Saturday, April 19, 2014

Holy Saturday

Holy Saturday - Jesus Descends Into Hell
By Father Robert Barron
Today we commemorate Holy Saturday, the quiet, somber interlude between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Instead of sharing my own reflections I'd like to share this ancient homily, written by an anonymous source. It brings to life that stirring line in the Apostle's Creed: "He descended into hell."


What is happening? Today there is a great silence over the earth, a great silence, and stillness, a great silence because the King sleeps; the earth was in terror and was still, because God slept in the flesh and raised up those who were sleeping from the ages. God has died in the flesh, and the underworld has trembled.

Truly he goes to seek out our first parent like a lost sheep; he wishes to visit those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death. He goes to free the prisoner Adam and his fellow-prisoner Eve from their pains, he who is God, and Adam's son.

The Lord goes into them holding his victorious weapon, his cross. When Adam, the first created man, sees him, he strikes his breast in terror and calls out to all: "My Lord be with you all." And Christ in reply says to Adam: "And with your spirit." And grasping his hand he raises him up, saying:

"Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light.

I am your God, who for your sake became your son, who for you and your descendants now speak and command with authority those in prison: Come forth, and those in darkness: Have light, and those who sleep: Rise.

I command you: Awake, sleeper, I have not made you to be held a prisoner in the underworld. Arise from the dead; I am the life of the dead. Arise, O man, work of my hands, arise, you who were fashioned in my image. Rise, let us go hence; for you in me and I in you, together we are one undivided person.

For you, I your God became your son; for you, I the Master took on your form; that of slave; for you, I who am above the heavens came on earth and under the earth; for you, man, I became as a man without help, free among the dead; for you, who left a garden, I was handed over to Jews from a garden and crucified in a garden.

Look at the spittle on my face, which I received because of you, in order to restore you to that first divine inbreathing at creation. See the blows on my cheeks, which I accepted in order to refashion your distorted form to my own image.

See the scourging of my back, which I accepted in order to disperse the load of your sins which was laid upon your back. See my hands nailed to the tree for a good purpose, for you, who stretched out your hand to the tree for an evil one.

I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side, for you, who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side healed the pain of your side; my sleep will release you from your sleep in Hades; my sword has checked the sword which was turned against you.

But arise, let us go hence. The enemy brought you out of the land of paradise; I will reinstate you, no longer in paradise, but on the throne of heaven. I denied you the tree of life, which was a figure, but now I myself am united to you, I who am life. I posted the cherubim to guard you as they would slaves; now I make the cherubim worship you as they would God.

The cherubim throne has been prepared, the bearers are ready and waiting, the bridal chamber is in order, the food is provided, the everlasting houses and rooms are in readiness; the treasures of good things have been opened; the kingdom of heaven has been prepared before the ages."

Friday, April 18, 2014

Good Friday





Good Friday - Why Focus on the Cross?
Bt Father Robert Barron
It's somewhat Pollyannish to say, "Christianity is just about the Resurrection, and not the Cross." To say that is to deny the gritty evil in the world. But once you get past childhood and start reading serious books and watching more sophisticated films, you find people desperately wrestling with evil. That's what any serious novel, film, or play is about. Just look at any of Shakespeare's plays--there's always someone engaging profound evil. Therefore, it doesn't make sense to say, "Let's not focus on the Cross; it's too sad, too dark, too evil."

Pressing the issue theologically, what is the Cross? It's God journey into God-forsakenness. God enters into human dysfunction in all of its forms. In the Passion narratives you have cruelty, violence, hatred, injustice, stupidity--all of human dysfunction is on display. And Jesus enters into that, thereby redeeming it.

The Church fathers liked to say, "What has not been assumed has not been saved." Jesus assumes the human condition in all of its dysfunction, going all the way down, so to say. And it's only for that reason he can bring us all the way up.

The Resurrection without the Cross is superficial, just as the Cross without the Resurrection is despair. It's the play between the two that matters.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Holy Thursday - The Initiation



Holy Thursday - The Initiation
By Father Barron
Christianity is a revolutionary religion. It turns everything upside down, reversing the values and expectations of a sinful world. Throughout his life and ministry, Jesus tried to inaugurate people into this new world that he called the Kingdom of God.

The nature of this Kingdom became especially apparent as Jesus gathered with his disciples in the upper room, a place of heightened awareness. There he did something extraordinary.

Jesus took off his outer garments, tied a towel around his waist, poured water in a basin, and washed the feet of his disciples. He performed an act that was so humble, so lowly, that it was considered beneath the dignity even of a slave.

