Before His hands were bound

A profound meditation from Amy Carmichael:

The last thing He did before His hands were bound.

And one of them smote the servant of the high priest, and cut off his right ear. And Jesus answered and said, Suffer you thus far. And He touched his ear and healed him. (Luke 22. 50, 51)

Then the band and the captain and the officers of the Jews took Jesus and bound Him. (John 18.12)

The last thing the Lord Jesus did before His hands were bound, was to heal.

Have you asked yourself, If I knew this was the last thing I should do, what would I do?  I have never found the answer to that question. There are so very, very many things that would want to do for those whom we love, that I do not think we are likely to be able to find the chief one of all these. So the best thing is just to go on simply, doing each thing as it comes as well as we can.

Our Lord Jesus spent much time in healing sick people, and in the natural course of events it happened that the last thing He did with His kind hands was to heal a bad cut. (I wonder how they could have the heart to bind His hands after that.)

In this as in everything, He left us an example that we should follow in His steps.  Do the thing that this next minute, this next hour, brings you, faithfully and lovingly and patiently; and then the last thing you do, before power to do is taken from you (if that should be), will be only the continuation of all that went before.

The best thing to give up for Lent

I repost this every Lent.  It’s still the best recommendation as far as I am concerned.

This comes from a Magnificat article written by Fr. Peter John Cameron a few years ago.  I do not have time to quote the whole article (which is always dangerous because what you read will be edited), but I hope–especially those of you who despair of ever giving up what he suggests we give up–that you will find some hope in what he says:

Here’s what to give this Lent: the doubt that goes, “I can never get closer to God because I’m too sinful, too flawed, too weak.”  This is a lethal attitude, for it based on the false presumption that we can possess something of our own–that does not come from God–by which we can please God.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  Only what is from God can please God.  But as long as such error persists, we estrange ourselves from God.  Lent is not about lamenting our inadequacy.  Rather, it is a graced moment to receive from God what he is eager to give us so that we can live the friendship with him that he desires. . . .

He goes on to describe how often we try to substitute self-sufficiency for the lack that we find in ourselves–and this usually leads to an experience of darkness in our lives–“we may even wonder if God hates us.”  He allows the darkness in order to draw us back to him.  “The most reasonable thing we can do when that feeling strikes is “to renew our act of love and confidence in God’s love for us.  The Lord allows the darkness precisely to move us to unite ourselves all the more closely to him who alone is the Truth.”

Still–we panic!  We feel as if we are obliged to do for God what we know we are unable to do.  But the point of the pressure is to convince us to receive everything from God.  We can be sure that God himself is the one who, in his mercy, moves us to do what is not within our power.  This is the Father’s way of opening us a little more to himself by making us a little more in the likeness of his crucified Son.

For nothing glorifies God like the confidence in his mercy that we display when we feel indicted by our frailty and inability.  The experience of our hopelessness is a heaven-sent chance to exercise supremely confident trust.  God delights in giving us the grace to trust him.

Sadly, for those who refuse God’s gift of confidence, the darkness can turn to despair.  Yet even in despair the miracle of mercy is at work.  Father Jean-Baptiste Henri Lacordaire, the nineteenth-century Dominican priest who was responsible for the revival of the Order of Preachers in France after the French Revolution, makes this astonishing remark: “There is in despair a remnant of human greatness, because it includes a contempt for all created things, and consequently an indication of the incomparable capacity of our being.”  In our darkness, the incomparable capacity of our being will settle for nothing less than the embrace of the Infinite.  Like nothing else, our helplessness moves us to cry out for that embrace in confidence and trust.  The cry of forsakenness that Jesus emits from the cross is just this.

Saint Paul wrote, “We were left to feel like men condemned to death so that we might trust, not in ourselves, but in God who raises from the dead” (2 Cor 1.9, NAB).  That’s the point.  That’s the challenge of Lent.  God wants us to have the strength to believe in his love so much that we confidently beg for his mercy no matter how much we feel the horror of death in ourselves. . . .

Let us this Lent, in the face of all ours sins, our limitations, and our weakness cry out with Jesus, “My God, why have you forsaken me?”  And let us do so with certainty–not doubt or desperation–because our union with Christ crucified has given us the Way to approach reality.  In our asking we hold the Answer.

Christ is already next to you

CHRIST IN THE DESERT

by 

On Saturday, I watched good friends carry a miniature white casket up the aisle of our parish church, to be laid before the altar for a funeral Mass. Their son was stillborn last week. Our parish had come to the church to pray for them as they laid their son’s body to rest.

My friends have entered the season of Lent in a profound way.

During Lent, we remember Jesus, fasting and praying in the Judean desert. We remember that Jesus was weak, and tired, and alone, and that, relying on the word of God, he overcame the empty promises of Satan.

