Jesus is condemned to die<br />Why doesn't Jesus plead innocence? Where are his family, friends and followers to defend him? We don't understand this man who talks of the kingdom of God coming, here now, but allows this injustice to happen to him and doesn't seem to put up a fight. And so we scatter. I know I betray Jesus like Judas and fall in despair. I know I follow him only at arms length and deny him like Peter. But are we not called to follow Jesus to the end? <br />I think of all the innocent woman and men around the world who are condemned to die, for no other reason than for being who they are. Do I wash my hands of their circumstances? Christ is condemned now as then: when brutality goes unchecked ; when someone with power abuses someone physically, sexually, or emotionally; when systemic injustice goes unchallenged; when a rich and free nation like the United States wields it's power on the international stage in self-interest. We condemn others to certain kinds of deaths. The drama of the Incarnation, the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection is a drama for all humanity, in fact, for all the cosmos. The condemning of Christ happens with every condemnation that we do. Hatred, rage, arrogant dismissal. We condemn as a mob, we wash our hands. We assign responsibility elsewhere. With the injustice done to Jesus, Jesus shares in every act of injustice that is done in his world, from the greatest to the pettiest.<br /> The beginning of the end is knowing the truth … and doing nothing.<br />Pilate’s sin was not malice but cowardly inaction. He didn’t want to condemn Jesus. He hoped the crowd would give him an out – but instead they chose Barabbas. He pleaded with them, “Why? What evil has he done?” But in the end, the voices of the crowd, those closest to him and his own fear won out.<br />And so the beginning of the end happened not with a grand pronouncement and not with fiery wrath, but with resignation, with washing of hands, and with the lie that kills:<br />“I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.”<br />
Jesus receives the cross<br />Meditate on Christ taking his cross - our cross really; bearing the weight and darkness of sin. But what do we do in the face of such death and suffering? Henri Nouwen's words offer some help: <br /> Finding new life through suffering and earth: that is the core of the good news. Jesus has lived out that liberating way before us and has made it the great sign... To look suffering and death straight in the face and to go through them oneself in the hope of a new God-given life: that is the sign of Jesus and of every human being who wishes to lead a spiritual life in imitation of him. It is the sign of the cross: the sign of suffering and death, but also of the hope for total renewal. <br /> Even though Jesus went directly against the human inclination to avoid suffering and death, his followers realized that it was better to live the truth with open eyes that to live their lives in illusion. Suffering and death belong to the narrow road of Jesus. Jesus does not glorify them, or call them beautiful, good, or something to be desired. Jesus does not call for heroism or suicidal self-sacrifice. No Jesus invites us to look at the reality of our existence and reveals this harsh reality as the way to new life. The core message of Jesus is that real joy and peace can never be reached while bypassing suffering and death, but only by going right through them.Jesus lived his life with the trust that God's love is stronger than death and that death therefore does not have the last word. He invites us to face the painful reality of our existence with the same trust. This is what Lent is all about. (127 - 129) <br />Henri Nouwen, Show Me The Way<br /> Being condemned to death is nothing new. It is the state of our being. We are all condemned to death. There are no loopholes or outs. Much of us spend our lives--both our play time, family time, and work time--avoiding this reality. That is one of the reasons hearing about the deaths of others is so upsetting--we had almost forgotten that we were condemned to the same fate, perhaps not in the same way, but the same result.<br />Do you live your life with the knowledge that you are going to die? <br />Does your life acknowledge this reality?<br />
