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Lent is a time for Christians to fully examine their relationship with the Lord. Through prayer, sacrifice and service, we develop an understanding of what it means to "take up your cross and follow me." (Mark 8:34) As Christians, we are called to live Christ's life- not to study the life of Jesus and try to be like Him, but actually let Him live through us.

In my own journey this Lent, Our Lord is asking me to fully understand His love. Through several prayer experiences, I hear him calling me to this deeper understanding of His love- not just with my head, but with my heart. And the key to understanding that amazing love is to understand His suffering. My intellect understands that the Lord suffered, but I have never explored His suffering with my heart. His love is greater than His suffering, but how great was that suffering?

I am participating in an independent Threshold Bible Study called People of the Passion by Stephen J. Binz. In this study, I will explore the meaning of discipleship through the people who encounter Jesus during His passion. These people witness and are impacted by the suffering of Jesus. They saw the suffering of our Lord first hand. It is my hope that by going on this journey through their eyes, I will have a better understanding of His suffering and then of His love.

Please know that I am not a scholar. I have no formal education in theology, philosophy or church history. I'm just a regular person trying to make sense of what Jesus is asking me to do- to love like He loves.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Day 8- Peter, James and John Accompany Jesus to Gethsemane

Mark 14:32-42

Then they came to a place named Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, "Sit here while I pray." He took with him Peter, James, and John, and began to be troubled and distressed. Then he said to them, "My soul is sorrowful even to death. Remain here and keep watch." He advanced a little and fell to the ground and prayed that if it were possible the hour might pass by him; he said, "Abba, Father, 12 all things are possible to you. Take this cup away from me, but not what I will but what you will." When he returned he found them asleep. He said to Peter, "Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? 13 Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak." Withdrawing again, he prayed, saying the same thing. Then he returned once more and found them asleep, for they could not keep their eyes open and did not know what to answer him. He returned a third time and said to them, "Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough. The hour has come. Behold, the Son of Man is to be handed over to sinners. Get up, let us go. See, my betrayer is at hand."

I have been thinking a lot about the garden lately.  It's a hard thing for me to understand.  What was Jesus agonizing about?  What was hurting his soul to the point of sweating blood?  He knew what was going to happen to him.  He knew that they were coming to arrest him.  He knew his life was only worth 30 pieces of silver to one of his closest disciples.  He knew they would put him on trial and find a law that he "broke".  He knew they would spit on him and ridicule him.  He knew that his friends would flee in the face of his suffering. He knew they would beat him almost to death.  He knew he would barely be able to carry the cross to Calvary.  He knew they would nail him to it.  He knew that upon that cross, he would suffocate.  He knew his mother was going to witness every moment of it.  He knew the unbelievable pain of that day.  He knew.  And his flesh feared it.  His heart broke for it.  But his love won.  His love is bigger than his flesh.  His love for us is bigger than we can understand.  He knew that too.  Maybe that is why he was sweating blood.  Because we don't understand.

We are the sleeping disciples.  I relate so well to Peter because I struggle with the same concepts he struggled with.  Had I been there and Jesus told me that he was going to die, then I would have devised a plan to stop the whole thing.  Peter would have been my right hand man.  I would not have understood what was going on or what had to happen.  I would not have understood why it had to happen.  The reality of that day would not have been real to me until it was actually happening.  And I am sure I would have ran.  I am not good at facing that kind of suffering.  I am a coward.

I know the Lord wants me to meet Him in the garden on holy Thursday.  He wants me to understand the suffering he endured.  Because once I understand that suffering, then I will be able to wrap my brain and heart around His amazing love.  Maybe that is the lesson Peter ultimately learned- what true love is.  The thing that hurts the most is the role my sin plays in this event.  Jesus suffered like this so that He may know me- so that he may pay the fine to free me from death row and take me home.  Watching the Lord I love suffer because of my sin will be heartbreaking.  It's a journey I am not sure I am ready to make.  O Mary, Mother of God, pray for me!

