Tag Archives: Good Friday

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture
pierced-for-love

October 23: Pierced for Love

‘Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her.’ (Eph. 5:22)

I will admit: facing my own brokenness in the Church and offering that vulnerability to fellow congregants is not always easy. I would prefer to pose ‘resurrected’, my wounds NOT visible. But the huge Crucifix that looms large over my parish sanctuary demands otherwise. He gave all to us, and so must we, one to another. In truth, His offering–a broken body and shed blood–is the very basis for our being a people. Through the Cross, Jesus pledges Himself to us forever. That pledge liberates our freedom to love one another.

I was greatly helped by Dr. Grant Pitre’s book ‘Jesus the Bridegroom.’ In it, Pitre chronicles bridal imagery throughout Scripture, anchors it in Hebrew tradition, and emphasizes St. John’s use of Jesus the Bridegroom; the Church, His bride. Startlingly, Pitre argues that God’s spousal love for us is most pointedly revealed at Calvary. His piercing is the culmination of God’s all-consuming desire to unite Himself to us forever. On Good Friday, Jesus married us.

Stay with me. Pitre claims that ‘Jesus’ wedding day is the day of His death, the day of His Crucifixion…’ St. Paul’s reference to the Church being prepared and washed and presented to Christ (Eph. 5) is rooted in ‘the ancient Jewish bridal bath and wedding ceremony.’ That washing had everything to do with the blood and water loosed in His dying. Jesus absolute self-giving on Calvary is His bridal pledge to us, a wedding vow born ‘of a love as strong as death.’ (Song of Sol 8:6)

St. Augustine goes further; he likens Calvary to God’s spousal union with His people. ‘Like a bridegroom Christ went forth from His nuptial chamber…He came to the marriage bed of the Cross and there, ascending it, consummated a marriage…He surrendered Himself to torment for His bride in a communication of love.’ Christopher West quotes St. John Paul ll who sums it up this way: ‘The “sincere gift” contained in the Sacrifice of the Cross gives definitive prominence to the spousal meaning of God’s love.’

When we gaze at Christ Crucified, remember: God loves us deeply, passionately, like a husband who dies to show his wife how much he loves her. Only this Bridegroom lives, His sacrifice signaling the undying love to which He binds Himself to us forever. Lovestruck, might His people respond: ‘We do.’

Please join us as we pray for:

1. Upper Midwest Region, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North and South Dakota, Jean Mersberger – Coordinator: For strength and vision for Jean, for existing groups and for new groups to be established.
2. Foundazione Novae Terrae (www.novaeterrae.eu) Italy: Strength and provision to fight for ‘right to life’ measures throughout Europe.
3. Harrisburg Diocese: Discernment for timing and team of new Living Waters group.

“Courage for Pastor Phil Strout (National Director of Vineyard USA), that he would ensure that the Church becomes a clear fountain of transformation for persons with same-sex attraction!”

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD BLOGS & PRAYER POINTS FOR OCTOBER 23, 24, 25, 26

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Merciful Discipline 5: Hopeful, We Fight for the Dignity and Integrity of Our Priests

This is the fifth post of six in the Merciful Discipline Series. A complete list of available posts will be at the end of each article as they are made available.

Merciful Discipline 5: Hopeful, We Fight for the Dignity and Integrity of Our Priests

The fine work and selfless dedication of the great majority of priests should not be obscured by the transgressions of some. – Pope Benedict

I will raise up for Myself a faithful priest who will do what is in My heart and mind, and his house will be firmly established. (1 Samuel 2:15)

As a new Catholic, I have a fresh appreciation for the honorable, difficult office of the priest. I rely upon three priests in my parish for daily Mass and confession; each has exemplified Jesus in a way that puts me to shame. Decades of involvement in the evangelical church have not prepared me for the spirit of sacrifice and humility that I see in these three men. I have grown in virtue through their service to Jesus. As I seek to honor Christ, I am committed to honor them, His priests.

The essential role of the Roman Catholic priest plays in the life of each congregant grants us a powerful opportunity. We who benefit from his offering can fight for his dignity, his renewal and his integrity. How? We can prayerfully encourage him and verbally champion him amid the scorn now associated with his office due to the perversion of a few.

We must not mimic the world and bite the hand that feeds us. We uphold him in gratitude and ask for eyes to see the phantom hand that slaps him with each new exposure of priestly abuse. Well over 96% of priests have clean hearts and hands. Might our honor of them be their balm?

Out of these scandals, the entire Church, beginning with her priests, can avoid the pitfalls that made a handful of priests deadly to their sheep. And we the sheep have a role to play in understanding these vulnerabilities and prayerfully empowering our priests to avoid them.

The John Jay Report (‘The Causes and Context of the Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the USA from 1950-2010’) cites the sexual revolution—the moral and socio-cultural quake that occurred in the sixties and seventies, as the driving influence that multiplied the number of sexual abuses by priests in that time period. A moral ozone layer burned off and all of us, including priests, experienced a new nakedness. That ‘unveiling’ was not adequately countered by Catholic seminaries in their choice of candidates and in the sexual formation needed to prepare priests for the moral challenges ahead.

Especially hard hit were priests who suffered from poor social adjustment and who lacked the capacity to form adequate bonds with colleagues. Already isolated, these priests would tend to pursue teenagers—targets who were sexually ‘mature’ but emotionally undemanding.

Add to this the easy access to virtual pornography that an isolated priest might employ to stoke unattended, unacknowledged desires with any false image he chooses.

Cowardly, evil, worthy of the indignation Cardinal Ratzinger expressed in his pre-papal meditation for Good Friday 2005 when he lamented: ‘How much filth there is in the Church, and even those in the priesthood who ought to belong entirely to Him!’

