Of course, that won't solve the debates now roiling this nation about violence and the people and tools that perpetuate it. Nonetheless, the fact that Jesus has nothing to say about guns has not stopped a number of pundits from extrapolating Jesus' ethics on gun violence. In recent days, some Christians have tried to construct a case that Jesus himself would support self-defense in the form of individually owned firearms. Others vehemently disagree. Agreement is as hard to find among Christians as it is among the nation more broadly.
What would Jesus have to say to us today about a culture we all admit is far too saturated with violence and death? How would he guide us in light of recent tragedies like Newtown and Aurora?
While events like these rightly elevate our sense that something must be done, it is the truly ordinary nature of our culture's violence that ought to convince us to lay aside politics for the sake of our neighbors. Unfortunately, our political divisions foreclose most opportunities to have a reasonable conversation about such hot-button issues, even among people of common faith. But here's one potential route for reflection.
What if we all gave up guns for Lent?
This last week, Christians around the world gathered to mark the beginning of Lent, the 40 days leading to Easter and the celebration of Jesus' victory over the death. The first step on this annual pilgrimage is Ash Wednesday, when believers receive a tangible reminder of our mortality. With crosses of ash on our foreheads, we remind ourselves and the rest of the world that our bodies are frail, too easily broken, even as we look forward to God's final victory over death.
As we begin this season of Lent, Luke 4:1-13 narrates Jesus facing a triad of famous temptations. In the passage, Jesus is impelled by the Holy Spirit to wander in the wilderness, the place of Israel's ancient sojourn and also a place of great danger. For 40 days, Jesus fasts, depriving his body of sustenance, giving up something vital and necessary. When he is at his weakest, the devil approaches.
First, the devil invites Jesus to turn stones into bread, to concoct sustenance in the midst of a barren desert. Jesus is certainly capable of such deeds. In fact, later in the narrative, Jesus will feed not himself but a crowd of 5,000 (see Luke 9:12-17). Jesus responds that we do not live by bread alone. That is, in all times and in all places, we rely on God and God alone for our sustenance. Jesus' call is to feed others, not himself.
Second, the devil evokes a panoramic display of all the kingdoms of the world, telling Jesus that their power is in the devil's hands. If Jesus will only worship him, the devil will hand their power over to Jesus. Luke seems to believe the devil here; the devil indeed has the power of the world's kingdoms in his hands. When Luke looks at his world, he sees a massive empire capable of massive warfare and oppression with the devil at its reigns. But this empire will not fall by the exertion of military might but the path of service and sacrifice Jesus embraces. Jesus responds to this great temptation finally to free Israel from the bonds of Roman oppression by noting that we ought only to serve God. That is, in all times and in all places, only God is worthy of our worship. Jesus' call is to exercise power through weakness.
Last, the devil leads Jesus to the pinnacle of the temple in Jerusalem, inviting Jesus to cast himself down in a deadly fall. After all, the devil reasons, God won't let you die, right? Ironically, of course, we know the end of the story. Jesus would later return to this city and die a martyr's death; he would suffer the cruelty of an unjust execution. But not now. Do not tempt God, Jesus believes. That is, in all times and in all places, God's timetable is not ours. Jesus' call is to be faithful to the path God has laid out, even and especially because that path is littered with dangers and threats.
This powerful story is an ideal starting point for a season of Lent, following the tragedy of Newtown and the subsequent political debate our grief has inspired. Lenten practices call for us to give up something we think precious, vital, important. In the case of Jesus, he fasts from food for forty days and then turns away from the temptation to feed himself, to liberate his people from the clutches of Roman oppression, to prove to the devil that he is indeed God's servant.
But why? Why give up something we hold precious and necessary? Precisely because in letting go what we think is indispensable, we might discover its contingency. We might discover that we have been holding on tightly to shadows of fear and anxiety, not the sure anchors of hope and faith.
