The Fifth Sunday of Easter ~ I am the Way and the Truth and the Life

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The Fifth Sunday of Easter ~ May 10th, 2020

Many of us are struggling in one way or another ~ most of us financially ~ because of the coronavirus crisis and its lingering effects among us. So we might gladly hear as good news Jesus’ opening line in today’s gospel:

“Do not let your hearts be troubled.
You have faith in God; have faith also in me.
In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.
If there were not,
would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?
And if I go and prepare a place for you,
I will come back again and take you to myself,
so that where I am you also may be.

This passage appears very shortly before the apostles’ life begins to cave in (John 14:1-10).When he speaks of “his Father’s house” he’s talking about heaven, of course, and when he says there are “many dwelling places—or as Barclay calls them, “abiding places,”—Clement of Alexandria thought that there were degrees of glory, rewards and stages in proportion to a man’s achievement in holiness in this life.

Barclay suggests to us that there’s something attractive here. A lot of us think heaven is boring and static! There’s something attractive at the idea of a development which goes on even in the heavenly places.

And if there are many dwelling places in heaven, it may simply mean there’s room for all; an earthly house can become overcrowded especially in these coronavirus days,with short tempers and and all.)

It was Jesus real purpose “to prepare a place for us.” One of the great words that is used to describe Jesus is prodromos (Hebrews 6:20). It’s translated as forerunner. In the Roman army they were the reconnaissance troops that went ahead to blaze the trail.

And then Jesus said: “Where I am, there you will also be.” Here is the great truth put in the simplest way: for the Christian, heaven is where Jesus is!”

Again and again Jesus had told his disciples where he was going, but somehow they never understood. “Yet a little while I am with you, and then I go to him who him that sent me (John 7:33). Even less did they understand that the way he had to take was the Cross.

At this moment the disciples were bewildered men; they followed him, yes, but they didn’t quite get what was going on. But there was one among them who would never say he understood what he did not understand.

You might guess who that one was.

Thomas, of course!

Thomas said, “Master, we do not know where you are going, how can we know the way?

And Barclay says, that no one should ever be ashamed to express one’s doubts for it is amazingly true that he who seeks to the end will find—and the wonderful thing is that Thomas’ question provoked one of the greatest thinks Jesus ever said:

“I am the Way and the Truth and the Life.”

That is the great saying to us, but it would be still greater to the Jew who heard it for the first time.

The Jews talked a great deal about the ways of God. “You shall walk in the ways which the Lord your God has commanded you Dt. 5:32,33). “Teach me your way, O Lord. (Psalm27: 11). 

So what did Jesus mean when he said he was “the Way”?

Jesus doesn’t tell us about the Way; He is the Way. He will take us where we need to go!

Jesus said, “I am the Truth.”

How many people have told us they have told us the truth—car sales persons, politicians, insurance brokers, realtors, bankers, journalist, husbands, wives, children and doctors who have lied to us instead.

But Jesus is the Truth. Moral truth cannot be conveyed solely in words; it must be conveyed by example. It finds its realization in him.

Jesus said, “I am the Life.”

The writer of Proverbs said, “The commandment is the lamp, and the teaching a light; and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life” (Proverbs 6:23). “You show me the path of life. (Psalm16: 11).

There is only one way to put all this: “No one, said Jesus, comes to the Father except through me. He alone is the way to God. In him we see what God is like, and he alone can lead us to God’s presence with fear and without shame

.And so, once again, dear sisters and brothers, I call you, I invite you to an intimacy with Jesus who is our Way, our Truth and our Life.  

Last week we reflected on Jesus in his image as the Good Shepherd, walking the road ahead of us, protecting us from harm as the Sheep-gate. If you feel afraid or hesitant to draw close to him, don’t be. Sometimes people who’ve been hurt by love are even afraid of God too. That’s understandable. Just don’t be afraid! There is nothing to be afraid of.  Put your big toe in. The water’s warm. You’re in for the biggest surprise of your life!

Gentle Jesus, I thank you for guiding me along the way of my life,

I thank you for leading me on my life-long search for You, my Truth;

may I finally be united to you, my Life!

