And with Erica, Mel, Kirsty, Alun, Kathryn and Matthew who were confirmed and received the Lord in Holy Communion for the first time last night.
On Holy Saturday the Church is, as it were, at the Lord’s tomb, meditating on his passion and death, and on his descent into hell, and awaiting his resurrection with prayer and fasting.
The image of Christ lying in the tomb, which mystery Holy Saturday recalls, is placed in the church for the veneration of the faithful.
Morning Prayer of the Church is celebrated at St. Teilo’s at 10.00am.
The Church remains solemn and silent until the celebration of the Easter Vigil in the evening of today.
The Gospel for the fifth Sunday of Lent continues to offer lessons about God’s mercy and forgiveness. Last Sunday we heard the Parable of the Prodigal Son from the Gospel of Luke. Today we hear not a parable, but the report from John’s Gospel of an encounter among Jesus, the scribes and Pharisees, and a woman caught in adultery.
In John’s Gospel, the conflict between Jesus and the scribes and Pharisees occurs much earlier than in the Synoptic Gospels. Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple in Jerusalem is reported at the beginning of John’s Gospel. Even after this event, Jesus continues to teach in the Temple. After returning to Galilee for a time, Jesus again enters Jerusalem and cures a man on the Sabbath. From this point forward in John’s Gospel, the Pharisees are described as making plans for Jesus’ arrest and seeking his death.
In the chapter preceding today’s Gospel, Jesus was teaching in the Temple area. Feeling threatened by his teaching and his actions, the chief priests and the Pharisees are already sending guards to arrest Jesus. The guards return, however, without arresting Jesus because they have been impressed by his words. Even more than this, some among the crowds are considering the possibility that Jesus is the Messiah. The chief priests and the Pharisees change their plan. Before making an arrest, they seek to gather more evidence against Jesus by posing a question intended to trap Jesus.
Today’s Gospel begins by reporting that Jesus is again teaching the crowds in the vicinity of the Temple. The scribes and the Pharisees approach Jesus, bringing a woman who has been caught in the act of adultery. They put to Jesus the question of what ought to be done in this case.
The Pharisees state clearly that according to the Law of Moses, those caught in the act of adultery were to be stoned to death. Under Roman occupation, however, the Jewish people did not have the authority to execute people; this is cited in John’s passion narrative. To answer the Pharisees’ question, Jesus must propose an action that will be either contrary to the Law of Moses or contrary to Roman law. The purpose of the question appears to be similar to the question about paying taxes found in Mark 12:13-17. Either answer, yes or no, will support the Pharisees’ case against Jesus.
Jesus avoids the trap, however, by offering an answer that was not anticipated by those who posed the question. Jesus, after writing on the ground with his finger, addresses those who stand before him and suggests that the one without sin cast the first stone. Jesus then returns to his writing. This Scripture reading, by the way, is the only evidence we have of Jesus writing. Yet there are no specific details about what he wrote.
We can easily imagine the scene as the Pharisees and the elders disperse, one by one. Jesus has eluded the trap they had prepared. We might also give credit to the elders and the Pharisees who do not, in the end, claim to be sinless and worthy of passing judgment. These Pharisees are not as self-righteous as the portrait found in the parable of the pharisee and the tax collector (See Luke 18:9-14).
Left alone with the woman, Jesus asks where the accusers have gone. With no one remaining to condemn the woman, Jesus (the one who truly is without sin) sends the woman on her way, refusing to pass judgment on her and exhorting her to avoid future sin.
Jesus’ response to those who accuse the woman is more than a caution to us about making judgment of others. It is a profound lesson in divine mercy and forgiveness. As sinners, we are all unworthy to judge the sins of others and we would stand convicted by God for our transgressions. Yet Jesus, the one without sin and thus our judge, offers us who are sinners his mercy and forgiveness. Redeemed by Jesus’ compassion, we are sent to sin no more and to live in God’s love and peace.
Yesterday the Parish celebrated Laetare Sunday with Canon Isaac in Rose vestments and younger members of the parish being reminded to mark the celebration of Mothering Sunday.
The image above is from one of our Parishioners who has agreed to it being shared.
The images below are the Mothering Sunday Prayer Card we used as a part of the celebration of Motherhood (and Grandmotherhood) yesterday.
The parable Jesus tells in today’s Gospel is unique to the Gospel of Luke. Jesus has been teaching the crowds as he journeys to Jerusalem. As he teaches, the Pharisees and scribes complain and challenge Jesus because he is welcoming sinners at his table. Today we hear the third of three parables that Jesus tells in response to his critics. These three familiar parables—the lost sheep, the lost coin, and today’s parable of the prodigal son—invite us to consider the depth of God’s mercy and love.
