the crowning with thorns

“The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head.  They clothed him in a purple robe and went up to him again and again, saying, ‘Hail, king of the Jews!’ And they struck him in the face.”  John 19:2-3

a crown is always associated with power and authority.  a symbol of one’s superiority over his subjects.  it stands for royalty, pride, grandeur, wealth and pomp. 

but not the crown of Jesus.  it was made of thorns that pierced his head and caused blood to gush on his face.  his crown was a symbol of humility,  sacrifice and love. 

as human beings, it is in our nature to be drawn to that shining, sparkling crown which looks  magnificent on top of our heads.  we think that just because we wear one,  everybody would look up to us. then it will lead us to think that we are far better than everybody else who does not wear one. 

(please take note: we may also refer to physical beauty, wealth, power, fame as our crown.) 

but what if that crown gets lost? maybe stolen or perhaps taken away? and what if that crown is the only  source of our pride and joy? of our confidence and security?  what then  becomes of us minus the crown?  we feel worthless.  we  feel empty.

the crown of Jesus is way too painful to wear.  it requires the greatest and absolute self-sacrifice.  a self-denial that does not diminish, but rather increases self-worth. 

in the natural order of life, we are all part of God’s grand design.  though we are easily attracted to what is superficial, our instincts also move us to reach out and look after one another.  it is when we go against this basic human compassion, that we begin to be less than what the Lord has planned us to be. 

it is when we focus on the well-being of others that we experience true and genuine happiness.  because with the realization that we were able to serve, we validate our status as part of one community; that is God’s family.  and the more sacrifice that our service necessitates, the more meaningful our existence becomes.

we are also heirs to a kingdom.  the kingdom of God that lasts forever.  if we accept this truth, then we should likewise be ready, willing and honored to wear the crown of thorns.

Advertisements

the scourging at the pillar

“From the sole of the foot to the head there is no sound spot; wounds, bruises, open sores not dressed, not bandaged, nor soothed with oil.”  Isaiah 1:6

there was not much details in the four gospels about the scourging of Jesus. the most vivid depiction that i ever witnessed was from the motion picture “passion of the Christ”. i almost cannot stand to watch that scene at all.  but i still did. and  it was like i also felt Jesus’ suffering when i did.

back in our hometown, bhoy participated in flagellation rites on Good Friday when we were younger.  together with our childhood friends, they made whips out of  short bamboo sticks or metal chains tied to nylon cords.  they designed banana leaves to serve as long skirts for their costumes. then they wore masks made from old shirts to cover their heads.  at dawn, they went to church to repent and pray.  then they proceeded to a riverbank where they hit their backs until tender.  that was the time they would lightly slash about one centimeter line patterns on their backs with a razor blade.  there would be a hundred wounds, more or less, which they will scourge over and over, as they walk around town under the scorching heat of the sun barefoot.

when i asked him why he had to do it, he said it was his panata.  a panata is a tagalog word which means repayment for a prayer or wish that was granted.  he never told me what his prayer or wish was.  but what i was certain of, those wounds surely hurt.

compare those wounds to what our Lord had to bear.  they are not even close.  yet both of them have a prayer.   this Holy Tuesday, whatever we are suffering from, let us all remember that our Lord suffered way much more than he ever deserved.  we can scourge ourselves all we want, but we can never repay the life that was sacrificed for our redemption. 

let our panata be that we no longer add more to what the Lord had already suffered.  instead, let us not waste our pain.  but from it, let the healing follow.

the agony in the garden

“Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him.  On reaching the place, he said to them, ‘Pray that you will not fall into temptation.’  He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, ‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.’  An angel from heaven appeared to him and strenthened him.  And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” Luke 22: 39-44

agony is defined as intense feeling of suffering;  acute mental or physical pain; extreme pain or anguish; torment; distress.  Jesus was in agony when he prayed in the garden of Gethsemane, because he knew what would take place to save us from eternal damnation.  he offered his life as the Father willed it for our salvation. 

now there are supporting characters in this the greatest story ever told, who played very crucial roles.  Judas Iscariot and Peter.  Judas betrayed Jesus.  Peter denied Jesus three times.  both felt deep remorse, shame and sadness after they realized what they had done.  Judas found a way out.  he hanged hmself to a tree shortly  after that infamous kiss of betrayal.  Peter also tried to find a way out too.  he ran to the tomb where Jesus was buried.  Judas became desperate.  Peter was hopeful.

we can never emphatize with Jesus’ agony in the garden.  mere mortals, in my perception, would never be able to endure what Jesus had to.  but all of us can be a Judas or a Peter.  we all commit sins and feel intense agony over what we had done, or did not do. 

but then again, like Judas, we can ignore the relevance of the Cross and live in agony for the rest of our lives, feel sorry and wallow in the throes of desperation. if we do, then Jesus’ suffering and death on the Cross would be all in vain.

