Sunday, March 27, 2016

Second Sunday of Easter/Sunday of Divine Mercy - April 3, 2016

First Reading Commentary
Solomon’s portico was outside of the temple area and was open to all walks of life: Jew and Gentile, the repentant and unrepentant.  It was a large place, therefore, suitable for crowds.  It’s not likely that these gatherings would have been allowed by the temple priests if Solomon’s portico was within the temple area. 

Many signs and wonders were done among the people at the hands of the apostles.  Jesus healed many of the infirmed with the imposition of His Hands.  In His Name the apostles are carrying on with His healing ministry.  These are the beginnings of the Church and as the text reads, great numbers of men and women were added to the Church.  That statement rings true every year at the Easter Vigil; and that ongoing addition to the Church’s numbers is also miraculous but beyond the physical.  The Holy Spirit is touching hearts and souls.  There is great faith seen here as those who were sick believed that even Peter’s shadow could heal them. 

As the great mystic Padre Pio informed us, the entire heavenly court is present at Mass.  We stand, we sit and we kneel in the shadows of our Lady and all the saints, confident that they are interceding for us. 

In John’s Gospel (14:12) Jesus says: “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in Me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these.”  Perhaps in this Reading we are seeing at least a partial fulfillment of what Jesus had foretold.  Saint Augustine uses this Reading to turn our focus to the communion of saints in heaven.  He points out that if Peter could heal the sick by casting his shadow over them, how much more help to us is Peter and all the saints now that they are permanent citizens of heaven.
Second Reading Commentary
In this, the Second Reading, we read from what is probably the most perplexing book in all of Sacred Scripture.  It was believed to have been written by Saint John, the apostle of Jesus Christ, at least according to some of the early Church Fathers.  Some of the other Fathers, however, have denied this; hence the author of the Book of Revelation is not definitively known.  It was written in Greek on the island of Patmos where Saint John was exiled. 

The first verse sums up what is inevitable if we are to truly be disciples of Christ – distress - in other words, the cross.  This is a shared calling or experience when faithfully proclaiming the glory of God in word and deed which is ultimately giving testimony to Jesus. 

What is witnessed by the author occurred on a Sunday, the Lord’s Day.  A voice as loud as a trumpet is heard which signifies that something of great importance is about to be revealed.  There are some writings which suggest that the voice is not that of the Lord but instead Saint John the Baptist who proclaimed himself as a voice crying in the wilderness.  It’s difficult to ascertain if what John saw when he turned was the source of the voice. 

The seven gold lampstands represent the seven churches of Asia.  In the midst of the lampstands is one like a son of man who is either a representative of our Lord, such as an angel, or Jesus Christ Himself.  Being in the midst of the lampstands delineates Christ’s watchful Eye over the Church.  The ankle-length robe and gold sash are the garments of a priest, and in this case, quite possibly our High Priest, Jesus Christ.  The message proclaimed here, “Do not be afraid,” is an assurance that regardless of how heavy the cross becomes, Christ is always in the midst of His Church, enlightening, protecting and sanctifying her.  Christ is the First and the Last, the Alpha and the Omega.  As God, Christ is always alive; as Man He once died on the Cross for the salvation of humanity, but triumphed over sin and death by rising from the dead.  He holds the keys to death and has power over all things as God and Man.  

That trumpet must always be echoing in our souls, constantly reminding us that even though many of the things which we are privy to in this life can become extremely depressing and discouraging, that heavenly trumpet enchants the soul with the message that our Lord did not die and rise in vain, our Blessed Mother was not pierced with a sword in vain, holy men and women were not persecuted in vain, nor did the martyrs spill their blood in vain; and we do not defend Holy Mother Church in vain – our dear Lord and Savior is still very much in charge.
Gospel Commentary
Exactly how Jesus was able to appear in the midst of His disciples when the doors were locked cannot be comprehended.  It does show, however, that Jesus is not limited to the laws of time and space; and for this reason it is an act of faith to accept the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.  For if Jesus is capable of walking through locked doors He is certainly capable of hiding Himself under the species of bread and wine. 

