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The theme for today's liturgy is that "we must die in order to live." We will hear this theme sounded in the gospel. Jesus will also tell us that the grain of wheat must die in order to bear fruit. In the second reading from Hebrews we hear that Jesus "offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to God . . . and that he learned obedience from what he suffered." The first reading is a "new covenant" with Jeremiah. But in the homily we will look at the life of Jeremiah to see how the theme is carried out there.

The book of Jeremiah is the prophecy of a man divinely called in his youth. The book of Jeremiah is one of my favorite books of the Old Testament. Jeremiah is a person of such strong feelings and emotions. He is able to express himself to God. He uses such powerful imagery to speak of his experiences. The book is a long one, 54 chapters, and so little known to Catholics. I would like you to hear some selected parts of the book of Jeremiah with the hope that this taste will lead to read more of it. When we have a person in the Hebrew Scriptures or Old Testament whose life has certain common elements with that of Jesus we call that person a "type" of Jesus. In the book of Isaiah the "Suffering servant" is a type of Jesus. Jeremiah is a type of Jesus.

Passages to look at:

1:4-6 call, excuses. He was reluctant to answer his call. He protested he didn't know how to speak, he was too young.

4:19 rapid heart beat. He was very sensitive to his own rejection. Seeing the suffering of his people he exclaimed: The pain, the pain, I can't bear the pain. My heart is beating wildly.

8:23 eyes a fountain of tears. He also said, "I wish my head were a well of water and my eyes a fountain of tears, so that I could cry day and night for my people who have been killed."

12:6 brothers betray

15:10-11 curse day of birth. He felt so bad he wished he'd never been born.

18:18,20,22 contrive a plot, pit, snares

20: 1,2,7-10,14-15,17-18 scouraged, placed in stocks, duped, cursed be day I was born, from womb to see sorrow and pain

26: 8-9 prophecy, must be put to death.

31: 3l: 34 Gospel before the Gospel, covenant in heart not on stone

37: 15-16 beaten, thrown in prison, dungeon

38: 4-6 ought to be put to death, demoralizes, threw in cisten,

only mud, and Jeremiah sunk in the mud.

43: 2 liar

These passages flesh out for us some of the type of deaths that we must go through in this life in order to find life. Many of Jeremiah's sufferings were found in the life of Jesus. Jeremiah seems to have been given the new covenant of the heart because his sufferings in life had deepened his own understanding and relationship with God to the point that he could receive this new covenant. (Pope Francis recently spoke about "humility and humiliation.)

The book of Hebrews tells us that Jesus "offered supplications with loud cries and tears." This is interesting because I think that the only time in the Gospel where we hear of Jesus crying is at the death of his friend Lazarus. The people said, "see how much he loved him." But from the book of Hebrews we get the impression that Jesus weeped more often. It would make sense since one of the beatitudes is: "blessed are they who mourn for they will be comforted."

In the Gospel we hear of some Greeks who want to see Jesus. This is toward the end of John's Gospel, chapter 12. The words in John's Gospel 12:24 speak of the seed "Amen, amen, I say to you, 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. " 

They also tell of Jesus feelings, "my soul is troubled now, yet what should I say?" These words remind us of the Garden of Gethsemane scene and Jesus prayer. It is interesting that in John's Gospel there is no agony in the garden scene. Jesus' life is living proof as was Jeremiah's that suffering can have a deepening effect on us. Jesus comes through a variety of deaths to life in this world. At the end of his life, his death leads to Resurrection. In this is the good news and promise for us. We will not be spared our sufferings and daily deaths and crosses but with Jesus we will overcome them. We will do this in this life and be people of the promise of Jesus who came that "we might have life and have it to the full." (Pope Francis gave us his programmatic apostolic exhortation titled THE JOY OF THE GOSPEL. He has spoken often of this joy.) We also have the promise of Eternal life after our final death in this world.

Jesus words about the seed falling to the ground, being buried,remind us of Jeremiah in the mud at the bottom of the well. These are words of promise about nature but also about us. As we see the fields being plowed these days, the shoots starting up, the crocuses and daffodils coming forth, the birds migrating and singing, spring coming, it is all promise not just that winter is over but that the winter of suffering and deaths of our life will come to fruition in new fruit. For us Lent is also a reminder of this rhythm in our life.

Gospel reflections from BECOMING CHILDREN OF GOD by Wes Howard-Brook, pp. 280,1. 

John 12: 25, 26 vs. 25 “The one who is fond of his life is losing it, and the one hating his life in this world will safeguard it for eternal life." It is not an antilife statement, but an anti-“world” statement, when the “world” is seen not as those who come to Jesus but as the home of death and lies ruled over by Satan.   . . . fondness for the life the world offers is what causes us to perish.  Those who become stuck within cultural bounds of community, who limit their sense of sister or brother to those of their generation, ethnicity, class, gender, or other narrow group, are allowing their participation in eternal life to be destroyed.

