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We

He was clearly not himself: his blue eyes were flat, his gregarious tone subdued. Still, he trudged through the school day with quiet determination, taking his assigned turn at lunch and reassuring himself that “we will be okay”. Death had invaded his family, and his adolescent heart was breaking. Not for himself. For his grandmother who lost her daughter. For his father who lost a sister. Then, maybe, for himself. But it was his “we”, his sense of “we will be okay” that speaks to this moment.

It is the Seventh Sunday of Easter. Ascension Thursday has slipped past, that moment which marks the last of the real visibility of Jesus in human experience. It was a celebration, the Ascension into heaven, and a simultaneous loss beyond compare. In the tumult of that time, there was the reassurance of continuity of convictions, connections, and purpose. Matthias is chosen to complete the team of leaders, to share the mission and to go on, to move forward. Theirs was a group that shared a “we”, belonging to one another as much as to God.

The second reading expands that dramatically. There is a glimpse of the mystery surrounding God, a candid admission that no one has ever seen God. Here, God is equated with love, defined as love. God is relational, personal, connected to each individual in the mysteries of love. Love is sacred beyond telling. There is nothing more potent, more meaningful. And the uniqueness of each person’s choice about that love is to be respected. “God is love, and whoever remains in love, remains in God and God in him.” The powerful punch is in the “remaining”. Remaining is essentially choice, and there are so many alternatives.

The Gospel, from John 17, enumerates choices about belonging to the world. It captures Jesus’ prayer for those He loves. Specific and caring, He asks for a gift that transcends human desires and preferences. He asks for protection from “the evil one”. Jesus’ prayer goes on in the in the following lines as the evangelist confides an even deeper aspect of love and relationship.

“Consecrate them in the truth.  Your word is truth.
As you sent me into the world,
so I sent them into the world.
And I consecrate myself for them,
so that they also may be consecrated in truth.

Sustaining and maintaining relationship is dependent on truth, and so love is ultimately, relationally and rationally, dependent on that truth. On the pursuit of it, the discovery of it, and the meaning of it. The courage of truth rests in the sense that, like love, it is not simply of this world. There is far more to lives that we know and days that we walk through. Truth is the more that motivates dreamers, animates misfits and encourages the hopeful and the hopeless.

Daring to pursue something that does not “belong to this world” is complicated. Relationships, especially those not esteemed or sought simply for gain, are much more than a “one and done” deal. Relationships are a journey, but the “we” of it makes the hazards, hardships and happiness deeply meaningful. The “we” is a magic all its own that bears the joy of celebration and the tragedy of loss with the sense of interdependence and togetherness. This Seventh Sunday of Easter is about learning that “we will be okay”. WE will be okay.

Also human

Mysteries, the inexplicable and the incomprehensible, abound in even the most ordinary of lifetimes. There are those oddly synchronous moments where everything comes together in a harmony unanticpated, when the senses can barely digest what is happening for the sheer delight of it all. And there are the exact opposite: hurricane winds fragment everything held dear collapsing what is familiar treasure to rubble unidentifiable. Either way, mysteries court life with every sunrise. On this Sixth Sunday of Easter, the mystery to consider is love.

Love is not adulation or admiration. Love is evident in the understanding words of Peter, “…I myself am also a human being.” He recognizes the sameness, the mutuality of a man who has come in awe to kneel before him. He names himself “human” as if it is no title whatsoever, as if the word itself provides an equality that encompasses difference. But he also dares to articulate how and why that exists. “In truth, I see that God shows no partiality…” A simple phrase defies the idea that some are chosen, beloved, blessed by God and some are less than that. Instead, there is a firm conviction asserted here. God’s Love is inexplicable, incomprehensible, and belongs to all. There is no earning it, deserving it, or compromising it. It simply IS, in a way that is far beyond what humans comprehend.

Love and relationships can be torturous trails pockmarked with fear, mistrust, loss and cruelty. Friendships, parent-child, peer and partner sharings suffer through jealousy, selfishness, insensitivity, dsiplaced anger and bouts of narcissism. But they can also be journeys deep into the soul that name the same fears, dare the same dreams, find the same hopes and choose the same paths. The idea that God’s love is a constant is barely aligned with human actions and thoughts. The second reading declares that “God IS love…” and lets that dance with Mystery begin again.

Can Love like this be defined? Known? Experienced? Appreciated? Is it possible to live with a God so willing to be understood as love? Is it possible to live without that?

