Spiritual Moms

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Scripture: Psalm 1 Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers, but their delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law, they meditate day and night. They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper. The wicked are not so but are like chaff that the wind drives away. Therefore, the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.

Reflection:

The message of the Psalmist is that happiness, or blessedness, does not come from doing what we want to do. Instead, happiness comes from doing what God wants for us to do. That is, we find happiness by doing the will of God. To know the will of God requires constant meditation and discernment – day and night (v.2).

It takes a spiritual guide to introduce us to the path of true happiness with God and in life. My first guide in the Christian life was my mother, Olga. Mom was my One Class Sunday School teacher in my early years.  She served as the church’s Christian Education, Vacation Bible School, Christmas and Easter play director. She is still active with the United Methodist Women, and in the life of the only church she’s been a loyal and faithful member of since 1960, First United Methodist Church in Rio Grande City, Texas.

Mom has been an intercessory prayer warrior for me all my life, and she still is. She is with me in spirit, even though miles and miles separate us. Mom introduced me to the pathway of happiness in God.  She nurtured me with spiritual grace, and by her witness, led me toward the path of blessedness that comes by doing God’s will. She looked well to the practical and spiritual ways of her household. I call her blessed (Proverbs 31:28).

I had the blessing of a mother who lives her faith in such a beautiful and compelling way that I too followed the path of faith. Perhaps you had or can remember an extraordinary woman (mom, stepmom, aunt, grandmother, great-grandmother, Sunday school teacher, neighbor, or other) in your life that nurtured you, affirmed you, loved you and served as your spiritual mother in the faith. If she is living, call her and thank her for the showing you the love of God in word and deed and for leading you to faith in Christ. If she is no longer living, say a prayer of thanksgiving for her life and witness. Afterall, she did the will of God by sharing faith, hope, and love with you and the world.

Prayer:

God of Provision and Unconditional Love,

On this day when we acknowledge the importance of motherhood among us, we first give thanks that you are a loving parent to us all. From your being all life was born, and in your bosom, all creation is nurtured. You have formed us in your image as your children and gathered us together as a brood under your wing. You have united us as kindred members of one human family, and we are grateful to be your offspring together. We celebrate your divine love, reflected in human expressions of motherhood.

We give you thanks for the mothers among us and ask that you strengthen them in their daily tasks. Grant them wisdom in the lessons they teach, patient in the discipline they foster, and persistence in their promotion of decency and compassion, both by word and example. May they be given the honor and thanks they deserve but often do not receive.

We thank you for all motherly figures: grandmothers, aunts, sisters, wives, step-mothers, foster mothers, guardians, babysitters, teachers, health care providers, neighbors, friends, loved ones, and many others, who practice self-sacrifice and embody compassion to all who are privileged to be in their influence. Grant them vigor to carry on their work, and the satisfaction that the holy privilege of their task affords.

We acknowledge to you, O God, that even amid our grateful celebration, many of us come with restless spirits, reluctant to name the difficulties of this day.

For some, this day brings the sorrowful awareness of their own inability to conceive biological children. Draw your tender spirit near their feelings of self-betrayal, impotence, and grief, and remind them that those who struggle with infertility have always shared a special place in your heart. We pray for those who have suffered miscarriages, those fatigued by fertility treatments, and those struggling through the process of adoption. May they remember that in your power and through your church, they can still leave a lasting legacy beyond themselves.

For some, this day is marked by loneliness and grief, as they spend this first Mother’s Day as a widower, an orphan, or a parent who has lost a child. To those who today live in the wake of the death of a loved one, grant glimpses of the resurrection. Bring to them a steady restoration of their broken hearts.  Allow them to live into their future with hope, and empower them to carry out the legacy of lessons instilled within them.

For some, this is a day that surfaces ongoing tensions that exist within our personal relationships and family dynamics. We ask for healing from the wounds of our past, a path of forgiveness for wrongs both experienced and committed, and the rebuilding of trust forged in honesty, authenticity, and love.

