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Don't Lose the Connection

The moment in which we lose connection with Jesus and with the Church, we are no longer ourselves and we do not have any understanding of who we will be. For Peter at that moment, the cock crows and his crowing becomes an echo of Jesus’s words during the Last Supper. Peter, now smitten and dejected, is brought back to self-awareness. The Lord, turning his head, looks at Peter. Once more it is the gaze of Jesus that conquers a person, that moves him to compassion. We can understand that this gaze is not the unpleasant gaze of “I told you so!” It is not a gaze of judgment but a gentle, tender gaze that seeks to win him back. It is a gaze that calls Peter back. What does Peter do? He recalls the words the Lord had spoken, and he goes out weeping bitterly. These tears of suffering, of repentance for his denial, are a blessing for Peter because they are the prerequisite to receiving forgiveness. These tears are his request to Jesus to forgive him and to accept him again as a friend. The falling tears from this “Sandman, Sandman” mix with the dirt, and, on the morning of Pentecost, that dirt mixed with the tears of suffering and repentance will be hardened into stone, as in a kiln, by the fire of the Holy Spirit. Then Simon will definitively become Peter, a solid rock on which finally the whole Church can remain firm; he knows he will never again deny his Lord. He might be weak, a sinner in his flesh, but he will not ever again betray Jesus; his faith will be sure, solid, and secure. Our self-understanding needs to start with our relationship with Jesus: I am a disciple of the Lord, of the Lord who decided to die and make himself a gift of love for me, of a Lord who is risen and alive.

—from the book Encountering Jesus: A Holy Land Experience by Vincenzo Peroni

 

 

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Keep Watch with Me

The Gospel says Jesus arrives at Gethsemane with his disciples but then distances himself a bit. This is a battle that Jesus needs to face by himself. He asks his companions to keep watch with him and to pray not to enter into temptation, but he needs to face this hour in solitude. The disciples do not hold up; they are not capable of keeping vigil and they fall asleep. But this sleep is certainly not a sign of weariness. So what kind of sleep is this? It is a way of escape. Sleep is the thing in life that most resembles death; it can be a way of escape. The disciples do not actually want to see this moment happen, to face this moment. How many ways we find to anesthetize our consciences and our minds, filling our schedules with appointments, filling our minds with noise, burdening ourselves in useless preoccupations with things we do not need, to avoid focusing our hearts, our gaze, our minds, our wills, and our emotions on the one thing that matters! We fear the struggle of facing the reality of daily life that makes us encounter the truth about ourselves, so we seek various subterfuges to avoid having to confront ourselves. Jesus asks us to keep watch with him, to look at reality, to choose the good, to remain anchored to him with our whole being, whatever it costs, because this is the only way to be free and to overcome.

—from the book Encountering Jesus: A Holy Land Experience by Vincenzo Peroni

 

 

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The Gift of Love

The Cenacle, the room on the second floor spoken of by the Gospel, is one of the most treasured and beautiful places connected to our faith. The current walls of this cross-shaped room are thus not exactly the walls of the room Jesus was in. However, we do know that the uninterrupted tradition of the Church has recognized this place in which Jesus was together with his disciples on the last night of his earthly life for what we call the Last Supper. The foot-washing is the symbolic gesture through which Jesus prepared his disciples to think about the mystery of his death and to understand how the Eucharist is the renewal of that same gift of love. “Through my death, which is the gift of my body and blood, I am doing the highest service of life for you that can be done. I wash your life; I save it; I bring it into full communion with the Father.” This is why Jesus threatens to exclude Peter from having any part in him if he rejects Jesus’s gesture. This is the approach that every disciple of the Lord Jesus should take: mutual service through the gift of one’s life for the salvation for brothers and sisters.

—from the book Encountering Jesus: A Holy Land Experience by Vincenzo Peroni

 

 

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Jesus Can Teach Us about Grief

The last time Jesus goes up to Jerusalem, very shortly before being arrested and crucified, he bursts into tears when looking over the city of Jerusalem. Let us ask Jesus in this place to teach us about grief. How many times do we groan and cry, even if the tears are not real, for things that are not very significant in life! It seems that when some good things are taken away from us, or we fail to reach the goals we had set, it is the end of the world for us. It seems we are missing out on life, but often it does not involve anything essential. And yet we do not experience the same suffering when we see that communion with the Lord, for us or for others, is compromised. The word passion has two shades of meaning, both of which are good. Passion is certainly a kind of suffering, a sorrow, but passion is also an inner stirring that can lead us to something else. Jesus demonstrates to us here both aspects of this word: his passion of love for the Father and for the salvation of human beings leads him to undergo a passion of suffering. Our Christian life should imitate Jesus in this: to be so passionate about God and salvation that we accept the suffering of giving up our goals and projects and what we believe to be right in order to adhere to his will. Jesus taught us that in the Our Father: “May your will be done.” Through his weeping, Jesus purifies our desires and helps us turn back to what is truly essential.

—from the book Encountering Jesus: A Holy Land E by Vincenzo Peroni

 

 

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Wounded and Forgiven

The world contains only one thing that is truly novel: forgiveness. And this is the message of the resurrection. Everything else is like the words of an old song repeating itself endlessly over and over again. There is normally only one song that gets sung: the song of betrayal, hurt, resentment, and non-forgiveness. That pattern never changes. There is an unbroken chain of unforgiveness, resentment, and anger stretching back to Adam and Eve.

We are all part of that chain. Everyone is wounded and everyone wounds. Everyone sins and everyone is sinned against. Everyone needs to forgive and everyone needs to be forgiven.

—from the book The Passion and the Cross by Ronald Rolheiser

 

 

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A Redeeming God

Think of the Gospel story of Jesus and Lazarus. Jesus treats him exactly the same way that God, the Father, treats Jesus: Jesus is deeply and intimately loved by his Father and yet his Father doesn’t rescue him from humiliation, pain, and death. In his lowest hour, when he is humiliated, suffering, and dying on the cross, Jesus is jeered by the crowd with the challenge: “If God is your father, let him rescue you!” But there’s no rescue. Instead Jesus dies inside the humiliation and pain. God raises him up only after his death. This is one of the key revelations inside the cross: We have a redeeming, not a rescuing, God.

—from the book The Passion and the Cross by Ronald Rolheiser

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Revelations of the Cross

What the cross of Christ reveals is that when we are so paralyzed by fear and overcome by darkness that we can no longer help ourselves, when we have reached the stage where we can no longer open the door to let light and life in, God can still come through our locked doors, stand inside our fear and paralysis, and breathe out peace. The love that is revealed in Jesus’ suffering and death, a love that is so other-centered that it can fully forgive and embrace its executioners, can pass through locked doors, melt frozen hearts, penetrate the walls of fear, and descend into our private hells and, precisely there, breathe out peace.

—from the book The Passion and the Cross by Ronald Rolheiser, OMI


 

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Finding Strength in Acceptance

Those who care for the dying say that the most important ingredient in a good death is meaning. And meaning means connection. The sense of belonging, of being linked to another or to otherness itself. Meaning is more than explanation. Explanations, dogma, ring hollow at such times of unavoidable encounter with reality. (How we do anything to avoid reality!) At these times we find ourselves totally defenseless and exposed in front of the tribunal of reality. Concept turns into truth and we’d like to run as far away from it as possible. It is the totality of it that matters, and this makes the Passion of the Christ so absolute and so much of a portal for all humanity to enter utter, undifferentiated, stark reality. Then we are led into a form of experience so outside our realm of comfort and familiarity that we can neither explain nor control it. It just happens—a devastating loss or disappointment, a reversal of expectations or dreams, a turning upside down of, well, everything. At such times our only defense is our sense of defenselessness. Because it is the only thing there is, it is the most authentic thing we can identify with. Not just our weakness, but our acceptance of our weakness, proves—against all the odds—to be our strength and resilience. This transports us from the universe of the ego—which is a reflection and false representation of reality—into another world.

—from the book Sensing God: Learning to Meditate during Lent by Laurence Freeman, OSB

 
 
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Solitude and Communion

At critical moments in his life, Jesus was in solitude, but was solitary with his close disciples. When he knew he was a marked man waiting for the midnight knock on the door, or in his case the betrayer’s kiss in the garden, his instinct was to go near to the desert—a place associated both with solitude and with the deepest of all relationships, in the ground of being. And he went there with those human beings whom he understood best and who, for all their failings, understood him best. Solitude is truthful and often delightful, even when painful. Loneliness is a hell made up of the illusion of separateness. In solitude we are capable of strong and deep relationship because in solitude we discover our uniqueness, even (or perhaps, especially) if that uniqueness is associated with death. If meditation is about getting free from attachments and going to the desert of solitude, it is also about the discovery of the communion with others we call community. Knowing that we are with fellow disciples in the presence of our teacher is, even when things are falling apart, a source of incomparable joy.

—from the book Sensing God: Learning to Meditate during Lent by Laurence Freeman, OSB

 
 
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