We live in a time of conflict and controversy, of questioning and research, of doubt and misgivings. Love, though, is still there, still constant, still present. Still not presupposing but waiting to be rediscovered in the melee. Easter is a celebration of the great demonstration of love. The Sixth Sunday after Easter is a celebration, too, of learning what this kind of love is really all about. That learning comes to life in simply being human. In recognizing, as Peter did, that each of us is nothing more and nothing less than a human being. More importantly, each of us is so loved by a patient God who simply desires to remain with us.

Nest

It was wedged between the tire and the cold fieldstone of the garage, just beneath the forsythia. Woven in layered twigs and dried grass, colored coordinated and masterfully intact, its integrity and comfort speak of home, the kind of home everyone needs. It is loose and structured, simple and stable, inviting and purposeful. Maybe that empty nest is the promise of next steps, of growth and movement and flight. On this Fifth Sunday of Easter, what could be more appropriate?

This week, the readings celebrate the emergence of faith, of lives changed and reconstructed in the light of faith. The first reading shows Saul after his conversion. He has left one life behind for another. But here, he is grappling with acceptance as a disciple, dealing with the fear he had inspired in others. Trusted Barnabus provides the introduction that made a difference. The connections are woven as carefully as the bird’s nest. That reading is followed by the plucky courage of the first letter of John exhorting,

“Children, let us love not in word or speech
but in deed and truth.”

Here is a challenge to go past the typical, to dare to live deeply, to let actions be defining and truth be guiding. In a sense, this is the challene to build our own nests even in a world so complex and unforgiving. Could this be about creating “home” in a world made less than hospitable by the rigor of media? Could it be about deliberate action to construct a “home” of what is here, available, usable? Can we re-envison home, society, world? Dare we look at the post-pandemic era as one with all the necessary components to reconstruct meaningful homes and lifestyles? Can we reconnect? Dare we be as trusting as the birds in our creations?

The Gospel is allegorcial and poetic, charged with connections in the Vine and Branches story.

I am the vine, you are the branches.
Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit,
because without me you can do nothing.

Dignity, fulfillment, worth, rest in the reality of Connection. It is about branches and being and making the choices that fashion something rich and fruitful, opening possibilities for others. Without each other, we are each less than could be. With each other, we forge a life-giving force that protects, comforts, serves and regenerates.

In a world edging towards a post-pandemic pattern, conscious reconstruction of lifestyles, serious consideration of choices is possible, if not probable. The shift represents a chance to re-shape the homes we have built and live in and to re-consider the many choices we have made. The threads of new beginnings can allow a freedom to become better persons and to show the commitment to that future by the practical simplicaity of deeds. Mere words cannot be enough: this is the time for action. The nests we create now, at work and at home, can bear the variegated texture of that cradle. Those nests, our nests, can find shape, provide both cushion and comfort, and provide the space that nurtures next steps and ultimately leads to flight.

Shepherds

Ten wheeler tractor trailer trucks rumble past construction, wedged between coupes blaring music and SUV’s crammed with soccer balls and lacrosse sticks. There is a magic in condo decks lined with geraniums, parking lots burgeoning with eager customers, and the crisp cut scent of newly mowed grass defining all of it. Devices are everywhere: strapped to the arms of runners, dangling from walkers’ ears, resting in palms and pockets. Still, every deeply drawn breath brings a glimpse of the richness of life and all that matters. Here, in this 21st century, comes the story of the Good Shepherd.

I have gathered eggs from chicken coops, milked cows in a barn, and watched over lambs in a pen. The first were surprisingly warm and smooth, the second moist and messy, the third completely unexpected. Easily simplified in cartoons, the sheep were gentle and unintentional, responsive to food and restful in the heat. It was the first time I realized what the story of the Good Shepherd was actually about. Because, after all, what it means to be a Shepherd is now hidden in quaint Christmas cards and the crescendo of carols. To be a Shepherd is to be the caretaker, the conscientious and thoughtful one who genuinely cares and bravely shoulders what it means to care. Ther are no limits to that, and it is all about relationship, responsibility and service.

The Gospel bursts with that reality and that sense of purpose. It is about Jesus, the Shepherd, the radical nature of what it means to be committed to another. And it is about shepherding one another even as we are shepherded. It is about learning to do good and actively taking responsibility for one another. It is just as empowering as it is comforting. Most of all, it is engaging fully with life and with one another. Those connections, in a culture rapidly evolving in terms of norm and practice, are more important than ever.

