Day 100- The Mile I stopped to wash your feet

“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.”

St. Teresa of Calcutta

It is a concept that Mother Teresa touted but was little understood by the masses.  Person to person interaction. The act of one. 

Although the culture lifts up Mother Teresa as a demi-god, her heart is often misunderstood. Her lessons are deeper and more profound then simply serving the poor and the dying.

Her heart was for the dignity of the human person. The right to die with love. And the understanding that we are all poor and dying, each of us in our way.

As a young Jewish girl, Mother Teresa’s impact on my life was profound and I invested in her philosophy of servitude and deep love. In her acts of kindness and humility, I found the God of love, and unconsciously my soul opened up when it contemplated service to others.

As a sexual abuse survivor living in the 1990’s, there were no outlets of help. My cries became muted and I had to move on. My body was dead but my soul was not, in fact it was the only thing that was keeping me alive…

It is important to note that our deepest purpose comes from our deepest pain. In God’s economy, he uses it all, every last bit of it. In understanding Mother Teresa’s profound love in service, I found a way to express my pain in a tangible and healthy way, pouring myself out like a libation for others. The more I gave, the more I healed, and I soon found myself at the feet of the least and lost of our society.

How was I able to serve them? That’s easy.

I was one of them.

The difference for me from death to life was the understanding that self-loathing is different than humility. Hating one’s self is contradictory to the very essence of who God is, as I learned later on as a Christian. That we are made in the image and likeness of our Heavenly Father, and God cannot hate himself. 

Therefore, humility was an entirely new concept to me. That I did not have to hate myself to love God. No, quite the opposite was true! I had to love myself in order to love Him and serve Him. It was only after this great epiphany that I was able to heal.

I served whoever I could and made it my life. I started when I was sixteen and never stopped. The ability to begin the healing process without a single word spoken was powerful and set the stage for the plans that God had for my life. It seemed that there was no triumph or tribulation that I couldn’t endure- until I couldn’t.

You see service without the consciousness of God is simply that- service. It is self-reliant and many times full of pride- indulging ourselves in our “good works” to show the world. Service becomes a resume and an ego builder, and not an act of humility before the divine master, even for those of us that have committed our lives to public service.

And so through my transformation of being in Christ, my healing through recovery, and my service back to my sisters who were also victims of sexual abuse, I learned how to wash the feet of my Master.

We often think of this scene with Jesus, the washing of the feet, as us having to go out and wash the feet of the “poor” in the secular sense. If in fact you look at the sentence again, Jesus admonishes his followers to wash “one another’s feet.” In other words, each disciple should wash the feet of the other disciple. He is saying in fact to you, who do you consider your equal? Wash that person’s feet.

That is humility.

This will look different for everyone. As you examine this verse again and think of your colleagues or those you identify most with, the thought of serving those people may be more difficult for you than to go out and feed the homeless. This is exactly what Jesus is talking about. The kind of service that nobody sees. The kind that you wouldn’t tell anyone about.

We are supposed to serve those people that God has brought into our lives, even if some of those people are in our lives temporarily. It could be people you work with, family members, ministries you are involved with, or friends.

If it is easy, you are probably not serving the right group of people, try again. 

“For if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.” Luke 6:32

Day 99- The Truthful Mile

“What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?” Matthew 26:15

Say it. Say it as if you said it. Because you did. You betrayed God.

When you weren’t kind. When you were unforgiving. When you decided to follow only three of the ten commandments  because that is what is convenient for you. You’ve deemed it ok. You’ve played God.

“What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?”

What about supporting abortion.  You’ve decided that it was ok to take a life. You continue to support abortion.  You’ve deemed it ok. You’ve played God.

“What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?”

Your husband or your wife do not make you happy anymore. You’ve decided to leave. You have found another partner even before you are divorced.  You’ve deemed it ok. You’ve played God.

“What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?”

You have decided that you don’t want anymore children. You’ve chosen to close your womb. You are not open to the possibility that the next child you have may be the President or even the next Pope. You’ve deemed it ok. You’ve played God.

“What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?”

Somebody has told you the truth. You don’t like it. You decide your truth goes down easier. Your mind and heart are closed to what God has to say. You’ve deemed it ok. You’ve played God.

“What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?”

What is the price of betrayal? Is it your happiness? Your wealth? Your unwillingness?

And at what expense does it come? The cost of a marriage? The cost of a family? The cost of your relationship with God?

In these last days, the words of Judas are for us to ponder, left for all eternity, imprinted in God’s Word. His question is our question, his thought our thought. We cannot take them out of context. Every word in the bible is there for our benefit.

If the words don’t convict you, than you are not receiving them. If you are open, they will dance in your soul and stir you to repentance. God is the giver of life and death. We are not our own masters. Whether you believe this or not is of no consequence in God’s kingdom. God will still be God. 

The truth is a beast if you make it to be. The ancient rules a binding if you do not understand their freedom. Obedience is a gift and not a curse. Adherence to rituals alone is not love, it is death.

As you find yourself open or closed to this meditation, ask yourself this question- why is this making me angry? or sad? or introspective? None of this I write is on my own, every word is from the word of God.

He therefore let you be afflicted with hunger, and then fed you with manna, a food unknown to you and your ancestors, so you might know that it is not by bread alone that people live, but by all that comes forth from the mouth of the Lord. The clothing did not fall from you in tatters, nor did your feet swell these forty years. So you must know in your heart that, even as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord, your God, disciplines you. Therefore, keep the commandments of the Lord, your God, by walking in his ways and fearing him.

Deuteronomy 8:3-6

 

 

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 96- The Loneliest Mile

“But Mary Magdalene and the other Mary remained sitting there, facing the tomb.” Matthew 27:61

“One of the first signs of the beginning of understanding is the wish to die. This life appears unbearable, another unattainable. One is no longer ashamed of wanting to die; one asks to be moved from the old cell, which one hates, to a new one, which one will only in time come to hate. In this there is also a residue of belief that during the move the master will chance to come along the corridor, look at the prisoner and say: “This man is not to be locked up again, He is to come with me.”
― Franz Kafka, Blue Octavo Notebook

(Listen to “On the Nature of Daylight” while you read today’s piece)

A tomb is a place where the dead go to die. Where the soul leaves the body. Where breath is not present. Where life is no more.

Inside the tomb, there is hollow and darkness. No love, just pain. The hope of light is lost and the dawn of daylight is far away. We ache at the thought of our loved one being lost to the night forever, and grieve at the passage of time, the regret of loss, and the emotions which consume us. There is no cure for broken heartedness. There is only the passage of time.

While some of us flee and fail to grieve, move on with our daily lives to forget, others stay beside the grave, beside the tomb. We feel every bit of our grief, allow time to stop.

We allow our emotions to consume us, guard the headstone, and lay at the feet of the one we love. We mourn at loss, make peace with the sky, but cannot see its face. We miss the smell of life, the joy of closeness and the flesh that He once wore.

We are alone.

Sitting next to the tomb is unfulfilling and hollow, but we cannot move- He still beckons us. While others have gone astray, we remain embracing, steadfast and tears. It does not matter that there is just us. We guard Him now as we guarded Him then. The love still in our hearts. The wounds still in our hands. The eternity we still carry. The blood that sustains us, running through our veins.

We stay because He is our Master. We stay because He is our friend. We stay because never before have our hearts been touched in such a way as this.

We stay because it is alright to grieve.

Who else will guard His tomb? They have all went away- every one of them. We remain. The weak things of this world. The vision of two lowly women in the world’s eyes guarding the King of the Universe.

And even though a stone is in our way, the compulsion for it to move is greater. It is greater than us, of our souls and of our being. It is our fiat.

I will not leave Him because I love Him. Because He trusts me. Because He knows that I will stay.

Let the night bring His death but the day His resurrection. May I see what I cannot see now. The morning of hope. The fruit of loss. And the remembrance of everything that I have gained.

No, tomorrow is not promised but He is. I AM. Not I was. He is present, alive, here- yes, even in death.

In His finality I am sorrowful, but hopeful of his triumphant return. The strings of the violin, my tears, His pain, and the wood that bore His body. That is all gone now. So I will sit and wait for my heart to return to me. The lover of my soul. The one that knows every breath of me.

My love, you are the eternity in my heart. The song in my tears. You are everything. And I will wait until you rise again in your triumphant procession. The Easter that you created. The rising you predicted. I will use my tears to water the soil surrounding your grave.

Lord, you are and always will be the reason I exist, the cry of my heart, the depth of my soul. Your song is joy. The cross is my joy. Rest now my love while I sit by and let you sleep while I keep watch- as you do for me every moment of my life. I look forward to your coming, your awakening and mine, when we will see each other again face to face. When I will touch your lips and your hands.

You transcend time. 

My risen Savior, the tomb is just the beginning of your emergence. Your song. The silent way you tell us that everything will be o.k. I know that you have not forsaken me.

So I will remain sitting here, facing the tomb.

 

 

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**

Be the One to the One

“What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it?
Luke 15:4 NABRE

Sometimes we feel as if we can’t make a difference. That the small things we do or say have no impact. Well let me tell you a story.

One of my officers responded to a suicide call whereby the grace of God, he arrived before the young man went through with it. He was able to get him out of the house safely and into a mental health facility. The young man had suffered for years with depression and other mental health problems. But the officer did not stop there. He befriended the man, called him, cared for him, encouraged him to give his life to God and to go back to church. That week, the man made amends with his family, began attending church and the universe fell into place for him. But the very next week while all was the best it had ever been, the young man died in a horrific car accident with his best friend,  both leaving behind wives and young children.

The officer was devastated. Through tears he said to me, “but we had plans to go to church together.” Then silence. Several weeks later, I received a call from the young man’s father to go over the return of his son’s property. It was then that he said this to me. “Melissa, I have to share with you what this officer did for my son. All his life he struggled. He was going downhill. This officer befriended my son, brought him back to God and saved my son’s life. That week in therapy,  my son asked me for my forgiveness, we hugged and I had the peace in my heart that I had prayed for for so long. He became a better person, asked forgiveness from everyone in the family and came back to church. So at the funeral in my despair, I thanked God. I did not lose my son to suicide because of this officer. My son was lost and was found and returned to God in peace as I had always prayed.  Yes it hurts to lose my son, but I have peace in my heart because of what your officer did.  I will never have to live with the image of my son taking his own life.”

The story moved me more than any other I had ever heard. It took me days, maybe even weeks to reflect on it. How the power of one effected so many and how we have that same power daily to effect that same change. Today, reflect and ask God to send you one. Or if you know the one, go after them. We are made to bring souls to God, and this is our purpose. Reflect on this officer’s story to remember the Holy Spirit, the power that the Lord has given you. Reach out to that one today and set the earth on fire for the love of God.

Pass it on…