The Scripture readings from this reflection: Year C Readings; Isaiah 43: 16-21; Psalm 126: 1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 6; Philippians 3:8-14; John 8:1-11
The question that always arises when we hear the Gospel for the Fifth Sunday of Lent this liturgical year is: What was Jesus writing on the ground with his finger? The Gospel itself does not tell us. This has given rise to numerous interpretations throughout the centuries.
One suggestion is that Jesus was writing the sins of those in the crowd who were about to stone the woman. Another possibility is that Jesus was writing some notes for himself, getting together the argument by which he proposed to set the woman free. But, there is another possibility we should consider. The Greek word that we translate “to write,” literally means “to draw,” or “to make lines.” So maybe, instead of Jesus forming letters of the alphabet in the ground, he was simply drawing lines or figures. In other words, perhaps Jesus was doodling. If this was the case, then Jesus’ action is not about writing but about waiting: waiting for those in the crowd to see the truth.
In the last edition of The Mirror, I tried to shed light on the document outlining the guiding principles of a Catholic hospital, the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, commonly referred to as the ERDs. Of course, this is a major concern for me in the Diocese of Springfield – Cape Girardeau because of the three Catholic hospitals in Joplin, Springfield, and Cape Girardeau, as well as smaller Catholic Hospitals in Dexter and Mountain View. At the same time, our major Catholic hospitals, Mercy and Saint Francis, also sponsor many smaller Catholic clinics throughout southern Missouri in areas where there is difficulty in getting access to quality healthcare. I recall a letter sent to me by a doctor in Kennett, MO, asking if a Catholic hospital could be established there because the local hospital in Kennett had shut down. People in that area have to drive over an hour just to reach Cape Girardeau for healthcare.
THE FOURTH SUNDAY OF LENT The Scripture readings from this reflection: Joshua 5:9a, 10-12; Psalm 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21; Luke 15:18
Whether a second grader or an adult, one of the steps I often take with an individual in preparing them for the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation, is showing them the inside of the confessional. It may not seem like much, but I consider it an important step. The intention behind this is simple: I want a penitent to be as “at ease” as possible when receiving the Sacrament. They need not fear the Sacrament, the minister, and even the space itself, as any of those three things can be rather daunting when they are approached for the first time. What is my simple hope in all of this? That they will not be afraid of receiving the Father’s forgiveness, and that they actually come to appreciate and anticipate the joy of being reconciled.
The parable of the Prodigal Son, which is the Gospel for the Fourth Week of Lent, is a memorable one, not simply because of the story itself, but because of the sheer magnitude of what happens: a son, who is presumed to be totally unworthy of forgiveness, is reconciled with his father. The parable opens with a son approaching his father with a rather jarring request: to receive his portion of his father’s inheritance. This was not common practice at the time for a son to receive the inheritance this early, as it would traditionally be distributed after the father had died, as in our day and age. The implication of his request, then, is harsh: he is indifferent to the fact that his father is still with him. The request would be utterly insulting to the father to have been asked! Nonetheless, the father, in his humility, gives over to the son his portion of the inheritance, and the son departs.
Lent is a precious gift that our Church has given to us. It holds out opportunity and invites us. Way back many years ago, my spiritual director, a good and holy Benedictine monk, my spiritual mentor, suggested that during Lent, I should choose a companion to accompany myself on the journey or pilgrimage with its destination being the cross on calvary’s hill.
The idea was to choose a saint, become intimately acquainted with his or her life (by way of a biography found in the book, The Lives of the Saints), pray daily to that saint, and ask for direction and advice.
That may seem kind of farfetched! And all too easy. Let us examine the Church’s teaching on the “Communion of the Saints.”
What will you “do” for Lent? That is a thoroughly Catholic question. Although other denominations do follow Lent and it seems to be more and more popular among other denominations, Catholics are well entrenched in the practices of the 40 days of Lent. Lent conjures up images of Stations of the Cross, ashes, the color purple, fish fries, special Lenten songs, and works of prayer, fasting, and charity.
On Ash Wednesday, Catholics throughout the world pray and fast. It is a powerful day as are the 40 days of the Lenten season. It’s an invitation from the Church to walk more closely with Christ on his journey to Jerusalem. It is an invitation from the Church to make a personal commitment to embrace the cross. Ultimately, it is an invitation to enter into the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus: the Paschal Mystery. When looked at from that point of view, the 40 days of Lent can be life-changing. And any of the “traditional practices” of Lent hopefully lead us to a more profound understanding of sharing in the Paschal mystery.