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Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Reading From Acts


In Chapter Two of the Acts of the Apostles, we have the dramatic story of Pentecost Day. The Holy Spirit comes upon Jesus disciples in a manifest and dramatic way. From this point on, something new and wonderful has begun; the Church is born.

The chapter ends with a description of how life looks in this new church. It tells us that they devoted themselves ... 

... to the teaching of the apostles
Awe came upon everyone, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles.
... to the communal life,
All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their property and possessions and divide them among all according to each one’s need
... to the breaking of bread
Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple area and to breaking bread in their homes
... to the prayers
They ate their meals with exultation and sincerity of heart, praising God and enjoying favor with all the people
(Acts 2:42-47)

We might call these the four marks of the infant Church. Also, we might draw on them to create a model for our spiritual life.


1.
Teaching of the Apostles: Ultimately, what we be is a revelation, not a construct from a consensus of what we think is true. This is the apostolic tradition, which the Church has received, incorporates, and hands on to each subsequent generation of believers. We believe what the Church believes and holds to be true.
Our spiritual life must be rooted in the teaching of the Church. Because of this, a pattern of study of the Church's teaching must be incorporated our spiritual life.
2.
Communal Life: A true spiritual life is not lived out in the privacy of one's own thoughts, detached from responsibility toward the world and those in their midst. To Cain's reply to God in Genesis, "Am I my Brother's keeper", the answer is yes. 
Our spiritual life must be lived out in true fraternal bonds with others; our natural family, our parish and Church family, our family relationship in the society in which we live.
3.
Breaking of Bread: "Do this in remembrance of me". The life force of the spiritual life is the Holy Spirit. It is a communion in the life of God. This "Life" is a work of God, breathed into us by the Spirit. "For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst." (Mtt. 18:20)
The sacramental life of the Church is the preeminent source for our communion in the life of God, with the Eucharist our "daily bread of life."
4.
 Prayer and Praise: Our spiritual life forms and shapes our whole life, who we are and the way we live. Because we have but one life, the life of the Spirit, it must necessarily be seen by others. "Let your light shine before others ... " (Mtt:5:16)
Our spiritual life is a witness to all the world of God's saving grace, transforming us, filling us with hope. It is the incarnation of God's love for all the world to see, that they too may come to faith in Christ. We are the Body of Christ, the Church, the city built on the top of the hill.


Sunday, 27 April 2014

Second Sunday of Easter

Homily Notes for the Second Sunday of Easter


As you know, today is still Easter day in the sacred liturgy. The Church celebrates that one day for a whole week and for the liturgy of the Word, the Gospel texts are taken from all four gospel writers and their accounts of resurrection of Jesus. Following the close of this day, the Easter season will continue for fifty days – ending with the celebration of the Ascension and Pentecost.

As a preparation for Pentecost, the first reading of the liturgy of the word will be taken from the book of the Acts of Apostles, and continue reading through the whole book. Acts of Apostles is the second part of Luke’s gospel. It takes us through the unfolding history of the first generation of the Church. This is our story – it is who we are – where we came from  how we got here and why we have gathered in this way to celebrate the sacred mysteries.

There are also a couple other things that make this weekend special. It is Divine Mercy Sunday, established by pope John Paul ll on this day in the year 2000. And on this very Sunday, Pope John XXlll and Pope John Paul ll will be canonized, Saints of the Church.

I find all this quite significant for us at this time in the history of the Church. It is not uncommon to hear it suggested that the Church is in decline and no longer relevant; that perhaps the Church might even disappear, braking into fragmented pieces, replaced by rational thought and technology.

It is because we are surrounded by such a cloud of doubt, that this time in Church is so important for us, and why we must make reading the Acts of the Apostles a central part of our personal faith life, just as the Church makes it so in the liturgy of the Word.

When we turn to Acts and the story of Pentecost, we quickly see that our Church was not made up by the design of a group of people, a work of human enterprise. It comes from God, and is empowered by the Holy Spirit. Jesus’ followers were not great revolutionaries, rather they were a group of frightened and confused and very ordinary people. Then comes Pentecost Day and all is changed in a dramatic moment.

