Scripture Reflections

March 31: Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Lent

Posted by Campus Ministry on March 31, 2020 at 6:03 AM PDT

An image of a tealight set against darkness, illuminating a small circle of light around it.

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In today’s first reading, we have a story about affliction and deliverance. The Israelites find themselves tormented by serpents, which, we are told, “bit the people so that many of them died” (Nm. 21:5). When Moses brings the Israelites’ cry for an end to their suffering to God, God responds by telling the Israelites to build a statue of the serpent and mount it on a pole. Anyone who is bitten by a serpent should look at the statue and would be healed. And so that’s what they did. And it worked.

What to make of this curious story? Would that we could simply build a statue of coronavirus such that anyone afflicted by this insidious disease might be cured simply by looking at it. Unfortunately, this is not the nature of the deliverance available to us in this moment. So what wisdom does this story have to offer us today?

Today’s reading reminds us that there is wisdom in visibility. There are fearsome corners of our hearts and of our society that rarely see the light of day and yet continue to afflict us with suffering. Moments of challenge, like this collective one where we find ourselves now, have a tendency to put under fluorescent light those things we would rather keep in shadow. We see this on both individual and societal levels. As an individual, I have felt my fears and anxieties raging in recent weeks, and many of my own unskillful habitual responses have been cast in sharp relief. On a collective level, this crisis has illuminated in glaring detail countless toxicities built into our system. We are suddenly confronted with the truth of our interconnectedness as issues like lack of affordable healthcare and housing threaten to snowball an already inconceivable crisis.

Today’s reading asks us to bring those parts of ourselves we would rather not look at—those places where we need healing—into view, so that, together with God, we might begin to heal them. “Hide not your face from me,” the psalmist writes, “in the day of my distress” (Ps. 102). Just as God does not turn away from us in our shadows, so, too, we might approach those corners of our lives and society that are asking for healing with a spirit of tenderness and curiosity, but also with an unwavering commitment to not look away.

Where would you like to invite healing into your life and the life of the world?

 

Anna Robertson, Campus Minister for Retreats

March 30: Monday of the Fifth Week of Lent

Posted by Campus Ministry on March 30, 2020 at 6:03 AM PDT

purple crocuses bloom between rocks and dead leaves

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Today we’re confronted by two stories of women being threatened with violent death. In the first reading, it is clear the charges are false, and the witnesses and judges are blinded by their own interests. Luckily, like in any good story, Susanna is vindicated at the last moment by God through Daniel, who saves the day by trapping Susanna’s accusers in their own lies. The tables are turned, and the villains are severely punished. A satisfying conclusion to a disturbing tale.  

In the Gospel things progress rather differently. Unlike in the first reading, we don’t know all the details and circumstances about this woman – we don’t even know her name! Her accusers say she was “caught in the very act,” but she is brought forward without her purported partner. We might wonder if she really was guilty, or if she, like Susanna, was caught up in some greater scheme by her accusers. After all, we are told that the entire spectacle is designed to trap Jesus into charges that would condemn him.

As I imagine the crowd gathering around her, I want Jesus to get angry. To call out the injustice of those who victimize and shame women. To shepherd her away from the judgmental eyes. To rail against the double standards that has the woman condemned while a man goes free. To be vindicated before the people who were trying to trick him. I want Jesus to punish all the villains of the story, like a true hero.

Then I remember: Jesus is not that kind of savior. Like the disciples before me, I fall easily into the trap of wanting Jesus to be a swashbuckling superhero, triumphing easily over his enemies with his brilliance, power, and might. Instead today, I see Jesus bending down and straightening up repeatedly, writing on the ground while the woman stands in the middle of the crowd. Keeping my eye on Jesus, I see that he continually displaces himself away from those that look at this woman with judgement. I hear him reminding those gathered to search their own hearts before condemning, until finally, when the crowd is gone, he straightens up and looking at the woman, enters into a dialogue with her, saying “neither do I condemn you.”  

Jesus does not come to perpetuate the same violent systems that dominate our world, but to expose, subvert, and end them, just like he does in the Gospel today. Jesus lives wholeheartedly committed to the God’s reign of love and inclusion, and turns the world of judgement and violence upside down, entering into the plight of those who suffer and are shamed (just like when he bends down to the ground). In his interactions with this woman, Jesus treats her with dignity, and reveals to us a God of compassion, who desires relationship and reconciliation, not condemnation.

Jesus (whose very name means “God Saves”) is a different kind of savior than we expect. I’m struck as I read this Gospel passage, that in a few days we will encounter Jesus himself being put on trial and condemned to death. He too will have witnesses speak against him, and will be surrounded by crowds that seek to kill him. In this Fifth Week of Lent, staying with the stories of these women caught up in unjust trials, we treasure this truth: there is no reality of our suffering that Jesus does not desire to enter into, accompany us in, and transform.

How does Jesus desire to enter into and transform our suffering today? How does God seek to disrupt the systems of judgment, violence, and death in our world? Where (and with whom) will we choose to place ourselves today, and in the days ahead? 

 

JoAnn Lopez, Campus Minister for Liturgy and Resident Minister in Campion Hall

March 29: Fifth Sunday of Lent

Posted by Campus Ministry on March 29, 2020 at 6:03 AM PDT

As I sit at home grieving, on a small scale, the loss of normalcy that COVID-19 has forced on my life and, on a large scale, the heartbreaking loss of vitality it has forced on the world and especially on the most vulnerable among us, I am comforted by the humanity Jesus shows in today’s gospel. After Jesus hears from Martha and Mary that their brother Lazarus is ill (Jn 11:3) and witnesses Mary and her friends weeping at his feet for Lazarus who lies dead in the tomb, he becomes “perturbed and deeply troubled” (Jn 11:33) and weeps (Jn 11:35). In this interaction with Mary, Jesus reveals himself as distinctly human: just as Mary weeps and wails and laments her loss, so too does Jesus. In light of our present context of global suffering, hardship, and loss, we must remember that Jesus is beside us always, accompanying us in our pain as he accompanied Mary in hers.