Many Apologies

So, I have dropped the ball in the last week.  I have had several projects to complete and there are only 24 hours in a day.  So, I apologize to my one reader:)  I will try to catch up so you may see more than one reflection in a day.  Thanks for your patience!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Day 7- Peter Offers to Lay Down His Life

John 13:31-38

10 11 When Judas had left, Jesus said, "Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. (If God is glorified in him,) God will also glorify him in himself, and he will glorify him at once.  My children, I will be with you only a little while longer. You will look for me, and as I told the Jews, 'Where I go you cannot come,' so now I say it to you. I give you a new commandment: 12 love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." Simon Peter said to him, "Master, where are you going?" Jesus answered (him), "Where I am going, you cannot follow me now, though you will follow later." Peter said to him, "Master, why can't I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you." Jesus answered, "Will you lay down your life for me? Amen, amen, I say to you, the cock will not crow before you deny me three times."

In this passage, Peter offers his life for Jesus.  Peter is trying to be the model disciple by offering to do what Jesus tells him a true friend would do (Lay down his life for his friends).  But actions speak louder than words.  Although Peter's heart is in the right place, he offers to do this great thing before he really understands exactly what that entails.  And Jesus knows this.  Jesus also knows that Peter will learn from his mistakes and will eventually do what he says he will do which is lay down his life for the Church. 

The part of this passage that really speaks to me is where Jesus says that as his disciples, we should love one another as HE loves us.  Now that is a tall order.  Jesus died for us.  He gave us his very life.  Although, I am fairly sure I would sacrifice my own life to save the lives of my family members and close friends, I am not sure what I would do if I were asked to sacrifice my life to save someone whom I don't know. But I guess people do that everyday- soldiers, police officers, fire fighters, etc...  I guess people like these really know the true meaning of love.  And we are very blessed to have them in our lives.

So, what can I learn from Peter's mistakes?  I should probably seek first to understand rather than to be understood.  I should mean what I say and say what I mean.  I should always remember that I have a lot of learning left to do.  I should always be open to gaining knowledge and understanding.  And I should always pray for courage.

But, I can't end here and not point out the one thing that I really admire about Peter.  I admire his passion.  Although Peter made many mistakes along the way, he did so with a passionate heart.  I want that fire.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Day 6- Peter Vows Fidelity to Jesus

Matthew 26:30-35

18 Then, after singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. Then Jesus said to them, "This night all of you will have your faith in me shaken, 19 for it is written: 'I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be dispersed'; but after I have been raised up, I shall go before you to Galilee." Peter said to him in reply, "Though all may have their faith in you shaken, mine will never be." 20 Jesus said to him, "Amen, I say to you, this very night before the cock crows, you will deny me three times." Peter said to him, "Even though I should have to die with you, I will not deny you." And all the disciples spoke likewise.

After they shared the passover meal, Jesus and the disciples sang the traditional Hallel (Psalm 114-118) which talks of how God doesn't abandon Israel in times of trial.  Then He tells His disciples that they will abandon Him.  Peter reacts how I think I would react.  He says that he would never abandon Jesus.  And by doing that, Peter sets himself up for failure.  I think we all know what happens in the moments before the cock crows. 

I think it is easy to state your claim to something when you are not in the midst of trial.  But when you are thrown into that trial, your real claims and values shine through.  That is what happened to Peter.  When the Lord was with him, Peter was confident that he would stay faithful.  But when the Lord was no longer in his presence- when the Lord was being tried, accused and handed over to death, Peter failed.  When Peter's faith was tested in a time of trial, he failed.  Peter was a disciple who LOVED our Lord.  And he made it known how much he loved Him.  I can only imagine how horrible Peter must have felt.  That failure must have struck his very core. 

