This Friday is a somber day for Christians throughout the world. Maybe I have a slight feeling for what Mary, the mother of Jesus experienced as she watched her son die such a slow and painful death.
I have read about the horror of a crucifixion and what an awful death it was. It was so demeaning that no Roman would be subject to it, only outsiders.
May you realize the sacrifice that God has made for you this Easter Season. In His unparalleled grace and mercy, He has forgiven you all your sins. You are His beloved child.
In return, ask Him what plan He has in mind for you.
I have heard the story below in several different forms, but the message is consistent.
A certain young girl entered a convent to prepare herself for a life of celibacy and service. The institution was one of a very strict order. Besides the requirement of the three evangelical counsels, poverty, chastity, and obedience, the order imposed three other regulations, stability, that is, no leave taking from the grounds, severity, the flagellation of the flesh, and silence, not a word dare be uttered. The Mother Superior explained to the new girl that this rule of silence was rigid. However, once every five years just two words were allowed to be spoken. So at the end of the first five years the novice was called in and instructed that she had earned the rare privilege of expressing two words. Now, what would they be? Her answer: “Food rotten!” Five years later the Mother Superior called her in again and offered her the privilege of two more words. What would she say this time? “Beds hard!” The third time she was called in the novice was exasperated and exclaimed: “I quit!” Whereupon the Mother Superior retorted: “Good riddance! All you have ever done since you have been here is to complain!”
Silence as a practice without a purpose is useless. The old story says nothing about the reason or the reward of the discipline of silence, instead it focuses on the physical rule of keeping silent. Silence as a Christian discipline is not merely for the sake of endurance, but it is to open our inner selves to the presence of God. If we are not seeking God in our quiet, then we will only feel the “hard bed.” When we open ourselves to the mystical presence of God, we find peace and comfort in our quiet times. We find renewal and freshness that takes us through our difficulties.
- unexpected dialogue (whoisbert.wordpress.com)
It had been a long three days. They had known the feeling of terror in the face of false accusations, the trauma of a mock trial, and the helplessness of standing by while a loved one was convicted of a crime he had not committed. Yet, this was only the backdrop for the deep agony of nameless, hopeless grief that would crash around them like a tidal wave when the one who had been son, brother, teacher, and savior was brutally killed. There is no making sense of such aching sorrow. The first days after such a tragedy found the women who were closest to Jesus in life wanting only to touch and prepare his body one last time in death. He had talked of resurrection. He had said that in three days he would rise. But it was not resurrection that was on the mind of those women. It was death. Imagine the moment of recognition when Jesus stood before them again. Imagine the elation of re-union. Imagine the radiant hope that followed those three days of pain. Imagine the faith that was kindled as a result of that “Easter” experience.
But the Easter story is not only an experience, an event. It is a way of life. The resurrection of Jesus created the hope in Christians that death is never the end — resurrection is. We not only look forward to an eternal future with the Holy One, we have the opportunity to experience Easter moments in the midst of our everyday lives. We know that death and sorrow stand nearby — whether it be physical death, the loss of a job, the loss of a relationship, the loss of a dream — but resurrection also waits to be noticed at the edges of our life. We have all known the wonder of a healing, a new job, a new love, a new dream being born out of the agony of hopelessness. Making Easter a way of life means that we are unwilling to settle for death in any of its forms. We are unwilling to give up hope and belief that new life is always being offered to us by heaven. We are unwilling to be ground down by grief when God’s goodness is extended to us. Making Easter a way of life means that we turn our eyes toward resurrection each and every day, searching for its signs, believing in its truth, living into its glory
Another day when a council was being held in Scetis, the Fathers treated Moses with contempt in order to test him, saying, ‘Why does this black man come among us?’ When he heard this he kept silence. When the council was dismissed, they said to him, ‘Abba, did that not grieve you at all? ‘He said to them, ‘I was grieved, but I kept silence.’
—-Sayings of the Desert
The question was posed: “Why does this black man come among us?” Admittedly,it never occurred to me that race would be an issue in the very early church, but here it is right in front of us. For centuries man has struggled with the difficulty of becoming an accepting and open church. There are so many among us who cannot get past some very old and unjustified prejudices. That aside, let us learn from Abba Moses. Sometimes this pain is best handled in silence. In our “fix it” world, we are all to quick to protest if we feel our treatment is unfair, but the father bears it in silence, and in that silence victory is won. In this silence the voice of God is heard. Remember that next time you feel unfairly treated, and let God speak to you.
Luke 4: 16-30
Jesus went home. After ministering in Galilee he decided to go back to Nazareth, to reconnect with those who had known him as a little boy, to visit his mom, to speak at the synagogue that he knew like the back of his hand. At the synagogue, he spoke about his mission. The locals were at first offended and then enraged. They took him to the cliff which marked the edge of town with plans to throw him off. Then the miracle happened. Scripture says, “But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.” One man in an angry mob and “he passed through the midst of them!” He did not call for help or fight his way clear. He just passed through them.
When we think of Jesus’ miracles we consider events like healings, resurrections, calming the sea, walking on water, or turning water into wine. We never see this miracle listed, but I see it as an incredible moment that relates to our journeys so often. How many times have you walked through frightening, dangerous, heartbreaking situations and gone on to live out your life? How many times have you not been able to explain how you did it, how you made it through? How many times have you weathered opposition and hostility and continued to live victoriously? How many times has your broken heart healed? How many times has your mind been calmed by an unexplainable peace? How many times has your soul been restored? How many times have you been at the edge of the cliff sure you were going over, when some Presence led you through the fear and pain and hurt and death? Each of those times was a miracle.
