Welcome to Green Reflections, the blog dedicated to reflections on the readings from the Roman Catholic Sunday Lectionary, with particular sensitivity to the needs of the earth. Use this blog to deepen your own awareness of our Creator's desires for the planet and ways that we can appreciate God's goals for the earth,giving it the loving care that it deserves.
Saturday, April 9, 2011
Whenever we read something from John’s gospel, it is worthwhile to remember that this gospel is unlike the other three. Instead of simply revealing the life of the earthly Jesus, John’s gospel is a reflection of Christians living into the second century who share with us their understanding of Jesus in the post-resurrection days. Unlike the first gospel communities who expected Jesus to return any day, these Johannine Christians were learning to live with the ongoing absence of Jesus and they asked the same kinds of questions that we might ask. Today’s passage seeks to understand the meaning of the resurrection of Jesus while Christians were dying. In other words, why are we dying when Jesus promised eternal life?
So, we listen to the story of Lazarus, a close friend and disciple of Jesus, who has died. His sisters, Mary and Martha, sent for Jesus when Lazarus laid ill with sickness. They knew he could die and they wanted Jesus to save Lazarus from death. But, Jesus did not come when they called. Instead, he arrived after Lazarus had died and was buried four days earlier. Imagine the boldness of Martha who chides Jesus for not coming in time to save His friend! “If you had been here, Lazarus would never have died.” She understood and trusted Jesus’ power to save. She just didn’t understand why He didn’t choose to use his power to save his friend from death. Building on her faith, Jesus asks Martha if she believes that He is the resurrection. Her answer is perfect. Martha tells Jesus, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”
In case we wonder if Jesus sympathizes with our fear and distaste for death, John writes that Jesus was greatly disturbed by Lazarus’ death. Jesus was deeply moved, so much so that he cried. Then—as if to demonstrate the truth that He is the resurrection—Jesus raised Lazarus from death.
Understood from a Johannine perception of eternal life, these Christians believed that we begin eternal life from the moment of our baptism. Eternal life was not thought to begin following death at all! No, we begin this eternal life when we accept salvation through the glorification of Jesus, and we are steeped in eternal life as long as we live in union with Him. Therefore, death does not have the power to sever our union with Christ nor can death extinguish eternal life. Our lives continue in Christ; only after death, our lives are transformed. Jesus does not come merely to resuscitate our bodies from mortality. No, He comes to live in and with us forever, from birth on earth to birth in heaven. Our lives are one continuous and joyful existence in and with Jesus through eternal life.
You and I can rejoice in the fact that we never die! Sure our bodies give up at some point, but our essence, our spirits, our very lives continue forever in Christ. Today’s gospel reading assures us that faith in Jesus is the door to endless life. When you and I begin to grasp this unimaginable joy and integrate the reality of eternal life beginning right now, how can we not share our boundless hope and faith with others?
As we approach Holy Week starting next Sunday, we do not enter a week of somber remembrance as though we don’t know the ending of the story. Rather we enter our participation in the Passion of Christ in awe and gratitude. The love of God goes so far as to share our sufferings and death so that we can be confident that death is not the end of life.
As Christians who lovingly tend the needs of Earth, we are surrounded by signs of impending death for our home planet. Nuclear waste is fouling the Pacific Ocean and the country of Japan. People continue to waste energy and produce carbon dioxide without serious attempts to lower their carbon footprint. Pollution is only slowly being cleaned. Global warming worsens. Can we live in hope and confidence that we already live eternal life and generously give our mortal lives to bringing life and hope to our planet?
Jesus beckons us to follow His example of total trust in God and complete self-giving for the good of others. Before Holy Week arrives, we can imagine Jesus asking us, “Are you willing to lay down your short mortal life, out of love for the Earth and others as I did for sinful humankind?” We may not be asked to die literally for Earth’s healing, but we can die to all the behaviors and attitudes that contribute to environmental degradation, confident that our sacrifice will bring life for the Earth and all her creatures. With confidence that we already have eternal life, we need not fear death in any of its forms—not death of the body, nor death of selfishness, nor death of carelessness. Rather, we are already filled with joy that we have eternal life. Let’s us live for the good of others and the life of our planet.
