At that time Jesus left [Samaria] for Galilee. For Jesus himself testified that a prophet has no honor in his native place. When he came into Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him, since they had seen all he had done in Jerusalem at the feast; for they themselves had gone to the feast.
Then he returned to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine. Now there was a royal official whose son was ill in Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, who was near death. Jesus said to him, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will not believe.” The royal official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” Jesus said to him, “You may go; your son will live.” The man believed what Jesus said to him and left. While the man was on his way back, his slaves met him and told him that his boy would live. He asked them when he began to recover. They told him, “The fever left him yesterday, about one in the afternoon.” The father realized that just at that time Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live,” and he and his whole household came to believe. Now this was the second sign Jesus did when he came to Galilee from Judea.
This passage seems a bit unusual at first glance because Jesus insists people will not believe He is God unless they see a sign, which goes against His usual teaching of believing without seeing. However, Jesus is actually making an important distinction between reasonable faith and blind faith. Believing in something with no reason is illogical. At that point, a person might as well subscribe to every religion under the sun if their only basis is “believing without seeing.”
When Jesus talks about believing without seeing, He refers to trusting in the power of God because we know it to exist. A religion based upon blind faith alone can not stand, it must be able to hold up under scrutiny. Fortunately, our faith has evidence to back it up. The events of the Bible happened eons ago, and many of those stories have non-literal elements added to them, so they can not be the sole basis for our religion. However, the presence of God can be seen in the world all around us. In Jesus’s time, He had to prove His divinity by performing miracles, but we have new ways to find God today. Personally, I have seen people perform such selfless acts of kindness that there is no doubt in my mind that there is someone “up there” who is all-loving and works through the world we see. God can reveal Himself to us through a multitude of ways, such as the beauty of nature or through fortunate events that could not have happened without someone’s grand plan at work.
Lent is a time in which we are called to take a closer look at our faith and at God’s presence in our lives. At times it can be confusing and you will likely wonder whether there is a God. However, all you have to do is look around at the good that is all around and you will see the true presence of God in the world.
Gospel: John 5:1-16
There was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem at the Sheep Gate a pool called in Hebrew Bethesda, with five porticoes. In these lay a large number of ill, blind, lame, and crippled. One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been ill for a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be well?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; while I am on my way, someone else gets down there before me.” Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your mat, and walk.” Immediately the man became well, took up his mat, and walked.
Now that day was a sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who was cured, “It is the sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to carry your mat.” He answered them, “The man who made me well told me, ‘Take up your mat and walk.’” They asked him,“Who is the man who told you, ‘Take it up and walk’?” The man who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had slipped away, since there was a crowd there. After this Jesus found him in the temple area and said to him, “Look, you are well; do not sin any more, so that nothing worse may happen to you.” The man went and told the Jews that Jesus was the one who had made him well. Therefore, the Jews began to persecute Jesus because he did this on a sabbath.
Gospel Reflection: Cat Geletka, Walton Center Academic Coach
A friend of mine who I studied at seminary with would say in response to someone’s inability to discern something, “God doesn’t give what He isn’t.” I visited with her recently and we went to one of my all time favorite shops in Columbus, Ohio. Ironically, the shop is named Wild Cat! It boasts “fun gifts & party supplies” and doesn’t disappoint. Local artists with entertaining imaginations sell their creations and I typically find a meaningful or funny gift (or 7!). For instance, amidst the pandemic I found a flower embroidered sign that says, “YOU WILL THINK OF SOMETHING”. Or more recently, I found a card that has Kevin from The Office falling over with his enormous pot of chili from the Casual Friday episode, and on top of the card it says, “I’ve fallen for you.” I love this kind of thing.
On this day though, the first thing I saw was a 16x16 purple print of a little girl in her school uniform standing on a chain-linked swing with the words “GOOD PEOPLE BREAK BAD RULES” written boldly down its center. To say this poster jumped out at me is an understatement. It was a no-brainer-immediate-purchase. I wasn’t even sure who I was buying it for, I just knew I was going to support the artist. “GOOD PEOPLE BREAK BAD RULES” flooded me with reminders of historically courageous moments and movements led by people who wanted healing and liberation for those they love. It’s no wonder, then - I was reminded of Jesus.
To some extent, we all want to be good people who reflect love through breaking bad rules. At the point in the passage when Jesus chooses to heal the sick man over obeying the law to not work on the Sabbath, I’m reminded again that God gives what God is. Jesus broke bad rules in order to heal, love and liberate. This lenten season, I encourage you to love with a quickness, and like Jesus teaches us - without pause or end, unconditional and unafraid - to heal and to liberate.
March 30, 2022 - Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Lent
Gospel: John 5:17-30
Jesus answered the Jews: “My Father is at work until now, so I am at work.” For this reason they tried all the more to kill him, because he not only broke the sabbath but he also called God his own father, making himself equal to God.
