The Sixth Sunday of Easter ~ No Greater Love

The Sixth Sunday of Easter ~ May 9th, 2021

First of all, I’d like to wish all of our Mothers, Grandmothers, Great grandmothers and mothers-to-be a very happy Mother’s Day. I will offer my Sunday Mass for all of you, your special needs and your intentions. GOD BLESS YOU ALL!

The selection from the gospel of St. John today is taken from the wonderful Last Discourse of  Jesus as he is reflecting with his disciples in the Upper Room at the Last Supper in the final hours before his Passion.

“As the Father loves me, so I also love you, remain in my love.” (15:9)

We can take it that each day we ought to reaffirm our choice to abide in our love of Jesus, rather than in our own ideas, ambitions, and preconceptions or our own self-reliance. Father Cornelius a Lapide, S.J. (+1637) tells us in this regard, Jesus says, “Show me your modicum of love, and you shall experience my greater love for you.”

Then Jesus goes on to say, “I have told you this so that my joy will be in you and your joy may be complete.” (15:11)

We are chosen for joy. However hard the Christian life is for any of us, it is, both in the day by day plodding and in the goal, as Pope Francis is fond of reminding us it’s all a way of joy! There is always joy in doing the right thing. It is true that we are sinners, but we are redeemed sinners, and in that, there is joy.

“This is my commandment: love one another as I have loved you.” (15:12)

We are chosen for love. We are sent into the world to love one another. On the contrary we sometimes live as if we were out to compete with one another or to dispute with one another or even to quarrel with one another.

“No greater love is there than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.”(15:13-14) 

This assurance was clearly and firmly given in Jesus’ gift of himself on the cross. Throughout his public ministry, Jesus had made countless overtures of love—curing a paralytic, giving sight to a man born blind, forgiving a woman caught in adultery, reaching out to people everywhere, not just to the Jews, calling little children to himself, raising to a widow’s son to life, teaching the crowds, touching the lepers.

All these and so many other loving overtures reached a climactic crescendo on the cross. Thereupon, Jesus accomplished the ultimate act of love by forgiving and healing and making whole all who were and are wounded and broken.

“I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father (15:15).

William Barclay points out that the word doulos (slave) as a servant of God was no title of shame, but one of highest honor. Moses was the doulos of God, as was Joshua and David. Paul loved to attribute the word to himself. And Jesus is saying“I have something greater for you yet, you are no longer slaves, but friends.” Christ offers an intimacy with God that not even the greatest men knew before he came into the world.

“It was not you who chose me but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in my name he will give you (15:16).

This reminds us of God’s command in the Garden of Eden: “Be fruitful.” What does it mean? Jean Vanier offers an answer: “To bear fruit is to bring people to life. Not to judge, not to condemn, but to forgive. It is to remove our neighbor’s burden.”

“This is I command you: love one another (15:17).  

My own personal relationship with Christ was not very strong in the early days of my priesthood. My faith was more intellectual back then; it was on the outside of me ~until I made a retreat in my third year.  And then I hit a rocky patch for many years of  lukewarm faith.  Until I read Father Thomas Merton’s Seven Storey Mountain  and I found myself in copious tears and suddenly a renewed and deeper relationship with Christ.

One of the major themes of this blog is The Jesus I know and Love. There really is nothing I desire from my writings more than to share my deep love of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ with you, my readers and somehow have you share in, and delight in,  Jesus’ love for you.

Now here’s my prayer inspired by Jesus’ awesome words to us today . . . .

Dear Jesus,

I praise and thank you for your love for me, for each of us.

You say you call us your friends.

What an awesome thing to behold, dear Lord!

Please allow me, to allow us, the grace to remain faithful to you always.

You ask that my life be fruitful in loving.

I’m getting up in years now, Jesus,

and I’m not sure how fruitful my life has been,

but I offer what I can, a little bit of writing,

my daily prayer ~ that’s about all ~ these days.

All I know is I love you.  I am forever grateful for yours. 

And I ask your blessing upon my readers today, Jesus.   