Jesus shows His disciples His Hands and His Side so that they can verify that the risen Body in which He appears to them is the same Body that had been tortured and crucified, for it still bears the traces of His Passion (cf. CCC 645). 

Jesus breathes on His disciples; from this hour onward, the mission of Christ and the Spirit becomes the mission of the Church: “As the Father has sent Me, so I send you.” 

Christ gives His apostles the power to forgive sins when He says: “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”  The apostles at this moment are given some portion of the gifts of the Spirit.  It is at Pentecost when a deluge of spiritual gifts and graces is poured out. 

Saint Gregory the Great points out that the unbelief of Thomas is of greater advantage to the strengthening of our faith, than the ready belief of the rest of the apostles.  For when he proceeded to touch the Wounds of Christ, Thomas is aiding us in laying aside our own lack of faith.  Thomas puts to rest our own lack of faith when he says: “My Lord and my God!”  This is such a great divine mystery!  Thomas is able to touch the physical Wounds of Jesus and yet let us not forget that Jesus first appeared to them by penetrating a locked door which means that Jesus was also able to withdraw at will from His physicality.  Jesus said to Thomas: “Have you come to believe because you have seen Me?  Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”  This verse is aimed at all future Christians, including us.  We are counted among the blessed because we have not seen these events occur but we believe in their authenticity.  However, it must be said that if you’ve been to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, you’ve been to the Passion.  The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ which occurred in a moment of time was so great, so unfathomable, so transforming for humanity, that the laws of time and space are unable to contain it. 

On this Sunday of Divine Mercy, it is a very great mercy of God, and an unthinkable privilege for us to be at Calvary each and every Mass, and yet be spared of its horrific visuals. 
here are many things about Christ that will always remain a mystery but as the Catechism of the Catholic Church points out: “Many things about Jesus of interest to human curiosity do not figure in the Gospels.  Almost nothing is said about His hidden life at Nazareth, and even a great part of His public life is not recounted.  What is written in the Gospels was set down there so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His Name” (CCC 514).  Let us not allow curiosity to consume us or let what is unknown about Jesus torture us, but instead let us spend time in stillness adoring Jesus, seeking His Face where He remains hidden -  in the tabernacle of our soul.  

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Palm Sunday - March 20, 2016

First Reading Commentary
The Church has always venerated Sacred Scripture and sees in it the Word of God which will rouse the faithful.  The Church also believes that it is the Word, Jesus Christ, Who will rouse the faithful from eternal sleep, bringing them into eternal life. 

In this Reading we find a prophecy about the Messiah Who, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, is embracing our form as a slave, taking death upon Himself so that He can communicate His own Spirit of life (cf. CCC 713).  Isaiah here speaks as a figure of Christ whose words carry conviction and comfort. 

"I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting.”  In these words we see a great indignity, and yet this is how our Lord was treated. 

The final verse shows that even with all the cruel punishment Christ endured; and all the lies spoken to falsely accuse Him, Jesus was not intimidated by any of it and put His complete trust in the Father. 

Every one of us could speak words that are connected with suffering; no one is a stranger to suffering.  Our prayer is to have the courage to follow in the Footsteps of Jesus, accepting our suffering, trusting that the Lord God is our help and we shall not be put to shame.

Second Reading Commentary
The Catechism of the Catholic Church asserts that by attributing to Jesus the divine title “Lord,” the first confessions of the Church’s faith affirm from the beginning that the power, honor, and glory due to God the Father are due also to Jesus, because He was in the form of God, and the Father manifested the sovereignty of Jesus by raising Him from the dead and exalting Him into His glory (cf. CCC 449). 

Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who is God Almighty, out of His love for us, became Man; and not just any man, but a Slave.  Why?  By becoming a slave, Jesus is in the form of a fallen humanity, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God (cf. CCC 602).  He took on our way of life under the most difficult circumstances.  Jesus, in complete humility, united His Divine Person to the nature of man and was obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  The Name Jesus represents the dignity of the One Who bears the Name, and even as a Man is exalted above all creation.  All creation will either piously worship Him or be subject to Him at the judgment.  Whatever path is chosen, both have the same end result: Every knee will bend and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Gospel Commentary
The Church celebrates the mystery of her Lord until He comes when God will be everything to everyone.  The liturgy thus shares in Jesus’ desire: “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you” until it is fulfilled in the Kingdom of God (cf. CCC 1130).  “He took a cup, gave thanks, and said, ‘Take this and share it among yourselves’.  It’s important to note that at this point the cup contains wine only; not the Blood of Jesus.  Jesus is following the Jewish custom of the Passover in which the father or leader at the table pours wine into a glass or cup, blesses the wine and passes it around the table for the family and guests.  Jesus says: “I tell you that from this time on I shall not drink of the fruit of the vine until the Kingdom of God comes”; whenever the Church celebrates the Eucharist she remembers this promise and turns her gaze to Him Who is to come (cf. CCC 1403). 

“He took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, saying: ‘This is My Body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of Me’.  And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying: ‘This cup is the new covenant in My Blood, which will be shed for you’.”  Now Passover customs are finished and this is the real deal.  Jesus consecrates the bread and wine and changes it into His own Precious Body and Blood.  The Council of Trent stated: “Because Christ our Redeemer said that it was truly His Body that He was offering under the species of bread, it has always been the conviction of the Church that by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the Body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of wine into the substance of His Blood.  This change the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly called ‘transubstantiation’.”  The Eucharist that Jesus institutes at this moment is the memorial of His Sacrifice which will very shortly occur.  Jesus includes the apostles in His own offering and with the words, “do this in memory of Me” instructs them to continue this as a perpetual memorial thus instituting them as priests of the New and Everlasting Covenant. 

Saint Cyril strengthens our faith in the Eucharist with these words: “Do not doubt whether this is true, but rather receive the words of the Savior in faith, for since He is the Truth, He cannot lie.” 

Jesus next tells the apostles that He will be betrayed by one of them.  His ability to know this in advance shows His Divinity.  The apostles’ apparent concern as to who would do such a thing immediately shifts to an argument as to which of them is the greatest.  Jesus teaches them a lesson in greatness which is somewhat foreign to a worldly definition of greatness; the one who serves is the greatest, not the one who is served.  Greatness in a worldly sense is often measured by ways such as political office held, financial status, athletic ability or even having a genius IQ; and most of these examples, if not all, lead others to be envious of such gifts, therefore, giving the illusion of greatness.  When employed by Jesus, however, our capacity for love would seem to be the key.  It takes love to serve willingly; it takes love to care for those who cannot care for themselves; it takes love to attempt to save innocent and defenseless life; it takes love to labor tirelessly for righteousness; and it takes love to pray for those who spit in the face of morality. 

“It is you who have stood by Me in My trials; and I confer a Kingdom on you, just as My Father has conferred one on Me, that you may eat and drink at My table in My Kingdom.”  These words express the fellowship of the Church with Jesus.  Jesus associates His disciples with His own life, reveals the mystery of the Kingdom to them and gives them a share in His mission, joy and sufferings (cf. CCC 787). 

Jesus tells His apostles that they will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.  From the beginning of His own Ministry Jesus chose these twelve men to share in His Ministry and now they are the foundation stones of the New Jerusalem and it is through them that Jesus guides and governs the Church. 

“Simon, Simon, behold Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed that your own faith may not fail; and once you have turned back, you must strengthen your brothers.”  Simon Peter here is singled out as the leader of the apostles and is called upon to strengthen his brothers; and in these words is found not only what Satan desired but also what God permitted because it is through perseverance in trials that faith is strengthened.  It should also be a source of great comfort to know that Christ prays for us in the midst of our trials.  Saint Cyril has some interesting thoughts on these words to Peter as he shares: “Admire the superabundance of the divine patience.  That the disciple might not lose courage, Jesus promises him pardon before he has committed the crime, and restores him again to his apostolic dignity.”  Although Peter believes he is prepared to go to prison and die with Jesus, Jesus foretells that he will deny Him three times. 

