Sunday, March 31, 2019

Prodigal Son - Fourth Sunday of Lent

The Cross of Christ Unites. . . God’s Mercy and Love


 From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once regarded Christ from a human point of view, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself. . . 2 CORINTHIANS 5:16–18

 This man receives sinners and eats with them. LUKE 15: 2 

I met Frank the first time I visited a Catholic seminary. He stood out from the rest of the men training for the priesthood: He radiated an air of being sure of himself. Of all the guys that I met on that two-day visit, he was the only one who seemed really sure of what he was doing there. I mentioned this to Frank as I was getting ready to leave and it was then that he told me something that has stuck with me from that moment on. Frank was completing his seventh of the eight years of study required for those in training for the priesthood. Reflecting back on those years and the people that he had met over that period of time, he said, “I’ve met some of the greatest saints and greatest sinners here. I’ve also learned that most of the time it is hard to tell which are which.”  I thought to myself, Frank is going to make a great priest.

 But a week after I met him, he left the seminary. There were rumors that a young woman who worked in the kitchen at the seminary refectory was pregnant with his child. Instead of being ordained a priest, he was married during what would have been his eighth year in the seminary.

Judge Not 

It is clear from even a casual reading of the gospels that Jesus was judged incessantly: by his family, his disciples, the scribes, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Greeks, and the Romans. Some thought Jesus was crazy, some thought him a prophet, some thought him an agitator, some hoped he would be a political liberator or a king; only a select few recognized him as the Son of God. He himself said that people called him a drunkard and a glutton. We need look no further than the inability of the people who encountered Jesus in the flesh to see who he really was, to understand why we shouldn’t judge. . .ever.

You might think Frank misled me with his confidence and insight; nothing could be further from the truth. I didn’t know then, and I don’t know now if he was a saint or a sinner. Neither do you. You may judge him, saying, “Well, he obviously committed a sin by getting the young woman pregnant.” But what if Frank wasn’t the man responsible for her pregnancy? What if he had simply decided to make a home for her and her child after the child’s father abandoned the young woman? What if he sacrificed his vocation for the sake of this child? Why, he could be a great saint, a modern St. Joseph!

 That is why Frank’s comment has stuck with me for these many years: We just don’t know. We do not know the real truth about others, and sometimes we don’t even know the truth about ourselves.


A Friend of Sinners 



One of the most famous parables of Jesus is that of the Prodigal Son. The son demands his inheritance, then goes off and blows it all. He doesn’t come to his senses until he is working in a pigsty. Jesus tells this parable when he is in the process of being judged as someone who consorts with sinners. The “punch line” of the parable hits home for all of us prodigals: Those who are most likely to come to their senses are those who have experienced the emptiness of a life apart from God. The elder sons really don’t see any reason to party; they haven’t come to their senses yet. Who is the greatest sinner in the parable of the Prodigal Son? Could it be the older brother, who is angry that his ungrateful little brother had come home? Often we resent this; we identify more with the elder brother than with the younger. In fact, when I’ve spoken on this parable it has often angered someone: Someone in their family, like the Prodigal Son, has taken the family’s money, only to come back penniless and in search of more.

Ironically, some Scripture scholars think that in the parable of the Prodigal Son, Jesus is the son who takes the inheritance of the Father—his divine mercy and love—and squanders it on sinners! In the end, the Father is pleased. Once you’ve heard this way of looking at the parable, it’s hard to see it in any other way. Yes, God’s mercy is great; however, to experience it fully always involves a bit of a crucifixion on our part. Our natural  human way of looking at things is invariably fallible and has to die. For some of us, that means we’re not so bad that God can’t forgive us; for others, it means we’re not so good that we don’t need God’s mercy. Most of us are incapable of true objectivity; we have no way of knowing how good we really are or even how bad we are. The cross unites God’s love and mercy in us, liberating us to place our trust in him.

 St. Paul said, “But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. I do not even judge myself. I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me,” (1 Corinthians 4:3–4). This is trust. It is why sinners flocked to the Lord when he walked the earth, and it is why we sinners flock to Mass, where the Lord feeds us with his Body and Blood. St. Paul says that anyone in Christ is a new creation. Being in Christ is the key. We hide in Christ. We dwell in Christ. He is our life, our hope, and our salvation. Divine Mercy provides the perfect anecdote to the poison of sin, “Jesus, I Trust in Thee!” Not in riches, not in the ways of the world, not in my judgments, but in Jesus. Only in God will our souls be at rest.


The Power of the Cross by Michael Dubruiel is a book well-suited to daily reading during Lent. The book is available here in pdf version. Daily excerpts will be reprinted in this space during Lent.


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Saturday, March 30, 2019

Daily Lent Meditation


Jesus said to Nicodemus:“Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have
eternal life.”For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.For
God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed
in the name of the only Son of God.And this is the verdict,that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light,because their works were
evil.For everyone who does wicked things hates the lightand does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed.But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.


(Image from the ceiling of the Gesu in Rome of souls repelled by the name of Jesus and the Light plunging downward to their damnation)

Reflection


Since I'm fresh back from Rome, I cannot read this Sunday's Gospel without thinking of the ceiling of the Gesu in Rome. It is the triumph of the name of Jesus and it plays on the contrast between light and darkness...those who move toward the name are almost lost in the light, while those repelled by the name are in darkness and seem to be plunging downward and about to crash on those looking upward (one of the best 3-D images I've ever witnessed). And of course this image immediately impacts you the viewer..."am I drawn toward the name of Jesus or repelled by it"...now we all immediately might put ourselves in the "drawn towards" category, but don't be so quick to judge, but rather ask yourself "am I willing to die to myself and glorify the name of Jesus?"
Do I prefer the light that Jesus brings to the darkness of my intellect or do I prefer my thoughts to Jesus' teaching in the Gospel?

One of the best homilies I ever heard was on this Gospel and it also was one of the shortest homilies I ever heard. It was given by an old Jesuit in his 90's who read the Gospel in a halting voice and then preached these words in a tearful voice:

"'This is the judgment, the light came into the world but men preferred darkness.' What a tragedy!"

His simple "What a tragedy" gave me pause to think about the gravity of this choice and years later having witnessed the mother church of the Jesuits I can't help but think when he gave the homily that the image of the Gesu ceiling was in the back of his mind and those plunging souls falling to their own damnation because of their preference to darkness.

Last night I was reading a passage from a book on Monastic Practices, I believe written by a Cistercian and the passage was specifically about Vigils and keeping watch in the night. The monk talked about the deeds of darkness and how monks are called to watch and pray specifically for the Lord's coming in the midst of the night for all of those who may be plunging at that moment into the deeper darkness. Who knows how many souls have been saved because in some monastery at that "hour of darkness" monks were "watching and praying" per the Lord's command and light broke through and drew a soul toward the Name?

