Divine Mercy Novena – Day 9

Ninth Day

“Today bring to Me The Souls Who Have Become Lukewarm and immerse them in the abyss of My mercy. These souls wound My Heart most painfully. My soul suffered the most dreadful loathing in the Garden of Olives because of lukewarm souls. They were the reason I cried out: ‘Father, take this cup away from Me, if it be Your will.’ For them the last hope of salvation is to run to My mercy.”

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Palm Sunday 2017

The Cross of Christ Restores. . . Obedience


And by this we may be sure that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He who says, “I know him,” but disobeys his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps his word, in him truly love for God is perfected. By this we may be sure that we are in him: he who says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. 1 JOHN 2:3–6 


Truly, truly, I say to you, if any one keeps my word, he will never see death. JOHN 8:51 

Some years ago I attended a religion class at a Catholic college that included several “spiritual talks.” On one particular night the talk was on obedience. I must have heard this particular talk more than once; I remember it too well to have sat through it only once. It was as though everyone had received the same set of lecture notes on how to deliver this new teaching on obedience. First the presenter would go up to the board and write “obedience.” Then he would break the word apart: ob meaning “toward” and oedire meaning “to listen to.” The presenter, who would always seem to have found in this exercise some moment of personal liberation, would then smile and say, “So you see, to  obey is not some slavish exercise, but rather an exercise in listening to someone.” If one were to take a survey of all those educated in Catholic schools over the past forty years, I’ll bet there would be any number of experiences similar to mine. Suddenly a vow of obedience to a religious superior meant only the obligation to listen to him or her before deciding whether to carry out a particular instruction. Lay people adopted similar attitudes toward the teaching of Christ and his Church.

Through such disobedience, the sin of Adam and Eve is committed all over again. I suppose it is no coincidence that I have had to attend more than a few seminars on improving one’s listening skills. Here again, I know I’m not alone. A whole generation of us learned to parrot back phrases to show how well we listened, with unfortunate results. When you repeat the gist of the conversation back to the speaker, the vast majority reacts as though you are being condescending. Those in a slightly more charitable frame of mind assume that the subject of discussion is so boring that the only way you can stay awake is to repeat everything that is being said.


“Not See Death”?

When Jesus says, “If any one keeps my word,” he is talking about obedience. When Jesus says about the Father, “I do know him and I keep his word” (John 8:55), we understand him to mean that he is doing what the Father sent him to do. Similarly, John equates obeying the commandments with keeping his word (see 1 John 2:5). It is pretty clear that the more traditional understanding of “listening” implies doing exactly what God tells us.  It is this kind of obedience that is Jesus’ condition to not “seeing” death. Disobedience was at the heart of the original sin. Have you ever watched a toddler assert his independence by resisting with every fiber of his little being the grown-up who wants him to do something he really, really doesn’t want to do?

Some have suggested that we are born princes but turn to frogs. It seems far more likely that we are born princes who would rather be frogs than members of a royal family. So, our fallen nature works overtime to redefine what it does not want to do in the first place.

“Keep His Word” 

Jesus teaches us that we have to keep his word. Of course, this is the cross for many of us. We’d rather go our own way than follow the way of Jesus, if it didn’t mean having to face the horror of death without hope. When Jesus says that those who keep his word will never “see death,” what does he mean? I studied this passage for several hours. I found that this passage was translated differently in the Vulgate to include the word “forever,” so that the intended meaning would be that the person would still die but not forever. Many commentators simply ignore it. Death is referred to in only one other place in the New Testament, in the Gospel of Luke, where Simeon had been told that he would not “see death” until he had seen the “Lord’s Christ,” or God’s Messiah. Holding the infant Jesus in his arms, Simeon prayed, “Lord, now let thy servant depart in peace, according to they word; for mine eyes have seen salvation, which thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for the glory of thy people Israel” (Luke 2:29–32).

