Lenten Audio Conversations

Transcript of Fourth Week of Lent Conversation

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M = Maureen McCann Waldron
A = Andy Alexander, S.J.


A: Hi. This is the fourth week of Lent and we are here to just have a conversation about what it means or what it can mean for us. It’s that Sunday that ends up being the one we celebrate the second scrutiny for the catechumens and candidates, now the elect, and the second time we pray for them in this journey to the font, is to again pray for their fears, to pray from their temptations, but particularly to draw from the theme of Year A, which has as its gospel the man born blind.

M: So not all of us might hear this Gospel if we aren’t at the RCIA masses.
A: But to get a sense that it’s really helpful for us, whatever year we’re in, but especially if we’re in year A, or the mass where we pray for them, these themes of light and darkness.

M: Blindness and Seeing.

A: Yes. And really seeing, not just…

M: And understanding.

A: Yes. Insight, as we say. Our part of the deal, and what we can be praying for. Lord knows we don’t always see. Lord knows we are blind sometimes, even though we’ve seen before. We develop blindness just as we develop cataracts, it starts to get harder and harder to see clearly.

M: You know, you can walk into, I walk into my own house, I don’t notice that pile of stuff that has been waiting for me to take downstairs to the basement for two weeks, because it’s just there; I ignore it.

A: Yeah, and there’s a lot we ignore. And this is the second half of Lent, so the weekday readings are not the catechism of the best of scriptures for the community and especially the elect.

M: We’ve had that for the first three weeks but there’s a whole shift in the tone of it now, isn’t there.

A: We’re in Jerusalem with Jesus.

M: We’re in Jerusalem and Jesus does not leave Jerusalem again.

A: And we’re in the same…

M: And we’re following the same Gospel. Right; John’s Gospel, and we follow this all the way up until we get to Holy Week.

A: And it starts to feel, the drum beat, we start to feel like we’re in a courtroom. This Gospel was written like a trial. We have witnesses, we have evidence, we have testimony, we have judgment.

M: And you can pick that up in those words, in who’s testifying and who’s debating.
A: And so we can pay attention to that. But the question is, how doe this fit with our own journey, how do we do this shift to following closely with Jesus in Jerusalem. I mean, we got busy lives, we’ve got lots of things on our appointment, there are days you just wonder how you take a breath. How does this get into our daily lives?

M: I think, you know, for some of us, this is the fourth week of Lent; well maybe we haven’t gotten into it yet.

A: I know I’ve found myself in Holy Week saying “what happened to Lent?”, or we might be in and out of it. I get into it Sunday, and I’m out of it by Monday. Or we might be into it on one level, but it’s still not deep enough. It hasn’t really found where the areas of conversion are in my life, or I might be really deeply into it and now the shift draws me closer to Jesus. Whatever we do, it’s important to keep it simple, but make it real.

M: And you can start today. “I haven’t really gotten into Lent yet”. That’s okay. Jump in where you are. Start today, and this can be the beginning of your Lent, and what a great place to start.

A: We have a lots of resources about choosing Lent, acting Lent on our website, to help people reflect on Spring cleaning, family conversion, relationships, looking at our priorities, looking at how to pray as a family, helping children, cooking Lent, looking at my Lenten patterns, looking at my Lenten patterns, what we do at the midpoint at Lent is particularly helpful for us right now at the midpoint of Lent.

M: Ways to bring Lent into our everyday lives. These are not ways to spend hours in church praying, these are ways to bring Lent into our everyday lives, into the things we do each day.

A: How to look at our marriage during Lent, how to help children during Lent.

M: Things like cooking, how do we cook more thoughtfully, how do we cook more in the spirit of Lent?

A: And of course we have an audio retreat that Fr. Larry Gillick did, that many people are finding very helpful.

M: And this might be a good time to start looking at the Stations of the Cross. We have two versions of the Stations of the Cross on our Praying Lent website. One is the Stations of the Cross with Mary, and one is the Stations of the Cross, just my own version of it that you can download or print off even.

A: Yes and you know, one way we can kick start Lent or renew where we are in Lent, is doing an examination of conscience this week. To think of how we can begin to ask ourselves, what needs renewing in my heart?

