Tag Archives: God

The Right Heart

     “Every wise man, therefore, will allow others the same liberty of thinking that he desires they        should allow him, and will no more insist on their embracing his opinions than he would              have them to insist on his embracing theirs. He is patient with those who differ from him,              and only asks him with whom he desires to unite in love that single question: “Is your heart          right, as my heart is with your heart?”

—-John Wesley from “Catholic Spirit”

         Jesus said: “But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a             person.”

 

The words of John Wesley ring loud and clear in this confusing and divisive time. Wise men allow others to differ from them without turning on them. The concept that we must all walk in step with one another or become enemies is destroying our churches and nation. Our political or theological stands are not the sum total of our being.. The heart reveals our true nature. We are people of good heart or bad heart. If we wish ill will and destruction with any who disagree with our opinions, then I would say that we are not of good heart. However, people of good heart and wisdom can embrace others even if they are not in full agreement with them.

People of good heart:

  • Look for areas of agreement
  • Attempt to find the greater good
  • Work for the greater good
  • Seek truth
  • Understand there is more than one right answer
  • Give up power

 “Is your heart right, as my heart is with your heart?”


The Wesleyan Covenant Prayer

I am no longer my own, but thine.Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.Put me to doing, put me to suffering.Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee,exalted for thee or brought low for thee.Let me be full, let me be empty.Let me have all things, let me have nothing.I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

thou art mine, and I am thine.

So be it.And the covenant which I have made on earth,let it be ratified in heaven.Amen.

 

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A Word on Prayer

When we wish to suggest our wants to persons of high station,

we do not presume to do so

except with humility and reverence.

How much the more, then,

are complete humility and pure devotion necessary

in supplication of the Lord who is God of the universe!

And let us be assured

that it is not in saying a great deal that we shall be heard (Matt 6:7),

but in purity of heart and in tears of compunction.

Our prayer, therefore, ought to be short and pure,

unless it happens to be prolonged

by an inspiration of divine grace.

In community, however, let prayer be very short,

and when the Superior gives the signal let all rise together.

On Reverence in Prayer – Rule of St. Benedict


There are countless books written on prayer. How to pray? When to pray? Why to pray? Who to pray for? Nearly 1500 years ago the monk “Benedict “gave us a short paragraph that shed light on these questions. Let’s us look at his suggestions to his fellow monks, and I dare say, to us.

First, we are humble in our approach to people we wish to help us. We seldom get help when we are very haughty towards those who could easily help us. Benedict notes that when we approach persons of high station (money and power,) we do it with reverence and humility. Simply stated, our wants are wrapped with respect and deference. We do not approach people preaching at them about what they owe to others because they as so blessed by God.

prayer-conversations-with-god

Second, he reminds us that we owe abundantly more respect and deference to God when we approach Him. Let’s not go to God quoting the “ask and receive” verses that we find so handy when we need something. We tend to use these verses to force the hand of God. He will not be forced.

Third, many words will not impress God, especially when they are uttered publicly so as to impress those around you who hear them. Such words ring hollow in the ear of God.Prayer-9-20-17

Fourth, prayer should have purity of heart and emotion bearing repentance. When prayer bears these characteristics, it is pure and worthy of the ear of God. Benedict suggests that prayers ought to be short and pure.

 

 

God calls for prayers that are reverent and non-attention getting.


Prayer

Lord, remind me that you deserve my reverence and respect no matter how dire my present need may seem. Let me pray to you and learn to wait patiently for your answer. Relive me of the temptation to pray with many words to impress others and to wear you down.

Amen


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Self Denial

If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life?

—–Jesus

 

Self Denial is defined as – the willingness to forgo personal pleasures or undergo personal trials in the pursuit of the increased good of another.

