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135 posts categorized "Lent"

Lent Devotions: Luke 23:55-56

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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 women who had come from Galilee with him followed behind, and when they had seen the tomb and the way in which his body was laid in it, they returned and prepared spices and perfumed oils. Then they rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment. (Luke 23:55-56)

“Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?”

In Luke’s account, only Joseph and some women disciples were there. It was a very small “funeral.”

Then “Holy Saturday” – the longest day there ever was. The disciples were in shock. Jesus was dead and gone, and so were all their dreams. Nothing to do but wait till the Sabbath was over, then head back up north to Galilee. Without him.

They don’t know it, but things will be a lot different tomorrow. They’ll be laughing and dancing and thanking God and hugging one another and shouting the good news.

I can live every day already knowing this good news. But some days are more like this long Saturday, not Easter Sunday. No dreams dance in my head. I’m down. Blue. I long for a happy tomorrow and wonder when it will come . . . or if it ever will.

It doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with my lack of faith, or whether I love God and know I am loved by God. Days like this are part of the human condition. I have to pass through them and remember that although it may not come as quickly as I’d like, the Lord will always bring me through a “long Saturday” to an “Easter Sunday.”

Holy Saturday is a good day to talk to the Lord about those “long Saturdays” in my life.

               

Lent Devotions: Luke 23:53-54

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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 Joseph had taken the body down, he wrapped it in a linen cloth and laid him in a rockhewn tomb in which no one had yet been buried. It was the day of preparation, and the Sabbath was about to begin. (Luke 23:53-54)

Normally the corpse would be washed and rubbed with oil before being wrapped in linen. This ought especially to be done when a body is covered with blood. But Joseph had to bury Jesus quickly because the Sabbath began at sundown. Luke says that he simply wrapped the bloody body in a linen cloth and laid it in the tomb.

Good Friday, the day Jesus was buried, would be a good day to go to a cemetery, at least in my thoughts.

No matter how long ago the death, the grave of someone I love brings back all the memories and feelings that, as the years go by, become a sweet sorrow.

There is still a touch of sadness – I miss them. But it is not empty despair, because Jesus went through death, went through burial, to open the way to life. He did. He opened the way to life for whomever I’m thinking about as I read this.

That is why today is called Good Friday. Because of what Jesus did by dying . . . what he did for my mother, father, child, wife, husband, close friend who died.

“Good Friday.” It ought to be no ordinary day.

Lent Devotions: Luke 23:50-52

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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.

Now there was a virtuous and righteous man named Joseph who, though he was a member of the council, had not consented to their plan of action. He came from the Jewish town of Arimathea and was awaiting the kingdom of God. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. (Luke 23:50-52)

From now to the end of Luke’s Passion, not a word will be spoken. Silence.

At the beginning of Luke’s Gospel, I heard of Simeon, a “righteous and devout man . . . awaiting the consolation of Israel,” who took the child Jesus in his arms.

Now, at the end, I hear of Joseph, “a virtuous and righteous man . . . awaiting the kingdom of God” who goes to Pilate on Jesus’ behalf, and who takes his dead body in his arms. (Luke does not say that he was a believer in Jesus.)

This is the only time since Jesus began his ministry that he was totally dependent on someone else’s help.

What was it like for Joseph? It was probably an interruption in his day and took him away from something else he had to do, something he may have considered more important.

It sets one thinking about Jesus’ words in the last judgment scene in Matthew: “Amen I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least ones, you did for me.” That’s easy to believe in theory, but hard to believe in practice.

Maybe this scene when Joseph takes care of Jesus’ body should be the one I think about when I have to go out of my way to help someone.

               

A Season of Preparation

By Jared Noetzel

I don't work at Bread for the World because of its public policy or advocacy mission. Policy matters, and advocacy shapes policy, but in the end that's not what I'm all about. I work at Bread because of my commitment to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, because through his death and resurrection we have the opportunity to participate in the reconciliation of the world to God. Part of that reconciliation extends to the ways we choose to order our society. In other words, it extends to politics. The problem is, I forget that order of things too easily. African children

We're nearing the finale of one of my favorite times of the church year. In Lent, we're called to remember our dependence on God through contrition and repentance. By prayer, fasting, and giving we recognize that God has ultimate control over our lives. Through the adoption of new disciplines, we tangibly remind ourselves to both submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and remember who gave us our salvation. That's how we don't forget to love our neighbors and care for people who are marginalized. That's how we don't forget to love our enemies, even when they target people who are hungry.

