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The Fourth Sunday of Easter ~ Being known and loved anyway

The Fourth Sunday of Easter ~ 2018

Dear Friends,

The Fourth Sunday of Easter has my favorite story of Jesus as the Good Shepherd.  It’s my also my favorite image of Jesus. It’s the perfect image for us today.

Jesus says, I am the good shepherd.  A good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.” 

Jesus says “I am” 45 times in the gospel of John. Some of the outstanding ones are: I am the bread of life. (Jn 6:35)  I am the light of the world (Jn 8:12) I am the resurrection and the life (Jn 11: 25 and I am the way, the truth and the life (Jn 14:6).

In Jesus’ time some looked down on shepherds as outcasts;  they were not usually welcome in the towns. Their work was demanding and perilous.  They were sometimes responsible for herds numbering in the thousands.  They contested with hyenas, jackals, wolves, bears, human enemies, the burning heat of the day, and bitter cold of night.  If something happened to a sheep, he had to produce prove it was not his fault.  The law laid it down: If torn by beasts, let him produce the evidence.” (Exodus 22:13)

It took me a long time to realize that shepherds walked down the road ahead of their flock.  And the sheep simply followed.  They just responded to his voice.

In Mark 10:32, we’re told that the disciples were going up to Jerusalem “and Jesus was leading the way.” And of course, along the way, he was teaching and forming them.

Jesus distinguishes between true and false shepherds. The false ones are mere hired hands that don’t go out of their way to help the sheep. The good shepherd is the one dedicated to his sheep and their care.

The concept of the Messiah as the Good Shepherd appeared frequently in the Old Testament, notably in the prophet Ezekiel. All of Chapter 34 is dedicated to the Good Shepherd. Ezekiel warns of the peril of following false shepherds who lead their flocks astray.   Seek the Good Shepherd who says, “The Lost I will seek out, the strayed I will bring back, the injured I will bind up, the sick I will heal. . . . Thus shall they know that I the Lord, am their God, and they are my people.”

These words were as familiar to the Jews in the time of Jesus as they are to us. They, too, recognized the difference between a good shepherd and a hireling, who was more interested in his pay than the welfare of the flock

What a wonderful model for leadership of any kind.  Someone who is not coercing.  Not goading.  Not threatening. Not saying “If you don’t follow, you’re outa here!”

Jesus just wants to lead the way.  He wants to BE the way because he walked the path ahead of us.  He knows what human life is about.

And more than that, he says “I know mine and mine know me.”

He’s talking about knowing us personally for who we are inside, who we really are.  He delights in those under his care. He rejoices in us.  He wants to be very close to us.

And he wants us to know him personally and intimately, too.

That’s enough.  For those of us  who know, who realize, that God loves us, lifts us up, supports us, wants us to be who we are, that is just enough.

This is the Jesus I know and love.  Jesus has invited me into a personal relationship with him and that makes all the difference in the way I live and love.

I, too, have always wanted to shepherd like that. To be an example to others.  To lead and to know and care for those in my life.

This gospel says there’s a difference between a Good Shepherd and a hired hand who abandons the flock when things get rough.  The Good Shepherd will leave the flock and search for the lost sheep and bring them home.

Earlier in this passage he says, “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” What greater blessing could there be than this: The shepherd knows my voice and I know his.  The closer, the more intimate that relationship, the better we will comprehend the words of our Shepherd: “No one can take them out of my hand.”

Jesus is not only the shepherd, he is the sheepgate. The sheep go in and out of the pasture and are safe.

Jesus is the Gate to the spiritual world. Because he claims us as his own, we are safe.

Those who dabble in mystical experience such as LSD and guided meditations of one sort or another are not protected in the spiritual word. Jesus is the only protected Door or Gate to the spiritual world.

Jesus says it was the Father who gave the sheep to him. And that Jesus received his confidence from the Father. He was secure, not in his own power, but in God’s.

The picture seems a bit one-sided. The Good Shepherd is doing all the giving, all the caring, all the protecting. The sheep just receive.

Now isn’t that the relationship we strive for with our God? We have received everything from God; should we not give all in return? Our love, too, must be unconditional, our loyalty without compromise, our thoughts, words and deeds in accord with the will of God.

Now ask yourself this question: Am I, in turn, a Good Shepherd?

If you have children or others under your care, ask yourself: Do I shepherd well those who are under my care? Do I shepherd by leading? Or by goading? How can I model my leadership style on Jesus as the Good Shepherd?

I love this image of Jesus.   He’s my model of what a priest should be like — or a parent or a teacher or a coach, or even a good statesman.  I just hope that I can continue to be a good shepherd.

Pope Francis has challenged his priests  to go out among their flocks and “be shepherds with the smell of your sheep.”

And now my prayer . . . .

Jesus,

many of us have the role of shepherding others,

whether we be priests or religious or parents, teachers, coaches,

public servants or even the Leader of a Nation.

May we rejoice in that sacred honor and privilege

and do it well, not for profit but for love.

May we never betray that trust.

May we always delight in also being cared for by You.

To You be honor and glory and praise! 

CHRIST IS RISEN!

 

Now before you go, enjoy this version of Psalm 23. Be sure to enter full screen. Click here.

And here are all of today’s Mass readings. Click here.

Have a great day as we continue to celebrate our joyous Easter season.

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

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The Second Sunday of Easter “Peace be with You!”

The Second Sunday of Easter ~ 2018 ~ “Peace be with You!”

When Jesus appeared to the apostles after the resurrection, he would greet them with the words, “Peace be with you.”

They were very distressed and fearful, huddled together in the Upper Room behind locked doors. They were sad and distraught that the One they had come to love had been murdered. They were afraid that the religious leaders would crucify them as well.

William Barclay, the Scripture scholar says that “they met in something like terror.” They knew the envenomed bitterness of the Jewish leaders who had plotted his execution and feared they would be next.

They very much needed some peace.  So the first thing Jesus says when he appears to them is “Peace be with you.”

Thus, peace is an Easter gift. It’s a gift that we can claim and pray for.

I’m not talking about peace between Israelis and Palestinians or Republicans and Democrats.

We usually think about coming to peace with others. But we have to seek peace within ourselves first.

The question is: How do we come to peace within ourselves? If our mind is racing, if we cannot sit still for a few minutes, then we’re not at peace.   Something may be askew in our environment that’s causing us to be unsettled and anxious. Something in our life may be causing us to not enjoy our own company.

But the real problem for many is that we may not like ourselves! We may choose to avoid our own company by watching TV or drinking or going out to a bar or a club to avoid being alone.

Yes, peace is a gift that every one of us needs. Peace within ourselves.

Being able to be calm and peaceful is a good indicator of our soul’s health. We should be at peace. And if we’re not, then we have our agenda laid out for us ~ to find out what’s causing the lack of peace.   Usually lack of peace is caused by something going on the spiritual level.   We learn to deal with our lack of peace by making deliberate efforts to be alone and to enjoy our own company.

I found this article in the Magnificat liturgical magazine .  .  ,   ,

The quest for interior peace is much more than the search for peace of mind. It’s really about something else: opening ourselves to God’s actions. It’s important to understand a simple but spiritually important truth: the more we reach toward peace, the more the grace of God is capable of acting in our lives. Like a tranquil lake perfectly reflects the sun, so a peaceful heart is receptive to the action and movement of the Spirit. Only a peaceful heart is capable of truly loving.

Remaining calm in the face of trouble, uneasiness, and interior disturbances is necessary for God to act in our lives.

And the only time we have good discernment is when we are at peace. When we are preoccupied by worry, disturbed by events in our lives, our emotions can get the best of us and we don’t have an objective grasp on reality—we are tempted to see everything in black and white and question everything in our life. On the other hand, when we are at peace we see life clearly.

We should adopt the following rule of conduct: when a problem has robbed us of our peace, the most important thing is not to solve the problem in the hope regaining our peace, but to regain a minimum of peacefulness , and then to see what we can do to face the problem. 

~ Father Jacques Philippe / A French Priest, and a renowned spiritual director

Today’s gospel teaches us that peace is a gift of the risen Lord. We ought to pray for that gift.

I have known both peace and anxiety; I have known a terrible fear that would give me no peace, even though I desperately sought it.

 In 1982, I was hospitalized and the medication they on made me want to crawl out of my skin. I couldn’t settle my limbs for more than a couple of seconds. But then, finally, something happened inside my soul — a religious experience I had in a dream — that calmed me as if a terrible storm had abated. From that moment on, I knew what peace is like.

The experience of peace is soul-embracing. You feel free, you feel content and settled. You feel connected with your loved ones, your environment, with God, indeed with the whole universe.

And you feel worthwhile. You feel that your own connectedness helps form the connection with others, with the whole world. That’s why it is so important to be at peace.”

Whenever I used to at preach at funerals, I often asked the question — Would you be content to feel the way you feel at this moment for all eternity? Would you be at peace if God called you to himself in the next moment?

I could sometimes  answer my own question and answer: Yes, I would be content to feel as I feel at the present moment for all eternity.

The Apostles were very disturbed after the crucifixion. Their life with Jesus ~ their hopes and dreams for the future ~ seemed to be totally shattered. They were afraid that the leaders would come for them and crucify them as well.

These issues were so strong in them that they could not bring themselves to believe the message that the Women brought them that Jesus had been raised. They were not at peace.

. . . . Until Jesus appeared to them. They no longer had to rely on faith, which was lacking for all of them, not just Thomas. They had to experience the Risen One for themselves.

Then enter Thomas. He is not at peace. He says that unless he puts his finger in the nail-marks and his hand into his side, he will not believe.”

Thomas is honest.

Thomas needed to be convinced. He absolutely refused to say that he understood what he did not understand or to say he believed what he did not believe. There was an uncompromising honesty about him, says our scripture scholar friend William Barclay.

But when he was sure, he went all the way, My Lord and My God,” he proclaimed!

At this point, Thomas is overwhelmed.. a week earlier he had said he would not believe. The truth of it all came home to him, this man so full of mystery, so different from other men—he is the same one they used to be together with, who was put to death a short time ago. And Thomas surrendered. “You are my Lord and my God!” Thomas believed.

But then Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me?

Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”

These words are really extraordinary, according to Bread and Wine author Romano Guardini. Thomas believed because he had been allowed to “see.,” to see the hands and the side and to touch the blessed wounds, yet he wasn’t blessed.

“Blessed indeed are those who have not seen, and have yet learned to believe!” Those who ask for no miracles, demand nothing out of the ordinary, but find God’s message in every day life. Those who require no compelling proofs , but must remain in a certain ultimate suspense, so that faith may never cease to require daring.

And those are called blessed who make the effort to remain open-hearted. Who seek to cleanse their hearts of all self-righteousness, obstinacy, presumption, and inclination to “know better-than-others.”. Who are quick to listen, and are humble and free-spirited. Who are able to find God’s message in the gospel of he day, or even from the sermons of preachers with no message in particular, or in phrases from the Law they’ve heard a thousand times, phrases with no charismatic power about them, or in the happenings of every day life that always end up the same was: work and rest, anxiety—and then again some kind of success, some joy, and an encounter, and a sorrow.

Blessed are those who can see the Lord in all those things!

~ Romano Guardini / Bread and Wine Believing is Seeing” pp.. 119- 123,

 I consider myself a Witness to the Resurrection. I KNOW Jesus lives. He is not just a historical figure who lived in the past. He lives and reigns in the universe today. I KNOW his love for me in the present moment.

I praise and thank God and his Son Jesus Christ our Lord for the gift of his peace

THE PEACE OF THE LORD BE WITH YOU!

And now before you go, a couple of things, first, today is also known as Divine Mercy Sunday.

Divine Mercy Sunday is celebrated on the Sunday after Easter. It is originally based on the Devotion to the Divine Mercy that Saint Faustina Kowalska reported as part of her encounter with Jesus, and is associated with special promises from Jesus and indulgences issued by the Church. Jesus associated with this devotion.

And now,  here is a powerful song to pull all of this together ~ , Click here.  

Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen, and there’s another great song just behind it.

And, finally here are the Mass readings for today. Click here.

With love, 

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

 

 

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Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord ~ Christ is Risen! Go tell it!

Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord 

April 1, 2018

Christ is Risen, Alleluia, Alleluia!

Over the few years, I’ve only shared an Easter poem I wrote, but today I want to offer a more nourishing reflection on the impact of Christ’s resurrection upon Christian people and upon folks like you and me. I hope  inspires you and brings you joy to celebrate the feast with renewed faith and hope.

I’m going to cull together excerpts of several of the great articles in the Lenten book Bread and Wine similar to the Jurgen Moltmann I quoted in the Good Friday blog . . . .

Our first article by Brennan Manning states that over a hundred years ago in the Deep South, a phrase common in our Christian culture today the term born again was seldom used. Rather, the words used to describe the breakthrough into personal relationship with Jesus Christ were:

“I was seized by the power of a great affection!”

It was a profoundly moving way to indicate both the initiative of the almighty God and the explosion within the human heart when Jesus becomes Lord. (p. 224)

Now that, dear friends, is an amazing description of what should take place in the soul of our catechumens baptized at the Easter Vigils in churches all over the world and anyone who wishes to “become a convert”—as we used to say.

To continue the same theme in our second article by E. Stanley Jones brings out a theme that I’ve always stressed “The Christ of Experience.”  The early disciples had little ritual but a mighty realization. They went out not remembering Christ but experiencing him. He was a living, redemptive, actual presence then and there. They went out with the joyous and grateful cry:

“Christ lives in me!”

The Jesus of history had become the Christ of experience. Some have suggested that the early Christians out-thought, out-lived and out-died the pagans. But that was not enough; they out-experienced them.

We cannot merely talk about Christ—we must bring him. We must be a living vital reality –closer than breathing and nearer than hands and feet. We must be “God-bearers.” (pp.346-9)

As a priest—and in my younger days when I taught young people and adults, I would use the phrase: “Experience precedes understanding.”  The point I was trying to get across was the same as Mr. Jones—the only true experience of our faith is to have Jesus in one’s heart. To know him, not just know about him. When I was growing up, all that was required was to regurgitate Catechism answers.

And in the 1980’s, when I first when to study about how the ancients conducted their Catechumenate—what we now call the “RCIA—or Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, I was amazed to find out that they did not teach them about the sacraments until what we call the Mystagoia Period which is after Easter!

Again, the point is that experience precedes understanding. You see, in the early Church, they guarded their experience of the Holy—the Eucharist. In fact, the catechumens today are still supposed to be dismissed from the assembly after the Liturgy of the Word and at that time they are taught about the Word and only at the Easter Vigil do they come into the presence of our sacraments. But I’m not going to win that argument. Oftentimes priests settle for the minimum and, sadly many “converts” are not converted at all. They are not “seized by the power of great affection.” They do not experience the Lord Jesus in their heart and become “God-bearers.”

But let’s move on to the third one ~  second article by Jurgen Moltmann. . . .The resurrection faith is not proved true by means of historical evidence, or only in the next world. It’s proved here and now, through the courage for revolt, the protest against deadly powers, and the self-giving of men and women for the victory of life.

Christ’s resurrection imparted the movement of the Spirit “who fills the hearts of the faithful and enkindle in the fire of your love . . . and you shall renew the face of the earth.” The movement of the Spirit is the divine “liberation movement,” for it’s the process whereby the world is recreated.

So resurrection means rebirth out of impotence and indolence for the “living hope.” And today “living hope” means passion for life and a lived protest against death.

Christ’s resurrection is the beginning of God’s rebellion. That rebellion is still going on in the Spirit of hope, and will be complete when together with death, “every rule and every authority and power is at last abolished. (1 Cor. 15:24)

The resurrection hope finds living expression in men and women when they protest against death and the slaves of death. But it lives from something different—from a superabundance of God’s future. Its freedom lives in resistance against the outward and inward denials of life. But it does not live from this protest. It lives from joy in the coming victory of life.  (pp. 368-9)

Did you ever think of the resurrection as the beginning of God’s rebellion? Well, think a moment. The resurrection of Jesus Christ turned the world on its head, didn’t it? So the resurrection, in other words, was the beginning of God’s rebellion. How ‘bout that?

Now here’s more on the same theme by N. T Wright . . . . Listen to what St. Paul says taking the brutal facts of the cross and turning it inside out:

“God cancelled the bond that stood against us, with its legal demands: he set it aside, nailing it to the cross.” (Col 2:14)

That is to say: The world, and the rulers of the world, had you in their grip. But Jesus took that bondage upon himself: it is all there in the charge that was nailed over the cross and in Pilate’s cynical us of his authority: “What I have written, I have written.” ~ INRI  Jesus took it on himself: and, being the one person who had never submitted to the rulers of this world, who had lived as a free human being, obedient to God, he beat them at their own game. He made a public example of them; God, in Christ, celebrate his triumph over the prince of the world.

The cross is not a defeat but a victory. It’s the dramatic reassertion that God’s love is sovereign, that the rulers of the world don’t have the last word, that the kingdom of God has defeated the kingdom of Satan, that the kingdoms of the world, now become, in principle, the kingdom of our God, and of his Messiah and he shall reign for ever and ever and ever!  (pp. 388-90)  

Now here’s the poem I wrote to celebrate this great feast . .  .

First day of the week now come

The dawn, now dawning

Women rushing with their spices

Quaking earth trembling, trembled

An angel dazzling, dazzled

Rolling back the stone

Do not be afraid! he said,

Do not be afraid! he said,

He has been raised!

He has been raised!

Go quickly!!

Tell it!

Jesus is risen!

What did he say?

Do not be afraid?

Does that apply to us?

To people struggling to pay their rent?

To old people wasting away in nursing homes?

Immigrants afraid of being deported?

Syrian children in bombed-out rubble?

Go quickly!

Tell it!

To your neighbors, to America, and all the world!

Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

JESUS IS RISEN!

Before you go, here’s the Australian young people’s group Hillsong singing “Worthy is the Lamb” Click Here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and be sure to enter full screen.

Now here are today’s Mass readings if you’d like to reflect on them Click here.

With love, 

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

Bread and Wine / Plough Publishing House / Walder NY 2003

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My God, why have you forsaken me!!!

Like a sapling he grew in front of us,
Like a root in arid ground…
a thing despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering ….
And yet ours were the sufferings he bore,
ours the sorrows he carried.
But we thought of him as someone punished,
struck by God, and brought low.
Yet he was pierced through for our faults,
crushed for our sins.
On him lies a punishment that brings in peace
and through his wound we were healed
–excerpted from Isaiah 53.

Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion ~

March 29, 2018

I was blown away by an article I pondered in the volume of Lenten readings that sustain me every year called Bread and Wine. This one is by a German theologian Jurgen Moltmann who was a prisoner of war in WWII. It’s entitled Prisoner of Hope . . . .

The night before the Romans arrested him, Jesus went into the garden of Gethsemane, taking only three of his closest friends with him and “became greatly distressed and troubled” as Mark writes. “My soul is very sorrowful even to death,” he said, and begged his friends to stay awake with him.

Often, Jesus would withdraw at night to pray alone in order to be united with God whom he so intimately called “my Father.” Here, for the first time he doesn’t want to be alone with God. He seeks protection among his friends. Protection from whom?

And then comes the prayer that sounds like a demand, “Father, all things are possible to you, remove this cup from me.”   (Mark 14:16)—spare me this suffering.

Christ’s request is not granted. God, his Father, rejected it. Elsewhere, we are always told “I and the Father are one.” But here Christ’s communion with God breaks down. Christ’s true passion begins with the prayer in Gethsemane that was not heard.

Of course, there was the simple human fear of pain, But Moltmann believes it was a quite different fear that the only begotten Son could be “forsaken’, “rejected”, even “cursed’ by the Father. He’s not afraid for his life. He’s afraid for God and the Father’s kingdom whose joy he had proclaimed to the poor.

This suffering from God himself is the real torment of Christ’s passion. Martin Buber called it the eclipse of God. Who cannot be paralyzed by it? His friends were protected from it by a profound sleep.

Moltmann says the Luther bible heads this chapter with the title The Struggle in Gethsemane. The struggle with whom? Christ’s struggle with himself? His struggle with death? It’s the struggle with God. This was the real agony. He overcame it through his self-surrender.

That was his victory—and our hope.

At the end of Christ’s Passion, on Golgotha, the place of execution, we hear a despairing cry to God . . .

“And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice ‘Eloi, Eloi lama sabachthani

            MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME!’”

For three hours he hung nailed to the cross, apparently in silence, locked in agony and waiting for death. And then with this cry, that expresses the most profound abandonment by the God on whom he pinned all his hopes and for whom he was hanging on the cross.

What Christ was afraid of, what he wrestled with in Gethsemane, what he implored the Father to save him from, was not spared him. It happened on the cross. The Father forsook ~ abandoned the Son and “God is silent!” The Son was forsaken by the Father, rejected and cursed, as Professor Moltmann suggests in this article. He bore the judgment in that everyone is alone and in that no one can stand.

(If you’re getting bored with this reasoning—please hang in there! I think you’ll be astonished how it will apply to you personally!)

Is there an answer to why God abandoned him? Is there an answer to the agonizing questionings and disappointment of death: “My God, Why? Why?”

As a priest I know that a real answer to that question cannot be a theoretical answer beginning with the word “Because . . .”. It has to be a practical answer—an answer from experience.

At the center of the Christian faith is the history of Christ’s passion. At the center of the passion is the experience of God endured by the godforsaken Christ. Is this the end of all human and religious hope?

Or is it the beginning of the true hope, because it is the beginning of a life that has death behind it and for which hell is no longer feared!

At the point where men and women lose hope, where they become powerless and can do nothing more, the lonely, assailed and forsaken Christ waits for them and gives them a share in his passion.

The passionately loving Christ, the persecuted Christ, the lonely Christ, the Christ despairing over God’s silence, the Christ who in dying so totally abandoned—for us and for our sakes—is like the brother or friend to whom we can confide, because he knows everything and has suffered everything that can happen to us—and more.

In our hopes about life, in our love in living and our activity, we participate in his passion for the kingdom of freedom

Our disappointments, our loneliness, and defeats don’t separate us from him; they draw us more deeply into communion with him. And with the final unanswered cry, “Why, my God, why?” we join in his death cry and await the resurrection.

This—is what faith really is: believing, not with head or lips or out of habit, but believing with one’s whole life.

Good Friday is the most comprehensive and most profound expression of Christ’s fellowship with every human being.

In him the despair that oppresses us becomes free to hope. The arrogance with which we hinder ourselves and other people melts away, and we become open as vulnerable as he was.

What seemed so meaningless and irreconcilable—our hope and Christ’s cross—belong together as a single whole, just as do the passionate hope for life and the readiness for disappointment, pain and death.

Beneath the cross of Christ hope is born again out of the depths. The person who has once sensed this is never afraid of any depths again. His hope. Has become firm and unconquerable: “Lord, I am a prisoner—a prisoner of hope!”

As I said when I introduced this article, I was blown away by it, and I hope you have been nourished by it as well. It has changed my whole perspective on Good Friday and my own understanding of Christ’s passion and my own participation in it. I will help to deepen your faith.

And now my prayer .  .  .

Dearest Lord,

Today everywhere in the world there are people

who are forsaken, abandoned, alone, afraid, dying, mourning the loss of loved ones. 

And we cry: “Why, God, Why?”   Be with them, Lord. Help us to help them.

And this Good Friday I feel closer to you because of what I’ve read, Lord. 

May it deepen our to faith and strengthen our solidarity with my sisters and brothers. 

Thank you, Lord, because you’ve  did it! It’s done! You saved us. Thank you ever so much!!!  

And now, before you go, here’s the hymn from Bach’s Passion “O Sacred Head Sore Wounded” ~ Click here. 

Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.

And here are the readings from today’s service of the Word, including the Passion story according to St. John. Click here.

Jurgen Moltmann / “Prisoner of Hope” / Bread and Wine – Readings for Lent and Easter                                                                          Plough Publishing House /  Walden NY / 2003 

 

 

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The Sorrowful Mothers of the World

The Sorrowful Mother (The Pieta) – Michelangelo –

In the millennial year of 1500 when he was 24 years old

HOLY WEEK 2018

While I was on my retreat the first week of Lent 2009,  one of my prayer assignments was to sit before a statue of the sorrowful mother.  I have always had a devotion to Mary, the mother of the Lord,  and on that balmy afternoon against the background of the cypress swamp I reflected on all the mothers I have tried to console throughout the forty years of my priesthood.  I record for you now  the prayer which was my journal note for Father Don the next day.  Several of those women mentioned in the prayer are still in my life today.  I dedicate this blog as I remember them with love.

Be sure to read the commentary about the 24-year-old Michelangelo and his first sculpture which follows.  He chiseled his understanding of human grief, tap by tap,  for two years.  It is a magnificent meditation.  Ponder it yourself.  And unite your own prayer to our Lady to his this Holy Week.  There is also a very different image of grief below that I photographed from a book.

Dearest Lady,
mother of Jesus, whose tender love
brought Love Itself into our world,
may those who have never known
the tender embrace
of their own mother’s love
receive the same tender care and  love you wish for each of them. . .
for each of us . . .
as you offered the stern, yet tender love of a Jewish mother upon
Jesus, the Son of God
who was nourished at your tender breasts,
cradled in your arms,
bounced upon your knee;
whose booboo was kissed by your lovely mouth,
whose dead body you received come down from the Cross:
You were the one from whom
Jesus learned the joys of human love.

Dearest Lady,
Simeon said, holding your little Child in his arms,
that a sword would pierce your soul.

Did you have any idea what he meant?
Did you follow Jesus throughout his ministry?
Where you among the women who took care of him
and the others?
If so, where did you stay?
Or did you stay at home in Nazareth?
Did you go out to visit him when you could?
To listen to him preach?

Were you in the midst of the crowds
who pressed around him?
Did you have a chance to be alone with him for a while?
Did you give him any motherly advice?
Did you wash his clothes,
fix his favorite meal when he was on the road?

Did you gain a sense of foreboding as you listened
to the murmurings of hostility beginning to grow toward him?
What did you do with that concern?

I think perhaps you knew.                                                                                                                                                               You could see  where this was going to end,
because you kept all those foreboding things Simeon told you
in your heart.
Sorrow and sadness must have entered your heart
long before that fateful Friday.
But probably not much worry or anxiety because
I think you must have said over and over:
Be it done unto me according to Your word.
Be it done.
Thy will be done.

A mother can never be prepared to lose her son.

Fran, whose son Jimmy died at the hands of a drunk driver;

Chris who loved two children within her belly.

Dearest Lady, I think of  mothers I have known

who’ve watched their children die.

My cousin, Lynda, whose beautiful child Robbie
who bore her father’s and my name
died in a fire at age three.
I don’t think his mother ever got over that sadness.
I think of Marie whose paralyzed son was in prison
who couldn’t find a priest to console her after his wrongful death.

I think, dear Lady, that you unite yourself with other mothers who suffer at the bedside of a sick child.

I think of Monica whose son Andrew died of AIDS;
Rosemarie, whose very popular high school senior John died of a brain tumor,                                                                                                         and wrote a book to work out her grief;
Florence, the mother of my best priest-buddy Phil who died suddenly at age 47.
“What a dirty trick!” she wailed at God;
the woman whose name I have long forgot whose surfer-son drowned in a storm in my first week of priestly ministry;                                                                                                                                                    mothers I’ve known whose sons who couldn’t escape from addiction;                                                                                               Monique whose son despaired and ended his life, leaving his children.

How can any of us really know what a mother must feel
who must outlive her child?

What of all the mothers of the kids shot at Marjory Stoneman High School?

Or the darling little children at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut before that? Or at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado twenty years ago next month?

Or the mothers of many black men  who are violated by police like Stephon Clark in Sacramento shot 20 times in his own back yard with only a cell phone in his hand, 

And I think of all the mothers of the world who are condemned to watch their children die of malnutrition.

And the mothers who are being deported by the Trump administration, leaving behind their American-born children.

And terrified mothers try to comfort their children  caught in war-torn countries, especially in Syria.

Dearest Lady,

I have loved you since my boyhood.
I brought you flowers in springtime
to express my devotion.  Still do.
Today, I contemplated the sorrowful image
a sculptor captured in white marble.
When I gazed into the eyes of that chiseled image
for just a moment, I knew what you must have felt,
what my friends must have felt,                                                                                                                                                        what these other mothers must be feeling even now.                                                                                                                 And that moment was gift.
A gift I will always remember.

Dearest Lady,
as you yourself shared in Jesus’ passion,
I ask you to be with all those whose hearts are
broken in sorrow.

Receive today

all of Jesus’ brothers and sisters

on this planet,
born and unborn.
Draw us all into that one great mystery of divine~human love
which is the glory of our Christian faith:
the birth, suffering, death and resurrection
of the son of a young beautiful woman,
Son of God,
our Brother,
our Redeemer.
Our Friend,
Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

+ + + + + + +
From: ‘Guide to Saint Peter’s Basilica ‘
This is probably the world’s most famous sculpture of a religious subject.

Michelangelo carved it when he was 24 years old, and it is the only one he ever signed. The beauty of its lines and expression leaves a lasting impression on everyone.

With this magnificent statue Michelangelo has given us a highly spiritual and Christian view of human suffering. Artists before and after Michelangelo always depicted the Virgin with the dead Christ in her arms as grief-stricken, almost on the verge of desperation. Michelangelo, on the other hand, created a highly supernatural feeling.

As she holds Jesus’ lifeless body on her lap, the Virgin’s face emanates sweetness, serenity and a majestic acceptance of this immense sorrow, combined with her faith in the Redeemer. It seems almost as if Jesus is about to reawaken from a tranquil sleep and that after so much suffering and thorns, the rose of resurrection is about to bloom. As we contemplate the Pieta which conveys peace and tranquility, we can feel that the great sufferings of life and its pain can be mitigated.

Here, many Christians recall the price of their redemption and pray in silence. The words may be those of the “Salve Regina” or “Sub tuum presidium” or another prayer. After Peter’s Tomb, the Pieta Chapel is the most frequently visited and silent place in the entire basilica.

It is said that Michelangelo had been criticized for having portrayed the Virgin Mary as too young since she actually must have been around 45-50 years old when Jesus died. He answered that he did so deliberately because the effects of time could not mar the virginal features of this, the most blessed of women. He also said that he was thinking of his own mother’s face, he was only five when she died: the mother’s face is a symbol of eternal youth.

Before you go, here’s the Stabat Mater,  the traditional mourning song to Our Lady. Click Here. Be sure to enter full screen and turn up your speakers. The translation of some of the verses follows.

At the Cross her station keeping,
stood the mournful Mother weeping,
close to her Son to the last.

Through her heart, His sorrow sharing,
all His bitter anguish bearing,
now at length the sword has passed.

O how sad and sore distressed
was that Mother, highly blest,
of the sole-begotten One.

Christ above in torment hangs,
she beneath beholds the pangs
of her dying glorious Son.

Is there one who would not weep,
whelmed in miseries so deep,
Christ’s dear Mother to behold?

Can the human heart refrain
from partaking in her pain,
in that Mother’s pain untold?

For the sins of His own nation,
She saw Jesus wracked with torment,
All with scourges rent:

She beheld her tender Child,
Saw Him hang in desolation,
Till His spirit forth He sent.

O thou Mother! fount of love!
Touch my spirit from above,
make my heart with thine accord:

Make me feel as thou hast felt;
make my soul to glow and melt
with the love of Christ my Lord. 

With Love, 

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

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Monday of Holy Week ~ Love’s extravagance

MONDAY OF HOLY WEEK ~ 2018

Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. ~ John 12:1-3

Yesterday we found Jesus mobbed but probably exhilarated by the crowds as he made his entry into the great holy city of Jerusalem to the shouts of “Hosanna to the Son of David!”

This day, Monday, weary from all the excitement and eager once again to be welcomed by his beloved friends Martha, Mary and Lazarus, he makes the short trip to Bethany with his disciples.

Apparently he was expected; a dinner party had been arranged and Jesus was to have quite an intimate surprise ~ right there in front of God and everybody. Martha and Mary were sisters; Martha was the practical one; she was always busy in the kitchen preparing the meals. Mary loved Jesus in a special way; she was often at his feet listening to his wonderful words.

This day, in front of the guests, she got down, washed Jesus dusty, tired, weary bare feet and massaged, soothed, and caressed them.