Michael Dubruiel, 2006

Friday, March 29, 2019

Friday Stations of the Cross


In 1991, Pope John Paul II introduced a new Bible-based interpretation of the Stations of the Cross. This devotional guide invites readers to prayerfully walk in solidarity with Jesus on his agonizing way of the cross—from his last torturous moments in the Garden of Gethsemane to his death and burial.

Now with full-color station images from previously unpublished paintings by Michael O'Brien, this booklet creates an ideal resource for individual or group devotional use, particularly during the Lenten season.

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Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Daily Lent Meditation

The Cross of Christ Transforms. . . Law and Love 

Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in one sentence, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. ROMANS 13:8–10

 “Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. MATTHEW 5:17–18

 In Fort Myers, Florida, at the end of a beautiful street lined on either side with majestic royal palms is a small neon sign. It looks out of place; it is in front of home in a residential area. The simple sign is lit with green letters: GOD IS LOVE. The first time I saw this sign, I was visiting a classmate who lived next door to this home. “Is there a church here?” I asked. “No.” “Why is the sign there, then?”

He told me that the family who had lived in the house for the first half of the twentieth century had only one child, a boy. When World War II started, the boy was drafted into the military and soon was fighting in Europe. Back home in Fort Myers the man and his wife prayed constantly, asking God to protect their son and bring him back safely. Tragically, their son was killed in the war. Shortly after the young man’s body had been returned for burial, the father erected the sign in front of their home.

The next day as I was making my way back home, I passed the sign again: GOD IS LOVE. Why had that father erected the sign, when his prayer had not been answered as he had hoped? Had the man erected the sign in anger? Had he put it up to mock the love that God was supposed to have for us? I thought of other families I had known who had suffered similar losses, of parents who came home one day to find their child had been killed in an accident. Under such circumstances, I couldn’t imagine anyone erecting a sign with the proclamation GOD IS LOVE. The sign and its story haunted me, reflecting my own internal struggle.

 A week later, a thought struck me: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). That father was not mocking God at all. Rather, he understood in a way that most of us can’t imagine what God had sacrificed, giving an only son so that others might live. Fulfilling God’s Law Jesus said that he had come not to abolish but to fulfill the law and the prophets. On the cross he said, “It is fulfilled” (John  19:30). Jesus said that there was no greater love than to lay one’s life down for a friend. That is exactly what the Son of God did, and what he asks of his followers as well.

St. Paul, who at a glance one might be tempted to think of as someone who was against the “law,” gives us the reason grace has supplanted the “law.” The love of God, which we experience in our lives as grace, flows into us. That love cannot be contained; it is so great that it spills out and must be spent on others. In love—God’s love—the law is fulfilled. The cross of Christ, which is the most eloquent expression of God’s love for us, is also the instrument by which we receive that love: We must die to ourselves so that Christ’s love might live within us. “Love one another,” Jesus commanded. It is a simple message but complex in practice. How should we express that love?


Love is so misused in our day that it almost has ceased to be a good word. Caritas, the Latin word for love, can also be translated as “charity.” In order to restore the true meaning of “love,” perhaps that is the way we should translate it. God showed charity to the world, through his Son. Jesus tells us to have charity to one another as he has had charity on us. The charity that we are to show to one another is not sentimental or self-serving. We do not expect those we love—whether ourselves, our parents, our spouses, or other people—to be allknowing and all-loving. First and foremost, we love other people by not making them “gods.” We honor those we love despite their human weaknesses and failings, always reserving a special place for God, who is the only perfect Being worthy of worship. The rest of us poor slobs deserve a fair amount of charity because we know only a little, and are limited in every conceivable way. So when we fail each other it is to be expected.

 Good Debt 

St. Paul says that the only thing we should owe anyone is love. In our “credit card economy,” such an idea is difficult to imagine, but perhaps that makes us better suited to grasp Paul’s message. We know all about owing others money, but how indebted are we when it comes to love? We should start by looking at how much we love God. The faith of the family that erected the GOD IS LOVE sign is remarkable. Most of us are quick to blame God for the horrible things that happen to us. Yet, if you really believe that God is up there just waiting to “get” you, how can you love such a supreme being? This is not the God Christ revealed to us, the God who suffers with us, who became one of us to rescue us from the powers of evil and destruction. In the Scriptures, death is portrayed as an angel; since death is the result of sin, one might presume a bad angel. The love of God, that is, God’s charity for us, is what rescues our loved ones from death and makes eternal life possible. God rescues us from sin and its destructive power. God can make good out of the evil others do and intend for us. This is why God is worthy of love and why God’s love enables us to love others in ways that would be impossible without God’s love. No matter what happens to us, we know that God is victorious. The psalmist says “O that today you would hearken to his voice! Harden not your hearts” (Psalm 95:7–8).


The Power of the Cross by Michael Dubruiel is a book well-suited to daily reading during Lent. The book is available here in pdf version. Daily excerpts will be reprinted in this space during Lent.


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Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Daily Lent Meditation by Michael Dubruiel

The Cross of Christ Unites. . . Us in the Work We Have to Do 



Then he showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. REVELATION 22:1–2

 Therefore, I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation producing the fruits of it. MATTHEW 21:43 


Dean wanted to be a Trappist monk. While we were in college, he spent many weekends at a Trappist monastery several hours from our school. These were opportunities for both Dean and the monks of the community to consider whether God was leading Dean. Now Trappists are the Marines of monastic life. Until recent times they didn’t even speak much. Those of us who knew Dean well found it rather odd that he would think that God was calling him to be a Trappist. Dean loved to talk. He loved to laugh and play jokes on people. He was the most outgoing person in our college class—in a matter of months he knew everyone in the small town where our college was located.

Fortunately the Trappists figured this out, too, and they told Dean that he didn’t have a vocation to be a Trappist monk. Unfortunately, he didn’t agree with their decision and became very depressed. He felt rejected, but all of us who cared for him were relieved that the monastery had discerned wisely.


Missed Vocations


 Many people end up in the wrong job. It is one of the curses of original sin. “Cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth to you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return from the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:17–19). I believe that one of the ways this plays out is that we are tempted to take on a career or vocation that simply doesn’t match the gifts that God has given to us. As a result, many people find their work a burden, something that does not produce fruit in their lives but rather thorns and thistles.

 Jesus compares his coming to that of a son of a wealthy landowner who is sent to obtain produce that has been harvested on the landowner’s property. The tenants kill the son, so the landowner gives the vineyard to another group of tenants, who are charged with producing fruit in due season. The problem is this: Without some help, under the curse of original sin we are no more likely to produce good fruit than those who came before us. But unlike those who came before Jesus, we are not left to our own devices. Jesus identifies himself as the Vine, us as the branches; our ability to produce good fruit is conditioned upon our being “in Christ.”

