VIDEO Coronavirus and Christ

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In Loving Memory of Matthew a China virus victim who is with Jesus.

It Is Finished. Good Friday.

Today we observe Good Friday, the day of the death of Jesus. Many Christian Churches have different ways of observation, to prepare us for the coming resurrection of the Lord on Easter Sunday. Today, the sacrifices we have made during Lent culminate in our internalization of the great offering of Christ’s life. If we have been diligent in our Lenten preparations, Good Friday hits us with a power and force that brings us, literally and figuratively, to our knees with the grasp of what Jesus poured out for us. It becomes personal, a tiny sliver of the cross is buried in our heart. And so each year, we find that we give ourselves over to Christ just a little more through this time of penance and reflection. 

This year, in particular,  I suspect that many of us will experience Good Friday as we never have before, with a comprehension of our own mortality and perhaps even an understanding that there are so many things in this world we do not, we cannot, control. We can control our choice in relationship to those things, and to the most important choice of all, the life and death of Jesus Christ, who chose to hang on a cross and die for us. He had all control, and he made his choice for us.

For many years the practice of my faith was on auto pilot. Although I have an intellectual bent, I did not delve as deeply into the Bible, the Catechism, the history, and the teachings of my faith. When I finally did do more, pray more, read more, learn more, question more, and give more of myself, very haltingly at first, I was met with a tsunami of love and guidance from God, from Jesus, and of course, by the Spirit.

I timidly knocked on the door, and Jesus flung it open instantly, pulled me in, hugged me, sat me at his banquet table and introduced me to the feast I had shunned for years.

Of course, it isn’t always that way. Your spiritual life takes surprising turns, slows down, stops even at times, according to your senses. But your own senses are not a good guide. Sometimes when you struggle the most, feel things the least, you have a moment of self examination of your last months and you see the long path you traveled without really knowing where you were going.

Don’t do faith by feel. Don’t wait for sensation, answers, joy, hope, knowledge. All those things and so many more, they will come, but never on demand. Get on your knees and pray. Daily. Read the Bible, find a church if you haven’t already. Give alms. Do a good deed.

Feel good religion has pretty shallow moorings. Row out into the deep. When the storms come, try to remember that He who calms the storm is always in the boat with you.

The Easter Triduum, the marking of the days of Jesus’ passion and resurrection, the  most important time of the church year, begins with the evening Mass of Holy Thursday, reaches its high point in the Easter Vigil, and closes on Easter Sunday evening. After preparing during the days of Lent, we celebrate these holiest of days in the Church year.

From John, Chapter 19:

Then Pilate tried to release him, but the Jewish leaders told him, “If you release this man, you are no friend of Caesar’s. Anyone who declares himself a king is a rebel against Caesar.

At these words Pilate brought Jesus out to them again and sat down at the judgement bench on the stone paved platform. It was now about noon of the day before Passover.

And Pilate said to the Jews, “Here is your King!”

“What? Crucify your king?” Pilate asked. “We have no King but Caesar,” the chief priests shouted back.

So they had him at last, and he was taken out of the city, carrying his cross to the place known as “The Skull,” in Hebrew, “Golgotha.” There they crucified him and two others with him, one on either side, with Jesus between them. And Pilate posted a sign over him reading “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” The place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and the signboard was written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek, so that many people read it.

Then the chief priests said to Pilate, “Change it from ‘The King of the Jews’ to ‘He said, I am King of the Jews.’ ”

Pilate replied, “What I have written, I have written. It stays exactly as it is.”

When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they put his garments into four piles, one for each of them. But they said, “Let’s not tear up his robe,” for it was seamless. “Lets throw dice to see who gets it.” This fulfilled the scripture that says, “They divided my clothes among them, and cast lots for my robe.” So that is what they did.

Standing near the cross were Jesus’ mother, Mary, his aunt, the wife of Cleopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother standing there beside me, his close friend, he said to her, “He is your son.”

And to me he said, “She is your mother.” And from then on, I took her into my home.

Jesus knew that everything was now finished, and to fulfill the scriptures said, “I’m thirsty.” A jar of sour wine was sitting there, so a sponge was soaked in it and put on a hyssop branch and help up to his lips.

When Jesus had tasted it, he said, “It is finished,” and bowed his head and dismissed his spirit.

Today we would like to invite you to share with us your reflections, your thoughts, your favorite readings on Good Friday. We sincerely hope that you will join in this conversation as a sharing of our common faith, an active searching, united in asking in this small way for God’s blessing upon His world this Easter Triduum. So many of us see change as something that is all or nothing. We postpone the changes we need to make in our lives to improve our relationship with God because we aren’t mentally “ready” to make that leap. In reality, our path to God is made in tiny steps, small differences, the little things that take us one step closer in faith.

We ask you to join us, help us, take that step. Together and seperately, may we aid each other through our words and prayers, to make this Good Friday an opening for the light that is Christ to penetrate our darkness.

I would also like to share a paragraph from The Catechism of the Catholic Church.

In Her Magisterial teaching of the faith and in the witness of her saints, the Church has never forgotten that “sinners were the authors and the ministers of all the sufferings the Divine Redeemer endured.” Taking into account the fact that our sins affect Christ himself, the Church does not hesitate to impute to Christians the gravest responsibility for the torment inflicted upon Jesus, a responsiblity with which they have all too often burdened the Jews alone.

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Please respect the solemnity and purpose of this post and keep the comments on the Passion of our Lord.

It Is Finished. Good Friday.

The Resurrection and the Gospel

Romans 10:5-11

If you were to briefly explain the gospel to someone, what would you include? It would be necessary to explain: the reason we all need salvation—our sin; the identity of the Savior—God’s Son, who chose to become a man; and the price He paid for our forgiveness—His death on the cross. Another important thing to include would be how one can be saved—by repenting of sin, believing in Christ, and calling on Him for salvation.

