The REALLY New Blog
...is at: www.ErnstWiley.com
Ernst Wiley - Words Matter
/* News Ticker Head info ------------------------------------------------ */
A foray into the world of blogs? A scribble or two meant for sharing? A bunch of nothing? You can decide. I'll write here on a random basis...random should be taken literally.
...is at: www.ErnstWiley.com
We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.
Jesus said " If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow me."
Lord Jesus, you humbled yourself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Help us to love your cross, and accept the crosses you ask us to carry for love of you.
Jesus was led away,
and carrying the Cross by himself,
went out to what is called
the Place of the Skull, Golgotha.
Lord, You showed a ready obedience in taking up your cross. I often forget that it takes strength to obey, not weakness. Forgive my disobedience. Since all lawful authority comes from God, I am really obeying you out of love.Christ willingly took the cross upon himself. He asked first, to be sure there wasn't another way. But he submitted to God.
This isn't Lenten, per se. But I'm posting it anyway:
When you think about how much we have to be grateful for, it is hard to believe how quickly we become like the “stiff-necked” people that Moses led through the desert. They experienced the plagues brought down on Egypt, they saw the deaths of the non-Israelite first-born, they walked through the parted sea on dry land, and they were given manna from heaven and water from a rock, yet after every miracle - almost immediately -they turned to God and said, “What have you done for me lately?”
Sometimes when we worry and fret about our finances – both our personal finances, and the financial stability of our spiritual home – we sound very much like the Israelites. We focus on the negative, the short-falls, and the areas we want to be better.
Some of us forget the Egypt we came from; failing to recognize the many blessings God has given us. We insist on measuring our material success not against our legitimate need, but against some preconceived notion of what more we need (or want) and comparing ourselves to someone else who we perceive to have “more stuff.”
In my own life, it can be easy to do this. I forget that I lived in a small, rented house, with a single mother who struggled to make ends meet. I forget that I started working at 16 because if I was going to drive, I had to pay my own insurance and gas, and I would be responsible for the bulk of my college education. I forget that for the first six months we were married, Cami and I lived off of less than what we make now in one month, or that we shared one car for several years until we were on our feet.
You would think I would recognize our blessings now that we have two cars, a three-bedroom house in a nice neighborhood, and we eat rice or Raman noodles rarely, and only because we want to. But it isn’t hard to allow the wandering Israelite inside of me to come peeking through; to look across the street at the bigger house, or the nicer car and say, “God, what have you done for me lately!?!”
It is the same in our parish. We have talked a lot recently about the financial needs of the parish. Let me say that those needs are very real, and it is a legitimate topic of discussion for us to have as a community of believers who will only reach our potential as we respond more fully to the Will of God. “Of whom much is given, much is expected.”
But, while we are working to improve our parish – both fiscally and spiritually – it remains important to keep the many blessings we have in mind, and to genuinely praise God for those gifts he has given us. Or, in the words of the Bing Crosby song, “We need to, accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, latch on to the affirmative…”
We do have a beautiful facility, and we have many people – both paid staff and unpaid laborers – who work diligently to maintain the physical spaces we know as St. Joan of Arc Parish. We have so many opportunities to enrich our faith, and many individuals who serve as teachers, encouragers, hosts, and facilitators. The educational and faith formation opportunities extend from the smallest of our children, through our most seasoned elders. We are given many wonderful chances to have fun, make new friends, strengthen old relationships, and broaden our social horizons through the various social events of the parish. We offer emotional and spiritual support to our members in all stages of life. We are each given many chances to invest our time, our talent, and our monetary resources back into this Spiritual Home, and we have many individuals who – on a regular basis and in often-extraordinary ways – return the gifts God has given them. Most importantly, we have the opportunity daily to meet Christ in the Blessed Sacrament and to receive God’s grace through the sacraments of His Church.
These are important things to remember as we approach the Lord in prayer. We must each make an effort to express our gratitude to God for these gifts. He has so richly blessed us.
The First Station – Jesus is Condemned to Death
Pilate said to him: “So you are a king?” Jesus answered: “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.” Pilate said, in answer: “What is truth?” At this point the Roman Procurator saw no need for further questions. He went to the Jews and told them: “I find no crime in him.”
The tragedy of Pilate is hidden in the question: what is truth? This was no philosophical question about the nature of truth, but an existential question about his own relationship with truth. It was an attempt to escape from the voice of conscience, which was pressing him to acknowledge the truth and follow it. When someone refuses to be guided by truth, he is ultimately ready even to condemn an innocent person to death.
