Monday, 11 March 2013

Monday of the Fourth Week of Lent

IS 65:17-21

PS 30:2 AND 4, 5-6, 11-12A AND 13B

JN 4:43-54

The readings for the day can be found here.

 

Lent is a time for us to remember the sacrifice Jesus made for us. On this, the Monday of the Fourth Week of Lent, we seem to take a break from fasting, almsgiving and prayer to hear about happiness, rejoicing, and praise.  The first reading for today (IS 65:17-21) focuses on hope.  The Lord presents a vision for a new heaven and earth, one without hardship. The Gospel (JN 4:43-54) calls us to faith in the Lord.  A royal official, who does not even appear to be a disciple, had the faith to hear Jesus’ promise and believe!

While reading or watching the nightly news, the atrocities people face can be overwhelming. Children in foreign countries live in harsh conditions, dying from starvation, war, and disease. Domestically, children are dying from shootings, illnesses, and abuse.  We are all faced with hardships in our lives, some which may seem almost unbearable. The readings from today call us to have faith in the Lord.  Although things may seem hard now, Jesus died for our sins to give us the chance to spend an eternity with him in heaven, where sin and pain are not present.  If we have faith, all of the things we bear hear on earth will help guide us to eternal life.

We need to have faith that He is watching out for us and understands the struggles we face.  A phrase that always has stuck with me is “God won’t give you something you can’t handle”. If life seems overwhelming, take a deep breath and know God is with you and is going to help you through it. He gave you this life challenge because He knew you, the special, unique, and beautiful person you are, can handle it. Jesus loves you so much, and He is just waiting for you to understand it. So after looking over the readings for today, know that you can handle whatever life throws at you, trust in the Lord, He has great plans for you.

 

Taylor Martin is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences.

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Sunday, 10 March 2013

Fourth Sunday of Lent

1 SM 16:1B, 6-7, 10-13A

PS 23: 1-3A, 3B-4, 5, 6

EPH 5:8-14

JN 9:1-41

The readings for the day can be found here.

 

March 10, Man Born Blind (Readings from Year A, Scrutinies)

Who is it that cannot see?

It’s pretty obvious the main theme of the gospel is blindness and sight.  Most of us recognize that many of the characters in the story fail to see.

The Pharisees fail to see Jesus as Messiah; they are blinded by their own interpretation of the law that does not allow for mercy or charity on the Sabbath.

The disciples who asked “who sinned” fail to see; they cannot see more in God than reward and punishment, fault or blame.

The neighbors fail to recognize the blind man healed; they cannot see God interested and active in the lives of the people.

The blind man’s parents fail to see out of fear; they fail to witness to the miracle Jesus performed for if they acknowledge Jesus they will be expelled from the synagogue.

There are many different reasons for the blindness, for the lack of sight and insight.  And while many are blind, not all are evil.

I consider the case of my own father.  He was a plain, honest and hardworking man, a loving father, a good husband.  A group of friends from his high school days were getting together one night a month to volunteer and cook at a homeless shelter.  He joined the group and spent most of those evenings passing out parmesan cheese, going around to the tables to sprinkle cheese onto the plates of chili mac that this high school group served to the homeless men.  In conversations with the men he served, my father discovered his own blindness and misperceptions.  He came to see the men he served were men just like him, yet men deserving of something better.  From that day till the day he died, my father took time to volunteer; helping to buy, cook and serve the monthly meal at the shelter, delivering food and sorting canned goods at a church’s food pantry, stopping by K-mart to buy new socks and underwear (items often requested by the men at the shelter.)  He did not see this as something big.  But it was something big because it was something that changed his life.  My father may not have been born blind, but he gained new sight because of the evenings he worked at that shelter.

What caused his blindness?  I’m sure part of it was due to family.  I’m sure part of it was due to upbringing and the misconceptions with which a society brands the poor.  I’m sure part was ignorance, part was fear and part was a lack of attention or consideration.  Whatever the reasons, my father’s ability to “see his blindness” was his opportunity to choose new sight.  And that choice, well that’s where the miracle of grace and free-will combine to change a life, to leave sin behind whether it be personal or societal.

So I ask you to consider the story of the blind man once again.  Consider whether you might be like one of the characters in that story.  Then consider asking Jesus to give you new sight.  My father was always grateful to see what he had missed.  May the grace of new sight and the grace of gratitude for new sight be yours this Lent.

 

Fr. Pat Quinn, S.J. is the Campus Minister in Griesedieck Hall.