In the Scriptures, death was portrayed as an angel—and not necessarily a good angel. Remember, death entered the world because of sin, and resulted in separation from God. The angel of death passed over the Israelites to take the Egyptian firstborn when Pharaoh rejected God. So, what was Jesus saying? The most satisfying commentaries interpret the words of Jesus to mean that those who are obedient to the will of God, as revealed through Jesus’ teaching, will never see this angel of death; rather, when their earthly life ends, they will be greeted by the Lord and brought into eternal life. Obedience leads to acceptance into the kingdom; disobedience leads to expulsion from paradise. The secret to obedience is given to us in John’s Gospel, when Jesus teaches that he is the vine and we are the branches. Our life depends upon remaining part of him—which we do by being obedient to his commands and partaking in his Body and Blood offered in the Eucharist. John in his letter says that we can tell if we are “abiding” in Christ by our actions: Are they Christ-like? The power to be like Christ, of course, comes from dying to ourselves and allowing Christ to live within us. This requires more than simply listening to or parroting the words of Christ; this requires a complete abandonment to him. Every day the official prayer of the Church begins the same way, by praying Psalm 95: “Come, let us worship the Lord,” echoes the refrain, inviting us to see our Savior, our Creator, the God to whom we belong. With the invitation comes a warning: “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”

The Power of the Cross  by Michael Dubruiel is a book well-suited to daily reading during Lent. The book is available here in pdf version. Daily excerpts will be reprinted in this space during Lent.

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Daily Lent Reflection

The Cross of Christ Restores. . . Our Freedom

 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the return you get is sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. ROMANS 6:22–23

“If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”. . . “Truly, I say to you, every one who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not continue in the house for ever; the son continues for ever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” JOHN 8:31,34–36 

We live in a time when “truth” is often thought of, even among Christians, as something subjective and up for grabs. This has greatly weakened the ability of the Church to bring the gospel of Christ to the world. Any appeal to the Church as the guardian of truth is met with a litany of accusations against those who have preached one thing and lived another. The fact that members of the Church remain enslaved by sin, despite the liberating claims of the gospel, can be explained by our inability to “continue in the word” of Jesus. Jesus told his disciples that if they persisted in their faith, they would know the truth and it would set them free. Freedom would be theirs only  if they picked up their crosses and stepped out in obedience, following Christ even to death.

More than a few people are immersed in lives ruled by addiction—the most evident slavery to sin. Many wish to disassociate sin and addiction, arguing that those who suffer from addictions are not culpable of their acts. However, the effects of sin may be seen both in the life of the addicted person and in the people around him or her. In addition, behavior scientists are demonstrating that those with substance addictions to drugs and alcohol often engage in other activities that can be just as destructive. Some studies show a release of certain chemicals in the brain that mimic the high of drugs and alcohol and lead people to engage in other addictive behaviors to reach this “high.” All of this is proclaimed in the teaching of the New Testament, of course, and even the therapy devised to rescue someone from such behavior is biblically based. The Scriptures teach that sin is both destructive and enslaving. The destructive element is not apparent to the human eye—in the opening pages of Genesis, the forbidden fruit was “a delight to the eyes.” Unfortunately, by the time the person recognizes his addiction, he is already caught in its deadly grip. Sin is by nature enslaving, and we cannot free ourselves from it. We can be freed from future bondage only through a “higher power.” Jesus offers us this free gift, but we must continue in his Word in order to experience true freedom.

 Just Do It

Father Val Peter, executive director of Boys and Girls Town in Nebraska, wrote a book called Rekindling the Fires: An Introduction to Behavioral Spirituality. This spirituality is based not on feeling but on truth, a sort of “just do it” approach that encourages others to act on the truth of the gospel in faith, continuing over a period of time the “forced” activity becomes more natural. In many ways Father Val’s book is a modern version of living the virtues in order to become a virtuous person. Every parent grieves when they see a child make the same mistakes they once did; what most parents do not realize is that we are still bound by those “blinders.” The details change with age, but if we are not serving God, we are still slaves to some other master that in the end will bring us down to the depths of hell To the person obsessed with anything that is not God, being freed from that “master” seems impossible. Even taking the first steps toward Christ and away from the “master imposter” is painful, indeed a crucifixion. It is impossible to imagine any other way of living. Yet if we allow the words of Jesus to soak into our minds, bringing us to true repentance, we will wonder how we ever could have been so misled. As the late Orthodox theologian Father Alexander Schmemann once observed, there is a joy in following Jesus that transcends the suffering that is entailed by taking up one’s cross: “In the world you will have tribulation,” Jesus warns us (Jn 16:33). Anyone who would in the smallest degree follow the path of Christ, love him and give himself to him, has this tribulation, recognizes this suffering. The cross is suffering. But through love and self-sacrifice this same tribulation is transformed into joy. It is experienced as being crucified with Christ, as accepting his cross and hence taking part in his victory. “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (Jn 16:33). The cross is joy, “and no one will take your joy from you” (Jn 16:22).