We give you thanks for the wide spectrum of motherhood represented among us today: new mothers and young mothers whose children are in their most tender years; mothers of grown children who transition into empty nests and a new chapter of self-discovery; mothers and grandmothers of advanced years, whose twilight of life is marked by frailty of body but a potency of spirit. Theirs is a cumulative reminder that though our lives are marked by transition and change, your nurture and affection for all your children remains the same.

Therefore, remind us to live with child-like faith, curious to every wondrous mystery, attentive to your every instruction, obedient to your every command, and willing to share with every one of your children. We give you thanks, O God, who is a loving Mother and Father to us all, and in whose name we pray,

Amen.

Prayer for Mothers provided by Discipleship Ministries, The United Methodist Church

 

 

 

Out of the Wilderness

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Scripture – Acts 8:26-40

Then an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Get up and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This is a wilderness road.) So he got up and went. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning home; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet, Isaiah. Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over to this chariot and join it.”

So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” He replied, “How can I unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him. Now the passage of the scripture that he was reading was this: “Like a sheep, he was led to the slaughter, and like a lamb silent before its shearer, so he does not open his mouth. In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.”

The eunuch asked Philip, “About whom, may I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or someone else?” Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus. As they were going along the road, they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?”

He commanded the chariot to stop, and both of them, Philip and the eunuch, went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more and went on his way rejoicing. But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he was passing through the region, he proclaimed the good news to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.

Reflection:

Many people find themselves in a spiritual wilderness. The truth about God is out there, somewhere. They search and yearn for God, visit sacred places in hopes of finding God, listen to preaching, and read the Bible, but still feel like outsiders to the life in God they desire. God remains distant, unrelatable, a puzzle. God’s prevenient grace is ever present with them, but they can’t sense it or receive it.

Such was the case of the Ethiopian eunuch, a powerful chief treasurer of the wealthy kingdom. He traveled over 2,200 miles through harsh wilderness roads by chariot to worship in Jerusalem. On the way back to Ethiopia, he’s going on a wilderness road in his chariot, reading an Old Testament passage from the book of the prophet Isaiah. He doesn’t understand it or make sense of what he is reading He needs someone to interpret it for him. Then, along comes Phillip. Phillip guides the eunuch to understand the Scriptures; he proclaims the Jesus of the Scriptures and Lord of life to the eunuch. Phillip then baptizes the eunuch into the faith and fellowship of believers and sends him on the way back to Ethiopia as an ambassador for Christ to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).

The Church of today needs more Phillips in our schools, workplace, and communities which can lead people out of their spiritual wilderness. That is people who can answer the questions of others that find themselves in a spiritual wilderness. They can point others to Jesus’ saving, healing, liberating, and indwelling significance. The Phillips of today are sensitive to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. They are willing to cross boundaries (ethnic, racial, cultural, geographic, political, social, economic, etc.). They know and can handle the Scripture with confidence and can interpret it in a winsome way.  They can talk about Christ in a personal way because they are in a relationship with him. And, they can lead others to give their lives to Christ.

Prayer

“People Need The Lord” by Steve Green

Every day they pass me by I can see it in their eye
Empty people filled with care Headed who knows where
On they go through private pain Living fear to fear
Laughter hides the silent cries Only Jesus hears

[Chorus:]
People need the Lord People need the Lord
At the end of broken dreams, He’s the open door
People need the Lord People need the Lord
When will we realize People need the Lord

We are called to take His light To a world where wrong seems right
What could be too great a cost For sharing life with one who’s lost
Through His love, our hearts can feel all the grief they bear
They must hear the words of life Only we can share [Chorus]

 

He Leads Us!

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El Buen Pastor United Methodist Church stained glass window, Edinburg, Texas

Scripture: Psalm 23

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff– they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD my whole life long.

