In this third week of Lent we look at the third sorrowful mystery the Crowning with Thorns. This was another event surrounding the Passion narrative. It can be found in three of the Gospels Matthew 27:29, Mark 15:17 and John 19:2-5. The soldiers who just scourged Jesus made a crown out of thorns and placed it on his head mocking him as the King of the Jews. The fruit of the mystery is Contempt of the world (moral courage). This is a bit with the Intimation of Christ as you look at it, the world continually wants us to ignore anything that cares about religion or really anything but the things of the world. Let’s all take some time to reflect on what role religion plays in our lives, do we make time for it more than an hour on Sunday. It’s sort of like the show Living Biblically based on the book A Year of Living Biblically, sure there are lots of rules in the Bible but it’s like how all to often we tend to be more focused on our electronic devices than on other people and diminishing the experience of going to such events. To put it in other terms it’s like going to a sporting event and not watching the game in front of you but worrying about the outcome of the Battle of the Ironclads (Monitor vs Merrimack) and who benefited the most from the results of the Battle.
As we pick up this Apostolic Letter as we ended the last section with a look at one of the Song of Suffering Servant from Isaiah. It’s the fourth one and it is a Messianic prophecy about Jesus John Paul II notes that it is through the Cross that Redemption is accomplished through suffering more over that human suffering is what has been redeemed For Christ, without any fault of his own took on himself “the total evil of sin”. He then looks into the New Testament and eloquently explains “If one becomes a sharer in the sufferings of Christ, this happens because Christ has opened his suffering to man, because he himself in his redemptive suffering has become, in a certain sense, a sharer in all human sufferings. Man, discovering through faith the redemptive suffering of Christ, also discovers in it his own sufferings; he rediscovers them, through faith, enriched with a new content and new meaning.” This continues with his Kingdom where we share in the suffering but it is redemption which can only be accomplished through satisfactory love. Which remains open to all love expressed in human suffering.
The sixth section looks at the Gospel of Suffering. This Gospel has been written by Mary and the Apostles through their experience of the Passion and Resurrection. Jesus was never shy that suffering would have to happen even saying that to follow you’d have to take up your cross and follow. This is the first chapter of the Gospel of Suffering and it is written on Jesus as when he is Resurrected he still bore the marks, which Thomas wanted to see. The Gospel is continually being written by those who suffer with Christ for it is in suffering where we are drawn closer to Christ, just look at anyone of the Saints and they all seem to have some suffering like Francis of Assisi who said “If we endure all things patiently and with gladness, thinking on the sufferings of our Blessed Lord, and bearing all for the love of Him: herein is perfect joy.”, or Ignatius of Loyola who said “If God causes you to suffer much, it is a sign that He has great designs for you, and that He certainly intends to make you a saint” and others who point to suffering into making them better people. The suffering become a joy through the salvific mission of Jesus. This is why Paul can write “I rejoice in my suffering for your sake” as it is only through our suffering that we unite ourselves with Christ to complete his suffering.
Pope John Paul II notes that the Parable of the Good Samaritan is surely a part of the Gospel of Suffering. As is show us how to approach things not to pass by but to stop and help out those in need even. Everyone who stops beside a person in need is a Good Samaritan, once again this is as it is uniquely put to unleash love in the human person. With so much hate in the world it would be wonderful if more people took some time to care about the other. Sure we’ve been given so many guidelines that society is crafted around the general idea that we need to do with the works of mercy. As Jesus says “what you did for the least of my brothers and sisters you have done for me.” It’s all about compassion and our redemption is rooted to suffering. The letter is nicely concluded saying “Together with Mary, who stood beneath the Cross,we pause beside all the crosses of contemporary man. We invoke all the Saints, who down the centuries in a special way shared in the suffering of Christ. We ask them to support us. And we ask all you who suffer to support us. We ask precisely you who are weak to become a source of strength for the Church and humanity. In the terrible battle between the forces of good and evil, revealed to our eyes by our modern world, may your suffering in union with the Cross of Christ be victorious!”
Let us take this Lenten season to take to heart the words of Pope John Paul II about how Suffering is linked to love. I hope that we all take this message to heart and try to bring it into a world were we continually see discord.
As we begin the Lenten Season we once again start with the Sorrowful Mysteries. The first is the Agony in the Garden it can be found in all the Gospels in different ways. Since the events covered are from the end of Last Supper and the Arrest of Jesus. The Fruit of the mystery is Sorrow for Sin as Uniformity to God’s Will.
