Lenten reflections 2018 - 05

 

 

Sunday - Fifth week of Lent

 

(Acts 9: 26-31 1 John 3: 18-24 John 15: 1-8)

 

I am the Vine, you are the branches’. 

Can the concept of unity and union be expressed more

clearly? Christ says: ‘I am the VINE’, not I am a flower,

mountain or olive tree - a vine

 

Through you oh Christ, the Vine, courses the wine of life,

the natural sweetness and fruitiness of peace and content;

of transformation;  the sparkling champagne of laughter

and joy; the burgundy of creativity and birth;

the sauvignon of dying into life.

 

And we, your branches - essence of Essence, fibre of Fibre,

artery of Artery, are passage to the circulation

of Christ’s blood, flowing through me, through you, flowing

through all, sweeping up our life and love;  purifying it in

the fire of his love, returning in the next heart throb

as divine life and love.

 

A breath-taking experience the Hex River valley where

mountains and rivers and fields and fields of vineyards,

proudly standing in their own right.

But these expansive fields, of magnificent vineyards

are local, limited, vulnerable to elements of wind, rain and fire.

 

But Jesus Christ, the Vine is central to the universe - is

the height and depth, the width and breadth of all,

one vine connecting all. Thus connected, our arteries,

veins, capillaries; our every cell, atom and quark

permeated by God’s Being - are drawn  into

communion in the most intimate way - my life into

yours, ours into theirs till we see the holy mystery  of

being in holy relation,   of being holy one.

 

A withering, a death, a burning when blind to this

sacred truth, but blessed be the pruning, which with shears of love

our consciousness to re-awaken. With withering faith

renewed; with the dead branches cut away; with

yesteryear’s pain and darkness transformed in the

Heart of Love, the branch once again glows green,

vibrant with joy

growing the fruit of life, 

growing the fruit of love 

growing the fruit of  light,

all spilling into justice and peace, 

deep love and friendship.

 

‘I am the Vine and you the branches’,

Remain in me - consciously

As I remain in you - consciously.

 

Breath Prayer:

I breathe in:   ‘Jesus the Vine’

I breathe out:  ‘Flow through me, your branch.

 

 


 

 

Monday - Fifth week of Lent

 

(Daniel 13: 1-9, 15-17, 19-30, 33-62: John 8: 1-11)
`She trusted the Lord wholeheartedly'

 

Susanna is the 'beautiful and God-fearing' wife of the wealthy and respected Joakim. She is a virtuous woman, having been raised by pious parents who taught her the law of Moses. Confronted by the elders in her garden, she chooses innocence, death in actual fact, to giving in to sin, to the lust of these men. When taken to the house of Joakim to hear the case, the elders tell their story, who are believed simply because they have been appointed to positions of authority. It takes a young man of integrity to see through their deceit and dares to face them. They have chosen to turn from the law, the very law that is their salvation and are therefore, judged not by God, but at the hand of their own folly and sin.

 

The woman caught in adultery, though guilty, is the target of a self righteous group using the law for their own intends and purposes which needless to say go very much against the nature of Christ. Maybe, as Jesus wrote in the sand, he wondered where the man was that lay with her. Was he one of the accusers, one of the scribes or Pharisees? No matter, the message of Jesus is clear, 'let the one without sin cast the first stone'. Then turning to the woman he affirms her by saying: 'Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more'. Right there Jesus restores the dignity of this woman. He talks to her with respect and kindness. He accepts her as she is, not for what her body can offer him. He sees beyond her sin into the depth of her and sees the wonder of her - image of God. We meet many people whom we think it fair to judge. The example of Jesus asks: Can we look at victim and perpetrator with the eyes of God?

 

Breath Prayer: What are some of my mindsets that condemn people?

