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Friday, April 1, 2011

Via Dolorosa 7/14…Jesus Falls The Second Time

Today we continue to reflect on our Lenten journey with Jesus, Who “went out, carrying His cross, to the place called “the place of the skull”, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha” (John 19:17).  I humbly pray that the contemplation of these solemn steps of Christ’s journey will speak to your heart.

“Adoramus te, christe, et benedicimus tibi, quia per crucem tuam redemisti mundum.

We adore Thee O Christ, and we praise Thee - Because by Thy holy cross Thou hast redeemed the world.”

– The Testament of St. Francis of Assisi – 1182 - 1226

 Scripture Reading:

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your selves.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” (Matthew 11:28-30, NAB)

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15, NAB)

“Yet it was our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings that he endured, while we thought of him as stricken, as one smitten by God and afflicted.  But he was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins.  Upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we were healed.” (Isaiah 53:4-5, NAB)

Simply Reflect:

Sweet Jesus, you slowly make your way outside the walls of Jerusalem as the crowds kept on pressing and pushing, mocking and spitting at you to hurry up.  Yet, amidst all these noise and shouting, you found quiet solitude in the embrace of the Cross.

Nevertheless, your whole body began to shiver and tremble and your grip of the cross beams slipped as a result of the precious blood profusely bleeding from your back and your head.

As much as you struggled to hang on, your human body once again gave way to the weight of the Cross.

You fell again for the second time; this time much harder than the first, adding more bruises and wounds to your knees on the pebbled and rocky path to Golgotha.

As your face fell flat on the dusty path, the crown of thorns pierced even deeper into your head, the beams too, crashing heavily on to you.  O, the agony, the pain…the shameful suffering the Son of Man must bear to redeem His loving people…

How cruel this punishment designed by mankind?  Wood from the tree of life now becomes a human instrument of death.  Who ever gave mankind authority to play play God and take away lives?  Why, even my Father in heaven does not punish when His people sin against Him.

But this bitter cup I must drink, the will of the Father must be done.  This journey to Golgotha must be completed...

O, the weight of the Cross, the sorrows of mankind!

The soldiers dragged Him up but His body was just too weak and dehydrated.  Jesus was determined to get up for the salvation of mankind and to claim Heaven's victory over evil.

Jesus wearily lifted himself up and embraced the Cross even tighter.  The crowd seem amused and entertained by all of this, yet there were a few of his followers who were afraid and kept a distance.  What's happening to our Rabbi...our Master?...Why doesn't he save himself?

He saved others, but cannot even save himself. (Mark 15:31)

As Jesus struggled along, He faintly recalled the words of his disciple Peter, “Though all may have their faith in you shaken, mine will never be.” (Matthew 26:33, NAB), “Even though I should have to die with you, I will not deny you.” (Matthew 26:35, NAB)

Quiet Pondering:

Consider how often we have burdened Jesus with the weight of our Cross.  How often we have pushed Him to the limit and even gave up on Him until He fell to the ground?

Like the cruel and heartless Roman executioners, we did not allow Jesus to rest…we pushed Him to the Cross.  We strike Him, we urged Him uphill with all our demands…we weigh Him with all the cross of our sins.

Throughout this journey to the Cross, Jesus always kept His gaze on the Cross, the will of His Father and also upon His loving people lined up along His path to Golgotha.

The loving gaze of Jesus, that once brought about healing and repentance throughout His ministry and had the crowd following Him across the land, up the hills and by the shore, was now confronted with hardened hearts.

How quickly we change…yes, in a heartbeat!  How quickly we crucify God in our journey through life?  We follow God only at our own convenience...

With this second fall of Jesus, we must learn, this Lent, that as Jesus bears the burden of the Cross and falls, over and over again, in order to save us, we, too must rise and not remain fallen and sunk into the dust.

We must look into the gaze of Jesus and pick ourselves up; allowing Jesus to touch us once more…to break down the walls of evil…to carry us…to free us from the many bondages of this world…to light up our darkness…so that we can journey back once again to our ever loving Father in Heaven...who eternally awaits us, His chiildren, with open arms...