On that very first day, Pentecost day, Acts shows us clearly, that the Church comes under attack. The joyful and exuberant faith of these Spirit-filled people is written off as nothing more than a product of too much alcohol, they are a bunch of drunks. From that first day up to today, the Church is constantly attacked and discredited. This is our constant history.

Acts also shows us how the members of this new Church will be, “a-work-in-progress”, made up of frail humans being, sinners now saved, learning and growing under the constant presence of the Holy Spirit.

So here we are today, the latest additions to this long history. I strongly encourage you to take up your scriptures and read and study the book of the Acts of the Apostles. May these Easter days be as powerful days of healing and building of your faith as they were for that first generation of believers we celebrate through these Easter days.

Friday, 25 April 2014

Voices of Easter - Four




These posts contain the voices spoken in the scripture text of Easter. As you pray, listen carefully to these and see how much they echo your own thoughts on the Resurrection of Jesus.





On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews,

Jesus came and stood in their midst
and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.
The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.
As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, 
“Receive the Holy Spirit.
Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them,
and whose sins you retain are retained.”


Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve,
was not with them when Jesus came.
So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.”
But he said to them,
“Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands
and put my finger into the nailmarks
and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”


Now a week later his disciples were again inside
and Thomas was with them.
Jesus came, although the doors were locked,
and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”
Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.”

Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”


Now, Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples
that are not written in this book.
But these are written that you may come to believe
that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God,
and that through this belief you may have life in his name. Jn. 20:19-31

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Voices of Easter - Three



The following posts contain the voices spoken in the scripture text of Easter. As you pray, listen carefully to these and see how much they echo your own thoughts on the Resurrection of Jesus.



That very day, the first day of the week, two of Jesus’ disciples were going
to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus, and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred.


And it happened that while they were conversing and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.

He asked them,
“What are you discussing as you walk along?”

They stopped, looking downcast.
One of them, named Cleopas, said to him in reply,
“Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem
who does not know of the things
that have taken place there in these days?”

And he replied to them, “What sort of things?”




They said to him,
“The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene,
who was a prophet mighty in deed and word
before God and all the people,
how our chief priests and rulers both handed him over
to a sentence of death and crucified him.
But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel;
and besides all this,
it is now the third day since this took place.
Some women from our group, however, have astounded us:
they were at the tomb early in the morning
and did not find his Body;
they came back and reported
that they had indeed seen a vision of angels
who announced that he was alive.
Then some of those with us went to the tomb
and found things just as the women had described,
but him they did not see.”



And he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are!
How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”

Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets,
he interpreted to them what referred to him
in all the Scriptures.

As they approached the village to which they were going, he gave the impression that he was going on farther.
But they urged him, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.” 
So he went in to stay with them.


And it happened that, while he was with them at table,
he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, 
and gave it to them.
With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight.

Then they said to each other,
“Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?”


So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem
where they found gathered together
the Eleven and those with them who were saying,
“The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!”

Then the two recounted what had taken place on the way and how he was made known to them in the breaking of the breadLk. 24:13-35




Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Voices of Easter - Two




The following posts contain the voices spoken in the scripture text of Easter. As you pray, listen carefully to these and see how much they echo your own thoughts on the Resurrection of Jesus.



Mary Magdalene stayed outside the tomb weeping.

And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb and saw two angels in white sitting there, one at the head and one at the feet where the Body of Jesus had been. And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?”
She said to them, “They have taken my Lord, and I don’t know where they laid him.”


When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there, but did not know it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?”

She thought it was the gardener and said to him, 
“Sir, if you carried him away, tell me where you laid him,
and I will take him.”
Jesus said to her, “Mary!”
She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,”
which means Teacher.


Jesus said to her, “Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father.
But go to my brothers and tell them,
‘I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

Mary went and announced to the disciples,

“I have seen the Lord,”
and then reported what he had told her. Jn. 20:11-18



N O T E S

You can also follow the Easter postings from last year 2013, starting here, March 31

Monday, 21 April 2014

Voices of Easter - One



The following posts contain the voices spoken in the scripture text of Easter. As you pray, listen carefully to these and see how much they echo your own thoughts on the Resurrection of Jesus.





