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Lectio Divina: The Fifth Sunday of Lent (Year A)

What does it take for you to believe in Jesus? Or what did it take? Was it being knocked over and struck with blindness like St. Paul. Or maybe it was witnessing a miracle. Do miracles even happen any more? I believe they do, if we’re open and willing to see them. This Sunday’s Gospel had me thinking about miracles. As we approach Easter I’m trying to look at Jesus’ miracles in a new way.

It’s hard to approach something in a new way, especially if we’ve been hearing it our whole life. I believe this is why the Church year is set up in a cyclical fashion, so we are challenged to continuously read the life of Jesus and see it in new ways each time. Which brings us to the beauty of lectio divina. Lectio is the ultimate challenge of praying with the text and allowing God to show you some new aspect of it. When you are praying with this passage remember that you are not necessarily trying to understand everything from the passage (and this one is a long one!) you are giving God the opportunity to point out something to you that you need to hear today. A year from now you may read the same passage and God will want to tell you something different. What he shares with you may be very different from what he has shared with me.

With that in mind I invite you to locate the Gospel for this coming Sunday (in your own missal or other publication or you can find it on the USCCB website) and join me as we read, reflect, respond, and rest in God’s Word. For a brief review of the lectio divina steps, I recommend this brief explanation from the Archabbey of St. Meinrad.

READ

  • I am the resurrection
  • Jesus wept
  • Thank you for hearing me
  • Began to believe in him

REFLECT: What is God saying to you?

I really have to step back and put myself in the mindset of the people in this reading who are witnessing the miracle Jesus performs. I forget how absolutely astounding it must have been to see a dead man walk out of his tomb. I feel like the last sentence of this very long Gospel passage is a bit of an understatement. I also wonder who walked away not believing. It doesn’t say that “all” began to believe, but that “many” began to believe. How could you not believe?? Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days. He was bound in burial bands and his face was wrapped in a cloth. And yet, he walked out of the tomb! It’s miraculous!

Miracles are something that we forget about often. We are surrounded by so much technology and the modern world has made it it’s mission to prove everything by science. It’s easy to forget that miracles are not just something that happened once upon a time. They still surround us today if we just open our eyes to see them. For me, I used to find it rather useless to pray for things that seemed an impossibility. More recently I was reminded that Jesus is a worker of miracles. This Gospel passage pretty much drives home that message. Now when I go to the adoration chapel for my weekly hour, I regularly thank Jesus for the miracles he performs and I ask him to work miracles for the intentions I bring before him. No matter how impossible they seem to me, I continue to beg him for the miracles I know, sincerely know, he can perform.

Something else that stuck out to me in this reading was just before Lazarus is raised from the dead, Jesus prays to God the Father and the first thing he does is thank him for hearing him. Sometimes I feel as if my prayers consist entirely of thanking God for my blessings. Which is all good, but then I forget to pray for other things, too. I was reminded here that God likes to receive our prayers of thanksgiving. Even Jesus, his own son, begins his prayer with a prayer of thanksgiving. It’s a nice reminder that when we pray, we should offer all our thanks to God first before asking him to then consider our intentions.

RESPOND: What do you want to say to God?

Reflecting on the miracles that God works each and every day, I’m reminded of some particular prayer intentions I’m always bringing before God. Sometimes I find it difficult to imagine that these particular intentions could come to fulfillment. But then I remind myself that God works miracles and nothing is impossible for him. What may look impossible from my perspective may look very possible from his. I only have to trust. This passage reminded me that even impossible things can happen.

Thank you, God, for the blessings in my life and for the many small miracles that happen each day. I pray for those who do not believe in you that they may be reminded of your love and presence in their life and will come to believe.

REST

Read the passage one final time and spend a few moments in quiet contemplation, rest in the words of the Gospel.

YOUR TURN

What do you feel God is saying to you in this passage? How would you respond to him? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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Ink Slingers

Mark’s Questions

I read the gospel of Mark over the weekend, beginning with the historical prologue. I love this information, as the New Testament did not fall intact from heaven, but was hard-fought by Church leaders for hundreds of years. The earliest manuscripts of this book are titled, “According to Mark” and it has been the Church’s uniform tradition that the author was that disciple of Peter’s whom he called his son (I Peter 5:13). Also referred to as John Mark, a combination of his Jewish and Roman names, he traveled with Paul, too (Acts 12:25). It seems that his gospel was written before AD 70. He relates Christ’s prophesy that the temple would be destroyed, which occurred in AD 70, with no mention of it as a past event. Some ancient writers (Irenaeus and Eusebius) hold that Mark wrote soon after Peter’s martyrdom in AD 67 or even earlier, during the reign of Emperor Claudius (AD 41-54). Either idea, it is safe to say it was written by AD 70. He wrote for Gentile believers in Rome, often explaining Jewish customs for his readers and translating Aramaic words into Latin or Greek. The climax of his Gospel is the exclamation by a Roman soldier, “Truly this man was the Son of God” (It’s really hard to read that in anything other than a John Wayne accent!).

