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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Via Dolorosa 11/14…Jesus Is Nailed To The Cross

These final days of Lent 2011, we reflect on 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 continue to pray that the contemplation of these last few holy steps of Christ’s journey will quietly 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:

“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.  We had all gone astray like sheep, each following his own way; but the Lord laid upon him the guilt of us all.” (Isaiah 53:4-6, NAB)

“My mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death.  Dogs surround me, a pack of villains encircles me; they pierce my hands and my feet.  All my bones are on display; people stare and gloat over me.” (Psalm 22:15-17, NIV)
“And it was the third hour, and they crucified him. And the inscription of his cause was written over: THE KING OF THE JEWS.  And with him they crucify two thieves; the one on his right hand, and the other on his left.  And the scripture was fulfilled, which saith: and with the wicked he was reputed.” (Mark 15:25-28, Douay Rheims)
“And bearing his own cross, he went forth to that place which is called Calvary, but in Hebrew Golgotha.  Where they crucified him, and with him two others, one on each side, and Jesus in the midst.  And Pilate wrote a title also, and he put it upon the cross.  And the writing was: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS.  This title therefore many of the Jews did read: because the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city: and it was written in Hebrew, in Greek, and in Latin.” (John 19:17-20, Douay Rheims)

Simply Reflect:

Jesus, my Lord, at the summit of Golgotha, you see the Cross laid out on the rocky ground.  You also noticed that one other cross was already up, the victim groaning in extreme pain. Another cross was being pushed up.  You knew what was to happen next.  You cannot possibly imagine the unbelievable cruelty of what is to come.

A soldier rudely offered you a drink of vinegar and gall…to numb the pain, he claim…or to accelerate the bleeding?  There was simply no need to know…it does not matter anymore.

What began as the agony and anguish in the garden of Gethsemane is about to be fulfilled soon.  Jesus, your whole destructed body still trembling and bleeding from the journey and the weight of the Cross…but you will freely take upon yourself all the remaining pain and torture…waiting to be nailed on the Cross...with all the sins of humanity.  Jesus, you quietly kissed the dusty ground of Golgotha…

“Yet I, like a trusting lamb led to slaughter, had not realized that they were hatching plots against me: “Let us destroy the tree in its vigor; let us cut him off from the land of the living, so that his name will be spoken no more.”” (Jeremiah 12:19, NAB)

Lord, throughout your life on earth, you have never felt so humiliated, so despised.  You still hear the mocking, the urging, the pushing…yes, they all want to see this happen…now.

The executioners wasted no time…they drag you towards the rough beams of the blood stained Cross…it seemed larger than the rest…they lifted you up without any sympathy or mercy…the wounds all over your torn body split open again, the wooden splinters pierced into the wounds…

The soldiers screamed at you to lift yourself up…Lord, you were just too weak…  The devil had already induced them (John 13:2, NAB)

While they held you against the beams of the Cross, you looked up toward the high Heaven…recalling the assuring Word of the Father…

“…Look up at the sky and count the stars, if you can. Just so…shall your descendants be.” (Genesis 15:5, NAB)

“You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:11, NAB)
From the corner of your swollen eyes, you stole a glimpse of the rusty nails on the ground…the soldiers grab both your arms and stretched them wide.

They forced open both your bloodied hands…a huge iron hammer struck the nail repeatedly…piercing the flesh of your lower palms…going through the wooden beam of the Cross…crushing the bones…the heartless executioners repeated the same process on the other hand…no pity…no feelings…no blood gush forth because it was hammered so tight. These are the hands that healed and sow the seeds.

Jesus, at that very moment, the Cross and you became one.  The pain was simply beyond compare…yet, not a sound…not a murmur from you, my Lord.  Your outstretched arms embraced the Cross.  The familiar Word of God ringed through your mind…

“I am the Lord. I will free you… deliver you from their slavery. I will rescue you by my outstretched arm…” (Exodus 6:6, NAB)

The crowd roared but there were a few who were stunned motionless by the sheer cruelty and absolute silence from you.

In a distance, some of the disciples stared at the pierced hands…the very hands which had washed their feet not so long ago.  In your heart, you pondered…

“…Do you realize what I have done for you?” (John 13:12, NAB)

“…What I am doing, you do not understand now, but you will understand later.” (John 13:7, NAB)

The soldiers came back again, this time violently flattening your bended knees, put both your feet together and hammered a long nail through the arch of both feet, deep into the wood of the Cross below.  The same feet that walked on waters.

