Saturday, March 31, 2012

Devotion for today; My God! My God! Why have You forsaken Me?

Christ’s anguish becomes unbearable, yet His faith in His Father remains unshaken. This is long, but as we prepare to enter Holy Week, let us take a few more minutes to be with Christ in His passion.

Scripture for meditation: Matthew 27:46

“My God, my God why have you forsaken me?”

Pope Benedict XVI tells us: ….However, what is the meaning of Jesus’ prayer, of the cry he addresses to the Father: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” - doubt about his mission, about the Father’s presence? Might there not be in this prayer the knowledge that he had been forsaken? The words that Jesus addresses to the Father are the beginning of Psalm 22 in which the Psalmist expresses to God his being torn between feeling forsaken and the certain knowledge of God’s presence in his People’s midst. He, the Psalmist, prays: “O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer; and by night, but find no rest. Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel” (vv. 3-4). The Psalmist speaks of this “cry” in order to express the full suffering of his prayer to God, seemingly absent: in the moment of anguish his prayer becomes a cry.

This also happens in our relationship with the Lord: when we face the most difficult and painful situations, when it seems that God does not hear, we must not be afraid to entrust the whole weight of our overburdened hearts to him, we must not fear to cry out to him in our suffering, we must be convinced that God is close, even if he seems silent. Repeating from the Cross the first words of Psalm 22 “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” — “My God my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mt 27:46); uttering the words of the Psalm, Jesus prays at the moment of his ultimate rejection by men, at the moment of abandonment; yet he prays, with the Psalm, in the awareness of God’s presence, even in that hour when he is feeling the human drama of death.

  However, a question arises within us: how is it possible that such a powerful God does not intervene to save his Son from this terrible trial? It is important to understand that Jesus’ prayer is not the cry of one who meets death with despair, nor is it the cry of one who knows he has been forsaken. At this moment Jesus makes his own the whole of Psalm 22, the Psalm of the suffering People of Israel. In this way he takes upon himself not only the sin of his people, but also that of all men and women who are suffering from the oppression of evil and, at the same time, he places all this before God’s own heart, in the certainty that his cry will be heard in the Resurrection: “The cry of extreme anguish is at the same time the certainty of an answer from God, the certainty of salvation — not only for Jesus himself, but for ‘many’” (Jesus of Nazareth, II, pp. 213-214 Ignatius Press, San Francisco 2011).

 In this prayer of Jesus are contained his extreme trust and his abandonment into God’s hands, even when God seems absent, even when he seems to be silent, complying with a plan incomprehensible to us. In the Catechism of the Catholic Church we read: “in the redeeming love that always united him to the Father, he assumed us in the state of our waywardness of sin, to the point that he could say in our name from the cross: ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’” (n. 603). His is a suffering in communion with us and for us, which derives from love and already bears within it redemption, the victory of love. At the supreme moment, Jesus gives vent to his heart’s grief, but at the same time makes clear the meaning of the Father’s presence and his consent to the Father’s plan of salvation of humanity.

 We too have to face ever anew the “today” of suffering of God’s silence — we express it so often in our prayers — but we also find ourselves facing the “today” of the Resurrection, of the response of God who took upon himself our sufferings, to carry them together with us and to give us the firm hope that they will be overcome (cf. Encyclical Letter Spe Salvi, nn. 35-40).

Dear friends, let us lay our daily crosses before God in our prayers, in the certainty that he is present and hears us. Jesus’ cry reminds us that in prayer we must surmount the barriers of our “ego” and our problems and open ourselves to the needs and suffering of others. May the prayer of Jesus dying on the Cross teach us to pray lovingly for our many brothers and sisters who are oppressed by the weight of daily life, who are living through difficult moments, who are in pain, who have no word of comfort; let us place all this before God’s heart, so that they too may feel the love of God who never abandons us. (, general address, Feb.8, 2012)

Scripture for reflection: Psalm 22

My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? Why so far from my call for help, from my cries of anguish?  My God, I call by day, but you do not answer; by night, but I have no relief.
Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the glory of Israel.
In you our fathers trusted; they trusted and you rescued them.
To you they cried out and they escaped; in you they trusted and were not disappointed.

