Comforted [1]

The need to do something, to alleviate the suffering, to comfort those in the midst of pain… For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ [Mt 25: 35-6] [2]

On impulse. There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love.[1Jn 4:18] In spite of the soldiers, she rushes to Him, takes her veil and wipes His face. The soldiers thrust her aside and prod Jesus on.

She did so little, but she received so much. Whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because he is a disciple—amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.”[Mt 10:42] She had no water but she gave her veil off her own head,…and received a reward.

That she received an imprint of his face on her veil is a matter of legend.  That anyone who helps another for the sake of Christ receives a reward is a matter of faith and justice. Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me. [Mt 25:40] Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father.[Mt 10:32]

What of my image? “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust...So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect. [Mt 5:43-45,48][3]

If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to [the] poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me. [Mt 19:21]  What a standard…even the Apostles complained about this one: When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and said, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “For human beings this is impossible, but for God all things are possible.” [Mt 19:25-26]  Ignatius cut through the conundrum with “active indifference:”“Indifference is a distance from things that allows a person to freely choose ‘without prejudice.’  It is a distance from things that makes true vision possible.  Ignatius is asking everyone to love themselves and all things as coming from God.  Yet each is to “stand apart” from all created things in an inner freedom which awaits God’s desire and invitation.”[4]

Jesus asks love. If anyone says, “I love God,” but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. [1Jn 4:20]

Father, you gave Veronica Jesus’ image for wiping His face.  Help me, Father, to see His face in every person I meet today and to wipe away their tears.  Amen.

[1] Her name is from the Latin phrase vera icon meaning “true image”. According to legend, the veil bore the likeness of the face of Jesus not made by human hand, and, though lost, the tradition reminds me of Mary’s imprinting her image of the cloak of Juan Diego which is displayed in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the most visited Marian shrine in the world.

[2] Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

[3] Luke equates perfection with mercy. But rather, love your enemies and do good to them, and lend expecting nothing back; then your reward will be great and you will be children of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as [also] your Father is merciful. [Lk 6:35-36]  Thomas views mercy as removing defects; it is what is given over and above justice; it is the overflow of God’s goodness beyond what is “due,” as if we had anything “due” us. [ST I, q. 21, a. 3,4] Thus, one can view all creation, all that we have, all that we are, everything as a manifestation of God’s mercy.  Thus, the true meaning of the Publican’s prayer takes on enormous depth: “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.” [Lk 18:13]

[4] John J. Callahan, S.J., Discovering a Sacred World: Ignatius Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises And Its Influence on Education, Heartland III, May 22-25, 2000, Creighton, University, http://onlineministries.creighton.edu/Heartland3/r-discovering.html; see also the 3rd Class of Men, The Spiritual Exercises, “The third want to rid themselves of the attachment, but want so to rid themselves of it that they have even no liking for it, to keep the thing acquired or not to keep it, but only want to want it or not want it according as God our Lord will put in their will and as will appear to them better for the service and praise of His Divine Majesty; and meanwhile they want to reckon that they quit it all in attachment, forcing themselves not to want that or any other thing, unless only the service of God our Lord move them: so that the desire of being better able to serve God our Lord moves them to take the thing or leave it.” Ignatius Loyola, Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Trans. Fr. Elder Mullan, S.J. (New York, P.J. Kenedy & Sons, 1914), Christian Classics Ethereal Library, http://www.ccel.org/ccel/ignatius/exercises.xiii.vi.html

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Coerced

God, what are you doing to me?  I have enough problems of my own. I’m just coming in for Passover, minding my own business. How did I get roped into carrying somebody’s cross. This is the ultimate!…Why Me! Why pick on me?

Simon, Simon, “if you knew the gift of God and…” whose cross it is you’re carrying, “you would have asked him and he would have” helped you carry your own cross.[Jn 4:10]  It was not by chance that I picked you, Simon.  It may seem to you that way. But “my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways…For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”[Is 55:8-9]

Why you?  Because I love you!

I do nothing in vain…I know what I am about.[1] I created you to do My Son a definite service; I have committed this work to you which I have not committed to another. You have a special mission.