M: It’s very easy to say,  you know, “I don’t have very many sins, you know, I’m okay, I’m doing okay here”.

A: It’s even easier to examine everyone else’s consciences.

M: That’s a very good point.

A: But to say “what are the places in which I’ve stopped growing”, “what are the things I’m not doing?” “How has my heart grown cold” or as you suggested wonderfully with that image in your house, “what am I not noticing in me”? Am I getting a little crabbier? Am I getting a little pickier on other people, is there anger growing in my heart? Are there things like that that keep me from growing in affection with Jesus and letting him heal me? Then that becomes my Lenten journey; that becomes what I ask for during Lent.

M: Sometimes it’s as simple as saying, “I’m to recommit the next weeks of Lent to my marriage”, and “I’m going to hold my spouse up, and cherish my spouse in a new way, in a special way in these remaining weeks of Lent”. And find that I get much more out of it than I intended to.

A: Sure, and you know, maybe there’s somebody in our family or among our friends that’s in a nursing home, that just needs a call or a visit. Those kinds of things that involve a sacrifice, will help us. The four pillars of Lent are something we can renew this week. A little more prayer, just to be more reflective, so we’re not just zooming. For some of us, it’s best to do late at night, for others we have to get to bed earlier and do it in the morning, for some of us it’s in that drive to work, for others of us we can only do that when we put the baby down and we have a little few moments to ourselves, for others it’s while we’re ironing or shopping.

M: Folding laundry, cooking, it’s in those little quiet moments that even the most hectic life has. Takinga shower or a bath, it’s a quiet moment when you can be reflective and look at what this means.

A: Fasting will help. Fasting has always been a way to make ourselves more lean, more hungry, maybe we experienced it on Ash Wednesday, how ravenously hungry we became by just stepping back a little bit on food.

M: It kind of sharpens our focus and reminds us, it makes us more alert.
This isn’t a dieting program; this is deliberate to try to be in a place where we experience our hunger. And of course it wouldn’t be good for anybody for whom it wouldn’t be healthy to do that. But it can make us more alert.  And of course, penance will strengthen us. Something that I find I am just doing too much or doing habitually, I decide to draw a line and say “I’m going to stop doing that”.  “I am not going to talk behind people’s backs”. I’m going to stop it. “I’m going to stop being judgmental”. “I’m going to stop picking at my children”. “I’m going to stop coming home frustrated and tired and taking it out on my family”.  Those kinds of things I make a decision, my penance is going to be stopping behavior that gets in the way. And almsgiving has always been a great way to get back into gratitude for all that we have, and not giving away the excess but to say I’m so grateful for how God has loved me and touched me. I didn’t earn what I have. It somehow was given to me, and there are people all over the world who never even had a chance to earn what I have and what I have been given. And now’s the time for me to recognize that gratefully.

M: If I can reflect on the fact that there are 800 million people who go hungry at night, I might want to do this very privately, skip lunch myself, and just put a little bit of money aside that I would have spent. But integrate it more into my donations, my almsgiving, into what it really means for my Lent.

A: It might change my practice all year long. It’s not that I’m going to make a difference in the lives of 800 million people. But if I take some steps in the direction of being more grateful and more generous, it will change my life. There are so many people who have more problems than I do, and that changes my heart. And then this week we just let the readings draw us into Jesus’s journey. If a distant relative of ours was being persecuted and about to be facing his death for us, every single one of us would be filled with gratitude. Our hearts would be just overwhelmed, not know what to say. And yet that’s precisely what’s going on here, this friend of ours, Jesus, is really being rejected by his own people, which is symbolic of the way we reject him. And so we can feel that; it’s us who are asking him these questions that are traps, it’s us that aren’t impressed with him, that kind of stuff.

M: I think this is a harder time of Lent.  I like the first part of Lent when the readings are a nice variety and it’s all about how God loves and God forgives, and now there’s a tension, there’s an ongoing story in John.

A: Yeah, but watching Jesus place his trust in the Father, and going through that humanly, but in an extraordinary way, and it invites us this week to say “what’s swirling around me?” “How do I find it difficult to place my trust in God?”, and that’s the way we can get into this week. We got several weeks like this before we get to holy week and the rest of the story.

