Monday, March 28, 2016

Easter Vigil - Mar 27, 2016

Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, NY
Br. Joseph Wallace-Williams, n/OHC
Easter Vigil - Sunday, March 27, 2016

Romans 6:3-11 
Luke 24:1-12

"Christ is Risen... Wounds and all!

Br. Joseph Wallace-Williams preaching at the Easter Vigil.

I got wounds.

You got wounds.

All God’s children got wounds

When we get to heaven

We gonna shout all over God’s heaven!


When I was younger we used to sing:

When I think of the goodness of Jesus

And all He's done for me

My soul cries out hallelujah

Thank God for saving me

The premise of the song is that if you think you will thank. So then the key to the thanking is the thinking. If you’re thinking is off then your thanking is off.

John Milton writes: The mind is its own place! And in itself it can make a heaven out of hell or make hell out of heaven. Jesus in his Resurrection shows us a different way. A different way to carry our wounds. A different way to think about the wounds we encounter in life. Those thorns in the flesh that are caused by: illness or accident. Wounds inflicted by traumatic experiences.

Our wounds may be visible to those who have eyes to see and ears to hear. They may be invisible because we carry them as scars upon our: hearts, our minds, and our psyches. My suffering may not look like your suffering and her suffering might not look like his suffering, but at the fundamental, foundational level of our emotions and nerves the journey of life will lead each of us into the rawness of suffering – a place of:

Deep hurt, a grief that we just can’t seem to shake, pain that just won’t heal, rejection that we just can’t seem to get over, trauma that we dare not speak.

So you see, depending on the way we were raised and our individual personality types we all carry our wounds differently. Some of us suffer in silence: We camouflage our wounds and no one around us knows that we are bleeding slowly to death. There are those of us who bleed all over the place: Exposing our wounds, risking infection not as a badge of courage but to gain attention and sympathy by getting other personalities to commiserate with us!  Because misery loves company!

Then there are the walking wounded: Injured enough to be impaired but not enough to take us out of the game. There are the waiting wounded: Injured and caught in a chronological time warp waiting for the reversal of the condition. There are the weary and wounded: injured, tired, drained of spiritual resources; drained of enough sanity that when we actually do go to sleep we can’t get any rest. Too tired to get up and too wired to stay down. Then there are the wasted and wounded: those who have resigned to being wounded thinking that it is permanent. Thinking that it will happen again. Thinking that it is some sort of predestined punishment and so we waste away because of the wounding.

Beloved, our wounds can fester, and metastasize, and become a kind of sunglasses which we wear that colors with gloom our eyes so that when something good actually happens to us our wounds darken our vision, darken our response that naturally occurs from receiving every good and perfect gift offered day in and day out by God.  So instead of seeing the blessing we see only the wounds.

This is when our wounds get in the way. Our wounds trick us into thinking that we are somehow stuck in a scarred and marked life.

I would imagine that only a few of you have seen the movie Medea’s family reunion.

There is a wonderful song in the movie that goes like this:

As time passes by they begin to multiply

*There are wounds in the way.

Adding up secretly like the rings of an old oak tree.

*There are wounds in the way.

 Some old and some new,

all stifling, debilitating and cruel.

*There are wounds in the way.

Some are passed down from elder to youth

they don’t even belong to you

*There are wounds in the way.

As time passes through,

they begin to accrue a strange sort of value

Some that you think are worth holding on to

*There are wounds in the way

We all have wounds that are getting in the way of our living every day. Jesus unlike many of us who are far too willing to: clothed our wounds, perfume our wounds, slap a smile on our wounds and pretend our wounds don’t exist.

Jesus in the resurrection shows his wounds to his friend’s. Yes, to a group locked behind closed doors. To a group locked in by fear because the wounded tend to hide themselves or strikeout and hurt somebody like they were hurt. Yet even though they were locked in by fear and the past Jesus showed up anyway. Even though they were locked in, they could not lock out Jesus. Jesus shows up anyway and shows his wounds.