But most of all, I beg of you, to be with all of those who are struggling this day in any way because of this terrible disease ~ those who are sick, those who take care of them, those who worried about their jobs and finances, those in leadership positions to help guide us through this.

And finally, bless all of our mothers, grandmothers and mothers-to-be on this Mothers’ day. 

May Our Blessed Lady watch over us all! Amen!  

And now before you go, here’s the song ” I am the way and the truth and the life.Click Here. 

And here are this Sunday’s Mass readings if you’d like to reflect on them.Click here.   

With love, 

Bob Traupman 

Contemplative Writer

William Barclay The Daily Study Bible Series / the Gospel of John – Volume 2                                Revised Edition / Westminster Press – Philadelphia – 1975/ pp. 154-9.

 

 

 

 

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

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The Fourth Sunday of Easter ~ May 3rd, 2020

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 this difficult time of  the coronavirus: the lost, the injured, the sick 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 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. We will have instantaneous, constant communication as we seek to become one with this Good Shepherd. The closer, the more intimate that relationship, the better we will comprehend the words of our Shepherd: “No one can take them out of my hand.”

Jesus says he is not only the shepherd, but he is the sheepgate. 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 very dangerous.

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

~ Jesus promised eternal life. If someone became a member of his flock, all the littleness 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 then 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 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 ~ You will know him in the Breaking of the Bread

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THE THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER ~ April 26, 2020

Wouldn’t it have been wonderful to take a walk with Jesus down a country road? Think about it. 

That’s what I want you to do with me right now in your imagination. Let’s go back as  the two disciples walk with Jesus and walk along with them.

I will reflect on the story, the fruit of my own imagination; but you need to engage your own.  

(Please note: When I use the actual words from Scrip­ture, they appear in red type; the narrative appears in regular type and when I offer comments about the story, these appear in italics.)

“That very day, the first day of the week, two of Jesus’ disciples were going to a village seven miles from Jerusalem to Emmaus.”

They were sad and downcast, as they were discussing the events in Jerusalem over the previous three days.

Think about how all of Jesus’ disciples must have felt during the interim between Good Friday afternoon and when they were able to fully grasp that Jesus had risen. They were terrified the Jewish authorities would hunt them down next. As we face this coronavirus crisis, most of us are distraught and fearful too.  Or reflect on a time in your past when you were sad or despondent.

Then Jesus invited himself along and they began to converse with him as they walked.

They do not recognize him, and began telling Jesus about Jesus. “. . . a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, how our chief priests and rulers handed him over to a sentence of death and crucified him.”

(Why don’t they recognize him? Are they just ruminating over depressing events?)  What do you think?

They told him, “We were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel.”  

(Feel the depth of their disappointment and an­guish ~ and fear; they must have been heartsick.  What kept them from a sense of hope?)

“They knew that women in their company had gone to the tomb early that morning and found the tomb empty, but had seen a “vision of angels who an­nounced that he was alive.”  But they didn’t get it, did they?

Then Jesus interjected, Oh how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the proph­ets spoke!’ Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the Scriptures.” 

( What change was taking place in them?) Was it that they felt the warmth of his love?

When they reached their village, they pressed him, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.”

(How do you think the disciples were feeling at this point? Had a change or transformation occurred in them?)  ( I remember a conversation I had with someone on a train when I was a seminarian and he invited me to his home and I felt his love. I never saw him again; but I still pray for him.)

“So he went in to stay with them. And it hap­pened that, while he was at table. . .”

. . .Now they could see him directly, not alongside of them, but across from them. . . 

“. . .He took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and THEY RECOGNIZED HIM, but he vanished from their sight.

A veil had covered their eyes, but now their eyes were opened and they recognized him—in the breaking of bread.”

And then they returned to the Eleven in the Upper Room and “recounted what had taken place along the way and how [Jesus] was made known to them in the breaking of bread.”

There was victory in their hearts!  The point here is that they had to share their experience! They had to “evangelize!”

