Tag Archives: lent

Sentenced to death!

Imagine you were this very down-to-earth person. You lived an exceptionally good life; fed the hungry, took care of the sick, sheltered the homeless. Where there were issues of rights violations, you sought to help the aggrieved persons find that highly craved justice.

Slowly I’ve come to realise that the word justice is at the tip of almost everyone’s tongues. Sadly, it’s a very emotive issue which only remains a mirage; the desolate yearn for it and wake up every morning, hoping to find it. The ‘authorities’ on the other hand, avoid it like a plague and pull all possible strings to ensure the common citizenry don’t even come remotely near it.

Moved by the plight of these dejected people, you do all in your power to help them resolve their issues. In short, you are the epitome of a saint. But as this is not some delusional utopia where everyone advocates for good, you become an irritating prickly thorn in the flesh of all those who are in one way or another inconvenienced by your saintly actions; say corrupt officials, who feel you’re upsetting status quo by opening people’s eyes to the rampant evil being perpetrated against them by those in power.

Furthermore, majority of the hoi polloi can’t quite comprehend how someone walking the streets in a world shrouded by moral depravity could be so good for real. So they presume it’s just another case of some shrewd charlatan trying to act all ‘holier-than-thou’ and stuff… and obviously, from that erroneous presumption stems deep-sitted loathing.

The self-proclaimed ‘saints’ on the other hand, who should at least try to understand you for God’s sake, fault you for blaspheming their God, because you claim to have some special relations with Him. He is your Father; and the world just can’t take it. You’re too much… and therefore must be eliminated.

Eventually, you’re brought to trial for ‘being so good’… It’s preposterous, isn’t it? The officials, whose wicked ways wouldn’t let your saintly ways drive them out of business, are only very eager to have you silenced permanently. Unsurprisingly, people are so willing to give you away.

You realise, everyone hates you. Everyone’s against you; even the ones you helped when they were in dire in need refuse to stand by you. The only people who know and love you are a measly handful; who essentially, are your family and those in your inner circle.

After awfully skewed deliberations, the verdict is given. You’re sentenced to death by being nailed to the cross. It’s the most shameful way to die. You’re stripped off your clothes and displayed on a windy hill for all and sundry to see. Weak, and helpless, you watch, as the people you tried so hard to fight for jeer at you, watering down all the good you did…

What they don’t know is, that you were neither a charlatan, nor some self-righteous ‘goody-two-shoes’. You are who you claimed to be; merciful, kind, and loving all unconditionally. Better still, you know The Almighty God on a very personal level.

As a result of that, even in that dejected moment, when your scourged body is bleeding out, and your heartbeat is growing fainter, you still hope that someday, all those who have rejected you will understand and accept the principles you so bravely championed for; and subsequently accept you.

Ultimately, in one final act of love, you ask God to forgive them, for they knew not what they were doing. You’re so good, that even in that searing pain you can’t harbour any grudges against them.

And you breathe your last!

Taking all that humiliation into consideration, imagine you had some supernatural powers… Knowing my human weaknesses, which I try so hard to overcome, smiting with lightning immediately comes to mind…

Today is Good Friday, and we’re commemorating the death of that baby born on Christmas day. He died such a shameful death, when he was just at the peak of His youth. And if you’re wondering what he was guilty of, His love for us nailed Him to the cross. He was the Paschal sacrifice, whose blood was meant to wash our sins away.

This Easter, we’re called to reflect on that great love, that made Jesus give His life up for us. There are many lessons to learn from His Passion. Now, the onus is on us; to reject Him, or to accept Him and follow the precepts He died advocating for: to love God above all; to love one another and to follow the Will of God in our daily lives. He too accepted His Father’s will; to die on the cross, knowing only too well, that it would be a harrowing experience.

I wish you a very blessed Easter.

 

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Father forgive them, for they know not what they do

Jesus crucified

In life, there will always be times when every person is wronged by another (s). That’s just the way life is. It could be an innocent child, molested by a man/woman they thought was their protector; a father for instance, and they’re too young to comprehend what happened to them, until much later when they realize they were raped.

It could be a very loving and faithful wife, married to a very abusive husband, who comes home late at night, wreaking of alcohol and spewing insults, annihilating the woman’s self-esteem in ways so unimaginable, so she never feels worthy of mingling with other human beings. Occasionally, the woman will be walking around with a swollen face, marred by bruises put on her by the man she loved or still loves.

It could even be a naïve faithful, taken advantage of by someone she thought was her spiritual guide; a pastor, who was supposed to help them attain salvation.