Lord Jesus, you simply and humbly bore all my burdens on the road to Golgotha and you continue to carry me each moment of this day.  Give us hope as we too, continue to share this hope with the rest of the world.  Give us light as we too, reflect this light onto the path of others.  Lift us up and help us remember and garner strength from the many times you must fall in order to redeem us.

“The way of the Cross is the road which leads to Paradise; it is the sure way to holiness.  The Passion of Christ is the greatest and most stupendous work of Divine Love.”

- St. Paul of the Cross

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Via Dolorosa 6/14…Veronica Wipes The Face of Jesus

Entering this Third Week of Lent, we continue to contemplate our journey with Jesus, Who “went out, carrying His cross, to the place called “the place of the skull”, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha” (John 19:17).  I humbly pray that the contemplation of these solemn steps of Christ’s journey will speak to your heart.

“Adoramus te, christe, et benedicimus tibi, quia per crucem tuam redemisti mundum.
We adore Thee O Christ, and we praise Thee - Because by Thy holy cross Thou hast redeemed the world.”
– The Testament of St. Francis of Assisi – 1182 - 1226

Scripture Reading:

“He grew up like a sapling before him, like a shoot from the parched earth; there was in him no stately bearing to make us look at him, nor appearance that would attract us to him. He was spurned and avoided by men, a man of suffering, accustomed to infirmity, One of those from whom men hide their faces, spurned, and we held him in no esteem.”  (Isaiah 53: 2-3, NAB)

“Come," says my heart, ‘seek God's face’; your face, LORD, do I seek! Do not hide your face from me; do not repel your servant in anger. You are my help; do not cast me off; do not forsake me, God my savior!”  (Psalm 27:8-9, NAB)

“And a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years, who (had spent her whole livelihood on doctors and) was unable to be cured by anyone, came up behind him and touched the tassel on his cloak. Immediately her bleeding stopped. Jesus then asked, “Who touched me?”  While all were denying it, Peter said, “Master, the crowds are pushing and pressing in upon you.”  But Jesus said, “Someone has touched me; for I know that power has gone out from me.”  When the woman realized that she had not escaped notice, she came forward trembling.  Falling down before him, she explained in the presence of all the people why she had touched him and how she had been healed immediately. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you; go in peace.”” (Luke 8:43-48, NAB)

Simply Reflect:

Jesus, my Lord and my God, whether or not Veronica existed along your journey to Golgotha, it does not matter.  We exist and we are called to wipe the brow of our sisters and brothers who stumble on life’s path.

We are constantly called to respond, go out and search for those in need, to lift up the fallen, to care for them and to wipe their brow - for there is something of God in each of them.  In serving them, we serve Christ. When we wipe the brow of the needy, we encounter the face of Christ.

Tradition had it that Veronica, who was amongst those in the pushing and pressing crowd, was moved with pity.

Despite all the shuffling, shouting and mocking, Veronica wanted so much to help Jesus; the fire of restlessness burns in her heart, she trembled no more.

She hurriedly took the simple veil off her shoulder, squeezed through the crowd, pushed the soldiers aside and ran out without any fear; what she saw was simply a man, the Master, the great need of some compassion and love.  Jesus trembled under the weight of the Cross.

Veronica gently touched the bloodied face of Jesus with her pure white veil.  Similar to the touch of Jesus’ cloak by the hemorrhaging woman, this touch brought about healing.  “Someone has touched me; for I know that power has gone out from me.” (Luke 8:46, NAB)

Jesus struggled to look up at the familiar face, the vision clouded by blood and nodded a humble thanks to her courage, barely able to say anything…the pain was so excruciating - the bleeding did not stop, the sting from the whips persisted.

Each time Jesus fell, the wounds would open up a little bit more, precious blood dripping, blessing and purifying the path to Golgotha.

When Veronica looked at her veil, she found a benevolent sign by God, God the Father.

On her veil was miraculously transposed, the beautiful, adorable, Precious Blood imprint of the Holy Face of Jesus.  As the tears welled up in her eyes and pain pierced through her heart, she quietly pondered her encounters with the Lord and remembered the words, “Daughter, your faith has saved you…” (Luke 8:48, NAB). 

