Like the two disciples walking towards Emmaus, a symbol of worldly power and security, and away from Jerusalem, the center of sacrifice, we need to be stopped in our tracks. Christ appears to them, but they do not recognize him. They do not recognize him because they are walking the wrong way. The recognition of the pattern of Christ’s life does come until the Eucharistic act which presents the pattern of sacrificial love. Then they immediately go back to Jerusalem, the place of suffering love.
Jesus has come to bring us the divine life. Under his influence we become peaceful, unafraid, evangelizing, and forgiving. Through the Church, saints are made. This is because Christ is at the very center of the Church.
Easter Sunday represents God's great yes to humanity. Throughout history, humanity has turned its back on God, but the Lord has constantly sent rescue operations to bring us back into community with him. The resurrection of Christ is the definitive rescue operation and is our great hope for salvation.
On Palm Sunday, we are privileged to listen to one of the great passion narratives. In Matthew's account, we see Jesus as a still-point in the maelstrom, as God's fidelity amidst a cocaphony of sin. In the course of the passion, Jesus confronts betrayal, laziness, violence, untruth, abuse of power, self-destruction, and wanton cruelty--the whole panoply of human dysfunction. And he takes away this sin precisely by his obedience and his mercy.
The great Lenten readings for Cycle A move in a kind of crescendo from thirst, to blindness, to death—all metaphors for spiritual dysfunction. This Sunday's Gospel deals with death through the story of Lazarus who, after four days in his tomb, represents someone who is totally sunk in sin, totally dead spiritually. The voice of Jesus calls Lazarus, and all of us, back to life no matter what we've done, no matter how dead we are.
Our Gospel story for this weekend is the narrative of the man born blind. In the Bible generally and in John particularly, sight is used as a metaphor for spiritual vision or faith. Therefore, the man born blind is every one of us, born in the state of original sin. The Church, through the sacraments, offers us the salve of Christ's Incarnation so we might be converted, healed, baptized, and attending Mass in right praise.
This Sunday we have the great privilege of hearing the story of the woman at the well, the definitive text on Christian evangelization. Take the time this week for a prayerful reading of this story and notice that as this woman seeks, she's already been found! If only we would surrender to the God who is already always pursuing us! Then, we might realize how the Everlasting Lord is the only one who can quench the otherwise unquenchable thirst of our hearts. Make the effort this Lent to clear a path and set down your old buckets so that the water of Christ's divine life can flow through you.
Our magnificent first reading is a short passage from the beginning of the twelfth chapter of the book of Genesis. We see that at this point in the creation story jealousy, rivalry, anger, murder, imperialism, arrogance, drunkenness, indeed a wickedness has spread over the entire face of the earth. So what does God do? He sends a rescue operation! The rescue operation is going to come in the form of a people trained to listen again to the voice of the Lord. During this season of Lent we must also become a people trained to listen so as to be rescued by the Resurrection.
Our Gospel for the first Sunday of Lent covers the three "shortcuts" the Devil offered Jesus to lure him away from his central mission of the cross. The Devil chose these temptations because he knew that Jesus would not be primarily a social reformer, or a wonder-worker, or a political operator. He would be the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Knowing who Jesus is and what he is about is indispensable as we commence the Lenten season.
"Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and the rest will be given to you." Make God the center of your life, and you will be spiritually ordered in Christ's image. If you make wealth and security your center, you will be empty. You make the choice: will God be your center?