Today is Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord. We gather to remember the passion of Jesus. We call this week the Holy Week. In Judaism, the cluster of holy days that includes Rosh Hashanah (New Year) and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) is often called the “Days of Awe.” In that span of time Jews observe many of their most sacred festivals, quite similar to Holy Week. These are our days of awe. Nowhere else in the Christian calendar do we recall all the central mysteries of our faith in such a short period of time as we do this week.
In today's Gopsel by John, we have an interesting portrait of Jesus, showcasing his divinity but also his humanity. Martha, Mary, and Lazarus were very close friends of Jesus. He visited them, ate with them and talked at length with them. Having heard while he was preaching on the road that Lazarus was extremely sick he proceeded to visit them. He then heard Lazarus died (after Jesus intentionally delayed his return to see Martha and Mary).
Today marks the half-way point of Lent. We are almost there, so it’s time to get a little excited. The Fourth Sunday of Lent was once called Laetare Sunday. The Latin word Laetare is translated to Rejoice! “Rejoice” is the very first word that is said at Mass in the Entrance Antiphon or Introit. You will hear the antiphon this week at the 11:15 a.m. Mass:
Rejoice, O Jerusalem; and gather round, all you who love her; rejoice in gladness, after having been in sorrow; exult and be replenished with the consolation flowing from her motherly bosom. -Isaiah 66:10-1
This weekend marks the third Sunday in Lent, and the first of three Sundays in which those preparing for baptism celebrate the scrutinies. At Home with the Word 2018 explains that the scrutinies provide an opportunity to reflect on our sinfulness and our desire for healing. This week’s scrutiny focuses on Jesus, the living water.
Do you ever wonder about superheroes? Why are we so fascinated by them? What is it about super-human abilities that turns our heads? I googled “superhero” a moment ago and discovered SHDb (Superhero Database - https://www.superherodb.com/characters/ ) where I was given an alphabetical listing of all known superheroes—I didn’t count, but there must be hundreds, maybe thousands on the list. You can click on any name listed and read a complete analysis of the person and abilities.
A few weeks ago as I pulled out the readings for today in order to begin thinking about this reflection, my mind was not on Lent but on my newly determined New Year’s resolution. As I reflected on 2017 and what I wanted to change going forward, I realized that I spent too much of 2017 angry or appalled by other people’s words and actions. It kept me up at night; it consumed entire conversations with friends and family members and left me angry more often than happy. What a depressing way to live! I was determined to change that for 2018.
Whenever I unpack a particular passage from Scripture, I aim to answer three primary questions: 1) What’s going on here; 2) What does it have to do with us; 3) How should our week be different for having heard it?
What a start to today’s readings. We are dropped into Job’s monologue that paints his current emotional state as one of utter despair and brokenness. He begins, “Is not man’s life on earth a drudgery?” He describes his days as coming to an end without hope. And the reading ends with the devastating line, “I shall not see happiness again.”
One thing that many people find surprising about Pope Francis is how often he speaks about the devil. In a world that gives primacy to science and reason, many suppose that the devil is more myth than reality. And yet, how do we make sense of situations in our world marked by an evil presence that cannot simply be explained by our human capacity for evil and the fallen state of our world? Here I can think of events like the Holocaust, slavery and human trafficking, terrorism, or any number of other atrocities which haunt us long after they are over.
The dark and cold days of January remind me that we are now waiting for the next big holiday—the next time to celebrate with family and friends, or to have a few extra days off from work. It’s “ordinary” time. But isn’t it always the case that the most extraordinary moments and things come from the ordinary? It may be the phone call from a friend on a day that was especially trying. It may be the family all gathered around the dinner table on a Saturday night, with no TV and no cell phones.