Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Devotion for today: lend me your ear

Devotion for today: lend me your ear

Before we leave the garden for good, let us take a look at a third person who was there. So far we have a traitor, a fleeing naked man, and now…

Scripture for meditation: John 18:10-11
Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the slave of the high priest, severing his right ear. (The slave’s name was Malchus.) At that Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword back in its sheath. Am I not to drink the cup the Father has given me?” Luke 22:51: Then he touched the ear and healed the man.

Christ tells us: Matthew 5:43-45
“You have heard the commandment, ‘You shall love your countryman but hate your enemy.’ My command to you is: love your enemies, pray for your persecutors. This will prove that you are sons of your heavenly father, for his sun rises on the bad and the good, he rains on the just and the unjust."

Fr. John Bartunek, L.C. tells us (speaking on the movie The Passion of the Christ): When Jesus is apprehended, the violence and betrayal and brutality exit Gethsemane, yet the film offers a curious final image in the Garden. Malchus, a member of the arresting mob, is sitting on the ground, touching his ear, utterly stunned. Only minutes before he had been the ringleader of the cruel and ruthless Temple guards. Now he is simply incapable of following them back into the city. His experience in the Garden has yanked him into another world. That man, Jesus, that rabble-rousing rabbi whom they had been sent to arrest, had miraculously restored the bloody and painful mess of his severed ear. Malchus was the recipient of a miracle; a supernatural gift bestowed by this Jesus on an enemy, on a man sworn to apprehend Him unjustly in the middle of the night. This was no ordinary rabbi, this was no ordinary Garden; this was no ordinary night. Not for Malchus. The film emphasized that small miracle because it is so eloquent. It shows what Jesus was really about. He was on a different level. He was God, and He let Himself be taken by ignoble men. He even healed one of them. It’s a moment that all sinners who have experienced God’s forgiveness appreciate deeply. In the midst of chaos and indifference and injustice, Jesus displays gentle mercy for His enemy. The contrast is not only emotionally moving but theologically significant and instructive. The film had to show an icon of composure and equilibrium and goodness in a maelstrom of passion and cutting and slashing, because Christians want to be able to live it. It’s part of the story, a particularly expressive part. It is said that Malchus became a Christian and joined the early Church in Jerusalem. Changing from a servant of violence and injustice to a defender of truth and peace is maybe more miraculous than replacing a severed ear; the film shows that Christ’s passion has the power for both. That’s another reason why this movie is about hope (Inside the Passion, Ascension Press, 2005).

Prayer: Micah 7: 7-8
As for me, I will look to the Lord, I will put my trust in God my savior; my God will hear me! Rejoice not over me, O my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will arise; though I sit in darkness, the Lord is my light.

My thoughts: I love the image of a sinner like myself sitting stunned in the Garden as Christ walks off, having forgiven me of my sins. The feeling from being cleansed of a burden after confessing the sin is the same. Our hasty and improper actions sometimes cause us to suffer bodily harm and spiritual disgrace. Yet Jesus mercifully restores us to our proper selves through His mercy and love. Did Malchus deserve such a miracle? Do we? Do the people with whom we deal on a daily basis? Let us remember the entire lesson we have gained from our time in the Garden and our experience of Christ with rather unusual people: mercy and love must always be our response to those who seek to hurt or desert us. It is what we ask of God in confession; it is what we must give to others.

Our prayer to God: A great practice for Lent is to take the movie, “The Passion of the Christ” and watch a segment a week, maybe following the Sorrowful Mysteries. This week would be “The Agony in the Garden”.  You could watch it every day, slowly allowing yourself to enter into Christ’s passion with Him, following Him on His journey. Then pray this beautiful old prayer:

Learning Christ

Teach me, my Lord, to be sweet and gentle in all the events of life: in disappointments, in the thoughtlessness of others, in the insincerity of those I trusted, in the unfaithfulness of those on whom I relied. Let me put myself aside, to think of the happiness of others, to hide my little pains and heartaches, so that I may be the only one to suffer from them. Teach me to profit by the suffering that comes across my path. Let me so use it that it may mellow me, not harden or embitter me; that it may make me patient, not irritable; that it may make me broad in my forgiveness, not narrow, haughty, and overbearing. May no one be less good for having come within my influence, no one less pure, less true, less kind, less noble for having been a fellow-traveler in our journey towards eternal life. As I go my rounds from one distraction to another, let me whisper from time to time a word of love to Thee. May my life be lived in the supernatural, full of power for good, and strong in its purpose of sanctity. Amen.
(The Prayer Book, edited by Rev. John P. O’Connell, M.A., S.T.D., and Jex Martin, M.A., The Catholic Press, 1958)

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