Reflections on Holy Friday: last seven words

1. Forgiveness, 2. Salvation, 3. Relationship, 4. Abandonment, 5. Distress, 6. Triumph and 7. Reunion.

  1. Luke 23:34: Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.
  2. Luke 23:43: Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.
  3. John 19:26–27: Woman, behold your son. Son, behold your mother.
  4. Matthew 27:46 & Mark 15:34: My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?
  5. John 19:28: I thirst.
  6. John 19:30: It is finished.
  7. Luke 23:46: Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.

MUSIC BASED on CHRIST’S LAST SEVEN WORDS:

PRAYERS and COMMENTARY BASED on LAST SEVEN WORDS

PRAYER about FORGIVENESS

Forgive me that I have not loved enough. Forgive me so that I can love you and others, no matter what their sins may be. Forgive me that I have not fully believed in the possibility and power of forgiveness. Forgive me so that I can forgive— others and myself. Amen.
—Maren Tirabassi and Joan Jordan Grant

FORGIVE

If I develop bad feelings toward those who make me suffer, this will only destroy my own peace of mind. But if I forgive, my mind becomes calm. — Dalai Lama

I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear. — Rev Dr Martin Luther King

What I refuse to forgive continues to harm me. It consumes my heart, poisons my mind, drains my energies and cements my soul. — Sr. Joan Chiitster

Well, probably the most radical part … is that it begins with kindness to yourself in the same measure with which you would be very, very kind to others. Sort of automatically — especially women — [we] are outgoingly warm and friendly to other people because we were raised to believe that this was where our value lay. And yet with ourselves, men and women both, we tend to be harsh. And we tend to be easily exasperated with ourselves.
    So, the radical part of kindness is about stroking your own shoulder and stopping the bad self-talk. And that’s where my belief in healing — both ourselves and our families and the world — begins, is that we put our own oxygen masks on first.
    I mean, the hardest work we do is forgiveness. But for me, it’s easier to forgive someone I just abhor, than it is to forgive myself some of the time. I am so exasperated, and kind of stunned by how disappointingly I behave. Eventually, I forgive everyone, because there’s that old saying that “not forgiving is like drinking poison and waiting for the rat to die.” And we’re the one who suffers from holding onto resentments and staying clenched up, and bitter. — Anne Lamott… I read this, which is at the very heart of [Viktor] Frankl’s teaching: “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” Each moment is a choice. No matter how frustrating or boring or constraining or painful or oppressive our experience, we can always choose how we respond. And I finally begin to understand that I, too, have a choice. This realization will change my life…
    The choice to accept myself as I am: human, imperfect. And the choice to be responsible for my own happiness. To forgive my flaws and reclaim my innocence. To stop asking why I deserved to survive. To function as well as I can, to commit myself to serve others, to do everything in my power to honor my parents, to see to it that they did not die in vain. To do my best, in my limited capacity, so future generations don’t experience what I did. To be useful, to be used up, to survive and to thrive so I can use every moment to make the world a better place. And to finally, finally stop running from the past. To do everything possible to redeem it, and then let it go. I can make the choice that all of us can make. I can’t ever change the past. But there is a life I can save: It is mine. The one I am living right now, this precious moment…
    And to the vast campus of death that consumed my parents and so very many others, to the … horror that still had something sacred to teach me about how to live—that I was victimized but I’m not a victim, that I was hurt but not broken, that the soul never dies, that meaning and purpose can come from deep in the heart of what hurts us the most—I utter my final words. Goodbye, I say. And, Thank you. Thank you for life, and for the ability to finally accept the life that is. — Dr Edith Eger (Holocaust survivor)

To forgive is not just to be altruistic. It is the best form of self-interest. It is also a process that does not exclude hatred and anger. These emotions are all part of being human. You should never hate yourself for hating others who do terrible things: the depth of your love is shown by the extent of your anger. However, when I talk of forgiveness I mean the belief that you can come out the other side a better person. A better person than the one being consumed by anger and hatred. Remaining in that state locks you in a state of victimhood, making you almost dependent on the perpetrator. If you can find it in yourself to forgive, then you are no longer chained to the perpetrator. — Archbishop Desmond Tutu

I think that if God forgives us we must forgive ourselves. Otherwise, it is almost like setting up ourselves as a higher tribunal than Him. — CS Lewis

