April 9: Seeing Christ Clearly

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April 9: Seeing Christ Clearly

We start today looking through the portals of Jerusalem, seeing crowds of people, cheering and waving palm branches in the air. The whole atmosphere is one of joy, triumph, and celebration. We can get distracted or enthralled by the scene, and not see clearly the features of Jesus as he enters. But our readings from Isaiah and Paul’s letter to the Philippians clarify his features for us. He is the Suffering Servant, meek and mute before his captors and persecutors; he is the very image of the unseen God, yet will not clutch at equality with God before he endures his final confrontation in humility. Isaiah and Paul help us “behold the Lamb of God” before we hear the story of his final and greatest confrontation. It is important that we see Christ clearly before we hear the account of his passion, for we—his Body through baptism, the church—now bear his face. We must, with him, enter into this time of trial so we can, also with him, enter into his final triumph.

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April 2: Jesus’ Ministry Summarized

The story of the raising of Lazarus from the dead is the single longest story (apart from the Passion) in the Gospel of John. In it we find a summary of most of Jesus’ ministry. We see his very human nature as he is moved by Martha and Mary’s sorrows and as he himself weeps at the tomb of Lazarus. He is the wisdom of God’s Word made flesh as he explains to his followers that the death of Lazarus will serve as a sign of the glory of God. He crowns the miracles he works in John’s Gospel (which began with the most “human” miracle of making new wine at Cana’s wedding) by raising Lazarus from the dead—a “preview,” if you will, of his own death and resurrection to come. This portrait of Jesus reminds us, as we near the end of our Lenten journey, that he is with us, knows us, understands us in every moment of our lives. He knows the joy of our human feasting, he knows the sorrow of our weeping. As we prepare to walk with him through the days of Holy Week, we are filled with faith that—through Christ—God’s glory will be with us in every moment of our lives and—with Christ—in our life everlasting.

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March 26: Children of the Light

The future king, David, in today’s first reading, is an example of a type of character present throughout the Hebrew scriptures. He is the child born out of place (not the eldest or most favored) who ends up receiving the promise of the covenant. The spirit of God’s anointing rushes upon him. In this way, he is similar to the man born blind from today’s Gospel. David’s family and the blind man’s community did not expect the miraculous grace of God’s love to work through them. Perhaps they, too, were “blinded” by the expectations and assumptions of those around them. Yet, after being touched by God, they both came to “see” the presence of God’s will for them. Both became messengers of God’s will. That same Spirit of God’s anointing rushed upon us at our baptism; we were given a candle as a sign of our membership in the Body of Christ, the Light from Light. Our vocation, then, is to fulfill that enlightenment, that anointing, as Ephesians tells us, by living as “children of the light.”

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Especially during the Lenten, Holy Week, and Easter seasons, the prayer texts of the Eastern Church revel in paradoxical images of Christ: the eternal life who is put to death, the host of the supper who is also its meal, the thirsty crucified one with living water streaming from his side. These images flow from the evangelists’ portrayals of Jesus and from his very ministry, during which he often upset or reversed people’s expectations about him or the ways of God. This “reversal” is at play in today’s Gospel, as Jesus speaks to an enemy foreigner who is also a woman beneath his status. In addition he, the thirsting one, shows the woman to be the one truly thirsting. He whose parched lips will say “I thirst” before he dies is the source of life and life-giving water. Lent calls upon us to dwell on how each of us is thirsting for Christ, and it leads us, ultimately, back to the life-giving waters of our baptism into his Body.

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“We used to be such good friends. How is it that you’ve moved so far away?” one man asked another. “Perhaps,” the other replied, “you have moved away. By standing still.” This exchange very well could have happened between Peter and Jesus, had Peter been allowed to erect tents to stay on the mount of the Transfiguration. He nearly succumbed to the temptation to stay in a place of wonder and light. But Jesus knew the hard truth: we are on a continual journey when we are walking the paths of God’s will. It is not good for us to stay in one place on our faith journey. Equally unhealthy is staying put in times of joy and wonder to avoid life’s difficulties, or to wallow in our trials and temptations and fail to be companions for our sisters and brothers who are also suffering—or celebrating! The pilgrim Church is required to do one thing on its Lenten journey: to walk continually with Christ as his Body born of water and the Spirit, seeking God’s will, helping the reign of God to be known on earth, being led to the end of our journey, transfigured for all time into the company of heaven.

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