But I am a worm, not a man, scorned by men, despised by the people.
All who see me mock me; they curl their lips and jeer;
they shake their heads at me.  “He relied on the LORD—let him deliver him;
if he loves him, let him rescue him.” For you drew me forth from the womb, made me safe at my mother’s breasts. Upon you I was thrust from the womb;
since my mother bore me you are my God.  Do not stay far from me, for trouble is near,
and there is no one to help.

Many bulls surround me; fierce bulls of Bashan encircle me.
They open their mouths against me, lions that rend and roar. Like water my life drains away;
all my bones are disjointed. My heart has become like wax, it melts away within me. As dry as a potsherd is my throat; my tongue cleaves to my palate; you lay me in the dust of death.  Dogs surround me; a pack of evildoers closes in on me. They have pierced my hands and my feet; I can count all my bones.  They stare at me and gloat; they divide my garments among them;
for my clothing they cast lots. But you, LORD, do not stay far off; my strength, come quickly to help me. Deliver my soul from the sword, my life from the grip of the dog. Save me from the lion’s mouth, my poor life from the horns of wild bulls.

Then I will proclaim your name to my brethren; in the assembly I will praise you: “You who fear the LORD, give praise! All descendants of Jacob give honor; show reverence, all descendants of Israel! For he has not spurned or disdained the misery of this poor wretch, Did not turn away from me, but heard me when I cried out. I will offer praise in the great assembly; my vows I will fulfill before those who fear him. The poor will eat their fill; those who seek the LORD will offer praise. May your hearts enjoy life forever!”

All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD;
All the families of nations will bow low before him. For kingship belongs to the LORD, the ruler over the nations.  All who sleep in the earth will bow low before God; All who have gone down into the dust will kneel in homage. And I will live for the LORD; my descendants will serve you. The generation to come will be told of the Lord, that they may proclaim to a people yet unborn the deliverance you have brought.

My thoughts: When we feel that God has forsaken us, it is then that He is carrying us. Never stop loving, never stop believing, and never stop hoping. There is a resurrection waiting for all of us at the end of our Cross.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Devotion for today: I thirst

As we continue our study of the seven last words of Christ on the Cross, we come to His painful pronouncement...

Scripture for meditation: John 19:28
After that, Jesus, realizing that everything was now finished, said to fulfill the Scripture, “I am thirsty.” There was a jar there, full of common wine. They stuck a sponge soaked in this wine on some hyssop and raised it to his lips.

Scripture for reflection: Psalm 69:21-23
Insult has broken my heart, and I am weak, I looked for sympathy, but there was none; for comforters, and I found none. Rather, they put gall in my food, and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.

Fr. John Bartunek, L.C. tells us:  The Gospels record that Christ’s crucifixion began around noon and His dead body was taken down three or four hours later. The last time He would have drunk anything would have been at the Last Supper. Considering His overwhelming blood loss from the beatings and flagellation, and the physical exhaustion of the forced march with the cross to Calvary under the hot sun, Jesus’ thirst must have been severe. But thirst is an odd type of suffering. It is physical, but hidden. As Jesus hangs on the cross, His torn flesh rubbing against the rough grain of the wooden cross, His head and brow pierced with thorns, His hands and feet throbbing from the nails, it seems curious that Jesus doesn’t complain about any of those excruciating pains. Instead, He mentions only being thirsty. In one sense, nothing could be done to alleviate the monumental pain at that point, whereas Jesus could still take a drink to relieve His parched throat. Christian tradition has always seen another meaning included in those words, however. Just as Jesus called to mind the suffering of physical thirst, Christians believe He was simultaneously bringing to light another hidden suffering – that of spiritual thirst, the thirst of unrequited love. God didn’t have to send a Savior to fallen humanity. And yet He did, Christians believe. Why? Out of love. In the early chapters of his Gospel, St. John summarizes the entire message of Christianity in one simple but amazing phrase: “For God so loved the world as to give his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him may not perish but may have life everlasting.” (John 3:16) God wants to save sinners; He wants to welcome them back into His friendship by forgiving their sins and renewing the trust in their hearts. He thirsts to gives them back authentic meaning and unquenchable hope. When Jesus gasps, “I thirst,” it points to more than His burning desire for a drink; it reveals the even more ardent desire for hearts, for the reciprocal love of those He loves so deeply. (Inside the Passion; Ascension Press, 2005)

 Prayer: Psalm 69:30-31, 33-35
But I am afflicted and in pain; let your saving help, O God, protect me. I will praise the name of God in song, and I will glorify him with thanksgiving; “See, you lowly ones, and be glad; you who seek God, may your hearts be merry! For the Lord hears the poor, and his own who are in bonds he spurns not. Let the heavens and the earth praise him, the seas and whatever moves them!”

