The Feast of the Ascension of the Lord ~ You are my witnesses to the ends of the earth!

The Feast of the Ascension of the Lord

May 29, 2022

The feast of the Ascension of our Lord is part of the Easter mystery.  First is the Resurrection in which Jesus conquers death for us and reveals that life for us will never end.

Then there is the Ascension in which Jesus is taken up into heaven to sit at the Father’s right hand.

And finally Pentecost in which God pours forth his Spirit upon the church and all humankind.

All three experiences are intertwined; they reveal different aspects or facets of the same reality.  The Scriptures separate them over 50 days to afford us the opportunity to reflect on each aspect of the one Easter mystery.

Now, let’s look at today’s feast, the Ascension.

At the very beginning of the Acts of the Apostle (the first reading ~ Acts 1:1-11), written by the same author as Luke’s gospel, describes the experience . . . .

Then Jesus told them not to depart from Jerusalem but to “wait for the promise of the Father of which you have heard me speak; for John baptized with water but in a few days you  will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” 

He, of course, was referring to Pentecost.

. . . Then he said,

“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you

AND YOU WILL BE MY WITNESSES in Jerusalem, and to the ends of the earth.”

Then Jesus was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight.

They stood there, awestruck, spellbound .

Then two men dressed in white garments stood beside them and said,

“Men of Galilee, why are standing there looking at the sky? 

This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.”

This feast is about heaven, but also about earth.

Jesus is taken into heaven; that is, he returns to his Father where he sits at the Father’s right hand.

And the second reading from Ephesians states that. . . .

God the Father “put all things beneath Christ’s feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way.” (Ephesians 1:23)

Thus, there is a cosmic dimension to Christology.  The great mystic and theologian Father Teilhard de Chardin  talked about “Christogenesis” – the entire universe evolving by the power of Christ’s all-embracing love.  When Chardin was far away from bread or wine and could not celebrate Mass, he talked fervently and passionately about the  “Mass on the world” – that the whole planet was the body of Christ.

So we think about Jesus as Lord of the Universe,  and we pray that people on earth would somehow find ways to stop the violence and inhumanity toward each other.

And so the feast of Ascension is also about earth.

The angels ask the disciples — Why are you standing there looking up in the sky?  Brothers and Sisters, you and I have work to do!

YOU MUST BE MY WITNESSES in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.

A witness is one who knows with one’s own eyes and ears what has taken place.

A witness is one who has filtered through one’s own senses what one’s own account of the truth is.

I consider myself a witness to the resurrection.  I have had enough experiences of risen life–even of mystical experience–that I am convinced that Jesus is real; that he lives and reigns today in our world, that he empowers us through his Spirit. Throughout my life I have found myself immersed in the mystery of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

I know this also, because Jesus has allowed me the ability to share his life with others, and they with me.  Many others have deepened and enriched their faith as the Holy Spirit worked through me.

So Jesus, gone to heaven, gives authority to his apostles and disciples on earth.

Brothers and sisters, we have work to do.  We are put on notice in the scriptures of today’s feast.

Next Sunday we will attend to the third aspect of the Easter mystery–Pentecost–the outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit upon all humankind.

During the coming week may we pray that the Holy Spirit would renew each of us individually, the whole Church of God and indeed the whole world!

But before we go, it is well to be aware that we tend to be misled by the metaphors in the poetic images we use for heaven such as clouds and sky and cute pink cherubs flying around that are meant to signal how heaven transcends our world.

Yet heaven isn’t a geographical place or space far away.  The Risen and ascended Jesus acts as Lord of the church, our world  and the cosmos, right here, right now. As Pope Benedict XVI wrote, “it would be a mistake to interpret the Ascension as a ‘the temporary absence of Christ from the world.” Rather, “we go to heaven to the extent that we go to Jesus Christ and “enter into him.”  Heaven is a person.  Jesus himself is what we call heaven,” wrote the pope emeritus.

Now, before you go, here’s the Psalm for the day “God mounts his throne,”  And be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen. Click here.

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

 As this is Memorial Day weekend, I will remember in my Sunday and Monday Masses all those who have– and are serving our country.  Enjoy your weekend and  Stay Safe!

With love, 

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

The Sixth Sunday of Easter ~ Intimacy with God

THE SIXTH SUNDAY OF EASTER ~ MAY 22, 2022

Today’s gospel reading is another section of Jesus’ Last Discourse at the Last Supper, as recorded in John’s Gospel.  And, as Jesus was talking with his own disciples, it helps us to think about our own relationship with the Lord.

Are we close to him? Do we allow him to get close to us? Or do we keep him at arm’s length?

Some of us don’t want to deal with the Lord as a friend. For some, he is more of an impersonal “boss,” a Ruler who compels us to impersonally obey – “from a distance,” as Bette Midler once sang.

For others of us, he is our “best friend,” our dear brother,” “our shepherd.”

I’d like to invite you, right now, to think about your relationship with the Lord.

In the church before the Second Vatican Council, our Lord seemed to be distant from us, unapproachable. He was someone to be feared. He seemed to be someone who would send us to hell if we ate more than a quarter of a hotdog on Friday or if we “had bad thoughts.” And so we returned the favor; we kept Jesus outside of us, not close enough for us to invite him into our thoughts or minds or souls. Many of us kept him out of sight and out of mind. And in the old church, some folks would put off dealing with Christ or the Church until one’s deathbed.