Reflection

I will always be grateful for the amazing ten years I pastored El Buen Pastor United Methodist Church in Edinburg, Texas before I was newly appointed to serve a cross-conference appointment as the Southwest Texas Conference New Church Developer in San Antonio. The translation of El Buen Pastor from Spanish to English is, The Good Shepherd. The magnificent stained glass window pictured above, a classic artistic portrayal of Psalm 23, stood as a spiritually formative focal point at the front and center of our sanctuary. The dominant image of a gentle shepherd carrying and caring for a young and helpless lamb certainly helped shape the self-image and missional understanding of the loving and nurturing congregation for they understood themselves by and large as sheep to be cared for, rather than as leader shepherds of those in their familial and social networks of relationships.

One day, when I was praying about how to lead and help turn the congregation missionally outward, I re-read Psalm 23. This time, I was drawn to verse 3, “He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.” It struck me that Psalm 23 is at its core a missional psalm. It is written from the perspective and experience of a sheep confidently looking to his leader shepherd for his missional leadership, direction and assignment, accompaniment, protection, and missional success. Interpreting Psalm 23 with a missional perspective transformed the way our congregation understood and practiced our ministries our nurture, outreach, and witness. After all, we now understood our mission as preparing and sending confident Christian shepherd leaders into the dark valleys of the world for the sake of the Lord’s name and to proclaim the favor, goodness, mercy, and love of the Lord.

The sheep in Psalm 23 testifies that in his experience, the shepherd is a good and trustworthy leader worthy of subordinating oneself to and obeying, even when the shepherd sends the sheep through the darkest valleys for the sake of shepherd’s reputation/name (v. 4). The sheep accepts the shepherd’s missional assignment, and with boldness and fearlessness, he heads out into and through the darkest valleys fraught with dangers, toils, and snares because he has been set apart – anointed – for the mission. When the mission is over, the shepherd refreshes and restores the sheep for the next mission (v. 1-2). Over and over again, the sheep experience the goodness and mercy of the Lord while on assignment and mission. He trusts that the shepherd’s goodness and mercy will continue forever (v. 6).

Next time you sense the leading of the Lord to enter into a challenging situation  – a dark valley – for the sake of the Lord’s reputation or name, read and pray Psalm 23. Seek the assurance of the Lord’s leading, direction, protection, and care the psalmist proclaims and invites us into.  When you find the shepherd’s assurance, head out with boldness and trust.  Paz.

Prayer

I arise today through the mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity, through the belief in the Threeness, through the confession of the Oneness, of the Creator of creation. Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise, Christ in the heart of every man [person] who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me, Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me.

The Breastplate Prayer is attributed to St. Patrick of Ireland

 

 

Peace be with You

THIRD WEEK AFTER EASTER

duccio_doubting_thomas_2-1-e1454807042795-960x250Reassuring Thomas (Fragment), 1311 by Duccio.

Scripture: Luke 24:36b-48

While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence. Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you–that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance and forgiveness of sins are to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.

Reflection:

I checked my silenced cell phone for messages after this week’s Monday morning meetings at the conference office and discovered that had I missed three calls from my 27-year-old son who is a pastor at a UM church in San Antonio. Several voicemail notifications showed on my phone screen, but I did not bother to listen to them. Instead, I called him immediately thinking that he either had some good news and could not wait to share it with me or there was an emergency he was calling about.

My son shared that he was calling me earlier to ask for prayer and guidance as he raced to the church to minister to the surviving family of a long-time member who was in a tragic and fatal auto accident as she was turning into the church parking lot for a Monday morning bible study. The family members had all gone their separate ways by the time we spoke. We have had several conversations during the week to process his experience. He called yesterday to share some of his thoughts on the sermon he is preparing for the memorial service this Saturday morning. I’m sure the Lord will give him the right words of comfort and assurance the family needs to hear in their time of need.

