Meditation on the Centurion for Good Friday

Author’s Note: This meditation was written on Good Friday, March 21, 2008.

A Meditation on the Centurion: For Good Friday

I had heard many thing about the man Jesus of Nazareth — I had heard stories of his miracles, how he healed the lame, cured the blind, cast out demons, and even raised the dead! I thought nothing of it — I know it was people making falsehoods to entertain themselves.

But today, I met Him! I met Jesus of Nazareth!

I helped crucify Him…

The day began like any other. We were brought three criminals to execute on Golgotha — one of them was Jesus.

I saw Him from a distance. He looking like a walking, often stumbling, wound. He wore a cap of thorns on His head, and I saw the scourge marks on His body. He was completely covered in blood. I wondered how He had strength to move — for I knew it must have been extremely painful to make any kind of motion. They had forced a man to help carry His cross, because He was too weak to do it all by Himself, and they did not want Him to die on the way.

They brought Him before me. I didn’t even think. I just did what I had always done.

First, I stripped Him of His robes. He did not cry out, but he winced from the pain. All the wounds on His back had been reopened, and He began to bleed profusely.

Most prisoners are very reluctant to be executed. Sometimes, I literally have had to thrown them down upon their cross.

But He — ever so humbly, ever so patiently — slowly laid Himself down upon the hard wood.

Then, I knew I would have to nail Him. I was surprised at His countenance — it was filled with blood and sweat. I could tell He was in complete agony, but there was something more to it. There was a loving gaze in His eyes, beneath the blood.

I wondered at what His crime was — what was it they had convicted Him of… that He deserved to die in this manner.

But then, caught in my reverie, I heard the people and my fellow soldiers yelling at me, “Nail Him! Crucify Him!”

I head the other prisoners being nailed to their crosses — they cried out in pain, but the people simply laughed at their suffering.

So, with the nail and hammer in hand, I stretched out His right arm upon the beam. I looked at Him —

Our eyes met.

I cannot describe what I felt. I knew in that instant that there was something different about this man — something… extraordinary.

He looked at me, and seeing the nails in my hand, He nodded His head and closed His eyes.

My heart was racing — my hands were now shaking so badly that I could hardly hold the nail on His wrist.

I couldn’t stop — I had to do it. The voices of the crowd had drowned away in my mind — and I could only think of Him.

I raised my arm and hoped that I would hit the nail. I closed my eyes — I didn’t want to look.

Bang!

I opened my eyes — the hammer had hit — the nail had pierced. His wrist was now covered in blood.

I repeated my movements — I hit the nail again and again. Each time it drove deeper into His flesh — but He did not cry out.

He only winced with pain.

After the nail had pierced completely, I ordered my fellow soldiers to nail His other hand and feet.

I did not desire to nail Him again.

Again, He was nailed, and I could only watch as the other soldiers mocked Him and spat on Him as He was being nailed to the cross. The spectators did not help either — they shouted at Jesus and insulted Him as He laid there motionlessly.

Then, a sign came. A fellow soldier brought it forward. It said: “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.”

“What is that?” I asked the other soldier.

He merely snickered and replied, “His title…”

The soldier took the sign to the head of the cross.

“Hail, King of the Jews,” he laughed, as he nailed it above the criminal’s head. Then, he spat in Jesus’ face.

I almost could not look — it was too gruesome.

Then, they lifted Him up. I helped to put the cross in its correct post — I did not want it falling over. I could not bear that!

So, He hung there —- Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.

Many of the Jewish priests and religious leaders came and mocked Him. They told Him to come down from the cross if He truly was the Son of God.

Then, I heard Him cry out —

“Father, Forgive Them, For They Know Not What They Do.”

It was too much — I tried to hold back the tears.

I did not know who this man was — but I knew He was innocent of any crime.

He hung there for three hours — form midday until three in the afternoon. Some of the other soldiers cast lots for His clothes, but I did not want to.

Finally, He said —

“I Thirst.”

I immediately took a sponge, soaked it in some of my wine, put it on a reed, and pressed it to His lips.

I wanted to do anything to help ease the pain — even if only for a moment.

Some of the people nearby said He was calling for Elijah, one of the Jewish prophets. I took no notice. I only wanted to help Him.

Finally, His hour came! I marveled at how He had managed to live so long, considering all of the blood He had lost and the suffering He had endured.

He lifted His head — raised His eyes to Heaven and said —

“It Is Finished! Father, Into Your Hands, I Commend My Spirit.”

