What to give

“Silver and gold I have none,
but what I have I give you.”
Acts 3: 6

 Entering the temple to pray, Peter and John encounter a beggar, crippled from his mother’s womb.

He looks at them hoping for some alms, but Peter gives him much more.

 In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up and walk.

Then Peter helps him up, grasping his right hand.

Get up and walk.

I cannot give you money to make life easier for you today, but I can give you the gift of living more fully, standing up. You are no longer a beggar. You are a human being.

And what does the man do?

He entered the temple with them, walking, leaping, and praising God.

I wonder if he did somersaults.

What are we called to do as missionary disciples?

I think Peter teaches us: Give people a hand so that they can stand up on their own and praise God with their lives?

A few cents in alms can change things for a few minutes or even a day – and, at times, we need to do that.

But I believe we must also offer the hand of accompanying the poor as they stand up and walk.

Is this not the work of the Church?

César Chávez, the founder of the Farm Workers Union, died on April 23, 1993. He once said

What do we want the Church to do? We don’t ask for more cathedrals. We don’t ask for bigger churches or fine gifts. We ask for its presence with us, beside us, as Christ among us. We ask the Church to sacrifice with the people for social change, for justice, and for love of brother. We don’t ask for words. We ask for deeds. We don’t ask for paternalism. We ask for servanthood.

Will we be servants, at the side of the poor?

Care for the garden

In today’s Gospel (John 20: 11-18), Mary Magdalen mistakes Jesus for a gardener.

But is it really a mistake?

Isn’t Jesus, the gardener of souls? But even more, isn’t the Garden the place where humans first encountered God?

In Genesis 3, we read that God walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. But they hid after abusing the garden, eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. At the serpent’s suggestion they ate the fruit because they wanted to be like gods.

But in the Garden of the Tomb, Mary Magdalene encounters the Lord Jesus who calls her by name.

Magdalen Angelico

The garden that was lost is now encountered. The relation between God and humans is now restored.

The hope is that the relation and between God and all creation is now also restored.

God has initiated this but, like Mary Magdalen, we are called, to pass on the message of the risen Lord, of the promise of resurrection for God’s people and of the renewed creation.

What a fitting message for Earth Day.

Let us work with the Gardener to restore some signs of the Garden of Eden on God’s good earth.

————

 The image is from a fresco of  the San Marco Friary in Florence painted by the Dominican Fra Angelico and his students.

An earlier meditation on this Gospel can be found here.

Resurrection faith

The Harrowing of Hell Spanish Chapel Santa Maria Novella Florence

The Harrowing of Hell

Good Friday is all too real in a world where violence and sin reign, where the poor suffer. But there words of José Antonio Pagola point to the faith that sustains us:

“At the heart of our faith there is a crucified man whom God has proven right. At the heart of the church there is a victim to whom God has done justice. A crucified life, inspired by and lived in the spirit of Jesus, will not end in failure but in resurrection

“… It is not a senseless venture to live with concern for those who suffer, to reach out to the most needy, to help the helpless; it means journeying to the mystery of a God who will resurrect our lives forever.

“… To follow the crucified one until we share in the resurrection with him is finally to give our lives, our time, our efforts, and perhaps our health for the sake of love.”

José Antonio Pagola, Following in the Footsteps

 ______________________
The fresco of the Harrowing of Hell  is from The Spanish Chapel of Santa Maria Novella, Florence.

 

Pieta

Though it is not, as far as I know, a depiction of Jesus in the arms of Mary, this image of a woman with her dead child, by Kathe Kollwitz, evokes the sorrow of mothers for their children.

Kathe Kollwitz

It would be good this Holy Saturday to sit with this image – in grief and in hope.

 

Ecce homo: behold the human person

…so marred was his look beyond human semblance…
Isaiah 53: 14

Today the Western Christian world celebrates the death of Christ Jesus.

The Black Christ

The Black Christ

A few weeks ago on retreat I was meditating on St. John’s Passion. Pilate had Jesus scourged and the soldiers put a crown of thorns on his head and mocked him.

Then Pilate brings Jesus out to the crown and tells them:

Here is the human person!
Ecce homo!

Here is the human person, tortured and degraded by power, by economic and political elites. Here is the human person in the eyes of the empire, in the eyes of the consumer culture.

DSC00614

For that world, the human person is something, some thing, to be used and abused at will.

But in the eyes of God, the human person is a child of God.

Jesus lets Himself be identified with the victims, the poor, the maltreated, the violated.

But this human person – degraded and violated – will rise up and show us the real human person, God’s child.

For, as St. Irenaeus put it, “The glory of God is the human person fully alive.”

Pilate and the powers want to identify the human person as the one who can be controlled,  who is worth little of nothing.

But, in God’s eyes, each person is worth the death of His Son.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Handing over

The devil had already induced Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot, to hand him over.
John 13: 2

 I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread…
1 Corinthians 11: 23

 What does it mean to hand oneself over?

Many years ago I was struck by the word “hand over” which we find in Paul’s account of the Eucharist as well as in John’s account of the Last Supper.

For me handing onself over conveys a giving of oneself – into the hands of God – to respond in love to what God asks of us.

In the Spanish version of Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel, we find many uses of the Spanish word – entrega – although we might not notice it because, in one of the most moving passages, it is translated as “sacrifice.” But una entrega is a conscious decision to put oneself into the hands of God.

And so I offer this alternative translation from paragraph 269 of Evangelii Gaudium:

Jesus’ handing himself over on the cross is nothing else than the culmination of the way he lived his entire life. Moved by his example, we want to enter fully into the fabric of society, sharing the lives of all, listening to their concerns, helping them materially and spiritually in their needs, rejoicing with those who rejoice, weeping with those who weep; arm in arm with others, we are committed to building a new world. But we do so not from a sense of obligation, not as a burdensome duty, but as the result of a personal option which brings us joy and gives meaning to our lives.

And so, washing the feet of the apostles flows from a life given to handing Himself over to the Father, a life lived in love and service.

And so we ought to wash one another feet.

 

Lamentations

The Book of Lamentations was for many years central to Vigils of the Liturgy of Hours for Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday. The sadness of the prophet Jeremiah over the destruction of Jerusalem were connected with the Passion and Death of Jesus.

There are many beautiful, haunting musical renditions of the Lamentations, which I will be listening to during the next few days.

This year Holy Week feels more like a time of lamentation than I’ve felt in many years. Some of this is personal, but much is related to the reality the poor face here in Honduras.

So, this morning, reading Jeremiah in the Vigils reading from Benedictine Daily Prayer I was moved by these words of Jeremiah 8: 21-22 (NRSV translation):

For the hurt of my poor people I am hurt.
I mourn, and dismay has taken hold of me.
Is there no balm in Gilead?
Is there no physician there?
Why then has the health of my poor people
not been restored?

Jeremiah is writing in the context of the destruction of Jerusalem that arose as a result of the sinfulness of the people, but still his deep grief speaks to me in a situation where, all too often, the poor and innocent suffer.

But I don’t feel overcome in the face of the pain. Despite the grief, I find a deep peace within me.

More than anything else, I feel the challenge of the first line of today’s reading from the third Servant Song of Isaiah 50:4 (NAB translation):

The Lord God has given me a well-trained tongue,
that I might know how to speak to the weary
a word that will rouse them.

I pray that I may be a presence with the people the next three days that will help them experience the hope of the Risen Lord, in the midst of our grief.