Jesus falls for the first time<br />Failure. Humiliation. Jesus falling isn't just about him being tired and beaten. It's about failure and humiliation. About not being able to complete a task. Not being able to do it. What does it matter? The die is cast. Jesus is on his way to die. What does it matter if he can carry the cross the whole way. But even the condemned have pride. The last thing you hold onto is the ability to walk to your execution with your head held high. Even though it's the end, how you approach it is your last bit of control. It's Prince Richard's response to Prince Geoffrey in A Lion in Winter."As if it matters how a man falls down.""When the fall is all that's left, it matters a great deal. On the walk to Golgotha, we remember that we are the Body of Christ. What happens to him happens to us and vice versa. And so his falling is not an ancillary detail -- it's critical. Christ failed. Christ fell. Even he -- he tried to carry this weight but he could not. I wonder what he thought, I wonder what he felt as he tumbled down that first time. As he felt the shame. As even how he died was wrestled from his control. In our culture, we're taught to fear failure. It's one of the most dangerous things we're taught. Because fear of failure keeps us on safe ground. And great things never happen there. Jeffrey Sachs says that this is the first moment in human history when we can end extreme poverty. That for the first time ever, we have the combination of the resources, the technology and the delivery systems to get the job done. But there's no guarantee. In fact, if you think the statistics on how many small businesses fail in their first year are sobering ... you should take a look at how many well-meaning start-up nonprofits never see three equinoxes. Sachs is right ... we CAN do this. But we can also fail. And the best of us do it all the time. But if that makes us stop trying, then we are not followers of the one who fell. If that makes us step far back from the edge to the safe ground where little is ventured and even less is gained, then I don't see how we can claim to be Christians at all. Jesus fell. Jesus failed. And in so doing, he sanctified failure for all of us. We should not fear it nor let it make us timid but boldly charge into its breach trusting that even the most spectacular of failures are redeemable. What matters is not whether we stand or fall -- but if falling is all that's left.... well then, HOW we fall matters greatly.<br />
Jesus meets his mother<br />I'm not sure there's anything worse than outliving your children.Some of the most amazing and strongest people I have ever met are women who are among the homeless and imprisoned in southeastern Michigan. They have seen it all. They have endured it all.One grandmother I met starved herself so her grandchild might eat more. Her story is not unique. Many of the mothers, grandmothers, or aunts witnessed tragedies involving their children. Many I encountered had lost a child to illness or some form of violence like a shooting. It's the part of the "every three seconds a child dies" that we might not often think about. That every three seconds, a sword pierces the heart of a mother.I cannot imagine what that pain is like. The closest I've ever come is attending the funeral of a student who had been in my class. I cannot know what her mother’s pain must be -- or how she found the strength to go on.Every three seconds, a mother's heart breaks in ways that can never fully be repaired. It should be a cacophony that horrifies us, awaken us, and calls us to action. But it doesn't.Instead it is a silent sobbing that the world ignores.Jesus met his mother on that road. A brief moment. Maybe a glance. Maybe even an embrace before he was torn from her forever..<br />
Simon bears the cross for Jesus<br />Jesus even experiences our struggle to receive help. He is made to experience the poverty of not being able to carry his burden alone. He enters into the experience of all who must depend upon others to survive. He is deprived of the satisfaction of carrying this burden on his own.<br /> Ronald Rolheiser has an interesting question: How do you become a Simon of Cyrene, helping Jesus carry his cross?: <br />The cross of Jesus appears in many forms: Whenever you are the one who has to take care of an aging parent because circumstance arranges that you are the one who happens to be living close by; whenever you are the parent of a handicapped child and are asked to do things ordinary parents aren't asked to do; whenever you are the one to whom the emotionally needy person at work chooses to reach out; whenever you are the one whose gentle nature makes it difficult to say no and people take advantage of you; whenever you are the one who is the first at the scene of an accident; whenever you are the one whom the drunk accosts on the sidewalk; whenever you are the one who forever finds herself caught up in duties not of your own choosing that always have you around when the less-glamorous work needs to be done; whenever you are the one whose plans and dreams can be sacrificed because everyone else's are deemed more important; whenever you're the one whose life is disrupted by unwanted circumstance, you are Simon of Cyrene, helping Jesus carry the cross.<br /> I can't imagine Simon was that thrilled carrying the cross that day. More likely, he cursed his rotten luck and probably said more than a few choice words under his breath to God . But at the same time, didn't he feel deeply for the man that he had been called to help? No matter what that man had done, wasn't the cruelty of the sentence beyond any measure? Simon, I believe, took up the cross that day and forever after felt the weight of it on his shoulders as he learned more about the man, Jesus, that he had helped. I believe that he gave up himself, that day, for the kingdom of God and he never looked back. That even though he knew that sharing that cross could cost him his life at any time in the future, it was a cross he never wanted to put down ... never. The worst moment of his life was probably the moment that he did relinquish the physical cross at the place called The Skull. I can almost feel his tears as he witnessed the rough treatment of the scourged, weakened Jesus, while the Romans forced him down and stretched out his arms on the cross.<br />