The accusers sense this weakness in Pilate and so do not yield. They relentlessly call for death by crucifixion...When [he] brings Jesus, scourged and crowned with thorns, before the crowd, he seems to be looking for words, which he thinks might soften the intransigence of the mob. [Maybe if they see Jesus as a man, they will relent in their obstinate insistence on crucifixion.]
Pointing to Jesus he says, Ecce homo! Behold the man! But the answer comes back, “Crucify him!”
[Pilate] is increasingly convinced that the accused is innocent, but this is not enough for him to decide in his favor.
Thus was Jesus, the Son of the living God, the Redeemer of the world, condemned to death by crucifixion. Over the centuries, the denial of truth has spawned suffering and death. It is the innocent who pay the price of human hypocrisy. Half measures are never enough. Nor is it enough to wash one's hands. Responsibility for the blood of the just remains. This is why Christ prayed so fervently for his disciples in every age: Father, “sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.”
From John Paul II's Way of the Cross
Lord Jesus Christ,
you accepted an unjust judgment.
Grant to us
and to all the men and women of our time
the grace to remain faithful to the truth.
Do not allow the weight of responsibility
for the sufferings of the innocent
to fall upon us and upon those who come after us
To you, O Jesus, just Judge,
be honor and glory forever and ever.
We adore thee, O Christ, and praise thee;
Because by thy holy cross thou hast redeemed the world;
Lord Jesus, crucified!
Have mercy on us!
For the sake of your sorrowful passion,
have mercy on us, and on the whole world.
Jesus is all alone. Far off now are the days when the words of the Man-God brought light and hope to men's hears, those long processions of sick people whom he healed, the triumphant acclaim of Jerusalem when the Lord arrived, riding on a gentle donkey...Lord, where are your friends? Your subjects, where are they? They have left you. This running away has been going on for twenty centuries...We, all of us, flee from the Cross, from your Holy Cross. Blood, anguish, loneliness, and an insatiable hunger for souls...these are the courtiers around your royal throne.
From The Way of the Cross, Josemaria Escriva
And they will ask him: what are those wounds that you bear in your hands? And he will reply: I received them in the house of those who love me. (Zach 13:6)
“Our motive in Lenten renunciations ought not be limited to penance in reparation for sin. Rather, exercises of self-denial are for the sake of arousing in us a deeper hunger of soul. The image of fasting is especially apt here. Even mild forms of self-abnegation in our eating habits do more than simply empty us of indulgent tendencies. By keeping the self waiting, refusing it immediate gratification, we open ourselves to a fundamental spiritual truth: The willingness to deny ourselves awakens in us a capacity to give ourselves in greater love to Our Lord...In this sense, all practices of self-denial are exercises of love meant to refine our spiritual focus, so that the bridegroom who may have faded somewhat from our need becomes again our primary love.”
Fr. Donald Haggerty
This is not only true with food.
(Though on a side note, I think we, as Americans, underestimate the power that an abundance of food has over us. We rarely want for anything. Our groceries are full of items from every corner of the globe. As a semi-regular cook, I love having the variety of things to use to make meals. How many of us, if we really set our mind to it, couldn't have a meal of almost any style in front of us in less than an hour from when we decide, finally, what it is we want? We sometimes spend more time debating the merits of this food choice or that one than we do actually consuming the food. We grow so used to the variety and selection that we can't decide: “No, what do YOU want for dinner, dear.”
And yet, do we always see the abundance around us for what it is: a glorious gift from a loving Father? I doubt it. I absolutely enjoy a good meal, but how often do I really stop and acknowledge that I am blessed by God to have such tasty opportunities? I like to think that I am grateful more often than not, but it is still good to be reminded.
Which is why we practice certain disciplines of diet within Lent: to put food into perspective. “No meat on Fridays” really isn't that hard to do. A nice piece of fish, some pasta, a cheese pizza, a nice salad and cup of soup...wow, what a sacrifice, right? But what I've found is that, in our daily lives, it is really difficult to THINK before you EAT. The sausage biscuit that I warmed up in the microwave is half-consumed before I even think about it. So even little efforts of avoiding meat on Fridays of not snacking in between meals or giving up a favored treat help us gain perspective. The hunger of the body helps to feed the hunger of the soul...but I digress.)