We catch the novelty and shock of it in Peter's response: "Master, are you going to wash my feet?" This is just too much for him; it is such a violation of the world that he had come to accept, a world in which masters were masters, slaves were slaves, where the dignified and important were waited upon while the lowly did the serving. In that world there was a clear demarcation between up and down, worthy and unworthy, clean and unclean.

Jesus is putting his followers through a sort of initiation rite. Unless they pass this test, unless they begin to see the world in a new way, they will not get into the Kingdom. And this is why Jesus says to Peter, "Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me."

In the vision of the old world, one's life comes to its high point at a moment of honor, praise, glory, or recognition, at a moment when one's distinction and superiority over others is most evident. The old world is predicated on the great divisions between master and slave, superior and subordinate, rich and poor, powerful and powerless, included and excluded. Most of our energy goes into maintaining these distinctions, or trying to get from one side to the other, or keeping certain people on the far side of the divide.

But in the vision of the Kingdom of God, the climactic moment comes when one is the lowliest servant of the other: yes, even despised, reviled, spat upon, and handed over to death. It is only when we have passed through this startling initiation that we are ready for the full manifestation of the Kingdom.

"You call me 'teacher' and 'master' and rightly so," Jesus says, "for indeed I am. If I therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another's feet." 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Lent Day 43 - The Path of Dispossession

Lent Day 43 - The Path of DispossessionBy Father Robert Barron
They are some of the harshest, most shocking words that Jesus speaks in the Gospels: "Anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple."

Why do these words sound so counter-intuitive? Because ever since we were children, the culture has drilled the reverse into us. You're not happy because you don't have all the things you want to have. You will be happy only when you have so much money, or so big a house, or so much respect. You might not be happy now, but some day you might be if you acquire the right things.

And what follows from this? Life becomes a constant quest to get, to attain possessions. Remember the foolish rich man from Jesus' parable, the one who filled his barns with all his possessions. Because he had no more room, he decided to tear his barns down and build bigger ones. Jesus calls him a fool because--and I want you to repeat this to yourself as you read it--you have everything you need right now, right in front of you, to be happy.

I know it's completely counter-intuitive. We say, "No, that's not right at all; I'm very unhappy, but I'm trying to become happy, and I know I will be a lot happier when I get (fill in the blank)." But I want you to repeat this in your mind: "If I say, 'I'll be happy when,' I won't be happy when."

What makes us truly happy? Forgetting our ego and its needs and desires, opening our eyes, minds, and hearts, and letting reality in. What makes us happy is always right in front of us, because what makes us happy is love, willing the good of the other.

Next time you're unhappy, here's what you do: you love. When you're feeling miserable, write a note to someone who is lonely; make cookies for your kids; visit the nursing home; donate some money to a charity; sign up to help with an after-school program; say a prayer for someone who's in trouble.

Love is not a feeling. It's an act of the will, and it's a great act of dispossession. This is the wonderfully liberating path of holiness that Jesus wants us to walk. He wants joy for us. But the path to joy is the path of detaching ourselves from getting and acquiring. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Way of the Cross Led by Pope Francis

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
OFFICE FOR THE LITURGICAL CELEBRATIONS
OF THE SUPREME PONTIFF
WAY OF THE CROSS
AT THE COLOSSEUM
LED BY THE HOLY FATHERPOPE FRANCIS
GOOD FRIDAY
Rome, 18 April 2014

“The Face of Christ,
the Face of Man”

MEDITATIONS by H.E. Msgr. Giancarlo Maria Bregantini,Archbishop of Campobasso-Boiano


INTRODUCTION

He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth. These things occurred so that the Scripture might be fulfilled: “None of his bones shall be broken”. And again another passage of Scripture says: “They will look on the one whom they have pierced” (Jn 19:35-37).

Loving Jesus,
you went up to Golgotha without hesitation, in utter love,
and let yourself be crucified without complaint.
Lowly Son of Mary,
you shouldered the burden of our night
to show us the immense light
with which you wanted to fill our hearts.
In your suffering is our redemption;
in your tears we see “the hour”
when God’s gracious love is revealed.
In your final breath, as a man among men,
you lead us back, seven times forgiven,
to the heart of the Father,
and you show us, in your last words,
the path to the redemption of all our sorrows.
You, the Incarnate All, empty yourself on the cross,
understood only by her, your Mother,
who stood faithfully beneath that gibbet.
Your thirst is a wellspring of hope,
a hand extended even to the repentant thief,
who this day, thanks to you, enters paradise.
To all of us, crucified Lord Jesus,
grant your infinite mercy,
a fragrance of Bethany upon the world,
a cry of life for all humanity.
And at last, as we commend ourselves into the hands of your Father,
open unto us the doors of undying Life! Amen.