My thoughts: I recently spoke with a young middle school teacher. He told me that what upsets him the most about some of his students was not the crazy behavior of pre-teens, but the lack of moral and ethical development he sees in them. He said he sees an “entitled” mentality. “I showed up didn’t I? I deserve something for that!” “If I don’t want to come to school, I don’t have to. You still have to pass me.” Parents, too, he said, have the same idea. “He wrote the paper, he should get an ‘A’. After all, he deserves to go to a good college someday, and you could hurt his chances.” Of course, this is by no means across the board. There are wonderful students and parents out there who know it takes hard work, dedication and self-sacrifice to get ahead in this world. Father Bartunek reminds us that God didn’t have to send a Savior, and that made me think: how many of us feel entitled to heaven? How many of us do not really believe that our sins may keep us out of heaven? How many of us feel that Jesus’ suffering and death opened heaven to everyone who is “a good person.” How many of us are not willing to work hard, dedicate ourselves to a life of prayer, and perform acts of sacrifice and mercy to get to heaven? Jesus thirsted for souls. He saw how many would never understand that His suffering and death were an invitation to us to join Him on the Cross, not an invitation to entitlement. We must relieve Jesus’ thirst by bringing Him our hearts and souls, by promising to pray for all those souls who do not believe in sin and its effects, by nailing our wills to the cross, and by never taking them back.

Our prayer to God: Thirst is relieved by water. There are many souls in the world today thirsting for the love and mercy of God. Let us be the water flowing into their hearts by our loving presence in their lives. Kindness to others, relieving the suffering of others, satiating the thirst for God in others will bring relief to our suffering Lord. Jesus Christ crucified, have mercy on us all.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Devotion for today: behold your son

Although His agony and pain were intense, Jesus took care to entrust us to His mother.

Scripture for reflection:  John 19:25-27
Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved he said to his mother, "Woman, behold, your son."Then he said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother."And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.

Scripture for reflection: Genesis 3:20
The man called his wife Eve, because she became the mother of all the living.

Blessed John Paul II tells us:  After recalling the presence of Mary and the other women at the Lord's cross, St. John relates: "When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, 'Woman, behold, your son!'. Then he said to the disciple, 'Behold, your mother!’". These particularly moving words are a "revelation scene": they reveal the deep sentiments of the dying Christ and contain a great wealth of meaning for Christian faith and spirituality. At the end of his earthly life, as he addressed his Mother and the disciple he loved, the crucified Messiah establishes a new relationship of love between Mary and Christians. Interpreted at times as no more than an expression of Jesus' filial piety towards his Mother whom he entrusts for the future to his beloved disciple, these words go far beyond the contingent need to solve a family problem. In fact, attentive consideration of the text, confirmed by the interpretation of many Fathers and by common ecclesial opinion, presents us, in Jesus' twofold entrustment, with one of the most important events for understanding the Virgin's role in the economy of salvation. The words of the dying Jesus actually show that his first intention was not to entrust his Mother to John, but to entrust the disciple to Mary and to give her a new maternal role…. Although Jesus' death causes Mary deep sorrow, it does not in itself change her normal way of life: in fact, in departing from Nazareth to start his public life, Jesus had already left his Mother alone. Moreover, the presence at the Cross of her relative, Mary of Clopas, allows us to suppose that the Blessed Virgin was on good terms with her family and relatives, by whom she could have been welcomed after her Son's death. Instead, Jesus' words acquire their most authentic meaning in the context of his saving mission. Spoken at the moment of the redemptive sacrifice, they draw their loftiest value precisely from this sublime circumstance. In fact, after Jesus' statements to his Mother, the Evangelist adds a significant clause: "Jesus, knowing that all was now finished...." (Jn 19:28), as if he wished to stress that he had brought his sacrifice to completion by entrusting his Mother to John, and in him to all men, whose Mother she becomes in the work of salvation. The reality brought about by Jesus' words, that is, Mary's new motherhood in relation to the disciple, is a further sign of the great love that led Jesus to offer his life for all people. On Calvary this love is shown in the gift of a mother, his mother, who thus becomes our mother too….  The universal motherhood of Mary, the "Woman" of the wedding at Cana and of Calvary, recalls Eve, "mother of all living" (Gn 3:20). However, while the latter helped to bring sin into the world, the new Eve, Mary, co-operates in the saving event of Redemption. Thus in the Blessed Virgin the figure of "woman" is rehabilitated and her motherhood takes up the task of spreading the new life in Christ among men…. Mary becomes the Mother of all disciples. Jesus' words, "Behold, your son", effect what they express, making Mary the mother of John and of all the disciples destined to receive the gift of divine grace. On the Cross Jesus did not proclaim Mary's universal motherhood formally, but established a concrete maternal relationship between her and the beloved disciple. In the Lord's choice we can see his concern that this motherhood should not be interpreted in a vague way, but should point to Mary's intense, personal relationship with individual Christians. May each one of us, precisely through the concrete reality of Mary's universal motherhood, fully acknowledge her as our own Mother, and trustingly commend ourselves to her maternal love. (L'Osservatore Romano, April 1997)

