This Palm Sunday’s second reading (Philippians 2:5-11), speaks of the “self-emptying”
of the Son of God
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death--
even death on a cross.
Saint Paul invites us to “let the same mind be in us that was in Christ Jesus.” In
other words, in a society where so many people want to be “social media influencers”
and famous, we are invited to follow a different path, that of Christ, in unity with Him.
We are invited to be humble, which means letting God be big and great in our lives,
taking a back seat to Him Who knows all things and holds us safely in the palm of His
Saint Augustine (+430) reminds us that “one cannot attain to love except through
humility” and “one cannot reach the kingdom of Heaven except by humility.”
Yours in Christ,
This Sunday’s second reading (Hebrews 5:5-10) reveals the intimacy
between the Son and the Father. “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up
prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears…and he was heard
because of his reverent submission.” By grace, we share in such intimacy.
Fred Craddock, Jr. (+2015), originally from rural Tennessee, was a
Professor of Preaching at Emory University in Atlanta and an ordained minister in
the Disciples of Christ Church. His storytelling is unique and intriguing. Here is
one very short story that, for me, speaks to divine intimacy. Indeed, in giving us
the Our Father, Jesus invites us to pray with Him.
I remember Mrs. Foster—you don’t know Mrs. Foster—when
her mother was dying of cancer, and Mrs. Foster wanted me to come
to the house and have prayer and scripture with her mother, which I
did. When I got to the house, she handed me a Lutheran prayer book
in German. I said, “I thought your mother was United Methodist?”
She said, “She was. She married my father, who was
Methodist, and they were together in the church for over 40 years.”
I said, “What’s this?”
And she said, “My mother came from the old country when
she was a teenager. She’s from Germany, and it would mean a lot to
her if you would read the Lord’s prayer in German.”
I read her the Lord’s prayer in German, and that dying woman
mouthed the words and smiled.
(From Craddock Stories, 2001, Chalice Press, St. Louis, MO)
Fellow Lenten pilgrim with you,
Mother Teresa (of Calcutta, +1997) says, “Joy is a net of love by which we catch
souls”. May her words echo in a special way this coming Sunday, which is known to
many as Laetare Sunday. Laetare Sunday, always the fourth, or middle, Sunday of
Lent is so called from the first words of the Introit (opening verse) at Mass,
“Laetare Jerusalem” (“Rejoice, O Jerusalem”). It is sometimes called Rose Sunday
(referring to the color for the day).
On this day, the vestments are indeed rose in color. Rose includes the violet of penance
and the white of Easter, of the victory of divine love. In this, rose captures the “not yet
and already” of our Christian pilgrimage. We are on a journey, and have not fully arrived
at our destination, which is perfect oneness with God in love. And, yet, we are held by
God already, in love. Another (Saint) Thérèse (of Lisieux, +1897) expresses this
unbelievably well in her autobiography, Story of a Soul. She so believes in the already
that, when asked about Heaven, she responds, “I do not know what more I could
have in Heaven, except that I shall see God. As for being with Him, I am always
that, even here on earth.”
Our life as disciples of Christ is a life of joy—not bubbly emotional joy, but deep, quiet
joy—the joy of God. Such joy is ours for the experiencing, even in the midst of great
challenge. But it must be shared. Do we share the joy of God with those around us?
As we continue our Lenten journey, let us hold onto the One Who holds us, bearing in
mind the words of St. Augustine (+430):
In the house of God there is never ending festival; the angel choir makes
eternal holiday; the presence of God's face gives joy that never fails.
Yours in the joy of God,
Our Lenten journey is one to deeper relationship with our Lord, Jesus Christ, who
gives Himself to us. He gives Himself in an “extreme” way on the Cross. From
the outside, the Cross is tragedy. From the inside, from the divine vantage point,
because it is divine Love poured forth, the Cross is power and wisdom. St. Paul
says this in this Sunday’s second reading (1 Corinthians 1:18-25). Let us pray
for an increase in faith, that we might truly
proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness
to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks,
Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
I offer you three quotes about the Cross, for your Lenten meditation:
God created through love and for love. God did not create anything except
love itself, and the means to love. He created love in all its forms. He
created beings capable of love from all possible distances. Because no
other could do it, he himself went to the greatest possible distance, the
infinite distance. This infinite distance between God and God, this supreme
tearing apart, this agony beyond all others, this marvel of love, is the
Simone Weil (+1943), French social activist and mystic
How precious the gift of the cross, how splendid to contemplate! In the
cross there is no mingling of good and evil, as in the tree of paradise: it is
wholly beautiful to behold and good to taste. The fruit of this tree is not
death but life, not darkness but light. This tree does not cast us out of
paradise, but opens the way for our return.
St. Theodore the Studite (+826), Byzantine Greek monk
There is no evil to be faced that Christ does not face with us. There is no
enemy that Christ has not already conquered. There is no cross to bear
that Christ has not already borne for us, and does not now bear with
us. And on the far side of every cross we find the newness of life in the
Holy Spirit, that new life which will reach its fulfillment in the resurrection.
This is our faith. This is our witness before the world.
Pope John Paul II
Journeying with you to deeper relationship with our Lord, Jesus Christ,