Leave a comment

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

Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord 

April 21, 2019

Christ is Risen, Alleluia, Alleluia!

Over the past  few years, I’ve only shared an Easter poem of mine, but here’s a more nourishing reflection; maybe it’ll stretch you a bit, but I hope inspires you and brings you joy to celebrate the feast with renewed faith and hope.

I’ve culled 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 that occurs when Jesus becomes Lord. (B&W 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, 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, outlived 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.” (B&W 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. As Mr. Trump would tweet. “Terrible!”

And in the 1980’s, when I first went 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 initiants about the sacraments until what we call the Mystagoia Period which is after they received the sacraments 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.”

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(s) 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!  (B&W 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?

Who me? Not be afraid?

People struggling to pay their rent?

Old people wasting away in nursing homes?

Immigrants afraid of being deported?

Children in Yemen in bombed-out rubble?

Go quickly! 

Tell it!

Don’t Be Afraid!   

Yeah! 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” with a stadium full of young people singing with them! 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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion ~ My God, why have you forsaken me!

Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion ~ April 19, 2019

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.

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 his crucifixion, 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, Moltmann suggests, 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 could not 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 freedom to hope. The arrogance with which we hinder ourselves and other people melts away, and we become open and 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 hope it 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 faith and strengthen our solidarity with our 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 

 

 

Leave a comment

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 2019

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 (then) forty years of my priesthood.  I record for you now  the prayer which was my journal notes 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 get sense of foreboding as you listened
to the murmurings of hostility beginning to grow against 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?

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

Leave a comment

The Third Sunday of Lent ~ the Warning of the Fig Tree

The Third Sunday of Lent ( Year C) ~ The Warning of the Fig Tree

Before we begin, there are two liturgical texts for this and the following two Sundays.  An alternate set from Year A is often used when Catechumens are present.  But these are the prescribed texts for the day from the Gospel of St. Luke.

I must say that I found the first part of today’s gospel obscure. However, I can salvage this much: There’s a line in the first section about two catastrophes ~ incidents that are unknown to us, but then Jesus goes on to warn his hearers that if they did not repent they too would perish. What did he mean?

Jesus was warning them of what he foresaw and foretold: the destruction of Jerusalem, which happened in AD 70 (cf. Lk. 21:21-24). He knew, sadly, that if they went on with their intrigues, their rebellions, their plottings, and their political ambitions, they were going to commit national suicide. He knew Rome would obliterate the nation, and that’s what happened.

And there is a warning for us today. For years I’ve been imploring my readers to pray personal transformation for the sake of the transformation of our nation. And in the present atmosphere of our country, looking ahead to the next election, again such prayer, and Jesus’ warning is quite apropos, as is the second part of today’s gospel—the parable of the fig tree . . . .

Barclay offers us several things to learn about this famous parable that I hadn’t realized before.

First, the fig tree occupied a specially favored position. It was not unusual to see fig trees, thorn trees and apple trees in the same vineyards. The soil was so shallow and poor that trees were grown wherever there was soil to grow them but the fig tree had its chance, and had not proved worthy of it.

Very often, Jesus reminded people, and by implication in this parable, that they would be judged according to the opportunities they had.

Second, the parable teaches that uselessness invites disaster. The whole process of evolution in this world is to produce useful things, and that what is useful will go on, while what is useless will be eliminated. The most searching question any of us can ask is—“Of what use were we in this world?”

During this Lent, it might be well to take stock of the opportunities that you’ve had in life and how you responded to them. As I approach the celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the ordination to my priesthood this May, I am beginning to look back over those fifty years with a little trepidation.

Third, the parable teaches that nothing that only takes, survives. The fig tree was drawing strength and sustenance from the soil; and in return was producing nothing. That, Barclay says, was precisely its sin. There are two kinds of people in the world—those who take out more than they put in, and those who put in more than they take out. We’ve inherited a Christian civilization and the great freedoms of this land. It’s our responsibility to hand them on to the generations to come, perhaps better than we found them. As for me, I am grateful for the opportunities for education my parents and my bishops have provided me, and the gifts God has given me to serve him and his people.