Jesus completes this discipleship message by linking it in verse 26 with service and presence: “If anyone would serve me, let them follow, and where I am, there also will my servant be, and if anyone serves me, the Father will honor them.” . . . To a mind focused on the “world,” this makes little sense in the face of the glory human beings bestow on one another in terms of wealth, power, prestige, or comfort.  But for those who aspire to be servants of Jesus and to follow in his footsteps, the Father’s honor is enough.

Source of reflection: Dave Jackson



This Sunday's Gospel is part of the conversation of Jesus with Nicodemus. In the first part of the conversation Jesus spoke of the condition for a life of faith: "a begetting from above" and a "begetting from water and the Spirit." Only through the Spirit can the believer "see" the kingdom in Jesus and enter into the "kingdom," namely, into a life of communion through faith with Jesus. We of our own resources cannot rise to this life of faith in Jesus.

To understand this part of the dialogue between Jesus and Nicodemus we must hear the beginning of chapter 3. There were are told that Nicodemus is a leader of the Jews and comes to Jesus at night. Why he comes may be so that his fellow Jews don't notice, or because he is a person who studies the scriptures at night. Nicodemus is attracted by the miracle working power of Jesus. Either he has witnessed it or heard of it from others. He learns, as we must, that it is not enough to be attracted to the miracle working power of Jesus. We must come to believe in Jesus. And Jesus says clearly that he must be lifted up. What does this mean? Cross and Resurrection.

For us as Catholics we learn about Jesus. Who is Jesus? Son of God, teacher, Lord, Messiah, etc. What did Jesus teach? Love God and neighbor. Parables. But do we know Jesus? Do we have a personal relationship with Jesus? For us this is Protestant terminology. But unless we have a personal relationship with Jesus all the rest is for naught. We profess our creed: We believe in One God, Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth.

Proof of our relationship with Jesus is that we talk to him. Have you talked to Jesus this past week?

John's Gospel is the Gospel of belief. But the abstract word "faith" does not occur once in the gospel. There is only the personal activity of believing which is almost exclusively directed towards the person of Jesus. One may believe something about Jesus, for example, that he is Messiah and Son of God or give credence to him by accepting as true what he says. But the element of personal commitment to Jesus is expressed in the most frequent phrase: "believing into" Jesus.

This "believing in (to)" Jesus goes far beyond accepting his message for it is a movement towards the person of Jesus, an attachment to him as the promised one and Son of God in such a way that the believer appropriates the very life of Jesus. Thus faith means to enjoy a life-giving relationship with him and to give oneself to Christ in dedication and full confidence. Besides, the reality of faith is expressed in other ways: to "follow," "receive" (welcome), to "come to" Jesus, to "hear" his "voice" (an active obedience to his word.) Finally "seeing" Jesus often includes more than physical vision since it also means to contemplate him in faith.

How then do we grow in our faith? 1) Prayer, praise, petition, etc. 2) Reading the scriptures, specifically the Gospels. 3) Sharing with others what the scriptures mean to us, Basic Christian Communities.

There are various groups where people share their faith, Schoenstadt,
cursillo, retreats, etc. 4) Witnessing. Paul VI said that people of our
day listen more to witnesses than to teachers. Testimonies are a concept
foreign to us as Catholics. We don’t usually tell another what I have
experienced of God in my life. Evangelization is an integral part of what
it means to be a follower of Jesus. We can witness without saying a
word about Jesus. I remember a project of St. Mary’s parish in Santa
Rosa Texas. A group of men worked a whole day to put in new pavement
in front of the church. As cars passed by they couldn’t help but notice
what was happening. We can visit our neighbor and say something
like, "we are from St. Mary's and just wanted to say hello.

In today's Gospel passage the conversation switches from faith as a generation of new life by the Spirit to faith as a personal activity of ours directed towards the person of Jesus and as a life-giving relationship with the Son of God. This faith is described in three stages:

1) Faith is founded in the person of Jesus for he is the perfect revealer of God (he speaks to us of 'earthly things', our destiny and life of faith, but speaks to us also of 'heavenly things' the mystery of Jesus' own person) whose revelation reaches its climax in his exaltation on the cross. Thus faith is our active response to Jesus as the true revealer of God.

2) The saving revelation of Jesus is the manifestation of God's love for the world (God gave his only Son, life of Jesus and death) which is not directed towards the 'judgment' or condemnation of the world but towards the salvation of those who believe in the Son of God. (vv. 16-18) We enter into a life-giving communion with Jesus and come to share in this saving 'life' through faith. But this must be a genuine faith as opposed to that faith which seeks signs. Such faith is a movement towards the person of Jesus, the giving of oneself to him and accepting him as he has revealed himself, that is, as the only, beloved Son, generated from the Father and the supreme expression of God's love. But the person who deliberately rejects Jesus, condemns himself.

3) This revelation of God in Jesus, or the coming of the light into the world, evokes a double response: the majority remain incredulous while others respond in faith. The positive response of faith in Jesus is described from various points of view. "Coming to the light." In addition it is an internal self-appropriation of the meaning and message of Jesus who is the truth, or self-revelation of God. Thus "doing the truth" means making this truth one's own or part of one's living. Faith is also a question of works: listening to the word of Jesus, seeing Jesus as the Son of God, confessing faith in him, and then embracing those various activities in the process of faith through which the believer enters into communion with God through Jesus. Pope Francis: "If we see someone is hungry, we pray for them, then we feed them, that's the way prayer works."

