GOSPEL REFLECTION: John 4: 5-43
What happens to us as ‘people of faith’ when the stranger confronts us and asks us for “a drink?” A “drink” could be anything from help with bus fare, help for something to eat, a dollar or even fifty cents. Like the Samaritan woman, we’re generally taken by surprise. In such circumstances, we just don’t know what exactly to do! You can’t predict these chance encounters. They just seem to come our way, and to some of us, more so than to others.
“Give me a drink.” Didn’t Jesus say in the Gospel teachings that even if we give a “drink of cold water” to one of the least of his brethren, we give it to Him and we shall receive our just reward? Something as simple as a cup of water! That doesn’t take much effort on our part! It’s all in being conscious for whom and why we are doing it.
If only we’d leave judging the sincerity of the persons requesting up to God’s judgments we’d probably be far more blessed. Unfortunately, we let the mentality and judgments of our secular society be our final guide and subsequently miss out on so many blessings from God. The joy of giving could be boundless! That’s where the image of “living waters” comes in. A holy joy that’s bubbling all over and cannot be explained.
Yes, the true message of the story is about our human thirsts, the greatest of which is for a Savior. Christ alone can fill the hole deep inside of us that we stuff with so many other things on our earthly journey. But when we’ve found Him our lives are transformed and made new. Maybe right now you’re thirsting for joy, for “living waters.”
The next time a person “asks you for something to drink” try following the Samaritan woman’s example and go against the tide. Living waters are guaranteed to bubble up.
Was there a time when you turned you’re head away when “Christ of the streets” asked you for “something to drink?”
GOSPEL REFLECTION: John 5: 1-16
Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your mat, and walk.” Immediately the man became well, took up his mat, and walked. John 5:8-9
Let’s look at one of the clear symbolic meanings of this passage above. The man Jesus healed was paralyzed, being unable to walk and take care of himself. Others neglected him as he sat there by the pool, hoping for kindness and attention. Jesus sees him and gives him His full attention. After a short dialogue, Jesus cures him and tells him to rise and walk.
One clear symbolic message is that his physical paralysis is an image of the result of sin in our lives. When we sin we “paralyze” ourselves. Sin has grave consequences on our lives and the clearest consequence is that we are left unable to rise and then walk in the ways of God. Grave sin, especially, renders us powerless to love and live in true freedom. It leaves us trapped and unable to care for our own spiritual lives or for others in any way. It’s important to see the consequences of sin. Even minor sins hinder our abilities, strip us of energy, and leave us spiritually crippled to one extent or another.
Hopefully you know this and it is not a new revelation to you. But what must be new to you is the honest admission of your current guilt. You must see yourself in this story. Jesus did not heal this man only for the good of this one man. He healed him, in part, to tell you that He sees you in your broken state as you experience the consequences of your sin. He sees you in need, looks at you and calls you to rise and walk. Do not underestimate the importance of allowing Him to perform a healing in your life. Do not neglect to identify even the smallest sin which imposes its consequences upon you. Look at your sin, allow Jesus to see it, and listen to Him speak words of healing and freedom.
GOSPEL REFLECTION Mark 15: 43, 16: 8
The journey of the three women early on the first day of the week was an act of courage as well. Back then, the cities didn’t have streetlights, so walking around in darkness with the light of a torch was very scary. Robbers or people seeking to do harm could be anywhere and here were three woman walking by themselves. In addition, the city was filled with soldiers, now on high alert after the crucifixion. Had they been accosted by one of the soldiers and asked where they were going, the answer of going to the tomb of Jesus could have been met with hostility. Even if they got to the tomb, they still faced the daunting task of how to remove a stone that had been sealed over the entrance. Their journey was fraught with danger and uncertainty. Indeed it took courage for them to go to the tomb.
When we think of our faith, do we think about the word courage? Do we ever think it requires courage to be a Christian? Do we ever step out of our comfort zone as Christians and take courage in our witness for Christ? Do we regularly step out of our comfort zone to help someone else, either with time or with money? Do we reach out to the “least of our brethren”? That takes courage.
The lesson of today is that we should have the courage of the myrrh-bearing women in how we conduct ourselves as Christians. Not every day will be easy. Not every challenge will be easy. It takes courage to do something when you don’t know what the outcome will be. But this is when we have to put our trust in God.
GOSPEL REFLECTION (taken from the Easter Sermon of St. John Chrysostom)
Is there anyone who is a devout lover of God? Let them enjoy this beautiful bright festival! Is there anyone who is a grateful servant? Let them rejoice and enter into the joy of their Lord! Are there any weary with fasting? Let them now receive their wages! If any have toiled from the first hour, let them receive their due reward; If any have come after the third hour, let him with gratitude join in the Feast! And he that arrived after the sixth hour, let him not doubt; for he too shall sustain no loss. And if any delayed until the ninth hour, let him not hesitate; but let him come too. And he who arrived only at the eleventh hour, let him not be afraid by reason of his delay.