“My God, my God, why…why…” (Psalm 22:2, NAB)

“…The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom do I fear?  The Lord is my life's refuge; of whom am I afraid?” (Psalm 27:1, NAB)

Following this, the inscription, “IESVS•NAZARENVS•REX•IVDÆORVM (Iesus Nazarenus, Rex Iudaeorum)” was nailed above my thorn-crowned head.  It is almost done.  It saddens Jesus as He heard the Pharisees, the High Priests praying aloud…

“O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity - greedy, dishonest, adulterous…” (Luke 18:11, NAB)

As Jesus glanced at His Mother weeping, He quietly prayed the Psalms…

“To all my foes I am a thing of scorn, to my neighbors, a dreaded sight, a horror to my friends.  When they see me in the street, they quickly shy away.  I am forgotten, out of mind like the dead; I am like a shattered dish.” (Psalm 31:12-13, NAB)

The hour has come.  God has been nailed to the Cross.

Quiet Pondering:

“If any man have ears to hear, let him hear. And he said to them: Take heed what you hear.  In what measure you shall mete, it shall be measured to you again, and more shall be given to you.  For he that hath, to him shall be given: and he that hath not, that also which he hath shall be taken away from him.” (Mark 4:23-25, Douay Rheims)

“You shall be my people, and I will be your God.” (Jeremiah 30:22, NAB)

“Stay a while and contemplate these pierced hands and feet…this body covered with wounds…  This head pierced through and through by cruel thorns, fouled with dirt, bathed in sweat and blood.

Wonder and marvel at My silence, patience and resignation under such brutal treatment.  Ask yourself who suffer? Who is the victim of such barbarity?  It is JESUS CHRIST, the very Son of God, Maker of heaven and earth and of all things…who causes plants to grow and every living thing to prosper...  Who created man, and whose power sustains all things…  Behold Him unable to move, an object of scorn, despoiled of all.”
(The Way of Divine Love, p298, Sister Josefa Menendez)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

This Lent...We Remember...Pope John Paul II

This Lent, I remember the emotional funeral of Pope John Paul II.  The Catholic liturgy which was broadcast worldwide represented a celebration of solidarity for the one human race; an event uniting all the religions of the world.  The event was an insight and testimony of the new evangelization so often preached.

“The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8, NAB)

A humble Book of the Gospels was carried in procession before the casket.  The Book was simply placed open atop John Paul’s cypress simple casket at the beginning of the liturgy.  A quiet gust of wind caught the book, dramatically turning the pages.  Throughout the symbolic liturgy, rich with meaning, the wind kept flipping the pages, sometimes gradually, other times furiously wild…as if ‘someone’ was contemplating and eagerly searching for its content.  At some point in the beautiful Liturgy of the Word, the wind closed the Book of Life, as though the reading was completed.

Pope John Paul II began his pontificate with the words, “Be not afraid”.  Let us too, in these final days of Lent heed that call to Scriptures.  Let us hear the Word of God, live them, love them, embrace them and share them.  Let our journey through life be a testimony of the Word, so that we too, can breathe our last word on this earth as did Pope John Paul II, “Amen”.  Let the Word of God resurrect in our lives...

“It is my fervent hope that believers will find this Lent a favorable time for bearing witness to the Gospel of charity in every place, since the vocation to charity is the heart of all true evangelization.”
Pope John Paul II

Simply Give Thanks To Jesus...This Lent...

“The ordinary acts we practice every day at home are of more importance to the soul than their simplicity might suggest.” - St Thomas More

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Via Dolorosa 10/14…Jesus Is Stripped of His Garments

We reflect on 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 continue to pray that the contemplation of these holy steps of Christ’s journey will quietly 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:

“And stripping him, they put a scarlet cloak about him. And platting a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand. And bowing the knee before him, they mocked him, saying: Hail, king of the Jews. And spitting upon him, they took the reed, and struck his head.” (Matthew 27:28-30, Douay Rheims)

“And they came to the place that is called Golgotha, which is the place of Calvary. And they gave him wine to drink mingled with gall. And when he had tasted, he would not drink. And after they had crucified him, they divided his garments, casting lots - that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying: they divided my garments among them; and upon my vesture they cast lots. And they sat and watched him.” (Matthew 27:33-36, Douay Rheims)

“And they bring him into the place called Golgotha, which being interpreted is, the place of Calvary. And they gave him to drink wine mingled with myrrh; but he took it not. And crucifying him, they divided his garments, casting lots upon them, what every man should take.” (Mark 15:22-24, Douay Rheims)