After Vatican II for a while there were some renewal movements that brought people close to Jesus.   I made a Cursillo (Little course in Christianity) back in 1971, just two years after my ordination. It had a significant impact on my life in that it helped me bring others to Christ.

Four years later, I encountered the Lord up close and personal in a meditation I experienced on a retreat. That moment changed my life. From that day in February 1976, Jesus has been close to me, even though I have wandered away at times.

Jesus is now my best friend. I let him into my soul. I don’t exclude him from areas of my soul that are still in disarray. I let him “listen in” on my thoughts that he would not quite approve of. I am not afraid to let him know me – as I am, for I know he accepts me as I am. I don’t have to hide things from him. I feel his love, a love that embraces all of me – just as I am–warts and all. When we allow ourselves to get close to Jesus, we get to know ourselves better too. We don’t hide things from ourselves so much.

Some people, on the other hand, keep Jesus on the periphery of their lives because they know that if they let him in close, they’ll have to change and they’re not ready to change, so they keep the Lord at bay. Sometimes Jesus comes knocking at the door of our soul and we turn him away. What indignities we put the Lord through!

What I’ve found, however, that Jesus will be for us, as he was for the woman caught in adultery. He accepted the woman as she was and allowed her to change because she realized his love.

To know the personal love of the Lord is a wonderful, exhilarating experience. It’s an experience that you too can have – perhaps on your own with the Spirit’s help, or with the help of a friend and guide.

Then you’ll want to live your whole life in friendship with the Lord. You don’t have to wait until you die to live fully reconciled with Christ. You don’t have to wait until you die to experience holiness and wholeness. Jesus offers his very own life and love to you right here, right now!

Now let us take a closer look at today’s gospel. There are three sections that are appropriate for our discussion. As I said, it’s still part of the Last Supper discourse.

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Whoever loves me will keep my word,
and my Father will love him,
and make our dwelling with him.

Our own soul becomes the dwelling place for God and God will abide with us forever.

St. Thomas Aquinas says that three things are necessary for a person who wants to see God: we must take a step to draw near to God; and we must lift our eyes in order to see God; and we must take time to look, for spiritual things cannot be seen if we are absorbed by earthly things. Where do you look? In the Scriptures. In nature. In your own family. In the people you meet every day. In the slightest little thing. In the present moment.

Accepting the reality of God’s dwelling with us and within us is the heart of the gospel.

It’s an invitation we should not decline lightly.

And 2)

I have told you this while I am with you.
The Advocate, the Holy Spirit,
whom the Father will send in my name,
will teach you everything
and remind you of all that I told you.

The Spirit consoles us in our sadness over our past sins. He leads us to the Son. He makes us sharers in divine wisdom and knowers of the truth. In a hidden way he aids our remembrance because, being love, he excites us.  He teaches us the hidden ways of God. He inspires us. He is the source of all creativity and the bestower of manifold gifts.

Even more intimate than Jesus’ abiding with us is the Holy Spirit who is as close to us as our own breath. Let us prepare ourselves to celebrate once again the feast of Pentecost in which we celebrate the Spirit’s work in us and among us.

And 3)

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.

Not as the world gives do I give it to you

Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.

A true and abiding relationship with God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit brings an abiding peace. Even though all the issues of our life may not be totally resolved, we will be at peace with ourselves, we will be at peace with God. In the Bible the word for peace, shalom, never means simply the absence of trouble. It means everything that makes for our highest good. The peace Jesus offers us is the peace of conquest. No experience of life can take it from us and no sorrow, no danger, no suffering can make it less.

In another Easter gospel, Jesus says,

I am the Vine and we are the branches.

Live on in me, as I do in you.

No more than a branch can bear fruit

of itself apart from the vine,

can you bear fruit apart from me.

I am the vine, you are the branches,

The one who lives in me and in him

Will produce abundantly,

For apart from me you can do nothing.

There you have it. We are called to a real intimacy with Jesus. He can be a part of us and we, a part of him.

Let him into your life.

Talk to him about matters of your heart.

Let him in on your most secret thoughts.

Let Jesus be your friend – all the days of your life.

To bring others to Jesus and to bring Jesus to others has been at the heart of my priestly ministry, as I celebrate the fifty-three years since my ordination this next week. There has been no greater work for me than this.

Jesus,

I pray as you prayed that night with your friends. 

I thank you for your love and friendship all these years;

 I pray for all the people I’ve served through the years,

bless them, Lord, wherever they are.  

And I thank you for wonderful inspiration of the Holy Spirit                                                                      that has informed my life in so many ways.  

I ask you, Jesus, to draw someone who’s reading this blog to yourself.  

Let them know your love; touch them and draw them to yourself.

And send down your Spirit upon us once again; renew your Church,

and splash the Spirit all over our country and our world, for we surely need a good dose of it as on the first Pentecost!

To You, Jesus, be all Glory and Honor and Praise! Amen. 

Now, before you go, here’s a beautiful song  with a slide show to accompany our theme of Intimacy with God. Click here, Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full-screen.

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

Acknowledgment: Magnificat Liturgical Magazine / May 2016 / Lectio Divina notes for the Sixth Sunday of Easter / p. 21. 