Jesus died because of our sins.  we already know that. yet we still commit sins over and over again.  but if we truly believe in his promise of redemption and what the Cross stand for, we should run to Him like Peter did.  because when we are truly sorry and sincere, his mercy and forgiveness is sufficient and infinite.

as Jesus prayed in the garden, let us put ourselves beside him in union with his suffering, so that His profound agony would have a deeper meaning in our lives. 

today is Holy Monday.  let us medidate on the agony of Jesus Christ  in Gethsemane.

 *inspired by  “Peter and Judas: A Lesson of Hope and Humility”

 http://www.catholic.org/clife/lent/story.php?id=35983

by Jennifer Hartline, a grateful Catholic, an Army wife and mother of four precious children (one in Heaven).  She is a contributing writer for Catholic Online on topics of Catholic faith, family, Life and politics.  She is also a serious chocoholic.  Visit her at My Chocolate Heart. 

Why is this Week Called Holy?

 
Why is this Week Called Holy?
Take This Cup
By Deacon Keith Fournier
3/26/2010

repost from Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

We all experience “Gethsemanes” in our own lives; times of difficulty, deep sorrow, loss, distress, fear and anguish.

It is often those times and circumstances that become the very path to holiness if we learn to love as He loves. Our Christian vocation is to live as He lives, to love as He loves and to thereby become “holy” as He is holy. We are invited to embrace the way of surrendered love.

It is often those times and circumstances that become the very path to holiness if we learn to love as He loves. Our Christian vocation is to live as He lives, to love as He loves and to thereby become

CHESAPEAKE, VA. (Catholic Online) – “Then going out he went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. When he arrived at the place he said to them, “Pray that you may not undergo the test.” After withdrawing about a stone’s throw from them and kneeling, he prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done.”

(And to strengthen him an angel from heaven appeared to him. He was in such agony and he prayed so fervently that his sweat became like drops of blood falling on the ground.) When he rose from prayer -and returned to his disciples- he found them sleeping from grief. He said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not undergo the test.” (Luke 22: 39-42)

This Sunday we enter into Holy Week. Christians will gather in sanctuaries throughout the world and wave Palm branches in imitation of those who lined the streets at Jesus´ triumphal entry. We will follow the path of His struggle, the way of His rejection and we will be invited to climb the mountain of His great saving act of unmerited selfless Divine love.

During this week we are invited to enter into His pattern of surrendered love; to walk this way with Jesus, who, in His Sacred humanity, teaches us the path to our own transformation. The agony in that garden called Gethsemane shows us a very human Jesus.

Yes, He was Divine and, because of that, He alone could do for us what we could not do for ourselves, restoring through His passion and death the broken relationship between God and the people whom He fashioned for love and communion. With His outstretched arms, He bridged the gap between heaven and earth. In His triumph over death he defeated the last enemy and began the new creation.

In His Sacred humanity this man Jesus shows each of us how to live differently. We are invited to greet and embrace even that which we do not want as the very means of transformation. We have been given the grace to accept difficulties, which, when embraced in love, can actually become a path to our redemption.

The author of the letter to the Hebrews wrote “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 14:15)

The Christian tradition insists that even undeserved and unmerited suffering, when joined in love to the sufferings of Jesus Christ, can produce extraordinary fruit within us and around us. This is the mystery of suffering in the Christian life.
 
Saint Jose Maria Escriva once wrote “The great Christian revolution has been to convert pain into fruitful suffering and to turn a bad thing into something good. We have deprived the devil of this weapon; and with it we can conquer eternity.”

How do we treat those circumstances that cause us to struggle? How do we deal with what we find unpleasant? Do we practice an “adult” form of avoidance and run, acting as if it will all just go away like when children cover their eyes? Or do we believe that even unpleasant things and “difficult” people can actually be gifts from the hands of a loving God who invites us to walk in the way of His Son?

How do we deal with unresolved conflicts or troubling relationships? Do we work toward resolution, making “love our aim” (1 Cor. 14:7), or do we avoid them, thinking they will just go away if we “pretend” they don´t exist?

Now is the time, during this week we call “Holy”, to join the revolution of which this great saint writes. After all, why do we call this week “Holy”? I suggest two among many reasons.

First, the story of this week is the story of an all Holy God who showed the depth of His love through the complete emptying of Himself, in and through the Passion of His Son. Second, it is holy because we are invited into that life and way of holiness that Jesus demonstrated during all of the events that we will soon commemorate.

In the Old Testament the word often translated as “holy” literally meant- to be set aside, consecrated, for God. In Jesus Christ it now means even more. We who are baptized into Him are invited to live our lives now, in Him. To love as He loves; to pray as He prays, to walk as He walks, to suffer as He suffers; to confront evil the way He does.

All of us inevitably experience “Gethsemanes” in our own lives, times of difficulty, deep sorrow, loss, distress, fear and anguish. Friends may have betrayed us, or those whom we love may have rejected us. Maybe things about our lives are being exposed, brought into the light, and it is “uncomfortable”.

It is often those times and circumstances that become the very path to holiness if we learn to love as He loves. Our Christian vocation is to live as He lives, to love as He loves and to thereby become “holy” as He is holy. We are invited to embrace the way of surrendered love.