But the angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid; for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead ... Mtt. 28:5




And behold, Jesus met them and said, "Hail!" And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid; go and tell my brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see me." Mtt. 28.9




And returning from the tomb they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene and Jo-anna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told this to the apostles; but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. Lk. 24: 9-11




........................................footnotes......................................

Review again the structure of this approach to prayer:
  • PLACE: choosing a place with a measure of quiet and solitude.
  • PRESENCE: entering this prayer expecting to be guided by Grace.
  • PETITION: asking for the graces that will make this prayer fruitful.
  • PASSAGE: preparing a passage of scripture for reflection.
  • PRAYER: entering the passage, looking, listening, imagining you are there,    focusing on various persons, collecting your thoughts, feelings, reaction. 
  • PRAISE and thanks: closing with a prayer formed in your own words, as one speaking face to face to another; expressing your gratitude for the blessings and guidance received in this prayer time.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Easter 2014


The Guard at the Tomb


Next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, "Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, 'After three days I will rise again.' Therefore order the sepulchre to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away, and tell the people, 'He has risen from the dead,' and the last fraud will be worse than the first." Pilate said to them, "You have a guard of soldiers; go, make it as secure as you can." So they went and made the sepulchre secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard. Mtt. 27.62




The Women at the Tomb 

Now after the sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the sepulchre And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone, and sat upon it. His appearance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid; for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. Lo, I have told you." So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and said, "Hail!" And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid; go and tell my brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see me."  Mtt. 28.1

Bribing the Soldiers

While they were going, behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sum of money to the soldiers and said, "Tell people, 'His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.' And if this comes to the governor's ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble." So they took the money and did as they were directed; and this story has been spread among the Jews to this day. Mtt. 28.11 


Fr Robert Barron


Saturday, 19 April 2014

Holy Saturday


Now there was a man named Joseph from the Jewish town of Arimathea. He was a member of the council, a good and righteous man, who had not consented to their purpose and deed, and he was looking for the kingdom of God. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Lk. 23.50-52

And Pilate wondered if he were already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he was already dead.  And when he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the body to Joseph. Mk. 15.44-45

So he came and took away his body. Nicodemus also, who had at first come to him by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds' weight. They took the body of Jesus, and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. Jo. 19: 38-40

Joseph laid Jesus’ body in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock; and he rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb, and departed. Mtt. 27.60

Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid. Mk. 15.47

On the sabbath they rested according to the commandment. Lk. 23:56



Good Friday ends at sundown and the Sabbath begins. The tomb is closed and everyone has gone accept for some guards. 
Two thoughts for our reflection,
  1. Where did they go?
  2. What was in their hearts?
On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jo. 20.19
And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven gathered together and those who were with them, Lk. 24.33
From these two passages, we might conclude, they had gather together in one place, perhaps the same house with the upper room that was loaned to Jesus, where the Last Supper was celebrated. John mentions their fear of the Jews, and Mary Magdalene standing outside the tomb weeping. Fear and broken hearts was clearly their situation.

Praying on Holy Saturday gives us an opportunity to use the Ignatian approach to contemplation (see notes on method

This approach to contemplation directs us to employ our imagination
  • Imagine what the scene that you are considering looks like.
  • Look at the people in the scene, who are they, what are saying and doing.
  • Imagine yourself in this scene, your place, your different reactions.
  • Think of how this exercise is affecting you and what fruits for your spiritual life you are gaining.


YOUR PRAYER

THE TIME and THE PLACE: The Sabbath, following Jesus crucifixion, in the upper room. Since there is little scripture texts of to draw on, I have included this picture to help.

THE PEOPLE: It would include, Mary, mother of Jesus, the Eleven, other of Jesus disciples, the women who were following.

THE GRACE I SEEK: This approach to prayer is includes two - the one who prays and the Lord who comes to make our prayer fruitful by inspiring us to see. Prayer is gift, so ask for the grace of this prayer.

