Archives for posts with tag: Jesus

Jesus did not leave us a list of truths to affirm, but a task to carry out. We must try to discern in our time and place how God wants us to live our lives in this world in tune with God’s Spirit, the one divine action at work in the universe. This is what the discernment of spirits is all about. Followers of Christ have been given a task to carry out and the means to do it. Impelled by God’s Spirit, they must try to live in this world with the conviction that with the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus all the needful has been done, that God has won the victory he intends. Our task, therefore, is to follow the prompting of the Spirit, who has been poured out in our hearts, to follow the way of Jesus.

William Barry, S.J. in Spirit, Style, Story: Essays Honoring John W. Padberg.

An Ignatian Book of Days, Jim Manney, p. 322

Ever since I read this quote, it has stayed with me, prompting me to look at my life. “Love is shown more in deeds than in words,” wrote St Ignatius. And so it is. Love, and discipleship.

In the past two days, by chance, I watched two movies about the same sort of persons: Schindler’s List and Grüningers Fall. In each case, a man, one German, the other Swiss German, comes to save the lives of people who without his intervention would have died. In each case, the man dies in poverty, not celebrated until much later.

A situation like the one Oskar Schindler and Paul Grüninger faced is, fortunately, not so common. Still, each day, I am sure I have the opportunity for small acts of cowardice or courage. The choice is mine if I remain awake to what is going on around me.

Jesus did not leave us a list of truths to affirm, but a task to carry out.

As I watched Grüningers Fall last night, I watched people around him who chose not to see the consequences of their preventing Jews to come into Switzerland. For the 3,600 persons Grüninger saved, 30,000 others returned back into the darkness of the times.

These people chose not to see. What is it that I choose not to see?

On this day of All Saints, I suspect that each one of these saints, whether known or not, chose to follow his or her conscience rather than his or her need for comfort. They didn’t do it with an eye on history and fame down the road, but on what was at hand right there, right then.

I find it too easy to affirm a list of truths and more challenging to identify the task to carry out. Maybe, at the end of each day, I can look back on what I did and failed to do and sift through the small events of my life to discover where was laziness, if not cowardice, and courage.

Art: Rogier van der Weyden, The Last Judgment (detail)

 

Reclining at table with his disciples, Jesus was deeply troubled and testified,
“Amen, amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” …

… “Master, who is it?”
Jesus answered,
“It is the one to whom I hand the morsel after I have dipped it.”
So he dipped the morsel and took it and handed it to Judas…

… Peter said to him,
“Master, why can I not follow you now?
I will lay down my life for you.”
Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me?
Amen, amen, I say to you, the cock will not crow
before you deny me three times.”

John 13:21-23, 36-38

Today’s gospel led me to reflect on both Judas and Peter in me, because in the sixty-plus years of my life, I have been, and still am, both. One is inconsolable and kills himself; the other accepts Jesus’ forgiveness and follows in His master’s footsteps.

Dwelling on my sins, once again, is not really what this week is about, however. This week is not about me, but about Jesus and how he goes through his last days as Jesus. It is about his dignity and his being true to himself, and what he has preached and done in the last three years of his life. Jesus is love and love is crucified; true love is found unbearable by those striving for power, riches, and fame. Love has little in common with ‘Realpolitik’. 

Jesus was killed two thousand years ago and is still being killed today. We see him crucified, at every generation, in the women and men who strive for goodness and challenge the darkness of our world.

What truly mesmerizes me this week, more than anything else, is the width and length and depth and height of Jesus’ trust in Godde and his love for us. It shakes me out of my self-satisfaction; it draws my mind to a blank; it has me come to a standstill. It questions me; it kneads my heart, spirit and soul.

Nothing in Jesus blocks life. He does not elude fear, pain, nakedness and humiliation. He is utterly open to Godde’s will, willing to show each one of us, disciples of then and now, what it means to announce and belong to the reign of Godde. No pettiness there, no petulance, no shirking, no false pretenses…

Following Jesus this week is entering the Mystery of Divine Love, a Mystery that my small human mind can only admire and revere in silence and awe. What a grace it would be if but one bit of it could rub on me.

Yes, Jesus is crushed by the structures of evil of all times. But he only seems crushed, because he goes through death and introduces us to a new age, a new age that is still so very difficult to comprehend, to absorb, to replicate, unless, like him, we can love fearlessly.

The reality of Jesus’ Passion is poignant, because it never goes away; it is still happening today. Simultaneously, though, He is risen and calls me to go through the pain to transcend it with Him, as if he wanted me to go through the throes of a new birth into something else. Going from the safety zone of darkness to the challenge of light and love.

