“Father, into your hands, I commend my spirit.” (Luke 23:46). This is the last sentence that Jesus spoke before he died on the cross, for us. In the Good Friday service of the Catholic Tradition, this is also the last sentence that the presider recites before the entire congregation kneels down in silence and acknowledges the harsh reality of Jesus’ death. These few words, simple and child-like but pregnant with poignancy speaks so much of Jesus’ reckless abandonment to his father – it reflects his radical trust and complete surrender to God.
Chris reflects on the very last words of Jesus, and what they mean for our Christian mission here on earth.
Mission Accomplished. For the longest time in my childhood, the words “Mission Accomplished” were my two favorite words in the English Language because they always appeared with the completion of a particular level and/or scenario in a video game. Be it Super Mario Brothers, Harvest Moon or Grand Theft Auto, I enjoyed playing these games as they required the fulfillment of a designated mission. The completion of a mission often gave me a sense of fulfillment and accomplishment. More importantly, however, the completion of a mission opened up yet another (unknown) level that I could further explore and with it came another mission to be fulfilled. This cycle was repeated until I finished playing the entire game.
Chris reflects on the truly self-sacrificial love of Jesus, and how this love can be an example for us.
What pain and what agony Jesus must have felt when He said those words to his loved ones. What pangs of loss and anguish that Jesus must have experienced knowing that He would be (momentarily) separated from His mother and His beloved disciples. Separation: have we all not experienced this in one way or another before? Have we all not felt pain through separation, death and loss? Separation implies a dis-connection – to separate is to break away, to break apart, to be divorced from community; indeed the oft-used phrase “to go our separate ways” is undeniably tinged with melancholy and sadness. Here, then, we see a visceral portrayal of Jesus’ humanity – His desire for community and intimacy. Indeed, apart from being the savior of the world, Jesus was also a beloved son, a beloved brother, and a loving friend. Similar to you and I, Jesus also wanted to love and be loved by those around Him, especially in seasons of sorrow and loss.
Chris reflects on the paradox of the ‘good thief’ who came to conversion by Jesus’ side on the Ctoss.
Imagine a middle-aged man who has lived a life of debauchery, decadence and waste. A man whom society would probably consider a menace, a “good-for-nothing” and an absolute failure in life. Imagine that this man whom many have given up on – possibly including himself – decides one day that he has had it, that an ultimatum is nigh. He thus commits a heinous crime: he steals something very valuable, clearly violating one of Moses’ 10 Commandments, a crime that requires him to be executed – hanged on a cross to die on Mount Golgotha … right next to Jesus Christ.
Chris shares a bit more about the inn-keeper in the Advent narrative and wonders whether all of us are sometimes inn-keepers towards the Holy Family as well.
“While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” – Luke 2:6-7
I often wonder how Joseph must have felt when he received the news that there was “no place” for him and his pregnant wife from the innkeeper. Having travelled so many hours, in probably harsh and treacherous conditions, Joseph must have experienced immense disappointment, frustration and anger. Joseph possibily even panicked. Did he have a backup plan? He and his wife could not possibily stay on the streets right? And how about pregnant Mary? Surely traveling in her physical state must have been awfully tiring and painful. I wonder whether she cried out in helplessness upon hearing that there was “no place” for her and her husband. I wonder whether Joseph and Mary felt hopelessness and despair. Is it not interesting, then, to briefly ponder about how the Advent story – the often overly-cherry, merry-making and consumerist-laden narrative – began as a tale of rejection? On hindsight, would the innkeeper have created space and made room for Jesus, Mary and Joseph, should he have realised that he was actually rejecting the Holy Family?
Garrett reflects on what we can learn from Herod’s bad example as we move into the Advent season.
Last December, I went with a group of Catholic university friends on a mission trip to Cambodia, to an education centre run by the Marist brothers. I remember vividly one item on the agenda in particular: to put up a Nativity play to entertain the kids. It was at our lodging one night when the director of the play announced the roles, after discussing with the trip leader. And lo and behold, the director revealed, yours truly was to play Herod.
Now, I admit I’ve always been somewhat thin-skinned and sensitive, so my first instinct was hurt and shock at being asked to play the ‘villain’ of the Nativity story. But as I prepared for the role, and looking back on that time with the benefit of hindsight, I find myself having to accept an uncomfortable truth – that old Herod and I may have more than a little in common. As we draw nearer to Advent once again, I offer this short reflection in the hope that it may provide some insight into the common pitfalls that may occur as we prepare ourselves spiritually for the birth of Our Lord.