Wednesday, March 23, 2016

What Wondrous Love!

A meditation for Holy Week. History is what history does as Forest Gump might probably say. Look what it did to Jesus. Now look what it did to folks in Belgium. History goes on. In the very midst of history there is Jesus and the Wondrous Love of God.

What Wondrous Love is This!

What Wondrous Love!

The Passion Narrative tells the story of one of the most poignant moments in the Christian Year. We are all familiar with the reality the Cross points us toward. At one point or another we've all been there. We've all done that. If you haven't yet. You will. No one escapes the inevitable.

Our share in the suffering of Jesus on the cross; is it about fear and terror? Or is it rather about God's Wondrous Love and the gift of faith?

The Passion Narrative explores the emotional, physical, and spiritual exhaustion of the Disciples at the very moment that Jesus found himself in the constancy of prayer. Yes, I know about that. 
There is the abandonment Jesus experienced as the Disciples distanced themselves from the dangers that Jesus faced with the authorities. Yes, we know about that. 
Who of us wants to deal with the ugliness of hate and arrogance which now is so prevalent in our public life? Many of us are just quiet about it, since if we say anything, we'll only make matters worse. 
Then there is the blaming of those we consider the guilty parties. God knows that there are portions of the Church who have done enough of that down through the ages. Recently at a basketball game in suburban Boston a jeering crowd was       all too willing to blame Jewish kids for the crucifixion of Jesus. Oh for God's sake!

The Passion Narrative moves us in profound ways, because, in one way or another we share in the suffering of Jesus at one time or another in life. As we embrace our share in that suffering, allow me to invite you to embrace the reality of Christ's suffering not so much with the terrors that suffering of necessity inspires, but with yet another dimension; the dimension of faith. How shall we find anything redemptive in the suffering we face for ourselves or others?

Allow me to suggest, if I might, the notion of that Wondrous Love we know not only as God makes vividly clear in Jesus, but in the lives of our loved ones as well as ourselves.

Forgive me if you've heard me tell this story before, but I need to tell it from time to time for the benefit of my own soul's health.

Many years ago, I was summoned to the bedside of a woman from the Church of Mar Thoma. At the time I didn't even know what the Church of Mar Thoma was. It was only later I learned that we, the Episcopal Chruch share full communion with this Church reputed to have been founded by St. Thomas, Apostle to the Church in South India. Whether all that is true or not was hardly the point at the time. 

I was a priest. I got the call and off I went to the hospital. The room was filled with family. They were all from Madras in South India. I was introduced to the mother. When she saw me her eyes were filled with the recognition of what was happening. It was a look I shall never forget. I was relatively new to all this at the time.

But that family taught me something that has helped me ever since. They kept the vigil with their mom. They read favorite and familiar passages of scripture and psalms to comfort their mother. They sang familiar  children's hymns such as she had taught them when they were all young. As she loved her children when she dandled them upon her knee, so now the children loved their mother many years later in a hospital room as the inescapable and inevitable moment approached. 

The eldest brother explained to me that their mom and dad had impressed upon the children the importance of education. Now all grown, the children were doctors, executives, educators and professionals of various sorts in America and the dreams of the parents were now fulfilled by the children in a hospital room in the near suburban Cleveland city of Euclid, Ohio. 

As the end approached, I read the service from the Book of Common Prayer; "Ministration at the Time of Death".

When the moment came, the eldest daughter exclaimed something I shall never forget; "Look, there goes Momee into heaven!" At that moment the brothers, sisters, family and friends all looked up into heaven as if it were suspended somewhere over the mother's bed, there was a paroxysm of grief. They embraced one another and such was the relief and the love in that room that I found myself filled with faith in a way that I had seldom experienced it before. 

What Wondrous Love is This!

To be filled with such faith at a moment like this is come to understand our Share in the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ that even when we feel physically, emotionally and spiritually exhausted, or alone and abandoned, or even angry perhaps with guilt, fear or horror, above all of these realities, we share in the suffering of Jesus on the cross and there is this Wondrous Love that triumphs over all.

Such is the Mystery of Passion Sunday and the Events of Holy Week. We know that this is not defeat, that "our lives are not set in a night of gloom but amid the splendors of God's everlasting day."

What Wondrous Love is This indeed! 
In the Name of God, the most holy, undivided, and everlasting Trinity. 

Fr Paul

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