Then, he bowed His head and died.

At that moment, I knew — I understood who He was.

“Truly,” I said aloud, “this man was the Son of God!”

Some of my companions were going to rebuke me, but there was too much chaos.

Apparently, the curtain of the Jewish temple had split in two, and the Jewish leaders were in frenzy.

We were ordered to break the prisoners’ legs so they could die quickly.

One of the soldiers was going to break Jesus’ legs, but I told him, “No! He is already dead!”

The soldier looked at me in disbelief, so I took up my spear and pierced Jesus’ side.

Immediately, water and blood came flowing out.

And everyone was now convinced that Jesus had already died.

Most of the people left — some went away wailing and beating their breasts.

But — a small group came forward. There were several women and three men. One of the women said to me, gently touching my hand —

“Will you please,” she whispered with tears in her eyes, “help us take my Son down?”

She lifted her eyes to Jesus, and I knew she was His Mother.

I wanted to comfort her in her sorrow — to console her — but I could only agree to help. To do whatever I could for her and for Him.

Two of the men helped me take His body down, while the third supported His Mother. I gently took out the nails that had pierced His hands and feet, and the men placed Jesus’ body in His Mother’s arms.

Whatever heart I had left broke at that moment.

I saw the Mother gently hold and rock the bruised and beaten body of her Son — just as a young mother would hold and rock her newborn baby. She held Him tightly and her tears fell upon His blood-covered face.

Then, with all of the motherly tenderness in the world, she kissed His forehead and pressed Him close to her heart.

Her soft fingers wrapped around His head, and she slowly lifted the cap of thorns out of His wounded skull.

As she placed it beside her, I saw that some of the thorns had pierced her gentle fingers, and her hands were now covered with blood.

The men finally convinced her to let them bury Him. She simply nodded her head at their request, and relinquished her Son’s body to their devoted arms.

I watched quietly as they carried Him off to a nearby tomb. I wished to follow them — or, at least, return to the city.

But, I could not.

His Sacrifice has left me too humble to move.

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Musing on Matt 5:14-16

A Musing on “The Light of the World”

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” — Matthew 5: 14-16

When I walk into a dark church, the first thing that catches my eye isn’t the Tabernacle, it’s the sanctuary candle. Most times it is the only thing that I can see, because the church is so dark.

The sanctuary candle’s presence reminds me that Christ is present – and that is all it needs to do. It does not serve any other function. It doesn’t need to smell nice, or look pretty. It’s not a decoration. It’s not practical. It is there, as a herald of Christ’s Presence in a church.

The sanctuary candle’s only purpose is to remain beside the Tabernacle, and remind us of God’s presence. And that is all.

My pastor told me to remember this idea of the sanctuary candle when I pray – that it does nothing except be with God. He said, that is what we are called to do in prayer, simply to be with God. (Or at least, in meditative prayer.)

As I meditated on this image of being like the sanctuary candle, and simply being with God, I noticed the sanctuary candle in the church and remembered the Sermon on the Mount: “You are the light of the world.”

Yes, we are. We are the light of the world – the ones who reveal Christ to others, by our ministry in the world – our serving others, teaching about the Faith, and so on. Yes, we are the Light of the World in that.

But, we are also the Light of the World in our prayer lives. Our purpose is to know, love, and serve God – but how can we accomplish that if we do not pray? If we do not talk to Him?

So, we are the Light of the World – that sanctuary candle that burns in the darkness of a church, that reminds all that Christ is present among us. We gain our strength, our confidence, our spiritual nourishment from remaining with God, as the candle does.

If we remain with God, He will enable our lights to be visible to others. Thus, prayer is all the more important in our lives of ministry. We must serve and teach others, as we have the responsibility to do. But, first we must pray – we must know the One Whom We Serve, in Whose Name we serve others.

So, as you and I go about our busy lives of work, ministry, play, rest, etc., we must be more than merely light in the world:

We must be the light that shines forth in the darkness of the world, because we bespeak the Presence of Christ within our minds and hearts – within our lives. Our very existence, like that of the sanctuary candle, should be to remind all that Christ is present within our world because He is in us and we are with Him.

I pray that, through our closeness with God, we continue to shine forth in the darkness, to give light before all men, so that they too may glorify God with us in prayer.

