Things Jesus Said. . . and meant (5)

The gospel of John tells us while Jesus was hanging on the cross, he suddenly cried out in a loud voice, “I thirst!”

42 Lent--Holy Week--Words of Jesus--I thirst

Pondering these words of Jesus, I think of layers of meaning. In a literal way, Jesus is losing fluids at a tremendous rate on the cross (to put it mildly). The life force is literally draining out of his human body. In this sense, it is natural that he is thirsty. So some view the bible verse this way.

I also think of the rich symbolic imagery in John’s gospel. This is the writer who tells us  the story of Jesus being tired and hungry after all his ministry work, sitting down at a well, and asking the Samaritan woman to give him a drink. In their conversation, Jesus says he could give her living water (water that is like a stream, clean and  moving, inner “water” of the Holy Spirit).

While Jesus is talking with the woman, the disciples have gone off to get food in the village–and when they return, Jesus is no longer hungry (or thirsty) and tells them that his food is to do the will of God. (John 4)

It also in John’s gospel we hear Jesus cry out to a great crowd:

Let anyone who is thirsty, come to me and drink.
Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said,
“Rivers of flowing water will flow from his heart.” *
 By this he meant the Spirit,
whom those who believed in him were later to receive.
Up to that time the Spirit had not been given,
since Jesus had not yet been glorified.  
(John 7:37-38) 

dscn6176--I thirst image from asinglgedropintheocean 3-17-2014Throughout the centuries, Christians have found the words “I thirst” to have deep meaning. Mother Teresa of Calcutta had the words written near the crucifixes in her convents. The words “I thirst” reminded her of many things: the way Jesus thirsts for others to come to him, the way Jesus thirsted in his sufferings in life and dying, the way her beloved poor people hungered and thirst, both in the literal sense and in the way people all over the world, including “the rich” thirst for love. 

Jesus thirsts to be close to us, to commune with us in the deep spiritual relationship of God’s love–even from the cross he thought of you and me. He was longing to bring about the reconciliation of heaven and earth, God and earthling.

And that is food and drink for further thought as we continue our journey through Holy Week.

Until next time, Amen! 

 

*  For example, see Isaiah 12:3.
** Read more about Mother Teresa’s “I Thirst” image, with thanks to “A Drop In the Ocean” website: http://asingledropintheocean.com/2014/03/17/my-week-serving-the-poor-of-st-louis-with-the-missionaries-of-charity-mother-teresa/

Things Jesus Said . . . and meant (4)

During Holy Week, I’m continuing to ponder the seven last words of Jesus. These seven words spoken on the cross are gathered from the four gospels. Today’s words are found in both the gospels of Matthew and Mark:  “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”

41 Lent--Holy Week--Words of Jesus--Why abandonment (click on image to enlarge)

As others have pointed out, this one sentence is the only thing Matthew and Mark write about concerning what Jesus said while dying on the cross. I think this is significant in that these gospel writers viewed Jesus as being utterly forsaken by all while being crucified. Even God, Jesus’ Father, seems to have let him down.

Biblical scholars say that Jesus may have been attempting to pray Psalm 22, which begins like this:

My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?
    Why so far from my call for help,
    from my cries of anguish?
My God, I call by day, but you do not answer;
    by night, but I have no relief. 

In Matthew and Mark, all those passing by the cross on their way are mocking Jesus, including the chief priests, the scribes, and elders. “He saved others, yet he is powerless to save himself!” “He said he was God’s Son–let’s see him prove it! Come down off that cross, Jesus, if you are really the Son of God!” The criminals being crucified taunt Jesus. (No “good thief” here!)  Even Jesus’ followers–mostly women followers, it seems–are standing in the distance, unwilling or unable to come close to Jesus as he is suffering.

Although the rest of Psalm 22 does not appear in Matthew and Mark, I think it likely that the earliest readers would have recalled the rest of the psalm, including these words:

In you our fathers trusted;
    they trusted and you rescued them.
 To you they cried out and they escaped;
    in you they trusted and were not disappointed.
 But I am a worm, not a man,
    scorned by men, despised by the people.
 All who see me mock me;
    they curl their lips and jeer;
    they shake their heads at me:
 “He relied on the Lord—let him deliver him;
    if he loves him, let him rescue him.” 

Cross in dry desert --Julie McCartyI cannot help but be amazed at how Psalm 22–written so very long before the life of Christ–describes the experience Jesus finds himself in while dying on the cross.

Jesus does not recite the entire psalm–he is too filled with pain, and besides, crucifixion steals the breath away by slowly suffocating people.

But Matthew and Mark clearly want us to see Jesus as the fulfillment of Psalm 22. Jesus feels totally forsaken, totally abandoned by all as he is dying.

And yet… there is more.

