Day 103- The Resurrection Mile

“On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb”

John 20:1

While we still lie in darkness, while the earth lies in gloom, we slowly slip away to visit the place where our Lord is buried, to marvel with Mary of Magdala, at the stone that had been rolled away with wonderment and awe. The earth is heavy, but the heavenly grave is not, filled with hope and the anticipation of a new day. In the darkness, we are with her, tears and smiling, knowing that we do not have to see His body to believe in His resurrection. The emptiness testifies to it, that is where He is.

In the thickest of fog and dark night of the soul is the voice of our Lord. He is with us in our deepest pain, creating joy in madness. And when we see the emptiness, we do not run away from it, but towards it, to marvel at the work of the cross. What a great mystery!

To find God, one must come running to nothingness

When we’ve abandoned ourselves, our ideas of who God is and what He looks like, we too can visit the tomb with Mary. But unlike Mary, we can run with confidence back to our homes, our friends, and shout, He is not there! He has been raised!

It is the great hope of Easter that makes me a Christian. The knowing that out of the darkness will come a great light.

The embrace of the dawn, just before the rising of the sun, is the embrace of Christ

We are an Easter people. We believe in the darkness. We rejoice at the grave. We see the miracle in the dark sky before the sun has arrived. This is God’s grace.

What other faith do we need? Is there another promise that can bring us gladness? Everyday on the calendar is spent in the joyful hope of Easter, knowing that God has bigger and greater plans for us, on earth as it is in heaven.

Why do we seek the living among the dead? We know darkness because we know light. Today, let the emptiness of the tomb fill us as we await our Risen King.

Let us be an Easter people for our Lord

 

Day 102- The Mile I thirst

I thirst…

I miss everything about the Eucharist.

Its free grace. The ease on my tongue. Your love wrapped in it.

The way You hold me when I do not deserve it. 

The entryway to heaven. The gift of peace. The song of redemption.

In all this, I long for you O Lord.

On my knees, I am empty. You are not there.

When I cry out to you, you are not there.

Your body is a song, and I cannot hear the lyrics.

My love seems empty and cold.

I long for you to hold me in your embrace.

My Father, where are you?

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

 

Born of a Spiritual exercise taken from Father Dan’s 3 p.m Good Friday homily. Watch it here.

 

 

 

Day 101- The Mile I found Jesus

“But Peter stood at the gate outside.” John 18:16

Omission is just as bad as commission. Looking on or acting on. Looking away or looking towards. Our gaze determines our infidelity- where are we looking now?

One of my most beautiful and precious friends asked me this profound question yesterday, “why did He have to come?”

Of course she knew the answer to that question, but asked me from a Judaic perspective. I had to sit with that question for awhile as I made a pathetic attempt at an answer. But all I could muster up was my story.

I told her that in my own journey, my initial seeking after God became more religious in nature- wanting to keep kosher, keep the shabbos and invest myself in all of the Jewish regulations. The more I tried, the more I failed.  And in any event, as a woman, I would never be able to celebrate God in the way I knew Him, in the way I was trying to find Him. And these rules which I held so dear in my heart became chains, became snares. And I broke these chains in a sign of rebellion against those rules to find freedom. But freedom brought me great misery, brought me to loss, brought me to my knees.

And on my knees lost is where Christ found me 

I didn’t understand at the time how my answer had anything to do with the question she posed. Like Mary, I took it with me in the silence of my heart and let it sit, so as to be enlightened by God’s wisdom through the womb of His Blessed Mother. It was old to new. Death to life. Flesh to Spirit. But what was the answer to her question?

Why did God make me a Christian?

Peter was Jewish. All of the first disciples and communities were Jewish. Mary and Joseph were Jewish. And so was Jesus. 

Jesus grew up in an observant Jewish household. Went to temple. Worked. Studied. Was bar mitzvahed. Celebrated all of the Jewish holidays. Was part of the Jewish community. Until He taught them something new. Until He stood up for what was right. Until He taught them to observe the law in a way that they had never considered before. And for that they wanted to kill Him.

And so they handed him over, away from the only love and community that He had ever known. He was betrayed, beaten and ultimately crucified. And while the rest wrote him off as a blasphemer and traitor, his mother and dearest friend stood by him, so he was not alone.