Fourth, the parable tells us of the gospel of the second chance. A fig tree, our scripture scholar tells us from his research, normally takes three years to reach maturity. If it doesn’t bear fruit by that time, it’s not likely to bear fruit at all. But this fig tree was given a second chance. In our sinfulness, it’s hard for us to realize the true depth and nature of our sin. This Lent is a good time to make a thoughtful review of our life and create a clean heart. Won’t you make a good confession before Easter?

It’s Jesus’ way to give us chance after chance after chance. Peter and Paul would gladly witness to that. God is forever kind to those who fall and rise again.

And that perhaps is the most important meaning for us to receive from this parable today, God never gives up on us! He will never give up on you! Ever! Ever, Ever! God doesn’t abandon us; it is we who abandon him. And that perhaps may be our sin. That we think that we aren’t any good. That we’re not worth it. But that’s really a sin of pride, isn’t it?

Fifth, the gospel makes it quite clear there’s a final chance. If we refuse chance after chance, if God’s appeal and challenge come again and again without us even turning towards him, the day finally comes, not when God has shut us out, but we by deliberate choice we refuse his grace and turn our back on him definitively.

But even in that, there may be something psychological that is operative in that person that would diminish that person’s guilt, and save him in spite of himself.

Awake, O sleeper, rise from death,

And Christ will give you light,

So learn his love ~ his length and breadth

It’s fullness, depth and height 

For he descended here to bring

From sin and fears release

To give the Spirit’s unity

Which is the bond of peace. 

For us Christ lived, for us he died

And conquered in the strife. 

Awake, arise, go forth in faith,

      And Christ shall give you life!  

And now here’s a Lenten hymn for you, “Beyond the Days of Hope and Mystery.” Click here

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

With love,

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

William Barclay the New Daily Study Bible the Gospel of Luke / Westminster John Knox Press / Louisville, KY  1975-pp. 204-9.

Leave a comment

Centering Prayer ~ Silence and (part 3) Friendship with God

Centering Prayer and the Need for Silence in our Lives (Part three) Friendship with God

In the past two issues of this Blog on Centering Prayer, we looked at the basics at how to get into it. In this one, we go a little deeper to take a look at where Centering Prayer is leading—towards real abiding friendship with God at the center of our being. I turn here to another book by Episcopalian priest Cynthia Bourgeault Wisdom Jesus. It was recommended by Father Bill Sheehan, O.M.I. at the last retreat I made with him this past January at the Passionist Retreat Center in North Palm Beach, Florida, He quoted extensively from it and I will do so here. (The image above is Father Bill teaching a group at that retreat with the traditional Passionist cross in the background. I captured the image but was a little nervous because I didn’t want to disturb the proceedings. Father Bill was at the moment talking about Cynthia Bourgeault’s teachings.

In her first chapter, she gives a bit of her story and says that she needed to learn not what to seek but how to seek.”

“Who do you say that I am?” Jesus asks again and again throughout the gospels. Which really means, according to Bourgeault, “Who or what in you recognizes me?

In West civilization, we all grew up with the notion of St. Augustine’s doctrine of original sin that had so pervaded Protestant and Catholic teaching that many of us grew up with a sense of man’s depravity rather than goodness,

This mindset still can have a powerful hold on us today. I recall a dear old lady-friend telling me she couldn’t receive communion because “She flatuated and enjoyed it.” Now, that’s a bit of scrupulosity but it’s an indication of what Cynthia is saying here. This lady thought such a minor thing was a sin that would make her liable for the fires of hell!

And Cynthia was saying that when she gives Centering Prayer workshops, she’s utterly dismayed that when she speaks of the divine indwelling (“The Kingdom of Heaven is within you,” someone in the audience vigorously corrects her.

In the East, there was not a soteriology—a theology that Jesus is Savior—but a sophiology—a word that has its root in wisdom.

Later, Cynthia tells us that for the earliest Christians Jesus was not Savior but Life-Giver.

“In the original Aramaic of Jesus and his followers there was no word for salvation. Salvation was understood as a bestowal of life, and to be saved was to be made alive.”(p.21.)

 Bourgeault suggests this may seem strange to us, maybe even heretical. As the evidence is collected from the Gospel of Thomas, and the Nag Hammadi collection, from the Syriac liturgies, from the African desert fathers and mothers, from Celtic poetry, the same sophiological messages emerge.

