Saturday, March 17, 2007

Sunday, March 25 ~ Fifth Sunday of Lent

John 8: 1-11

But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple; all the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, "Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such. What do you say about her?" This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, "Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her." And once more he bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the eldest, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus looked up and said to her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" She said, "No one, Lord." And Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again."

Questions for Reflection and/or Discussion

Adultery is sex outside of marriage: aka premarital sex, homosexual sex, extramarital affairs. Our culture has forgotten this word. Most of our society has abandoned the Biblical principle that adultery is wrong. They just ignore it. Just look at television dramas and sitcoms for proof. Sex outside of marriage is any sexual act outside of the confines of a Christian marriage, and it is wrong. Jesus and the scribes and Pharisees all agree on this point. Do I have any doubts that adultery is a sin? Have I committed this sin? If so, have I confessed it and received absolution? Have I condoned this sin? Have I ignored it and looked the other way, or have I made clear that I believe it is wrong, despite our culture of casual sex?

What Jesus and the Pharisees do not agree on in this passage is what should be the punishment for adultery. The Law of Moses was given to man, because humanity fell in the Garden of Eden. Man could no longer understand the Truth of God’s creation and therefore needed prescriptive laws to identify right, wrong, and the consequences of sin. We were seeing through fuzzy glasses of a sort. But when Jesus came, He brought the light. He restored the fullness of the Truth through His life, death, and resurrection. Most importantly, He reminded us that it is God alone who judges, not man. How quick am I to judge others?

Especially in our culture of casual sex, where hooking up is common in middle schools, do I cast stones at those who commit the sin of adultery or do I see through God’s wisdom with compassionate eyes? Do I have friends or family members who are cohabiting or sexually active? How do I look at them? Do I fault them for their sins? Do I pray for their repentance? Do I seek ways to show them the Truth in word and example?

The woman in this passage recognizes her sin. She knows she has done wrong, and I posture that many people caught in the sin of adultery know in their heart and their mind that they have done wrong. Nevertheless, they are caught in the trap of temptation, and others either ignore their sins or view them with disdain. Jesus does not condemn them; He begs them not to sin again. Do I do the same? A holy priest I know will not marry a couple if they are cohabiting, because he sincerely believes this shows they are immature and not prepared for the sacrament of matrimony. Not all of our priests are this courageous. How can I speak the truth in love to someone I know in the sin of adultery? How can I teach this Truth to my children and help them to avoid such sin?

No! It is a sin! God does not want it! ~ St. Maria Goretti

Sunday, March 17 ~ Fourth Sunday of Lent

First of all, I sincerely apologize to all of you whom I disappointed and/or inconvenienced by not posting this reflection sooner.

Luke 15: 1-3, 11-32

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes murmured, saying, "This man receives sinners and eats with them." So he told them this parable: And he said, "There was a man who had two sons; and the younger of them said to his father, `Father, give me the share of property that falls to me.' And he divided his living between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took his journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in loose living. And when he had spent everything, a great famine arose in that country, and he began to be in want. So he went and joined himself to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would gladly have fed on the pods that the swine ate; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, `How many of my father's hired servants have bread enough and to spare, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me as one of your hired servants."' And he arose and came to his father. But while he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, `Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' But the father said to his servants, `Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet; and bring the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and make merry; for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.' And they began to make merry. "Now his elder son was in the field; and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what this meant. And he said to him, `Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has received him safe and sound.' But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, `Lo, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command; yet you never gave me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your living with harlots, you killed for him the fatted calf!' And he said to him, `Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to make merry and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.'"

Questions for Reflection and/or Discussion

We are all sinners. How often are we like the prodigal son in asking the Father for all that is due to us before we have earned it? And, how do we react when He generously gives it to us? We squander His blessings. Then, we wallow in misery, proclaiming, “Why me?” Especially as mothers, we have a tendency to turn inwardly, to ourselves, to our home, to our family, and to neglect the abundant compassion of our Almighty. Today, am I squandering the blessings God has bestowed on me?

This prodigal son, though, repents. He realizes his mistakes and begs for forgiveness, content to be considered a servant. But, the Father’s compassion is overwhelming. He blesses him above and beyond his previous allotment. Just last night, I was begging God for mercy, begging Him to help me look outside of my prideful self and see His purpose for my life. Intellectually, I know my vocation is noble, to be a wife and mother, but how often do we succumb to human nature and selfishly turn inwardly? How often do we cry out, complaining we are not capable of surviving such mundane challenges?

I suffer the sin of pride, just as the prodigal son. The Lord has blessed me richly, but I sometimes take it all and waste it in self-pity. I cannot imagine that I can survive the often overwhelming challenges of my seemingly simple days. Then, I am reminded of the Cross. I am reminded, particularly by the song of Marie Bellet that “the burden here is sweet, compared to Calvary.” Does my pride cause me to seize control of my burdens and not lay them down before our Lord? Do I allow the everyday burdens I bear to overwhelm me and forget to rely on Christ’s compassion to carry me through my darkest hours?

Then, when I shout into the darkness in the depths of my heart, He is there. He hears me, and instead of being angry at my unbelief and doubt, He embraces me in mercy. I fall to my knees when He insists on giving me the best robe and shoes and ring. There is great celebration in Heaven EVERY time each one of us repents, no matter how many times we do it. And, if you are anything like me, you repent time and time again, regretting the despair and disillusionment that causes us to cast aside the Lord. Am I in need of repentance today? Do I need to fall to my knees and beg to be treated as a servant? Have I experienced the tender compassion of Christ, as He celebrates with great joy my return to His fold?

How long does it last? How quickly do I turn away again? How often must I declare contrition for abandoning God? He never abandons us; He sits by patiently waiting to be called upon. That is what He has been doing for me. I know, rationally, that He has been sitting beside me, waiting for me to cry out in sorrow for my callousness. And, the moment, I cried out (last night), I was healed. Of course, temptation still eats at my confidence even today. The difference today is that I am doubting myself more than God, one step closer to Truth. What are your doubts today?

And, if you are feeling close to God, on the mountaintop, as they say, how do you view the rest of us? Are you the angry brother, envious that others are blessed with such little faith? If you are the faithful one, you bear a unique cross. You must be merry on your plateau of peace. Do you rejoice when you see others turn towards Christ? Do you question the contrition or faith of others? Do you beg God for the glory of redemption when it is already in your grasp? Do you grow lax in your faith or practice, because it is too ordinary? It is I who wish for the steadfast faith you have. Just as the workers who complain about receiving the same wages for a full day’s work as those who work only a few hours, we will all be judged by the state of our souls at our final hour, not before. There is still time. We cannot despair. Lord, have mercy.

Christ shield me this day: Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ when I lie down, Christ when I arise, Christ in the heart of every person who thinks of me, Christ in the eye that sees me, Christ in the ear that hears me. ~ St. Patrick