Veronica wipes the face of Jesus<br />Both Mary and Veronica seem to imbue a loving presence to Jesus beyond words. Consolation - to be with the lonely one. The simple act of wiping someone's face when facing sickness, suffering or death. As Nouwen would point out - not cure, but care. <br />"In an instant someone from the bystanders broke ranks. It was a woman. She came running to Jesus holding in her hands a piece of wet cloth. She wiped Jesus' face from sweat and blood. She did not bother to look at the soldiers, she did not care about her own safety. She did it instinctively…<br />The woman now known as Veronica knew a true image, vera icon, of God in human form when she saw Him: a human and a Being. His Presence was so radiant that it was not totally obliterated in her eyes by the current situation.<br /> Jesus ,we imagine the contours of your face. We say in faith that yours is the human face of God. Veronica may well have known it first. For her courage, you left an icon of your face on her veil. For our courage, you will leave an imprint of your face on our lives. The face of compassion. The face of truth.<br />Give us courage to offer small gestures of grace to those in need. Are we aware and responsive to not only those who are in the most obvious need of consolation, but are we also in tune with subtle suffering in our midst? Can we sense anguish that is sometimes buried in the anger of a coworker? Can we sense the sorrow behind the friend ‘s words that are unspoken? Do we see the loneliness of a neighbor behind their closed door?<br />Brave but trembling came the woman,None but she would flaunt the Roman,Moved by love beyond her fear.<br />
Jesus falls for the second time<br />Remember that you are dust ... and to dust you shall return.<br /> We begin Lent with these words. A reminder of our own mortality. No matter what happens. No matter how high we soar or how low we sink, we all return to the same place -- dust. That inevitability can lead to resignation. It seems like no matter what we do, the same problems are still with us. Do we have the faith to see that if we get up and continue to labor on we’ll be farther along than if we choose to just sit there? Do find that there is still merit in an unfinished work – that even what we might consider failure is never a total waste. All things work together for good. Can we see that if we rely on the eyes of our faith we can be led through darkness to a new place of light that we couldn’t imagine?<br /> The frustration of being too weak to walk even to one's own execution. The taste of dirt, mixing with the blood from cuts and dusty sweat. Inevitably, we all have dark,<br />challenging points in our lives. We are left to face ourselves and our situations. Do we remain in that dark place, or can we overcome our own inertia? A friend of mine is a shaman and he describes a point in his training where he was put in total darkness for a period of days. He was left to face his own demons. Only those with true faith can continue along that dark path without descending into madness, but they end up in a new spiritual place. <br /> That same friend is Creek Indian. He described his ancestors experience with walking the Trail of Tears. “The removal was forced; we were given no choice about it. When our people refused to leave their homes, soldiers would wrench a little child from the arms of his mother and bash his head against a tree. Some of the soldiers took their sabers and slashed pregnant women down the front. Our people walked the entire distance, from sunup to sundown, herded along by soldiers on horseback. When our old people died there was not time allowed to bury them, many were left in ravines. It was a long walk, people got very tired. Some children and mothers who didn’t have endurance were left behind. My great-great-grandmother was on that march. She had to go on walking without any shoes. Her feet froze. Gangrene set in and her feet literally dropped from her legs. Even after we were settled, there were problems. Our children were forced into boarding schools where they could not speak their native tongues. Native people took pride in their long hair, but the children had to have their hair cut short and the administrators would laugh at the child. Those are just some things we endured. “ Yet, today, my friend and his people continue walking on their path – a traditional path of faith, love and forgiveness. A path which includes ceremonies where they pray for all mankind. They walk with the certainty that all life is sacred, everything flows from and returns to the Creator.<br />
Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem<br />A large crowd of people followed Jesus, including many women who mourned and lamented him. Jesus turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep instead for yourselves and for your children, for indeed, the days are coming when people will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed.’ At that time, people will say to the mountains, ‘Fall upon us!’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us!’ for if these things are done when the wood is green what will happen when it is dry?”Luke 23: 27-31 <br /> It seems that passage can lead to two extremes. On the one hand, hearing Jesus reproach the women of Jerusalem who follow him and weep for him might have us consider that they are directed at a piety which is purely sentimental, one which fails to lead to conversion and living faith. It is no use to lament the sufferings of this world if our life goes on as usual. And so the Lord warns us of the danger in which we find ourselves. He shows us both the seriousness of sin and the seriousness of judgment. Despite all our expressions of consternation in the face of evil and innocent suffering, we are all too prepared to trivialize the mystery of evil. “How can God be so concerned with our weaknesses?”, we say. “We are only human!” Yet as we contemplate the sufferings of the Son, we see more clearly the seriousness of sin, and how it needs to be fully atoned if it is to be overcome. We are called to leave behind the trivialization of evil which salves our consciences and allows us to carry on as before. <br /> On the other hand, there are so many things that can wound us in this life. Tears are common for many of us. And those of us who prefer not to show our emotions outwardly often cry inwardly. If we were to pay full attention to all the pain and disorder in this world and within ourselves, it would be difficult to function. <br /> But our God is a healer of hearts. In Isaiah 61:1-2 there is a prophesy spoken 700 plus years before Christ’s arrival on this earth: ‘The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn.’ <br /> I believe that prophesy flows out of the compassion of God. The days ahead do not guarantee happiness and freedom from mourning. The women of Jerusalem whose lament greeted Jesus on His walk to the cross would soon be filled with an inexpressible joy because of the compassion of God. Compassion is the key word in coping with the challenges this world presents us. Compassion allows us to take a loving look within and gently examine our “stuff” and not trivialize what we find. It gives us the energy to address those things that need to be revamped. Compassion allows us to comfort those around us who are in pain or speak out about situations that are unjust. Compassion gives a strength that allows us to not get stuck in the mire of despair. Compassion takes us past tears and despair to the depths of ourselves and others. This is the place we truly encounter the heart of the God we seek.<br />
Jesus falls for the third time.<br /> He is almost there. Breathless and speechless, Jesus moves on. Every now and then he is pushed by the guarding soldiers. Every now and then someone shouts out from the crowd. They are already there. They had prepared the necessary tools for the crucifixion. He can already hear the screams of the two other prisoners who had left the fortress with him. They are crucifying them. The soldiers are running around keeping the people at bay. Others are guarding the northern side of Calvary lest someone might fall in the garden below. The Jewish guards and the members of the Sanhedrin together with some elders of the people are there too. To be sure, they are going to see to it that this impostor gets what he deserves. And again he stumbles. They laugh at him and mock him. The soldiers push him. But he does not give up. He rises again, steadies himself, walks the last bit of the way, separating him from his final destination - the Place of the Skull - Golgotha (Jn 19,17) and softly prays: "The Lord is my light and my salvation-- whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life-- of whom shall I be afraid? When evil men advance against me to devour my flesh, when my enemies and my foes attack me, they will stumble and fall. Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then will I be confident. One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple" (Ps. 27,1-4) <br /> Often we hear the cries of pain within ourselves and from others around us. Even though we are not deaf to these sounds it sometimes takes a Herculean effort to steady ourselves, move forward and address a situation. Perhaps we don’t want to look foolish, or be laughed at or mocked. Maybe we don’t want to feel the discomfort in being in this “place”. Do we give up when we lose our balance or lose sight of what is the right thing to do? Or, do we reach into our depths to find courage that was hidden? Do we softly call upon our Lord to strengthen us and guide us to where we need to go?<br />
