Monthly Archives: March, 2018

Salvation and the Cross

  • Have you ever been rescued before? What did that feel like?
  • At some point in your life, you will very likely be asked if you are saved and how you know that you are saved. How would you respond to that question?

Gospel Reading:  John 19:  30 – 42

Catholics would say that we were saved by Christ on the cross.   We cannot simply say that Jesus saved us on the cross and then live according to the same old sinful patterns in life.  We must make every effort to change our lives and live according to Jesus’ example.

It is because of Jesus’ love for us to the very end that he ultimately gave his sacrifice redeeming value.  It is because of Jesus’ love for us to the end that his death atoned and made satisfaction for our sins.  It is the life he led and gave us that is salvific.  We are called to live like Jesus and give our life in his service too. It is not Jesus’ death alone that is the means of rescue or redemption; rather, it is Jesus’ WHOLE LIFE, offered up selflessly and sacrificially in service for the good of others, even unto death.

Satisfaction is a tricky concept when it comes to Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. Why should he have to make satisfaction? When one thinks objectively about what satisfaction means, it would seem that satisfaction should be made by the one who commits the offense, not someone who is innocent. (We, in fact, make satisfaction when we are given a penance in the sacrament of reconciliation.)

St. Thomas Aquinas explains this by telling us that satisfaction comes about when the maker of satisfaction (Jesus) offers to the one offended (God) something that delights him more than his hatred of the offense. Jesus’ self-sacrificing love and obedience, the worthiness of his life (he was, after all, both God and a human being), the utter horror of his passion and the sorrow it caused him outweighed the malice of sin. The satisfaction that Jesus offered on the cross is greater than the offense committed by humanity.

God not only causes salvation, God is salvation. God is perfect fulfillment and happiness. True salvation means we are completely fulfilled and know true peace and salvation.

From Elizabeth Johnson’s Quest for the Living God: 

We have a God of “pathos”, a divine care for the world.  Our God of pathos feels intensely:  loves, cares, is glad, gets angry over injustice, urges, prods, forgives, is disappointed, gets frustrated, suffers righteous indignation, weeps, grieves, promises, pours out mercy, rejoices, consoles, wipes away tears and loves some more.

Dorothy Soelle on the divine power of the cross:

  1. It is selfless love.  Jesus is a man for others, having only his love.  This leads him to die powerless on the cross, with no armies, no magic tricks to save him.
  2. It is a creative, noncompelling, life-giving good.  In raising Jesus from the dead, God instills hope for all, for everything, even the dead.
  3. It is call to solidarity.  We can know God’s love only when we become a part of it ourselves.  We can know the God of compassion only in committed resistance to every form of unjust suffering inflicted on others.

Reflection Questions

  • Have you ever thought about what makes our faith special?  What are your beliefs about the implications of Jesus’ resurrection?
  • What sacrifices have you made?  Did the good outweigh the loss?  What did love have to do with it?
  • When you venerate the cross on Good Friday, what will you hold in your heart?
  • If others could only watch how you spend your time, how you spend your money, what you love, who you love, do you think they would see that Jesus has risen from the dead?
  • What is something you can do TODAY to be more like Jesus?

A Reflection on the Last Supper

Instead of commentary on all the readings for this Palm Sunday, here is an opportunity to reflect on portions of the Gospel and 2nd reading as they pertain to Eucharist.

Let us pray from the Intercessions of Morning Prayer of Holy Thursday.…

As we contemplate the mystery of Jesus’ gift of himself to us, let us pray:

Save your people, Lord.

You are present in the mystery of your Cross embodied in the Eucharist.  Bring all peoples into communion with your redeeming love.

Save your people, Lord.

You offer the world new life in the waters of baptism.  Be present to those who are preparing for baptism.

Save your people, Lord.

You strengthen the Church in the power of the Holy Spirit. Inspire with fervor those who are preparing for confirmation.

Save your people, Lord.

