments of blessing and grace. This simple action, which we teach to children at an early age, invokes a connection with the passion of Jesus.

We adorn our homes with the Cross. A crucifix is a common gift to a new home; they are placed in bedrooms and common areas as a reminder that Jesus is the source of our help and strength.

We adorn ourselves with the Cross in many ways: a crucifix on a chain; a cross in our pocket; earrings; rings; bracelets; and all the extra cards, bookmarks, figurines, and miscellaneous items that remind us that Jesus died on a Cross.

The passion we read every year on this day focuses our attention on the central mystery of our faith. Out of love for us God sent Jesus, who gave his life on the Cross that we might have eternal life. Through his suffering and death, we recognize that God has made a pathway possible that we might all journey through this life to the gates of Heaven.

The Cross teaches us many lessons:
* Life is difficult, and at times painful
* Weakness and sin are part of our experience
* God identifies with our pain
* God dies that we might have life

At the core of our teaching the Cross stands as the testament of God’s love for us. On one hand the Cross is an embarrassment – after all, why would God (all powerful, all knowing, supreme) choose to be humiliated? Does that not mean that God is weak? Why could God not take away our sins in a way that showed majesty and splendor?

Yet on the other hand, the Cross is a statement that God meets us where we are in life. In our weakness, in our humiliation, in our low moments of doubt and sin God comes to us. Jesus, like us in every way but sin, understands our pain because through his Cross he shares in the suffering of the world. He knows us, and loves us even more.

Every time we make the sign of the Cross may we recall what the Lord endured for us. May the Cross be our strength as we trust in God’s love, and may we seek to follow that love as we journey through this life toward the world to come.


5th Sunday of Lent – Justice & Mercy

Flower

Study:  When have I truly experienced mercy from another person?  When have I been clearly in the wrong yet encountered understanding and compassion?

Pray:  Is there something in my life that needs God’s mercy?  Is there something or someone that I need God’s help to face?

Serve:  How can I practice mercy right now with someone in my life?

5th Sunday of Lent Readings

Teaching in the temple area, Jesus is confronted by the scribes and Pharisees with a woman (where is the man?) caught in adultery.  We are told that their intention is not justice, but to trap Jesus – so he can be arrested and silenced.

Here is the overview of John 8:1-11.
1           Jesus at the Mount of Olives
2          Jesus teaching in the temple area
3-6      Woman is brought to Jesus; Law is stated
7          Jesus writing on the ground
8          “Let the one without sin cast the first stone”
9          Everyone leaves; Jesus & the Woman alone
10        “Has no one condemned you?”
11        “No one, sir.”
“Neither do I…Go, and sin no more.”

Note that in this passage the Lord addresses two different groups.  The first group is composed of sinners.  His words to the scribes and Pharisees are profound:  “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”  Obviously, they must drop their stones; reflection and experience bring back numerous reminders of their sins.

Yet there is someone present who is without sin – JESUS!  His words to the crowd are about himself; he has the right and the authority to judge.

When the crowd finally disperses, he has the opportunity to speak to the woman.  “Neither do I condemn you.  Go, and from now on do not sin any more.”  Two crucial points surface from these words.

First, Jesus tells the truth; the behavior in question is a sin.  He does not ignore the fact, nor does he try to defend or explain it away.  He says it simply and directly.  His word is justice.

Second, the compassion of Jesus is evident in his gentle forgiveness.  He has the right to judge her, and he chooses mercy.

With the scribes and Pharisees Jesus reminds us “Do not judge, and you will not be judged.” (Matthew 7:1).  With the woman Jesus reminds us that in our sin and weakness we come to the Lord who longs to heal and restore us.

Which response speaks to us today?  We know that sin is real.  We know that all of us have failed and fallen through temptation and evil.  Do we need to ask forgiveness – for ourselves, or for presuming to judge others?  The Lord waits for us!


4th Sunday of Lent – The Prodigal Son

A man & two sons

Study:  Which one am I in the parable – the son in need of forgiveness or the son who needs to forgive?

Pray:  How does God’s forgiveness touch my heart – at Mass, Confession, or private devotion?

Serve: How can I be like the father in the parable, reaching out to those in need of the grace of repentance and forgiveness?

4th Sunday of Lent Readings

This Gospel reading is very familiar.  Let’s take a moment to break it down into its basic parts:

The Younger Son – selfish & foolish
The Older Son – hardworking & unforgiving
The Father – eager to reach out to both sons

In our reading today, we discover both the context and reason for Jesus offering this parable, as well as the central points within it.  These verses are part of Luke – chapter 15.

1-3          Jesus with sinners, the Pharisees complain
4-7         Parable of the Lost Sheep (not heard today)
8-10       Parable of the Lost Drachma (not heard today)
11-32     Prodigal Son
11-12     Younger son wants his share
13           Younger son leaves father, squanders money
14-16    Younger son penniless, works as a slave
17-19    Younger son “comes to his senses”
20a        Younger son returns to his father
20b        The father sees the son, runs to meet him
21           The younger son repents to his father
22-24    The father celebrates – his son is back to life
25-27    The older son hears about his brother
28-30    The older son is angry – speaks to his father
31-32     The father’s response to the older son

What are some of the lessons of this parable?

1.  God comes to us.
2.  God longs for our life and health.
3.  God does not force us to repent.
4.  We must “come to our senses” first.
5.  Repentance & forgiveness challenge us.

Remember, Jesus was with “sinners” at the beginning of this reading.  He was reaching out to people who had made choices in the past that had led them away from God and other people.  The parable is a way to show that God is constantly inviting us back to a relationship.

The same is true for us.  Whether we stand in need of forgiveness, or need to let go of our bitterness and anger – the Lord searches for us and invites us to celebrate whenever repentance is present and life & hope are restored.