For the Lord is gracious and receives the last even as the first. He gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour, as well as to him that toiled from the first. To this one He gives, and upon another He bestows. He accepts the works as He greets the endeavor. The deed He honors and the intention He commends.
Let us all enter into the joy of the Lord! First and last alike receive your reward; rich and poor, rejoice together! Sober and slothful, celebrate the day!
GOSPEL REFLECTION: John 1: 1-17
“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us”
John describes Jesus as God’s creative, life-giving and light-giving word that has come to earth in human form. Jesus is the wisdom and power of God which created the world and sustains it who assumed a human nature in order to accomplish our salvation in it. Jesus became truly man while remaining truly God. “What he was, he remained, and what he was not he assumed” . Jesus Christ is truly the Son of God who, without ceasing to be God and Lord, became a man and our brother. From the time of the Apostles the Christian faith has insisted on the incarnation of God’s Son “who has come in the flesh”
Christians never cease proclaiming anew the wonder of the Incarnation. The Son of God assumed a human nature in order to accomplish our salvation in it. The Son of God …worked with human hands; he thought with a human mind. He acted with a human will, and with a human heart he loved. Born of the Virgin Mary, he has truly been made one of us, like to us in all things except sin.
If we are going to behold the glory of God we will do it through Jesus Christ. Jesus became the partaker of our humanity so we could be partakers of his divinity (2 Peter 1:4). God’s purpose for us, even from the beginning of his creation, is that we would be fully united with Him When Jesus comes God is made known as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. By our being united in Jesus, God becomes our Father and we become his sons and daughters. Do you thank the Father for sending his only begotten Son to redeem you and to share with you his glory?
REFLECTION: Palm Sunday
In today’s Liturgy, we face quite a contrast of experiences and emotions. We begin our celebration listening to the story of Jesus being welcomed into Jerusalem with great joy and exultation! “Hosanna!” they cried out. “Hosanna in the Highest!” Jesus was treated as He should have been treated. People were excited to see Him and there was much excitement.
But this excitement quickly turned to shock and horror as we enter more deeply into today’s readings. The Gospel culminates with Jesus hanging on the Cross crying out “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And with that, “Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last.” At that moment the entire congregation kneels in silence as we ponder the reality of Christ’s death.
How things can change in one short week. What happened to all the people who were shouting and praising Him as He entered into Jerusalem? How could they allow Him to enter into this Crucifixion and death?
The deepest answer to this question is one that we may not expect. The answer is that the Father willed it. The Father willed, by His permissive will, that so many would turn on Him, abandon Him and allow Him to be crucified. This is so very important to understand.
At any time during that first Holy Week, Jesus could have exercised His divine power and refused to embrace His Cross. But He didn’t. Instead, He willingly walked through this week anticipating and embracing the suffering and rejection He received. And He didn’t do so begrudgingly or even with regret. He embraced this week willingly, choosing it as His own will.
Why would He do such a thing? Why would He choose suffering and death? Because in the Father’s perfect wisdom, this suffering and death was for a greater purpose. God chose to confound the wisdom of the world by using His own suffering and Crucifixion as the perfect means of our holiness. In this act, He transformed the greatest evil into the greatest good. Now, as a result of our faith in this act, the crucifix hangs centrally in our churches and in our homes as a constant reminder that not even the greatest of evils can overcome the power, wisdom and love of God. God is more powerful than death itself and God has the final victory even when all seems lost.
Let this week give you divine hope. So often we can be tempted toward discouragement and, even worse, we can be tempted toward despair. But all is not lost for us either. Nothing can ultimately steal away our joy unless we let it. No hardship, no burden and no cross can conquer us if we remain steadfast in Christ Jesus letting Him transform all we endure in life by His glorious embrace of His own Cross.
GOSPEL REFLECTION: Mark 10: 32-45
The Gospel for the Fifth Sunday of Great Fast speaks of Jesus’ disappointment in His apostles. Jesus was calling them to a change of mind, a new vision. It was not easy for them to understand that greatness meant becoming a servant of others. Rather, the apostles were caught up in asking for places of honor. The change in the apostles was painfully slow in coming and was not in clear evidence until Pentecost.
Why were the apostles so slow to respond? Why are you and I, who are so much like the apostles, so reluctant to give up the old way of seeing things in order to take as our own the vision of Jesus? It is so difficult for us to give up on our own plans, dreams, the ways we have become accustomed to doing things. It takes so much faith to leave our comfort zones and to journey into the unknown. Risk haunts us, and together with the fear of the unknown, these drown out the voice of God’s grace inviting and challenging us. Our only guarantee is the promise of Jesus that we will not walk in darkness if we follow Him.
The Gospel also reminds us of our Lord’s words that if we want to follow Him, we must be willing to accept the afflictions and self sacrifice necessary to become true disciples of the Lord. Sacrifice our self love with all its passions. Enter into a spiritual mode with intense fasting and prayer. Deny everything that is harmful to our Christian life. Be confident that the Lord’s Resurrection will also be our resurrection to a new life with Christ.