The cross and the lady beneath

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It is only fitting that the day after the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross is the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows, for although the cross is exalted for our redemption that redemption was at a cost. Our Lady of Sorrows is a reminder of that cost. It was Mary who witnessed the price of salvation, it was she who endured the suffering of her Son and it is she who bears the sorrow of our sin. It was through Mary’s fidelity to God that she bore Jesus, and that fidelity is consistent through his ministry. Her sorrow is predicted by Simeon at the presentation, she bears the sorrow of the flight into Egypt during the Martyrdom of the Innocents, the loss of Jesus in the Temple and the sorrows of Cavalry; Jesus death upon the cross, receiving his lifeless body and his burial. It is her sorrows that realize the price of sin, her grace that bears these sorrows as a price of our redemption. Her willingness to accept these sorrows on our behalf, are proof positive of her willing grace to intercede on our behalf

I never really did finish this post. The above is from previous years. Every year the coincidence of the Cross and Mary’s sorrows leaps at me. The Cross, an instrument of torment and of fear. An instrument of cruelty and inhumanity, and yet it is exulted. It is raised up and adored. But why, because it killed someone? Because it killed many? A landscape littered with crosses and their decaying bodies were common throughout the Roman Empire, but why celebrate them? The one Cross gives reason, the Sacred Cross. That Sacred Cross. The Cross upon which the LORD hung, it was that particular Cross that redeemed the world. That Cross. Upon it hung our sins and failure, and condemnation. Upon it the forgiveness and the redemption that has set us free. But still, worship an instrument of terror and pain? No, that is not the case. The point is we celebrate one Cross, one in particular that is the Cross of our LORD. One Cross is exalted, the Cross of salvation. Ponder the symbol of salvation, the symbol of Christianity. No, it was not two intersecting beams because they brought horror to the original Christians. The symbol in fact was Pisces, the fish. The Pontiff wears a fisherman’s ring, a fisher of men. The Cross, a reminder of the price paid. The price of redemption, and the price was great. Who knew that price, who witnessed the ransom? Who was there? Mary, our Lady of Sorrows. She stood beneath that Cross, the one that bore her Son the redeemer, the voice of Christian witness. Our Lady of Sorrows. Coincidence that the Exaltation of the Cross and the Sorrows of Mary are remembered side by side? I think not

I thought of this juxtaposition. The Mother of God standing beneath the Crucifix, the Cross that bore Her Son. Of course I could understand her agony and her pain and her suffering, but what could I say? How can I describe it, my mind went blank. But then the Pope spoke. He spoke about women standing in a line, standing outside a prison. Standing outside waiting to see their sons. Their sons incarcerated for crimes horrific and scandalous. Their sons, murders and thieves and villains. Their sons horrific, yet still their sons. Still their sons, the ones they carried and the flesh they bore. The flesh that hung in a cross, their flesh and they stood by it. Certainly they too, the women outside a prison, were scandalized, and pierced, and wounded, and humiliated, and spat on. Because of association, and fidelity. But they stood there. The ladies beneath the cross. I understand the days, both days. I understand how they relate, and what they mean. It has been put into perspective and it has focus. The elevating of tortious Cross because of what had occurred on it. The memorial of the Cross and who stood beneath it, a remembrance of Mary’s sorrows. Mary’s sorrows in our world today. With those women standing in line outside a prison, waiting to see their children, I wonder why they do not walk away. Why don’t they stand there humiliated? Who encouraged them to do so, who set the example? Mary, beneath a Cross.

Psychological operations on the Sea of Galilee

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God and Man. In today’s gospel reading the actions of Jesus and the actions of the Apostles needs to be compared. In that reading, after preaching to the crowds, Jesus tells the apostles to get into their boat and cross the lake. At that time Jesus dismisses the crowds goes to the mountaintop, and prays. Jesus often seeks solitude to pray.

Mt 14:22-33

For certain preaching to a large crowd had left him tired. For certain there were those in the crowd that eagerly listened to his word. For certain there were those in the crowd that sought to do harm. Allies and enemies. No wonder Jesus went to that mountaintop, to pray.

How similar the waves of people were to the waves of a stormy sea. Jesus told the disciples to get into a boat and cross the sea. A challenge? A storm kicks up, they panic. Who can think clearly with such pressure? They spot Jesus walking on the water. The Christ they had just walked with is barely recognizable? Would they have recognized him had the situation been different? Would they have recognized him from across a quiet street? They saw him walk on water in a violent storm. They cried out in fear, I wonder who they cried to? My guess is they cried to God. They got something right. Jesus went to the mountaintop to pray. Jesus said “take courage” “It is I “, and “do not be afraid”. Peter obeyed with a courageous response. ”

  • Storms mess with emotions, and they cloud judgement.
  • Navigating difficulties takes practice. It requires a plan.
  • It’s always a good idea to pray.

Peter said to him in reply, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” A prayer answered, and all goes well until Peter loses sight of Jesus. The violent storm caused him to shift his vision. Vision is clouded by fear and uncertainty. It is blinded by all that comprises the storm. How easy is it to stay focused amongst chaos? Peter begins to sink. Then he cries out “Lord save me.” Peter does something right. That cry is a prayer.

(a little side-note, probably not worth inserting)

Take note: Isn’t noise and chaos a great diversion?

Panic ! Panic! Panic! Panic! Panic!

Fear ! Fear! Fear!

Psychological operations (PSYOP) are planned operations to convey selected information and indicators to audiences to influence their emotions, motives, and objective reasoning, and ultimately the behavior of governments, organizations, groups, and individuals.

(end of side-note)

Isn’t it interesting how Jesus seeks solitude for prayer? Isn’t it difficult to maintain focus under certain situations? Don’t constant commotion and noise cloud judgement? Imagine trying to think clearly in a protest. Imagine trying to think clearly with a television blaring its opinions. Imagine trying to maintain peace while surrounded by antagonists. Jesus sought the mountaintop to pray in solitude. I wonder if those disciples appreciated the quiet after the storm. that’s the whisper of God mentioned in the first reading. 1 Kgs 19:9a, 11-13a. Here is a blurb from that reading:

but the LORD was not in the earthquake.
After the earthquake there was fire—
but the LORD was not in the fire.
After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound.
When he heard this,
Elijah hid his face in his cloak
and went and stood at the entrance of the cave

Storms seem popular today, people seem to enjoy the conflict. They enjoy taking sides. Elephants and Asses take note! They enjoy their opinions and their gangs. Politicians are gang members, they like to incite riots. They enjoy and thrive on the violence.Then, they toss out their solution hoping that no can think clearly in the midst of their storm. That’s the political storm of today.

Today the storm is turbulent and treacherous. It is violent and deadly. Such a social climate. Deadly. Jesus went to a mountaintop and prayed. Peter trusted in the LORD, yet amongst the violence he had trouble maintaining focus. Bluntly stated: quiet meditative contemplation, and prayer, and a life focused on Jesus Christ are worth remembering today. There is a storm on the horizon.

(yes, the post is about the importance of having a prayer-life)

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Go figure, and transfigure

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He thought quietly while staring at a blank sheet of paper, “half the year is through (sigh)”. “Gone, disappeared, vanquished”. He knew that from the reading Mt 17:1-9 as it always occurs halfway through the year as if it were the fulcrum of a seesaw. Oddly, he pondered, the story is also halfway through Mat’s gospel. He had passed the halfway point through life years back. Short, fat, bald and old; he was now an elder and at what point had life changed? When did he become the elder, the presbyter? He had studied some Greek in his youth, he knew presbyteros translates elder and the root presbys bluntly screams old man. At some point his life had changed. Mat’s passage had reminded him of that, and he needed something to say. He needed to write something before tomorrow morning. A deadline was looming.

The story was well-known, Jesus and a couple close disciples climb a mountain. On the top of that mountain Peter James and John had witnessed something about Jesus. The scripture stated “his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light.” He was transfigured, but what did that mean? And then the story mentions Moses and Elijah. And then the voice from the cloud “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased, listen to him.”