In medieval art, the cross of Christ is portrayed as the tree of life, both as a vine (referring to John 15) and as the source of the Eucharist. Angels are depicted as offering the bread and wine, the fruit of the cross, to those who stand at the foot of it. This image points to the alternative to enslavement that Christ offers us: to be fed by him at the foot of the cross, receiving from him what the others falsely promise. The false gospels lure us with promises of joy and fulfillment—yet in the end they ensnare us, delivering only misery and despair. Sometimes one has to follow these false masters down a long road to discover that truth. By contrast, the path on which Christ leads us appears arduous and dreary, one to be avoided. In reality, it is the path that leads to true joy, for it delivers everything that our hearts desire most. “Enter by the narrow gate,” our Lord urges us. “For the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matthew 7:13–14). Two roads, two gates. Which are you traveling?

The Power of the Cross is a book well-suited to daily reading during Lent. The book is available here in pdf version. Daily excerpts will be reprinted in this space during Lent.

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Daily Lenten Reflection by Michael Dubruiel

The Cross of Christ Illumines. . . The Way to True Unity

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. EPHESIANS 5:1–2 

So there was a division among the people over him. Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him. JOHN 7:43–44 

One of the most remarkable American Catholics of the last century was a humble Capuchin friar whose name in religion was Father Solanus Casey. Solanus served as a friar in Detroit, in New York, and in his final years in the town of Huntington, Indiana. Born of Irish parents, Solanus did not fare well in the seminary, where he was taught by German-speaking priests in Latin, so while he was ordained a priest, he was never allowed to preach a doctrinal homily or to hear confessions. Yet God gave Solanus the gift of healing, and people sought him out from all over. When he died in 1957, those who knew him regarded him as a saint. He now is recognized as a Venerable, the last step before being beatified by the Church.

Solanus was the community’s porter, the doorkeeper. Today we would call him a receptionist, someone who would greet visitors who came to the friary seeking prayers or material comfort.  Solanus did his job so well that people lined up to have a few moments of his counsel. People of all faiths would come to him requesting prayers and healings. What Solanus would ask of these seekers was rather unique. He told them to “thank God ahead of time”—in other words, to step out in faith, before any miracle had happened; to act before God as though it already had happened. The way that he normally asked people to express this thanks to God was for them to sign up to have Masses said by the Capuchin mission society, whether they were Catholic or not. Mass is the perfect “thanksgiving,” so it made sense to Solanus that if one were to thank God ahead of time, having Mass said was the perfect way to do this. People continue to seek Solanus’s intercession to this day, and they continue to “thank God ahead of time,” with remarkable results.

Unity 

What Solanus taught is what Jesus practiced. In John’s Gospel, before Jesus is arrested and crucified he thanks God, ahead of time. He trusts the Father entirely and he teaches his disciples to do the same. While the people are divided over Jesus and seek to arrest him, no one is able to lay a hand upon him until he gives himself over to them. He freely gives himself to the Father as the Father gives the Son to the world and as the Spirit will be given by the Father and the Son to those who believe and put their trust in God. The Spirit will unite what sin has divided. John’s Gospel tells us that “they wanted to arrest him,” but instead they were captivated by him. They were as divided in their purpose as we are when we sin—part of us wants to believe, part of us doesn’t. Division is one of the results of the original sin of Adam and Eve—and the cross of Christ is the ultimate sign of division, but ironically in that very cross, Christ will make us one.

