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Posts Tagged ‘Holy Week’

“Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor. “  (John 12:23-26)

My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

As we conclude our lenten remembrance of Jesus’ passion, crucifixion, and resurrection let us be sure that we maintain our focus on Jesus and Jesus alone! One of the problems some of us Christians have in observing Lent is that sometimes we place an excessive focus on our sinfulness – leading to an unhealthy and self-centered state of introspection and guilt. Yes, Jesus suffered and died for our sins, but our meditation during lent should not be focused on our sins or our hypocritical attempts to be holy.  Rather, we MUST focus on Jesus and  what He did for us in cleansing us of our sins and gaining the Victory Of God’s Love through His Passion, Crucifixion and  Resurrection.

We need to be like Mary of Bethany (and Magdala) who, realizing the magnificence of Jesus’ forgiveness, “… took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.” (Jn 12:3).  We need to magnify the Glory of God for His extravagant Mercy and Forgiveness provided through the Blood of His Son on the  Cross of calvary. And, we must glorify Jesus for giving totally of Himself in Love, subservient to the Father’s will so that The Love of the Father might be manifested for the entire universe to see.

It is all about HIM and any attempt to bring ourselves into the picture, is not only disrespectful but detracts from the Glory that belongs to Him and Him alone! Praised be His Holy Name!

The lenten experience is presented to us as a means of identifying ourselves with Jesus and His Love in a way that we come to a deeper level of understanding the Love of the Father for us and the incredible generosity of His Grace in sacrificing Himself (through His Son) to atone for all the sins of mankind from Adam to the end of time. The victory that Jesus won was completed on the Cross when He said “it is finished”, meaning, the work of redemption of humankind was completed at His death on the Cross. In eternity, before God, every sin was paid for and all humankind has been reconciled to the Father through the Blood of the Lamb!  There is nothing left for us to do but receive this Gift through Faith!

The only problem is that the world doesn’t understand an act of Love such as this.  And, not understanding, many reject this Gift of Eternal Life and Reconciliation with God, thinking instead that it is only through our own merits and suffering that full atonement for our sins can be realized. But the Grace of God and His Love will not be frustrated by mankind’s blindness, rather His magnificent Love desires that those who receive the Blessing of Salvation carry on the Ministry of Christ so that all Humanity has the opportunity to hear and receive the Good News of the Kingdom of His Love!

That is where we come in. As born-again brethren of Jesus, we are called to be the envoys of this message of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18) and in order to be His personal envoys the Father places the Holy Spirit within us to conform us to the Image of His Son (Rom. 8:29) so that He may empower us just as he empowered His Son!

“…. Who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace. This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began”.  (2 Timothy 1:9)

Our calling as disciples is to be conformed to His Image in such an intimate and complete manner that He can Live through us right now here in this world to bring forth the Father’s Kingdom of Love. For it is the Father’s intent that Jesus be the firstborn of many brethren (Rom. 8:29) so that as His Body Here on earth we can continue His Ministry to the world until He comes again!

Just as Jesus Himself was taken to the wilderness by the Holy Spirit to be tested and prepared for His calling, so, we too need to be prepared in the “wilderness” to enter into our calling as Jesus’ disciples and envoys of His Love,

In our own “wilderness” experience the Holy Spirit separates us from the enticements of the flesh and the world to so that we may yield ourselves to Him so that He can move in us to conform us to the image of the Son and prepare us to identify with Him on the Cross of Calvary. For we cannot follow him as disciples without coming to the point where we crucify the flesh so that the life if Christ that is in us may be made manifest through us in our lives. For it is only in entering into the Crucified Life that Christ can Live through us. It must be so for us just as it was for the Apostle Paul who said, “I am crucified with Christ, therefore it is no longer I who lives but Christ who lives in me.” (Gal 2:20)

Return to Jerusalem

Go into all the world ...

Brethren, since we are being called to discipleship, it is incumbent on us we that we not limit our wilderness experience to a purely symbolic liturgical forty days of lent. No, we must enter a real, though vicarious, wilderness experience that must be the entry point of a life lived In Christ, For Christ and Through Christ until we can complete the divine mission to which we also have been called and to which we can also come to the point where we can say with Christ, “it is finished”.

The only manner we may enter into the Crucified Life is if we totally yield ourselves to the Spirit of Christ in us so that He and He alone is King and ruler over our lives. And that my brothers and sisters brings up my subsidiary topic, that is, that  the main reason most of us have not been able to fulfill our calling in this world is because we have let ourselves be conformed to the world rather than to Christ (Rom. 12:2).

Yes, if we are Christians at all, we accept Jesus as Our Savior who has atoned for our sins, but yet, in responding to faith for salvation, we nonetheless insist on retaining control of our lives and doing things our way – we dedicate our self-willed religious works to God rather than yielding to the Holy Spirit and letting God work His Will through us For His Glory!

Yes, because of His Great gift of salvation we are destined for heaven, but because we have not fully surrendered to Him, we constrain what God can do through us in this world so that His Will and His Kingdom may be accomplished (cf., Matt. 6:10; Luke 11:2).

Unfortunately, brethren, one of the reasons we are in such a sad state is that our cultural conditioning has structured our thinking and expectations that tell us that discipleship is not for the laity and that the only role of the laity is to “Pray, Pay, and Obey”.  This conditioning boxes us in us into ” religious classes”, each with its own expectation of fulfillment. A concept far from what St. Paul taught, that each of us is a living stone in the temple of God with each of us being of equal importance to the fulfillment of God’s Kingdom in this world (cf.,1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19; 12:7-31).

Just as Jesus refused to be boxed in by the cultural expectation that he was only a “carpenter” let us also breakaway from the concept that we are only “laity”. We need to recognize that we, each of us, constitute the body of Christ and each of us is called to specifically manifest the person of Christ in whatever role or profession we may be involved in this world. The distinguishing mark of a disciple is that we love as Jesus loves (Jn 13:34-35). Only the Holy Spirit working in us can accomplish this – for it is not our work but His. This the essence and purpose for the Crucified Life.

This Holy Thursday (Maundy Thursday). my friends, is the appropriate opportunity to dedicate ourselves to each other and to the Crucified LIfe in Jesus. It was at the Last Supper that the Lord Jesus offered Himself to the Father and to the Church – He, of course , carried out that dedication at Gethsemane but it was at the Supper with His Disciples that He offered Himself as the Passover Lamb:

“Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me. And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.  (Luke 22:19-20)

The motive for our dedication should be that, each day, there should be less of us and more of Him so that in our yielding ourselves as a Living Sacrifice to the Father, we might Glorify Jesus in accord with St. Paul’s exhortation:

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Rom. 12:1-2)

Remembering that the carrying out of this dedication is by faith. We act on that faith by submitting ourselves to the renewal of our minds through obedience to His Word as inspired by The Holy Spirit, letting His Spirit Guide you in all matters considering also the following exhortation:

“For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you …; for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline. Do not be ashamed, then, of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God,  who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace. This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began.” (2 Timothy 1:6-9)

In conclusion my fellow pilgrims keep in mind the prayer of St. Thomas Aquinas:

“Give me, O Lord, a steadfast heart which no unworthy thought can drag downwards; an unconquered heart which no tribulation can wear out; an upright heart which no unworthy purpose may tempt aside.  Bestow upon me also, O Lord my God, understanding to know you, diligence to seek you, wisdom to find you, and a faithfulness that may finally embrace you; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.”  (Prayer of Thomas Aquinas)

Bartimaeus

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Note:  Aside from Jesus Himself, there are many saintly souls in the church who we can model ourselves to in living a crucified life. To name a few: St, Francis of Assisi, St. Ignatius Loyola, and St. Therese of Lisieux (etc.), however, I, personally, have taken to a humble monk named Brother Lawrence, because  he exemplified to me how you can take any basic work or office for making a living, such as kitchen work, and  use that as your entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven by living out the Crucified Life within its limited constraints.

The Booklet about Brother Lawrence’s spirituality,  The Practice of the Presence of God. was compiled by Father Joseph de Beaufort, later vicar general to the Archbishop of Paris, after Brother Lawrence died. It became popular among Catholics and Protestants alike, with John Wesley and A.W. Tozer recommending it to others.

To find our more about Brother Lawrence’s biography see:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brother_Lawrence

The Booklet may be obtained at the official “Presence of God” web site:

http://www.practicegodspresence.com/

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(© B.R.Timeo and Bartimaeus’ Quiet Place, [2008-2011])

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