The point is that the primary task of the Christian is not belief in theological premises but to put on the mind of Christ. In the West—both in Catholicism and in much of Protestantism our emphasis is on correct dogmatic teaching. (Perhaps we ought to re-think the recitation of the Nicean Creed at Mass on Sundays for something that reflects, “putting on the mind of Christ?)

The Hebrew equivalent Life-Giver is da’arth—the same word used for “love-making”—as in “David entered Bathsheba’s tent ‘knew’ her.”

The Greek word Gnosis is used in the New Testament and St. Paul uses it repeatedly to describe the intimate experiences of being known in Christ. (Throughout my blog writings, it has been my fervent hope and prayer to draw my readers into a closer friendship with Jesus. To get to know and love him personally and richly.)

Now let’s fix Jesus geographically because this is important to his education. Jesus grew up in Galilee. The Silk Road ran right through Capernaum where Jesus did a lot of his learning and teaching. He would’ve been exposed to a lot of ideas—as Cynthia says seemed “as the New Age of the time.” She thinks he “soaked up spiritual teaching like a sponge.” Jesus was his own person, doing his own thinking, but his mind was expanded beyond his Jewish upbringing to include other spiritual traditions that were brought to him from traders on the Silk Road, particularly Buddhism and Persian light mysticism. (p.25.)

Now let’s take a look at this teaching of Jesus from the Gospel of St. Luke . . . .

 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.  Do to others as you would have them do to you. [ . . . .]  “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that.  And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full.  But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

In this passage we can see the“razor edge of Jesus’ brilliance”, as Cynthia puts it. He’s transforming proverbs into parables. A parable is not a moral lesson—the closest thing to it is a Zen koan—as I’ve offered before in my Blogs—“a deliberately subversive paradox aimed at turning our usual mind upside down.” One of her colleagues referred to parables as “spiritual hand grenades;” their job is not to confirm but to uproot.

Throughout all four gospels, we hear people saying, “Where did he get this teaching? Where did he come from? No one ever said anything like this before.”

Jesus response to these questions was always the same: “Come and see.” And this will be true for us as well as we complete our journey through Centering Prayer—and this the point of this third and final blog on this subject.

Within his Near Eastern context he emerges as a fully attuned, even cosmopolitan teacher, yet recognized fully to his Hebrew audience. We begin to see it’s not proverbs for every day living or ways of being virtuous that he’s laying before us.

No. “He’s proposing a total meltdown and recasting of human consciousness, bursting through the tiny acorn selfhood that we arrived on the planet with into an oak tree of our full realized personhood. (p.27,)

So the question is: How do we put on the mind of Christ? How do we see through his eyes? How do we learn to think and feel as Jesus did? Or as a friend has on his email address, “WWJD”—What would Jesus do? Or as I have often prayed, “let your Body and mine become as one and your Blood course through my bloodstream.”

Ms. Bourgeault is saying that, “Putting on the mind of Christ is what Christian orthodoxy is really all about. “It’s not about right belief; it’s about right practice!

So what about the phrase Jesus uses, “The kingdom of heaven is within you?” “”The kingdom of heaven is at hand?” That is, it’s here, now. “You don’t die into it; you awaken into it,” Cynthia suggests.

Where is it then? Relying on a colleague of hers, Jim Marion—and this makes a lot of sense to me—the Kingdom of Heaven is a metaphor for a state of consciousness; it’s not a place you go to, but a place you come from. It’s what we would call today non-dual consciousness or unitive consciousness, which sees no separation—not between God and humans and not between humans and other humans.

I have a major piece of writing on this, called “Spirituality in the Balance” as opposed to Either-or Spirituality that has a tendency to cause unhealthy splits in human behavior. I’d like to enter some of it here . . . .

The curse which affects all of us is dualism, which pervades both Church and Society.   It is also the curse of a deceptive spirituality. Earlier in my writings I wrote, I “was inwardly split ~ torn apart by two opposing forces,” In that, I embody the culture. My struggle has roots common to us all. Diabolein—to dispel or disperse—is a force that wants to tear us asunder—personally, ecclesially and societally. Dualism has been with us for a long time, running through the works of Plato, then Augustine, down to the present time. Symbolein—to draw together—is the opposite of diabolein and is a positive force. What we need is a “Both—And ” spirituality, both inside and outside the church that draws us toward wholeness and that sees that disparate elements contain each other and each has value.