To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you. — CS Lewis

… Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Jesus always seems to be pairing God’s forgiveness of us with our forgiveness of others. But why? Why is he always pairing them together? I kind of always thought that it was a way of guilting us into forgiving others … Our human culture would say that evil is fought through justice and might. The way we combat evil is by making sure that people get what they have coming to them. An eye for an eye. You attack me and I’ll attack you. Fair is fair. … Because it would seem that when we are sinned against, when someone else harms us, that we are in some way linked to that sin, connected to that mistreatment like a chain through which we absorb it. And we know that our anger, fear, or resentment doesn’t free us at all…it keeps us chained. And evil persists. Sin abounds. Brokenness prevails… But Richard Rohr reminds us that we can tell a lot by what a person does with their suffering: do they transmit it or do they transform it? So while it’s true that God may not prevent evil, and we may never fully understand why… God does have a way of combating evil. It’s not punishment and it’s not retaliation, fear, or anger. It’s forgiveness. Forgiveness is God’s way of combating evil. Of course this offends our impulse for justice or retaliation. But that’s the God revealed in Jesus. Like it or not, this is what we see at the cross. At Calvary, God allows our human system of scape-goating, fear, and retaliation to play its natural course, which ends as it always does: in the suffering of God. And then in turn, God shows us God’s system by not even lifting a finger to condemn those who put him on the cross, but instead proclaims, of all things, forgiveness… But the problem with this is: doesn’t forgiving a sin against us, or an evil done to many, come perilously close to saying that what they did was okay? Isn’t forgiving over and over just the thing that keeps battered women battered? … I thought that maybe forgiveness is actually the opposite of saying that what someone has done is okay…it’s saying it’s so not okay that I am not going to absorb it any more. I simply won’t be tied to it. … That’s why we need to forgive. Because we can’t be bound to that kind of evil. Lest it find the evil in our own hearts and make its home there.—Rev Nadia Bolz-Weber

PRAYER about SALVATION

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone. — Thomas Merton

SALVATION

I used to think that being saved from my sins meant being saved from hell. Salvation was something that kicked in after death, like a gift that had “Do not open until eternity” on the tag…It was something that happened once but applied for all eternity—once saved, always saved. 
     … Jesus came to offer more than just salvation from hell. I realized this when I encountered Jesus the radical rabbi and reexamined my life in light of his teachings. When I imagined what it would be like to give generously without wondering what is in it for me, to give up my grudges and learn to diffuse hatred with love, to stop judging other people once and for all, to care for the poor and seek out the downtrodden, to finally believe that stuff can’t make me happy, to give up my urge to gossip and manipulate, to worry less about what other people think, to refuse to retaliate no matter the cost, to be capable of forgiving to the point of death, to live as Jesus lived and love as Jesus loved, one word came to my mind: liberation.
      Following Jesus would mean liberation from my bitterness, my worry, my self-righteousness, my prejudice, my selfishness, my materialism, and my misplaced loyalties. Following Jesus would mean salvation from my sin.
      What I’m trying to say is that while I still believe Jesus died to save us from our sins, I’m beginning to think that Jesus also lived to save us from our sins. the apostle Paul put it more eloquently in his letter to the church in Rome when he said, ‘For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to hi m through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!” (Romans 5:10).
     If it’s starting to sound like I believe in works-based salvation , it’s because I do. While I don’t for a second think that we can earn God’s grace by checking off a to-do list, I do believe that there is liberation in obedience. When we live like Jesus, when we take his teachings seriously and apply them to life, we don’t have to wait until we die to experience freedom from sin. We experience it every day as each step of faith and every good work loosens the chains of sin around our feet. It’s hard, and it’s something that I fail at most of the time, but it’s something I’ve experienced in little fits and starts along the way, enough to know that it’s worth it. Jesus promised that his yoke will be light, because he carries most of the load.  — Rachel Held Evans

God’s grace is not defined as God being forgiving to us even though we sin. Grace is when God is a source of wholeness, which makes up for my failings. My failings hurt me and others and even the planet, and God’s grace to me is that my brokenness is not the final word … it’s that God makes beautiful things out of even my own shit. Grace isn’t about God creating humans and flawed beings and then acting all hurt when we inevitably fail and then stepping in like the hero to grant us grace – like saying, “Oh, it’s OK, I’ll be the good guy and forgive you.” It’s God saying, “I love the world too much to let your sin define you and be the final word. I am a God who makes all things new. —Rev  Nadia Bolz-Weber