THE PRAYER:
  • What strikes you at first?
  • Who are you focused on?
  • What do you hear - talk of danger, voices of disbelief and discouragement?
  • Who is weeping, how are you affected?
  • Do you see Mary, Jesus mother, what do you see, could you console her?
  • Their faith and hope is crushed, can you say, "I know your pain"?
YOUR REFLECTION:
  • Collect your thoughts, what are you focused on, what stands out for you?
  • Knowing more of their pain, can you identify more closely with these people?
  • But they will see the next day, and all will be different.
  • Does this give you new hope to meet the challenges to your faith, challenges that are sure to come?

Thursday, 17 April 2014

The Sacred Triduum - Good Friday

The Seven Last Words of Christ

Reflections for Holy Week


Rev. Dr. Mark D. Roberts

Note: You may download this resource at no cost, for personal use or for use in a Christian ministry, as long as you are not publishing it for sale. All I ask is that you acknowledge the source of this material: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/markdroberts/.


The First Word:
“Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.”
(Luke 23:34)

Copyright © 2007, Linda E. S. Roberts. For permission to use this picture, lease contact Mark.

Reflection
It makes sense that the first word of Jesus from the cross is a word of forgiveness. That’s the point of the cross, after all. Jesus is dying so that we might be forgiven for our sins, so that we might be reconciled to God for eternity.

But the forgiveness of God through Christ doesn’t come only to those who don’t know what they are doing when they sin. In the mercy of God, we receive his forgiveness even when we do what we know to be wrong. God chooses to wipe away our sins, not because we have some convenient excuse, and not because we have tried hard to make up for them, but because he is a God of amazing grace, with mercies that are new every morning.

As we read the words, “Father, forgive them,” may we understand that we too are forgiven through Christ. As John writes in his first letter, “But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness” (1 John 1:9). Because Christ died on the cross for us, we are cleansed from all wickedness, from every last sin. We are united with God the Father as his beloved children. We are free to approach his throne of grace with our needs and concerns. God “has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west” (Ps 103:13). What great news!

Questions for Reflection
Do you really believe God has forgiven your sins? Do you take time on a regular basis to confess your sins so that you might enjoy the freedom of forgiveness? Do you need to experience God’s forgiveness in a fresh way today?

Prayer
Gracious Lord Jesus, it’s easy for me to speak of your forgiveness, even to ask for it and to thank you for it. But do I really believe I’m forgiven? Do I experience the freedom that comes from the assurance that you have cleansed me from my sins? Or do I live as if I’m “semi-forgiven”? Even though I’ve put my faith in you and confessed my sins, do I live as sin still has power over me? Do I try to prove myself to you, as if I might be able to earn more forgiveness?
Dear Lord, though I believe at one level that you have forgiven me, this amazing truth needs to penetrate my heart in new ways. Help me to know with fresh conviction that I am fully and finally forgiven, not because of anything I have done, but because of what you have done for me.
May I live today as a forgiven person, opening my heart to you, choosing not to sin because the power of sin has been broken by your salvation.
All praise be to you, Lord Jesus, for your matchless forgiveness! Amen.


The Second Word:
“I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
(Luke 23:43)




Copyright © 2007, Linda E. S. Roberts. For permission to use this picture, please contact Mark.

Reflection
As Jesus hung on the cross, he was mocked by the leaders and the soldiers. One of the criminals being crucified with him added his own measure of scorn. But the other crucified criminal sensed that Jesus was being treated unjustly. After speaking up for Jesus, he cried out, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (v. 42).

Jesus responded to this criminal, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise” (v. 43). The word paradise, from the Greek word paradeisos, which meant “garden,” was used in the Greek Old Testament as a word for the Garden of Eden. In Judaism of the time of Jesus it was associated with heaven, and also with the future when God would restore all things to the perfection of the Garden. Paradise was sometimes thought to be the place where righteous people went after death. This seems to be the way Jesus uses paradise in this passage.