Both—And is the spirituality of God and Jesus:

God has given us the wisdom

to understand fully the mystery,

the plan he was pleased to decree in Christ.

A plan to be carried out

in Christ, in the fullness of time,

to bring all things into one in him,

in the heavens and on the earth.  

            (Ephesians 1:8-10)

And again:

It pleased God to make absolute fullness reside in him

and, by means of him, to reconcile everything in his person,

Both on earth and in the heavens,

making peace through the blood of his cross.

                        (Colossians 1:19-20.)

The political scene in our country is split wide apart. Factions and divisions abound. We grow very weary of this. Government grinds to a halt by a refusal to cooperate. And then can we ever get beyond the dualism of pro-life and pro-choice so that there can be real healing? (This written in 2004!)

The Church also sees its factions and divisions. We become scandalized.

In our selves, we are often torn between “either / or” polarities.   Should we end a bad marriage? Should we get out of an oppressive job? We get discouraged.

Jesus is Redeemer of both the left and the right—and both darkness and light. No one captures all of the truth, except Jesus. He’s the Stillpoint, the center of the whole universe and all of us who are contained therein! He calls each of us to wholeness and holiness.

Consider the following sets of antitheses:

Both body and soul. Soul and body. We are human, after all, which is to be known as being a body and a soul; we are neither pure flesh nor pure spirit. We must learn to tend to both body and soul.

Both good and bad . . . Bad and good. There would not be good without bad, nor bad without good. Those who say there is no bad within them are hypocrites (they like to portray themselves as filled with truth and light. and, therefore, can be evil incarnate. The hypocrites crucified Jesus; they still do.)

Church and world . . . World and church. There would not be church without world, and the world needs the church to call it back to God.

Left and right . . .Right and left.   A person who is missing one of his arms misses something important. A church that does not embrace left and right misses part of the truth. So, too, a politic that does not embrace both left and right also misses part of the truth.

Sin and grace . . . Grace and sin. Jesus teaches us that it is the one who realizes he is a sinner is the one who is open to grace.

Spirituality and sexuality . . .Sexuality and spirituality. Every one of us has a body, and by that reason, are sexual beings, whether we are celibate or not. Spirituality needs a wholesome sexuality and sexuality needs spirituality to be redeemed and meaningful.

Heaven and earth . . . earth and heaven. As we strive for heaven, a place of bliss and fulfillment we remain rooted in our earthiness — “Dust thou art and unto dust we shall return.”

And finally to top off our reflection on all this . . . .

Cynthia shows us that Jesus’ most beautiful symbol for this in his teaching is in John 15 when he says,

“I am the vine; you are the branches, Abide in me as I in you. A few verse later, he says, As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Abide in my love.”

There is no separation between humans and God, which expresses the indivisibility of divine love. We flow into God—and God into us because it is the nature of love to flow.

And our final word will be from St. Paul . . . .

For this reason I kneel before the Father,  from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name.  I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,  so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,  may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,  and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Eph. 3:14-19)

But before you go, here’s the full version of the Eucharistic hymn, Adoro Te Devote as it’s sung accompanying a Eucharistic procession in a Latin country with English subtitles. Click here.

With love, 

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

Leave a comment

Second Sunday of Lent ~ Have you been to the mountain?

The Second Sunday of Lent ~ March 17, 2019

Jesus takes Peter, James and John to a mountaintop and there they have ~ well ~ a “peak” experience extraordinaire. 

It’s a great story.  It contrasts with last week’s story of Jesus in the desert being tempted by the devil.  Today Jesus is receiving a wonderful affirmation.

According to our Scripture-scholar friend William Barclay, this story is another of the great hinges in Jesus’ life on earth—and we’ll see why. He was just about to set out for Jerusalem, setting his face toward the cross.

