He Didn’t Come Down

Crucifixion, c.1450 - Andrea del Castagno - WikiArt.orgLast Sunday, November 5,  I attended the closing ceremony of the 44th Kairos at Virginia Correctional Center for Women (VCCW). Kairos is an interdenominational prison ministry that seeks to bring the love of Christ to inmates in prisons around the world. I had heard that it was similar to Cursillo in that it involves an intense weekend of sharing, learning, and prayer in small groups of people of the same gender, culminating in a public closing ceremony wherein the weekend’s participants give testimony to how the weekend impacted their lives. The difference is that it all takes place in a prison. (The other difference is that Cursillo is Catholic rather than interdenominational, but that’s not important right now.)

The closing testimonies of the women who participated were inspiring and touching. It was wonderful to see how Christ had entered or reentered their lives to heal them from profoundly deep wounds and give them the strength to live each day in the joy of God’s love regardless of their present circumstances. But one woman’s testimony stuck with me more than all the others. Her testimony was also the shortest.

She said that Jesus was the son of God and could have done anything he wanted, including coming down from the cross, but he didn’t. She had always known that but the meaning of it had never really sunk in with her until that Kairos weekend. “He was innocent,” she said, “but he didn’t come down. She started to cry and stepped down from the lectern with nothing more to say. We can only speculate on the thoughts that were running through her head at the time. Here is what she said means to me.

He was innocent.

This fact alone seemed to have real significance for this middle-aged female inmate. She did not elaborate but I couldn’t help comparing her to the Good Thief in the Gospel who made the same observation to his buddy on the other cross next to Jesus. [Quote from Gospel]. This woman seemed to see the same relationship between herself, guilty of a crime and justly punished, and Christ, an innocent man willingly accepting the punishment merited by the guilty. She was blown away by the senselessness of accepting punishment one did not deserve. “Why did he do that?” she asked. Why, indeed.

For the first time I asked myself that question. I had always thought I knew the answer: Jesus took the punishment for our sins upon himself out of love for us. Yeah, but WHY? I’m not second-guessing God’s motives, mind you. I just saying that answer is too simple. It doesn’t reveal the deeper meaning. It doesn’t tell us what good that does us here in the present. Jesus never did anything just to show off. Every miracle, sign, and act of Jesus recorded in the Gospels teaches a lesson or reveals something essential to the relationship between God and his children.

In this particular case, I think Jesus was telling us, the guilty, that he is with us in our suffering. Though he himself is blameless, he suffers with us. At that moment on the Cross of Calvary, Jesus did not want to be comfortable with the innocent and virtuous. He wanted to be with the guilty and bear our suffering alongside us. It was this act of love that this woman in the VCCW was appreciating for the first time and she made me appreciate it in a way I never had before.

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Celebrate Mother’s Day as Reality, not Idealized Perfection

My wife has a beautiful post today:

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By the Gift of God…

I just finished the George Washington Parkway Classic 5K! I am now waiting for Lisa Helene who is walking the 10 miler! There is so much joy and mirth at the finish line. Running must be one of God’s gifts!


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The lost sheep

Don’t blame the sheep for getting lost. By virtue of our baptism we are missionaries mandated to find them and bring them back.

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When the words don’t come…

Sometimes I just don’t know what to say. That’s when I think God doesn’t want me to say anything. Maybe He’s telling me it’s time to listen.

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Why does God allow us to suffer?

Marriage is hard work and involves suffering. Raising kids involves suffering and heartache. We do these things because the rewards are worth the suffering. Imagine the rewards waiting for us after the crucible of life.

There can be no Easter Sunday without a Good Friday. – Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

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We are what God made us

God is love.

You were made in God’s image.

You are the image of love.

Think about that the next time you look in the mirror.

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#Charity is not always easy

Volunteering for St. Vincent de Paul can be a pain in the neck! People don’t speak clearly when they leave a message on the hot line. They call insisting that they spoke to us three weeks ago and do we have an answer from our regional council meeting?  (No one in our conference has even heard of this person!)

Just when I’m ready to quit, I get a call from someone who needs a couple hundred dollars to keep their lights on. That’s it. If there were no St. Vincent de Paul, what would that person have done?

Thank you, Lord, for giving me perspective when I needed it most!


