It is profoundly tragic that the last day of Lent is referred to as Spy Wednesday after Judas, the traitor who takes his own life in remorse. This makes the celebration of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus even more compelling. Out of the depths I cried…. And the Lord heard my cry…
A wise colleague often says, “When climbing the mountain, it’s good to look back periodically and see how far we have come.” Today is the symbolic 39th day of Lent. We’ve come a long way. Only one more day remains of our Lenten discipline before we enter into the great celebrations of our Christian faith.
There is so much humanity in God’s world. Isn’t that the story of creation? As one of the stories goes, it was God’s garden and He made us humans and put us in it. It was a neat place with lots of good things and everything in order. Then things got messed up by “apple-gate” – as I like to call it. After that things weren’t so good and humans had to live in a big bad disordered world outside the garden. God didn’t abandon us, but he made it harder to figure things out by allow things to get pretty messed up and now and then playing “hide & seek” with us. But if we take the time, his presence is always found to be with us.
I can figure out two reasons why Jesus annoyed the people of his time. The first is the traditional understanding. The political and religious leadership thought he was getting too popular and might usurp their respective spheres of power and authority. That’s understandable, even if not noble. But the other reason you and I can relate to. Sometimes individual who are kind, humble, giving and content can make us jealous, frustrated, and even angry? So maybe that’s why some others didn’t follow Jesus. Well, maybe in our time we should think about those kind and loving people as God’s gift to the world and to ourselves. We might learn from and imitate their example.
Healing, feeding the hungry, teaching God’s ways, stories of Jesus that taught the important of helping others. There’s much more. Jesus’ whole ministry taught that “doing right by each other” is “doing right by God.” Fortunately, my experience is that people do want to help each other out and very often do so. Good Friday teaches us that the time and type of help we want to provide can’t always be on our terms. Sometimes it will hurt and be inconvenient. Even Jesus asked his Father to make the crucifixion go away. No could do. Neither can all the crosses of our lives go away when we help others.
Abraham is Father and Patriarch to Jews, Christians & Muslims. God told our Father Abraham that he and his descendants must keep his covenant throughout the ages. I can’t speak for other ages, but our age is not doing so well. How can we, the “People of the Book”, betray our roots and our God so often in the way we discriminate and express hate and carry out violence toward those who are not of our religion? For those Christians, we best make our attitude toward Jews and Muslims a serious examination of our consciences as we enter into Holy Week. The prayers and readings of Good Friday and the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday provide us with much material for our reflection.
The most difficult part of a difficult situation can be the fear that an embarrassing, or even shameful, situation becomes known. We are frequently surprised that the world des not end when the truth becomes known. Even though it’s rocky and painful for awhile, it most times is liberating and freeing – especially when we remain with Jesus during these times.
Sprinters are usually more fun to watch than marathoners. They definitely appeal to my attention span. We need their bursts of energy to inspire us and get us going, but we also need to recognize that most things require more than a sprint. And there is no contradiction between the two. Even marathoners sometimes have to inject a short-term burst of speed into their routine. Lent has characteristics of both in various ways. Lent is a “sprinting period” through the year-long marathon of following the Lord. And it is more than an Ash Wednesday and Good Friday sprint – it’s 40 “long” days of extra praying, sacrificing and charity. So it can appeal to both the sprinter and long distance runner in us.
The powerful trio of guilt, blame and responsibility all occupy the same emotion space in our psyche. Well, maybe not exactly the same, but pretty close. Sometimes they even impersonate one another and engage in identity theft. So here’s how I like see them and separate them. (Note: I’m not saying this is THE way to see them, just my way.) Guilt is what I feel about myself when I do something wrong. Blame is what I impute to another when they do something wrong. Responsibility is what I accept for my actions and their consequences. I am not going to spend a lot of time teasing this out or giving examples. Let’s just think about these differences and supply our own examples. Note: There is a time and place for all three of these, but it’s useful to distinguish.
As it gets closer to Holy Week, we focus more closely on the terrible price that Jesus paid to win our salvation. This is not a “pretty” part of the story of our salvation. It is profound, central and essential. The movie, The Passion of the Christ, a few years ago was a bit too gory for my tastes, but it left no doubt of the human suffering Jesus endured to save us. There are many in our world today who are experiencing similar pain suffering and even death as the hands of terror, persecution and other oppressions. The cross of Jesus provides hope for transformation.