The story is cloaked in mystery. We can only try to understand. We usually associate this event with Mount Tabor, which is in the south of Galilee. However, Luke tells us this event happened eight days after events in Caesarea Philippi which is in the north. Not on that, Tabor is only about 1,000 feet high, and in the time of Jesus, Barclay indicates there was a fortress on top. It’s much more likely that this event took place amidst the eternal snows of Mount Hermon which is 9,200 high and much nearer Caesarea Philippi. (The image above is from a Flicker photo of Mount Hermon taken in 2009.

Jesus took his favorite disciples, Peter, James and John up on the mountain to pray. On the mountain top, Moses and Elijah appeared to him. Moses was the great lawgiver of the people of Israel; Elijah was the greatest of the prophets. It was as if the princes of Israel’s life and thought and religion were affirming Jesus to go on.

There’s a vivid sentence here about the three apostles . . . .

            “When they were fully awake they saw his glory.”

 In life we miss so much because our minds are often asleep.

~ There are many of us who are so wrapped up in our own ideas that our minds are shut. “Someone may be knockin’ at the door” but we’re often like sleepers who will not awake.

~ There are others of us who refuse think about anything. Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” How many of us have thought things out and thought them through?

~ We can drug ourselves mentally against any disturbing thought until we are sound asleep that Big Brother can taken over. Ever seen the “Matrix?”

But life is full of things designed to awaken us.

~ There is sorrow. Often sorrow can rudely awaken us, but in a moment, through the tears, we will see the glory.

~ There is love. Barclay references a poem by Robert Browning telling of two people who fell in love: She looked at him; he looked at her—“and suddenly life awoke.” 

I remember a similar experience in reading Thomas Merton’s Seven Story Mountain for the second time several years ago. When I finished it I found myself immersed in joyous tears for weeks on end—filled with love for Jesus that this young monk and elicited in me. This Lent, I’m trying to re-enable that experience.

~ There is a sense of need. It’s easy enough to live the routine life half asleep; then all of a sudden there comes some completely insoluble problem, some unanswerable question, some overwhelming temptation, some summons to an effort that we feel is beyond our strength. And that sense of need can awaken us to God.

We would do well to pray, “Lord, keep me always awake to you.” 

Source: William Barclay /Gospel of Luke pages 147-8.

But here’s a couple of other observations from the February 2016 issue of the Magnificat liturgical magazine:

After the disciples witnessed Jesus conversing with Moses and Elijah, this appears in the text . . . .

While he was still speaking, a cloud came and cast a shadow over them,
and they became frightened when they entered the cloud. (Lk. 9:34)

The overshadowing of the divine Spirit does not darken, according to Saint Ambrose, but reveals secret things to the hearts of people. It is the luminous cloud the soaks us from the dew that sprinkles the minds of people with faith sent by the voice of the almighty God.

He’s talking about mystical experience that arise from deep prayer or centering prayer sometimes or even just experiencing an amazing sunset or an exhilarating conversation with a friend.

Anyway, what a gorgeous sentence that is “a luminous cloud that soaks us / from the dew that sprinkles the minds of people with faith” . . .  Wow!  Think on that one.

Immediately following, we here from the cloud a voice that said,

       “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.”

It is a call to heed Jesus’ teaching about his Passion and our need to take up our cross and follow him: Jesus is he Messiah who suffers.

       “After the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. They fell silent” . . . . 

Their silence was a mark of awe. As it was on the last day of Jesus’ life, when he said, “It is finished.”

You may never had a mountain top experience like Peter, James and John have had.  Even one mountain top experience  — one “peak experience” as Abraham Maslow likes to call them can be life-changing.

Any close encounter with God can be life-changing.

As I conclude, I encourage you to make the intention to be open to joyous experience of your own when such moments come.  When they come, embrace  them.  Try not to resist or deny them as many of us do.  Surrender to the moment and experience it as deeply and richly as you can.

And now before you go, here is the Eucharistic hymn sung by a young boy and a mass choir~ Ave Verum Corpus. Click here.

And here are today’s Mass Readings. Click here

Acknowledgements: William Barclay / The New Daily Study Bible / The Gospel of Luke                                                                                     Westminster John Knox Press / Louisville, KY / 1975, 2001

Magnificat.com / Yonkers, NY

With love, 

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

The First Sunday of Lent: The Fidelity of Jesus ~ May we learn to be faithful too!