Thus we have encountered one of the most astounding and encouraging verses in all of Scripture. Jesus promised that the criminal would be with him in paradise. Yet the text of Luke gives us no reason to believe this man had been a follower of Jesus, or even a believer in him in any well-developed sense. He might have felt sorry for his sins, but he did not obviously repent. Rather, the criminal’s cry to be remembered seems more like a desperate, last-gasp effort.

Though we should make every effort to have right theology, and though we should live our lives each day as disciples of Jesus, in the end, our relationship with him comes down to simple trust. “Jesus, remember me,” we cry. And Jesus, embodying the mercy of God, says to us, “You will be with me in paradise.” We are welcome there not because we have right theology, and not because we are living rightly, but because God is merciful and we have put our trust in Jesus.

Questions for Reflection
Have you staked your life on Jesus? Have you put your ultimate trust in him? Do you know that, when your time comes, you will be with him in paradise?

Prayer
Dear Lord Jesus, how I wonder at your grace and mercy! When we cry out to you, you hear us. When we ask you to remember us when you come into your kingdom, you offer the promise of paradise. Your mercy, dear Lord, exceeds anything we might imagine. It embraces us, encourages us, heals us.
O Lord, though my situation is so different from the criminal who cried out to you, I am nevertheless quite like him. Today I live, trusting you and you alone. My life, but now and in the world to come, is in your hands. And so I pray:
Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom! Jesus, remember me today as I seek to live within your kingdom! Amen.


The Third Word:
“Dear woman, here is your son.”
(John 19:26)



Copyright © 2007, Linda E. S. Roberts. For permission to use this picture, please contact Mark.

Reflection
As Jesus was dying, his mother was among those who had remained with him. Most of the male disciples had fled, with the exception of one whom the Fourth Gospel calls “the disciple he loved.” We can’t be exactly sure of the identity of this beloved disciple, though many interpreters believe he is John, who is also the one behind the writing of this Gospel.

No matter who the beloved disciple was, it’s clear that Jesus was forging a relationship between this disciple and his mother, one in which the disciple would take care of Mary financially and in other ways. Jesus wanted to make sure she would be in good hands after his death.

The presence of Mary at the cross adds both humanity and horror to the scene. We are reminded that Jesus was a real human being, a man who had once been a boy who had once been carried in the womb of his mother. Even as he was dying on the cross as the Savior of the world, Jesus was also a son, a role he didn’t neglect in his last moments.

When we think of the crucifixion of Jesus from the perspective of his mother, our horror increases dramatically. The death of a child is one of the most painful of all parental experiences. To watch one’s beloved child experience the extreme torture of crucifixion must have been unimaginably terrible. We’re reminded of the prophecy of Simeon shortly after Jesus’ birth, when he said to Mary: “And a sword will pierce your very soul” (Luke 2:35).

This scene helps us not to glorify or spiritualize the crucifixion of Jesus. He was a real man, true flesh and blood, a son of a mother, dying with unbearable agony. His suffering was altogether real, and he took it on for you and for me.

Questions for Reflection
What does Mary’s presence at the cross evoke in you? Why do you think was it necessary for Jesus to suffer physical pain as he died?

Prayer
Lord Jesus, the presence of your mother at the cross engages my heart. You are no longer only the Savior dying for the sins of the world. You are also a fully human man, a son with a mother.
O Lord, how can I begin to thank you for what you suffered? My words fall short. My thoughts seem superficial and vague. Nevertheless, I offer my sincere gratitude for your suffering. Thank you for bearing my sin on the cross. I give you my praise, my love, my heart . . . all that I am, because you have given me all that you are.
All praise be to you, Lord Jesus, fully God and fully human, Savior of the world . . . my Savior! Amen.


The Fourth Word:
“My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”
(Mark 15:34)


The Eleventh Station of the The Stations of the Cross at Serra Retreat Center, Malibu, California.

Reflection
As Jesus was dying on the cross, he echoed the beginning of Psalm 22, which reads:
My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?
Why are you so far away when I groan for help?
Every day I call to you, my God, but you do not answer.
Every night you hear my voice, but I find no relief. (vv. 1-2)
In the words of the psalmist Jesus found a way to express the cry of his heart: Why had God abandoned him? Why did his Father turn his back on Jesus in his moment of greatest agony?