The Pharisees taught a scrupulous observance of Jewish Law. In their interpretation and practice, observant Jews who shared table fellowship with sinners would be made unclean. Like Jesus, the Pharisees hoped to lead sinners back to God. The Pharisees, however, required that sinners first become ritually clean—observant of the Pharisees’ interpretation of Jewish Law—before sharing table fellowship. This appears to be one of the major differences between the Pharisees and Jesus. Jesus reaches out to sinners while they are still sinners, inviting them to conversion through fellowship with him. Jesus is God acting among us; by befriending us, he is inviting us to return to friendship with God. Through friendship with Jesus, our sins are forgiven and we, in turn, bear fruit for God. Recall last Sunday’s Gospel and the barren fig tree.
Our familiarity with today’s parable risks dulling us to its tremendously powerful message. We call this the parable of the lost son or the prodigal son. Any focus on the younger son, however, must also be balanced by an examination of the unusual behavior of the father.
First we must imagine our first response to the audacity of a son who asks for his inheritance before his father has died. Indignation would certainly be a justifiable response to such a request. Yet the father in this parable agrees to honor the son’s request and divides his property among his two sons. How might we describe such a father? Foolish comes to mind, but so does trusting. Without property of his own, the father must rely upon his sons to provide for his well-being.
The younger son takes his inheritance and leaves home. The older son remains, continuing to provide for the father and the household. Having been disgraced by the younger son, the father spends some time watching the road for the return of the lost son. When he eventually sees his wayward son returning, the father not only welcomes him but also runs out to greet him and then honors him with a party. We say that this father is loving and forgiving. Yet these adjectives only begin to describe the depth of love and mercy that characterize the father.
We find no surprise in the anger of the older son. Yet the father appears sad and even confused by the older son’s indignation. He says in reply that they should celebrate because the lost son had returned. The father is filled with gratitude and love for the older son’s faithfulness. This love is in no way diminished by the father’s rejoicing at the return of the younger son. Yet the older son’s jealousy reveals his limited understanding of the depth of his father’s love.
The Fourth Sunday of Lent is traditionally called Laetare Sunday. Laetare is a Latin word that means “rejoice.” Today’s Gospel describes the reason for our joy: God’s great love for us has been revealed in Jesus. Through his Passion, Death, and Resurrection, Christ has reconciled us with God and one another.
The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the House of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. He went in and said to her, ‘Rejoice, so highly favoured! The Lord is with you.’
‘Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God’s favour. Listen! You are to conceive and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David; he will rule over the House of Jacob for ever and his reign will have no end.’
‘I am the handmaid of the Lord,’ said Mary ‘let what you have said be done to me.’ And the angel left her.
Now that we are into the third week of the Season of Lent, our Sunday Gospel prepares us to hear Lent’s call to conversion and repentance.
Today’s reading is found in the chapters of Luke’s Gospel that describe Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem. During this journey, Jesus teaches and heals. He must also respond to those who question and challenge his authority and actions. There is no parallel in Mark’s or Matthew’s Gospels for today’s reading from Luke. While Mark and Matthew describe an incident in which Jesus curses the fig tree, today’s reading makes the barren fig tree the subject of a parable.
Luke tells us that some among the crowds report to Jesus a massacre of Galileans by Pilate. The intention of the crowd seems to be to ask Jesus to explain why these people suffered. It was commonplace to render people’s suffering as evidence of their sinfulness. Jesus challenges this interpretation. Those who were massacred were no more or less sinful than the ones who report the situation to Jesus. Jesus replies that even a fatal accident, a natural disaster, ought not to be interpreted as punishment for sin.
Jesus’ words at first appear to have a fire-and-brimstone quality. Jesus says in essence, “Repent or perish as these people did; all are sinful before God and deserving of God’s punishment.” The tone changes, however, in the parable that follows. The parable of the barren fig tree contrasts the patience and hopefulness of the gardener with the practicality of the property owner. When told to cut down the fig tree because it is not producing fruit, the gardener counsels patience. If properly tended, the barren fig tree may yet bear fruit.
Throughout his journey to Jerusalem, Jesus has been teaching about the Kingdom of God. In this parable, we find an image of God’s patience and hopefulness as he prepares his Kingdom. God calls us to repent, and it is within his power to punish us for our failure to turn from our sinfulness. And yet God is merciful. He delays punishment and tends to us so that we may yet bear the fruit he desires from us.
This, then, is our reason for hope: Not only does God refuse to abandon us, he chooses to attend to us even when we show no evidence of his efforts. Next week’s Gospel will give an even clearer picture of the kind of mercy that God shows to us.