And where were the rest of his disciples? They went into hiding. One unto another in their own separate hiding places, leaving their friend and Master to die. No matter that they had left Him, they were safe now. And the ties of friendship and community that had been built over a period of years was washed away. 

Our greatest tests come in times of great tragedy. Will we too abandon God?

I considered the story again from a Jewish perspective. I had been one of those in community. I had studied the Torah as much as I was permitted to and understood its precepts. I had gone as far as I was permitted. When I tried to follow farther, I was unable to- not because I didn’t want to, but because it wasn’t allowed. And in order to find God, I had to leave Him behind. But I didn’t. I carried Him with me unknowingly.

My whole search was filled with God. My travels, the people I met and the losses I suffered. Before I became a Christian, God had me walk through some high peaks and dark valleys.  I got married. The closest person in my life died, my beloved grandmother. I suffered through infertility and miscarriage. Then the birth of twins. Then another baby. A new job. My best friend left me. New friends came into my life. Then darkness and chaos. Then Christ.

Why did Christ have to come? He had to come so I could live. I can not answer this question for anyone else. The answer is personal and intimate and makes up the DNA of who we are in Him.

When we reduce that question down to a certain sect, religion, history or time it doesn’t work- it becomes cold and endless. Theologians debate it. Old and new covenants. Prophecies and fulfillment. They are all wonderful and intellectually stimulating. But they do not answer the question. They do not fill the soul.

On this Good Friday, the third night of Passover, ask yourself the same question.

Why did He have to come?

Your answer may surprise you…

 

Day 98- The Mile I read God’s Will

“Thou shalt not be a victim, thou shalt not be a perpetrator, but, above all, thou shalt not be a bystander.” Yehuda Bauer, on Kristallnacht

There is always a moment, a space, a pause in time that we can put our finger on and pause to reflect on the moment that led to the moment.

When we look back and perform an examination of conscience on life’s past events, we can see that before an event took place, there was an event that sparked it, that catapulted it into the next universe. Raising our levels of consciousness in this matter takes patience, time, and openness to the message that God will give us.

The greater picture though are the events that we cannot stop from happening, not the ones we can. The ones where we are helpless, and can only watch from the sidelines. These become movies playing in our minds about what we could or should have done. But the fact of the matter is that traveling to those destinations should not produce in you the anxiety of the should’ve or would’ve, but rather a deeper understanding of who you’ve become and where you are going because of it.

We cannot rewrite these narratives

If we look back on the story of Judas, we often wonder why the Lord would have chosen someone that He knew would betray Him. We become angry and judge Judas for what He did to our Lord, selling his life away and making a deal with the devil. But every word in the scriptures, both the old and the new testament, has a place and purpose.

It is only when we stop and reflect on that purpose when our eyes become open  and we are able to watch God at work

As we sit back and reflect on today’s gospel reading, we remember that every soul on this earth has a purpose, a role to play in the story of salvation. Whether atheist or non-religious, Christian or otherwise, God is universal and uses every soul to write His story. Judas is no different. He is a man who went bankrupt- in spirit and in truth.

He is not unlike the rest of us

Judas’ betrayal becomes the catalyst for the events which place Jesus on a cross. One could say He is responsible for the arrest, torture and death of Jesus. But if you don’t stay in that space, if you make a pilgrimage in your mind to walk a little further, you can also say this.

Judas is responsible for the resurrection as well. 

Although he did not stick around to see it, he should have. Scripture says he killed himself instead. Marred with sorrow and grief, he took the responsibility of the world on his shoulders, and blamed himself unto death. Judas’ suicide was in fact an acknowledgment of his betrayal to God. It was not an act of sin, it was an act of sorrow.

We too can blame ourselves for the pain that we have caused our Lord. And if that were all, we would just stay in that place and not move. This does not produce any fruit, only worldly guilt, that only leads to self-doubt, anxiety and brings death where there should be life.

