You’ll probably say you’ve heard this story before
But listen again and maybe hear something more
In the beginning begins before there was time (Jn 1:1-5)
Three persons existed with one voice and one mind (Mt 11:27)
The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Mt 28:19)
One God forever praised by angels who fear it (Is 6:1-3)
And God said let us make one who is like ourselves (Gen 1:26-30)
One who can create, laugh, and love, and with us dwells
But divine wisdom saw that if us they would make
One day his own glory for ourselves we would take (Gen 3:5)
What will become of them after what they have done?
“With love I will take their place, send me” said the Son (Jn:1-14) (Is 7:8)
So a plan was crafter and God began to speak (Gen 1:3)
Each atom created and man placed at the peak (Gen 1:28-30)
“That’s all nice and well” I imagine you’re saying
“But the church I know is for the old and the greying
For most of us the church has grown a bit too lame
The music too cheesy, the preaching all the same
It’s morals all seem to be from an age long past
Like a man with a healed leg who still wears a cast
It’s full of judgmental people always competing
To see who is the best anytime they’re meeting
You all go and treat church like it’s something you can win
You seem to take joy in noticing others sins”
And to that I say, maybe a lot of it’s true
And if so, then I’m among the worst in the pew
Most of us aren’t good examples of how it’s done
Let me tell you instead about one called the Son
First an angel came and approached a virgin girl (Lk 1:26-38)
Mary, gentle shell, the Lord offers you a pearl
God will never impose his will on another
And so he came down and asked us for a mother
The conceiver of all life was himself conceived (Lk 1:31)
A soul was magnified and God to man was weaved (Lk 1:46)
And for nine months Jesus was carried in a womb
But when he was born, for God we would not make room (Lk 2:7)
So a humble, helpless infant began to teach (Is 11:6)
To reveal God’s heart to man, and man’s heart to reach (Hos 7:14)
Set in a manger where animals are fed (Lk 2:7)
Him who would become our daily bread (Lk 11:3)
Born during a census when all the world was counted (Lk 2:1-3)
To show us all of history he has mounted (Col 1:16-17)
Three wise men came by night, worshipped and offered gifts (Mt 2:1-12)
God, frankinscence, and myrrh to the king they lift
Then the shepherds came, sent by angels who adored (Lk 2:8-20)
Inviting all who were near to come meet their Lord
Notice the only ones who found God so meek
The followers of truth, and guardians of the weak
Presented in the temple which he would become (Lk 2:22-38) (Rev 21:22)
Simeon and Anna cried “at last he has come”
And God laughed and played in the streets as a small child
A boy’s adventures and boy’s games, yet pure and mild (Lk 2:52)
And when thirty years of this simple way had passed
In Cana his public life began at last (Jn 2:1-2)
His first miracle he turns water into wine (Jn 2:9)
Wine which at Passover becomes his blood divine (Mk 14:24)
Blood which turns back into water at his pierced side (Jn 19:34)
Truly, this was the Son of God we crucified (Mk 15:14)
What begins at a wedding will end at the Cross (Phil 2:8)
Three years culminating giving his life for the lost (Eph 2:19)
What ends at the Cross will begin the Lamb’s wedding (Rev 19:7-9)
This eternal feast is where Jesus is heading
So a wedding, a Cross, and a Passover meal
Three great images of God’s love revealed
These three years he walked among his people and taught
Gathered disciples to learn how and whom he sought (Mt 4:18-22)
He said the ones with a heart like mine are the poor (Mt 5:1-12)
The meek, those who mourn, and who seek peace over war
The ones who to be made righteous hunger and thirst
The persecuted and for whom God’s sake our cursed
The pure of heart and the ones merciful to all
These on their bed at night will hear God when he calls (1 Sam 3:1-11)
(Mt 14:22-23) (Mt 14:34-36) (Mt 7:31-37) (Jn 9:1-11)
He walked on water, healed the sick, lame, deaf, and blind
He stayed with sinners that healing they too would find (Lk 5:29-32)