FIRST STATION

Jesus is condemned to death
Fingers pointed in accusation

Pilate, wanting to release Jesus, addressed them again; but they kept shouting: “Crucify him, crucify him!” A third time he said to them: “Why, what evil has he done? I have found in him no ground for the sentence of death; I will therefore have him flogged and then release him”. But they kept urgently demanding with loud shouts that he should be crucified; and their voices prevailed. So Pilate gave his verdict that their demand should be granted. He released the man they asked for, the one who had been put in prison for insurrection and murder, and he handed Jesus over as they wished (Lk 23:21-25).

Pilate, timid and afraid of the truth, fingers pointed in accusation, and the growing clamour of the raging crowd: these are the first stages in Jesus’ death. Innocent, like a lamb, whose blood saves his people. Jesus, who walked among us bringing healing and blessing, is now sentenced to capital punishment. Not a word of gratitude from the crowd, which instead chooses Barabbas. For Pilate, the case is an embarrassment. He hands it over to the crowd and washes his hands of it, concerned only for his own power. He delivers Jesus to be crucified. He wants to know nothing more of him. For Pilate, the case is closed.

Jesus’ hasty condemnation thus embraces the easy accusations, the superficial judgements of the crowd, the insinuations and the prejudices which harden hearts and create a culture of racism and exclusion, a throw-away culture of anonymous letters and vicious slanders. Once we are accused, our name is immediately splayed across the front page; once acquitted, it ends up on the last!

And what about us? Will we have a clear, upright and responsible conscience, one which never forsakes the innocent but courageously takes the side of the weak, resisting injustice and defending truth whenever it is violated?

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PRAYER

Lord Jesus,
there are hands which give support and hands which sign wrongful sentences.
Grant that, sustained by your grace, we may cast no one aside.
Save us from slanders and lies.
Help us always to seek your truth,
to take the side of the weak,
and to accompany them on their journey.
Grant your light to all those appointed as judges in our courts,
that they may always render sentences that are just and true. Amen.


SECOND STATION

Jesus takes up his crossThe heavy wood of the cross

Jesus himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls (1 Pet 2:24-25).

The wood of the cross is heavy, for on it Jesus bears the sins of us all. He staggers under that burden, too great for one man alone (Jn 19:17).

It is also the burden of all those wrongs which created the economic crisis and its grave social consequences: job insecurity, unemployment, dismissals, an economy that rules rather than serves, financial speculation, suicide among business owners, corruption and usury, the loss of local industry.

This is the cross which weighs upon the world of labour, the injustice shouldered by workers. Jesus shoulders it himself and teaches us to reject injustice and to learn, with his help, to build bridges of solidarity and of hope, lest we be like sheep who have lost our way amid this crisis.

Let us return, then, to Christ, the shepherd and guardian of our souls. Let us strive, side by side, to provide work, to overcome our fears and our isolation, to recover a respect for political life and to work to resolve our problems together.

The cross will become lighter if carried with Jesus, and if all of us lift it together, for “by his wounds – which are now windows opening to his heart – we have been healed” (cf. 1 Pet 2:24).

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PRAYER

Lord Jesus,
our night grows ever darker!
Poverty increases and becomes destitution.
We have no bread to give our children and our nets are empty.
Our future is uncertain. Provide the work we need.
Awaken in us a burning thirst for justice,
that our lives may not be a constant burden,
but lived in dignity! Amen.


THIRD STATION

Jesus falls for the first time
Weakness opening to acceptance

He has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole. (Is 53:4-5)

It is a frail, utterly human Jesus whom we contemplate in wonder in this most sorrowful station. Yet it is precisely by falling that he shows ever more fully his infinite love. He is hemmed in by the crowd, dazed by the screaming of the soldiers, smarting from the wounds inflicted at his flogging, grief-stricken at the depths of human ingratitude. And so he falls. He falls to the ground.

But in this fall, crushed by the weight of the cross and sheer fatigue, Jesus once more becomes the Teacher of life. He teaches us to accept our weaknesses, not to be disheartened by our failures, and frankly to acknowledge our limits: I can will what is right – says Saint Paul – but I cannot do it (Rom 7:18).

With the inner strength which comes to him from the Father, Jesus also helps us to accept the failings of others; to show mercy to the fallen and concern for those who are wavering. And he gives us the strength not to shut the door to those who knock and ask us for asylum, dignity and a homeland. In the awareness of our own weakness, we will embrace the vulnerability of immigrants, and help them to find security and hope.

For it is in the dirty water of the basin in the Upper Room, that is, in our own weakness, that we see reflected the true face of our God! For “every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God” (1 Jn 4:2).