On the other hand, the negative response to Jesus is judgment or self- condemnation. These people think they are living in the light and do not see the evil of their own incredulity. (v. 20)

We hear again about Nicodemus in John, Chapter 7. There the pharisees wish to condemn Jesus. Now Nicodemus becomes a day time defender of Jesus. He says that the law requires that Jesus have a hearing. We aren't told just how Nicodemus had moved from doubter to defender.

The last time we hear about Nicodemus in John's Gospel is in chapter 19 when he with Joseph of Arimathea come to ask for the body of Jeus. They want to take it down from the cross. Remember, Jesus had been killed because he was considered dangerous. It was also dangerous to be identified with him. Nicodemus has grown to this fearless person. Perhaps we can identify with Nicodemus, first confused, then from doubter to defender and then to fearless person. Clearly the difference is marked between the Kingdom of God that Jesus taught and lived and the Kingdom of Empire so powerful in our day. We must act in some way so that what should not be is not and have courage so that what should be is. St. Augustine said that "hope has two lovely daughters, anger so that what should not be is not and courage so that what should be is."
On this Sunday of Lent we must examine ourselves: What am I doing to make sure that what should not be is not and so that what should be is? We can take inspiration and hope from the activities of the young high school students (not only in Florida) working for legislation to control guns.  They are speaking out with clarity and without compromise.  Am I able to do that?  

Source of reflection: Dave Jackson



Today's Gospel is one that we are familiar with and which we usually refer to when thinking of anger.  I'm afraid when we speak of Jesus' just anger we are sometimes trying to justify our own anger.  But anger is a reality of our life and experience and I'd like to consider it with you.

Most people are familiar with the story of the cleansing of the temple.  It is only in John that we learn that Jesus fashioned a kind of whip of cords.  Interestingly enough it doesn't say Jesus beat anyone or anything.  This is one of the few instances in the story of Jesus that we learn that he was angry.

The Greek language has two different words for anger.  The first word has to do with anger that is like a small bundle of straw (paja) which is lighted.  The straw flares up, (brillar), is bright and hot, but only for an instant and then is gone.  The other word for anger is that which is more lasting.  (smoldering)  It is more like the heating of a piece of iron (hierro calentado)  It takes time to penetrate the metal but lasts a much longer time.  A third type of anger is what I'd call unrecognized anger. Anger is often a place where family systems clash.

The first kind of anger, the flare up kind, is familiar to us.  A mother has just washed the floor and in comes her son or daughter and tracks in mud.  "I just washed that floor, will you please wipe your feet?"  Or the father returning from work and the two children are arguing.  "Will you please stop it?"  All of you could add many more examples of this type of anger.  It comes and goes and if it isn't an almost constant part of life, it isn't all that serious.  If however, there is any kind of physical abuse or violence, it is serious.

The second type of anger is like the heated metal (hierro calentado).  We know we are getting hot.  This is the anger that is refueled to keep it hot.  The heat is applied for a considerable time. When the iron gets hot it stays hot for a long time.  This is the kind of anger we brood over in our hearts.  We talk with a person of like mind who knows how to feed the anger.  It is like the billows of the blacksmith.

The third type of anger is what I call unknown or unrecognized anger.  Sometimes we feel frustrated (frustrado), tense (tenso), estirado, judgmental (castigando), irritated (irritado), disappointed (deceptionado, desilusionado) let down, edgy, less loving.  Sometimes I'm not even in touch with my negative feeling but only feel less joy, creativity, spontaneity and love. There is a good description of this king of unrecognized or unacknowledge anger in the book "Healing Life's Hurts," page 102-3: "I become more impatient and critical.  Impatience makes me a clockwatcher shifting feet and tightening my jaw when people come late.  I find myself rushing what I am doing (eating fast) to get on to the next event (reading a newspaper) and rushing that too.  I even help people finish their sentences so I can get on to what I want to say or alter their insights with a 'Yes . . . but . . . '  When I take time to talk with someone, I only half listen, hearing what is said but missing how the person really feels.  I begin to teach subjects, not students, and look forward to classes ending, not beginning.  I impatiently work harder and alone, seldom delegating a task because I feel that others don't want to help or because I don't think that they could do a good job.  I become a 'constructive' critic (because I am critic and not the target) of everyone--those who don't know I need help, those who are late, and those spreading injustice by their apathy.  (Communicate the message that you are damned if you do and damned if you don't.)  When I pray, I treat God as I do others--half listening, talking about my work, complaining about injustices that need changing and venting impatience at God's timetable.  Much of the day my anger expresses itself in continual wishes that something would change and go faster or better."  These can be some of the symptoms of anger. Uneasiness, disease.  If anger is swallowed long enough, the body rebels. I also believe that repressed or denied anger or anger that is clung to causes cancer.  Physical illness can also be a symptom that I am angry.  One of the results of denied anger is that it builds and builds and finally boils over.  It can be a small thing that brings about the explosion.  Or the explosion comes out not only unexpectedly but displaced.  I direct my anger at the wrong person.