Even though Jesus felt abandoned by God, it is God who will ultimately save him. Later in the text, Psalm 22 turns from the message of abandonment and alienation to one of hope in God:

You who fear the Lord, give praise!
    All descendants of Jacob, give honor;
    show reverence, all descendants of Israel!
For he has not spurned or disdained
    the misery of this poor wretch,
Did not turn away from me,
    but heard me when I cried out.
 I will offer praise in the great assembly;
    my vows I will fulfill before those who fear him.
 The poor will eat their fill;
    those who seek the Lord will offer praise.
   ” May your hearts enjoy life forever!” 

“May your hearts enjoy life forever!”  Although Jesus cannot feel this during his death and descent into Sheol, the ultimate long-term gift of God will be life forever. 

The next time you or I feel hurt, forsaken, or abandoned by someone, we can be assured that Jesus knows the feeling–from his own experience.

Until next time, Amen! 

[P.S. Read all of Psalm 22 on Bible Gateway, along with footnotes: click here. Thanks to Bible Gateway for quotes in this text.]

Things Jesus Said. . . and meant (3)

Jesus’ view of family was expansive. He loved his mother and all his extended family, but his views of family went far beyond blood relationships.  The gospel of Mark tells us that “all who do the will of God” were considered to be the mother,  brother and sister of Jesus (Matt. 12:50).

When Jesus was hanging on the cross, slowly losing his life, he saw his mother standing there, along with “the disciple he loved” (possibly John, the one who wrote the gospel with this story). Knowing that he could no longer care for his mother, he asked this disciple to care for her…and for her to take care of the disciple:

40 Lent--Holy Week--Words of Jesus--Woman here is your son (click on image to enlarge)

Over the centuries, Christians have interpreted this in a variety of ways, and that is as it should be. Scripture is full of meaning–many layers of meaning, like a poem.

 So what does this bible passage speak to me today? I’m thinking about how this nearly-final utterance of Jesus crosses boundaries. Jesus could have told Mary to go live with her brother, uncle, or cousin. Instead, he asks Mary to take up residence with his friend, a disciple.

His choice is significant because it breaks with blood relationships–and, I assume, the social/religious customs of his time and place.

Jesus’ mother, Mary, enters into a kind of familial relationship with the disciple. John is to treat Mary as his mother, and Mary is to treat John as her son. Considering their culture, this makes it quite likely that Mary would go to live at John’s home, or that John might go to live with her.

All this reminds me that Jesus invites us to view others outside of our blood relatives, as if they were family members. “Love one another” is not only a slogan for those in one’s family, but rather reaches down the street, through the village, beyond culture and nationality–and, in our time, into the global community.

This is especially relevant in this time of intense polarization in my country. Jesus does not love only Democrats or Republicans; rather Jesus loves them all as members of his family. Jesus does not love only “straight” or only “gay” people–Jesus loves them all, and welcomes all to be his “brother” or “sister.” Christ does not view people outside of the Christian church as enemies, but rather as created by God, loved by God, as children of God.

 This is what I believe: Jesus loved all people while dying on the cross.  Jesus died to bring life to the world… the whole world, and all the people in it.

And Jesus continues, this day and into the future, to love all people.

Until next time, Amen! 

Words Jesus said. . . and meant (2)

The gospel of Luke tells us that Jesus was crucified between two criminals, one who scoffed at him and one who respected Jesus. It was this second criminal who admitted his deeds deserved punishment–and then asked, “Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom.”

In that moment, while hanging on the cross, Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)

39 Lent--Holy Week--Words of Jesus--This day paradise(click on image to enlarge)

 This story reminds me that Jesus reaches out to all, and welcomes all into his kingdom. The “bad thief” was also welcome, but he wasn’t interested. In fact, he mocked Jesus. It is the “good thief” who welcomes Jesus–and who is received into the kingdom of God.

I also notice that Jesus didn’t make special demands on the “good” thief, in this last moment of his life. Jesus forgave him right then and there–and promised him eternal life, communion with God forever in heaven.

As I think about this today, I think about the symbolism we can apply to our own lives today. Jesus is alive, present in our midst. Do we mock him? Stone him? Crucify him?  Or, do we welcome Christ, ask forgiveness, seek grace and the kingdom of God?

Something to think about.

Until next time, Amen!

 

 

Things Jesus Said…and meant

During this last week before Easter–often called Holy Week–I’m going to post words of Jesus. Here’s one thing Jesus said while being crucified: 

38 Lent--Holy Week--Words of Jesus--Forgive them (click on image to enlarge)

That anyone would say this while being tortured and cruelly executed is a truly remarkable thing. It reminds us that Jesus forgives our sins even in the most horrendous of situations. No sin you commit is so big that Jesus cannot forgive it. Christ’s love is more powerful than sin itself. 