It could even be an emaciated kid, wandering the cold, unsafe streets at night in sheer solitude, simply because their mom abandoned them when they were still infants…or because they couldn’t stand their father’s abuse at home and therefore chose to flee.

I could only think of so many instances… the list is endless.

As human beings, when we’re in the hands of our tormentors, we curse them and ask God to avenge us. That’s only normal. In recent posts, I’ve mentioned how lately dad has become so heartless and egocentric. He flagrantly shows up in the house in a drunken stupor, staggering sometimes and he starts hurling insults at us.

In one particular episode, about a month ago, he was sitted on the couch sipping on some beer. A while later he started arguing with mom and before long, he was on his feet. Grabbing the bottle, he walked to the entrance door and did the unthinkable. He tipped the bottle, emptying its contents on a floor that hadn’t dried completely since I’d mopped it only recently.

It was a Sunday evening and, I had been breaking my back since I came from church, trying to clean the house. By the time I was done my back was in pain from accumulated fatigue since I have classes six days a week and I hadn’t been resting.

I could barely contain my rage. “Why have you become this unfeeling?” I asked him. “I’ve just finished mopping”.

“It’s my money,” he replied, “I can do with it as I please.”

“How could you do that?”

To my utter disappointment, he didn’t seem remorseful one bit. “I can still spill some more,” he threatened.

Incensed, I barked. “Even the mightiest people know when to say sorry”.

“Just get out of here!” He ordered, his words slurred.

“Money has made you this arrogant,” I continued, my voice raised. “May God take it all away. And you see how you’ve been treating us like worthless trinkets? You’ll come to us, crawling on your knees, asking for forgiveness”. I was feeling so hurt at such haughtiness, that I was shaking, my fists tightly clenched. At that point I know I could have done something so drastic. It’s no wonder nowadays I always avoid getting involved in any altercations with him because I fear I could do something bad. God-forbid!

“You’re talking like that because I already paid your school fee,” he argued. This is because he cut my two sisters off and said they shouldn’t even call him dad.

“Money’s not everything,” I countered vehemently. “Respect’s a two way street. If you want us to respect you, you should also accord us the same… and right now you’re not doing that.” With that I left, just to go cool off.

A while later, while he was spewing insults, like he’s being accustomed to, I heard a dull thud, followed by my sisters’ giggles… and I got all curious. While I was about to head back to the living room, I heard them say amid laughter, “See?”

Apparently, he had slipped on the wet floor, courtesy of the beer he had spilled and had fallen on the ground. Knowing my sisters, I knew the laughter wasn’t malicious. Dad naturally hates it when we laugh, so they just wanted to drive a point home; that in his arrogance he had poured the beer on the floor, only to end up on the same floor; that he had erred by pouring that beer and worse still, seeming so unapologetic about it. When he got back to his feet, he opened another bottle and emptied it on the floor again…

Today’s Easter Monday. Last week was a Holy week, where we celebrated the Holy Triduum (three holy days) starting from Holy Thursday evening, when Jesus washed His disciple’s feet before celebrating the Last Supper with them in preparation for His Passion; celebrated on Good Friday when He dies on the cross, the Easter Vigil Mass, on Holy Saturday; to Easter Sunday. Yesterday, we celebrated His glorious resurrection, when He triumphed over death.

On Good Friday, when the priest was giving his brief sermon, he emphasized on forgiveness. “Jesus didn’t curse His tormentors for putting Him through so much agony when He was entirely blameless. Instead, He asked His Father, ‘Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do’”.

Just like Jesus forgave His tormentors, we’re also called to forgive those who make us suffer unjustly; as opposed to cursing them. Speaking from my own personal experience, it’s very difficult forgiving someone/people who torment us incessantly; but following in Christ’s footsteps, I’m making a personal effort to forgive my dad and all those I feel make my life miserable.

I’m not in the habit of wishing ill upon others but unfortunately, that is something that’s growing on me from the constant conflicts I have with dad. I ask for God’s grace to do only, that which pleases Him. It’s really not easy but I have to try. We all should.

Of temptations and Lent

Jesus in the wilderness

“We’re all in the desert”. Those were the priest’s words during mass as we celebrated the first Sunday of lent. Today’s gospel was on Jesus’ stay in the desert for forty days and nights (Mark 1: 12-15). In the olden ‘Biblical’ days, it was believed that demons resided in the desert.

Ergo, when Jesus went to the desert, He put Himself at ‘a risk’…not that the demons would have done anything to Him, no matter how desperately they desired it. However, that just goes to show the magnitude of His suffering for those forty days He stayed there. I’m imagining it was like head-to-head; with every demon giving it their best shot so they could brag they’re the ones who annihilated the Son of the Almighty God.

