Category Archives: Christ

The compassionate face of Christ

Last night I had a strange dream in which I was playing “O Sacred Head surrounded,” a Lenten hymn, on an organ. I was playing it without sheet music.

I woke and the hymn went through my mind numerous times.

When I woke up I brought an image of the Head of Christ I have and placed it in my prayer corner. Before praying I listened to five different renditions of the hymn.

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Gazing on the head of Christ, I am reminded of the compassion, the compassionate mercy of God for us. God wishes to be with us, born poor, living and dying poor.

Today just happens to be the feast of Mother Teresa of Kolkata, who saw the face of Christ in the poor, in the least of these.

But I think she could do this because she sought to place herself in the presence of God and, though she suffered a long dark night of the soul, I believe that sustained her.

Today I also watched the ABC program of the pope speaking with people from the margins in Mac Allan, Texas, Chicago, and Los Angeles. It is worth the 45 minutes. Here in English; here in Spanish

One young man asked him how to respond to the pain and suffer. Before he spoke about some practical responses, he first urged him – and all of us – to look to Jesus.

May we learn to gaze upon the Sacred Head, “surrounded by crown of piercing thorn,” and upon the faces of all those who suffer and respond with a love that is real, rooted in an encounter with Christ and directly with those who suffer.

Fear and the risen Lord

The doors were locked because of their fear…
John 20: 19

 Fear came upon every soul…
and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.
Acts 2: 43

 Fear can cripple us, make us impotent, turn us in on ourselves. That’s what happened to the apostles after Jesus was crucified.

They cowered in fear, behind locked doors.

It required the presence of the risen Jesus, offering them peace, to move them out of their grief.

But even that wasn’t enough.

Even when they were together a week later, with Thomas, they still met behind locked doors.

Perhaps they had to confront the fact of the death of Jesus before they could receive life from the risen Jesus. They had to see the wounded savior. As Fr. John Kavanaugh, S.J., beautifully puts it, “Faith must be found as much in the wounds of life as in the glories.”

Today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles (2: 42-47) shows us a community that reflects that life in all they so. People could see the wonders and the signs of Life in the apostles.

And “fear came upon every soul.”

Fear again, but perhaps of a different kind.

The New American Bible translation uses the word “awe” instead of fear (even though the Greek word here and in the Gospel – φόβοϛ – is the same).

Is there a fear, an awe, that opens us up, that shows forth the life of the risen Lrod and the risen community?

I think so. That fear, that awe, is the openness to signs and wonders, to seeing life in the midst of death, to letting the little signs of life permeate our souls.

That fear will let us face the fear that paralyzes, for the fear of God, that “awe” opens us to the presence of God in the midst of suffering and death, to the presence of a risen God who calls us to live.

There are signs of that life all around us. But at times we need to recall them, to open our eyes and our hearts, to unlock the doors of fear.

The Gospel concludes with these words:

There were many other signs that Jesus gave in the presence of his disciples… These are recorded that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ , the Son of God, and that through his belief you may have life in his name.

What are the signs that Jesus does for us today – so that we may have life?

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.

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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.