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Reflections of the Lenten Gospels of March 2021

By Sister Bernadine Reyes, OSB

After reading and reflecting on the four Gospels of the month of March I could not help but remember a favorite hymn used in the Lenten season, “Jerusalem, My Destiny,” by Roy Cooney. I do not know the intent of the composer of this hymn so I’m taking the liberty of thinking that the first part of the refrain refers to Jesus. “I have fixed my eyes on your hills, Jerusalem, my destiny! Though I cannot see the end for me, I cannot turn away.” And the second part of the refrain seems to refer to us as Disciples. The words are, “We have set our hearts for the way; this journey is our destiny.  Let no-one walk alone.  The journey makes us one.”

These Gospels illustrate the last part of Jesus’ journey which culminates in his Passion, Death and Resurrection. If we, as disciples, “set our hearts for the way,” as in the words of the hymn, then Jesus’ journey is our journey as well. But what does really mean?

In the Gospel for the 3rd Sunday of Lent, John 2:13-25, Jesus attempts to cleanse the Temple with a zeal that consumes him. As the hymn says, he “could not turn away”. His vision of God’s reign was such that he had to speak up and confront when he saw the realities of his day. His actions brought reactions from the authorities. Danger loomed around the corner and we get a glimpse of his troubled heart in this gospel in these verses. “Jesus would not trust himself to them (his followers) because he knew them all…. He was well aware of what was in their hearts.”

In the Gospel for the 4th Sunday of Lent, John 2:13-25, we read eloquent verses about God’s love for the world and out of this love God’s only Son is sent not to condemn but to save and to bring light into the world.  Vs. 21 “But the one who acts in truth comes into the light…”.  My prayer is that you and I can discern when the truth we hold onto so dearly, moves us into this “light” and when it move us into darkness.  In today’s world of multi, multi, multimedia, it can be tricky to discern what “truth” is.  A discerning question for us all during this Lent is, “does our truth lead us to light or to darkness?”

In the Gospel for the 5th Sunday of Lent, John 12:20-33, I hear impending danger. “The hour has come.”; “if the grain of wheat dies, it produces much fruit”; “the one who loves their life, loses it”; “save me from this hour”; and “once I am lifted up from this earth.” Why is it that there is an impending danger? Why is it that in these Lenten readings, Jesus’ heart is troubled?  After all, he was a good person, an itinerant preacher, a healer, one who welcomed everyone – the lepers, the tax collectors, the sinners and many more. He was only doing what the “One who sent him” sent him to do. The hymn tells us “I cannot turn away.” He literally could not, not do what he was sent to do. It was through his very Being and through his actions that “light came into the world”. The authorities of the time were leery of this “light” and preferred “darkness.” It seems to me that Jesus had to know what happened to those who went against the establishment and so he sensed the impending danger to his life. He experienced fear, but his call was stronger, and he kept on his journey.

In the Gospel for the Palm Sunday, Mark 14:1 to 15:47, we read the details of Passion and Crucifixion of this man of God who had deep convictions and integrity. He was sent to bring about the reign of God among us, to show us the way, the journey. April will bring about Holy Week and the Glorious Resurrection. But, for the purposes of this reflection, we are still steeped in the Gospels of March. It remains for us to ask ourselves, what have I learned from the life of Jesus?  How have I integrated into my lifestyle and way of being, the messages buried in the stories of Jesus’ actions? How do I love my neighbor, and does his or her color define my response to them?

The Journey to Jerusalem is our journey too, and as the refrain from the hymn says, “Let no-one walk alone. The journey makes us one.” I am so grateful to those I’ve met along the way, for the communities of Believers who gather and journey together, striving to integrate the message of Jesus’ life.

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