Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Christ’s 7 last words

IN case you will miss the broadcast of the seven last
words of Christ, given our present condition, I am repeating them here
with some commentaries for whatever it is worth.

            Indeed, I must say that the seven last words of Christ
have a special and unique importance, and are always relevant to all
of us, since they represent the ultimate desire of Christ for us,
summarizing everything that he did and said that were all meant for
our redemption.

            They have the power to instantly bring us back to the most
fundamental reality about our life from whatever man-made Lalaland we
have gone. Or they can correct our tone-deaf religiosity.

            These are words that simply drip with pure and completely
gratuitous love, a love that is meant also for us to learn and live.
They speak of God’s mercy for us, his assurance and guarantee of our
salvation, the comfort we can have by providing us with the care of
Our Lady, Our Mother, the cost involved in saving us, etc.

            The first one, “Father, forgive them for they know not
what they do,” (Lk 23,34) cannot but be a sheer show of magnanimity,
of unmitigated goodness. Not only is he asking for forgiveness for
those who crucified him, who in the end are all of us. He looks for an
excuse for all of us. There we can already see how much he loves us.

            This supreme goodness is reiterated in the second one,
“Today, you will be with me in paradise,” (Lk 23,43) addressed to the
good thief who just had the audacity to ask for a favor, never mind
what he had been accused of. This word simply validates what is said
of God, that even if he can get angry due to our sin, he is always
ready and quick to forgive.

            The third one, “Woman, behold thy son…Behold thy mother,”
(Jn 19,26-27) is a very endearing one where even in the middle of
extreme pain, Christ has that mindfulness to give us whatever would
provide with some comfort in this vale of tears of ours. He gives us
his own mother to be our own mother too, a mother who will always be a
mother to us all throughout time.

            Mary will not only be a temporal and earthly mother to us,
whose motherhood is subject to time. She will be a mother to us even
beyond time. And her motherhood would not be confined only to our
earthly needs, but also and most especially to our spiritual needs.

            The fourth one, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken
me?” (Mt 27,46) speaks to us of the depth of suffering Christ had to
undergo to save us. He feels that God, the source of all goodness, has
abandoned him, and that therefore all the pain as the consequence of
all the evil of this world is what he is experiencing.

            Try to imagine a situation where all is dark, all is pain,
all is evil, without a dot of goodness! If we suffer in some way, just
remind yourselves of this word of Christ. For sure, somehow we would
feel lightened.

            The fifth one, “I thirst,” (Jn 19,28) to be sure is not an
expression of physical thirst, but rather of his thirst for souls, his
ardent desire to fulfill his mission to save mankind.

            The sixth one, “It is finished,” (Jn 19,30) simply
expresses that he has fulfilled his mission, whatever it cost him.
This word should remind us that we should finish what we have begun,
though we know it is God who started everything and it will also be
him who will complete and perfect everything.

            The last one, “Father, into thy hands I commend my
spirit,” (Lk 23,46) shows the proper way of ending things, especially
when we see our life ending.

            It would be good if each of us makes his own personal
considerations from Christ’s seven last words!

Monday, April 6, 2020

Look at Christ crucified

THESE days when we are in the middle of both the holiest
of weeks and the dreaded coronavirus pandemic, it might be a good idea
to recover that pious practice of meditating on the passion and death
of the cross, looking intently on the image of Christ crucified.

            It should not be an exercise of sentimentalism or pietism,
but a real, authentic act of piety, re-animated by what ideally should
be our ever-deepening faith, hope and charity in Christ, the son of
God who became man to redeem us. This is not the time for playing
games. We need to get real in this!

            Let us see to it that we should use all our powers for
this purpose. We should not just be cerebral and spiritual without
involving our feelings and passions. And the other way around. We
should not just be full of emotions without using our the full force
of our intelligence and will.

            Let us try to fathom the depth of God’s love for us who,
as St. Paul said, emptied himself to become man and further emptied
himself by offering his life on the cross as a ransom for all our
sins. It’s a love that we have to learn and to live ourselves, since
we are supposed to be God’s image and likeness, children of his, meant
to share in his divine life.

            Let us understand that the true face of love, as shown by
Christ, is one that should be given completely gratuitously. It is
given to all, including those who do not love us, without expecting
any return.

            And for that, we have to be willing to bear all the
burdens of everyone in the way Christ bore all our sins even if we
have not yet asked for forgiveness. Let us not be calculating in our
love. Let us just give and give, love and love, unafraid of the effort
and the suffering that may be involved, and even if we are
misunderstood, mistreated and opposed.

