The Sacred Journey Preparing For Easter

A Biblical Reflection

by Ernest Varosi, C.R.

     As we pray and ponder the mystery of Jesus passion, death and resurrection let us ask God to create a new heart in our lives and societies, so that we may turn away from the ashes of destruction and begin to embrace more fully the new life given us by Christ.

          Jesus is our model because Jesus throughout manifests full, complete and active adherence to the will of him who sent him. His passion glorifies the Father because it forcefully reveals the power of his love that saves the whole of human kind.

          Every journey begins with a single step. To take that step one must have the desire to make the journey. Every journey is a voyage of discovery. Sometimes the terrain traveled is familiar, sometimes the terrain is seen for the first time; whatever the case, the Sacred journey is a journey intended to enhance our relationship with God and meet the Risen Christ in a new way.

          Biblically, the first person to undertake a personal journey of faith and discovery is Abraham and his wife Sarah. "Now the Lord said to Abram (Abraham) 'Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you.'" (Genesis 12:1) Two things are implied in this invitation: A journey into the unknown based on trust and faith and a personal journey of discovery of this God who offers the invitation and promise of blessing.

          In spirituality the desert or wilderness is symbolic of the struggle to obey, heed, and listen to the voice of God who calls and issues the invitation. It is often tortuous, twisting, challenging involving purging, purifying, cleansing so that one's personal self can experience transformation through the process of dying to the old self and rising to new life, a life of total trust and intimacy with the One Who Calls.

          A we touch upon key moments in the life of Jesus' journey we will try to make applications to our own journey of faith.


O Risen Lord, the Way, the Truth and the Life, 
make us faithful followers of the spirit of Your Resurrection. 
Grant that we may be inwardly renewed: 
dying to ourselves in order that You may live in us. 
May our lives serve as signs of the transforming power of Your love.
Use us as Your instruments for the renewal of society,
bringing Your life and love to all people, 
and leading them to Your Church. 
This we ask of you, Lord Jesus, 
living and reigning with the Father,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God forever.

The Sacred Journey Preparing for Easter

First Biblical Reflection

The Desert Experience As Foundational For Spirituality
(Establishing The Relationship)

Theme:  Jesus and I begin the journey. The first experience is the desert where
             one faces self and God.

The baptism and wilderness experience was very significant for Jesus as a person and for his ministry. Read slowly the following passage while imagining yourself out in the wilderness with Jesus.

Scripture Reading from Mark 1:12-15
          The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert (wilderness), and he remained in the desert (wilderness) for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him.
          After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: "This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel." (cf. Matt 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13)

Set the scene!

The desert appears in the Bible as an "intermediate" time, a "time between": one can travel through the desert, but not settle down there. Forty years, forty days: this is the "time of the desert" for the people of Israel during their journey, but also for Moses, Elijah, and Jesus. It is a stretch of time that can be endured only if we learn to be patient, to await and to persevere, accepting the high price of hope. (Enzo Bianchi, Words of the Inner Life)
Reflection Starters!
  1. Why did Jesus spend time in the desert? For what purpose? What could he have been struggling with? (tempted by Satan)
  2. What can one learn in the "desert" (being alone) regarding self, others, mission, world?
  3. What makes the "desert experience" of Jesus foundational for spirituality?
  4. What "desert" experiences have you had that were foundational for your spirituality?
  5. What is the connection that Mark makes between Jesus' baptism, temptation, and mission.
  6. In what way is Jesus, after the desert experience, different from the earlier Jesus?
  7. What temptations do I face that challenge my resolve to remain firmly among the followers of Jesus?
  8. In what ways has Jesus shown me the way?

The Sacred Journey Preparing for Easter

Second  Biblical Reflection

Jesus, The Beloved Son - Our Christian identity


Theme: Jesus and I share a common relationship with God, Our Father. 
            I am the beloved son or daughter. This is my identity as Christian.

This is a defining moment for the disciples because Jesus manifests to them and to us an important truth about who he is and the work for which he was sent (John 4:34). God the Father loves his Son, and the Son loves the Father. Love of God transfigures people. You and I are transfigured by our love of God. Read the following passage slowly while imagining yourself on the mountain with the disciples.

Scripture Reading from Mk 9:2-10
           Jesus took Peter, James, and John and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller (worker in cloth) on earth could bleach them.
           Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses, and they were conversing with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, "Rabbi, it is good that we are here! Let us make three tents: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." He [Peter] hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified.
          Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them; from the cloud came a [the] voice [of God], "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.

(Matt 17:1-8; Luke 9:28-36 and Mal 4:5-6; Matt 3:17; John 12:28-29; 2Peter 1:17-18)

Set the scene!

