Most loving God, Creator of us all, we turn to you to care for your people in need. We thank you for your presence among us and the peace you offer us. Send us your Spirit to fill us with courage and hope, so that we might be your instruments of love and assistance for others in need. Through this crisis, may we come together, as people of faith in a crisis so often do by your grace, and may we come out of it more united and more determined to care for those most in need. Thank you for your fidelity and the graces we need these days.
Jeremiah 20:10-13; John 10: 31-42
Remember the old cliché, “Talk’s cheap”? Perhaps you quoted it to someone you knew. It’s been quoted to me more than once. It seems in today’s Gospel it is the approach that the Pharisees are using in trying to discredit Jesus who has told them that he is the Son of God.
Since they know his origin and his occupation, as the carpenter at Nazareth, there is no way that he can be anything more than one of them. As for claiming to be God’s son, they accuse him of blasphemy and decide that he should be stoned to death. Jesus counters by letting them know that if they don’t believe what he says, then they ought to look at his works for proof of who he is. His opponents were well aware of the miraculous healings of the deaf, the blind and the lame, along with his teachings, his forgiving of sins, his advice to the disconsolate, and the myriad of other services he did for people. But they object, that it’s not for the works that they want to stone him, it’s rather for the fact that he continues to claim to be the Son of God.
Genesis 17:3-9; John 8:51-59
“Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham came to be, I AM.”
The well known “I AM.” The Jews knew that God used those words as a name when speaking to Moses. In today’s gospel John presents an insulting man from Nazareth using those same words to identify himself. “Surely he must be crazy” is a believable and likely response for the typical Jew expecting a triumphant savior. Instead the Jews get a lowly person who rebukes their religious practices and the structure they created for their followers. I like to believe that I would have recognized Jesus as the savior if I was alive during those times, but that is wishful thinking. More likely, I would have been like the many other Jews missing the true identity and teachings of Jesus. Do you think you would have embraced Jesus if you were present during his life? No matter what our answers are, we have opportunities to embrace the “I AM” in the midst of our daily lives.
Daniel 3:14-20, 91-92, 95; John 8:31-42
Today’s scriptures are an incredible contrast in how people accept God’s guidance and do His will. From Daniel, the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego (you gotta love those names). A story of incredible faith in the face of certain death. Three men whose love for God gives them the resolve to face the wrath of King Nebuchadnezzar (another great name). Even the king marvels that these men would rather die than worship another god. And in the Gospel of John, the story of proud, stiff-necked Jews who refuse to listen, let alone believe, when the Son of God stands in front of them. Jesus tries to advise and guide them, but they are so focused on themselves as descendants of Abraham that they refuse to see. I wonder where I am between these two groups.
Numbers 21:4-9; John 8:21-30
Today's readings show us as the Cranky People of God. In the first reading from Numbers, the Israelites are being led to safety and salvation, out of exile in Egypt and toward their homeland. The journey is long and frustrating. Their complaint? “We are disgusted with this wretched food!” Perhaps a little more gratitude would have been in order. But the Numbers reading reveals a wonderful story of healing. The people are being plagued by serpents who bite “and many of them died.” When Moses prays for the people, God tells him make an image of a serpent and mount it on a pole. Anyone who looked up at it would be healed. All they had to do was gaze upon it, to trust in God and they would be healed.
Daniel 13:41-62; John 8:1-11
From the Gospel of John, we hear this story of the Woman Found in Adultery, and this time, the woman is guilty as charged. She has been dragged in front of Jesus as the educated community leaders want to "have some charge to bring against him." A tool of the scribes and Pharisees, a condemned criminal on the equivalent of Death Row, she doesn't ask for forgiveness. She couldn't expect forgiveness. But Jesus quietly reminds those educated community leaders that each of them is imperfect -- perhaps guilty of hatred and anger, perhaps of other errors of judgment. Giving a wonderful sign that they have truly heard what Jesus has said, they leave. Further, anytime this story is used in teaching morality, it's pointed out that Jesus does not say her sin is OK. He doesn't say she's forgiven. He says "Neither do I condemn you." He tells her to leave, like her accusers, and to amend her life.
Ezekiel 37:12-14;Romans 8:8-11; John 11:1-45
The readings for today resonate with resurrection themes. The full passage from Ezekiel (I always find it hard to read the excerpts if they don't tell the full story) is a step-by-step process of raising the dead, from bleached bones to infusion of spirit, with the guiding hand of God present throughout. Paul certainly continues the theme in the excerpt from Romans, but Paul seems to emphasize more the presence of the spirit in the whole resurrection process. And the story of Lazarus is certainly one of hope for all who believe in Jesus - there will be a resurrection. And so at one level faith in the resurrection of the body at God's hand is central to today's readings.
Jeremiah 11:18-20; John 7:40-53
In the Gospel reading today (verses 40 to 53), there is the discussion among the people about who Jesus is, where he comes from and whether he is the Prophet, or the Messiah. Furthermore, the Pharisees think that the ones who believe in Jesus and think he is the Messiah are the “crowds who do not know the law,” and the guards who have also been “deceived” by him. The Pharisees had their own image of God and they knew the law so well that their hearts were closed to Jesus’ revelation of God.
“This Friday, March 27 at 6 p.m., I will preside over a moment of prayer outside of St. Peter's Basilica with the square empty. As now, I invite everyone to participate spiritually through the media,” Pope Francis said March 22 in his livestreamed Angelus address.
“Urbi et Orbi” means “To the City [of Rome] and to the World.” It is a special apostolic blessing given by the pope from the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica every year on Easter Sunday, Christmas, and other special occasions.