Anger can be denied or unrecognized or unacknowledged for a variety of reasons.  But basically we don't call anger anger because we believe or have been taught that anger is bad.  We don't want to be bad.  We learn to hide our anger from our friends and ourselves.  Sometimes though we are the only ones who don't know that we are angry.  But feeling anger is healthy.  Nursing unresolved anger which results in hostility is usually unhealthy and sinful.  St. Augustine had a saying:  "Hope has two lovely daughters, anger and courage.  Anger so that what should not be is not and courage so that what should be is. Suppose for a moment that you are driving down a road and someone swerves into your path.  You get angry but your anger also activates your body to react and overcome the accident that you fear.  It also sometimes activates our tongue to "curse a blue streak".  When someone hurts me I also get angry.  This is a sign of health.  It means that I am concerned about myself and about the other.  "We should love ourselves and others enough to hate violence, selfishness, prejudice, sexual chauvinism (machismo), and other injustices.  Anger energizes us to change what should be changed so that we can live in a better, more loving environment."

How can we work at our sinful anger?  Some people find it helpful to divert their anger.  I'm reminded of our novice master who got so angry with us for breaking silence continually during work period. He walked briskly outside saying his office for about three quarters of an hour before he confronted us with our misdeed.  This is the person who gets angry and goes for a walk, or a bike ride, or chops wood or cleans up a storm or takes a hot bath or shower, or goes jogging, or, or . . .   In doing this we must be aware that we are simply diffusing the anger.  These things drain away the present tension but fail to heal past hurts that fester and cause continuous anger.

A second way to work at our anger is to try to pin down our feelings by talking to someone about how we feel.  We must of course share with someone not to nurse the anger along or be bolstered in our right to be angry.  A warm friend's acceptance of our anger can be the beginning of healing.  This person may give me a different perspective on the whole thing.

Sometimes we can directly tell whoever hurt us exactly how we felt and why we are angry.  When we are angry is usually not the time to do this.  How often in anger the worst in me meets the worst in you and things get worse.

Prayer is also a means to work on anger.  I can begin by telling Christ how I feel.  Sometimes this means getting beyond what first comes to my mind to the deeper hurt.  Sometimes we have to explore with Christ to 'recognize' our anger.  If we have a distorted idea of God we will not share with him at the level needed for healing.  I must share with God who loves me unconditionally.  My prayer might sound like this:  "Lord, show me what I felt like saying and doing.  Let me share all its ugliness and hurt with you.  Lord I feel drained and scared."  We have to know something of the scriptures to do this well.  We might find an incident in the life of Jesus something like the hurt I have suffered.  Then we should listen tohow Jesus felt.  Finally we should ask Jesus for the insight for what to do and the strength to do this.  "Usually when I can admit I am angry, the Lord shows me the destruction I detest, whom I am blaming, why the person is that way, the hidden side I can't see and what he wants to do and say through me to bring healing."

"Anyone can love the smiling side of a person, but anger allows my love to deepen into forgiving even the wounding side of another.  I can accept the anger and weakness in another's wounding side only to the degree I can recognize and accept my own angry feelings and weakness as does Christ.  Anger, therefore, stretches me to love more as Christ until I can forgive even the weakness in myself and in another."  We must hear the words of Paul to the Ephesians, "Be angry but sin not." Eph. 4:26.

It would take a whole other reflection to explore Augustine’s “Hope has two lovely daughters, anger so that what should not be is not . . . . ” There is so much today that “should not be."  What would you state fits into this class?

Reflection by: Dave Jackson



The first reading of this second Sunday of Lent speaks of the covenant that God renews with Abraham. The Gospel tells of the Transfiguration of Jesus. But we notice that Abraham is first tested by God. In Mark's Gospel just previous to the Transfiguration scene Jesus predicts his passion and teaches that we must take up our cross. We could summarize this Sunday's message as Cross bearing and Glory sharing.

Does the God presented to us in the first reading present any problems for you? I think this demanding God who asks Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, "your only one, whom you love," the miracle child, the promise, the cherished gift, is the image some people have of God. Theirs is a demanding, punishing, testing God. Is yours the kind of God who would as it were play this cruel game on you? Some would ask of this story: "What if Abraham only thought he knew what God wanted? He came from a culture that occasionally reverted to human sacrifice in times of national crisis, as a desperate attempt to secure divine help. We do not know for certain if this was the case with Abraham, but people have often thought that they knew what God wanted and have been mistaken. Only when the angel stayed his hand did Abraham know what his God expected of him. This story confirms once and for all that God forbids human sacrifice." (Hebrew Scriptures by Mary Reed Newland, pp.35-36). 

The author seems to have been a prophet disturbed by constant pagan pressures inflicted on his readers.

Many of these non-Jewish people actually sacrificed their children to the fertility gods and goddesses they worshiped; often taunting their Israelite neighbors that such atrocious practices proved they were more dedicated to their deities than the Israelites were dedicated to Yahweh. This is where the Eholistic author seems to step in.