Jesus forewarns His apostles of the coming persecution by expressing that the one who does not have a sword should sell his cloak and buy one.  Jesus was not speaking literally about a sword although the apostles mistakenly thought so which is why Jesus said, “It is enough!” when they pointed out that they have two swords.  The Savior’s words, “It is enough!” is just another way of saying, “Forget it, you don’t understand!” 

At the Mount of Olives Jesus instructs His disciples to pray that they may not undergo the test.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church reads: “In Jesus the Kingdom of God is at hand.  He calls His hearers to conversion and faith, but also to watchfulness.  In prayer the disciple keeps watch, attentive to Him Who Is and Him Who Comes, in memory of His first coming in the lowliness of the flesh, and in the hope of His second coming in glory.  In communion with their Master, the disciples’ prayer is a battle; only by keeping watch in prayer can one avoid falling into temptation” (CCC 2612). 

Jesus, in His agony, consents to the Father’s will by saying: “Not My will but Yours be done.”  To do the will of the Father is why Jesus came.  There seems to be, however, a glimpse of His Human Nature when He says: “Take this cup away from Me.”  Internal struggles must have surely existed in a Person possessing both a Human and a Divine nature.  Taking into consideration the assumed complexities of this dual-natured God-Man, even with all the covenants and prophecies foretold throughout salvation history leading up to this moment of agony, you have to wonder if the redemption of humankind was somehow hanging in the balance in the Garden of Gethsemane.  With the exception of committing sin, God fully embraced our way of life when He clothed Himself in flesh.  It’s a certainty that fear and apprehension is very much a part of our existence.  Since Divine Providence has not fully revealed it nor has anyone else ever possessed both a divine and human nature, it’s impossible to know for sure what was going on in Jesus’ Heart when He said “Take this cup away from Me.”.  It’s also interesting that in this scene of Jesus’ agony some of the ancient transcribers of the earlier texts purposely left out the portion of the text which tells of an angel appearing to Jesus to strengthen Him as well as the part about His Sweat becoming like drops of Blood falling to the ground.  They left it out because they felt it was not consistent with the dignity of Jesus. 

Once Jesus is apprehended beginning with the kiss of Judas, the apostles knew what was about to occur but still did not fully understand that it must happen, and therefore, one of them, in an attempt to defend Jesus took a sword and cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant.  Christ taught us to love our enemies and now we see the Teacher showing the students that He indeed practices what He preaches by healing the servant’s ear. 

Why did Jesus choose Judas to be an apostle?  Why would He purposely choose someone that He knew would betray Him?  It’s a given that our Lord knew He would have to be crucified to save humanity but it doesn’t seem feasible that the enemies of Jesus needed Judas in order to procure the capture of our Savior.  If Jesus’ enemies wanted Him that badly it seems logical they would have caught up with Him eventually and seized Him.  The answer to the Judas mystery might be found at the Last Supper.  Jesus instituted the ministerial priesthood at the Last Supper and since Judas was one of the chosen twelve and present at the Last Supper he would have to be considered a valid priest.  Maybe, just maybe the memory of Judas lingers on because Jesus put him forth as a reminder to His Church that not every priest will be holy, not every priest will be faithful, and occasionally there will be some wolves among the sheepfold.  If this is the reason, then it would certainly be significant today when considering the recent wounds that have been inflicted upon the Church. 

Jesus’ captors led Him away and took Him into the house of the high priest.  Peter followed at a distance and is accused three times of being one who followed Jesus and knew Him.  Peter denies it all three times and then the cock crowed thus making Jesus’ prediction come true: “I tell you, Peter, before the cock crows this day, you will deny three times that you know Me.”  This scene is a reminder of something that perhaps we’ve all been guilty of at least one time in our life: “The Family Room versus the Locker Room” - Behaving piously around pious people but afraid to express our love for Jesus when placed in a setting with people who might ridicule us for it.  The Lord turned and looked at Peter and he began to weep bitterly.  The Catechism refers to this look as a look of infinite mercy which drew tears of repentance from Peter (cf. CCC 1429). 