I remember when I went to confession for the first time after 10 years of general absence from God and church.  And I was struggling to put my sin into words.  I remember telling the priest that I felt like Peter.  I had denied our Lord.  I had abandoned Him.  I had failed.  In my youth, I proudly proclaimed my love for the Lord.  But when things got complicated in my life, I abandoned Him.  I tried to live life with out him.  And I had failed.  I needed Him back.

There is something that Peter and I have in common.  The Lord came back.  He rose from the grave and conquered all our failures.  He gives us life that we do not deserve.  He knows our failures and yet he still loves us- enough to die for us.  That is an amazing love.  It is a love I want to participate in for the rest of my life and, Lord willing, for eternity.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Day 5- The Beloved Disciple Reclines Next to Jesus

John 13:21-30

When he had said this, Jesus was deeply troubled and testified, "Amen, amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me." The disciples looked at one another, at a loss as to whom he meant. One of his disciples, the one whom Jesus loved, 8 was reclining at Jesus' side. So Simon Peter nodded to him to find out whom he meant. He leaned back against Jesus' chest and said to him, "Master, who is it?" Jesus answered, "It is the one to whom I hand the morsel 9 after I have dipped it." So he dipped the morsel and (took it and) handed it to Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot. After he took the morsel, Satan entered him. So Jesus said to him, "What you are going to do, do quickly." (Now) none of those reclining at table realized why he said this to him. Some thought that since Judas kept the money bag, Jesus had told him, "Buy what we need for the feast," or to give something to the poor. So he took the morsel and left at once. And it was night.

In his commentary, Binz points out the two disciples contrasted in this passage- the beloved disciple and Judas, the betrayer.  The beloved disciple is never identified but many scholars belive that it is John. The gospel writer(John) wanted the beloved disciple to remain annoymous because he is the model disciple for us.  He represents all Jesus' faithful disciples.  It is also interesting that Binz pointed out how Jesus gave both disciples (The Beloved and Judas) gestures of his affections.  The beloved lying next to Jesus' heart while Judas recieves the morsal.  What these two disciples do after these gestures is contrasting- the beloved stays with Jesus all the way to the cross and resurrection while Judas leaves Jesus right after he takes the morsal.

I think there are times in all our lives when we have enjoyed the closeness Jesus shares with us (like the beloved disciple) and times when we have walked away from Him and denied His love and affection.  If we read the verse before this passage, we see that Jesus was deeply troubled that Judas was going to betray Him.  I can only assume that he feels the same way when we turn our backs on him.  Judas didn't exactly know what was going to happen to Jesus or exactly why Jesus was going to die.  But we do.  We know.  And yet we turn our backs anyway.  Maybe we hurt Jesus more than Judas did.  I wonder if Judas were to be in our shoes and were to know what he didn't know, if he would be a better disciple then us. 

One of the questions in the study guide is "How have times of trial brought out both the best and worst in me?"  I think that the trials of faith tend to bring out the best in me.  I don't know why, but with each new trial, I seem to come out closer to His heart in the end.  But, the trials of the last two weeks have not brought out the best in me.  It started out with a sinus infection.  The first thing I started to do was sleep through my quiet time in the morning.  And in the past two days, I have had the worst hives of my entire life.  Instead of getting on my knees and asking God for mercy, I have not prayed, I have been short tempered with my family, and I am generally miserable and not in the mood to "recline next to Jesus" like the beloved disciple.  It seems that the trials of my health send me running back into the darkness.  I have a much greater respect for those who physically suffer with real illness and even greater respect for those who suffer and still recline close to our Lord.  May Our Lord have mercy on my soul.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Day 4- Judas Iscariot Plots Aganist Jesus

Matthew 26:14-25
     Then one of the Twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, 7 went to the chief priests 8 and said, "What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?" They paid him thirty pieces of silver, and from that time on he looked for an opportunity to hand him over.

     On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, 9 the disciples approached Jesus and said, "Where do you want us to prepare for you to eat the Passover?"  10 He said, "Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, 'The teacher says, "My appointed time draws near; in your house I shall celebrate the Passover with my disciples."'" The disciples then did as Jesus had ordered, and prepared the Passover.