 

Art: Leonardo da Vinci, heads of Judas and Peter

 

For in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell,
and through him to reconcile all things for him,
making peace by the blood of his cross
through him, whether those on earth or those in heaven.
Col. 1:12-20

What have I done for Christ? What am I doing for Christ? What ought I do for Christ?
Ex.Sp. 53, St Ignatius of Loyola

While this Solemnity is recent (1925), it fits well with the Liturgical Calendar; it ends a year in a stark manner, just before Advent, another stark time, even though I tend to only think of the lights at the end of the tunnel — the celebrations, the gifts, and the Christmas banquet.

Our King’s throne is the cross, his assistants, two thieves — a good one and a ‘bad’ one. Our King — of the Beatitudes, Gethsemane, and Easter morning.

At mass yesterday evening, I remembered Ignatius’ meditation of the call of the ‘temporal king’, generous and kind, worthy to be followed. Simultaneously, Christ calls me to follow him, in pain and in glory (Sp.Ex. 91). Where shall I go?

Shortly, afterwards, Ignatius suggests to meditate on the Two Standards (as in ‘flags’) where he explains that “Christ calls and desires all persons to come under his standard, and how Lucifer in opposition calls them under his”.

Follows a meditation where one sees Lucifer in action, how he tempts us to covet riches, honor, to end up filled with pride. Christ, on the other hand, attracts us to the highest degree of poverty, humility, and contempt (Sp.Ex. 136).

These meditations will continue during Advent, where I will be shown again and again how hard it is to follow Jesus Christ through the narrow gate of the cross.

I remember how I felt the call of Jesus in Manresa, the attraction of what he offered and asked me to do, how it was obvious that I had to die to myself — to rise again with him, maybe. (I am not so sure of what it means). But what a beautiful call it was and still is. How it sets my heart on fire and brings tears to my eyes.

Both thieves followed him on the cross, unwillingly, like so many of us. One joined Christ there and then; the other saw no point in doing so. Depending on my age, I could be one or the other.

My heart, mind, spirit, and soul want to join you, Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. If I make a SWOT analysis of my life, however, I find myself in a situation of comfort and safety that distances me from what I feel called, and I am not sure how to walk to and on your side…

I just see and feel and sense a bit of your reality, so foreign to what our world shows us as ‘paradise’. Your paradise, Beloved, your Kingdom, is service, justice, kindness, simplicity, contempt also, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and visiting the prisoners. The rest is mirage.

Here I am, Lord.

Art: Marc Chagall, White Crucifixion, 1938

 

Now there were seven brothers;
the first married a woman but died childless.
Then the second and the third married her,
and likewise all the seven died childless.
Finally the woman also died.
Now at the resurrection whose wife will that woman be?
For all seven had been married to her.”
Lk 20:27-38
 

Today’s Gospel can be seen from several angles: where do our loved ones go when they die? Will we be reunited in afterlife? What will happen at the time of the Resurrection of the dead? Will their be a Resurrection?

It is also about Jesus being challenged once again by those he threatens; one more time they are trying to trick him, unsuccessfully. Jesus, whose unique mind hovers over them, giving them an answer which cannot satisfy them, as it goes beyond what they are willing to understand.

I have never felt comfortable with this passage. Not because I am afraid of dying: I have come to look at it as time of transition into liberation. Nor because of resurrection: I am more into living this life as well as I can; living is my true challenge. Is there life before death?

The story of the woman having to marry seven brothers is for me a “text of terror” (See Phyllis Trible’s Texts of Terror).  The name of the first husband is to be continued, through a son, of course.  She is just taken as an example to corner Jesus. It reflects in a harsh light the status of women in Jesus’ days, a status which remains the same today in many parts of the world.

I do not care so much what happens to the woman once she is dead. I am concerned for her while she is alive, seen only as a womb, as a means to an end. I find myself stopped there. I need to turn to Jesus then with this pain in my heart for all the violence done to women and children everywhere. Most religions, if not all, are still patriarchal with women seen in ways advantageous to men, partners both consciously and unconsciously unjust and unfair.

In his answer, Jesus shows the Sadduccees how simplistic and skewed their beliefs are, how the ways of their world are not the ways of Godde.

As I close my prayer, I remain with his final response, “he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive”. Godde loves women and men equally. The unfairness of our societies springs from structures of sin, structures which must be brought out into the light for all to see. To continue to do what Jesus started long, long ago.

 

Photo: Chicago musical

 

 

In my renewed quest for getting to know Jesus, I am rereading Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time. The Jesus I am meeting again delights me, of course: he is a teacher of subversive and alternative wisdom. Either he enchants or exasperates his audience; and sometimes he does both at the same time.