Godly sorrow always produces life while the world’s sorrow produces only death

If we stay in that dark night, in that betrayal, in that shame, we will find that there is no way out. Reflecting on Judas’ mistake should help us reflect on our own. But that reflection should bring us to that tree, the one where Judas took His life, and have us say, Lord help me die to self. Don’t let it be night in my soul.

We can live the events of Holy Week in a more profound way if we enter into the mystery, place ourselves in the story, and not judge the people that we read about. Both the Old and the New Testaments were given to us by God as a great gift. But more than that they were given to us as a last will and testament by God.

So today as you are opening up God’s word, remember you are opening up not only His will but His will, what he has left behind for us, a direction, a disposition of his property to us. And a will is not meant to be buried away, it is meant to be read, so that a person can determine what they get.

Don’t miss your opportunity to see what God has left you

 

Day 97- The Mile I Broke

The dance of the perfumed oil was not the smell of life, but that of death. It was a preparation, a love story, a total consecration. The one whose heart beat for the one whose heart would soon be stopped. 

The scene of Mary anointing the feet of Jesus and drying them with her hair is a movement of love. It is an act of worship, a passionate “yes.” The contradiction of the time was that is was in fact a  woman, and not a man, who was performing this religious ritual. It was Mary who was preparing Jesus for death.

The subtlety of the movement can be lost if we expect complicated answers. Worship is not an act that is performed for others, it is an act performed for one. 

Her movement was intentional, the dowry that was all that she had, the most precious gift.

The very thing that was meant to make her was the very thing that she gave away

The costly bottle of nard was the entirety of her inheritance, what the world had given to define what she might have been. And while for years the fragrant nard sat listless in that bottle, it came alive at the feet of Jesus with purpose and meaning.

The breaking of the fragrant oil at the feet of Christ was not a waste, it was a rebellion 

And while we contemplate this one small act, this sacred mystery of what that nard may have smelled like, the sweet smell that reaches our nostrils should remind us of the sweetness and the sorrow of preparing ourselves for Holy Week. We too are to prepare the body of our Lord for proper burial, but how do we do that?

By breaking our most precious possession, by breaking our alabaster box

It has been several weeks since our vulnerabilities have been exposed, since time at home has forced us to stare into the eyes of our maker. We have found ourselves helpless, crying, desperate and out of control. We have realized that we are small.

And in that smallness, we have either continued to live our lives as if God did not exist, or we like Mary, have fallen at the feet of Christ and found ourselves desperate and unworthy. Mary did not break that alabaster jar to have it go to waste, we too should not break ours without counting the cost.

And what is it in your alabaster jar that you do not want to break it?

Do you refuse to give alms because the church is closed?

Have you accumulated earthly treasures that you have hoarded away?

Are you holding on to that very important thing- your job, your pride, whatever it is that you refuse to let go, refuse to break, because you think that it belongs to you?

Would you not rather be able to break that alabaster box of your own free will in an act of worship and total devotion to God rather than have the sin of man break it for you?

What is in your alabaster box?

Sit with these questions. The answers will come to you. If it’s all that you have, if it is everything, you must count the cost.

Have you truly counted the cost of being a follower of Christ?

It will cost you everything…

Heavenly Father,

I have been clutching my alabaster box close to me and am unwilling to break it for you. Now before your passion and death, I beg of you to expose me, to help me to break it, so that I can be free to serve you with my whole heart. I have waited for this very moment, like Mary, to give myself away to you, as the bride does for her bridegroom. I am here at your feet, box in hand, waiting for your words.

In Jesus Name,

Amen

 

 

Day 95- The Mile You Killed Jesus

“You know nothing, nor do you consider that it is better for you that one man should die instead of the people, so that the whole nation may not perish.”

John 11:49-50

Image may contain: 1 person, text

This is the picture of one man. His name is Shannon Bennett and he is a Deputy with the Broward Sheriff’s Office. He is 39 years old. He contracted coronavirus and has passed away.

Pause to honor his sacrifice

Is it better that one man die than a whole nation?

The high priest, Caiaphas in today’s gospel reading does not pose this as a question but rather as a statement. In response to the Sanhedrin’s question about what was to be done about Jesus, Caiaphas answers, “You know nothing, nor do you consider that it is better for you that one man should die instead of the people, so that the whole nation may not perish.” Today, that man is Deputy Shannon Bennett.

