“And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed. But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen and done in God” (John 3:19-21).
In Jesus’ time, light was a valued and scarce resource. Oil for lamps was expensive and carefully rationed. Moving away from the light of a village campfire was risking danger. Traveling in the darkness of night meant exposing oneself to wild animals or criminals.
For Christians around 100 AD, the metaphor of Christ as the light would have particular resonance. They frequently lived in dark times of persecution, and to attest to believing in Jesus was dangerous. They looked forward to a time when their belief in Jesus could be safely expressed in the full light of day.
Today, for those of us fortunate to live in a country where religious freedom is protected, the “darkness” we encounter manifests itself in things like greed, exploitation, violence, racism, and sexism. These aspects of life can cloud our vision and lead us to choose evil over good. Jesus lights the path for us to pierce the darkness and come into the light of goodness, truth, and faith.
Think of a dark time in your life. Who or what did you reach out to?
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God, our Father,
“Since the Passover of the Jews was near, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves, as well as the money changers seated there. He made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen, and spilled the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables, and to those who sold doves he said, ‘Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace’” (John 2:13-16).
This Sunday’s reading invites us to examine the underlying tension that runs through all of the Gospels. Jesus’ mission brought him into conflict with the powerful institutions of religion and state. This tension ultimately led to Jesus’ arrest, trial, and execution.
For pious Jews in Jesus’ day, and for Jesus himself, the Temple in Jerusalem was a sacred place. It was a center of pilgrimage for Jews from all over the world, a place where ritual sacrifices and prayers were offered. The presence of money changers and merchants was common in the outer courtyard of the Temple. Pilgrims who traveled a long distance to make a ritual sacrifice would find it easier to buy an animal on the spot than to bring one from home. In order to make this purchase, they would need to change their foreign currency for the only coins accepted in the Temple.
Faith is not a matter of convenience. When religion exists solely to keep the wheels of commerce rolling or exploits the poor, it is fraudulent and disgraceful. Jesus was not an avoid-conflict-at-any-cost kind of character. He made a whip and chased the moneychangers out of the Temple.
Jesus’ actions are a reminder that Christians can, and at times should, resort to the kind of righteous anger that cries out against hypocrisy and against the exploitation of the most vulnerable.
In Jesus, Christians have a model of someone who had the courage to challenge and question. Those who claim to follow Jesus can do no less.
About what in your life have you felt justifiably angered? What action did you take?
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Gracious Father, whose gift is life and whose love is eternal,
“Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them; from the cloud came a voice, ‘This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.’ Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone but Jesus alone with them. As they were coming down from the mountain, he charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone, except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what rising from the dead meant”
This week’s Gospel reading offers us a brief look at God’s glory at a moment when Jesus was speaking of his coming passion, which was the focus of conversation immediately before and after the event described in this passage. Jesus had brought to this mountaintop several of the disciples, who had just learned that he would suffer, die, and, three days later, rise from the dead.. Jesus was transfigured before their eyes, and they were left awestruck. The voice of God proclaimed, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him” (Mark 9:7).
The disciples were given a glimpse of the glory of God, and then were charged with the task of listening to Jesus. They listened even as he was rejected, as he suffered, and as he was put to death. They listened to Jesus and knew that even death would not defeat him, for he would be raised from the dead. The disciples continued to listen to the risen Christ until the day they too would share fully in his glory.
Just as the disciples were charged with the task of listening to Christ, we are also invited to listen. Through the events of our lives, however ordinary or extraordinary they may be, Christ is present and calling out to us. Christ is in our walking and talking, in our daily encounters, and in our travels.
Christ is present, but are we listening?
Christ often speaks to us through those who have no voice in our world. He speaks through the poor, the elderly, the prisoner, and the immigrant. We may listen to Christ speaking through our friends and family, but do we listen to Christ in the rejected, the lonely, and the outcast?
Where or how is Christ speaking to you at this point in your life? Are you listening?
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