Jesus knows all about standing at the cliff’s edge with other situations or people pushing you over. He knows what it is like to look down at a chasm of hopelessness and despair. He understands the pounding of your heart, the wrenching of your gut, the tears of your hurt. He reaches out his hand and leads you as you pass through the midst of them and go on your way to love and serve Him.
Reflection – What has Christ helped you pass through?
There was a time when we used to go to our neighbor’s house to borrow things. My mother would send me next store to get a cup of sugar or flour. I can also remember times when our neighbors did the same. Today we get in our cars and drive to the nearest store, and just buy it. We wouldn’t think of asking a neighbor.
In doing so we have lost a sense of an interdependent community that helps one another. We have replaced it with a strong notion of being self sufficient. Perhaps we are too proud to ask for help when we need it. Rather than being indebted to friends, we are indebted to credit card companies.
In the same way, we have left God and prayer out of our lives. After all, if we acknowledge that we might need something that the world cannot provide, we are a failure. The mere acceptance that there are things completely out of our control is an anathema to us, and should be avoided at all costs. I would suggest that it is in our need for God that true strength is found. We are not created to be alone and isolated, but to be in community with each other and God
Once the order was given at Scetis, ‘Fast the week.’ Now it happened that some brothers came from Egypt to visit Abba Moses and he cooked something for them. Seeing some smoke, the neighbors said to the ministers, ‘Look, Moses has broken the commandment and has cooked something in his cell.’ The ministers said, ‘When he comes, we will speak to him ourselves.’ When the Saturday came, since they knew Abba Moses’ remarkable way of life, the ministers said to him in front of everyone, ‘O Abba Moses, you did not keep the commandment of men, but it was so that you might keep the commandment of God.’
—–sayings of the desert
It is a difficult thing to discern sometimes whether we are acting out of religious piety or truly following the commands of God. Our community, like the community of Scetis, can confuse the two. Men have a way of making so many rules, and often these rules are just a pretense of following God. The practice of His presence is far greater than keeping the commands of a church, a class, or a community. God’s commands are made for the good of His creation. Jesus tells us, “The Sabbath was made for people, not people for the Sabbath.” The commands of God are not meant to burden, punish or diminish our value, but to allow us to know God’s love and mercy and share it with the world.
Psalm 23 is one of the best known portions of scripture in the world. I have seen it expressed in many version, and the one below is a very thoughtful for today’s times. Perhaps y0u may want to recite it s few times today.
The Lord is my pace setter . . . I shall not rush
He makes me stop for quiet intervals
He provides me with images of stillness which restore my serenity
He leads me in the way of efficiency through calmness of mind and his guidance is peace
Even though I have a great many things to accomplish each day, I will not fret, for his presence is here
His timelessness, his all importance will keep me in balance
He prepares refreshment and renewal in the midst of my activity by anointing my mind with his oils of tranquility
My cup of joyous energy overflows
Truly harmony and effectiveness shall be the fruits of my hours for I shall walk in the Pace of my Lord and dwell in his house for ever.
I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.
—― Mary Oliver
Howard Fisher and Associates conducted a survey of top CEO’s for a major business magazine.The primary goal of the survey was to determine what the CEO’s thought were the keys to their success. It may surprise you to see what these “top dogs” said about success. We are led to believe that being on top means that you must be less than honest or just plain ruthless. This survey seems to cut across the grain of that presumption. Let’s see what some top performers have to say about their own success.
- Be persistent and never give up.
- Have a vision of where you are going and communicate it often.
- Know what you stand for, set high standards, and don’t be afraid to take on tough problems despite the risk.
- Spend less time managing and more time leading. Lead by example.
- Bring out the best in others. Hire the best people you can find, then delegate authority and responsibility, but stay in touch.
- Have confidence in yourself and in those around you, and trust others.
- Accept blame for failures and credit others with success. Possess integrity and personal courage.
If I didn’t know better, I could think that the biblical teachings of Jesus were the primary guide for these executives. Jesus says for us to “seek first the kingdom of God and all else will be added .”(Matthew 6:33) It is the constant promise of the scripture that righteous living has abundant rewards. This simple fact seems to elude us today. The Bible has additional advice: practice meekness, experience grief, show mercy, make peace. These truths are found in the Beatitudes.(Matthew 5:1-7)
This week forget what you think you must do to get ahead, take the advice of top executives and Jesus, put others first, and you will have success beyond your dreams. Let’s allow the great “success traits” of the Bible to guide our lives and provide for us the peace, joy,and happiness that we all long for in this world.
Monastery of Saint Anthony
A brother renounced the world and gave his goods to the poor, but he kept back a little for his personal expenses. He went to see Abba Anthony. When he told him this, the old man said to him, ‘If you want to be a monk, go into the village, buy some meat, cover your naked body with it and come here like that.’ The brother did so, and the dogs and birds tore at his flesh. When he came back the old man asked him whether he had followed his advice. He showed him his wounded body, and Saint Anthony said, ‘Those who renounce the world but want to keep something for themselves are torn in this way by the demons who make war on them.’
—– saying of the Desert Fathers
At face value this saying seems to be unreasonable. Meat, birds, dogs, torn flesh what a revolting picture. The real story is, conditional commitment is noe commitment at all. Abba Anthony is trying to tell us that a monk must fully commitment himself to his calling. This same thinking applies to us who seek to be followers of Christ. The goal is to become fully devoted to the Christian journey and to hold nothing back from this way of life. As Christians, we promise to give our all to our savior. In the holding back, we invite temptation and evil to come into our lives. These forces keep us from the high calling that we have received and limit the power of the gospel that lives within us