Scripture Reflections

March 7: Third Sunday of Lent

Posted by Campus Ministry on March 7, 2021 at 8:03 AM PST

a flock of birds fly silhouetted against a sky that is blue and pink

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A bold prophetic gesture and a confusing follow-up conversation: that’s what John’s gospel gives us today to chew on and to challenge.

First, the gesture. In the time of Jesus, the Temple had an entire system of commerce, established to assist people in fulfilling their religious observance. Practically speaking, pilgrims traveling long distances would want to purchase an animal on site for sacrifice rather than bring one on the journey. And in order to make the sale and pay their temple tax, they would need to exchange their Roman money (idolatrous, inscribed with an image of Caesar) for temple currency. Reasonable, right? The ‘marketplace’ was necessary and in fact allowed people to participate in the ritual and experience God’s presence and promise. Certainly, corruption crept in with dubious exchange rates, but at least in John’s account, Jesus does not call out any ‘thievery.’ Instead, addressing those who sold doves (interestingly, the animal prescribed for those who were poor), he commands that the marketplace itself be stopped in its tracks.

Then, the follow-up. “Jesus, please tell us exactly what this sign means.” “Destroy this temple and I will raise it up in three days.” “Ummmm, OK, but that’s not what I was asking.” John’s gospel is famous for interactions like this that don’t flow as clearly as we expect or desire. Jesus is not trying to be obtuse or evasive. Rather, he is redirecting our attention to a new reality altogether. In this case, to the temple of his body, his crucified and resurrected body in fact. His body, which is the very Word of God made flesh, irrevocably joining divinity with humanity in the fullness of corporeal creation. His body, which even after being raised from the dead holds and redeems the worst wounds that murderous institutions can inflict. His body, which he promised once raised up would draw all people to himself, abiding within the community of disciples themselves as the permanent point of access to the divine.

Now, to chew and challenge. Keep in mind, Jesus was a faithful and practicing Jewish person, so he was critiquing his own tradition, from within. So rather than condemn ancient or current observance of others, it is our role to turn that prophetic gaze on our own. The authors of Living Liturgy write, “The contemporary church cannot consider itself beyond the reach of Jesus’s whip or overturning hands.” Have we constructed systems, policies, and procedures that attempt to mediate people’s experience of the divine but in reality throw up obstacles and exacerbate distinctions and divisions? What ‘marketplace’ of our creation needs to be dismantled? And, just as importantly, what needs to be built up in its place? Or rather, how do we need to allow ourselves to be built up into the crucified and resurrected body of Jesus, both experiencing and enabling access to all that is divine? Pandemic has taught us: access to the divine is and never has been restricted to the holy buildings. Instead, it is as close as our own miraculous bodies and the bodies of others in community, where Jesus, as promised, will always abide.

~ Bill McNamara, Campus Minister for Liturgical Music

February 28: Second Sunday in Lent

Posted by Campus Ministry on February 28, 2021 at 8:02 AM PST

a path in the mountains with a tree on the edge of a cliff

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Did Jesus have to die? It’s a question that comes up often enough in my own life of faith and ministry. It’s a question that comes to the surface as I read today’s set of readings. The scriptures today challenge me, with their seemingly obvious invitation to draw parallels between Jesus and Isaac, God and Abraham, in ways that lead to some kind of conclusion where it is good and holy that patriarchs are willing to kill their sons. No. Thank. You.

I’ve seen how this plays out.  We cast God as the one who demands death. We come to see God as the arbiter of our suffering and pain, and ourselves as merely acquiescing to the forces of “God’s will” as we encounter injustice. The fruits of this interpretation seem to be Christian apathy (if not collusion) in the face of violent oppression and the crushing forces of patriarchy and white supremacy.  

In the Gospel of Mark, right before the account of the Transfiguration (and again twice after), Jesus predicts his suffering and death, and the disciples are troubled, and reject the idea. Jesus seems to know his mission will lead to suffering and death. He predicts it, over and over, and invites the disciples to follow in the way of costly discipleship. The disciples find Jesus attractive to follow, but don’t seem to understand the risk that a commitment to Jesus’ way entails.

How do we come to understand Jesus’ own prediction of his death? Do we believe in a God that incarnates into human history only to be killed to quench some kind of bloodlust? Does God demand death? Did Jesus have to die?

Today’s Gospel story of the Transfiguration helps me to find a different answer. We encounter Jesus with a few disciples on the mountaintop, having a mystical experience, experiencing closeness to God, and hearing clearly the voice of God calling Jesus beloved. The Transfiguration reminds me of this truth: Jesus does not come to this world to die, but to love. The Beloved One enters into our midst on God’s mission of love and mercy. Unfortunately in our broken world, an embodied commitment to love places us in the crosshairs of the powerful forces that dehumanize and annihilate. Jesus knew his mission would lead to a confrontation with religious and political authorities. Jesus knew that it could lead to death. Yet he remained committed to proclaiming God’s dream for the world. He did not enter into the journey seeking death, but following the path of love wherever it leads. Jesus’ experience of his own belovedness set the course of his life and lived commitments. The Transfiguration, where God decisively proclaims Jesus’ belovedness anew, reminds us that God does not demand death, but faithful witness to love – from Jesus, and from us all.

Today I hear the voice of God saying to me and to all disciples: “This is my beloved Son.  Listen to him.” How can we listen to Jesus during this Lenten season? How are we being called to follow his way of love, his mission of mercy through our lives today? What forces of oppression and death must we challenge? Are we willing to absorb the risks of a radical commitment to love?

