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1 Peter 3:8-22: Salvific Suffering – Part IV

Friday, May 12, 2017

Paolo Veronese: Christ Healing a Woman with an Issue of Blood

How do we suffer with Christ?

In light of the suffering the early followers of Christ underwent, we read an excerpt from John Paul II’s Salvifici Doloris, in which he writes that Christ raises human suffering to the level of redemption and answers the question “Why must I suffer?”  John Paul writes: “Christ does not explain in the abstract the reason for suffering, but before all else he says ‘Follow me!’ Come!  Take part through your suffering in this work of saving the world, a salvation achieved through my suffering!’  . . .  Gradually, as the individual takes up his cross, spiritually uniting himself to the Cross of Christ, the salvific meaning of suffering is revealed before him.  He does not discover this meaning at his own human level, but at the level of the suffering Christ.  At the same time . . . the salvific meaning of suffering descends to man’s level and becomes, in a sense, the individual’s personal responseIt is then that man finds in his suffering interior peace and even spiritual joy.  A source of joy is found in the overcoming of the sense of the uselessness of suffering, a feeling that is sometimes very strongly rooted in human suffering . . . Those who share in the sufferings of Christ preserve in their own suffering a very special particle of the infinite treasure of the world’s redemption . . .”

As we read from a letter written either by Peter or by someone in his name, we hear this faithful follower say that suffering brings us to a cross that not only symbolizes pain, but that also emanates love and grace.  We hear Pater tell us that salvific suffering is holy when we allow ourselves to suffer with and in Christ, when we allow our experience to become Christ’s gift to us.  And once we live out this deep, transforming love, we will want to return this gift to Christ, and hence to the world. This is how we best understand sorrow. This is how we best offer our pain to the world.

Tomorrow, the baptism of Christ’s love.

To read Salvifici Doloris, go to: https://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/apost_letters/1984/documents/hf_jp-ii_apl_11021984_salvifici-doloris.html

Adapted from a Favorite written in November 10, 2007.

 

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Matthew 5:4: The Inverted Kingdom – Part II

Thursday, January 12, 2017mourning

Jesus proposes that we forego power and wealth, pleasure and honor. Today we consider the solution to overcoming our overwhelming desire for pleasure, and our deep aversion to pain and suffering.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. (NSRV)

This vision of the world sees those who suffer as close to God.

Happy are those who mourn; God will comfort them! (GNT)

This picture of the world sees those who grieve as central to God’s design.

Those who are sad now are happy. God will comfort them. (ICB)

This view of the world sees those who are addicted to their own comfort above that of others as missing the essence of God’s plan.

You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you. (MSG)

This picture of the world sees aversion to suffering as an obstacle to intimacy with God.

The Gospels show us how God’s Word brings healing and comfort to those who mourn. They show us that Jesus makes a choice to cure and transform the wounded and betrayed. They show us that the Spirit is always abiding with those in the margins of society, rather than with those who hold themselves apart to seek after their own preference and desires.

How do we see ourselves as becoming an essential part of God’s designs and plans?

When we compare varying versions of this verse, we better understand how we might enrich our lives by sacrificing our comfort to tend to the suffering of others.

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1 & 2 Chronicles: Our Sacred History – Part V

Tuesday, May 24, 2016finger paint heart

Sharing the story of God’s love

When we recover from cataclysm and struggle to establish a new balance, there is always the temptation to withdrawn from a world that has disappointed or damaged us; but rather than listen to those who encourage a life of bitter regret, we hear the call to light and truth. The call to union, healing and love. What do we do with this invitation?

God says: The stories my chronicler has captured are lessons of my love for you. The ups and downs, the joys and disappointments of these ancient people are modern stories of my fidelity in remaining with you. I never tire of bringing you back to me. The verses my servant records are words of hope and healing for you. The pain and celebration of these long ago women and men are the same emotions experienced by you today. I am never wearied by the healing actions I take on your behalf. The words of the figures in these books are templates that you might use in your modern life. The curses and praises are songs of lament and delight that you might also sing. I will never give up on the plans I have in mind for you – plans for your good and not your woe. Remember this as you move through your obstacles, as you rely on me, as you spend time with me in your thoughts, actions and prayers.