Now for a couple of  observations ~ especially for those of you who are Catholics or who appreciate the Holy Eucharist . . . .

Love of the holy Eucharist: Down through the centuries the church has recognized the Lord—has rec­ognized itself—in the breaking of bread. This prompts a deep and abiding love for participating in the holy Eucharist. 

(What kinds of varied feelings do you have when you celebrate the Eucharist? What could deepen your love of the gathering, listening, sharing, singing that is the holy Eucharist?

(Eucharist is a verb and a noun!) What kind of thoughts and feelings do you have during these past weeks when you’ve been deprived of receiving of the Holy Eucharist because of the coronavirus?

And then this: The disciples realized “Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?”

The two disciples came very, very close to Je­sus in their conversation on the way. It was an intimate moment they would always remember.

I can remember a good number of holy (that is, open and honest) conversations  with friends that changed my life and have given me the nourishment to grow and move on.

(Who are the people in your life who nourish and encourage you in conversation?)

Whom do you so nour­ish?  

And here’s a bit of a commentary . . . .

What a joy and a privilege it would be to share an evening meal with Jesus as the two disciples did after the memorable walk to Emmaus!  How blessed it would be to listen and learn as Jesus began with Moses and all the prophets to interpret every passage of scripture that referred to him.  What a gift to watch him take the bread, bless it, break it, share it. What a joy to feel our hearts burning within and our eyes open wide to recognize him in the breaking of the bread.

As we look back over the gospels, particularly that of the Lucan evangelist, we are reminded that Jesus afforded his contemporaries many such nourishing, enlightening and transforming experiences within the context of shared meals.  Indeed, throughout the Jewish and Christian Scriptures, meal sharing was a profoundly important event, one that sealed friendships, affirmed marital and family relationships, solidified political alliances and confirmed and celebrated one’s faith and worship (as in the Passover meal.)

Israel’s wisdom literature is lavish in its banquet imagery.  Recall Wisdom’s invitation as recorded in Proverbs:  “Wisdom has built herself a house…she has prepared her table…Come eat of my bread, drink of the wine I have prepared for you.”  

Gradually the Israelite community who came before us in the faith began to envision the experience of salvation in terms of a great banquet prepared by God for all of humankind.

Also realized and clearly in evidence at those meals of old was the universal and welcoming love of God for all, especially sinners.

Jesus’ contemporaries would have shunned sitting down at someone’s dining room table with sinners; these they regarded as off the playing field of salvation.  Jesus deliberately associated with outcasts, however, welcoming them and agreeing to be welcomed by them.  Indeed, he made it quite clear that some of these outcasts would come into the kingdom before the established religious leaders.  Recall Jesus’ willingness to be a guest in the homes of Levi and Zacchaeus, both of whom were hated tax collectors.  These would never have been welcomed into a respectable Jewish home.  Yet it was to these very people to whom Jesus extended the privilege and blessings of table fellowship.  It would be like Jesus going to the home of a homosexual or Muslim couple today and eating and drinking with their friends..

Then recall that when Jesus hosted the multitudes and fed the 5000 in the deserted place, he did not first determine who was worthy of his food or his presence.  He fed them all, first with the nourishment of his teaching and then with bread and fish.  Given the enormity of the number who ate to their satisfaction, surely there were some in the crowd who fell short of the law’s standard, who sinned against their neighbors, who were remiss in some aspect of their lives.  Nevertheless, without hesitation or discrimination, Jesus welcomed and fed them all.

Now we come to this wonderful story of the breaking of the bread, this my favorite and beloved resurrection appearance of Jesus.  As in most of the resurrection appearances, the risen Jesus was not immediately recognized by his own.  Recognition came gradually and only with the insights afforded by faith. Though Jesus had been transformed by his resurrection and was not initially recognized, he was, nevertheless, the same Jesus who had walked with them, talked with them, and shared their lives while he was  among them before he was crucified.  He was the same Jesus who took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to feed the multitudes.

 He was the same Jesus who allowed himself to be taken and broken on the cross and who gave his life so that sinners may be blessed with forgiveness, freedom from sin, salvation.