Sunday, April 3, 2011
I remember quite shocking news that I received soon after finishing graduate school while I was in my 40s. I worked at a retreat center and began having trouble seeing the writing on the computer screen. For a while, I moved the screen to a closer position so that I could see more distinctly, but I got eye strain doing this. My next thought was that something was wrong with the screen. So, I worked with another screen and found the same problem. It didn’t dawn on me that something was wrong with my eyes until the IT tech told me that my screen was perfectly clear and maybe I needed glasses! For someone who had never worn glasses in her life, the very idea that my eyes were less than optimal had never occurred to me.
Today’s readings address issues of seeing. In first Samuel God tells the prophet that none of Saul’s strong, rugged and good looking boys were going to be the next king. Instead, puny, adolescent David, the youngest, was going to be king because “the Lord does not see as humans see; the human looks on outward appearance, but the Lord sees the heart.” So, right away, we are reminded that external appearances do not tell us much about the quality of a person’s character.
In Ephesians, St. Paul reminds us that we are now living in the light, whereas, before knowing Christ we walked in darkness. The true light that enables us to know what is pleasing to God is Christ, so if we want eternal life, we do well to pay attention to the Light of the world and make sure we are in Him so that we do not stumble for lack of sight.
The reading from John’s gospel illustrates the importance for Christians to live in Christ most whole heartedly. The main lesson in this story is about blindness, both physical and spiritual blindness. John’s gospel juxtaposes the physically blind man with the spiritually blind faith leaders of his day. The man, who knew he was blind from birth, is adamant that Jesus has really cured him. Then when Jesus returns to talk with him, the blind man’s spiritual needs are also met. When he understands that Jesus is the messiah, the once-blind man falls down and worships Him. Contrast that with the so-called spiritual people who believe that they are already sighted, yet cannot see that Jesus is the messiah. Even when Jesus spoke with the spiritual people, they cling to the books of Moses and refuse to open themselves to Jesus. In the end, Jesus tells his audience, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind…If you were blind, you would have no sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.”
Ah, how blind are those who will not see! Jesus is talking about those who refuse to acknowledge what is right before their eyes, namely, that Jesus is the Light of the World. He is the Son of God who came to reveal God to us and teach us how to be faithful to Him. This gospel reading gives great comfort for those who wholeheartedly follow Jesus, but it provides no reassurance for those who half-heartedly do so.
All week I have been praying with the gospel asking God to reveal to me the ways that I do not fully open myself to Jesus and the Good News. I’ve been thinking about all of us who profess to be Christians, yet do not allow the demands of the gospel to influence how we do business or politics. I’ve wondered how seriously we take Jesus’ command to love others as ourselves when we deal with unsafe drivers, the homeless or drug addicts. Even with the current military efforts in Libya, I’ve struggled with how our actions there demonstrate Jesus’ command to love our enemies. And as we watch Japan’s efforts to control a nuclear meltdown, I wonder how Jesus would instruct us about nuclear power in our own country.
Seeing through Jesus’ values is a struggle. This gospel invites Christians to take a look at where we have surrendered their lives completely to Jesus and where they still live in sin. Perhaps a song from 1985 might enlighten our meditation this week. Phlipp & The Woo Team wrote the song where they put it this way:
There are none so blind
As those who will not see
So it logically follows
At least it seems to me
That there are none so deaf
As those who will not hear
There are none so cowardly
Than those who will not fear
There are none so mute
As those who will not talk
There are none so cripple
As those who will not walk
There are none so young
As those who will not age
There are none so wise
Than he who is not a sage
The one who cannot write
Is the one who will not read
And there are none so starving
As those who will not feed.
Let us open our eyes, our ears, our hearts to the full gospel message.
The Green Nun's Favorite Links
- Audubon Society
- Carbon Footprint Calculator
- Catholic Coalition on Climate Change
- E Magazine
- Earth Literacy Masters Program at SMW College
- Environment California
- Environmental Defense Fund
- Forest Ethics
- Friends of the Earth
- Global Climate Change Report
- Natural Resources Defense Council
- Ocean Conservancy
- Pacific Environment
- Sierra Club
- The Nature Conservancy
- Union of Concerned Scientists
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