(Mt 23:13-15) (Rev 3:15-16) (Lk 13:9:14)
He rebuked the hypocrite, lukewarm, and proud
And the told the world to follow God not the crowd (Mt 6:24)
And when Jesus saw that his friend Lazarus died (Jn 11:28-36)
The God of the whole universe was moved and cried
This God said you must love your neighbor as yourself (Mt 22:39)
And to the poor those who follow me give their wealth (Lk 12:32-34) (Mk 10:21-22)
He revealed the kingdom to the littles ones (Lk 10:21)
But we went to kill him after all he had done (Mk 14:1-2)
In a garden like the one we betrayed him in (Jn 18:1)
Before the Father he feels the weight of all our sins (Lk 22:41-44)
The serpent whispers again “why trust God above?” (Gen 3:1-7)
And Jesus cries “I give myself to them in love” (Rom 5:8)
We arrested the one who came to set us free (Mt 26:47-56) (Gal 5:1)
Locked him in a dungeon although he was the key (Is 22:22)
Put our judge on trial though the truth we did not seek (Rom 14:10) (1 Pet 2:22-23)
Before their accusations the Word would not speak (Is 53:7) (Mt 27:14)
So a king traded a golden crown for our thorns (Jn 19:5)
Scourged by soldiers that from our lives sin would be torn (Jn 19:1)
He carried the tree we sinned on up a great hill (Jn 19:17)
The tree whose fruit we ate and disobeyed God’s will (1 Pet 2:24)
Jesus climbed up on that tree and became the fruit (1 Cor 15:23)
His obedience destroying sin at its root (Rom 5:18:21)
A dead seed laid in the ground, stripped of its power (Jn 12:24)
But in three days the Resurrection will flower (Jn 20:1-10)
His name is “I AM,” the source of all existence (Ex 3:14)
My rock, my fortress, in weakness my resistance (Ps 31:3)
The stone rejected by the builders of success (Ps 118:22)
But a cornerstone for those with sins to confess
His name is wonderful counselor, mighty God (Is 9:6)
Who gives comfort and leads with his staff and his rod (Ps 23:4)
Everlasting Father, the only Prince of Peace (Is 9:6)
Who says bring healing by first becoming the least (Jn 13:12-21)
He is the true vine who makes of us his branches (Jn 15:1-5)
The Fountain of Life gushing forth second chances (Ps 36:9)
Father of orphans making sonship their story (Ps 68:5)
He is the one who they call the King of Glory (Ps 24:10)
The shepherd who seeks us when from him we roam (Jn 10:1-18) (Ps 23:1)
Lion of Judah who roars to bring us back home (Hos 11:10-11) (Rev 5:5)
He is the narrow gate through which we reach the throne (Mt 7:12-14)
God with us, that we would never be alone (Mt 1:23)
He is the bright morning star, our guide forever (Ps 48:14) (Rev 22:16)
He is the Resurrection - first to never say never (Jn 11:25)
He is the root of David, prepared from all time (Rev 5:5)
Lamb of God who takes the punishment for our crime (Jn 1:29)
Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end (Rev 22:13)
Says, “I no longer call you enemies but friends” (Jn 15:15)
The Author of Life, writing us with his own hand (Acts 3:15)
The smallest of details part of a grander plan (Rom 8:28)
The Light of the world whom darkness cannot overcome (2 Sam 22:29) (Jn 8:12)
The Righteous One whom the prophets and angels sung (Acts 3:14)
The Suffering Servant by whose stripes we are healed (Is 53:5)
Groom of the beloved in whose love we are sealed (Song 8:6)
Bread of Life, Manna from heaven at our table (Jn 6:31-34)
Defender of the poor, a king born in a stable (Is 25:4)
God is love, what do you think you could ever do (1 Jn 4:8)
To make Forgiveness himself turn from loving you? (Rom 8:38-39)
He is the way, the truth, and the life for us all (Jn 14:6)
The antidote for the disease we call the Fall (Heb 10:10)
Ancient of Days who in us makes all things new (Dan 7:13) (Rev 21:5)
Mighty King, holy wisdom, faithful as the morning dew (Ps 99:4)
He is Savior from our troubles, fears, and faults (Lk 2:11)
Messiah, the one we’ve been waiting to exalt (Jn 1:41)
There is no other name by which we are saved (Is 45:22) (Acts 4:12)
Trust in him and he will put a door on your grave (Ez 37:13) (Rom 10:8-10)
The Son of God who calls himself the Son of Man (Lk 1:35) (Lk 21:27)
Ever wondered how that name fits in the plan?