You anoint in your likeness new servants of the Gospel.  Renew in love all those who are ordained to the diaconate, priesthood and episcopacy.

Save your people, Lord.

You unite in love those whom you have called to mirror your love for the Church in marriage.  Fortify the bonds of love that bind all married couples.

Save your people, Lord.

You reconcile to God all those who have gone astray in sin. Cleanse and heal those who desire to return to you.

Save your people, Lord.

You strengthen all those who are called to adhere to your Cross in sickness.  Comfort the sick and those who care for them.

Save your people, Lord.

You give yourself as food for the journey to all those who face the passage from death to life.  Enlighten the dying.

Save your people, Lord.

O Lord, gather us in holiness around the table of the Cross, that together we may proclaim your saving love to all the world in word and in work, through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

 A reading from the Letter of St. Paul to the Philippians (2:  6-11)

The reading from the Gospel according to Mark (14:  12 – 26)

Reflection Questions from Moment By Moment:  A Retreat in Everyday Life:

  1. What do I remember about my initial experiences of the eucharist? How have those experiences influenced the significance I give to the eucharist in my adult life?
  2. How does being part of a community of believers help me to make the continued act of faith which the eucharist requires?
  3. What have reverent moments of receiving the eucharist taught me about intimacy?
  4. Have I made the connections between eucharist and service which are shown by Jesus at the Last Supper?  Do I experience the eucharist as strengthening me to serve as Jesus did?
  5. In what ways am I bread that is broken and shared with others on a daily basis?

“Throughout the week we can feel and express our gratitude.  We can experience, in the midst of very hectic and messy times, a peace the world cannot give.  All week – whether we are driving or walking from one place to another, or pouring a cup of coffee, or simply pausing to catch our breath – we can hear him say, ‘I have given you an example; do this in memory of me.’  He is broken and poured out, to completely give himself to our very human struggle that we might be whole and ourselves become bread for our world, “  (Retreat in the Real World, p. 243).

Let us pray…

May the cross be upon our foreheads

that we may ponder its meaning.

May the cross be upon our ears,

that we may listen attentively to God’s Word.

May the cross be upon our eyes,

that we may see God’s love in this world and in those around us.

May the cross be upon our nostrils

that the smells of this earth open us

to the mysteries of God’s goodness and other’s needs.

May the Cross be upon our lips,

that we may speak God’s love and mercy in our words.

May the cross be upon our shoulders,

that we may carry our cross and embrace the challenges of life

with the love and wisdom of Jesus.

May the cross be upon our hands,

that we may serve others as Jesus did.  AMEN

Losing Life

Fr. Bob’s homily last Sunday…


5th Sunday of Lent B

I cannot remember if I ever mentioned it to you, but I was in the Holy Land in January.  One place I have not talked about though is a lovely church about half way down the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem called Dominus Flevit, or “The Lord Wept.”  It commemorates the spot of Jesus’ famous lament for the city. “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how many times I yearned to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her young under her wings.”  And the remarkable thing about that spot is that if you extend your arms like a hen would spread her wings to gather her young, from that perspective, your arms would encompass the entire walled city of Jerusalem.

And that is exactly what Jesus came to do. To gather us.  To make us…

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5th Sunday of Lent, Cycle B

1st Reading – Jeremiah 31: 31-34

Theologians have a lot to say about this passage of scripture because of the language around a new covenant.  What was wrong with the old one?  How is this fulfilled?  What does this say about how God works in our lives?  Are we puppets to God’s law?  What does this say about church hierarchy?

“You shall be my people and I will be your God,” is similar to the marriage contract of that time period.  It was found on papyri, “She is my wife and I am her husband this day and forever.”  It is a solemn agreement.  A sacred bond.  But the Israelites broke that bond with God.  So the Lord, through Jeremiah, is proposing a new covenant that will be written in our hearts rather than on stone tablets.  Instead of external instruction this covenant will contain an interior principle of personal regeneration; hence charismatic leaders such as prophets and priests, who instruct the people in the obligations of the law of Yahweh, will not be necessary in the new covenant (McKensie’s Dictionary of the Bible, p. 155-156).