When the Last Supper was ended Jesus took a walk to pray, he went to the Garden of Gethsemane at the foot of the Mount of Olives with his apostles/disciples to pray. Peter, James and John were there and Jesus asked them to stay awake for an hour and pray with him. Jesus went off and prayed to the Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass me by. I don’t want to take this poison. Going back to the apostles he finds them asleep and wakes them saying couldn’t you stay up just an hour. While Jesus was praying his sweat was blood and he ended his prayer by accepting it” If the cup can’t pass by let me drink of it your will be done.” After all of this Jesus recognizes that his hour to be betrayed has come.
Let us remember this during Lent we are offered several opportunities for other religious activities confession and stations of the cross seem to be at least a weekly thing along with a fish fry on Fridays during the season. If you have some time take it and go to one of these events or whatever else is offered in our local church.
Salvifici Doloris is an Apostolic Letter from Pope John Paul II which was written after the assassination attempt in 1981. It is about suffering and joy or as the title says in Latin saving passion. During Lent we will be working through this Apostolic Letter and hopefully some more. Today is the first day of Lent for the Western Church (Roman rite) some eastern rite catholic church began the season on Monday and in the Orthodox Church Great Lent begin on Clean Monday (19 February). John Paul II writes this letter to the Bishops, Priest, Religious Families and the faithful of the Catholic Church on the Christian meaning of Human Suffering. This was issued during the Holy Year of Redemption 1983-84 so it continually refers back to this.
John Paul II starts with quoting from Saint Paul’s letter to the Colossians (1:24) where the idea get put forth “I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.” Suffering has been here for all of human history, just look at Paul before he became that nice guy we all like was one of the fiercest persecutors of the faith causing all kind of suffering. Now he is rejoicing in the suffering because of Jesus. Suffering is universal it is with us all at every point on earth: in a certain sense it co-exists with us in the world, and demands to be constantly reconsidered. yet we must remember that it is through the cross of Christ comes our redemption. This is all tied together for we are all of one body. His Holiness then quotes his encyclical Redemptor Hominis saying that “in Christ we all become that way for the Church” and add on “when suffering enters his life.” Suffering is inseparable from our lives. Yet from this suffering come great things it evokes compassion, respect, and in its own way it intimidates. For in suffering is contained the greatness of a specific mystery.
In the second section the focus turns to the World of Human Suffering. There are two types of suffering physical suffering (the body hurts) and moral suffering (pain in the soul), While the Physical suffering (mental physical, emotional pain) can be eased with medication moral suffering can not. Turning to the Bible the Pope notes that it is a book filled with Suffering, looking in the Old Testament they link the moral suffering onto parts of the body, it isn’t until the Greek when suffering show up and is linked to evil. This now takes a turn in the For God made all things Good why is there evil? The Church looks at it as we suffer on account of evil which is a limitation or distortion of good. or “we suffer because of a good in which we don’t share, from which in a certain sense we are cut off, or of which we have deprived ourselves. We particularly suffers when we ought—in the normal order of things—to have a share in this good and does not have it.” We all suffer alone together (collective consciousness) in the same old anxiety ridden world that we live in and our suffering is compounded by the sins of our times, with mad men running the world.
The third section looks at the quest for an answer to the question of the meaning of suffering. The whys why do we suffer? why is there evil? Looking at the Book of Job we see this idea taken up (a couple of years ago I went through it during Lent) Job was a good just man and then lots of suffering happens to him one of his friends indicates that the suffering come from some sin. Yet, Job has done nothing wrong but God recognizes this but doesn’t do anything about it, since it was a competition between the Devil and God. Sure the Book of Job does a good job at asking the question it doesn’t answer it but points out that suffering affects all people those as punishment for sin and also the innocent. It can be seen as a test of righteousness. The Book of Job isn’t the last word on the subject of suffering but it acts as a foreshadowing of Passion of Christ. To find an answer we need to look to Divine Love.
In section four we turn to Jesus Christ: Suffering conquered by love. Jesus himself is salvific love John Paul II point to John 3:16. Now this is where it gets good breaking down the Bible. For God so loved the world that He gives, not directs or sends, but gives the world, His only Son so that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. This is remarkable as it points that the opposite of eternal life is suffering for eternity we literally perish being away from God forever. We are reminded here that we (humankind) are but dust and to dust we will return from way back in the Garden of Eden we are body and soul our Body will fade but our spirit will live forever but through Christ’s salvific mission to “blot out from human history the dominion of sin, which took root under the influence of the evil Spirit, beginning with Original Sin, and then he gives man the possibility of living in Sanctifying Grace.” Perhaps that isn’t how it will end now. Turning to Jesus in the Gospel we see how he is deep in suffering he went deep into the weeds and starts pulling. He healed the sick, consoled the afflicted, fed the hungry, brought hearing to the deaf sight to the blind, free those from leprosy, from the devil and from various physical disabilities, three times he restored the dead to life. He was sensitive to every human suffering, whether of the body or of the soul. And at the same time he taught, and at the heart of his teaching there are the Beatitudes, which are addressed to people tried by various sufferings in their temporal life.” But it is his Suffering and death on a cross that will conquer suffering.