Oddly, the quote of Fr. Haggerty above reminded me of Seinfeld. That is probably some level of heresy, though I certainly don't mean it to be so.
(In fact, I see Seinfeld as being very indicative of the human tendency toward self-involvement. In its absurdity, it illuminates pettiness and selfishness in our own lives. I find that illuminating quality to be compelling, in addition to finding it terribly funny in the farcical circumstances that surround the show...another digression.)
There is an episode of Seinfeld where George gives up sex. He gives up having it, simulating it, and even thinking about it. He devotes himself to reading and studying and channels all of the energy he used to devote to sexual gratification into other areas of his life.
He gets smarter. He enjoys life more. He teaches Derek Jeter how to hit.
Fasting isn't just about food. It is about anything in our life we come to value too greatly. It is about TV, impure sexual impulses, video games, excessive overtime, college basketball, a good cigar, a hobby, a fine wine, mmmm chocolate donuts (wait, that's food right? I told you.)...what ever it is that deadens us to the movement of God. Not just “negative things”,either. TV, sex, games, work; none of these are evil in and of themselves. But we have a hard time keeping them in perspective in our lives. We allow them to take large chunks of our day away from us, and when we do, we allow them to supplant something more beneficial. Maybe it is our job, or our family, or our time with God, but ultimately, when anything becomes so dominant that it begins to obscure a properly ordered relationship, it is a problem.
George's self-denial opened up new worlds to him. He was able to feed other hungers that had been masked by his preoccupation with sex. The same should be true for us. When we deny the pull of some external thing, we should find that we can be more attuned to other matters. Maybe we can give more of ourselves to our family, our co-workers, our fellow parishioners. Maybe we can feed our hunger by turning to God.
Eventually, George gave in to his impulses and returned to his semi-bumbling ways.
Sometimes, we do too. Maybe it is the Monday of Easter that we go right back to whatever we gave up for Lent. Maybe it creeps back in slowly. (Sometimes, by the Grace of God, we actually free ourselves from some spiritual habit or another.) But that is the beauty of the liturgical cycles. Next year, about this time, we'll be presented with the opportunity to right our course yet again.
Loving Father, help me to hand myself over to you so that I can love you as you deserve.
Renew the call of love you made to me and rekindle my desire to follow you.
A Prayer for Homecoming
Our Father, we have wandered
And hidden from your face;
In foolishness have squandered
Your legacy of grace.
But now in exile dwelling,
We rise with fear and shame,
As distant but compelling,
We hear you call our name.
And now at length discerning
The evil that we do,
Behold us, Lord, retuning
With hope and trust to you.
In haste you come to meet us
And home rejoicing bring,
In gladness there to greet us
With calf and robe and ring.
O Lord of all the living,
Both banished and restored
And ever caring Lord.
Grant now the our transgressing,
Our faithlessness may cease,
Stretch out your hand in blessing,
In pardon and in peace.
Loving Father, please allow me this Lent to leave behind my old self and to prepare well for the new creation you make possible through the death and resurrection of your Son.
This I declare, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery. We shall not all fall asleep, but we will all be changed, in an instant, in the blink of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
1 Corinthians 15:50-52
But if Christ is preached as raised from the dead, how can some among you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then neither has Christ been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then empty is our preaching; empty, too, is your faith. ..For if the dead are not raised, neither has Christ been raised, and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain; you are still in your sins...If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are the most pitiable people of all.
1 Corinthians 15:12-14, 16-17,19
The Way of the Cross - the retracing of the path of Christ from his death sentence to the laying of his now-lifeless body in the tomb - begins with an act of contrition and prayer. Why? Because it is in examining ourselves, admitting our faults, and asking for the Grace of true conversion that we find ourselves pulled closer and closer to the Will of God. It is a way to put our own sinfulness into perspective and to deny the god of self we are so easily found to kneel before, re-enthroning God as Lord and Savior.
Prayer and religious practice ought not to be used for enhancing one's image. Its thrust must be soli Deo - for God alone. At prayer the furthest thought from one's mind must be "what will people think" to see me praying...After all, Jesus did not say: "Take care not to perform righteous deeds"- period. He went on to [add]: "in order that people may see them." That is the kind of self-advertising that poisons one's good works and that Jesus dissuades us from indulging in. Purity of motive in praying and in doing good works is at the heart of the matter.
I've never been one to follow through, really, with "resolutions". The New Year's kind, specifically.