On this second Sunday of Lent, we move from Jesus’ retreat to the desert and temptation by the devil to the glory shown in Jesus’ Transfiguration. On the first Sunday of Lent, our Gospel always tells the story of Jesus’ temptation in the desert. On the second Sunday, we always hear the story of Jesus’ Transfiguration.
The report of Jesus’ Transfiguration is found in each of the Synoptic Gospels—Matthew, Mark, and Luke. The Transfiguration occurs after Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Messiah and Jesus’ prediction about his Passion. After the prediction there is a discussion of the cost of discipleship in each of these Gospels. The placement of the Transfiguration story close to Peter’s confession and Jesus’ prediction encourages us to examine the Transfiguration in the larger context of the Paschal Mystery.
The Transfiguration occurs on a mountain in the presence of just three of Jesus’ disciples—Peter, James and John. These are among the first disciples that Jesus called in Luke’s Gospel. We recently heard this Gospel at Mass, on the fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time. Only Luke’s Gospel, which often describes Jesus at prayer, indicates that Jesus is praying as his appearance changes to bright white. Luke indicates that the three disciples were sleeping while Jesus prayed. They will be sleeping again as Jesus prays in the Garden of Gethsemane before his Passion and death.
As they awake, Peter and the disciples see Jesus Transfigured and Elijah and Moses present with Jesus. Elijah and Moses, both significant figures in the history of Israel, represent Jesus’ continuity with the Law and the Prophets. In Matthew’s and Mark’s Gospels, there is reference to conversation among Jesus, Elijah, and Moses, but only Luke’s Gospel explains that this conversation is about Jesus’ later accomplishments in Jerusalem. Luke describes this as his exodus, connecting Jesus’ Passion, death, and Resurrection with the Israel’s Exodus from Egypt.
On witnessing Jesus’ Transfiguration and seeing Jesus with Elijah and Moses, Peter offers to construct three tents for them. Having just awoken, perhaps Peter’s offer was made in confusion. We also notice that Peter reverted from his earlier confession that Jesus is the Messiah, calling Jesus “master” instead. As if in reply to Peter’s confusion, a voice from heaven speaks, affirming Jesus as God’s Son and commanding that the disciples listen to him. This voice from heaven recalls the voice that was heard at Jesus’ baptism which, in Luke’s Gospel, spoke directly to Jesus as God’s Son.
In his Transfiguration, we see an anticipation of the glory of Jesus’ Resurrection. In each of the reports of the Transfiguration, the disciples keep secret what they have seen. Not until they also witness his Passion and death will the disciples understand Jesus’ Transfiguration. We hear this story of Jesus’ Transfiguration early in Lent, but we have the benefit of hindsight. In our hearing of it, we anticipate Jesus’ Resurrection even as we prepare to remember Jesus’ Passion and death.
In each of the first three Gospels, after his baptism, Jesus is reported to have spent forty days in the desert, fasting and praying. In Luke and in Matthew, the devil presents three temptations to Jesus. The devil tempts Jesus to use his power to appease his hunger, he offers Jesus all the kingdoms of the world if Jesus will worship him, and he tempts Jesus to put God’s promise of protection to the test. In each case, Jesus resists, citing words from Scripture to rebuke the devil’s temptation.
Each temptation that Jesus faces offers insight into the spirituality we hope to develop as we keep the forty days of the Season of Lent. We can trust God to provide for our material needs. We worship God because God alone has dominion over us and our world. We can trust God to be faithful to his promises. Jesus’ rejection of the devil’s temptations shows that he will not put God to the test. Grounding himself on the Word and authority of Scripture, Jesus rebukes the devil by his confidence in God’s protection and faithfulness.
This Gospel highlights for us one of the central themes of the Season of Lent. We are dependent upon God for all that we have and all that we are. Anything that leads us to reject this dependency or to distrust its sufficiency, is a temptation from the devil.
Luke ends his report of Jesus’ temptation in the desert by noting that the devil departs for a time. The implication is that the devil will return. Jesus knows that he will be tempted again in the Garden of Gethsemane. The depth of Jesus’ trust in God is shown most fully when Jesus rejects the temptation to turn away from the task God has given to him. Jesus’ final rebuke of the devil is his sacrifice on the Cross.
Jesus’ responses to the temptations of the devil teach us how we can respond to temptation. As we start our journey through Lent, this Sunday’s Gospel calls us to adopt the same confidence that Jesus had in the face of temptation: God’s word alone will suffice, God’s promise of protection can be trusted, and God alone is God.
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