This Lent I decided to spend some time wondering why Jesus showed his wounds.

Some scholars say that Jesus showed his disciples his wounds as a way of proving his authenticity. The wounds prove that he was who he said he was. That he was the real Christ and not an impostor.

The wounds were the evidence. The telltale signs of the: real bodily, visceral, flesh and bone, body resurrection; and not just a symbolic one. The wounds were validation of his life and his teaching. You see Jesus was: not just some good guy.

Not just a good teacher. Not just a good moral compass.

This Jesus! This man who stood before them was and is really the Son of God.

Who said that he would suffer. Who said he was going to die. Who said that he would rise on the third day and he did! And so Jesus shows up and shows his wounds; his wounds which were a result of somebody else’s sins and not his.

Now ain’t that something, you were wounded not for what you did but for what somebody else did! Chew on that.

Flora Slosson Wuellner says that the wounds were the Lord’s acts of mercy and kindness.    You see, the resurrection did not blot out his wounds. The resurrection did not reverse his wounds. Jesus rose from the dead in spite of his wounding.  Jesus rose from the dead with his bruises, with his scars.

The scars themselves were a sign of healing from the wounds that had formed where his skin was ripped off from carrying his cross. The wounds were a sign of healing from the lacerations inflicted by the whip. The wounds were a sign of healing from the penetrating wound inflicted by the spear in his side. Clots had formed over the bleeding holes in his hand’s and feet. The clots indicated healing. Like the stretch marks on a woman’s body that shows that at one time new life had stretched the skin to the breaking point.

It is healed now but the scar still remains.

Jesus showed his wounds because they identify him with the human condition. That God fully entered into our daily life through his son. That God entered into the daily injustice of our world. That God passionately carries our wounds in His body, and he longs for our healing!

Beloved in the suffering of Jesus we can find all of our suffering: All of our pain is projected onto those nails. All of our brokenness is bundled into that crown of thorns.

Our tears are his tears. Our hurt is his hurt. All of our darkness is found in the darkness of Calvary where Our Lord cried out in painful agony and in that lonely tomb.

The wounds are a reminder to us that God will: never negate, never ignore,

never over intellectualize, never minimize the human condition, and that God will never be beyond our reach or our cry.

Yes, God suffered for us, and God suffers with us now! Jesus rose from the dead in spite of his wounds. The wounds of his descent did not prevent his assent. The wounds of his humiliation did not prevent his elevation.

You and I may be wounded but we are still in the hand of God. We may be weary but we are still in the hand of God. We may be wavering or worn out but we are still in the hand of God. We may have old wounds. We may have new ones. We may have opened ones or closed ones. Yet God still holds us in his hand. Our help is in the name of the Lord. God is for us; our wounds cannot abort the will of God.The wounds of his demise did not prevent his comeback! Which brings me back to where I started:

When I think of the goodness of Jesus

And all He's done for me

My soul cries out hallelujah

Thank God for saving me

Beloved, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is an invitation from God. It is a call to us that it is time to rise above our wounds. Alleluia Christ is risen! And so will you TOO Alleluia!!!!!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Palm Sunday - Mar 20, 2016

Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, NY
Br. Will Owen, n/OHC
Palm Sunday - Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Liturgy of the Palms
Luke 19:28-40
Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29

The Liturgy of the Word
Isaiah 50:4-9a
Philippians 2:5-11
Luke 22:14-23:56

Br. Will preaching on the Passion
⧾ In the name of the Crucified One. Amen. ⧾

As I was preparing this sermon, I found myself at a loss for words or images to speak of the Passion. I’ve had that struggle, I think, because before and beyond all images of the Cross, the Cross is the shattering of images. And before and beyond all language about the Cross, the Cross is the silencing of language. To stand before the Cross and gaze on the crucified body of Our Lord is to seek annihilation—the burning away of all our assumptions and stories about ourselves, God, and the world in which we live. To pray the Cross is to consent to God’s desire to empty us entirely so that we may be filled with her life.