For Yahweh’s law to lodge in the heart of the people is for the people to obey Yahweh not out of obligation at all but out of their glad free will.  Jesus is our example.  Jesus obeyed God not simply because he was obligated to, certainly not because he was forced to, but more profoundly because he wanted to, (Holladay’s Long Ago God Spoke, p. 33-38).  So we are not puppets.  Maybe there is no plan.  God has planted goodness in us.  It is up to us to live it.

But let’s be careful not to read Jeremiah’s prophecy as meaning Jesus is the new covenant, as that would displace Judaism.  For Jeremiah, the new covenant is with the house of Israel and the house of Judah.  In the end, Jeremiah is unclear about the future…Jeremiah ends up being killed by his own people.  What IS clear is that God will always prevail when all other forms of rule are exhausted.  Because of this, the future is open and awaits embrace, (Brueggermann’s Introduction to the Old Testament, p. 189-190).

2nd Reading – Hebrews 5: 7-9

Obey means to listen –       to listen with one’s heart.  This ‘letter’ is really a sermon rather than a letter.  It was probably written near the end of the 1st century when some Christians were tired of waiting for Jesus’ return – especially in the face of many difficulties.  This preacher seemed to be encouraging his listeners by saying: “Are you weary of it all? Look at Jesus. Drink deep of the blessedness of the Christ-event and then pull yourself together and get back to the challenge of trying to follow him. He wanted them to see their sufferings and struggles as the training ground for a renewed obedience to God.  Such obedience (from the Latin ob + audire) would mean that the weary must learn to listen once again and to open themselves to hearing the words and challenges of God.  As we also struggle to listen, to hear, and to follow Jesus, we also live as priestly people – offering ourselves as sacrifices — making (w)holy the world and those we encounter.  Like Jesus, we must learn from our listening to mediate God’s presence for others.  That is the ‘job’ of a priest to which we are called by baptism.  (Celebration, April 2000 & 2003)

Again, remember this from Richard Rohr:

All religion must ‘deal with’ suffering and give it meaning and hope. All religion is about this question: what are we to do with our pain? In and with Jesus we can face the reality of pain, suffering, rejection – even death – and then let this reality transform us.  This is the ‘Paschal Mystery’ of Jesus’ – the dying and rising that is a part of our lives. If we do not transform pain, we will transmit it.

This reading states that Christ became perfected through his suffering. The word, perfected, is a term that in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures) was used to speak about the conferring of priestly power. Jesus became the eternal high priest through his sacrifice on the cross.  He became the pledge of God’s love and the one who makes it eternally present       for us. The Crucified One is the one who now sits exalted by God on his throne in heaven.   (Mary Birmingham, Word and Worship Workbook for Year B, 233)  The word used for perfect also meant, not moral perfection, but the reaching of a goal or destiny – becoming who and what one was called to be. (Reginald Fuller, “Scripture in Depth)

The Gospel – John 12: 20-33

Our lives give glory to God also when we like Jesus are willing to give of our selves for the good of others. This is a kind of ‘dying to self’ that brings new life. (

From Bishop Untener in his Little Black Book, 2006:

The image of a seed is a good one. The seed when it ‘dies’ is not annihilated, It simply ceases to exist as it did in order to become something else, something fuller, richer, more vibrant, brimming with life. This theme of death in Christianity is never to be morbid. It is never dying or suffering for its own sake. It is not about being discarded or worthless or lost. We are born to love, to be outgoing, self-giving. It is only our fear and self-centeredness that needs to die. When we let go, ‘die’ to that, we find life brimming with goodness. When we give up being self-centered, clutching things, we open up to everyone, to life. It is a question of becoming what we were made to be. The seed is made to blossom and grow and bear fruit. So are we.