Christian monastic asceticism(severe self-discipline and avoidance of all forms of indulgence) is remarkable for its balance, its sense of proportion. It does not overstress the negative side of the ascetic life, nor does it tend to flatter human nature by diminishing responsibilities or watering down the truth. It shows us clearly that while we can do nothing without grace, we must nevertheless cooperate with grace. It warns us that we must make an uncompromising break with the world and all that it stands for, but it keeps encouraging us with the hope of the happiness that lies ahead.

—— Thomas Merton


 

Self-denial is not very popular in our American culture. We are taught to want the best and more of it. A beer commercial once proclaimed, “You only go around once in life: Go for all the gusto you can.” The commercial is no longer aired, but the attitude permeates our society. Over and over we are urged to grab for all of life that we possibly can, and then go for more. An unprecedented number of Americans classify their religious status as unaffiliated or “none.” The concept of self-denial is an anathema to our society and, therefore, so is Christianity.

Nones

Jesus teaches his followers to deny themselves and take up their cross and follow him. That concept just doesn’t speak to our society. Everything must have a payoff, a good result, be successful or it is just not worth doing. We in the church speak of what sacrifices are necessary to live the Christian life. Hypocrisy, ill will and scandals have unfortunately brought Christianity to aHypocrites screeching halt in our day. Many people have a hard time seeing that Christianity has any genuineness at all. We are no longer the focus of the marketplace or the leaders of society. Quite honestly, it seems as though we are being erased as if we never existed. We are either considered uneducated at best or mean hypocrites at worse. Our identity has become the purveyors of the “thou shat not “message. Why, you ask?

Because of the overall negativity of our message, much of the world has forgotten about the grace of God. This grace is the free and unmerited favor of God. In the secular world grace is simple elegance or refinement of movement. I would like to propose that both definitions are applicable to the follower of Jesus who practices self-denial. Merton says that we can do nothing without grace, and asserts that we must cooperate with grace. I believe that the Christian who lives in oneness with God by taking up of their cross is a person who is both receiving the unmerited favor of God and journeys through life with simple elegance. This life of self-denial is surprisingly freeing. We are no longer dragged down by competition, envy or even defeat. Now we can live in a world where God truly reigns. Simple self-denial makes God’s kingdom very real in the here and now.

Grace-1

The challenge is – do we truly believe in Him enough to practice self-denial and cross bearing? Tall orders these are, but ones that have an” other worldly” payoff. Those large numbers of “nones” that the pollsters tell us about have rejected the grace that comes with self-denial and can scarcely imagine what “grace freedom” really means. Grace freedom is the ability to live in the kingdom of God in the now and be excited about what is to come. The best things in life come by letting go.

For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life?


Prayer

Lord, I pray for the gift of grace that allows me to deny myself and take up my cross. That road is one that my mind will not let me follow, but I know that if I open myself to your grace I can see your mind and gladly follow. When that happens I have unimaginable freedom. The road is confusing, but I trust you.

Amen

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Living the Time

When I was a small boy one of the highlights of my summers was the “Waveland Trip” Waveland is a small beach community in Mississippi. My mother’s uncle owned a camp (Southern for beach house) just a block or two from the water. Every June about 20 -25 people packed themselves into that 1000 square foot house on a tiny lot for a grand party. The fare was simple: hamburgers, chips and beer or colas for the adults; and hotdogs, chips and Wyler’s fruit punch for Beachthe kids. That was lunch and supper. Breakfast was always an abundant supply of scrambled eggs and grits with some kind of fake orange juice. This place was no resort, but going to the beach was the highlight of my summer. The trip was always short, just Saturday and Sunday, but it was grand. On the way home in a noisy, uncomfortable, non-air conditioned car I thought about next year and how very long it would be before I could return again. A year for a 6 or 8 year old is a lifetime. The last of those trips is now more than 50 years ago. I ask myself how time has sped up so furiously since a little boy’s year was so long?