I am a priest 51 years now.  I never grow tired of the holy Eucharist.  I always come back to celebrate after a couple of days if I am absent from it.

In fact, I am certain that I could not live happily without the Eucharist.  Maybe I couldn’t live at all without the Eucharist – at least sanely.

Appreciate this great and wonderful experience, dear friends, that Jesus shares with us in his person even now, two thousand years after the Last (or the First) Supper.

One last question for you: when you finally get to walk into church again and walk up to the communion table and receive the Holy Eucharist again, how do you think you will feel?

What a beautiful experience it is to share in the breaking of the bread – whether there is a glorious celebration with trumpets and gorgeous music or with just one other person present.

Yes appreciate this great and wonderful gift.

May we never take it for granted.

Lord Jesus,

We praise you and thank you for sharing with us

in every place and for all time

the gift of your sacred body and blood.  

May we always cherish such a wonderful gift

and never take it for granted.  

To You be all glory and honor

with the Father and the Spirit,  

now and forever. Amen. Alleluia! 

And now to complete your experience for today, here’s the song “You raise me up.” Click here.  Be sure to enter full screen and turn up your speakers.  

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

The Second Sunday of Easter ~ Peace be with You!

The Second Sunday of Easter ~ April 19th, 2020~ “Peace be with You!”

Here we are continuing to celebrate the fifty days of the Easter Season as most of us are still locked down similar to the way the apostles were on that first Easter. See if you can learn from their experience today as we try to cope with this ongoing coronavirus that’s invading and infecting all our lives.

The Apostles were very disturbed after the crucifixion. Their life with Jesus ~ their hopes and dreams for the future ~ seemed to be totally shattered. They were afraid that the leaders would come for them and crucify them as well. How have your hopes and dreams been averted in the past month?

These issues were so strong in them that they could not believe the message that the Women brought 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.”

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 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 absolutely refused to say that he understood what he did not understand or to say he believed what he did not believe. There was an uncompromising honesty about him.

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 open-hearted. Who seek to cleanse their hearts of all self-righteousness, obstinacy, presumption, and inclination to “know better-than-others.”. Who are quick to listen, and are humble and free-spirited. Who are able to find God’s message in the gospel of he day, or even from the sermons of preachers with no message in particular, or in phrases from the Law they’ve heard a thousand times, phrases with no charismatic power about them, or in the happenings of every day life that always end up the same 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 as we ” stay in place” bored perhaps, day-in- day-out, not knowing when our lives will return to normal, or if there will be a “normal.” 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 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 fifty -one 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 the 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

Easter Sunday of the Lord’s Resurrection: Let us say thank you, Lord!

Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord 

April 12th, 2020

Christ is Risen, Alleluia, Alleluia!

How do we celebrate Easter against the background of this ongoing coronavirus crisis? It’s upended all of our lives and it surely could well upset our Easter Sunday celebration. For one, it preclude any kind of family dinners. Picnics are out. Walks in the park? Depends on your city. Play outside? Again depends. But it doesn’t have to ruin our spiritual enjoyment of the day. I want to try to help. You can also probably live-stream Easter Sunday Mass. (I’ll provide some resources for that on my email that accompanies this blog or you can google it yourself in your area.

As I did yesterday, I’m going to share another article from my favorite Lent / Easter spiritual reading book, this time from the Easter section. It’s one by Philip Yancey and it will lead into the them I want to set for all of us for this Easter Sunday and that is one of Gratitude. As we’ve had to step back and (most of us anyway) have had time on our hands, let’s use that time for good. For prayer and reflection. To think about the good things we do have and not the things we don’t. I hope you enjoy this article as much as I did. It really affected me deeply and as I share this with you today, it could possibly bring about powerful change among us. At least that is my hope and prayer.

The image of the Cross is proof that God cares. Today the image is coated with gold and worn around the necks of beautiful girls, a symbol of how far we can stray from contemplating the reality of the True Cross and what it ought to mean for us.

In this time of the coronavirus crisis in which all of us are shaken, anxious and fearful perhaps of what our future holds and that of our country that’s a perfect image for us to think about this Easter Sunday.

