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155 posts categorized "Lent Series"

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.

Lent Devotions: Luke 22:71-23:1

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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. 

Then they said, “What further need have we for testimony? We have heard it from his own mouth.” Then the whole assembly of them arose and brought Jesus before Pilate. (Luke 22:71- 23:1)

I can look back at the story of Jesus’ birth and see that earlier in his Gospel Luke gave me some hints of what is taking place in this scene.

• At the annunciation, the angel Gabriel told Mary that her child would be given the “throne of David” (he would be the royal messiah) and would be called “the Son of God.” Now, at his trial, Jesus is convicted for allowing himself to be called by these titles.

• At the presentation in the Temple, Simeon took the child in his arms and said that he was destined “to be a sign that will be rejected.” I am watching this rejection happen here.

From Jesus’ own mouth the Sanhedrin heard what they were looking for. Now, off to Pilate to get the death penalty.

Once Jesus enters my life, I have to accept him or “kill him.” He is never just a neutral bystander.

It’s like the sun. I either let it affect me, or block it out.

Sometimes, except for my religious practices, I block Jesus out of my life, or parts of my life.

If it’s being done unconsciously, it’s going to require some soul-searching, and some help from the Lord.

Lent Devotions: Luke 22:66-70

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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. 

When day came the council of elders of the people met, both chief priests and scribes, and they brought Jesus before their Sanhedrin. They said, “If you are the Christ, tell us,” but he replied to them, “If I tell you, you will not believe, and if I question, you will not respond. But from this time on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God.” They all asked, “Are you then the Son of God?” He replied to them, “You say that I am.” (Luke 22:66-70)

This is high drama.

Jesus stands before the highest religious authorities who want to know two things: (1) Does he claim to be the Christ (Messiah)? (2) Does he claim to be the Son of God?

Jesus’ first answer is non-committal – he knew their image of the Messiah was more of a political leader.

His answer to the second question is more direct: “You say that I am.” The words on their own lips are true.

The identity of Jesus. Is Jesus really God, or simply a good person whom God adopted as his “son”? In 325 A.D., the first General Council of the Church centered on this question . . . as did the second in 381 . . . and the third in 431. Jesus is truly God.

The constant affirmation of the Church has been clear, enshrined in the former words of the Nicene Creed: “We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ . . . true God from true God, begotten, not made, one in Being with the Father.”

The identity of Jesus. Imagine him looking to me and asking, “Who do you say that I am?” To which I respond . . .

Lent Devotions: 22:60-62

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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. 

Just as Peter was saying this, the cock crowed, and the Lord turned and looked at Peter; and Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times.” He went out and began to weep bitterly. (Luke 22:60-62)

The presence of Jesus always brings healing. Earlier at his arrest, it was the servant’s ear. Here it’s Peter’s soul. After the third denial Jesus looks at Peter to remind him of what he had said earlier: “I’m praying for you.”

As Luke describes it, Jesus saw and heard all three denials. Remember the feeling when, after I’ve said something not complimentary about someone, I realize that they overheard it? That’s how Peter felt when he saw Jesus across the way. He was crushed.

But Peter, unlike Judas, did not commit suicide. I don’t know what happened next (Peter is not seen again until after the resurrection) but he must have poured out the awful truth to the other disciples. They must have done what we all must do when someone tells us of their failures: Acknowledge the evil, and open our arms wide in mercy. One without the other will not work.

The Lord is with me, in the courtyard of my life, not off somewhere else. And he looks at me, not as a spectator, but with love. He’s pulling for me. To remember he’s with me as I go through a day might change a few things. Maybe a lot of things.

Lent Devotions: Luke 22:56-60

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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. 

When a maid saw Peter seated in the light, she looked intently at him and said, “This man too was with him.” But he denied it saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” A short while later someone else saw him and said, “You too are one of them”; but Peter answered, “My friend, I am not.” About an hour later, still another insisted, “Assuredly, this man too was with him, for he also is a Galilean.” But Peter said, “My friend, I do not know what you are talking about.” (Luke 22:56-60)

Peter flat out lied. He didn’t “hedge.” He lied.

And what he lied about was being “with Jesus.” (In the second denial he also lied about being with the other disciples.)

Funny what a person can sink to.

The devil is cagey. He catches me at just the wrong time, and I end up doing or saying things I never dreamed possible. Other people might lower themselves to such-and such, but not me. And then I turn around and find myself doing it.

I’ve got to face up to the hard fact that, morally speaking, none of us is independently healthy.

“Deliver us from evil.” It was the Lord who taught me to pray those words. I really need God’s help just to live one day well. Like today.

Lent Devotions: Luke 22:54-55

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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.

After arresting Jesus, they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest. Peter was following at a distance. They lit a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat around it, and Peter sat down with them. (Luke 22:54-55)

Luke struggled, but told the truth when Judas kissed Jesus. He does the same now when the disciples abandon Jesus. He knows they fled when Jesus was led away, and they’re pointedly absent from the scenes that follow. But he doesn’t draw attention to their flight.

The most notable detail in this passage is that Peter was following “at a distance.” All four Gospels note this. Jesus, on the other hand, is never described as distancing himself from anyone. Ever.

In the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel, there is a point when “many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.” Jesus turned to the Twelve and asked if they wanted to leave too. It was Peter who stepped up and said, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

But now it’s Peter who, having abandoned Jesus at the arrest, follows only “at a distance.”

Perhaps my relationship with the Lord is a back-and forth thing too, sometimes close, sometimes at a distance, or perhaps I keep part of my life at a distance.

A helpful reflection might be to picture Jesus quietly asking me: “Do you also want to leave?” An honest conversation about that might produce some surprising results.

Lent Devotions: Luke 22:52-53

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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.

And Jesus said to the chief priests and Temple guards and elders who had come for him, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs? Day after day I was with you in the Temple area, and you did not seize me; but this is your hour, the time for the power of darkness.” (Luke 22:52-53)

The first injury to Jesus is to his feelings. “Have you come out as against a robber?” (The Greek word used here meant armed thugs who preyed upon travelers or made trouble in the cities.)

Jesus didn’t come to hurt anyone. He came to heal. And he is hurt when these people he loved came at him with weapons: “Day after day I was with you . . .”

This is a bad time for Jesus. At the end of the temptation in the desert, Luke says that the devil departed from Jesus “for a time.” Now Jesus says, “This is your hour, the time for the power of darkness.” Satan is not an easy loser. He’s back.

I can be sure of this: None of us wins a decisive victory over evil this side of the grave. Satan will always be back, with more subtlety than the last time. It’s true, and as basic as warning a child to be careful crossing the street.

The fasting, prayer and almsgiving of Lent are designed to help me uncover the “darkness” that I hadn’t noticed creeping into my life.

Ask the Lord for help. He’s experienced in taking on the forces of evil.

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