Jesus is sent to Pontius Pilate who listens to the people’s false accusations against Jesus but Pilate believing that Jesus falls under Herod’s jurisdiction sends Jesus to him.  Pilate was actually obeying a Roman law which forbade a governor to condemn anyone who did not fall under his jurisdiction.  Herod was longing to see Jesus and wanted to see some sort of miracle performed by Him.  Herod and his soldiers mocked Jesus which would make one conclude that Herod had no fears, suspicions or beliefs that Jesus was of divine origin.  Herod sent Him back to Pilate.  Pilate finds nothing in Jesus that is worthy of death plus he knew that if there was any crime committed, Herod would have seen to it that Jesus was punished.  Pilate sees no evidence of a capital crime and so would rather have Jesus flogged and returned to His people.  It was a customary Jewish practice to scourge those whose crimes were not worthy of death.  The law in the Old Testament indicates that the number of lashes is not to exceed forty (cf. Deuteronomy 25:3).  It should be noted, however, that the Latin Vulgate at this stage in this Gospel doesn’t explicitly make any reference to having Jesus flogged or scourged.  The Latin translates Pilate’s words to mean: “I will chastise Him, therefore, and release Him.”  Chastisement may imply flogging but it could possibly be another form of punishment permissible by Roman law.  Regardless of the form of punishment, let us not forget that Jesus has done nothing wrong thus making any form of punishment unwarranted. 

Pilate is attempting to take the middle road by neither completely sparing an innocent Victim nor seeing to it that justice is served at least as far as Christ’s accusers are concerned.  Pilate, probably fearing some sort of a revolt, finally surrenders to the demands of the accusers and hands Jesus over to them.  Notice that the text reads that Pilate handed Jesus over to His accusers for them to deal with Him as they wished; this political move spares Pilate of ever being accused of breaking Roman law. 

Barabbas is released from prison and is granted his freedom.  To fulfill the will of the Father, Jesus came to take our place and we see indisputable evidence of this here with Jesus taking the place of Barabbas, a murderer and therefore the most hardened of sinners. 

One of the themes that Saint Luke felt was important when writing his Gospel was the need to follow in Jesus’ Footsteps as he expressed in this portion of the Gospel by writing that Simon, a Cyrenian, carried the Cross behind Jesus and then following it up with the words: “A large crowd of people followed Jesus, including many women who mourned and lamented Him..”  Jesus’ words to the lamenting women can be confusing; He is warning them that even though His death is necessary for the salvation of humanity, many evils will still invade the world to the point that barren women will be called blessed because they won’t have to subject their children to these evils; and those who are subjected to it will plead to the mountains to fall on them and the hills to cover them.  There’s some symbolism here but it is meant to show that our true joy and happiness cannot be supplied by the world because anything of the world is temporary and perhaps even deceiving. 

The “green wood” is symbolic of virtuous and holy people of whom Jesus is the Emblem; and the “dry wood” represents evil and the condemned since it is dry wood that can be cast into the fire.  These are not easy words to listen to or accept, but they come from One Who not only speaks the truth but is the Truth. 

Jesus is led to a place called Calvary or the Skull which is located a short distance from Jerusalem.  It is called the Skull because it is where criminals were often beheaded.  Legend has it that it is also where the remains of Adam are buried.  Jesus came to take the place of fallen humanity and now on the Cross we see Him center stage, surrounded by fallen humanity: two criminals crucified with Him, one on His left and one on His right, as well as all the onlookers who were sneering at Him and tempting Him to save Himself if He is the Christ. 

Next we see the unfathomable ocean of mercy that knows no depths when our Lord says: “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”  This not only instructs us to forgive others but also reveals the need for intercessory prayer, not only for those who ask for our prayers but also for those who have harmed us.  On the Cross Jesus is not only interceding for those who demanded and carried out His Crucifixion, but also for all of humanity - past, present and future.  Saint Augustine summarizes that there are three dimensions to Jesus’ prayer on the Cross: “He prays for us as our Priest, prays in us as our Head, and is prayed to by us as our God.” 

