GOSPEL READINGS FOR MARCH 2003
5th Sunday of Lent. John 11, 1-45.
Neither the disciples nor the sisters of Lazarus understand what Jesus means by ¡§sleeping¡¨, ¡§living¡¨, ¡§to rise from the dead¡¨. The main problem for us is that we do not quite understand the Word of God, that is, we do not understand what He tells us by means of the happenings of daily life. We need to learn this language with Jesus and his Mother, Mary, by listening again and again daily.
Palm Sunday. Mk 14, 1¡X15, 47.
The gospels were written starting by the stories of the death and resurrection of Jesus. This very fact means that the early Church looked a this event as the central event of our faith. Suffering is the main problem of human life. For many people, and even for each of us, sometimes, it becomes a stumbling block. So, the Son of God wanted to lead us in this path. The slow reading and contemplation of the Passion gives us the chance to walk this path behind Jesus, and to allow our suffering being change into joy and glory.
The Resurrection of the Lord. John 20, 1-9. Mk 16, 1-7. Lk 24, 13-35.
If you read attentively the different narratives of Jesus apparitions to different people¡Xthe women, Mary Magdalene, the two Emmaus disciples and the others, you will realized that the so-called ¡§resurrection¡¨ of Jesus is not a magic ¡§happy ending¡¨. It is the experience of Jesus, first, and his companions together with him of a very basic dynamic of human existence: in order to rejoice, first we have to suffer; in order to succeed first we have to fail, in order to live first we have to dye.
2nd Sunday of Easter. John 20, 19-31.
Sin is division: between my ideal ¡¥ego¡¦ and my real ¡¥ego¡¦, between the others, and me between God and men, between man and created things. The reconciliation brought by Jesus is reunion within myself, with the others, with God and with created things. As far as this reunion happens within myself, I feel that I am sent to effectively announce it to others.
¡§THIS IS MY BELOVED SON. LISTEN TO HIM!¡¨
During the last CLC formation week, a boy, in a small group said: ¡§As Lao Hung said yesterday, we have to be with the people we do not like¡¨. I was in that group and I asked him: ¡¥Did I really say that?¡¦ What I had really said is: ¡§Let us follow Jesus in being with those who need us, no matter we like them or not.¡¨ I had said it at the end of the Eucharist and Reconciliation, during which we had listened to Lk 15, where the Pharisees criticized Jesus because he and his disciples ate with the tax collectors and those they considered as sinners.
The incident shows several interesting things. I had very carefully stressed two things: ¡§following Jesus¡¨ and ¡§with those who need us¡¨. But that boy, though he is an intelligent and good person, interpreted my words in the way he usually thinks and hears most people usually speak. He did not pay attention to ¡§following Jesus¡¨, and he jumped strait to the conclusion: ¡§to be with those we do not like.¡¨
Why did I stress those two things? First of all, unless we follow Jesus and accept his strength (in a conscious or unconscious way) we cannot do this, at least in a constant way. Second, Jesus is not just doctrine, advises and norms. He is a living person who wants to walk with us, and the purpose of reading the gospel is, precisely, to get in contact with this Jesus. By ¡§with those who need us¡¨ I mean that the hard thing of being with those we do not like is not the purpose, but the consequence of trying to attain the purpose, which is to answer the needs of others.
And, in a still deeper level, this is precisely the difference between the Christian Faith and any other faiths or religions and even the Old Testament. Take, for instance, the reading and the Gospel of the second day of Lent: in the reading (Dt¥Ó30, 15-20) Moses tells the Israelites in the name of God: Here is the path leading to life and there is the path leading to dead. You have to choose. If you do so and so, you will live. If you do so and so, you will dye. In the Gospel, (Lk ¸ô9, 22-25)Jesus says: Anyone who wants to follow me (to life, obviously) has to deny himself and so on. It is a completely different thing to follow a path indicated to me, even by God or in His name, and to follow a person who walks that path.
Or, the reading and Gospel of the third day of Lent. In the reading,(Is ¨Ì58, 1-9) the Prophet Isaiah, using strong and colorful words, tells the people, in the name of God, that the fasting the Lord wants is very different from the fasting they are practicing. In the Gospel, (Mth º¿9, 14-15) Jesus and his disciples simply do not fast regularly as the disciples of John and of the Pharisees do. This fact attracts the attention of those disciples and some of them ask Jesus about the reason for that kind of (they think) misbehavior. Jesus, by means of three parables tells them about a completely different meaning and intention of ¡¥fasting¡¦: it is not self-perfection but to answer the needs of others. The prophet had this idea already. The difference is that the prophet indicates de way to walk and, perhaps, he was walking that way already. Jesus ¡¥lives¡¦ in a very different way, following the original meaning of those human practices¡Xprayer, fast and so forth.
During the Eucharist of the second day of Lent, there were a whole family with two daughters, a couple who has a small boy who was not present, a lady with one of her two boys, a couple expecting their first child and four other young people, one working and three studying. In the context of the reading and gospel mentioned above, we talked about education and realized the difference between the way God educated the Israelites, the way Jesus educated the people of his time and anyone who reads the gospels anywhere and at anytime, and the way we usually try to educate. God tells his people honestly what they should do and the consequences of doing otherwise and He allows them to commit mistakes. Jesus tells his contemporaries and us: Come, follow me.
Even Paul dared to tell the Christians of his time (the Corinthians, if I remember correctly): ¡§Follow me, as I follow Jesus¡¨. If we do not dare to say the same as Paul, at least, we can say the same John Baptist said: ¡§This is the Lamb of God¡¨ (follow him!). That invitation produced the two first disciples of Jesus. If, in addition, we also encourage people to listen to the inner invitation of the Father: ¡§This is my beloved Son. Listen to (and follow) him!¡¨, well, is not this the best education we can give and receive?
Fr Valenciano 4/03