 

 

 

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Saturday, 9 March 2013

Saturday of the Third Week of Lent

HOS 6:1-6

PS 51:3-4, 18-19, 20-21AB

LK 18:9-14

The readings for the day can be found here.

 

The gospel today starts off by declaring it is addressed to “those who are convinced of their own righteousness and despise everyone else.” In the story, two people went up to pray in the temple. One was looked down upon in society (the tax collector) and the other was not (the Pharisee). The Pharisee thanked God that he was not like the rest of humanity. He fasted and paid his due, so he believed he was a good person. This Pharisee failed to realize that we are all human, and that we all have our faults. As humans, we have the tendency to overlook our own faults in our arrogance, but they are still visible and apparent to God. God sees all of our strengths and faults no matter how big or small they might be, but God does not worry about our faults. He realizes and understands that as humans we all have them; He just asks that we realize and understand the same of other humans as well. The Pharisee in this story may make all of the sacrifices to God that he may like, but God will not be happy with him if he does not make sacrifices for others. If one only makes sacrifices for God but not for others, then they are only doing it for themselves. They are doing it so that they may be favored by God when they pass away and it is time to determine whether or not they should enter the Kingdom of Heaven. You see, God does not want us to only do good for the benefit of ourselves, but to do good for the sake of doing good. He wants not a one of us to think we are better than another, and that is His true teaching. Often we see Jesus criticizing those throughout the gospels for failing to realize the true word of God. It does not matter how much you praise and thank God if you do not praise and thank others for what they can offer you. Fasting, paying homage, and other forms of worship of human origin are respectful and honorable to God, but what He truly wants is for us to treat other humans well regardless of what they do or who they are. Although it’s been over 2000 years since this parable was first told, it is still applicable today. Too often we look down upon others in society based upon their social status. To quote the gospel of Mark in this instance: “You are thinking not as God does, but as humans do”. When we judge others, hold grudges against them, or perform sacrifices for God thinking highly of ourselves as we do, then we are not doing what God wants us to do. We are doing what humans think God wants us to do. So this Lenten season, let us all try to carry out the word of God and realize that each of us has faults as humans. Let us realize, understand, and forgive these faults in recognition of our own. With this, the world will become a more peaceful and understanding place in itself.

Andy Wilmes is a junior in the School of Public Health.

 

 

 

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Friday, 8 March 2013

Friday of the Third Week of Lent

HOS 14:2-10

PS 81:6C-8A, 8BC-9, 10-11AB, 14 AND 17

MK 12:28-34

The readings for the day can be found here.

 

The forty days of Lent are intended, in part, to draw us into the experience of the forty-year journey of the people of Israel from the land of sin and death into the land promised to them by God. The story is one of God’s faithfulness and forbearance, in the midst of their uncertainty, complaints, and unfaithfulness.

The Israelites had been freed from their Egyptian bondage and passed through the Red Sea. God provided manna from heaven, water from a rock, and quail for meat. God guided them with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Their lives were totally dependent of God’s loving care for them. Yet when Moses went up on Mount Sinai to receive the ten commandments, the people melted their gold, and had Aaron make a golden calf. They worshipped it instead.

I am a lot like the people of Israel. Through baptism I have passed through my “Red Sea” experience and am on a journey of faith. The Eucharist is my manna from heaven and my material needs are provided daily by God’s loving care. Yet still I have a tendency to forget these real blessings, and fail to offer God the honor and worship which God so richly deserves from me. I turn to those good things in my life God has given me and worship them instead.

Today’s readings raise the question: How do we best worship and honor God? Hosea the prophet reminds us that the first step is to look at ourselves honestly and acknowledge the ways in which we have failed to honor God in our lives and actions. Hosea and the psalmist urge us to turn away from the gods we have made for ourselves—careers, material goods, places of honor in society, etc.—and return to the true God who loves us and waits for our return.

Most poignantly today, Jesus is asked which commandment is the greatest of all. Jesus’ response is transcendent and immanent: love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength; and love your neighbor as yourself. The scribe affirmed what Jesus said and acknowledged that when we truly live in this profound love for God, neighbor, and self, it is the best offering that we can give to God.

Jesus answered: “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.” On our Lenten journey this year, may we all bring the Kingdom of God (our promised land) nearer by our offerings of love for God, our neighbor, and ourselves.

 

Dr. Kenneth Parker is Associate Professor of Modern Christianity in the Department of Theological Studies.

