BEFORE THE CROSS | Reflections on our rejections of God’s plan

Before the Cross - Archbishop Robert J. Carlson's Column

Lisa Johnston |
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The readings this week feature a series from the Gospel of John. Jesus performs His second and third signs, healing a child and healing a lame man at the pool of Bethesda. Paradoxically, the tension surrounding His ministry grows.

It would be easy to watch this tension externally, saying: "Look at how those people are growing in their opposition to Jesus. Too bad for them!" A better path for our reflections is an internal approach, asking: "Where have I resisted Jesus, and where do I still resist Him?"

The Old Testament readings for the week give a path into this reflection. The first three readings provide visions of heaven — just as Jesus' signs do. The last three readings show how the ancient Israelites responded by rejecting God — just as people reacted to the signs Jesus was performing.

These apparent opposites — visions of heaven and visions of rejection — are united in our experiences. Hasn't God given each of us a vision, an experience, of what He wants for our lives? And haven't we, in response, rejected His vision? Let's reflect on each aspect.

In the Old Testament readings for the week, Isaiah speaks of a new heavens and a new earth; Ezekiel speaks of water flowing from the Temple that makes salt water turn fresh and feed the trees that bear fruit every month. Think of the times in your life when God has seemed close, when you experienced a little bit of heaven on earth. Rest there. Give thanks to God.

Then, keep reading. See how the Israelites responded by building the Golden Calf; see how they plotted against the prophet Jeremiah. Think of the times in your life when you turned your back on God. Pause there. Turn to God in repentance.

In the seventh chapter of John, we read that "a division occurred in the crowd because of Jesus." We also know, from our experiences, that divisions occur in us because of Jesus. Part of us wants to follow Him and part of us doesn't. In the midst of that experience, what are we to do?

In our fallen state, we can't simply resolve that tension by a decision. Only the power of God can resolve it. So we resolve the tension by turning to God's mercy.

As we move into the fourth week of Lent, Palm Sunday appears on the horizon. It's one of the most psychologically challenging celebrations we have: in the Gospel for the procession, the congregation speaks for the crowds who welcomed Jesus with almost boundless enthusiasm. Then, in the Gospel for the Passion, the congregation speaks for that same crowd who, just a few days later, called for His crucifixion. But it's true, isn't it? Our commitments are sometimes just as fickle as that crowd 2,000 years ago.

Let's carry this reflection into the next few weeks as we turn toward Palm Sunday. Instead of pointing at others who rejected Jesus, let's look at ways we have rejected Jesus. And instead of being frustrated with our inconsistency, let's capitalize on the Year of Mercy. Let's take our inconsistency and pivot toward the Lord's mercy. Then, let's use our experiences to prepare to make a good confession this Holy Week. 

Archbishop Robert J. Carlson's calendar

Monday, March 7

6 p.m. Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem Stations of the Cross at St. Joseph Church in Cottleville

Tuesday, March 8

Noon Priest Personnel board meeting

Wednesday, March 9

Institute for Priestly Formation Mission Advisory Council meeting in Omaha, Neb. 

Bishop Edward M. Rice's calendar

Monday, March 7

10 a.m. Curia leadership meeting

2 p.m. Northeast County Deanery pastors meeting

Tuesday, March 8

7:30 a.m. Spanish Mass at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary

Noon Priest Personnel Board meeting

3:45 p.m. St. Charles Deanery meeting at St. Cletus Church

Thursday, March 10

U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Catholic Education Committee meeting in Washington, D.C.

Friday, March 11

8 a.m. Mass and Annual Catholic Appeal check presentation at Valle High School

Saturday, March 12

Noon Mass for the Legion of 1,000 Adorers at Mount Grace Convent

6 p.m. Nazareth Living Center Donor Recognition Dinner

Sunday, March 13

9 a.m. Visit Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults session at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church

10:30 a.m. Mass at St. James the Greater Church

4 p.m. Fundraiser for St. Elizabeth, Mother of St. John the Baptist Parish at the Mariott-St. Louis Airport 

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