Prayer: O Glorious Virgin
O glorious Virgin, ever blest, all daughters of mankind above, who gave nurture from your breast to God, with pure maternal love.
What man has lost in hapless Eve, the blossom sprung from you restores; you to the sorrowing here beneath, have opened heaven’s eternal doors.
O gate, through which has passed the King; O hail, when light shone through the gloom! The ransomed nations praise and sing, the Offspring of your virgin womb.
All honor, laud and glory be, O Jesu, virgin-born to thee; all glory as is ever meet, to Father and to Paraclete. Amen

 My thoughts: The prodigal son is a well-known figure in the New Testament. He stands for all of us when we stray from God the Father. Today we see The Good Son, St. John. I think he stands for all of us when we do the will of God. Here we find him at the foot of the Cross, the only apostle who did not run and hide when adversity presented itself. Tradition has it that he stayed with Mary throughout the entire series of events leading up to the crucifixion. He is the youngest of the apostles, “the one whom Jesus loved”, and the bravest. Jesus loved Him because his heart was pure, his spirit strong and his faith unwavering. May that be said for all of us! Blessed Fulton Sheen said that when he died, and stood before Jesus, he wanted Jesus to say to him, “I know all about you. My mother has spoken well of you to me.” By entrusting ourselves to our heavenly mother, praying to her to intercede for us to her Son, and following the example of St. John, maybe we will hear those words when we enter the heavenly kingdom!

Our prayer to God: Lent is almost over. Next week we enter into the Triduum, then journey on to Easter. This would be a good time to stop and reflect on the role Mary played in the passion, thank her for it, and ask her to be with us as we travel our own roads of pain. She understands what we are going through as only a mother can, and she will help us if we but ask.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Devotion for today: this day you will be with me in paradise

Today our study takes us to the “good thief’ and his request.

Scripture for meditation: Luke 23:39-43
One of the criminals hanging in crucifixion blasphemed him; “Aren’t you the Messiah? Then save yourself and us.” But the other one rebuked him: “Have you no fear of God, seeing you are under the same sentence? We deserve it, after all. We are only paying the price for what we’ve done, but this man has done nothing wrong.” He then said, “Jesus, remember me when you enter upon your reign.” And Jesus replied, “I assure you: this day you will be with me in paradise.”

Scripture for reflection: Hebrews 4:14-16
Brothers and sisters: Since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin. So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.