With love, 

Bob Traupman 

contemplative writer

The Fifth Sunday of Easter ~ Love one another as I have loved you!

Dali_-_The_Sacrament_of_the_Last_Supper_-_lowres

The Fifth Sunday of Easter–May 16, 2022

“I give you a new commandment—Love one another as I have loved you.”

The scene is the Last Supper . . . .

When Judas had left them, Jesus said,

“Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him.
If God is glorified in him . . . .

Our Scripture scholar-friend William Barclay will unpack these rather mystifying words of Jesus for us.

The glory of God has come and that glory is the Cross. The tension has gone out of the room because Judas has left; any doubts that remained have finally been removed. Judas has gone out and the Cross is now a certainty. The greatest glory in life is the glory that comes from sacrifice.

In Jesus, God has been glorified. It was the obedience of Jesus that brought glory to God. And God will glorify Jesus. The Cross was the glory of Jesus; but there was more to follow—the Resurrection, the Ascension and the full triumph of Christ in his Second Coming. The vindication of Christ must follow his crucifixion; the crown of thorns must change into the crown of glory.

This passage begins Jesus’ Farewell Discourse to his disciples as recorded in the gospel of John . . . .

My children, I will be with you only a little while longer.
I give you a new commandment: love one another.
As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.
This is how all will know that you are my disciples,
if you have love for one another.” 

It is not an insult to be called my children by the Lord Jesus, but a privilege (1 Jn. 3:1) Jesus is a father to us because receiving everything from the Father (Jn 16:15) he generates within us the new life of grace. We delight in being called children, freed from the burden of having to be independent or self-sufficient. In Matthew 18:1-5, Jesus teaches his disciples that becoming the true way to greatness is through spiritual childhood, of being shamelessly dependent on him–according to Magnificat–Lectio Divina on the Gospel of this day.)

Jesus was laying out his farewell commandment to his disciples. The time was short; if they were to hear his voice they must hear it now, Scripture scholar William Barclay dramatizes. He was going on a journey on which they could not accompany him; he was taking a road that he had to walk alone. He gave them the commandment that they must love one another as he loved them.

What does that mean for us, and for our relationships with others? How did Jesus love his disciples?

Barclay says he loved them selflessly. Even in the noblest human love there remains some element of self. We think of the happiness we will receive, along with what we give. But Jesus never thought of himself. His only thought was to give himself and all he had for those he loved.

Jesus loved his disciples sacrificially. There was no limit to what his love would give or to where it would lead. If loved meant the Cross, Jesus was prepared to go there . . . .

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

Jesus loved his disciples understandingly. He knew his disciples intimately. We never know people until we have lived with them. Sometimes we say that love is blind. Real love is open-eyed. It loves, not what it imagines a person to be, but what that person really is. Jesus’ heart is big enough to love us as we are.

Jesus loved his disciples forgivingly. The Apostle’s leader would deny him. They were all to forsake him in his hour of need. They never, in his days in the flesh, understood him. They were blind and insensitive, slow to learn and lacking in understanding. In the end, they were cowards. But Jesus held nothing against them; there was no failure that he could not forgive.

The love that has not learned to forgive cannot do anything else but shrivel up and die. Barclay concludes by suggesting that we are poor creatures and there is a kind fate in things that makes us hurt those who love us best. For that very reason all enduring love is built on forgiveness, for without forgiveness, love is bound to die.

I had written seven letters to friends asking for reconciliation and forgiveness. Two were returned for insufficient address; the others did not responded–except one who wrote that he forgave me, but still holds a grudge fifteen years later.  I continue to pray for them and hold out hope for reconciliation and if not, that they have accepted my best wishes.

Jesus, You have given us a New Commandment,

To Love one another as You have loved us.

That’s a tall order.

And I know I fall short all the time.

I have hurt people and have tried to make amends to some.

If we would just rely on your strength and grace, Jesus,

we would do better in our loving.

For they say—

They will know we are Christians by our love.

They did in the early Church.

Allow us—allow me—the grace to do so in the Church

and in our world today.

To You, Jesus, be all Glory and Honor and Praise

forever!

Amen. 

And now, before you go, here’s one of the first “guitar Mass” songs from the Sixties! “They will know we are Christians by our love.” Click here.

And here’s another song from our Mormon friends that brought tears to my eyes when I first heard by the lovely soprano Sissel Click here.

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

Acknowledgments:  The Image: Salvador Dali’s The Sacrament of the Last Supper

William Barclay / The Daily Study Bible Series / the Gospel of John – Volume 2 – Revised Edition / The Westminster Press: Philadelphia 1975  (pp. 147-9)

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

 

 

 

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Shepherd me, O God ~ Do you really want God to shepherd you?

The Fourth Sunday of Easter ~ May 8th, 2022

Good Shepherd Sunday

Have you ever thought about how shepherds handle their sheep? In many places even today they follow their shepherd, who walks in front of them. They’re not goaded like cattle. Cowboys herd cattle from behind, pushing them forward. Not so with sheep.

Muse a bit about  Jesus as the Good Shepherd – Jesus walking ahead of us along the way. He shows us the way. He’s been there ahead of us. In Mark 10:32, we are 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. And that’s how it can be with you and me!