I now know the importance of redeeming the time. The ability to cherish the moments becomes increasingly important as our years pile up. A few years ago the slogan “Carpe Diem’ was popularized by  Christian author, Tony Campolo, in his book by the same name. The expression was first penned by the Roman poet Horace. In his day it meant “Pluck the Day,” but today it is translated as “Seize the Day.” We all want to indeed live each moment with passion and conviction and in the process live life to the fullest. Many years ago an unknown mystic writer pick up on this idea.

You used the correct expression when you said “for the love of Jesus.” The love of Jesus is the source of the help you need. Love’s power brings everything together. Love Jesus, and everything of his becomes yours. As God made time, so God judges our use of time. Tie yourself to Him with love and faith, knitting your relationship together. This way you may become a part of the larger fellowship of those fastened to God by love. You will have friends among the saints and angels who do not waste any time.

— Cloud of Unknowing

“As God made time, so God judges our use of time.” We fail to understand the importance of time usage as we wish away our years as youngsters and as we whist our way through our productive years. If we are to cherish and enjoy the gifts of God we must take the time to be aware of His presence and calling in our lives. The writer asserts that love and faith glue us to God .This relationship opens a tremendous array of opportunities and gifts to us. We have relationships on earth and in the heavens that do not waste time but give themselves fully.

Stop for a moment and do an inventory of what you do with your day. Do you truly seize the moments of beauty, service and joy that come with each day of this extraordinary life that God has given you, or do you spend your day in a furious rush to accomplish a goal or in a funk waiting for the tomorrow that may never come? Somehow I think if we recapture the slowness of the passage of time experienced by a small boy between his trips to Waveland, we could live a richer and fuller life.

July-26.2017


Prayer

Lord help me to live in the moment. Allow me to see the beauty of the flowers and feel the refreshment of the falling rain on a hot summer day. Let me see the innocence in the face of a child and feel the pain in the face of the hurting. May I count my moments in a childlike way that allows my days and years to linger on as I experience your creation.

Amen

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Some Quotes to Ponder

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.

 What is a friend? A single soul dwelling in two bodies.

Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work.

      ARISTOTLE

Happiness depends upon ourselves.    

I count him braver who overcomes his desires than him who conquers his enemies; for the hardest victory is over self.

The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet.

Poverty is the parent of revolution and crime.

The educated differ from the uneducated as much as the living from the dead.

All men by nature desire knowledge.

 

Augustine of Hippo

 

The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.

Faith is to believe what you do not yet see; the reward for this faith is to see what you believe.

Since love grows within you, so beauty grows. For love is the beauty of the soul.

You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.

Patience is the companion of wisdom.

God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.

Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.

If you believe what you like in the gospels, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself.

Do you wish to rise? Begin by descending. You plan a tower that will pierce the clouds? Lay first the foundation of humility.

It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels.

 

The Cloud of Unknowing Quotes

“The universes which are amenable to the intellect can never satisfy the instincts of the heart.”

“For I tell you this: one loving, blind desire for God alone is more valuable in itself, more pleasing to God and to the saints, more beneficial to your own growth, and more helpful to your friends, both living and dead, than anything else you could do.”

“And therefore take good heed unto time, how that thou dispendest it: for nothing is more precious than time. In one little time, as little as it is, may heaven be won and lost.”

 

Perhaps one or more of these quotes can act as a meditation or writing guide to you this week.


PRAYER

Lord, allow me to make the most of the time that you have allotted to me. Let my hours be productive. and my days be meaningful . I trust your grace to bring me through.

Amen.

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A Design for Praise

“Do we know what it means to praise? To adore? To give glory? Praise is cheap, today. Everything is praised. Soap, beer, toothpaste, clothing, mouthwash, movie stars, all the latest gadgets which are supposed to make life more comfortable—everything is constantly being “praised”. Praise is now so overdone that everybody is sick of it, and since everything is “praised” with the official hollow enthusiasm of the radio announcer, it turns out in the end that nothing is praised. Praise has become empty. Nobody really wants to use it.”