However we imagine the intent of the question, Jesus’ answer is disquieting. The way to salvation – and we should keep in mind that the word we translate as “saved” also means “to be made whole” and “to be healed” – is narrow, challenging, not a given. Beyond that, oddly, Jesus doesn’t say a lot. Strive to enter by the narrow way. That’s about it…. What, then, is the narrow way? I suppose that if, at this point… we still need to ask, we probably aren’t on it. Because from beginning to end Jesus is on the side of the down and out, the dispossessed, the poor, the sick, those in need… So does this mean that only the poor will experience salvation/healing/wholeness? Or only the poor and those who side with them?
    I also think it might be worthwhile hearing that, to Jesus, the narrow way – the way God invites us to walk given all the other options that are available to us – is to care for those around us, to be generous with what we have, to recognize that blessing is always given to be shared, and to look out especially for those in need.
    So perhaps the best way to address the question of salvation is to resist the urge to see it as a place or goal or prize but instead to reclaim the larger meaning of the word and hear it as both command and invitation to seize salvation, healing, and wholeness right now by joining ourselves to those around us and living into the kingdom and community of God that Jesus proclaims.
    Perhaps the best way to deal with the question of salvation, that is, is to stop worrying about it and instead simply live as those people who are already saved by the grace of God and therefore free to share all that we have and are with those around us. — Rev. David Lose

So we are called to love both Jesus and Christ. You can begin with either Jesus or Christ, but eventually it is easiest to love both. Too many Christians have started and stopped with Jesus, never knowing the universal Christ. Many non-Christians have started with loving the Christ by another name. I have met Hindus, Muslims, and Jews who live in this hidden mystery of oneness; and I have met many Roman Catholics and Protestants who are running away from the Christ Mystery, as either practical materialists or pious spiritualists.
    Tertullian (160–225), who is called “the father of Western theology,” rightly taught that “the flesh is the hinge of salvation” (Caro salutis est cardo). [1] The incarnation of flesh and Spirit is Christianity’s most important contribution to spirituality, and this is the meaning of “The Christ,” although you do not need to name it as such.
    Now “the world, life and death, the present and the future are all your servants, for you belong to Christ and Christ belongs to God” (1 Corinthians 3:22-23). Full salvation is finally universal belonging and universal connecting. Our Christian word for that is “heaven.” This is why Jesus can say to a man dying in time, “This day you are with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). The Christ is now, here, everywhere, and always.— Richard Rohr

… Scripture is very clear about the place of work in human life. The Book of Genesis is explicit: we were put into the Garden “to till and to keep it.” We work to complete the work of God in the world. Work, then, may be the most sanctifying thing we do.
     The implications of a spirituality of work in a world such as ours are clear, it seems. Work is my gift to the world. It is my social fruitfulness. It ties me to my neighbor and binds me to the future.
     Work is the way I am saved from total self-centeredness. It gives me a reason to exist that is larger than myself. It makes me part of possibility. It gives me hope. Martin Luther wrote: “If I knew that the world would end tomorrow, I would plant an apple tree today.”
     Work gives me a place in salvation. It helps redeem the world from sin. It enables creation to go on creating. It brings us all one step closer to what the reign of God is meant to be. 
     
Finally, work is the way we really live in solidarity with the poor of the world. Work is our commitment not to live off others, not to sponge, not to shirk, not to cheat.
     Work is our sign that God goes on working in the world through us. It is the very stuff of divine ambition. And it will never be over. The philosopher wrote, “Do you want a test to know if your work in life is over? If you are still alive, it isn’t.” God needs us to complete God’s work. Now. — Sr. Joan Chittister

PRAYER for RELATIONSHIP

Please Call Me By My True Names
— Thich Nhat Hanh

Don’t say that I will depart tomorrow—
even today I am still arriving.

Look deeply: every second I am arriving
to be a bud on a Spring branch,
to be a tiny bird, with still-fragile wings,
learning to sing in my new nest,
to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,
to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.

I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,
to fear and to hope.
The rhythm of my heart is the birth and death
of all that is alive.

I am a mayfly metamorphosing
on the surface of the river.
And I am the bird
that swoops down to swallow the mayfly.

I am a frog swimming happily
in the clear water of a pond.
And I am the grass-snake
that silently feeds itself on the frog.

I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,
my legs as thin as bamboo sticks.
And I am the arms merchant,
selling deadly weapons to Uganda.

I am the twelve-year-old girl,
refugee on a small boat,
who throws herself into the ocean
after being raped by a sea pirate.

And I am also the pirate,
my heart not yet capable
of seeing and loving.