Christian artists throughout history have tied the image of Jesus as the Vine with the image of the Tree of Life, which is mentioned both in the first book of the Bible, Genesis, and the last book of the Bible, Revelation. These artists have perceived a connection between Jesus on the tree of the cross and the Eucharist, where Jesus gives us his Body and Blood under the forms of bread and wine (the fruit of the vine)! In the Book of Revelation, the Tree of Life is surrounded on either side by the “river of life,” a reference to Baptism. It is through this river that we die to ourselves and live for Christ. What is this “self” that has to die in order to gain admittance to the Tree of Life? It is the “false” self, the ego that serves false gods.

 What many people never stop to consider is that these false gods can mask themselves as virtuous. This way, it is possible for someone to think he is serving God, when in fact he is really serving some false ideal. How can you tell the difference? A true vocation produces good fruit.

About ten years ago, I had an opportunity to make a thirty-day retreat at the Shrine of the North American Martyrs in upstate New York. The grounds of this shrine were covered with statues of every conceivable saint. Since this was a silent retreat, I found myself thinking a lot about the lives of those saints, even talking to the stone figures at times. (They didn’t talk back, but obviously I wouldn’t make a good Trappist monk either!). As I continued to contemplate their lives, I was struck by the fact that each one was unique: no two saints are alike! Some were extroverts, some were introverts, some were aggressive, some were passive—but they all used the gifts that God had given them in a way that made them remarkable people.

It was clear to those who knew him that my friend Dean had not been not called to be silent monk, withdrawn from the world. Why did he want to be one? He told me once that he felt that in order to be holy; he had to be other than what he was— in his case, that meant being like a monk. Many, many people have been tempted to bury their talents in the name of religion. However, we all are the vineyards planted by God. Throughout our lives God sends servants to obtain from us the fruits of our lives. How we respond to them is a good test of whether we are planted in Christ or in our own false self. Dean’s depression was his own crucifixion. He felt that serving God meant going to a monastery. He was trying to do what he thought was good and right; ironically, it was when he wasn’t trying to be religious he was doing what was good and right. Dying to ourselves on the cross of Christ means dying to what others expect and being true to what God wants from us.

The Dream that God Gives to Us


 In the book of Genesis, Joseph has a dream (see Genesis 37). The dream is Joseph’s vocation, what God wants Joseph to do. However, that dream was fulfilled by the way of the cross. Sold into slavery for twenty pieces of silver, Joseph was thrown into jail after being falsely accused of rape. There he interpreted dreams for Pharaoh’s cup holder and baker. Years went by before the cup holder remembered Joseph and brought him to Pharaoh’s attention. After Joseph was put in charge of Egypt, his brothers appeared and prostrated themselves in front of him—fulfilling Joseph’s original dream. The cross unites our gifts and our mission, the purpose God intends for us to fulfill. It also frees us from our preconceived ideas about how God’s will should be done, freeing us to use our gifts for  the good of all, so that God’s kingdom may come and his “will be done!”


The Power of the Cross  by Michael Dubruiel is a book well-suited to daily reading during Lent. The book is available here in pdf version. Daily excerpts will be reprinted in this space during Lent.


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Monday, March 25, 2019

Feast of the Annunciation - March 25

Michael Dubruiel conceived and put together the small hardbound book, Praying the Rosary.  Click on the cover for more information.

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The Gospels show that the gaze of Mary varied depending upon the circumstances of life. So it will be with us. Each time we pick up the holy beads to recite the Rosary, our gaze at the mystery of Christ will differ depending on where we find ourselves at that moment.

Thereafter Mary’s gaze, ever filled with adoration and wonder, would never leave him. At times it would be a questioning look, as in the episode of the finding in the Temple: “Son, why have you treated us so?” (Lk 2:48); it would always be a penetrating gaze, one capable of deeply understanding Jesus, even to the point of perceiving his hidden feelings and anticipating his decisions, as at Cana (cf. Jn 2:5). At other times it would be a look of sorrow, especially beneath the Cross, where her vision would still be that of mother giving birth, for Mary not only shared the passion and death of her Son, she also received the new son given to her in the beloved disciple (cf. Jn 19:26-27). On the morning of Easter hers would be a gaze radiant with the joy of the Resurrection, and finally, on the day of Pentecost, a gaze afire with the outpouring of the Spirit (cf. Acts 1:14) [Rosarium Virginis Mariae, no. 10].


As we pray the Rosary, then, we join with Mary in contemplating Christ. With her, we remember Christ, we proclaim Him, we learn from Him, and, most importantly, as we raise our voices in prayer and our hearts in contemplation of the holy mysteries, this “compendium of the Gospel” itself, we are conformed to Him.


Sunday, March 24, 2019

Third Sunday of Lent

The Cross of Christ Unites. . . Those Who Suffer for Justice 


I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. ROMANS 8:18 

But Abraham said, “Son, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish.” LUKE 16:25

 Near the Abbey of Gethsemane in Kentucky is one of the strangest, yet most appropriate settings for a work of art. One has to search for it, and even then it can take some luck to find it. Unlike most art, which is displayed in famous galleries and museums, this work of the famous sculptor Walter Hancock is hidden deep in the Kentucky woods. A path across the street from the monastery takes you through fields full of wild turkeys that startle easily and fly away noisily, breaking the silence of the place. As you continue through wheat bent down from the wind, and on to a path up a wooded hillside, you have to know what you are looking for or you will likely miss it: a series of statues carved out of dark black stone.
The first is of three sleeping disciples, exhausted and asleep. About a stone’s throw from the first carving is another statue: Jesus in supplication. “Gethsemane” was sculpted to honor the memory of Jonathan Daniels. Jonathan Daniels was born in Keene, New Hampshire, in March 1939. By the time the civil rights movement was in full swing in the 1960s, he was a seminary student studying at the Episcopal Theological Seminary (now Episcopal Divinity Seminary) in Cambridge, Massachusetts. When in the summer of 1965 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called upon divinity students from the north to join him in his march from Selma to the state capitol in Montgomery, Alabama, young Jonathan Daniels traveled south. Tragically, that decision cost him his life. He was shot to death by a deputy sheriff in Haynesville, Alabama. In 1994 the General Convention of the Episcopal Church officially recognized Jonathan Daniels as a martyr.

I also was born in Keene, New Hampshire, and I grew up hearing the story of the local boy who had traveled south to march against injustice. People weren’t always sure exactly why he—why anyone—would venture so far to involve himself in the affairs of other people. Consequently, while Jonathan Daniels was much honored in the Monadnock region of New Hampshire, his motives were not widely understood. The scene from Gethsemane commemorates Daniel’s life perfectly; Daniel understood that following Jesus meant sharing in his Passion. The sleeping disciples, unfortunately, symbolize those of us who are summoned to “watch and pray” but often remain asleep at a distance. Daniel learned his lessons well at the seminary; he went to where Christ was being persecuted. In the end it cost him his life, but the lot of those who suffered was greatly changed by Jonathan Daniel’s sacrifice.