From Ronald Rolheiser, “In Exile”:

There is a suffering and loneliness that is not only beneficial, but that is, in fact, the only route to empathy, to selflessness, to compassion – to real strength and goodness. Our successes may bring us pleasure and glory, but they rarely bring us true wisdom. Suffering and loneliness give us this depth, but they can also deepen us in anger and bitterness rather than in gratitude and compassion. God does not take pleasure in this. God takes pleasure only when the suffering and loneliness bring us and others some benefit, some insight and strength. We need God’s help to undergo these difficulties in the right way. God rejoices when we do things right, when we exercise our talents, growing and maturing as we help ourselves and others to a fuller life. Like a good parent, God enjoys watching us, his children, develop and stretch our hearts in ways that make us more caring, more generous, more truly alive.           (

Mary Birmingham, Word and Worship Workbook for Year B:

Jesus reveals to us what God is like.  God sent Jesus to be one with the human race – to save humanity and to show the world definitively and forever just how much he loves them.  Humans would never have believed God’s love had God not sent Jesus.  And, Jesus was true to his mission.  He stood with the poor and with sinners.  He was courageous, challenging all who refuse to love and to serve.

Jesus’ torture and death was a crime. It was murder. He was an innocent man.  Jesus himself renounced it as a sin, an evil.  Jesus’ death was a result of sin, hatred, prejudice, animosities, jealousies, fear, pride, power.  Yet, in his death he expressed the highest form of human love.

This is what was pleasing to God: Jesus’ inner disposition of faithfulness and love and his willingness to die for his people.  This is what God willed: love so deep that he was willing to sacrifice his own life for it.  In this way Jesus was able to reveal the love that God has for all of us –  a love that is willing to go to any length, even humiliating lengths, — even to death, itself.

From Carrie Newcomer, singer and poet:  Transformation is deeper than “the only way out is through”. At the growing edge…the only way through is in. That is where I begin to look at something I really don’t want to see, a place I do not want to go. It’s uncomfortable, and I have to sit in an uncomfortable place, process and uncover in what way this hard thing, the thing I did not want,has meaning for me. This is where I learn that this discomfort will not drown me, but transform me.  And yes, eventually, a lightness arrives. It comes with a deep acceptance of my own humanness, a clearer view to what comes next. The paradox that sometimes to get where we need to go, we have to travel where we did not want to go.

4th Sunday of Lent, Cycle B

1st Reading – 2 Chronicles 36: 14 – 23

Along with Ezra and Nehemiah, 1 and 2 Chronicles represent a type of ‘history’ of the people of Israel from their origins to the period of reconstruction AFTER the exile.  The world had changed.  The author exalts David even more than he is exalted in Kings 1 & 2; the exile was viewed more as the people’s failure to worship Yahweh.  But in today’s reading, we hear God hating the sin but loves the sinner.  God is always ready to forgive at the first sign of a repentant heart, (M. Birmingham’s W&W Wkbk for Yr B, p. 214).

“Real forgiveness means looking steadily at the sin, the sin that is left over without any excuse, after all allowances have been made, and seeing it in all its horror, dirt, meanness and malice, and nevertheless being wholly reconciled to the person who has done it.  That, and only that, is forgiveness,”  (J.C. Arnold’s Why Forgive?, p. 44).

2nd Reading – Ephesians 2: 4-10

The theology in this letter is in sharp contrast to the retributive-type justice we see in the first reading.  How does this writer see God working in human history?

To many Greeks philosophical systems and self-improvement ideas were seen as ways to great human capabilities. To them the ‘saving act’ was knowledge.  The Christian writer who composed this letter is trying to emphasize that ‘salvation’ is God’s transforming gift to sinners.  The writer was trying to stress that God’s great love (revealed and given freely to us in Jesus) is not a reward for good works or great knowledge. Yet, a life of good deeds is the natural outcome,  (Celebration, March 2003).