Jesus is stripped of his clothes.<br /> I thought of this station in the wee hours of this morning as I was watching Bull Durham on some cable channel. Interesting how God was able to penetrate my insomnia and the convoluted machinations of my brain in order to give me a message. On the surface, it seems like just a movie about minor league baseball, but really it’s about two people who are at crossroads in their life, who feel that everything that has been familiar to them and has given meaning to their lives is either slipping away or is about to be taken from them. It’s about two people who are at that time in life when you stop feeling like you’re going to live forever and you start realizing the phrase “the rest of your life” has a clock ticking inside it. On one hand, there’s Crash Davis. Crash is a longtime minor league catcher, and baseball is his life. It’s all he’s ever known, he can’t imagine life outside it, and for as long as he can remember his dream was to play in the major leagues. And one year for 21 days … the 21 greatest days of his life … he was there. But now he’s reaching the end of the road and he finds himself not at the top – in the majors – but at the bottom, with the Durham Bulls of the Carolina League. And the only reason he even has that job isn’t because the major league club thinks he has a future, but because they think he can help the future of someone else, some new hotshot pitcher. On the other hand, there’s Annie Savoy. Annie has always been a free spirit. She teaches at the local community college, but mostly she’s a fulltime life-long spiritual seeker who latched onto what she calls the "Church of Baseball" as one of many philosophies she has embraced and whose maxims she can spout as a way of making meaning from her life and keeping control of it. And every year, Annie chooses a player on the Bulls to be her lover/student. To “give him life wisdom and help him on his way” is how she puts it. But she’s careful never to let anyone get too close. But as the years have passed, this “religious practice” has seemed more and more empty. The meaning isn’t there any more. And she feels like she’s losing control. What Crash and Annie don’t want to admit to anyone, much less themselves, is that they’re scared. They’re not young anymore, and remaking themselves doesn’t sound like a whole lot of fun and they have no idea how they’d do it even if it did! Each in their own way, they’ve spent their whole lives keeping other people from getting too close, and while that’s helped them keep control, it’s left them facing these crossroads alone. Until… They find each other. And at first they fight because they’re so much alike and on one level that makes them scared of each other. But then they fall in love. And the struggle of Crash and Annie’s love is that of two proud people letting down their guards and not just admitting that they need each other but inviting the other into that space inside where they have been living alone for so many years. And when they finally do it, when they finally let down their guards and put themselves out there and let each other in it is a seismic event. <br /> Jack and Annie stripped themselves of their facades and pretenses when the pain of their empty lives prompted them to do so. They became vulnerable and opened themselves up to something more than their own small reality. How many of us are Jack and Annie’s, skating by on the surface of our hearts? Sometimes that creates a large, painful void, other times it creates a small, nagging feeling that there must be more. And we wonder why even at times our faith doesn’t seem to fill that void either. Perhaps that’s because we still have large portions of our heart we’re not revealing to the God who loves us. Jack and Annie found a greater love in their willingness to finally put themselves out there and risk humiliation and rejection. So, too, God’s love story with the world becomes even more clear when Christ loses his garments. The last vestige of the world is removed from his body. Jesus stands there vulnerable, about to give the last thing he can claim to have. There is nothing to hide, no safe place to run to as he is exposed to those who hate him and to those who love him. This transparency is leading him to his greatest act of love which is the complete giving of himself. So it is for us. The more transparent we become, the more we put our hearts and ourselves on the line and expose who we are to those who love us and to those who hate us the more we will be fulfilled, the more we will realize our purpose which is to truly love God and one another. That type of love involves pain, struggle, and humiliation, but in the process we become ourselves and more like our Creator. There is a line from the play Les Miserables, “To love someone is to truly see the face of God and live.”<br />