What if we all as a Lenten act of devotion gave up guns and the violence they engender? What if firearms were locked away? What if violent images were replaced with visions of peace? What if the guns of war stopped their incessant racket?
But what if this also meant that the police would be unarmed, that personal retaliation was not an option, that the armies of the world would lay down their weapons, that we had to rely on God and God alone for our safety?
What if this also meant that drones would no longer patrol the skies over Afghanistan? That violence could no longer be the stuff of our entertainment and delight?
Perhaps then we'd remember that safety is a value among many others competing for our commitments. Perhaps we'd remember that violence is sometimes unavoidable but never holy. Perhaps we'd remember that death ought never be a source of joy, only a spring of lament. Perhaps we'd remember that the world is a beautiful but dangerous place and that the protection of those we love and the most vulnerable among us is a high calling, a calling that comes with an equally high cost.
When I suggest giving up guns for Lent, I'm not interested in policy or legislation so much as how we posture ourselves toward a world full of death, violence and pain. We ought not cling to guns as a sure deposit of safety. But neither should any of us imagine that policies and laws by themselves can alleviate the forces of evil that drive us toward the edge of death and despair.
A fast from guns might bring some of the clarity we need. Christians should -- if we take our faith seriously -- talk about such contentious issues in a graceful and substantive way. Christians should -- if we take our faith seriously -- argue on the basis of our most deeply held values and not via imitation of our preferred partisans. And perhaps a fast from guns and the violence that surrounds them would lead us to a place of wisdom, compassion, graceful listening and even peace.
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
'The faithful' will this week devote numerous hours concentrating on the suffering of Jesus hundreds of years ago.
They may spend less time concentrating on the desperate plight of so many today.
Let us find Jesus crucified not on the cross of yesterdays old wood but in Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Palestine, Ethiopia, Mali, etc.
Let us find Jesus not in a Garden long lost, but sweating blood in the furnace of clerical child abuse and church homophobia.
Let us find Jesus not broken in bread and wine but torn apart as he sifts with the poor for food through the garbage on India's rubbish heaps.
Let us find Jesus tortured not in some kangaroo court of old but in Guantanamo Bay and America's Death Rows.
Let us find Jesus raised not in an Easter Garden but in what we do to help challenge and change corruption and to heal the casualties of this long struggle against evil.
In Christ's Love,
++JonathanArchbishop Jonathan Blake
The Open Episcopal Church
Bishop of London
On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.” So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb. They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first; he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in. When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed. For they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead. (John 20:1-9)
[Image: Fra Angelico's Christ's Descent to Limbo (ca. 1437-1446)]
From 1 Peter 3
For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight people, were saved through water. And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you -- not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.
"The ancient Christian church," said the professor in his Irish accent, "celebrated the Triduum. Can anybody tell me what the Triduum is?"
No hands went up.
"I'll give you a hint: you might call it Holy Week."
"Ah," said one student, "it is the three days that begin on Thursday night and culminate on Sunday with Easter."
"Yes," nodded the professor. "What names do we give to those days?"
"You're forgetting one," he said. "Holy Saturday."
"Huh?""Come on," he responded, "you confess the events of Holy Saturday every time you say the Apostles' Creed. What did Jesus do between Good Friday and Easter morning? He descended into hell. And what did he do there? Read 1 Peter 3, my friends. Christ preached. Christ brought the good news to those whom most think are beyond saving. And you thought he was just biding his time, waiting for Sunday. No, I tell you. He was busy. He was doing something very important."
Holy God, we are waiting for tomorrow. We need the light and joy of Easter in our lives. As we wait, remind us that our Lord is never satisfied leaving the lost in their personal hells. This Holy Saturday, focus us on the Christ who kicks down the gates of Hades and brings good news to us in the worst of circumstances. Hallelujah! This is the triumphant Christ whom we long to greet in the morning, fresh from his junket to hell. Amen.
The Rev. Dr. Scott Black Johnston is senior pastor of Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in Manhattan.
