5th Sunday of Lent – Walking in Charity

Resurrection of Lazarus, James Jacques Tissot,
1886-1894, Brooklyn Museum

Jesus told her,
“I am the resurrection and the life;
whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live,
and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.
Do you believe this?”
She said to him, “Yes, Lord.”
(John 11:25–27)

Fr. Smith’s Commentary on the Second Reading
Fifth Sunday of Lent
Romans 8: 8–11
March 26, 2023

We return to Paul’s letter to the Romans. We have read this letter twice before this Lent and examined it in some detail during the summer of 2020. Indeed, most of this reading we saw before on July 8, 2020. We will use some of the same material today but focus on our Lenten themes and practices.

Today’s reading answered a question from the previous chapter:

Miserable one that I am!
Who will deliver me from this mortal body?

(Ro 7:24)

To our modern ears this may seem as if Paul is dividing the human being into body and soul: body, physical and bad, soul, spiritual and good, this reflected the prevailing Greek ideas of Paul’s time. Paul did not believe this, nor did his readers in Rome who were born Jews and maintained a “Jewish anthropology”. As such they would have understood and appreciated the modern philosophical statement that “we do not have a body; we are our bodies.” We are not naturally immortal. Immortality means that the true and important part of us—spirit, soul—leaves the body at death. The body ultimately deteriorates into ashes, it was just a necessary shell. Jews and Christians believe that human beings are composed of “Body and Soul” and that we need both to be human. Thus, we experience the resurrection of the body. This is the new life promised in the scriptures and can only be given by God. Paul realized that this is now accomplished through Jesus. A body is in our future, but it is one totally dedicated to the work of God.
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Homily – 4th Sunday of Lent (Fr. Smith)

 We modern people have difficulty accepting the black-and-white statements of Jesus. We pride ourselves on seeing the exceptions, the grey parts of life. Given the world’s present clumsy polarization, this is quite ironic and perhaps we can now acknowledge that Jesus has a particularly pertinent insight. He reveals who is good, bad, or ridiculous but perhaps we could better say who will be good, bad or ridiculous.

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4th Sunday of Lent – Walking in the Light

The Good Shepherd, c. 300–350,
at the Catacombs of Domitilla, Rome (Wikipedia)

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose;
beside restful waters he leads me;
he refreshes my soul.
(Psalm 23:1-3a)

Fr. Smith’s Commentary on the Second Reading
Fourth Sunday of Lent
Ephesians 5:8–14
March 19, 2023

We have all heard that Christians must be in the world but not of it. The author of Ephesians today shows us that this idea was with us from the beginning. As we have seen when we examined the letter to the Colossians last year and Ephesians the year before, we are not sure if these letters were written by Paul or a successor. The church has clearly taught that both are inspired and trustworthy. Let us keep in mind that Paul wrote in Romans that “Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect” (12:2). There is at least continuity. These are the concerns of cosmopolitan urban Christians: now as well as then.

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Homily – 3rd Sunday of Lent (Fr. Smith)

Jesus enters a situation today of great discord and division and leaves one of peace and concord. Let us see how.

This community is broken in many ways with three particularly bad fractures.

The Jews and the Samaritans hated each other. Their enmity went back centuries. David’s kingdom was held together under Solomon but in 922 BC was divided between the 10 tribes of the North, Israel, and the two of the south, Judea. In 721 BC the Assyrians conquered the north, deported many of the inhabitants and resettled other people in Israel. They intermarried, accepted the worship of the LORD, and became known as the Samaritans. There was always friction between them and the Jews of Judea, but it became irrevocable when the Jews destroyed the Samaritan temple at Mt. Gerizim in 129 BC. (See footnote below)

Samaria was situated between Judea and Galilee but as the Samaritans were very hostile to Jews who would take a detour around it. Jesus however says that he “had” to pass through Samaria. This was not for practical reasons but in obedience to his earthly mission to make us one as he and the Father are one. (John 10:30) He knew it would be neither easy nor pleasant.  The first fracture was between Jews and Samaritans and Jesus confronts this intentionally and directly. It will not heal itself.

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3rd Sunday of Lent – God’s Love for Us

Woman at the Well, Carl Heinrich Bloch,
c. 1865 to 1879, Chapel at Frederiksborg Palace, Copenhagen.

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.”
The woman said to him,
“Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty
or have to keep coming here to draw water.”
(John 4:13–15)

Fr. Smith’s Commentary on the Second Reading
Third Sunday of Lent
Romans 5:1–2, 5–8
March 12, 2023

We return today to the letter of Paul to the Romans. This was our second reading for the first week of Lent and we will read from it again on the 5th Sunday. Romans is Paul’s closest attempt in putting his thoughts in order and it is often used at Mass. The first two verses and verse 5 from today’s reading were read for Trinity Sunday last year. Today we add three verses and apply them to Lent. Although the message is the same the different context allows them to better illuminate a different truth. As is often said the best interpreter of scripture is scripture.

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Second Sunday of Lent – Joined with Jesus

The Transfiguration (Upper Portion), Raphael,
1516-1520, Pinacoteca Vaticana, Vatican.

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.”
(Matthew 17:5)

Fr. Smith’s Commentary on the Second Reading
Second Sunday of Lent
2 Timothy 1:8b–11
March 5, 2023

Today we will look at the 2nd letter to Timothy. We have not only read this letter before but have virtually read around this passage. Last year we examined 1:8 but then skipped to verse 13. The most likely reason is that verses 9–10 may be a hymn which the author has placed here for emphasis. It is something of a digression from the main point of the previous section but fits in very well with the Transfiguration that we celebrate today.

General information about 2nd Timothy can be found here.

These letters present themselves as written by St. Paul to his protégé. The first letter of Timothy examines how a church can be governed by a non-apostle. Second Timothy is more personal. Indeed, it is very warm and tender and tells the story of the friendship of Paul and Timothy in Christ. We are not, however, sure if Paul himself wrote it. We can be sure that even if Paul was dead when it was written there were enough eyewitnesses to testify that the story was true or false. Minimally but most importantly it is a depiction of an older follower of Jesus inspiring a younger one.

Inspiring someone to a be a Christian is not easy. The cross is always present. Jesus not only died but he died the most humiliating death possible. Crucifixion was designed to strip a person of his humanity and honor. This would be terrifying in any age but particularly so in the ancient world. They held honor above all things and a person was worthless if deprived of it. Jesus then would have been considered worthless. How could someone follow him? How could someone not be ashamed of him?

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