However, there is one more essential aspect: belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ (Rom. 10:9). If people deny this, they have rejected the gospel and cannot be saved. The resurrection proves that Jesus is the Son of God, who overcame death. It also affirms that God was satisfied with His Son’s death as the sacrifice for mankind’s sins.

The disciples considered Christ’s resurrection an essential part of the gospel they proclaimed. As eyewitnesses, they were so convinced of this that nothing could dissuade them. The resurrection was also the primary message Paul delivered as he traveled around the Roman world, preaching the gospel. And it should be our message as well. Because Christ rose from the dead, we have assurance of both God’s forgiveness and our own future resurrection.

On Dark Calvary

“Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour.” (Matthew 27:45)

The second verse of the grand old hymn “The Old Rugged Cross” contains much truth, rich and deep.

Oh, that old rugged cross, so despised by the world,
Has a wondrous attraction for me;
For the dear Lamb of God left His glory above
To bear it to dark Calvary.

The world despises the cross and the One on the cross. “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not” (Isaiah 53:3). But yet, even in His bloodied and broken form, there is a wondrous attraction, for “surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: …he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed” (vv. 4-5).

His death substituted for ours. He was the sacrificial “Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). This Lamb is none other than God the Son, who willingly “took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:…and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:7-8). Remarkably, even God the Father “despised” Him as He hung on the cross, for God is holy, and for our sakes had “made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). The apex of Christ’s suffering came, as we see in our text, when God the Father separated Himself from His beloved Son, “forsaking” (v. 46) Christ to suffer for three hours the awful pangs of hell that we deserved. So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross. JDM

Prayer of the Faithful

… The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

—James 5:16

 

A second important requirement if the believing church is to be used in God’s ministry is prayer and the response God makes to our prayers uttered in true faith…. No matter what our stature or status, we have the authority in the family of God to pray the prayer of faith. The prayer of faith engages the heart of God, meeting God’s conditions of spiritual life and victory.

Our consideration of the power and efficacy of prayer enters into the question of why we are part of a Christian congregation and what that congregation is striving to be and do. We have to consider whether we are just going around and around—like a religious merry-go-round. Are we simply holding on to the painted mane of the painted horse, repeating a trip of very insignificant circles to a pleasing musical accompaniment?…

All of the advertising we can do will never equal the interest and participation in the things of God resulting from the gracious answers to the prayers of faith generated by the Holy Spirit.   TRA007-008

Lord, don’t ever let me be satisfied “holding on to the painted mane of the painted horse.” I want to be part of a dynamic Body of believers, greatly used of You because we’re seeing answers to genuine “prayers of faith generated by the Holy Spirit.” Amen.

 

The Art of Worship

Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.

—Psalm 29:2

 

Worship is the missing jewel in modern evangelicalism. We’re organized; we work; we have our agendas. We have almost everything, but there’s one thing that the churches, even the gospel churches, do not have: that is the ability to worship. We are not cultivating the art of worship. It’s the one shining gem that is lost to the modern church, and I believe that we ought to search for this until we find it.

I think I ought to talk a little more about what worship is and what it would be like if it were in the church. Well, it’s an attitude, a state of mind, a sustained act, subject to degrees of perfection and intensity. As soon as He sends the Spirit of His Son into our hearts we say “Abba” and we’re worshiping. That’s one thing. But it’s quite another thing to be worshipers in the full New Testament sense of the word and up to our possibilities. WMJ020

God wants us to worship Him. He doesn’t need us, for He couldn’t be a self-sufficient God and need anything or anybody, but He wants us. When Adam sinned it was not he who cried, “God, where art Thou?” It was God who cried, “Adam, where art thou?” QTB199

 

Try and Try Again!

Hebrews 12:1

Perhaps the story of every winner of fame and fortune in the wide, wide world might be written in these words: “He succeeded because he tried and tried and tried again.”

I often try, and fail at the onset. I cannot see, nor hear, nor feel, nor even imagine conquest; more frequently I imagine the very opposite to conquest. The devil or something whispers to me of defeat rather than triumph. But I try again and again, and again, and then I see, I hear and rejoice when the thing is done. So I say, “Go on, my brother; try, my sister. Try again, and you shall conquer.”

My comrade, you want a clean heart. You did try for the treasure once. You went to the altar and tried to understand, tried to consecrate, tried to believe, tried to feel, tried to keep hold of God, but you did not succeed; at least, you thought you did not get the blessing, or if you had it you thought you lost it again, and now you say to yourself, “I failed.” There is only one thing for you to do and that is to give up reasoning about it, and try again.

You want to see that soul saved—father, mother, brother, sister, son, daughter, husband, wife—someone who is very dear to you. You made an effort on their behalf once; you talked to them, wrote to them, prayed, believed for them, or thought you did. Anyway, you tried hard, really hard, and yet not so very hard, nor so very long, after all, compared with what your Savior did for you. Still, you did try, and you failed; and yet I won’t let you call it failure. How do you know what you accomplished? Well, they are not saved. What ought you to do?

There is only one thing you can do. Try again.

Look to your aim. Is it in God’s plan that you should have it? Is it for the welfare of someone else? Is it within the circle of the atoning blood? Is it a pleasing object to the Almighty? Then make your resolution, see to your faith, sharpen your sword, throw away your scabbard, summon heaven and earth to your help, make a death-struggle of it, and try, and try, and try again, and again, and again, and you shall overcome as Jesus overcame and sit down with Him on the Conqueror’s Throne and wear the victor’s crown.

William Booth, The Warrior’s Daily Portion