Fifth Sunday in Lent

Today once again there are two options for readings with the third scrutiny (Year A readings) this week there is also an option for just the Gospel to be from Year A to be read instead of the Year B readings. To make it easier for me I will be sticking with the Year B readings.

We begin in the Book of Jeremiah. Jeremiah wasn’t only a bullfrog but he was a prophet who was in Babylon with the other exiled Jews. The reading today Jeremiah says that the Lord some day will establish a new covenant with the houses of Israel and Judah. The Lord goes on saying that it won’t be like in days of their forefathers since they broke it. The Lord says “I will place my low within them and write it upon their hearts.” This is going to be better than the covenant at Sinai as it is now a personal commitment to each and every one of us. I’ve just noticed that covenants get smaller each time they are mentioned with Noah God promises not to flood the world, Abraham is promised descendants as numerous as the stars, Moses brings the Commandment down to the people, and here Jeremiah talks about a new covenant that is to come and it will be a personal one. One of the biggest things about this new covenant is that the Lord will forgive their evildoing and remember their sins no more. This is a reminder for us to go to confession; this continues with the psalm “Create a clean heart in me, O God.”

As we make our way the New Testament the reading get weaker in the epistle this week we hear from the letter to the Hebrews.  In it we hear that Jesus when he was alive prayed in a loud voice with tears and he was heard because of his reverence, at times it seems like this is something that we need more of in the world today. Turning to the Gospel we hear from John that the time to celebrate Passover was nearing and people from out of town were coming in droves, some Greeks ask to see Jesus and Jesus replied “The hour has not come” then Jesus reflects on his upcoming death saying that a grain of wheat may fall to the ground if it dies it produces much fruit. Jesus draws everyone to him no matter what. Let us be drawn closer to Jesus, through our reverence, in these final days of Lent so that we may rise with him on Easter.

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Third Sunday in Lent

This week we reach a milestone in Salvation History with Moses and the Ten Commandments. The story of Moses is a popular one and was most recently on the big screen in that film by Ridley Scott, but one can only assume that the world has a general understanding of the ten commandments from other films like The Ten Commandments and The Prince of Egypt if you are fuzzy wait a couple of weeks and I am sure that The Ten Commandments will be on network television at some point. Jesus adds to these ten in the New Testament with two more (love God and love your neighbor as yourself) and the Jewish people have about 400 more.

Making our way to the first letter from Paul to the Corinthians we are hit with a huge point. Paul once again does his best to drone on and on with this reading of two sentences. He points out that Christ crucified is a stumbling block for the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles. This is difficult point for many individuals to comprehend and several heretical movements are based on this. The key point in the reading comes in the second sentence “For the foolishness of the Lord is wiser than the wisdom of humans” this is a huge thing to realize that as smart as we claim to be it isn’t even the foolishness of the Lord.

Turning to John’s Gospel we hear about how Jesus came to Jerusalem and went to the Temple since is was Passover and when he went inside Jesus overturns all the money changers tables and drives out all those selling sacrificial animals saying “Take these out of here and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.” Then the Jews speak up saying what sign can you give us for smashing up the Temple, and Jesus says destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up predicting his own resurrection. The gospel today reminds us that we should be coming to church and making an effort, Jesus also tells us not to be buying or selling things inside the building of the church. Help us to follow the rules that we’ve been given and put our trust is the Lord.

Second Sunday in Lent

Continuing on in our Lenten Journey we hear a little more Salvation History, this week we look at trust. In Genesis we hear about the time Abraham took his son, his only one, the one that he loved, up a mountain and offered him as a holocaust. At the last minute an angel appears and stays the hand of Abraham and the Lord provides a ram caught in the thicket as a sacrifice. This is a good story for us to remember during Lent since Abraham is willing to sacrifice his whole world for the Lord. Abraham has absolute trust in the Lord. Then during the season of Lent we give up silly things like sweets or soda, could we have to strength to give up the thing that we care about the most in the world just because the Lord asked you to. Sure Abraham was being tested but earlier the Lord had promised his descendants to be as numerous as the stars so if Abraham had followed through would Sarah bare another son? Thankfully the Lord saw the lengths that Abraham was willing to go to for the Lord and stopped Abraham from killing his son.

In the second reading we hear from Paul’s letter to the Romans we are asked “If God is for us, who can be against us?” This is the most important verse in the reading and does a great job as summarizing the other readings as well, we all should recognize that the Lord is always pulling for us no matter what. This is difficult for so many people to grasp if God is on everyone’s side we should treat each other as brothers and sisters and there should be no war or violence in the world.

