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161 posts categorized "Lent Series"

Lent Devotions: Luke 23:27-32

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Editor’s note: This Lenten season, Bread Blog is running a series of devotionals from the Little Black Book, which was first created by Bishop Ken Untener of the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw, Mich. The devotionals are in the prayer tradition of Lectio Divina to help people pray the Passion of Our Lord.

A large crowd of people followed Jesus, including many women who mourned and lamented him. Jesus turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep instead for yourselves and for your children for indeed, the days are coming when people will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed.’ At that time people will say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us!’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us!’ for if these things are done when the wood is green what will happen when it is dry?” Now two others, both criminals, were led away with him to be executed. (Luke 23:27-32)

Unlike the crowd in the previous scenes, there is no suggestion here of hostility. Among them are some women – public mourners who wailed in lamentation over criminals on their way to execution.

Jesus turns their grief away from him and laments the death of their beloved city and its inhabitants in years to come – the terrible Roman siege of Jerusalem (66-70 A.D.).

Luke also notes that two criminals were part of the procession, an echo of what Jesus said at the Last Supper: “For I tell you that this scripture must be fulfilled in me, namely, ‘He was counted among the wicked.’”

This whole scene is a sad one. Women lamenting. A death march of criminals – “dead men walking.”

There is a time for sad thoughts and sad songs. No easy answers. Hardly any words.

Just the Lord and I together for a while.

Lent Devotions: Luke 23:26

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Editor’s note: This Lenten season, Bread Blog is running a series of devotionals from the Little Black Book, which was first created by Bishop Ken Untener of the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw, Mich. The devotionals are in the prayer tradition of Lectio Divina to help people pray the Passion of Our Lord.

As they led Jesus away they took hold of a certain Simon, a Cyrenian, who was coming in from the country; and after laying the cross on him, they made him carry it behind Jesus. (Luke 23:26)

When Mark and Matthew describe this scene, they simply say that Simon was pressed into service to “carry the cross.” But Luke adds that he carried it “behind Jesus.” Luke wants Simon to express in action what Jesus had said earlier.

“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)

Simon was blindsided. He was on his way in “from the country” minding his own business, when all of a sudden the soldiers seized him and made him carry the cross. He didn’t volunteer for the job, and this wasn’t part of his plans when he got up that morning.

Some of the toughest crosses are the ones I don’t expect or volunteer for. Why this? Why now? Why me?

There’s no answer this side of the grave. I just do what Simon did: Put my shoulder to the cross as best I can, and walk behind Jesus one step at a time, just trying to get through a day.

Had any crosses like that?

               

Lent Devotions: Luke 23:24-25

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Editor’s note: This Lenten season, Bread Blog is running a series of devotionals from the Little Black Book, which was first created by Bishop Ken Untener of the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw, Mich. The devotionals are in the prayer tradition of Lectio Divina to help people pray the Passion of Our Lord. 

The verdict of Pilate was that their demand should be granted. So he released the man who had been imprisoned for rebellion and murder, for whom they asked, and he handed Jesus over to them to deal with as they wished. (Luke 23:24-25)

Pilate does everything he can to win Jesus’ release, short of releasing him. Three times he says publicly that Jesus is innocent. I see him turning, twisting, squirming as he tries to avoid standing up for what he knows to be true. His final verdict: “He handed Jesus over to them to deal with as they wished.” Pilate leaves the scene, a pathetic figure.

The last phrase in the above passage would be more accurately translated, “he handed Jesus over to their will.” Jesus had wrestled with his will, and the Father’s will (“not my will but yours be done”). Now he faces “their will.”

It doesn’t seem fair.

It’s tough enough to face physical suffering. But to be victimized by malicious people who “get their way” at my expense . . . that’s too much.

A billion years from now such trivialities won’t matter. All that will matter is that I did my best to do what is right, tried to treat others with kindness, and put the rest in the hands of God.

There are a few things I can’t change that I should probably put in the hands of God right now.

Lent Devotions: Luke 23:20-23

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Editor’s note: This Lenten season, Bread Blog is running a series of devotionals from the Little Black Book, which was first created by Bishop Ken Untener of the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw, Mich. The devotionals are in the prayer tradition of Lectio Divina to help people pray the Passion of Our Lord.

Again Pilate addressed the crowd, still wishing to release Jesus, but they continued their shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Pilate addressed them a third time, “What evil has this man done? I found him guilty of no capital crime. Therefore I shall have him flogged and then release him.” With loud shouts, however, they persisted in calling for his crucifixion, and their voices prevailed. (Luke 23:20-23)

The shouted response of this crowd-become-a-mob is chilling. The word “crucify” comes like a thunderbolt.

