Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Jesus is Placed in the Tomb ~ The Fourteenth Station

The Shroud of Turin

When it was evening, there came a rich man of Arimathaea, called Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be handed over. So Joseph took the body wrapped it in a clean shroud and put it in his own new tomb which he had hewn out of the rock. He then rolled a large stone across the entrance of the tomb and went away. Now Mary of Magdala and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the sepulchre. (Matthew 27:57-60)

St. Matthew tells us that the linen shroud was clean and the tomb was new. These are signs of love for Jesus, aren't they? An executed man could not be placed in a tomb where a righteous man was already buried. So the tomb being new emphasizes that Jesus was executed. 

Some Christians have settled for a very polite, sanitized, restful religion. They've lost the sense of outrage which is at the heart of Christianity: God's edgy choice in becoming human and winding up executed. Once you get that - everything is different, even one's understanding of what religion is about.

That Jesus was executed, we might think Christians would have a particular sensitivity towards the imprisoned and especially those on death row. One could ask how a Christian can be a defender of executing people. To execute someone means we have given up on those persons and all possibility of their conversion or change of heart. Conversion begins with God's grace; conversion is God's business. 

Some people determine that certain offenders are beyond conversion. It might seem that way. But if God can effect the parting of a sea, raining bread from heaven, changing water into wine, even resurrecting from the dead - how can I say anyone is beyond God's reach to the turning of  his or her heart?

We might finally note that as Jesus was buried, a great stone was rolled in front of the tomb, to make sure Jesus was sealed in good and tight. But a great stone can be rolled over the doorway to the human heart too - keeping that heart sealed up, protected, safe and undisturbed:

  • A great stone of hate.
  • A great stone of pious indignation.
  • A great stone of stubborn pride.
  • A great stone of protected ignorance.
  • A great stone of indifference.
  • A great stone of self-serving religion.
  • A great stone of self pre-occupation.
  • A great stone of ...

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Jesus Dies on the Cross ~ The Thirteenth Station

It was now about the sixth hour and the sun's light failed, so that darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour. The veil of the Sanctuary was torn right down the middle. Jesus cried out in a loud voice saying, Father, into your hands I commit my spirit. With these words he breathed his last. (Luke 23: 44-46)

From noon until three in the afternoon, it was dark over the whole land. Look at the dark thing we have done! And when Jesus died the temple curtain separating the Most Holy place from the rest, was torn. Jesus is the new sanctuary - the new place of divine encounter. His arms are stretched north and south and east and west converging in the center which is his heart - opened by the spear - a heart to which all of humankind has access.

And there is the great crying out of Jesus before his death. In Luke's Gospel, Jesus quotes Psalm 31:5 ~ Into your hands I commend my spirit. But look, Jesus has added, Father. He is the Son surrendering his life to the Father who receives him in a great embrace of love. I'd die for you, the greatest love says. A mother (or father) putting herself in harms way for the sake of the child. 

We remember too when Jesus was asked by the disciples, "How should we pray?" Jesus answered, "When you pray, say, Our Father..." (Matthew 6: 7ff)

Monday, March 30, 2015

Jesus Speaks to His Mother and the Disciple ~ The Twelfth Station

Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdalen. Seeing his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing near her, Jesus said to his mother, Woman, this is your son. Then to the disciple he said, This is your mother. And from that hour the disciple took her into his home. (John 19:25-27

A woman (Eve) figures prominently in the Book of Genesis story of our human fall. And in John's Gospel, as Jesus begins his work of reclamation for God, another woman plays prominently, as Mary is present at Jesus' first miracle at Cana. And here is Mary again, standing beneath the foot of the cross with the one disciple who didn't run away.

Following Jesus' instruction from the cross, Mary and the disciple take each other in as family. That's how it is with the followers of Jesus - to think of each other as family. Blood is thicker than water, the saying goes, as if blood family is the tightest and highest bond. Not so! Rather, baptism-water is the binder between us.

In the 1990's the African nation of Rwanda lost over 800,000 people to civil war and genocide. Often the weapon of choice was a machete, leaving scores more wounded and disabled. Many thousands wandered as refugees, while still thousands more died of cholera and dysentery in the country's destabilization. 

At the end of the war a new monastery of nuns was begun on a hillside that, like the rest of the landscape, was defoliated, scorched and robbed of life. The founding sisters were from Tutsi and Hutu tribes - the principle enemies of each other in the deadly conflict. 

Each sister knew the death of relatives at the hands of the other tribe. Along with friends, they greened the hillside, making the convent a place of reconciliation and hope, reaching out as new family to the orphaned, the elderly, the disoriented and abandoned. Woman, this is your son; son, this is your mother.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Jesus Promises Paradise to the Thief ~ The Eleventh Station

One of the criminals hanging there abused him. Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us as well. But the other spoke up and rebuked him. Have you no fear of God at all? he said. You got the same sentence as he did, but in our case we deserved it; we are paying for what we did. But this man has done nothing wrong. Then he said, Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom. He answered him, In truth I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise. (Luke 23: 39-43)

We can't really know what the thief was thinking  who asked to be remembered by Jesus. Did he think Jesus was a defeated earthly king still worthy of belief? That doesn't sound  very plausible. What inexplicable insight did he have as to who Jesus is? 

First there are the words, Remember me. Perhaps he was all alone on the cross, not even a loved one to accompany him. So many people feel forgotten. It is the greatest fear of the refugee - that no help will come. Remember me, the poor fellow asks. And here we are, more than two thousand years later thinking about him - remembering him.

And then, Remember me when you come into your kingdom. Your regal glory is a better translation than just kingdom, so to avoid thinking simply in geographical terms. But the kingdom is within you, Jesus teaches. (Luke 17:20-21) God's supremacy in each of us. 

Today you are with me in paradise. Jesus is inviting the thief to follow him into something beyond this. Follow me into victory! And victory begins today. We want to call it heaven. But once we put a label on it we've made it too small, reduced it to its bare minimum for easy handling. Then we have stolen away its wonder and power.

Follow me into victory, Jesus says, and that victory is today! What might that mean for me, for you? That's not a rhetorical question. The folks in AA would know how to speak about this: just for today.