Notre Dame College Offers Weekly Reflections for Lent 2019

Colleagues in the Notre Dame College community share their reflections during this Lenten season. Messages will be presented for Ash Wednesday, the six Sundays of Lent and the Triduum of Easter.

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REFLECTION FOR THE EASTER TRIDUUM

The Final Lenten Reflection

The Easter Triduum - Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper through the Easter Sunday Liturgy

Holy Thursday: JN 13: 1-15   Good Friday: JN 18: 1-19:42   Easter Sunday: JN 20: 1-9

On these final days of Lent, called the Triduum, I bring our Notre Dame College community two reflections.

These three days in the Catholic liturgy are drama filled days. Perhaps nothing captures that as strikingly as the fire blazing sweeping through the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. The image is sad and horrifying. All that this magnificent structure symbolized for almost a century seemed to be disappearing before our eyes. Though we in Ohio are thousands of miles away, we could feel the grief and shock of the French standing on the west bank of the Seine.

We all might do well to sit with that difficult image for a 15 or 20 minute period these last days of Lent. How does that flaming image make us feel? What questions surface? Where does the image perhaps call us individually or as a Church community to change? Where does hope lie?

My second reflection is related. The apostles and other followers probably felt the same sense of horror and sadness to see Jesus arrested and imprisoned. Our familiarity with the story and images of the Triduum tends to make us forget that Jesus is tried and convicted as a criminal. The apostles see their hopes in him dashed. The women hold onto the expectation that Christ would keep his word. There is a lot of uneasiness among the key “players.”

In the May 2019 issue of Sojourner’s Magazine, Sarah Jobe wrote a powerful article comparing the Resurrection of Jesus to the prison release of women after 3, 5 or 7 years of incarceration. Although Jesus was really a prisoner for only those 12-20 hours, I never thought of him as a real criminal. Yet, that is what the disciples saw; a man they trusted now accused of breaking the law hauled away by the police, imprisoned, tortured, and crucified.

Jobe very sensitively writes that when an individual is released from prison often family members or friends look at the person with mistrust. The individual is not recognized. Friends mention that the person does not look herself anymore, the prison experienced changed the woman. There is a hesitancy to trust the individual given the excruciating and humiliating reality of their life-changing experience. I found myself drawn to the depth of what Christ suffered these final days. Just as those imprisoned justly or unjustly often change, Jesus appears changed by his experience. The humiliation, his evident annihilation on the cross followed by the burial of the lifeless body transform Jesus.

I found myself understanding why the disciples were so shocked when they encountered the risen Christ. Much like the women released from prison, the disciples could not “wrap their heads around” the realness of Jesus present with them, again. Christ’s sufferings and death now reveal a different Jesus, the risen Jesus seems the same yet different. Suffering changes us. Suffering changes our friends and family members. Perhaps, this year, we can explore the meaning of the resurrection with new eyes as we see those suffering near us with new eyes, too. This is the season of hope. Alleluia!

Carol Ziegler, SND., Ph.D.| Chief Mission Officer and Executive Director of the Abrahamic Center

 

Sunday, April 14, 2019

REFLECTION FOR PALM SUNDAY, THE SIXTH WEEK IN LENT

Luke 19:28–40, Psalm 22, Philippians 2:6–11, Luke 22:14–23:56

As a non-Catholic ministering in a Catholic setting, I often notice and wonder about distinctly Catholic practices and emphases. One thing I have noticed is a Catholic ability to not shy away from the suffering part of Jesus’ story.   

In my Protestant Christian tradition, Palm Sunday is a mostly joyful occasion, with children waving palm branches and a sermon on Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. We always have a Maundy Thursday or Good Friday service, but it’s poorly attended. So, most people go from the celebration of Palm Sunday to the joy of Easter. Not so for Catholics, where several chapters of Jesus’ crucifixion narrative are read aloud at the Palm Sunday Mass. It’s not possible to miss that part of the story.

This willingness to face the suffering of Jesus is also apparent in the ubiquitous crucifixes that are in Catholic spaces, including classrooms on our campus. At first I was sort of uncomfortable with this. I’m more used to seeing empty crosses. Jesus has risen; he’s not on the cross anymore! But I’m coming to understand the importance of the image, and I sometimes even use the crucifix in my theology classroom to illustrate my points. This is what true love looks like, I’ll say, directing their attention to where it hangs at the back of the room. This is where following God can lead—we have to be real about that.