First Sunday of Lent ~The Fidelity of Jesus ~ March 10, 2019

This is a story about fidelity in the face of temptation.

This is a story about the Jesus I know and love.

Before I get into my own thoughts on this important opening story in the life of our Lord, I’d like to share some notes from our Scripture scholar-friend William Barclay.

He says that the word to tempt in Greek peirazein has a different emphasis than its English counterpart. We always think of tempting as something bad. But peirazein has a different emphasis; it means to test.

One of the great Old Testament stories makes this clear. Remember how Abraham narrowly escaped sacrificing his only son Isaac?  God was testing him, not tempting him!

So, with Jesus, this whole incident was not so much a tempting as the testing of Jesus.

We have to note further where this test took place. The inhabited part of Judea stood on a central plateau that was the backbone of southern Palestine.  Between it and the Dead Sea stretched a terrible wilderness, thirty-five by fifteen miles.  It was called Jeshimmon, which means “the Devastation.”  The hills were like dust-heaps; the limestones looked blistered and peeling; the rocks bare and jagged, with heat like a vast furnace and ran out to the precipices. 1,200 feet high, that plunged down to the Dead Sea. It was in that awesome devastation that Jesus was tempted or rather the Father was shaping him ~ testing his mettle ~ for his mission.

Then there are these other points to take note .  .  .  .

First, all three gospel writers seem to stress the immediacy with which the temptations follow the baptism.  As St. Luke describes it: “Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days to be tempted by the devil.”  Barclay suggests to us that we do well to be on guard when life brings us to the heights that that’s when we’re in the gravest danger of a fall.

Second, we should not regard this experience of Jesus as an outward experience. It was a struggle that went on in his own heart and mind and soul.  The proof is that there is no possible mountain from which all the mountains of the earth could be seen. This is an inner struggle.

It is through our inmost thoughts and desires that the tempter comes to us. His attack can be so real that we almost see the devil.

(Pope Francis in a meditation in the Magnificat liturgical magazine was saying that Christian life is a battle. And then cautioned when someone said “you’re so old-fashioned; the devil doesn’t exist, ‘Watch out! The devil exists. We must learn how to battle him in the 21st Century. And must not be naïve. We must learn from the Gospel how to battle him.’”)

Third, Barclay goes on, we must not think that Jesus conquered the tempter and that the tempter never came to him again.  Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom. In Christian warfare, says Barclay as well as Pope Francis, there is no release.  Some people think they should get beyond that stage; Jesus himself never did, even in his last hour in Gethsemane.

Forth, one thing stands out about this story—these temptations could only come to a person who had special powers and knew he had them.  We are always tempted through our gifts.  We can use our gifts for selfish purposes or we can use them in the service of others. (A word to some of today’s political leaders perhaps?)

Fifth, the source must have been Jesus himself. He was alone in the wilderness.  No one was with him in his struggle, so he must have told his men about it.

We must always approach this story with unique and utmost reverence, for it is laying bare his inmost heart and soul.

The story of Jesus moving into the desert this year, of course this year, is from the Gospel of Luke.

Here’s what Barclay has to say . . . .

No sooner than Jesus is has been immersed in his own baptism by John the Jordan River and basks for a moment in that glory that the battle of temptations begins.

Luke tells us that  the Spirit led Jesus out into the wilderness for his testing time. The very Spirit that came upon him during his baptism.

In this life it’s impossible to escape the assault of temptations; but they’re not sent to make us fail. They’re sent to strengthen the nerve and our sinews of the mind and heart and souls. They’re not meant for our ruin, but for our good.

The Lord once found his people in a wilderness, a wasteland of howling desert (Dt 32:10) That’s where we first find Jesus and that’s where he first finds us—in a wasteland of sorrow, confusion, suffering, sin. Magnificat

Barclay gives the example of a football player who is showing signs of real promise. The manager isn’t going to put on the third team where he’ll hardly break a sweat, but on the first team where he’ll be tested and have a chance to prove himself.

That’s what temptation is meant to do—to enable us to prove our strength of character and to emerge stronger for the fight.