I am a member of the politburo,
with plenty of power in my hands.
And I am the man who has to pay
his “debt of blood” to my people
dying slowly in a forced-labor camp.

My joy is like Spring, so warm
it makes flowers bloom all over the Earth.
My pain is like a river of tears,
so vast it fills the four oceans.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries and laughter at once,
so I can see that my joy and pain are one.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can wake up
and the door of my heart
could be left open,
the door of compassion.

RELATIONSHIP

Only holiness will call people to listen now. And the work of holiness is not about perfection or niceness; it is about belonging, that sense of being in the Presence and through the quality of that belonging, the mild magnetic of implicating others in the Presence. This is not about forging a relationship with a distant God but about the realization that we are already within God.
― John O’Donohue 

It seems that this YHWH who is uncovering and showing Godself in the Bible desires not just images or ideas, but even persons with whom God can be in very concrete and intimate relationship. God is creating, quite literally, some friends for God! Jesus became the full representation of one who accepted and lived that friendship. In fact, he never seemed to doubt it. That must be at the core of our imitation of Jesus, and exactly how we become “partners in his triumph” — Fr. Richard Rohr

The movement in our relationship to God is always from God to us. Always. We can’t, through our piety or goodness, move closer to God. God is always coming near to us. Most especially in the Eucharist and in the stranger. ― Rev Nadia Bolz-Weber

One of the most destructive mistakes we Christians make is to prioritize shared beliefs over shared relationship, which is deeply ironic considering we worship a God who would rather die than lose relationship with us. — Rachel Held Evans

Remember that the best relationship is one in which your love for each other exceeds your need for each other. — Dalai Lama

But the gospel doesn’t need a coalition devoted to keeping the wrong people out. It needs a family of sinners, saved by grace, committed to tearing down the walls, throwing open the doors, and shouting, “Welcome! There’s bread and wine. Come eat with us and talk.” This isn’t a kingdom for the worthy; it’s a kingdom for the hungry. — Rachel Held Evans

PRAYER of ABANDONMENT

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone. Amen. — Thomas Merton

ABANDONMENT

Who hasn’t said, “Don’t you care?” Who hasn’t experienced death or isolation or chaos or anxiety or just simple raw human pain and not felt that God was by all appearances lazily sleeping through it? Surely if God cared about me, God would change my life circumstances to suit my preferences—or maybe God could have kept the tragic, painful thing from happening in the first place.
     When we are fearful or angry we feel as though God has abandoned us, or at least fallen asleep on a comfy cushion…. When storms arise and people die and we suffer and our friends abandon us, we assume God has fallen down on the job. Again. —Rev Nadia Bolz-WeberWe have lived by the assumption that what was good for us would be good for the world. And this has been based on the even flimsier assumption that we could know with any certainty what was good even for us. We have fulfilled the danger of this by making our personal pride and greed the standard of our behavior toward the world – to the incalculable disadvantage of the world and every living thing in it. And now, perhaps very close to too late, our great error has become clear. It is not only our own creativity – our own capacity for life – that is stifled by our arrogant assumption; the creation itself is stifled.
     We have been wrong. We must change our lives, so that it will be possible to live by the contrary assumption that what is good for the world will be good for us. And that requires that we make the effort to know the world and to learn what is good for it. We must learn to cooperate in its processes, and to yield to its limits. But even more important, we must learn to acknowledge that the creation is full of mystery; we will never entirely understand it. We must abandon arrogance and stand in awe. We must recover the sense of the majesty of creation, and the ability to be worshipful in its presence. For I do not doubt that it is only on the condition of humility and reverence before the world that our species will be able to remain in it. — Wendell Berry

The word change normally refers to new beginnings. But transformation more often happens not when something new begins but when something old falls apart. The pain of something old falling apart—disruption and chaos—invites the soul to listen at a deeper level. It invites and sometimes forces the soul to go to a new place because the old place is not working anymore. The mystics use many words to describe this chaos: fire, darkness, death, emptiness, abandonment, trial, the Evil One. Whatever it is, it does not feel good and it does not feel like God. We will do anything to keep the old thing from falling apart.
    This is when we need patience, guidance, and the freedom to let go instead of tightening our controls and certitudes. Perhaps Jesus is describing this phenomenon when he says, “It is a narrow gate and a hard road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:14). Not accidentally, he mentions this narrow road right after teaching the Golden Rule. Jesus knows how much letting go it takes to “treat others as you would like them to treat you” (7:12).
   …. In the moments of insecurity and crisis, “shoulds” and “oughts” don’t really help; they just increase the shame, guilt, pressure, and likelihood of backsliding. It’s the deep “yeses” that carry you through. Focusing on something you absolutely believe in, that you’re committed to, will help you wait it out.— Fr. Richard Rohr