Musing on the Transfiguration

A Musing on the Transfiguration & Obedience

Jesus took Peter, John, and James and went up the mountain to pray. While he was praying his face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus…
Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.” After the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. They fell silent and did not at that time tell anyone what they had seen. –Luke 9:28-36

A few summers ago, I spent every Thursday teaching grade-school children about the Fourth Luminous Mystery: The Transfiguration. As we begin the second week of Lent, the Transfiguration account from Luke takes center stage in today’s Sunday Gospel. (Or, as I once heard it described, the “Shut Up, Peter” Gospel.)

The story of the Transfiguration was a difficult one to explain to children: Jesus went up the mountain with His disciples, then He changed appearance. Why? To reveal to them that He was the Son of God, and to prepare Himself for His Passion, Death, and Resurrection in Jerusalem.

While there are many thoughts out there about the experience of the Transfiguration, whenever I hear this Gospel, I harken back to what I taught my students that summer:

The Transfiguration of Jesus teaches us about obedience.

First, the apostles Peter, James, and John followed Jesus up the mountain. They probably had no idea why they were going up there with Him. Maybe He told them He wanted to pray. Maybe He didn’t tell them anything except “Follow Me” or “Come with Me.” But, they followed Him nonetheless, because they had faith in Him, and they were willing to follow Him obediently.

Then, when they arrive at the mountain and see Jesus transfigured, they hear the Voice of God the Father telling them: This is my chosen Son; listen to Him.

Yes, later, Peter had his struggles – denying Jesus and abandoning Him to the Cross, even though he had promised his Master he would die with Him. James also abandoned Him in the Garden, but his brother John the Beloved was with Mary at the foot of the Cross.

Despite their struggles of obedience during Jesus’ Passion, they were reunited with Him after His Resurrection and, after Pentecost, began preaching His Gospel to the world.

They listened and obeyed Jesus. Did they listen perfectly? No. Did they always obey Him? No. But, when they were filled with the Holy Spirit, they listened to Him and obeyed His Great Commission: Go and make disciples of all nations…

The second example of obedience we find in the Gospel today is Jesus’ obedience. He went up the mountain, more than likely, to transfigure before them as a final preparation for His Passion in Jerusalem. The Gospel tells us that He converses with Moses and Elijah about this while He is transfigured.

Before His three most trusted Apostles, He reveals Himself in all His Glory as the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. He also, it seems, reveals His Mission in Jerusalem, as the Apostles overhear Him talking to Moses and Elijah.

He has and is listening to the Will of the Father, and He commissions us to do the same. As the Son listens to the Father, so we must listen to the Son.

I gave a meditation on this Gospel reading last Tuesday to a group of high school students. I did not know beforehand I was supposed to lead this meditation, so I fell back on what I remembered from teaching it previously: obedience.

I asked them (and myself): “Where do you hear the Voice of God? How can you listen to Him better? What will God ask of you today … tomorrow… next week? How can you be more obedient to Him, as Jesus was, as the Apostles were?

Let us pray for an increase of obedience and discernment for ourselves and our brothers and sisters, especially those in authority. This Sunday, let us ask ourselves: “How can I be more obedient to the Voice of God in my life?”

Meditation on the Transforming Love of Christ

Author’s Note: This meditation was written in 2004 — so I wrote it when I was very young. So, it’s very cheesy (think the story of the “Three Little Trees”), because it is told from the point-of-view of an ugly rock, but I hope you enjoy it nonetheless. So, imagine the ugliest rock among a bed of normal rocks…

A Meditation on the Ugly Rock and the Transforming Love of Christ

Can’t you see me here? Yes, that’s me – the ugly rock. Black, dirty, and coarse. I lie here on this road of rocks, beside others far smoother, cleaner, and more beautiful than me. Oftentimes a wealthy man will find a good rock and keep it for good luck. But not me – I’m the ugly rock.

Do you see that man there? He’s the King, the Good King. Never a rock has he found – “O Good King, have you come to find a rock today?”

“Yes, I have,” He tells me. “I have come to find YOU!”

“Oh, but me, sir? I am lowlier than the grass. I am rock not fit for a Good King like You!”

“No, my gem. I will raise you up and hold you close to my heart for eternity.”

“Gem? Why I am no gem, my Noble and Good King.”

He picks me up with His warm hands, and holds me close to His Heart. “O my gem, you only need to be removed of your coating.”

I can feel it all – His hands squeeze me tight. The pressure is immense, and I feel so contained, so pressed in. I am afraid; in pain; unsure.

But He is holding me. So, I should not fear. I should not worry. For I am in the hands of the King.

The pressure fades away, and the Good King’s gentle, warm hands lift me. O, how they lift me up! My ugliness is now gone – the coarse dirt has fallen away.