At its best, the Catholic embrace of Jesus’ suffering avoids glorifying pain and rather helps us face the suffering that inevitably comes in our own lives. These Palm Sunday scriptures hold joy and suffering together, the welcome of Jesus with the calls for his death less than a week later. Our lives too are never all joyful parade or crushing defeat. Yes, we know the end of the story. Jesus is not on the cross anymore. But sometimes it’s important to stay with the sadness for a while, and find God even there.

Anita Hooley Yoder

Campus Minister

Sunday, April 7, 2019

REFLECTION FOR THE FIFTH WEEK IN LENT

A reflection on John 8:1-11 (The Fifth Sunday of Advent)

About five weeks ago, on Ash Wednesday a popular refection was circulating on Facebook and other social media called “Fasting and Feasting”.  This refection encouraged the faithful to do such things as fast from discontent and feast on gratitude…fast from anger and feast on patience….and fast from gossip and feast on silence to name a few from a lengthy litany.

Today we prepare for the Fifth Sunday of Lent. Next week is Palm Sunday and the start of Holy Week.  Lent is drawing to a close.  How did you do with the resolutions you made?  Perhaps it feels as though not much has changed since Ash Wednesday.  Change, after all, is hard but the faithful know that we don’t do it alone.  A wise spiritual guide once shared that God loves each of us as we are, but too much to leave us this way.  So you still have time to revisit those resolutions.

The gospel for the fifth Sunday of Lent is called The Woman Caught in Adultery.  Each time I reflect on it I am filled with anger at the injustice that the adulterous man is nowhere to be found. The scribes and Pharisees dragged this accused woman before Jesus under the appearance of fidelity to the Law.  We know from the narrative that they are trying to trap Jesus. We have a sense that might be the case for the woman too. And they put her in the middle.

Jesus’ response to all of this chaos is calm.  He is described as writing in the sand with his finger. And in doing so draws the attention from the accused to himself.  Writing what we wonder?  I don’t know but I have a sense from an experience many years ago.  I was on retreat and one evening we participated in a reconciliation service.  While soothing music played we were invited to reflect on our past failings that we wanted to let go of.  When we felt ready, we were invited to approach the altar where a small sandbox had been placed.  Trace your sins in the sand, we were instructed.  The next person to approach the altar would come up to do the same and would therefore wipe your away.

How stupid I thought as I rolled my eyes.  But as I watched the intention and care of my fellow retreat participants as they wrote in the sand with their finger, I approached the sandbox and traced my failings heavily in the sand.  As I made my way back to the pew, I turned and caught a woman wiping my words away.  Gone.  In that sweeping gesture, I felt lighter than I had in months. Feelings of consolation and hope washed over me.  In that simple yet profound gesture, I had a glimpse into the heart of God and a glimpse of a compassionate humanity. Fasting from condemnation and feasting on forgiveness…fasting from judgment and feasting on empathy….fasting from fear and feasting on hope. 

Jesus is alone with the woman.  Where are they?  Has no one condemned you?  And she alone hears the words “Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.”  With those words, each of us can begin again.  With those words each of us can go…become the person God knows us to be

Debra Dacone, D.Min.

Visiting Instructor in Theology

 

Sunday, March 31, 2019

REFLECTION FOR THE FOURTH WEEK IN LENT

Scripture Readings:

  • Book of Joshua 5:9a, 10-12
  • Responsorial Psalm 34:2-7
  • Corinthians 5:17-21
  • Gospel Luke 15:1-3,11-32

Hello, Notre Dame College Friends! Here are some thoughts on today’s readings. 

“Behold, new things have come.” (Corinthians)

The new things that have come are spoken of in our gospel today. New and awesome things are happening in this story of the Prodigal Son and forgiving father!

Picture for yourself the father looking and waiting for his son’s return and the joy he experiences when catching sight of him. Let’s ask ourselves today, when have we stood in anguish waiting for a friend or family member to return to their best self, praying that their destructive ways would end? Examples might be a return from opioid, substance or alcohol abuse, joblessness, stubbornness, lack of forgiveness. Now you know the pain the father in the gospel experienced. When we stand with open arms and heart we are like God our Father who wants to hold and embrace us!

Now think about the son who knows he has spent all his father’s inheritance and lived a wild and foolish life. When we face our own mistakes and the hurts we have caused others and even ourselves, we resemble the prodigal son. Reconciliation, prayer and friendship are the roads to peace and forgiveness.

In this story we see a picture of what God is like, an unbelievable forgiver, a divine lover, someone who wants to kiss us and hold us. Can we dare to allow our God to be this for us?

Responsorial Prayer Psalm 34

“Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.

I sought the Lord and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.

When the poor one called, the Lord heard and from all his distress he saved him.”

Thoughts by Carol McHenry, SND

 

Sunday, March 24, 2019

REFLECTION FOR THE THIRD  WEEK IN LENT

So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, “For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?”

“Sir,” the man replied, “leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it.  If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.”

Luke 13: 7-9

We often find ourselves in the position of the fig tree—unworthy of the gifts we are given—because of sin.  A completely rational God would recognize the flaws that we, as humans, possess and treat us as such.  In this passage, this means cutting down the fig tree and replacing it with a more fruitful plant.  However, I think this passage stresses the notion of the irrational God, that being our God who expresses an undeserved and undue love for his creation.  Whereas a rational man might cut down a fig tree for completely economic and pragmatic reasons, a man with an irrational love for his plants would leave the tree be and hope for a better outcome in the future.  Similar to the caretaker in this parable, God hopes and offers countless opportunities for us to turns away from sin and towards him.

Yet it is not just God who can act as the caretaker; in fact, I believe this passage also calls each of us to be caretakers for one another.  As such, we should do our best to be the caretakers; this means not only having hope for the future, but also serving others.  Just as the caretaker invested himself in the growth of the fig tree, so too should we invest ourselves in the blossoming of the human spirit of others.  Indeed, many of us fail to produce fruit on our own; in fact, we often depend on others—spouses, siblings, friends—to steer us towards God.  Our ability to do good—to allow comfort, to bring joy, to grant rest—is possible by leading others to God.

It is no secret that we all struggle to stay on the path to God; sometimes, do not produce any fruit to praise God with the gifts we are given.  However, we are able to help those around us be fruitful by simply guiding them in the right direction.  There is a time that we have all wished that someone had been around to help us find our way.  And so I pose this question: why not be a caretaker?  Why not use painful experiences to help others who are suffering so that God may be glorified?  Surely, we all have the ability to transform a barren tree to an abundance of fruit.

Friend of the College

 

Sunday, March 17, 2019

REFLECTION FOR THE SECOND  WEEK IN LENT

Luke 9: 28B – 36:  “See His Face”

Don’t we all want to see God’s face? The readings today describe amazing appearances of God’s power and beauty. Abraham saw a blaze of fire consume the offerings he set in place to seal the covenant God had made. The promise was to give him a land and offspring as numerous as the stars. Abraham believed God, even though he was 85 years old.  

What happened after this vision? At least 15 years of daily living. Traveling with his elderly wife Sarai and their slaves and herds. Nothing special. Nothing amazing. No visions in the dark. And no son. Finally, Sarai gave one of her maid servants to Abraham so that at least she would have a child through the little servant. When he was 100 years old, Sarai herself gave birth to Isaac. 

The everyday-ness of Abraham’s waiting, years of waiting, might be more authentic evidence of his faith, than believing God’s power expressed in the fire that burned those sacrifices years before.

Luke recounts the one instance of Jesus’ divine glory shining through his usually ordinary human presence. The words are stunning: his clothing became as brilliant as lightning, the apostles saw his glory, he spoke with Moses and Elijah. Peter wanted to set up tents and stay forever. Almost as suddenly everything disappeared and they saw “only Jesus.” Again, nothing special. Nothing glorious. And for the rest of their days with Jesus, they saw nothing but his human face, sometimes tired, a few times angry, disappointed, and even sad. Even the apostles who witnessed the transfiguration didn’t believe he rose from the dead until days later.

What about us? Why can’t we have a least one glorious vision? Then our lives will be changed, for sure. Or will they? Abraham’s life was not changed after his vision.  Neither were Peter, James and John. Or are we missing the vision of God, looking at God’s face right near us and not seeing it?

I’ve found hints at the answer, one in a poem and another in a little story. Gerard Manley Hopkins says in “As kingfishers catch fire,” --I paraphrase--good persons act with grace every moment, and God sees in them Christ,

…for Christ plays in ten thousand places,

Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his

To the Father through the features of men’s faces.

This is where we see God’s face, in each person we meet.