Like Christ, my friends will likely feel weak, tired, and alone this Lent. C. S. Lewis said that grief feels much like fear, and I suspect they’ll sometimes feel afraid. He also said that grief is an amputation, and I suspect they’ll sometimes feel crippled.

And like Christ, my friends will face temptations. They may be tempted to turn on each other. They may be tempted to turn from God. They may be tempted to pretend they don’t need help—human or divine—when, in fact, they surely do. I suspect my friends will overcome those temptations, by grace. But if they don’t, I know they’ll seek God’s mercy, and I know he’ll give it freely.

During Lent, most of us offer up small sacrifices—pittances, really—to spend more time in prayer. We limit our comforts, just a little. We give alms, usually from our excess, and rarely from our need. And somehow God, in his mercy on us—his pity for our pitiful sacrifices—gives these tiny sacrifices meaning, and uses them to draw us closer to him.

Sometimes, though, we see Lent as a proof of our endurance, an annual test of our strength and resolve as believers. It is easy to think that during Lent, our little sacrifices take us out into the desert to be with Christ. We don’t readily see that Christ is the one who has come out into the desert, to be with us.

We often have trouble admitting that we are already in the desert, already weak and without food, and already tempted. Often we forget that Christ conquered temptation not for himself, but for us—so that we can rely on him to conquer Satan’s lies, which are whispered to us in the moments of great suffering, in the desert of this life.

Lent, at its best, is a discovery that Christ is already next to us. We silence our distractions to discover the Lord’s love, his steadfast presence, the transforming power of the Holy Spirit.

My friends have been driven into the desert of loss this Lent; I hope they will find that Christ is there with them. I hope that in their weakness, they will encounter the savior who can “sympathize with our weakness,” who “in every respect has been tempted as we are.”

Many of us are in deserts of loneliness, or mourning, or despair, or fear. We are thirsting for living water. I hope this Lent we will find the Christ who has come out to the desert to meet us.

J. D. Flynn is a canon lawyer in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Start on the right foot this Lent

In the first place, it’s not about what we do, but about what He does.

“In the relationship with God our first act of love, one that must remain the basis for every act of love for him, is this: to believe that he loves us, and to let ourselves be loved in our poverty, just as we are, quite apart from any merits or virtues we may possess.”  (Fr. Jacques Philippe)

Blessed are those who mourn

Käthe Kollwitz’s Pietà

Photography by Walter Mason

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“I have no right to withdraw from the responsibility of being an advocate. It is my duty to voice the sufferings of people, the sufferings that never end and are as big as mountains.” So wrote Käthe Kollwitz – artist, socialist, pacifist, and grieving mother – five years after her son Peter died on the battlefield in World War I. In 1937, she began working on her Pietà in his memory as war loomed again. In that second great bloodletting she would lose her grandson, also named Peter, killed in action as a draftee for Hitler, whose regime was hounding Kollwitz for her dissident activities.

In 1993, an enlarged casting of the Pietà was installed as the centerpiece of Germany’s National Memorial to the Victims of War and Tyranny on Berlin’s Unter den Linden boulevard. The sculpture is situated in the Neue Wache guardhouse, once a national­istic shrine that played a central role in the Nazis’ annual parade for war heroes.

Today, the remains of an unknown soldier and an unknown concentration camp prisoner rest beneath Kollwitz’s statue. Directly overhead, the oculus allows sunlight, rain, and snow to fall onto the agonized mother. “Blessed are those who mourn” – this place draws us into the heart of this cryptic beatitude, evoking the suffering of mothers all over the world, from Syria to the Congo.

Berlin photographer Walter Mason writes: “Kollwitz’s statue, alone in the middle of the room, commands a respect that is immediately understood by anyone who enters. The tourists come in off the street and, without exception, fall silent. The mother with her son is so wrapped up in her sorrow that she seems ­unapproachable; the visitors stand at a distance and partake in her grief.”

Originally found at Plough.com

The hem of His garment

This Holy Week: Just the Hem of His Garment

by Amy Ekeh

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This Holy Week, remember those in the Gospel who only wanted to touch the tassle of his cloak, the hem of his garment (Matt 14:36). Some days, some years are like that. You may not feel that you can keep up with Jesus on the way to Golgotha. You may not feel that you can shoulder that heavy wooden cross. You may not feel that you succeed at walking along the path with him, or listening to him, or always doing what he asks. But do you see him passing by? Can you reach out your hand, like the woman who was ill for twelve long years? Perhaps – like her – you find yourself on the ground, reaching out – grasping, believing, stretching – “If only I could touch the hem of his garment, the tassle of his cloak” (Matt 9:21).

It is faith that has you there, reaching out for Jesus. And this year, that is enough. This Holy Week, accept where you are. Jesus will pass by that place.

And just as he was aware of every person who touched him (Lk 8:46), he is aware of you. He will take your hand and speak the words you need to hear: “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace” (Lk 8:48).

This Holy Week, just the hem of his garment is enough.