In the Gospel for Tuesday of Holy Week, Jesus predicts his betrayer at the last supper with his disciples. John asked, “ ‘Master, who is it?’ Jesus answered, ‘It is the one to whom I hand the morsel after I have dipped it.’ So he took it and handed it to Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot” (John 13: 25b-26). Jesus never stops loving his disciples, even his betrayer. Aware of Judas’ intentions, Jesus still offers him some bread. Jesus reaches out in loving friendship to him. He loves Judas with the incredibly generous and unmerited love of God. Judas rejects the offer. I want to accept God’s love. God’s love demands I love others in the same way Jesus loved Judas … no matter what. I struggle with this. I want to avoid those who hurt me, not invite them to dinner! I need God’s grace to love like Jesus. How does God help you love like Jesus?
In the Reading for Monday of Holy Week, Isaiah speaks about the Suffering Servant. “A bruised reed he shall not break,and a smoldering wick he shall not quench, until he establishes justice on the earth; the coastlands will wait for his teaching” (Isaiah 42: 3). Jesus is the Suffering Servant about whom Isaiah prophesied. In the Passion stories, Jesus does not retaliate against his accusers, judges, and executioners. He does not use violence in response to violence. He responds with mercy and forgiveness. In the face of suffering and death, Jesus surrenders to the will of God. When things go wrong, I want to charge in. I want to “break some reeds” and “knock some heads”. I want to be right with my young adult sons, an alienated sibling, my spouse and others whom I perceive as doing me wrong, Jesus shows me another way. Jesus models reliance on God. It is hard for me to patiently wait for God to heal these relationships. I pray for the grace to surrender to God’s will. How does God help you respond with mercy to those who have hurt you?
In the Reading for Friday of the Fifth Week of Lent, Jeremiah attests to God’s help in adversity. Many denounced Jeremiah. Some even tried to kill him. Yet the persecuted Jeremiah has unwavering confidence in God. “All those who were my friends are on the watch for any misstep of mine. ‘Perhaps he will be trapped; then we can prevail, and take our vengeance on him.’ But the Lord is with me, like a mighty champion …’ ” (Jeremiah 20:11). Jeremiah and Jesus are models of trust in God’s goodness. God’s power is greater than any adversity. Whether a terminal illness, an addiction, a ruptured relationship, the death of a loved one, or other adversities, God is with us. How do you experience the presence of God in your struggles?
In the Gospel for Thursday of the Fifth Week of Lent, Jesus defends himself against his opponents. They accuse him of working for the devil. Jesus affirms his relationship with 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” (John 8: 55). Through our personal and communal relationships with Jesus, we also know God. Knowing God’s incredible love for us engenders our loving response. When we love as God loves, we keep God’s word. God knows that caring for the welfare of others promotes our own welfare. My love for my spouse enriches the love we have for our family. A church benefit for health care for a sick member strengthens the relationships of the church community. A church-based community organization develops a local neighborhood for the benefit of all the residents. How do you keep God’s word?
In the Gospel for Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Lent, Jesus challenges his listeners to accept him as the Savior. “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” (John 8: 23b-24). Jesus the Risen Lord has repaired our relationship with God. He gives us the way to live in this relationship of love. In love with God through Jesus, we love ourselves and others. When we love as God loves, we avoid sin. We live for God when we care for those difficult to love, visit the lonely, attend to the sick, feed the hungry, pray for peace, and more. How do you live for God?
In the Gospel for Monday of the Fifth Week of Lent, Jesus forgives the woman caught in adultery. Jesus challenges the accusers without sin to throw the first stone. One by one the scribes and Pharisees disperse. Jesus is left alone with the woman. ” ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ She replied, ‘No one, sir.’ Then Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin any more’ ” (John 8: 10b-11). Jesus saves the adulterous woman from death by stoning. He forgives her. He sends her away to sin no more. Jesus’ forgiveness also frees us to sin no more. Overwhelmed by God’s loving mercy, we respond in love to God and others. When my family and friends forgive me, I am grateful for their love despite my faults. I am empowered by their loving kindness to love them and others better. How much more empowered are we by God’s forgiveness! Lent is almost over. In what way(s) can you sin no more?
In the Gospel for Friday of the Fourth Week of Lent, Jesus is teaching in the Temple. Some listeners wonder among themselves if Jesus is the messiah. They conclude not. The Messiah is supposed to be a secret until Elijah returns. And they know where Jesus grew up. Jesus overhears their conversation. “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” (John 7: 28-29). Where Jesus grew up is not as important as who sent him. God sent Jesus on his mission. Only those who know God recognize who Jesus really is. Jesus is keenly aware that God is with him. I forget that. I try to do things by myself. I think I am my own agent. I can only accomplish good things with the help of God. God helps me through my parents, family, friends, co-workers, those whom I serve, and many others. I do not operate on my own. Like Jesus, the only “way to go” is to “go with God”. Who helps you go with God?
In the Gospel for Friday of the Third Week of Lent, Jesus teaches the Greatest Commandment. A scribe asks Jesus about the first commandment. Jesus tells him to love God and love his neighbor. The scribe agrees. “When Jesus saw that he answered with understanding, he said to him, ‘You are not far from the Kingdom of God’ ” (Mark 12: 34a). The next time you pray to discern God’s will, remember Jesus’ answer to the scribe. Jesus wants us to love God and others without reservation. Jesus wants us to devote our entire selves and all we have to God’s purposes. St. Ignatius of Loyola teaches us to do everything for the glory of God. How generous are you?
In the Gospel for Thursday of the Third Week of Lent, Jesus heals a mute possessed by a demon. The onlookers accuse him of driving out demons by the power of the prince of demons. Jesus affirms his power comes from God. “If it is by the finger of God that I drive out demons, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you” (Luke 11: 20). As members of the Body of Christ, we are God’s fingers, hands, feet, eyes, mouth, arms, and more. Whenever we love one another in Christ’s name, God is with us. God is there when a woman massages with her fingers the back of her bedridden husband. God is there when the grandmother kneads by hand the bread for the family dinner. God is there when a neighbor walks across the street to offer sympathies for the death of a loved one. God is there when we see the good in others. God is there when we speak to someone who is depressed. God is there when the therapist holds in her arms the paralyzed patient struggling to walk again. How do you bring God’s love to those in need?
In the Gospel for Wednesday of the Third Week of Lent, Jesus teaches his disciples about the Law. “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill” (Mathew 5: 17). God gave Moses the 10 Commandments out of love for the Israelites. By following them, God’s people stay close to God. Jesus urges his disciples to cherish the Law. He wants them faithful to the Law out of love for God and others. Love’s demands go beyond the letter of the Law. Loving like Jesus is giving of oneself to others in need. Jesus fed the hungry, healed the sick, forgave the sinner, and more. How do you fulfill Jesus’ law of love?