Before showing Jesus’ way, Marcus J. Borg spends some time describing conventional wisdom, a wisdom I know well for every so often I do do my best to conform with it. Then, I read a passage from the Gospel and Jesus confronts me with myself on ‘automatic pilot,’ revealing whether I follow the Spirit or not, whether I act out of my true self or not.

Here are a few excerpts on conventional wisdom. I remember Jesus living and acting in a world where that sort of wisdom reigns. I imagine myself following in Jesus’ footsteps in my own life. Where does this take me?

 

“We must first look at the opposite of Jesus’ subversive and alternative wisdom — namely, conventional wisdom. Understanding what it is and how it functions provides a very helpful hermeneutical tool for interpreting the message of Jesus… It is also illuminating for our own self-understanding.
    Conventional wisdom is the dominant consciousness of any culture. It is a culture’s most taken-for-granted understandings about the way things are (its worldview, or image of reality) and about the way to live (its ethos, or way of life). It is “what everybody knows” — the world that everybody is socialized into through the process of growing up. It is a culture’s social construction of reality and the internalization of that construction within the psyche of the individual. It is thus enculturated consciousness — that is, consciousness shaped and structured by culture or tradition.

    First, conventional wisdom provides guidance about how to live. It covers everything from highly practical matters such as etiquette to the central values and images of the good life found in a culture. …
    More importantly, conventional wisdom embodies the central values of a culture — its understanding of what is worthwhile and its images of the good life. …
    Second, conventional wisdom is intrinsically based upon the dynamic of rewards and punishment. … Life becomes a matter of requirement and reward, failure and punishment.
    Third, conventional wisdom has both social and psychological consequences. Socially, it creates a world of hierarchies and boundaries. Some of these may be inherited… Some are more the product of performance: there are some people who measure up to the standards of conventional wisdom better than others.
    Psychologically, conventional wisdom becomes the basis for identity and self-esteem. It is internalized within the psyche as the superego, as “that which stands over me” and to which I must measure up. The superego (whether we choose to call it that or not) is the internalized voice of culture, the storehouse of oughts within our heads, and it functions as a generally critical (though sometimes congratulatory) internal voice. It is the internal cop or the internal judge. …
    In short, whether in a religious or secular form, conventional wisdom creates a world in which we live. It constructs a world; indeed, it is the construction. It is a domestication of reality, a net we cast over reality. It is basically life within the socially constructed world. …
    Life in this world can be often is grim. It is a life of bondage to the dominant culture. … It is a life of limited vision and blindness… It is a world of judgment: I judge myself and others by how well I and they measure up. It is a world of comparisons…
    It is a life of anxious striving…

    There is an image of God that goes with the world of conventional wisdom. When conventional wisdom appears in religious form, God is imaged primarily as lawgiver and judge. God maybe spoken of in other ways (for example, as forgiving and gracious), but the bottom line is that God is seen as both the source and the enforcer, and therefore the legitimator, of the religious form of conventional wisdom. God becomes the one whom we must satisfy; the one whose requirements must be met.
    When this happens in the Christian tradition, it leads to an image of the Christian life as a life of requirements…. 

    Conventional wisdom is not be identified with any particular tradition; it is pervasive in any tradition”… (pp. 75-80)

Sometimes, being with Christ feels like this.

 

At other times, like that.

 I know that Christ is always with me when I string beans,

 

or when I weed on my knees in the garden.

 

At any time of the day or night we can call on Jesus.

He is always waiting, listening for our call.

What a wonderful blessing.

No phone needed, no e-mails, just a whisper.

Sacred Space 

Yesterday, on my morning walk, I gave myself a shock. I was thinking of Jesus, and the notion crossed my mind that He surely had better things to do than to walk with me. This brought back to mind the lines on Sacred Space, saying that “He is always waiting, listening for my call.Jesus is available at any time. He is with us, and me, always. Why such a fear?

When I was a little girl, my father read me La Miche de Pain (the loaf of bread). With him, I discovered that Godde was a very old man living on a throne among clouds: He had always been

and always would be. I learned that He loved me very much, as He loved everyone else. This bothered me, because (1) I would have liked to be the most loved of all, and (2) I wondered how He could love equally billions of people, when I had so much trouble loving just a few.

Yesterday, my brief encounter with my insecure self reminded me that not all of me is entirely sure that I am truly interesting in the eyes of Jesus. Surprising really, when I recall how many times in the day I think of Him, exchange thoughts with Him, or just remain in silence in His company.

I am just so surprised Jesus always waits so patiently for me to notice Him and to respond in kind to the love He showers on me.