Allow them to know the intimacy of your friendship too;

draw them close and keep them safe,

and answer whatever prayers they raise up to you today. 

Thank you, dearest Lord!

CHRIST IS RISEN!

And now, before you go, here’s lovely music video for you. Click here.

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

With love, 

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

The Fidelity of Jesus: May we be faithful too!

The First Sunday of Lent ~The Fidelity of Jesus ~ February 21, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First, all three gospel writers seem to stress the immediacy with which the temptations follow the baptism.  As Mark has it, “The Spirit immediately drove him into the wilderness.” (Mark 1:12).  Barclay suggests to us that we ought to be on guard when life brings us to the heights because that’s when we’re in the gravest danger of a fall.

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

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

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

Third, Barclay goes on, we must not think that Jesus conquered the tempter and that the tempter never came to him again.

Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom. In Christian warfare, says Barclay as well as Pope Francis, there is no release.  Some people think they should get beyond that stage; Jesus himself never did, even in his last hour in Gethsemane.

Fourth, one thing stands out about this story—these temptations could only come to a person who had special powers and knew he had them.  We are always tempted through our gifts.  We can use our gifts for selfish purposes or we can use them in the service of others.

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

We must always approach this story with a unique and utmost reverence, for it is laying bare his inmost heart and soul. And that is what I’ve always done in the following presentation written many years ago .  .  .

THIS IS A STORY about earth-shaking silence that bore the sound of deafening harsh voices and one soft and gentle voice Who sent Jesus among us so we could know we had a Father-God who loves us with an everlasting love.

This is a story of confrontation and testing.

Dramatic confrontation with the elements–blinding sun and penetrating darkness, blistering wind and numbing cold, impassioned hunger and parching thirst.

Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to pray and fast.

There, he would shape his mission.  He was searching for the answer of the question:  What kind of spiritual leader would he be?

There, he was also tempted by the devil, who sought him to distort that mission.

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

To interpret this, the first temptation presents physical attraction as the ultimate good, Jesus teaches us to seek bread from heaven. We continue to pray for and live by this daily bread.

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

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

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

Again, as an interpretation, the second temptation is about fame and admiration—making a name for ourselves. In fact, Christ will throw himself down—in free and obedient conformity to the Father. Jesus will endure mockery instead of admiration. Christ did not cast himself down from this pinnacle of the temple . . . He did not tempt God, but he did descend into the abyss of death . . .and the desolation of the defenseless.

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

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

The third temptation is for earthly power and rule. But the only crown that Jesus will wear will be made of thorns, his kingdom is “not of this world” (john 18:36).

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

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

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

The answer was:

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

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

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

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

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

This is a powerful lesson  for those among us who would COERCE others into being good – as we see the proliferation of dictators across the globe today.

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

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

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

This  . . . . is the Jesus I know and love.

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

And now, before you go, here’s  a song I’ve always loved with a lovely slide show ~ On Eales’ Wings.  Click here.  It’s the text of Psalm 91 that says, For He will give His angels charge over you, To guard you in all your ways.”  Remember to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.

And here are today’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 Matthew ~ Volume 1 revised edition                              Westminster Press Philadelphia / 1975 / pp. 62 -66.

The Jesus I know and Love ~ and I want You to know Him too!

Thursday after Ash Wednesday, March 7, 2019

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

In the first reading, Moses says:

“I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. 

Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live, by loving the Lord, your God, heeding his voice, and holding fast to him” (Deuteronomy 30:15-20).

Now here are my thoughts on Moses’ address to his people.  One often hears the words Choose Life as a Pro-Life message.  That’s important, but we’re invited to choose life again and again, every day.  This Lent is an acceptable time to choose the life that affirms and nourishes us and to deliver ourselves from the dysfunctional communication and game-playing within our own home that damage the souls of our spouses and our children.

Let’s choose Life this day in the way we speak to and about the folks we meet today.

Choice is an act of the will, the highest power of the human person.  We need to choose our words carefully.  To preside over ~ take responsibility for what comes out of our mouths.  To realize our words create life or death.