That last line spoke of an epiphany, God often spoke from clouds in the Old Testament. It was a cloud that led the Israelites on their exodus journey. Epiphanies are divine revelations and at that moment those disciples got a glimpse of the truth of that Jesus they had followed. Interesting but there must be more. Moses certainly was an important figure, they had followed Jesus as the Hebrews had followed Moses. Elijah the fiery prophet that urged a king to return to the God of Israel. For certain those disciples saw the Christ as prophet. The tent indicated they wished to remain stagnant, but scripture stated the LORD commanded them not to. That mountain top was not a journey complete. Scratching that bald head he pondered on how to shed light on a testament that was clear as day. His brow became furrowed, and his face red. His pencil lightly grazed the paper, its marks were more doodles than sentences.

Staring at that paper he thought, the transfiguration did not end at that mountain top, it was a point on a journey. A milestone, a shift of the teeter-tot. This, then that. The location is important. A moment when divinity was revealed. The tent hinted stability, they also hinted the feast of the tabernacle. Sukkot. The festival of booths. It is not just a moment when they witnessed the divine, it was a moment when they let the divine enter them. It was not simply the clouds that opened, so did their souls. They were not simply witnesses, but participants. And then the journey down. Like the seesaw they change directions, they go back to where they are from. A furrowed brow becomes a grimaced smile. Things are taking shape he thought.

On that journey down the mountain, were the disciples about to become the presbys? Elders? Certainly one can’t forget the timeline, time has a tendency to sneak up on people. At least that is what the short, fat, bald and old guy thought. Transfigured in the wrong direction (youth to old), but what of those disciples. They had walked with Christ for a while, and how did that walk influence them. Did they walk differently, or talk differently? How were they transfigured? The message on the mountaintop tells they saw something life changing. How did their life change? Was the change visible? Scratching his scalp he had to think yes. The old don’t act like the young. They look and act differently, and that is easy to notice. The disciples looked and acted differently too. They had to, and people must have noticed. Their manners must have changed, what they valued must have shifted. As they walked with Christ, they became like him? An analogy he pondered. A face illuminated? A spark to a bonfire? Young to old? A few quick scribbles on the paper about a thought to develop later. Fat fingers fidgeted with pencil and paper as he scrawled his text.

The grumpy, fat and bald and old man thought “of course those disciples had changed” such changes are expected to take place. No one expects a student to remain a student forever, eventually they take on the characteristics of the Master. If they don’t they are flunkies! Peter James and John are not flunkies! But if they changed what does that mean, what happened when they leave that mountain top.

“Sure, they changed” he scribbled on that piece of paper but did the world around them? There is the point. They changed, but the world did not. Their reception? A scratch of the chin, what does history say? History starts with the crucifixion, and continues with martyrdom. For certain they were changed, but there still were challenges to face. More than they knew. The world would not embrace their new-found discovery. Do they move forward or go back. Time moves in one direction, opinions and emotions teeter totter. To move forward with Christ is to walk into an opposition. For Christians, it isn’t Christ that changes. It’s the Christians that change, in fact they are commanded to. The command Jesus gave was “follow me” and to truly follow Him is to be transfigured. To follow him is to be changed. To follow Him is to become Christian and that changes ones appearance and demeanor. To follow Him is to confront an opponent.

A soft grumbling of the fat bald and red-faced old man could be heard as he put down the pencil and leaned back. Arm’s crossed and with his smuggest smile, he found a way to explain something that already was clear as day. He knew it was time for his reward ; couple of cookies and a small glass of milk. Sure his scalp and circumference and age suggested whiskey and cigar, but he had other ideas. Go figure.

 

Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord
Lectionary: 614

Dn 7:9-10, 13-14

Ps 97:1-2, 5-6, 9

2 Pt 1:16-19

Mt 17:1-9

 

Link

An interesting article published in the New York Times  By ROD DREHERAUG. 2, 2017 The link is here:

Trump Can’t Save American Christianity

“Today, we in the West owe an incalculable debt to the saint and his early medieval followers, whose visionary, disciplined faith bore spectacular fruit long after their deaths. This experience shows Christians that we have to think not in election cycles but in centuries.”

 

“In the early Middle Ages, the churches and the monasteries were those tiny arks carrying the faith and the faithful across a dark and stormy sea. They can be once again. And must.”