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5th Sunday of Lent, Year C – 2019

This gospel scene of the woman caught committing adultery is presented in a manner at once vivid and truly inspiring (Jn.8:1-11).
There is even (for those who would not know the story) a touch of… suspense!

About this text, spiritual writers and Bible exegetes have published many articles and commentaries.
Yet, there is one aspect I have never seen referred to…
You could say it is ‘a matter of… attitude’!

While the scribes and Pharisees accuse the woman, Jesus has bent down and is writing in the sand.
To reply to the accusers who are now questioning him, Jesus gets up, looking straight at them.
His reply catches them unawares, or rather all too aware of their own past conduct!

But having spoken to them, Jesus stoops down again.
He had placed himself at the level of the accusers, now he returns to the level of the woman –
a woman surely very ashamed and probably trembling with the fear that her life may be coming to an end.

God coming down to our level… is this not essentially the meaning of what theologians call ‘Incarnation’ –
God becoming one of us “in all things but sin”, we are told (He.4:15).
Yes, God has come down to our level and… he remains there – with us and for us.
 
This woman would possibly not have been able to put this reality into words,
but she had made the experience of it and would never forget it!
Yet, it seems that many of us… forget it, or is it that… we cannot believe it?!
 
Note: Another reflection is available on a different theme in French at: https://image-i-nations.com/5e-dimanche-du-careme-annee-c-2019/
And, in a video, Jeannie Calavrias presents the meeting of Jesus with the adulterous woman at: https://image-i-nations.com/the-woman-caught-in-adultery/

Source: Image: bilderbe

 

27th Sunday of Year A

The gospel narratives give us many parables of Jesus.
All of them are inspiring, some are challenging, others rather disturbing.
I think that the one in this Sunday’s gospel (27th Sunday, Year A – Mt.21:33-43) must have appeared very shocking to Jesus’ listeners.
And it was!

For us, 21 centuries later, the meaning is obvious and the words leave no doubt as to what Jesus wanted to say.
But I believe that the scribes, the Pharisees and the leaders of the people who heard the words of Jesus also had a rather clear picture of what he meant.
It was aimed at them – at their obstinacy in refusing to recognize him as God’s messenger.
In the verse following the parable we are told: “The chief priests and the scribes realised he was speaking about them” (v.45).

From the start they had challenged him, they opposed him, and they tried to trap him in all kinds of ways.
They saw all too clearly how his miraculous powers had a great influence on the crowds of people coming to hear him from all over the country.
They noted how his compassion for those whom they themselves despised was bringing more and more people to him.
“The crowd looked on him as a prophet but they would have liked to arrest him” (v.46).
A hard text, directed at people precisely hardened in their thoughts and settled in their ways – thoughts of pride and arrogance and ways of contempt and rejection.

Has the story, well-known as it is, anything to tell us in this day and age?
We like to believe that we would never have followed the ways of the Pharisees.
We would never have adopted such a behaviour as theirs.

Yet, one can wonder: are self-conceit, obstinacy, scorn, disdain, bad faith, exclusion, rejection,
are all these absent from our own attitudes in this or that situation?…
One can only wonder . . . and . . . possibly face an unpleasant truth never acknowledged until now.

Source: Image: LDS

Palm Sunday, Year A

It had happened perhaps two years before – a day people would remember – when the Man of Nazareth, the one they called Jesus, had fed a crowd, yes, a crowd of some 5000 people with only 5 loaves.
This sort of thing, people could not forget!

On that day, they wanted to make him king – they were convinced he was the one they had been waiting for, the one sent by God, for sure, to free them from the Roman domination (Jn.6:15).
A man who could perform such things, it was obvious that God was with him in a special way.
And, of course, the apostles would have been very happy with this outcome…
They would have responsible places in this new kingdom!

But Jesus had told them to get in their boat and cross to the other shore.
He had stayed behind to send back the crowd home and he, himself, had gone to the hills to pray (Mt.14:22-23).
They had not understood, nobody could understand, all the more so that he was often teaching about “the kingdom of God”.

He was saying that this kingdom was among them (Lk.17:21).
What did he mean then?…

And now, there he is, sitting on a donkey, surrounded by a crowd of people welcoming him as he enters Jerusalem (Mt.21:1-11).
They call him: “Son of David” – David, the greatest king of their history, so, in their minds, Jesus, his descendant, is also king!

This time, surprisingly, he does not refuse the acclaim of all those people.
Their putting down clothing on the road where he is to pass, their waving palms, their shouts of joy at his coming, –
he seems happy with this whole display in his honour.

He even sternly corrects the Pharisees who want him to make the people shut up:
“I tell you, if these keep silence the stones will cry out” (Lk.19:39-40).
 