Dorothee Sölle, a German liberation theologian, says that we need “to learn to be empty in a world of surplus.” We need to learn to be empty in a world of surplus. What an elegant way of stating the dilemma we face as we encounter Christ’s Passion. How many of us pray this way, pray to be emptied?

I know that there is not a person in this room who does not have, encoded in their body, the effects of trauma, small or large T trauma. To live life and to love other people means to be hurt. These traumas are the gateway to emptiness. They are signposts pointing to the road that leads to the Cross, and, therefore, to Life. When these pains tap at our consciousness, we have a choice. We can choose to fill ourselves—really overstuff ourselves, which is a kind of numbing—with pills, or a drink, or food, or whatever it is that we turn to to numb the pain. Or we can choose the way of the Cross, which is the way of emptiness. We can allow God to move us deeper into our pain, to guide us into a deeper encounter with our trauma.

When we make this second choice, we find something astonishing. When we move further and further down the road of our traumas, we find Christ there, on the Cross, crucified on the Golgotha of our broken hearts, our broken lives. And when we draw even closer to Christ on the Cross in our hearts, there we are, too, hidden away in Christ’s own broken heart. When we draw that close to Christ on the Cross, we find a piece of ourselves that was never harmed, never touched by all the hurts that have afflicted us. There is a part of us that was never wounded, that remained whole and in union with God, hidden away, shielded in Christ’s heart as he hangs upon the Cross in the center of our broken, battered lives.

This Holy Week, I leave us all with the invitation to allow God to empty us out, so that we become a kind of new-hewn tomb in which to lay the body of our crucified Lord, which is our own body and the body of the world we live in. And from that place of emptiness, we will, in God’s time, know the power of her Resurrection.


Saturday, March 19, 2016

Feast of St Joseph - Mar 19, 2016

Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, NY
Br. Reinaldo Martinez-Cubero, n/OHC
Feast of Saint Joseph - Sunday, March 19, 2016

2 Samuel 2: 4, 8-16
Romans 5: 13-18
Luke 2: 41-52
Sculpture of the Holy Family
at the convent of the Sisters of St Joseph in Brentwood, NY
Saint Joseph has been present in my life since I was born, really. I was born on this day in 1966. I was educated at the Academia Santa Mónica in San Juan, Puerto Rico. It was a school founded in the nineteen-forties by Augustinian Priests from Spain, who had intended to staff the school with Augustinian Sisters. When the Augustinian Sisters were not available, the Friars called on the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Brentwood, Long Island. The Sisters of Saint Joseph were in those days known for their missions in education all over the world.

Since I entered the monastery, the novitiate has attended conferences held at the Mother House of the Sisters of Saint Joseph in Brentwood. It has been a very happy experience for me to get to have short visits with Sister Vivina Gracia CSJ, who was the principal of my beloved alma mater in the seventies when I was there, and who is now back at the Mother House. To say that these women were a huge influence and helped shape the basic principles by which I have lived all my life would be an understatement. They were firm, but kind educators who instilled in us a sense of self-discipline and responsibility. They taught us about respect for others, justice, and non-violence. They taught us about God’s presence and love in an evolving world.

But, who was Saint Joseph? Well, I will share with you my own version of the story. It is the story of Saint Joseph and the Holy Family according to me, and inspired by the Gospels. I do so, NOT, in any way, to debunk or disrespect the Gospel stories, which, while not factual but true, are, I believe, fundamental to our faith, as the early testimony of the significance that Jesus came to have in the lives, experience, and thought of first century Christians.

Joseph was a carpenter and craftsman who lived in a small peasant village called Nazareth. He was a hard-working man, and was known by many as a just and righteous man. When he was about thirty years old, he was engaged to a very young woman called Mary, who was about thirteen years old. They eventually married, and shortly after, Mary became pregnant.