And here is the little story called “Finding God in the Park.” Is it coincidence that the old man is named Abe, and that he’s 85, the same age as Abraham was when he was God in the fire?

Abe was fiercely independent, even at age 85, but after a mild stroke his son insisted he move in with him. Abe missed going to the park near his old apartment, and one Saturday he set out to find it.

When he became disoriented, he asked a young boy named Timmy where the park was. Timmy said he’d like to take him there, but he didn’t have time because he was looking for God. He said he needed to talk to Him about why his parents were getting a divorce.

“Maybe God’s in the park,” the old man said. “I’d like to talk to Him, too, about why He’s made me useless.” And so they set off together to find God.

At the park, Timmy began to cry about the divorce, and Abe lovingly held his face in both hands and looked him straight in the eyes. “Timmy, I don’t know why bad things happen, but I know it wasn’t because of you. I know you’re a good boy and your parents love you and they will always love you. I know you will be okay.”

Timmy gave Abe a big hug and said, “I’m so glad I met you. Thanks. I think I can go now.”

From across the street, Timmy’s mother saw them hug and approached her son in a worried voice. “Who was that old man?”

“I think he’s God,” Timmy said.

“Did he say that?” she demanded.

“No, but when he touched my cheek and told me I’m going to be okay, I felt really better. Only God can do that.”

When Abe got home, his son asked in a scolding voice, “Where were you?”

“I was in the park with God.”

“Really? What makes you think you were with God?”

“Because He sent me a boy who needed me, and when the boy hugged me, I felt God telling me I wasn’t useless anymore.”

Carol Ziegler, SND., Ph.D.

Chief Mission Officer and Executive Director of the Abrahamic Center

 

Sunday, March 10, 2019

REFLECTION FOR THE FIRST  WEEK IN LENT

For if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  [Romans 10:9]

The glamor of Ash Wednesday is over, and now the journey of Lent begins.  It is time for us to get in touch with ourselves.  It’s time to look at ourselves in the mirror of life — what do we see;  or better yet: what does God see?

What we fail to see and understand often is that we are all defined by the one who made us — God.  We are his children — his sons and daughters.  When we try to define ourselves, far too often we leave God out of the picture, thus wandering about life, moving from one thing to another.  Lent is a time for us to clarify the picture.

And so we are called to take a step back and go out to our desert — a place of quiet, free from the distractions that bombard us.  And in that moment, we come face to face with the struggle that is ours — are we only people of this world, or are we people living in this world who are called to something greater — eternal life with God?   We all have to answer this question.

The answer is found in coming to see who we are: children of a God who loves us beyond measure — even in our brokenness.  When we acknowledge this fact, then the graces of God open up before us, and we allow God to become part of our life. Happy Lent.

Fr. John Blazek, C.S.C.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

REFLECTION FOR ASH WEDNESDAY

Even now, says the LORD,
return to me with your whole heart,
with fasting, and weeping, and mourning;
Rend your hearts, not your garments,

—Joel 2:12-13

Every year, this section from the book of Joel is the first scripture that is read at the Ash Wednesday service. Next to getting my forehead smudged, it is definitely my favorite part.

I like the words, “even now” most of all. If that were the only scripture read during the service, I would be satisfied. The lector could just get up and say, “Even Now!” and then sit down.

“Even now” suggests to me that it really doesn’t matter where you have been, how far you have strayed, or how ambivalent you have been about your relationship with God, you can still start again—even now. It suggests to me that God is not really hanging out in the past wishing that things had been different. God isn’t hanging out in the future either, awaiting your arrival. God is just in the Now calling for you to begin again.

And then the verses present us with a real challenge for what we are supposed to be doing in the Now. Sure, getting your forehead smudged and going to church and fasting are all great—but those really aren’t what God is looking for. Instead, there is that weird phrase “rend your hearts.” So, instead of tearing your clothing as a sign of repentance, you are supposed to tear open your heart. That’s a pretty graphic description, don’t you think?

The point is, you can do a lot of activity that shows you are religious, but what is going on inside of you? If I tore open my heart, what might I find in there? Is it filled with anxiety, envy, impatience, ego, and anger? What does it feel like to store all of that in my heart? If I tore my heart open and let go of all that trash, what might God be able to fill it up with?

Ted Steiner
Campus Minister

E.g., 06/23/19
E.g., 06/23/19