 

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Thursday, 7 March 2013

Thursday of the Third Week of Lent

JER 7:23-28

PS 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9

LK 11:14-23

The readings for the day can be found here.

 

The three readings today are about listening to and obeying the word God. This also includes trusting and having faith in his actions. In Jeremiah 7: 23-28, God has sent messengers (prophets) to express God’s wishes and they are all ignored. The people continue to grow further and further from God as generations expand and grow older. This in turn, causes people to become more and more evil and commit more and more evil acts against God and others. If these people were to follow today’s Psalm (Psalm 95) and listen to the word of God, they would be in a much better place. Listening includes having faith no matter how a situation presents itself. This is expressed by Jesus, in Luke 11: 14-23, when he says that assuming the work of God is actually the work of the devil, means that you are against God completely. You must have faith in the actions and words of God in order to have a fulfilling relationship with him.

The Lenten season is a time for us to reflect and evaluate our relationship with God. Are we following his words and his instructions well enough for us to consider ourselves 100% “with” him? If we are, then great, how can we be better and improve our relationship with God? We are human and that means there is always room for improvement. Then again, if we are not following the word of God as closely as we think we should, where can we start improvements? Small actions lead to big results. Start somewhere small and work your way forward. You will be pleasantly surprised at all that follows after and at who you become.

Mari McGilton is a junior majoring in Psychology and Criminal Justice.

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Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Wednesday of the Third Week of Lent

DT 4:1, 5-9

PS 147:12-13, 15-16, 19-20

MT 5:17-19

The readings for the day can be found here.

 

Today’s readings touch on the law, on “statutes and decrees;” urging us to be earnest and to follow the Lord’s commandments and to encourage others to do likewise. This law that our faith calls us to recognize is not a popular concept within society today.  Often we do not like to be told what we should or should not do, nor do we believe in instructing others in these matters. In an age of relativistic views where instant gratification is prized it can be difficult to follow this call. In this Lenten time especially, I have found a need to renew commitment to my beliefs, to the call of sharing these beliefs, and to earnestly look at the law in a new light. As today’s reading points out through Moses’ address to the people, we are a truly blessed people, a people who are close to our God; Jesus came to fulfill the law and to direct our hearts and minds to understand what this law means and so we are enveloped by a law of love, which our God willingly shows to us whenever we call upon him. This is what we are called to share and to teach with all of our brothers and sisters, our acquaintances, peers, colleagues, and all we come in contact with.

We are called to be a people filled with joy in our God, even in this time of Lenten reflection. To live the law of love, I believe we need to receive it with joy and with wisdom to decipher how to best respond. I recently heard a new explanation of this wisdom. I am currently studying abroad in Rome, Italy and had the privilege to visit the house where St. Ignatius spent the last seventeen years of his life. The Jesuit who showed us around described the wisdom that King Solomon asks for as “a heart that listens,” a phrase that struck me and caused me to pause.

As we contemplate the enormous love of our God and strive to live out the law of love that has been placed before us we might try to be aware of those around us in order to have a heart that listens.

Emily Polovick is a sophomore at SLU majoring in Occupational Therapy and minoring in Theology.

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Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Tuesday of the Third Week of Lent

DN 3:25, 34-43

PS 25:4-5AB, 6 AND 7BC, 8-9

MT 18:21-35

The readings for the day can be found here.

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus describes the failure of a servant to learn from his own experience of being forgiven.  Specifically, the servant fails to model the same forgiveness that he has received from his king.  Instead of showing forgiveness to others who also owe him a debt, the servant responds with cruelty.

Although this parable obviously explores the challenges of forgiveness, as an educator, I am also struck by the important lessons it offers on the nature of learning.  Two things, in particular, stand out to me.

The first concerns Jesus’ immediate response to Peter’s question about the particular rules of forgiveness, or how many times forgiveness, according to Jewish law, should be granted.  Jesus basically says, “forget the rules,” and be guided instead by a true heart.  In many ways, Jesus is responding as a teacher who is frustrated by students who seemingly want only textbook answers, and perhaps even the easiest solution to a problem.  “Just tell me the answer already!” is a common frustration among young learners.  But Jesus, like many wise and practiced instructors, does not offer the easy way out, either to Peter or anyone else (even himself).  Instead we learn that forgiveness – like any real understanding of a concept – is driven less by what is written in a textbook, and more by what is written on our hearts.  Real learning, whether it is about forgiveness or any other noble quality, is not to be found in sources external to oneself.  Rather, real learning becomes part of a person’s identity; it is part of who a person truly is.