This complete surrender of Abraham to God must be set in the context of Abraham's life. Abraham was by no means a perfect human being. In Chapter 12 and 20 Abraham was willing to give up his own wife to rulers to save his own life.

In chapter 16 he is uncertain enough of God's promise to take Hagar to gain a son. The sacrifice of Isaac in the context of Sarah, Hagar and Ishmael takes on a fuller meaning. Sarai, in her 70's, had borne no child for Abraham. She then offered Hagar, her Egyptian maid-servant, to Abraham as his wife. Hagar becomes pregnant with Ishmael, a source of joy to Abraham at the ripe age of 86, but an irritating source of jealousy and resentment to Sarai. Sarai abuses the pregnant Hagar. It becomes too much for Hagar and she runs away. But Hagar is assured by God that her son will be great and she is to return.

In chapter 17, Abraham doubts the angel who tells him that Sarah will bear a child. This is thirteen years later. God, while ensuring a fruitful and happy fate for Hagar's Ishmael, offers a new covenant to Abraham, with the promise of a son for Sarai, now to be called Sarah, at the age of 90. At the time of Isaac's weaning (chapter 21, vs. 8), however, Sarah's jealousy gets the better of her and she insists that Abraham cast Hagar and Ishmael out in to the wilderness. Abraham is pained but he easily accepts God's reassurance that both will survive. Giving them some bread and a skin of water, he casts them out. Abraham was ambivalent. He loved his son Ishmael but is willing to cast him out. This is somewhat eased by the promise from God that both will survive. The casting out is also eased by the happy result that Sarah will be happy. Years later (chapter 22) when Isaac reaches about the same age Ishmael had been when he was banished, God gives Abraham another test. But this time the ambivalence is removed. In words and context much the same as those of the Ishmael incident, we read that Abraham is once again in the situation of dispatching the "son he loves." This time however, there are no beneficial side effects that might alleviate his pain. All Abraham has is his trust that God is good and will keep his promises.  

In the story of the sacrifice of Isaac, we see a different Abraham.

He is not the deceptive Abraham, he is not the doubting Abraham. He is the completely believing Abraham, confident that God will provide. He believes that Isaac is God's promise of future generations and believes that God is good and will keep his promises. God intervenes to spare Isaac. Isaac lives, marries Rebekah and fathers generations of grace and abundance. (Just as he was overshadowed by his Father Abraham, he will be overshadowed by his son Jacob from whom will come the 12 tribes of Israel.)

John McKenzie in his dictionary of the bible offers: "The story of the sacrifice of Isaac shows the great faith of Abraham. It is also directed against the practice of human sacrifice, and this is probably its primary purpose in it original form. It may be the expression of this truth by an imaginary narrative, a parable, or it may preserve dimly the memory of some spiritual crisis in the life of Abraham.” 

Just as the story of Abraham must be understood in the context of Abraham's entire life, so the story of Transfiguration must be understood in the context of Jesus' entire life. In terms of the number of verses this story stands at the middle of Mark's gospel. It is the only "high mountain" scene in Mark's Gospel. Outside of baptism this is the only time the life of Jesus is marked by divine intervention in visible and audible terms. There will be no divine intervention at Jesus' passion and crucifixion. It proves helpful to observe precisely at what point in the dramatic development Mark places this scene of recognition. It is not presented until all the crucial identifications of Jesus have been given: figure of power over evil and death, founder of the new community, man of suffering and death, victor over death who will come at some future time. The transfiguration scene is therefore to be understood as a preview, granted to the three chosen disciples, of Jesus' full identity as Son of God, an identity which is yet to be fully materialized through suffering and rising.

The Transfiguration scene begins with the somewhat ambiguous phrase "after six days." Raymond Brown says of this phrase: "The "after six days" of 9:2 seems to recall Exodus 24:16 where cloud covers Sinai for six days and only on the day after that does God call to Moses." Marie Sabin Noonan says: "There is a sense of new beginnings. The time frame of "six days" (9:2) is suggestive of the six days of Creation before God’s Sabbath rest. Mark intensifies the sense of a new creation when he describes God’s voice saying to Jesus the very same words he spoke at the moment of his baptism. . . . The reference to "six days" also recalls the period Moses waited before the divine voice called to him on the mountain of Sinai (Exod 24:12-18).

Ched Myers asks: "What is the meaning of the appearance of Moses and Elijah here?" His answer: " . . . each of the two great prophets represent those who, like the disciples at this moment, beheld Yahweh’s epiphany on a mountain at crucial periods of discouragement in their mission." (This observation helps us to understand the choice of the Transfiguration Gospel as always offered to us for consideration on the Second Sunday of Lent.)

The disciples misunderstand. Peter wants to arrest and make a present reality of what was only meant to be a preview of the future. The disciples desire a shortcut to the Kingdom of God by eliminating the dimension of suffering and death. The Markan Jesus by contrast not only postpones fulfillment but insists on an irrevocable connection between true life and death on the cross. The glory of the transfiguration will not be consummated except through the agony on the cross. No glory sharing without cross bearing.