On His Cross is the inscription, “This is the King of the Jews”.  The true meaning of His Kingship is revealed only when He is raised high on the Cross because on the tree is the Son of Man Who came not to be served but to serve, and to give His Life as a ransom for many (cf. CCC 440). 

Jesus promises Paradise to the one traditionally known as the good thief.  He promises entry into Paradise on the very same day as the Crucifixion.  It took Jesus three days to rise from the dead and then, according to the Acts of the Apostles (1:3), forty days later to ascend into heaven.  This apparent inconsistency has led some of the saints to theologize about it like Saint Augustine who says that the soul of the good thief entered into heaven where Jesus was always present by His Divinity; Saint Cyril of Jerusalem says that the good thief was granted entrance even before the patriarchs and prophets; and Saint John Chrysostom believes that the good thief was actually the first person in all of humanity to enter into Paradise.  Something else to consider is that when Jesus spoke the words “this day” He was possibly referring to eternity where the element of time doesn’t exist. 

With all the trials and struggles of this life, we are constantly coming to the cross - but which thief are you?  Do you complain about your cross and tell God to get you out of your predicament; or do you faithfully accept whatever comes, trusting that at the end of it all, Paradise awaits you?  For most of us, the characteristics of both thieves have been exhibited from time-to-time.  There are good days and bad days!  The goal, of course, is to always be like the good thief, accepting the cross and trusting that our Lord shares it with us and He will ultimately give us eternal joy and peace. 

Just before Jesus breathes His last He cries out: “Father into Your Hands I commend My Spirit.”  The Church prays these very words in her Night Prayer (Compline) just before retiring to bed. 

As the centurion witnessed what happened to Jesus he said: “Vere hic Homo iustus erat - Indeed this was a just Man.”  It’s difficult to speculate exactly what was on the centurion’s heart at this moment but the text does read that he glorified God.  Now, this could mean that he believed in God but it could also mean that he didn’t believe in God but his words nevertheless were spoken under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, therefore glorifying God as well as exposing his words to God’s children until the end of time. 

Did the centurion believe that Jesus was the Son of God?  Probably not - it’s difficult to know for certain but not even the apostles at that time fully grasped the meaning of Jesus’ death; and so, it would be a stretch to suggest that the centurion comprehended this occurrence of such theological depth; plus it’s not likely that any bystander could ever believe that the Son of God could be killed.  Almost certainly though, the centurion was extremely impressed with what he witnessed, watching a crucified Man asking His Father to forgive them because they know not what they do.  Since Jesus did not return any insults or curse His executioners and blasphemers, the centurion must have seen Jesus minimally as a remarkably innocent and just Man. 

How sad and abandoned the followers of Jesus must have felt when these events occurred.  We have the luxury of knowing that it doesn’t end here.  We have also been given an incredible gift because of these events, namely the Eucharist.  The Catechism reminds us that in the Eucharist Christ gives us the very Body which He gave up for us on the Cross and the very Blood which He poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins (cf: CCC 1365). 

The Mass re-presents the Sacrifice on the Cross.  Saint Pio of Pietrelcina, a stigmatist, and perhaps more affectionately known as Padre Pio, once said: “It would be easier for the earth to carry on without the sun than without the Holy Mass.”

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Fifth Sunday of Lent - March 13, 2016