Satan, the father of all evil, tempted Him but Jesus remain steadfast; his faith unwavering, as He prepared Himself for the excruciating pain He knew lay ahead of Him during His passion. Based on what we read in the bible, He wouldn’t have wished such agonizing pain upon His own self, but only agreed to it as that was His Father’s will. Forty days later He was out of the desert, having triumphed over Satan.

In the Genesis story of how Lucifer – a once hallowed angel- came to be the father of all evil, we’re told that He wanted to have the same power as God. Subsequently, God kicked Him out of Heaven and damned him to hell – the eternal pit of fire.

Angry and vengeful, Lucifer waged war against God, promising to turn the same men He’d created in His own image against Him. With that he set up camp on earth, determined to live up to his threat. From then on, temptations became the order of the day as he tried to win more and more souls for himself and slowly, the world became full of evil as brother turned against brother, shedding blood callously… and the rest, as they say, is history.

This, I believe, is what the priest had in mind when he said we’re all living in a desert. Satan walks in our midst, doing his best so we can all sell our souls to him. More often than not, we find ourselves at crossroads, trying to choose between the real right decision that might not be the most pleasant or even easy to achieve and the easy decision which appears more appealing but which invariably turns out to be another one of Satan’s numerous traps.

For instance, someone’s marriage is on the rocks. Right when they are in the middle of that crisis, another person comes along promising them the moon. So instead of working on the breaking marriage, which might actually turn out to be the best decision in the end, one opts to get into a secret affair with the ‘stranger’.

Eventually, one learns first hand that ‘it’s better the demon you know than the angel you don’t’, when everything with the ‘stranger’ moves from rosy to disastrous. It’s all part of the devil’s schemes to get back at God; problem is, were the ones caught in between; and he strikes when we’re most vulnerable.

The painful fact is that for as long as the earth rotates in its axis, and the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, there will always be temptations; moreover, based on the strength of our faith, chances are we will fall sometimes.

We may not be in a situation to help it but there’s a solution; to pray without ceasing. Lent is that time of the year when we’re called to reflect on our actions – what we’ve done and what we’ve failed to do – and how all that affects our relationship with God.

Mostly, we fall into temptations because of the problems we encounter in our lives. If we’re going through a difficult phase in our lives, the bible tells us to pray, believe that God has heard our prayers and then wait patiently without worrying.

Not worrying, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts is easier said than done, but once we get into the habit of entrusting God with those ‘impossible’ problems, we will realize the benefits that come with it. We will wade through those murky waters and come out victorious, just like Jesus did.

So don’t forget; the secret really, is to pray, pray and pray some more. Additionally, the pillars of lent, are prayer, fasting and alms giving –helping those in need; and as I’ve said before, anyone – irrespective of faith/religion- can take this Lenten season as a period to reflect, and to see what they can do to be better than they were yesterday.

 

Do not feel rejected; He loves you

Fifteenth station-Jesus is risen from the dead

ALLELUYAH! ALLELUYAH! ALLELUYAH! Christ is risen from the dead!

Christians all over the world are celebrating the resurrection of Christ. After the lent season, which is essentially a solemn period, now we are in celebration mode.

Christmas and Easter are the two most important feasts in a Christian’s life. The former is fundamental because we celebrate the birth of Christ, and the latter because we commemorate His death and resurrection. Easter is more important though.

So much has been said/written about this whole dying and resurrecting thing; one article caught my eye though. The writer talked about man’s origin from a scientist’s perspective; the evolution theory seeks to explain where man came from. To them it’s all about physics and chemistry. They say the genesis story is all a myth.

Science can explain it all, right? The day the sun stood still and the moon stopped so Joshua and his army could fight; the dividing of the Red Sea during the Exodus, when Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt and Pharaoh’s men drowned… but what about the resurrection of Christ? The gap between life and death? Christ’s ascension? Is it all a myth?

The resurrection of Christ is the basis on which Christian faith is founded. During mass, bread and wine are consecrated as a re-enactment of the last supper. Jesus in His words said, “Do this in memory of me.” Christians faithfully follow His will. And the mystery of faith, ‘Dying You destroyed our death, rising You restored our life, Lord Jesus come in glory.” See, it’s all founded on His resurrection. If He didn’t come back to life, people would have no hope of life after death.

Many non-believers think of death as the ultimate end of a person’s life. Christian doctrines however, teach that death is only the beginning of eternal life. All this we believe because Jesus Christ died and resurrected.