The faith of the family of the deceased in Christ’s promise of eternal life has left an indelible impression on my son who has been around the deaths of friends, several church members, and students. He shared how the family while grieving, expressed gratitude to God for the life of their loved one. He said, “Dad, I was expecting to minister grace to the family in their time of sorrow and loss, and instead their faith in the resurrection and eternal life ministered grace to me.” He continued, “The good news of Jesus conquering death through the resurrection is meaningful and real for people of faith. Their witness in the hope of the resurrection and eternal life strengthens my faith.”

The main point of Luke’s post-resurrection appearance story is that the peace of the resurrected Christ drives out doubt and fear. Christ’s peace becomes the basis for the proclamation of the marvelous news of the resurrection to all nations. The disciples found in the resurrected Christ sustaining peace, hope, and joy for their troubled hearts. The family my son ministered to this week found in the resurrected Christ sustaining peace, hope, and joy for their troubled hearts. Like the disciples, we also find in the peace of the resurrected Lord, sustained joy and hope for our troubled hearts. In turn, we desire that our peace, hope, and joy in the risen Christ will find its way into the troubled hearts of people in our communities and in our frightened and disbelieving world.

Paz – Peace

 

The Second Sunday of Easter, April 7, 2018 – The Ministry of Accompaniment

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Scripture: Luke 24: 13-16

Now on that same day, two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him.

Reflection: The beautiful and touching story of the Walk to Emmaus is a familiar post-resurrection story (Luke 24:13-35). The Scripture does not say why Cleopas and another unnamed man are walking away from the disciples in Jerusalem, but they are. They are despondent, disappointed, and devastated by everything that happened during the Passover festival in Jerusalem.  Jesus of Nazareth, the one who was going to redeem Israel, was betrayed, crucified, dead, and buried. They had heard that Jesus had risen, but for some reason, they cannot accept consolation much less see how God was at work in all that happened. They sadly walk away from Jerusalem to Emmaus, rehearsing their disbelief and disappointments, the eyes of their hearts unable to see hope.

Suddenly Jesus accompanies them, listening to them, talking with them, walking alongside them. He does not walk ahead of them. Jesus does not walk behind them. He walks with them and listens to their narrative account. He converses with them and helps them to see a larger, hidden narrative of God’s saving activity and presence in all that happened. Jesus encourages the faith of the walkers in the breaking of the bread and reveals himself as the crucified and risen Lord! The two men, hearts burning with joy and hope, return to Jerusalem. They find the Eleven and those with them and tell them how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.

There are times in our lives when we experience traumatic events that leave us wounded, disappointed, devastated, and despondent. Our grieving hearts wonder, where is God in all of this? Suddenly, the Risen Christ walks alongside us sharing in our pain and grief. Christ walks alongside us in Spirit, and through the accompaniment of loving and supportive family members, close friends, a loving church community, and through the strength we receive from worship, bible study, and prayer. Suddenly, our wavering spirits are encouraged. Our grief blinded eyes see things in a new way.  We find God’s presence and strength in hopeless situations. We can sing a new song of faith with joy. As we experience Christ’s accompaniment and power in our time of need, we are enabled to encourage and point others on their journeys to Emmaus to the source of all hope, Jesus Christ, our Risen Lord and Savior.

Easter Sunday, April 1, 2018 – Consolation and Commission

  Why do you weep?

He is Risen!

Go and Tell!

 

Easter Pic

Click on the link: Easter Message

Isaiah 25:6-9 On this mountain the LORD of hosts will
make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged
wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines
strained clear. And he will destroy on this mountain the
shroud that is cast over all peoples, the sheet that is spread
over all nations; he will swallow up death forever. Then the
Lord GOD will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the
disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the LORD has spoken. It will be said on that day, Lo, this
is our God; we have waited for him so that he might save us.
This is the LORD for whom we have waited; let us be glad
and rejoice in his salvation.

CHRIST THE LORD IS RISEN TODAY

1 Christ the Lord is risen today, Alleluia!
Earth and heaven in chorus say, Alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!
Sing, ye heavens, and earth reply, Alleluia!

2 Love’s redeeming work is done, Alleluia!
Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia!
Death in vain forbids him rise, Alleluia!
Christ has opened paradise, Alleluia!