—- Thomas Merton from “Praying the Psalms”

Psalm 145 is called a Psalm of praise and it begins with these words, “I will exalt you, my God the King; I will praise your name for ever and ever. Every day I will praise you and extol your name for ever and ever.” Many churches have what is called “Praise Worship.” When I was a young pastor our church had a “Praise Team.” Some sixty years ago Merton spotted the glib way that we used the word praise. He considered it overdone, sickening and empty. The praise word is even used more lightly in the church today.

Praise has become a style, a sound, a type of worship and in doing so has lost the true meaning of praising Go. We can praise God quietly or with enthusiasm. All too often we equate praise with some amount motion or practice. To praise God properly all of our attention must be focused on Him. Modern praise is many times like “distracted driving.” We are always looking for the next move and not focused on the main thing. We cannot be in two places at once. Our praise to God must be directed towards Him, and not done in such a way as to emulate the world. Our challenge is to rediscover what it means to praise God. Let me offer a few suggestions.

  • Make your praise undistracted by what others are doing. “Come to our church and find out what it is like to really praise God.” Have you ever heard that line? I have. You, I, all of us, must praise God in our own way. There is tremendous peer pressure to define praising God as doing it my way. God can be praised with shouts of joy, with extended silence and many other ways. Praise is not limited to a style or even a time.
  • Make your praise focused on God and God alone. Praise is the joyful recounting of all God has done for us. Offering God praise is, at its very nature, something we must do in our heart of hearts. Praise can be a part of worship, but it must more importantly be a part of you. We don’t go to worship to praise God, we are worshipping because we praise Him. All too often our worship is focused on praising the preaching, the music or some other part of the service and praising God is an auxiliary outcome.
  • Make your praise be more than the world’s praise. The world’s praise is done to lift up a person, a product or a performance. God doesn’t need that. Merton’s strong warning was for us not to fall into the world’s idea of praise but to make praise of God so much more. Praise of God far exceeds compliments, it is recognizing His might and glory. In such recognition we easily see the wonderful nature of God and His generous provision for us, His creation. Without Him we are nothing. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) Keep that in mind when you praise God.
  • Make your praise part of your daily walk. Praise must be in your very soul.” Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars; in the heavens, you have made them bright, precious and fair.” (Francis of Assisi) As we come to see God in His creation each day, each step is an act of praise. Jesus gives us some advice, Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” As we grow to appreciate our daily blessings, praise will become a natural part of us.



Prayer

Lord, help me to rediscover genuine praise of You. The world cheapens all things and draws attention to itself. That is the work of the evil one whom you cast from Your divine presence. Lord help me to center myself on praise of You in all that you have created. My praise is not defined by the world but designed by your spirit that dwells in me. Guide this day as I walk the paths of your creation. Might I see your touch everywhere I go and in everyone I meet.

Amen.

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Choose the Incomprehensible

Therefore, leave all the things of the world that you can understand and instead chose to love that One Who you cannot comprehend. For while God may be loved, God will never be understood. God may be found by love and held by our hearts but never by our thoughts. Sometimes it may seem good to think of the special kindness and the worthiness of God.”

—-Cloud of Unknowing

5-24-17Any casual Google search or a stroll around a bookstore will quickly teach you that we, as people, want to understand everything. We want to be able to figure things out. There is, after all, an answer to every question and it is our job to find it. The writer implies that if that is our approach to God, we will never find Him. He gives some advice as to how we might find God.

God is found when we abandon the things of the world that have so tightly controlled our lives and given us our self-worth. In our quest for God we must swallow our pride and accept that we will never truly be able to put God in a convenient box. The push to understand God in simple terms is maddening. By abandoning the search for the concrete facts about God, we find the peace that was found by the desert monastics of the 4th and 5th centuries. Abba Pambo said, “By the grace of God, since I left the world, I have not said one word of which I repented afterwards.” The challenge is to “leave the world.”

