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Fr. Bob Writes – April 7, 2019

Our gospel passage this Sunday is one of the finest in the entire Bible. In telling the story of the woman caught in adultery , and Jesus’ response to her, it  superbly illustrates everything that Lent is about: the forgiveness of sins, the lifting of the burden of condemnation, guilt and shame, and the hope of a new beginning in our lives.

Note that the scribes and Pharisees in this gospel do not seek Jesus out when he is alone but come to him while he is surrounded by a large crowd. Note also that it is only the woman who is described as having been caught in the very act of committing adultery. Where is the man she was caught with ? He is allowed to make his escape, while only the woman is to be charged. Yet the Jewish Law mandates that both the woman and the man are to be killed.  The scribes and Pharisees want to make Jesus , in the face of all those people, either advise against the dictates of the Jewish Law by telling them to free the woman, or be judgmental and lacking forgiveness in contrast to his preaching. 

Jesus, of course, puts the onus on their shoulders. Why did the scribes and Pharisees drop the stones and leave ? Jesus’ simple statement forced them to reflect on what they had in common with the woman..that, they, too, were sinners in need of the merciful forgiveness of God. How can one be harsh in judgment toward another when he or she calls down the same judgement upon him/herself?  We cannot demand from God mercy for ourselves, yet justice for others who have offended us . 

Fr. Bob Writes – March 31, 2019

The famous parable of the “prodigal son” (perhaps better referred to as the parable of the “forgiving father”) forms our gospel passage for this weekend.  Note that the parable is addressed to the Pharisees and scribes who were complaining that Jesus ate with “sinners.”  They are the older brother in the parable while those they considered as sinners are represented by the younger brother.  The people in this latter group were Jewish in background and belief but had chosen pathways in life which caused them to leave the embrace of the Jewish community.  Tax collectors worked for the Romans and were, therefore, not welcome in synagogues.  Prostitutes were excluded for their lifestyle as were a number of other “sinners” for one reason or another.  Although not publicly practicing their religion, they still felt a desire in their heart to be at peace and reconciled with God, evident in their attraction to Jesus.  Previously they had not been given an opening to come back to God, only judgement. 

Jesus could read their hearts and received them as the father in the parable received his returning son.  His openness gave them an opportunity for reconciliation with God, resulting in a celebration.  At times we may tend to be like the Pharisees, judging and rejecting people rather than opening a door for restoration and reconciliation with God.  We need to make a conscious effort to take Jesus’ approach if we are to call ourselves Christians.  Through the father in the parable, Jesus challenges us to be understanding and patient with those who differ from ourselves in the way they think and act … to look for the communality which binds us together in the same family. 

Fr. Bob Writes – March 24, 2019

“Moses said to God, “if the people of Israel ask me ‘What is his name?’, what am I to say to them?” God replied “I AM WHO I AM “

What’s in a name? In the Bible, a great deal.  The name of a person stood for that person, stood for the power and authority of that person.  When God changed the name of a person in the Bible, as he does with Abram and Jacob, and as Jesus does with Simon in the gospel of John, he is changing the destiny of that person.  Abram becomes “Abraham”= the father of many nations; Jacob becomes Israel = the one who prevails against God; Simon becomes “Peter”=”the Rock” on which I will build my church.

When Moses asks for God’s name in our first reading this Sunday, this is of great significance, for to know a person’s name was an indication of a personal relationship, to be able to call someone by name represented a certain level of equality or power in the relationship.  It could also represent an attempt to exert control over that person, which is why Jesus always silenced the demons he cast out of people in the gospels, who were trying to speak out his name.

Just what was the name given by God in his encounter in today’s first reading?  Ancient Hebrew was given in consonant letters without vowels.  Only after many centuries did scribes add vowel notations.  It is commonly conjectured that the YHVH was “Yahweh” and in time that name was not to be spoken out loud by Jewish people.  The high priest was to whisper it once a year in the inner sanctum of the Holy of Holies.  What should one say, however, when coming to the YHVH while reading the scriptural text?  “Jehovah” was a word used by some, retaining the consonant sounds but with different vowel pronunciations.  Other traditions simply replace it with the word “Lord.”  Out of respect for the Jewish tradition of not pronouncing the name out loud, the Catholic Church in recent years has discouraged the actual saying of the word “Yahweh” and requested a change in the lyrics of songs in which the word appears.