When the people of God abandoned the covenant of love and fidelity, drawn as we are by the appeal of shallow, empty pleasures, God removed every possible obstruction to the covenant by being faithful for us, by becoming like us and subjecting Himself to the very worst within us, loving us all the way to the cross and all the way out of the grave. — Rachel Held Evans

I am on the Deathbed; Go, rest your head on a pillow, leave me alone;
leave me ruined, exhausted from the journey of this night,
writhing in a wave of passion till the dawn.
Either stay and be forgiving,
or, if you like, be cruel and leave.
Flee from me, away from trouble;
take the path of safety, far from this danger.
We have crept into this corner of grief,
turning the water wheel with a flow of tears.
While a tyrant with a heart of flint slays,
and no one says, “Prepare to pay the blood money.”
Faith in the king comes easily in lovely times,
but be faithful now and endure, pale lover.
No cure exists for this pain but to die,
So why should I say, “Cure this pain”?
In a dream last night I saw
an ancient one in the garden of love,
beckoning with his hand, saying, “Come here.”
On this path, Love is the emerald,
the beautiful green that wards off dragons
Enough, I am losing myself.
If you are a man of learning,
read something classic
a history of the human struggle
and don’t settle for mediocre verse.

— Rumi

POEM about DISTRESS

When I run after what I think I want, my days are a furnace of distress and anxiety.
If I sit in my own place of patience, what I need flows to me, without pain.
From this I understand that what I want also wants me, is looking for me and attracting me.
There is a great secret in this for anyone who can grasp it. — Rumi

DISTRESS

Weeping is a very life-giving thing. It wizens the soul of the individual and it sounds alarms in society. The Book of Ecclesiastes may be nowhere more correct than here. There is definitely a time for weeping. If we do not weep on the personal level, we shall never understand other human beings. — Sr. Joan Chittister

… Transformation occurs only when we remember, breath by breath, year after year, to move toward our emotional distress without condemning or justifying our experience. — Pema Chodron

The beauty and strangeness of the world may fill the eyes with its cordial refreshment. Equally it may offer the heart a dish of terror. On one side is radiance; on another is the abyss. — Mary Oliver

Everything in life teaches us something about what it is to be human until, if we are listening and learning all our lives, we ourselves become everything we can possibly be. We begin the search for fullness of life at a very early age. We choose heroes, icons of what we ourselves would like to become
     All the heroes of my early life were people of action. I valued explorers, presidents, civil rights activists, suffragettes, friends and family members who were brave enough, decisive enough, strong enough to make things happen. It was only as I got older and people I loved began to die that I discovered the lesson, the courage of calm… In each of those situations a kind of chaos infected the world. Yet, at the same time, each of them brought with it a new kind of insight. No doubt about it: the lesson I learned from death was the lesson of calm. After all, what use was flailing and raging when life went inevitably on? Or, as the case may be, would not go on at all.
    The problem, of course, lies in learning to determine when calm is courageous and when chaos is holy. When is acceptance holy and chaos madness; when is chaos holy and acceptance weakness? Maybe we never know. But that’s not important. What is important is to keep asking the question and to develop the ability to be both resolutely calm and courageously holy as the situation demands.— Sr. Joan Chittister

In Search of Belief

I believe that Jesus Christ,
the unique son of God,
is the face of God
on earth
in whom we see best
the divine justice,
divine mercy,
and divine compassion
to which we are all called.

Through Christ
we become new people,
called beyond
the consequences
of our brokenness
and lifted to the fullness of life.

By the power
of the Holy Spirit
he was born
of the woman Mary,
pure in soul
and single-hearted—
a sign to the ages
of the exalted place
of womankind
in the divine plan
of human salvation.

He grew as we grow
through all the stages of life.
He lived as we live
prey to the pressures of evil
and intent on the good.

He broke no bonds
with the world
to which he was bound.
He sinned not.
He never strayed
from the mind of God.