To be a Shepherd today is far from the static images of robes and staffs and lambs wandering over a rocky terrain. Instead, this is about a God who is consistently journeying with us and does not abandon or betray us. Instead, the Shepherd still seeks each of us out with a modest and earnest fidelity. That realization leads to the responsibility of doing the same for others.

Beloved, we are God’s children now;
what we shall be has not yet been revealed.
We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him,
for we shall see him as he is.

In a world exploding with spring and suffering from the unprecedented turbulence of the 21st century, the Shepherd still stands, still speaks. Time to listen. Time to speak. Time to remember that we are, at once, sheep and shepherd. Most of all, like the shepherd and the sheep, we belong to each other.

We belong

Her soft voice was unexpected, the call unanticipated. Gratitude flooded our space: there was that indefinable familiarity, picking up where we left off, conversing as if we had seen each other yesterday. She confided about her work, and I about mine. She described a recent fall and confinement to a wheelchair, what that is like for an 88 year old cloistered nun to navigate through monastery halls. We agreed that aging changes things significantly. Significantly. We talked about politics and God and the waves of social change. Finally, in that lyrical and loving tone, she said, “When will we realize that we belong to each other?” It was neither cryptic nor cynical and her tone carried a certainty that day would somehow arrive. We paused. And then we went on dallying with what it means to be aging and wondering what lies ahead. But the words “We belong to each other” wandered through heart and soul and simply stayed. When I opened the Third Sunday of Easter readings, I began to understand why.

“We belong to each other” implies so much about the ways we live and believe. And the readings speak directly to that. The first two define the gentle countenance of an accepting God; there is a distinction between the act of sin itself and the acceptance offered the sinner. It is the idea that being human means trying over and over again, constantly discovering and re-discovering, making mistakes and wrong turns and adjusting as much as possible. Being able to recalibrate, encourage, grow all rests on the striving for goodness, for doing the right thing. It does not preclude the existence of evil or the rejection of goodness; it simply suggests that the focus is on the relationships between God and each person. Possibilities are born in that space, that connection and that sense of belief. It is love without condition, and it is more than a one way street.

The Gospel harbors an even greater wonder. It describes one of those moments when Jesus appears to the disciples. They are sharing the story of Emmaus, when he comes to them and they fail to recognize him until the breaking of the bread. And somehow, He arrives again, offers “Peace be with you.” He connects with them, addresses this new situation, and offers more. He explains what they had heard so often before: this time, they could really listen, grow in understanding. It is the very sense that understanding is incremental, a time-oriented processing. Everything about that reasonates with our very human condition. Jesus is giving them the opportunity to learn, to belong to each other and to Him. He is clarifying and creating a truth that runs deep and rich. The words offer each of us that same chance to learn more, to be more, to believe in possibilities unimagined. There is a finitude to it.

Even in a secular society shored up by science, challenging all its traditional sturctures and re-organizing all its insitutions, there is a simplicity to be embraced. The Gospel of this Third Week of Easter initmates the truth that we do belong to each other. We may not always realize it, live like it, or enjoy it, but the truth of it cannot be denied.

Believers

April 11, 2021. Second Sunday of Easter. Spring’s bravest bulbs welcoming the warmth. Rising vaccination rates and rising COVID cases. Life and death cycling endlessly in our linear lives. New learnings emerging with every day. Losses and miracles linger together in memory’s landscape; goodness and hope resist, persist, untarnished by bursts of violence, self-centered greed, and cruel stigmas. And so the octave of Easter pries open the best of who we can be right next to the raw truths of who we are, opening the door to the promised tomorrow. From the very beginning, the readings of the day glow with transformative love.

“The community of believers was of one heart and mind…” are the opening words of the First Reading. So brief, so simple, so powerful. Community. BELIEVERS. One heart. One mind. There is an alluring power in the cadence of the words, and a tone confiding a fullness of joy, the kind of love that welcomes, heals and binds; the kind of love that is judgment free and freely given. There is a vivid life here that spills into the Second Reading from the First Letter of John. Believers trust that Jesus is the Christ is begotten by God; that common denominator is the foundation for visibly choosing goodness, choosing to love, to follow the commandments. The joy of believing in the resurrrection, of knowing within. the love of God, is the Easter invitation re-issued and shows the very best of human beings embracing goodness and hope, being changed by love.