Over and over Jesus gives himself this name
For he wants us to know he’s proud we are the same
After the Resurrection he ascends on high
He stays man forever just like you and I (Acts 1:6-11)
For all eternity human he will remain
The love of a jealous God doesn’t know how to change (Ex 20:5)
But God is not just proud to be one of us all
He’s proud you are pictured on his family wall
Hold your hand up to his, grab it and hold it tight (Is 41:13)
See how they match perfectly, better than left to right
Matching callouses from matching work, matching pain (Is 53:4)
He bore your lifetime with you, nothing is in vain (Ps 56:8)
To live with and like us is paradise for him
The place where love in the cup overflows the brim (Ps 23:5)
God’s love for you will not grow weary, not grow cold (1 Cor 13:4-8)
He searches the night to bring you back to the fold (Ez 34:11-16)
For you he would sell all his wealth and his pleasure (Ps 147:11) (Ps 149:4) (Ps 18:19)
Live like a beggar and you would be his treasure (Mt 13:44-45)
He begs for you love, this God who became poor (Lk 2:41)
How else to say he daily knocks at your door? (Rev 3:20)
But sometimes it feels like he dealt us bad cards
How could a good God let our lives become so hard? (Job 24:1)
But tell me if you can, what more could have been done
Than for the Father to give you his only Son? (Jn 3:16-17)
This God whom the whole universe could not contain (1 Kings 8:27) (Job 38:1-41)
You hold in your hand that you he would obtain
There’s more going on here than the wisest man knows (1 Cor 1:18-31)
Come see just how deep the rabbit hole really goes
Likely it’s a story you’ve heard before
But maybe it’s time to give Jesus an encore.
Feel free to share! One of these days I’ll get around to making it into a video…
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One of my favorite things to do when reading Scripture is to close my eyes and imagine myself in the scene as one of the characters, watching Jesus move and speak and heal. Sometimes I am Zacchaeus up in his tree looking for Jesus. And sometimes I am one of the kids down on the ground giggling at being able to see up his, umm… skirt. It’s a beautiful way to make the Scriptures come alive and more real than words on a page would incline you to believe. That being said, there’s one part of the Bible that makes me hate this way of praying, though.
Today. Good Friday.
Here’s the thing that scares me about Christianity more than anything else. If we are going to say that Jesus would have come down from heaven and died for me, even if I was the only one in the world, then it follows that even if I were the only one on earth, I would still kill him. How scary is that? No Pilate needed. No Judas. No Pharisees. No Roman soldiers. Just me and God’s love. And I wouldn’t just dislike him in a kind of agnostic ambivalence. I would kill him.
This Jesus is a gentle and kind man. The type of man who would go the Temple and teach from the Scriptures as a child. The type who would see a woman in sin and tell her that she deserved better. See a crowd desolate and hungry and provide them with something to eat. Who said those who are poor and make peace and show mercy are after his own heart. A momma’s boy.
That’s the love I would kill if I was alone with him. And when I close my eyes in prayer and look up at the Cross today, I know the only thing I can say is, I did this.
This shouldn’t surprise the people who know me. I’m the one who is a liar. I’m the one who is a cheat. I shy away from defending the weak.
I did this.
I boast of my accomplishments and I get jealous and dismissive of others. I betray my friends. I seek attention. I walk away from people who need my help and hide my availability.
I did this.