The scriptures at times can seem distant, almost foreign to us. We are staring at a book, simply reading. We are detached and cold. We do not place ourselves in the words of the story.

If the scriptures are truly a living breathing instrument, why do we treat them as if they are dead or uninsightful? That they do not contain God’s words and warning to us, his prophecies and predictions. We are quick to trust CNN, Fox News and countless other man made news channels, but we are slow to trust the word of God.

Is it better that one man die than a whole nation?

Everyday we allow one to die. We place up one scapegoat. One person on the altar of death. We do not do what is right but instead do what is evil. 

I have lived long enough to know that I am an accomplice in the evil which seems to prevail so terribly in the world, even in the evil which might blindly strike me down.

Brother Christian De Cherge Last Will and Testament

We are Caiaphas, you and I. We are accomplices in the evil of this world. It is you and not me. It is the blame we place on others for our own sins. It is unforgiveness. It is the undesirable truth that we are downright evil people who hurt each other. It is the sin of man.

And like Caiphas, we offer up others to the scourging of the pillar, the walk to Calvary and the sting of the cross, rather than die to our own selves.

WE ARE THE KILLERS OF JESUS

Is it better that one man die than a whole nation?

As we retreat in our homes, refuse to do our part, blame others and offer no self-sacrifice, what are we doing? Are we offering ourselves up to God? Or are we busy being so self-contained that we believe this pandemic is somehow a pause rather than an awakening?

A pause implies a stop in time, an interruption. An awakening is an act of awareness, a rousing from sleep.

Is God a pause or an awakening for you?

Is He an inconvenience or a necessity? 

Is your life really your own?

Is it better that one man die than a whole nation?

He did not say this on his own, but since he was high priest for that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation, and not only for the nation, but also to gather into one the dispersed children of God. 

So from that day on they planned to kill him

John 11:51-53

**Thank you to Father Dan at St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Ft.Wayne, Indiana for inspiring this post today**

Amplified

Acoustics contain the property of sound. Sound that bounces off walls and sends signals to our ears. Sound that reverberates, creates motion and sometimes creates a soothing peace. It is the action of sound that sends out waves that send signals back to us. But what is the sound that we are putting out?

When I preach, I listen- I comprehend. I hear. But this hearing is not natural, it is in the supernatural. The ears hear but the soul understands and converts the message. If the instrument of music sends out the sound, I am receiving the reverberation.

We hear by accepting the Word of God and putting it into action. It is a verb, a doing. It is not a stillness. But it is only in stillness that we hear. So the stillness comes before sound, comes before it all.

The Word of God is demanding and active, it is not passive. It requires us to be uncomfortable enough to change and to focus on ourselves, so that we become more like Him. As we turn our attention inward, this radiates outward. This is when we can turn the other cheek because then it doesn’t hurt.

It all started for me with a gospel passage I read one Sunday. It was God’s call within a call for me. That the sacrament of marriage is not just for me and my family but for all of you. That each of us are building blocks that form the foundation of the church. And as the stones are forming the very bottom, the sides, and  up to the top, the cracks in the foundation are forming. Our marriages are crumbling. And Christ is on his knees while we are asleep in the garden.

The verse that started my call within a call was this admonition, this cry from Christ, found in Luke 6:27:

But to you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you

At first glance I had heard it all before. Yes Lord I know.

No, no you don’t. He said. Read it again.

But to you who hear…

I couldn’t go any further. You who hear. You…who…HEAR. The admonition Christ gave was not to everyone. It was to anyone who had ears to hear.

The day before, I had been to a lecture by Dr. Scott Hahn who spoke about the sacrament of marriage. I could hardly stay in my seat as I felt God nudge me several times during his presentation. This is the foundation of the church. This is the blood. This is the cross. This is everything.

Dr. Hahn’s words disappeared for me, but the Lord’s did not.

Feed my sheep, I heard… twice

Feed …my… sheep

And the call was deep and wide. And it was present. It was NOW.