     When it was evening, he reclined at table with the Twelve. And while they were eating, he said, "Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me." 11 Deeply distressed at this, they began to say to him one after another, "Surely it is not I, Lord?" He said in reply, "He who has dipped his hand into the dish with me is the one who will betray me. 12 The Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would be better for that man if he had never been born."

    13 Then Judas, his betrayer, said in reply, "Surely it is not I, Rabbi?" He answered, "You have said so."

In this passage, Judas the disciple becomes the betrayer.  He lets greed and lack of faith guide his decision to sell out his teacher to the Jewish authorities for 30 pieces of silver.  Jesus tells his disciples that one of them will betray Him.  And all of them ask, "Surely not I, Lord?"  All of them ask that except for one.  Judas says, "Surely not I, Rabbi?"  The gospel writer is showing us that Judas doesn't believe Jesus is the Son of God(Binz, People of the Passion).  I guess that makes it easier for him to sell Jesus out.

To tell you the truth, Judas is a hard nut for me to crack.  Judas is one of the twelve.  He followed Jesus through out his ministry.  Even if he was struggling with Jesus' true identity, you would think that he at least liked Jesus- that he considered Jesus a friend.  So, I don't get why he did what he did.  Especially since Jesus made his feelings for all His disciples very clear- that he loved them deeply.  I wonder why Judas did it?  I have a hard time accepting that money was the reason. 

Imagine how Jesus felt when he knew that his disciple whom he loved was going to do such a terrible thing.  Something tells me that in that moment, Jesus' suffering began.  Jesus knew that he was going to die at the hands of his enemies.  It must have hurt to discover that one of those enemies was a man in his inner circle.  What is amazing to me is that Jesus laid down His life for the salvation of all souls.  He doesn't discriminate between who likes him and who doesn't.  He loves everyone.  Even Judas.  He even died for Judas.  Maybe the lesson here is that we can turn our backs on Jesus, but he won't turn our backs on us.  His love is as constant and available as the sky is blue.  All we have to do is love Him back.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Day 3- Simon Peter is Taught to Serve

John 13:1-17

In this passage, Jesus takes on the role of servant and washes the feet of His disciples.  At first, Peter refuses to let Jesus wash his feet.  But then Jesus says, "Unless I wash you, you have no share with me."  Peter responds by saying, "Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and head!"

I love Peter.  He is my favorite disciple.  John is my favorite gospel writer, but Peter is my favorite disciple.  He wears his heart on his sleeve.  He says exactly what he is thinking.  When Peter requested a bath from Jesus, I can hear the chuckles of the other disciples and see the smile spill across our Savior's face.  I think the reason I am so drawn to Peter is because I am a lot like him.  I tend to say exactly what I am thinking before my brain can stop me.  I let fear and emotions guide me at times.  I can relate to how Peter feels inadequate.  But most of all, I can see how much Peter loves the Lord.  And that warms my heart.

Jesus washes the feet of the disciples because he wants them to take on the role of servant.  Jesus knows that these men will be great teachers, preachers, writers and thinkers.  Because of that, He wants them to be grounded in love.  And when you love someone, you serve them.  Jesus loved his disciples and he showed them how much he loved them in this act of being their servant and washing their feet.  He showed them that he would be willing to do anything for them- even die on a cross.  Jesus wants his disciples to serve the christian community- not just teach and preach to them.  He wants them to love the community as He loves the community.  And Peter understood.  In the end, Peter gave his life for the community.  Peter served and loved.