I shy away from speaking up for the truth because I want to be liked. And if I do speak up, it’s usually out of pride.
I did this.
I am judgmental. I am sarcastic. I hold a grudge. I laugh at those not like me. I hate. I don’t forgive.
I did this.
You don’t have to be violent to kill love. To destroy goodness. To walk away from God when he comes for you. That’s my part, but today is not the end of the story.
You can kill, destroy, and walk away from God, but he’s going to come back for you. I have to accept just how far my sins have taken me from him today to understand what a miracle it is that he will rise on Sunday for me. That day when he is going to shush my protests and tear-filled confession of sins, place my hand over his heart and let me feel it beat alive again and gently say, No, I did this.
[From Catholic Convo]
Dear young people, I think of you celebrating around Jesus, waving your olive branches. I think of you crying out his name and expressing your joy at being with him! You have an important part in the celebration of faith! You bring us the joy of faith and you tell us that we must live the faith with a young heart, always, even at the age of seventy or eighty.! A young heart! With Christ, the heart never grows old! Yet all of us, all of you know very well that the King whom we follow and who accompanies us is very special: he is a King who loves even to the Cross and who teaches us to serve and to love. And you are not ashamed of his Cross! On the contrary, you embrace it, because you have understood that it is in giving ourselves that we have true joy and that God has conquered evil through love. You carry the pilgrim Cross through all the Continents, along the highways of the world! You carry it in response to Jesus’ call: “Go, make disciples of all nations” (Mt 28:19), which is the theme of World Youth Day this year. You carry it so as to tell everyone that on the Cross Jesus knocked down the wall of enmity that divides people and nations, and he brought reconciliation and peace. Dear friends, I too am setting out on a journey with you, from today, in the footsteps of Blessed John Paul II and Benedict XVI. We are already close to the next stage of this great pilgrimage of Christ’s Cross. I look forward joyfully to next July in Rio de Janeiro! I will see you in that great city in Brazil! Prepare well – prepare spiritually above all – in your communities, so that our gathering in Rio may be a sign of faith for the whole world.
I used to be in the seminary for a number of years. When I joined I was nineteen years old. It was a big place, full of testosterone and zeal and vision. Guys came from all over the country, fired up and insecure and full of an eager desire to serve the Church.
The funny thing about a seminary is there is years and years of preparation for being a priest, without ever getting to try being a priest. I don’t say that to knock the process at all. You can’t really test drive the ontological-change business. Lots of other things in life are like that. So we took lots of classes, prayed hard, and schemed for years about what it would be like one day to be a priest.
I remember having many late night conversations about how we would be different. About how we had to be different. One time a small group of us called a mandatory meeting for the whole seminary except the staff. Three of us got up and talked. I remember saying things like, “Everyone here had better man up because we are at war with the world.”
I really don’t know how anybody tolerated me.
The trouble with seeing yourself as the remnant who gets it while everyone else makes up the weak and ignorant majority is you have no idea how to deal with your own weaknesses when they do reveal themselves. You become so insulated, so convinced that it is your job to fix everyone else’s issues that you forget to ask yourself if you have any of your own. And quickly any imperfections that surface seem less something that makes you just like everyone else and more an attempt to keep people from hearing the truth you bear. So you stuff them down. Hide them. Ignore them.
I am the poster child for this. And the sad thing is I’m seeing it pretty widespread in the Catholic Church in general right now. And maybe more to the point, it is how everyone sees us except ourselves.
Here’s an example. Can we stop citing the fact that other institutions have been far more likely to have pedophiles in their ranks than the Catholic Church? Every. Single. Time. The topic gets brought up? It may be true, but it’s pretty obvious the rest of the world doesn’t care. So what are we gonna do? Yell louder that this attention is unfair? Get every Catholic you know to call it persecution? Liberal media bias? And then what? People ask about what we are doing about how we allowed our priests to abuse children for decades and our only response is that we are being persecuted? Raise your hand if you think that is a winning strategy to clean house or win converts.