One night an angel of God appeared to Joseph in a dream, and told him that he was to be the foster father of the child Mary was carrying in her womb. The child was of God, and Joseph was to name him Jesus because he would come to save the world. When Joseph awoke he was troubled and confused, and didn’t know what to make of these things. When he shared the dream with Mary, she was amazed, and told him that an angel of God had also appeared to her while she was praying. The angel told her that the child she was carrying was from God, that she was favored, and that God was with her.

In those days a decree required that all people be registered. So Joseph, and a very pregnant Mary set out for Joseph’s native town of Bethlehem in Judea, which was about 80 miles north of Nazareth. It was a very difficult journey due to Mary’s condition. Once in Bethlehem, it was evening by the time they were registered, and they went to stay at the dwelling place of Joseph’s relatives. It was a humble place, small and crowded, and the only place where Mary and Joseph could be was where people in those days brought their cows and mules indoors. By the time they arrived Mary went into labor. It was a frightening night, as giving birth in those days was a dangerous event and often babies and/or their mothers did not survive. But the child did survive, as did Mary. She wrapped the baby in swaddling cloth and laid him in a manger, and Joseph named the child Jesus as the angel of God had told him, which means “God saves”.

Joseph and Mary stayed in Bethlehem for some years, and one day when Jesus was about two years old, Joseph had another dream in which an angel told him he was to flee with his family to Egypt. King Herod was about to send his troops to kill all boys who were two years or under. Joseph and his family travelled to Egypt, which was over two hundred miles. They settled there for some years. And then, one day, the angel appeared to Joseph once again and told him that Herod had died. It was now safe for them to return to the land of Israel. So, Joseph and Mary and their children (for by this time Jesus had siblings) returned to Israel and made their home in Nazareth.

When Jesus was twelve years old his family made their yearly journey to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. When the festival had ended the family began their journey home. They travelled a whole day before realizing that Jesus was not with them. Mary and Joseph frantically looked for him among their relatives and friends who were travelling with them, but did not find him, so they returned to Jerusalem. After searching for two days, they finally found their son in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening, and asking questions. Mary said to Jesus: “Why have you treated us this way? Your father and I have been searching for you in great anguish!” Jesus replied: “But, didn’t you know I would be here, in my Father’s house?” At that moment Joseph remembered what the angel of God had told him in that dream before Jesus was born, that he was to be the foster father of the child, and he understood. All earthly parents are foster parents, whether or not they are biological. God is our legitimate mother and father. They returned to Nazareth and Jesus continued to increase in wisdom.

Joseph taught Jesus how to pray, and how to work. He was a righteous man, but to him, to be a righteous person according to the law was not enough. So he taught Jesus about God’s righteousness and mercy. He taught Jesus to be willing to be empty, so he could be filled and molded by the grace of God’s transforming, and redemptive power. Joseph understood that fatherhood is much more than a mere fact of biological generation. He invested himself in the spiritual and moral formation of Jesus. Joseph’s faith was the foundation of Jesus’ faith and understanding of God, the Father.

Joseph also taught his son the trade of carpentry, and passed on to Jesus the values required to become a good carpenter. These values would serve him well in his later ministry, a ministry he intended to start just a few years later. But sadly, Joseph died, and Jesus, being the oldest child, became the new head of the family. During these years, he grew in stature and favor with God and in the eyes of other people. And when his youngest siblings had become of age, Jesus left his family to begin his ministry.

Jesus would eventually come to teach his disciples how to pray, and when he began that prayer by saying, “Our Father in heaven…” Jesus introduced to the disciples a new name for God, which was “Abba”. When Jesus called God “Abba”, he was reflecting his relationship with Joseph. When Jesus told the story of the prodigal son, it was a reflection of Joseph, who taught his son about a righteousness that would manifest itself by giving himself in love for others.

