Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Passion of Christ, A Gift of Love

     At the end of a mission that I preached last week someone approached my and asked why the word Passion was used to describe the suffering and death of Jesus.  Good question,  Though I gave a brief and, I think, satisfactory answer, the question stayed with me.

    Given the modern day meaning of passion as the equivalent of lust and illicit sex it is understandable the the question would be raised.  I would ask that we look at another contemporary use of that word which suggests that passion is an intense dedication to someone or something.  People passionately love sports teams and hopefully they passionately love their families.  This gets us closer to the use of the words passion for Jesus' suffering and death.

   The word passion actually come from the Latin word for suffering.  In the case of Jesus it aptly describes the fact that He suffered so much because He passionately loves us. In our Franciscan tradition we eschew the emphasis on punishment as the motive for Jesus coming to us. The Lord certainly was punished and bore the weight of our sins but His mission in coming to us, in humbling himself to become human was to love us and show us how to love.  This is why the deepest response to what we celebrate this week is not so much guilt or sadness but rather gratitude and joy at what He has done for us.  This joy and gratitude hopefully will impel us to imitate that love by humbling ourselves in loving service to others. Pope Francis delivered a beautiful homily in this vain at his daily Mass this morning.  You can read the text of that homily by clicking on  the link below.


   Finally I call your attention to the three images on this page.  For me the portray what I think is the deepest suffering of our Lord, His mental and spiritual anguish born out of love for us.

Also, please enjoy Busted Halo's Holy Week in 2 minutes;

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Seventy Times Seven Times

  For the past twenty seven years I have been a member of the Franciscan Ministry of the Word team preaching parish missions all over the US and in parts of Canada as well.  We are committed, in the spirit of St. Francis, to preaching the basic Gospel message.  A key part of that message, and one that seems to touch the hearts of many people to whom we preach, is Jesus' call to forgive those who have wronged us. I happen to believe that this mandate of the Lord is the most difficult part of following Him.  Most of us probably have or have had a situation that made us think, "Forgiveness yes, but not that. I'll never forgive that." Yet Jesus never said, "OK, forgive everything but 'that'."

   What to do?  I offer some suggestions.
   1.  It's OK to be angry.  The purpose of anger is to obtain justice, not revenge.  Properly expressing anger can lead both parties to the path of reconciliation.  When the offender and the offended truly listen to each other this can happen, no matter how serious the offense. When the offended person communicates their hurt and anger it give the offender a chance to make amends.

2.  Make sure that the offense is real and not perceived.  My mother often said, "Never take offense where none is intended.

3. Reconciliation is not always possible, but forgiveness is always possible.  Huh?  What do I mean by this?  Sometimes the other party refuses to participate in a process of reconciliation or is unable to. Why?  They are mean and nasty.  They are in the throes of addiction. They are severely mentally ill. They have moved far away.  They are dead.  When this happens the offended person is stuck with anger that now has no useful purpose.  It will not get justice of even punish the offender.  It becomes a spiritual cancer that eats away at the heart of the offended person.

4.  One exception to the above is the addicted.  If they get into recovery they will probably seek you out to make amends.

5. It is pride and ego that makes us hold on to anger--the need to have been right.  You were right, dummy, but your anger is becoming bitterness and resentment and will do you no good.

6.  The accumulation of resentment fills what I call "the anger baloon". This accumulation of resentment is the cause of things like road rage and ranting on social media and talk shows.

7. What to do with this resentment?  Do not stuff it back in.  Admit that it is there and pray to the Lord that it be taken away.  Barring a miracle it will take time, but it will go away.  My  own balloon is greatly deflated because of following this step. Notice that I said greatly deflated.  I will most likely take some of this to the grave but I am a much more peaceful man now than when I started doing this.

8.In the words of a popular hymn,  "Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me."

Moving Out and Moving Ahead Cautiosly