Jesus answered and said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, the Son cannot do anything on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for what he does, the Son will do also. For the Father loves the Son and shows him everything that he himself does, and he will show him greater works than these, so that you may be amazed. For just as the Father raises the dead and gives life, so also does the Son give life to whomever he wishes. Nor does the Father judge anyone, but he has given all judgment to the Son, so that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes in the one who sent me has eternal life and will not come to condemnation, but has passed from death to life. Amen, amen, I say to you, the hour is coming and is now here when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For just as the Father has life in himself, so also he gave to the Son the possession of life in himself. And he gave him power to exercise judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Do not be amazed at this, because the hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and will come out, those who have done good deeds to the resurrection of life, but those who have done wicked deeds to the resurrection of condemnation.
“I cannot do anything on my own; I judge as I hear, and my judgment is just, because I do not seek my own will but the will of the one who sent me.”
Gospel Reflection: Anthony Edwards '15, Alumni Volunteer
“Faith.” We hear it at Mass, we hear it over dinner tables, we examine its waxing and waning in our own lives, and can somehow even see it well up, spill over, and animate the breath and actions of others. But if asked to define it, both cold dictionaries and warm friends often bind hulking, categorical words to it; claiming that it’s a “strong belief,” it’s “complete trust,” or “steadfast confidence.” Surely, characterizing faith in terms of strength has its benefits, but making it merely an object to be buttressed and reinforced neglects other important facets of faith. There remains another side to faith, one not defined by strength, but rather its complete lack thereof.
John gets at faith’s less strapping, more vulnerable front throughout today’s Gospel reading. In recounting both Christ’s acknowledgement and admission of poverty and his complete lack of ability (without the Father), we too are compelled to consider what faith in God really means. Perhaps it is not a strength which stands tall and overcomes, but rather a humbling cushion upon which we are called to sit and lie exposed upon, totally naked in the face of whatever was, whatever is, and whatever may be.
I’ve found that the stones we heave in the name of “strengthening faith” often aren’t faith-full stones at all. Rather, they’re self-serving and shored up to fortify the fortress which houses narcissism and egocentrism. John’s Gospel encourages me to pull down these boulders and accept my one-sided reliance on God the Father, the very ground of being, for without him, how could I even be? Let alone do anything else?
Finally, let us remember that the Gospels constantly exhort us to “be conformed to the image of God’s Son,” and to “reflect the glory of the Lord, by being transformed into Christ’s image.” Instead of focusing on Christ’s countless abilities this week, let’s zero in on his humbling taking off point, and begin where he does:
My Father is at work until now, so I am at work.
the Son cannot do anything on his own,
but only what he sees the Father doing;
for what he does, the Son will do also.
I cannot do anything on my own;
I judge as I hear, and my judgment is just,
because I do not seek my own will
but the will of the one who sent me.
March 31, 2022 - Thursday of the Fourth Week of Lent
Gospel: John 5:31-47
Jesus said to the Jews: “If I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is not true. But there is another who testifies on my behalf, and I know that the testimony he gives on my behalf is true. You sent emissaries to John, and he testified to the truth. I do not accept human testimony, but I say this so that you may be saved. He was a burning and shining lamp, and for a while you were content to rejoice in his light. But I have testimony greater than John’s. The works that the Father gave me to accomplish, these works that I perform testify on my behalf that the Father has sent me. Moreover, the Father who sent me has testified on my behalf. But you have never heard his voice nor seen his form, and you do not have his word remaining in you, because you do not believe in the one whom he has sent. You search the Scriptures, because you think you have eternal life through them; even they testify on my behalf. But you do not want to come to me to have life.
“I do not accept human praise; moreover, I know that you do not have the love of God in you. I came in the name of my Father, but you do not accept me; yet if another comes in his own name, you will accept him. How can you believe, when you accept praise from one another and do not seek the praise that comes from the only God? Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father: the one who will accuse you is Moses, in whom you have placed your hope. For if you had believed Moses, you would have believed me, because he wrote about me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?”
Reflection: Michael Rushka, nSJ, Jesuit Novice
Today’s readings give us another scathing rebuke from Jesus addressed to the Jewish authorities of His day. While Our Lord’s disapproval in this passage rings vibrantly clear, the reasoning behind His thoughts appears less so. Jesus begins by informing the Jewish authority that His testimony is false if it be on His own behalf, while a few sentences later He notes that He does indeed possess testimony greater than that of John the Baptist. Moreover, Jesus criticizes them for placing their hope in Moses, a prophet whom they have somehow hoped in but not believed, and who will even accuse them of their unbelief. On the surface, it seems Jesus claims that Moses and John the Baptist are pretty awesome while painting the Jewish authority’s loyalty to these great teachers as downright unacceptable.
We can begin to grasp Christ’s admonition if we stop looking at it as a simple thumbs up or thumbs down and instead hear His words as a reminder that Moses and John the Baptist had lost their proper places in the eyes of the Jewish authorities. In the Judaism of Christ’s day, the Law and the Prophets—represented by Moses and John the Baptist—had gained an importance bordering on idolatry. The Jewish authorities placed the entire weight of one’s moral justification on strictness of adherence to the Jewish laws and customs, which had been received and passed down through Moses and the prophets. While the Old Testament revelation was God’s gift to the Jewish people, it was meant not to refine their legalistic capabilities but rather to renew their hearts by pointing them to Christ, His own loving presence among them in the flesh. While the Law and the Prophets were extraordinary blessings to Israel, Jesus became frustrated that the Jewish authorities no longer used them for their original purpose—to recognize God Himself in their midst.