This side of heaven, we will never fully know what Jesus was experiencing in this moment. Was he asking this question because, in the mystery of his incarnational suffering, he didn’t know why God had abandoned him? Or was his cry not so much a question as an expression of profound agony? Or was it both?
What we do know is that Jesus entered into the Hell of separation from God. 

The Father abandoned him because Jesus took upon himself the penalty for our sins. In that excruciating moment, he experienced something far more horrible than physical pain. The beloved Son of God knew what it was like to be rejected by the Father. As we read in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (NIV).

I can write these words. I can say, truly, that the Father abandoned the Son for our sake, for the salvation of the world. But can I really grasp the mystery and the majesty of this truth? Hardly. As Martin Luther once said, “God forsaking God. Who can understand it?” Yet even my miniscule grasp of this reality calls me to confession, to humility, to worship, to adoration.

Questions for Reflection
Have you taken time to consider that Jesus was abandoned by the Father so that you might not be? What does this “word” from the cross mean to you?

Prayer
O Lord Jesus, though I will never fully grasp the wonder and horror of your abandonment by the Father, every time I read this “word,” I am overwhelmed with gratitude. How can I ever thank you for what you suffered for me? What can I do but to offer myself to you in gratitude and praise? Thank you, dear Lord, for what you suffered. Thank you for taking my place. Thank you for being forsaken by the Father so that I might never be.
When I survey the wondrous cross,
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God;
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to his blood.

See, from his head, his hands, his feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down;
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown.

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

“When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” by Isaac Watts (1707)


The Fifth Word:
“I am thirsty.”
(John 19:28)





A painting of the Cruxifixion, from a church in Taormina, Italy




Reflection
No doubt Jesus experienced extreme thirst while being crucified. He would have lost a substantial quantity of bodily fluid, both blood and sweat, through what he had endured even prior to crucifixion. Thus his statement, “I am thirsty” was, on the most obvious level, a request for something to drink. In response the soldiers gave Jesus “sour wine” (v. 29), a cheap beverage common among lower class people in the time of Jesus.
John notes that Jesus said “I am thirsty,” not only as a statement of physical reality, but also in order to fulfill the Scripture. Though there is no specific reference in the text of the Gospel, it’s likely that John was thinking of Psalm 69, which includes this passage:
Their insults have broken my heart,
and I am in despair.
If only one person would show some pity;
if only one would turn and comfort me.
But instead, they give me poison for food;
they offer me sour wine for my thirst.
(vv. 20-21)
As he suffered, Jesus embodied the pain of the people of Israel, that which had been captured in the Psalms. Jesus was suffering for the sin of Israel, even as he was taking upon himself the sin of the world.

As I reflect on Jesus’ statement, “I am thirsty,” I keep thinking of my own thirst. It’s nothing like that of Jesus. Rather, I am thirsty for him. My soul yearns for the living water that Jesus supplies (John 4:10; 7:38-39). I rejoice in the fact that he suffered physical thirst on the cross – and so much more – so that my thirst for the water of life might be quenched.

Questions for Reflection
How do you respond to Jesus’ statement “I am thirsty”? What does this statement suggest to you about Jesus? About yourself?

Prayer
O Lord, once again I thank you for what you suffered on the cross. Besides extraordinary pain, you also experienced extreme thirst. All of this was part and parcel of your taking on our humanity so that you might take away our sin.
Dear Lord, in your words “I am thirsty” I hear the cry of my own heart. I too am thirsty, Lord, not for physical drink. I don’t need sour wine. Rather, I need the new wine of your kingdom to flood my soul. I need to be refreshed by your living water. I yearn for your Spirit to fill me once again.
I am thirsty, Lord, for you. Amen.


The Sixth Word:
“It is finished!”
(John 19:30)




Another station from The Stations of the Cross at Serra Retreat Center, Malibu, California.