You are fortunate; you know it in this life, indeed, you are beginning a whole new life right now, climbing up this hill…You are necessary for my purposes, as necessary in your place” accompanying My Son as the archangel Raphael who accompanied Tobit [Tobit 12:15]—You have a part in this great work; you are a link in a chain, a bond of connection between My Son and His destiny.  I have not called your from the crowd for naught. You shall do good, You shall do His work; You shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in you own place, while not intending it, if you but…serve Him in this, your privileged calling.

I have determined, unless you interfere with My plan, that you should reach that which will be your greatest happiness. I love you, Simon. I call you by your name. I know what you can do, what you can best be, what is your greatest happiness, and I mean to give it to you.

While I know what is your greatest happiness, like being yanked from the crowd, you do not.. Thus I may seem to lead you by strange ways, realize that I want your greatest happiness.

You do not know what your happiness is nor the way. My Son is the light of the world; He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. You are blind; left to yourself, you should take the wrong way.

Leave it to Him. He will lead you right, though that be up the hill to Calvary. He will bring you to that which is not indeed what you may think best, not what is best for another, but what is best for you, Simon.

Trust Him.

That when we have trials and tribulations thrust onto us, we may recognize and accept our calling to help Jesus carry His cross.

As they led him away they took hold of a certain Simon, a Cyrenian, who was coming in from the country; and after laying the cross on him, they made him carry it behind Jesus. [Lk 23:26] [2]

[1] This soliloquy is an adaptation of Bl. John Henry Cardinal Newman’s mediations for March 6 and 7, 1848. He wrote in the third person.  I commend his works to you. http://www.newmanreader.org/works/meditations/meditations9.html

[2] Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Compassioned[1]

Mary, you, of all His followers, knew Him best, loved him from the time He became flesh.  You would have carried the Cross for Him if they had let You…wincing with every labored footstep.

You had been through agony with Him before:

  • as an unwed mother suffering the brunt of the malicious gossip;
  • as an expectant wife torn from her home and family when she was due;
  • as a new mother uprooted and exiled while others bewailed the death of their sons to save hers;
  • as the recipient of an unwelcomed prophecy, living with the foreboding sword;
  • as a frantic parent [odunwmenoi, Lk 2:48] who lost her child;
  • as God’s handmaid who was confronted again, this time with the self-emancipated teen who created her and yet, in obedience to the Father, went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them[Lk 2:51] [2];
  • as the mother of the public Jesus who had herself referred to a “Woman” at a friend’s wedding;
  • as a concerned mother who was twice again publicly challenged in her role by her son who describes true blessedness as “hearing the word of God and observing it” (Lk 11:27–28 and Lk 8:20–21).

and now you confront Your Son, a condemned criminal, on his way to his crucifixion.  This is the ultimate in com-passion, in suffering with.  Some might judge it was harder for you just to stand by and be able to do nothing…absolutely nothing.  This baby you breast fed, this child you nourished, this boy you taught, this son you comforted when your husband died, this man your son, whom you were promised would be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father,and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end. [Lk 1:32-33]  Where was His Father, the Most High, the Lord God…

Is this the way you treat our son? Is this the way he is to be a king?  Well, he certainly was destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted [Lk 2:34] Just listen to them, they certainly are contradicting him now: “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself, if you are the Son of God, [and] come down from the cross!”… “He saved others; he cannot save himself. So he is the king of Israel! Let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him. He trusted in God; let him deliver him now if he wants him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’”[Mt 27:40, 42-3] “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?”[Mt 27:46] WHAT DO YOU WANT OF ME?