Apparently, it is the voice of the shepherd that controls the sheep. “My sheep hear my voice,”says Jesus. The sheep pick out the voice of their one only shepherd from that of others. They only follow the one whose voice they recognize.

In another place in the text, Jesus distinguishes between true and false shepherds. The false ones are hired hands that won’t go out of their way to help the sheep. The good shepherd is the one dedicated to his sheep and his 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.  He admonishes to seek the good shepherd: “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.”

And, of course David was the Shepherd King of Israel, having written our beloved Psalm 23 ~ “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.”

The words  of Ezekiel were as familiar to the Jews in the time of Jesus as they can be to us in our own difficult times: the lost, the injured, the sick, the war-torn and those who are struggling to care for them.  The Jews, too, recognized the difference between a good shepherd and a hireling, who was more interested in his pay than the welfare of the flock. (And isn’t that the same in our time, with politicians who don’t seem to care.)

While we love the image of the Good Shepherd, most of us lack firsthand acquaintance with either a shepherd or with sheep. But picture this  as shown to us by Professor Barclay . . .

The life of a shepherd in Palestine was very hard. He was never off duty. The sheep were bound to wander, and had to be constantly watched.  On the narrow plateau the ground dipped sharply down to the craggy deserts below and the sheep were liable to stray away and get lost. The shepherd’s task was not only constant but dangerous, for he not only had to guard the flock but to protect them from wild animals and thieves and robbers. He was out there with them in all kinds of weather, day and night.

As Barclay writes, quoting Sir George Adam Smith, who travelled in Palestine, “On some high moor, at night hyenas howl, when you meet him, sleepless, far-sighted, weather-beaten, leaning on his staff, and looking over his scattered sheep, everyone of them on his heart, you understand why the shepherd of Judaea sprang to the front in his people’s history; why the Jews gave his name to their king, and made him the symbol of Providence; why Christ took him as the type of self-sacrifice.”  Constant vigilance, fearless, courage, patient love for his flock, were the necessary characteristics of the shepherd.

And so listen for the Voice of your Shepherd. What greater blessing could there be than this: The shepherd knows your voice and you know his. You will have instantaneous, constant communication as you seek to become one with this Good Shepherd. The closer, the more intimate that relationship, the better you will comprehend the words of our Shepherd: “No one can take them out of my hand.”

In another place, Jesus says he is not only the shepherd, but he is the sheep-gate. The sheep go in and out of the pasture and are safe.  

When the sheep came into the enclosure, the shepherd would lie down at the entrance, thus, literally becoming the Gate, or the Door!

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

There’s another meaning here, too, I think. A lot of people experiment with other matters in the spiritual world that are not so safe. Like hallucinogenic drugs or seances and tarot cards  or fortune-telling, or calling on the spirits.  These are not protected and can be dangerous. Only through Jesus are we truly safe.

William Barclay has this to add about this passage . . . .

~ Jesus promised eternal life. If someone became a member of his flock, all the bitterness of life would be gone and they would know the splendor and magnificence of the life with God.

~ He promised a life that would know no end. Death would not be the end but the beginning; they would know the glory of the indestructible life.

~ He promised a life that was secure. Nothing could snatch them from his hand. Not that it would save them from sorrow or suffering. Even in a world crashing to disaster they would know the serenity of God.

Jesus says it was the Father who gave the sheep to him. And thus Jesus received his confidence from the Father. He was secure, not in his own power, but in God’s. And the Gospel passage ends with the words,“The Father and I are one, which calls to mind his intense prayer at the end of the Last Supper, according to John, “Holy Father, keep them in your name which you have given me that they may be one as we are one.” (John 17:11)

But let’s look at another side of this. The Good Shepherd seems to be 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, should be unconditional, our loyalty without compromise, our thoughts, words and deeds in accord with the will of God.

And so ask yourself this question: Am I not, 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 adapt my leadership style to Jesus as the Good Shepherd.

Then, and only then, will we be able to say, I know my Shepherd, and my Shepherd knows me.”

Christ is Risen!

Now, before you go, here’s a version of our beloved Psalm 23, “Shepherd Me, O God,” that has the flavor of Jesuit spirituality as well. Click here.

And a great song I found on the Internet a day ago: “You Raised Me Up.” Click here.   

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

William Barclay / the Daily Study Bible Series – revised edition / the Gospel of John: Volume 2 / The Westminster Press Philadelphia – 1975 / pp. 55-60.

With love, 

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

The Third Sunday of Easter ~ Lord, You know that I Love You

rhpas0822The Third Sunday of Easter ~ May 1, 2022

This is the third Resurrection appearance in the Gospel of John and it’s a charming story.

The guys had been fishing all night and had caught nothing. Heard this story before? This is a replay of their very first meeting in Galilee. Jesus suggests they cast their nets to the starboard side. (They don’t recognize him quite yet.) When they do as he says, they haul in a great number of fish.

And John says, “The disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’”

Then good ol’ impetuous Peter hastily throws on a tunic and jumps into the water dragging the net full of fish.

John, who uses symbolism all through his writing, notes that there were 153 large fish and the net was not broken. (We’ll discuss this a bit later.)

Then John writes, “Jesus said, ‘Come and have some breakfast.’ And he took bread and gave it to them, and gave them fish in the same way.” And he adds, “ This was the third time Jesus showed himself to the disciples after he had been raised from the dead.