Love was compressed for all history in that lonely, bleeding Jesus. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life” (John 3:16).

What practical effect does Christ identification with us have on people who actually suffer? A dramatic example of this effect of this truth was seen in the ministry of Dr. Paul Brand while he was working among leprosy patients in Vellore, India.  Dr. Brand was one of the few, together with his staff that would draw close to and touch a person with Hansen’s disease—the townspeople quarantined them.

He slipped in late to a patients’ gathering sitting on a mat at the edge of the open courtyard. The patients insisted on a few words from him and he reluctantly agreed. Gazing around, his eyes were drawn to their hands, dozens of them, in the familiar “leprosy claw hand,” some with no fingers.  Some sat on their hands; others hid them from view.

“I am a hand surgeon,” he told them, waiting for a translation into Tamil or Hindi, so when I meet people “I can’t help looking at people’s hands.  I can tell your past, for instance by the position of the calluses and the condition of the nails. I can tell a lot about your character. I love hands.” The patients were rapt with attention.

“How I would have loved to have had a chance to meet Christ and study his hands! ” He began with infancy when his hands were small, helpless, grasping. Then as a boy clumsily holding a brush or a stylus, trying to form letters of the alphabet. Then the hands of a carpenter—rough, gnarled, with broken finger nails and bruises working with a saw and hammer.

Then there were the hands of Christ the physician, the healer. Compassion and sensitivity seemed to radiate from them, so much so that when he touched people they could feel something of the divine spirit coming through. Christ touched the blind, the diseased, the needy.

Then there was the crucified hands. Dr. Brand said”it hurts me to think about a nail being driving through the center of my hand because I know what goes on there, the tremendous complex of nerves and blood vessels and muscles. It’s impossible to drive a spike through its center without crippling it.  The thought of those healing hands being crippled reminds me of what Christ was prepared to endure. In that act he identified himself with all the deformed and crippled human beings in the world.  Not only was he able to endure poverty with the poor, weariness with the tired, but clawed hands with the crippled.”

The effect on the listening patients—all social outcasts—was electrifying.

Dr. Brand continued. “Then there were his resurrected hands. One of the things I find most astounding is that, though we think that the future of life is something perfected, when Christ appeared to his disciples, he said, ‘Come look at my hands,” and he invited Thomas to put his finger in the print of the nail.”

“Why did he want to keep the wounds of his humanity? Wasn’t it because he wanted to carry back with him an external reminder of the suffering of those on earth? He carried the marks of suffering (and there there on every crucifix to look at) so he could continue to understand the needs of those suffering. He wanted to be forever one with us.”

And then . . . . and then hands were lifted high all over the courtyard, palm to palm in the Indian gesture of respect, namaste.  The hands were same stumps, the same missing fingers and crooked arches. Yet no one tried to hide them. God’s own response to suffering made theirs easier.

It should make yours easier too.

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,  and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” (Matt 11:29-30)

As many of you, my readers are aware. I have suffered from a social disorder for many years too but it’s more hidden, but it did cause me a great deal of suffering. They call it manic-depressive disorder or bipolar disorder. And it has caused me to be estranged because of behavior that I was not fully in control of at the time with friends in the past. That has caused me a great deal of pain, let alone the embarrassment. I truly regret those incidents and hope someday I can be reconciled with some of those friends. I miss them! 

But most of all, this leads me to a profound sense of gratitude. On Tuesday of Holy Week, I had the opportunity to go to confession to a special priest. We practiced “social distancing” outside under a gazebo and he let me talk for 45 minutes. And for my penance, he asked me to think of five things I am grateful for and I’m going to ask you, my readers to do the same, this Easter Sunday if you are moved by the grace of Mr. Yancey’s writing and my own contribution. Here’s my list:  ( I came up with seven.)

* My Friendship with Jesus 

* The gift of my priesthood over fifty-one years

*  My home 

*  The friends who’ve nourished and sustained me

*  My gifts and talents for writing especially

*  My little dog Shoney

My candy apple red Mustang (how ’bout dat?)

