Saint Ignatius High School

Community Lenten Reflections: Week 5

Throughout Lent, the Spirituality Program for Adults will be providing a daily Gospel reading and reflection, written by various members of the Saint Ignatius community. These have been prepared by teachers, staff, students, parents, alumni, board members and friends. These are for the Fifth Week of Lent. A sign-up link is included!

April 4, 2022 - Monday of the Fifth Week of Lent

Gospel: John 8:12-20

Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” So the Pharisees said to him, “You testify on your own behalf, so your testimony cannot be verified.” Jesus answered and said to them, “Even if I do testify on my own behalf, my testimony can be verified, because I know where I came from and where I am going. But you do not know where I come from or where I am going. You judge by appearances, but I do not judge anyone. And even if I should judge, my judgment is valid, because I am not alone, but it is I and the Father who sent me. Even in your law it is written that the testimony of two men can be verified. I testify on my behalf and so does the Father who sent me.” So they said to him, “Where is your father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” He spoke these words while teaching in the treasury in the temple area. But no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come.

Gospel Reflection: Paul Barbins, S.P.A. Program Coordinator

At first glance, the invitation to choose to follow Jesus and not walk in darkness seems so simple.  Just lay out your options, use your reasoning skills and human instinct to decide what is bad and what is good, and make the choice that leads you to the light.

But the conversation that Jesus has with the Pharisees reminds us that darkness is deceiving.  Our human response is to take something offered out of love and mercy and to make it about ourselves,  and not about God.  That’s why Jesus’ simple promise to potential followers of having the “light of life” is rejected and turned into a debate about verification, judgment and testimony.  Darkness entices us to reject the offer, to refuse to hear the truth, to avoid others because of differences, to not accept unconditional love and compassion, and to persuade ourselves that the problem of our missing the light lies with somebody else.

Jesus proclaims “I am the light of the world” and reminds us that “having the light of life” is not about what we do but about who we are.  Jesus can make the bold claim about being the “light of the world” and he can offer this light to the world  because he knows where he came from and where he is going; he knows who he is. Jesus knows he is God’s. 

Similarly, for us to experience the light of life that Jesus offers is to also know something about ourselves - that we are God’s beloved.   It is from God that we come and to God that we are going.  Knowing that we are God’s beloved strengthens and emboldens us to step out of our darkness and into God’s light. 

During this Holy Week, let God lead you even further toward the light as Jesus shows you that  he is the light of the world and reminds you that you are God’s beloved child invited to live in God’s light.

April 5, 2022 - Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Lent

Gospel: John 8:21-30

Jesus said to the Pharisees: “I am going away and you will look for me, but you will die in your sin. Where I am going you cannot come.” So the Jews said, “He is not going to kill himself, is he, because he said, ‘Where I am going you cannot come’?” He said to them, “You belong to what is below, I belong to what is above. You belong to this world, but I do not belong to this world. That is why I told you that you will die in your sins. For if you do not believe that I AM, you will die in your sins.” So they said to him, “Who are you?” Jesus said to them, “What I told you from the beginning. I have much to say about you in condemnation. But the one who sent me is true, and what I heard from him I tell the world.” They did not realize that he was speaking to them of the Father. So Jesus said to them, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I AM, and that I do nothing on my own, but I say only what the Father taught me. The one who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, because I always do what is pleasing to him.” Because he spoke this way, many came to believe in him.

Gospel Reflection: Giulianna Vullo, Jesuit Volunteer- Arrupe Neighborhood Partnership

In the story from the Gospel today, Jesus speaks with the Pharisees in reference to the fact that he soon will die and return to his Father in Heaven. The Pharisees then respond with confusion and even doubts of Jesus, asking him questions of his identity. However, at the end of the passage, Jesus makes a point that clearly struck a chord in their minds- the truth that God is with us and will not abandon us if we do what is pleasing to Him- and as the story says they then “came to believe in him.”

What stood out to me most in this passage were the questions asked by the Pharisees and Jesus’ responses. It almost seemed that they needed to be convinced by Jesus that his word was Truth. The Pharisees' doubts reminded me of my own fears of uncertainty and at times the failure to trust in God’s love and hopes for my life. Jesus reminds them that if we act in ways that are pleasing to God, we are never left alone. Such a simple reassurance, but one that has the power to grant courage, understanding, and open our eyes to what we truly hope for, rather than our everyday frustrations or inconveniences that may distract us.

In thinking about this Truth, it led me then to ask myself questions: How can I live in a way that is pleasing to God? How can we love and serve others during our time in this world focusing on what God hopes for us rather than what distracts us from being our best selves?

I definitely am still early in my journey to understand Jesus’ life and God’s hopes for myself and this world. My hope for anyone reading this is that this season of Lent reminds you that while these questions have no simple answers, God does not abandon us.