Advocacy and politics can be toxic to our souls. We can easily get caught up in the short-term wins and "gotcha" moments. The season of Lent calls us as followers of Christ to a time set apart to dig into our own failures and seek God's grace and mercy.

The disciplines of Lent steel us against the corroding influences of the sometimes brutal political world. As James 1:27 puts it: "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world." At Bread for the World, we care a lot about orphans and widows — and all others on the margins of society. We can't and we won't stop advocating with them — ever.

But we must not forget the other part of James' warning. Lent opens a space for us to take stock of how the world has corrupted us, to ask for mercy, and then seek restoration.

The point of Lent isn't to remain in an introspective posture. Rather, it's about preparation and being ready for Christ's resurrection. As we look forward to celebrating Easter, take time to ask God to ferret out the places the world has corrupted you. Then, turn your heart to Christ, and get ready to celebrate his resurrection and the power of reconciliation.

As we engage our hearts and minds with the story of God's redemptive work in the world, we declare that ultimate authority lies with God. That's why, at Bread for the World, we value prayer right alongside activism (see Let Us Pray to End Hunger).

In the work of advocacy, we can forget to acknowledge that all authority, including the authority to govern, stems from God. Prayer helps us stay grounded in God's love and undergirds all of our advocacy efforts.

The work of advocacy doesn't stop because of Lent, but Lent does make us better advocates. We write, call, and meet with elected officials not because good policy is an end in and of itself. We do these things because God has called us to love all the people made in God's image. Lent helps us remember that.

Jared Noetzel is a project coordinator at Bread for the World's church relations department.

Photo: A Ugandan family shares a meal together. Kendra Rinas for Bread for the World.

Lent Devotions: Luke 23:47-49

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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 centurion who witnessed what had happened glorified God and said, “This man was innocent beyond doubt.” When all the people who gathered for this spectacle saw what had happened, they returned home beating their breasts. But all his acquaintances stood at a distance, including the women who had followed him from Galilee and saw these events. (Luke 23:47-49)

Jesus is dead.

On the hill where he died there is stunned silence. Not a word is spoken, except by the centurion who declares that the person he just executed was innocent.

The people start walking away without speaking. Just beating their breasts.

The acquaintances of Jesus all stand “at a distance,” gaping. Not a word from any of them.

I can imagine their thoughts. “Jesus, why didn’t you stop them like you always did before? What happened? And God, how could you? To let your own Son die like that!”

We’ve all been there on Calvary – the Calvaries in our own lives. “Jesus, how could you? God, how could you?”

These are Holy Week thoughts. Wordless thoughts. My deepest fears . . . my highest hopes.

I know about the resurrection. But when I’m surrounded by the wreckage of Calvary, it’s hard to fast-forward to resurrection. Besides, is there always a resurrection?

Jesus died to answer those questions.

Lent Devotions: Luke 23:44-46

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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.

It was now about noon and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon because of an eclipse of the sun. Then the veil of the Temple was torn down the middle. Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit;” and when he had said this he breathed his last. (Luke 23:44-46)

Jesus dies. Darkness comes over the whole land.

When Jesus was an infant, Simeon took him in his arms and said this child would be “a light to the nations.” He is . . . although there are times when it seems darkness is winning. John, right at the beginning of his Gospel, has it right: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

At his baptism, Jesus heard the voice from heaven say, “You are my beloved Son.” He believed it, and knew that no matter how dark the darkness gets, it can never overcome God.

The first words of Jesus in Luke’s Gospel, spoken at the age of 12, make reference to his Father: “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Now, his very last words are addressed directly to the Father: “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”

I wonder if, when I am dying, I’ll be able to speak to God that way – so personally, and with such trust.