In Jesus, his disciples would come to witness the human and the divine coexisting. He would become the model, the exemplar, the promise, and the guarantee for which the world had long waited. He would come to be the savior of the world by giving himself in love to bring us out of error into truth, out of sin into righteousness, and out of death into life. Little did Joseph know that his son would come to embrace that love and mercy expressed through his crucifixion, and revealed in his resurrection. The righteousness Joseph taught his son would not protect him from the blows and wounds of human injustice and bigotry, but it would free him to face such destructive forces wrapped in the graceful love of the living God he called “Abba”.

Saint Joseph, most just, most righteous, most loving husband, most obedient, most faithful, and guardian of the world incarnate: pray for us! Amen.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Lent 5 C - Mar 13, 2016

Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, NY
Br. Peter Rostron, OHC
Lent 5 C - Sunday, March 13, 2016

Isaiah 43:16-21
Philippians 3:4b-14
John 12:1-8

Anointing Jesus' feet
In today’s gospel reading, John brings us in to a dinner hosted by Jesus’s friends, Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. There may have been others present, but John focuses on just the three hosts and Judas, and their interactions with Jesus. The tone of the story is quite intimate. Mary, in letting her hair down, is breaking a social norm that women in public should keep their hair up; she is doing something she would only do in the presence of family or close friends. And Jesus’s response to Judas - “Leave her alone” - is raw and emotional. The story is given added richness by being set just before Jesus’s final entry into Jerusalem and his crucifixion. Mary anointing Jesus’s feet evokes the foot washing Jesus will soon offer his disciples. Mary and Martha as servers at the table hints at roles that will develop in the church around the offering of Holy Communion. The story thus has echoes of both the Last Supper and the Eucharist. And the fragrance of the precious oil filling the house is suggestive of the Holy Spirit that soon would breathe life into the nascent Church, and which resonates even to this very moment in the incense that fills this church.

So, John has created for us a very compelling image of Christian community that was to come. He gives us four specific portraits, four prototypes in a sense, of how a member of the Christian community might relate to Jesus. Lazarus just days earlier had lost his life and was raised from the dead by Jesus. He has experienced the resurrection that awaits each of us as faithful Christians. He has the most intimate possible relationship with Christ and is living with the full realization of what it means to be a member of Christ’s body. Then there is Martha, a servant, practical, faithful, who values order and the fulfillment of obligations. We met her in Luke’s gospel as the dutiful one who was most concerned that her home was clean and orderly and that her guests were cared for, and in this story we are told simply that she served. This is an admirable role, one that we see many places in the Bible, such as with Peter’s mother-in-law, who, upon being healed, immediately began to serve. It is certainly not a bad role, but by itself it is not a fulfilling one. There is a missing piece, and that is what we see in Mary, who sets aside all distractions and obligations in order to be fully present to Jesus. She is risk-taking, boundary-pushing, someone we might wish to be like. She alone recognizes and reveres the divinity of Jesus. And finally, there is Judas, sinful, separated from God, who will betray Jesus, who most values wealth and position and safety within the power structure of his day. He is blind to the deep significance of the precious oil and instead sees only an opportunity for selfish gain.

As I read and re-read this story, I found myself wondering, Who am I at this intimate table? Who are you? Am I more like Martha, who principally values her duty and her service in community? Or like Mary, in her extravagant devotion to, and love for, Jesus, who is willing to use rather than cling to the valuable perfume? And what about Judas? His extreme actions make him easy to vilify and dismiss, but all of us are fully capable of feelings of greed or of committing an act of betrayal. And at the opposite extreme we have Lazarus, whom we can only wait with patience and faith to be like. Obviously, none of us is exactly like any of these four. We are each our own unique person. So it might be worthwhile instead to think of how we each could fall somewhere on a scale between Judas at one end and Lazarus at the other. A new question, echoing Paul’s words, might be, “To what extent am I willing and able to suffer the loss of all things in order to know Christ?” Judas is not willing to give up anything; in fact he would rather destroy in order to hold on to what he has and gain even more. Martha - reluctantly perhaps - gives up things she might enjoy or that might be right for her in order to care for others. Mary willingly sets aside all things in order to simply be with Jesus. And Lazarus, at the far end of the spectrum, beckons us toward the reward of resurrection in Christ that can only come from letting go of everything, including one’s own life.

What Lazarus experienced is ultimately what Paul is yearning for. “I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him… I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection.” Paul and Lazarus are on to something, but what they have experienced or are seeking strikes me as quite beyond my reach. Perhaps we could posit a few markers, in the form of questions, that might be helpful in locating ourselves on the scale I proposed and that would guide us in the direction of Lazarus and Paul. “To what extent am I able to give up my own will, or let go of my own ego, or humble myself, in order to better know Christ and be Christ in the world?” “What spiritual practices can help me on my journey?” “What acts of compassion can I offer to those in need?” “What material stance can I take in the world that promotes greater respect for the poor and disenfranchised, and for the Earth?” There are likely many other questions you could come up with that might be helpful. And there are certainly many different choices of lifestyle and attitude that will either promote, or hinder, one’s movement on this scale toward fullness in Christ.

For instance, I have chosen to live in a monastery. Yet, I have found that living in a monastery does not magically eliminate all the problems and temptations of everyday life. I still cling to some of the same things or ways of being as I did before. Certain behaviors, of my own or of others, still bug me. It turns out that a commitment to let go and to turn one’s will over to Christ is no easier here than anyplace else. One thing I do have here is a space that is particularly conducive to prayer, that invites a contemplative attitude, and that offers scripture read and chanted multiple times each day, all of which are valuable components of a life that moves toward Christ. In fact, it was not long after I first arrived at the monastery that I heard today’s passage from Paul’s letter to the Philippians read by Br. Bernard at Matins. I remember it vividly. I left and sat in my cell in tears afterward. This passage so moved me that I later chose it as the New Testament reading at my First Profession. It is why I came here, to attempt to suffer the loss of all things in order to live fully into the love of Jesus Christ. But, it hasn’t happened yet, and I understand more clearly as time goes on that it will take a lifetime of work here, just as it would outside the monastery. All of you and all of the brothers here are on the same journey - the circumstances are just a little different. Martha, Mary, Judas, Lazarus, and Paul were on the same journey - the circumstances were just a little different. All of our individual circumstances are unique. Still, no matter where you live, or who you are, or how far along your are on your journey, you can immerse yourself in scripture, have a rich prayer life, and live with a contemplative attitude. You can be attentive to answering key questions that will help you locate yourself along the way. And you can ponder how Martha, Mary, Judas, and Lazarus sat with Jesus.

So, let us keep making our way closer to Christ. Let us learn from each other and from Jesus’s friends - from what we and they have done well, and from where we and they have gone astray. And, like Paul, let us press on to know Christ and the power of his resurrection.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Lent 4 C - Mar 6, 2016

Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, NY
Br. José Folgueira, OHC
Lent 4 C - Sunday, March 6, 2016

Joshua 5:9-12
2 Corinthians 5:16-21
Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32

All is forgiven                                                                                                    

The Prodigal Son - Rembrandt
Ernest Hemingway wrote a short story called “The Capital of the World.”  In it, he told the story of a father an his teenage son who were estranged from one another. The story is set in Madrid, the son’s name was Paco. Spain is full of boys named Paco, a nickname for Francisco. He had wronged his father, as a result, in his shame, he had run from home. In the story, the father searched all over

Spain for Paco to restore their relationship. Finally, in the city of Madrid, in a last desperate attempt to find his son, the father placed and ad in the personal column of the local newspaper. The add read: “Paco meet me at the Hotel Montana, noon Tuesday. All is forgiven. Papa.”

The father prayed that the boy would see the ad; and then maybe, Paco would come to the Hotel Montana. On Tuesday, at noon, the father arrived at the hotel. When he did, he could not believe his eyes.

The police had been called out in an attempt to keep order among eight hundred young boys. It turned out that each one of them was named Paco, they were looking an opportunity to go home to their father and find forgiveness in front of the Hotel Montana.

Eight hundred boys named Paco had read the ad in the        newspaper and hoped it was for them. Eight hundred Pacos had come to receive the forgiveness they so desperately desired.

This story illustrates the great truth that Jesus was driving at today’s gospel, the Parable of the Prodigal Son. The Father has not given up on us. He never gives up on us. He longs day and night for us to come home. And if and when we do, He is overjoyed. He love us. He forgive us. He restores us.

The relationship between the prodigal son and the father is much of what this parable focuses on. And we can see why Jesus shared this parable. He had been accused by the Pharisees and teachers of the law of welcoming sinners and eating with them. He had been eating with the prodigals of society. But Jesus had to remind the Pharisees that He came to find what was lost, to heal what was sick.

The tax collectors and sinners fit the picture of the prodigal son of the story. Whether or not they purposefully squandered their inheritance as God’s children, they recognized that forgiveness was not about them. They knew that their way was not the way God wanted them to live. They need Jesus, and Jesus was there for them.

Forgiveness is not about the son. The son doesn’t come home expecting to receive forgiveness. Forgiveness is not about the father either. The father isn’t thinking about himself when it comes to forgiveness, he is thinking about his son. Forgiveness is not about the obedient son either.

His envy over his prodigal brother blinded his need for forgiveness. And just as forgiveness is not about any of the characters in the parable, the rest of the Bible shows that forgiveness is not about me either.

As that prodigal son, we found ourselves in the same state as the tax collectors and sinners, realizing our wicked ways, and laying ourselves at the mercy of God. But even this is not what forgiveness is about. Forgiveness is not about us, for when we were still a long way off, God saw us, He ran to us, He forgives us, he does not bring our sin up anymore, we are once again children.

The Spirit of of God taught me how everything that is happening to me whether inside or outside, which means my life as a whole, is happening to Him not me. The injustices of this life or how people treat me, it is always directed to Him.

By the same token, everything you and I think about someone else, whether it is a simple murmur, insult or  that we repeatedly hurt someone, it is directed to Him not the person. No matter how deserving the other person is, somehow He is the one that we hurt.

There is a quote that is true and real, from Oswald Chamber, who was an early twentieth-century Scottish Baptist, by the way I get to know about his writings thanks to our beloved Br. Andrew, it says: “No matter what your circumstances may be, don’t try to shield yourself from things God is bringing into your life. We have the idea sometimes that we ought to shield ourselves from some of circumstances; we have to see that we face them abiding continually with Him in His temptations. They are His temptations, they are not temptations to us, but to the Son of God in us.”

Forgiveness is only found in that perfect life and death of our Lord Jesus Christ, forgiveness is not about me.

Forgiveness doesn’t ask anything in return. But the result of God’s forgiveness in me is then reflected in others. Sometimes when we are given an opportunity to forgive, we might act more like the older brother than the father, trying to see what we can get for our forgiving of others. Our forgiveness should not be conditional, because once again, forgiveness is not about me. We are reminded of the words in the Lord’s prayer, “forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.”

For my Lenten reading this year, a friend pass me a gem of a book “Love Alone Is Credible” by Hans Urs Von Balthasar. Towards the end of the book these words jumped off the page. So I leave with these words:

“Once a person learns to read the signs of love and thus to believe it, loves leads him into the open field wherein he himself can love.

“If the prodigal son had not believed that the father’s love was already there waiting for him, he would not have been able to make the journey home, even if his father’s love welcomes him in a way he never would have dream of.”

The decisive thing is that the sinner has heard of the love that could be, and really is, there for him, he is not the one who has to bring himself into line with God; God has always already seen in him the loveless sinner, a beloved child and has looked upon him and conferred dignity upon him in the light of this love.”