M: Take a look at the readings, this is Laetare Sunday. What does that mean? If the priest will be wearing rose colored vestments in the middle of this tension, why is there rejoice?

A: We take this break at this turn in Lent, to realize it’s all to help us become more grateful. This is not somber or sad or poor me. It’s actually wonderfully us, blessed by what’s about to happen. And so we want to renew our hearts so we can celebrate the paschal mystery.

M: And it comes from the entrance antiphon that says “Rejoice Jerusalem”.    

A: Yes. And why is Jerusalem rejoicing? “Be glad for her, you who love her. Rejoice with her, who you mourn for her, and you will find contentment in her consoling breasts”.  This particular year, we have as our Gospel, the story about the Prodigal Son. It begins in the context of the tax collectors and sinners, who were drawing near to listen to Jesus, while the Pharisees and Scribes complained: this man welcomes sinners and eats with them. So to them, Jesus addressed this parable. We leave out two parables before this right now in the text. You can see the numbers jump a great deal there, because what comes after this is, the first of the parables he tells is about the person who had 100 sheep and lost one, left the 99 and found the 1, came back and said rejoice with me.

M: And there’s the story of the woman who loses her coin, and she sweeps the whole house and finds the coin, and says to the neighbors, “rejoice with me, I have found the coin”.

A: And now the story about the two sons.

M: The Prodigal Son, and he leaves, he actually asks his father for his inheritance, leaves.

A: “I know you’re not dead yet, father, but I want my half now”. Imagine!

M: And spends it, you know, blows it just like everyone thought he would.

A:  Right, loose living.

M: And then, came back and he said “maybe I could just be a servant”, and as he’s coming back up the hill, and he’s thinking, “I’m going to apologize. I’m going to say, I don’t deserve to be your son, but I can be your servant, and I’ll just live here with the servants”. And he hears the father waiting out on the road, because he’s been waiting all these years that the son has been gone, and he runs to him with open arms.

A: And the kid practices his lines, you know, “I’m so sorry, I don’t deserve to be your son. Let me just be your servant”. But the father just grabs him up and is ready to celebrate.
M: Nothing matters anymore.  

A: “Put a ring on his fingers, get him a fresh cloak, clean him up, and kill the fatted calf so we can have a party!” Now you say that’s a wonderful story, but…

M: The older son.

A: The older son is like the Scribes and Pharisees and aren’t happy at God’s generosity and mercy. The religious leaders aren’t happy that God is so merciful, that Jesus is sitting there with tax-collectors and sinners. And it’s that part where you and I have to measure, where do we measure in this story. Are we the ones who are standing outside, refusing to go in and celebrate with people who fail? Can we let God forgive the part of us that fails? And can we be as merciful as he is merciful? It’s going to be his one desire that he’s going to share with us in the last supper. So the brother won’t come in, and the father says “Everything I have is yours. Come in and celebrate; we have to. Our brother was dead and now he’s alive.”

M: And he says the same phrase that the man who went to look for his sheep and the woman who went to look for her coin. He says this to the older son, “Rejoice with me. What was lost has been found”.

A: Just a beautiful, beautiful reading for us in Lent to help us.

M: Monday is the solemnity of St. Joseph, the husband of Mary, and it gives us a chance to really look at Joseph in his role as husband. We don’t have a lot of images, we don’t have quotes from joseph, and what we have is Jesus. We have Jesus and how he lived his life, which tells us a lot. I may have never met your father, but when I hear stories about your father, and when I see how you are, and how you act in certain situations, that tells me more about who your father is.

A: And what I love about it, is it’s not about Joseph, foster father of Jesus, stepfather of Jesus, but about Joseph, husband of Mary. What an incredible husband he must have been to Mary in this very difficult situation they had, that people looked down on the both of them. She was an unwed mother, and he had to save her life by agreeing to take her into his home, agreeing not to have her stoned to death, which was the law. And in effect, saying I am responsible for the child, knowing of course he wasn’t.