3 Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia!
Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!
Once he died our souls to save, Alleluia!
Where’s thy victory, boasting grave? Alleluia!

    4 Soar we now where Christ has led, Alleluia!  Following our exalted Head, Alleluia!
Made like him, like him we rise, Alleluia!
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia!

5 Hail the Lord of earth and heaven, Alleluia!
Praise to thee by both be given, Alleluia!
Thee we greet triumphant now, Alleluia!
Hail the Resurrection, thou, Alleluia!

6 King of glory, soul of bliss, Alleluia!
Everlasting life is this, Alleluia!
Thee to know, thy power to prove, Alleluia!
Thus to sing, and thus to love, Alleluia!

By Charles Wesley (1707-1788)

 

Holy Saturday, March 31, 2018 – Awaiting the Dawning of the Third Day

 

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PRAYER

Merciful and ever-living God, Creator of heaven and earth: As the crucified body of your Son was laid in the tomb and rested on this holy day, grant that we may await with him the dawning of the third day as he promised, and rise with him in newness of life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

READING

1 Peter 4:1-8 – Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same intention (for whoever has suffered in the flesh has finished with sin), so as to live for the rest of your earthly life no longer by human desires but by the will of God. You have already spent enough time in doing what the Gentiles like to do, living in licentiousness, passions, drunkenness, revels, carousing, and lawless idolatry. They are surprised that you no longer join them in the same excesses of dissipation, and so they blaspheme. But they will have to give an accounting to him who stands ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is the reason the gospel was proclaimed even to the dead, so that, though they had been judged in the flesh as everyone is judged, they might live in the spirit as God does. The end of all things is near; therefore be serious and discipline yourselves for the sake of your prayers. Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins.

RESPONSORY

In the midst of life we are in death; from whom can we seek help? From you alone, Lord, who by our sins are justly angered. Holy God, Holy and Mighty, Holy and merciful Savior, deliver us from the bitterness of eternal death.

On this Holy Saturday in which Jesus passed from death to life, we pray and watch for the dawning of his triumph and resurrection. We join the whole company of God’s people in heaven and on earth in recalling and celebrating his victory over death, and our deliverance from the bondage of sin and darkness to everlasting light.

“In the beginning was the Word, and Word was with God, and the Word was God … In him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:1,4-5).

            Adapted from The New Handbook of the Christian Year by Hoyt L. Hickman, Don E. Saliers, Laurence Hull Stookey, and James F. White. (Abingdon, Nashville: 1992) pp. 192-193.

 

Good Friday, March 30, 2018 – Blessed Cross

Good Friday, March 30, 2108

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The Twelfth Station: Jesus Creates a New Family

Behold your son

John 19:25-27

Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.  When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.”  Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.

The Thirteenth Station: Jesus Dies on the Cross

removal of the bodyLuke 23:44-47

It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon,  while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two.  Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands, I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last.  When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, “Certainly this man was innocent.”

 

The Fourteenth Station: Jesus is Laid in the Tomb

188056-jesus-body-is-prepared-for-burial_mdLuke 23:50-54

Now there was a good and righteous man named Joseph, who, though a member of the council, had not agreed to their plan and action. He came from the Jewish town of Arimathea, and he was waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God.  This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down, wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid it in a rock-hewn tomb where no one had ever been laid. It was the day of Preparation, and the Sabbath was beginning.

 

Reflection:

Today is Good Friday. We remember that Jesus Christ knew our human griefs. We acknowledge the pain of human loss. We recognize our need for the grace of God so that in pain we may find comfort, in sorrow, hope, in death, resurrection. We remember with praise, thanksgiving, and blessing to God that dying, Jesus Christ destroyed the power of sin and our death.