But this Sunday offers far more in the words of the Gospel. There is the fear of Apostles locked within the Upper Room, a fear dissipated by “Peace be with you…” and the missioning to create the community itself. But juxtaposed with this liberating sense of promise and hope is the reality fo who we are: skeptics and doubters, all embodied in the outspoken Thomas. Thomas is more than a doubter, and his uncertainty was not necessarily mistrust of his peers. Instead, there is a wonderful way in which Thomas is personally invited and personally embraces the reality of the resurrected Jesus, His appearance. That invitation goes to all humanity. Death is transformed into the life of love: the experience of Jesus generates connections to Him and to one another. It all occurs within the shadow of the grief of the cross.

In a time of such wild transitions and change, the simplicity of Scripture speaks across the centuries. The dignity of the readings is anchored to the reality of human needs and hopes and purpose. Unadorned by images, lyrics, illustrations, words capture rich realities with the tender perspective of persons who carried a truth greater than themselves and dared to share it, to allow it to be spread to new believers and then to new generations. Taking the time for each word to find its home in heart is what Thomas experienced first hand. And now, in a world gripped by 21st century sensibilities and issues, enraptured by the concepts of scientific data and well-being, buried in a cacophony of media, the stories, the words, speak again. In the midst of doubt and questioning, hearing and listening opens the door to transformative love. There is no doubt, then, why this Sunday is designated Divine Mercy Sunday.

Changed, not Ended

A few days ago, a colleague did not arrive at work. His absence caused the usual consternation, rush to arrange coverage and inevitable irritability. Then came the unexpected: he had passed away in his home, in his sleep, in the night. In daylight, we grappled with that truth and the incredible change his passing represented. I wondered for a moment at the grace of it for him, and then the struggles ahead for those who knew and loved him, for the survivors. Two camps of thought clamored for attention among his colleagues: how to take care of ourselves in the shock, and how to move forward with the least disruption. The first garnered lots of textbook responses, and the second focused purposefully on process and goals. There was no mention of the person, no time to think about the meaning of his life and its entanglements with ours. It was really all about us. That makes the response almost the antithesis of an Easter moment, and the Gospel calls to so much more than that. The Gospel is all about daring to be involved, daring to love and to believe Love bears all things.

In John chapter 20, Mary of Magdala goes to the tomb of Jesus. Her act of love becomes a mission to inform others. The stone was rolled away. Jesus’ body was missing. She sought help.

So she ran and went to Simon Peter 
and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, 
“They have taken the Lord from the tomb, 
and we don’t know where they put him.”
So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb.
They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter 
and arrived at the tomb first; 
he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in.
When Simon Peter arrived after him, 
he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, 
and the cloth that had covered his head, 
not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place.
Then the other disciple also went in, 
the one who had arrived at the tomb first, 
and he saw and believed.
For they did not yet understand the Scripture 
that he had to rise from the dead.

Death is the common denominator to all our lives, but we fail to grasp the breadth of its scope or the depth of its impact. In grief, they were bewildered. The possibilty of Resurrection could not be entertained. And so, of curse, they did not understand. Truthfuly, neither do we. Even after decades of experiences and lifetimes of study, we are always only beginning to understand elements of the story and how it interfaces with our lives. Allowing oursleves the freedom to grow, to learn, to know the finitude and limitations of humanity enables us to continue. Each of us grasps at different elements to find anchors for life and for meaning; the other readings point towards that. There is Peter’s gradual discovery and understanding of Jesus’ life and mission, and his own embrace of the mantle of leadership. But that shift is actually an invitation to all of us to allow for the importance of something we cannot see, hear or touch, but can believe. Then the second reading shows how life is changed by belief, how this kind of commitment changes who we are and what we are about. Even in our lack of understanding, we can be touched by and drawn to belief.

Picture Mary again, pausing at the opening of the tomb, and the belief and love that brought her to that moment. There to grieve and mourn, she was not yet aware that her relationship with Jesus was changed, not ended. She ran to those who also loved Him, and they were able to be bewildered together. Belief means trusting in the power of love and relationship, in the intimacy of personal commitment and choice, within the broader context of community. It means remembering the stories, treasuring the lessons, discovering the depths. Just as Mary crept towards that crypt, just as Peter and the other disciple came forward, belief builds real and genuine connections among people, draws people closer to one another so they can interact together.

The Easter Gospel is a reminder that our stories matter so much more than we realize. Sharing the stories is a reminder life is never really all about us. It is always about other, always about reaching out and sharing, searching and caring together. It is always about coming to understand that there is so much we do not understand. And that is okay. There is a God who has already shown each of us how very much we matter to Him in the story of the cross. And a God who shows how very much he is still with us in the love which births the Eucharist. Daring to trust that means there is so much more to life than we can ask or imagine.