M: And a deep embarrassment in that culture, you know, to be in that situation, engaged.
A: Enough to put her to death. It’s an opportunity for all of us who are husbands, to ask ourselves, “Are there ways I can be more like Joseph”? “Ways I can be more just, more pure, more loving, more self-sacrificing”?

M: More peaceful?

A: Everything we imagine Joseph was, to make Joseph our model, to ask Joseph for help when we’re having a hard time being a husband, and to say “make me freer, more caring, more generous. It’s a great day to begin this week”. Tuesday, we have a beautiful reading from the Prophet Ezekiel. You just see all of this water flowing from the temple. We get some sense of how powerful water becomes in the story in the people of Israel, and here we are at a feast in Jerusalem.

M: In John’s Gospel. 

A: And there’s all this sheep gate pool, probably where they brought the sheep in from the fields, and there’s a big pool there, probably from where the sheep drank. And there’s all these sick people around there because they had a system of keeping it full with letting water coming in. And the people gathered around there, they really believed that when the water got stirred up, that’s when they’d be healed, and this guy can’t get in there.
M: He’s been there for 38 years; he’s been trying to be healed. He’s been sick for 38 years, and finally he asks Jesus, and Jesus says “Rise, take up your matt and walk”, and it’s the Sabbath.

A: You think everyone would rejoice at seeing God’s intervention, knowing what they know about the power of water, and this powerful healing, which is going to remind us of baptism and what it does for us. It’s a wonderful opportunity for the catechumens and candidates see that. And we see this controversy simply because Jesus broke the rule.
M: And so the last line was “They began to persecute Jesus, because he did this on the Sabbath”. The drumbeat starts. The tension begins to rise, because we see this on Wednesday.

A: The first reading is from Isaiah 49, with the promise of liberation. “To those in darkness, show yourselves. Along the way, they shall find pastures. On every bare height, shall there pastures be”. That’s not with pastures are, not on the bare heights. They shall not hunger or thirst, nor shall the scorching wind or the sun strike them, for he who pities them, leads them and guides them beside springs of water. I will cut a road through all the mountains, and make their highways level”. This sounds like an Advent reading. But you get “Sing out, o ‘heavens, and rejoice, o earth! Break out into songs you mountains, for the Lord comforts his people and shows mercy to his afflicted”. So when we get to the Gospel, Jesus is answering the Jews who are just nonplussed by him, “My father is at work until now, so I am at work. The use of the words “I am”, is the name of God when in the desert, where Moses is given the message to go to Pharaoh to say “Let my people go”, and God says, “now when he asks: “who told you to say this”, tell him “I am”.

M: And today’s Gospel is a narrative of Jesus saying “I am” the son, the father has sent me. This will stir people up.

A: It really does, and “Amen I say to you, the hour is coming, it is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the son of man, and those who hear will live”. It’s just powerful that you and I can imagine that he’s talking about us. In many ways, I’m dead when I’m not living. And all we have to do is hear his voice and he promises us life. But we have to listen and hear his voice.

M: And trust

A: Place our trust in him. 

M: Back to earlier, you talked about the Gospel of John has that law trial language in it, and it opens on Thursday, Jesus says “If I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is not true. But there is another who testifies on my behalf. And I know the testimony he gives no my behalf is true”. He is talking about the father.

A: And he says “the works that he father gave me to accomplish, these works that I performed testify on my behalf. More over the father who sent me has testified on my behalf”. We get this sense, and it says, “Because you do not believe in the one whom he has sent, you search the scriptures, because you think you have eternal life in them. Even they (the scriptures), testify on my behalf, but you do not want to come to me to have life. It’s that question, is there a part of me who doesn’t want to come to Jesus, a part of me that is afraid that he will change me, a part of me that doesn’t want to let go of what will be changed?

M: I think we feel like our greatest desire is to be loved by God. But I think that it’s probably also one of our greatest fears.

A: “Do not think that I will accuse you before the father. The one who will accuse you is Moses, in whom you’ve placed your trust”. It’s that fundamental thing that we know who we are.

M: You really see that when you get to the Friday Gospel, that he’s starting to be more careful about where he goes. “Jesus moved about Galilea, he did not wish to travel in Judea, because the Jews were trying to kill him”.

