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Posts Tagged ‘salvific suffering’


Philippians 2:6-8: Re-Creation

Easter Sunday, April 16, 2017

[Jesus] always had the nature of God, but he did not think that by force he should try to remain equal with God. (GNT)

In this Lententide, we have meditated on the humility we might learn on our Emmaus journey; we ponder the outrageous hope we have in the Spirit. We have considered the phoenix rising from ashes as we have pledged to remain in God. We have admitted that we are children of God who rest in Christ; and we have determined to remain in the world while not being of it. We have reflected on the act of allowing ourselves to be de-created so that we might become new in Christ. Today, as we celebrate the wondrous miracle of new life that conquers death, we come to terms with our human yet divine nature.

Jesus emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. (NRSV)

Richard Rohr tells us, “All healthy religion shows you what to do with your pain . . . If we cannot find a way to make our wounds into sacred wounds, we invariably become cynical, negative, or bitter . . . If we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it – usually to those closest around us: our family, our neighbors, our work partners, and, invariably, the most vulnerable, our children”. (Rohr 119)

Jesus shows us how we might allow our suffering to save ourselves and others.

Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion. (MSG)

On this great day we might celebrate the breaking of chains of death that none thought breakable. When we witness Christ in his interactions with those who were crucified with him, and later the women and men who discovered the empty tomb, we do not see Christ puffed up in glory. Rather, we find a humble and loving shepherd who leaves an entire flock in order to rescue a single sheep.

On this great day we celebrate the invitation to re-create ourselves in Christ. We give thanks for the invitation to redemption in Christ. And we rejoice in the promise of hope the Spirit offers us. Let us accept these caring gifts with humility, fidelity and love.

The feast of Easter is an eight-day celebration, so this week we will consider how and where we might show our gratitude to God for these gifts of eternal salvation.

Richard Rohr, OFM. The Spring Within Us: A Book of Daily Meditations. Albuquerque, NM: CAC Publishing, 2016.  

To spend more time with these verses, use the scripture link to read varying translations of these words, and to open our hearts to these remarkable gifts of faith, hope and love.

 

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Tobit 3:24-25: The Mystery of Trusting Wisdom

The Third Sunday of Lent, March 19, 2017

school of Titian Rafael

The School of Titian: Tobias and the Archangel Rafael 

We recall the lessons we learned with these verses yesterday: God is good, we are good, life is brutal and unpredictable but also good because it brings us to God; the faithful need not fight, they only need to stand and refuse to do anything that causes them to abandon their God.

There is nothing more important to hear, to learn or to repeat to others than the lessons Tobit teaches us today.  All human suffering can be quenched by these precepts.  All human understanding is capable of taking in these ideas; but not all humans have the will to enact what they hear.  That is why we cannot read this story too often.

Wisdom is sometimes defined as patience in the waiting to hear God’s voice.  One definition puts wisdom in its proper place  as coming from God over time – in God’s time and not in our time.  When we think of the wise people we know, we discover that they share a few characteristics in common.

  • Wise people do not often react instantly to an emotional moment; they pause to allow God to speak through them.
  • Wise people declare their thoughts with the wisdom of ages; they have spent a good portion of their lives with and in scripture.
  • Wise people display a certain amount of serenity; they know that all that surrounds them is not real, the justice of the next world, not this.
  • Wise people do not regularly become impatient; they understand that we are here to practice for that which is real, the love of the next world, not this.
  • Wise people display and embody empathy; they have suffered a great deal, and they have allowed themselves to be transformed by this suffering.
  • Wise people do not think first of saving themselves; they have made their suffering salvific, and freely give themselves as co-redeemers with Christ.

The wisdom of the book of Tobit is just this kind of wisdom.  In this story, wisdom maintains her mystery; she is seen as the ultimate act of stepping into the abyss with God. The ultimate act of suffering for and through God. The ultimate act of trust in God.

Wisdom rises from suffering, endures in fidelity, heals in love, restores in hope, and lives in trust.  We can never hear this story too often.

Adapted from a reflection written on March 10, 2008.

 

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Job 3Misery

Wednesday, October 12, 2016peace-in-christ

We continue our reflections on peace and we find that even in the depths of misery, there is peace. 

In the Biblia de América, the commentary refers to the technique used in this book as a dialog of the deaf.  This certainly explains how we so often feel misunderstood, misheard, misspoken, misunderstanding.  As humans, we are often poor at expressing ourselves clearly . . . and we are equally poor at hearing well.  Job’s three friends, in an effort to either console Job in his misfortune or to justify themselves in their good fortune, do not fully comprehend the depths of Job’s misery.  He is innocent.  He has followed God’s precepts well.  He has done nothing wrong.  He has done all things well . . . yet he suffers tremendously.  This does not fit the Old Testament thinking that if we do as we are asked to do, we will not suffer.  Goods and good times come to us as a reward.  Suffering and pain come to us as a punishment.  Job struggles to find the logic in what has happened to him, and here in the opening chapters he is clear about his grief; yet his friends will reply as if they have not heard the idea their friend struggles to communicate – he has done nothing wrong and still he suffers greatly.  Job, looking for justice and compassion, will find only preaching and separation from his friends.  It is not until the end of this travail that he will see the wisdom and awesome power of God.  And for his fidelity and his willingness to suffer . . . Job will receive compensation beyond his imaginings.

Still, we are struck by the phrase: a dialog of the deaf.  Is this the way we listen to one another?  Are we bent on finding answers?  On ending pain?  On bending circumstances to our own will?  Why do we not hear?  Perhaps the other’s experience is beyond anything we can imagine.  Perhaps others frighten us and we fear contagion.  Perhaps we do not want to admit that discipline from God is necessary and that our role is to abide by those who suffer.  Perhaps we are not willing to become co-redeemers with Christ and enter into the salvific pain which redeems us as well as our enemies when we pray for their conversion.

Job speaks of wishing he had never been born.  This is true misery for this admits that we would rather be without God and free of pain than with God and suffering with God.  Yet we only become truly free when we give over our self-control to the guiding hands of God.  We can only become truly happy when we agree to live a life which depends on God’s plan for our happiness rather than our own.

True freedom and true joy can wipe out the kind of misery Job expresses here.  Authentic faith, enduring hope, genuine love . . . these are the antidote for deep and inconsolable misery . . . and these come from God alone.  As sufferers here in this life we can listen more to one another, we can abide more with one another, and rather than recriminations, accusations or platitudes . . . we might offer God’s peace to one another.

This is the power, the mystery and the comfort that comes from saying to one another . . . may Christ’s peace be with you.  For it is the only peace that knows the depth of pain that cries out . . . if only I had not been born.  It is the eternal peace of God with which God graces all life.  If only we might find a way to listen . . .

Adapted from a reflection written on February 17, 2009.

LA BIBLIA DE LA AMÉRICA. 8th. Madrid: La Casa de la Biblia, 1994. Print.

 

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Saturday, August 2, 2014

jeremiah 15Jeremiah 1

Persecution

Jeremiah’s prophecy is complex; it consists of judgment oracles, narratives about his life, and sermons. Throughout all of this his voice brings not only a constant warning but also a certain consolation to those who are willing to suffer. To the faithful remnant he says what we long to hear: that we are loved, that God’s name is written on our hearts, and that we are called. He speaks to anyone eager to find the truth embedded in each of us, the truth that is God.

Jeremiah speaks to the experience of persecution and this is a theme that resonates with all human beings for all of us at one time or at many times – either justly or unjustly – are persecuted. We all know what it feels like to be left out, looked over, betrayed, and even punished for what we believe is truth. Ultimately, only God can let us know if we are living an honest life; and God does this frequently. Only God can indicate to us that our suffering has been either self-pitying and pointless or redemptive and fruitful. We all suffer. But do we suffer well? God tells us about the truth of our suffering by pointing out to us the fruits of our labor. And God does this gently . . . by telling us that we are wonderfully made . . . and that we need not fear. God tells us that there is hope.

From the HARPERCOLLINS NRSV STUDY BIBLE (Meeks 1113): Here indeed was a prophet who combined elegance of form with the ethical and redemptive content of the “word of the Lord”. And perhaps more than anyone in his time, Jeremiah provided the means by which a despairing people could hope for a new future.

Reading the first chapter of this profound prophecy is an invitation to new life and to hope, an invitation to join Christ in the kind of suffering that saves souls and that transforms itself and us into a joy-filled gift. We are invited into this redemptive mystery that is God’s love.

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you . . .

You are mine. You are special. I have a particular job in mind for you.

And before you were born I consecrated you . . .

Because you are mine you are holy. You are my temple. I want to dwell within you.

I appointed you a prophet to the nations . . .

You have words to say and gestures to make in my Name.

Then I said – Ah Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a child . . .

We reply in fear to this awesome task, believing falsely that we are not up to the journey that lies before us.

But the Lord said to me – Do not say “I am only a child’ for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you . . .

You are my gift to the world . . . my gift of joy. I see a wonderful potential in you . . . for you are designed in love by me . . . to love me in all places and times and peoples . . . you are made to put away fear . . . in yourself and in others . . .

Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you . . .

Until the end of time . . . Amen.

Meeks, Wayne A., Gen. Ed. HARPERCOLLINS STUDY BIBLE (NRSV). New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1989. 1113. Print.

Adapted from a reflection written on Friday, January 16, 2009.

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Saturday, August 24, 2013

corpuschristi[1]Isaiah 49

The Cup of the Lord

Hear me, O coastlands, listen, o distant peoples . . . Thus begins this chapter in which the prophet laments his role as servant of the Lord.  The cup from which he must drink has become too bitter.  He is exhausted from the repeated warnings he delivers to deaf ears.  He believes that God has made him a sharped-edged sword and hidden him under his arm, a polished bow hidden in the quiver.  He believes that he has toiled in vain and yet he knows that his reward is with the Lord. 

Although this servant of God suffers as he drinks this difficult cup of salvation, he knows that God has promised to make him a light to all nations and the chosen one of God.  This servant understands that through him lies the liberation and restoration of many for God pities them and leads them and guides them besides springs of water.  Still, the work of the prophet-servant is difficult, dangerous and heavy.  It exhausts even those who come to the task full of vigor and strength.  Yet despite this lament . . . God persists in calling.

Look about and see, they are gathering and coming to you . . . Those who hope in me shall never be disappointed.  It is more difficult for the faithful servant to walk away from this important work than it is to persist.  And so the prophet perseveres.  All mankind shall know that I, the Lord, am your savior, your redeemer, the mighty one of Jacob. 

We know that Jesus comes to do God’s will, to restore and redeem, to defend and save.  But do we think of ourselves as suffering servants alongside the tireless Jesus?

We know that Jesus is the Son of God.  But do we know that we are God’s adopted children created in God’s image?

We know that we – like Isaiah – are now exhausted from the work we do in God’s name.  But do we ask Jesus to shoulder the burden with us and to carry us on his own broad shoulders?

The suffering servant is Jesus who is the Messiah.  We too will suffer as we serve.  Yet we too will become the pathway of freedom and redemption for many.  We too will gather many who want to come to God.  We too are descendants of Jacob.  We too are children of God.

Go to the online Bible dictionary at: http://bibledictionaries.com/ , enter the words suffering servant, and explore the concept of one who drinks from the Lord’s Cup.

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Thursday, December 6, 2012 – John 19:1-7 – Pontius Pilate

pontius-pilate-slice[1]

Antonio Ciseri: Ecce Homo – Behold the Man

We anticipate the arrival of a babe among us who will save each of us if we but ask.

We enter into Advent in joyful hope that the promise we have heard is indeed true.

We struggle with this mystery of a child who knowingly puts himself in danger for the good of all.

We lean forward in anticipation that if we might look closely enough we will better understand this mystery. 

Today we spend time with the Gospel of John and we watch as Pontius Pilate searches for a better understanding of who Jesus is.  We see him struggle to understand who and what stands before him.  We witness his attempt to satisfy his heart and his head.  And so we watch and learn . . .

Throughout this portion of John’s Gospel we observe Pontius Pilate as he tries to make sense of the mystery that Jesus presents to him.  He wants to make sense of a man who might save himself in an instant but who instead puts himself in the hands of an invisible force.  Pilate struggles to understand a man who allows himself to suffer for others – even others who despise him.  Pilate cannot use human logic to follow this thinking; and this is because salvific suffering is of the divine. 

The mockery of something beautiful makes us cringe and each time we read this story we might try to imagine where we might be standing on this day: with the persecutors or the believers.  And then we must transfer that imagining to reality to look at our own life and actions.  What we believe we might do must connect somehow with what we actually do each day.  If we want to see if we would have been standing with the guards who persecuted Jesus or the followers who cried along the Way of the Cross, we need only look to how we treat the marginalized today.  What do we do for the poor and disenfranchised?  When do we speak up for those who have no voice?  How do we demonstrate our alliance with this one obeys an unseen God?  Where do we exert our influence?  Who matters most to us? When do we act on the part of those who have few possessions and little power? 

From time to time in our lives we will be the Pontius Pilate figure, making decisions that will affect a life in a significant way.  In those times, it must be our intent to act in accord with the Law of Love which Jesus taught.  We hope to be successful.  Sometimes we are not. 

We might allow ourselves to be saddened by today’s story or by our own failures, but I do not believe that this is what Jesus asks of us . . . our sadness.  I believe that Jesus asks that we act as a result of this story for he has come to save and not to condemn.  Jesus asks that we make known the Gospel to any and all who will listen.  Jesus asks that we remember who actually holds power and who actually merits glory.  He asks that we consider whose is the true kingdom . . . and I believe that Jesus watches us carefully as we make our own decisions sand take our own actions. 

The marvelous irony is that Jesus comes to us not as a superior, not as a ruler, not as a priest.  He comes as a vulnerable child among us.  He comes to an average family.  He arrives in difficult circumstances in a difficult time.  He is barely noticed except by the lowly and by those who seek him.

This Advent, let us consider both ends of the human Christ’s story – his birth and his death – and then let us reflect on our own journey of faith, our life and its cumulative acts. 

First written on Tuesday, May 11, 2010.  Re-written and posted today as a Favorite.

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