This Lent as we enter into our churches let us raise our eyes toward the large cross with Jesus and recognize that this is a gift of love. As John 3:16 says For God so loved the world that he gave his only son that whosoever believes in him may have eternal life. Let us keep this in mind during this upcoming season and remember the joy in suffering.
Doctor of the Church Gregory of Narek has a wonderful prayer reflection on Good Friday.
Since today is a blessed day,
when morning came twice dividing day into
when the passing creatures of the earth
were transformed into a different and heavenly immutable beings,
when the high were laid low and the
humble raised up,
making this the most awesome day of Lent, Holy Friday,
when it is fitting for me to write
this prayer voicing joy mixed with terror, therefore
I think it appropriate to speak now of
the suffering you endured for me, God of all.
You stood, with my nature, before a tribunal of
your creatures, and did not speak, giver of speech.
You did not utter a word, creator of tongues.
You did not release your voice, shaker of the world.
You did not make a sound, trumpet of majesty.
You did not answer back with accounts of
your good deeds.
You did not silence them with their wrongs.
You did not deliver your betrayer to death.
You did not struggle when bound.
You did not squirm when whipped.
You did not fight back when spat upon.
You did not resist when beaten.
You did not take affront when mocked.
You did not frown when ridiculed.
They stripped you of your cloak, as from a weakling,
and dressed you like a condemned prisoner.
If my Lord had not been forced twice to drink vinegar and gall, he would not have been able to cleanse me of the accumulated bile of our forefathers.
He tasted heartbreak and did not waver.
They dragged him violently and brought him
They condemned him, humiliated him by flogging
before a motley crowd.
They knelt before him in ridicule
and put a crown of disdain upon his head.
They gave you no rest, Life-giver,
even forcing you to bear the instrument of your death.
You accepted with forbearance.
You received it with sweetness.
You bore it with patience.
You submitted to the wooden cross of grief,
like one condemned.
Like a lily of the field, you shouldered the
weapon of life,
so that your throne in my body might be protected
against the terrors of the night
turning the last judgment into a joyful banquet.
They led him out like a sacrificial lamb.
They hung him like Isaac’s ram whose horns were caught in the thicket.
They spread him on the table of the cross like a sacrifice.
They nailed him like a common criminal.
They persecuted you, like an outlaw, treating
you in your serenity, like a bandit,
you in your majesty, like a miserable wretch,
you who are adored by cherubim,
like a despised man,
you who are the definition of life, like one
deserving of a slaughter,
you, the author of the Gospels, like one
who blasphemed the Law,
you, the Lord and the fulfillment of the prophets,
like one who cut the Scriptures,
you, the radiance of glory and the image of
the mystery of the Father, beyond mortal
understanding, as if you are the adversary
of the will of him who bore you,
you who are blessed, like someone banished,
you who came to release the bonds of the Law,
like a heretic,
you, the consuming fire, like a
you who inspire awe in heaven and earth,
like one deserving punishment,
you, covered in unapproachable light, like
some earthly quarry
O, sweet Lord,
forbearing doer of good, merciful and compassionate,
Lord of all, who for the sake of infirm and unruly
servants like me submitted to everything willingly
according to your plan
together with your perfectly human body,
submitted even to the sleepy tomb of the sepulchre,
who lack nothing of divine perfection, being identical with
God who is beyond human understanding,
yet bore human indignity with patience beyond words,
you rose with your body, alive and of your own power,
In exalted light, with undiminished humanity
and flawless divinity.
You are blessed for your glory
praised for your compassion,
and always exalted for your mercy,
forever and ever.
As we begin this Holy Week. I hope that everyone can take some time from all our busy lives and reflect on the events of this week. Sure some people like to do the whole Triduum (Holy Thursday/ Good Friday/ Easter Vigil/ Easter Sunday) other pick and choose one or more of those events some just do Easter. However you want to get ready to celebrate I felt that this poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins is a nice reflection for this week leading up to the main event.