At First Things, Tania M. Geist writes:
Benedict knelt in prayer before the Shroud of Turin, then spoke on the mystery of Holy Saturday, of which he saw the Shroud to be an icon. The meaning of Holy Saturday is perhaps especially dear to Benedict—between having been born and baptized on Holy Saturday of 1927, and having collaborated so closely with Hans Urs von Balthasar, whose theological imagination was certainly captured by the same mystery.
What resulted on that day in Turin in 2010 was a deeply pastoral account of Christ’s death and Resurrection, which explored some of the same central messages that he recently revisited in the last days of his papacy.
In Turin, Benedict observed that “humanity has become particularly sensitive to the mystery of Holy Saturday,” because the “hiddenness of God” has become so much a part of our contemporary experience of Christ that it functions existentially, almost subconsciously, in our spirituality. During a time when the problem of evil confronts us constantly, Benedict continued, we must all wrestle with Nietzsche’s proclamation that “God is dead!”: “After the two World Wars, the lagers and the gulags, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, our era has ever increasingly become a Holy Saturday. This day’s darkness challenges all those who question life, and it challenges us believers in particular.”
Continue reading here.
At daybreak on the first day of the week the women who had come from Galilee with Jesus took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb; but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were puzzling over this, behold, two men in dazzling garments appeared to them. They were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground. They said to them, “Why do you seek the living one among the dead? He is not here, but he has been raised. Remember what he said to you while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners and be crucified, and rise on the third day.” And they remembered his words. Then they returned from the tomb and announced all these things to the eleven and to all the others. The women were Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James; the others who accompanied them also told this to the apostles, but their story seemed like nonsense and they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb, bent down, and saw the burial cloths alone; then he went home amazed at what had happened. (Luke 24:1-12)
Robin M. Masheb and Mary Clark Moschella write:
What did you give up for Lent? Chocolate or ice cream? Or perhaps some other high-fat, high-sugar, and relatively high-calorie "forbidden food?" For overweight people struggling with eating disorders, an important aspect of treatment involves incorporating small amounts of "forbidden foods" into one's diet on a regular basis. The rationale is to break the cycle of being "on a diet" or "off a diet."
Despite having this knowledge, when religious holidays with dietary restrictions or associations come around (it can be Yom Kippur for Jews or Ramadan for Muslims), patients are eager to give up something like chocolate or to fast for a holiday. All too often, underlying the religious practice of self-discipline is the thinking that this is a good way to lose weight.
In our class on Psychopathology and Pastoral Care at Yale Divinity School, we happened to be discussing eating disorders, and the contrast between our country's obesity crisis and the pressure to conform to the "thin ideal." A student asked how we could help young people, particularly girls, develop a healthy body image in an environment where two-thirds of our country is overweight and everyone idealizes women who wear a size two. In the context of this environment, how can one make a difference?
Continue reading here.
Prince of Peace, redeemer of us all, crucified God, we have gathered at the foot of the cross, and at the entrance to the tomb, and we have rolled the stone across it.
The world sometimes does it’s worst, even to those who don’t deserve it. You know that, because you once lived as one of us, loved as one of us, and died as one of us.
Today we leave, as your disciples did centuries ago, knowing our friend is gone, and that a good man has died.
The ones who knew you and loved you could find no consolation that night. They mourned. Just as there have been nights when we have mourned. Just as there have been nights when we have looked for mercy that didn’t seem to come.
And yet, some would dare to look for hope…
God, as you send us out into the world today, stay close to us. As we wrestle with the big questions, as we ask why there is pain, why there is suffering, why there is loss, do not leave us alone. Help us to find you in our hours of greatest doubt.
And at the right hour, draw us back together. To gather at the tomb. To look for the light. To look for you. For hope, for you, we will be waiting. Amen.