He showed us the Way,
lived it for us,
suffered from it,
and died because of it
so that we might live
with new heart, new mind,
and new strength
despite all the death
to which
we are daily subjected.

edited from “A Creed,” In Search of Belief by Joan Chittister

PRAYER FOR WHAT WE COULD HAVE BEEN

O thou Eternal God, out of whose absolute power and infinite intelligence the whole universe has come into being. We humbly confess that we have not loved thee with our hearts, souls and minds, and we have not loved our neighbor as Christ loved us. We have all too often lived by our selfish impulses rather than by the life of sacrificial love as revealed by Christ. We often give in order to receive, we love our friends and hate our enemies, we go the first mile but dare not travel the second, we forgive but dare not to forget. And so as we look within ourselves we are confronted with the appalling fact that the history of our lives us the history of an eternal revolt against thee. But thou, O God, have mercy upon us. Forgive us for what we could have been but failed to be. Give us the intelligence to know thy will. Give us the courage to do thy will. Give us the devotion to love thy will. In the name and spirit of Jesus we pray. Amen. — Rev Dr Martin Luther King

TRIUMPH

I’d like to quickly make a case that we have experienced way too much death and grief and loss to skip holy week. … because people were going from the triumphant “Hosanna” of Palm Sunday to the glorious “He is Risen” of Easter Sunday without ever going through the horrifying “Crucify him!” of Good Friday.  — Rev Nadia Bolz-Weber

In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer. ― Albert Camus 

The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives everything its value. I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress and grow. ― Thomas Paine 

Somewhere in the world there is a defeat for everyone. Some are destroyed by defeat, and some made small and mean by victory. Greatness lives in one who triumphs equally over defeat and victory. ― John Steinbeck

I believe the second coming of Christ is the triumph of love. We should always strive for the grand resurrection, but really it is given as a gift. — Fr Richard Rohr

The Christian is called, with the grace of God invoked in prayer, to a sometimes heroic commitment. In this he or she is sustained by the virtue of fortitude, whereby — as Gregory the Great teaches — one can actually “love the difficulties of this world for the sake of eternal rewards.” — Pope John Paul II

Today I’m flying low and I’m
not saying a word
I’m letting all the voodoos of ambition sleep.

The world goes on as it must,
the bees in the garden rumbling a little,
the fish leaping, the gnats getting eaten.
And so forth.

But I’m taking the day off.
Quiet as a feather.
I hardly move though really I’m traveling
a terrific distance.

Stillness. One of the doors
into the temple.

 Mary Oliver

REUNION

More than anything else — more than our obedience, more than our hard work, more than keeping the law — more than anything God wants to be with us. God wants the family to be together, relationships restored and whole. — Rev Louise Westfall

The life of a good man who has died belongs to the people who cared about him, and ought to, and maybe itself is as much comfort as ought to be asked or offered. And surely the talk of reunion in Heaven is thin comfort to people who need each other here as much as we do. I ain’t saying I don’t believe there’s a Heaven. I surely do hope there is. That would pay off a lot of mortgages. But I do say it ain’t easy to believe. And even while I hope for it, I’ve got to admit I’d rather go to Port William.
– Wendell Berry (fictional character’s voice)

The sun has come. The mist has gone. We see in the distance… our long way home. I was always yours to have. You were always mine. We have loved each other in and out of time. When the first stone looked up at the blazing sun and the first tree struggled up from the forest floor I had always loved you more. You freed your braids… gave your hair to the breeze. It hummed like a hive of honey bees. I reached in the mass for the sweet honey comb there… Mmmm… God how I love your hair. You saw me bludgeoned by circumstance. Lost, injured, hurt by chance. I screamed to the heavens… loudly screamed… Trying to change our nightmares into dreams… The sun has come. The mist has gone. We see in the distance our long way home. I was always yours to have. You were always mine. We have loved each other in and out in and out, in and out of time.  — attributed to Maya Angelou

With God, death is never the end of the story. — Rachel Held Evans

Do any of us really understand it? I think anyone who claims certainty on what happens after we die is to some degree pretending, because we can’t know, but we can have hope. We can hope in resurrection, we can hope in some form of reunion with those we love. We can hope that memories live on. — Jeff Chu

Texts for Vigil: Maundy Thursday to Holy Friday

John 18-19
The Betrayal and Arrest of Jesus
18 After Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the Kidron valley to a place where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. 2 Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, because Jesus often met there with his disciples. 3 So Judas brought a detachment of soldiers together with police from the chief priests and the Pharisees, and they came there with lanterns and torches and weapons. 4 Then Jesus, knowing all that was to happen to him, came forward and asked them, “Whom are you looking for?” 5 They answered, “Jesus of Nazareth.”[a] Jesus replied, “I am he.”[b] Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. 6 When Jesus[c] said to them, “I am he,”[d] they stepped back and fell to the ground. 7 Again he asked them, “Whom are you looking for?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.”[e] 8 Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he.[f] So if you are looking for me, let these men go.” 9 This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken, “I did not lose a single one of those whom you gave me.” 10 Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it, struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear. The slave’s name was Malchus. 11 Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword back into its sheath. Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?”