               

Lent Devotions: Luke 23:40-43

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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 other criminal, however, rebuking him, said in reply, “Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:40-43)

The other criminal speaks first to his companion, and in so doing becomes another of Luke’s witnesses to the innocence of Jesus.

Then he speaks to Jesus, asking to be remembered. He’s barely met Jesus but – again, Luke’s emphasis – if you only knew this man, even briefly, you would love him.

Then I hear the last words that Jesus speaks to a human being before he dies: “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”

When Jesus began his ministry (he was in his hometown synagogue in Nazareth), his first words promised release to captives. Now, as he is dying, his last words fulfill that promise.

This criminal is the only person in any of the Gospels to address Jesus by his first name without a qualifier, such as “Lord,” “Son of David.” As the late Scripture scholar Fr. Raymond Brown put it, “The first person with the confidence to be so familiar is a convicted criminal who is also the last person on earth to speak to Jesus before he dies.”

This is Holy Week. Take some time to talk to Jesus on a first-name basis.

               

Lent Devotions: Luke 23:35-37

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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 rulers, meanwhile, sneered at Jesus and said, “He saved others, let him save himself if he is the chosen one, the Christ of God.” Even the soldiers jeered at him. As they approached to offer him wine they called out, “If you are King of the Jews, save yourself.” Above him there was an inscription that read, “This is the King of the Jews.” Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us.” (Luke 23:35-37)

Mockery again, from three different quarters.

The rulers “sneer” – a Greek word that has the connotation of turning up (or down) one’s nose.

The soldiers “jeer” at him, then offer him wine in jest and say, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself.”

But the mockery of a common criminal suffering the same fate is the cruelest cut of all.

How bad can it get? Being ridiculed in front of others is one of the worst things that can ever happen to anyone. It’s “vandalism” to the human person – like drawing graffiti on a beautiful painting, or taking a hammer to Michelangelo’s Pieta.

Have I ever been ridiculed for trying to do what I thought was right? The Lord knows the feeling.

Lent Devotions: Luke 23:34

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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 divided his garments by casting lots. The people stood by and watched. (Luke 23:34)

The normal Roman practice was to crucify victims naked. Sometimes, they were stripped before they even began their death march. Whether the Romans made a concession to the Jewish abhorrence of public nakedness is not known.

Psalm 22, speaking of the sufferings of the Messiah (the same Psalm that begins “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me”), says, “They divided my garments among them, and for my vesture they cast lots.” Back then, garments were much more valuable than today, and were commonly awarded to the executioners.

It is a great insult to hang on a cross dying while others play a game of chance for your clothes. Crucifixion, on every score, was an ugly, humiliating way to die.

The people watching a crucifixion would normally be passers-by. The site chosen for a crucifixion was usually on a main route, so that passers-by would be forced to see it – just like unsuspecting commuters coming upon an accident on an expressway.

In Luke’s account, “the people” are respectful, awestruck, silent. He says they “stood by and watched.” When Jesus dies they will go home “beating their breasts.” Once again, “if you came to know him, you would love him.”

Maybe I need to get to know him better. Like Mary Magdalene did. Or the Beloved Disciple.

 

Lent Devotions: Luke 23:34

LENT2015-Blog-Banner

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 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)

Many hold this to be the most touching scene in all of Scripture.

In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus emphasizes forgiveness. What is surprising is that he talks about God forgiving before repentance is even expressed.

• When the sinful woman at the banquet bathed his feet in her tears, Jesus tells the astonished guests that she loves much because she knows her sins have been forgiven (before she even came in).

• In the parable of the prodigal son, the father runs to his son to embrace and kiss him before the son has said a word.

• Now, on the cross, Jesus forgives everyone involved in his crucifixion before they show even a hint of remorse.

Some have wondered how, after all their planning and plotting, Jesus could say they didn’t know what they were doing. One has to understand Luke’s portrait of Jesus: If you knew him, you would love him. Despite all their evil plans, these people couldn’t have known what they were doing . . . or else they wouldn’t have done it. It’s as simple as that.

My first thought might be how I fail to show the same forgiveness to others.

Better that my first thought be how Jesus has the same compassion toward me before I even turn to him. I need to believe that – really believe it – before I can do the same to others.

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