SUNDAY GOSPEL REFLECTIONS – MARCH – 2021
7th March 2021 – 3rd Sunday of Lent – Year B – John 2:13-25
Look at this scene of Jesus’ ‘cleansing of the Temple.’ For Jesus to react as strongly as he does he must be really disturbed by what he sees happening in the Temple precincts. Do I hear him thinking, ‘this is not what religion is about’? What do I think religion is about? What is most important?
The money changers and sellers of the animals for sacrifice are putting heavy financial burdens on the pilgrims who have come to the passover celebrations in Jerusalem. The prophets Jeremiah, Zechariah and Malachi had all spoken of this abusive trade. They prophesied that when the Messiah came there would be a cleansing of all the activities which were not worthy of the house of God. The traders are moving the focus from God to side issues. Rituals and ways of worship are very good and important when they nourish us, connect the believers, and point us all to God. Jesus recognises and shows us the utter centrality of God in his life. Where do I feel I have followed the ‘norms’ and rules, but lost sight of my personal and intimate relationship with God? In what ways do I keep God central in my worship and in all my everyday activities of life?
The only sign of his messiahship that Jesus will give the leaders, is that of tearing the Temple down and rebuilding it in three days – he is talking of his resurrection. We, the followers of Jesus, now see Jesus in the light of an analogy of the Temple – the new place of intimacy with God, a ‘temple’ which is indestructible. We do not need to go anywhere to meet God! What do I feel as I reflect on the presence of God so immediate in Jesus through the Holy Spirit? Is intimacy what I seek?
Let us remember this week, that the reason for all our Lenten activities, prayer, fasting and almsgiving, is to respond to and deepen our love of God. Let us recognise the centrality of God in our religion and in our lives as Jesus did.
14th March 2021 – 4th Sunday of Lent – Year B – John 3:14-21
On this fourth Sunday of Lent or Laetare Sunday, Latin for “rejoice”, we are reminded that joy is an important part of our lives in God. We are halfway through our Lenten fast and we catch our breath as we look beyond the horizon to God’s invitations. What is there to rejoice in? Here Jesus refers to an incident in the Old Testament, where the Israelites were wandering in the desert and a plague of snakes was attacking them. Those who looked up at the elevated bronze snake, believing that God would heal them, were gifted with healing as God promised. We are called now to look up to “the Son of man” on the cross and also to the glory of his resurrection. When and how do I look up to Jesus, believing he will make me whole? In what ways is God my saviour, my redeemer, my life companion, my teacher, my guide, my loved One? Yes, Jesus tells us, “God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost, but may have eternal life.” What does God’s love mean to me? Will I receive God’s love knowing that it is a gift and as a gift is freely offered; and respond to it? How or when do I experience it? Then a number of themes are found: light and darkness, belief and unbelief, good and evil, salvation and condemnation. In spite of God’s ongoing gift of love not everyone gets the message or is willing to receive it, or hand it on. God is love and God overflows with love constantly and includes all. Can I relate to this kind of love? How will I try to imitate it this week? Believing is both trusting God’s words as reliable and relying on God for the power to change. How does believing and trusting in God guide my life? How can it change it? What darkness am I hiding in my life? Do I believe that sharing it with a trusted other will lessen the burden for me? Let me, this week, trustingly open my heart and hands to receive God’s love and healing, live the truth of this gift and “come out into the light” so that I too may rejoice.
21st March 2021 – 5th Sunday of Lent – Year B – John 12:20-33
Some Greeks, who had come up to worship at the Passover festival, approached Philip to see if it would be possible to see Jesus. We are not told whether or not they saw Jesus then, or, if they did, how they responded to him. Like the Greeks I too can approach someone to introduce or give me a deeper understanding of Jesus and his teachings. Who, today, has introduced me to Jesus? In what ways can I introduce someone to Jesus, his life and teachings?
The approach of these Greeks, probably converts, prompts Jesus to speak of his coming death, the coming “hour”, and the purpose of his dying in a short parable about a grain of wheat. The parable is really about the process of transformation because a seed holds within it the potential of the plant that it will become. Transformation in our spiritual life too is about becoming who we are created to be. Who has God created me to be? Are there ‘seeds’ that God has planted within me that could do with some nurturing? What ‘seeds’ have I planted, nurtured, grown and scattered in my life? Where have I seen, with joy, ‘seeds’ that I have scattered help somebody to see Jesus and experience hope?
The experience of loss, death of the seed, plays a larger part in our lives than we might think. Throughout our lives we have to face a whole series of necessary losses; some people, relationships, old attitudes, behaviours and attachments have to be given up if we are to grow. What ‘deaths’ have I experienced by letting go and moving on? Which were the most difficult things that I needed to let go of? Looking back where have I experienced the most growth and new life because of letting go of something? Jesus’ death, for which he recognises that ‘now the hour has come,’ has brought Jesus, and us, the gift of resurrection.
As we enter deeper into the last two weeks of the mystery of Lent, ‘Passiontide’, let me, like the Greeks say, “We, [I] want to see Jesus”.
28th March 2021 – Palm Sunday – Year B – Mark 14:1-15:47
Today we enter the solemn drama of Holy week, and in the gospel, we have the distressing story of Jesus’ passion. I am aware of the characters at play in the story, and the different attitudes to Jesus in his last days. I am drawn to the woman who anoints Jesus despite everything. Have I had the courage to serve Jesus regardless of what others think and say? I spend a few moments being truly present to Jesus, knowing what he will endure for me. I hear Jesus saying, “she has done what was in her power to do”. What does that mean for me to hear those words?
I consider the disciples, Judas who betrayed Jesus, most of the disciples running away when Jesus needed them most, and Peter denying Jesus three times. I know how easy it is to promise to be faithful, but how much courage and strength it takes to keep those promises. I ask for the grace to be faithful to Jesus in all the situations and experiences of my life.
The passion of Jesus is overwhelmingly painful to even consider. I see the utter loneliness of Jesus. I ask the Lord to help me walk with him through all the pain and suffering. Have there been times in my life where I have been asked to walk with someone I love in their suffering? Has there been a time where someone has accompanied me in my pain? I see the courageous people who walk with Jesus, too. The women who never left his side, Simon of Cyrene who helped carry his cross, and most of all his mother Mary, who silently bore his pain.
I hear Jesus’ words; “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? I feel Jesus’ sense of being abandoned by his Father. I reflect on the times in my life when I have felt alone and could not find God when I needed him the most. Can I talk with Jesus about these times?
I look closely and see the signs of hope. The centurion who says, “truly, this man was the Son of God”, and Joseph of Arimathea’s courageous appeal to Pilate for his body, to see to his burial. Can I reflect on the moments of hope in the difficult times in my life journey?
I ask Jesus how I can be with him in this Holy Week. What can I do to make this week a time of prayer?