Most of us cannot leave the world in the same fashion that the men and women of the desert did some 1500 years ago. We have responsibilities, obligations to our families, and just plain sensibilities that prohibit us from doing as they did. So then, how do we accomplish this undertaking?

The first call is the call of love. To love someone is to accept them with the full knowledge that you will never totally understand them. People have given their 5-24-17-2lives in a quest to understand God and failed at just loving him. The sure road to agnosticism is to make understanding God a prerequisite to loving Him and believing in Him. We enter into the cloud of belief with love and not knowledge. The Apostle Paul put it quite appropriately when he said, “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” If we choose the path of love vs understanding, we will one day see God as He is.

God is held in our hearts and not in our thoughts. Knowledge is a very powerful thing but there is nothing greater than heartfelt feeling. Such a feeling defies convention and logic and fights battles that may seem unwinnable. Our task is to give our hearts to God. We must put aside our desire to be able to explain the unexplainable and just accept Him with eyes of the heart. Christian musician Michael W. Smith says, “Lord open the eyes of my heart.” When the eyes of our heart are opened, we will see Him.

We are called upon to choose the incomprehensible as we journey with God, as we pray to God, as we trust God, for in all of these things we must put aside the norm of the world and search for the supernatural norm.

As we follow God, we choose the incomprehensible.


Prayer

Lord help me to have the courage to seek you in the incomprehensible corners of my life. Protect me from the self-centered faith that leads to ruin and give me the courage to not know, but to believe.

Amen.


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VENERABLE BEDE AND SALVATION

His name was Bede, also known as Venerable Bede, and he was the father of English history. Bede was truly a master of multiple disciplines, but he is most remembered as the man whose lifelong mission was to bring people closer to God. Bede never traveled more than 30 miles from his Northumbrian Monastery, and from that community he wrote more than forty books covering a wide range of subjects. For all of his 62 years he valued nothing more than his mission.

Bede said, “He who will not willingly and humbly enter the gate of the Church will certainly be damned and enter the gate of Hell whether he wants to or not!” These strong words establish his doctrine of salvation. The key words to anyone’s faith walk are willingly and humbly. Without this conviction we fail to enter the gates of heaven and live a miserable earthly existence as well.

Scripture proclaims, “Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me.” (Revelation 3:20) God’s word is crying out for us to willingly let Him into our lives. He has prepared such a good life for us, and yet it is our choice to neglect or accept His invitation. Salvation, the Christian way, is never forced upon any soul, but it must be received and received willingly.

The second word that Venerable Bede uses is humbly. Jesus said in the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector, “for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.” Clearly, our Lord articulates to us that acting in humble submission is the key to eternal justification and a peaceful life all the days of our lives. A person who lives humbly not only receives riches in the hereafter but lives without the earthly scourge of excessive pride. This type of pride leads to untold sin and grief.

The word of the Church Father is that the neglect of this simple formula leads to eternal condemnation and a miserable earthly existence. We would do well to give heed to the words of Jesus, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Our world cries for rest, and peaceful rest at that. Jesus offers this life to all who come to Him.

A man who was born of questionable parentage, and died a criminal’s death offers us this gift of peace by the power of His resurrection. Some 700 years later a humble Monk who never traveled more than 30 miles from the place of his birth repeats this invitation in very simple words. Let us not complicate the salvation of the Christ, but merely accept willingly and humbly.

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A Cloud of Forgetting

If you want to enter, live, and work in this cloud of unknowing, you will need a cloud of forgetting between you and the things of this earth. Consider the problem carefully and you will understand that you are farthest from God when you do not ignore for a moment the creatures and circumstances of the physical world. Attempt to blank out everything but God.