StoryMattersOur shared history has stories we will want to hide because they bring us pain, and stories we will want to shout from the rooftop because they bring us reality and hope. Our collective narrative tells both the ugly and the beautiful because it describes the broad cloth of all humanity. Our mutual chronicle tells of a people who in their search for the Living God find this living, sacred person within, calling all civilization to union, serenity and love. Are we willing to share this most amazing of stories? Are we ready to tell the world this wonderful story of love?

The two books of Chronicles have four major portions that show us very human leaders; they illustrate the rise and fall of a people and nation. These verses tell us how division and exile can lead to forgiveness and return. Our sacred history shows us how we will want to learn to replace pride with humility. Our shared story guides us in moving from fear to love. These holy stories are treasures we will want to share with the world.

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Mark 14:17-21: The Betrayer

Caravaggio: The Taking of Christ

Caravaggio: The Taking of Christ

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

During Holy Week we often reflect on Judas’ betrayal of Jesus on the evening of the Last Supper. Today in our journey through Mark, we open scripture to the moment when we hear Jesus announce that his betrayer is quite close by. As we read varying translations of these verses, we ask ourselves if we have suffered betrayal at the hands of someone close to us . . . or if we have been the betrayer. In either case, Christ understands the piercing pain of this intense suffering that comes when we arrive at the end of our strength.

From MAGNIFICAT: In the suffering of Christ, we hear the depths of God’s love spoken in a language we can understand. (Cameron 78)

From Psalm 69: More numerous than the hairs on my head are those who hate me without cause.  Those who attack me with lies are too much for my strength . . . You know how they taunt and deride me; my oppressors are all before you.  Taunts have broken my heart; I have reached the end of my strength.

God says: Life will include sorrow but you are not expected to cry alone. Life will include joy. Remember me as you celebrate. When you are betrayed, remember that my son has walked this Way before you, and he walks with you today.

This is the dreadful beauty of the story of Christ.  He suffers with us . . . so that we might believe.  If we can but stay with him a little while.

When we spend time with Psalm 69 and Mark 14:17-21, we find the gift of Christ’s company. If we can stay awhile with him. Choose a face in the image above and focus on the emotion Caravaggio communicates. Who are we in this moment of betrayal? And what does Christ say to us? 

Cameron, Peter John, Rev., ed. “Mini-Reflection.” MAGNIFICAT. 20 March 2008: 78. Print.

Adapted from a reflection written on March 20, 2008.

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Thursday, May 15, 2014

two sparrowsMatthew 10:29-31

Every Hair

Jesus taught us, saying: Can you not buy two sparrows for a penny? And yet not one falls to the ground without your Father knowing. Why, every hair on your head has been counted. So there is no need to be afraid; you are worth more than two sparrows”.

In this short citation of Jesus’ words, we learn all that we need to know about living life and about being watchful.

ONE: Nothing can be concealed from God. The Creator knows all that we think and do. The Creator understands our most secret motivations. Why do we try to hide anything we do or anything we think? Secrecy is futile in the kingdom.

Christ walks always with us, calling us forth in the name of the Creator. The Spirit remains in us, filling us with life eternal.

TWO: Nothing we do goes unnoted by God. The Creator marks both our pain and sorrow, our happiness and joy. Why do we persist in relying on our own small forces when we have the omnipotence and omniscience of the Creator buoying us up?  Reliance on self is meaningless in the kingdom.

Christ walks before and behind us, guiding and protecting in the name of the Creator. The Spirit hovers, abiding and consoling with love everlasting.

If God notes even the falling of a sparrow’s feather . . . how much can our anxiety and willfulness accomplish? How far will our stubbornness carry us in comparison with the power and strength of the Spirit?

If God numbers every hair on our heads . . . how much do we think we can hide what we do not like about ourselves?

How much will our separateness gain for us in comparison with the unity we have in God’s love? Secrecy and too much reliance on self will always be trumped by humility, generosity and love in the kingdom. Let us live as if we believe that God has numbered our every hair.