Rest in peace, Blake. Enjoy perpetual light!

Palm

Palm Sunday marks Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem. The humble palms are the heralds of the Passover holiday celebration and the very public celebrity of Jesus. But the story has a timeless relevance and is not one trapped in the annals of time. Instead, it is alive with the the congruence of human experience and the textures of human connections. The Gospel of Mark exposes the moment of Jesus’ time in Jerusalem as entirely relevant to the realities of 2021. That journey by a band of compatriots yeilds the best and the worst of us: heartbreaking betrayal, the tragedy of injustice and the cruelty of derision. And in so many ways, it mirrors moments in our lives and times.

Those on-top-of-the-world moments are encased in our own century,too, but are no less real. Jesus’ practical self awareness enabled him to identify the almost capricious sense of celebrity. He had garnered criticism and negative feedback on other occasions. Here, steeped in the Judaic tradition of Passover, he gathers and then hosts the meal which seals the bonds of identity and purpose. But he intimates so much more: in the breaking of the bread, he is deepening the connections to one another, enabling and empowering a connection to share; even in physical absence, there can be spiritual presence. And so the story starts with the strengths and benefits of companionship.

But there is the bitter and brokenness of betrayal, a trust forsaken. Just as the start indicates the instatiable human appetite to connect with another, the next passages testify to the realities of human choices and behaviors. There is a madness to it that reflects the mob mentalities of our time. And yet, Jesus, as a victim, observes and interacts with a freedom and a confidence. He dared to accept the remarkable limits of what it means to be human; in fact, he lived them. There is the arrest and the questioning, the harsh rejection of the crowd who preferred to save Barrabus. Jesus’ presence becomes his voice, and his voice is entirely silent. There are no protests, no objection, so condemnations or accusations from him. He endures the cruel derision of the crowd, the blistering of the bullies, the humiliation of ridicule. Centuries have not diminished the human capacity for such cruelty, and social media seems to have multiplied opportunities for that.

Jesus even confronts the intricacies of social structures in the story of the Passion. There is the judicial ritual, the Pharisees and the calamitous crowd jutting up against the dispassionate Romans. Centuries later, national and ethnic identities aside, all lives are lived within this network of “invisible” systems that determine the course of social evernts. Jesus dealt with that reality just as we do. The palm is a reminder of human reality, our own included.

Finally, there were the women who asked for his body and there was the kindness of Joseph of Armithea. Those connections, that kindess, marks the love and relationships that sustained companionship and community, that ultimately overcame the cruelty and the injustices. Palm Sunday is an invitation to enter into the fullness of human relationship, to realize that there is an invitation to believe here, to model as Jesus does, to forgive the broken trusts and to keep working on moving forward. The truth is that understanding and appreciating Palm Sunday is really about understanding and appreciating what it means to be human. Suffering is an inevitable part of that, but so is hope. Limitations are human realities, and Jesus not only observes that but exhibits it in calling out to the Father, Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which is translated, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” He knows, shares, the despair of human life.

To be human is to be complicated. Palm in all its simplicity, reminds us that life is difficult, failure is frequent, and Jesus is with us. Always.

Lazarus

“Terminal truth telling.” The therapist tossed that phrase out in casual conversation. She wondered at the compulsion to share deply personal stories publicly. Where was the thought about impact? Outcomes?Consequences? On this Fifth Sunday of Lent. the phrase still haunts and beguiles. So many voices have given narratives of personal realities; the stories and claims are overwhelming. Determining what is real and true is increasingly difficult. And yet, sincerity and authenticity are so necessary, so real. And so it is that the Gospel this week features Lazarus freed from the tomb in a narrative that whispers of rich relationship, clear connections and honest communication.

Relationship drew Jesus back to Judea, to Lazarus’ home. There are so many clues in the reading from John 11. There is honest conversation between Martha and Jesus, and there are the evangelist’s gentle observations about love being at home there. There is Martha’s understanding about the teachings of Jesus, and there is Jesus’ view of the situation as well. The words carry the complexity born of human communication: coming to grips with what is perceived, and becoming aware of what more is possible. So much is packed into succinct phrases; so much interpretation has dissected and analyzed the story. But at heart is the reality of the relationships, the connections, and the communicating. Lent is about each of those, and the story of Lazarus is a reminder that this is a caring, loving God wo accepts who and what we are as human beings and actively seeks the strength and sincerity of relationship.

