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Jesus is Laid in the Tomb

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By Lynne Kiefer Kobylecky, Our Lady of Guadalupe Trappist Abbey

Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away.

Mark 27:59-60

 

I have to admit that I have never reflected much on the events of Saturday in the Easter story, Jesus’ burial, and time in the grave. I could come up with Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday, but what do we even call Saturday?

Some say Holy Saturday. Some say Black Saturday.

What a difficult, seemingly hopeless day that must have been for Jesus’ followers. The disciples had abandoned Jesus, even denied and betrayed Him. Some of the women followed bravely and grieved openly, but all hope was lost for them.

In the midst of this dark time, I admire the boldness and generosity of Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, both members of the religious group responsible for Jesus’ death sentence, who took Jesus’ body from the cross, prepared it with spices and linen, and laid Him in the tomb meant for Joseph and his own family. Imagine the cost to these men politically, financially, and socially!

I wonder why He had to be buried at all. Why wasn’t the plan for Jesus to rise in victory over death as publicly as He was humiliated and killed?

But Jesus had to enter the grave in order to conquer it. His body had to turn cold and stiff and lifeless for us to truly see the miraculous gift of resurrection and new life.

The Creator and Sustainer of all things has the power to make all things new, and that’s what He’s doing in us. He’s making us new.

Saturday is hard and long and dark, but Sunday is coming. We celebrate Easter as a reminder of what God has done through Jesus, and we look forward to the day when God will restore all things.

Those who sow in tears
    shall reap with shouts of joy!
He who goes out weeping,
    bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy… (Psalm 126:5-6)

Weeping may stay for the night,
    but rejoicing comes in the morning. (Psalm 30:5b)

May we sit with the pain and sorrow of death knowing that joy is coming in the morning!

 

By Lisa Bond

Father, Into Thy Hands I Commend My Spirit

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By Rob Kelly

Then Jesus shouted out again, dismissed his spirit, and died.  

Matt 27:50

 

When I was a young woman, my close childhood friend Griff, was dying of AIDS. It was a time when young men dying of AIDS were scorned and shunned. AIDS is a horrible death, and one we would never wish upon anyone, especially someone we love.

As Griff’s health declined, his brother, Lindsey, would call to give an update. One day Lindsey called to say that it was time.

I had never seen anyone die before. The prospect of being in the same room with someone actively dying made me uncomfortable. My flight arrived early that day. It was a long, emotional day, with many people stopping to say their goodbyes. It was wonderful to reconnect with old friends; however, in that hospice room, there was no mistaking what was about to happen.

Lindsey and I spent the evening alone tending to Griff, telling stories, and quietly laughing over Saturday Night Live.

Then, near midnight, it began to happen. The death rattle, the gasping with long pauses between, began to occur. And then Griff took his last breath, his spirit released, and he died.  Looking back, I’m not certain if we saw it or felt it, but both Lindsey and I knew exactly when Griff left; we knew the last breath.

It was a profoundly powerful and spiritual experience; it was a moment that triggered a redefinition of who I would become. I was stronger than I could have imagined at the time. I was able to be in the presence of death and be at peace; I was a woman with a fierce capacity to love which caused me to say, “No, let’s stay a little longer,” not wanting Griff alone when he passed. I was a guardian committed to surrounding him in prayers of love and gratitude for having known him.

My friend, Griff, was certainly no Jesus figure. But I loved him; I love him still. When I think of Christ, taking his last gasping breath, I ask, how do I redefine myself to make that painful sacrifice worthwhile?  How do I be stronger? How do I care more? Fight against injustice? Not abandon those in need? Give from an abundance of love?

The death of Christ for the sins of humanity, for our sins, for my sins, is so big that it’s difficult to really take in. So sometimes I think of my friend, Griff, and the light that went out of the world that day, and weep.

God,

Today I thank you for placing me in this crazy and imperfect world, where broken people teach us about the depths of love. Thank you for the light of your love which gives us vision and guides us to you, regardless of how things appear to the eye.  Thank you for seeing us as your children, rather than as sinners who now must be punished. Thank you for your grace. Amen.

 

By Rhonda Sanco

Jesus Dies on the Cross

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By Lynne Kiefer Kobylecky, Our Lady of Guadalupe Trappist Abbey

. . . and having cried with a loud voice, Jesus said, “Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit;” and these things having said, he breathed forth the spirit.

Luke 23:46

 

These are the very last words that Jesus, Son of Man, would issue while on this earth. The verse, “into Thy hands I commend my spirit,” first appears in the Old Testament. In Psalms 31:5, the Psalmist writes:

Into thy hands I commend my spirit;
    deliver me, Lord, my faithful God.