 

Mark’s Questions

There are dozens of questions peppered throughout this book, asked by every character. I think that Mark wanted his readers to be questioned and challenged and driven toward a reckoning. Here are many of those questions I found and who asked them, in my reading from beginning to end:

What is this? A new teaching?
People in synagogue

Why does this man speak like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?
Scribes

Why do you question like this in your hearts? Is it easier to say ‘Your sins are forgiven or rise and walk’?
Jesus

Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners? 
Scribes  

Why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath (plucking grain to eat)?
Pharisees

Have you never read what David and his men did when they were hungry?
Jesus

Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or harm; to save life or kill?
Jesus

Who are my mother and brothers?
Jesus

Do you understand this parable? How will you understand all the parables?
Jesus

Teacher, do you not care if we perish?
Disciples

Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?
Jesus

Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?
Disciples

What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the most high God?
Unclean spirit in a man

What is your name?
Jesus

Who touched me?
Jesus

Why do you make a tumult and weep?
Jesus

Where did this man get all this? What is the wisdom given to him?
People from home

What shall I ask?
Herod

Shall we buy 200 denarii worth of bread and give it to them? 
Disciples

How many loaves do you have?
Jesus

Why does this generation seek a sign?
Jesus

Do you not remember?
Jesus

Who do you say I am?
Jesus

What are you discussing?
Jesus

Oh faithless generation, how long am I to be with you?
Jesus

Why could we not cast it out?
Disciples

What must I do to inherit eternal life?
Rich man

Who can be saved?
Disciples

Are you able to drink the chalice that I drink or be baptized with my baptism?
Jesus

What do you want me to do for you?
Jesus

Is it not written, my house shall be a house of prayer for the nations?
Jesus

Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not?
Pharisees

Which commandment is the first of all?
Scribes

Why was the ointment wasted?
Disciples

Why do you trouble her?
Jesus

Are you sleeping? Could you not watch one hour?
Jesus

Are you the Christ, the son of the blessed?
Priests and scribes

What evil has he done?
Pilate

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Jesus

Who will roll away the stone for us?
Women

 

Answers

The answers can change a life and begin ripples of goodness. Jesus is God and man. He heals, forgives, eats, gives, speaks, loves. We, His friends and brothers, can listen, believe, give, act, join, and love. Another noteworthy tidbit is that the word “immediately” appears over forty times in the sixteen chapters: the spirit immediately drove him; they immediately left their nets; Jesus immediately left the synagogue. It is a new year; let us consider these questions and our answers immediately.

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Faith Formation Ink Slingers Kerri Liturgical Year Ordinary Time Prayer

Lectio Divina: Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time (2016)

twenty-seventh-sunday-in-ordinary-time-2016This coming Sunday’s Gospel passage can be found at the USCCB website HERE. Have it handy and read along with this post. If you need a refresher on lectio divina (or you’re new to this form of prayer) check out this brief explanation HERE. As you read my thoughts below, read the Gospel passage at the start of each section. You should read through it four times total by the end of the post.

READ

Read the Gospel passage and then think about what word or words (or phrase, phrases) most caught your attention. For me: “Increase our faith” and  “We are unprofitable servants.”

Read the Gospel passage a second time and then move on to the section below.

REFLECT: What is God saying to you?

One of the many things I often ask God for is to increase my faith. So right off, that petition from his apostles stuck out for me. Then Jesus tells them that even a small amount of faith could move a tree. Really? I just want to cry to God and ask for forgiveness for having such poor faith. But then you read further and the second, seemingly unrelated story, helps put everything in better perspective.

I read this passage out loud to my husband the other night and lamented the whole “moving a tree” thing. He mentioned that you could move the tree with the faith the size of a mustard seed if God had a reason to move it. And that makes so much sense! What would be the point of moving something like a tree or a mountain or a house or whatever if it wasn’t God’s will. And don’t we see that all the time with other things too? God doesn’t always answer our prayers in the way we would like. Sometimes our desires line up with God’s will, but sometimes not. In those cases where it doesn’t, God may have to say “no” or “not yet.” That doesn’t mean that our faith in him is too small, it only means that whatever we’re asking for is not in his plan.

Thinking on that also helped me make the connection with the second story about the servant. Jesus tells us to do what we are commanded and then to say, “We are unprofitable servants.” This phrase also stuck with me when I read it. We are servants to God, so in the parable we are the servant who does the will of the master. We are to do what we are obliged to do (go to Mass, ask forgiveness for our sins, serve God’s people, take care of God’s creation, perform acts of mercy, etc., etc.) and in the end we are still “unprofitable servants.” No matter how much faith we have, how much we seek to do God’s will, and how well we serve him, we still don’t deserve his love. But he loves us anyway!!

That’s the Good News, isn’t it? That no matter what, we are loved. We may have all the faith in the world, but we might not be able to move a tree if it isn’t God’s will. Yet we could if he did desire it. We could do seemingly impossible things if it’s God’s will that it happen. And as his servants we should always be seeking to do what he desires. I suppose I could answer the question, What is God saying to you, by simply saying that he wants me to always seek his will and not to be discouraged when my prayers are not answered. Have faith and work on being a good and faithful servant. Not an easy task, but anything worth doing is never easy.

Read the Gospel passage again before considering the next question.

RESPOND: What do you want to say to God?

To God I would say, thank you for loving me and thank you for the many blessings in my life. I pray that I am serving God as he wants and that I can always seek to be following his will.

REST

Read the Gospel passage one final time. Read it slowly, feel the words touch your heart, and rest in God’s loving message to you.

YOUR TURN

Share in the comments, what do you feel God is saying to you in this passage? How would you respond to him? You can also join the conversation on the Catholic Sistas’ Instagram account, but I’d love to hear your thoughts here too.