Father Donald Haggerty teaches us to pray: The reprieve of Didymus, the good thief, stolen by mercy at that late hour, continues to astonish me, Lord, and fill me with delight. It puts to rest any fear that we are judged at the end as though standing before a prosecutor intent on proving guilt. No, you are greatly merciful and demand only sincere, honest acknowledgement of sin. We need not tremble before the kindness of your eyes. But there is more to savor. Didymus received his wonderful grace while beside you in suffering and perhaps the same is true for all of us. Help me to know how present is our mercy in any trial, that I may live with a longing to hear myself one day say the same words you spoke to Didymus. (Magnificat, Holy Week, 2012)

My thoughts: I read many commentaries on these last words of Christ, and learned from the Church greats that there are many ways to interpret this passage. “Paradise,” I learned, does not necessarily mean “heaven.” In fact, it really doesn’t since Christ did not go “to the Father” (or heaven) on Good Friday. He descended into what we would call today “purgatory” to release all the souls waiting for the gates of heaven to open. So did Didymus actually escape “hell” and end up in purgatory? It’s possible. The explanations I like the best were the ones that saw Didymus’ action on the cross as a good confession. He admitted his offense, he asked Christ to forgive him, and he did his penance. When Jesus tells him, “This day you will be with me in paradise,” He is referring to the paradise Didymus will now experience: the paradise of God’s forgiveness and mercy; not a place, but a state of bliss, one we can all experience when we do as Fr. Haggerty asks of us: give a sincere, honest acknowledgement of our sin. Then the floodgates of mercy open for us, just as the gates of heaven did on Good Friday, and we, too, can experience heaven on earth.

Our prayer to God: I like to picture Jesus waiting for me in the confessional. He already knows my sins, since He knows all I've done and knows my intentions. But He waits for me to come to Him to receive the gift of forgiveness and the grace of conversion. I always picture Him smiling at me as I leave the confessional, so proud of me that I humbled myself, placed myself on my knees (not a cross), admitted my guilt, asked forgiveness and made restitution. Like Didymus I, too, ask (in my way) “Lord, remember me, when I come before your kingdom.”  On that day, I want to hear Him say, “Well done my good and faithful servant. Now enter into my kingdom.” Today, instead of operating “outside the box,” why not enter into it. The light is on for you for forgiveness and mercy.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Devotion for today: “Father forgive them…”

Today we begin a study of the Seven Last Words of Christ on the Cross.

Scripture for meditation: Luke 23:34
Then Jesus said, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do".

Scripture for reflection: Isaiah 53:12
Yet He Himself bore the sin of many, and interceded for the transgressors.

Commentary:  "FATHER, FORGIVE THEM" By Fr. William G. Most
"Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." These few words from the Cross contain a great puzzle. Some modern writers have said the most distinctive feature about Jesus was that he forgave sins "without asking for any repentance": he welcomed and ate with prostitutes and publicans and if he asked for a change of heart, he did that "after" accepting them, not before. So these words from the Cross seem to be precisely a forgiveness without any repentance at all. At the very moment when his enemies were putting him to a terrible death, he excused them, asked for forgiveness for them. Further, since he had said and knew that "I and the Father are one" (John 10:30), his request could not go unanswered. So it would seem they were forgiven in the very act of sinning. Could we explain away the problem by saying that they really "did not know at all" what they were doing? Hardly. They had seen his wonders, his cures, his exorcisms. They knew he was a true prophet, at the very least, and a holy and wonderfully good man. The thing they did not know was that he was divine--but they must have known more than enough beyond that point to be guilty, hideously guilty. So, unless we wish to go along with Luther's famous dictum, "Even though you sin greatly, believe still more greatly" we will instinctively think something is wrong. And there is something wrong: even though Jesus shows a heroically kind disposition, we cannot believe that he was almost giving permission in advance to sin by not asking for repentance as a condition of forgiveness. So we must take refuge in some distinctions. It is one thing for Jesus, for the Father, to be willing to forgive; it is quite another thing for the sinner to actually take in, to receive the forgiveness. For what is forgiveness? It is not, as Luther thought, a merely forensic or external thing, declaring innocent or "acquitting" one who really is still totally corrupt inside. Rather, forgiveness means the infusion of grace into the soul, to really make it holy; forgiveness does not mean simply "acquitting" the guilty, while leaving them totally corrupt. Therefore, Jesus did ask for the grace of forgiveness. His prayer was surely heard, for at the very moment he was painfully earning the very thing he asked for. And of course, since he knew he was/is God, he himself granted what he himself asked. In brief, then, he did ask that the grace of forgiveness be "offered." That does not at all say that all to whom it was then being offered accepted it.(HOMILETIC & PASTORAL REVIEW, June 1991)

Prayer: The Act of Contrition
O My God, I am heartily sorry, for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins, because of Your just punishments; but most of all, because they offended You, My God, Who art all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to sin no more, and to avoid the near occasion of sin, Amen.