Jesus is crucified.<br />Hunger<br />An estimated 1.02 billion people in the world go hungry.<br />Every day, almost 16,000 children die from hunger-related causes – one child every five seconds.<br />Each year, 3 million children, under - five die because they are undernourished. There are even more children who live with under – nutrition than die from it.<br />For infants and young children, the effects of chronic malnutrition in the early years of life are largely irreversible.<br />In the United States, 11.7 million children live in households where people have to skip meals or eat less to make ends meet. That means one in ten households in the U.S. are living with hunger.<br />4.0 percent of U.S. households experience hunger. Some people in these households frequently skip meals or eat too little, sometimes going without food for a whole day. 11.1 million people, including 430 thousand children, live in these homes.<br />6.9 percent of U.S. households are at risk of hunger Members of these households have lower quality diets or must resort to seeking emergency food because they cannot always afford the food they need. 24.4 million people, including 12.2 million children, live in these homes.<br />Pre-school and school - aged children who experience severe hunger have higher levels of chronic illness, anxiety, depression, and behavior problems than children who have not experienced hunger.Statisticsfrom Bread for the World, 2009<br />Who are the marginalized we come into contact with? What is our response? Where were our hearts divided – wavering between helping and disregarding, scoffing and encouraging, listening and ignoring, speaking out and silence, neglecting or attending? As we turn our eyes and hearts to those who are suffering so tremendously in our immediate environments and in the larger world let us ask, as IgnatioEllacuria has asked, “What have I done to crucify the least of my brothers? What should I do to de-crucify them? What should I do to resuscitate them?” <br />Let us examine how we are living this day. Explore the context of our actions. Who were the poor in our world today? Who was wanting? Who was in need? Who are the marginalized we come into contact with? What is our response? Where were our hearts divided – wavering between helping and disregarding, scoffing and encouraging, listening and ignoring, speaking out and silence, neglecting or attending? As we turn our eyes and hearts to those who are suffering so tremendously in our immediate environments and in the larger world let us ask, as IgnatioEllacuria has asked, “What have I done to crucify the least of my brothers? What should I do to de-crucify them? What should I do to resuscitate them?” <br />
Jesus dies.<br />The Crucifixion <br />By John O’Donohue<br />When at last it comes, it comes in silence;<br />With no thought for the one to whom it comes, <br />Or how a heart grieves itself and loved ones <br />With that last glimpse fro its fading presence.<br />Yet it is intimate, the act of death,<br />To be so chosen, exposed and taken.<br />Nowhere untouched. But death wants you broken.<br />The soldiers must wait ages for your last breath.<br />With all the bright words, you are found out too,<br />In agony and terror in vaulted air,<br />Your mind bleached white by a wind from no where that has waited for years for one strike at you.<br />A slanted rain cuts across the black day.<br />It turns stones crimson where the cross is laid.<br />
Jesus is removed from the cross.<br />It is now over. Body buried, neatly tombed. Spices ready. Cloths in proper place. Little things are done. No one can face the larger agonies, of loss, of loneliness , of anxiety. Faithful friends busy with tiny things. Jesus Christ is dead.<br />Many of us try to busy ourselves when we experience a loss of some kind. We apply a self-protective balm over our hearts and minds in an attempt to anesthetize the pain. We may not want to feel too intensely our own anguish as we go through our personal metaphorical periods of death. We try to keep feelings at bay until fading memories blur the horror of whatever trauma we’ve experienced.<br />I’ve withstood that agonizing time of metaphorical death. Having come out on the other side I now more identify with the peace that death brings. As I wrapped myself in a cocoon of seclusion during this period I could sense that within the deepest reaches of my darkness transformation was taking place. There was no hurrying it or ordering it or controlling it. I could only be still and allow it to happen. God’s love and grace are always stirring within us, transforming us, and calling us to new life. I imagine that the whole cosmos concentrated on Christ with complete longing until his sleep was no longer darkness. I imagine the moon stirring a wave of brightening in the stone and he then rises in the young colors of the dawn.<br />
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