 Jesus tells a story about two dead men: one affluent, the other a beggar. After living a life of luxury, the rich man finds himself suffering in acute pain; he asks Abraham to send Lazarus (the poor beggar) to get him a drink. Even in the afterlife, the rich man thinks that Lazarus should be waiting on him! Abraham points out the barrier that prevented Lazarus from doing the rich man’s bidding in the afterlife. Of course, no such barrier exists among the living. The justice of Lazarus’s reward in the afterlife also points to the fact that it is no one’s lot to be a beggar in this life; the surplus of some, as Pope John Paul II has often preached, belongs to those in need. While he was alive, the rich man had it within his means to relieve the suffering of Lazarus, but he did nothing. In the mind of the rich man, Lazarus was exactly what God wanted him to be—a beggar. In the next life, the tables were turned: Lazarus was rewarded, and the rich man suffered.

 It is a simple message, one that we have heard many times. It also has a touch of irony: In the story, the rich man begs Abraham to send Lazarus back from the dead to warn the rich man’s brothers. Abraham predicts that they still wouldn’t believe. Notice the reaction of the crowd when Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead: “So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus also to death, because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus,” (John 12:10–11). Jesus sent his disciples out to heal, to liberate, and to invite others into the kingdom of God. As a follower of Christ, what am I doing for those Jesus sends to me?


In the woods of Kentucky, light streams down through the forest cover to the statues frozen in sleep and prayer. Some of it  beams upon the observer as well, as though asking him to choose a side. To what group do I belong, the suffering or the sleeping? Jonathan Daniels chose to speak out for the Lazarus of his day and it cost him his life. However, because of the glory promised, he willingly followed Christ to the cross. I am more like the disciples asleep, overcome with anguish and fear, unable or unwilling to step out for what is right. At the entrance to the monastery of Gethsemane is a large stone gate. Over the gate are engraved the simple words, “God Alone.”

 Ultimately we all face that moment alone in the garden, when God Alone matters. What a blessing it would be, if every time we are confronted with injustice toward others, we would recognize our turn before the judgment seat of God!


The Power of the Cross  by Michael Dubruiel is a book well-suited to daily reading during Lent. The book is available here in pdf version. Daily excerpts will be reprinted in this space during Lent.


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Saturday, March 23, 2019

Daily Lent Meditation

The Cross of Christ Unites. . . In Liberty


 For I delight in the law of God, in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind and making me a captive to the law of sin which dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! ROMANS 7:22–25 

The Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. MATTHEW 20:28 


When you read the gospels, you sometimes sense that the disciples of Jesus were not listening to him.

He announced his Passion as they made their way to Jerusalem, and they began to squabble over who would get to sit at his right and his left in the kingdom. Whenever Jesus preached the way of the cross, they sought the opposite path. Even when he asked the disciples if they could drink out of the chalice from which he was to drink, they seemed not to catch the full import of what he was saying.

Yet who are we to critique the apostles’ inability to comprehend the Lord’s message? When we hear of the way of the cross, we filter out the harsh reality of the message. As slaves to pleasure, we flee when faced with the cross or offered the drink from  his chalice. Yet God’s grace is great; even when we run, we end up right where God wants us.


Order of Redeemers 


A young man named Peter fled his native land because a heresy had infected a wide part of the Christian Church there. Another man, Dominic, remained where he was and fought the heresy by founding a religious community, the Dominicans. Thinking it the best way to preserve his faith, Peter headed south. There he encountered an even greater threat: the Muslim occupation of Spain. Yet this is where God wanted St. Peter Nolasco.

When he encountered Christians enslaved by their Moorish captors, Peter knew what the gospel demanded of him. Just as Jesus had come to ransom the many, so St. Peter ransomed those poor souls who had been enslaved because of their faith. Spending all that he had, he ransomed all that he could. In his lifetime he would personally be responsible for the release of more than four hundred captives.

In 1218 A.D., prompted by a heavenly vision, St. Peter Nolasco founded an order of redeemers. In addition to the traditional vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, these men took a fourth vow: Should it be necessary, they would offer themselves as a substitute for a captive if it meant that the enslaved might go free. The Mercedarians begged for alms that were used to pay ransom for the enslaved. Sometimes they could not raise enough  money and one of the Mercedarians would remain with the captors as a pledge until another could return with the full payment. Many of these brothers were martyred; their lives profoundly touched both the ransomed Christians and the Muslim captors.

Slavery has existed throughout the course of human history; only relatively recently has it been recognized as an affront to human dignity. Even today, there are those who enslave other human beings through political and economic means. Modern followers of Christ still have plenty of opportunities to ransom captive souls.

 Freedom from Slavery 


In the Scriptures, a person is considered enslaved to the extent that he or she is attached to anything that is not God. “No servant can serve two masters,” Jesus says in Luke 16:13. “Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” When God is not master of a person’s life, other forces are free to enslave him. A Christian must be especially careful not to become encumbered by lesser “gods,” knowing the price Jesus paid to set us free from the bondage of sin.

In the passage quoted above from the book of Romans, St. Paul speaks of the horrible effects of this enslavement. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Inevitably, the way of bondage is the way of death. However, even at the moment of death, the liberation of the cross is possible. Two men were crucified with Christ, one on each side of him (the seats that James and John requested). Both prisoners were guilty of the crimes for which they were being executed. However, one admitted his guilt; from his cross, Jesus assured that thief that they would soon be in paradise.  Especially in the United States, freedom is considered a basic human right. And yet, the kind of freedom many people are looking for is just another form of bondage, serving a false god. Some want freedom from a spouse to serve the false god of lust, or freedom from parental authority to serve the false god of selfishness, or freedom from pain to serve the false god of pleasure. None of these things constitute true freedom, which comes when we are not enslaved by any of these false gods; instead, we are free to live our lives as God intended. Sadly, this takes a long time for most people to figure out.

The realization that they have simply traded one master for another hits some only when they are nailed to a cross of their own making. I once knew a man who was rather bigoted, a womanizer, and an avowed agnostic. Then he was diagnosed with end-stage bone cancer, with less than a year to live. One day when his life on this earth was nearly over, I sat on the edge of this man’s bed. It was like being at the foot of the cross. In those months he had renounced all of his macho ways. He became gentle toward his wife and children, and asked to be baptized into the Catholic faith. I have no qualms with saying that he died a saintly man; he also died a free man! Most of his life he was a slave to what he thought other men wanted to hear, wanted to see—he wasn’t himself, he was what he thought he had to be in order to please others. Yet nailed to that harsh cross like the good thief, he was able to steal heaven.