“The soldiers therefore, when they had crucified him, took his garments, (and they made four parts, to every soldier a part,) and also his coat. Now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout. They said then one to another: Let us not cut it, but let us cast lots for it, whose it shall be; that the scripture might be fulfilled, saying: They have parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture they have cast lots. And the soldiers indeed did these things.” (John 19:23-24, Douay Rheims)

Simply Reflect:

Dear Lord Jesus, throughout this brutal journey, you freely chose to endure all the mocking, the pushing, the insults, the flogging, the whipping, the entire weight of the Cross, the cruelty of humanity…you were shamed and cast out…yet, you chose to remain silent…you chose solitude in the midst of the crazy chaos of the world.  You feel the one stood up for you.  No one seem to understand your message...

You took it upon yourself to carry every one of our sins, our indifference, our betrayals, our denials, our suffering, our poverty, our pride…this is the only way for you to bring meaning into this meaningless world…to bring love into this sin-stained world.  If only there was an easier way.

“...Father, if thou wilt, remove this chalice from me: but yet not my will, but thine be done.” (Luke 22:42, Douay Rheims)

If only mankind were to repent, this whole journey to Golgotha, every step, every fall, would have been worth it…to redeem mankind from the fall from grace.

“…My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would certainly strive that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now my kingdom is not from hence.” (John 18:36, Douay Rheim)

Whilst the Father held the whole world in His hands, Jesus held the whole wooden Cross in His deep embrace.  Drops of the precious Blood continue to absorb into the beams of the Cross and the excess, trickled to bless the ground of Golgotha.  The journey was humiliating and agonizing for the Son of God, yet…

“…I tell you that this scripture must be fulfilled in me, namely, ‘He was counted among the wicked’; and indeed what is written about me is coming to fulfillment.” (Luke 22:37, NAB)

Nothing that has happened is mere coincidence or as a result of the conspiracy of mankind; everything that happened is contained in the Word of God and sustained by His Divine plan.

Jesus has arrived at the bloody grounds of Golgotha…the stench of death is everywhere…even the color of the ground is stained with blood and fragments of human bones.  Jesus recalled the words of scripture from Ezekiel.

“The hand of the Lord was upon me, and brought me forth in the spirit of the Lord: and set me down in the midst of a plain that was full of bones.” (Ezekiel 37:1, Douay Rheims)

Jesus quietly pondered in His heart...

“...Abba, Father, all things are possible to thee: remove this chalice from me; but not what I will, but what thou wilt.” (Mark 14:36, Douay Rheims)

The Roman executioners screamed at him, dragged and roughly stripped Jesus of His blood-stained garments; simultaneously tearing open the wounds yet again.  They also grab the loin cloth woven by His mother.  The soldiers divided and cast lots for the garments. 

“As dry as a potsherd is my throat; my tongue sticks to my palate; you lay me in the dust of death.  Many dogs surround me; a pack of evildoers closes in on me.  So wasted are my hands and feet that I can count all my bones.  They stare at me and gloat; they divide my garments among them; for my clothing they cast lots.  But you, Lord, do not stay far off; my strength, come quickly to help me.” (Psalm 22:16-20, NAB)

Jesus, thirsty and trembling from pain, is now stripped of whatever dignity that was left – exposed, unclad, empty, almost naked to the world…yet, Jesus, sinless, was not ashamed…Jesus had no need to hide…no need to be afraid…(unlike the first sinful Adam, in the Garden of Eden)  Golgotha is no paradise...

“...(Adam said)...I heard thy voice in paradise; and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” (Genesis 3:10, Douay Rheims)

As if, in vengeance, similar to the first Adam, cast out from the Garden of Eden, Jesus is now cast out from the holy city of Jerusalem to Golgotha.

Like the first Adam who ate from the ‘tree of life’, choosing the freedom to know what is good and evil, Jesus will soon be 'eaten' by the tree of death, stripped of everything…every freedom...every choice…emptying Himself completely to save us.

The soldiers, behaving worst than beasts continued to scourge His bare back…tearing and scattering bits of bloodied flesh all over the peak of Golgotha…‘purifying’ the altar of crucifixion…making it holy for the Son of God.

The women in the crowd continue to wail and cry.  Jesus fell and landed heavily on His knees, staring at the crowd in deep sorrow, He wept because He loved them...a simple whisper...

“…Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34, Douay Rheims)

Quiet Pondering:

This week of Lent, you have witnessed the bitter and humiliating description of Jesus being stripped of every piece of clothing.  How sorrowful this must have been for the Son of Man.