“There, my gem,” He tells me, “You now sparkle as the diamond that you are! Now, I shall hold you close to My Heart forever.”

I can feel His Heart beat. I can hear Him say: “My gem! I have found you!” O, how wondrous it is to be held by the King!

“Now, my gem – my precious stone – I will take you to My Eternal Kingdom, where you shall be with Me.”

Musing on Jesus in the Desert

Musing on Jesus in the Desert

“Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days, to be tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and when they were over he was hungry.” – Luke 4: 1-2

I’ve only been in the desert once, that I can remember. It was when I went to Las Vegas a few years ago. (I went with my family to see a concert.) I remember reading on the Internet beforehand that we should take bottles of water with us whenever we went out on the strip. The website said that because you’re in the desert, which is a dry heat, your sweat evaporates off your body more quickly. Before you know it, you’re exhausted and dehydrated, even after just an hour walking around outside.

If you have never been in the desert, it is a perpetual dry sauna. It seems like there is no moisture in the air; and there’s hardly any wind. (At least, where I was; I realize there are other deserts that are plenty windy.) It seems that you are gradually baking or melting with each passing step. Water and air conditioning are long lost friends, and you wonder why you ever left their company in the first place.

That’s why when I was reading last week’s Gospel in preparation for the First Sunday of Lent, after the first lines where it said Jesus was hungry, I thought, why wasn’t he thirsty? Perhaps he took water with him, but that would have to be large amount to last 40 days in the desert.

Jesus, being fully human, wouldn’t he be hot? Exhausted? Dehydrated? Sun-burnt? If I had to survive 40 days in the desert, and I was fasting the whole time, I don’t think I could concentrate on anything else except my own physical experiences – thirst, hunger, pain, etc.

Yet, from what we know through the Gospel, Jesus manages to overcome these human sufferings. Yes, he probably had those experiences (I would assume) of thirst, hunger, discomfort, pain, exhaustion, and so on.

But, then I realized, Jesus is able to endure those sufferings because he has the greatest comfort – the greatest companionship – His Father and the Holy Spirit.

Jesus spent his 40 days in the desert talking to and spending time with His Father. He is teaching us that while human experiences are important, communion with the Heavenly Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is the most important experience we can have.

Yes, it is probably painful to endure 40 days in the desert with little to no food. I’m sure Jesus was praying in some tough conditions (physically, mentally, etc.) But, people endure other painful experiences everyday with their loved ones beside them. Why can’t Jesus do the same? What is pain and suffering if you are in the company of the One You Love Most?

As many theologians have pointed out, the devil’s three temptations of bread, kingdoms, and testing God correspond to the “Three Enemies of the Rational Soul” : the flesh (bread), the world (riches, power, etc.), and the devil (testing God).

Yet, I would point out the first verse of Luke 4 again: Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days, to be tempted by the devil.

I would contend that Jesus overcame the Three Enemies two-fold: firstly, through the devil’s temptations; but secondly, through his retreat into prayer with His Father.

The Spirit led Him away from the world, into the desert for 40 days to fast, which was a voluntary, physical suffering, to be tempted by the devil. Through Jesus’ time prayer and communion with His Father, he overcame the Three Enemies by voluntarily:

  • removing Himself from the world and its temptations
  • denying Himself the comforts of food, water, shelter, etc., and
  • subjecting Himself to continued temptations by the devil.

Through his seclusion, suffering, and temptations, Jesus teaches us that while our mission on the Earth is important – as Jesus did return to His Ministry after His days of prayer and fasting in the desert – the most important thing is our relationship with God.

Because, as the Gospels say: Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away. We are called to be in the world, but not of it; because the Three Enemies are not eternal. The world will end; we will be resurrected without the same desires of the flesh; the Devil – through his “brainchildren” (so to speak) sin and death – has been conquered and will continue to be conquered. Yet, God is eternal. Thus, our time and our love should be given to the One Who Endures, and not to the things that will fade away.

That is the point of Lent: to do as Jesus did. To commune with God in a special way as we sacrifice our comforts, allowing ourselves to be tempted, and – through God’s grace, we pray – conquer those temptations.

So, let us continue this time – this journey – in the desert communing Our Lord.

Musing on Mercy & Justice

les-miserables-posters-jackman-crowe

The Mercy of Valjean and the Justice of Javert

Author’s Note: This musing is based on my knowledge and understanding of the musical “Les Miserables” and its movie adaptation that was released in theaters last December. I fully admit I have never read the book “Les Miserables” by Victor Hugo, and I realize there are differences in characters, plot, etc. between the musical and its source material. Still, I hope you enjoy it!