The Power of the Cross by Michael Dubruiel  is a book well-suited to daily reading during Lent. The book is available here in pdf version. Daily excerpts will be reprinted in this space during Lent.


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Friday, March 22, 2019

Friday Stations of the Cross by Michael Dubruiel


In 1991, Pope John Paul II introduced a new Bible-based interpretation of the Stations of the Cross. This devotional guide invites readers to prayerfully walk in solidarity with Jesus on his agonizing way of the cross—from his last torturous moments in the Garden of Gethsemane to his death and burial.

Now with full-color station images from previously unpublished paintings by Michael O'Brien, this booklet creates an ideal resource for individual or group devotional use, particularly during the Lenten season.

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Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Daily Lent Meditation by Michael Dubruiel


The Cross of Christ Unites. . . In Humility


 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. PHILIPPIANS 2:5–11

 He who is greatest among you shall be your servant; whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. MATTHEW 23:11–12 

Some years ago, while making a pilgrimage to Medjugorje, a fellow pilgrim shared with me the fact that she struggled with pride. She was attractively dressed, not a hair out of place, even in those primitive surroundings. Yet for all her beauty, she could not help but feel that she was holding herself back from becoming all God wanted her to be.

 This woman is not unusual. As we follow the path God has laid out for us, most of us reach a point where we become painfully aware that we are hampering our own spiritual progress. The symptoms may vary—an undisciplined prayer life, a recurring sin, an unwillingness to let go of a past grievance—however, more often than not, the root cause is pride. There are even those who think that they have committed a sin so big that God could never forgive them. In each of these cases, the antidote is the same: We must be reminded of our rightful place in God’s kingdom, so that we think neither less of ourselves nor more of ourselves than we ought. More often than not, that rightful place is restored through an encounter with the cross.


 Litany of Humility


I had received a simple litany from my confessor, and gladly passed it on to my new friend. As I did so, I told her what the priest had told me, “This is a prayer that God always answers, usually very quickly.” This litany was written by Cardinal Merry del Val, a great man of the Church who served as Secretary of State under two popes. Cardinal del Val prayed this litany at the end of every Mass he celebrated:

 O Jesus meek and humble of heart, hear me. From the desire of being esteemed, deliver me, Jesus. From the desire of being loved, deliver me, Jesus. From the desire of being extolled, deliver me, Jesus. From the desire of being honored, deliver me, Jesus. From the desire of being praised, deliver me, Jesus. From the desire of being preferred to others, deliver me, Jesus. From the desire of being consulted, deliver me, Jesus. From the desire of being approved, deliver me, Jesus. From the fear of being humiliated, deliver me, Jesus. From the fear of being despised, deliver me, Jesus. From the fear of suffering rebukes, deliver me, Jesus. From the fear of being calumniated, deliver, me, Jesus. From the fear of being forgotten, deliver me, Jesus. From the fear of being ridiculed, deliver me, Jesus. From the fear of being wronged, deliver me, Jesus. From the fear of being suspected, deliver me, Jesus. That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it. That others may be esteemed more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it. That in the opinion of the world, others may increase, and I may decrease, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it. That others may be chosen and I set aside, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it. That others may be praised and I unnoticed, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it. That others may be preferred to me in everything, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it. That others may become holier than I, provided that I become as holy as I should, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.


Answered Prayer


 That evening our group made the Stations of the Cross up Mt. Krizevac (Cross Mountain), named for the giant concrete cross that had been constructed on the mountaintop by local people to commemorate the 1,900th anniversary of the crucifixion. The climb was treacherous in the best of conditions—well worn, rocky, and steep. That day it was also slippery; it had rained earlier in the day and a steady stream of water flowed down the trail from the top of the mountain.

I spied my friend, who was wearing a beautiful powder-blue jumpsuit, at the second station, where Jesus accepts his cross. As we walked I asked her if she had prayed the litany. She smiled and told me that she had. When the group reached the seventh station, where Jesus falls a second time, I heard a scream. My friend had slid down the path, her face and clothing covered in mud. Wiping the mud out of her mouth, she came storming up to me and said, “That is the last time I’ll pray that prayer!”

Humility 


At one time in Church history, the Franciscans were given the responsibility of walking before the pope in processions, burning handfuls of flax and chanting, “Sic transit gloria mundi.” The flax would disappear almost as quickly as it was ignited, visually
affirming the truth of what the monks’ intonation: “So goes the glory of the world.”

The human race has been fighting the battle against pride since the Fall. Discontent with the lofty position God had given them, they wanted to be just like God—but independent of him. This disordered desire continues to be at the heart of human nature. Only when God’s spirit lives within us to the fullest are we able to be most fully human. And the only way to be filled with God’s spirit is to empty ourselves of any false sense of who we are, or who we think we have to be. This is the way of humility, what St. Paul calls having “the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16).

 In the gospels, Jesus warns his disciples against desiring titles and lofty honors. If we achieve greatness in life, as Cardinal del Val did, we must guard against becoming attached to the position or to the glory attached to it. Cardinal del Val gave the following spiritual advice often to those who came to him for counsel: Have a great devotion to the Passion of Our Lord. With peace and resignation, put up with your daily troubles and worries. Remember that you are not a disciple of Christ unless you partake of His sufferings and are associated with His Passion. The help of the grace of silence was the only thing that enabled the saints to carry their extremely heavy crosses. We can show our love for Him by accepting with joy the cross He sends our way. The cross sheds light on the way of humility; it is the path that Christ took and the surest path for us to receive all the blessings that Christ wishes to bestow upon us.

The Power of the Cross is a book well-suited to daily reading during Lent. The book is available here in pdf version. Daily excerpts will be reprinted in this space during Lent.


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Confession During Lent

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

St. Joseph

O sacred Lord of ancient Israel, who showed yourself to Moses in the burning bush, who gave him the holy law on Sinai mountain: come, stretch out your mighty hand to set us free.

"Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame,decided to divorce her quietly." I suspect that most people gloss right over this passage at the beginning of Matthew's Gospel and today's reading. We know that Joseph is not going to divorce Mary, in the same way that we know that Abraham ultimately isn't going to sacrifice Isaac--so we gloss over the fact that Joseph, a righteous man who is unwilling to expose Mary to the possibility of being executed for adultery (since that would be the only plausible explanation for her pregnancy) decides to divorce her.
We could surmise from this that the Holy Family almost was a single parent family. We could also conclude that God fearing, righteous people sometimes divorce. But of course none of that comes to pass because Joseph is a spiritual man who pays attention to his dreams. And this is another important fact in the Gospel story--Joseph's revelation comes to him in a dream--not a full fledged vision but a dream. A vision of an angel in a dream probably would be quickly dismissed by most of us.
"Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, 'Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.'"
So we are told that even Joseph had this intention when he had rationally looked at all the evidence, now God enters the picture albeit in a dream and says, "whoa Joseph! It is through the Holy Spirit."