Do we see this unity anywhere on earth today? In some ways we are more one now than we were fifty years ago, but in many other ways we are more divided. It is to be expected that the world is this way, because the world will remain fallen until Christ comes again, but it is a great scandal that division exists within the body of Christ—the Church. We cannot here worry about what someone else can do to undo this damage to the body of Christ, this further tearing apart of his flesh—we can only examine what we are doing to repair the damage ourselves.

 That They Be One

Father Solanus Casey was a pious priest who lived in the Church prior to the Second Vatican Council, yet one of the remarkable aspects of his life was how he welcomed people of all faiths to his doorstep. He did not change his belief for anyone; he didn’t need to because his faith gave him a command to love everyone and he strove with all his might and God’s help to do so. The gifts that God gave to him freely, he shared freely with all of God’s creation. St. Paul understood well the unraveling of original sin that Our Lord’s death brought about, God’s Spirit reuniting what had been torn apart by sin. He took the good news beyond the Jewish nation and religion that were his own, to the very ends of the earth. Sadly today the Church is wracked with division, in much the same way as the people were when Christ walked among them: They wanted to arrest him rather than be saved by him. Do we not suffer from the same ailment? Do we want to control Our Lord or be controlled by him? St. Paul tells us to “walk in love,” to offer ourselves up as a sacrifice to God. This means dying to all of those things that we like to focus on that keep us apart and focusing rather on the fact that God is the Father of all of us; we all belong to the same family. It means looking at the division that exists and thanking God ahead of time for bringing about the unity of the kingdom, even when we do not see it. Jesus’ journey to the cross was a walk of love, of giving thanks to God and bringing healing to those  who reached out to him. This should be our daily path also.

The Power of the Cross is a book well-suited to daily reading during Lent. The book is available here in pdf version. Daily excerpts will be reprinted in this space during Lent.

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Daily Lenten Meditation by Michael Dubruiel

The Cross of Christ Illumines. . . Our Choices

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the likeness of God. 2 CORINTHIANS 4:3–4

 I do not receive glory from men. But I know that you have not the love of God within you. I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive. How can you believe, who receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? JOHN 5:41–44 

I have made several pilgrimages to foreign lands. In each case I wanted to visit the sites that had been hallowed by the footsteps of our Lord or the apostles. Even so, I familiarized myself with the laws and customs of my host country. St. Augustine felt that this should always be a concern of followers of Christ. We are pilgrims in this world; while we have a duty to “render to Caesar what is Caesar’s,” we should never lose sight of the fact that our true citizenship is in the kingdom of God. Italian theologian Archbishop Bruno Forte has said, “Life is either a pilgrimage or a foretaste of death.” Every day of our lives, we are either tracing the Lord’s footsteps in hopes of sharing in his resurrection, or awaiting a fateful day of death without hope.

To St. Augustine, these groups of people were like two cities: the City of Man, founded in “the love of self, even to the contempt of God” and the City of God, whose occupants love God above all, and who say to their Creator, “Thou art my glory, and the lifter up of mine head” (City of God, Book XIV, Chap. 28). Every human being must choose between the two destinations, for to turn toward one is to walk away from the other. The choice is simple, said St. Augustine: “Love of self till God is forgotten, or love of God till self is forgotten.”

Heavenly Glory

When Jesus came unto his own, the Gospel of John tells us, “His own did not accept him,” because they preferred darkness to light. This rejection reached its zenith on the cross, where he was abused physically as well as verbally. They mocked him, chided him, ridiculed him—and yet, he did not respond to their taunts. His focus was on his Father: “Father, forgive them.” “My God, my God, why. . .?” “Father, into your hands…” Throughout his ministry, Jesus demonstrated this singlemindedness; he did not seek out the accolades of the crowds, but the pleasure of the One who sent him. The Gospels also reveal the Father’s great pleasure in his Son: At Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan: “This is my Son, in whom I am well pleased. . .”