Turning to the Gospel we hear from Mark of the Transfiguration of the Lord, Mark’s version of the story is one of my favorites simply for the whole and they kept the matter to themselves part. This is a common thread in Mark’s Gospel not telling most notably it is how the Gospel ends. So Jesus takes Peter, James and John up a mountain and Jesus turns dazzling white. Elijah and Moses appear and converse with Jesus. Dumb ole Peter suggests build tents and like selling tickets for people to come see. Then there is a voice from the heavens which says “This is my beloved Son, Listen to him.” At this Moses and Elijah have gone away and it’s just Jesus with them on the mountain. I hope that during Lent we can recognize that Christ is with us on top of the mountains of our lives. I hope that through the readings this week we can remember the trial of Abraham and the transfiguration we are never alone The Lord continue to watch over us and bless us in our times of need.

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

This week we begin in the book of Leviticus, Leviticus is the third book of the Bible and mostly consists of priestly literature, so it isn’t unexpected that in Greek Leviticus mean relating to the Levites. The reading (Lv 13:1-2,44-46) we are given the beginning of a chapter and skip to like the middle of the chapter to end it and in this chapter there are some rules that were set forth by the Lord. It just so happens to be leprosy. The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron saying that if someone looks like they have leprosy the individual should go to the priest and if he is leprous and unclean the priest will declare so. Then we are given some instruction as what lepers are to do “they shall keep their garments rent, head bare, muffle his beard and cry out “unclean”” this individuals also should live apart from the world.

In this week’s installment of Paul letter to Corinth: part 1, Paul tells us to do everything for the glory of the Lord and try to please everyone in every way. This is a big thing right here try to do everything for the Lord and being considerate for our fellow humans. This is something that many politicians struggle with today crossing the aisle and working with one another for the greater good. It doesn’t matter who we are or where we come from we should all be striving to build the Kingdom of God here on Earth.

Turning to the Gospel we return to where we left off last week and the talk of lepers continues as well. Jesus was approached by a leper who knelt down before Jesus saying “You can make me clean” Jesus stretches out his hand and the leprosy left the man. Jesus then tells the man to not tell anyone of what had happened and go show himself to the priest and make the proper sacrifice as prescribed in Leviticus. The man would go and tell everyone of what had happened and Jesus didn’t even have a chance to enter the city. This is a unique feature of Mark’s Gospel Jesus telling people to stay quiet about the event they just saw. Leprosy may not afflict us in our lives but we all are sinners and sin makes us unclean. So we should be going to the priest and telling them our sins and being forgiven of them. As we inch closer to Lent I hope that we are all inspired by the message to go to confession at some point during the season.

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

This week we begin our readings with a look into the book of Deuteronomy, or “second law”. The book itself is like a summation of the previous four books and most scholars believe it written after the Babylonian exile as a how are we supposed to live our faith in a post exile world. Today we hear from the writer that Moses said that the Lord said to him that “I, the Lord, would raise up a prophet like you, Moses and will they will be my mouthpiece to the people.” Many have thought that this is about how the Lord will send some prophet at the end times, Early Christians and Jesus thought this was about Jesus. However, I see this as a statement that the Lord will bring forth prophets for us throughout time to act as his mouthpiece on earth and it is a reminder for all of us that we are called to be a prophet to the nations. We are all like Moses he didn’t even want to be a leader and continually made excuses but when the time came he stepped up and took the lead.

As we turn to the second reading we pick up where we left off last week in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. Last week Paul was saying that the Kingdom of God is coming soon and we should be ready. So this week we hear about how marriage make men and women anxious at pleasing the other where as those that are unmarried only are anxious about pleasing the Lord. I am not sure where Paul got this reasoning but it feels a bit off in the world today. I understand to fully understand what Paul mean you’ve got to read the entire chapter as he wrote earlier about married individuals and the concerns that the people in Corinth were having, so Paul isn’t trashing to idea of marriage but caution the unmarried or something.

Finally we make it to Mark’s Gospel and we continue from last week as well. Andrew, Simon, James, John and Jesus made their way to Capernaum and on the Sabbath Jesus went to the synagogue and taught. Mark notes that the people were amazed by his teaching as Jesus taught with authority. Jesus teaching is accompanied with a possession and exorcism as well, a man in the synagogue had an unclean spirit and Jesus commands it to leave, again the people were amazed and the story of the exorcism and his preaching spread throughout the land. We can only imagine what it was like to hear Jesus preach and then exorcise a demon; we are left with priests who try to inspire us with a homily which most of the time aren’t memorable. We are reminded this week to keep our ears open for prophets and those preaching with authority

Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

This week we step away from the usual Ordinary Time and celebrate the feast of the Triumph of the Cross, according to tradition Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine was on a pilgrimage in Jerusalem and found the Cross of Christ and she and Constantine ordered that the Church of the Holy Sepulchre be built on the site she found it. This feast is for the Cross itself as the instrument of our salvation.