Naysayers doubt Christ resurrected. From the scriptures though, it’s clearly evident He rose from the dead. Firstly, the tomb, which was guarded by roman soldiers, afraid that His disciples would steal His body, was opened. Early Sunday morning, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been taken away from the entrance. (John 20: 1).

Secondly, the soldiers who guarded the tomb went back and told the chief priests everything that happened. The chief priests met with the elders and made their plan; they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers and said, “You are to say that His disciples came during the night and stole His body while you were asleep. And if the governor should hear the story we will convince him that you are innocent and you will have nothing to worry about.”

The guards took the money and did what they were told to do. And so that is the report spread around by the Jews to this very day. (Matthew 28: 11-15).

Thirdly, doubting Thomas’ experience confirms further that Jesus resurrected: He was not with them when Jesus came. When the other disciples told him they had seen Jesus, he said, “Unless I see the scars of the nails in his hands and put my finger on those scars and my hand in His side, I will not believe.”

A week later, the disciples were together again indoors and Thomas was with them. The doors were locked, but Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then He said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands; then reach out your hand and put it in my side. Stop your doubting and believe me!”

Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God.”

Jesus said to Him, “Do you believe because you see me? Happy are those who believe without seeing me.” (John 20: 24-29).

These alone are enough evidence for anyone to believe Christ rose from the dead. He conquered death. Whatever your situation, whether in prison, sick, childless, mourning, hungry… do not feel rejected. He loves you! Through his resurrection, He conquered death; a wage of sin committed by our first parents, Adam and Eve. Because of His resurrection, those who believe in Him have nothing to fear.

He destroyed death; man’s greatest enemy. What else can’t He destroy? Your problems and mine are nothing to Him. We only need to take them to Him in prayer. We only need to keep the faith.

Now one would ask, “If He was in deed the Son of the Almighty God, why did he have to die in the first place? Couldn’t God spare Him the excruciating pain?”

Truth is, if God wanted to, He could have spared Jesus the pain. Before Jesus was arrested, He prayed while at the Mount of Olives. “Father,” He said. “If You will, take this cup of suffering away from me. Not My will however, but Your will be done.” (Luke 22: 41). God could have stopped Jesus’ passion, but He didn’t. He, in His infinite wisdom, knew His Son would achieve something greater by dying. Through His death and resurrection, we believe.

When Jesus died, His disciples hid themselves, afraid the same fate would befall them. But after they learned of His resurrection, they went out courageously preaching the things He had taught them (Acts of the Apostles). God knew Jesus’ followers would need something to believe in. He let His son suffer for the sake of mankind. He so loved the world, that He gave His only son. It was all for us.

Christ’s resurrection is a renewal of faith and hope. This Easter, we’re called to be His followers; to believe in God’s undying love.

HAPPY EASTER!

Holy Week

Palm Sunday marked the beginning of Holy week. It’s the last week of the Lenten season, when we commemorate the death of Christ on Good Friday and subsequently His resurrection on Easter Sunday. It’s a significant period in a Christian’s life because it reminds us of Christ’s triumph over death; thus encouraging us to persevere because if we do, we too–like Him-shall be conquerors. The last three days before Easter Sunday; i.e. Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday are the most important of this season.

On Holy Thursday, we celebrated the last supper, when Jesus washed His Disciples’ feet, and shared His body and blood with them in the form of bread and wine before being betrayed by Judas Iscariot, which was the beginning of His passion and eventually His death on the cross.

Ever since I can remember, my favourite part of the Holy Thursday mass has always been the part where the priest washes some faithful’s feet, imitating how Jesus washed His disciples’ feet. Even as a child, I remember being fascinated by the thought. It’s hard to fathom a priest washing people’s feet because in all honesty, I consider that part of the body to be one of the dirtiest- relatively speaking. For one to be able to do it, they must have tonnes of humility, because simply put, it’s a gesture of self-effacement.

Pope Francis washing faithful's feet

It even becomes harder to fathom Jesus, the son of the Almighty God, doing the same thing. He, the king of kings, chose to wash His disciples’ feet to show them how to treat people. After He had finished washing their feet He asked them, “Do you understand what I have just done to you? You call me teacher and Lord, and it is right that you do so, because that is what I am. I, your Lord and teacher, have just washed your feet. You then, should wash one another’s feet. I have set an example for you, so that you will do just what I have done for you…” (John 13: 12-16).