The story of the Transfiguration is followed immediately by one of the most dramatic scenes in the Gospel (Mk. 9:14-24).The disciples have returned from a brief moment of insight to their usual state of dulled understanding. The disciples are powerless to combat a destructive demon who is pictured in graphic and horrible detail controlling a young boy. In his painting, the Transfiguration, Raphael captures these two scenes. In top half of the painting, Jesus and the heavenly companions are illumined in resplendent colors. The lower half of the painting portrays the hapless disciples in the face of their inability. Looking at the painting we behold the chaos of earthly evil and a glimpse of heavenly glory. We in our life time will have moments of transcendence and transformation. But we must always return to earth to hear the voice of Jesus and follow him on the way to the cross.

So in the first reading we have the intervention of God to save the life of Abraham's beloved son Isaac. In the Gospel we know that God will not intervene to save the life of his Beloved Son Jesus. But God will intervene to raise him from the Dead. Death has no more power over him.

Paul writing to the Romans teaches us about our God: "If God is for us, who can be against us? Is it possible that he who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for the sake of us all will not grant us all things besides?"

August 6, 1945, a blinding light transfigured the citizens of Hiroshima, Japan. On that day the Catholic Church was celebrating another transfiguration, the transfiguration of Jesus. The anniversary of the Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima reminds us of the destructive transfiguring power (intelligence at the service of power). The opposite is the creative Transfiguring Power of Life in Jesus (intelligence at the service of love).

We will share moments of transcendence but must return to earth to combat evil.

Reflection by Dave Jackson



This Lent the first readings speak of covenants between God and God’s people.  We have the following covenants: Noah, Abraham, Moses, Cyrus and Jeremiah.  We will be focusing on these covenants in a special way this Lent.

The Gospels for the first two Sundays of Lent center on Jesus’ temptation and the Transfiguration according to Mark's Gospel.

“Change is not easy.  But if we refuse to change, refuse to turn away from sin and believe in the Gospel, the consequences are dire for us."

Mark has a streamlined version of the temptations.  We must go to Matthew and Luke to find the temptations spelled out.  They are temptations to false ways of salvation: Pleasure, Pride, and Possession. ("As the Baptism scene recapitulates the opening of Genesis, so the reference to the temptation for "forty days in the desert" encapsulates the key experience of Israel in the book of Exodus. Mark gives us a static picture, the human figure of Jesus steadfast between "wild beasts" and ministering angels.  It is an icon of original humanity, only this time not sinning."Mark commentary by Marie Noonan Sabin)   In Mark’s Gospel after Jesus’ forty days experience in the desert, tempted by Satan he proclaims:  “This is the time of fulfillment.  The kingdom of God is at hand.  Repent and believe in the gospel.”  These words are both promise and challenge. 

I’d like to look at three parts of the Gospel: 1) the desert, what it meant to Jesus, what it means to us; 2) the handing over of John the Baptist; 3) Jesus' proclamation: the kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe in the Good news. 

1) THE DESERT.  A place of struggle with the forces of evil and also of new beginnings.  The desert was the traditional abode of evil and demonic forces.  We can recall the experience of the Jewish people in the desert. They had been freed from the slavery of Egypt and were on their way to the promised Land.  They sojourned in the desert for forty years.  During this sojourn they were tempted, to turn back, to complain, to worship false gods.  But in the midst of these struggles against evil God was doing something new.  The people were fashioned in to the Jewish nation the Chosen People.  It was a new beginning.

Jesus is driven by the Spirit into the desert to struggle with the personification of evil, Satan.  We are not sure of the symbolism of the “wild beasts.”  Do they symbolize the evil spirits?  Or do they signify the special time of God's final peace (at one with nature) of Is. 11:6-9. ”Angels” waited on him.  Here we get a hint, a whisper of Jesus' final victory.

For us an image of Lent is also the desert.  How long did the Jews wander in the desert? 40 years.  How long did Jesus sojourn in the desert? 40 days.  How long is Lent? 40 days. It is also to be about our struggle with the forces of evil as we experience them in ourselves, our families our daily life.  On Ash Wednesday we received ashes a reminder of our earthliness and frailty.  We are sinners.  Symbolically sinners put ashes on and clothe themselves in sack cloth as reminders of their seeking conversion.  What practices of Lent are we undertaking to overcome our sinfulness? 

2) JOHN HANDED OVER.  The fate of John is a preview of (foreshadows)
the fate of Jesus.  The long shadow of the cross is present in the beginning of Jesus' public ministry.  The cross is kept in a prominent place throughout the Gospel of Mark.  The same Greek word paradidomi is very prominent in reference to Jesus' passion.  Judas hands Jesus over to the chief priests (14:10), the chief priests hand Jesus over to Pilate (l5:l0), Pilate hands Jesus over to be crucified (death) (15:l2).

The disciples resisted the cross as part of Jesus' life and resisted the cross as part of their own life.  We do the same.  During the Lenten season we have the way of the cross every Friday.  We heighten our awareness during this penitential season of our need to carry our own cross.  There is nothing magical about Lent or about ashes.  We must adopt some Lenten practice as a sign of our need for God, our dependence on God, our desire to die to the sinful parts of ourselves. 