Reflection
I never saw a more difficult film to watch than Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. For most of that movie I wanted to avert my eyes. It was horrible to watch even a cinematic version of a crucifixion. And it was beyond comprehension to think that this actually happened to somebody, and not just anybody, but my Lord and Savior. I had studied the crucifixion before, and knew in my head what Jesus experienced. But seeing a visual presentation of his suffering was almost more than I could bear. When The Passion of the Christ was over, I felt palpable relief. Thank goodness it was finished.

When Jesus said “It is finished,” surely he was expressing relief that his suffering was over. “It is finished” meant, in part, “This is finally done!” But the Greek verb translated as “It is finished” (tetelestai) means more than just this. Eugene Peterson captures the full sense of the verb in The Message: “It’s done . . . complete.” Jesus had accomplished his mission. He had announced and inaugurated the kingdom of God. He had revealed the love and grace of God. And he had embodied that love and grace by dying for the sin of the world, thus opening up the way for all to live under the reign of God.

Because Jesus finished his work of salvation, you and I don’t need to add to it. In fact, we can’t. He accomplished what we never could, taking our sin upon himself and giving us his life in return. Jesus finished that for which he had been sent, and we are the beneficiaries of his unique effort. Because of what he finished, you and I are never “finished.” We have hope for this life and for the next. We know that nothing can separate us from God’s love. One day what God has begun in us will also be finished, by his grace. Until that day, we live in the confidence of Jesus’ cry of victory: “It is finished!”

Questions for Reflection
Do you live as if Jesus finished the work of salvation? To you have confidence that God will finish that which he has begun in you?

Prayer
How can I ever find words to express my gratitude to you, dear Lord Jesus? You did it. You finished that for which you had been sent, faithful in life, faithful in death. You accomplished that which no other person could do, taking the sin of the world upon your sinless shoulders . . . taking my sin so that I might receive your forgiveness and new life.
All praise be to you, gracious Lord, for finishing the work of salvation. All praise be to you, dear Jesus, for saving me! Alleluia! Amen.


The Seventh Word:
“Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!”
(Luke 23:46)




Copyright © 2007, Linda E. S. Roberts. For permission to use this picture, please contact Mark.




Reflection
Two of the last seven “words” of Jesus were quotations from the Psalms. Earlier Jesus had Psalm 22, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” to express his anguish. Later he borrowed from Psalm 31, which comes to us from Luke as “Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands.”

On an obvious level, Jesus was putting his post mortem future in the hands of his Heavenly Father. It was as if he was saying, “Whatever happens to me after I die is your responsibility, Father.”

But when we look carefully at the Psalm Jesus quoted, we see more than what at first meets our eyes. Psalm 31 begins with a cry for divine help:
O LORD, I have come to you for protection;
don’t let me be disgraced.
Save me, for you do what is right. (v. 1)
But then it mixes asking for God’s deliverance with a confession of God’s strength and faithfulness:
I entrust my spirit into your hand.
Rescue me, LORD, for you are a faithful God. (v. 5)
By the end, Psalm 31 offers praise of God’s salvation:
Praise the LORD,
for he has shown me the wonders of his unfailing love.
He kept me safe when my city was under attack. (v. 21)
By quoting a portion of Psalm 31, therefore, Jesus not only entrusted his future to his Father, but also implied that he would be delivered and exonerated. No, God would not deliver him from death by crucifixion. But beyond this horrific death lay something marvelous. “I entrust my spirit into your hands” points back to the familiar suffering of David in Psalm 31, and forward to the resurrection.

Questions for Reflection
Have you put your life and, indeed, your life beyond this life, in God’s hands? How do you experience God’s salvation through Christ in your life today?

Prayer
Gracious Lord, even as you once entrusted your spirit into the hands of the Father, so I give my life to you. I trust you, and you alone to be my Savior. I submit to your sovereignty over my life, and seek to live for your glory alone. Here I am, Lord, available to you, both now and in the future.
How good it is to know, dear Lord, that the cross was not the end for you. As you entrusted your spirit into the Father’s hands, you did so in anticipation of what was to come. So we reflect upon your death, not in despair, but in hope. With Good Friday behind us, Easter Sunday is on the horizon. Amen.


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