 

— Cloud of Unknowing

WAYS TO ENTER “A CLOUD OF FORGETTING”

Consider your place

Ancient Rome Christians were reminded, “…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Our real dilemma is to try to unpack the meaning of that short phrase and apply it in a way that builds our faith and our witness. We are born as proud and resourceful beings. God meant for us to be able to thrive in this world but He also meant for us to be dependent on Him. As we become increasing independent, we moved far away from Him. The mystical writer challenges us to get as far away from the things of this earth as we can so we can get closer to God. We must somehow “forget” who we are, what we have accomplished, and get in a place where we can encounter God. At the same time, never forget that we are part of this world.

See your surroundings

To do this we must be fully aware of our surroundings and begin the task of stepping away for a short time just a pause. When we step away, we are then given the opportunity of communicating with God as a deeply personal friend. As long as our lives are crowded by the things of this world, we will never see God in a light that glorifies us and Him. Seeing where we are allows us to set our course to where we want to be and allows us to seek guidance along the way. The hymn writer proclaims, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face; and the things of earth will grow strangely dim In the light of His glory and grace.” That is the direction of a contemplative.

Own your circumstances

No matter how hard we try, we still live in this world -we cannot escape it. We cannot ignore it and for the most part, we cannot change it. With regard to this dilemma, different people take different actions. Hermits try to escape, hedonists embrace it, and most of us just try to find balance in our lives. The call of the mystic writer is to “blank out” everything but God. We do this by recognizing the problems and cares around us and putting them in the background of our lives as we seek to be nearer to God. We don’t get closer to God by being in denial of the carnal nature that we all possess. Closeness to God comes as we recognize our situation and say to God, we seek you with all our strength.


PRAYER

Lord may I approach you with full knowledge of the baggage I carry. This knowledge that instills in me a total dependence on your grace and a trust in your promises. With such a heart I come to you today seeking knowledge only you can grant. Please allow me your presence in my life in spite of my sins. I invite you to fill my heart in this time of my need.

AMEN

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Jesus as Scapegoat

Image credit: White Crucifixion (detail), Marc Chagall, 1938, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, USA.

I share this piece by Rev Richard Rhor of the Center for Action and Contemplation. I hope you enjoy it.

Blessings, Irvin

Cross as Agenda

In terms of healing and symbolism, everything hinges on the cross. The cross is about how to fight and not become a casualty yourself. The cross is about being the victory instead of just winning a victory. The cross is about refusing the simplistic win-lose scenario and holding out for a possible win-win scenario.

The cross clearly says that evil is to be opposed but we must first hold the tension, ambiguity, and pain of it. “Resist evil and overcome it with good,” as Paul says (Romans 12:21). The cross moves us from the rather universal myth of redemptive violence to a new scenario of transformative suffering.

On the cross of life, we accept our own complicity and cooperation with evil, instead of imagining ourselves on some pedestal of moral superiority. As Paul taught: “everyone has sinned” (Romans 5:12) and Jesus the Lamb of God had the humility to “become sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21) with us.

The mystery of the cross teaches us how to stand against hate without becoming hate, how to oppose evil without becoming evil ourselves. Can you feel yourself stretching in both directions—toward God’s goodness and also toward recognition of your own complicity in evil? If you look at yourself at that moment, you will feel crucified. You hang in between, without resolution, your very life a paradox, held in hope by God (see Romans 8:23-25).

The goal of God’s work is always healing reconciliation, not retributive justice.  And like Jesus, we must invest ourselves in this work of reconciliation that “the two might become one” (see Ephesians 2:13-18).

Human existence is neither perfectly consistent, nor is it total chaos, but it has a “cruciform” shape of cross purposes, always needing to be reconciled in us.To hold the contradictions with God, with Jesus, is to participate in the redemption of the world (Colossians 1:24). We all must forgive reality for being what it is. We can’t do this alone, but only by a deep identification with the Crucified One and with crucified humanity. Christ then “carries” us across!

The risen, victorious Jesus gives us a history and hopeful future that moves beyond predictable violence. He destroys death and sin not by canceling it out; but by making a trophy of it. Think about that for a long time until it cracks you open. And it will!

Rev. Richard Rhor OFM

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