One of my favourite Catholic teachers is Fr. Richard Rohr whom I have been following for many years. His daily reflections speak to me in a way that can only be described as providing an inner understanding of a deeper reality. I have taken the liberty to share his reflection for this Holy Week only.
Prayer: “Faith is a journey into darkness, into not-knowing.” - Richard Rohr
HOLY WEEK April 1, 2012
“Rejoice heart and soul, daughter of Zion! Shout with gladness, daughter of Jerusalem! See now, your king comes to you; he is victorious, he is triumphant, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” – Zechariah 9:9
Luke uses that image as he has Jesus entering the Holy City. He's coming into charge of his possession—namely, his people—and Luke has him coming in, according to the prophecy, as the Messiah. He is a humble Messiah, inaugurating a new kind of leadership, not one based in power but one based in service. The capital city hardly notices this kind of power, as we probably wouldn't have either. It is political power that fascinates us, not men on donkeys.
Monday, April 2, 2012
Jesus enters the temple and drives out the dealers who are trying to buy and sell worthiness and access (Luke 19:45-46), which is the great temptation of all religion. He symbolically dismantles the system. The temple of religion (read “church” or “mosque” too) is henceforth to become personal, relational, embodied in people, and not a physical building. He came to say that God is available everywhere, and for some reason we like to keep God “elsewhere,” where we can control God by our theologies and services.
His public demonstration against the sacred space is surely the historical action that finally gets Him killed. The trouble with declaring one space sacred is that we then imagine other spaces are not! Here He takes on the detours of false religion: any attempt to "buy" God, purity and debt codes, and the primacy of "sacrifices" over mercy and compassion. Jesus has come to liberate God for humanity and humanity for God.
Tuesday, April 3, 2012
Christians speak of the "paschal mystery," the process of loss and renewal that was lived and personified in the death and raising up of Jesus. We can affirm that belief in ritual and song, as we do in the Eucharist. However, until we have lost our foundation and ground, and then experience God upholding us so that we come out even more alive on the other side, the expression "paschal mystery" is little understood and not essentially transformative.
Paschal mystery is a doctrine that we Christians would probably intellectually assent to, but it is not yet the very cornerstone of our life philosophy. That is the difference between belief systems and living faith. We move from one to the other only through encounter, surrender, trust and an inner experience of presence and power.
Wednesday, April 4, 2012
“The greatest among you must behave as if you were the youngest, the leader as if he were the one who serves” - Luke 22:26
That statement is probably the simplest and most powerful definition of authority to be found in all four Gospels.
"For who is the greater, the one at table or the one who serves?" Most of us would say immediately, "The one at table." He says, "Yet here I am among you as one who serves" (Luke 22:27). Jesus says, in effect, "I'm telling you that the way of domination will not build a new world. I have come to model for you the way to be human and the way to be divine—it is the way of loving service.” Sometimes even the church does not understand this.
There's no real story of the Last Supper in the Gospel of John as we find it in the other Gospels. There is no passing of the bread or passing of the cup. Instead we come upon the story of Jesus on his knees washing the Apostles' feet. Really quite amazing, and even more amazing that we never made the foot washing into a Sacrament! It is much more explicit in the Scriptures than many other actions we made into sacraments.
Perhaps John realized that after seventy years the other Gospels had been read. He wanted to give a theology of the Eucharist that revealed the meaning behind the breaking of the bread. He made it into an active ritual of servanthood and solidarity, instead of the priestly cult that it has largely become.
Peter symbolizes all of us as he protests, "You will never wash my feet!" (John 13:8). But Jesus answers, "If I do not wash you, you can have nothing in common with me." That is strong! We all find it hard to receive undeserved love from another. For some reason it is very humiliating to the ego. We all want to think we have earned any love that we get by our worthiness or attractiveness. So Jesus has to insist on being the servant lover. Thank God, Peter surrenders, but it probably takes him the rest of his life to understand.
Good Friday, April 6, 2012
The supreme irony of the whole crucifixion scene is this: He who was everything had everything taken away from Him. He who was perfect was totally misjudged as "sin" itself (Romans 8:3-4). The crucified Jesus forever tells power and authority, and all of us, how utterly wrong we can be about who is in the right and who is sinful (John 16:8). All human solidarity and sympathy was taken away from Him and He finally had to walk the journey alone, in darkness, in not-knowing, as most humans finally have to do.
Jesus hung in total solidarity with the pain of the world and the far too many lives on this planet that have been "nasty, lonely, brutish, and short.” After the cross, we know that God is not watching human pain, nor apparently always stopping human pain, as much as God is found hanging with us alongside all human pain. Jesus forever tells us that God is found wherever the pain is, which leaves God on both sides of every war, in sympathy with both the pain of the perpetrator and the pain of the victim, with the excluded, the tortured, the abandoned, and the oppressed since the beginning of time. I wonder if we even like that. There are no games of moral superiority left. Yet this is exactly the kind of Lover and the universal Love that humanity needs.
What else could possibly give us a cosmic and final hope? This is exactly how Jesus redeemed the world "by the blood of the cross.” It was not some kind of heavenly transaction, or "paying a price" to God, as much as a cosmic communion with all that humanity has ever loved and ever suffered. If he was paying any price it was for the hard and resistant skin around our souls.
Holy Saturday, April 7,2012
Holy Saturday, April 7,2012
To be a Christian means to necessarily be an optimist because we remember what happened on the third day! We know the final stage of death, Jesus' leap of faith, was not in vain. He was not put to shame, and "God raised him up" (which is the correct way to say it, and not that he rose himself). Most of human life is Holy Saturday, a few days of life are Good Friday, but there only needs to be one single Easter Sunday for us to know the final and eternal pattern. We now live inside of such cosmic hope.
Jesus trusted enough to outstare the darkness, to outstare the void, to hold out for the resurrection of the forever-awaited "third day,” and not to try to manufacture His own. That is how God stretches and expands the soul, and makes it big enough to include God.
You see, to love fully is to die! (When you fully unite with the other, the separate self is gone.) What is handed over to God is always returned to us transformed into Christ Consciousness. Easter is the eternal third day that we forever await, but today we are content to live in the belly of the whale, in liminal space, in the "in between" that is most of human life. God is creating a Big Space inside of you. Just wait!