In the Gospel for Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion, Jesus is arrested.  “And behold, one of those who accompanied Jesus put his hand to his sword, drew it, and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, ‘Put your sword back into its sheath, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword’ ”  (Matthew 26: 51-52).  Jesus exemplifies the love of enemy which he taught his disciples.  He refuses to respond to the violence of his arrest with violence.  He knows that love is more powerful than hate.  Jesus witnesses throughout his passion and death to God’s loving mercy for his executors.  I struggle daily to be loving and merciful to my family, friends, and co-workers let alone my enemies.  I am sorry for any swords of jealously, prejudice, indifference, false judgements, and more I have wielded against others.  For what swords of violence to the dignity of others do you need God’s help to put back?

In the Gospel for the Fifth Sunday of Lent, Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead.  “He cried out in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’  The dead man came out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth.  So Jesus said to them, ‘Untie him and let him go’ ” (John 11: 43-44).  Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead.  Then he orders the bandages untied.  He releases Lazarus  from the grip of death.  Sin is a death too.  It threatens our life with God.  Sin can grab hold of us and not let go.  We all do hurtful things to others that we resolved not to do.  But we do them anyway.  I regret I succumb to the temptation to say hurtful things to my wife when I feel hurt by her.  Christ has the power to free me from this tendency to sin.  Christ unties me from the restraints of hurtful actions.  Christ releases me from the grip of sin to love God and others freely and selflessly.  How has God freed you from sin?  How have you helped free others?

In the Gospel for the Fourth Sunday of Lent, Jesus cures the man born blind.  “When Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, he found him and said, ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’ He answered and said, “Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?’  Jesus said to him, ‘You have seen him, the one speaking with you is he.’ He said, ‘I do believe, Lord,’ and he worshiped him (John 9: 35-38).  The man born blind gradually comes to see Jesus as the Son of Man.  He first identifies the one who cured him as “Jesus” and then “Prophet”. Finally the man born blind sees Jesus for who he really is, “Lord”.  Jesus cured him from both physical and spiritual blindness.  My spiritual eyesight is still blurry.  I now see the face of the Jesus more clearly in faces of my spouse, sons, family and friends.  I am not able to see as clearly the face of Jesus in those who have hurt me, disagreed with me, and have harmed others.  How do you witness to your belief in the presence of Christ in others?  How do others see the face of Christ in you?

In the Gospel for the Third Sunday of Lent, Jesus meets the Samaritan Women at the Well.  Jesus asks her for a drink of water.  She initially resists.  Jews had little in common with Samaritans.  Then Jesus offers her living water.  Since he has no cup, she asks how.  “Jesus answered and said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life’ ” (John 4: 13-14).  By virtue of Baptism, the living water of the Holy Spirit bubbles in each Christian.  The life giving water of the Spirit animates us as Christ for others.  Alive in Christ, we bring the love of Christ to life in our daily encounters.  Christ lives in us when we satisfy those thirsty for companionship, healing, mercy, forgiveness, justice, and more.  How do you satisfy those in your life who thirst for the love of God?

In the Gospel for the Second Sunday of Lent, Peter, James and John witness the Transfiguration of Jesus.  “While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”When the disciples heard this they fell  prostrate and were very much afraid.  The reassuring touch of Jesus came and touched them, saying, ‘Rise, and do not be afraid.’ And when the disciples raised their eyes,
they saw no one else but Jesus alone” (Matthew 17:  5-8).  The reassuring touch of Jesus encourages them to follow him after they get down from the mountain no matter what.  Recently I spent a week end helping my oldest son at his apartment.  He later thanked me for making his life easier.  I was overwhelmed by his expression of gratitude.  I had been wondering why I bother helping my kids who do not seem to appreciate me.  In this transfiguration moment, I deeply felt his love for me and mine for him.  I am more resolved to love him whether he thanks me or not.  How has your experience of the love of Jesus encouraged you to love yourself and others more.

In the Gospel for the First Sunday of Lent, Jesus is tempted in the desert.  “At that time Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.  He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was hungry” (Matthew 4: 2b).  The devil tempted Jesus when he was most vulnerable, hungry and thirsty after days of fasting.  The devil wanted Jesus to use his power to satisfy his hunger.  Jesus refused.  He knew only trust in God satisfies human hungers.  Only through trust in God would he accomplish his mission.  Whether the hunger is for food, shelter, comfort, companionship, or justice, God will satisfy.  How has God satisfied your hunger?  How can you help God satisfy the hungers of others?

In the Gospel for the Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time 2017, Jesus reminds his disciples to trust in the providence of God. “So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’  All these things the pagans seek.  Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.  But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.  Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself” (Matthew 6: 33-34a).  This is a hard saying for anxious people like me.  My life experience has taught me that God takes care of us yesterday, today and tomorrow.  So I have been relying less on myself and more on the loving care of God and others.   With what worries do you need God’s help today?

In the Gospel for the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Jesus continues the Sermon on the Mount.  “You are the salt of the earth.  But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned?  It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot” (Matthew 5: 13).  Salt adds flavor.  Foods  tastes flat without it.  How are Christians salt?  As salt makes food taste better, Christians make the world better.  A simple act of Christian love makes a difference.  Christians who give of themselves are Jesus for others. They help those in need.  They give hope to the fainthearted.  Disciples of Jesus make a difference by praying for a sick family member, advocating for justice for refugees, forgiving a hurtful person, checking on a shut-in neighbor, and more.  How are you salt of the earth?

In the Gospel for the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Jesus preaches the Beatitudes.  “Blessed are [they] the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5: 3-4).  Why does Jesus consider poverty, grief, hunger, persecution, and other troubles as blessings?   God cares deeply for people in distress.  God wants the basic necessities for the poor, comfort for the grief stricken, food for the hungry, safety for the persecuted.  In Jesus, God stands with and acts on behalf of anyone suffering.  Jesus restores sight to the blind, feeds the hungry, comforts Martha and Mary when Lazarus dies, and promises the Holy Spirit to protect his disciples when they meet opposition.  God is with us when we struggle through life’s difficulties.  God wants us to be with others who need our help.  How has God blessed you in times of difficulty.  How do you bless others?

In the Gospel for the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Jesus leaves Nazareth. After the arrest of John the Baptist, Jesus moves for safety to Capernaum in fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah: “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles, the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death light has arisen” (Matthew 4: 15-16).  There Jesus begins announcing “the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4: 17).  This Good News gave his listeners and gives us reason to hope.  This News is a light to suffering people.  God cares for those in the darkness of physical and spiritual distress.  Through Jesus and the Church, God is rescuing the hungry, homeless, divorced, depressed, addicted, unemployed, racially profiled, and everyone who suffers.  How do you find hope when you are suffering.  How do you give hope to others?