Good Friday Reflections on Mother Teresa, Suffering, Blood Sacrifice and Kenosis

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As we continue the reflection and celebration on the Easter Triduum, I would like to include several reflections from my favorite resources.

First, is from David Backes, Professor, Deacon, author and owner of the outstanding blog New Wood.  Set forth below is an excerpt of Professor Backes’ reflection for this week but I encourage you to check out his blog here as it also includes wonderful statements from Paul’s Letter to the Romans and The Way of the Cross by St. Teresa of Avila.

The wood of the cross symbolizes, among other things, our destruction of nature in our quest for power, domination, and material status. A tree, torn down, and used for purposes of death rather than life. Nature carries the cross of suffering, and shares in the hope of transformation. The wood of the cross shows both aspects of this: the wood of suffering becomes the throne of glory, and it also stands as an invitation.  Christ invites us to follow the same holy way of fulfillment by making the cross part of our very identity, which means identifying with the poor, the lonely, and all those who suffer, human and otherwise. The cross is the safest way to the true heart of Christ, and therefore the safest way to ultimate fulfillment.

The second reflection, also from David Backes, is from a Homily Professor Backes gave three years ago on Good Friday talking about Mother Teresa and the cry of “I Thirst” by Jesus on the Cross. The full homily can be found here, but set forth below is an excerpt:

“What Mother Teresa experienced that day on the train was our Lord’s incredible thirst. Yes, he thirsts for justice, for all those who are marginalized, for the lonely, the suffering, for those who cry out to Him with their own thirst for hope and love. Mother Teresa experienced the depths of this thirst, and that alone would have been enough to change her life. But underlying all that is an even deeper thirst, and she experienced this, too. There, on the cross, Jesus looks at every single one of us, calls our name, and says, “I thirst.”

He thirsts for each one of us, and we are the only ones who can quench that part of his thirst. Jesus showed Mother Teresa a scene of a large crowd, covered in darkness. It was a sea of anguish, and in the midst of it was Jesus, on the cross. The only light shone down from above onto the cross, and from the cross itself. The people were unaware that Jesus was right there with them, not only sharing in their suffering but turning it into seeds of resurrection.”

Kenosis

Finally, is an excerpt from the Living Space reflection by the Irish Jesuits.  The reflection talks about four points, including the significance of the tearing of the Temple veil in two upon Jesus’ death (the division between God and humanity is eliminated), the history and meaning of blood sacrifice and the transformative psychological impact of the Cross as described by St. Paul. You can find the full reflection here, but set forth below is an excerpt:

“For so many centuries people have been spilling blood to get to God. But in the crucifixion it is reversed - God spills his own blood to reach out to us. This is to take away our old fear, that by spilling blood we try to appease an angry God. There is no such thing as an angry God – only an unconditionally loving God.

Paul tells us that Jesus emptied himself. He emptied himself of all egoism, of all anger, fear and anxiety, of all human dignity in the sight of others. He let go of everything and because he did so, he was fully taken up in union with his Father. For us it has to be the same. Our lives are so tied up with all kinds of concerns, desires, ambitions, fears and anxieties. We need to remove these blocks and just let go.

To break down the barriers separating us from total union with the Source and Goal of all being. The Way is shown clearly in the Gospel and most of all in the Way of the Cross– leading to resurrection, new life and ascension, union with God in Christ. Paul was very close to it when he said: “I live, no not I, but Christ lives in me.” (emphasis in original)

Sources:

New Wood Blog
Living Space

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Teilhard de Chardin and the Cross as Symbol for Purification of Being

 

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[O]n the panoramic screen of an evolutive world which we have just erected, the whole picture undergoes a most impressive change. When the Cross is projected upon such a universe, in which struggle against evil is the sine qua non of existence, it takes on new importance and beauty—such, moreover, as are just the most capable of appealing to us. Christ, it is true, is still he who bears the sins of the world; moral evil is in some mysterious way paid for by suffering. But, even more essentially, Christ is he who structurally in himself, and for all of us, overcomes the resistance to unification offered by the multiple, resistance to the rise of spirit inherent in matter. Christ is he who bears the burden, constructionally inevitable, of every sort of creation. He is the symbol and the sign-in-action of progress. The complete and definitive meaning of redemption is no longer only to expiate: it is to surmount and conquer. The full mystery of baptism is no longer to cleanse but (as the Greek Fathers fully realized) to plunge into the fire of the purifying battle ‘for being’—no longer the shadow, but the sweat and toil, of the Cross.