I breathe in:      'Jesus, gentle lover of all'

I breathe out:     'Touch my spaces of hardness'

 

 


 

 

Tuesday -Fifth week of Lent

 

(Numbers 21: 4-9; John 8: 21-30)

 

`When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you
will know that I am He'

 

John's teachings are not always easy to understand. There is so much depth and width in what he says - the meaning always beyond the immediate. Jesus always speaks first of God, a God who breaks boundaries, who is beyond our everyday experience. Jesus' God is the One who stays faithful long after we have gone our own ways. God is the Hound of heaven pursuing us even though we are blinded by the many small gods we worship. And Jesus, in these his last few days, spends all his energy and time to call us home even though we have become hard of hearing. He is the One, who in his very dying will speak and reach out with salvation and life - 'Father forgive them; today you will be with me in paradise'. Are we different from the Israelites or the Pharisees? Do we see? Do we understand? Do we know the God of Jesus or the Son of Man? Do we look often enough upon the crucified One or at our own sin, so as to recognize the cruelty that we inflict upon one another. If we did, then there would not be such a patience for terror and violence among us.

 

`Oh Lord, hear my prayer, and let my cry come to you'. May our cry be one of sorrow for being deaf and blind and one of rejoicing as we understand the all embracing love of God made known through Jesus. May our cry touch the needs of those crucified in society, those condemned to die, those who suffer hunger and thirst, those who have not hope. May we live this, our prophetic role as we reach out with reconciliation and healing.

 

Breath Prayer:

I breathe in:    'Oh Lord, hear my prayer'

I breathe out:  'And let my cry come to you'

 

 


 

 

Wednesday - Fifth week of Lent
(Daniel 3: 14-20, 91-92, 95; John 8: 31-42)

 

'If the Son of Man makes you free,
You will be free indeed'

 

What does it mean to be free? Often the answer of the immature and inexperienced person is 'I can do what I want, when I want and how I want, irrespective of the consequences of my action - my right in a democratic country. For the salted - the mature ones - of the earth it means being strong enough not to bow to oppression or submit to the expectations of others. It means being true to Self and living with integrity despite possible danger or threat to ones life. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego knew this kind of freedom. Their lives were centred in the God of Israel, the God who delivered them from bondage. They refused to deny the divine connection that transcends all else, even at the cost of death. Not only does this stand in faith save them but also extends salvation to the King and his followers. What becomes clear in this experience is that God breaks through most powerfully in those experiences where we are completely powerless yet choose to place our trust in God.

 

Jesus continues his struggle to help the Jews understand that it is the Son of Man who makes them free, free from the enslavement of sin. To their reply - 'we have one father - God', Jesus says, 'If God were your father, you would love me'. Jesus is not asking for an emotional bonding, but a love that is much deeper and far more challenging. To love Christ is to love as he does, being willing to stand truthfully against any power that does not serve the god of Jesus, as did Oscar Romero, as did Dorothy Day, as did Rosa Parks and so many others. And we? How much do we love?

 

Breath Prayer:

I breathe in:     'Jesus, my Lord'

I breathe out: 'Grant me the gift of your freedom'

 

 


 

 

Thursday - Fifth week of Lent
(Genesis 17: 3-9: John 8: 51-59)

 

‘I tell you most solemnly; whoever keeps my word
will never see death’

 

`Now we know for certain (Jesus) that you are possessed. Abraham is dead, the prophets are dead. Are you greater than our Father Abraham?' And then comes Jesus' tremendous reply: 'I tell you most solemnly, before Abraham ever was, I AM'. Can we even begin to understand the anger of the Hebrews? This mere carpenter, a poor and insignificant person from Nazareth - can any good come from there - claiming to be the unnamable! Always, God is mystery, unknown, and beyond words. Jesus does not pretend to be anything other than one born of God, living and hidden in God. Jesus tried to reach their heart, tried to help them understand that listening to, hearing and living the Word of God - in the person of Jesus, life continues into eternity. Maybe to focus on the physical is easier than accepting the challenge of living the Word.