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Understanding Forgiveness

Forgiveness: A Catholic ApproachI call it the “F-word.” As far as I can tell it’s the hardest part of being a Christian. Our sense of justice often won’t let us forgive, and yet it is one of the most important things that Jesus tells us to do. It’s also, I believe, God’s most important and oft-given gift to us. How do we forgive when forgiveness isn’t deserved? Is there ever a time when we shouldn’t forgive? I could go on and give my own ideas and beliefs and conclusions on this subject, but what do I know? I’m no expert at forgiving. I get as angry as anyone else and hold grudges as long as the next guy. But I pray that God help me to change. I pray that God help me to be more like Him. I pray for the love to forgive as I have been forgiven.

Luckily for me Father R. Scott Hurd has written a wonderful little book called Forgiveness: A Catholic Approach. Lisa Helene and I recently read the book and discussed it with a group of friends at our parish. In the book, Fr. Hurd describes forgiveness as a process. A process that does not involve forgetting the injury we’ve suffered and does not necessarily involve reconciliation with the other person. At it’s very essence forgiveness is a letting go of the anger and resentment we hold when someone hurts us. It means wishing our offender well, praying for our offender, and coming to place of peace where we can remember the pain without feeling the anger. This can take time, (it took St. Jane de Chantal several years to forgive her husband’s accidental killer) but it can be done and done only with God’s help.

There is nothing I could say here that Fr. Hurd doesn’t say better. So I’m just going to plug this wonderful book and hope it gets into the hands of all who need to read it!

Have a blessed week!  

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Our Complicity in Abortion

Tomorrow marks the 41st anniversary of Roe v. Wade  and the 41st annual March for Life in Washington D.C. I want to take this time to reflect on at least one of the factors that drives mothers, fathers, families, and even governments to the conclusion that abortion is the best solution to a problem that could be best, (but not easily), solved with compassion and a collective sense of responsibility.

Twelve years ago I had a friend who was like a sister to me. We supported each other through bad times and shared the good times. It was, in all regards, a “best” friendship. It came to an end, however in the wake of an unexpected crisis pregnancy. She called me one evening to say she had something to tell me and that she was telling me because she knew I would support her no “matter what.” She had become pregnant by the guy she was seeing and had decided to have an abortion. She was unemployed at the time and battling the relapse of a drug addiction she thought she had kicked for good.  I could hear the disappointment in her voice when I said that was a decision I could not stand behind. I tried in vain to persuade her to have the child and put the boy or girl up for adoption. I went to a local Right to Life office and got materials to illustrate to her the risks to her own physical and psychological health. At one point she asked me point blank “Are you willing to adopt it?” I stopped short. The ridiculousness of the question astounded me. “Of course I can’t!” I snapped back. “I can barely take care of myself!” I was working part-time as a waiter and made about $50 a day. I was asking my parents for money for rent every month. How could I be the one to take this child?

I don’t remember much of the conversation after that. She went on about how if I were incapable of helping in any material way, then how could I expect her to provide? My argument was that there was someone else out there with the means to support her child. There were options. All she had to do was carry the child to term. Yeah. That’s all. The bottom line is that the one person who was speaking up for this child was only willing to go so far. My advocacy for his or her life went only as far as what I perceived to be my responsibility. I was willing to beg her not to end her baby’s life but I was not willing to do the one thing she asked me to do that may have actually stopped her. I declined the opportunity to rescue a child bound for abortion.

The story has an all-too-typical ending. She went through with the procedure and we quickly drifted apart. Our mutual disappointment in each other became a constant presence. Eventually all communication stopped.  Over the past twelve years I recall those few days that led to the end of our friendship; the arguments over the right to life, the right to choose, whose life, whose choices mattered most. For me the arguments were theoretical. For her, they were real. Was I not symptomatic of our society’s apathy toward those in need? Was I not typical of the congressman who votes pro-life but anti-healthcare? We talk a lot about the sanctity of life. How about putting our money where our mouth is and show that we stand with the unborn and not just for them. There are many who support the war on terrorism, but less than one percent of our country have signed up to actually fight it. Let’s do more than that for those who cannot yet speak for themselves. Let’s stop paying lip service to life and actually do something! Are we who can afford it willing to pay higher insurance premiums so that expectant mothers who can’t afford high premiums can get free prenatal and pediatric care? Are we who don’t have children willing to pay higher taxes so that new mothers and fathers can take extended maternity and paternity leave with full pay and a guaranteed job upon return?

Pope Francis said “It is not ‘progressive’ to try to resolve problems by eliminating a human life… On the other hand, it is also true that we have done little to adequately accompany women in very difficult situations, where abortion appears as a quick solution to their profound anguish, especially when the life developing within them is the result of rape or a situation of extreme poverty,” (Evangelii Gaudium) Let us pray that we have the wisdom and fortitude to take the Holy Father’s words to heart and to action.

Have a blessed week!

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