Barclay notes that the catch is not described as a miracle as it frequently happens on a lake.  A person standing on the shore can often see a shoal of fish more clearly than those in the water. And it may have been because of the grey dark that they didn’t recognize him. But the eyes of the youngest disciple John were sharp.

Now to the meaning of the 153 fishes. In the Fourth Gospel, everything has meaning. Barclay gives lists of “many ingenious suggestions for this symbolism.” But I will choose only the one that makes the most sense as given by St. Jerome.

He said that in the sea there were 153 kinds of different fishes; and the catch is one which includes one of every kind of fish; and therefore the number suggests that some day all men of all nations will be gathered together in Jesus Christ.

We may note further that all these fish were gathered in this net and it wasn’t broken. The net stands for the Church; and there is room for all people of all nations in the Church–or as an alternative prayer recently has it–“in the kingdom”.

Here John is telling us in his own vivid yet subtle way  of the universality of the Church. There is no kind of exclusivity in her, no kind of color bar or selectiveness. The Church–or the kingdom–is  as universal as the love of God in Jesus Christ.

But there is more.

“ When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.”
He then said to Simon Peter a second time,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.”
Jesus said to him the third time,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was distressed that Jesus had said to him a third time,
“Do you love me?” and he said to him,
“Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.”

First, we must note the question Jesus asked Peter, “Simon, son of Jonas, do you love me more than these?”   As far as the language goes, it could mean two things equally well.

It may be that Jesus swept his hand around the boat and its nets and equipment and the catch of fishes and said to Peter, “Simon, do you love me more than these?”

Are you prepared to give up a steady job and reasonable comfort in order to give yourself forever to my people and my work? This may have been a final decision to give all his life to the preaching of the gospel and the caring for Christ’s flock.

Or it may be that Jesus looked at the rest of the little group of the disciples and said to Peter, “Simon, do you love me more than your fellow disciples do? It may be that Jesus was looking back to the night when Peter said, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” It may be that he was reminding Peter how once he thought he alone could be true and how his courage had failed. It is more likely that the second meaning is the right one, because Peter does not make comparisons anymore; he is content to say, “You know that I love you.

Jesus asks the question three times—as Peter denied the Lord three times.

Jesus is gracious in his forgiveness. He gave Peter the chance to affirm his love and to wipe out the memory of the threefold denial by a threefold declaration of love.

Thus, we must note what love brought Peter.

~ It brought him a task. “If you love me,” Jesus said, ”then give your life to shepherding the sheep and lambs of my flock.”

We can prove that we love Jesus only by loving others. Love is the greatest privilege in the world, but it brings great responsibility.

~ It brought Peter the cross. Jesus said to him . . . .

Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger,
you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted;
but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands,
and someone else will dress you
and lead you where you do not want to go.”
He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God.
And when he had said this, he said to him, “Follow me.”

The day came when, in Rome, that Peter did give his life for his Lord; he, too, was nailed to the Cross, and he asked to be nailed upside down, for he said he was not worthy to die as his Lord had died.

Love brought Peter a task, and it brought him the cross.

Love always involves responsibility, and it always involves sacrifice. We don’t really love Christ unless we are prepared to face the task he has prepared for us and the Cross he has given us.

Lord Jesus, you know that I love You.

As your priest, I have tried to bring spiritual nourishment to the people I’ve served as best I could.

Sometimes, I have failed, as Peter did.

You have given me crosses to carry throughout my life.

Sometimes, I was petulant and didn’t carry them graciously.

I have tried to love, Lord.

Increase my capacity to love and to serve, even as I grow older.

This evening, Lord—as always, Lord Jesus,

I just want you to know that I love You.

Please be with those who do not know Your love.  

And now, before you go, here’s the beloved Latin American song about the  Jesus on the seashore ~ Pescadores de Hobres.  Click here.

Or “Worthy is the Lamb” from Revelations taken from today’s second reading that truly honors our Risen Lord. Click here.

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

William Barclay /The Daily Study Bible Series / the Gospel of John / Volume 2 revised edition / The Westminster Press / Philadelphia / 1975 -pp. 284-6.

With love, 

Bob Traupman 

contemplative writer

 

 

The Second Sunday of Easter ~ Peace be with You!

The Second Sunday of Easter –April24th, 2022–“Peace be with You!”

Here we are continuing to celebrate the Easter for the fifty days of the Easter Season that ends on Pentecost Sunday, June 5th.  We’re still dealing with the effects of the coronavirus that has impacted all of us for the past two years and now we are worried and anxious about the impact on the war in Ukraine may have on us and the whole world.

Today is also Divine Mercy Sunday in which we are especially invited to unite our prayers for those suffering in Ukraine. (More on that devotion later.) lFor now, let’ see if we can learn from the experience of the Apostles today as we continue to cope with this ongoing stress that’s invading and infecting all our lives.

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

They were distressed and fearful, huddled together in the Upper Room behind locked doors. They were depressed and distraught that the One they had come to love had been murdered. They were afraid that the religious leaders would come after 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 really needed some peace.  So the first thing Jesus says when he appears to them is “Peace be with you. What do you do when you really need peace? Place yourself in the shoes of this mother and child in the midst as they view their devastated neighborhood and city. Have you been in such a position? How would you cope? Would you reach out to Jesus–as Pope Francis implored all of us to do in his Easter message?imrs-2

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

I’m not talking about peace between Israelis and Palestinians or Republicans and Democrats. It means more than “May you be saved from times of trouble or conflict.” It means much more than that. It means, “May God give you everything good–or every good thing.”