Dearest Lord, 

On this very peculiar Easter Sunday, I really am filled with gratitude for life and love ~ Your love ~ and the love of so many.

Please, Lord be with those who are suffering this day from the virus    or in any other way. Those who courageously care for them.

Be with all those who are disabled in some way. My friends George and Pat who dedicates their lives to assist them. And so many others. Just thank you, thank, you, thank you!

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

From Where is God when it Hurts?

Grand Rapids MI Zondervan Publishing House C. 1977 by the Zondervan Corp.

Bread and Wine / Plough Publishing House / Walder NY 2003

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

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Good Friday April 10th, 2020

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.

Well here we are at Good Friday once again and life seems so surreal for all of us in the midst of this Coronavirus crisis. For our Jewish neighbors Passover began Wednesday night at sundown without the possibility for most of them to celebrate according to law and custom by family gatherings. It must be really hard for them. And the same thing will hit a lot of us Christians two days from now on Easter Sunday when most of us cannot gather with family either!

However, it is possible for us to have a good Good Friday and that’s the point of this blog. I selected some material that really helped me  when I read it. It’s an article from my favorite Lent / Easter spiritual reading companion that now has a broken spine like an old man called Bread and Wine, It’s an article entitled Naked Pride by the Rev. John Stott, a distinguished Anglican priest and theologian. So, as we wait this crisis out, let’s put our fears and anxieties aside and open ourselves for some deeper prayer and learning this most sacred of days, would you so? Here we go . .

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 you and I gaze upon the cross this Good Friday— either one in your home or the one at the end of your 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.”

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 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 instead 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 accept you love and forgiveness.

And please, Lord, guide us through this terrible plague!

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 here are the readings from today’s service of the Word, including the Passion story according to St. John. 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 2020

As we face this terrible Coronavirus  crisis that has so unsettled all are lives. and has caused over 12,000 deaths in our country. 9’11 caused under 3,000. And this pandemic is seems to be only on its first wave. All of us are confused, bewildered and fearful. We don’t know what to do. It’s all so surreal. Standing in line six feet apart in a line that was a block long at Walmart this morning, everyone wearing masks. I thought I was in a Science Fiction movie.

This blog is a Holy Week prayer to our lady the Sorrowful Mother. The image is the most famous in the world the masterpiece chiseled by the young Michelangelo a half a Millennia ago. Even if you’re not used to praying to the Mother of Jesus, this is a good time to do so. Her prayers are powerful indeed. We haven’t gone through anything like this since the Bubonic plague in Europe in the Fourteenth Century.

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 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?

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 who try to comfort their children  caught in war-torn countries, especially in Syria and the Rohigya  people

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.
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

Monday of Holy Week ~ Love’s extravagance

MONDAY OF HOLY WEEK ~ April 6th, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He grins, and raises his eyeballs toward the ceiling.

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

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

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

This process takes a long time.

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

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

I wonder.

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

I wouldn’t even dare to imagine. Take a moment of silence right now and ponder those thoughts and let him have his own thoughts and feelings in your own mind and heart.  (That is what Ignatian imaginative Scriptural prayer is: You reflect on the Scripture in your imagination and see how the Lord speaks to you; try reading this passage again and see what turns up for you.)

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

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

Did he enjoy the experience?

You bet he did!

Jesus was a whole, integrated man.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But Barclay doesn’t end here. He tells us that there’s one great truth about life here. Some things we can do almost any time, but some things we will never do, unless we grasp the chance when it comes. We are seized with something that seems important to do, but if we put it off, we say, Oh I’ll do it tomorrow and it never gets done.

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

Lord Jesus,

help us, too, to live in the present moment as Jesus did

~ not thinking about what comes next.  

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

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

putting all other concerns aside.  

For that moment is where life happens;

we may not get another!

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

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

With love, 

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

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

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

He became utterly poor for us!