As Dr. Hahn said, as we pray the rosary, as we pray the Hail Mary’s, the Blessed Virgin, our mother is present in the now and at the hour of our death. It wasn’t the hour of death that scared me, it was the present. It was coming to the realization that Mary was praying for me Now. That the time was Now. That time was happening now. And that is what was certainly running out…

I came back from Dr. Hahn’s talk with a deeply abiding conviction. My marriage has been saved by Christ. It was the reason that I was a Christian after all. But was this something that I only shared and talked about in the confines of my own home? In small circles? Was I really being honest in the ways in which God saved my marriage, the issues we faced and the rebuilding that we did and are still doing? I was fearful, ashamed and sitting with all of it. Until I heard the words from the gospel passage again :

But to you who hear…

The greek word for hear is akouo pronounced (ak-oo-o). I hear, I listen, I comprehend by hearing the word of God. But it is more than that. How God can I hear you? How can I be one of the ones who is sure to hear the next words out of your mouth?

The word akouo is the root of the english term acoustics. Acoustics are the property of sound. It is God audible. But how great is our hearing?

Acoustics is sound reproduced mechanically rather than electronically. It is not manufactured. It is of, relating to, or being a musical instrument whose sound is not electronically modified. It is sound that is pure and whole and not manufactured.

This was the hearing God was talking about. No enhancement. No enhancing of our own sound but instead allowing His sound to reverberate not off walls but instead the depths of our souls. That the word of God was not changed or altered or manufactured but instead pure and holy and true. And that sound, that sound in its purest form resonating in my ears, in your ears and down into the deepest darkest places. How can we read the rest of the gospel sentence if we cannot hear. We cannot.

And so with my newfound discovery I readied and steadied myself to HEAR the word of God. But not just to hear, but to HEAR. To listen to scripture as a an acoustic guitar with no amplifier, with its breaks and rhythms and strings and hard pauses. With the purity of finger to string and breath and pain in my fingers from producing rich sound. It is not manufactured but produced by the soul. And God’s Holy word became the acoustics, my soul the wall of sound and suddenly there was no need for an amplifier.

The next part of the gospel came like a rushing wind…

Love your enemies

And that’s when I heard it. That’s when I heard the call within a call.

And who is your enemy?

Your husband. 

What, what Lord are you talking about! These were not the next words I expected to hear and certainly not the call I was expecting.

This is the state of marriages, the Lord said. This is what they hear.

I was spinning. It was a great sadness. I was overcome with the crashing of the verse, the real truth, the lack of amplifier. It was rawer than I had ever expected and full of sorrow. What was breaking up the church? We were.

Let the one who among you is without sin be the first to throw a stone

The stone had been in my hand. I had felt its hard and abrasive outsides. It was impenetrable. And the world swallowed my marriage alive.

But I was no longer in the world, I was in God’s church. But the same monster, the same Satan who had deeply embedded his fingers into me was the same Satan who had managed to get through the church of Jesus Christ.

Who is my enemy?

And God showed me the thoughts of so many. Marriages in separation. Marriages on the verge of divorce. Divorce itself. Excuses. Abortion. Broken families. Children with multiple fathers and mothers. Fighting and chaos and the killing of each other. There are knives in our hands.

We talk about the atheist and secularist as the murderers of our faith, but we have named the wrong suspect.

Who is my enemy?

I look around and see that it is us. We are the enemies of our own church. We are the betrayers of Christ.

If we do not start rebuilding our marriages, being honest with each other, shouting out, “Crucify Him!” we will never get better. Because it is your marriage that effects my marriage that effects my children that effects my church. Our marriages are sacramental, they do not belong to us, they belong to God. And as Christ hangs on the tree at the center of every mass we celebrate, we spit on him, roll dice for his garments and crucify him all over again; all before accepting his body, blood, soul and divinity and pretending that we are ok to do so.

So this is a call to action. Are we ready to stand with Christ and fight the evil one, the dragon, the accuser and destroyer of our faith, or will we simply meld into the world, pointing to self and saying that our behavior is ok? Change only begins when we recognize our enemy. And this enemy is not our spouse.

Jesus’ demands and commands go far beyond what we think and feel. He requires greater. And the last part of the verse…

Here. Here is my other cheek!!!!!!!!!!!!!