In today’s gospel, Jesus says,

“If anyone wishes to come after me, he must take up his cross daily and follow me. 

For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.

What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself?  (Luke 9: 22-25)

My reflection: Jesus gives us a koan here. That’s a Zen word  for a riddle given to a student to mull over until the the student gets the insight.

Try to get into it this Lent. Ponder its meaning for you right now. Copy it on a card and repeat it often until you get it.

Jesus’ message is so counter-cultural In our society people do anything to avoid the smallest bit of pain. There are even numbing pads so that you don’t feel it when you prick your finger for the Accu-check  for diabetes.  And we avoid emotional pain by not thinking through our problems. Some folks do this by getting a hasty divorce to run away from our problems or by dumping a girlfriend who no longer suits us via way of a cruel text message.

Lent places before us the Cross of Jesus and his loving embrace of it as our Savior, yes, but also as a model for us. He willingly stretched out his arms to be nailed. Jesus knew he would have to face a lot of suffering on his journey.  He knew  he would make people angry by proclaiming the truth he saw in his heart.  He knew that it would lead him to death, but he never strayed from the road to Jerusalem.

The issue is Acceptance of whatever life calls us to. Jesus  accepted the Cross because he chose to be faithful to his mission.

He was a person of absolute integrity.  No one was going to dissuade him from being who he was.

This is the Jesus I know and love:  The one who has the strength to love, no matter what.   He’s my Lord, my Savior, my mentor, if you will.  I would like very much to be like that.  How ’bout you?

Tomorrow we begin to reflect on Jesus’ forty-day retreat into the desert’ (the Mass text for this coming Sunday) to prepare for his mission.

Now before you go, here’s Pete Seeger and Arlo Guthrie singing  the old hymn “Jesus walked the lonesome valley” Click here.

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

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

 

The Fidelity of Jesus ~ May we be faithful too!

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The First Sunday of Lent ~The Fidelity of Jesus ~ February 18, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First, all three gospel writers seem to stress the immediacy with which the temptations follow the baptism.  As Mark has it, “The Spirit immediately drove him into the wilderness.” (Mark 1:12).  Barclay suggests to us that we do well to be on guard when life brings us to the heights that that’s when we’re in the gravest danger of a fall.

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

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

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

Three, Barclay goes on, we must not think that Jesus conquered the tempter and that the tempter never came to him again.

Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom. In Christian warfare, says Barclay as well as Pope Francis, there is no release.  Some people think they should get beyond that stage; Jesus himself never did, even in his last hour in Gethsemane.

Four, one thing stands out about this story—these temptations could only come to a person who had special powers and knew he had them.  We are always tempted through our gifts.  We can use our gifts for selfish purposes or we can use them in the service of others.

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

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

The story of Jesus moving into the desert this year, of course this year, is from the Gospel of Mark, and it’s very short; in fact it’s only sentence long. It has no dialogue between Jesus and the devil as Matthew and Luke do. But h

Here’s what Barclay has to say. I will add two  comments from the Magnificat liturgical magazine, and then I will fill in with the prose piece I wrote many a year ago . . .  So here are Barclay’s comments . . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And I wrote this many years ago. . . .

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

This is a story of confrontation and testing.

Dramatic confrontation with the elements–blinding sun and penetrating darkness, blistering wind and numbing cold, impassioned hunger and parching thirst.

Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to pray and to fast.

There, he would shape his mission.  He was searching for the answer of the question:  What kind of spiritual leader would he be?

There, he was also tempted by the devil, who sought him to distort that mission.

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

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

This is the Jesus I know and love.

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

Mark finishes with two vivid touches.

First. The beasts were his companions. In the desert there roamed the leopard, the bear, the wild boar and the jackal. This is usually taken to be a vivid detail of the grim terror of the scene. But perhaps here not so. Perhaps it is meant that the beasts were Jesus’ friends. Remember, Francis of Assisi befriended animals as well.

Second. The angels were helping him. There are ever divine reinforcements in the hour of trial. Jesus was not left alone—and neither are we.