This is a key message of Christ, and one that should make us think about how we treat others…Do we show mercy and forgiveness to others?

Something to think about…

Until next time, Amen! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Jesus says about love and discipleship

Words of Jesus on love/compassion:

37 Lent--Week 5--Compassion--Jesus in John 13 34-35

Most of us have heard this many times, but this message is still fresh, still needed, in our world today.

It’s worth going back and reading again–and creating your own prayer about what Jesus says–right now….

Until next time, Amen! 

St. John of the Cross: Love Unites

Here is a jewel of a quote on compassion:

36 Lent--Week 5--Compassion--St John of the Cross(click on image to enlarge)

 During this Lent, I’ve learned that quality quotes or passages from spiritual writers can offer great prayer-starters. This has led to something I call D.E.A.P. (Drop Everything And Pray) on my public Facebook page.   I see something interesting or inspiring and I just write a prayer about it, spontaneously, right then.  I don’t worry about polishing the words much or “being a writer” (that is, fixating on making it sound elegant or brilliant or whatever), because it’s a prayer to God. I can just be myself before God and share the prayer moment with anyone else who wants to pray on Facebook.

Here’s the prayer I wrote this morning as I was thinking about St. John of the Cross’ quote above. I was also thinking about how it is Lent and Palm Sunday tomorrow as I was writing/praying.

Will you pray with me?

O Lord,

dreamstimefree_140915--Milogu--Dreamstime Stock Photos--Free - smaller with sig Cropped CopyI know you long to pour your love
into our hearts, like a pitcher of water
pouring into a glass on the table.
Yet, sometimes I fill my glass with other stuff:
sand and glitter and even sticky tar.
Help me to set aside all that other gunk
and open my heart more fully
to the inflow of your pure, flowing
water of love… so much so that
the water both nourishes me
and overflows to nourish others, too–
abundantly so–for you, O Lord,
are the living water of Love. 

Until next time, Amen! 

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin on the energies of love

Today’s quote on compassion comes from French philosopher, scientist, and Jesuit priest, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin:

35 Lent--Week 5--Compassion--Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

It is an interesting image, to think of love as a powerful energy. Energy “brings good things to life,” as an old General Electric commercial said. The wind, waves, tides, and gravity all exhibit a dynamic movement. They are not “stuck” or “dead” like a rock. So it is, that love moves, love creates, love transforms our lives.

And so it is, that when we truly discover the energies of love–and harness them for real, as a culture, as a planet–it will be as big a transformation as the discovery of fire.

Until next time, Amen! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pope John XXII quote about the love of Christ

Today’s Lenten quote about love/compassion:

34 Lent--Week 5--Compassion--Pope John XXIII

This one sentence is so packed with meaning for me that I hardly know how to write about it in one entry–but here goes:

The word “animated” makes me think about how Christ’s love, poured into our hearts, gives great spiritual life to the soul. It is like the breath of God, breathing life into the inanimate clay of the first human. On our own, we are often as if “dead” or “unconscious”–so to speak–compared to the dynamic life that Christ brings to our souls  (whole persons).

In Christian tradition, the “love of Christ” is often strongly associated with the Holy Spirit. So it is that I sometimes think of this “love of Christ” as the Holy Spirit poured into our hearts.  The Holy Spirit is what Risen Christ breathed into the disciples:

When [Jesus] had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit…”  (John 20:22)

The Holy Spirit is what “animates” us with the love of Christ. I think Pope John XXIII (now Saint John XXIII) was fully aware that the Holy Spirit draws people together by the power of love. This is the kind of unity that is built on empathy for one another. This is the kind of “love one another” we need today in our world–a world filled with electronic messages of hate.

Hate divides and conquers others. Love believes in the dignity of other humans and reaches out to share and embrace–and that provides a kind of loving unity.

Hate tears down and destroys. Love creates, builds up, increases life.

The Holy Spirit that God pours into our hearts is the Spirit of Love, and it is this Spirit who will unite us more fully in this life, and unite us completely in heaven.

Until next time, Amen! 

Francis de Sales quote about love

Today’s quote deals with how love draws us toward what is truly good:

33 Lent--Week 5--Compassion--Francis de Sales

I’m thinking that this “advancement” is a word referring to growth. When we love others, our souls move in a positive, good direction. Love draws us into a better way of living.

“Effusion” refers to giving off something like a liquid or scent. It’s an “outpouring” of sorts. Love has a quality of pouring out itself, overflowing to others.  (Makes me think of the sermon on Sunday when the pastor poured water into a glass that eventually filled and overflowed. When we allow God’s love to enter our hearts, the love fills us, and then overflows into loving others, giving God’s love to others.)

There is much to ponder about love–and much to put into practice. Love is one of those things that is ever-growing, ever-expanding… if only we agree to allow love to do its work.

Until next time, Amen!