“Take this cup”. It is a very human request. What is the cup we are being asked to drink? Let us decide today to make the choice and drink, saying as we do “not my will but yours be done” When we live and love this way, the very people and circumstances that once seemed to be so difficult can become the path to freedom and we learn to walk the way of forgiving love with Him as His redemptive mission continues through time. 
 – – –
Deacon Keith Fournier asks that you join with us and help in this vital mission by sending this article to your family, friends, and neighbors and adding our link (www.catholic.org) to your own website, blog or social network. Let us broadcast, we are PROUD TO BE CATHOLIC

message sent

“And the angel said to her ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  And behold, you will conceive in your womb and you shall bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.  He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom, there will be no end.’…

…And Mary said ‘Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; be it done unto me according to your word.’ And the angel departed from her.” Luke 1:30-33, 38

have you ever wondered how simple misunderstandings result to  severed ties, destroyed friendships, couples split-up and broken families?  how about workplace foul-ups?  ha-ha, now tell me about it.

yesterday was my lucky day.

a corporate volcano spewed verbal pyroclastics and an emotional flow of  utter annoyance  from the intense heat had taken place.  if  i had given into temptation, a full-blown eruption could have ensued.  but thank God,  i was able to hold my composure, and my joyful nature prevailed. 

it all started with a simple email, the response of which should have been the answer to my query, or a simple idk ( i don’t know).  but instead the recipient confronted me asking me why i sent him the email, that he was not the right person to send it to, that he doesn’t have any idea of what i was asking for.  i tried to reason out with him but instead his voice took on a higher and angrier tone.  i was dumbfounded because i have absolutely no idea where all that furor was coming from.

God knows how much patience kept my tolerance to a manageable level.  until finally the guy got tired, probably because he did not get the reaction that he expected.  he started to walk away.  as he did, when i realized he already let his guard down, i told him with poise and dignity intact,  “your reply could have been just a simple yes, no or i don’t know.  no more, no less.”  we could have spent our time in more productive endeavors, and preserved a bit of whatever is left of the wee respect that we still have for him.

the trouble with people is, sometimes we tend to read between the lines instead of accepting the message at face value.  we are always suspicious that maybe, we are told with what was meant otherwise.  if we keep living in doubt, then where will we find certainty?

today is the feast of the Annunciation.  when the angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she will be the mother of God, indeed she was full of grace, she had enough faith to believe.  just imagine if she did not say “let it be done unto me according to your word”

Jesus is the message sent by our Father for our salvation.  let us then, pray for discernment.  so that when we respond, it wouldn’t rot in the outbox.  but rather, by our acts of faith, we would be able to forward them.  and through us, that same message of  God would be sent.

no looking back

“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind…No more shall there be an infant that lives but a few days, or an old man who does not fill out his days, for the child shall die a hundred years old, and the sinner a  hundred years old shall be accursed.  They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.”  Isaiah 65: 17, 20-21

how ironic it was, that during Lent, “surviving Christmas” was on tv last night.  there was not much of a choice, because for weeks now, the different networks had presented almost the same set of movies, just on different time slots.

going back to the movie…it starred Ben Affleck and Christina Applegate.  it was a comedy about a man who was willing to pay a huge amount of money to a family just to spend Christmas with him.  it was an odd story, and it got me bored after a while.  (i prefer Ben in action or drama like ‘reindeer games’ and ‘changing lanes’.)

but somehow, the scene in which he stared sadly outside his window on Christmas morning caught my attention.    drew (ben) watched other people in their respective windows just across his  apartment.  one thing is common except for one. they celebrated Christmas together as family.  and that scene moved me to tears because it reminded me of daddy and how our following Christmases will never be the same again without him.

as i remembered how sad it was, my mind travelled back to the time when he was still with us.  how i have been as a daughter to him.  and i wondered if i felt short of his expectations of me.  or if he was proud of what i had become.  how daddy really felt about his eldest daughter, i will never ever know.

i realized that when my mind wanders back to the past, it evokes a certain kind of pain.  the pain which emanates from the mistakes that i made.  or maybe call them bad choices.  because only later did i realize, that in everything that i did, there were times that things didn’t really work out as planned.  even with good intentions.  and in every moment that they didn’t, it was not only me who gets disappointed and hurt.  but all those who truly love and care for me.  such as my daddy and mommy.

funny to mention it here.  but they say it’s hard to look back when you have stiff neck.  i’d say it’s best not to look back at all.  because when i do, i see every detail of not only what was beautiful and happy, but the ugly and sad truth as well.

i’d say it’s best to carry on.  because the past had already served its purpose.  it already strengthened a person’s character.  it already developed one’s personality.  and it already enhanced the beauty of a human being, so much so that its soul transcends to a higher level.  and a deeper meaning of one’s existence is realized.  a better self evolves.  what was once a dark past, becomes a radiant present.

i’d say i move on. as if i have stiff neck.  by God’s grace and mercy, i move on as a better person… that is, an authentic blend of past experiences, lessons learned and memories that really matter.  be they happy or sad, painful or sweet. 

there’s no need to look back.  my significant past becomes the essence of me…