Jesus’ Loneliness

When Jesus came close to his death, he no longer could experience God’s presence. He cried out: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:47). Still in love he held on to the truth that God was with him and said: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46).

The loneliness of the cross led Jesus to the resurrection. As we grow older we are often invited by Jesus to follow him into this loneliness, the loneliness in which God is too close to be experienced by our limited hearts and minds. When this happens, let us pray for the grace to surrender our spirits to God as Jesus did.

Text excerpts taken from Bread for the Journey, by Henri J.M. Nouwen

But, Who Is My Neighbor?

“Love your neighbor as yourself” the Gospel says (Matthew 22:38).  But who is my neighbor?  We often respond to that question by saying:  “My neighbors are all the people I am living with on this earth, especially the sick, the hungry, the dying, and all who are in need.”

But this is not what Jesus says.  When Jesus tells the story of the good Samaritan (see Luke 10:29-37) to answer the question “Who is my neighbor?”  he ends the by asking:  “Which, … do you think, proved himself a neighbor to the man who fell into the bandits’ hands?”

The neighbor, Jesus makes clear, is not the poor man laying on the side of the street, stripped, beaten, and half dead, but the Samaritan who crossed the road, “bandaged his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them, … lifted him onto his own mount and took him to an inn and looked after him.”  My neighbor is the one who crosses the road for me!

Text excerpts taken from Bread for the Journey, by Henri J.M. Nouwen, ©1997 HarperSanFrancisco

If You Love Me So Much Why Do You Demean Me?

Often when you hear stories of physical or mental abuse you will hear the abuser state that they only did that because they loved the abused person so much.  Amazing isn’t it?  It really does not compute at any level.

Both physical & mental abuse are demeaning, they make the abused feel not only helpless but worthless.  “Abuse causes a severe loss in the dignity of and respect for someone or something.”

Years after a teenager runs away from home we sometimes learn that the environment in the house was more than the child could bear.  They did not want to leave home, they wanted to escape the severe treatment.  Yet, at the time it was going on both parties were not honest.  The parents painted the child with the brush of incorrigibility.  The child was often at a loss on how to get help, so they painted the parents as violently unreasonable.  Worse, they even questioned the existence of a good God who would permit them to be treated this way.

The sad story is that abuse does occurs at every age, even among adults.  A relationship between a husband and wife can descend to the point of sarcasm and other hurtful dialog.  A low-level of aggravation can become the norm and sometimes escalates to non-speaking days or worse.  Overall health can plummet.

The ‘shame of it all’ is that Christians and other God-fearing people are not exempt from this kind of destructive behavior fueled by our egos.

Perhaps we need to spread the Matthew 25 scripture that says, “What you do to the least of your brothers, you do to Me.”  When we abuse another person we are, in effect, abusing God Himself.  When we treat another with love and respect we are, in fact, treating God with love and respect.

Hummm, from a self-interest standpoint, I should be more careful about how I treat others.

Who Do You Think You Are, A Prophet?

The Gospel for the coming weekend tells the story of Jesus being referred to as a ‘local prophet’ and the inference was therefore they did not have to believe Him.  They knew Him as a carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and they took offense at Him.  It’s like they were saying, we know Him and His relatives; He’s one of us, so He’s no better than us.  Why should we listen to Him.  In other words, He’s not special, so why should He be entrusted with teaching in the temple.

That attitude continues today.  We want our special people to be special.  We have a problem with listening to them speak truth to us if we don’t envision them as special people.  Our modern-day prophets have been treated the same way: Martin Luther King, Henri Nouwen, Mother Teresa, Dali Lama, our favorite uncle, and God forbid – our parents.

Yet, God often includes His truth & wisdom for us couched in the everyday voice of someone close to us.  The friend who asks us if we are sure about a certain decision we made.  The mom who suggests we do this or that.  The boss who explains how he wants us to do something & why.

God’s truth & wisdom can come to us in many different ways.  We must be alert and aware, actively looking & listening for it, or we will miss it.  If we fill our head with God’s Word, we will extend the vocabulary of our understanding and will be less likely to miss His word to us when He speaks to us through any avenue.