This is the first time in Luke’s Gospel that this horrible word appears in any form – and not once, but twice: “Crucify him! Crucify him!”

It was already clear that the crowd wanted to kill him. But does it have to be this way – a tortured, crude, cruel death by crucifixion?

The cross comes into my life in many forms. But the cross, different for each person, is when I say: “Anything but that.” I cry from the depth of my soul, “O Lord, anything but that . . . anything!”

Sometimes I get the same answer Jesus got.

And so I take the Lord’s hand and take what I have to face . . . sometimes with none but the Lord who understands how hard it is. And I just hold on to him.

Lent Devotions: Luke 23:13-18

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Editor’s note: This Lenten season, Bread Blog is running a series of devotionals from the Little Black Book, which was first created by Bishop Ken Untener of the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw, Mich. The devotionals are in the prayer tradition of Lectio Divina to help people pray the Passion of Our Lord. 

Pilate then summoned the chief priests, the rulers, and the people and said to them, “You brought this man to me and accused him of inciting the people to revolt. I have conducted my investigation in your presence and have not found this man guilty of the charges you have brought against him, nor did Herod, for he sent him back to us. So no capital crime has been committed by him. Therefore I shall have him flogged and then release him.”

But all together they shouted out, “Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us.” (Now Barabbas had been imprisoned for a rebellion that had taken place in the city and for murder.) (Luke 23:13-18)

Pilate says (again) that Jesus is innocent and that Herod agrees. He offers to have Jesus flogged (despite his innocence) and released. “Flogging” was a disciplinary beating. “Scourging” was part of killing a victim slated for crucifixion. That will come later, when Jesus has been condemned to die. The proposed flogging is part of Pilate’s plea bargaining.

Suddenly Barabbas is brought into the act – a prisoner who had been imprisoned for murder. All four Gospels have the crowd choose him to be freed rather than Jesus.

Why is there such a turnaround on this kindly person named Jesus? It happens. Public opinion can be affected by polls, knee-jerk reactions, a certain mob psychology.

There’s a little bit of that “crowd” in all of us.

Lent Devotions: Luke 23:11-12

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Editor’s note: This Lenten season, Bread Blog is running a series of devotionals from the Little Black Book, which was first created by Bishop Ken Untener of the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw, Mich. The devotionals are in the prayer tradition of Lectio Divina to help people pray the Passion of Our Lord.

Herod and his soldiers treated Jesus contemptuously and mocked him. And after clothing him in resplendent garb, he sent him back to Pilate. Herod and Pilate became friends that very day, even though they had been enemies formerly. (Luke 23:11-12)

Herod, frustrated by Jesus’ silence, lowers himself to join the troops in mocking this phony king.

But . . . he also had to deal with Pilate who had already said he thought Jesus was innocent. Pilate had made a friendly gesture by asking his opinion on the matter. Herod knew what the chief priests and scribes wanted . . . but what Pilate wanted was more important.

So he dresses Jesus, not in the garb of a condemned prisoner, but as a respectable person, and through this gesture concurs in Pilate’s judgment.

“Herod and Pilate became friends that very day.” Now that’s interesting. Once again Luke teaches me about Jesus the healer. He healed the ear of the servant at the arrest . . . he healed Peter’s soul when Peter denied him . . . and now, of all things, he heals the relationship between Herod and Pilate. His suffering and death are already producing results.

Here is the hard part: To believe that my suffering can have good effects. Surprising ones. Talk to One who knows.

Lent Devotions: Luke 23:9-10

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Editor’s note: This Lenten season, Bread Blog is running a series of devotionals from the Little Black Book, which was first created by Bishop Ken Untener of the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw, Mich. The devotionals are in the prayer tradition of Lectio Divina to help people pray the Passion of Our Lord. 

Herod questioned Jesus at length, but he gave him no answer. The chief priests and scribes, meanwhile, stood by accusing him harshly. (Luke 23:9-10)

Luke’s contrast of Herod and Jesus is striking. Herod is all in a fuss. He rejoices at seeing Jesus (yesterday’s passage), questions him at length (today’s passage), and tomorrow will join his troops in mocking him.

Jesus will speak not a word. He knows that, whatever happens, he is going to die. And, especially because of his prayer in Gethsemane, he trusts “Abba” and is able to look death in the eye without blinking.

The “passing-over” of early immigrants across the ocean to the “great unknown” (the United States) can perhaps be an image of death. The voyage was long and difficult, and they didn’t know if they would be allowed into this country when they arrived. Many were alone, could bring next to nothing with them, knew no one at their destination, and couldn’t speak English.

Imagine what it would have been like if when they landed, there was someone who knew them – someone who could get them quickly through all the immigration procedures, help them find a job, a place to live . . .