If only mankind had a little more faith, a little bit more compassion, we would have saved Jesus, our Lord.  But then, that would not have been the will of God.

Tradition had it that Veronica kept this veil until her death, and faithfully hung it at the head of her bed; it was then given to the Blessed Virgin, who left it to the Apostles, and they afterwards passed it on to the Church.

The miraculous simple piece of healing relic is still preserved in St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City, and the memory of Veronica's act of charity is commemorated in the Via Dolorosa.  The display of Veronica's veil from the relic niche above her statue are shown on the Fifth Sunday of Lent in St Peter's Basilica.

Quiet Pondering:

Consider how the blood and sweat has disfigured the Holy Face of Jesus to one barely recognizable. 

The King who entered Jerusalem was now evicted from the city towards the Place of the Skull – the same crowd who greeted Him with royal palms, was now mocking Him, spitting at Him, insulting Him…  How quickly the hearts of humans change, so easily influenced and swayed by the ways of the world…  Yet, for the same hearts to be touched and transformed by the love of God…to repent, it is so, so difficult!

Veronica, you gave Christ your veil on His way to Golgotha which He used to wipe the Precious Blood from His Holy Face.  In return for this great act of compassion, He left you His most Holy image on the veil.

You have shown us that it is possible for one person to act radically different from the rest, without any fear.  Being a disciple of Christ translates to faithfully following the path of radical discipleship, no matter what.

Pray and intercede for us to Our Dear Lord that His Holy Face may similarly be imprinted on our hardened hearts so that we too, may always be mindful of the Passion and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Do not be afraid.  Take courage to get to know Jesus better today.  Be courageous to break away from the rest of the world and walk the path of radical discipleship.  In the world today, we are surrounded by the faces of destruction, corruption, greed, selfishness, the faces of abortion, human trafficking, suppression of the freedom of worship, racism, the power syndrome, the face of death...

With Jesus, we experience the faces of infinite love, purity, simplicity, humility, obedience, trust, justice, sisterhood, brotherhood, community of the one human race, respect for all human life, the hope of the life.

Jesus, help me to constantly seek your Holy Face within this journey through life.  By your grace, help me to remain faithful and mirror your Holy Face to others in all that I say and do.  Help me to share your message of hope, in a manner which respects all human persons in their freedom, in their dignity, but also in their weakness and brokenness.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Third Week of Lent...Quench The Thirst Within...

It has been a while since my last journal posting.  Technical challenges with my computer during this season of Lent

Perhaps during this period of silence, God wishes for me to simply contemplate on my own emptiness, insufficiency, loneliness, learn and un-learn my over-dependence on the ways of the world and instead, to simply place my total reliance and trust on Him, the source of all life.

As we enter the third week of Lent, we hear the Sunday reading of the simple, 'outcast' Samaritan woman, at the well, whom Jesus revealed the truth -  the Messiah, has come; the Source of life.  Stop what you are doing, pause, be quiet and choose to listen...drink of the living water.  Come!

This Lent, the living water from God continues to refresh and quench our barren life, our thirst - as we travel the desert of life.  Whether we are aware of it or not, God continues to search for us and shower His Blessings on our lives each day.

Very simply, we are empty and broken people on a journey, wounded and lonely in this world of fakeness, busy-ness, lies...  Perhaps, in this emptiness, we are afraid to ask God to fill us...

This Lent, be not afraid, continue to listen to God's invitation and allow Him to examine you, let the Truth of His Word penetrate you and irrigate your life, transforming you, turning you back to God.

Jesus, too, thirst for your love and compassion...He constantly awaits your return with open arms...welcoming the return of His prodigal sons and daughters.

As you continue your journey, midway through this holy season of Lent, be conscious of the deep longing within your heart, the quiet restlessness and aim to take small steps towards quenching this thirst with the water of Life.

"Insult has broken my heart, and I am weak; I looked for compassion, but there was none, for comforters, but found none.  Instead they put gall in my food; for my thirst they gave me vinegar."
(Psalm 69: 21-22, NAB)