April 6, 2022 - Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Lent

Gospel: John 8:31-42

Jesus said to those Jews who believed in him, “If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How can you say, ‘You will become free’?” Jesus answered them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin. A slave does not remain in a household forever, but a son always remains. So if the Son frees you, then you will truly be free. I know that you are descendants of Abraham. But you are trying to kill me, because my word has no room among you. I tell you what I have seen in the Father’s presence; then do what you have heard from the Father.”

They answered and said to him, “Our father is Abraham.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works of Abraham. But now you are trying to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God; Abraham did not do this. You are doing the works of your father!” So they said to him, “We were not born of fornication. We have one Father, God.” Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and am here; I did not come on my own, but he sent me.”

Gospel Reflection: Peter Corrigan, Theology Faculty

In this passage Jesus is speaking to a group of Jews who are followers of Jesus, just as I attempt  to be His disciple.  And yet Jesus challenges them that they still aren’t getting the truth, despite their protestations to the contrary.

Jews were proud of their practice of rejecting idolatry and fornication --righteously  comparing themselves to their neighbors who lived in the land of Canaan.   I can relate to that righteousness  as well.  I teach Theology at Saint Ignatius High School.

But if I am really honest with myself, I can see that I am often full of myself.  And that attitude and its resulting behavior is what idolatry often looks like today.   In what do I really put my trust? Do I let the stumblings and weaknesses of my life direct me to God?  Or do I try to manage it by myself, putting my trust in my own designs.

This past Christmas, one of my sons gave me Jonathon Franzen’s latest novel, Crossroads.  I am not sure why he thought it was appropriate for me, probably because it is set in the early 1970’s one of its main characters is a minister who works with youth. 

As I read the book, I became distressed by the slow train-wreck of his dysfunctional family.   But the more I read, the more I was struck by the complex mixture of the characters…. And of God’s grace breaking through their weakness, if they honestly confront those weaknesses.

One of the characters in the novel is Becky, the popular, attractive daughter of the minister.   Her smugness made her one of my least favorite family members.  And yet life can rough up the most “together” of people.  By the close of the novel she realizes:

Almost everything in life was vanity—success a vanity, privilege a vanity, Europe a vanity, beauty a vanity. When you stripped away the vanity and stood alone before God, what was left? Only loving your neighbor as yourself. Only worshiping the Lord, Sunday after Sunday.”

April 7, 2022 - Thursday of the Fifth Week of Lent

Gospel: John 10:31-42

Jesus said to the Jews: “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever keeps my word will never see death.” So the Jews said to him, “Now we are sure that you are possessed. Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘Whoever keeps my word will never taste death.’ Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? Or the prophets, who died? Who do you make yourself out to be?” Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is worth nothing; but it is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ You do not know him, but I know him. And if I should say that I do not know him, I would be like you a liar. But I do know him and I keep his word. Abraham your father rejoiced to see my day; he saw it and was glad.” So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old and you have seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham came to be, I AM.” So they picked up stones to throw at him; but Jesus hid and went out of the temple area.

Reflection: Sean Teets, S.J., Fine Arts/Theology Faculty

In today’s gospel, Jesus tells the Jews, "If I glorify myself, my glory is worth nothing."

We might honor ourselves by being a liar, saying "I do not know him."  In life, we have the choice to say yes to Jesus or deny him in even the small ways.  We will be giving great things in the next life, but we must choose in this life.  During Lent, it is a time to choose God over everything.  Today, let us ask for the grace to give all the glory to Him who glorifies us.

This passage is taken from the Book of Signs in John.  Jesus heals many people through miracles and great acts of healing.  Certain people were not happy with how Jesus was acting, so Jesus tried to explain to them that he is the one to show them the way.  In their anger, they want to hurt Jesus by throwing stones at him.  We can ask ourselves this question:  In what ways have we tried to stone other people? 

Our sins cause us to do things that we are not proud of.  Jesus came to earth to restore us from sin.  We may fall as well, from time to time, and each of us sins in our own ways, but we have the ability to get better each day.  It is in this act of growing that Jesus talks to us. 

Lent is a great time to reconnect and restore those relationships that are broken by sin.  We can look deep inside our lives and ask: what oh God do I need to do to change?  What do I need to let go of? What oh God do you ask for me from my life here on earth?

Jesus asks us to grow through reading scripture, praying for people who need our prayers, or doing acts of kindness for others.  As we encounter this Lenten season, may we be given all the graces that we need and allow Jesus to grow in our hearts.  At the end of the day, we want to be the people who bear great fruit in service of our loving and merciful God.

April 8, 2022 - Friday of the Fifth Week of Lent

Gospel: John 10:31-42

The Jews picked up rocks to stone Jesus. Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from my Father. For which of these are you trying to stone me?” The Jews answered him, “We are not stoning you for a good work but for blasphemy. You, a man, are making yourself God.” Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, ‘You are gods”‘? If it calls them gods to whom the word of God came, and Scripture cannot be set aside, can you say that the one whom the Father has consecrated and sent into the world blasphemes because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? If I do not perform my Father’s works, do not believe me; but if I perform them, even if you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may realize and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” Then they tried again to arrest him; but he escaped from their power.