Jesus said when he appeared to them in the locked room, “Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so I send you.”

There’s a parallel between the sending out of the Church by Jesus and his being sent by the Father. John’s Gospel makes clear that the relationship between Jesus and God shows Jesus’ perfect obedience and perfect love. Jesus could be God’s messenger only because he rendered to God that perfect obedience and perfect love. It follows that the Church is fit to be a messenger and an instrument of Christ only when it perfectly loves him and perfectly obeys him. The Church must never be out to propagate man-made policies. The Church fails whenever it tries to solve some problems in its own wisdom and strength and leaves out of account the guidance of Christ.

“And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit . . . .”

Barclay suggests that when John spoke in this way, he was thinking back to the story of the creation of humankind. “And the Lord God formed man out of dust from the soil and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. (Genesis 2:7)

And we can compare this to the story of the valley of the dry bones in Ezekiel when he heard God say to the wind, “ Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain that they may live.”

The coming of the Holy Spirit is like the awakening of life from the dead.

 . . . . 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 simply 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.

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: 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 was not blessed.

Blessed indeed are those whose who 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 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 openhearted. Who seek to cleanse their hearts of self-righteousness, obstinacy, presumption, and the 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 way: 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,

There’s a message for us in what Father Guardini  says here for all of us. A message of patience and love.

As for me, I consider myself a Witness to the Resurrection. I KNOW my Redeemer lives.  I KNOW his love for me in the present moment. He is sometimes as close to me as my very own heartbeat. Not that I’m always aware of him. No, I am a sinful man who has made many mistakes in the  (next month) fifty-three years of my priesthood. But I know that I love him and I know at the bottom of my heart that Jesus loves me.

And, with all my heart and soul, I want you, my dear readers, to know in the bottom of your own hearts the deep, deep love and affection that Jesus has for YOU, too!

I praise and thank God and his Son Jesus Christ our Lord for the gift of peace he has given me.

AND MAY THE PEACE OF THE LORD BE WITH YOU AS WELL!

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. A simple prayer associated with this devotion is “Jesus, I trust in you.” A simple act of abandonment is enough to overcome the barriers of darkness and sorrow  and desperation. The rays of God’s divine mercy will restore hope. Hope to those who feel overwhelmed by any burden, especially the burden of sin.

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 song just behind it.

And here are the Mass readings, if you’d care to reflect on them. Click here.

William Barclay The Daily Study Bible Series / the Gospel of John – Volume 2                                Revised Edition / Westminster Press – Philadelphia – 1975/ pp. 272-4.

With love, 

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

Pope Francis’ 2022 Easter message to Rome and to the World

EASTER 2022

URBI ET ORBI MESSAGE
OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS

Jesus, the Crucified One, is risen! He stands in the midst of those who mourned him, locked behind closed doors and full of fear and anguish. He comes to them and says: “Peace be with you!” (Jn 20:19). He shows the wounds in his hands and feet, and the wound in his side. He is no ghost; it is truly Jesus, the same Jesus who died on the cross and was laid in the tomb. Before the incredulous eyes of the disciples, he repeats: “Peace be with you!” (v. 21)


No, it is not an illusion! Today, more than ever, we hear echoing the Easter proclamation so dear to the Christian East: “Christ is risen! He is truly risen!” Today, more than ever, we need him, at the end of a Lent that has seemed endless. We emerged from two years of pandemic, which took a heavy toll. It was time to come out of the tunnel together, hand in hand, pooling our strengths and resources… Instead, we are showing that we do not yet have within us the spirit of Jesus but the spirit of Cain, who saw Abel not as a brother, but as a rival, and thought about how to eliminate him. We need the crucified and risen Lord so that we can believe in the victory of love, and hope for reconciliation. Today, more than ever, we need him to stand in our midst and repeat to us: “Peace be with you!”

Only he can do it. Today, he alone has the right to speak to us of peace. Jesus alone, for he bears wounds… our wounds. His wounds are indeed ours, for two reasons. They are ours because we inflicted them upon him by our sins, by our hardness of heart, by our fratricidal hatred. They are also ours because he bore them for our sake; he did not cancel them from his glorified body; he chose to keep them forever. They are the indelible seal of his love for us, a perennial act of intercession, so that the heavenly Father, in seeing them, will have mercy upon us and upon the whole world. The wounds on the body of the risen Jesus are the sign of the battle he fought and won for us, won with the weapons of love, so that we might have peace and remain in peace.

May there be peace for war-torn Ukraine, so sorely tried by the violence and destruction of the cruel and senseless war into which it was dragged. In this terrible night of suffering and death, may a new dawn of hope soon appear! Let there be a decision for peace. May there be an end to the flexing of muscles while people are suffering. Please, please, let us not get used to war! Let us all commit ourselves to imploring peace, from our balconies and in our streets! Peace! May the leaders of nations hear people’s plea for peace. May they listen to that troubling question posed by scientists almost seventy years ago: “Shall we put an end to the human race, or shall mankind renounce war?” (Russell-Einstein Manifesto, 9 July 1955).