What if from here on out we just apologized for it? No defense. No pointing fingers at other denominations and public institutions where it is worse. What if we apologized because we really were sorry that our Church allowed it to go on? And left it at that. Just a thought.
It’s difficult being Catholic. When you believe you’ve got infallible teaching on your side, it’s hard to admit when you’ve done some things that are wrong. We’re the ones who are supposed to hear the confessions and tell everyone the truth. It’s easier to tell yourself you’re one of the few that really get it and are doing life right than admit you’re not so great at following that truth yourself. But pointing out other people’s sins has never been a great way to change people. In fact, it seems to just make you blind to your own problems, and push the people you disagree with away farther. That’s the trouble with remnants. They seem to always get smaller.
I wish I could go back to that younger me and tell him that it’s okay to admit that you’re broken, too. You don’t need to give big speeches trying to show everyone that you’re better and that they should just be more like you. Saying you’re scared about the task that’s been given to you and even more frightened by your sins isn’t going to make people trust you less. And you’ll feel so much better being one with everyone rather than trying to make them think you’re above them.
I was thinking about all this at Mass yesterday when the Gospel reading was about the woman caught in adultery. What struck me was that, as far as I could tell, she seemed ready to be stoned. She wasn’t going to fight back, yelling out the hypocrisies and sins of the Pharisees in return. God saved her when she was willing to admit that she was wrong and take the consequences even if they seemed unfair. That’s why we love her and call her a saint. That’s why she changed. I wonder what our Church would be like if we were more like that. Willing to be stoned by the world for our sins and quick to own up to them. Maybe only then can Jesus start writing in the sand of the world’s conscience about their own sins. What an incredible thing that would be.
[Read more posts like this at Catholic Convo!]
We have a Father.
God, it feels good to say that again. We may have only been popeless for two weeks, but when your Church is your family, that is quite long enough.
If you were able to see that white smoke come billowing out of the Sistine chimney into the night sky, you felt it. He’s back. There was a comfort and an excitement that flooded through the world’s one billion Catholics all around the world. The man we call Papa is with us again. We hadn’t even seen him yet, but as church bells began to ring out all over the earth, and people ran to St. Peter’s Square and their TVs and livestreams on computers and cell phones, in that moment, we knew everything would be alright. It is near impossible to articulate thespiritual comfort that white smoke brought.
St. Peter’s Square filled with pilgrims and Romans, faithful and fallen-away alike. All of us, we knew that despite the chatter and speculation filling the pages and airwaves over the past weeks, in this moment, we were merely about to meet a man sent for us. That moment hung in the cool night air and flew around the world to grip each and every one of us. He’s coming. Any moment now we’ll meet him. Viva il Papa! we all chanted along in out hearts.
And out stepped the most quiet and humble of the Lord’s servants. The Holy Spirit surprised us all. He gave us not who we expected, but who we needed.
It’s important to remember that as much as anything, it is the patrons who pick their sons. St. Francis of Assisi waited almost 800 years for this moment. For a man he could call his own. For a man who could help him continue his mission of rebuilding the Church with humility and love.
And this is the man who looked out over all of us. You could see in his eyes he was seeing more than a crowd in Rome, knowing the whole world was watching.
He joked that he came from the other side of the world. He led us in prayer and thanksgiving for Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI. And then the most extraordinary thing happened.
He asked us to pray for him before he prayed for us.
That’s when we knew, indeed, he was a son of Francis. The man who went first to the lepers left abandoned by the world now went first to all of us. Francis embraced and kissed the one least loved. Is there any other way to explain what our Pope did for us? As he humbly bowed before us to ask us to go to God on his behalf, he embraced and kissed us all.
Let it surprise no one now that Benedict knew God was saying his time, faithfully spent, was over. He knew God was at work preparing something big. But like all big things that God does, it was to come in the smallest and most humble of packages. So a man must retire in humility. And a new man must be called the same.
Such are the ways of God. Let us rejoice. Great things are beginning again.
Read the whole post at Catholic Convo!