Fifth Sunday of Lent
Background: For the second Sunday in a row, we are presented with a story about a sinner and the self-righteous—who are also sinners but don’t want to admit it. Yet, as Paul says today, all this judgment of others and of ourselves is just so much “rubbish/garbage.” Salvation does not mean never sinning; it means trust in the love and the power of Christ’s resurrection. Those can enable us to get up after we stumble and run the race to the finish. “See, I am doing something new!”
- Repenting for our sins dos not mean brooding over the past. How is Jesus calling you to move forward in the transforming power of his love?
- How judgmental are you with the other people in your life? How can you bring instead them reconciliation and not condemnation? How can you be Jesus to them?
- How have other people put you in a box? What way out do you think that Jesus is pointing out to you?
- The culture wars of the past decades have divided out country and our church. Yet devotion to the truth can become twisted into self-righteousness How will you avoid this trap?
Practice: For those who are baptized and confirmed and who have shared in the Eucharist, Lent is a journey of repentance and renewal leading up to the Renewal of Baptismal Promises on Easter. One traditional way to prepare for that moment is to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation which reunites us more deeply with our God and with our brothers and sisters in the church. If you have not done so already, find an opportunity to celebrate it this week.
Palm Sunday – Luke
Background: Christian liturgy is not a play reenacting past events but a living celebration of the inner meaning of those events so that it comes alive in us today. As the oldest Palm Sunday hymn says: “To you before your passion, they sang their hymns of praise. To you, now high exalted, our melody we raise.”
Luke’s account of the triumphal entry has two episodes. First, we see that willingness of the owners of the donkey to give it up if the Master needs it. Second, the point about the donkey is that a victor entered mounted on a warhorse, but Jesus it rides a humble beast of burden. The crowd’s chant about the “king” who brings heavenly peace and glory proclaims that Jesus is bringing with him an idyllic reign of justice, harmony, and prosperity
- Why are you happy to join in welcoming Christ today?
- What is Christ asking you to let him make use of as he proclaims today the coming of God’s kingdom/reign?
- What can you do to help others experience the coming of Christ with joy? How will you share the message of Jesus not as judgement but as good news?
- Jesus is “King of Israel and David’s royal Son.” But anti-Semitism is a persistent Christian sin. Where have you encountered it? What will you resolve to do next time?
Practice: Placing the palms with the cross or crucifix at home is an old custom—as is weaving them into crosses. Allow this custom to help you keep in mind during prayer this week that both dying and rising are part of the paschal mystery.
Introduction to Eastertime: In the post-Vatican II reform of the Roman liturgy, Easter became not a day but a season. The Sundays are not named as “after” Easter but rather “of” Easter. We must not subdivide this season into chunks but celebrate its overall flow.
Because the different New Testament writers approached their proclamation of the Good News of Jesus from different perspectives, there are two chronologies at work in the readings of this season. For John, on Good Friday Jesus breathes forth his Spirit as he dies, and then blood and water flow from his side, a passage that serves as the guarantee that the rites of initiation at Easter Vigil have power to give rebirth to those who believe. The risen Christ renews that Spirit on the evening of Easter Day when Jesus appears to his disciples in the upper room and breathes the Spirit upon them to empower their mission. In this Gospel Easter Day is the “birthday of the Church.” For Luke in the Acts of the Apostles, the definitive sending of the Spirit does not occur until the fiftieth day on Pentecost itself.
This difference in these two chronologies should not disturb us; instead, they give us complementary narratives of the meaning of what God is accomplishing in us and in the world through the death and resurrection of Jesus.
During this season in every cycle, the lectionary abandons any use of the Old Testament, the history of God’s dealings with the first community called into existence by divine love. For seven weeks the first reading is from Acts, portraying life in and the challenges faced by the new Christian community in our earliest days.
In this cycle the second reading is from the Book of Revelations. Written during the first persecutions of Christians in the Roman Empire, it assures its readers that in the end Christ wins: he is the Lamb slain, yet evermore triumphant. Yet in him we too are victorious since we share in his very life through the sacraments of initiation. In a challenging image our (baptismal) robes have been washed white in his blood, and we are all invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb, the Eucharist.
The Gospel selections (almost entirely from John) in every cycle follow the same pattern, one that allows the newly-initiated and the whole community to begin the process of mystagogy/reflection upon the sacraments. The first three Sundays describe appearances of the risen Jesus. The next three Sundays focus on our ongoing relationship with the risen Lord, leading up his departure and his parting gift of the Spirit.
Background: Today there are two choices for the second reading and three for the Gospel. Among these possibilities what stands out is the fact that Jesus’ resurrection two millennia ago is still happening in the lives of baptized Christians.
- What new life and joy is Christ giving you today?
- As living witnesses to Christ’s resurrection, how can we be sure that what we are bringing to people is Good News and not condemnation?
- We are called to celebrate this feast by sharing the “bread of sincerity and truth.” How will you let people see the authentic goodness that God has shaped within you?
- What would bring a springtime of love and care to your family, your neighborhood, your city, etc.?
Practice: Decorate Easter eggs. They are an ancient symbol of new life breaking forth from its old shell. After the egg hunt and without turning it into a grand competition, you can even have an Easter egg fight as Christ struggles once again to get out of the tomb. Yes, Eastern Christians do this all the time.
Second Sunday of Easter
Background: This was the day on which in ancient Rome the neophytes laid aside the white robes that they had been given during the rites of initiation at Easter Vigil and joined the body of the Faithful. And so, today’s readings were chosen with them in mind. There are two episodes in today’s selection from John’s gospel. The first is the missioning of the disciples and the sending of the Spirit by the risen Lord on the evening of Easter Day itself. The second occurs eight days later with the story of doubting Thomas who is transformed from a skeptic into the first person in the gospel narrative to greet Jesus as his Lord and God.
- The “proof” that Thomas was looking for he found when Jesus showed him his wounds. 1 John also says that “the blood, the water, and the Spirit” bear the same “witness.” When in your tough times has Jesus been the one you could turn to because he understood? What did you discover about him?
- You too have been sealed in the Spirit. When you have concretely experienced the Spirit’s power at work in and through you? When have you been “bigger” than yourself?
- Jesus articulates that the core of our mission in the power of the Spirit is to bring forgiveness and reconciliation. When have you had to struggle to live up to that challenge? Are you struggling now? What help do you need?
- Acts portrays the early Christian community dedicated to those in need and able to work miracles because of their faith that the risen Lord was among them How can you help the Church live up to the ideal presented there of service and care for all?
Practice: What wound from your past still pains you? How might Jesus bring healing and new strength to you? This week, after meditating upon this topic, journal about it as well. Explain to Jesus all the details, ask him to send the Spirit upon you and anyone else involved, and each day slowly pray the Lord’s Prayer. (Alternate languages if you can.)
See also these related articles:
- Reflection Questions for RCIA Seekers: Year C – The 18th-21st Sundays in Ordinary Time
- Reflection Questions for RCIA Seekers: Year C – The 13th-17th Sundays in Ordinary Time
- Reflection Questions for RCIA Seekers: Year C – Pentecost through the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time
- Reflection Questions for RCIA Seekers: Year C – The Third Sunday of Easter through Ascension Sunday
- Reflection Questions for RCIA Seekers: Year C – The Fifth Sunday of Lent through the Second Sunday of Easter