Church of the Resurrection
Lenten Reflections 2022
Come back to me with all your heart.
WEEK FIVE – PASSIONTIDE
SUNDAY 3 APRIL
Scripture: John 8: 1 – 11
How easy it is to judge and condemn others! Who among us is perfect? Who among us is without sin? As long as we have the honesty and humility to acknowledge that we are not perfect and neither are we sinless, then we must accept that it is not our place to judge or condemn others.
The scribes and Pharisees regarded themselves and virtuous and upright and, in their minds, they were following the law by stoning the adulterous woman to death. In the same way, they felt justified in what would have been a murderous act, after which they would probably have washed their hands and gone off to supper with their wives and children.
How awful is a religion without any heart – or soul! But they weren’t or aren’t alone. Even in our own time there are Christians who call for the execution of murderers and rapists. Have we learnt nothing from Jesus? Has his example and teaching made any impact on our lives? Do we allow our faith to guide and direct our lives? Or are we filled with what we perceive to be ‘righteous and religious indignation?
Jesus action – or inaction- with the woman caught in adultery must surely be a lesson to us all and evoke within us a spirit of love, mercy and compassion, demonstrated in the attitude of the father in the parable of the prodigal son last week.
When Jesus invited them “If there is one of you who has not sinned, let him be the first to throw a stone at her” he knew that they had no leg to stand on. The truth is that there was one person present who had not sinned – Jesus himself! And he chose neither to stone her nor to condemn her. With words of love and compassion he said to he “Neither do I condemn you.”
It is this same Jesus whom we encounter when we go to confession. There is no condemnation, no judgement and no punishment. There is forgiveness, healing, reconciliation and peace.
Have you been to Confession this Lent? Our Penitential Services are on Thursday 7th April at 6.30pm and on Tuesday 12th April at 10.00am. And when you do, you will hear Jesus say to you through his priest: “Your sins are forgiven, go in peace.”
Father, grant me the gifts of humility and sincerity. Help me to see my own sins and failings. May I never pass judgement on or condemn others. Amen.
MONDAY 4 APRIL
Scripture: John 8: 12 – 20
Today’s Gospel continues from yesterday’s. Jesus had put the scribes and Pharisees in their place but they continued to goad him. He had known that this would happen in Jerusalem, that he had to assert himself and proclaim what the Father had sent him to reveal. Their hearts had been hardened by the attitude of arrogance and their minds were closed because of their unwillingness to listen and to learn. They prided themselves on their superior knowledge.
Are we not sometimes hard of heart as well? Are our minds always open to learn and to grow in wisdom and knowledge?
Lent is a time for us to experience true repentance and heart-felt renewal. To do this we must be willing to undergo a change of heart (metanoia), and be open to grow, so that we may do good and become better. We should not be satisfied with just the outward observances, customs, traditions and rituals of Lent. The end of this sacred season must find us changed, renewed and transformed.
It is easy to fall into the trap of religious customs and rituals as did the scribes and Pharisees. Churches are crowded on Ash Wednesday but the crowds are seldom seen again during Lent. The ritual was done, and some will do it again on Good Friday and perhaps Easter Sunday. But the dawn of the new light of the Risen Christ at Easter must find us truly renewed with hearts that have been changed, truly born-again because of our spiritual experiences during Lent, having listened to Jesus with open hearts and minds.
When we listen to Jesus, we come to know the Father, and experience the Father’s love for us. “You do not know me, nor do you know my Father” Jesus said to them. That was the sad reality. If only they had been humble enough to listen, they would have welcomed the message Jesus came to proclaim, and come to know the Father whom he came to reveal.
Make a list of what you need change, renewal and transformation for or from in your life. Light a candle and sit quietly for a few minutes. Place a cross or crucifix over your list and listen to Jesus. Ask him to change your heart.
Change my Heart O God. Renew in me your divine presence that I may experience with newness of faith the joy of Easter and the promise of Eternal Life. Amen.
Listen to this song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bc9md8B_N7s
TUESDAY 5 APRIL
Scripture: Numbers 21: 4 – 9
“With their patience worn out, the people complained against God and against Moses”
The Israelites spent 400+ years complaining about being slaves in Egypt. Finally they are set free through the efforts of Moses and Aaron, led by God, and they begin the journey through the desert back to the land promised by God to Abraham and his descendants forever.
However, they are not satisfied with anything! On this occasion they engage in one of their endless gripes about the ‘wretched food’ God has provided for them – which in fact has kept them alive!