Brothers and sisters, let us allow the peace of Christ to enter our lives, our homes, our countries!

I hold in my heart all the many Ukrainian victims, the millions of refugees and internally displaced persons, the divided families, the elderly left to themselves, the lives broken and the cities razed to the ground. I see the faces of the orphaned children fleeing from the war. As we look at them, we cannot help but hear their cry of pain, along with that of all those other children who suffer throughout our world: those dying of hunger or lack of medical care, those who are victims of abuse and violence, and those denied the right to be born.

Amid the pain of the war, there are also encouraging signs, such as the open doors of all those families and communities that are welcoming migrants and refugees throughout Europe. May these numerous acts of charity become a blessing for our societies, at times debased by selfishness and individualism, and help to make them welcoming to all.

May the conflict in Europe also make us more concerned about other situations of conflict, suffering and sorrow, situations that affect all too many areas of our world, situations that we cannot overlook and do not want to forget.

May there be peace for the Middle East, racked by years of conflict and division. On this glorious day, let us ask for peace upon Jerusalem and peace upon all those who love her (cf. Ps 121 [122]), Christians, Jews and Muslims alike. May Israelis, Palestinians and all who dwell in the Holy City, together with the pilgrims, experience the beauty of peace, dwell in fraternity and enjoy free access to the Holy Places in mutual respect for the rights of each.

May there be peace and reconciliation for the peoples of Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, and in particular for all the Christian communities of the Middle East.

May there be peace also for Libya, so that it may find stability after years of tensions, and for Yemen, which suffers from a conflict forgotten by all, with continuous victims: may the truce signed in recent days restore hope to its people.

We ask the risen Lord for the gift of reconciliation for Myanmar, where a dramatic scenario of hatred and violence persists, and for Afghanistan, where dangerous social tensions are not easing and a tragic humanitarian crisis is bringing great suffering to its people.

May there be peace for the entire African continent, so that the exploitation it suffers and the hemorrhaging caused by terrorist attacks – particularly in the Sahel region – may cease, and that it may find concrete support in the fraternity of the peoples. May the path of dialogue and reconciliation be undertaken anew in Ethiopia, affected by a serious humanitarian crisis, and may there be an end to violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo. May prayer and solidarity not be lacking for the people in the eastern part of South Africa, struck by devastating floods.

May the risen Christ accompany and assist the people of Latin America, who in some cases have seen their social conditions worsen in these difficult times of pandemic, exacerbated as well by instances of crime, violence, corruption and drug trafficking.

Let us ask the risen Lord to accompany the journey of reconciliation that the Catholic Church in Canada is making with the indigenous peoples. May the Spirit of the risen Christ heal the wounds of the past and dispose hearts to seek truth and fraternity.

Dear brothers and sisters, every war brings in its wake consequences that affect the entire human family: from grief and mourning to the drama of refugees, and to the economic and food crisis, the signs of which we are already seeing. Faced with the continuing signs of war, as well as the many painful setbacks to life, Jesus Christ, the victor over sin, fear and death, exhorts us not to surrender to evil and violence. Brothers and sisters, may we be won over by the peace of Christ! Peace is possible; peace is a duty; peace is everyone’s primary responsibility!

Copyright © Dicastero per la Comunicazione – Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Now, before you go, here’s a lovely hymn from Ukraine on Easter Sunday organized by a Protestant mission there. Click here. And turn up your speakers and enter full screen.

With Love,

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

Jesus, the Crucified One, is risen! He stands in the midst of those who mourned him, locked behind closed doors and full of fear and anguish. He comes to them and says: “Peace be with you!” (Jn 20:19). He shows the wounds in his hands and feet, and the wound in his side. He is no ghost; it is truly Jesus, the same Jesus who died on the cross and was laid in the tomb. Before the incredulous eyes of thisciles, he repeats: “Peace be with you!” (v. 2Our eyes, too, are incredulous on this Easter of war. We have seen all too much blood, all much violence. Our hearts, too, have been filled with fear and anguish, as so many of our brothers and sisters have had to lock themselves away in order to be safe from bombing. We struggle to believe that Jesus is truly risen, that he has truly triumphed over death. Could it be an illusion? A figment of our imaginaAs we contemplate those glorious wounds, our incredulous eyes open wide; our hardened hearts break open and we welcome the Easter message: “Peace be with you!”

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

Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord 

April 17th, 2022

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 it 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, 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.” (B&W pp.346-9)  We must “Go tell it!

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 wanted tto get across was the same as Rev. Jones—the only true experience of our faith is to have Jesus in one’s heart. To now 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 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 with this Pandemic.

Immigrants afraid of being deported?

Others trying to pay their rent or find a job.

And this year cities destroyed in Ukraine. 

Senseless killings of civilians–even children.

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 an artful Easter Sunday processional from the Princeton University chapel. 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

 

 

Good Friday of the Passion of the Lord ~ Jesus saving us still

 

Good Friday April 15, 2022

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
–excerpts from Isaiah 53.

Our Jewish neighbors celebrate their Passover this year on Good Friday, and our Muslim friends are observing Ramadan this month–what a convergence! May Jesus bring  peace and harmony among all of us and impact an end to this awful war in Ukraine! 