Suddenly she got up, went to a nearby shelf and got a beautiful alabaster bottle filled with the finest aromatic spikenard.   She broke it open! and the whole house was instantly transformed by its wonderful aroma.

She poured it liberally over the Master’s feet. (And as we know Judas objected strenuously ~ but let’s not bother with that for the moment.

(Permit me this Ignatian-style reflection ~ a bit R-rated.)

A sensual woman caresses a 33-year old man with perfumed oil. The oil squishes down between his toes; it soothes his weary feet. She rubs it in circular motions around the ankles.

Then Mary teases him dripping some, drop ~ drop on his shins, watching the glistening oil slither down his feet.

She leans back on her haunches and waits to get his reaction.

He grins, and raises his eyeballs toward the ceiling.

Then she pounces on him and rubs his feet firmly and furiously and backs away again, then just looks at him and smiles.

He returns the gaze, obviously, very pleased, very delighted, very relaxed.

Then she leans forward and begins to dry his feet with her hair!

This process takes a long time.

Oil takes a long time to come out, just being dried by hair, as lovely as Mary’s is.

Now, dear friends, you can’t get more sensuous than that!

I wonder.

What the Lord of the universe thinking and feeling during this most intimate of male / female encounters? Would  this most unusual, very creative experience be as intimate, as soul-connecting as intercourse itself?

I wouldn’t even dare to imagine. Take a moment of silence right now and ponder those thoughts and let him have his own thoughts and feelings in your own mind and heart.

The sacred text doesn’t say, but we can intimate from what we already know that Jesus is already very comfortable with Mary who used to sit gaga-eyed at Jesus’ feet (Luke 10:38-42.)

Was it sexual? No. But it sure as h- was sensual!

Did he enjoy the experience?

You bet he did!

Jesus was a whole, integrated man.

Was he embarrassed to have that happen in front of the others? Quite sure not.

He was with people he could “let this hair down” with, although Mary probably got a good talkin’ to by her sister in the bedroom later! Jesus, unlike many of us, was not afraid to be himself, no matter what.

That Monday of that of Holy Week two Millennia ago was a day of relaxation for our Lord. He seemed to have the ability to be able to make the present moment a sacrament as he put aside concern about the events that lie ahead.

In William Barclay’s commentary on this passage, he has a series of little character sketches.

First, Martha. She loved Jesus, but she was a practical woman and the only way she could show her love was by working with her hands by cooking and serving. She always gave what she could.

Then there’s Mary.  We see three things about her love in this story. We see love’s extravagance. She took the most precious thing she possessed and spent it all on Jesus. We see love’s humility. It was a sign of honor to anoint someone’s head, but she anointed Jesus’ feet.  And then we see love’s unselfconsciousness.  Mary wiped his feet with her hair. In Palestine no woman would appear in public with her hair unbound But That was a sign of an immoral woman.Mary never even thought of that. Mary loved Jesus so much that it was nothing to her what the guests might have thought.

But there’s something else here. The house was filled with the fragrance of the ointment.  Many Fathers of the Church have seen a double meaning here. That the whole Church was filled with the sweet memory of Mary’s action.

Then there’s the character of Judas. We see Jesus’ trust in Judas. As early as John 6:70, John shows us Jesus was well aware that there was a traitor  within the ranks.  It may be that he tried to touch Judas’ heart by making him treasurer.   And here, in the house of Jesus’ friends, he had just seen an action of surpassing loveliness and he called it extravagant waste. He was an embittered man and took the embittered view of things.

And the scene ends with the mob coming to see Lazarus and the chief priests plotting to kill Jesus.

But Barclay doesn’t end here. He tells us that there’s one great truth about life here. Some things we can do almost any time, but some things we will never do, unless we grasp the chance when it comes. We are seized with something that seems important to do, but if we put it off, we say we will do it tomorrow and it never gets done. That’s what the great kids at Marjory Stone Douglas High did! They seized the moment and are in the midst of doing something incredibly worthwhile for our country!

This Holy Week resolve to do something that you have put off doing for someone~ an act of kindness or forgiveness, or asking for forgiveness.

Lord Jesus,

help us, too, to make our present moments a sacrament.  

Help us to fully give ourselves to the moment we are in,

embracing it, with eyes and ears wide open to it,

putting all other concerns aside.  

For that moment is where life happens;

we may not get another.

And now before you go, here’s the beautiful hymn, Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence” Click here.   

And here are today’s Mass readings: Click here.

With love, 

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

William Barclay / the Daily Study Bible Series / The Gospel of John – Volume 2  Revised Edition / Westminster Press / Philadelphia Pa 1975 / pp. 108-112.

You might like to know that the sourceof spikenard is Nardostachys jatamansi, a flowering plant of the Valerian family that grows in the Himalayas. It is a source of a type of intensely aromatic amber-colored essential oil, spikenard.