And then Mark adds two verses. . .  Mark 1:14,15

After John had been arrested, 
Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God:
“This is the time of fulfillment.
The kingdom of God is at hand.
Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

Barclay gives a brief outline of the content of the “Good News ” (the Gospel.)

1) It is the good news of truth.

Job: “O that I knew where I might find him.”

Marcus Aurelius said that the soul can see but dimly and the word he uses in Greek is for seeing through water.

2) It is good news of peace.

The penalty of being a human person is to have a split personality—beast and angel strangely intermingled. Schopenhauer, the gloomy philosopher was found wandering. He was asked, “Who are you?” “I wish you could tell me,” he answered.

3) It is the good news of promise.

It’s true that men had often thought of rather of God threats than of God of promises. Isn’t it so that non-Christian religions think of a demanding God while on Christianity tells of a God more ready to give than we are to ask?

4) It is a good news of immortality.

To the pagan, life was the road to death; man was characteristically a dying man, but Jesus came with good news that we are on the way to life rather than death.

5.) It is good news of salvation.

That salvation is not merely a negative thing; it is also positive. It is not simply liberation from penalty and escape from past sin; it is the power to live life victoriously and to conquer sin. The message of Jesus is good news indeed.

6) There is the word repent.

The Greek word metanoia literally means change of mind. We are very apt to confuse sorrow for the consequences of sin and sorrow for sin. Many a person is desperately sorry because he has made a mess that he has got himself into, if he could be reasonably sure he could escape the consequences, he would do the same thing again. It’s not the sin he hate, it’s the consequences.

Real repentance means that a man has come, to hate the son itself.

7) And finally, there is the word Believe.

“Believe,” says Jesus. “in the good news.”

To believe in the good news simply means to take Jesus at his word. To believe that God is the kind of God that Jesus has told us about. To believe that God so loves the world that he will make any sacrifice to bring us back to himself. To believe that what sounds too good to be true is really true.

And now, before you go, here’s  a song I’ve always loved with a lovely slide show ~ On Eagles’ Wings.  Click here.  It’s the text of Psalm 91 that says, For He will give His angels charge over you, To guard you in all your ways.”  Remember to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.

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

With love, 

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

William Barclay / The Daily Study Bible Series / the Gospel of Mark / Westminster Press Philadelphia / 1975 / pp. 21-26.

The Jesus I know and love ~ And I want You to know him too!

Thursday after Ash Wednesday, February 16, 2018

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

In the first reading, Moses says:

“I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. 

Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live, by loving the Lord, your God, heeding his voice, and holding fast to him” (Deuteronomy 30:15-20).

Now here are my thoughts on Moses’ address to his people.  One often hears the words Choose Life as a Pro-Life message.  That’s important, but we’re invited to choose life again and again, every day.  This Lent is an acceptable time to choose the life that affirms and nourishes us and to deliver ourselves from the dysfunctional communication and game-playing within our own home that damage the souls of our spouses and our children.  

Let’s choose Life this day in the way we speak to and about the folks we meet today.

Choice is an act of the will, the highest power of the human person.  We need to choose our words carefully.  To preside over ~ take responsibility for what comes out of our mouths.  To realize our words create life or death.

In today’s gospel, Jesus says,

“If anyone wishes to come after me, he must take up his cross daily and follow me. 

For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.

What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself?  (Luke 9: 22-25)

My reflection: Jesus gives us a koan here. That’s a Zen word  for a riddle given to a student to mull over until the the student gets the insight.

Try to get into it this Lent. Ponder its meaning for you right now. Copy it on a card and repeat it often until you get it.

Jesus’ message is So counter-cultural.  In our society people do anything to avoid the smallest bit of pain. There are even numbing pads so that you don’t feel it when you prick your finger for the Accu-check  for diabetes.  And we avoid emotional pain by not thinking through our problems. Some folks do this by getting a hasty divorce to run away from our problems or by dumping a girlfriend who no longer suits us via way of a cruel text message.

Lent places before us the Cross of Jesus and his loving embrace of it as our Savior, yes, but also as a model for us. He willingly stretched out his arms to be nailed. Jesus knew he would have to face a lot of suffering on his journey.  He knew  he would make people angry by proclaiming the truth he saw in his heart.  He knew that it would lead him to death, but he never strayed from the road to Jerusalem.

The issue is Acceptance of whatever life calls us to. Jesus  accepted the Cross because he chose to be faithful to his mission.

He was a person of absolute integrity.  No one was going to dissuade him from being who he was.

This is the Jesus I know and love:  The one who has the strength to love, no matter what.   He’s my Lord, my Savior, my mentor, if you will.  I would like very much to be like that.  How ’bout you?

Tomorrow we begin to reflect on Jesus’ forty-day retreat into the desert’ (the Mass text for this coming Sunday) to prepare for his mission. Now before you go, here’s Pete Seeger and Arlo Guthrie singing  the old hymn “Jesus walked the lonesome valley” Click here.

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

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

The Fidelity of Jesus ~ May we be faithful too!

IMG_0982

The First Sunday of Lent ~The Fidelity of Jesus ~ March 5th, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First, all three gospel writers seem to stress the immediacy with which the temptations follow the baptism.  As Mark has it, “The Spirit immediately drove him into the wilderness.” (Mark 1:12).  Barclay suggests to us that we do well to be on guard when life brings us to the heights that that’s when we’re in the gravest danger of a fall.

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

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

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

Three, Barclay goes on, we must not think that Jesus conquered the tempter and that the tempter never came to him again.

Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom. In Christian warfare, says Barclay as well as Pope Francis, there is no release.  Some people think they should get beyond that stage; Jesus himself never did, even in his last hour in Gethsemane.

Four, one thing stands out about this story—these temptations could only come to a person who had special powers and knew he had them.  We are always tempted through our gifts.  We can use our gifts for selfish purposes or we can use them in the service of others.

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

We must always approach this story with unique and utmost reverence, for it is laying bare his inmost heart and soul. And that is what I’ve always done in the following presentation written many a year ago .  .  .

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

This is a story of confrontation and testing.

Dramatic confrontation with the elements–blinding sun and penetrating darkness, blistering wind and numbing cold, impassioned hunger and parching thirst.

Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to pray and fast.

There, he would shape his mission.  He was searching for the answer of the question:  What kind of spiritual leader would he be?

There, he was also tempted by the devil, who sought him to distort that mission.

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The answer was:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is the Jesus I know and love.

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

And now, before you go, here’s  a song I’ve always loved with a lovely slide show ~ On Eales’ Wings.  Click here.  It’s the text of Psalm 91 that says, For He will give His angels charge over you, To guard you in all your ways.”  Remember to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.

And here are today’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 Matthew ~ Volume 1 revised edition                              Westminster Press Philadelphia / 1975 / pp. 62 -66.

The Jesus I know and love

IMG_2022Thursday after Ash Wednesday, March 2, 2017

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

In the first reading, Moses says:

“I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. 

Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live, by loving the Lord, your God, heeding his voice, and holding fast to him” (Deuteronomy 30:15-20).

Now here are my thoughts on Moses’ address to his people.  One often hears the words Choose Life as a Pro-Life message.  That’s important, but each of us are invited to choose life again and again, every day.  This Lent is an acceptable time to choose the life that affirms and nourishes us and to extricate ourselves from the dysfunctional communication and game-playing within the walls of our own home that cauterise the souls of our spouses and our children.  Let’s choose Life this day in the way we speak to and about the folks we meet today.

Choice is an act of the will, the highest power of the human person.  We ought to choose our words carefully.  To preside over ~ take responsibility for what comes out of our mouths.  And to realize our words create life or death.

In today’s gospel, Jesus says,

“If anyone wishes to come after me, he must take up his cross daily and follow me. 

For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.

What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself?  (Luke 9: 22-25)

My reflection: Jesus gives us a koan ~ a Zen word  that denotes a riddle that often takes a long time for us to get it.

Try to get into it this Lent. Ponder its meaning for you right now. Repeat it often until you get it.

It’s So counter-cultural.  In our society people do everything to avoid the smallest bit of pain. There are even numbing pads so that you don’t feel it when you prick your finger for the Accu-check  for diabetes.  And we avoid emotional pain by not thinking through our problems. We might be tempted to do this by running away by getting a hasty divorce or by dumping a girl friend who no longer suits us via way of a cruel text message.

The Cross of Jesus is about commitment. Lent places before us the Cross of Jesus and his loving embrace of it. He willingly stretched out his arms to be nailed. Jesus knew he would have to face a lot of suffering on his journey.  He knew  he would make people angry by telling the truth he saw in his heart.  He knew that it would lead him to death, but he kept heading on his way up to Jerusalem. The issue is Acceptance of whatever life calls us to. Jesus  accepted the Cross because he chose to be faithful to his mission.

Jesus did a brand new thing.  His message was that his Father-God embraces every person without exception.  His message was that He, Jesus, transcended the Law; that the only law was to love.  This went against the grain of those who saw him as a threat to all they knew.

In the desert, Jesus made a firm commitment to BE the truth that he saw in his heart no matter what.  Jesus embodied that highest moral standard: to commit his life to justice and love, no matter what it cost him.  His mission was very simple:   Stay on message, no matter what.    He was a person of absolute integrity.  No one was going to dissuade him from being who he was.

Very sadly, many in the church say that they believe in Jesus but are quick to condemn, quick to hate.  If you are one who has been condemned by the church or treated hatefully, I,  for one, ask forgiveness from you for I know Jesus would never want that for you.  And I ask for forgiveness and change of heart for those who do the condemning and the hating.

Finally, I  would like to be in solidarity with so many of us these days who have crosses to face that are profoundly difficult. Let us help each other to bear the crosses we must carry.  But remember, the key is acceptance.  Acceptance ~ the willingness to be nailed ~ is the secret to yours and my recovery.

This is the Jesus I know and love:  The one who has the strength to love, no matter what. He’s my hero.  I would like very much to be like that.  How ’bout you?

Tomorrow we begin to reflect on Jesus’ forty-day retreat into the desert, (the Mass text for this coming Sunday) to prepare for his mission. Now before you go, here’s a concert version of the old hymn “Jesus walked the lonesome valley” Click here.

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

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

The Fidelity of Jesus

IMG_0982THE FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT ~ February 14, 2016

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

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

First of all, let’s think about the scene.  The inhabited part of Judea stood on a central plateau that was the backbone of southern Palestine.  Between it and the Dead Sea stretched a terrible wilderness, thirty-five by fifteen miles.  It was called Jeshimmon, which means “the devastation.”  The hills were like dust-heaps; the limestones looked blistered and peeling; the rocks bare and jagged, with heat like a vast furnace and ran out to the precipices. 1,200 feet high, that plunged down to the Dead Sea. It was in that awesome devastation that Jesus was tempted.

(William Barclay / The Gospel of Luke p.52)

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

This is a story of confrontation and testing.

Dramatic confrontation with the elements–blinding sun and penetrating darkness, blistering wind and numbing cold, impassioned hunger and parching thirst.

Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to pray and fast.

There, he would shape his mission.  He was searching for the answer of the question:  What kind of spiritual leader would he be?  He was pondering the question of how he could win over people.

There, he was also tempted by the devil, who sought him to distort that mission.

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

A second harsh voice promised Jesus the whole world, saying: “You’ve got the power to gain the whole world.  You can be king of this world.  This is the temptation to compromise: Don’t set your standards too high.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The answer was: to surrender himself into the hands of evil people was the only way Jesus could be faithful.  God could have intervened on behalf of his own son.  But that was out of the question.  The world could not accept God as a gentle Father.  They found his message of love much too demanding.  And since the authorities could not and would not accept him and his message, the only recourse left to him was simply to give witness to that message–even to the end.  He chose to be faithful to the soft Voice of the Father , not compromise the message, even if it led to his death.