The manifestation of God - Theophany, that is, God revealing himself to men and women occurs many times in Scripture. They are frequently associated with particular holy places. Often associated with a call of a prophet or of some individual, e.g. Abraham, Moses, the prophets and Jesus. The call can be simple or accompanied by natural phenomena, for example, earthquake, fire, cloud, wind. The recipient is given a revelation or call. Common to these experiences is the combined experience of dread and fascination that is characteristic of awe before the holy. (Harper's Bible Dictionary, Theophany)
Reflection Starters!
  1. If Jesus is the beloved Son, then, through baptism, I am the beloved son or daughter. What does this mean in my life?
  2. The disciples, and we, are invited to climb the mountain with Jesus. What mountains am I afraid to climb?
  3. When and where are you most awake to God's presence (glory) in your life?
  4. What makes "me" the beloved? How often do I think of this truth?
  5. To go to the mountain is to encounter God? What can happen when I encounter God in the core of my being?
  6. "This is my Beloved Son. Listen to Him." In what ways does the Beloved Son speak to me?

The Sacred Journey Preparing for Easter

Third Biblical Reflection

The Zeal Of Jesus For Fhe Father's House The Fire Within

Theme: Jesus and I share a common zeal of bringing others to a deeper awareness
            of God's love, holiness, and the desire for conversion.

This is another defining moment for Jesus and for those who adhere to him. It reveals the fire within Jesus. Read the following passage slowly while imagining yourself in the temple area and witnessing this action of Jesus.

Scripture Reading from John 2:13-25
          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."
          His disciples recalled the words of Scripture, "Zeal for your house will consume me" (Ps. 69:9). At this the Jews answered and said to him, "What sign can you show us for doing this?" Jesus answered and said to them, "Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up."
          The Jews said, "This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and you will raise it up in three days?" But he was speaking about the temple of his body. Therefore, when he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they came to believe the Scripture and the word Jesus had spoken.
          While he was in Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, many began to believe in his name when they saw the signs he was doing. But Jesus would not trust himself to them because he knew them all, and did not need anyone to testify about human nature. He himself understood it well. (Matt 21:12-17; Mark 11:15-19; Luke 19:45-48)

Set the scene!

If ever there were an example of change or conversion, it would be the cleansing of the temple by Jesus. In John this action is at the beginning of Jesus' ministry because it belongs to the theme of conversion. Jesus is not driving out the animals and money-changers from the temple area in order to correct some liturgical abuse. Jesus action is prophetic (sign) and represents a challenge to what the temple has come to signify for the people of that time (a market place). It (the people) was unable to welcome the God of change and progress. We know of course that we humans are constantly tempted to forget that, while we must make plans and maintain some kind of order in life, we must also be aware that the creative power of the Spirit may at any moment call for changes that we would tend to resist. (Dumm, A Mystical Portrait of Jesus, 97-98)
Reflection Starters!
  1. This action of Jesus occurs in the temple precincts shortly before the observance of the Passover. How does this action become another defining moment for Jesus?
  2. Does the action of Jesus surprise you, disturb you, upset you? Why?
  3. What is the "zeal" (not an outburst of temper, but the energy of goodness against those to whom religion had become a business) that consumes Jesus? How is this action a manifestation of Sonship?
  4. What things in your life that need to be removed so that your person becomes a house of prayer? What is the fire that burns within you?
  5. It is said that faith which rests merely on signs and not on him to whom they point is shallow and unstable. How can one improve the quality of one's faith and the depth of commitment to the Gospel?
  6. How do you feel about people in our contemporary church who behave with zeal? What makes their behaviour like Jesus', or different from his?
  7. What is the connection between Jesus' zeal, passion, death and resurrection?

The Sacred Journey Preparing for Easter

Fourth Biblical Reflection

Suffering And Glory Await Jesus In Jerusalem.

Theme: Jesus in Jerusalem enters upon the climactic act of his earthly mission 
            as the beloved Son. I, too, will need to face the truth of being the 
            beloved son or daughter.

Jesus, the beloved Son of the Father, has come to Jerusalem where he will complete the work for which he was sent (John 4:34). In doing so he will set an example for all who wish to follow him. Read the following passage slowly while imagining yourself among those seeking to meet Jesus. I also hear the challenge offered to those who wish to follow him.

Scripture Reading from John 12:20-33
           Now there were some Greeks among those who had come up to worship at the feast. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, "Sir, we would like to see Jesus." Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.
          "Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be. The Father will honor whoever serves me.
          "I am troubled now. Yet what should I say? 'Father, save me from this hour'? But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name."
          Then a voice came from heaven, "I have glorified it and will glorify it again."
          The crowd there heard it and said it was thunder; but others said, "An angel has spoken to him." Jesus answered and said, "This voice did not come for my sake but for yours. Now is the time of judgment on this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself." He said this indicating the kind of death he would die.