Barnfloor and Winepress
“And he said, If the Lord do not help thee, whence shall I help thee? out of the barnfloor, or out of the winepress? ” 2 Kings VI: 27
Thou that on sin’s wages starvest,
Behold we have the joy in harvest:
For us was gather’d the first fruits,
For us was lifted from the roots,
Sheaved in cruel bands, bruised sore,
Scourged upon the threshing-floor;
Where the upper mill-stone roof’d His head,
At morn we found the heavenly Bread,
And, on a thousand altars laid,
Christ our Sacrifice is made!
Thou whose dry plot for moisture gapes,
We shout with them that tread the grapes:
For us the Vine was fenced with thorn,
Five ways the precious branches torn;
Terrible fruit was on the tree
In the acre of Gethsemane;
For us by Calvary’s distress
The wine was racked from the press;
Now in our altar-vessels stored
Is the sweet Vintage of our Lord.
In Joseph’s garden they threw by
The riv’n Vine, leafless, lifeless, dry:
On Easter morn the Tree was forth,
In forty days reach’d heaven from earth;
Soon the whole world is overspread;
Ye weary, come into the shade.
The field where He has planted us
Shall shake her fruit as Libanus,
When He has sheaved us in His sheaf,
When He has made us bear his leaf. –
We scarcely call that banquet food,
But even our Saviour’s and our blood,
We are so grafted on His wood.
This is the last of the series on the Book of Esther, last week we looked at Haman’s plot. We get to the whole deal with Purim today.
The King Xerxes, couldn’t sleep so he gets out the book of memorable deeds and reads about Mordecai and how he informed the King about the two eunuchs that were plotting against him. The king asks what was bestowed on Mordecai for doing this and learns it was nothing. The king asks who is in court and lo and behold it’s Haman, the King asks Haman what the king should do for someone who delights him. Now, Haman think that this is about himself and that the King will be honoring him so he goes all out, he wants to be dresses in royal robes and ride on a royal horse through the town being honored by all. The king says wonderful and tells Haman to do this for Mordecai, the Jew by the gate. Haman returns home in mourning and with his head covered and told his wife and friends what had happened, they predict that it is only going to get worse for Haman. While this is happening the King’s Eunuchs come to bring Haman to Queen Esther’s banquet. At this second banquet the King ask Esther again what her petition is and Esther reveals that she is Jewish “I and my people are being sold to be destroyed”. The King wonders who would do such a thing and Esther points to Haman, this foe and enemy. This enrages the King and storms out furious about this, one of the eunuchs mentions that Haman is/was building a gallows for Mordecai by his house. So Haman was hanged on the gallows meant for Mordecai. The king gave Haman’s house to Esther and Mordecai became the new Prime Minister and lived in Haman’s house.
The initial step was taken but there was that Edict that went out saying to kill all the Jewish people, so Esther pleaded with the King to cancel the edict sent out by Haman ordering the destruction of the Jews. A new edict was printed and distributed across the nations saying that the previous one is wrong and allowed the Jews who were in every city to gather and defend their lives, to destroy, to slay, and to annihilate any armed force of any people or province that might attack them, with their children and women, and to plunder their goods, upon one day throughout all the provinces of King Ahasu-e′rus, on the thirteenth day of Adar. As time passes it gets it the thirteenth of Adar and the Jews gathered together and in Susa, the capital they slew 500 men and 10 of Haman’s sons were captured. Esther goes before the King and asks for another day since the Jews didn’t take any plunder. He agrees that those in Susa can do it another day and the Jews slew 300 more. Across the provinces of King Ahasuerus some 75,000 were slain. This is why the feast of Purim is celebrated.
This is a strange book in the Bible as it has a different feel from the rest of the books. I can sort of understand why the church reads only a brief section from Esther as it’s sort of like the Quentin Tarantino movie of the Bible. It is worth reading, seeing or hearing.
Last week I went through the first bit of Esther, this week we look at the plots.
After all this had happened the King, perhaps Xerxes, promoted Haman to be like the Prime Minister in the country and all the king’s servants were told by the king to bow to Haman. Mordecai did not. The other servants told Haman and when he noticed the slight was filled with fury. Haman learned that Mordecai was a Jew and sought to destroy all the Jews. Haman cast Pur (lots) and through this decided that all Jews will be destroyed on the 13th of Adar. Haman put this before the king and sort of approved it. Haman will pay 10 thousand talents of silver for this to be done. So on the 13th day of Nisan, the first month of the Hebrew calendar and wrote the edict to go out across the kingdom. The next chapter is a copy of the edict, that all Jews, with their wives and children, will be destroyed by the sword of their enemies, without pity or mercy, on the 14th of Adar, the last month of the year. Mordecai and the Jewish people rent their clothes, put on ashes and sackcloth, and wailed. Esther eventually learned about the edict through a very clumsy game of telephone through one of the King’s eunuchs, Hathach. Esther decides that Mordecai and the Jewish people should fast on her behalf, and neither eating or drinking for three days. Esther and my maids will also fast, then she will go to the king, though it is against the law; and if I perish, I perish.