As we hear Christ’s words today, let’s ask ourselves what gifts God has given us in our own lives to recognize Him in our midst. Are they fulfilling their original purpose, or are we misusing them?
April 1, 2022 - Friday of the Fourth Week of Lent
Gospel: John 7:1-2, 10, 25-30
Jesus moved about within Galilee; he did not wish to travel in Judea, because the Jews were trying to kill him. But the Jewish feast of Tabernacles was near. But when his brothers had gone up to the feast, he himself also went up, not openly but as it were in secret.
Some of the inhabitants of Jerusalem said, “Is he not the one they are trying to kill? And look, he is speaking openly and they say nothing to him. Could the authorities have realized that he is the Christ? But we know where he is from. When the Christ comes, no one will know where he is from.” So Jesus cried out in the temple area as he was teaching and said, “You know me and also know where I am from. Yet I did not come on my own, but the one who sent me, whom you do not know, is true. I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me.” So they tried to arrest him, but no one laid a hand upon him, because his hour had not yet come.
Reflection: Amy McKenna, S.P.A. Director
How deeply do I truly listen to Jesus when I pray? How often do I list my needs, my grievances, and my desires without taking the time to listen to Jesus’ response? If I am honest, more times than I would wish to admit. I share my plans and desires; but do I really listen for where God is leading me? In today’s Gospel, we see Jesus grow frustrated with those he is preaching to, so much so that he cries out in the temple. These people he longs to save miss the point of Jesus’ words so often. Jesus is asking us to remember who we should keep our eyes and hearts on, not who knows who or where someone is from!
As I pray with this Gospel passage I recall a line from Saint Ignatius of Loyola’s First Principle and Foundation, a meditation he shares in the Spiritual Exercises:
God who loves us creates us and wants to share life with us forever. Our love response takes shape in our praise and honor and service of the God of our life. All the things in this world are also created because of God’s love…Our only desire and our one choice should be this: I want and choose what better leads to Gods’ deepening life in me. (SE 23)
Jesus is calling us to the one who created us, the one who loves us beyond measure. Can we get out of our way and let our hearts and minds be open to this saving way of life? I pray this Lent to keep my eyes on Jesus as he guides me to God and God’s life-changing love for me.
April 2, 2022 - Saturday of the Fourth Week of Lent
Gospel: John 7:40-53
Some in the crowd who heard these words of Jesus said, “This is truly the Prophet.” Others said, “This is the Christ.” But others said, “The Christ will not come from Galilee, will he? Does not Scripture say that the Christ will be of David’s family and come from Bethlehem, the village where David lived?” So a division occurred in the crowd because of him. Some of them even wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him.
So the guards went to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked them, “Why did you not bring him?” The guards answered, “Never before has anyone spoken like this man.” So the Pharisees answered them, “Have you also been deceived? Have any of the authorities or the Pharisees believed in him? But this crowd, which does not know the law, is accursed.” Nicodemus, one of their members who had come to him earlier, said to them, “Does our law condemn a man before it first hears him and finds out what he is doing?” They answered and said to him, “You are not from Galilee also, are you? Look and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.” Then each went to his own house.
Reflection: Garen Distelhorst '96, Director of Alumni Relations & Planned Giving
As I reflect on this Gospel reading from John I can’t help but to draw a line from the sentiment of the crowd to the polarized climate that we are all living in today. This is certainly not the direction I dreamed of going when I agreed to share a Lenten reflection. I had hopes of an inspirational story of finding God in all things and challenging my friends and colleagues here at Saint Ignatius to seek God in nature, as I love to do.
Alas, the trail this passage leads us down is a bit more uncomfortable. John describes a divided crowd.
“This is truly the Prophet.”…
But others said, “The Christ will not come from Galilee, will he?...
So a division occurred in the crowd because of him.
The second paragraph goes on to describe more division, brought upon by Jesus. The passage goes on to close with the sentence that I am having a difficult time shaking.
Then each went to his own house.
In my interpretation, going to your own house implies that the two groups essentially took their ball and went home…without finding any middle ground. In our own lives, in 2022, living in the midst of a global pandemic that has further intensified most people’s already rigid worldview, going to your own house is the easy thing to do. Influenced by algorithms aimed at deepening our siloed existence, our experiences online exacerbate this desire to ‘go to your house’. Many of us live in echo chambers that just reinforce our beliefs. We aren’t challenged to broaden our horizons or think critically about things we may disagree with or how people with those beliefs arrived at them.
This can’t be what God envisioned for humanity. I think we all know that life is more fulfilling, more vibrant, when we are breaking down bridges and being challenged to act and think outside of our comfort zone. St. Ignatius challenged us to find God in all things. God is in everyone and everything and it is our job to find it.
I hope that you will join me this Lenten season in committing to listening with an open heart and open mind. Listen to a friend, a family member, or a colleague here at Saint Ignatius…someone you disagree with. Let’s commit to finding some common ground and allowing that path to be the one we choose to hike together.