Set the scene!

"The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified." Whereas before Jesus said "My hour has not yet come," now Jesus announces that the "hour" has come. It comes because of opposition to Jesus and because of the adulation of the crowds. The "hour" arrives because opposition to Jesus reaches its inevitable outcome: the officials seek his death. But also his success with the world, but the world is fickle, seeking tomorrow after another who might do more astonishing signs or offer more soothing advice. The world is not able to believe that Jesus is from God and to follow after him. The attitude of Jesus toward his impending death becomes a model for all believers. Jesus connects his own death with a certain understanding that life cannot be hoarded away; only those prepared to give up everything can receive the gift of "eternal life," both now and hereafter. (Texts for preaching, 237-39)
Reflection starters!
  1. The event described by John is more significant for us than for Jesus because Jesus through his actions demonstrates that obedience is costly and that he "learned" obedience from the experience of what it costs to obey when obedience is crucifying. What is obedience? Are there limits? In what was Jesus' obedience rooted?
  2. What new meaning does the saying of Jesus: "Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit" acquire when applied to the Christian? What 'grain of wheat' in your life must fall and die to become more?
  3. We are told that some Greeks approached Philip: "Sir, we would like to see (meet) Jesus!" Through this passage John informs us that access to faith is gradual and that to see Jesus one must be led by an apostle or, today, by the immediate bearers - Christians. How welcoming is your witness to Jesus?
  4. The process of dying to self is always in relationship to others, e.g., accepting others despite shortcomings, to stop judging and be in right relationship with God. Why did Jesus have difficulty teaching his disciples and others to embrace his life of self-giving?
  5. Jesus is our model because Jesus throughout manifests full, complete and active adherence to the will of him who sent him. His passion glorifies the Father because it forcefully reveals the power of his love that saves the whole of human kind. As a committed follower of Jesus what opportunities are there for self-giving love in my life? How can one witness to the truth of being the beloved son or daughter?

The Sacred Journey Preparing for Easter

Fifth Biblical Reflection

The Meaning Of The Cross And The Empty Tomb For The Christian

Theme:  Jesus shows us the way! Jesus' death fulfills Scripture (John 19:28)
             and brings to an end the work for which he was sent (John 4:34):
             to manifest to all people the name of his Father, who gave everything 
             to him (John 17:6-7). To follow Jesus is the way that leads to glory.

The total surrender of Jesus to the Father: "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit." Imagine yourself standing silently with Mary and the women gazing on the dead Jesus and later silently standing before the tomb as you read slowly the following passage.

Scripture Reading from John 19:25-27,30, 40-42
          Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, "Woman, behold, your son." Then he said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother." And from that hour the disciple took her into his home....
          They took the body of Jesus and bound it with burial cloths along with the spices, according to the Jewish burial custom.
          Now in the place where he had been crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had yet been buried. So they laid Jesus there because of the Jewish preparation day; for the tomb was close by.

Set the scene!

This passage describes for us the climactic moment in the life of Jesus. Near the cross was the presence of faithful women and the "disciple whom he loved" (15:40). John seems to see this intimate scene at the cross as a sign of how Jesus prepares for the future when he will no longer be physically present to his disciples. Mary will become the spiritual mother of all those who believe in her Son. Jesus at the time of personal agony is nonetheless thinking of others and is soley concerned with providing for their welfare. An example the power of unselfish love. Challenges our secular culture's despair in the presence of weakness and death, and reminds us that the possibility of loving continues even when strength begins to ebb and may even be more fruitful than ever before. (A Mystical Portrait of Jesus, 28-29, 34-35)
Reflection Starters!
  1. The dramatic scene of Jesus on the Cross reveals his glorification. In order to be where he is the disciples must follow Jesus by showing determination similar to his, they must go to the point of losing their lives, they must detach themselves from their lives "in this world" to "preserve them for eternal life." In what ways can one in dying to the small things learn to live in a world of life and death, suffering and joy, with God?
  2. Mary patiently stands by the Cross and quietly ponders the scene before her, surrendering her son and herself to God. She says nothing. What can one learn from her patience and faith? Have you ever stood before the cross? What were your thoughts? Would you put your arm around her?
  3. In the moments preceding his death Jesus prepares for the future when he no longer will be physically present to his disciples. What symbolic role is given to Mary (Woman) and John (Beloved Disciple)? In Genesis 3:20 Eve is called the mother of all the living. How is Mary a new Eve?
  4. John 20:1-18 and parallel passages describe incredible events attainable only by faith. What meaning has the cross and the tomb for the Christian? In what ways does the journey with Jesus help me in my journey through life?

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