Amidst the suffering and death of Christ on the cross, we see people from all walks of life transformed, blessed and carrying forth the godly virtues of faith, hope, and love they first observed in Christ. For example, we see faith and love when a close friend assumes responsibility for the blessed care of Jesus’ mother, creating a new Christ-centered, non-biological family, and humanity. We witness the emergence of faith and hope when a centurion becomes a worshipper by the blessing of observing the strength, dignity, grace, and faith expressed by an innocent Jesus crucified. And, we observe the virtue of love when a man of social standing and financial means assumes responsibility for Jesus’ funeral arrangements, blessing the dignity of Jesus, and the spirits of Jesus’ family and disciples.

The blessings of family care and support, praise, proclamation, advocacy for the defenseless, and generosity powerfully show forth in these last three stations of the cross. Are not the fruit of blessings the marks of discipleship and marks of Christian character? Are not these blessings the marks of discipleship generated in people that have first experienced the blessed inward touch of Christ’s love, faith, and hope? Are not these people, touched by Christ’s holy grace, now desirous of patterning their lives after Christ’s who said to Peter after blessing him by washing his feet, “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done to you; you will be blessed if you do them.” (John 13:14,17).

Something profoundly transformative, freeing, life-giving, and blessed generates deep within our soul and spirit when we pay attention to how Jesus submitted himself to the will of God and closely follow him on the path of the cross. First, we learn that we are blessed children of God and that nothing – hardship, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, or sword – can separate us from the love of Christ. We are blessed with God’s wisdom that enables us to see a bigger kingdom picture and vision. By observing the courage of Jesus, we are blessed to have access to the same courage for living. By observing both the darkness and goodness of humanity, we can be self-aware of the darkness and goodness in us and seek the blessed goodness of Christ to be formed within us for the sake of a broken world in need of healing. We are blessed with the grace to entrust our lives to God’s love with hope in the difficult days and seasons of our lives. We can see the darkness of injustice and choose to live doing justice that blesses and uplifts.  And, we live with the blessing of a forgiving spirit that frees us from the captivity of hatred. And we are blessed to know that even in our Good Friday’s, Sunday is Coming! Because we know that all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to his purpose.

Paz – Peace

 

The Grace We Need – The grace to more fully understand what Jesus means when he says, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24)

Concluding Prayer:

Let nothing disturb you; nothing frighten you; All things are passing; God never changes; Patient endurance attains all things; Whoever possesses God is wanting in nothing; God alone suffices. Teresa of Avila

Thursday of Holy Week, March 29, 2018 – Compunction

Thursday of Holy Week, March 29, 2108

Holy-week

The Tenth Station: Jesus is Crucified

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Luke 23:33-4, 47
When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots to divide his clothing. When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, “Certainly this man was innocent.”

 

 

The Eleventh Station: Jesus Promises Paradise to a Fellow Sufferer

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Luke 23:39-43
One of the criminals who hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”  But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?  And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.”  Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”  He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

 

Reflection: A centurion and a criminal experience spiritual and moral compunction, or conviction arising from an awareness of guilt brought about by observing the wrongful torture an innocent Christ endured by crucifixion.  By grace, they both perceive the mystery and depth of God’s redeeming mercy and love for humanity in and through the love and suffering of Christ on the cross. The centurion and the criminal are both justly under condemnation all be it in different ways and for different reasons. Their state of condemnation is exposed and brought to the forefront of their consciousness by their discernment of Jesus’ innocence. Both of them verbally proclaim the innocence of Christ. The centurion says, “Certainly this man was innocent.” The criminal says, “this man has done nothing wrong.”

The light of Jesus’ innocence brings into question the lives of the centurion and criminal, forcing them to make a decision. Would they step out of their darkness and into the light now that their deeds were exposed? Or, would they love the darkness they were in and remain there instead?

By the grace of God, both the centurion and the criminal come into the light of Christ’s mercy, forgiveness, love, peace, and life. The centurion praises God! The criminal requests life in Christ’s eternal kingdom. The gospel records that Jesus grants the criminal’s request; “Today, you will be with me in Paradise.” The gospel makes no mention of Christ’s response to the centurion. However, we can trust that whosoever comes to Christ will not be driven away (John 6:37).