We also must seek to understand these vulnerabilities. Priests who abuse are essentially disintegrated, having never done the hard work of being reconciled to their sexual selves. That requires hard work for a celibate, and for those mentoring him. To know one’s desires and needs and to work them out fruitfully with others while remaining pure: that is chastity. And it is an expression of integrity that we must insist on for our priests.

We must pray and prod for priestly training in self-awareness, mutual confession, and healthy, transparent friendship. That lines up with Benedict’s commitment. In 2008, addressing the US Church in light of the abuse crisis, he said: ‘We [the Vatican] will do all that is possible in the education of seminarians for a deep spiritual, human, and intellectual formation for the students. Only solid persons can be admitted to the priesthood and only persons with a deep personal life in Christ…’

Out of such training, in an increasingly disintegrated world, let us pray that St. Paul’s words may be exemplified by our priests as they stand “blameless and pure, children of God in a crooked and perverse generation, in which they shine like stars in the universe as they hold out the Word of life.” (Phil. 2: 15, 16)

O my Jesus, I beg You on behalf of the whole Church, give us holy priests. You Yourself, maintain them in holiness. O Divine and Great High Priest, may the power of Your Mercy accompany them everywhere and protect them from the devil’s traps and snares which are continuously set for the souls of priests. May the power of Your Mercy, O Lord, shatter and bring to naught all that might tarnish the sanctity of priests, for You can do all things. (1052) St. Faustina

It is more important to have good priests than to have many priests. – Pope Benedict

MORE:

The Merciful Discipline Series of Posts (updated with each new post as they become available):

 

Unholy Week? Crucifying Christ Afresh through ‘ Gay Marriage ’

On the week that centers on Christ Crucified for millions around the globe, the USA has acted in a most unholy manner. Palm Sunday to Good Friday was marked by daily advances of ‘gay marriage’ forces in our land. Our Bridegroom King, whose very image is manifest in male and female, and who is returning for a Bride, spotless and true, is being crucified afresh.

Consider this:

I read on Palm Sunday that Iowa’s unanimous Supreme Court decision to legalize ‘gay marriage’ deliberately excluded any ‘religious’ interference. According to the justice who wrote the Iowa decision, the Judeo-Christian structures on which our entire judicial system is built should no longer inform marriage. Left in the hands of secular servants, marriage mutates.
We crucify Christ afresh.

On Monday, Rick Warren, arguably the most influential Christian leader in the USA, said on national TV that he never really supported a ban on ‘gay marriage’ in CA. (He clearly had and did.) He claims that he called all of his gay friends and apologized for any perceived support of the ban, underscoring that he has ‘never been and never will be an anti-gay marriage activist.’ Deceiving, confusing, political back-pedaling: Warren is rewriting history and has bought the lie that to support marriage is ‘ant-gay’. And he is backing off entirely from standing for marriage when it is most in peril.
We crucify Christ afresh.

On Tuesday, Vermont became the first state in the union to allow same-sex marriage through legislative action instead of a court ruling. That empowers nine other legislatures that are considering marriage measures this year, including New York, New Jersey, Maine and New Hampshire. Activists in New England are unashamed to admit that they are choosing states where organized religious opposition is the weakest. We are now aware and without excuse: there is a systematic, targeted effort to establish a same-sex marriage stronghold in the Northeast.
We crucify Christ afresh.

On Wednesday, I read of Obama’s appointment of a gay political activist and ‘Christian’ to his advisory board for ‘Faith-based Partnerships.’ The appointee, Harry Knox, was previously head of Religion and Faith for the biggest gay advocacy group in the nation (the Human Rights Campaign), and has been instrumental in reinterpreting scripture in a gay-affirming manner for churches throughout the USA.
We crucify Christ afresh.

By Maundy Thursday, I was beat up. I needed my feet washed from the idolatrous ground of my nation; I was hungry for Jesus and I partook of Him heartily at the communion table that night.

As we gathered for Good Friday as a church, I looked around the body and saw Gideon’s army, a humble band of men and women whom the Crucified has rescued from the idolatry of this world: husbands and wives, singles, old and young, heterosexually and homosexually broken and yet being made new, ‘an army whose weaknesses are being turned to strength and who are becoming powerful in battle, able to route foreign armies.’ (Heb. 11: 34)

I felt hope. Isn’t that what Good Friday is all about? In the darkest hour, at the time when men extinguish the light, God prepares the most glorious expression of His light. N.T. Wright says: ‘The cross is not the world’s victory over Jesus, but Jesus’ victory over the world.’

Jesus death is the ground on which resurrection power is manifest. So is our surrender to His purposes. Let man’s efforts to crucify Christ afresh through ‘gay marriage’ have its perfect work. Raise from the dead a Gideon’s army, O God. Let a repentant, empowered people arise.

Let us arise out of fear or intimidation of the dark powers. Let us hold fast to Him as the One who makes a way for us to make Him known. We do so by upholding His image in humanity and by refusing all efforts, however winsome, to distort that image.

Marriage matters. It represents Christ on earth more clearly than any other relationship. While we have the light, let us live with integrity what it means to bear His image and insist on its clear representation in the land. We cannot afford to be unclear or uncommitted towards marriage in this perilous hour.

We do so in and through Him, His resurrection power rooted in our very weakness. May we emerge out of this dismal winter of ‘gay marriage’ advances and into the spring of upholding God’s design for all. Consider man for woman, woman for man—the awesome dance of masculine strength and feminine beauty. It’s worth fighting for.

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