According to commentary, the phrase “into Thy hands I commend my spirit,” was part of a bedtime prayer that Jesus would have learned from Mary as a child. His only addition to the verse was the word, “Father,” a direct calling out as a child might do in the night.

It now seems similar to the bedtime prayer my mother taught me:

Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my Soul to keep,
If I should die before I ‘wake,
I pray the Lord my Soul to take.

As a small child I didn’t really like this prayer at night. I didn’t want to go to bed contemplating my own death. And yet, that is how Jesus lived – fully aware of his death and all that it represented – for God and for humanity.

The moments in this part of the Easter story are the last moments of Jesus’ life on earth. His mother and beloved friend John are at his feet. Jesus has suffered betrayal, agonizing pain, a depth of humiliation, and worst of all, abandonment by the Heavenly Father Himself. Jesus, Light of the World, is alone in darkness. And yet, he calls to the Father as he issues this final prayer:

“Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit!”

What does that mean for us, his children?  For while we may feel broken, betrayed, abandoned, or perhaps wracked in pain, there is a love like no other made available to us; a boldly-transformative love which lights and renews for all eternity.

Jesus endured this agony, that we could be saved. It’s dark, it’s heavy, it had never occurred before and will never be required again. It was an insane level of sacrifice – one to withstand the test of both human cruelty and love across all the ages.

It was the moment of darkness that must occur.  It was the moment of reconciliation. It was the moment of transformation. It was the moment we were set free.

“Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit.” I, God on Earth, Fully Father, Fully Man, entrust myself to you in my greatest hour of need. For ever and ever. Amen.

 

By Rhonda Sanco

It is Finished (Part 2)

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By Rob Kelly

When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

John 19:30

 

Christ’s work is finished, now what?

“It is finished” launched a movement, a religion, a Church.

After Jesus rose from the grave, He appeared to His confused, grieving disciples. As God breathed life into humans at the first creation, Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit into His New Creation (John 20:22). Then He encouraged them that they too would do the work of the Father.

“Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I’m sending you…” (John 20:21)

Where the source of redemption ended, our work begins. God created us in His image to rule and reign with Him, and He has given us the power to do it! And now He’s shown the way to do it – suffering and servanthood.

We get to tell people what Jesus has done, that they can draw near to God because of the finished work of Jesus on the cross. But more importantly we get to show them that His work can transform us as we give ourselves away like Jesus did.

Not long ago, I was at my son’s school and witnessed a group of kids (jokingly but forcefully) pushing their way to the front of the water fountain line after recess. It was a warm day, and they were flushed, sweaty, and clearly thirsty for that cold water.

The picture of kids arguing over who got to the water fountain first and pushing each other out of the way was a such a striking image of humanity at its worst. It bordered on sad but had me chuckling as I saw myself in them.

What if one of those kids stepped aside, carried their “cross” of thirst and discomfort, and just let the others go ahead? What if three of them did?

What if I laid my agenda aside and stopped to pray with and for those struggling around me? What if five of us did? What if our whole church did?

The work of Jesus on the cross is far-reaching and full of hope for us and the world God loves.  

The debt of love I owe:
Here, Lord, I give myself away,
‘Tis all that I can do!

–Isaac Watts

Will you and I give ourselves away in obedience as Jesus did and thus change the trajectory of the world, as Jesus did?

 

By Lisa Bond

It is Finished

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By Rob Kelly

When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

John 19:30

 

He did what He came to do.

Visions of graduates raising their robed arms in the air or swimmers hitting the end of the pool at the end of a race come to mind.

But I’ve always wrestled with thinking I know what exactly Jesus came to do. It’s kind of a big deal, and I’ve always felt like my own salvation was wrapped up in fully understanding the meaning behind this phrase. In reality, there is a mystery surrounding all of scripture, and this passage is no exception.

So, what exactly did Jesus finish? What was accomplished there on the cross?

It sure sounds like a statement of victory, yet Jesus is about to die a criminal’s death between two criminals on a criminal’s cross.

If we go way back to the beginning, when Jesus began his public ministry, we hear John the Baptist declare of Him: “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29)

That’s what Jesus came to do – to take away sin. It’s so simple.

Except it isn’t. The depth of what Jesus accomplished was symbolized by a surprising and supernatural thing that happened close by, in Jerusalem. The curtain dividing the holy place in the temple, the place where only a high priest could go and only once a year, was torn in two, from top to bottom.

As Jesus’ flesh was torn, the curtain representing the separation between God and man was also torn. The death of our Savior made way for us normal people to have a personal, intimate, open, and joyful relationship with the God who made us.

As we reflect on the symbol of the Cross and Christ’s finished work, we can draw nearer to God.

I like how the early church understood it.

Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings… (Hebrews 10:19-22)

I pray you and I simply draw near to Jesus during this final weekend of Lent because we CAN!

 

By Lisa Bond

I Thirst (Part 3)

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By Angela Stanford

“I thirst.”
John 19:28

 

With just a basin of water and a towel, Jesus taught an unforgettable lesson as he washed the disciples’ feet. The living water He offers isn’t just so we can live forever. It’s so we can live transformed. The God who took on flesh to save us from sin and death wants us to experience life, here and now.

I look around, and while people have more physical access to things, I notice we are more thirsty than ever. But do we even know what we thirst for? Consider when Jesus said “I thirst” on more than just a physical level. Thirst refers to a desire and craving, a thirst of the soul; the desire for fellowship with God; the desire for this long-suffering season to end; the unmet desires of our heart.

A sign hanging in Mother Teresa’s chapels reads, “I thirst, I quench.” The deepest thirst of our soul can only be quenched by Him. He is the only thing that can truly fill us up and help us live the life He intended us to live, a life transformed. Even King David, who had everything: the highest position, unlimited possessions, and great power. Yet none of it was enough. He described himself as parched and thirsty for God. Then David drank deeply of God’s love and writes “Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live and in your name I will lift up my hands.” (Psalm 63:1)

The same thing happened to the woman Jesus met at the well. She drank deeply of His love and was transformed, filled to overflow. We can be filled to overflow too. God put a thirst in our hearts that was intended to lead us back to Him. Only He can fill the empty places in our hearts – the deepest thirsts of our souls. Until God’s love and acceptance is enough, nothing else will be. So what is it for you? Where are you looking to the created for only what the Creator can provide?

We weren’t made to operate from a place of depletion. When we get full of anything, we overflow. The person full of resentment will overflow with bitterness. The person full of jealousy will overflow with greed. But, the person who continually comes to Jesus and drinks from the living water, that person will overflow with Jesus. That Living Water transforms. Jesus came with good news and invited everyone to live in it, right now. We get to participate in that by overflowing to the broken world around us — in our homes, in our jobs, in our small and seemingly insignificant interactions.

In a world that is like “a dry and weary land where there is no water,” may God’s love transform you and overflow through you, refreshing those around you.

 

By Angela Stanford

 

I Thirst (Part 2)

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By Brody Bond

“I thirst.”
John 19:28

 

As Jesus hung on the cross, He said He was thirsty. John 19:29-30 tell us, “A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth and he tasted it.” Earlier in the crucifixion journey, Jesus was offered wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. Why? I can’t imagine He wasn’t thirsty at that point. This first wine contained myrrh. Myrrh was added to decrease sensitivity, to help numb the excruciating pain one would endure during a crucifixion.

I would have taken the first wine, hands down. I don’t like to be in pain. In fact, I’ll go to great lengths to alleviate pain, avoid it altogether, or outright ignore it. But numbing, avoiding, or pretending the pain is not there never brings us to the source of the real issue. It only temporarily masks what the pain exposes. If I continue to avoid the hurt, the hurt creates a void in me. The prophet, Jeremiah, tells of Israel’s future disbelief and disobedience: “They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” (Jeremiah 2:13)

In our attempt to numb, avoid, or ignore the hurt, we dig our own broken cisterns attempting to seek satisfaction from cheap substitutes. I look to these broken cisterns hoping they will hold things that I think will satisfy my thirst — a job title, a number in a bank account, appreciation and praise, the newest and latest gadget, children that listen. All of this misplaced seeking leads to an absolute drought. I try to quench myself that deep-soul thirst only God can quench. Our culture does a great job of selling us substitutes but never offering lasting satisfaction. How many of you are feeling a pain? In your family? In your business? Maybe you don’t know what next step you should take. What are you holding, what are you reaching for? Are you holding a broken cistern without any water?

But here is the absolutely amazing thing: Jesus would feel all the pain so He could, on the cross, heal all the pain. Jesus did not take the first wine. Fully present, fully human, fully God, Jesus, the source of living water, would pour himself out, becoming thirsty so that we would never truly thirst. Our very life depends on this water. Even a relatively short period without water exposes the extent of our frailty.

Will you bring your exposed heart to the true source of refreshment and satisfaction? Will you lay your broken cistern down at the foot of the cross? Jesus brings streams into the desert and, by pouring himself out, He offers those streams to you and me. Pay attention to what you are using to try to quench your thirst. May you turn to God, the Living Water and His Word, to be quenched.

 

By Angela Stanford

I Thirst

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By Angela Stanford

“I thirst.”
John 19:28

 

Where are You, God? Do You see me? Do You even care that I’m hurting?

In my deepest pain, it can feel like God is ignoring me. These thoughts and questions can consume me during a time of pain and disappointment, leaving me feeling like I am parched with no water in sight. I think we have all asked questions like this.

The reality is that God isn’t ignoring us. Our pain isn’t to hurt us; it’s to save us — to save us from a life where we are self-reliant, self-satisfied, and self-absorbed.

Now, this doesn’t change the fact that I want the pain to go away. I look for things to numb the pain, for things and people to help distract me from the disappointments. What’s your vice? Perhaps it is TV, shopping, or alcohol. Maybe it’s your job or the identity you find from created things. Whatever the vice, in the end it will always leave us thirsty and unsatisfied.

Thirst is one of the most unpleasant, uncomfortable, and if left unquenched, fatal of human conditions. Jesus experienced this extreme discomfort on the cross. In his extremely dehydrated state, He expressed His need — “I thirst.” (John 19:28) Jesus’ intense thirst reveals that His humanity was real, “for in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body.” (Colossians 2:9) In Jesus we have a God who really does understand what it is like to be human, even down to having a deep physical thirst.

We have a sympathetic Savior, well acquainted with physical, emotional, social, and spiritual suffering. So what does this mean for those deep hurts, the ones that make me feel like I’m stranded in a desert with no water in sight?

It means I need to learn to wrestle well. I can acknowledge my feelings, but I need to let my faith lead the way. Jesus is the ultimate example of wrestling well between faith and feelings. “Though he was God’s Son, he learned trusting-obedience by what he suffered, just as we do.” (Hebrews 5:7)

Jesus learned trusting obedience from what He suffered. It’s hard to wrestle with the idea that God allows things in this fallen world that cause me to be uncomfortable and in pain. This is where I need my faith to lead and not my feelings. I need to look to Jesus as the example of how to wrestle well. The obedience he learned compelled Him to trust beyond what His physical eyes could see.

God sees you. He knows your thirsts. He knows the heartache and pain you are facing. So I cry out to God in the midst of my thirst and suffering. But sometimes those questions still remain —  “Where are You,” “Do You even care?”

I believe He loves us too much to do the very thing I often beg Him to do. But why? He knows things I don’t know. He paints a bigger, far more beautiful picture that I can’t yet see. This is how we, too, can trust God in the midst of our long-suffering journeys, by having a higher perspective in our present reality.

Earnestly seek Him and be honest with your feelings, but don’t end there. Ask Him to help you look at your circumstances through the lens of His love instead of a lens of disappointment and pain. Our long-suffering won’t seem nearly as long or as painful when we know God’s perspective is to use every single second of our suffering for good.

 

By Angela Stanford

Forsaken (Part 2)

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By Rob Kelly

From Divine to Damned

And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”)
Mark 15:34

Mark’s gospel recounts the anguish and the horror of the last moments of Jesus’ life as He suffers in agony upon a cross. It’s difficult for me to read this passage without feeling sick inside at the abomination of what is happening. And when He cries to His father, “Why have you forsaken me,” I lose it. In truth, I know nothing about feeling, and certainly even less about actually being, forsaken; yet His cry penetrates to the core of my soul and breaks something quite fragile within that can do nothing but bleed.

Embedded deeply in that cry are these three truths:

One: This is not imagined or felt, but rather a real state of forsakenness. He is bearing our sin — the sin of the world — and in doing so, He bears the judgement of His Father on our behalf.   His cry exactly echoes that which He knew by heart from the Old Testament:

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
   Why are you so far from saving me,
   so far from my cries of anguish? Psalms 22:1

He had become the forsaken.

Two: His cry is not a question looking for an answer, but rather it is a way of expressing the horrors of abandonment. Jesus always knew what lay ahead for Him and He knew the reason why. He talked about it, He taught it, He tried to prepare people for what was to happen. This cry is a moment of agony expressing His desolation, not a search for an answer from the Father.

Three: His cry acknowledges the inevitability and fulfillment of the Divine Plan. “For God so loved the world (us) that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever would believe in Him, would not perish (be abandoned) but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) Jesus became the forsaken of God that we might become His beloved children.  

Clean, pure, and embraced within the arms of our loving Father.

Jesus, I want to skip ahead to the good parts of the story where you rise again. It hurts me to look at the image of you on the cross. Yet I know, that as I pause to look at you in these moments, I am renewed with the reality of how much I am loved.

 

By Tom Sanco

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