This demanding standard for authentic, or real, learning brings me to the second striking aspect of Jesus’ parable, as well as some ideas about humility from today’s other readings.  The road to real learning is marked by frequent missteps, even spectacular failures.  Real learning can and should be a humbling process.  This is why Azariah, in today’s first reading, petitions to God:  “Do not let us be put to shame, but deal with us in your kindness and great mercy.”  There is no shame in learning from failures.  Being open to trial-and-error, acknowledging our mistakes, and recognizing our weaknesses are all part of real learning.  Indeed, as Azariah’s prayer suggests, these are all part-and-parcel of being human.  But such a humble understanding of ones’ self is never an easy realization to have.  Our desire to appear competent, to seem like we have our acts together, or to impress others with what we know, or perhaps possess, often blinds us to important learning opportunities, even when they seem so obvious to others.  “How could the servant in Jesus’ parable be so cruel after he had just experienced such compassion?” we probably wonder.  The servant, like many of us, reacted in haste, without stopping to reflect on the meaning of his own experience of receiving forgiveness just moments before.  In our hasty lives, this could happen to any one of us.  And that’s one of the reasons why the Lenten season of reflection is so important if we are going to continue our journey to learn more about ourselves, others, and God.

Bryan Sokol, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Psychology and Director of the Center for Service and Community Engagement.

 

 

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Monday, 4 March 2013

Monday of the Third Week of Lent

2 KGS 5:1-15AB

PS 42:2, 3; 43:3, 4

LK 4:24-30

The readings for the day can be found here.

 

What are you thirsty for?

The Psalmist writes and sings about thirsting for God.  Did you catch that?  Thirsty… for God.  Longing for God’s presence, protection, and guidance like a pilgrim in the desert longs for cool water.  It was as if the poet’s only nourishment had been from tears, to the point that people noticed and scoffed, “where is your God when you need him?”

After praying for God to send light and truth in to such a troubling situation, we find the Psalmist approaching God in worship.  It is with joy and praise that the singer recognizes God at work and claims a personal relationship:  “I will praise my God!”

What are you looking for?

Naaman, the army general who had been victorious against Israel, sought healing – for clear skin and full inclusion in family and community.  He had nowhere to turn.  But a young girl, an Israelite slave in Naaman’s household knew who to call: Elisha, the prophet of God.  So Naaman asked his boss for letters of introduction in Israel and set out seeking a cure.

After initially ridiculing the bizarre remedy recommended by the prophet, Naaman followed Elisha’s instructions and immediately was cured of leprosy.  I think he got more than he expected, however.  When he saw his soft, clear skin, Naaman recognized the powerful presence of The One, of God.  It is no longer “Elisha’s God,” but I think Naaman begins a personal relationship with God.

What are you open to?  Will you recognize God at work?

One Sabbath in Nazareth, the Jewish people went to synagogue like always, to worship and pray and hear the word of the Lord.  Some of them may have even been praying for God to do a new thing, eager for Messiah to come and change life under the thumb of the Roman Empire.  They recognized Jesus, son of Joseph and Mary, and welcomed him to serve as scripture reader of the day.

Then, instead of sitting back down in the congregation, Jesus took on the role of teaching rabbi and implied that the prophet Isaiah had been talking about him and that the much anticipated “year of the Lord’s favor” was beginning.

Now it was as if they no longer recognized him.  What was he talking about?

Jesus realized the temperature in the room was changing and reminded them of the other prophets who had been rejected at home.  He even recalled the story of Naaman (yes the same Naaman we began with today!), but emphasized the fact that Naaman was not an Israelite, that God’s spirit was not poured out on the so-called “children of God” but on perhaps the least likely character in the Israelite story.

In these days of Lent, may you be open to God at work in you in a very personal way – quenching your thirst, answering your quest, guiding your steps, calling you to something new and miraculous.

 

Rev. Leslie Limbaugh is Minister of Students and Communication at Third Baptist Church in Grand Center.

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Sunday, 3 March 2013

Third Sunday of Lent

EX 3:1-8A, 13-15

PS 103: 1-2, 3-4, 6-7, 8, 11

1 COR 10:1-6, 10-12

LK 13:1-9

The readings for the day can be found here.