  • Remember what I told you at the very beginning: Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with Me…The holy Spirit will come upon you, and My power…will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. [Lk 1:30,35] The…holy Spirit that the Father will…remind you of all that [I] told you. [Jn 14:26]
  • Remember what Jesus said to you at the wedding? “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.”[Jn 2:4] His hour has now come...”the hour… 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.” [Jn 12:23-24]
  • And do you remember your response:  “Do whatever he tells you.” [Jn 2:5]
  • As you above all know: “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.”[Lk 9:35]
  • This is his definition of your motherhood: My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it.[Lk 8:21]
  • And remember what you must do: Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. [Lk 14:27]
  • Like Son, like Father: Mary, Come to me,…you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your… self. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”[Mt 11:28-30]
  • Answer me as you did then and ever since: Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word. [Lk 1:38]

And she wept. [See Jn 11:35] And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart. [Lk 2:19, 51]

[1] Regardless of the fact that we have no Scripture reference to this meeting, we do have proof of His mother’s presence at the Crucifixion: Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. [Jn 19:25]  Can you imagine what Mary was going through at this moment?  Jesus had his agony in the Garden; Mary hers on Mt. Calvary, the place of the Skull. It is not just grieving over a son lost in battle, a son dead in a car crash, a son who overdosed…these sorrows are beyond my ken, helpless, hopeless; with these mother’s Mary grieves today. Especially with those whose sons are taken in the prime of life by cancer or some lingering decline into death, she stands, watches and waits with them. Yet, unlike her, they did not have to watch their son taunted by those He had healed, tortured by those He came to save, carrying the very instrument which will be his death, unjustly, ignominiously, mutely, obediently at the hands of cruel men.  Truly, the prophesy of Simeon is devastatingly fulfilled:  and you yourself a sword will pierce. [Lk 2:35]  As sure as the lance that will pierce Her Son’s side, her heart is mortally wounded, ravaged, torn.

[2] Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Crumbled

Crumbled[1]

Jesus, why the three falls? I have always had problems with the three falls of the Stations.  Physiologically, I can understand them, the loss of blood, weakness from dehydration, incredible agony, semi-blindness from pain and blood, pushing, shoving, crowding, whipping, prodding.  But, wouldn’t one or at most two made the point?  Why three?

To remind us of the Trinity, to emulate their perfect relationship, their perfect love?  I don’t know the answer.  We certainly have enough related threes to keep us pondering these in our hearts for years.

1st Fall 2nd Fall 3rd Fall
Greed Pride Power
Poverty Chastity Obedience
Way Truth Life
Faith Hope Love
Power Glory Kingdom
Father Son Holy Spirit

 

Then, the first fall.  When stated that way, it, of course, reminds me immediately of the Original Sin, the great-grand-daddy of them all, the template for all future falls and failings. Is there more than a linguistic relationship between tradition’s first fall on Your way to Calvary and the fall that began it all?  While some may find the analogy strained, I do not.  While it is impractical to attempt to distinguish the motivation of our first parents: greed, pride, power,…it was all of them and more, we/I am always falling into the same trap.  When we fall, we may skin our knee, break an arm, paralyze our torso, or even kill ourselves.  Parallel severity of injury occurs to my soul when I sin.  Here, unfortunately, I am much less aware of the extent of the injury in God’s eyes than I should be; I am much less sensitive to the pain and suffering I caused Jesus to undergo because of even one sin than I have any right to be.  Callousness from familiarity, repetition, constant exposure, addiction, desensitivity, is not even an excuse, it itself is culpability personified.  Forgive me, Jesus, for my lack of contrition, of sorrow, of understanding, of appreciation for what You have done for me.

How about the first of the threes: Greed, Poverty, the Way, Faith and the Father.  Why Greed first…it was the first temptation of Christ, a clinging to things, non-active indifference to material goods…it is also the first tendency we exhibit as children.  I am reminded of a snippet of a poem which describes the pre-nursery school stage of a child: What is mine is mine; what is yours is mine; everything I see is mine; everything I touch is mine.  The Father, through the Son, created all for our use, not abuse.  All is mine to use, to share, to give, to be actively indifferent toward, depending on its value in serving God.  This is the Way, it is the Way of Faith:

Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span? So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’ All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom (of God) and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. [Lk 6:26-7, 31-33] [2]Jesus, I am not so naive as to think I will not fall from greed…if I were, you would have cocks crowing continuously.  I humbly ask your forgiveness each of the 77×7 times I will do it and Your grace, without which I can neither seek forgiveness nor rise again to trudge on behind You.

