Spiritual Chemotherapy

Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Lent: Numbers 21:4-9; John 8:21-30

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.”  –  John 8:28

By the time we reach the age of fifty, most of us have either had some form of cancer or at least a couple of people we know well have had it. Even in an age of steadily-advancing medical knowledge and techniques, the word “cancer” can still elicit fear in the hearts of those who receive that diagnosis. It is usually seen as the most dangerous and frightening of all diseases.  Continue reading “Spiritual Chemotherapy”

The One

Thursday of the Fourth Week of Lent : Exodus 32:7-14; John 5:31-47

“There are those like Norfolk who follow me because I wear the crown; and those like Master Cromwell who follow me because they are jackals with sharp teeth and I’m their tiger; there’s a mass that follows me because it follows anything that moves. And then there’s you.” King Henry VIII to Sir Thomas More, A Man For All Seasons

We Westerners like to think of ourselves as mature people who can think and choose for ourselves. We may bristle at the thought of someone else interfering in our lives. We believe that being a leader is better than being a follower. If you can’t be a leader, then at least be a rebel or a misfit. See how often the rebel becomes the hero in action movies.  Continue reading “The One”

Light and Judgment

Fourth Sunday of Lent (A): John 9:1-41

“Jesus said, ‘I came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see might see, and those who do see might become blind.'” – John 9:39

Needless to say, light is most useful. It enables us to see our surroundings, locate objects that we wish to take (or walk around), and recognize people we meet. Light helps us see the results of our work. However, light also helps us see any mistakes we have made. It shows us dust that we failed to clean up. It shows signs of aging on our faces. Light imposes no judgment on us; it merely shows us what is. Judgment, in this context, is how we respond to what the light shows us. Do we accept what we see: the flaws, for example, in our faces and bodies? Are we willing to act based on what we see: by cleaning up the dust, for example, or putting out the trash? In these cases, we pass judgment on ourselves, based on what we do with what the light shows us. Our choices reveal our true values. They show who – or what – we serve.  Continue reading “Light and Judgment”

The Bridegroom at the Well

Third Sunday of Lent (A): John 4:5-42

I’ve always enjoyed word play. Puns, crosswords, cryptograms, Scrabble –  just about any game involving words. Psychologists tell us that people on the autism spectrum tend to like word play even more than people in general. Puns and word games come standard with us Aspies, so to speak!

But we’re not alone. The Bible is filled with examples of puns and word play. Very often, the naming of a person or place involves a play on words. Adam, on seeing Eve: “This one shall be called ‘woman’, for from ‘her man’ this one has been taken”. In Hebrew, ‘woman’ and ‘her man’ sound almost the same. Jesus, to Simon: “You are ‘Peter’, and upon ‘this rock’ I will build my church.”  Again, ‘Peter’ and ‘this rock’ sound almost the same in the original. John, writing out of a rich Biblical tradition, will also use plays on words as a means to draw out deeper meanings. Jesus tells Nicodemus, “You must be born ‘again’.” In Greek, the word translated as ‘again’ can also mean ‘from above’, depending on context. Nicodemus objects, understanding the word in its usual, literal ‘again’ meaning. Jesus then explains further, using the meaning ‘from above’. The Biblical authors used puns and word play not merely because they may have enjoyed it. It served a purpose. It is a reminder that they are writing about realities that cannot be adequately expressed in words. To show this, the Biblical authors used word play to show the reader that there is always more to life, and to God, than we might assume at first glance. Word play is an invitation to “come and see”, to go deeper.   Continue reading “The Bridegroom at the Well”

Look Down

Thursday of the Second Week of Lent: Luke 16:19-31

I’ve done no wrong!
Sweet Jesus hear my prayer!
Look down, look down,
Sweet Jesus doesn’t care.

– from Work Song, Les Misérables

The musical Les Misérables, like the novel that inspired it, offers us an unfiltered picture of the life of the poor in nineteenth century France. The line “Look down” appears again in Les Miz as the title of a later, similar song sung by the poor of Paris. That line can have different meanings, depending on its context. It provides us with a good way to begin to explore the parable which Jesus tells the Pharisees in today’s Gospel reading. Continue reading “Look Down”