From this episode, our first lesson should be that human life on earth is a life of warfare and the first thing Christians must expect is to be tempted by the devil. Reading in the Gospel that Jesus was tempted right after he was baptized, they will not grow fainthearted and fearful if they experience keener temptations from the temptations from the devil after their conversion or baptism than before—even if persecution should be their lot. Magnificat

And then there’s this: Forty days is not to be taken literally. It’s the regular Hebrew phrase for a considerable period of time. Moses was said to be on the mountain with God for forty days.

And it was Satan that tempted Jesus.. The word Satan in Hebrew means adversary.

The other title for Satan is the Devil: the word comes from the Greek diabolos, which literally means a slanderer. It’s a small step from the thought of one who searches for everything that can be said against a man (adversary) to the thought of one who maliciously and deliberately slanders man in the presence of God.

In the New Testament, we learn that it is the Devil or Satan who causes human disease and suffering. It is the devil who seduces Judas. It is the devil who is destined for the final destruction.

And I wrote this many years ago. . . .

This is a story about earth-shaking silence that bore the sound of deafening harsh voices and one soft and gentle voice Who sent Jesus among us so we could know we had a father/God who loves us with an everlasting love.

First, a harsh voice prompted Jesus to turn stones into bread as a way of manipulating others to get them to follow him.  Jesus could have made people dependent on him; instead, he shared with them what he realized: Our common dependence on the Father of all, who gives us our daily bread.

Another harsh voice tempted him to throw himself down from the parapet of the temple, a 450 ft. drop,  and have his angels come and raise him up.  He could put together a traveling road show of clever signs and wonders.  Things would be easier that way.  People would easily follow a clever magician.  But this would draw people away from the Father, not toward him.

The soft voice was simply asking Jesus to reveal the real order of the Father’s kingdom.

Jesus realized  his mission in life was to reveal Abba’s love as Father of all.   Jesus was to let the world know that there was a soft voice within us all, who is there to affirm and to love, to test and to guide.

A third harsh voice promised Jesus the whole world, saying: “You’ve got the power to gain the whole world.  You can be king of this world.

And Jesus sadly realized that many of his followers, even in the Church, would succumb to greed of every form.  They would kill in Crusades and Inquisitions in the name of love.

As he was tempted, he was led into a soul-embracing love of the One he was to reveal.  In the desert, Jesus must have knelt down and promised in all simplicity to seek and to do the will of the Father from moment to moment.  And in that act of fidelity, in that decision, the new covenant surely was sealed in Jesus’ heart.

In the desert and its temptations, the whole of humanity was drawn into the possibility of intimate experience of the divine.  Because one person was willing to be led into the holy of holies, we all can go with him.  We can go–provided that we–like Jesus, are willing to be tested and cleansed, strengthened and purified.

In this story, at the beginning of Jesus’ mission, is the answer to the question: Why did Jesus have to die?

The answer was:

To surrender himself into the hands of evil people was the only way Jesus could be faithful.  God could have intervened on behalf of his own Son.  But that was out of the question.

The world could not accept God as a gentle Father.  They found his message of love much too demanding.  And since the authorities could not and would not accept him and his message, the only recourse left to him was simply to give witness to that message–even to the end.

He chose to be faithful to the soft Voice of the Father, not compromise the message, even if it led to his death.

Jesus had to suffer and die because, because tragically, that was the only way the world would allow him to be faithful to the Word he heard ~ and preached.

The Father was more pleased with the fidelity of one son than he would have been with the spread of a message that did not reveal his love.

This is a powerful lesson  for those among us who would COERCE others into being good.

The false voices which Jesus tamed and quieted ~the voices of greed or accolade or power–we must tame and quiet, relying on his power as elder Son.

The soft voice of the Father to whom he was so devoted, the voice that was the source and object of all his fidelity, each one of us should train ourselves to hear.

And then learn . . . day after day after day to love . . . more deeply . . . more intimately . . . more really–the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

This is the Jesus I know and love.

And I ask him to teach me the gentle ways of the Father.  Through Jesus, may we be faithful too.

Luke ends today’s Gospel passage by saying: “When the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from him . . . for a time.”  Words that we should prayerfully consider and take heed.

And before you go, here’s the ol’ Gospel song, “Jesus walked that lonesome valley. Click here.

And here are today’s Mass readings, if you would like to reflect on them. Click here.

With love, 

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer