The Creator Serves His Creation

 

Jesus washing the disciples feet
Christ Washing the Disciples’ Feet, art by Jan Lievens c.1630/35

 

When the disciples gather for the meal on Holy Thursday, Jesus is aware that it is the last time he will be together with them. For this reason, everything he says and does has a special significance. Every moment is filled with meaning. Jesus leaves his legacy.

He kneels before his friends and washes their feet, a service normally carried out by a house slave. John, who recounts this episode, emphasizes two things.

First, the devil has already given Judas the idea to betray Jesus. Jesus doesn’t wash the feet of the disciples because they are good and loving. He does it because he loves them with a love that can do nothing but go on loving until the end. Jesus makes himself small before them. Even Judas—already possessed by the devil—sees his master at his feet.

John emphasizes, secondly, that Jesus is wholly conscious that the Father has handed him everything, that he has come from God and is now returning to him. At this hour, Jesus knows he is God. The gesture he is making is not just friendliness toward one’s companions. Neither is it a teacher’s example of humility. What happens is that God kneels before his creation and serves it. God has not only become human, he becomes the slave of humankind and takes the absolute lowest place.

Before this mystery it is both comical and ridiculous to observe our propensity for wanting to dominate others, and maintain our rights and dignity. If we want to be like God there is only one way: to bend low and serve.

 

~ A Meditation by Wilfrid Stinissen, O.C.D.

 

Wishing you all a very blessed and prayerful Sacred Triduum!

The Hour of Redemption

 

Last Supper art by Rubens 1631-32
Last Supper, art by Rubens (1631-32)

 

Night has fallen. The terrible sin — that of killing the Lord — the epitome of all sin, is as good as accomplished. And Judas goes off . . .

Night has fallen indeed and yet, within the supper room there is a cry of exultation that is, in itself, a shattering of the night. ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.’

Jesus is to die, and he accepts this with all the passionate commitment of his surrendered heart — so deep, so unrestricted is his love for us. His is Love to the end, the uttermost love, which is total self-expenditure.

He knows that the love driving him on is not born of the human spirit; he knows that the Father himself is pouring into his poor human heart the immensity of his own self-expending love for men.

When he hangs on the cross, naked, emptied out, reduced to nothing, we shall have some idea of what this Man is, who he is, Son of eternal Love itself. Looking on him, seeing him truly for the first time, we shall know what sort of a God we have; for the first time human beings will know what God is really like.

He is a complete reversal of all merely human notions of God: he is Love that gives.

We wounded him by our sinning — we bruised him — yet all he bore became our healing.

 

~ A Meditation by Ruth Burrows, O.C.D.

 

 

Father the hour has come, glorify your Son.
~ John 17:1 

Mary of Bethany

 

Mary of Bethanywashing of the feet art by gisele bauche
Art by Gisele Bauche

 

Mary brought in a pound of every costly ointment.
~ John 12:3

 

Here we are shown a woman who was truly a disciple, one with a listening ear. She was a woman for whom Jesus really mattered, more than anything else in the world, more than herself.

She saw life’s sole task as listening to the Lord, hearing the word of God’s, which always includes putting it into practice. We do not ‘hear’ in the biblical sense unless the hearing is translated into action. Like Martha, Mary too must have had many things to do but still only one sole purpose — to listen to the Lord.

The result was a deep knowledge of Jesus, of the hidden springs of his being, so to speak. As Jesus could say ‘Holy Father the world has not known you, but I have known you’ — because he lived on the Father’s will, so this woman could say, ‘Holy Jesus, the world has not known you, but I have known you.’

Thus she, of all others it seems, divined that he was to die and that this dying was his Father’s will. She did not raise an outcry, or plan a campaign to stop him going to Jerusalem. She had entered into his deepest inner movements, no matter how dimly. She came with her symbolic gesture of pure devotion, identification, anointing him for his burial.

There is nothing else a disciple can do — no heroics, no glib professions that we are ready to die with him, but rather deep humility, deep gratitude for what he is doing. He has to do it in order to destroy our sin, our alienation from the Father. Then we shall be able to follow him.

Mary of Bethany is the symbol of Christian discipleship. If we do not come to this deep knowledge what does it mean? Yes, there is a Mary in us all, a devoted woman, but each of us has also to recognize a potential Judas, the worldling whose values are completely opposite to those of Jesus. Judas scorns the folly of the cross, the way of lowliness, humiliation, unimportance. He scorns the gesture of dumb, simple devotion. He is opposed to the mind of Christ who humbled himself, became nothing . . .

Judas too is capable of conversion. Ask our Lord with great earnestness to convert him wholly. Then there will be nothing in any of us but pure devotion — and the house will be filled with sweetness, refreshing the world.

 

~ A Meditation by Ruth Burrows, O.C.D.

 

Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion

 

yelena-cherkasova-the-entrance-of-the-lord-into-jerusalem-undated
The Entrance of the Lord into Jerusalem, art by Yelena Cherkasova

 

 

Cycle C: Luke 22: 14 – 23, 56


Today’s gospel is the Passion according to Saint Luke.


 

One of the priests executed during the Mexican Revolution was Miguel Pro. A famous photograph of his execution shows him with his arms outstretched in the form of a cross. The government took the photograph, mass produced it, and distributed it among the people as a means of both mocking the Church and showing people who was in charge. But within a year, the government banned the photo because it had become an icon of adoration among the Mexican people.

Where does real power reside? Pilate’s statement, “Do you not know that I have the power to release you, and the power to crucify you” is an illusion, for Jesus laid down his life of his own free will. At times, power seems to lie in the hands of the rulers of this world, but in due time, the truth emerges that it lies in the hands of God.

One of the truths embedded in the Passion of Jesus is that the reality of any given situation comes to light in God’s time. What looked like defeat on Good Friday was disclosed as the triumph of God’s love on Easter Sunday. The import of this truth for our lives is that no act of love is ever wasted. Every time we do the will of God, in spite of all appearances, we contribute to the redemption of the world. We may never see the positive impact of our good deeds; nevertheless, if they are acts of Love they are guaranteed by God.

“Love,” writes Evelyn Underhill, “after all, makes the whole difference between an execution and a martyrdom” (55). If the Crucifixion had not been an act of Divine Love, it would have been no more than a routine execution in a remote corner of the Roman Empire.

The same is true with us. Because we are members of the Body of Christ, whenever we unite our actions with Christ upon the Cross, they are redemptive. Love transforms the banal actions of daily life into divine deeds that plant the seeds of God’s transforming love in our world.

 

~ A Meditation by Marc Foley, O.C.D.

 

 

The Sign of the Cross

The lovers of Christ lift out their hands to
the great gift of suffering.
For how could they seek to be warmed and clothed
and delicately fed,
to wallow in praise and to drink deep draughts
of an underserved affection,
have castle for home and a silken couch for bed,
when He the worthy went forth, wounded and hated,
and grudged of even a place to lay His head?

This is the badge of the friends of the Man of Sorrows:
the mark of the cross, faint replica of His,
become ubiquitous now; it spreads like a wild blossom
on the mountains of time and in each of the crevices.
Oh, seek that land where it grows in a rich abundance
with its thorny stem and its scent like bitter wine,
for wherever Christ walks He casts its seed
and He scatters its purple petals.
It is the flower of His marked elect, and the fruit
it bears is divine.

Choose it, my heart. It is a beautiful sign.

 

~ A poem by Sister Miriam of the Holy Spirit (Jessica Powers), O.C.D. 

 

 

cross and purple roses
By artist Debi Coules

 

 

Wishing you all a very blessed Holy Week!

 

 

 

All for God

 

Jesus The Forest Meeting by Amy McCutcheon
Art by Amy McCutcheon

 

Happy are your eyes because they see, your ears because they hear!
~ Matthew 13:16

 

We must resolve to put the whole of our sense life at God’s service. We must refuse to use our senses except when their exercise is for the honour and glory of God.

We can so easily presume that the whole bent of our being is to God, and fail to recognize how we allow ourselves dangerous distractions; how we allow ourselves to notice and nose into other people’s business; how we yield to useless curiosity, indulge ourselves in countless ways.

Hold up! Fix your eyes on the perfect Son. Hold yourself in your hands so that your activities are controlled, that you know what you are doing, and are not drifting by carelessly occupied with trifles, occupied with yourself.

Our whole way of life should be helping us to this true recollection, this concentration on God. Sustained discipline is absolutely essential if we are to belong to God.

‘Many prophets and holy men longed to see what you see and never saw it, to hear what your hear, and never heard it.’ Let’s weigh these words.

How utterly privileged we are to know Christ Jesus our Lord. How privileged to have access to his words, his thoughts . . . Do we really see this as an unheard of privilege?  We shall answer that question truthfully by looking at what we do. Are we always most seriously, with everything we have in us, trying to get to know him and trying to live according to his teaching?

. . . The torch is sweeping slowly round our room. Do we want to see the cobwebs? Do we want to remove them? Or do we allow our eyes to rest on them for a brief moment only, and then go on just as before.

 

~ A Meditation by Ruth Burrows, O.C.D.

 

Jesus, holy and beloved
hold me always in your ‘yes’.
Let nothing matter to me from this moment
but the Father’s good pleasure,
the coming of his kingdom.
Let me not matter to myself.
I have only one short life in which to love
in difficulty and pain,
trusting in the dark and non-seeming.
Opportunities come and pass forever,
never to return.
Let me not miss one,
let my life be lived in total love:

There is no other way of living a truly human life.
 

The Temptation to Shame Others

 

Sieger Köder2
Art by Fr. Sieger Köder

 

John 8: 31-42


Jesus tells the Jewish authorities that being a true descendant of Abraham comes not from physical ancestry but from doing the will of God.


 

Justin Martyr wrote that some Jews who lived during the time of Jesus believed that because they were “descendants of Abraham according to the flesh [they would] certainly share in the eternal kingdom, even though they be faithless sinners and disobedient to God’ (363). This may have been the reason, or one of the reasons why, when Jesus said that if they were slaves to sin then they had no “permanent place in the family,” the people in today’s gospel vehemently assert their descent from Abraham. It is worth noting that it was not his adversaries who lashed out at Jesus; rather, “those Jews who believed in him” did. Here we encounter a common dynamic of daily life, namely, how when we feel threatened our behavior toward others, even those who are close to us, can change in a moment.

Furthermore, today’s gospel sets before us the vindictive venom that we can spew on others when we are either threatened or angry. When Jesus says to his audience that they are not Abraham’s children, they fire back, “We are not illegitimate children!” This retort is retaliatory, for the original Greek contains the implication that “we are not illegitimate but you are.”

Because Mary had conceived out of wed-lock, Jesus was considered illegitimate. In Saint Mark’s gospel, for example, the people of Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth express their contempt of him by saying in derision, “Isn’t this the carpenter, the son of Mary?” In the ancient world, a man was called by his mother’s name only if he were illegitimate. One rumor said at a Roman soldier named Panthera was the father of Jesus. The statement, “We are no illegitimate breed!” implies that the rumor of Jesus’ illegitimacy was public knowledge and followed him wherever he went.

Like those in today’s gospel, all of us are privy to the skeletons in other people’s closets. We are keenly aware of the vulnerabilities of others and know where they are susceptible to shame and how to make them feel inferior. When threatened or angry, we can be tempted to attack where others are easily hurt. How often, in a moment of anger, have we dredged up a person’s past and thrown it in his or her face? How often have we gone for the jugular because we felt defenseless? How often have we shamed someone to protect ourselves from being shamed?

 

~ A Meditation by Marc Foley, O.C.D.

 

 

Connections

 

friends and soul friends
Art source unknown

 

Where did I learn to connect physical things with spiritual truths? My parents never let me forget that every task, however ordinary, is of redeeming supernatural value, if done out of love.

Awareness of little things done well for the love of God is daily living lifted up into the heart of Christ. It means we rise in the morning, aware that this day is given to us so that we may grow in grace and wisdom before the Lord. It means that we have been given another day to spend in the school of God’s love.

In order to enter heaven, we must be lovers. For instance, we wash the dishes for love of God. When you serve your family, do it quietly and efficiently. If you learn to connect serving to prayer, you will grow in wisdom and love, and you will become a light shining in the darkness of the world. This light from your loving service will lead people to God.

 

~ A Meditation by Catherine de Hueck Doherty

 

 

“It is not those who say to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ who will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the person who does the will of my Father in heaven.”
~ Matthew 7:21 

 

 

Brother Lawrence Prayer,
17th century French Carmelite monk

O Lord of all pots and pans and things,
since I’ve no time to be a great saint
by doing lovely things,
or watching late with Thee,
or dreaming in the dawnlight,
or storming heaven’s gates,
make me a saint by getting meals,
and washing up the plates.

Warm all the kitchen with Thy Love,
and light it with Thy peace;
forgive me all my worrying,
and make my grumbling cease.
Thou who didst love to give men food,
in room, or by the sea,
accept the service that I do,
I do it unto Thee.

Amen!