PREFACE TO THIS SECOND EASTER SEASON BLOG – March 12, 2011
In the blog published earlier this week we focused on having a spiritual attitude when fasting, as described by the Sisters of Carmel. The Sisters also remind us that the Gospels teach how to fast and pray and give alms, all these actions being enlivened by the spirit of mortification. This week, Pope Benedict XVI released a new book that seems to be enlivened by this spirit of mortification.
On March 10th during this first week of Lent, Pope Benedict’s book, Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week – From the Entrance of Jerusalem to the Resurrection, was released, correcting a long-held belief of some Christians that ‘the Jews’ killed Jesus, multiplying the actions of a few to the whole Jewish community. By holding onto this exaggeration, an attitude of divisiveness and antiSemitism is perpetuated that is at odds with the teachings of Jesus Christ.
Here is a quote about the book from an article by Joseph Sievers, Professor of Jewish history at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome. “In excerpts provided to the press this week, the Pope walks the reader through the gospels to explore who Jesus’ accusers were. Noting that the Gospel of John describes them as ‘the Jews,’ Benedict explains there’s no way the writer meant the entire population of Israel. After all, he notes, John himself was a Jew as were Jesus and the rest of his followers. “This expression has a precise and rigorously limited meaning,” Benedict concludes: “the temple aristocracy.” The Gospel of Mark expands the circle of accusers to ‘the masses,’ who Benedict explains were supporters of Barabbas, the brigand chosen by the crowd to be released instead of Jesus.
“In [the Second Vatican Council’s text], this was all said in one sentence, but here it’s spelled out and worked out in great detail,” says Sievers.
The Gospel of John presented below does not contain any such references, though they are obvious as the gospel moves toward Jesus’ passion and death.
The Fourth Gospel: The Gospel of the Apostle John
The New Jerusalem Bible’s introduction to this gospel tells us that it is the Apostle John’s intention “to preserve the message that the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus soon after the baptism in the Jordan. John the Baptist points Jesus out as the Messiah in 1:31-34. This gospel also points out that Christ’s glory is manifested in his work and his word (1:35-12:50) and describes his death, resurrection and subsequent apparitions (13:1-20:20).”
A. A Reading from the Gospel of John, The Apostle 1:29-32
The next day he (John the Baptist) saw Jesus coming towards him and said, “Look, there is the lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world. It was of him that I said, behind me comes one who has passed ahead of me because he existed before me. I did not know him myself, yet my purpose in coming to baptize with water was so he might be revealed to Israel.”
Imagery Exercise A
Close your eyes and breathe out three times. See, feel, sense and know yourself as John the Baptist watching Jesus come towards you. Open your eyes for a few moments.
Close your eyes and breathe out three times. Feel and imagine yourself as John the Baptist saying, “My purpose in coming to baptize with water was so that he, Jesus, might be revealed to Israel.” Open your eyes.
B. A Reading from the Gospel of John the Apostle 1:32-34
And John the Baptist declared, I saw the Spirit come down on him like a dove from heaven and rest on him. I did not know him myself, but he who sent me to baptize with water had said to me, “The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and rest is the one who is to baptize with the Holy Spirit. I have seen and I testify that he is the Chosen One of God.”
Imagery Exercise B
Close your eyes and breathe out three times. See, feel, sense and imagine yourself as a disciple of John the Baptist. Hear him say, “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven like a dove and rest on him. What is your reaction?
Breathe out one time. See, feel, sense and hear yourself as John the Baptist saying to your disciples, “He who sent me to baptize with water had said to me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and rest is the one who is to baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ I have seen and testify that he is the Chosen One.” Open your eyes.
C. A Reading from the Gospel of John the Apostle 1:35-39
The next day as John the Baptist stood there again with two of his disciples, Jesus went past and John looked towards him and said, “Look, there is the lamb of God.” And the two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus. Jesus turned around, saw them following and said, “What do you want?” They answered, “Rabbi”–which means Teacher-“where do you live?” He replied, “Come and see; so they went and saw where he lived and stayed with him that day.
Imagery Exercise C
Close your eyes and breathe out three times. See, feel and imagine yourself as John the Baptist with two of your disciples. Look towards Jesus and say to your disciples, “Look, there is the lamb of God.”
Breathe out one time. See, feel and sense the reaction of your disciples as they look toward Jesus after hearing that he is the Chosen One. Open your eyes.
The Spiritual Value of the Psalms
In the New Jerusalem Bible the psalms are described as “the prayers of the Old Testament in which God inspired the feeling that his children ought to have towards him and the words they ought to use when speaking to him. These psalms were recited by Jesus, the Virgin Mary, the apostles and the early martyrs. The Christian Church has adopted them unchanged for her official prayer.”
The First Three Verses and the Last Verse of Psalm 31:
Prayer in Time of Ordeal
In you, Yahwah, I have taken refuge, let me never be put to shame. In your saving justice deliver me, rescue me, turn your ear to me, make haste.
Be for me a rock-fastness, a fortified citadel to save me. You are my rock, my rampart, true to your name, lead me and guide me!
Draw me out of the net they have spread for me, for you are my refuge. To your hands I commit my spirit, by you have I been redeemed.
Love Yahweh, all his faithful: Yahweh protects his loyal servants, but he repays the arrogant with interest. Be brave, take heart, all who put your hope in Yahweh.
These psalms are often chanted.
Thank you for joining me. Watch for the third Easter Season blog on Friday, March 18. I hope you’ll join me then!
Note: Reading A of the Gospel of the Apostle John presented above, you’ll find the statement of John the Baptist, “It was of him that I said behind me comes one who has passed ahead of me because he existed before me.” Give these lines some thought, if you will. We’ll look at them next week from the perspective of Valentin Tomberg regarding the preparations made in two epochs, for Christ to descend to earth.
May your spiritual journey through Lent lead you to a joyous Easter.
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