My thoughts: Is it any wonder that Christ’s offer of the grace of forgiveness is rejected today? Fr. Most makes a good point when he states that forgiveness does not mean that the guilty are just let off the hook with no expectation for their change of behavior. When Luke says that Christ forgave His persecutors, he is saying that Christ offered them the grace that goes with forgiveness. When someone forgives us, we accept it and make a point to avoid the behavior that caused the pain in the first place. Sadly, many people confess their sins with no desire to change. Many will plead ignorance of the fact that the behavior is a sin, or come up with a justification for their sinful behavior, just as the people who crucified Jesus could plead ignorance that they did not know He was divine, or justify what they did by saying Caiaphas made them do it. If we want to live with Christ in heaven, we must admit that what is wrong in our lives is a sin. We must accept the grace of God’s forgiveness, which means we must be willing to stop the sinful behavior and make repentance for what we did.  Fr. Most makes it clear that Christ is saying, “For they know not what they do” when they reject your love, your mercy and your grace of forgiveness. Let us not be the ones He is talking about.

Our prayer to God: There comes a time in our lives when we must forgive, and there is a time when we must be forgiven. Let us be clear in both cases, however, that the forgiveness given and the forgiveness received demand a change of behavior. Today is a good day to pray before the crucifix, hearing the first of Christ’s “last words” and letting them sink into our hearts. Let us give Him our heartfelt thanks for forgiveness, make a promise to avoid the near occasion of sin, and seek only what is good and right and just.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Devotion for today: Mary’s yes to life, yes to death for Christ

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation, Mary's "yes" to Gabriel

Scripture for meditation: Luke 1:38
Mary said: “I am the servant of the Lord. Let it be done to me as you say.” With that the angel left her.

Scripture for reflection: John 19:28
Near the cross of Jesus there stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clophas, and Mary Magdalene.

Blessed John Paul II tells us: Regina Caeli, laetare, alleluia! So the Church sings in the Easter season, inviting the faithful to join in the spiritual joy of Mary, Mother of the Redeemer. The Blessed Virgin’s gladness at Christ’s resurrection is even greater if one considers her intimate participation in Jesus’ entire life. In accepting with complete availability the words of the angel Gabriel, who announced to her that she would become the Mother of the Messiah, Mary began her participation in the drama of redemption….The Council (Vatican II) stressed the profound dimension for the Blessed Virgin’s presence on Calvary, recalling that she “faithfully persevered in her union with her Son unto the cross” (Lumen Gentium, 58) and points out that this union “in the work of salvation is made manifest from the time of Christ’s virginal conception up to his death” (LG 57)…. We pause to reflect on the Mother’s involvement in her Son’s redeeming passion, which was completed by her sharing in his suffering. Let us return again…to the foot of the cross where the Mother “stood, in keeping with the divine plan (cf. Jn 19:25), grieving exceedingly with her only begotten Son, uniting herself with a maternal heart with his sacrifice, and lovingly consenting to the immolation of this victim which she herself had brought forth” (LG58)….The Council thus emphasized Mary’s willingness to share in her Son’s redeeming sacrifice and join her own maternal suffering to his priestly offering…as a “victim” of expiation for the sins of all humanity….In the fourth Gospel, St. John says that “standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister”…. The Blessed Virgin’s “standing erect” at the foot of the cross recalls her unfailing constancy and extraordinary courage in facing suffering…. Sharing his deepest feelings, she countered with forbearance and pardon the arrogant insults addressed to the crucified Messiah, associating herself with his prayer to the Father, “Forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Lk 23:34). By sharing in the feeling of abandonment to the Father’s will expressed in Jesus’ last words on the cross: “Father into your hands I commend my spirit!” (Lk 23:46), she thus offered, as the Council noted, loving consent “to the immolation of this victim which she herself had brought forth” (LG 58). Mary’s supreme “yes” is radiant with trusting hope in the mysterious future, begun with the death of her crucified Son…. Mary’s hope at the foot of the cross contained a light stronger than the darkness that reigns in many hearts. In the presence of the redeeming sacrifice, the hope of the Church and of humanity was born in Mary (General audience of April 2, 1997).
Prayer: Ave Maris Stella
Hail, bright star of ocean, God’s own Mother blest, ever sinless Virgin, Gate of heavenly rest. Taking that sweet Ave, which from Gabriel came, peace confirm within us, changing Eva’s name. Break the captives’ fetters, light on blindness pour, all our ills expelling, every bliss implore. Show thyself a Mother; may the Word Divine, born for us thine Infant, hear our prayers through thine. Virgin all excelling, mildest of the mild, freed from guilt, preserve us, pure and undefiled. Keep our life all spotless, make our way secure, till we find in Jesus, joy for evermore. Through the highest heaven, to the immortal Three, Father, Son and Spirit, One same glory be. Amen