When we realize that Jesus, who is “the resurrection and the life” (Jn 11:25) on whom we pin our hope and try to model our lives, experiences pain and sadness and still demonstrates great power by raising people like Lazarus from the dead, we can free ourselves from the myth that grief is a sign of weakness and incompatible with our ability to hope and power for doing good. As people made in the image of God who are the hands and feet of Christ on Earth, we have the capacity to mourn like Mary, to hope like Martha (Jn 11:24), and to act like Jesus. As we continue to weather this crisis of pandemic, let us ask ourselves: How can we accompany each other in our grief and fear? How can we maintain hope? Where can we direct our resources to alleviate suffering? And above all, how can we can use our God-given power for good?

 

 

Olivia Digiorno, Class of 2021

March 27: Friday of the Fourth Week of Lent

Posted by Campus Ministry on March 27, 2020 at 6:03 AM PDT

‘The Lord is close to the brokenhearted,” the Psalmist writes in today’s scriptures, “and those who are crushed in spirit God saves.” 

I’ve been armoring myself against heartbreak a lot these days. Perhaps you can relate? Each morning, I find myself having to resist the urge (at times unsuccessfully) to rush to my phone and begin scrolling, taking in the news from the wider world and my more personal one. I can feel my mind making constant calculations: am I going to make it out of this unscathed?

A few days ago, after a sobering conversation with my roommate about the spread of coronavirus, I sat down on my floor and let some of the fear and anxiety I had been carrying in my chest melt into tears as I allowed the realization to wash over me that there’s no making it out of this unscathed. It wasn’t that in that moment I had some sudden foreknowledge about my future fate; rather, as I put down the armor around my heart, I began to acknowledge all of the ways that this pandemic has already touched me and, though I don’t know exactly how, will continue to do so.

The realization came as a release and, as it washed over me with the kind of mysterious consolation that accompanies even the bitterest of truths, I found myself sinking into the ground of a reality that had not been accessible when I had been armoring my heart against its breaking—the reality of my inseparable connection to all life on this planet. The very heartbreak against which I had been bracing myself became a portal, and in that moment I sensed my connection to every other person who has experienced heartbreak.

I think that’s why God is close to the brokenhearted—it’s because the brokenhearted let God get close. The world offers us many ways to buffer our hearts against being broken. In ordinary times, we can choose from an endless array of consumer distractions to keep our experience of heartbreak at bay. We all have our ways of doing it—for me, it’s filling up every waking hour with social commitments, or squeezing in that unnecessary Target run, or scrolling endlessly on my Instagram feed. And the world offers us no shortage of causes for heartbreak. But the thing about buffers is that they don’t only keep heartbreak at a distance, they also buffer us from ourselves, each other, and from God. In the era of coronavirus, many of us are finding ourselves face-to-face with big and small heartbreaks, and suddenly without access to many of our traditional coping mechanisms. Today’s psalm invites us to make space for our heartbreak with the trust that our broken hearts might be portals—portals through which we find one another, and through which God finds us.

How is your heart today? When was the last time you let yourself feel it break?

 

Anna Robertson, Campus Minister for Retreats

March 26: Thursday of the Fourth Week of Lent

Posted by Campus Ministry on March 26, 2020 at 6:03 AM PDT

John 3:16 is one of the most well-known scriptures in the Christian tradition, yet often it’s taken out of context, used to condemn and exclude those who don’t believe in the way we think they should, look the way we think they should, or even love in the way we think they should.  But I wonder what would happen if we read on down to verse 17 and the words of Christ Jesus that remind us that the love of God for us knows no bounds? How might this transform our understanding of God from one who punishes and subdues to one who welcomes and affirms? The love of God for us is so powerful and strong and mighty that God is willing to go beyond what any of us could even think, do, or imagine: to sacrifice God’s own son, not to condemn, but to bring us closer.  Isn’t that amazing?

Scripture tell us there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus and that’s what verse 17 reveals, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”  Jesus does not condemn.  God does not exclude. The God of many names and the God that cannot be named does not oppress nor relegate people to the margins.  Not members of the LGBTQ community, not persons with disabilities, not refugees, immigrants, or asylum seekers, not Asians and Asian-Americans blamed for coronavirus. No. God does not exclude. So why do we? God so loved the world that God does not condemn those we seek to exclude. What’s more, as much as we can’t seem to understand it, God does not condemn even those of us who have excluded or harmed others with our actions and deeds.  God does not condemn those who have gone astray like the Israelites in our Exodus reading today who have turned away from God’s requirements.  Instead God so loved the world that God gives us a chance to get it right, to offer an expansive, inclusive, justice-oriented love.

And so my friends, how might we be invited to get it right in the midst of COVID-19, as coronavirus takes up space in the forefront of our collective imaginations? Who are the ones who have given so extravagantly for us, literally providing for us as a matter of life and death? I think of the migrant farm workers, sanitation workers, transit workers, first responders, healthcare workers, the cleaning crews, grocery workers, and factory workers. I think of the ones many look down upon, the ones whose honest work is disparaged, the ones who are often forgotten. But God so loved the world that God gives us a chance to get it right. 

What does it look like, then, to live in solidarity with those who risk their lives for our sake, and not in some ethereal spiritual concept of unity, but in a concrete, day-to-day, tangible sense? What does the Lord require us to give?

 

Rev. Victoria Carr-Ware, Ecumenical and Multifaith Campus Minister