At the Transfiguration, as the disciples witnessed the appearance of Moses and Elijah with their Master: “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” And at Calvary, we witness the wordless anguish of a Father for the agony his Son had endured: the ground shook, the sky grew black, and the curtain in the Temple was torn in two. This was the glory and praise that Jesus sought, and that made it possible for him to endure the long journey from the Incarnation to the Cross and Resurrection.

There were temptations along the way. The devil tempted Christ to use his own power, instead of his obedience, to win over all the kingdoms of the world. The people wanted to make him a king when he multiplied the loaves and fishes. When he was called good by anyone, he pointed out that God alone was good. And when he approached the hour of his death, Jesus prayed, “I glorified thee on earth, having accomplished the work which thou gavest me to do; and now, Father, glorify thou me in thy own presence with the glory which I had with thee before the world was made” (John 17:4–5).

When our earthly pilgrimage is finished, will we be able to say that we have glorified God during our lives? Or did we seek to be glorified by others? Will we have accomplished everything that God desired?

Whom Will You Serve?

One of the most telling—and the saddest—indicators of American cultural values, of what we consider most important as a society, is revealed by the number of cosmetic, appearanceenhancing surgeries that are performed every year. I’m not talking about plastic surgery done to correct birth defects or other serious conditions brought about by illness or accident. I mean the number of otherwise healthy people who are willing to go  under the knife to lift a little here, tuck a little there. What does it say about a person’s mental health, to be so insecure that he or she would risk life and limb, just to look a little younger, a little trimmer, a little closer to some arbitrary cultural ideal? And what does it say about the health of a nation, that those most admired never look a day over thirty?

Those of us who carry the cross of Christ, who see ourselves as pilgrims headed for that City of God, are bound to see things very differently. We give glory to God in all things, and seek God’s blessing upon all of our undertakings. We will not content ourselves with some self-serving “spiritual quest” that has more to do with love of self than love of God. We understand that physical beauty is transitional at best. What matters most is to become the person God created us to be; which is to be more like Christ. So we refuse to let ourselves get caught up in some endless cycle of trying to become someone we are not. When Jesus told the apostles that he must suffer at the hands of the rulers and be crucified, Peter told him that it would never happen. Jesus said to Peter, “Get behind me Satan!” He understood that God’s way is not our way—and yet, ultimately it is the only way to eternal life. The choice is yours: Which road will you choose? And who will be your companion for the journey? Are you going to believe those who pressure you to conform to the self-indulgent values of the City of Man? Or will you take the higher road, bound for the City of God?

The Power of the Cross is a book well-suited to daily reading during Lent. The book is available here in pdf version. Daily excerpts will be reprinted in this space during Lent.

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Daily Lenten Meditation by Michael Dubruiel

The Cross of Christ Illumines. . . Death

But we would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 1 THESSALONIANS 4:13–14 

“Truly, truly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself, and has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of man.” JOHN 5:25–27 

As I was writing this book, my friend’s son returned unscathed from his tour of duty in the Iraqi War. Many people had prayed for him daily while he served overseas, and rejoiced when he arrived home safely. A few months later came horrible and shocking news: My friend’s son had been killed in an automobile accident a few miles from his home. His mother wrote to tell me that it was the most difficult thing she had ever faced. I could not imagine her grief. She ended her brief note with “What to say. . .” I understood what she meant: faced with such a tragedy, there was little one could say.

St. Paul instructs the Thessalonians about death so “that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.” Some have misinterpreted this passage, claiming that Christians are not to grieve. Unfortunately, modern funerals often resemble canonizations, minimizing or denying altogether the painful reality of separation that death entails. Instead mourners are forced to put on a “party face,” to celebrate death even when the survivors are numb with the shock and pain of their loss.

Grief 

The death of a loved one is more like Good Friday than Easter Sunday. The darkness that covered the earth on that first Good Friday points, I believe, to the grief of God at the death of his Son. Though Jesus would rise on the third day, the first day was one of horror, pain, and utter grief for all of creation. Our Lord is recorded in Scripture as crying three times. In the Garden of Gethsemane (Hebrews 5:7), he prayed with tears; he wept over Jerusalem and prophesied its destruction (Luke 19:41); and Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus (John 11:35). The third instance is especially puzzling. Jesus was about to raise Lazarus from the dead. So why did he cry? Were his tears for other senseless deaths that take place at every moment of the day? Or was it because the death and sin Our Lord had come to save us from had not yet been utterly vanquished? There is no doubt that it is human to grieve. However, St. Paul tells us that our grief should not be like the grief of those who have no hope of seeing their loved ones again. Our grief should move us toward assisting our loved ones along their journey toward God—daily remembering them in prayer, asking God to remove any obstacles that might keep them from hearing his voice when he calls their names.

Not of This World

I heard a famous theologian say that the greatest problem within the church today is the subtle secularizing of it. A modern funeral is likely not to mention purgatory, or to offer prayers and Masses for the dead; instead, we observe, “Funerals aren’t for the dead but for the living.” My, how many have lost the faith in what we are doing! When we participate in the liturgy where the entire body of Christ is present, the poor souls and triumphant saints join us in worshipping the one true God. Together, we offer our sacrifice with Christ to the Father through the Spirit. Funerals aren’t for the dead? To be charitable, one could imagine that such a statement reflects the belief that those who believe in Christ do not die but fall asleep. I have attended some services where such statements have been uttered, but they ring hollow. The loss is all too real. Our society tends to shield itself from the physical reality of death, something that Archbishop Fulton Sheen called the new taboo. This secular problem has crept into the Church.

Whenever we are told not to be sad but to rejoice, that we are an “Easter people” who believe in life, not death—one wonders if these people have ever lost a loved one. Some professional liturgists were angered when the Order for Christian Burial, the official rite of the Catholic Church for funerals, permitted the wearing of black or purple vestments as well as white for Funeral Masses. “It’s a step backward,” they said. In actuality, it is a step of truth, a step toward Christ. One of the most powerful images in the movie The Passion of the Christ is the sorrowful mother. I think we all can relate to her pain, because it is the pain that we all feel when confronted with the horror of death. How ridiculous would it have been if Mel Gibson had portrayed Mary as happy, telling everyone, “He’ll rise on the third day, rejoice now, don’t be sad.” That would have been sad indeed.

 Hope 

The modern world fears death. Because we exist in a post-Christian world, the resurrection of the dead is still accepted as fact, yet apart from faith in Christ the resurrection of the dead lacks any scientific basis. No one ever points this out, but it should be before it is too late for those who do not know Christ. In the Gospel of John, Jesus states clearly that he can give life to the dead. This is the hope of every believer in Christ. At the moment of his crucifixion, Jesus gave life to one of the criminals nailed with him. No such promise is given to the unrepentant thief. Jesus and Paul both make it clear that, while Our Lord is a life giver, he also is a judge. For some, eternal life will lead to eternal hellfire. My friend’s statement, “What to say. . .” is a poignant reminder that the death of any human being causes us to face the ultimate fall of our first parents. It startles us into the reality of the fragile hold we have on our own lives and the lives of those we love. Every present moment is a gift; so is every future hope. We exercise that hope by continuing to pray for our loved ones. If God has welcomed them into his kingdom, our prayers will come back to us. There is great comfort in knowing that this communication goes on—those without faith sense this too and often act upon it. The Gospel of John tells us that those who “hear his voice” will rise to life (John 5:28). Focusing on the cross of Our Lord  helps us to hear his voice. The horrible effect of sin is death; the saving effect of the cross is life in Christ. What death takes away from us, the saving death of Jesus can restore. May we never forget that truth, neither when a loved one dies nor at the hour of our death.

The Power of the Cross is a book well-suited to daily reading during Lent. The book is available here in pdf version. Daily excerpts will be reprinted in this space during Lent.

"michael Dubruiel"

Daily Lenten Meditation by Michael Dubruiel

The Cross of Christ Illumines. . . Weakness

Three times, I besought the Lord about this, that it should leave me; but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then I am content with weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities; for when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 CORINTHIANS 12:8–10 

“Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is troubled, and while I am going another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your pallet, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his pallet and walked. JOHN 5:7–9 

Judy met me at the entrance of the church, “Ryan will be healed tonight!” she proclaimed. Judy’s beautiful young son had been tragically injured in a pool accident when he was very young. She brought Ryan to Mass every day. Sitting in his wheelchair, Ryan’s six-year-old face had an angelic stare, as though he had been given a glimpse of heaven. Ryan’s mom Judy was a living saint. She worked full-time, taking care of Ryan along with her other boys and her husband while faithfully attending Mass every day. She often could be found praying in the church on her way to work or on her way home. Even so, Judy’s certitude made me nervous; I worried that if Ryan weren’t healed, Judy’s faith might be shaken.

I was seated in the church directly opposite Ryan, facing him. When the healing service began, a priest carried a monstrance, blessing those present who were sick; a religious sister with the gift of healing prayed aloud, asking the Lord to heal all of those who were seeking his touch. I became more anxious as the priest got closer to Ryan. Suddenly I found myself wondering: What would I do if Ryan were healed? This young man had been frozen in this position for the three years I had belonged to this parish. If he suddenly arose, I realized, my entire world would be turned upside down. I literally broke into a sweat as the priest approached Ryan. When he finally stood in front of Ryan, the boy moved his head and looked at the monstrance containing the Blessed Sacrament, the Real Presence of Jesus Christ. Then something totally unexpected happened—I heard a voice! It seemed to come from the Eucharist in the monstrance: “It’s okay, I’m trapped too.” I thought I saw a smile form on Ryan’s face.

The healing service continued, and Ryan’s peaceful stare returned. Ryan died a few weeks later. I ran into his mom about a month afterward, and she told me that she felt his death was the miracle: He had left this world peacefully and totally unexpectedly. She was thankful for the years God had given her to spend with her son after his accident.

Taking Up Our Pallet 

I think of Ryan when I read the Gospel account of the man near the pool of Bethesda (see John 5:2–15). While the story may seem like just another healing miracle, it shares a slight difference with several other healing stories—the man is instructed to take  up his pallet and to walk away with it. Most commentators make no mention of this, but it strikes me as significant. Surely Our Lord was concerned about something other than littering the pool by the Sheep Gate. The command is reminiscent of the Lord’s command to his disciples to take up their crosses and to follow him. What the cross and the pallet have in common is that they are signs of weakness. Once the man is healed, the Lord tells him to take up the sign of weakness and to carry it with him. Perhaps he intended the pallet to be a physical reminder that his strength came not from himself, but from God.

Too often the gospel is preached in a way that makes no allowance for weakness. Much of the scandal in the Church has come not from the weakness of the few clergy who have fallen so much as the inability of their superiors to acknowledge this weakness publicly. In the early church there was a group called “penitents.” These were individuals who had fallen in sin and sought reentry into the Church. Though they were welcomed back, they were made to do penance for the rest of their lives—and often wore distinctive garb that manifested to others their weakness. There is great power in weakness that we all fear. The cross of Christ trapped the Son of God but did not restrain his power. When Our Lord comes to us in the Eucharist, he comes to us in what would appear to be the ultimate sign of weakness, becoming our food, putting himself totally into our hands. There is great power there.

In northern Ohio there is a church dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows; in the basement is a room containing signs of weakness that have been left behind by those who have experienced the power of God at that shrine. Among whiskey bottles, cigarettes, crutches, and leg braces is a mat that once carried a paralyzed man there—who left empowered by God to walk again. I suspect that the most powerful stories of healing, however, come from those who were unable to leave anything behind. Their weakness, whatever it was, remained with them; however, they had been empowered to carry their weakness in the power of God. This type of healing often goes unnoticed. Even so, it is the greater healing, because it enables us to share in the cross of Christ, to embrace our weakness in the power of God. For the follower of Christ, weakness need not mean defeat!

The Power of the Cross is a book well-suited to daily reading during Lent. The book is available here in pdf version. Daily excerpts will be reprinted in this space during Lent.

"michael Dubruiel"

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