In article from my favorite Lent / Easter spiritual reading companion Bread and Wine that now has a broken spine in need of a chiropractor. It’s an article entitled Naked Pride by the Rev. John Stott, a distinguished Anglican priest and theologian. . .

The essence of sin is human beings substituting themselves for God while the essence of salvation is God substituting himself for us all. Humans claim prerogatives that belong to God alone while God accepts penalties that God should not have to endure—only humans.

As we gaze upon the cross this Good Friday— either one in our home or the one at the end of our rosary or just the one printed in this blog if you have no other—we can gain a clear view both of God and ourselves. Instead of inflicting on us the judgment we deserved, God in Christ endured that sentence in our place. Hell is the only alternative. This is the “scandal”; i.e. the stumbling block of the cross.

For our proud hearts rebel against it. We cannot bear to acknowledge either the seriousness of our sin or our utter indebtedness to the cross. Surely there must be something we can do to make amends? If not, we give the impression we’d rather suffer our own punishment rather than of seeing God through Christ bear it in our place.

Our author tells the story of a play by George Bernard Shaw entitled Major Barbara (1905) about an incident at the alleged West Ham shelter in which Bill Walker, “a rough customer” arrives one cold January morning drunk. He gets himself into trouble there and seizes a girl by the hair and strikes her, cutting her lip. He’s mocked by the other residents because he didn’t have the courage to take on the “bloke” that he’s jealous about. Bill’s conscience and pride nag him until he can no longer bear the insult. He decides, in a kinda cockney accent, to spit in the guy’s eye, or if not, “git me aown fice beshed.” (Get my own face beaten.)

But his opponent refuses to cooperate, so Bill returns shamefaced. He comes back to the group and lies, telling everybody, he spit in his eye to which one of the girls calls out, ‘Glory Allelloolier!”

The girl who was injured tells Bill that she’s sorry and he didn’t really hurt her, which makes him angrier still. “Aw down’t want to be forgiven by you or by anybody. Wot I did Aw’ll pay for.

He tries another ruse. He offers to pay a fine that one of his mates just incurred and produces a sovereign.

“Eahs the manney. Take it; and let’s ev no more o your forgivin and pryin (prayin) and your Mijor jawrin me. Let wot Aw dan be dan and pid for; and let there be and end of it. This bloomin forgivin and neggin and jawrin mike a menn thet sore that iz lawf’s a burden to im. Aw won’t ev it. Aw tell yer. Avve offered to py. Aw can do more. Tike it or leave it. There it is.”—and he throws the sovereign down.

And so, our author sums up . . .

The proud human heart is thus revealed. We insist on paying for what we’ve done. We cannot stand the humiliation of acknowledging our bankruptcy and allowing somebody else to pay for us. The notion that that somebody else should be God himself is just too much to take for some people.

We would rather perish than repent, rather lose ourselves than humble ourselves.

Rev. Stott, an Anglican priest, and renowned theologian, states that only the gospel demands such a self-humbling on our part. No other religion or philosophy deals with the problem of guilt apart from the intervention of God, and therefore, they come to a “cheap” conclusion. In them, you and I would be spared the final humiliation of knowing that the Mediator has borne the punishment instead of us! We would not have to be stripped absolutely naked.

But . . . but we cannot escape the embarrassment of standing absolutely naked before God.

Think about that for a moment. You and I will have to take off our shoes and socks. Our shirts and pants or our dresses.

Our undershirts or our bra.

Our skivvies. And stand absolutely naked with your private parts and all.

Rev. Stott continues: It’s no use trying to cover up like Adam and Eve in the garden. Our attempts at self-justification are as ineffectual as their fig-leaves. We have to acknowledge our nakedness and gaze on the Lord wearing our filthy rags in spite of us.

And then . . . and then allow him to clothe us with his own righteousness and light.

Nobody has ever put it better than Augustus Toplady in his immortal hymn Rock of Ages . . . .

Nothing in my hand I bring

Simply to your Cross I cling

Naked, come to for dress

Helpless, look to you for grace

Fool, I to the fountain fly

Wash, Savior, or I die.

 

And now here’s my prayer . . . .

Dear God, We give you thanks for sending your Son to us.

He has lived among us–become one with us–borne our griefs.

He became obedient unto death to bear our sins and pay our debts.

Yet we were ungrateful and turned our backs to goodness and love.

Forgive us, Lord for the hardness of our hearts.

Turn us back to you to your love and forgiveness.

And please help us bring an end to this terrible war in Ukraine.

Be especially with those who are sick

and those who courageously care for them.

And let us once again share in the joy of your Risen Life!

We ask this as we ask all things through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Amen!

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 now here are today’s readings. Click here.

 

 

With love, 

Bob Traupman

John Stott Naked Pride In Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter Plough Publishing co. pp. 217-221. From “The Cross of Christ” by John R. W. Stott Copyright 1986 John R.W. Stott. Interunivarsity Press P. O. Box 1400 Downers Grove, IL 60515

 

  1. 217-221.

 

From “The Cross of Christ” by John R. W. Stott Copyright 1986 John R.W. Stott. Interunivarsity Press P. O. Box 1400 Downers Grove, IL 60515

 

 

 

 

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 2022

This Blog is dedicated to the mothers of war-torn Ukraine and their children as they grieve for their children.

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 Ukraine and Syria and Afghanistan.

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