The Way of the Cross

The story is a simple one. This week, Jews around the world gather in their homes and retell it, the story of how God’s people came from bondage, oppression and being lost for forty years in the desert to liberation and the Promised Land.

This week, Christians will also gather in their churches and through their liturgies, tell the story of Jesus, his mother and friends, and how they moved from the glorious promise of liberation (Palm Sunday) through a meal, the cross and the emptiness of Holy Saturday to the Joy of Easter.

This week as they do every week, Passionists will follow in the footsteps of Saint Paul of The Cross who loved to spend hours in quiet reflection, gazing on the Cross of Jesus, feeling Jesus’ Mary’s and His friends’ terrible agony and feelings of being lost, abandoned and utterly destitute. St. Paul of the Cross taught us to stay with this awhile. He taught us not to run away—it’s the way to liberation, to life.

AA’s as well as many other 12-Step Groups around the world will gather in the church basements this week, as they do each week and share their stories—stories of being lost, abandoned and utterly destitute. They won’t put an end to these experiences, but like their Jewish and Christian brothers and sisters, they will recall how their experience led them to freedom, joy and new life.

This week the people of Boston, recall their journey from the glorious promise of winning the race to the utter terror of the bombings last year. They will remember the loss of life, the loss of limbs and tell of their victory of coming together and promising to move forward.

Finally, this week’s TED Talk introduces us to Aicha El-Wafi and Phyllis Rodrigues, two seemingly very different mothers who by coming together find forgiveness and friendship.

It is the story of what binds us all. There are no exceptions. There is no we vs. they; us vs. them; good vs. bad; right vs. wrong; winners vs. losers. We are all that—we are one.

 

May the Passion of Jesus Christ be always in our hearts.

 

The Holy Grail

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by James Paulin

Recently, historians claim they just may have found the actual cup that Christ used at the last supper. This item has become the theme of some romantic tales of knights in shining armor setting out to find this legendary vessel. As a metaphor, any quest to discover the finest object has become a search for the “holy grail” of its kind. Of course, interest in seeing the authentic grail would be almost universal and to touch it would be reserved for a select few. Artifacts credited to Jesus are always shrouded in controversy but Jesus’ cup has always been available to those who choose to drink from it. Indeed, to follow Him they must.

 

At the last supper, Jesus turned common bread into His body and table wine into His blood. This must have baffled all those present as it seems physically impossible even though they had witnessed many impossible miracles Jesus had performed. He forewarned them in a bold statement in a synagogue how they must drink His blood and eat His flesh to have life within them and many turned away when they heard this “hard” teaching. Not just a symbol, the grail or cup of blood which Jesus offers us is as real as love, truth and faith.

 

The transformation that takes place when the cup is received and consumed is not ethereal or serene but substantial and compelling. It came with a caution notice when requested by the disciples James and John. They were asked “can you drink of the cup that I drink of and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” The answer came from the heart, looking Jesus straight in the eye. “We can”.

Compassion, Vulnerability?

A few years back, I caught up with a former mentor and teacher of mine. She was quite accomplished having written books, taught at many different levels and held significant administrative positions in the Church. What she said to me, puzzled me then, and to this day makes me wonder what brought her to say it. What she said was she found herself in darkness. She did not elucidate any further, and I was then unable to question her more. Today it is too late.

 

In her book Daring Greatly, Brené Brown quotes Pema Chödrön, a Buddhist Nun who says: “Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.” (Brown, 2012) There it is again. Darkness.

 

So maybe there’s a relationship between darkness and compassion? Brown and Chödrön seem to be saying that. As Passionist Partners we sing and talk of the Compassion of Christ leading us to life. Is that compassion of Christ the same as the compassion of Jesus or the compassion of Mary standing at His cross on Good Friday or holding Him in her hands after he died?

 

In this Ted Talk Brené Brown talks about here personal experience with vulnerability, which she says, is the birthplace of joy, life, love… I share this not as a final answer to what is compassion, but as my continued search to find the light, especially when I feel the darkness.

 

 

Love or Fear?

 

This past Tuesday’s scripture readings tell of the angel appearing to Mary and telling her to “Fear not!”, one of the most repeated phrases in scripture, at least that is what I remember my high school religion teacher asserting many years ago.

 

Elizabeth Kübler-Ross in her book Life Lessons written when she thought she was dying, writes: “But deep down, at our cores, there are only two emotions: love and fear.” Just before that statement she writes: “To transcend fear, though, we must move somewhere else emotionally; we must move into love.” (Ross and Kessler, 2000)  Then I remember hearing that “God is love, and he who abides in love, abides in God.”

 

Brene Brown in her book, Daring Greatly quotes her earlier book The Gifts of Imperfection in which she defines love. She does this not as the final word, but as she says, to begin the conversation. “We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known.”  (Daring Greatly, 2012)

 

Astronaut Chris Hatfield shares in this TED Talk how he dealt with fear when he lost his sight in space. It’s an amazing witness to Brown’s thought that we must be vulnerable if we are truly to love and live.