3) KINGDOM OF GOD.  Jesus claims the divine intervention of God was happening in his ministry.  The kingdom is offered to all who hear Jesus' message. The kingdom of God has values very different from the kingdom of empire. To those who respond positively to the Kingdom of God it is God's call out of Empire. Sadly historically the church in many ways has come to embrace what Jesus rejected.

God's offer of salvation through Jesus calls for a response.

The kingdom is to be a present and future reality.

Reform your lives, or as it says in Spanish tomen otro camino. Take another path. 

Amidst the desert, cross, ashes, sinner side of Lent we must never lose sight of the fact that with the coming of Jesus, the kingdom is present in a new way.  We are to have a personal experience of this kingdom of God and the difference that the presence of Jesus makes.  St. Peter in the second reading today reminds us that we too are covenanted with God through our Baptism.  Our Lenten season is a time to grow more fully into the newness of Christ.

We must be alert to when our priorities conform to 
the the kingdom of empire rather than the kingdom of God. We are called
to conversion, to take the path of Jesus, not the path of TV advertisements,
the ways of Reality TV stars, the actions of some politicians and clergy. 
Conversion demands of us. The apostles in Mark's Gospel at first are confused
and baffled by Jesus.  They lack understanding.  But as the Gospel progresses
to the middle section, the apostles misunderstand Jesus. And finally in Jerusalem
they desert Jesus. But transformation takes place after the Resurrection.
We can use Lent to discern where are we in our trajectory to be disciples? This
call to discernment can be calling to us as a Lenten practice. Am I willing to
involve myself in this practice, this Lent?

Source of reflection: Davd Jackson


(by Catholic Women Preach)


When I was a kid in the 80’s in our Catholic Grammar School we learned a very simple but very apt song to about recycling: re-re-re-re-re-recycle, re-re-re-re-re-reuse it.

The prefix “re” means “again." . . . “Again, again, again, the cycle” . . . “again, again, again use it."

The readings—just like my childhood introduction to ecological justice—hit us over the head with the prefix “re” . . . return, renew, relent, reconcile, recompense . . . We are instructed to “turn again," “to again make new," "to again become flexible," “to again bring together," and “again bring into balance." What a complex and curious invitation . . . Amid the texts’ trumpet-blast summonsing into Lent, there is also very practical guidance.

The Gospel explicitly names our next steps—prayer, fasting, and acts of charity (or as Jesus says “righteous deeds.”) These are the three pillars of a Lenten practice, each individually important and beautiful in concert. Let’s spend a moment with each of these:

Prayer: We are summonsed to re-establish or re-invigorate our connection with God. Spend some time thinking about your prayer-life and set a concrete, attainable plan for Lent, such as 5 minutes of silence each day or revisiting a favorite devotion.

Fasting: We, as humans, are not just heads wheeled around town by a rickety television stand we call a body. Our bodies are creations of the Divine working for the Divine. What habits do we need to break and what habits should we re-introduce? How do we reset or reinvigorate our bodies? Again, find one, concrete, attainable practice for the next month and 1/2.

Regarding Almsgiving or “acts of charity” or “righteous deeds”: How will we become more and better connected to others? Where are we called to give more or give differently to others? Again, find one, concrete, attainable practice.

I considered sharing with you my Lenten practices but then you would know too much about me . . . and—quite seriously—I trust you will be correctly directed back onto your right track.

I will share, however, that I look to our Muslim brothers and sisters as a model and inspiration during Lent. During Ramadan, the difficult act of fasting during the day is accompanied by abstention from falsehood in speech or action and from arguing and fighting. I am moved by both the

Jesus speaks to us in today’s Gospel about integrity as we fast, pray, and perform righteous deeds. “Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them.” “When you pray, go to your inner room and close the door.” “When you fast, do not look gloomy . . . wash your face so that you may not appear not be fasting.” In other words: When you pass on the Margarita at happy hour, whisper to your colleague that you are on antibiotics. When you send a check, tell the recipients not to send you a thank you note or tax-deductible letter. Better yet, don’t give them your name. Our first reading from the book of Joel says it so well: “Rend your hearts, not your garments.” Break open your hearts, don’t put on a show. We are called to deep, interior work—not to simulate or pretend that we are devout.

After my little lecture about the three pillars of a Lenten practice, I want to return to . . . well . . . to the word “return” and the many “re’s” in our texts. I invite you to think of Lent as the annual tune up on the ol liturgical calendar. Fasting, prayer and good works are the processes by which we change the air filters and test the emission systems. They are the seemingly invasive or disruptive processes that renew us, restore us, make the clicking noise relent.

An even better example of the Lent’s processes can be found in nature. The word Lent is derived from the word Lencten (lengthening of days), meaning Springtime. In the harsh Winter months, wind, ice and snow shake loose dead branches and remove diseased tissue. And we have adopted the practice pruning to improve or maintain the health, yield and quality of fruits and flowers. In other words, cutting back can bring a return, a renewal of life in its fullest.

And this is the point: Lent is our annual tune-up, our pruning practicing that, if done with care and integrity, can renew our life. Again and again.

Lent is about our belief in the big “Re” – Resurrection. To rise again.

