March 30, 2023
by Maureen McCann Waldron
Creighton University - Retired
click here for photo and information about the writer

Thursdasy of the Fifth Week of Lent
Lectionary: 254

Genesis 17:3-9
Psalm 105:4-5, 6-7, 8-9
John 8:51-59

Praying Lent Home

The 1st Four Days of Holy Week - 14 min. - Text Transcript

Weekly Guide for Daily Prayer

A Jesuit friend of mine once observed that in prayer we need to travel the short distance from our heads to our hearts.  Sometimes I find that distance is a long way to travel.   We can’t really think our prayers. Speaking and listening to God is the work of the heart and imagination and has an intimacy to it. Jesus in his prayer called his Father, “Abba” which is more intimate, like “Dad.” St. Ignatius suggested we pray to God as if “speaking friend to friend.” 

If I lead with my intellect when I pray, I find myself arguing with God.  It doesn’t always make sense.  If I let go and simply listen and speak from my heart, I don’t have to understand everything.

The Pharisees, educated men of the Law, loved to argue with Jesus. These trained men of the temple listened closely to what Jesus was saying, but not to learn from him.  They just wanted to debate him and prove him wrong. The Pharisees were rule followers and wielded the law like a weapon. Their interactions with God were focused on the law and on their place in teaching it. They knew the law must be obeyed no matter what burden it placed on the people “below” them.

Today’s gospel has Jesus teaching that if we keep his word, we will never see death.  Instantly, the Pharisees are in high debate mode and taunt him asking if he thinks he is greater than the prophets or Abraham?  They can’t understand Jesus because they are listening with their minds, waiting for him to make a mistake.

Jesus is telling us that in the midst of the loss and death all around us and with the reality of our own diminishment and death, we will live forever.  Jesus wants us not to be afraid but to believe that he has the gift of everlasting life for us.  How do we receive that gift?  By loving others the way he has loved us.  By really seeing the people around us, loving and being grateful for them.

Loving the way Jesus loves us, freely and with a lavish love, gives us a freedom because we have nothing to fear and can live more boldly and courageously in our daily lives.

The challenge is not to analyze and over-think as the religious leaders did.  We might be tempted to ask, “How can you possibly offer us this gift?” but Jesus invites us to simply trust in it and embrace this gift fully. Like the Pharisees, we can debate with our ever-loving God, the giver of our lives, but that challenge to God comes from our own pride and need for independence – or maybe just plain stubbornness.

It's a matter of trust.  Trust that Jesus is who he says he is.  Trust that he offers us what he promises he’s offering.  Trust that we really can be at peace in the midst of all that is troubling us. Trust that true happiness in this life means to live and love the way Jesus does.

As our Lent draws to a close, we can ask ourselves how we can trust more in the gift of peace that Jesus wants to give us. How can I turn that trust into a greater freedom to love others?  How can I be more caring for my family – even the difficult people in it.  How can I better love and relate to my co-workers and those in the world around me. And if I love the way Jesus loved, I will keep a special focus on those who are marginalized, neglected and ignored. 

Each morning I can take 10 minutes to ask Jesus to give me the inner peace, joy and openness that will help me this day to love as he does.  By being mindful and tuning our hearts to Jesus each day, our Lent will become more alive and blessed.

Loving Jesus, help me to stop struggling for understanding of what you offer.  May I relax into the love and freedom you offer me.  Let me carry that love to those around me and let me especially become more aware of those in my world who are suffering. Guide me to make these last days of Lent ones that will open my heart to you even more.

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