This time God responds by sending ‘poisonous serpents’ among them, and many who are bitten, die. That brings about a ‘change of heart,’ and the people repent of their behaviour and beg to have the serpents removed.
Moses, at God’s command, makes a bronze image of the serpent and fixes it to a pole – which is raised up – whoever sees it is healed and does not die. So the ‘image of death becomes the image of salvation’!
The Cross that Jesus is nailed to on Good Friday does the same for us – He takes our ‘sinful humanity’ which caused our death, and transforms it, through love, into the cause of our salvation!
We need to continue to ‘lift Him up’ for all to see – and acknowledge the depth of the love of God made visible!
Reflect on your ability to approach even the difficult situations in your life with gratitude – or do you just rail against God and complain about what you don’t have? Are you able to see the signs of God present in your life and rejoice in them?
God our Father, give us the strength to embrace all the good things in our lives right now instead of complaining or hankering after the things that are wrong. Amen.
WEDNESDAY 6 APRIL
Scripture John 8: 31 – 42
Jesus is talking to a group of believers who have a long history of tradition and heritage going back to the time of Abraham, some two thousand years before. They are blind to change, blind to growing in gratitude and generosity. They are extremely defensive when challenged. The oyster shell around their hearts is tough and Jesus laments that His words cannot penetrate this stubbornness.
They are aghast when he tells them that the truth will set them free. They regard themselves as utterly free and miss the point about being slaves to sin. Slaves to an inner darkness, their ulterior motives, stress, anxiety, debt, lack of discipline, rituals, hate, inability to see everyone as a neighbour, and so much more.
At the Saviour’s trial, He stated that He had come to bear witness to the truth and these disciples reacted just like Pilate did: “What is that” (John 19:38). Jesus came to reveal the truth about God, about His love, mercy, compassion and forgiveness, and His entire earthly stay was a witness to that truth. This truth about God as revealed by the Word of God made flesh, enables us to define who we are in Christ. It enables us to be free from the corruption of sin and death, free from feeling threatened all the time, free from fear.
This freedom that we pursue in faith, that draws its strength from “ I am the way, the truth and the life” can give us a peace that the world cannot give.
The call of Pope St. John Paul II “Be not afraid” and repeated last Saturday by Joe Biden in Poland, is another way of saying that the truth about God will set one free. The war started because someone felt threatened and the truth evaded him.
What are you scared of? What thoughts, events or daily routines make you a prisoner? Can you take one, and bring it into the presence of God, pray hard about it and witness for yourself the change bearing in mind the prayer below?
Holy Spirit of God in my prayer to be relieved of something that makes me scared, help me to understand that God might not change the circumstances but rather change my response and attitude to those very same circumstances.
THURSDAY 7 APRIL
Scripture: John 8: 51 – 59
If you watch documentaries on past civilisations and ancient tribes you notice that they all have one thing in common: they all acknowledged the existence of gods and worshipped them, offering sacrifices to atone for wrongdoing and to guarantee victory in battles. It is evident that mankind has always recognised a form of godly power which they believed controlled the world, and they felt compelled to honour and appease these gods. They treated their gods with reverence but lived in great fear of offending them.
Jesus’ great mission was to reveal God as our Father. He came to teach us that God our Father is a God of mercy, love and compassion, as we heard in last Sunday’s Gospel. He also revealed the relationship He has with God as His Father and made the claim that He existed before Abraham, which according to the Jews was blasphemous!
We read in John 1:1 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Jesus existed with God the Father and the Holy Spirit even before the very instant of the creation of the universe. In the creation account in Genesis 1:2 we are told that the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. So we see the Holy Trinity being revealed to us throughout the scriptures.
The Jews prided themselves as being the offspring of their father Abraham. How privileged we are because Jesus was sent into our world to reveal to us that God is our Father. Jesus preached about the Kingdom of God and went on to teach that through our Baptism we are God’s children, and heirs to the Kingdom of Heaven according to Romans 8: 16-17; The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
Our Lenten journey ends with the glorious resurrection of Jesus. This is a foretaste of Jesus’ promise to us that at the end of our earthly life we will not see death but will live eternally with Him and the Father in the Kingdom prepared for those who love Him and keep His commandments.
As a meditation sit quietly and listen to the words of the Beatitudes on this clip: https://youtu.be/lGNtmlbp3ZE
God my Father, thank you for giving me the gift of eternal life. Help me to live according to your commandments and to be merciful, kind, forgiving and compassionate no matter what circumstances I may find myself in. Amen
FRIDAY 8 APRIL
Scripture: John 10: 31 – 42
Once again the opponents of Jesus want to stone him because they believed he has committed the sin of blasphemy, “We are not stoning you for doing a good work but for blasphemy: you are only a man and you claim to be God.” When the religious authorities cornered Jesus, they completely forgot the good he had done for the people. When Jesus finally revealed his divinity, they took offense and sought to kill him. Both Jeremiah and Jesus were provoked, they saw terror from every side.
It is true when they say every dark cloud has a silver lining. “Many people who came to him there said, ‘John gave no signs, but all he said about this man was true,’ and many of them believed in him.” These are the people who had listened carefully and observed John the Baptist. They remembered that John the Baptist performed no miracles, he was simply a voice crying in the wilderness, “make straight the way of the Lord.” On the other hand, Jesus performed and worked many miracles. As a result, these “learned” (scribes and Pharisees) could not come to the same conclusion. Many people today reject Jesus and his message but let us not follow that same path. Our mission is to seek Jesus and believe in him. When we believe in him we also believe in the Father who sent him.
There are a few things we can learn from the ordinary people who believed in the divinity of Jesus, in today’s Gospel. They made an effort to listen to Jesus’ predecessor, John the Baptist, and observed the miracles performed by Jesus. The ordinary people saw what the Pharisees and scribes failed to see in Jesus. Not only did they believe in Jesus, but they also took a risk. Around this time (in Jesus’ public ministry), it was no longer fashionable to associate with Jesus because a death warrant against him had already been issued. They could be judged by associating with Jesus (guilt by association). This, however, did not deter them. In this Fifth Week of Lent, let us carefully listen to the words of Jesus so that we can produce a living and courageous faith. When we do listen to Jesus, his words will show us the way back to the Father.
The Apostle James (1:22) encourages us to be doers of the word, and not hearers, only deceiving ourselves. In addition, Jesus often impressed upon his followers the need to act upon his word because actions speak louder than words. Do you put your faith into action? If not, pray to God to give you a living and courageous faith.
Father, write upon our hearts the lessons of your holy word, and grant that we may be doers of your word, and not forgetful hearers only. Amen
SATURDAY 9 APRIL
Scripture: John 11: 45 – 56
We read today of how Jesus’ gift of life to Lazarus led to his own death. The crowds gathered to see what Jesus had done, and in seeing it many believed in Him. The growing support for Jesus worried the religious leaders in Jerusalem who became concerned that their Roman rulers would see this growing support as a possible uprising and a threat to peaceful co-existence in Israel, resulting in a violent reaction causing destruction and domination.
Caiaphas said to the Chief Priests and Pharisees “… it is better for one man to die for the people than for the whole nation to be destroyed.” This utterance by Caiaphas has two distinct meanings: it can be understood in the literal sense in which Caiaphas meant it – kill one person (Jesus) to prevent the Romans destroying the Jewish nation; or, as an unconscious prophecy where Caiaphas says more than he intended: “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many.”
We can only imagine Jesus’ thoughts and feelings at this time as the events leading to His suffering and death began to unfold – exactly as he knew they would. Jesus did not resist the Father’s plan but approached it solemnly and calmly. In His commitment to do the Father’s will he teaches us the wisdom of letting go of circumstances that are beyond of our control – but within the Father’s control. He teaches us to embrace the Divine Will with total trust and solemnity.
As Good Friday approaches, our striving through Lent to “Come back to me with all your heart” should have bolstered our faith and realisation of what Jesus has done for us. We will soon be celebrating His Resurrection and need, in the time remaining, to continue to make a conscious and heartfelt return to faith, acknowledging how Jesus suffered for us, repenting for our sins, our regressions and our lapses which separate us from God. Commit to spend time in prayer and fasting and to be generous in your almsgiving.
Instead of fretting and stressing over circumstances out of your control, embrace those circumstances with faith and confidence in the Lord. Make a commitment to repent for your sins at the Penitential Service in the confidence of God’s unending Mercy and Compassion.
Lord, you are life and truth and goodness. You are mercy and peace. Without you I can do no good. All the good I do is You working through me. Here I am Lord, ready to love you more. Amen
These Daily Reflections for Lent 2022 are written by Fr. Desmond Nair, Irene Helsdon, George Cominos, Veronica Donnelly Fr. Wandile Cagwe, and Mike Montocchio. Please acknowledge the authors when copying and distributing. We wish you a fruitful and blessed Lenten Season as you respond to God’s call to come back to him with all your heart.