Jesus faced the terror of death, but knew that he would be in the hands of “Abba” on the other side. It made all the difference.

Jesus says to me, “When you die, look for me on the other side.

Now that’s someone I want to get to know very well.

Lent Devotions: Luke 23:8

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Editor’s note: This Lenten season, Bread Blog is running a series of devotionals from the Little Black Book, which was first created by Bishop Ken Untener of the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw, Mich. The devotionals are in the prayer tradition of Lectio Divina to help people pray the Passion of Our Lord. 

Herod was very glad to see Jesus; he had been wanting to see him for a long time, for he had heard about him and had been hoping to see him perform some sign. (Luke 23:8)

Luke mentioned Herod Antipas three times earlier in his Gospel:

  1. John the Baptist had censured Herod because of his “evil deeds” and because he had married his brother’s wife.  Herod then put John in prison, and later had him beheaded.
  2. Herod heard about all that Jesus was doing and what people were saying. He said, “Who then is this about whom I hear such things?” And he kept trying to see him.
  3. Some Pharisees came to Jesus when he was on the way to Jerusalem and said, “Go away, leave this area because Herod wants to kill you.”

All of this would make friends of the Lord uneasy when they learned that Pilate sent Jesus to Herod. We’re not sure why Pilate did this – he and Herod were not on good terms. Was Pilate trying to dump his problem on Herod? Or was he trying to honor Herod and reduce the friction? Whatever it was, Jesus was caught in the middle.

Today Jesus continues to be “caught in the middle” . . .  in wars between nations, or in families, or among co-workers, or between neighbors, or within parishes. 

It helps to remember in any conflict that, whatever the circumstances, Jesus is there, loving people on both sides.  Any “war” in particular come to mind?

Lent Devotions: Luke 23:3-7

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Editor’s note: This Lenten season, Bread Blog is running a series of devotionals from the Little Black Book, which was first created by Bishop Ken Untener of the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw, Mich. The devotionals are in the prayer tradition of Lectio Divina to help people pray the Passion of Our Lord. 

Pilate then addressed the chief priests and the crowds, “I find this man not guilty.” But they were adamant and said, “He is inciting the people with his teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee where he began even to here.” On hearing this Pilate asked if the man was a Galilean; and upon learning that he was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent Jesus to Herod who was in Jerusalem at that time. (Luke 23:3-7)

The opening words of this passage are the first of Pilate’s three declarations that Jesus is innocent.

In the words of one Scripture scholar, “Pilate has enough sagacity to see through their duplicity, but not enough character to abide by his own judgment. Three times he declares Jesus innocent, but three times is twice too many.”

I am watching the decline and fall of Pilate. Historical records show he was not a good person. Now his path crosses the path of Jesus – it seems by chance. Maybe this was his chance to turn his life around . . . to reach down inside himself and connect with the goodness that God has embedded in the bones of every human being. Maybe his protest of Jesus’ innocence was the flicker of an attempt to turn from evil to good. Maybe.

But later, when faced with the crowd’s demands, Pilate will snuff out this flicker of goodness and condemn to death the man he knows to be innocent.

The Lord will cross my path today in the person of many people. May there be in me more than just a passing flicker of goodness.

Lent Devotions: Luke 23:2-3

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Editor’s note: This Lenten season, Bread Blog is running a series of devotionals from the Little Black Book, which was first created by Bishop Ken Untener of the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw, Mich. The devotionals are in the prayer tradition of Lectio Divina to help people pray the Passion of Our Lord. 

They brought charges against Jesus, saying, “We found this man misleading our people; he opposes the payment of taxes to Caesar and maintains that he is the Christ, a king.” Pilate asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” He said to him in reply, “You say so.” (Luke 23:2-3)

Jesus stands before the highest Roman authority in Judea, and the accusers shift from the religious issues of “Messiah” and “Son of God” to the secular issues of taxes and kingship.

That Jesus opposed the payment of taxes to Caesar was just plain untrue. Jesus had told people to pay the taxes (“pay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar . . .”).

That Jesus put himself forward as a king was also untrue. He never used the title. In John’s Gospel, when the people wanted to carry him off and make him king, he fled.

I can identify with Jesus here. Something I say is taken the wrong way. Or I didn’t say it at all. Or I said the very opposite. But it’s been twisted. I later hear how this is being passed around, characterized in a distorted way, all sorts of motives ascribed. What will others say when they hear about it? Yet I’m helpless to stop it.

It happens in families, at work, in any group. As Jesus stands before Pilate and listens to what his accusers are saying, I can put myself in his shoes. Which, by the way, is a good way to pray. Do it for a few minutes.

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