We begin looking at the cross in the readings with a stop over with Moses and the bronze serpent that he raised up in the desert. The people of Israel were worn out from their journey from Egypt to the Promised Land, and started complaining: why’d you bring us out of Egypt if only for us to die in the desert, and there is nothing to eat as well.” So the Lord sent down Seraph serpents (fiery serpents) which bit the people and many of them died, clearly the Lord is not a fan of complainers. The people went to Moses saying they were sorry for complaining so much, and Moses went to the Lord who told him to put a serpent upon a pole and that Moses should get everyone who was bitten to look at it and they will live.

We next hear from Paul’s letter to the Philippians where Paul gives a nice sermon about Jesus, in reality it is more of a Christological hymn than a sermon. Christ although he was in the form of God emptied himself and took the form of a slave. He was obedient until his death on a cross and because of this at the name of Jesus every knee must bend and tongue should confess that Jesus is the Lord. This is one of the easier passages in Paul’s letters to understand and remember. Many scholars believe that this hymn was something that predated the letter and some have posited that it might have been something that Paul taught the Philippians when he first converted them.

As we finally reach the Gospel reading we hear John’s portrayal of Jesus teaching Nicodemus, the good Pharisees. Jesus tells Nicodemus “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert so to must the Son of Man be lifted up so that all who believe in him may have eternal life.” We then arrive at one of the most quoted parts of the Bible, a favorite at sporting events, John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that whosoever believes in him might not perish but have eternal life.” It is a wonderful verse but I think that the most powerful part comes in the following verse where it says that the Son does not come in the world to condemn it but he comes into the world that it might be saved through him. All too often do we look at religion and think that we are going to be condemned for things that we have done but that is not what Jesus is came here for. Jesus just like the serpent is placed on a pole/cross and everyone that looks upon him will live. This is all out of love and we all should be trying to reflect this love out into the world.

The Transfiguration

Jesus brings Peter, James and John up a mountain, it is not named in the Bible but many have speculated that it is Mount Tabor. While they are up on the mountain Moses and Elijah appear and start conversing with Jesus. Peter suggests they build tents to make the event last forever. Then from the heavens come a voice saying “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him.” I was listen to my music on shuffle the other day and a song from The Song of Mark came on and it got me to thinking that most of the musicals about Jesus tend to skip over the Transfiguration.

The only one that doesn’t is The Song of Mark which is sort of a musical by Marty Haugen. Although it might not be a musical but rather a choral concert piece or something like that I am not really sure. The Song of Mark follows the Gospel of Mark from beginning to end with songs. One of the songs, “So Good to be Here” is about the Transfiguration from the point of view of John, Peter and James. I like that the song sounds like a drinking song as that seems like something that the Apostles might have been doing while Jesus was talking with Elijah and Moses. Sufjan Stevens even has a song about the Transfiguration on his Seven Swans album but that is the extant of the music about the Transfiguration.

The Transfiguration is a joyous event where the heavenly Christ was revealed to a select few the first leader of the church, the first Pope and the beloved apostle. It is these individuals who hear the voice of God from above telling them to listen to Jesus. It would be wonderful if we can put ourselves into the event in the life of Christ and be the individuals who hear the voice of God. “Listen to him!” This is one of the only commands in the New Testament and is a very important one.

Trinity Sunday

As we return to Ordinary Time we experience a pair of special Sunday Trinity and Corpus Christi. On Trinity Sunday we celebrate the doctrine of the Trinity, Father; Son and Spirit. If you have some spare time today and want to learn a little bit more about the Trinity look up the Athanasian Creed which focuses on the Trinity.

We begin the reading back in Exodus; now our story takes place toward the end of the book Moses and the Israelites have escaped and have wandered and are at Sinai, Moses has already smashed the first tablets when he and the Lord saw the Israelites worshiping a golden calf. So Moses is up on Mount Sinai and is talking to God. The Lord come and walks before Moses, and Moses bows before the Lord and apologizes. This next bit is something that could be still be said today. “If now I have found favor in your sight, O Lord, I pray, let the Lord go with us. Although this is a stiff-necked people, pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for your inheritance.” (Exodus 34:9 NRSVCE) We are horrible people in the general sense of the word, but we are God’s inheritance this is the part that gets me. We are precious enough to the Lord to be something cherished.

Turning to the epistle we hear from the ending of Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, it is Paul wish for the congregation in Corinth and to us where ever we are today. It is a short reading. Paul wants us to live in peace and the God of love and peace will be with us. The letter ends with a blessing, the grace of the Lord, the love of God and the fellowship of the Spirit be with us, this it Paul’s longest blessing that he wrote and it is Trinitarian in nature. We still follow this same basic formula with blessings today.