He went back across the Jordan to the place where John first baptized, and there he remained. Many came to him and said, “John performed no sign, but everything John said about this man was true.” And many there began to believe in him.

Reflection: Joan Carney, Assistant S.P.A. Director

Just prior to this passage in John’s gospel, Jesus presented himself as a good shepherd, one whose voice is known to the sheep such that they are moved to follow him.  The sheep follow not because the shepherd says the words they want to hear, but because they trust him.  A good shepherd is one who cares for the sheep, feeds them and protects them from harm.  His actions speak louder than his words.

In response to all this good shepherd talk, the Jews of the temple hierarchy demand answers from Jesus, “How long will you keep us in suspense?  If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”

Jesus’ response: “I told you but you do not believe.” 

As the story continues to unfold today, we find some of the Jews so irate with Jesus that they pick up rocks to stone him.

“For which of my Father’s good deeds do you wish to stone me?” Jesus asks.

“Not for your good works, but for blasphemy.  You, a man, are making yourself a God,” they respond.  (This after just demanding that Jesus tell them plainly if he is the Messiah. . . some folks are never satisfied!)

I imagine Jesus’ frustration as he answers them.  Look, if I’m not doing the Father’s works, then don’t believe me.  But if I am, then believe the works so that you can believe that the Father is in me and I in the Father.  Let my actions speak louder than words!

Jesus escapes their attempt to arrest him, living to be harassed another day.  Again, his actions speak louder than his words.

Several questions arise for me as I reflect on this passage,

  1. Do I ever label others, judge them and refuse to see their goodness?  Am I ready to reject them because they haven’t packaged themselves in a way that is acceptable to me?

  2. Do my actions speak louder than my words?  Would anyone, by observing me, recognize the Father’s love and providential care?  Would they see God in me and me in God?

As we continue to journey through Lent, pray with me to see our world more and more through God’s eyes and to let our loving actions speak to our identity as children of God.

April 9, 2022 - Saturday of the Fifth Week of Lent

Gospel: John 11:45-56

Many of the Jews who had come to Mary and seen what Jesus had done began to believe in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. So the chief priests and the Pharisees convened the Sanhedrin and said, “What are we going to do? This man is performing many signs. If we leave him alone, all will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our land and our nation.” But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing, nor do you consider that it is better for you that one man should die instead of the people, so that the whole nation may not perish.” He did not say this on his own, but since he was high priest for that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation, and not only for the nation, but also to gather into one the dispersed children of God. So from that day on they planned to kill him.

So Jesus no longer walked about in public among the Jews, but he left for the region near the desert, to a town called Ephraim, and there he remained with his disciples.

Now the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before Passover to purify themselves. They looked for Jesus and said to one another as they were in the temple area, “What do you think? That he will not come to the feast?”

Reflection: Joe Mulholland ‘09, Theology Faculty

Rarely in the Gospels does the focus shift entirely away from Jesus and his disciples, yet that is what we find in today’s reading, which centers on the Pharisees as they deliberate about how to respond to this galvanizing Nazarene. The Pharisees are Judaism's well-educated religious authorities—or, in other words, they are the professional theology teachers of their day. So although they are vilified by the Christian tradition, I hesitate to discount them as the one-dimensionally malevolent antagonists that modern cinematic portrayals make them out to be. In fact, I suspect that the large number of us who’ve also been privileged with religious education throughout our youth and young adulthood would benefit from taking seriously this reading’s invitation to step into their perspective.

The passage tells us the Pharisees’ resolution to kill Jesus does not emerge from spite but from fear. They worry the Jesus movement will resemble other fanatical religious campaigns that have instigated Roman violence in the past, and they fear for the integrity of the ancient faith they've been tasked with preserving. Their concerns, if I’m being honest, are understandable. To the Pharisees, Jesus is an upstart carpenter, lacking in extensive religious training, flouting age-old purity laws, and claiming to offer Scriptural interpretations that supersede their own.

Nevertheless, it would be a mistake to absolve the Pharisees from their role in Jesus’ execution. The Gospels are full of stories of people whose openness to the Spirit helped them overcome what was most certainly an initial aversion to Jesus’ challenging and norm-defying nature. Hindered by a distinct lack of humility, the Pharisees maintain a willful blindness to the possible problems that have cropped up in their faith tradition and an uncritical devotion to the familiar and comfortable. So while we modern would-be Pharisees likely assume we would never have deliberated like the characters from this reading if we were inserted into the story, I admit I am susceptible to these same dangerous inclinations to which the Pharisees succumbed.

So as we enter into Holy Week, let this reading be a reminder that aversion to change and radicality is not the Christian way; let us pray for the spiritual humility that evaded the Pharisees; and let us remain open to the workings of the Spirit in all things.

Where is the Sunday reflection, you ask? At your parish! The next set of reflections will be shared on Monday. A.M.D.G.

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