We are then treated to two prayers one from Mordecai and the other from Esther. In Mordecai’s prayer we learn that he didn’t bow because he didn’t want to set a Man above God. He continues and asks the Lord to spare his people once again for their death was before their eyes. Esther also turned to the Lord, she took off her fancy garments and put on garments of distress and mourning, as well as covering herself with ashes and dung instead of perfume. In Esther’s prayer which is read the Thursday of the first week of Lent, we hear her asking for the Lord to put eloquent speech in her mouth, and turn the king’s heart to hate the man who is fighting against us, so that there may be an end of Haman and those who agree with him. “Save us from the hand of our enemies; turn our mourning into gladness and our sorrows into wholeness.” This is a powerful prayer and it is really a shame that we don’t hear from Esther on Sundays. On the third day the fast was over and Esther put on her royal robes and with two handmaidens entered the king wasn’t too happy about this to begin with and Esther fainted. The king dashed to Esther and told her that she would be die as it only applied to those people. As she tried to respond she collapsed and as she regained strength asked that the King and Haman join her for dinner. Now, Haman saw Mordecai by the King’s gate and Mordecai wasn’t cowering or kowtowing before Haman so he went home and was pissed. Haman gathered together his friend and wife and after talking about how wonderful he is but Haman wouldn’t be happy unless Mordecai bowed down before him. His wife and friends suggest why not hang Mordecai in the morning and then go to dinner with the king in the evening.
It is still sort of weird going between the extended verses and the regular ones as they are often time saying basically the same thing twice. This is an interesting story and it is a shame that we only hear like six verses from it on a Thursday in Lent.
This is a short poem by CS Lewis. It has a nice overall Lenten vibe, and I like the image here of Lenten lands as we should consider how Lent begin in the late Winter and end in the early Spring, so to we should be renewed by our Lenten experiences.. i hope that we all do so. This is the poem:
Here the whole world (stars, water, air,
And field, and forest, as they were
Reflected in a single mind)
Like cast off clothes was left behind
In ashes, yet with hopes that she,
Re-born from holy poverty,
In lenten lands, hereafter may
Resume them on her Easter Day.
The book of Esther, the extended edition, begins with an introduction of all the characters and place. In the second year of the reign of Artaxexes the great (perhaps Xerxes) on the first of Nisan, Mordecai (Esther’s cousin), of the tribe of Benjamin, had a dream of two great dragons poised to fight and at every roar the nations of the world all prepared for war against the righteous. This continues as Mordecai overhears some eunuchs plotting against the king and Mordecai tells the King, placing him in the court but Mordecai gained an enemy in Haman who sought to injure Mordecai and his people because of the eunuchs. This give us some more understanding as to who Mordecai and Haman are.
In the regular version we begin a year later at a week long banquet that Artaxerxes held for all his Princes and servants. Everyone was going crazy partying. Queen Vashti also gave a banquet for all the women. On the seventh day Artaxerxes asked his eunuchs to get Vashti to show her beauty, she refused. This incensed the King and he called his wise men to figure out what should be done. One of the princes Memucan suggested that “all women will give honor to their husbands, high and low.” They also remove Vashti as Queen and after some time passes Ataxerxes or his people decide that he needs a queen. So the order went out for maidens and many showed up including Hadassah (Esther) her parents had died and her cousin Mordecai adopted her as his daughter. The King found favor with Esther and she became the queen and a banquet was held. Then we get the story of Mordecai overhearing eunuchs plotting to kill the King and it he reports this to Esther who brings it to the King.
This is one of the weirder books in the Bible for several reasons there are many banquets and it deals with foreign royalty. We hear about the Pharaohs in Egypt and King David and so forth in Israel and Judah but here we are offered a Queen from Persia who happens to be a Jewish orphan. Talk about rags to riches. What makes it more confusing in the addition of the Greek text to the Hebrew text which so far tells us the same thing twice unless there was a lot of plotting going on in Persia. This is my first time reading through this book. This year the feast of Purim is celebrated this weekend (11/12).