[1] Excursus on my hubris and the Stations

Till now, I was playing with hubris, thinking myself smarter, better, more informed because I realized that a number of the Stations were not specifically in Scripture.  Ligouri cites Hebrew Scripture texts to underpin those not described in the Gospels, but the Evangelists did not cite them in their Passion Narratives.  I even looked down upon these specific Stations as being second class, a pietistic imposition on “the real story.”

Well, I don’t really know whether they actually occurred or not.  We probably won’t know until we die and all is revealed.  However, for the time being, our faith is built on Scripture and Tradition, not just Scripture.  It seems to me that Tradition evolves in history, it is started here and continues on over time.  The sensus fidei of the Church added these particular Stations to the Via Dolorosa over the course of time and it was incorporated into the piety and prayers of the faithful.  Who am I to demean the faith of the Church as expressed in Tradition as well as in Scripture?  Catholics do not believe in sola scriptura, but, that while the deposit of faith was complete with the death of the last Apostle, the understanding and the economy of that faith in the lives of the faithful is continually emerging in new and different forms which are tested and judged by the Spirit through the Magisterium.  Thank You, God, for keeping us on track through Your continual vigilance and direction of the Church.

[2] Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Crossed

Jesus, You were given a particular cross.  Probably the soldiers just picked up the next one and threw it on Your shoulders.  You come to this, having been through at least two, if not more, trials, mockery, spitting, denial, interrogation and condemnation by Your nation, by the supreme representatives of Your people…and by us, the people ourselves.  You have been dragged, manhandled, slapped, and crowned with thorns.  And, for no apparent crime, You have been scourged, a torture so brutal men die from it…and the number of stripes has to be limited in order not to kill the victim. You were in no condition to carry Yourself, let alone a 150-300 lb weight.

Yet, here You were, the cross dropped on Your bleeding shoulder.  You had carried many a heavy load in Your days as a carpenter/mason.  So You were not unused to such hard labor.  But that was not after You had been “brought low” mentally, psychologically, but particularly physically.  Yet You knew it had to be; You knew it was not these soldiers that ultimately You were obeying but Your Heavenly Father.  So You hoisted the load and stumbled off.

In light of this, I am very, very reluctant to agreeing to pick up my cross and follow You.  This is no jaunt in the park, this is a death row march and I really, really don’t want to do this.

Like You, I am given my cross…no picking and choosing.  It is thrust on me with life and that’s it…no questions, no returns, no refunds.  Pick it up or not…if I don’t pick it up, it’s still there, dragging along behind me…always attached, always reminding me of Your words.

It seems to me that I changed over the course of my lifetime…maybe not change, so much as take on different guises.  Like my snake-skinned ego manifestations, each seems like a new life at the beginning…this is it, this is me, this I can handle.  However, after a time, the skin chafes and itches, life happens, things don’t go as planned, the me I thought I was, I made myself imagine I was, I projected I was “weren’t me.”  And I shed that skin, that identity, that me for, ah, here we are, a much better, newer version, updated with all the newest improvements model of “me.”

The problem was that you, my personalized, made-to-order, one-of-a kind, the mold was broken cross accrued all these odd lumps and gouges, and splinters and scrapes from all these manifestations of me, these metamorphosizings of me, but instead of discarding the snake skins, the attached themselves to the cross and dangle there for all to see.  Part of the humbling syndrome, I guess.

The humbling syndrome is a human sculpting process I drastically need to continually undergo which carves away the fictitious masks and facades which I am constantly constructing to “hide” my real self, inferior, deranged, stunted, imperfection personified, which I try to make myself believe is hidden beneath these false ego big-atures, which are, in reality, miniatures because they make me less than God made me to be.  And the cross drags along behind me throughout this entire process.

It would be much, much easier if I actually turned around, took a good look at myself not as I think I am, not as I want to be, not as I project myself to be, but as I really am,…congratulated myself for being me, finally got around to thank God properly for me as I am, as He made me, as the perfect me He loves unconditionally, He protected from the death blow of my sins, He encourages, comforts, cajoles, teases, carries, feeds, supports, chastises, and pitches his tent with…this real me.  And having come to terms with my real self, leaned down and picked up my cross, thanked him for his gift and followed Him.