Meditation on Mercy & Justice from “Les Miserables”

In 19th century France, the starving teenager Jean Valjean, in desperation, steals a loaf of bread to feed himself and his family members. For his crime, and various escape attempts, he is imprisoned for 19 years. Upon his release, he finds little welcome in the world outside prison. He is treated as an outcast, because of his brand as an ex-convict. He struggles to find food and shelter, as few are willing to help him. As he sleeps in a graveyard, a bishop finds him and offers him food and shelter for the night.

Later that night, Valjean takes advantage of the bishop’s kindness by stealing his silver. The police arrest Valjean and return him to the bishop, as Valjean claims that the bishop gave him the silver as a present. The bishop confirms Valjean’s story, and by doing so, saves him from returning to prison:

“And remember this, my brother,
See in this some high plan.
You must use this precious silver
To become an honest man.
By the witness of the martyrs,
By the passion and the blood,
God has raised you out of darkness” (Valjean Arrested / Valjean Forgiven)

Because of this act of mercy, Valjean realizes the sinfulness of his life as a criminal and commits himself to God. Valjean expected justice, but received mercy instead. He sees and experiences the bishop’s and, more importantly, God’s love for him. And thus, sees his unworthiness, and desires to change his ways by committing himself to God.

And, because of the bishop’s single act of mercy, Valjean, in turn, becomes an apostle of mercy – spreading Christ’s love and forgiveness throughout the rest of his life.

Because of Valjean’s commitment to mercy, he:

  • rescues a man who was trapped under a cart;
  • reveals himself as the ex-convict Jean Valjean, to save an innocent man (whom the police had identified as Valjean) from going to prison;
  • saves the prostitute Fantine from jail and ensures she receives medical care;
  • saves Fantine’s daughter Cosette from her unloving caretakers and adopts her as his own daughter, continuing to provide for her;
  • joins the revolutionaries, trying to help as many of them as he can, and ultimately saves Cosette’s boyfriend, Marius;
  • spares the life and career of his ruthless pursuer, the policeman Javert; and
  • continually gives money to the poor and various charities, etc. throughout the course of the story.

Conversely, the police inspector Javert, who pursues Valjean after he broke parole, has committed himself to justice. He simply cannot allow himself to do anything except what is right by the law. He tells Valjean:

“Men like me can never change
Men like you can never change…
My duty’s to the law…
Dare you talk to me of crime
And the price you had to pay
Every man is born in sin
Every man must choose his way” (The Confrontation)

He believes that men are set in there ways: they are either good or bad, and their choices prove their character. Because Javert has dedicated himself to following the law and punishing those who do not, he believes he is a good man. Those whom he pursues, like Valjean, because they broke the law, are bad.

And neither can change. Good men cannot become bad; and bad men cannot become good.

Yet – unlike Valjean, the apostle of mercy – Javert is an administer of justice. No long-term goodness comes from his actions; he does not directly impact anyone’s lives for the better. He arrests and imprisons those who commit crimes; he “cleans the garbage off the street” (Look Down). He has no sympathy for the poor, and only looks to please the rich.

Valjean spreads his virtue through God’s grace and love; Javert spreads his through his position and the force of the law.

The difference source of their virtues results in different lives, different impacts, and different fates.

Even so, Javert admits that “every man is born in sin,” but will not admit that he is guilty of any sin, seemingly, except for original sin. He is committed to goodness, perfection, and the law.

But, after Javert infiltrates a group of rebels and fails in his deception of them, Valjean spares his life and allows him to go free, allowing the rebels to believe he did kill Javert. Later, Javert catches Valjean as he carries the unconscious Marius home; Valjean pleads for Javert to let him take Marius to a hospital, and he will return and “all our debts are paid.”

Yet, as Valjean walks away with Marius on his back, Javert tells him to stop. Valjean continues to walk away, and Javert cannot bring himself to shoot Valjean.

Damned if I’ll live in the debt of a thief!
Damned if I’ll yield at the end of the chase.
I am the Law and the Law is not mocked
I’ll spit his pity right back in his face
There is nothing on earth that we share
It is either Valjean or Javert! (Javert’s Suicide)

Javert cannot reconcile himself to accept that has received mercy, and – though unwilling – has shown mercy in return. He cannot accept that he lives because of the goodness of a criminal; and, because of this, he jumps off a bridge into the river, ultimately killing himself.