 

A story is told by Anthony de Mellow about a Sufi who in the market square listened to the questions of people concerning life and death. What shocked and angered the people is that whatever question about life hereafter was asked the Sufi only responded with laughter. That night his disciples wanted to understand why he behaved in such a shocking way. He looked at them kindly and said: 'Have you noticed that they kept asking questions about the next life - it seems they are only interested in the life not connected to this life. What I want to know is whether there is life before death. He then asked: Are you really alive?' Does Jesus, the beloved Word of God find room in our lives? Are we alive in Christ?

 

Breath Prayer:

I breathe in:    'Oh sacred Unity'

I breathe out:  'I am, because you ARE'

 

 


 

 

Friday -Fifth week of Lent

 

(Jeremiah 20: 10-13; John 10: 31-42)

 

'Is it not written in the Law - I said, you are gods'

 

In today's readings everyone seems trapped - Jeremiah by the plotters who are on the watch for any misstep; Jesus by the angry crowd reaching for stones; the angry crowd by Jesus; who risks telling them who they really are called to be. Jesus is accused of blasphemy. He speaks but the truth. Yes, he is son of God but he is not trying to lay claim to an identity that is only his. He is saying to them and to us: 'You, too, are children of God. You too can live in the truth, experience freedom and know how much God loves you. But nothing is more threatening to his listeners than freedom and love. Maybe the fear of being fully known by God is just too terrifying, and accepting that we are of God may cost us our comfort zone.

 

True, freedom is terrifying. It requires a 'letting go' of the desire for safety and security as well asthe rules, regulations and expectations that accompany them. Mostly we, in the course of our lives dig grooves, trenches maybe that keep us comfortable, keep us in the know, leaveslittle room for unpleasant surprises. But Jesus does not follow this norm. He loves his freedom gained not because he is less human and more God, but because he is profoundly human and the fullness of his humanity brings him into union with God. He is not the freedom fighter the Jews had hoped for. The freedom that Jesus offers goes beyond freedom sought at the cost of blood. Interior liberation is not accomplished quickly. It is an ongoing process that requires fierce honesty and constant alertness. As sons and daughters of God, we too can lay claim to this freedom. Do we have the courage to embrace the pain and wonder of this awesome gift?

 

Breath Prayer:

I breathe in:    'Oh sacred Unity'

I breathe out:  'You are in me as I am in You'

 

 


 

 

Saturday - Fifth week of Lent

 

(Ezekiel 37: 21-28; John 11: 45- 57)

 

'He who scattered Israel will gather them and guard them
as a shepherd guards his flock'

 

God is truly amazing. One can just feel the drama, the pathos, the urgency as Jesus realizes that he is celebrating his last Sabbath. The whole of the life of Jesus was about gathering together into unity the scattered children of God. God's deepest dream and therefore the only mission of Jesus is that there would be a deep experience of unity between God and all people. God desires peace, enduring and everlasting peace for all generations, lived in deep communion among all the nations of the world. And yet, the Sanhedrin gathers to discuss, 'What are we going to do with this man Jesus who continues to perform miracles?' Sad to say, the Sanhedrin, too concerned with land and nation, seem to have forgotten the covenant with God, made in and through love. Instead they have replaced this love with their own illusions and distortions.

 

This is the day that choices are made. Some have chosen to believe in Jesus. Others, unable to grasp the truth, have chosen to kill the messenger of truth. We are nearing the end of our Lenten journey. In the course of this journey we learnt that we are all one, connected to one another and to creation. Our choices, which flow from our beliefs in whowe are and who God is, impact not only ourselves but all of life. Scripture has challenged us to examine our own convictions. Do we really believe in the possibility of Love. Do we believe in God's dream -our dream too - 'May they be one as we are one' - a people gathered with the One who Is.

 

Breath Prayer:

I breathe in:   'Oh sacred Unity'

I breathe out:  'Draw me into the fire of your love'

 

 

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