Palm Sunday of the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ  April 5th, 2020

Dear Friends,

All is ready now for the final days of our Lenten journey with Jesus.   The drama of the Paschal Mystery will  be re-enacted  once again in  parishes throughout the world.  I have loved the liturgy of Holy Week since I was a boy and in this blog I hope I can share that love with you.    We’ll go deep here.  Please take time to reflect.  Come with me now, won’t you? But STOP!

The coronavirus, has nearly brought to a halt the wonder and enjoyment we have always had with Holy Week liturgies. Gone are are the Palm Sunday processions. Gone is the Washing of the Feet at the Solemn Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday evening. Gone is the Veneration of the Holy Cross on Good Friday. Gone is the Blessing of the new fire and procession with the new Easter Candle and the singing of the Exultet on Holy Saturday night. And the baptisms and the welcoming of new candidates into the Church will have to wait until “the All Clear Signal” is promulgated, whenever that will be (and you’ll get your palms then too ~ never fear!) This is all unprecedented, maybe since Wartime or even the Plagues of the Middle Ages and it’s world-wide. Nevertheless, we still have the events, in Jesus’ life to commemorate and this is what this blog is about.

So please join me reverently here and enter into Jesus’s last days as best we can  . . . .

Jesus entered the holy city Jerusalem on a humble beast of burden ~ himself burdened with the sins of the world, Here’s the Gospel story (from Matthew 21:1-11) that (normally precedes the blessing of palms and the procession into the church . . . .

When Jesus and the disciples drew near Jerusalem
and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, 
Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, 
“Go into the village opposite you, 
and immediately you will find an ass tethered,
and a colt with her.
Untie them and bring them here to me.
And if anyone should say anything to you, reply, 
‘The master has need of them.’
Then he will send them at once.”
This happened so that what had been spoken through the prophet 
might be fulfilled:
Say to daughter Zion,
“Behold, your king comes to you,
meek and riding on an ass,
and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.”
The disciples went and did as Jesus had ordered them.
They brought the ass and the colt and laid their cloaks over them, 
and he sat upon them.
The very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, 
while others cut branches from the trees 
and strewed them on the road.
The crowds preceding him and those following
kept crying out and saying:
“Hosanna to the Son of David;
blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord;
hosanna in the highest.”
And when he entered Jerusalem 
the whole city was shaken and asked, “Who is this?”
And the crowds replied,
“This is Jesus the prophet, from Nazareth in Galilee.”

William Barclay, the great Presbyterian scripture scholar I’ve been referencing, notes, what Jesus was about to do was a deliberate, planned action on his part:  this would begin the last act in the drama of his life.

This was not a spur of the moment decision. He had told his disciples exactly where to find the ass and the colt; they were waiting for him.

Jesus rode into Jerusalem. He was to be acknowledged as king. He came humbly riding on an ass. Barclay says we must be careful to see the real meaning of this. In western lands the ass is a despised beast; but in the east the ass could be a noble animal. Often a king came riding into his city upon an ass, indicating that he came in peace. The horse was the mount of war. Jesus showed that he came not to destroy, but to love; not to condemn, but to help, not in the might of arms, but in the strength of love.

The whole city of Jerusalem was awash with visitors in preparation for the Passover at this moment.  Barclay also notes that thirty years later a Roman governor had taken a census of the number of lambs slain for Passover and found the number to be about a quarter of a million. Now, Passover regulations stated that a party with a minimum of ten people were required for each lamb which meant that there were about two and a half million people in Jerusalem at the time Jesus entered the holy city!

The crowd receives Jesus like a king.  They spread their cloaks in front of him.  They cut down and waved palm branches (and that is why we bless and distribute palms and this day is known universally as Palm Sunday.)

They greeted him as they would a pilgrim, Barclay notes: “Blessed be he who enters in the name of the Lord.”

They shouted, “Hosanna!”  The word means, “Save now!” and that was a cry that a people addressed to their king or their god.   (Interesting ~ I didn’t know that!)

So, we see that Jesus action here was planned and deliberate, similar to those of the prophets of old who would put their message into a dramatic act that people could not fail to see or understand.  Jesus action here was clearly a Messianic claim, or at least when a few days later he would be the cleanser of the Temple, an even more dramatic act in which he was to rid the Temple of the abuses that defiled it and its worship.