The first and second readings are the anchors for this story of Lazarus. The first is from the prophet Ezekiel, and the words are a promise:

Thus says the Lord GOD: 
O my people, I will open your graves 
and have you rise from them, 
and bring you back to the land of Israel.
Then you shall know that I am the LORD, 
when I open your graves and have you rise from them, 
O my people!
I will put my spirit in you that you may live, 
and I will settle you upon your land; 
thus you shall know that I am the LORD.
I have promised, and I will do it, says the LORD

The real, the authentic, is resting underneath the miraculous in the passage. The key is coming to know the Lord, and rising from the graves is how that will happen. And the second reading is the promise from Paul’s Letter to the Romans. It is about the Spirit of God living within. It is all about the connections. the reality, the communication between God and human beings. And so there is testimony in the Gospel that what really matters is believing and loving, being in relationship.

That said, the Gospel is something of a skeleton without the embellishment of intricate detail or the rich fabric of further dialogue. There is more than enough to convey the message, and little enough so the reader can enter the passage, the time. There is sincerity and authenticity in every word, and there is clarity and truth in belief. The story has an impact, and belief has a consequence, a clear, definable consequence. It is a story told with purpose, preserved with hope and shared on this Fifth Sunday of Lent with an invitation to believe.

In our time

We live in our time, born in years and months and days, with luck, stretching through decades. We are born to beliefs, experiences, possibilities; we are born well within the structure and shadows of human systems. There are layers to the human birthright– parents and lifestyle, class and race, ethnicity and gender. Those define so much of who we are, how we communicate and even what we dream and hope for. Some seem to escape the tentacles of these varied factors and burst into privilege and celebrity seemingly and enviably unscathed by human trauma or suffering. But there are so many more of us who have found nobility, honor and hope in the labor of simply being alive. For those, reality profers a rare richness and a consoling comfort, a promising pragmatism. The fullness and emptiness of the human lifespan finds meaning, significance and purpose in all the simplicity of being. And so in this fourth week of Lent, Laetare Sunday, it is the simplicity of living the Light.

John’s Gospel lingers with the image of light but does more than that. The opening verses describe the profound purpose of Jesus’ presence in the world: not to condemn, but to invite to belief in a God who neither castigates nor compels. Instead, this is a God who tenderly invites, shares and sacrifices for love. The believer, in response, embraces that love and then extends the same to others; the halo of light is enhanced and becomes even more of a gift.

There is a second part to it: God accompanies each human on the journey of living. Belief in God is all about that companionship. There is no magic promised, no disappearance of human suffering or mitigation of human pain in reutrn for belief. Instead, this is about living each day with a companion consistently searching for goodness, for the best of what it is to be human in even the most difficult of circumdstances. Goodness to one another manifests the God who revels in the best of the human spirit and accepts the broken, the failings, the poor chocies, and awaits another chance. Human beings are made co-conspirators with God for goodness and light for one another in the very midst of all the challenges of human life. Companionship: no condemnation, no judgment. But there is more tucked into these readings of the Fourth Sunday of Lent.

Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, the seocnd reading for today carries a striking line:

For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works 
that God has prepared in advance,
that we should live in them

Light and simplicity nestle here as well. There is the indomitable trust that goodness is there in God and all God’s works. Ours is to “live in them”. Notably absent are threats for non-compliance, or condemnation for choices. Instead, there is the beckoning of the brightest stars in the darkness of a midnight sky. “Living in them” leaves every human being, every generation, the freedom to live in our time and to explore and to choose, over and over, goodness. Laetare Sunday addresses that significance of choice as well in the first reading. It is from the book of Chronicles whose prose confides the history of the Jewish people and completes the Hebrew Bible.

Like a bridge, the passage links the themes of human failure and the forgiveness and generosity of God. It describes repeated poor choices of humans, the frustration of God, and then the opening, the forgiveness and new beginning: light and simplicity. There is an irony in the all too human emotional God of the passage. But there is also the ultimate conclusion, the new beginning, of building a house of God. Laetare Sunday is like that: it si an invitation to become a builder of a new world and a better life. It is a call that goes out to every human being in each generation, over all time. It is from God who is greater than, transcends huan limitations, and gently radiates Light in every time, every generation, every system, every life. And so we live in our time, within the human systems, companioned by God.