First Reading Commentary
One can easily marvel at the miracle that God worked for His people by bringing them out of the slavery of Egypt.  In fact, most parishes will proclaim that miraculous event in one of the Readings at the Easter Vigil; and of course, virtually everyone looks forward to the annual showing of "The Ten Commandments" with its all-star cast.  But as great as that event in salvation history was, we are not eyewitnesses.  Thus our Lord would have us turn our focus to “something new”. 
The miraculous crossing of the Israelites occurred in a moment of time.  Christ's salvific act, although it occurred in a moment of time, miraculously mingles with eternity.  The Sacrifice of the Lamb of God is witnessed at each and every Mass and the fruits of this Supreme Sacrifice are received at Mass in the Eucharist and ultimately in eternal life – if one can actually say that something eternal is ultimate.  Thus God desires us to be eyewitnesses of something that is not only new, but forever new.
Notice that our Lord is offering “water in the desert”. That is to say: in our times of personal prayer, our times of being alone, He tells us that we’re not alone; He is with us.  He offers us water; meaning that He will sustain us in our prayer, in our relationship with Him.
Second Reading Commentary
For some Christians, sadly, “the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus” is an abstract thought.  There are many reasons for this; among them include the highly secularized society we live in, and the failure to pursue Christ beyond the Sunday obligation. 
Any relationship that doesn't bond in some way will struggle.  How heart wrenching is the concept that sees Jesus rightly as the Savior, but the veil in this valley of tears which blocks spiritual vision suggests that He is out there somewhere and not really lovingly involved in the lives of humanity; while at the other end of the relational spectrum, Saint Paul considers “everything as a loss” because he knows his Lord and Savior so intimately.  In fact, Saint Paul even goes so far as to refer to all things as “rubbish” which is a very good rendering of the Greek text. 
Admittedly, it seems harsh to call all other relationships and moral joys rubbish, but what Saint Paul is doing is hoisting the greatness of Christ to an unfathomable level rather than actually degrading everything else.  Saint Paul does, after all, define his knowledge of Christ as a “supreme good” which undoubtedly puts his relationship with Jesus at a level that few can comprehend. 
Paul acknowledges that any righteousness he possesses was dealt to him by the gift of faith.  Our Lord already knows what we can do with the gift of faith but desires that we surrender to His will in order to show us what He can do with our gift of faith.  A human being is not capable by his/her own merits of joyfully sharing in the life of Christ and knowing “the power of His Resurrection”.  We can't conform ourselves to Jesus without His help.  This intimate level that Saint Paul already enjoys still longs for an even higher level of maturity; but Paul divulges the secret: “I have indeed been taken possession of by Christ Jesus.”  And this possession is not caused by any kind of obtrusiveness on our Lord's part, for that would be contrary to divine love; but rather, it is a surrendering of the human will to the divine will.  Paul seeks a maturity in his relationship with Jesus that is perfect which echoes the words of our Savior: "Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5:48). 
When our Lord commands us to "be", it intimates cooperation with grace.  In other words, Christ can do the work through us but for us to "be" also requires action on our part.  This compliant cooperation with grace is what leads to “the prize of God’s upward calling”.
Gospel Commentary
It's a bit humorous, while at the same time very sad to read that the scribes and Pharisees were telling Jesus what the Law of Moses commanded; but their blindness hides from them the absurdity of what they're doing. 
What did Jesus “write on the ground with His Finger?”  Virtually everyone who reads this passage is curious.  No one knows for certain except for those who witnessed it; but the Old Testament may provide a clue.  First of all, Scripture tells us that the two stone tablets containing the Commandments that were given to Moses were written with the Finger of God (cf. Exodus 31:18).  Thus this Gospel scene reminds us that the Finger which wrote the Commandments is the same Finger which here writes on the ground.  Secondly, these words are also found in the Old Testament: "O Lord, the hope of Israel, all that forsake You shall be confounded; they that depart from You shall be written in the earth" (Jeremiah 17:13).  Perhaps what Jesus is doing is a fulfillment of that Old Testament verse. 
Practically everyone has the power to stoop down and erase anything that is written on the ground; but our sins are inscribed on our heart and soul and can only be erased by Jesus. 
A very ancient practice, which sort of fell through the ecclesial cracks somewhere, was re-introduced by Saint John Paul II.  It's the practice of contemplating the Face of Christ.  While we can be negligent when it comes to going to Confession, the season of Lent is a great opportunity to turn things around.  Most parishes even create more opportunities to take advantage of that sacrament during this penitential season.  Waiting in line for Confession can be a humbling experience because it speaks quite clearly that none of us are in a position to cast the first stone.  After receiving this Sacrament of mercy and love, efforts can be made to offer thanksgiving by contemplating the Face of Christ.  How does He look at you when He says: “Neither do I condemn you.  Go, and from now on do not sin any more.”?  See that Face of Love Who alone can make such a bold statement to you through His sacrament of mercy.