I have to say that it is easier to serve than to be served.  It is hard for me to ask for help, or even to accept unsolicited help.  I totally would have reacted the same way Peter reacted if Jesus tried to wash my feet.  But, how are we to know how much we are loved if we refuse to let others in?  If we shut the door on those who want to help, then we are cheating ourselves of having that love given to us.  We are also cheating those who want to help of the joy of giving and serving.  Serving others does build character.  But being served builds character also.  Recently, my Dad gave us a large sum of money.  We had a lot of unexpected expenses in the form of a new hot water heater, washer and dryer the day after Christmas.  My parents were visiting us when everything broke.  About a week after they got back home, a check arrived in the mail from my Dad.  I immediately wanted to send it back.  I got on the phone and started my speech about how I was going to send the check back.  He wouldn't let me talk.  He just wanted us to have it.  And when he was finished, I knew that this was one of those moments when I needed to let him help me.  I needed to let him wash my feet.

Having your feet actually washed by someone you love and admire is a humbling experience.  And by washed, I mean with water and towels.  I spend several years uninvolved with a Catholic community.  I would go to church here and there, but I never got involved.  I didn't want to get to close to anyone.  When I realized that this was not healthy for my spiritual life, I started to try to figure out why I didn't want to be involved.  To make a long story short, I was fearful of being vulnerable to people in ministry.  I realized this fear while I was on a retreat.  During the Mass at the end of the retreat, the priest (whom I admired but feared to actually know) took off his vestments, got on his knees and started to wash the feet of the congregation.  When I realized what was happening, not only was I shocked, but I was ready to bolt.  But no one else was bolting, so I decided not to show just exactly how crazy I was to the rest of the women on the retreat and I stayed in my seat.  When the time came, I took off my shoes, and this very kind man whom I greatly admired and respected washed and dried my feet.  It was a healing experience.  If he was willing to wash my feet, then how could I continue to avoid actually knowing him and talking to him?  If he loved his community that much, then how could I not trust him?  I was in his office the very next week.  And the rest is history.

Jesus shows us how service and love are all wrapped together.  They are inseparable.  Jesus served to the very end.  His final act of sacrificing his life so that we may have life is the ultimate act of a loving servant.  He gave all of Himself for us.  How can we not turn around and do the same for Him and those He loves?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Day 2- The Woman who Anointed Jesus

Mark 14: 1-9

In this passage, a woman breaks a jar of expensive oil open and lavishly pours it on the head of Jesus.  The people who are with them criticize her because the oil could have been sold for a large amount of money and given to the poor.  But Jesus defends her saying, "Let her alone; why do you trouble her?  She has performed a good service for me.  For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me.  She has done what she could; she has anointed my body before hand for its burial.  Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her."  The woman is a model disciple because she gave totally to Jesus.  She didn't give Him some oil, but gave all the oil and she gave her most expensive possession.  She recognized His divinity and gave the best of what she had to Him.  And she gave out of total love for Him- just like He was ready to give His life for her.  I should also point out that this is the only anointing Jesus receives before his death.  He couldn't be properly anointed when He died because He died on the sabbath.  And when the women came to anoint Him at the tomb, He was already resurrected. 

The thing that strikes me about this passage is that the woman so readily gave the best of herself in a lavish way before Christ gave His life for her sins.  Before.  I already know that Christ gave His life for me and yet I hesitate to give the best of myself.  Man, that makes me feel about this tall.  I wonder what character I would have been like in this scene.  Would I have criticized?  Or would I have understood and admired the woman's gift?  I would like to believe it would be the latter, but I can't help but think it is probably the former. 

Growing up in the Baptist church, many of the churches I grew up in took pride in the fact that they didn't have fancy buildings or worship spaces or decorations.  Instead, they used their money to help the poor or evangelize or fund new ministries.  They wore their plain spaces as a badge of honor for the advancement of the greater kingdom of God.  And they looked down on Churches that had lavish worship spaces.  Obviously, those churches were misusing God's money.  I admit, I bought into this philosophy.  Even when I started attending Mass, I was concerned over the lavish decorations in the Catholic churches.  And then I started going to Mass in one of those really lavishly decorated churches.  I couldn't help to lookbeyond what I was taught as a kid and admire the beauty.  And then I started to understand the reason the statues were were there and the reason the altar was decorated so ornately and the reason the monstrance was made of pure gold.  Everything was so beautiful because they were welcoming the presence of the Lord.  They were paying Him homage with the best of what they had.  They worshipped the Lord on a level I had never experienced.  Growing up, I learned about God and I learned how to pray to God, but it wasn't until I started going to Mass in those beautiful, old, lavish churches in New Orleans that I learned how to worship God. 