There are a lot of events in life that are confusing, troubling to good people. If we are truly open to God as St. Joseph was we might discern God's hand in many events that seem at first to speak of God's absence. As we await His coming let us open ourselves to the possibility that He might be in our midst, even at this moment.


More from Michael Dubruiel:


Michael Dubruiel wrote a book to help people deepen their experience of the Mass.  He titled it, How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist.  You can read about it here. 

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How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist gives you nine concrete steps to help you join your own sacrifice to the sacrifice of Christ as you:
  • Serve: Obey the command that Jesus gave to his disciples at the first Eucharist.
  • Adore: Put aside anything that seems to rival God in importance.
  • Confess: Believe in God’s power to make up for your weaknesses.
  • Respond" Answer in gesture, word, and song in unity with the Body of Christ.
  • Incline: Listen with your whole being to the Word of God.
  • Fast: Bring your appetites and desires to the Eucharist.
  • Invite: Open yourself to an encounter with Jesus.
  • Commune: Accept the gift of Christ in the Eucharist.
  • Evangelize :Take him and share the Lord with others.


Filled with true examples, solid prayer-helps, and sound advice, How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist shows you how to properly balance the Mass as a holy banquet with the Mass as a holy sacrifice. With its references to Scripture, quotations from the writings and prayers of the saints, and practical aids for overcoming distractions one can encounter at Mass, this book guides readers to embrace the Mass as if they were attending the Last Supper itself.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Daily Lent Meditation by Michael Dubruiel

The Cross of Christ Unites. . . Those Divided by Sin 


For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. He committed no sin; no guile was found on his lips. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he trusted to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. 1 PETER 2:21–24 

Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. LUKE 6:36

No doubt you have heard this verse before: “First, they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak.” These are the words of a German Lutheran pastor, Reverend Martin Niemoller.

 Initially a Nazi sympathizer, he was later declared an enemy of the party and imprisoned in several concentration camps. He only narrowly escaped with his life. In subsequent years he spoke frequently around the world, always ending his talks with a version of this verse.  The original version is the subject of some debate. Some argue that Niemoller spoke of “communists” rather than socialists; others contend that Niemoller said “Catholics.” It is likely that Pastor Niemoller changed it himself, to reflect the changing climate of the times, as the diversity of those who had been persecuted by the Nazis was gradually revealed to the world.

The cross of Christ set in motion a reversal of something that began in the Garden of Eden with the sin of our first parents. When God created Eve out of Adam, the man said, “ishnah”—another “me.” Then the two ate from the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and they immediately noticed that they were naked. Their first impulse was to hide themselves behind fig leaves; the differences between them induced Adam and Eve to distance themselves from one another. Because of sin, this separation grew. As Genesis unfolds sin multiplies, until at the Tower of Babel God confuses the tongues of humans and the division of the people is complete. Complete, that is, until Christ.

Christ Reunites 


At the crucifixion, the people were unified in their will that Christ should die. The Romans, representing the civilized world of that time, put Jesus to death; the Chosen People, represented by their leaders, offered up the Son of God in sacrifice. But from the moment Jesus said to the disciple that he loved, “Behold your mother,” and to his Mother, “Behold your son,” the separation was over. The divisions that had existed since the time of Adam and Eve began to heal. The gospel of Christ was put in motion by the cross, under which every tribe and nation and people would one day be united. On the day of Pentecost, Babel was reversed. The people heard Peter preach, each in his own tongue. From that moment, the Church was sent throughout the whole world, to reconcile it all to Christ.

St. Paul spells out clearly this reconciliation that Christ has brought about when he says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek . . . there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). In Christ the sin of division between people comes to an end.


 Mercy to All


 Christians are to be forgiving and merciful; we are to live out the unity Christ died to restore. In the early church, outsiders marveled at the followers of Christ because of their love for one another. Sadly, the unity that was the hallmark of the early Church has been damaged, in some cases seemingly beyond repair. We who are called to be “merciful” stand idly by while our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world are offered up as scapegoats. We who are to share the Good News huddle among our own, contented to preach to the choir.

The problem is this: Jesus died for all, so that all might be saved. We who follow Our Lord must live to accomplish his will. As St. Peter points out, Jesus himself is our example. The treatment that Jesus received on the cross was worse than most of us can even imagine but his message of forgiveness did not change. When Jesus rose from the dead, he did not declare a holy war against those who had put him to death. Instead he proclaimed, “Peace,” and sent his followers to the ends of the earth to preach the gospel, teaching all to believe and trust in him.  Unfortunately, the Church has not always been a sign of the unity willed by Jesus. Those who placed their own authority over that of Christ have perpetuated the suffering of Christ through his body the Church. Jesus foresaw this, and warned his disciples as well (see Matthew 13:24–30).

Perfect unity won’t come until the final harvest, but the “wheat” of the Church needs to embody Jesus’ radical message of mercy.


Jesus, I Trust in You! 


The Divine Mercy is one of the most popular devotions to arise in the modern church. Based on the written testimony in the famous Diary of St. Faustina, a Polish nun who lived in the early part of the twentieth century, Jesus told Faustina that his mercy was not being preached enough. Jesus asked her to have an image painted, showing rays of red and white light emanating from his heart. Underneath this image are printed five words that reveal the way to avail oneself of that great mercy: “Jesus, I trust in you.” Significantly, St. Faustina’s visions occurred shortly before the horrific outrage of the Holocaust, not far from one of the worst concentration camps: Auschwitz. Even then, God was showing his children how to overcome the differences that original sin planted within us. Even then, Our Lord made it clear that the mercy of God is not something we hoard for ourselves, but something we need to extend to others. How many lives might have been saved the horrors of the camps if Jesus’ message of mercy had been heard sooner? Whom might we save today?


The Power of the Cross by Michael Dubruiel is a book well-suited to daily reading during Lent. The book is available here in pdf version. Daily excerpts will be reprinted in this space during Lent.


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Sunday, March 17, 2019

Second Sunday of Lent

The Cross of Christ Unites. . . the Temporal and Eternal


 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we heard this voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have the prophetic word made more sure. You will do well to pay attention to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. 2 PETER 1:16–19 

And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is well that we are here; if you wish, I will make three booths here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” He was still speaking, when lo, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces, and were filled with awe. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” MATTHEW 17:4–7

  Last year my wife and I were in downtown Cleveland when the power suddenly and inexplicably went out all over the city. It was a Thursday afternoon, at the height of rush hour; as we listened to the radio, we discovered that the blackout had affected much of the northeast, including Boston, Ontario, New York, and Detroit.