My thoughts: “Wow, I never knew what I was getting into!” Have those words ever crossed your lips? They come to mind when we read of the consequences to Mary from her “yes” to the angel Gabriel. “Be it done unto me according to Your will” led her to the foot of the Cross. She stood there, tall and straight, not shouting at the rude crowd, not yelling at God for doing this to her son, not picking up dirt and hurling it at the soldiers. She stood there, and she bore it all in silence, forgiving everyone as her Son did. She felt all His pain and anguish, and she accepted it all as the price of our redemption, as the cost of her “yes”. She did not know Jesus would rise, but her undying faith in God led her to accept all aspects of Christ’s passion without question. Oh, if our faith could only be a tiny bit like hers! We would understand nothing, but accept everything as good and necessary from a loving and merciful God. Her “yes” to her son’s birth and death led to our salvation. Let our “yes” be without contingencies. We do not know the plan, but we know the source of the plan, and in Him we can place all our trust.
Our prayer to God:  Mary, please help me to be like you. I am afraid of suffering, and yet I want to do God’s will. Please give me a share of your strength, courage, dignity and faith, so that I, too, can stand tall at the foot of your son’s cross and help Him bring salvation to the world. Amen.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Devotion for today: the wound of abandonment

Today we contemplate the Fifth Sorrowful Mystery: The Crucifixion and Death of Jesus on the Cross

Scripture for meditation: Isaiah 53:8
He was cut off from the land of the living.

Christ says: John 12:32
“When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men to Myself, says the Lord.”

Meditation: The Wound of Abandonment
On the Cross Jesus felt completely abandoned. “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?” Earth didn’t want Him and Heaven wouldn’t have Him. “For our sakes God made Him who did not know sin, to be sin so that in Him we might become the very holiness of God.” Good Friday follows Holy Thursday because Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross was the price He lovingly paid to give us the complete gift of Himself in the Holy Eucharist and to become our Divine Companion in this most Blessed Sacrament.

When we unite ourselves to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, we love the Father with the perfect love of the Heart of Jesus. The Eucharist is an immolation of love where Jesus continuously “pleads for us” with the seven last words He prayed on the Cross:

“Father forgive them” – for those in most need of mercy;

“Why have You abandoned Me?” – for those who feel forsaken;

“Behold your Mother” – to a world consecrated to her;

“I thirst” - to be loved by all in this most Blessed Sacrament;

“You shall be with Me in paradise” – to those who visit Him here, for the Eucharist is a pledge of glory and a foretaste of heaven;

“Into Your hands I commend My Spirit”- as this time Jesus places each of us into His Sacred Heart and commends us now to His Heavenly Father, that the Father may see and love in us what He sees and loves in His only begotten Son;

“It is finished” – as there is nothing more that Jesus can give us than the complete gift of Himself in this Holy Eucharist which is all that He has and all that He is.

He gave up His body on the Cross for love of us that He may give His body to us in the Holy Eucharist, that we may be one with Him forever in everlasting glory.

Blessed Sacrament Prayer:
On each bead of this mystery, Jesus, we offer You all the comfort of Your Holy Mother who stood by You when You were alone and abandoned on the Cross, for again You are alone and abandoned in so many tabernacles of the world. We beg You, Jesus, to draw all men to Your Eucharistic Heart for You have said: “When I am lifted up from the earth I will draw all men to Myself.”

This selection is taken from the book Come To Me In The Blessed Sacrament by Fr. Vincent Martin Lucia, Apostolate for Perpetual Adoration, Mt. Clemens, Michigan.