No one tunes or prunes with the belief it is all in vain. Prayer, fasting and righteous deeds are done by people who believe in Resurrection.

My dear friends, fellow believers in new life and that there can be new life again, again, again and again, blessings on your Lenten journey.

Oh to be there with you all at Easter to see you resurrected and returned to your best self!



Both the First Reading and the Gospel speak about Leprosy. The first reading gives teaching on how lepers are to be treated. The people of Jesus' time treated lepers in this way. In the Gospel we get a very different treatment of a leper by Jesus.

Some time back, the movie "Jesus Christ Superstar" came out. One of the scenes from that movie which was seared into my memory was the scene when the lepers approached Jesus. The scene was set in an isolated, out of the way place. It was dark as I recall and suddenly out from behind the rock formations emerged forms. These forms had their heads covered with a kind of hood. They cried out "unclean, unclean."

Once when giving a homily, I was wearing a beautiful purple vestment which had a hood. After mentioning the scene from the movie "Jesus Christ Superstar," I turned my back to the Congregation, I flung the hood up over my head and haltingly approached the congregation. I nervously blurted out the words, "If you will, you can make me clean." I then went on with the following reflections on this Gospel passage.

I would first suggest that we try to put ourselves in the place of those lepers. What happens to a person if for years they have been forced to live in isolated places and every time they approached someone the person either shied away or perhaps even shrieked away? Lepers were people with physical ailments. This sickness might have consumed a part of their limbs; they might have been on some rude sort of crutch; their faces may have been disfigured. Is it not possible that the isolation of the leper was as bad and did as much harm to him/her as the physical disease? We have to be struck by this man’s daring. What allowed him to approach Jesus? Was it that he was so frustrated with the disease that out of desperation he approached Jesus? Did he think that things could not get any worse? Had he perhaps heard rumors about Jesus? He was able to approach Jesus and kneel down and beseech him.

I wonder how these words of the leper were spoken. Did he hurriedly and nervously blurt out the words, "If you will you can make me clean." Jesus tells him not to tell anyone, yet he spreads the news everywhere. This is completely understandable to me. Even after an eight day silent retreat people have much to talk about. This man had been isolated for a long time. Just the experience of being part of the other people would have impelled him to speak, I think. Besides this he had a marvelous cure to tell them about. I wonder if he did go show himself to the priest. Remember elsewhere in the Gospels we learn that Jesus record with lepers isn’t too good. Remember the ten who were cured, only one of them returned to thank Jesus. I might even wonder if the story of the ten is connected with the story of this man. Did he go back and tell his brethren about his experience with Jesus? Had he heard about Jesus from them?

Let us look also at Jesus. He was moved with pity. The Revised Standard Version of this Gospel says, "Moved to anger." This strong Greek word means having your intestines turn! It wasn’t the leper that disturbed Jesus. I think it was a combination of the disease and the way lepers were treated by other people that made Jesus angry. Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him. According to Jewish law this touching made Jesus unclean. Jesus gave him the stern warning and dismissed him. Jesus is forced to go into hiding. Jesus is now a marked man, considered unclean in the city due to his contact with the leper. This first symbolic action of healing thus sets the tone for Jesus' campaign: liberation provokes conflict.

Interestingly enough there is not a call for faith in this miracle. The way Mark develops his Gospel there is no call for faith in the early ministry of Jesus. This came later.

At the end of today’s passage Jesus ends up in the desert places and probably the leper is in the city. We probably can learn something about what to expect in our following of Jesus if we exercise his concern for outcasts. We might find ourselves in a different place or a different relationship with some people. Fr. James Martin, S.J. who wrote the book BUILDING A BRIDGE (How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community can enter into a relationship of Respect of Respect, Compassion and Sensitivity) has come under cruel, " vitriolic, uncharitable, and downright mean comments. which are shocking, embarrassing, and unbecoming for anyone who claims a Catholic faith that values communion, love, reconciliation, dialogue, and human dignity. (“This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another”--John 13:35.) Kevin Ahern

From the leper we can learn that fear of approaching another is part of our life and living. Perhaps we have experienced the fear of approaching someone dear to us to ask for forgiveness. We goofed and are sorry but are not sure of their ability to forgive.

We must also examine our attitudes. Who are outcasts to us? For many people prisoners and ex-convicts are outcasts. Many elderly people are outcasts, actually cast out, out of their home and into a nursing home. Some of these elderly are forgotten, alone and isolated. Dying people are sometimes outcasts, the seriously ill, people who have been in mental hospitals, people who speak a language different from us, people who look different, people with a different sexual orientation, people who have contacted AIDS, etc.

From Jesus we learn that he is concerned for the outcast, for the sufferer. In fact these people seem to strike a special chord in Jesus’ heart. Many times people who were excluded by others were included by Jesus.

We can dismiss the story of the leper by saying that Jesus could do miracles and we can’t. But we are still called to be imitators of Jesus. We should come to Jesus first with our need for healing, for wholeness (whatever form that need has in us). Who is Jesus telling me to look on differently, perhaps to stretch out and touch? We ask Jesus to heal us and make us healers.

Source of reflection: Dave Jackson