Titian, Christ Carrying the Cross, C. 1565
Ernest Hemingway once wrote, “Write hard and clear about what hurts.” I believe there's a lot of wisdom here. What makes deep impressions on us must take some form of expression in our lives, especially when it comes to suffering. For many of us, this season of Lent has been a painful one, and here we are entering into Holy Week still with uncertainty about what the future may hold. We may feel cut off from friends and loved ones, lonely, and isolated. Many of us are struggling with financial insecurity, and to top it all off, the space where many of us found security and consolation (the church, the sacraments, the Eucharist) feels very distant. Perhaps we are even feeling numb to it all, and that unsettles us a bit. Many of us don't know what to do and feel powerless. Wherever you are is the spot where God wants to meet you. One thing can be sure - this Holy Week is going to be a Holy Week like no other if we understand there is deep meaning in it all.
We often get Christianity very wrong. There’s a tendency to reduce discipleship to following a set of moral teachings. While not erroneous, if we reduce our faith to simply following a set of teachings, we are missing the bigger picture. Being Christian means being joined to Jesus Christ in the most radical and intimate way possible. What does this mean? This means that whatever happened to Him, we must also endure. Where he goes, we must also go. When you and I were baptized, we were joined to Christ in his death and resurrection. The rite of baptism is meant to “speak” through visible signs the reality that is taking place. In the early Church, the person to be baptized was stripped of his or her garments and literally walked down into the baptistry and was submerged into the depths. Then they would come up out of the water on the other side and be clothed in white garments while the minister of the sacrament spoke the words of baptism over them. The old self was stripped away, the person entered into Christ’s death and rose to new life clothed in a new garment: Christ, himself. The visible signs showed the reality of going where he went, being joined to him in his passion, death, and resurrection.
Being a disciple means that the mystery of his death and resurrection must take on a real shape in our own lives. This isn’t a pious platitude…this is at the very heart of Christ’s invitation when he says to you and I: “Follow me.” This means that the cross must have its place in our lives. Whenever we let go of the false piety we sometimes carry around, we begin to carry the true piety that comes with the cross and we realize just how difficult this demand of love really is.
But… “the cross” …what is it? I heard a friend say once that the cross you and I carry takes shape in our lives in two ways. It is the place of our unfulfilled desires that we have deep in our hearts that hurts as well as that place in our lives where we come to terms with our radical need for God. It is the place where we come to say, “I can’t do this, Lord. I need you.” What are the unfulfilled desires deep in your heart? What are the circumstances in your life that give you the raw realization of your utter and absolute dependance on him? What makes you cry out in need of a savior? There is your cross.
When we carry our cross - we do not do it alone. Remember, we are joined to him: where he goes, we must go. The cross is meant to draw us into intimacy with him. This is why carrying our cross is redemptive. It brings us close to him, and it makes us like him. It purifies our ability to love like him - to offer ourselves as a pure and authentic gift. For your gift of self to mature, it must weather the storm. Christ’s gift of self on the cross brought life to the world, and so will ours as long as we are with him in it.
Here is the very Good News: Christ has gone before us to prepare a place for us in the Father’s house. The cross, if we say yes, will give way to the new life we were created to experience that is joy and fulfillment beyond our wildest imagination. Where he goes, we will go.
John 11: 1-45
In today’s Gospel we hear the story of Christ raising Lazarus from the dead. Perhaps, like me, you thought you knew the story of Lazarus already and succumbed to the temptation to just glaze over it. When I challenged myself to actually sit with the Gospel and allow God’s word to encounter me, my eyes were opened to my own story laid out in front of me. Your story is there, too, by the way. Did you catch it?
Love the people you're quarantined with...
Merry Christmas, friends! Christmas is meant to inspire us with joy, awe, and gratitude for the gift of the Incarnation and all of its amazing ramifications for our lives. However, Christmastime is also notorious for a general uptick of depression, anxiety, loneliness, and isolation, even among the population of faithful Christians. We all deal with this from time to time throughout our lives, and it is easy to get caught up in a culture that promotes the image of a perfect “holiday celebration” including perfect meals, perfect gifts, perfect decorations, all of the perfect Christmas “feelings” and all of the “perfect” people to share it all with. It's easy to get frustrated when our reality does not look like everyone else’s Christmas cards.
A while back I wrote a blog about two rose bushes my fiance gave me for my birthday this past year. If you haven’t gotten a chance to read it, you can find it on the blog. If you remember, he told me when he gave it to me, ““Okay, so, I put them in pots for you, and I got you some rose food. Now it’s up to you to take care of them. …So if they die, it’s your fault.”
Ready for the update??? THEY’RE DEAD!
A few weeks ago, while praying, I read this: “Then, the chief butler said to Pharaoh, ‘I remember my faults today.’” (Gn 41:9) This man in Genesis had a trade from which I get my surname, so obviously the verse jumped off the page at me. I’m guessing a butler has never had a more prominent role in all of scripture! So, what’s the context?
After being wrongly imprisoned, Joseph shares prison space with two others – a butler and a baker. What seems at first like nursery rhyme material turns spectacular when they both have dreams that Joseph interprets correctly for them. Joseph entreats the butler, when he is freed, to remember Joseph’s kindness by telling the Pharaoh about Joseph and his innocence. Yet, two years after being free, the butler had still forgotten and never told the Pharaoh. Finally, when the Pharaoh has a disturbing dream, the butler remembers his fault and finally shares the truth about Joseph with the Pharaoh.
As we celebrated Pentecost Sunday this past year at ECHO Nola, I was struck by a line of the “Veni, Sancte Spiritus”: “Melt the frozen, warm the chill”
It’s something only the Lord can do for us.
O little one,
Shrouded in darkness,
Covered in snow!
Martha is officially my spirit animal...
The sister of Lazarus and Mary, Martha usually gets a bad reputation of being the busy body. The harsh non-spiritual part of every bible story she is in (a whopping 2 stories). Yet, while I was at ECHO Cenla this past week I began to see her in a whole new light, one that reflected my own spiritual life.
My boyfriend Jeremy got me two rose bushes this year for my birthday.
Anytime he gives me flowers, it’s really special because he always says, “I don’t understand the point of flowers. You spend money on something you know is going to die.”
Will you venture into the dark abyss
To be welded into a new creation
Will you let the flames scorch your skin
As you stand firmly planted in your assignment
We are beyond blessed with an amazing community of teens, young adults, priests, consecrated men and women, and families who are striving to live out Christ's invitation to authentic love and who have gifts to share their journeys through writing.