So where would I be in the scene when the woman pours the expensive oil on our Lord?  I think my younger self would have led the accusers.  But my now "wiser" self would not have hesitated to help pour the oil.  Oh, what I would give to actually touch our fully human Lord- to see His face with my eyes and feel His hair with my hands.  There are no words to describe how awesome that would be.  I know I can experience Him in the Eucharist and that is my greatest human experience.  But I am very much looking forward to that moment when I finally get to heaven (after paying much needed time in purgatory) and I get to experience our Lord with all my human senses.  That will be awesome.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Day 1- The Widow

Mark 12: 38-44

In this passage, Jesus contrasts the actions of the scribes and the tithing of the wealthy with the gift of the widow.  The widow gave more than any of the wealthy because she gave everything and entrusted her very life to God.  She gave God all she had and trusted that He would provide for her.  In that action, she is a model disciple. In her surrender, she participates in the agape love God wants to share with us.  Agape love is a total giving of one's self to the other- its completely self-less.  The Father and Son share this love in the trinity and it is so rich and powerful that it gives rise to the Holy Spirit.  Jesus further demonstrates this love by sacrificing His life so that we may have life with God.  All we have to do is surrender like the widow.

Do I surrender?  Do I give everything?  Am I like the scribes who are looking for glory?  Or am I like the wealthy who only give from their abundance?  Is there any chance I could be like the widow?

I have to admit, that I like the glory.  Who wouldn't?  My attraction to glory probably has something to do with the fact I'm a musician.  The stage is a fun place to be.  The attention is rather intoxicating.  The other day, my husband went to a local catholic bookstore and the owner figured out that I was his wife- that he was married to that columnist on  That felt good.  But I also felt a little uneasy.  I write because that is what I am called to do- not because I want the attention.  In fact, the attention can be rather unnerving because I am called to be completely naked in my spiritual journey to an audience I can't see.  And I know that Jesus is using my vulnerability to touch people.  He is using my candid, laborious, and sometimes humiliating experiences to draw people to His heart.  That is why I write.  So that He may be on the stage. Unfortunately, I fear there are some days when He has to break out his shepherd's hook to get me out of the lime light. I guess I gotta keep working on that.

Surrender.  That is a big word.  Surrender is scary.  Loosing control of my life is something I fear.  I don't have the ability to just totally surrender like the widow.  I think that surrender is more of a process for me.  There are some areas of my life that I think I have surrendered, and then, come to find out, not so much.  Like my business for instance.  I have surrendered to the fact that I know God wants me to be a home child care provider.  He made that path crystal clear to me, so I did it.  But surrendering the well-being of my business is a totally different issue.  I have to trust that he is going to send me the clients.  Instead, I sit around and worry about not having the clients.  This past month has been a big lesson in trust.  When I finally quit worrying about filling my last two openings, I filled them.  And the kiddos are a perfect fit in my home.  I could hear God saying, "I told you so."  Yes, I have to trust and give both coins like the widow.  I was holding onto that last coin with all my might.  When I finally let go, boom, the clients came knocking. 

I think that I need to remember that sometimes, there will be suffering in the surrender.  Jesus suffered greatly when he surrendered His life on the cross.  But He did it because His love for us is greater than His pain on the cross.  And that is what we should do.  We should surrender and take on the suffering that may come with it because our love for the Lord is greater and more important than our suffering in the surrender.  I think there is much joy to be had in that kind of surrender.  I need to remember that the next time He asks me to lay a piece of my heart on the altar.