Maybe you know this secret already, Jesus is with me even when I am not with him. And this goes for you as well.

One with you in the Risen One.

Image

Jesus entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. She had a sister named Mary… Lk 10:38-42

I guessed that it was Martha and Mary’s turn at mass this weekend when earlier this week I received Suzanne Guthrie’s link ‘The Bread of Anxiety‘ in my inbox and noticed Phil Ewing’s ‘Jesus with Martha and Mary’ on my Google Reader. I did let out a heavy sigh, I must admit. What more can I find to say about this story with which I have had a love-hate relationship for as long as I can remember?

I forgot about tomorrow’s Gospel until last night when I woke up and started thinking about it. Luke’s Martha and Mary story is one of the reasons I wish I could have been a deacon to talk of Godde’s things as only a woman can. This deacon idea crossed my mind while studying toward a Masters in Pastoral Studies with LIMEX in New Orleans; but it was not in the cards. Women deacons haven’t been in for about seventeen or eighteen centuries now. Still, I long to hear a woman’s voice talking to us from the pulpit about those unknown, and often invisible,  Biblical and Christian soldiers that women have been for centuries now.

At three a.m. last night, I was hit by the fact that Martha is a saint and her sister Mary isn’t. How is this possible?

At the time of Lazarus’ death, when Jesus arrives in Bethany at their home, Martha welcomes him. Mary does not go to greet him. When Jesus tells Martha that he is the resurrection and the life, she responds: “Yes, you are the Messiah, the son of Godde, the one who is coming into the world” (Jn 11:27). Like Peter in the synoptic Gospel, Martha recognizes Jesus for what he is, the one everyone has been waiting for. But, in John 12:1-8, Mary anoints Jesus’ head, which reveals an incredible connection between the two.

As I continued thinking about Martha and Mary, if I can call ‘thinking’ what I do in the middle of the night, I found that special door that took me from Chronos, linear time, to Kairos, Godde’s time, in illo tempore, if you prefer, this reality which happened once and continues happening.

I found myself in Bethany and walked through the streets till I came upon the house of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. I saw what looked like a servant plucking a chicken outside in the courtyard and asked her where I would find the ladies of the house. She guided me to them. I introduced myself and they did greet me in the kindest manner.

“How do you feel,” I asked them, “about one of you being a saint and one of you not being one?” They both burst into laughter.

“It is Martha’s reward for having been so mistreated by history all these centuries,” Mary explained. “But you knew that Jesus was going to die,” I replied. “You anointed his head!” “We both knew he was going to die,” said Martha. “Once again, I was overseeing the preparations for the meal. And then, Mary has always had a special relationship with Jesus. It was right for her to anoint him.”

“But, Martha, that day when you got angry at Mary for not helping, what truly happened?” The two sisters remained silent for a while. Mary looked at her sister with a smile, not wanting to answer for her.

“I am the oldest one. Lazarus is the middle child. Mary is our baby sister. Life has always seemed to come easy for her. She did not have colic as a baby, for instance. She would sit and watch the world go by. When Jesus came into our lives, all that mellow Mary here wanted to do was to listen to him.

I have been taught, expected in fact, to take care of things. When our parents died, it seemed normal for me to take over and take care of things. Would I still do it had I been asked for my opinion? I cannot say for sure.

Mary is the contemplative in the family. I am the contemplative in action, and when I don’t have enough time for contemplation, my action gets scrambled and confused.

That day Jesus and his disciples arrived, I had planned to do other things. I had to scrap my plans. Instead of receiving them the way the house was, and feeding them with what was already here, I went in overdrive, and lost track of what my heart really wanted: to talk and laugh with Jesus and Mary. And I lost my temper.”

Mary got up and stood behind her sister, placing her arms around her sister’s neck. “Martha is a force of nature,” she said. “After Jesus’ death, she took care of us all. She was as heart-broken as I was, but she kept life going, when all of us just wanted to give up. When Jesus appeared to us a last time as the Risen One. I will never forget how he asked Martha then, very specifically, to prepare a meal once again. “Your hands have a way of pouring love in the food you prepare,” he told her. “Never have I tasted food better than yours.”

Their tears at the memory brought tears to my eyes. We all got up and gave ourselves a hug. “When two or three are gathered in his name, he is with us, isn’t he?” I asked. “He definitely is,” they replied in unison.

Oh, Jesus who live within each one of us and around us as well, how sweet it was to feel your presence then!

It is only this morning as I was walking in the countryside that I remembered that nightly encounter with the two sisters. It seems appropriate to share this story here and now.

One with them and with you in Him who is the All.

Art: Fernand Léger, Three Girls on Red Background, 1927