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by James Paulin

The stock market has two basic motivations, fear and greed. One principal is that sensible transactions should be based on the motto “buy low and sell high”. Given these two potent facts, in spite of endless, often contradictory, financial expert opinions, many investors buy high (greed) and sell low (fear) thus losing their treasure. Common wisdom is to be a long term investor because as a general direction, the market trend is up. Hopefully, when one needs or chooses to sell they make a rewarding profit. Of course, this endeavor requires investment of capital, patience, wisdom and faith. Short term profits are possible but are riskier and require more savvy.

In comparison, the spiritual world has much in common with finance. Heaven and hell are traditionally depicted as perfected joy (greatly desired) and eternal fire (feared). Born into not only a physical but moral circumstance, choices must be determined based on where time and energy are spent and what rewards are to be gained. The ultimate goal is security and well being or peace and joy. Approaches are individually determined but wise investments still take patience and faith to arrive in paradise. Risk is part of the decision making process as values are weighed and brought to bear or dismissed.

We can be assured that the road to paradise will not be without obstacles and detours. For many their perseverance and deeds will be remarkable and for most there is trial and failure with disappointing times prevalent. Fortunately, God provides a way to attain glory with Him in spite of our misguided choices or more grievous offences. The sins of the stock market are unforgiving and exacting. However, Jesus paid for all the mistakes and wrongdoing of those who accept His gift of self sacrifice even if it is embraced at the very end. When Jesus was recognized, nailed to the cross as the Savior by the thief crucified next to Him, His words of absolution were “This day you will be with me in paradise”.

A Boy and His Dog

Advertisers love to include “beautiful” people in their ads, thinking I guess, people will think their product is like the “beautiful” person. If you are like me and find that you have fallen for this, buying a car somehow thinking now I can be beautiful, you realize the folly of such thinking.

Watching “A Boy and His Dog” helps me realize that I have a lot to learn on what is beautiful. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Don’t Miss an Opportunity to Party

Sam Berms shares his four plus one habits that he believed will make a happy life. Sam lost his life this past Friday and was remembered by his family and friends at Temple Israel in Sharon, Massachusetts. Sam was only 17, a Junior at Foxboro High School in Foxboro, Massachusetts, but I believe he knew more about life than many of us senior citizens. Hope you enjoy and share his five secrets.

Choose Life!

Post traumatic stress power—games can help us deal with traumatic stress! Can that possibly be true? In this 20 minute video, Jane McGonigal shows us how we can garner strength and a new zest for life through trauma. Of course she is not suggesting that we go out and create some traumatic stress to achieve this, but she is suggesting what Passionists have for the past three hundred plus years been telling us, i.e. trauma is part of our lives—it’s not meant to “do us in”, but to make us stronger, to help us choose life!

After watching this, I made my 2014 New Year’s resolution. Actually, realizing I rarely followed through for any length of time with such resolutions I quit doing this years ago but I’m going to try again, I’m making a resolution—I’m going to play more games.

It’s a Wonderful Life

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by Jim Paulin (Detroit Community)

Stop the pain! Overwhelming feelings of despair may cause anyone to think that things would be better if they had never been born. Looking for relief from emotional or physical problems, we look for the right drug or some sort of avenue of escape. Rich or poor, all of us must endure distress in life. Of what heavenly good is pain?

The classic movie “It’s a wonderful life” starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed paints a dramatic picture of a desperate situation on a great guy named George Bailey. He looses sight of his overall importance in life when faced with financial ruin and accusations of fraud. He tries to self-medicate the pain with alcohol and drives himself to a drawbridge where he ponders suicide on a snowy Christmas Eve. A peculiar angel named Clarence intervenes at the last moment by appealing to the goodness within the man that underlies all else. Clarence throws himself into the torrent and yells for help to the man. Instantly, saving the life of another is the automatic response and the thoughts of his plight disappear. The angel allows George to see how things would be if he had never lived at all. The value of his life is seen clearly in the positive events that shaped his past and present. George Bailey sees the light and is, in a sense, born again.

Pain is an inevitable part of life and serves a possible purpose. As gold is refined by fire, we tend to value the best things in life when enduring pain. Simple pleasures taken for granted are prized when they are lost. A breath easily taken, the sight of a loved one or walking with a spring in one’s step may be too much for some to expect. The need for a miracle brought crowds to Jesus as he taught and healed. The suffering sought forgiveness of sins, demons driven out, lepers cured and on and on. Many were drawn to him seeking relief from pain. God allows pain to serve as a call and as a means to convey the greatest love story of all.

The passion of Jesus Christ is the infinite mystery of the revelation of God. Oh! How inspired and elevated our minds become when experiencing an awesome natural beauty such as a magnificent flower or a scene of sun and clouds, mountains or water. It is easy to believe in the God that sends new life, most impressively when it is our own child. God is capable of doing anything to perfection. Why would mental and physical pain and spiritual anguish be the method chosen to redeem all of mankind and reunite a sinful people to a holy God?

An act of unconditional love is a perfect offering as there are no preconditions as well as no payment. It simply must be received. The relevance of the act is balanced against the ability of the giver. All powerful, all loving, and beyond imagination, God acted by giving the highest of sacrifices as love that knows no bounds submitted to pain of every sort as a holy, living sacrifice. God’s open invitation to enjoy His friendship and forgiveness is the good news for all to be welcomed into a wonderful life.