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

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

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

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

But there’s a final warning for us here. The Gospel passage today ends with this sentence: “When the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from him ~ for a time.”

The soft voice of the Father to whom he was so devoted, the voice that was the source and object of all his fidelity, each one of us should train ourselves to hear.  And then learn . . . day after day after day to love . . . more deeply . . . more intimately . . . more really–the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

This is the Jesus I know and love.

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

And now, before you go, here’s  a song I’ve always loved with a lovely slide show ~ Be Not Afraid. Click here.  Remember to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.

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

Also a HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY to everyone!

With love, 

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

 

The Jesus I know and Love

IMG_2022Dear Friends,

I promised you that I’d reflect on the Jesus I know and Love.  This will continue through Sunday’s readings.  These are the readings for the Thursday after Ash Wednesday.

In the first reading, Moses says:

“I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse.  Choose life, then, that you and your descendents may live, by loving the Lord, your God, heeding his voice, and holding fast to him” (Deuteronomy 30:15-20).

We often hear the word’s Choose Life as a Pro-Life message; that’s important.  But each of us are invited to choose life again and again, every day.  This Lent is an acceptable time to choose the life that affirms and nourishes us and extricate ourselves from the dysfunctional communication and game-playing within the walls of our own home that cauterise the souls of our spouse and our children.

Choose Life this day in the way you speak to and about everyone you meet today.   Choice is an act of the will, the highest power of the human person.  Choose your words carefully. Preside over and take responsibility for what comes out of your mouth; realize your words create life or death.

In the gospel, Jesus says,

If anyone wishes to come after me, he must take up his cross daily and follow me.  For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself? (Luke 9: 22-25)

Jesus gives us a koan, a Zen word  that denotes a riddle that often takes a long time to get it.  Try to get into it this Lent. Ponder its meaning for you right now. Repeat it often until you get it.

It’s a counter-cultural message.  In our society people do everything to avoid the smallest bit of pain. They even have numbing pads so that you don’t feel an Accu-check stick.  And we avoid emotional pain by not thinking through our problems. We might be tempted to do this by running away.  A quicky divorce or a cruel text message to dump a girl friend who no longer suits you.

The Cross of Jesus is all about commitment. Lent places before us the Cross of Jesus and his loving embrace of it. He willingly stretched out his arms to be nailed. Jesus knew he would have to face immense suffering on his journey.  He knew  he would make people angry by telling the truth he realized in his heart.  He knew that it would lead him to death as he made his way up to Jerusalem. The issue is Acceptance of whatever life calls us to. Jesus  accepted the Cross because he chose to be faithful to his mission.

Jesus brought a brand new thinking and being into the world.  His message was that his Father-God embraces every person without exception.  His message was that He, Jesus, transcended the Law; that the only law was to love.  This went against the grain of those who saw him as a threat to all they knew.

In the desert, Jesus made a firm commitment to BE the truth that he saw in his heart no matter what.  Jesus embodied that highest moral standard: to commit his life to justice and love, no matter what it cost him.  His mission was very simple:   Stay on message, no matter what.    He was a person of absolute integrity.  No one was going to dissuade him from being who he was.

Very sadly, many in the church say that they believe in Jesus but are quick to condemn, quick to hate.  If you are one who has been condemned by the church or treated hatefully, I,  for one, ask forgiveness from you for I know Jesus would never want that for you.  And I ask for forgiveness and change of heart for those who do the condemning and the hating, even in this political season.

Finally, I  would like to be in solidarity with so many of us these days have crosses to bear that are profoundly difficult. Let us help each other to bear the cross we must carry.  But remember, the key is acceptance.  Acceptance, the willingness to be nailed is the secret to our recovery.

This is the Jesus I know and love:  The one who has the strength to love, no matter what. He’s my hero.  I would like very much to be like that.  How ’bout you?  Now. before you go, here are the St. Louis Jesuits singing the prayer of their founder, St. Ignatius of Loyola “Take, Lord, Receive”. Click here.

And here are all of the readings, if you would like to reflect on them. Click here.

With Love

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer