I fix my eyes on the Cross, the Cross of my salvation. I follow the melodies of the chant--The Old Rugged Cross, as I kiss the feet of my Savior hanging on the wood of the Cross.
The kiss comes with the freshness of a memory, Biblical memory. It is a memory handed down from the generation of the apostles to us, present-day disciples, in communion with millions of people before us, as well as numerous yet to be born.
I embrace the Cross because my Savior embraced it for me. Without the Savior, it would only mean despair and doom. With my Savior, the Cross is salvation’s route.
The Cross of my Lord stirs in my heart holy sentiments of joy. The unfortunate fall (Original Sin) did not keep me down forever, in pain and sinful misery. Instead, with the Cross of Christ and the Resurrection, the fall is overcome. We can now chant the song of a happy and hope-filled fall, grace for all and me. By Christ has the tide been turned.
The Cross of my Savior is my Cross too. In it, I find healing, and by it, my hope is restored when I'm weak; when I fall and am broken, down and dejected.
I look at the Cross to see the Holy face of my Lord. As I fix my gaze on the Cross, I see myself inside the loving eyes of my Savior, his retina reflecting purest rays of tender love and mercy.
I see that face which beheld Mary Magdalene. I behold the face which looked at a woman condemned to die for her sins with unutterable tenderness. I can hear from the groans the oracle of divine justification for me: "Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more. You are healed."
I gaze on the Cross. Upon it, I see the heart pierced with a lance and the blood and water gushing with the aroma of grace, mercy, and justification. I can see the purity and can perceive the fragrance. Love for love. Grace for grace. Mercy for mercy.
I gaze on the Cross, and I see myself as I'm seen and loved by God, wholly disrobed of all attachment, and surrendering to the ultimate hands of the Heavenly Father.
I embrace the Cross because, with it, I realize I am dust. With it, I know I am saved. The crown is assured.
I look upon the Crucified One and see the pains of human frailty. I observe the doubts of the world. I notice the pessimism of naysayers, the defamation of unbelief, the mockery of skeptics, and the feebleness of the lukewarm and weak. All embraced by the Savior who restores the seed of God in all who open their hearts to him. There is healing plus restoration too.
I embrace the Cross because, without it, Resurrection would have been a farce.
I gaze on the Cross since with it, I know for sure, my Savior is here, and my Redeemer is alive. The paradox of the Cross is my joy.
I embrace the Cross. I honor it. I kiss it.
I pray that the grace of the Good Friday may transform all the crosses of your life and mine, making them a source of blessing. Amen.
Jesus crucified for the love of me, give me the grace to carry the Cross for the love of thee, and the love of my neighbor. Amen
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Photo by Matías Medina, copyright Cathopic]
Grace to you!
We come to the last week of our journey through Lent. It is the holiest week in our Christian tradition. Hence it is called Holy Week. Today, Palm Sunday sets the tone for the rest of the week.
Palm Sunday is the commemoration of the triumphant entry of the Lord Jesus into Jerusalem. During that entry, people trooped in large numbers, holding palms in their hands welcoming Jesus to the city, singing "Hosanna, Hosanna, the son of David" (cf. Mt 21:9; Lk 19:37-39). This last public event of Jesus before his arrest was the only time he did not stop people from the public proclamation of his glory. It speaks to us about many other things.
First, it shows how transitory is earthly glory. No sooner had the crowd praised Jesus than they turned against him. In part because their minds were fixed on materialistic, temporal benefits. Hence, when Jesus showed his kingdom was not of this world, they would no longer accept him.
The glory of this world does not endure. Those who want to journey with the Lord must realize this truth. Try as we may, we cannot immortalize our name on earthly things. A day will come. A time will arise when the enduring value will be determined. At that moment, nothing earthly will last. If nothing else, the current Coronavirus pandemic and our unbearable pain and looses, have shown us how uncertain are earthly things. Enduring value is much more spiritual. So also lasting glory lives beyond tangible things.
Second, in our spiritual life, we learn the lesson of glory-triad. We move from glory to the cross and back to glory. The movement from temporal glory minus temporal cross is the movement bereft of ultimate sustainability. We shouldn't be afraid of immersion into the discomforts and sometimes pains of the cross because try as we may, we cannot run away from the cross. If we embrace the cross, make it our friend, we discover and receive the blessings flowing from it. There is life, spiritual strength, from the crossed woods.
Third, we learn from Christ the value of obedience. The prophecy of Isaiah 50:4-7 describes how the Messiah listens and heeds the plan of God. Philippians 2:6-11 situates Christ's disposition in humble obedience. I know obedience is a challenging value in our contemporary world. Nonetheless, it's in obedience to God's will that real victory of the human will is assured. "Speak, Lord, your servant is listening" (1 Sam 3:10). Or "Here I am Lord, I come to do your will" (Heb 10:9), is the best witness of the obedience of faith. Obedience comes with enduring glory.
Fourth, tied to obedience is freedom, the choice for God's will. Our will sometimes can be strong. It's an admirable quality to be firm in our decisions. It is strength of character, a testimony of strong willpower. We often admire people with strong willpower because they bring out the best in human ingenuity. They're bold. They're daring. Many times, they're people of integrity.
Our will leads to glory if it syncs with God's will for us. It is not a repudiation of freedom. Not by any chance. Instead, we see in our will the clarity to pierce the best alternatives and see things in the purity of divinity. When the human will is open to the will of God, it makes choices that flow from its very source. Such decisions are pure and full of blessings.
The choices we make reflect the values we hold dear. Our choices for clothes, homes, cars, colors, etc., reflect our personality. We gravitate towards those. In the will is something which speaks most gently—calling us back to God's will. Do we listen? Do we choose it? Do we allow it to grow into the maturity of choices? We learn from Jesus how to choose the will of God, even when it entails the cross.
Nobody forced Jesus to death. He told us, "Nobody can take my life. I lay it down on my own accord" (Jn 10:18). The choice to offer all, including our life to God, is the purest of the decisions to be made, for the will is in its purest form if it can submit itself to the reign of God. The most healthy choice to make in life is to offer our will to something other than what is convenient. The highest and purest of it all is to surrender our will to God's will. In this choice is glory. It's us being fully alive.
As we begin the Holy Week today, let our main project be how to surrender our will to the will of God so that what pleases God will be what delights us too. By so doing, we become intentional and full participants in the mystery of the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Pray with me: Lord, give me the grace of true discipleship. May your will in my life be a delight. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
[Palm Sunday; Is 50:4-7; Phil 2:6-11; Lk 22:14-23:56]
Grace to you!
If you’ve ever witnessed the depressing reality of pain and other dark experiences of life, Lent could be for you a surprising ray of hope, of courage and strength.
Two realities are tied in Lent—the cross and the glory. It is not only the cross. It is the cross of glory. Surprised that in the fourth week of Lent, the mid of the Lenten journey, we celebrate a day of Joy called Laetare Sunday.
Laetare means rejoice. It is taken from the first line of the introit (an opening psalm/antiphon for Fourth Sunday of Lent Eucharistic celebration) which says, “Laetare Jerusalem…”—"Rejoice Jerusalem…” (Is 66:10-11). We rejoice because we know that locked in the spectacle of the cross is the radiance of glory.
The beautiful conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus in the Gospel of John, chapter three, gives us an example of this truth. Jesus said to Nicodemus: “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life” (Jn 3:14-15).
Further the Lord says, “For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. He who believes in him is not condemned; he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” (Jn 3: 17-18).
In these two words from the Word of God, Christ, are great lessons. It is the Christ sent from heaven who is lifted up for our victory. Some theologians would see in the “one sent” Divine Revelation, of glory, from above, (what some call a descending Christology). Some theologians will also see in the one lifted up at the crucifixion, so that we can relate to the pains and suffering of the messiah and find salvation, the revelation of glory from below (what some call an ascending Christology).
Whether from above or from below, in Christ is our victory. He comes so we can be lifted to glory. He is lifted on the Cross so that our wounds are healed. “By his wounds we are healed” (Is 53:5).
Nicodemus, a teacher of the Law and a member of the Jerusalem Sanhedrin, comes to Jesus, the Word of God, for answers to his quest for salvation. He acknowledges that there is something unique about Jesus, because, as he says: “no one can do these signs that you do, unless God is with him” (Jn 3:2).
Nicodemus is indeed an honest man. He realizes that his education alone is insufficient to grasp the true meaning of life and salvation. Whatever human skills we’ve acquired are not close to true victory, salvation. He was honestly searching for answers to his deep concerns regarding salvation. His name, Nicodemus, though of Greek root, which means “the victory people” or “the people’s victory” strikes me as a I go through the profound words the Lord speaks to him.