 

Today’s first reading from the Hebrew Scriptures contains the richly detailed account of God calling and commissioning Moses as a prophet who will lead God’s people out of slavery to the Egyptians and into the promised land. As Moses shepherds his father-in-law’s flock in the wilderness, God captures Moses’ attention with the startling spectacle of a bush blazing with fire, yet not consumed. As Moses turns aside to investigate the sight, God begins a dialogue with Moses about the plight of the Israelites, which culminates in God sending Moses to Pharaoh to release them from bondage.

Moses, however, knows that the Israelites will ask for the name of the deity that sent him to them. In the ancient world, names carried great significance. To know a person’s name was to know his or her character; it was a means of defining the person. And, as is the case even today, knowing a person’s name was the prerequisite to establishing a relationship with him or her.

In response to Moses’ inquiry, God utters the enigmatic statement, “I am who am” and later, even more succinctly, “I AM,” which the Hebrew text expresses with the consonants “YHWH.” Rather than reading this name as some sort of dry ontological statement about God’s essence, contemporary theologians remind us that God is not inviting Moses into a conversation about metaphysics, but into a personal relationship—a saving relationship. Some of the depth and dynamism of “YHWH” is better expressed as, “I will be what I will be for you,” or even more simply, “I will be there for you.” As the 20th century theologian Catherine Mowry LaCugna explained, the name of God as revealed in Exodus 3 amounts to nothing less than a promise to be with God’s people forever.

In the Christian tradition, God’s immanence is fully revealed in the person and work of Jesus Christ. The God who sees the suffering of the enslaved Israelites and sends Moses to act as an agent of salvation sends His own Son to personally identify with and radically participate in the suffering of humankind enslaved in sin. Even Jesus’ own name (“God saves”) reveals who he is by virtue of what God does—for us.

Rather than serving as an arid historical record, the survey of salvation history in the scripture readings of Lent should urge us to consider the personal invitation to relationship and liberation God addresses to each of us. Even more, how are we called to share in God’s saving work in the world? To whom are we sent to proclaim freedom? The God of Moses and the God of Jesus Christ is not the God who once was or who once saved, but the God who deeply abides with us, frees us from the dehumanizing effects of sin’s bondage, and continually calls us into communion with God and God’s people.

 

Rachel Kondro is a SLU alumna (A&S ‘07, Grad ‘09) and a Campus Minister in Reinert Hall.

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Saturday, 2 March 2013

Saturday of the Second Week of Lent

MI 7:14-15, 18-20

PS 103:1-2, 3-4, 9-10, 11-12

LK 15:1-3, 11-32

The readings for the day can be found here.

We are all familiar with today’s Gospel lesson, the Parable of The Prodigal Son. It is a story that has always challenged me spiritually, especially in this Lenten season. The first time I remember critically thinking about it, was when I was about 10 years old. I was frustrated by the unfairness. As a middle child of three girls, I was always concerned with keeping everything fair. If the one son stayed home and behaved, working hard the whole time, shouldn’t he at least get to skip his chores or have an ice cream cone as a reward? Why does his naughty younger brother get the big party?

This is a natural reaction for us as humans trying to “find favor” with God. The Pharisees with whom Jesus talks certainly have this attitude when they scoff at Jesus welcoming tax collectors and sinners. We only need to look to the Psalm of the day to find God’s loving responses for our concerns.

“Why does the father not punish his son who squandered the inheritance? This is no small sin; shouldn’t the father’s retribution equal this?” we ask.

“He will not always chide,
nor does he keep his wrath forever.
Not according to our sins does he deal with us,
nor does he requite us according to our  crimes.”

“But the son! He chose this destructive pathway, and willingly destroyed his relationship with the father!”

“He redeems your life from destruction,
he crowns you with kindness and compassion.”

“Surely no father would ever be that forgiving!”

“As far as the east is from the west,
so far has he put our transgressions from us.”

Our Father in heaven is that forgiving. We behave in ways that squanders our inheritance from Him of this earth and harms our relationships with God and with our brothers and sisters. Yet He welcomes us home, rushing to meet us when we are yet a long way off.

In a few weeks, Jesus will stretch out his own hands from the East to the West in his crucifixion, displaying his unconditional forgiveness for us as sinners. This limitless love and forgiveness is not easily attained or understood by us as the people of God. Lent is a time of reflection on our sins and transgressions, finding ways to grow in relationship with God and other people.  We can find comfort in the knowledge that God is this everlasting love and forgiveness, no matter how far we stray, or how big our mistakes.

Chelsea Jaeger is a senior in the School of Public Health.

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