As I look at the scene, I ask myself: ‘Why?… Why now?…’
Indeed: Why has Jesus suddenly accepted this ‘demonstration’, as if he had changed his mind!…
As if he were now ready to accept human glory and praises surging all around him.

The answer is: We do not know!
This is the simple truth, we are not aware of the reason for Jesus’ behaving in this way on that day.
Down through the centuries, the question has been asked nagging at people without receiving a satisfactory answer.

There have been speculations of all kinds, different hypotheses offered claiming that he chose to enter the city in triumph for this or that reason.
Theologians and exegetes have given some interpretations of his behaviour on that day.
But the plain truth is that nobody knows for sure!

I look at him and I ask myself… I ask… him…
When questioned by Pilate about it, he was to reply: “Mine is not a kingdom of this world” (Jn.18:36).
He had said: “The kingdom of God is among you,” sometimes translated as: “it is within you”…
Perhaps this is really where his kingdom is…

Perhaps… Maybe… Possibly…
This could be what today’s celebration is all about:
Welcoming the Lord into our lives, all the areas of our lives, all that we live and experience from day to day…

Source: Image: www.lds.org

4th Sunday of Lent, Year A

Strange things happen among us, people.
Something good can be done for someone and the person who benefits from the good deed is penalized for it!
 
It should not surprise us – this is what happened already in the time of Jesus.
We see it in today’s gospel on this 4th Sunday of Lent, Year A (Jn.9:1-41).

Jesus has cured a man who had been born blind and the religious leaders give this fortunate man – (or, unfortunate?) –
a hard time indeed.
Questions upon questions to him, to his parents, back to him again – evidently trying to find Jesus somehow guilty.
Unable to have the man say anything that would enable them to reach such a verdict, “They drove him away…”

They cannot SEE the good.
They cannot accept the evidence.
They push aside what is plain and clear.
They cannot face the truth.
They blind themselves in the most obvious way.

Why? Why such an attitude? What this kind of reaction?
But the next question is… Can this not be found in… us?
 
We may ‘drive away’ a memory… too painful to face.
We may ‘drive away’ a remark… unpleasant to acknowledge.
We may ‘drive away’ a warning… that would call for a decision.
We may ‘drive away’ a piece of advice… that would ask for a change of attitude.
We may ‘drive away’ some information… that invites me to do something.
So, we do as if the truth were not the truth!

We may fell afraid, ashamed, incompetent, powerful, not equal to a situation.
So, we hide, we pretend, we escape.
We literally ‘drive away’ what is plain to SEE but which threatens us.

LENT may be precisely that: the time to make special efforts to SEE.
And to pray for, yes, vision AND insight!

See also:  http://image-i-nations.com/the-man-born-blind/
Source: Image: request.org.uk
 
 

5th Sunday of Lent, C

The past… OUR past…
We can live in the past, with nostalgia…
We can cling to the past traditions and customs…
We can try to bury the past in forgetfulness…
We can try not to face the past because of it being too shameful or painful…

The 1st and the 2nd readings of this 5th Sunday of Lent (year C) speak about the past.
Through his prophet, Isaiah (Is.43:16-21), God tells us: “No need to recall the past, no need to think about what was done before. See I am doing a new deed.”

youtube 5th LentAnd Paul, writing to the Philippians (Ph.3:8-14), says about himself: “I forget the past and I strain ahead for what is yet to come.”

Why should we not cling to the past, or try avoiding it, or take refuge in it? Simply because God wants something new for us. And not only does he want it, but he makes it for us.

The gospel shows him doing exactly that (Jn.8:1-11). There, we meet a woman dragged before Jesus because of a past deed – shameful, sinful, yes. The Pharisees have brought her to the Master and their eyes accuse her as much as their words.freebibleimages.org

Jesus, for his part, does not even look at her. Not to shame her, he looks down to the ground and… writes in the sand! Then, it is to her accusers that he speaks. Soon, they have disappeared because they know well that from being the accusers they have become, silently, the accused…

Addressing the woman, Jesus does not say that what she did was not wrong but he helps her to go beyond the bad action. He helps her to forget the past and to look to the future. “Woman, has no one condemned you? Neither do I condemn you; go away and don’t sin any more.”Jesus forgets and forgives her past. This is how God is. God looks at our past to forgive it, if only we are sorry for what we have done. And he directs our eyes and our hearts to the future, to what he is preparing for us.

Today’s Psalm (Ps.126:1-2,3-6) says it beautifully: “When the Lord delivered (us), it seemed like a dream.”

Source: Images: youtube;      freebibleimages.org