Holy Week is a time when we are invited to examine the manner of our lives with the manner of Christ’s life and the glory of his light, truth, and innocence. What we find out about ourselves can be revealing, we may even experience spiritual and moral compunction. Let us take what we find out about ourselves and have it become our Lenten prayer, asking Christ for the mercy and grace to live in a manner worthy of his life and our calling.

 

Questions for Reflection:

  1. When did you discern the mystery of God’s love for you through the cross of Christ? How old were you? What happened?
  2. How do you understand what God is doing through Christ for the world on the cross?
  3. Do you examine, measure, and align your life with Christ’s or your neighbor’s?

 

The Grace We Need – For the grace to acknowledge the need for the gifts of Christ in our lives. 

 

Concluding Prayer:

Let nothing disturb you; nothing frighten you; All things are passing; God never changes; Patient endurance attains all things; Whoever possesses God is wanting in nothing; God alone suffices. Teresa of Avila

Holy Week, Wednesday, March 28, 2018 – Perspectives

Wednesday of Holy Week, March 27, 2108

Stations-of-the-Cross-3

The Seventh Station: Jesus Takes Up the Cross02-Jesus-takes-Cross

Mark 15:20

After mocking him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.

 

 

05-Jesus-and-Simon.jpgThe Eighth Station: Simon of Cyrene Helps Jesus to Carry His Cross

Luke 23:26

As they led him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming from the country, and they laid the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus.

 

08-Jesus-SpeaksThe Ninth Station: Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem

Luke 23:27-31

A great number of the people followed him, and among them were women who were beating their breasts and wailing for him. But Jesus turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and your children. For the days are surely coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us’; and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

Reflection: Our Christian faith makes it clear that Jesus was not a passive victim of an unjust crucifixion. Christ chose to suffer, and he embraced the cross so that the nations and all peoples could be healed and made whole in every spiritual and relational sense, temporal and eternal. 1 Peter 2:24 reads, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds, you have been healed.” As we live our lives of faith, we do so “looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame (Hebrews 12:2).

And while Jesus had a clear understanding of his mission to carry out God’s saving and healing will for the world through the cross, the people around him on that Good Friday did not understand the fullness of what was happening before them.

Some people thought they were controlling the outcomes. Other people were naïve to the plotting and scheming taking place behind closed doors. Others knew what was happening but could not control the outcome.

Some people participated in dutifully executing the verdict and sentencing of the crucifixion of Jesus on Good Friday. Others, pilgrims from afar to the Passover like Simon of Cyrene*, happened to be bystanders along the Via Crucis (The Way to the Cross) as Jesus passed by carrying his cross on that Good Friday afternoon.  Still others – “a great number of people” (Lk. 23:27) – followed Jesus along the Via Crucis, strongly opposed to and horrified with what was happening, like the women who accompanied him, wailing with cries of pain, grief, and anger.

Some people are intentionally making things happen on that Good Friday. Others are somewhat naïve to what is happening on Good Friday. And others are opposed to what is happening on Good Friday, bewailing the injustice, violence, and normalcy of it all.

Some people see Jesus as a threat to be dealt with on Good Friday. Some people are curious about Jesus and the why’s of Good Friday. Others know and love Jesus, openly identify with him, and are willing to follow him all the way to the cross on Good Friday.

Questions for Reflection:

  1. How have you experienced the salvation and healing of God through Christ?
  2. Who is Jesus to you? A threat? A curiosity? Or, someone you openly follow?
  3. What unjust normalcies do you bewail?

The Grace We Need – The grace to be ambassadors of Christ’s healing and saving grace in the world, even if it leads us down paths of righteousness fraught with shadows of hardship (Psalm 23).

Concluding Prayer:

Let nothing disturb you; nothing frighten you; All things are passing; God never changes; Patient endurance attains all things; Whoever possesses God is wanting in nothing; God alone suffices. Teresa of Avila