A: We’re reminded in the first reading of the Book of Wisdom, which is a bunch of proverbs, it’s wisdom literature so it’s a bunch of sayings. But the people who put these readings together a thousand years ago recognized the connection. “The wicked said among themselves, thinking not aright, let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us. He sets himself against our doings”. You can hear the religious leaders saying this. “Reproaches us for transgressions of the law, and charges us with violations of our trainings. He professes to have knowledge of God, and styles himself a child of the Lord. To us, he is the censure of our thoughts. Merely to see him is a hardship for us, because his life is not like that of others, and different are his ways. He judges us to baste. He holds a roof from our paths, as of things impure. He calls blest the destiny of the just, and boasts of his father. Let us see whether his words are true; let us find out what will happen to him, for if the just one be the son of God, he will defend him and deliver him from the hand of his foes. With revilement and torture, let us put him to the test. That we may have proof of his gentleness, and try his patience. Let us condemn him to a shameful death, for according to his own words, God will take care of him. These were their thoughts, that they aired, for their wickedness blinded them and they knew not the hidden counsels of God. Neither did they count on a recompense of holiness, nor discern the innocent souls reward. Jesus knew this passage. He certainly knew it, and as he’s experiencing the plots against him, he has to know these words are about him. And to feel the anxiety of this kind of torture, and yet place his trust in God. It’s marvelous preparation.   

M: And when you see the beginning of the Gospel, he’s hiding; he knew that the Jews were trying to kill him. But the feast, the Feast of the Tabernacle was near, and so he went up with his brothers, his disciples, up to the feast. He went not openly, but in secret, and you know, people are looking at him saying “Isn’t that the one they’re trying to kill”. You can almost feel that he’s kind of trying to keep out of the public, in such a public place. And it ends saying “they try to arrest him, but no one laid a hand upon him because his hour had not yet come”.

A: We get a strong sense in John’s Gospel that Jesus, servant of the father, is in control of the timing on this. He talks about the hour of being lifted up, and about the hour of glory. And this is the one who said to his mother “my hour has not yet come” at the wedding feast in Cana. And she just directs the stewards to listen to him. His hour has not yet come, yet he goes resolutely into Jerusalem to complete this week. And we get a feel that we’re there with him. We’re praying along with him, and that brings us to the end of the week on Saturday, where Jeremiah, one of the prophets, says these words that are haunting: “I knew their plot, because the Lord informed me. At that time, O Lord, showed me their doings, yet I like a trusting lamb led to the slaughter, had not realized that they were hatching plots against me. Let us destroy the tree in its vigor, let us cut him off from the land of the living, so that his name will be spoken no more”. And then Jeremiah prays, “Let me witness the tensions you take on them, fro to you, I have entrusted my cause. Just imagine that Jesus knew that passage and experiences the people in the crowd. This is truly the prophet, this is truly Christ. But then others said “Christ will not come from Galilea, will he? Does not scripture say of the Christ, that the Christ will be of David’s family and come from Bethlehem?” This is the irony John uses.

M: So people didn’t see, didn’t understand that he was from Bethlehem. And they didn’t know he was the son of God.

A: So the guards went to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said “why didn’t you bring him in? No one before has ever spoken like this man”. So the Pharisees answered them, “Have you also been deceived? Have any of the authorities or Pharisees believed in him?” That the challenging question. Why is it that all the poor, the needy, the sick, turn to him for the good news?

M: And they say, “This crowd which does not know the law is accursed”. All these poor people, all these sick people, they’re the ones that are proclaiming Jesus, and they don’t have the education.

A: Nicodemus, who we saw in the third chapter of John, learning about what it means to be born from above, defends him, and says “our law doesn’t condemn a man before it hears him, and finds out what he’s doing. So they almost condemn Nicodemus there, and here we are, feeling the plot, feeling the tension, feeling what Jesus is experiencing, and hearing how it comes right out of the Old Testament. It’s a powerful week, if we enter into it and give ourselves to it, and let’s pray for each other; Pray that God will bless us with what we need, and open our hearts to ask to be patient, to listen.

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