For another reflection on the value of two sparrows, click on the image above or visit March 24, 2007 post at: http://scripture-for-today.blogspot.com/2007_03_01_archive.html

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Friday, November 18, 2011 – 2 Corinthians 4:1-6 – Scrupulous Honesty

Honesty: Robert E. Harney

We have renounced shameful, hidden things . . .  

Just recently in my workplace we have undergone a quality review by visitors from outside our community and we have been commended for our integrity.  This comes at no small cost.  It takes scrupulous honesty to peel away the sham and artifice in order to allow the gentle truth to emerge.  This kind of deep and searching honesty is frequently an unwelcome guest of the heart.  We shrink from repentance; we do not want to change.  We prefer the walls we have constructed that block out any fear that might cause us to change for the better.  We must move away from all hidden agendas and come into the light.

We have not acted deceitfully or falsified the word of God . . .

Just recently in my family we have suffered a soul-shattering loss and we continue to struggle with ourselves and with one another.  Truths must be pronounced but gently . . . kindly . . . mercifully.  The enormity of our grief might cause us to hide, or it may impel us to strike out at one another.  It is possible to nurse sad feelings or harbor grief; we may possibly ignore the growth that our suffering offers.  Or we might grow in wisdom as we allow the Spirit to open and heal us.  We might allow our divinity to teach us about our humanity.  In order to find union with God and mend our broken spirit, we must remove ourselves from deceit and we must allow God’s truth to guide us.  And we must do this lovingly . . . gratefully.

By the open declaration of the truth we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God . . .

As humans we tend to think that we exist in isolation.  The skin that contains our organs prevents us from physically occupying the space someone else holds.  We live in the illusion that we can hide from one another.  We allow small lies to color our stories, our perspectives and our opinions.  We forget that all that we are and all that we do are of and from God.  We live in the illusion that we create ourselves when the scrupulous truth is that we are co-creators of life with God.   When we move away from sham and artifice we can see all of this more clearly.  And when we spend time with God to sort through our sorrows, we become less frightened, less egocentric.  We become more loving, more vulnerable.  We become the promise God has hoped for us. 

We do not preach ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord . . . and ourselves as your slaves for the sake of Jesus.

When we spend time worrying about ourselves and not others we have the wrong end of the stick.  God creates us to serve one another rather than be served.  God wants us to tend to one another rather than to be tended.  We are created to advocate for others . . . not to hide from, lie to, deceive or trample others. When we become slaves for the sake of Christ Jesus we begin to fulfill our potential.  We prepare ourselves in the best way possible for our union with God. 

For God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to bring to light the knowledge of the glory of God on the face of Jesus Christ.

We are created to make known God’s goodness to others, and it is our scrupulous honesty that opens us to God’s light.  It is in this way that we become a fearless, grateful, authentic revelation of God’s love.

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Pray Without Ceasing


Friday, September 30, 2011 – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 – Pray Without Ceasing

Rejoice always.  Pray without ceasing.  In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. 

I have come from my son’s house after spending the afternoon with their four-year old while he and his wife visit funeral homes to make plans for a service that will honor the life of their infant daughter.  Sophie died too quickly a few days ago.  And in all of the wrenching grief, there is prayer.

We sit at a meal together as night closes in.  A friend visits bearing fresh fruit and vegetables.  We laugh over small things, finding comfort in one another’s presence.  The deep sadness is just out of sight but still with us.  And in all of this quiet pain, there is prayer.

It is not the will of God that we suffer.  It is the will of God that we rejoice in spite of the pain, knowing that life here is only temporary.

It is not the will of God that we sink into darkness.  It is the will of God that we rise with him into the light, knowing that life in Christ is never-ending.

Pain cannot be erased, but with patient prayer and unswerving reliance on God it blooms into a rejoicing beyond any happiness we can imagine.  It brings firmness out of the smelting fire.  It brings purity out of the crucible.  It brings a holy presence into a place where only sadness was previously felt.  It brings a knowing that we are eternal and that we will meet again in newness despite any separation this earth can visit on us. 

It is through pain that we find our true selves.  It is in pain that we kneel before God in petition.  It is after pain that we rise again in the crystalline newness of our life in Christ. 

For all of these reasons . . . we must pray without ceasing.

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