Jesus before the High Priest
12 So the soldiers, their officer, and the Jewish police arrested Jesus and bound him. 13 First they took him to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. 14 Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it was better to have one person die for the people.

Peter Denies Jesus
15 Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, 16 but Peter was standing outside at the gate. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out, spoke to the woman who guarded the gate, and brought Peter in. 17 The woman said to Peter, “You are not also one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.” 18 Now the slaves and the police had made a charcoal fire because it was cold, and they were standing around it and warming themselves. Peter also was standing with them and warming himself.

The High Priest Questions Jesus
19 Then the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and about his teaching. 20 Jesus answered, “I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. 21 Why do you ask me? Ask those who heard what I said to them; they know what I said.” 22 When he had said this, one of the police standing nearby struck Jesus on the face, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?” 23 Jesus answered, “If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong. But if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?” 24 Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.

Peter Denies Jesus Again
25 Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. They asked him, “You are not also one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it and said, “I am not.” 26 One of the slaves of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Did I not see you in the garden with him?” 27 Again Peter denied it, and at that moment the cock crowed.
Jesus before Pilate28 Then they took Jesus from Caiaphas to Pilate’s headquarters.[g] It was early in the morning. They themselves did not enter the headquarters,[h] so as to avoid ritual defilement and to be able to eat the Passover. 29 So Pilate went out to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?” 30 They answered, “If this man were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.” 31 Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him according to your law.” The Jews replied, “We are not permitted to put anyone to death.” 32 (This was to fulfill what Jesus had said when he indicated the kind of death he was to die.)
33 Then Pilate entered the headquarters[i] again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” 34 Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?” 35 Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?” 36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” 37 Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” 38 Pilate asked him, “What is truth?”

Jesus Sentenced to Death
After he had said this, he went out to the Jews again and told them, “I find no case against him. 39 But you have a custom that I release someone for you at the Passover. Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” 40 They shouted in reply, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a bandit.
19 Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. 2 And the soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they dressed him in a purple robe. 3 They kept coming up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and striking him on the face. 4 Pilate went out again and said to them, “Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no case against him.” 5 So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!” 6 When the chief priests and the police saw him, they shouted, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him; I find no case against him.” 7 The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has claimed to be the Son of God.”
8 Now when Pilate heard this, he was more afraid than ever. 9 He entered his headquarters[j] again and asked Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. 10 Pilate therefore said to him, “Do you refuse to speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?” 11 Jesus answered him, “You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above; therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.” 12 From then on Pilate tried to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are no friend of the emperor. Everyone who claims to be a king sets himself against the emperor.”
13 When Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus outside and sat[k] on the judge’s bench at a place called The Stone Pavement, or in Hebrew[l] Gabbatha. 14 Now it was the day of Preparation for the Passover; and it was about noon. He said to the Jews, “Here is your King!” 15 They cried out, “Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!” Pilate asked them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but the emperor.” 16 Then he handed him over to them to be crucified.

The Crucifixion of Jesus
So they took Jesus; 17 and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew[m] is called Golgotha. 18 There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them. 19 Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth,[n] the King of the Jews.” 20 Many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew,[o] in Latin, and in Greek. 21 Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’” 22 Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.” 23 When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier. They also took his tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. 24 So they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it.” This was to fulfill what the scripture says,
“They divided my clothes among themselves,
    and for my clothing they cast lots.”
25 And that is what the soldiers did.
Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” 27 Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.
28 After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. 30 When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Jesus’ Side Is Pierced
31 Since it was the day of Preparation, the Jews did not want the bodies left on the cross during the sabbath, especially because that sabbath was a day of great solemnity. So they asked Pilate to have the legs of the crucified men broken and the bodies removed. 32 Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who had been crucified with him. 33 But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out. 35 (He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows[p] that he tells the truth.) 36 These things occurred so that the scripture might be fulfilled, “None of his bones shall be broken.” 37 And again another passage of scripture says, “They will look on the one whom they have pierced.”

The Burial of Jesus
38 After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body. 39 Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. 40 They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. 41 Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. 42 And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

Hebrews 10:16-25
 “This is the covenant that I will make with them
    after those days, says the Lord:
I will put my laws in their hearts,
    and I will write them on their minds,”
17 he also adds,
“I will remember[a] their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”
18 Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.

A Call to Persevere
19 Therefore, my friends,[b] since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Isaiah 52:12-53
12 For you shall not go out in haste,
    and you shall not go in flight;
for the Lord will go before you,
    and the God of Israel will be your rear guard.
The Suffering Servant
13 See, my servant shall prosper;
    he shall be exalted and lifted up,
    and shall be very high.
14 Just as there were many who were astonished at him[a]
    —so marred was his appearance, beyond human semblance,
    and his form beyond that of mortals—
15 so he shall startle[b] many nations;
    kings shall shut their mouths because of him;
for that which had not been told them they shall see,
    and that which they had not heard they shall contemplate.
53 Who has believed what we have heard?
    And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
2 For he grew up before him like a young plant,
    and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
    nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by others;
    a man of suffering[c] and acquainted with infirmity;
and as one from whom others hide their faces[d]
    he was despised, and we held him of no account.
4 Surely he has borne our infirmities
    and carried our diseases;
yet we accounted him stricken,
    struck down by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was wounded for our transgressions,
    crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the punishment that made us whole,
    and by his bruises we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
    we have all turned to our own way,
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
    yet he did not open his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
    and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
    so he did not open his mouth.
8 By a perversion of justice he was taken away.
    Who could have imagined his future?
For he was cut off from the land of the living,
    stricken for the transgression of my people.
9 They made his grave with the wicked
    and his tomb[e] with the rich,[f]
although he had done no violence,
    and there was no deceit in his mouth.
10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him with pain.[g]
When you make his life an offering for sin,[h]
    he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days;
through him the will of the Lord shall prosper.
11     Out of his anguish he shall see light;[i]
he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge.
    The righteous one,[j] my servant, shall make many righteous,
    and he shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great,
    and he shall divide the spoil with the strong;
because he poured out himself to death,
    and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
    and made intercession for the transgressors.

Psalm 22
Plea for Deliverance from Suffering and Hostility: A Psalm of David.
1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
    Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?
2 O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer;
    and by night, but find no rest.
3 Yet you are holy,
    enthroned on the praises of Israel.
4 In you our ancestors trusted;
    they trusted, and you delivered them.
5 To you they cried, and were saved;
    in you they trusted, and were not put to shame.
6 But I am a worm, and not human;
    scorned by others, and despised by the people.
7 All who see me mock at me;
    they make mouths at me, they shake their heads;
8 “Commit your cause to the Lord; let him deliver—
    let him rescue the one in whom he delights!”
9 Yet it was you who took me from the womb;
    you kept me safe on my mother’s breast.
10 On you I was cast from my birth,
    and since my mother bore me you have been my God.
11 Do not be far from me,
    for trouble is near
    and there is no one to help.
12 Many bulls encircle me,
    strong bulls of Bashan surround me;
13 they open wide their mouths at me,
    like a ravening and roaring lion.
14 I am poured out like water,
    and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
    it is melted within my breast;
15 my mouth[a] is dried up like a potsherd,
    and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
    you lay me in the dust of death.
16 For dogs are all around me;
    a company of evildoers encircles me.
My hands and feet have shriveled;[b]
17 I can count all my bones.
They stare and gloat over me;
18 they divide my clothes among themselves,
    and for my clothing they cast lots.
19 But you, O Lord, do not be far away!
    O my help, come quickly to my aid!
20 Deliver my soul from the sword,
    my life[c] from the power of the dog!
21     Save me from the mouth of the lion!
From the horns of the wild oxen you have rescued[d] me.
22 I will tell of your name to my brothers and sisters;[e]
    in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
23 You who fear the Lord, praise him!
    All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him;
    stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
24 For he did not despise or abhor
    the affliction of the afflicted;
he did not hide his face from me,[f]
    but heard when I[g] cried to him.
25 From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
    my vows I will pay before those who fear him.
26 The poor[h] shall eat and be satisfied;
    those who seek him shall praise the Lord.
    May your hearts live forever!
27 All the ends of the earth shall remember
    and turn to the Lord;
and all the families of the nations
    shall worship before him.[i]
28 For dominion belongs to the Lord,
    and he rules over the nations.
29 To him,[j] indeed, shall all who sleep in[k] the earth bow down;
    before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,
    and I shall live for him.[l]
30 Posterity will serve him;
    future generations will be told about the Lord,
31 and[m] proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn,
    saying that he has done it.

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