- Rev. Emily Heath (@calledoutrev)
On his Facebook page, Fr. Jim Martin offers a mediation on the crucifixion:
Dear friends: On this Good Friday, might I suggest a way of meditating on the Crucifixion? When Jesus hung on the cross, in addition to the terrible physical pain he endured, he may have also endured other kinds of pain. The pain of feeling abandoned by his closest friends. The pain of being misunderstood by so many. The pain of trying to do good but having people hate you in response. The pain of knowing that so many people had rejected God's message of love, mercy and forgiveness. But there is another kind of pain that has been meaningful to me of late.
Continue reading here.
Jesus went out with his disciples across the Kidron valley to where there was a garden, into which he and his disciples entered. Judas his betrayer also knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples. So Judas got a band of soldiers and guards from the chief priests and the Pharisees and went there with lanterns, torches, and weapons. Jesus, knowing everything that was going to happen to him, went out and said to them, “Whom are you looking for?” They answered him, “Jesus the Nazorean.” He said to them, “I AM.” Judas his betrayer was also with them. When he said to them, “I AM, “ they turned away and fell to the ground. So he again asked them, “Whom are you looking for?” They said, “Jesus the Nazorean.” Jesus answered, “I told you that I AM. So if you are looking for me, let these men go.” This was to fulfill what he had said, “I have not lost any of those you gave me.” Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it, struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear. The slave’s name was Malchus. Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its scabbard. Shall I not drink the cup that the Father gave me?”
So the band of soldiers, the tribune, and the Jewish guards seized Jesus, bound him, and brought him to Annas first. He was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year. It was Caiaphas who had counseled the Jews that it was better that one man should die rather than the people.
Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus. Now the other disciple was known to the high priest, and he entered the courtyard of the high priest with Jesus. But Peter stood at the gate outside. So the other disciple, the acquaintance of the high priest, went out and spoke to the gatekeeper and brought Peter in. Then the maid who was the gatekeeper said to Peter, “You are not one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.” Now the slaves and the guards were standing around a charcoal fire that they had made, because it was cold, and were warming themselves. Peter was also standing there keeping warm.
The high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and about his doctrine. Jesus answered him, “I have spoken publicly to the world. I have always taught in a synagogue or in the temple area where all the Jews gather, and in secret I have said nothing. Why ask me? Ask those who heard me what I said to them. They know what I said.” When he had said this, one of the temple guards standing there struck Jesus and said, “Is this the way you answer the high priest?” Jesus answered him, “If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong; but if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?” Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.
Now Simon Peter was standing there keeping warm. And they said to him, “You are not one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it and said, “I am not.” One of the slaves of the high priest, a relative of the one whose ear Peter had cut off, said, “Didn’t I see you in the garden with him?” Again Peter denied it. And immediately the cock crowed.Then they brought Jesus from Caiaphas to the praetorium. It was morning. And they themselves did not enter the praetorium, in order not to be defiled so that they could eat the Passover. So Pilate came out to them and said, “What charge do you bring against this man?” They answered and said to him, “If he were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.” At this, Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves, and judge him according to your law.” The Jews answered him, “We do not have the right to execute anyone, “ in order that the word of Jesus might be fulfilled that he said indicating the kind of death he would die. So Pilate went back into the praetorium and summoned Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you say this on your own or have others told you about me?”
Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests handed you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom does not belong to this world. If my kingdom did belong to this world, my attendants would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not here.” So Pilate said to him, “Then you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”
When he had said this, he again went out to the Jews and said to them, “I find no guilt in him. But you have a custom that I release one prisoner to you at Passover. Do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?” They cried out again, “Not this one but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a revolutionary.
Then Pilate took Jesus and had him scourged. And the soldiers wove a crown out of thorns and placed it on his head, and clothed him in a purple cloak, and they came to him and said, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they struck him repeatedly. Once more Pilate went out and said to them, “Look, I am bringing him out to you, so that you may know that I find no guilt in him.” So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple cloak. And he said to them, “Behold, the man!” When the chief priests and the guards saw him they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him. I find no guilt in him.”
The Jews answered, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God.” Now when Pilate heard this statement, he became even more afraid, and went back into the praetorium and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” Jesus did not answer him. So Pilate said to him, “Do you not speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you and I have power to crucify you?” Jesus answered him, “You would have no power over me if it had not been given to you from above. For this reason the one who handed me over to you has the greater sin.” Consequently, Pilate tried to release him; but the Jews cried out, “If you release him, you are not a Friend of Caesar. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.”
When Pilate heard these words he brought Jesus out and seated him on the judge’s bench in the place called Stone Pavement, in Hebrew, Gabbatha. It was preparation day for Passover, and it was about noon. And he said to the Jews, “Behold, your king!” They cried out, “Take him away, take him away! Crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your king?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” Then he handed him over to them to be crucified.
So they took Jesus, and, carrying the cross himself, he went out to what is called the Place of the Skull, in Hebrew, Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus in the middle. Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, “Jesus the Nazorean, the King of the Jews.” Now many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek. So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that he said, ‘I am the King of the Jews’.” Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.”
When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four shares, a share for each soldier. They also took his tunic, but the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top down. So they said to one another, “Let’s not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it will be, “ in order that the passage of Scripture might be fulfilled that says: They divided my garments among them, and for my vesture they cast lots. This is what the soldiers did. 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.After this, aware that everything was now finished, in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I thirst.” There was a vessel filled with common wine. So they put a sponge soaked in wine on a sprig of hyssop and put it up to his mouth. When Jesus had taken the wine, he said, “It is finished.” And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit.
Now since it was preparation day, in order that the bodies might not remain on the cross on the sabbath, for the sabbath day of that week was a solemn one, the Jews asked Pilate that their legs be broken and that they be taken down. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and then of the other one who was crucified with Jesus. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs, but one soldier thrust his lance into his side, and immediately blood and water flowed out. An eyewitness has testified, and his testimony is true; he knows that he is speaking the truth, so that you also may come to believe. For this happened so that the Scripture passage might be fulfilled: Not a bone of it will be broken. And again another passage says: They will look upon him whom they have pierced.
After this, Joseph of Arimathea, secretly a disciple of Jesus for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate if he could remove the body of Jesus. And Pilate permitted it. So he came and took his body. Nicodemus, the one who had first come to him at night, also came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes weighing about one hundred pounds. 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. (John 18:1-19:42)
Holy Week flagellation - picture of the day gu.com/p/3en4a/tf— Guardian belief (@GdnBelief) March 28, 2013
Jaweed Kaleem reports:
When the Rev. George Handzo attends church to observe Good Friday -- the day that marks Jesus' crucifixion -- he won't only be there to for an important spiritual holiday. He also goes to remind himself of the role death plays in everyday life.
"You can't appreciate Easter if you are not reminded of Good Friday," said Handzo, a Lutheran minister and chaplain who has spent most of his career on working with cancer patients and those in their last days.
Easter Sunday, which marks the day Jesus rose from the dead, is the most important day of the year in Christianity and traditionally the most popular when it comes to church attendance. Yet, for many people of faith whose personal and professional lives bring them in contact death and illness, the holidays that precede it to remember Jesus' last days, called Holy Week, can be equally as important in providing comfort and purpose in trying times.
Continue reading here.
Rev. Emily Heath writes:
The most common question I get asked during Holy Week is about this night, the Thursday before Easter. People get Palm Sunday, and Good Friday, and Easter, but tonight, Maundy Thursday, is unclear. And the one thing people want to know the most, is this: What does "Maundy" mean?
It's a good question. Who uses the term "maundy" in their daily life? For those on the outside of the church, and even for those of us inside, it might just sound like a church service where we know we should want to go to it, but we have no idea why.
But before I talk about what the word means, I want to go back to that story we read from the Gospel. In it Jesus has gone to Jerusalem for the Passover. He's gathered his 12 disciples there at the table. And he knows what is going to happen. He knows that by the end of the night one of them will betray him to the authorities. One will deny him three times. And all of them will leave him alone in his hour of greatest pain.
Continue reading here.
Before the feast of Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father. He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end. The devil had already induced Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot, to hand him over. So, during supper, fully aware that the Father had put everything into his power and that he had come from God and was returning to God, he rose from supper and took off his outer garments. He took a towel and tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and dry them with the towel around his waist. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Master, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered and said to him, “What I am doing, you do not understand now, but you will understand later.” Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Master, then not only my feet, but my hands and head as well.” Jesus said to him, “Whoever has bathed has no need except to have his feet washed, for he is clean all over; so you are clean, but not all.” For he knew who would betray him; for this reason, he said, “Not all of you are clean.”
So when he had washed their feet and put his garments back on and reclined at table again, he said to them, “Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.” (John 13:1-15)
|@ joeljmiller : Today is Maundy Thursday. Maundy, shortened from mandatum, connotes Christ’s command that His disciples love one another. (via @gileskirk)|
Hammad Moses Khan writes:
In third grade, we had a simple rule: If you heard a siren, everything stopped. Cursive lesson, history presentation, even "The Magic School Bus" -- whatever it was, it stopped. Sirens meant someone was in trouble. Whether it was a firetruck flying past our playground or an ambulance somewhere in the distance, someone was in need of help. And that someone could probably use a prayer.
That was the lesson instilled in us by Sr. Mary Dolores Wagner, a Catholic schoolteacher following in the tradition of The Sisters of Mercy. For her, it was simple: You do what you can to help people. As a third grader, you might not be able to perform CPR or help put out a fire, but you could pray. You could bring your hands together, drop your head, and spend just a few seconds in silent reflection asking God to help those in need and thanking Him for keeping us safe. It was small, but it was something.
As a young American Muslim student attending a Catholic elementary school, the message hit home. It sounded almost like... Islam. The message of hope, of trying, of simply trying to do something kind seemed so familiar. It was the same message of the Quran, the Sunnah, and the never ending Sunday School lessons: We were supposed to do good, to help people, and to always pray for those in need. To borrow an Ignatian maxim, we were taught to give and not ever to count the cost.
Continue reading here.
Today as we reflect on the betrayal of Christ by Judas it is often easy to elevate ourselves believing we would never commit such an atrocity. The reality is that we do commit such atrocities and often.
Have we ever literally exchanged money for another's assassination -- doubtful. However, each time we are silent in the midst of another's abuse or ignore a hurting person we have betrayed them with our lack of words. Each time we pass by someone fearing to look upon them, we have betrayed them with judgement rather than honoring them with love.
We all have been Judas at different times in our lives. Sadly, we will likely be again. Our God-given task is to see this less and less and rather become more full of the Divine Love which honors all as Christ and betrays none. You don't have to kiss and receive 30 pieces of silver to hurt another. You might simply be quiet or look the other way. Choose this Wednesday of Holy Week to do so no longer. Rather become as Christ who heals those who wish to hurt him and calls us all to put down the sword and pick up the gift of Love.
Let us become the woman who humbles herself to wipe the feet of Christ with perfume and tears. Will we do this for Christ, the Christ who is in everyone we meet? Yes, even our enemies are icons of Christ and we are called not to betray them but rather to bow down before them.
Peace be with you!
-- Rev. Daniel C. Kostakis (@rev_kostakis)
Diana Butler Bass writes:
Around Good Friday 1373, an English woman laid a-bed, stricken by the plague, and facing what she thought would be her own death. Much of her life is a mystery. We know not if she was single or married, but if she had been married before that fateful season, the illness that sickened her took her husband and children. We know she did not die, but recovered by early May. Her birth name is unknown, but her adopted name, Julian of Norwich, has come down to us, and she is remembered as one of the greatest of all English mystics.
In her long-ago fevered haze, Julian received a series of visions of Jesus, which she wrote down in a book entitled Sixteen Revelations of Divine Love, the first English-language book to be written by a woman. She became known throughout the land as a spiritual authority, and many made pilgrimage to Norwich seeking her spiritual insight and counsel.
The Eighth Revelation, the heart of the book, concerns the Passion and the Cross, focusing on Jesus' pain and suffering. "Is any pain like this?" she wondered, "...Of all pains that lead to salvation this is the most pain, to see thy Love suffer. How might any pain be more to me than to see Him that is all my life, all my bliss, and all my joy, suffer?"
Recounting the vision, she ruminated on Jesus' mother Mary's suffering, the one who suffered more than any other in his death; then expanding the circle to include "all His disciples and all His true lovers suffer pain" at this death. In this community of pain, forged by the suffering of Jesus, Julian articulated one of her great theological insights: "Here saw I a great ONEING betwixt Christ and us: for when He was in pain, we were in pain."
Continue reading here.
Rev. William E. Flippin' Jr. writes:
"And a young man followed [Jesus], with nothing but a linen cloth about his body. And they seized him, but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked."
Jesus had no help at the cross from his followers. Only he could bring about our salvation, and so he had to work alone. This view of disciples abandoning Jesus at his loneliest hour is affirmed in all the Gospels. However, I believe, in looking closely at some Greek words, that Mark's intention as a Gospel writer, showing that this man dressed in a white robe had a secret message -- a prevalent theme in Mark of the rebirth of humanity that was naked in sin.
Mark describes the young man in question as a neaniskos, meaning he was in the prime of his life, perhaps 15 to 25 years old. The verb that is used, sunékolouthei, means "was following as a disciple" or "was accompanying." Since no one evinces any surprise at the young man's presence, he was probably a disciple.
Continue reading here.
From the General Audience on March 27, 2013:
On Palm Sunday we began Holy Week, the heart of the liturgical year, when we commemorate the great events that express most powerfully God’s loving plan for all men and women. Jesus enters Jerusalem in order to give himself completely. He gives us his body and his blood, and promises to remain with us always. He freely hands himself over to death in obedience to the Father’s will, and in this way shows how much he loves us. We are called to follow in his footsteps. Holy Week challenges us to step outside ourselves so as to attend to the needs of others: those who long for a sympathetic ear, those in need of comfort or help. We should not simply remain in our own secure world, that of the ninety-nine sheep who never strayed from the fold, but we should go out, with Christ, in search of the one lost sheep, however far it may have wandered. Holy Week is not so much a time of sorrow, but rather a time to enter into Christ’s way of thinking and acting. It is a time of grace given us by the Lord so that we can move beyond a dull or mechanical way of living our faith, and instead open the doors of our hearts, our lives, our parishes, our movements or associations, going out in search of others so as to bring them the light and the joy of our faith in Christ.
One of the Twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?” They paid him thirty pieces of silver, and from that time on he looked for an opportunity to hand him over.
On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the disciples approached Jesus and said, “Where do you want us to prepare for you to eat the Passover?” He said, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The teacher says, 'My appointed time draws near; in your house I shall celebrate the Passover with my disciples.”‘“ The disciples then did as Jesus had ordered, and prepared the Passover.
When it was evening, he reclined at table with the Twelve. And while they were eating, he said, “Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” Deeply distressed at this, they began to say to him one after another, “Surely it is not I, Lord?” He said in reply, “He who has dipped his hand into the dish with me is the one who will betray me. The Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would be better for that man if he had never been born.” Then Judas, his betrayer, said in reply, “Surely it is not I, Rabbi?” He answered, “You have said so.” (Matthew 26:14-25)
|@ Pontifex : Being with Jesus demands that we go out from ourselves, and from living a tired and habitual faith|
|@ Pontifex : To experience Holy Week is to enter more and more into God's logic of love and self-giving|
“When the Lord delivered Zion from bondage, it seemed like a dream.” - Psalm 126:1
Have you ever been in a high stress situation? An emergency? A time where everything seems to slow down, and you have to focus? Where everything is crashing down around you, but somehow you make it? You survive. You figure it out. You are delivered. Then you look back on the impossibility of the situation, and feels like a dream. You wake up, and you’re okay, and you laugh because it felt so intense and high pressure at the time, but now you are free.
The Gospel reading from John 8:1-11 is a prime example of one of these dream-like situations. A woman who was caught in adultery is thrown before Jesus. Jesus is then asked by the Pharisees to condemn her as the Law commands, and this is where the dream begins: Jesus simply begins writing in the dirt. We don’t know what he wrote, but we know he took a break in his writing to say, “If there is one of you who has not sinned let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Then he kept on writing until everyone left. The woman was left behind with no one to condemn her, and neither did Jesus.
What I find so “dreamy” is how that details of the story are left out. There is no way to know what Jesus wrote. I imagine the story was used in early Christianity the same way it is now: we ask ourselves the question, “What do you think Jesus wrote?” Instead, a more important question might be, “What would Jesus write for you?”
What would Jesus have to write on the ground to transform your condemning heart? Even if you are condemning yourself. Like this woman, we’ve all experienced a time where we were in trouble, and we thought salvation, freedom, peace, forgiveness, healing, insert-your-desire-here, etc. was impossible, but then there was a miracle, and we look back with joy, humor, love, grace and mercy.
This is the picture that Psalm 126 brings to my mind. It’s a foreshadowing of what’s to come at the end of Holy Week. A message to keep it up. Now is the time to remember when you resurrected from an impossible situation, because another impossible situation is about to come -- and just like the Psalmist asserts, as loved children of God, we will all make it.
“They go out they go out, full of tears, carrying seeds for the sowing: they come back, they come back, full of song, carrying their sheaves.” - Psalm 126:6
-- Paige Cargioli via Tobar Mhuire
Tobar Mhuire is a sacred space in the north of Ireland. Every Wednesday in Lent, a member of the Tobar Mhuire Team offers a personal reflection on the week's psalm.
At Mashable, Camille Bautista reports:
Social media use is a hard habit to shake. You try to stay away, but your fingers are itching for one quick click, just another good scroll to last you through the day.
Sometimes, you find yourself coming back for more without even realizing. It's reflex, the first thing you do in the morning and the last thing you remember at night.
Hourly Facebook checks were standard for Lucy Church, and Lent became a time to make the change. Like many others, Church sacrificed Facebook-use for the religious season. Lent is often the golden opportunity for people to break free of vices like junk food or alcohol, but going on a digital cleanse for 40 days is becoming a popular sacrifice.
Continue reading here.
At America, Fr. Dan Horan, OFM writes:
Contrary to popular opinion, I think it’s sometimes good to be a fool. Most people approach foolishness in one of two ways. The first is to avoid any such scenario at all costs. The specter of failure and embarrassment haunts the professional, emotional and social lives of millions, quietly hindering people from sharing their opinions or speaking up in front of others.
The second is to exploit one’s potential foolishness to an extreme degree. While those who wish to avoid appearing foolish might recoil at the thought of public humiliation, hundreds of people have risen as stars of YouTube, reality television and daytime talk shows by acting as foolish as possible.
Continue reading here.
On his Facebook page, Fr. James Martin answers basic questions about going to confession:
Q: What if I forget how to do it? It's been so long.
A: Don't worry. The priest will help you through the process, which is very easy and straightforward. You don't even have to remember the Act of Contrition. (Everyone seems to have their own version of that anyway.) The priest will help you with that prayer, or you can just tell God you're sorry in your own words.
Continue reading here.
Editor's Note: ON Scripture - The Bible is a series of Christian scripture commentaries produced in collaboration with Odyssey Networks. Each week pastors from around the country will approach the lectionary text of the week through the lens of current events, providing a religious voice that is both pastoral and prophetic.
Follow Rev. Dr. Eric D. Barreto on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ericbarreto