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PRAYER

Lord Jesus,
you humbled yourself to redeem our weaknesses.
Help us to enter into true fellowship
with the poorest of our brothers and sisters.
Uproot from our hearts the fear, complacency and indifference,
which prevent us from seeing you in immigrants,
and from testifying that your Church has no borders,
for she is truly the mother of all! Amen.


FOURTH STATION

Jesus meets his Mother
Tears of solidarity

Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary: “This child is destined for the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed – and a sword will pierce your own soul also” (Lk 2:34-35). Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another” (Rom 12:15-16).

This encounter of Jesus and Mary his mother is poignant and tearful. It expresses the invincible strength of that maternal love which overcomes all obstacles and always finds a way. But even more powerful is Mary’s gaze of compassion as she sympathizes with and comforts her Son. Our own hearts are full of wonder as we contemplate the grandeur of Mary, who, although a creature, becomes a “neighbour” to her God and Lord.

Mary’s gaze gathers up the tears shed by every mother for her distant children, for young people condemned to death, slaughtered or sent off to war, especially child soldiers. We hear in it the grief-stricken lament of mothers for their children who are dying of tumours caused by the burning of toxic waste.

Tears of bitterness! Tears of solidarity with the suffering of their children! Mothers keeping watch by night, their lamps lit, anxious and worried for their young who lack prospects or who fall into the abyss of drugs or alcohol, especially on Saturday nights!

At Mary’s side, we will never be a people of orphans! As with Juan Diego, Mary also offers us the caress of her maternal comfort and she tells us: Let not your heart be troubled… Am I not here who am your Mother?” (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 286).

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PRAYER

Hail Mary, dear Mother,
grant me your holy blessing.
Bless me and all my family.
Deign to offer God all that I accomplish and endure this day,
in union with your merits and those of your most holy Son.
To your service I offer and devote myself and all that I have,
placing it under your mantle.
Obtain for me, my Lady, purity of mind and body
and grant that today
I may do nothing displeasing to God.
I ask you this through your Immaculate Conception
and your untainted virginity. Amen
(Saint Gaspare Bertoni)



FIFTH STATION

Jesus is helped by Simon of Cyrene to carry his crossA friendly, supportive hand

They compelled a passer-by, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross; it was Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus (Mk 15:21).

Simon of Cyrene just happened to be passing by. But it becomes a decisive moment in his life. He was returning from the fields. A working man, a strong man. And so he was forced to carry the cross of Jesus, condemned to a shameful death (cf. Phil 2:8).

But this casual encounter leads to a life-changing decision to follow Jesus and to take up his cross each day in self-denial (cf. Mt 16:24-25). Mark tells us that Simon was the father of two Christians known to the community of Rome, Alexander and Rufus. A father who clearly impressed upon the hearts of his children the power of Jesus’ cross. Life, if you grasp it too tightly, decays and turns to dust. But if you give it away, it blossoms and bears fruit, for you and for the entire community!

Here is the real cure for that selfishness of ours which always lurks beneath the surface. Our relationship with others brings us healing and creates a mystic, contemplative fraternity capable of seeing the sacred grandeur of our neighbour, capable of finding God in everyone, capable too of putting up with life’s troubles by holding fast to the love of God. Only by opening my heart to divine love am I drawn to seek the happiness of others through the practice of charity: a night spent in hospital, an interest-free loan, a tear wiped away in the family, heartfelt generosity, farsighted commitment to the common good, a sharing of our bread and labour, the rejection of all jealousy and envy.

Jesus himself tells us: “Just as you did it to one of the least of these, my brothers, you did it to me” (Mt 25:40).

==========

PRAYER

Lord Jesus,
in the Cyrenean, your friend, throbs the heart of your Church,
a shelter of love for all who thirst for you.
Helping our brothers and sisters is the key to the door of Life.
May our selfishness not make us pass by others;
help us instead to pour the balm of consolation on their wounds,
and thus become faithful companions along the way,
tirelessly persevering in our commitment to fraternity. Amen.



SIXTH STATION

Veronica wipes the face of JesusA woman’s tender love

“Come”, my heart says, “seek his face!” Your face; Lord, do I seek. Do not hide your face from me. Do not turn your servant away in anger, you who have been my help (Ps 27:8-9).

Jesus drags himself along, gasping. Yet the radiance of his countenance is undiminished. No amount of abuse can dim his beauty. The spittle and the blows were unable to obscure it. His face appears as a burning bush which, the more it is buffeted, the more it radiates salvation. Silent tears fall from the Master’s eyes. He bears the burden of one forsaken. And yet Jesus advances, he does not stop, he does not turn back. He confronts affliction. He is distressed by the cruelty all around him, yet he knows that his dying will not be in vain!

Jesus then halts before a woman who resolutely approaches him. It is Veronica, a true image of a woman’s tender love.

Here the Lord embodies our need for love freely given, for the knowledge that we are loved and kept safe by acts of kindness and concern. Veronica’s gesture is bathed in the precious blood of Jesus; it seems to wipe away the acts of irreverence which he endured in those hours of torture. Veronica is able to touch the gentle Jesus, to feel something of his radiance. Not only to alleviate his pain, but to share in his suffering. In Jesus, she sees all our neighbours who need to be consoled with a tender touch, and comes to hear the cries of pain of all those who, in our own day, receive neither practical assistance nor the warmth of compassion. Who die of loneliness…

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PRAYER

Lord Jesus,
how burdensome it is, when we are separated from all those
we thought would stand by us on the day of our desolation!
Cloak us in that cloth,
stained by your precious blood
shed along the path of abandonment,
which you too unjustly endured.
Without you, we do not have,
nor can we give, a modicum of solace. Amen.


SEVENTH STATION

Jesus falls for the second timeThe anguish of imprisonment and torture

They surrounded me … They surrounded me like bees, they blazed like a fire of thorns; in the name of the Lord I cut them off! I was pushed hard, so that I was falling, but the Lord helped me. The Lord has punished me severely, but he did not give me over to death (Ps 118:11,12-13,18).

Truly we see fulfilled in Jesus the ancient prophecies of the lowly and obedient Servant who takes upon himself all our history of sorrows. And so Jesus, prodded by the soldiers, stumbles, overcome by fatigue, surrounded by violence, utterly exhausted. Increasingly alone, amid the encircling gloom! His flesh is torn, his bones are weary.

In him we glimpse the bitter experience of those locked in prisons of every sort, with all their inhumane contradictions. Confined and surrounded, “pushed hard” and “falling”. Prisons today continue to be set apart, overlooked, rejected by society. Marked by bureaucratic nightmares and justice delayed. Punishment is doubled by overcrowding: an aggravated penalty, an unjust affliction, one which consumes flesh and bone. Some – too many! – do not survive… And when one of our brothers and sisters is released, we still see them as “ex-convicts”, and we bar before them the doors of social and economic redemption.

More serious is the practice of torture, which tragically is still practiced in different ways throughout our world. As it was in the case of Jesus, beaten, reviled by the soldiers, tortured with a crown of thorns, cruelly flogged.

Today, as we contemplate this second fall, how truly do those words of Jesus ring: “I was in prison and you visited me” (Mt 25:36). In every prison, at the side of each person being tortured, Christ is always there, Christ who suffers, is imprisoned and tortured. Even in our greatest suffering, he helps us not to yield to fear. Only with help can those who fall rise again, aided by skilled personnel, sustained by the fraternal support of volunteers, and put on their feet by a society which takes responsibility for the many injustices which occur within the walls of our prisons.

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PRAYER

Lord Jesus,
boundless compassion grips me
as I see you fall to the ground for my sake.
I have no merit, and so many sins, inconsistencies and failures,
yet you respond with such immense love!
Cast off by society, put to death by judicial sentence,
you have blessed us for ever.
Blessed are we if today we join you in your fall, delivered from condemnation.
Help us not to flee from our responsibilities,
grant that we may abide in your abasement, safe from all pretense of omnipotence,
and be reborn to new life as creatures destined for heaven. Amen.


EIGHTH STATION

Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem
Solidarity and compassion

Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and your children” (Lk 23:28).

Like so many tapers of light, we see women lining the path of pain. Women of fidelity and courage, neither intimidated by the soldiers nor cringing before the wounds of the Good Master. They are prepared to approach him and to comfort him. Jesus stands there before them. Others trample on him as he falls exhausted to the ground. But the women are there, ready to give him the warmth of a loving heart. First they gaze at him from afar, but then they draw near, as would any friend, any brother or sister, who realizes that someone whom they love is in trouble.

Jesus is moved by their bitter lament, yet he tells them not to be disheartened by his sufferings; he tells them to be women not of grief but of faith! He asks for their solidarity in suffering, not merely a barren and plaintive sympathy. No more wailing, but a resolve to be reborn, to look to the future, to advance with faith and hope towards that dawn which will break even more radiantly upon those who journey with their eyes fixed on God. Let us weep for ourselves if we do not yet believe in Jesus, who proclaimed the kingdom of salvation. Let us weep for the sins we have not confessed.

Then too, let us weep for those men who vent on women all their pent-up violence. Let us weep for women enslaved by fear and exploitation. But it is not enough to beat our breast and to feel compassion. Jesus demands more. Women need to be given reassurance, following his example; they need to be cherished as an inviolable gift for all humanity. So that our children may grow in dignity and hope.

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PRAYER

Lord Jesus,
stay the hand of those who strike women!
Lift women’s hearts from the abyss of despair
when they are victims of violence.
Look upon their tears of loneliness and abandonment,
and open our hearts to share their every sorrow,
fully and faithfully,
above and beyond mere compassion.
Make us a means of true liberation. Amen.


NINTH STATION

Jesus falls for the third time
Leaving behind unhealthy nostalgia

Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?... No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us!” (Rom 8:35,37).

Saint Paul lists all his sufferings, yet he knows that Jesus was there before him: Jesus, who on the way to Golgotha fell once, twice, three times. Overwhelmed by hardship, persecution, the sword; weighed down by the wood of the cross. Drained! He seems to say, as we do, in our darkest moments: I can’t take it any more!

It is the cry of those persecuted, the dying, the terminally ill, those who strain under the yoke.

But in Jesus we also see strength: “Although he causes grief, he will have compassion” (Lam 3:32). He shows us that in affliction, his consolation is always present, a “surplus” to be glimpsed in hope. Like the pruning which the heavenly Father, in his wisdom, performs on the branches that will bear fruit (cf. Jn 15:8). Not to lop them off, but to make them bloom anew. Like a mother in labour: in pain, she cries out, she endures the pangs of childbirth. Yet she knows that they are the pangs of new life, of spring flowers blossoming on branches recently pruned.

May our contemplation of Jesus, who falls yet rises once more, help us to overcome the kinds of narrowness which fear of the future impresses on our hearts, especially at this time of crisis. Let us leave behind our unhealthy nostalgia for the past, our complacency and our refusal to change, and the attitude that says: “But we’ve always done it this way!”. Jesus who stumbles and falls, but then rises, points us to a sure hope which, nourished by intense prayer, is born precisely at the moment of trial, not after or apart from it!

We will be more than conquerors, because of his love!

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PRAYER

Lord Jesus,
Lift up, we pray, the unfortunate from the ground,
Raise the poor from the dust, set them with the princes of the people,
and grant them a seat of glory.
Shatter the bow of the strong and revive the strength of the weak,
for you alone enrich us by your poverty (cf.
1 Sam 2:4-8; 2 Cor 8:9). Amen.



TENTH STATION

Jesus is stripped of his garments
Unity and dignity

When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier. They also took his tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. So they said to one another: “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it”. This was to fulfil what the Scripture says: “They divided my clothes among themselves, and for my tunic they cast lots”. And that is what the soldiers did (Jn 19:23-24).

They didn’t leave even a patch of cloth to cover Jesus’ body. They stripped him naked. He was without his cloak, his tunic, any garment whatsoever. They stripped him as an act of utter humiliation. He was covered only by the blood which flowed from his gaping wounds.

The tunic remained intact, a symbol of the Church’s unity, a unity found in patient journeying, in a peace that is crafted, in a tapestry woven with the golden threads of fraternity, in reconciliation and in mutual forgiveness.

In Jesus, innocent, stripped and tortured, we see the outraged dignity of all the innocent, especially the little ones. God did not prevent his naked body from being exposed on the cross. He did this in order to redeem every abuse wrongly concealed, and to show that he, God, is irrevocably and unreservedly on the side of victims.

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PRAYER

Lord Jesus,
we want to return to childlike innocence,
in order to enter the kingdom of heaven;
cleanse us of our uncleanness and our idols.
Take away our stony hearts which create divisions,
which damage the credibility of your Church.
Give us a new heart and a new spirit,
that we may live in accordance with your commands
and readily observe your laws. Amen.


ELEVENTH STATION

Jesus is crucifiedAt the bedside of the sick

And they crucified him, and divided his clothes among them, casting lots to decide what each should take. It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him. The inscription of the charge against him read: “The King of the Jews”. And with him they crucified two thieves, one on his right and one on his left. And the Scripture was fulfilled that says: “And he was counted among the lawless” (Mk 15:24-28).

And they crucified him! The punishment reserved for the despicable, for traitors and rebellious slaves. This is the punishment meted out to our Lord Jesus: coarse nails, spasms of pain, the anguish of his mother, the shame of being associated with two thieves, his garments divided like spoils among the soldiers, the cruel jeers of passers-by: “He saved others; he cannot save himself. Let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him!” (Mt 27:42).

And they crucified him! Jesus does not come down, he does not leave the cross. He stays there, obedient to the Father’s will to the very end. He loves and he forgives.

Today many of our brothers and sisters, like Jesus, are nailed to a bed of pain, at hospital, in homes for the elderly, in our families. It is a time of hardship, with bitter days of solitude and even despair: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mt 27:46).

May we never use our hands to inflict harm, but only to draw near, to comfort and to accompany the sick, raising them from their bed of pain. Sickness does not ask permission. It always comes unannounced. At times it upsets us, it narrows our horizons, it tests our hope. It is a bitter gall. Only if we find at our side someone able to listen to us, to remain close to us, to sit at our bedside… can sickness become a great school of wisdom, an encounter with God, who is ever patient. Whenever someone shares our infirmities out of love, even in the night of pain there dawns the paschal light of Christ, crucified and risen. What, in human terms, is a chastisement can become a redemptive oblation, for the good of our communities and our families. So it was for the saints.

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PRAYER

Lord Jesus,
never leave my side,
sit beside my bed of pain and keep me company.
Do not leave me alone, stretch out your hand and lift me up!
I believe that you are Love,
and I believe that your will is the expression of your Love;
so I abandon myself to your will,
for I put my trust in your Love. Amen.



TWELFTH STATION

Jesus dies on the crossThe seven last words

After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfil the Scripture): “I am thirsty”. A jar full of vinegar was standing there. So they put a sponge full of wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the vinegar, he said: “It is finished”. Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (Jn 19:28-30).

Jesus’ seven last words on the cross are the perfection of hope. Slowly, with steps that are also our own, Jesus traverses all the darkness of night and abandons himself trustingly into the arms of his Father. It is the cry of the dying, the groan of the despairing, the entreaty of the lost. It is Jesus!

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mt 27:46). It is the cry of Job, of everyone struck by misfortune. And God is silent. He is silent because his response is there, on the cross: Jesus himself, the eternal Word who out of love became man; he is God’s answer.

“Remember me…” (Lk 23:42). The fraternal plea of the thief who became his companion in suffering, pierces Jesus’ heart; it is an echo of his own pain. And Jesus grants that request: “Today you will be with me in paradise” The pain of others always redeems us, since it draws us out of ourselves.

“Woman, here is your son! …” (Jn 19:26). But it is his mother, Mary, who stood with John at the foot of the cross, who dispels all fear. She fills that scene with tenderness and hope. Jesus no longer feels alone. So it is with us, if beside our bed of pain there is someone who loves us! Faithfully. To the end.

“I am thirsty” (Jn 19:28). Like the child who asks his mother for drink, like the patient burning with fever… Jesus’ thirst is the thirst of all those who yearn for life, freedom and justice. And it is the thirst of the one who is thirstiest of all: God, who, infinitely more than ourselves, thirsts for our salvation.

“It is finished” (Jn 19:30). Everything: every word, every action, every prophecy, every moment of Jesus’ life. The tapestry is complete. The thousand colours of love now shine forth in beauty. Nothing is wasted. Nothing thrown away. Everything has become love. Everything completed for me and for you! And so, even dying becomes meaningful!

“Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Lk 23:34). Now, heroically, Jesus emerges from the fear of death. For if we live freely in love, everything is life. Forgiveness renews, heals, transforms and comforts! It creates a new people. It ends wars.

“Father, into your hands I commend my spirit” (Lk 23:46). No longer emptiness and anguish. But complete trust in the Father’s hands, complete repose in his heart. For in God, all the fragments at last come together to form a whole!

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PRAYER

O God, who in the passion of Christ our Lord
have set us free from death, the wages of our ancient sin,
inherited by the whole human race:
renew us in the image of your Son;
and as we have borne in ourselves, from birth,
the image of the earthly man,
grant that, by the working of your Spirit,
we may bear the image of the heavenly man.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen
.


THIRTEENTH STATION

Jesus is taken down from the crossLove is stronger than death

When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be given to him” (Mt 27:57-58).

Before burial, Jesus is at last given back to his mother. She is the icon of a broken hearted, yet she tells us that death does not forbid a mother’s final kiss to her son. Bent over Jesus’ body, Mary is bound to him in a total embrace. This icon is known simply as Pietà – pity. It is heartrending, but it shows that death does not break the bond of love. For love is stronger than death! Pure love is the love that lasts. Evening has come. The battle is won. The bond of love has not been broken. Those who are prepared to sacrifice their life for Christ will find it. Transfigured, on the other side of death.

Tears and blood mingle in this tragic embrace. So it is in the lives of our families whenever we suffer an unexpected and grievous loss, an emptiness and a pain which cannot be soothed, especially at the death of a child.

“Pity” means being a neighbour to our brothers and sisters who grieve and cannot be consoled. It is great act of charity to care for those suffering from bodily wounds, from mental depression, from a despairing heart. To love to the very end is the supreme teaching which Jesus and Mary have left us. It is the daily fraternal mission of consolation which is entrusted to us in this faithful embrace of the dead Jesus and his sorrowful Mother.