There is something in names. Sometimes, they are parallels to events or contexts and reveal so much.
If one were to see in the name of Nicodemus something to reflect on, it could read like this: The Lord shows the way of victory and grants victory to anyone who desires it. Victory is being born again, immersion into Christ, through baptism. It’s being configured into the identity of the Trinity.
The Son of Man (Christ) is the fulfilment of the symbol of Moses lifting up the serpent in the Old Testament, so that anyone beaten by the venom of evil could look up to the one who is crucified, Christ, and be saved.
The one, the Son, who is lifted up for our salvation, is the one God sent from heaven to us, not to condemn the world but “that the world might be saved through him” (Jn 3:17).
All these because of the love of God: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (Jn 3:16).
Here we have it: Victory is being born in God. It’s looking up in faith to the one on the Cross. Life in the one crucified is victory. Faith is access to this life.
Praying that during this fourth week of Lent, we look up to the Crucified Christ in faith; knowing that the one on the wood of the cross, is our glory. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Fourth Week of Lent B: 2 Chronicles 36:14-16, 19-23; Ephesians 2:6-10; John 3:14-21]
Grace to you!
Reaching spiritual heights entails making tough choices. Getting to the height of any human endeavor for that matter doesn’t come by on the sofa of easy picks. Otherwise, hard work wouldn’t have any value and loafers would have a field day.
The best creativities are accomplished through perspiration, not inspiration. Inspiration opens our eyes to see. Perspiration, hard work, which is another way of saying sacrificing something, makes us reach the goal of what we’ve been inspired to see.
Sometimes in our faith life, we are divided between what we love the most and what God expects from us. Many times, our faith is challenged. Our ultimate loyalty is tested.
God made a promise to Abraham (Gen 12). He was inspired to see and hear. One of the promises, the most consoling as it may seem in the eyes of Abraham, was the birth of his son Isaac. Isaac was the son of divine promise.
But Abraham had to get to work through rigors of sacrificial choices before the ultimate promise, the perfection of his faith, would come to pass. Abraham was ready for the sacrifice it takes. He, willingly, was ready to offer back to God what God had given. He didn’t hold back anything. He was ready to give it away; not to waste, but to whom all glory belongs (Gen 22).
In this, Abraham became perfected in the graciousness of God the Father who gave His Son, Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, to be the sacrificial lamb of our redemption. Abraham was sharing a quality which belongs to God. He has become a special friend of God. Hence, his faith is perfected.
As the Church makes us understand, the story of Abraham and the test to sacrifice Isaac prefigures God the Father sending the Son, Jesus Christ, into the world for our salvation. It was a symbol of what God did for us in Christ. God’s love was evident as He didn’t spare His Son; instead He offered him for us all (Rm 8:32).
You know that saying: “If you love something, give it away.” Give it away so it thrives and reaches to many. Offer something, the time and sacrifices. God gives the best. God gives everything, including Himself, so we can, for instance, consume him at the Eucharist. Look around and see; all that God has given is the best from the fountain of life and blessings.
There is an assurance in the glory to come when we model our lives God’s way. When Jesus took Peter, James and John up to the mountain where he transfigured in their eyes (Mk 9:2-10), he wanted them to have a glimpse of what is to come. The coming glory reassures us that the way of the cross, sacrifices, perspiration and the trails that come because of one’s faith are not in vein. Glory is on the horizon.
In this second week of Lent, we offer something precious to God. We give something dear to us away for some cause, for someone, so the world will be a better place. We offer food and drink so the hungry could be fed. We offer our advice, wisdom and knowledge so the ignorant could be informed and the depressed would be encouraged.
We offer our prayers for those who need it the most. We offer our time and presence for that lonely and cold heart. We offer the warmth of our love so the unloved could feel the love of God. We offer little things, as well as those things so precious to us, simply because we know that it is in giving that we receive.
Praying that we sacrifice and accept the trials that come from the holy choices we make to follow the Lord with the courage and hope of glory. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Second Sunday of Lent B: Gen 22:1-2, 9A, 10-13, 15-18; Rm 8:31B-34; Mk 9:2-10]
Author and Goal
Father Maurice Emelu PhD., provides a daily blog of reflections based on the Scriptural readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. The goal is to teach, inspire, encourage, and foster healing through the grace of God's word. They are written in a language that is appropriate for a general audience. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration, and developing your thoughts. They may also be useful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.