Fourth Sunday Lent 2012 Mass and Reflections

Scripture Readings for this Sunday's Mass are here.
Various reflections from St Louis University Centre for Liturgy are here.

There is a particularly good one here by Fr. Ron Rolheiser on the extract from the Gospel from John.

 Serpentine Cross Sculpture Image from here

The opening lines from Sunday's Gospel from John:

Jesus said to Nicodemus:
"Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert,
so must the Son of Man be lifted up,
so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life."

The photo above is a metal sculpture of the Serpentine Cross at the Sanctuary of Mount Nebo in Jordan by the Italian artist, Giovanni Fantoni

The Sanctuary is a revered Holy Site, the presumed site of Moses death and a centre for pilgrimages since earliest Christian times. 

 On March 19, 2000, Pope John Paul II visited the site during his pilgrimage to the Holy Land and planted an olive tree beside the Byzantine chapel as a symbol of peace.

Interesting article and comments here on the connection between Moses lifting up the enigmatic life-saving bronze serpent he had taken into the desert and the cross on which Jesus was crucified resonating with these opening words of John's Gospel today:

The author of the article above visited the Holy Land where he says :-
"Thinking back to modern-day Jordan, where the memorial of the bronze serpent is, you can see into the "promised land" on a clear day. 
I've stood there a few times over the years. 
It is a marvellous act to look at the serpent, 
and then to realize that as you gaze, 
you are looking toward the promised land.  

It is a sort of living geographical typology.  
When we look to Jesus on the cross,
as despised as a serpent,
we can see past the cross toward the resurrection,
the place of salvation."

After 40 years leading the headstrong Israelites in the desert,

Moses stood on the windswept summit of Mt Nebo and viewed the Promised Land of Canaan,

knowing that he would never enter it.

I am left thinking of this : the cost of the peace Christ gave us 

which He paradoxically said is a peace this world can never give 

and what the passion of Christ  tells us of our purpose in this world...

Image by James Tissot of  Moses looking out to the Promised land here

Miroslav Volf speaks on the Cross and The Resurrection 

When I read the Psalm 137 for today I found it fitted well with the idea that people of faith cannot sing their true song in a " foreign land". 

How often are we bitten and poisoned by our own venom bearing serpents and of others ? 

More importantly how often do we fail to ask for the only source of peace and healing in Christ, rather than the futile search for antidotes of several kinds in the world.

Sometimes the foreign land is the institutional church, at others the estrangement we feel from God and others in the interior of our own minds and hardened hearts as much as in a geographically distant country.

How many of us find ourselves trapped in a way of being defined by the expectations and judgement of others and which we too project onto others ?

Nicodemus visited Jesus at  night, looking for light!

You can read more about who he was here.

and there is an imagined conversation 

between Nicodemus and Christ from here.
Later Gospel passages show that he became a secret disciple and would speak up for Jesus in the Sanhedrin (Jn 7:50), and provide the hundred pounds of myrrh and aloes for Jesus’ burial (Jn 19:39).

James Tissot Nicodemus with Jesus from here


The full text of this beautiful poem below is from here, titled Nicodemus The Poet from Kahlil Gibran's The Life of Jesus, written in the first person of Nicodemus.

It movingly incorporates all the contradictions and tests of faith and below is the last part of the poem and his final affirmation of what he believes about Jesus after the crucifixion :

Many are the fools who say that Jesus stood in His own path and opposed Himself; that He knew not His own mind, and in the absence of that knowledge confounded Himself.
Many indeed are the owls who know no song unlike their own hooting.

You and I know the jugglers of words who would honor only a greater juggler,

men who carry their heads in baskets to the market-place

 and sell them to the first bidder.

We know the pygmies who abuse the sky-man. 

And we know what the weed would say of the oak tree and the cedar.

I pity them that they cannot rise to the heights.

I pity the shrivelling thorn envying the elm that dares the seasons.

But pity, though enfolded by the regret of all the angels, can bring them no light.
I know the scarecrow whose rotting garments flutter in the corn,

 yet he himself is dead to the corn and to the singing wind.

I know the wingless spider that weaves a net for all who fly.

I know the crafty, the blowers of horns and the beaters of drums, 

who in the abundance of their own noise cannot hear the skylark

nor the east wind in the forest.
I know him who paddles against all streams, 
but never finds the source,
who runs with all rivers, 
but never dares to the sea.

I know him who offers his unskilled hands to the builder of the temple,
 and when his unskilled hands are rejected,
 says in the darkness of his heart, 
"I will destroy all that shall be builded."

I know all these. 

They are the men who object that Jesus said on a certain day,

 "I bring peace unto you," and on another day, "I bring a sword."

They cannot understand that in truth He said, "I bring peace unto men of goodwill, 

and I lay a sword between him who would peace and him who would weild a sword."

They wonder that He who said, "My kingdom is not of this earth," said also, 
"Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's"; 

and know not that if they would indeed be free to enter the kingdom of their passion, 

they must not resist the gate-keeper of their necessities. 

It behoves them gladly to pay that dole to enter into that city.

There are the men who say, "He preached tenderness and kindliness and filial love, 

yet He would not heed His mother and His brothers

when they sought Him in the streets of Jerusalem."

They do not know that His mother and brothers in their loving fear
would have had Him return to the bench of the carpenter,
whereas He was opening our eyes to the dawn of a new day.

His mother and His brothers would have had Him live in the shadow of death,
but He Himself was challenging death upon yonder hill
that He might live in our sleepless memory.
I know these moles that dig paths to nowhere. 
Are they not the ones who accuse Jesus of glorifying Himself in that He said to the multitude, "I am the path and the gate to salvation," 

and even called Himself the life and the resurrection.

But Jesus was not claiming more than the month of May claims in her high tide.
Was He not to tell the shining truth because it was so shining?

He indeed said that He was the way and the life
and the resurrection of the heart; 
and I myself am a testimony to His truth.

Do you not remember me, Nicodemus,
who believed in naught but the laws and decrees
and was in continual subjection to observances?

And behold me now, a man who walks with life
and laughs with the sun from the first moment it smiles upon the mountain
until it yields itself to bed behind the hills.

Why do you halt before the word salvation?
I myself through Him have attained my salvation.

I care not for what shall befall me tomorrow,
for I know that Jesus quickened my sleep
and made my distant dreams my companions and my road-fellows.

Am I less man because I believe in a greater man?

The barriers of flesh and bone fell down when the Poet of Galilee spoke to me;
and I was held by a spirit,
and was lifted to the heights,
and in midair my wings gathered the song of passion.

And when I dismounted from the wind
and in the Sanhedrim my pinions were shorn,
even then my ribs, my featherless wings, 
kept and guarded the song. 

And all the poverties of the lowlands cannot rob me of my treasure.

I have said enough. 

Let the deaf bury the humming of life in their dead ears.

I am content with the sound of His lyre,
which He held and struck while the hands of His body were nailed and bleeding.

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