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PRAYER

Virgin of Sorrows,
at our altars you show us your radiant face;
with eyes lifted up to heaven
and open hands,
you offer the Father, in a sign of priestly oblation,
the saving victim of your Son Jesus.
Show us the sweetness of that last faithful embrace
and grant us your maternal consolation,
that the sorrows of our daily lives
may never dim our hope of life beyond death. Amen.


FOURTEENTH STATION

Jesus is laid in the tomb
The new garden

Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. They laid Jesus there (Jn 19:41-42).

That garden, with the tomb in which Jesus was buried, makes us think of another garden: the garden of Eden. A garden which through disobedience lost its beauty and became a wilderness, a place of death where once there was life.

The overgrown branches which block us from savouring the fragrance of God’s will – our attachment to money, our pride, our squandering of human lives – must now be trimmed back and grafted onto the wood of the Cross. This is the new garden: the cross planted upon the earth!

From on high, Jesus will now bring everything back to life. After his return from the pit of hell, where Satan had imprisoned so many souls, the renewal of all things will begin. His tomb represents the end of the old man. With as Jesus, God has not allowed his children to be punished by a relentless death. In the death of Christ all the thrones of evil, built on greed and hardness of heart, are toppled.

Death disarms us; it makes us realize that we are subject here on earth to a life that will come to an end. And yet, before the body of Jesus, laid in the tomb, we come to realize who we really are. Creatures who, in order to escape death, need their Creator.

The silence which fills that garden enables us to hear the whisper of a gentle breeze: “I am the Living One and I am with you” (cf. Ex 3:14). The curtain of the temple is torn in two. At last we see our Lord’s face. And we know fully his name: mercy and faithfulness. We will never be confounded, even in the face of death, for the Son of God was free among the dead (cf. Ps 88:6 Vg.).

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PRAYER

Protect me, God: for in you I take refuge.
You are my portion and cup,
my life is in your hands.
I keep you ever before me, for you are my God.
You stand at my right hand; I shall not waver.
And so my heart is glad and my soul rejoices;
my body also rests secure.
For you do not leave my life among the dead,
or let your servant go down into the pit.
You will show me the path of life,
fullness of joy in your presence,
happiness for ever at your right hand. Amen.
(cf. Ps 15)



© Copyright 2014 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Lent Day 42 - Flowers in the Desert

Lent Day 42 - Flowers in the DesertBy Father Robert Barron
We began these daily Lent reflections by noting how Lent takes us into a spiritual desert. Biblical people knew all about the desert: Abraham has to cross it to get to the promised land; Moses and the Israelite people have to go through it to get home; Joseph is sent into Egypt and prison before he is ready for his mission; John the Baptist is a voice crying in the desert; Paul goes into the desert of Arabia after meeting the Lord on the road to Damascus. Even Jesus himself spends forty days and nights in the desert before commencing his ministry--the template on which Lent is based.

What does the desert symbolize? A number of things: confrontation with our own sin so as to see our dark side; a deep realization of our dependency upon God; an ordering of our priorities in life; a simplification, a getting back to basics. It means any and all of these things.

However, the desert also symbolizes waiting in anticipation. Desert wanderers are compelled to wait, in a time and place where very little life seems to be on offer, in hope of better things to come.

And it's precisely in such hopeful deserts that flowers bloom. Moses becomes a great leader; Abraham is the father of many nations; Joseph becomes the savior of his people; John the Baptist is the forerunner of the Messiah; Paul is the apostle to the Gentiles-all of this flowering was made possible by the desert.

So as we near the end of Lent, the end of our desert waiting, and move toward the Holy Triduum, let's prepare for new flowers to bloom.  

Monday, April 14, 2014


Lent Day 41 - Prayer and Action
By Father Robert Barron
The fruit of prayer in the Biblical tradition is action on behalf of the world. We are, essentially, a mission religion. Even the highest moments of mystical union are meant to conduce to doing God's work in the world, to becoming a conduit of the divine grace.

We have mystics, poets, contemplatives galore in our tradition--just think of Bernard, John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, Meister Eckhart, Thomas Merton--but they all see the essential link between prayer and action.

This is why Peter's line is so important at the Transfiguration: "Master, it is good that we are here; let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." As Luke, the author, points out immediately, "But he did not know what he was saying." The point of prayer is not to stay on the mountain. It is not to cling to mystical experience, however wonderful. It is to become radiant with the divine light so as to share it with the world.

And this is why, at the Transfiguration, the voice from the cloud identified Jesus and specified, "Listen to him." In other words, don't just admire him; don't simply worship him. Do what he tells you. Authentic prayer always leads to active discipleship.