He gave me my life. He gave me freedom.
I should have perished by his hand
It was his right...
Can this man be believed?
Shall his sins be forgiven?
Shall his crimes be reprieved? (Javert’s Suicide)

Here is the difference between the two, and the focal point:

As Javert could not accept, justice and mercy are not mutually exclusive. One can accept both, as justice is what we deserve from God, but mercy is what we receive. A man can change, but only through God’s mercy.

Through our sin, we fall; through God’s grace, we rise.

Justice and mercy are both virtues; neither is a weakness. And, because we have received mercy from God, we must show mercy to others (as Javert could not understand or accept). Justice, or giving someone his/her due, is also a righteous thing. In our society, we recognize that those who commit dangerous crimes should be kept apart from the public for safety.

But, as Javert did not understand, there must be a balance between the virtues. In some cases, we can and should show mercy; in others, we might not have that ability (such as a judge during a court case).

The hard part is knowing when to show justice, and when to show mercy.

But, when we pray, we cross our fingers right over left – mercy over justice. We pray for mercy; we appreciate when others are merciful to us; and we hope that our mercy toward others is not abused.

Yet, that is the risk with mercy. Like love, it is a virtue that many can take advantage of. Just so, we have taken advantage of God’s mercy toward us by continuing to sin; still, he continues to show us mercy, despite repeatedly injuring Him.

So, we must – to the best of our ability – show mercy to our brothers and sisters. And when they abuse our ‘pity’ and ‘leniency,’ we must show them mercy once again, in the hopes that they will realize our love for them and change their ways.

The rippling effects of mercy, seemingly, flow out much farther than those of justice. In Valjean’s case, through the bishop’s mercy toward him, many lives were saved and changed for the better. In Javert’s case, many criminals were imprisoned, and he advanced further in his career.

Thus, we should continue to cross our fingers right over left – mercy over justice. For “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy” (Matt 5:7)

For further reading about Les Miserables and Catholicism, check out this FOCUS blog post. Kudos to its author! Very well written, and much shorter than my stuff. 🙂

Meditation for Ash Wednesday

Author’s Note: This meditation is based on Psalm 51 and Hosea 1 & 2. In the Book of Hosea, God asks the prophet Hosea to take a prostitute as his wife, and Hosea does so. This corresponds to God’s relationship with the Israelites, his chosen people, who had fallen away from their faith and worshiped false idols. Hosea remains faithful to his wife, despite her unfaithfulness to him, just as God remains faithful to Israel, despite their idolatry. This meditation is told from the wife’s point-of-view.

Meditation for Ash Wednesday

“Into the Desert”

I am a wife – a tainted, unfaithful wife. I was a harlot – selfish and unsure.

Then, I met a Man. And, He married me; even though He knew who I was – who I am still. Though, I try not to be.

I try to pursue my old lovers, but I cannot overtake them. I try to seek them, but I cannot find them.

I know my ways are shameful, and my soul, unclean.

I want to be purified, to be forgiven – to be loved. To be a wife – true, faithful, and pure; to be a mother – attentive, loving, unselfish.

So, He takes me; allures me; leads me … into the desert … into the wilderness. To be cleansed with water; to be purified by fire; to be made holy through His Spirit.

He and I are bound together, connected. A string – solid and bright – connects His Heart to mine, and mine to His. It is a strong cord, but I can break it. When I do, He bleeds inwardly. I bleed also, but He heals me and restores the cord once more.

desert-footprints

As He leads me over the dunes, into the crusty, dirty stretch of silence, I know I could break away from Him. I could snap the cord once more and flee. What if I do not want to follow Him into this desert, this wilderness… this silence?

But I do. Because He loves me, and we are connected. I am drawn to follow Him – out of love. An imperfect love. A flimsy, fleeting love. It is not strong and steady like His Love. But it is there, and it strengthens, slowly and surely with each passing moment.

He draws me into the silence of the wilderness… to speak to my heart.

To blot out my transgression with His Compassion and cleanse me from my sin.

To clean me that I may be pure; to wash me, that I may be whiter than snow.

To create a clean heart for me and renew within me a steadfast spirit.

To restore me to the gladness of His Salvation and uphold me with His Spirit.

To open my lips, that my mouth may proclaim His praise.

To accept the sacrifice of my contrite Spirit.

So, I follow Him into the desert… To be cleansed and purified. And, to grow closer to Him. To become one with Him.

May these days in the desert help me to become one with Him. Amen +CHS