I look at the leaders we have today and each time I find myself wondering, how many would lower themselves the way Jesus did? Washing their servants’ feet? Majority of the leaders we have today expect to be served than to serve. Most of them wouldn’t be caught dead partaking in things which would seem to compromise their dominance; their superiority over the rest of the populace.

Jesus taught His disciples to attend to their own subjects; to desire to serve than to be served. As we come to the end of Lent that’s an important lesson to remember; to learn to be humble, regardless of our social status.

Today, Good Friday is essentially a day when we commemorate Christ’s death. It’s the saddest day in church, devoid of all the celebrations that are characteristic of an ordinary mass. Due to this, the faithful are supposed to observe silence; basically to reflect on the idea of Jesus sacrificing Himself for the salvation of mankind. It’s a day of penance when fasting and abstinence should be observed.

Jesus nailed on the cross

On Holy Saturday, there’s the vigil mass. This mass is celebrated at night as a way of keeping watch, awaiting Christ’s resurrection during the night. In this mass, new members are baptized to initiate them into the church; the sacraments of Holy Communion and Confirmation are also given. Other members of the church renew their baptismal vows.

The three days (Easter Triduum) are crowned with the celebration of Easter Sunday; the morning after Christ’s resurrection.

We’re nearing the end of the lent season. A period of reflecting deeply on our lives as Christians and the relationship we have with God. It’s also a period when people are asked to repent; to atone for their transgressions. As I mentioned in the beginning of lent, I know not everyone is a Christian; but the fact that we’re all human makes us prone to sin and it’s therefore imperative that we take some time to see what wrongs we’ve committed and to be sorry for them.

Fifteenth station: Jesus is risen from the dead

Fifteenth station-Jesus is risen from the dead

My Jesus, I repent of the sin of hopelessness. I beg Your pardon for many of the times I fell into depression for small setbacks and tragedies in my life. My Jesus, let me never feel rejected or defeated as You are risen and alive. I put my complete trust in You O Most Holy Risen Lord Jesus. I worship You and I bow down before You. All glory be to You O Risen Lord Jesus Christ, forever and ever.

Closing Prayer

My Jesus, I have travelled Your Way of the Cross. It seems so real and I feel so ashamed. I complain of my sufferings and find obedience to The Father’s Will difficult. My mind bogged down by the poverty, sickness, starvation, greed and hatred in the world.

There are many people who suffer so unjustly. There are those born with physical and mental defects. Do we understand that You continue to carry Your Cross in the minds and bodies of each human being?

Help me to see The Father’s Will in every incident of my daily life. This is what You did-You saw The Father’s Will in Your persecutors, Your enemies and Your pain. You saw a beauty in the Cross and embraced it as desired treasure. My worldly mind is dulled by injustice and suffering and I lose sight of the glory that is to come.

Help me to trust The Father and to realize that there is something great behind the most insignificant suffering. There is Someone lifting my cross to fit my shoulders; there is Divine wisdom in all the petty annoyances that irk my soul everyday.

Teach me the lessons contained in my cross, the wisdom of its necessity, the beauty of its variety and the fortitude that accompanies even the smallest cross. Mary my Mother, obtain for me the grace to be Jesus to my neighbour and to see my neighbour in Jesus.

Amen.

 

These Way of the Cross prayers are courtesy of the Vincentian Congregation, whose aims are to preach to the non-Christians so that they may be brought to the Christian faith and to preach to the Christians, to help them grow in faith.

 

Fourteenth station: Jesus is laid in the sepulchre

Fourteenth station-Jesus is laid in the sepulchreReflections

My Jesus, you were laid to rest in a stranger’s tomb. You were born with nothing of this world’s goods and You died detached from everything. When You came into the world, men slept and angels sang and now You leave it, creation is silent and only a few weep.

Both events were clothed in obscurity.

The majority of men live in such a way. Most of us live and die knowing and known only by a few. Were You trying to tell us, dear Jesus, how very important our lives are just because we are accomplishing The Father’s Will?

Will we ever learn the lesson of humility that makes us content with who we are and what we are? Will our faith ever be strong enough to see power in weakness and good in the sufferings of our lives? Will our hope be trusting enough to rely on Your providence even when we have nowhere to lay our head? Will our love ever be strong enough not to take scandal in the Cross?

Prayer

My Jesus, hide my soul in Your heart as You lie in the sepulchre alone. Let my heart be as a fire to keep You warm. Let my desire to know and love you be like a torch to light up the darkness. Let my soul sing softly a hymn of repentant love as the hours pass and Your resurrection is at hand. Let me rejoice, dear Jesus, with all the Angels in a hymn of praise and thanksgiving for so great a love, so great a God, so great a day!