Teilhard de Chardin, Pierre (2002-11-18). Christianity and Evolution (Harvest Book, Hb 276) (Kindle Locations 1078-1086). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.

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Teilhard de Chardin on the Redemption Suffering of the Passion

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The following was written based upon his experience witnessing the carnage of trench warfare in World War I:

What a vast ocean of human suffering spreads over the entire earth at every moment! Of what is this mass formed? Of blackness, gaps, and rejections. No, let me repeat, of potential energy. In suffering, the ascending force of the world is concealed in a very intense form. The whole question is how to liberate it and give it a consciousness of its significance and potentialities.

The world would leap high toward God if all the sick together were to turn their pain into a common desire that the kingdom of God should come to rapid fruition through the conquest and organization of the earth. All the sufferers of the earth joining their sufferings so that the world’s pain might become a great and unique act of consciousness, elevation, and union. Would not this be one of the highest forms that the mysterious work of creation could take in our sight?

Could it not be precisely for this that the creation was completed in Christian eyes by the Passion of Jesus? We are perhaps in danger of seeing on the cross only an individual suffering, a single act of expiation. The creative power of that death escapes us. Let us take a broader glance, and we shall see that the cross is the symbol and place of an action whose intensity is beyond expression. Even from the earthly point of view, the crucified Jesus, fully understood, is not rejected or conquered. It is on the contrary he who bears the weight and draws ever higher toward God the universal march of progress. Let us act like him, in order to be in our existence united with him. (“The Significance and Positive Value of Suffering,” quoted in Human Energy, HarperCollins)

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Teilhard de Chardin on The Cross as Symbol of Future Union of Humanity

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“[I]n spite of the profound readjustments that are being made in our phenomenal vision of the world, the Cross still stands; it rears itself up ever more erect at the common meeting place of all values and all problems, deep in the heart of mankind. It marks and must continue more than ever to mark the division between what rises and what falls back. But this is on one condition, and one only: that it expand itself to the dimensions of [today], and cease to present itself to us as primarily (or even exclusively) the sign of a victory over sin—and so finally attain its fullness, which is to become the dynamic and complete symbol of a universe in a state of personalizing evolution.”

* * * 

In view of the present confusion, it should be made plain that ‘to bear the weight of a world in evolution’ does not minimize the role of sacrifice, but adds to the pain of expiation the more constant and demanding pain of sharing, with full consciousness of man’s destiny, in the universal labor which is indispensable to its accomplishment. Seen in this light, there is even greater force in Christ’s summons: ‘If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me’ (Luke 9:23).”

Teilhard de Chardin, Pierre (2002-11-18). Christianity and Evolution (Harvest Book, Hb 276) (Kindle Locations 2914-2919, 2622-2625). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.

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Teilhard de Chardin Quote of the Week (April 14, 2014): Easter Sunday

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“O God, if in my life I have not been wrong, allow me to die on Easter Sunday”.

– Pierre Teilhard de Chardin died of a heart attack on April 10, 1955: Easter Sunday

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Consciousness, the rose and the fire

Originally posted on gigglinginthegutter:

All manner of thing shall be well

When the tongues of flame are in-folded

Into the crowned knot of fire

And the fire and the rose are one

TS Eliot

Any static theory of consciousness feels incomplete. Reality is much closer to a process than a material. Whitehead’s “Process and Reality”, is impenetrable, but so much is clear. Consciousness, our awareness of self and the universe, is transitory, fleeting for most of us. This is to be expected if reality is the intersection of process and the material. It takes intense meditation and study to be able to hold oneself within the stream of the process that is reality as it pours through us. (I am told).

To quote Max Tegmark (New Scientist “Solid, Liquid, Consciousness”) “consciousness is a process that can occur in certain physical systems”. Whilst he invents new language (consciousness is for instance renamed as perceptronium) –…

View original 394 more words

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Sunday Reflection, Palm Sunday (April 13, 2014): A Literary Journey Through Matthew’s Passion

 

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Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. — Phil 2:6-8

This weekend is Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week.  The readings can be found here.

This week’s reflection is from James Predmore, S.J. who does an excellent job of highlighting some of the details from Passion narrative found in Matthew, which was written for a Jewish audience. You can find the full reflection and other resources here, but set forth below is an extended excerpt:

“Year after year we hear the Passion of the Lord proclaimed to us on Palm Sunday and again on Good Friday. The story is worth hearing repeatedly because we hear a different detail each time. It is good to pay attention to the small details because something larger is communicated. In this cycle, we get Matthew’s version of the Passion and he has included finer details than Mark’s original story. His Jewish-Christian audience want to hear of the cosmic details Matthew inserts, like the earthquakes, the angels, and the Temple’s torn veil. Dramatic events punctuate Matthew’s story to signify God’s involvement.

The story opens with Judas’ agreement to betray Jesus, which is set up in contrast to the woman’s loyal love at Bethany when she excessively anointed the feet of Jesus. Jesus is in charge of the details in Matthew’s story and the loyal disciples obediently follow his command. The meal as a whole is presented as a reinterpreted Passover supper. He stresses the covenant that links all of salvation history to this moment. In the Garden of Gethsemane, God has tested his Son to see what was in his heart. Matthew’s climax in the story is the arrest of Jesus for it is the hour of his tragic destiny. The Pharisees, who were a constant source of irritation for Jesus, are exonerated from his death. The temple authorities and the Romans bear the responsibility. At the arrest, a disciples cuts off the earlobe of the high priest’s servant. This was not a casual incident, but highly symbolic. The servant was a high ranking official and was the representative of the high priest. A mutilated ear disqualifies one in Jewish law from serving as high priest. Thus the one who arrested Jesus, God’s emissary, was spiritually bankrupt and unfit for office. Jesus is then brought before the Sanhedrin.

Peter is last mentioned in Matthew at the point of his betrayal. The death of Judas is fulfilled by linking him with the historical “field of blood.” It is the last of the fulfillment citations. Jesus appears before Pilate in a formal juridical Roman trial and he halfway confirms Pilate’s question, but if no one brings a specific charge, no trial can be conducted. In the customary amnesty, a prisoner at Passover is released. Barsabbas (son of the father) is released as a contrast to Jesus. A contrast is set up between Pilate’s claim to be innocent and the priests, lay elders, and crowds claim to be responsible for his death, but Pilate remains ultimately responsible by handing him over to the cross.

The soldiers mock Jesus as king as a gesture of momentary moral chaos associated with Roman Saturnalia festivals. Jesus goes to his death with a humiliating, inglorious excruciating death as he is derided by passers-by, the authorities, and robbers. His death is bitter, not mythic. Even the devil is brought in to deride Jesus. “If you are the Son of God,” elevates the theological level of the derision. At his death, Jesus feels abandoned, not despair. For Matthew, Jesus voluntarily went to his death, however ignoble. The burial of Jesus is dignified to underline the reality of death and guards are placed around the tomb to secure it by the legitimate, responsible authorities.

I suggest that you reflect upon the way you will listen to the story proclaimed this week. There’s a lot in the story so I further suggest that you give voice to your emotions as you hear it proclaimed. If you still have energy, pay great attention to the emotions of Jesus. When we do that, we naturally want to console him. This is a good instinct. Just be present to him as he relives his last moments on earth. Comfort him if you can.”

Resources:

James Predmore Site
Creighton Online Ministries

Living Space
Friar Musings Blog
Prepare for Mass

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