As we reach the Gospel once again we hear from John. Today we have ever one of the more popular lines in the Bible John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that he gave him only Son so that those who believe in him might have life.” God loves us so much that he does exactly what Abraham did for the Lord, sacrificing his only Son. God stops Abraham from sacrificing Issac but this is what we need to remember are we willing to sacrifice our most beloved thing for the Father. This is a fitting reading for Father’s Day as it help us to remember our Heavenly Father as loving and caring for us just like children. It would be great if we all could spend some time with both of our Father’s today. I would like to wish all Father of all types, a wonderful and happy father’s day.

Bible Movies

Today begins the revival of the Biblical epic and I hope that this revival last a while. Since the Bible has so many different stories in it to tell.  The film Noah enters theaters today and hopefully it makes some noise in the box office so that this trend can continue. The movie Son of God, which was a repackaging of a part of the miniseries The Bible, came out earlier this year and has made 56.5 million dollars. That’s very good for something that many people watched just last year. and in December we will see Exodus come out.

Noah tells the story of Noah and the ark. It stars Russell Crowe as Noah  and Emma Watson as a wife of Shem, one of Noah’s sons. It seems like it will be an exciting films, however some early reviews have called it Aronofsky’s Biblical Waterworld. This is a wonderful story to tell in the world today because at the core it is about a family and that is something that needs to be highlighted in the world today.

Exodus, the upcoming Ridley Scott film, will focus on the Book of Exodus. Christian Bale is Moses and Aaron Paul is Joshua. Being a Ridley Scott film gives me hope that it will be well made and epic. The Exodus is a popular tale and it will be exciting to see it unfold on the big screen.

All of these are “religious films” and it seems like a great time to take another look at these stories. Especially with the number of people who now consider themselves to be “spiritual” and have left the church. If there are more Bible movies to come it would be cool if they went with a seldom filmed story, like Jonah or even Job. They could go even further and consider making film of books that are derived from the Bible like the Women of Genesis series which tells the different story of Genesis from the female perspective. This could go even further with films from other religious texts as well.

Third Sunday in Lent

Today begins the first of three scrutinies for those of the elect in the RCIA and is a reminder to elect as well as the whole congregation of the conversion needed in our own lives and we pray for the grace to rise above sin which ever encompasses us. The three scrutinies take place on this Sunday and the following two Sundays in preparation for Easter. So this could be a portion added to your individual liturgies.

We head to the book of Exodus and skip to after the Passover so the Israelites are wandering in the desert and they start to complain asking why they left Egypt since they were thirsty. Moses goes to God on their behalf and asks “What should I do?” God replied “Go in front of the people and take your staff and I will be standing in front of you, strike the rock in Horeb and water will come forth.” Moses did this and the text reads that they call this place Massah (testing) and Meribah (quarrelling) for it is here where they said “ Is the Lord in our midst or not?” Many people have the same thoughts today where is God with all the problems going on in the world, is the Lord still in our midst? Some Bible scholars suggest that the two names for the place may be due to the combination of two different events into one or perhaps it is due to a combination of two sources that listed the name differently.

We hear in the Psalm today the Lord speaking directly to us saying “Harden not your hearts as at Meribah as in the day of Massah in the desert, where your fathers tempted me; they tested me through they had seen my works.” The Lord is giving us a second chance here in the psalm “If today you hear his voice harden not your hearts.” As we turn to Paul’s letter to the Romans Paul talks about justification by faith. This is all about how it is through faith that we are saved. We should have hope because the love of God has been poured into our hearts.

These next couple of weeks we will be hearing some long readings from the Gospel of John. Since everyone is bracket crazy why not the Gospel reading as well. This week we hear about the Woman from Samaria at the well. Jesus comes to town and sit down by Jacob’s well, just outside the town,  his disciple went into town to get some food and from the town there comes a woman to the well. Jesus asked if the woman could give him a drink. The woman takes this as an attack saying why should she even listen to a Jew since Jews and Samaritans are completely different. Jesus tells the woman if you knew who was asking you for a drink of water it would be you (the woman) asking for a drink of living waters. Jesus and the woman talk a bit about her husband(s). Jesus goes on to say that Jerusalem and even the mountain are not important to worship God as we need to worship him in Spirit and truth. The woman say I know that the Messiah is going to come and Jesus tells her “The Messiah is here, I am He.” The disciples return and the woman runs back into town to tell of what she heard and many of the Samaritans began to believe in Jesus. To the disciples Jesus say once again speaking in a farm/garden/vineyard metaphor “I have sent you to reap what other have sown and you are sharing in the fruits of their work.” We are like the Samaritan woman at the well but once again in the Gospels a Samaritan become a great role model just like in the parable (Good Samaritan) the Samaritan woman brings the message of Jesus into the world, planting the seeds, and the disciple (priest) are there to reap the fruits of the harvest. We are also called to be workers in the garden of the Lord weeding and tending to the other plants around us. I hope that we can be inspired by the Samaritan woman to bring the good news out into the world this week despite all the troubles that may present themselves God is always here at our sides.