 

~ JoAnn Lopez, Campus Minister

February 21: First Sunday in Lent

Posted by Campus Ministry on February 21, 2021 at 8:02 AM PST

A desert scene with cactus and a rainbow in the background

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As we transition into Lent, the readings take us through the creation of God’s covenant with the people after the destruction of the flood. God makes a promise to all living creatures that water will not be used for destruction ever again. In the first and second readings, the symbol of water changes from representing loss, as seen in the flood, to symbolizing purification, salvation, and ultimately transformation.  

I am struck by the resilience presented in these readings. The promise that after destruction and suffering, comes protection and transformation. When I think of Lent, I associate the time with reflection and retreat, however that is not always the case for everyone. For others, the Lenten season can be alienating. Perhaps in the past this could be soothed by our gathering physically in our communities, but this year, Lent might appear more desolate without the physical reminder of love of community. However the readings invite us to remember our resilience. This resilience is exemplified by Noah and his family, and Jesus in the desert, both ultimately being strengthened by God’ covenant to be with us. In the face of injustice, destruction, and disillusionment, God resides with us. Yet this makes me wonder, whose face does God bear among the conflict? Where do we search for God in our plight?

The readings invite us this Lent to experience transformation and conversion through the waters of baptism, for a “clear conscience” as the letter from Peter indicates. In the context of our challenging lives and world, we are called to encounter God present in all that is still life-giving to us. The Spirit led Jesus to the desolation of the desert, yet it is the same Spirit, and the same God who protects Jesus and leads him out. It is comforting for me to see that Jesus, while being the Son of God, is still fully human where he experiences alienation and temptation and just like us, relies on God’s presence.

To me, part of God’s covenant is the promise that we are not alone. In the process of conversion, of transformation no matter how painful and alienating it might be, there is that promise of resilience and God’s presence with us. In the face of difficulty, I see this as an opportunity to search for the face of God. As we enter our own deserts this Lenten season, I hope that we may remember that God walks with us and will lead us out. How can we become a symbol of resilience for one another? Where do we search for God’s face? How might we be invited to rely on God’s presence as we embark on our Lenten journey?

 

~ Tayz Hernandez,  B.A. in Theology and Psychology, Class of 2021

February 14: Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted by Campus Ministry on February 14, 2021 at 8:02 AM PST

 

“If you wish, you can make me clean.”

Evergreen trees topped with snow

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It is early in Jesus’s ministry. He has been baptized, and he has been to the desert. He has preached in the synagogues of Galilee, and he has cured people of demons and sickness. Then, a man afflicted by leprosy approaches him, bends to his knees and says, “If you wish, you can make me clean.”

Has this leper heard the rumors of the healer in the nearby town? Was the name “Jesus of Nazareth” uttered over shared bread? Was it spat at him mockingly by a passerby in the street? Did he glimpse Jesus from afar, anxiously hoping?

The leper speaks with certainty of Jesus’s power to heal. Maybe even faith. “If you will it, you can make me clean.”

Cries for help are ubiquitous. Rarely are they directed so clearly to our unhearing ears. One such case: a man approaches me on the street. “Can you spare any change?”

Why was I approached? Because the man knew that if I willed it, I could “make him clean." Can I spare any change? Of course I can. What’s more, if I willed it, I could leverage all of my privilege on behalf of that man. I could treat that man like my own brother, or my own son. Instead I give him petty cash (on a good day) and he goes on his way. We each have the potential to radically change the life of another. But we don’t. Jesus did.

 As members forming the Body of Christ in our present day, we are called to be as Christ to one another. We are called both to will the impossible, and to do the impossible. The question then that I constantly ask myself is this: why don’t we? 

 

~ Nate Ross, B.S. in Biology, Class of 2021

 

February 7: Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted by Campus Ministry on February 7, 2021 at 8:02 AM PST

a human silhouette looks out towards a purple and pink sky at sunset

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We know that currently there is a lot of pain in the world. The news coverage is heavier, focused on events that make us doubt what good there might be existing in the world. Each of us have our own worries or mishaps that we might try to ignore so that we can keep moving forward. There are also times when we are tired and refuse to admit it or take the time to recover.  

In the readings today we hear how Job felt horrible about his situation. He could not find any hope in the situation he was in, but still, as we know from elsewhere in the Book of Job, Job found it in himself to be assured that God was with him. This makes me question: how do I still feel God’s presence when times are bad or rough? A simple thought came to mind for me and it was the sunrise of each day. Sure, living where it is cloudy most days means I will not always see the sun, but I know it’s there. I know God’s still there. Job was honest with himself and authentic too—he did not lie and say that he was still happy despite all that happened to him, he was sincere. How can we be more honest in our day to day?  

As we read the Gospel today, I think it is important to be reminded that Jesus was still human, as us, and lived in the realness of life. He still was tired, was afraid but was also committed to giving himself to others. He took the time for himself then continued to serve those around him, and as we hear in today’s Gospel, those he healed then in turn served others around them. I find this comforting because it illustrates how human Jesus was in his earthly life. It reminds me to be more human too, trusting that it is there that God meets us.

Having those Jesus served continue to serve others is an example to me of the heart of the Gospel, the “Good News.” We are part of the church that lives and believes in the Gospel, not just hearing it, but also responding actively to God’s love in our world. I am reminded of St. Francis’s quote “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary, use words,” something I heard plenty in elementary school but something that I think rings true today. Having encountered God’s love, how can we be part of sharing that Gospel with others? How are we called to serve others? 

 

~ Karina Comes, B.S. Biology, Class of 2021