That night, the eve of the Feast of the Assumption, we had planned to attend the Divine Liturgy for the Feast of the Dormition of Mary at a Byzantine Catholic Church in the city. As we gathered at the church with a few other hardy souls, the darkness heightened our awareness of the smoking incense, gleaming candlelight, and jangling bells. Attentively we listened to the reading from the Book of Revelation, “A great portent appeared in the heavens.” Back outside, darkness.

 The highway was a ribbon of light, streaming both ways, but once we got off the interstate and made our way to the hotel, all was dark again, save a few candles that the hotel staff had placed on some tables. Everyone at the hotel that night was outside. There was a nervous air to the conversation; everyone wondered when the lights would come back on—and why we were sitting in the darkness in the first place. Finally the hotel staff closed the pool area, and everyone went back to their stuffy hotel rooms. There was no air conditioning, and when I opened a window the air outside did not offer any real relief. Standing by the window, I peered into the night sky and searched the horizon futilely for signs of light. The bustling city of Cleveland was silent and still, and the darkness continued through the night and into the early morning, a few hours before the natural light of the sun would rise once again.

That experience of darkness brought to mind other images of light and darkness— particularly the Light of God versus the darkness of the world. Peter in his second letter pointed to the Transfiguration of Our Lord as a defining moment, “a light shining in a dark place.” Typically, it is only when the lights go out in our lives that we realize how much we need them.

 Mel Gibson’s movie The Passion of the Christ depicted Jesus’ Passion and death with overwhelming violence. As gripping as the imagery was, however, it brought to mind scenes I had witnessed on the nightly news that same week. A Jerusalem bus blown up by a terrorist, leaving the streets covered with blood and body parts. An explosion in Iraq that had left bloody bodies everywhere. Three-year-old Lebanese boys slashed with a sword, their foreheads a bloody mess, as their parents proclaimed a willingness to give up these children to die for their cause. All the violence in our world shrouds it in darkness.

At the Transfiguration, Jesus took Peter, James, and John with him to the top of Mount Tabor to pray. While they were praying, Our Lord’s appearance changed, becoming luminous, and the Scriptures tell us: “And behold, two men talked with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem.”(Luke 9:30–31) Luke’s Gospel alone tells us what Jesus talked about with Moses and Elijah: his impending journey to Jerusalem, and his “departure”—that is, his crucifixion—that would be accomplished in that place.

Good Friday brought about the first true power outage in recorded history. Long before there was electrical power, we are told, “from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour” (Matthew 27:45). This darkness wasn’t caused by an incoming thunderstorm; men caused the darkness when they tried to extinguish the Light of the World!

Yet at the moment of his Transfiguration, as he anticipated in prayer the Good Friday that was to come, Our Lord’s face was made as bright as the sun. St. Peter’s response to this miracle was, “Lord, it is well that we are here!” As they journeyed with Jesus in prayer, every moment of the disciples’ lives was an epiphany, an encounter with the Divine. May we, like them, experience that the “light has shone in the darkness.”

Prayer That Transforms Life 


If we want to learn anything about the Paschal mystery of Jesus’ Passion, death, and resurrection here on the mountain of the Transfiguration, we must approach these mysteries on our knees. It all begins with prayer. Jesus climbed the mountain to be alone with the three disciples, to pray with them. Every effort of prayer begins with an invitation to “come aside.” Just as Our Lord called Peter, James, and John to come with him up the mountain, he beckons to us today. When we feel that inner nudge, that desire to pray, we must pay attention to God’s call. It may be difficult to respond to the invitation at times. We need not climb a mountain, at least not literally. However, we do need a place to “come aside.” It may be a special corner of our room, or a nearby chapel; no matter where it is, the trip to put oneself into God’s presence may seem like scaling the side of a precipice at times. This is to be expected: We are entering a different realm. As Peter, James, and John discovered, in leading them up the mountain Jesus had taken them higher than the geological summit; he had transported them to heaven itself. They were able to witness Moses and Elijah, conversing with Jesus in prayer and blinding light!

As we contemplate the face of Jesus in this “mystery of light,” God’s purpose for us is revealed. We receive light to illumine our  darkness, and strength to persevere as we face our own Good Fridays, when it seems all has been lost. But as we pray before the cross, the Master opens our eyes, enabling us to see the light. Jesus himself comes to us and says, “Rise and have no fear!” When we receive this foretaste of the kingdom, where “the righteous will shine like the sun” (Matthew 13:43), may we say with St. Peter: “Lord, it is good that we are here!”


The Power of the Cross  by Michael Dubruiel is a book well-suited to daily reading during Lent. The book is available here in pdf version. Daily excerpts will be reprinted in this space during Lent.


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Saturday, March 16, 2019

Daily Lent Meditation by Michael Dubruiel

The Cross of Christ Teaches Us. . . to Live the Gospel


For it is not hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. When Gentiles who have not the law do by nature what the law requires, they. . . show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or perhaps excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus. ROMANS 2:13–16

 Then the King will say to those at his right hand, “Come, O Blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.” MATTHEW 25:34–36 

One day my mother came back from a day of shopping very upset. As she walked past a vagrant on her way into a store, the man had called out to her, “I’ll bet you would take more time to notice a dog.” My mother was saddened and shamed by the man’s accusation. In a way, he was right; she hadn’t even acknowledged the man’s existence. It was one short encounter in her busy life. Even so, I have never forgotten it, and neither has she.

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus spoke about the last judgment of the nations, and in particular the judgment of “nonbelievers,” which is how the Jewish people referred to the Gentile nations. When, in his letter to the Romans, St. Paul indicated how those who do not know Christ will be judged, referring to the “gospel,” very likely, he was referring to this passage from Matthew 25.

Those of us who know Christ have little excuse if we do not recognize him in the hungry, thirsty, stranger, naked, sick, or in prison. We have the good news of the gospel preached to us; we have heard it and are required to put it into practice.

Seeing the Hidden Christ 


The people who experienced Jesus in the flesh, we know, all experienced him in exactly the ways that he describes in Matthew 25, and part of understanding that is a lesson for all of us. We do not know when Our Lord might appear to us under the guise of the hungry, thirsty, stranger, naked, sick, or prisoner.

 I was hungry. . . Because he was fully human as well as fully God, Jesus had the same bodily needs we do. After fasting in the desert for forty days and nights, he was hungry. Several of the resurrection appearances have Jesus asking the disciples if they have anything to eat before they recognize who it is asking for relief from his hunger.

I was thirsty. . . “Give me a drink,” Jesus said to the Samaritan woman at the well, just before telling her of the living water. From the cross he cried out “I thirst,” and was given vinegar to drink.