Jesus will soon be mounted and executed in the most horrorful, shameful and painful manner - possessing nothing and yet, possessing everything because He is the Son of God.

Jesus, you freely tolerated the shameful mockery everybody made of you.  Teach us this Lent,  patience so that we too will learn to be humble; not behave arrogantly like the soldiers and the crowd.  That we will always and freely make the better choice to follow you.

Strip us, Lord of our imperfections and slavery to the ways of the world.  Strip us, Lord or our arrogance and judgemental ways.  Help us develop a sense of peace and quiet deep in the center of our being where you reside.

Clothe us this Lent, with your garments of mercy and grace as you continue to walk with us each day. Grant that we will always choose not to ‘strip’ or ‘disfigure’ you, through the ways we live our lives and in the ways we treat others.

‘The devil is no fool.  He can get people feeling about heaven the way they ought to feel about hell.  He can make them fear the means of grace the way they do not fear sin.  And he does so, not by light but by obscurity, not by realities but by shadows; not by clarity and substance, but by dreams and the creatures of psychosis.  And men are so poor in intellect that a few cold chills down their spine will be enough to keep them from ever finding out the truth about anything.”
- Thomas Merton

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Fifth Week of Lent...Do You Believe This?

Four days ago, a distant relative, soon to turn 80 years old, passed away suddenly.  She was at home, resting by herself.  At one point, when she got up to make her way around the house, she took, what was to be, a most fatal fall and slipped into a coma.  Life is like that sometimes, it catches you when you least expect it.

The hospital diagnosed multiple fractures on her skull and blood clots.  Surgery was not viable as it would only provide a 20% chance of survival.  The doctors would not risk it given her age.  A second opinion was sought at another medical facility but the conclusion remained the same.  There was simply no hope.

She passed away within 48 hours but thankfully with all close family members by her side.  A question we often ask ourselves when confronted with such life threatening situations...if only Jesus had been there...  Where is God when you need Him most?  Little do we realize that as mere mortals, sometimes, it is difficult for us to understand the intent of God...

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.” (Isaiah 55:8, NAB)

Today, begins the fifth week of Lent.  We hear the familiar story of Lazarus, whom Jesus loved so much.  Lazarus died.  We get the impression that Jesus delayed the healing of Lazarus.  If only Jesus had been there earlier...there would not have been so much grief, so much mourning.

Nevertheless, we learnt that Jesus, filled with compassion, wept because He too, loved Lazarus...Jesus loves each one of us...remains one with us in our the suffering of our loved ones...puts an end to our tears...transforming tragedy into hope.

Jesus is the resurrection and the life!  Jesus, bruised and wounded, laid down His life for us and He has the power to take it give life.  Four days later, Jesus raised Lazarus.

Jesus can work miracles...but for the greater purpose of giving glory to God and increasing our faith.  As Jesus said to Martha and to each one of us this Lent,...'Do you believe this?'

“I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.  Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26, NAB)

This simple question reflects the very heart of our faith; our journey as pilgrims toward the eternal Kingdom of Heaven began at our baptism.  We must constantly nourish and sustain this faith by listening to the Word of God daily.

It has been observed that people, the world over, often tend to celebrate two great occasions within the church calendar - Christmas and Good Friday - the churches seemed more packed than all the other days, even Easter Sunday!

Similarly, we too often tend to remember birthdays (Christmases) and deaths (Good Fridays) but not the hope of the resurrection (Easter Sunday).  We diligently jot down reminders in our notebooks, IPhone or Blackberries.  Nevertheless, simply and quietly, we neglect to remind ourselves that we carry the hope of the resurrection to all that we meet along this journey.

Is our journey through life marked only by birthdays and deaths?  As pilgrims, should not our simple lives be inspired and driven by the hope and promise of the resurrection, instead...carrying and sharing this hope to others?

Let us reflect at the beginning of this fifth week of Lent, whether everything we do so far, everything we pursue, strive for, set aside for, love, enjoy...are all driven by the fear of losing someone, something... 

All our actions on this journey through life seems to be focused on sustaining and improving the things of this world.  My, nowadays, kids and youths even get their priorities heads over heels with the fanatism of Bielibers...

“They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and revered and worshiped the creature rather than the creator, who is blessed forever.  Amen.” (Romans 1:25, NAB)
We must learn to live with the freedom given to us by God; as people of the resurrection.  Ponder on this and pray that the Lord will begin to heal all of us, this transforming season of Lent, and turn all our fears into courage and hope.  We now begin our last stretch of Lent towards Jerusalem...