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your selves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”[Mt 11:29-30] On this day, you certainly exhibited meekness and humility, submitting to the suffering of the Passion in obedience to the will of Your Father.  You say that I’ll find rest taking up my cross and following you?  This is an easy yoke and a light burden?….Only with the eyes of faith can I have the perspective of reality, of my purpose on earth, of my calling to praise, reverence, love and serve You, God, of seeing this as carrying out that purpose in obedience to Your will.  Then, indeed it is restful, easy, light: the Way lies before me, lit by the Truth and empowered by the Life.  If we make any other choice, we lose our way, are seduced by lies end in death.

A journey of a lifetime begins with the first step.  Amen.  Alleluia!!!

Condemned

I am condemned to die from the moment of my conception, of my birth, of my growth to manhood, of middle age and my senior years…the track is inevitable…like taxes, it’s a sure thing.

And in case I forget, I get to go through millions of deaths daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, always.  From the fact that this particular second is now gone and will never come again, is never able to be relived, redone, re- chosen.  It is this latter that stands before me, staring me in the face each moment of my life.  Choose, choose, choose, choose.  The doorways of choice, the narrow gate, the eye of the needle, the way of Obey, or the Broadway of the World, the neon-lit, enticing avenue of No, of Not-Obey, Of Me, stands before me each and every moment of my life.  The path of the naked now, with no past, with no future, just the now forces my footsteps to the threshold of each door, each gate, each moment’s needle or Broadway that never sleeps…I must choose.

There are the deaths of my facades, my illusions of my super-ego-man-me.  As each come tumbling down as they inevitably will, I mourn, I cry, if not aloud, then pine inside for the Never-never land of what could never be.

There is the death of reality all around me: Spring with its new growth turns into Summer with its luscious plethora.  Then, with the first cold winds come the harbingers of another death, the sacrifice of the harvested crop, the portents of the falling leaves and the solemn white pale of death.  No wonder the Japanese choose white for mourning.

And my pets come, love, live, purr, wag but inevitably grow cold and stare at me with the unsighted eyes of death.  And my own youth and vitality gives way to arthritis, dementia, stroke, suffering…and death.

He did not have to face these deaths; He had a choice.  Even if He wanted to save us from ourselves, He could have done it with the nod of the head, the blink of His eye, the flash of His will.  But He chose to obey.

Even in the garden, the first garden, immediately as Eve’s choice was made, as her hand left her side and began its fateful journey to that branch, He said: “Enough. Yes. They cannot bear all the fatal consequences of the choice they are making.  They do not know what it is to truly know, to experience in the depths of being, either good nor especially evil, the torrents of wickedness that they have unleashed on the world.  The horror of what they had done, the remorse and regret, the all-consuming sense of guilt that will drown them, they cannot bear; they will be extinguished and relegated to the oblivion of hell for all eternity.  They cannot physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually cope with the onslaught that is about to engulf them, overwhelm them, devastate them, kill them.  I will stand in their stead. It is too much. I love them too much to let them perish.

“I will bear the brunt of their action.  I will obey when they disobey.  I will say Yes when they say, scream, taunt, rage their No.

“Will I ward off all consequences of their action?  That is not justice, that is not fairness, that is not responsibility, that is not owning up to the consequences of their action.  They must share in the suffering.  I will mitigate but not obliterate the physical, mental, social, emotional, spiritual consequences of their actions.  If they do not join me in this payment, they will not understand.  They will not realize upon reflection what they have done.  I will forgive them for they know not what they do…but they will come to understand, little by little, their role in the death of their God.  Then, with help and grace, will they regret, repent, resolve to accept their lot, not as an undeserved hardship, but as a blessing, a sign of their having warranted but been saved from eternal damnation.  And they will take up their cross and follow me.  For my yoke is easy in comparison with the alternative, and my burden light.”  Amen.  Alleluia!!!