I was a stranger. . . After his resurrection, Jesus was often not recognized, even by his own disciples. Mary Magdalene mistook him for a gardener. The disciples en route to Emmaus thought he was a stranger until he broke bread in their midst. The disciples fishing on the Sea of Galilee did not at first recognize the man on the shore, cooking fish and bread over a charcoal fire.

 I was naked. . . At the beginning of his life, Christ came forth naked from his Virgin Mother, who wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger. At the end, his executioners stripped him naked before nailing him to the cross. His burial shroud, donated by Joseph of Arimathea, was left behind at the Resurrection.

I was sick. . . Suffering from the soldier’s maltreatment, he burned with fever on the cross. Meanwhile, his enemies taunted him. “You healed so many others. . . now heal yourself!”

I was in prison. . . Imprisoned after his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, he went from the Sanhedrin, to Pilate to Herod and to Pilate again. At the hands of cruel Roman soldiers he was mocked and scourged. How many times have we missed an encounter with Jesus? How often do we walk past the destitute residing on the street or in prisons, nursing homes, and hospitals, not realizing that we are passing by the Son of God? “

Be not hearers, but doers. . .” St. Paul told the Romans.

Do we act any differently when someone is watching us? We slow down on the road if we spot a police officer coming in the other direction. We work a little harder if our boss is nearby. Yet when isn’t God in our presence?

The Passion of Jesus reveals that God is present even when he seems farthest away. We might even be tempted to think that God has abandoned those we choose to pass by. Yet nothing could be farther from the truth: “. . .as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40).

Almsgiving has always been a Christian penitential practice. It is one of the ways that we become more like Christ and take up our cross to follow him daily. Jesus gave to everyone who approached him; we, empowered by him, are called to share what he gives us with all whom we meet—and even those we must seek out.


The Power of the Cross by Michael Dubruiel is a book well-suited to daily reading during Lent. The book is available here in pdf version. Daily excerpts will be reprinted in this space during Lent.


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Friday, March 15, 2019

Friday Stations of the Cross


In 1991, Pope John Paul II introduced a new Bible-based interpretation of the Stations of the Cross. This devotional guide invites readers to prayerfully walk in solidarity with Jesus on his agonizing way of the cross—from his last torturous moments in the Garden of Gethsemane to his death and burial.

Now with full-color station images from previously unpublished paintings by Michael O'Brien, this booklet creates an ideal resource for individual or group devotional use, particularly during the Lenten season.

"michael Dubruiel"

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Daily Lenten Meditation


The Cross of Christ Teaches Us. . . About Repentance 



For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 1 CORINTHIANS 1:22–24 

This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign shall be given to it except the sign of Jonah. LUKE 11:29 

Some years ago I visited the Florida State Prison, accompanying a group of men from around the state who converged on the prison one Saturday of every month to have fellowship with men convicted of the vilest crimes imaginable. I introduced myself to Ron, who lived three hours away from the prison. After some pleasantries, I walked away, and then fell into conversation with another man, who introduced himself as Tom.

“You know Ron?” Tom nodded toward the first man, who had put his arm around an inmate.

“Just met him today.”

 “See the guy he’s hugging?” I nodded. “Five years ago, that man murdered Ron’s only son. Now look at them. How does Ron do it—forgive him, I mean?” I didn’t know.

The first proclamation of the gospel by Jesus was that those who wished to follow him needed to “repent and believe.” We are prone to think of “repentance” as giving up sin—and to some degree that is true. However, in the time of Jesus the word would have been more accurately translated, “to radically change the mind, one’s way of thinking.”

 The man visiting his son’s murderer every month had “repented.” His way of thinking would seem totally foreign to most of us; it makes sense only to those familiar with the gospel message of Jesus: Love your enemies. Forgive seventy times seven. See Christ in the least of his brethren—even in prison.


 Sign of Jonah 


The people of Jesus’ day wanted him to perform a sign to prove that his message was true. Today many of us wish for the same. In reality, these signs are all around us but we are blind to them. Even if we see the sign, it doesn’t always convince us. I once attended a healing service where people were literally jumping out of wheelchairs. It didn’t make me believe; if anything, I left the service convinced that the healer was a fraud.

 In the preceding gospel passage, Jesus called those seeking signs from him evil. They were evil because they refused to acknowledge the many signs that God had already worked in their midst that confirmed that the ministry and teaching of Christ were from God. Even though I am tempted to look with disdain on those who asked for a sign from Jesus in the gospel, I know deep down that I, too, often forget about the many “signs” that God has given me to confirm the truth of Jesus as the Son of God.

In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus promised the “sign of Jonah.” This sign is often interpreted as the preaching of repentance: Jonah preached in Nineveh for less than a day before his message  The Power of the Cross  produced a radical change in the hearts of the people. By comparison, Jesus had preached for three long years. If pagan Nineveh was so quick to repent, why were those who heard Jesus’ message so slow to give up their way of thinking? Earlier in Luke’s gospel, Simeon’s prophesy may hold the key to this question: “This child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against” (Luke 2:34).

The oldest interpretation of the “sign of Jonah,” which is also found in the Gospel of Matthew (16:4) comes from an unfinished commentary on this gospel, penned by an anonymous source dating from the time of the early church fathers. For this nameless wise person, the sign of Jonah was the sign of the cross. His reasoning? St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, where Paul makes specific reference to the desire for signs among the Jewish people and what he gives them in response—Christ crucified.


Responding to the Sign 


What will it take for us to trust in Jesus’ message? The cross of Christ can fill people with dread. And yet, it is at the heart of the good news that Jesus preached. It is diametrically opposed to the way the fallen human race thinks; enamored with forbidden fruit, from which it hopes to become “like God.” The world shuns the tree that bears the only true Source of life and wisdom. As St. Paul told the Corinthians, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God,” (1 Corinthians 1:18).

To the world, it is foolishness to think that anyone could forgive to the point of embracing his son’s killer. As for me, the power of the cross is poignantly revealed in this holy man I once met in a prison in Florida. By embracing the cross, he was able to do exactly what God does when he invites us to his banquet. The cross of Christ either convicts us of murdering God’s Son or makes us into a new creation—a being who is truly remarkable to behold


The Power of the Cross is a book well-suited to daily reading during Lent. The book is available here in pdf version. Daily excerpts will be reprinted in this space during Lent.


"michael Dubruiel"

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

The St. Joseph Novena

The St. Joseph Novena continues.




When Jesus ascended into heaven, he told his Apostles to stay where they were and to "wait for the gift" that the Father had promised: the Holy Spirit.  The Apostles did as the Lord commanded them. "They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers" (Acts 1:14). Nine days passed; then, they received the gift of the Holy spirit, as had been promised. May we stay together with the church, awaiting in faith with Our Blessed Mother, as we trust entirely in God, who loves us more than we can ever know. 

"michael Dubruiel"