To conclude, then, Barclay had made three points about this story . . .

+  It shows Jesus’ courage.  He knew he was entering a hostile city.  All through his last days, in his every action is there is a “magnificent and sublime defiance” –“a flinging down the gauntlet.”

+  It shows us his claim to be God’s Messiah, God’s Anointed One. And the cleanser of the temple.

+  It shows us his appeal–not a kingship of the throne, but a kingship of the heart.

In today’s liturgy, when the procession reaches the altar inside the church, and the people settle into the pews, the mood of the liturgy radically changes dramatically. It becomes somber as the ministers at the altar and the congregation prepare for the solemn reading of the Passion—this  year from the Gospel of Matthew, that’s usually proclaimed with several voices.  But I’d like to reflect a moment on the New Testament reading from Philippians 2:1-11 that precedes it because it captures the essence of the meaning of this day . . . .

Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
something to be grasped.
Rather, he emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
coming in human likeness;
and found human in appearance,
he humbled himself,
becoming obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.
Because of this, God greatly exalted him
and bestowed on him the name
which is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that
Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Johannes Metz wrote a little book Poverty of Spirit, in which he says . . .

Have we really understood the impoverishment that Christ endured?

Everything was taken from him during the passion, even the love that drove him to the cross . . .

His heart gave out and a feeling of utter helplessness came over him. Truly he emptied himself . . . He became utterly poor. [Thus] he accepted our humanity, he took on and endured our lot, he stepped down from his divinity.

He came to us where we really are ~ with all our broken dreams and lost hopes, with the meaning of existence slipping through our fingers. He came and stood with us, struggling with his whole heart to have us say ‘yes’ to our innate poverty. [God’s faithfulness] to us is what gives us the courage to be true to ourselves. And the legacy of God’s total commitment to humankind, the proof of God’s fidelity to our poverty, is the Cross.

[The Cross is the sacrament, the sign] that one human being remained true to his own humanity, that he accepted it in full obedience.”

Thus each of us has the opportunity to embrace our own poverty, or as I have been saying in Arise for the past two years we have the opportunity to accept whatever brokenness shows up in our own lives and find the treasure buried within. But this goes against the grain for us in American life. We are told to keep up with the Joneses. And so we strive for power, prestige, possessions.

“Poverty of spirit is the meeting point of heaven and earth,

the mysterious place where God and humanity encounter each other,

the point where infinite mystery meets concrete existence.”

And now, here’s my prayer . . . .

Lord Jesus, here we are at the beginning of Holy Week once again.

We can’t raise  our palms this year,

But we’re here, trying to be faithful to you as best we can.

We will try to read the story of your sacred passion and death so that we can understand and accept more fully how much you loved us

And now we learn that You really meant it!  

You weren’t just pretending to be human;

You immersed Yourself in our misery,

You got down in the muck with us

~ accepting it all, even death on a cross.  

Jesus, help us to embrace our humility,

our poverty, our brokenness, our share in Your cross.  

May this Holy Week truly be holy for us even if we can’t be there in church this year but  that we too will rise again with You to new life

and receive anew the gift of the Spirit.  

To You, Lord Jesus, be glory and honor forever! Amen.

Before you go, dear friends, here is a beautiful song, The Power of the Cross. Click Here. Be sure to enter full screen. 

Have a fruitful Holy Week.  I will publish again throughout the week. 

Here are the today’s Mass readings. Click here. To get back to this page, go to the top left corner of your computer screen, click on  the  < back arrow, and you’ll be right back here. I encourage you to prayerfully read the entire passion story according to Matthew.  I have also provided you a commentary on this gospel (and also the other readings), if you’d like to reflect on them further. Click here.

Acknowledgements  Johannes Baptist Metz Poverty of Spirit / Translated by John Drury / Paulist Press / New York / Mahwah, NJ / 1968, 1998

William Barclay / The New Daily Study Bible / The Gospel of Matthew- Volume 2          The Westminster Press Philadelphia 1975 / pp. 238 – 243.

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer