Tuesday, March 31, 2015
This is the last of three sets of pictures that I have titled "Last Snow!" But the sun has risen and the lake is blue.
The "Empty Tomb" passage that is chosen from Mark for the Easter liturgies omits the crucial last verse: "And the women went out and fled from the tomb, for fear and bewilderment took hold of them. And they said nothing to anyone. For they were afraid. (16:8)" A "young man" (an angel?) has told them, "He has been raised; he is not here. Go and tell his disciples...." Instead they run away frightened.
The verse is important because it completes Mark's picture of the followers of Jesus running away from him. During his passion "the disciples left him and fled." A brave young man, thinking he has what it takes to stick by Jesus, becomes so frightened that he wiggles out of the little he is wearing and runs away naked.
The women have been the most faithful of Jesus' followers. They watched the crucifixion and burial "from a distance" and now have come alone on Sunday morning to prepare his body for burial. They are finally so frightened that they too run away.
Mark wants his readers to know that God accomplishes his purpose without the help of us weak human beings. The Sun has risen and the lake is blue.
Friday, March 27, 2015
Jesus' cry of abandonment on the cross is not in his own words, but in the words of the first line of Psalm 22. By quoting the opening line Jesus is implicitly referring to the whole psalm which ends with an expression of confidence in God:
"My souls lives for the Lord!
My children will serve,
will proclaim God to the future,
announcing to peoples yet unborn,
The first line, "My God, my God, why have your abandoned me," still expresses the extreme alienation from God that Jesus feels in his suffering and death. He has not, however, lost his confidence in his Father's love.
We may have felt the same kind of abandonment, but that doesn't mean that we have lost our confidence in God's saving love.
Thursday, March 26, 2015
In our neighborhood colt's foot is the flower most eager for spring. As I walked this afternoon, the sun brought these blooms to my attention. They lift my healing heart. This year I am as eager as they for spring to take hold.
Cautious, they grow very close to the ground amid dead leaves or often in the gravel alongside the road. They know how quickly spring warmth can slide back into winter's cold. When I started my walk, it was 66 degrees. When I finished it had dropped to 55 and the wind was blowing hard, bringing the predicted rain, that is to turn to snow tonight.
Tuesday, March 24, 2015
"Following him was a certain young man, wearing nothing but a linen cloth. They caught hold of him, but he left the linen cloth and ran off naked." (Mark 14:51-52) He would rather be seen naked than be seen as follower of Jesus. Throughout his Gospel Mark has been showing Jesus more and more isolated. After Jesus is arrested, Mark underlines his abandonment with this incident.
At the end Jesus cries out, "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me!"
Jesus suffers abandonment to save us from being abandoned.
Wednesday, March 18, 2015
These sunny days are melting the lake.
Jeremiah 31:31-34 sounds like Vatican II's description of conscience. God says, "I will place my law within them and write it upon their hearts. I will be their God and they shall be my people. No longer will they have need to teach their friends and relatives how to know the Lord."
God precedes this by saying that he will make a new covenant with the people, different from the one on Sinai which they broke. This new one will not be external but internal.
This sounds like law and order morality giving way to conscience, as Kohlberg and Rohr might describe it.
Tuesday, March 17, 2015
In his Confession (a sort of autobiography) St. Patrick, a teenager, is escaping from slavery in Ireland when one night he has a sort of mystic experience: "I saw the sun rising in the sky and while I was crying out 'Elijah! Elijah!' with all my strength, the radiance of that sun fell upon me and at once dispersed from me all paralysis, and I believe that I was aided by Christ my Lord and his Spirit was at that moment crying out on my behalf." (The Latin word for "Elijah" sounds like the Greek word for "sun.")
St. Patrick, pray for us.
Monday, March 16, 2015
"Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but, if it dies, it produces much fruit," says Jesus as he is coming to understand that his dying will bring new life, not only to him, but to the world.
Winter's ice melts into spring's flow. The fallow fields of winter eventually spring to life.
I used to think that we emphasized suffering too much in our thinking about the spiritual life. I see now that suffering is a necessary part of our relationship with God. It is the only way to new life.
Sunday, March 15, 2015
Friday, March 13, 2015
This morning's sunrise over bits of snow and a frozen Lake.
John 3:16 is a famous summary of our redemption. It all begins with God's love for the world. God always takes the initiative.
Faith in God is our response. It's a kind of surrender based on our confidence that God loves us enough to send his own Son. "Eternal life" in John is God's very life and through Jesus God begins to give us a share in that life now in this world and in the world to come.
Thursday, March 12, 2015
When the Israelites journeying in the desert are bitten by serpents God tells Moses to make a bronze serpent and lift it up on a pole. Whoever is bitten and looks on the bronze serpent is healed. In John 3:14-15 Jesus says "Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up so that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him." It's as if looking on the One who has taken all of our sins on himself heals us of our sins.
Jesus enters our world, lives, dies, and is taken back to heaven, creating a sort of vortex that sweeps all mankind back into heaven with him. All we have to do is let go of the "stuff" that weighs us down.
Wednesday, March 11, 2015
About six years ago I was with a group reflecting on chapter 15 in John's Gospel where Jesus says that we will be pruned so that we will bear more fruit. I told them that my life was going so smoothly that I wondered how I was being pruned. Someone said that you can't prune old trees because they may not bounce back. So I thought maybe God didn't expect much more growth from me and was going to let me coast into my death.
December's heart attack and open heart surgery was a clear signal that God isn't finished with me yet, that I needed pruning and will probably need more. Love Who love us, thank You.
Tuesday, March 10, 2015
Everything we are is God's doing. In a remarkable passage in Ephesians (2:4-10) Paul helps us to understand that it is through grace that we have been saved. Grace means gift, something that cannot be earned. It is "because of the great love God had for us" that God "brought us to life with Christ." To make it absolutely clear Paul repeats himself three times, "This is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not anything that you have done. Nobody can claim the credit."
We cannot get God to save us by being good. God saves us and makes us good. "We are God's work of art."
Friday, March 6, 2015
Today's his birthday. He died at almost 89, a long life for someone at that time. He started this Pieta for his family tomb when he was 70 and finished it seven years later. The figure of Nicodemus (or Joseph of Arimathea) supporting Jesus has the face of Michaelangelo. John's Gospel is the only one of the four that has Nicodemus and the Mother of Jesus at the Cross and burial.
Beauty will save the world.
Thursday, March 5, 2015
Today is the birthday of Karl Rahner, one of the 20th century's most influential theologians. In the middle of the last century he said, "The Christian of the future will either be a mystic or nothing at all." The "future" is now. A mystical experience, to over-simplify, is a direct experience of God. These tulips in the springtime brought God immediately to my mind. I became lost in Beauty.
As I think about the extra time that I have been given, one of the goals that is clearest for me is to let God make me a mystic and to encourage as many people as I can to do the same.
Wednesday, March 4, 2015
I just finished a brief book about Teilhard de Chardin. One of his convictions was that our notion of God, and of Jesus, and of Christianity must be greatly expanded to meet the reality. In John's Gospel and in some of Paul's letters he finds support for his scientific reflection on evolution.
His notion of the Cosmic Christ reminded me of John's comment that I referred to in Monday's post, "Actually he was talking about the temple of his body (2:21)." Once Jesus rises from the dead, there is no limit to his risen body. It expands to include all of creation from beginning of time to the end. The Risen Jesus becomes the temple where God comes to us and we go to God.
Tuesday, March 3, 2015
We struggle to fit suffering into our thinking about life.
St. Paul says that we preach Christ crucified. It seems a stumbling block and foolishness to follow a crucified "savior." But the power and wisdom of God shines in that suffering (1 Cor: 1:22-25).
Monday, March 2, 2015
"Destroy this temple and in three days I will rebuild it," says Jesus to those who criticize his cleansing of the temple. John adds, "He was speaking about the temple of his body (2: 19, 21)."
The Jewish temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. By the time John's Gospel was written, Jews were trying to find a way to get along without that most important part of their religion. John and the mostly Jewish Christians for whom he was writing saw the Risen Body of Jesus as their new Temple.
We live in the Risen Christ and worship in him and with him.