God is personal.  God is not a by-itself, or an in-itself, or an in-and-of itself, but rather God exists in a communion of persons toward one another in self-giving Love, revealed in Word and Spirit in human life, in history, in the world.  God is immutably toward us and for us in the self-giving Love that is constitutive of the divine life.  All reality is personal.  Everything that exists is from God, in God, for God, who is God precisely in the relations of interpersonal self-giving Love:  Father, Son, Spirit, (M. Downey’s Altogether Gift, p. 62).

The Gospel – John 3: 14-21

John’s Gospel is one of darkness and light; this contrast is used throughout it.  Nicodemus comes to Jesus at night (verse 2) looking for new life.  We later find Nicodemus along with Joseph of Arimathea after the crucifixion anointing Jesus’ body with over a hundred pounds of myrrh and aloes. (John 19: 38-42)

In the Book of Numbers the Israelites while wandering in the desert complained about being hungry, thirsty, — then when serpents began to bite them, they were sure that God was punishing them.  Moses prayed to God and God told Moses to make a fiery serpent out of bronze and put it on a pole.  Anyone bitten by a snake could look upon the bronze serpent and be saved from death. In this gospel, Jesus compared himself to this serpent — the one lifted up who can save us from death.  (Sunday by Sunday, March 2003)

The contradiction in the paschal mystery is that what we abhor — the cross — becomes the instrument of redemption.  God saves Israelites from death. Yet, in the paschal mystery of Jesus Christ we must embrace death for the only way to eternal life is by dying to ourselves. In this ‘dying’ we can then allow ourselves to be lifted up like Christ.  Our good works — reaching out to others, working to improve the world around us, caring and acting kindly and justly– all of this is ‘being lifted up’ — being crucified so we might live. We sometimes choose to do difficult things – not because the suffering is good but because the end is good.     (Living Liturgy, 2003)

Light and believing is important in this gospel.  The light = Christ who enables us to see; seeing is believing — it is also activity. John’s gospel uses the verb believe 98 times — never is the noun used.  Both believing and not believing is expressed in actions.  Those who do not believe hate the light and do ‘wicked things’ and their ‘works are evil.’ To come into the light exposes evil deeds.  The one who lives the truth is the one who does the truth.  A Christian must live the choice for Jesus with one’s whole life.          (Living Liturgy, 2003)

Sometimes wouldn’t we really rather be able to ‘save ourselves’? Wouldn’t we like to point to our successes, our virtues, our improvements, our earnestness  — all our efforts and deeds? But salvation is not our doing and at least on ‘bad days’ we are grateful for that. Maybe like Nicodemus we come to Jesus in the dark and only when we trust God’s rich mercy and abundant grace can we finally come to not fear the light. We do not so much achieve our salvation as we entrust ourselves to it –  by God’s love and favor we are saved. (John Kavanaugh, S.J., “The Word Encountered,” )

In the end our faith must help us ‘deal with’ the suffering in life. It is the ‘test’ of every religion to try to answer this question: “what are we to do with our pain? In and with Jesus we can face the reality of pain, suffering, rejection – even death – and then let this reality transform us. This is the ‘Paschal Mystery’ of Jesus – the dying and rising that is a part of our lives. If we do not transform pain, we will transmit it. (from Richard Rohr)

What do you put your faith in?

Fr. Bob’s homily last Sunday…


3rd Sunday of Lent B
The Gospel ends in a strange way. Jesus “did not need anyone to testify about human nature. He himself understood it well.” He gets us. He knows that we love the show, the easy way. You see Jesus has an interesting frustration. It is not that he is failing. People are flocking to him. But they are coming for the wrong reason. They are coming because of the great and powerful deeds known as signs in John’s gospel. And what is wrong with that? Isn’t that what athletes want? Isn’t that what performers want? Homilists? But it isn’t what Jesus wants.
That is what scholars have identified as sign faith. The people Jesus is attracting are caught up in the signs. We like to be around cool people doing cool things. Besides, if you are ailing, he will heal you, if you are hungry, he…

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