            This way we would effectively channel Christ’s love for
us, he who commanded us to love one another as he has loved us. (cfr.
Jn 15,12)

            Anent this truth, St. Paul said: “Rarely will anyone die
for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare
to die. But God proves his love for us in this: while we were still
sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom 5,7-8)

            Let us be generous and magnanimous in our loving. And the
secret again is to look closely on Christ crucified who should be the
central object of our attention not only these days but all the time.

            It might be helpful to keep in our pockets always a handy
crucifix for us to be reminded of the crucified Christ. To be sure
this practice would not be some sign of childishness but rather of a
mature faith, of a consistent Christian and son of God.

            Just looking at it would already arouse in us impulses of
love that can be shown perhaps in small gestures of affection, in the
ready acceptance of trials and difficulties big and small, in coming
up with initiatives for the good of others, etc. It would not be a
sterile exercise.

            Looking at Christ crucified will also help us to live the
spirit of penance well, making us realize more deeply that we are all
in need of conversion. We would be moved to make reparation for all
the sins of men, ours and those of others.

            Truly, looking at Christ crucified will strongly invite us
to do many acts of love. We would seem to hear from Christ himself:
“My child, give me your heart, and let your eyes observe my ways…”
(Prov 23,26)

            Perhaps we would be left with the feeling that in spite of
our best intentions to love him, we know we are always short of our
desires. Still, Christ understands that and encourages us to keep on
trying.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

The true face of meekness

AS we begin the Holy Week and are made to contemplate the
passion, death and resurrection of Christ, let’s take advantage of
this liturgical celebration to re-appreciate the true value of
meekness by deepening our understanding of that virtue.

            Many of us are afraid to play the role of a meek character
in any situation we may find ourselves in. We often think meekness is
a defeatist trait, a weakness and a clear evidence of powerlessness
and helplessness.

            Well, it’s the virtue that figures prominently in the
passion and death of Christ that led to his resurrection. It’s the
virtue that helped win for us our redemption in Christ. It’s not at
all a trait of a defeated person, one who is weak, powerless and
helpless. On the contrary, it is the trait of a victor, of one who is
strong and powerful.

            In the first reading of Palm Sunday, for example, we are
made to see how we just have to present ourselves to all kinds of
suffering, following the example of the character highlighted in that
reading and who obviously prefigures Christ.

            “I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those
who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from buffets and
spitting. The Lord God is my help, therefore I am not disgraced; I
have set my face like flint, knowing that I shall not be put to
shame.” (Is 50,6-7)

            That’s the attitude to have in life. Let’s not be afraid
of any kind of suffering. Relate all our suffering to the passion and
death of Christ and everything will just be fine, will just possess
great meaning and have a redemptive value.

            Yes, suffering will always be suffering. That’s why in the
responsorial psalm, we are reminded of what Christ said in this
regard: “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” Just the same,
Christ entrusted himself completely to the will of the Father who
wants him to pay for the sins of men by offering his life. That’s how
grave our sins are: they would require the God-made-man to repay for
them.

            Again in the second reading (Phil 2,6-11), we are reminded
of the extent to which Christ went to save us. He emptied himself
because being God, he became man to be with us, and he emptied himself
further precisely by offering his life on the cross for our sins. Then
we have the whole drama of the passion and death of Christ in the
gospel.

            We should never lose sight of the role of meekness in all
this. Christ did not fight back, not because he was weak, powerless
and helpless. He did not fight back because his passion and death is
the ransom for our recovery and reconciliation with God. He just had
to bear all our sins to save us!

            We should never miss the opportunity to unite whatever
suffering we have in this life with the passion and death of Christ.
That way, all our suffering would share in the redemptive value of
Christ’s passion and death.

            No wonder that Christ made meekness one of the beatitudes
promised to us. “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the
earth.” (Mt 5,5) It is a trait that helps identify us with Christ.

            That is the true face of meekness. Authentic meekness is a
very positive, constructive and redemptive quality. So, whenever we
are insulted, misunderstood or mistreated, we should just bear it,
never failing to unite all this to the suffering of Christ.

            Whenever we are harmed in any way or treated unfairly, we
may have to seek redress but always with charity, never with bitter
zeal. To be truly meek is also about always thinking well of the
others and loving them truly, even if they are not nice to us, or are
offensive to us.