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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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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Friday, March 22, 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 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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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.

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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.


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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"

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Daily Lenten Meditation

The Cross of Christ Teaches Us. . . How to Pray 


In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard for his godly fear. HEBREWS 5:7 

And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. MATTHEW 6:7–8 

While visiting the Holy Spirit Trappist monastery in Conyers, Georgia, I wandered into the abbey church one afternoon to spend a few moments in prayer. A young woman with two small children was already there. Although she prayed inaudibly as her two small children circled about her, I could tell by her raised hands and her tears that she was pleading and reasoning with God. I have no idea what the woman was praying about, only that she was praying the way Moses is described in the Letter to the Hebrews, “. . .seeing him who is invisible.”

 As the Israelites battled the Amalekites (see Exodus 17), Moses lifted his hands in prayer, holding his wooden staff over his head as the battle raged in the valley below. So long as Moses’ hands remained in the air, the Israelites were victorious; as Moses' arms grew tired and began to fall to his sides, the battle turned to the enemy’s advantage. When they realized what was happening, Aaron and Hur stood on either side of Moses, holding his hands aloft, until the battle was won.

To the early church fathers, the prayer of Moses in the battle with the Amalekites foreshadowed the victory Christ won on the cross. Like Aaron and Hur, we have an opportunity to stand with Christ, interceding for the salvation of souls. Of course, Moses, Aaron, and Hur had an advantage that we do not: They could see the effects of Moses’ intercession on the battle raging below. How our prayer life would change if God gave us the ability to see the effect our intercessions—or lack thereof—have on the battle that is being waged daily for souls.

The letter to the Hebrews draws a strong connection between the cross and prayer. Because every moment of our earthly existence is threatened by death, and we know neither the day nor the hour when that existence will come to an end, we, too, need to cry out to the God who can save us. Like Moses, we need the help of our fellow Christians to hold up our arms when they grow tired. We, too, need the help of the Holy Spirit to make up for what is lacking in our prayer.


 Praying as a Follower of Christ 


Throughout the centuries, Christians in the East and the West have signed themselves with the cross. When it is done with little thought or care, the sign loses much of its power. Contemplating both the action and what it symbolizes as you make the sign, on the other hand, is the perfect way to begin any conversation with God.

As you make the sign of the cross, you place your entire being in the shadow of the cross of Christ. By invoking the Trinity as you make this holy sign, you immediately call to mind that  facing the cross is something we dare not do alone, but only in God’s presence. Every moment, we must choose between the way of the cross of Christ and the way of perdition. Every minute, the battle for our salvation is being lost or won.

“Do not pray like the Gentiles,” Jesus instructed his disciples. Some Christians see this as a prohibition of repetitive prayers, but clearly this isn’t what Jesus was condemning. The admonition had scarcely fallen from his lips when he proceeded to teach his disciples one of the most beloved prayers of all time: the “Our Father,” or “Lord’s Prayer.” Not only did Jesus teach his disciples to pray using a certain form; in the gospels we read that Jesus himself prayed the same words over and over in the Garden of Gethsemane, “He went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words,” (Matthew 26:44).

When we share in Christ’s Passion we will often find ourselves able only to mouth the same words over and over. The early disciples of Jesus, those most familiar with his teachings on prayer, developed litanies and other repetitive prayers. For example, the “Lord Have Mercy” litany has remained in the liturgies of the East and West to this day, and is drawn from several gospel accounts, most notably the two blind men in Jericho who voiced this prayer repeatedly in desperation to Jesus, and who voiced it all the louder when the crowd tried to rebuke them (see Matthew 20:29–31).

Similarly, the Jesus Prayer (“Lord Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”) is taken from the story of a blind man in Luke’s Gospel (see Luke 18:38). In the early church, Christians prayed with their bodies as well as their minds. Congregants often prayed with their hands outstretched in the “orans” position, lifting their minds and hearts to God as well as identifying with the crucified Christ. There have been attempts to restore this practice within the church; others choose to pray this way in private. In this way not only do we imitate the cross of Christ, we acknowledge that all of our prayer is through Christ and in Christ. It is also a good way to express one’s abandonment to God’s will. As our arms tire, we remember that our strength cannot save us; we need help both from God above and from our neighbors below.

So what are the “empty phrases” of the Gentiles that Jesus condemned? He objected to the mindless offering of prayers without faith. While times of “spiritual dryness” are a normal part of the Christian experience, we must guard against “going through the motions” for the benefit of others, and persevere with faith and trust.

In times of doubt, we must strive to embrace the cross of Christ in our lives. Refuse to give in to the passions, or to be held captive by sin. The way of the cross is the way of healing. As Father Benedict Groeschel rightly points out, the only thing that Jesus promised his disciples in this life was persecution. Yet many of us get caught up with the “cares of this world” and forget about the cross we are to carry as followers of Christ. May the cross with which we sign ourselves, and the cross we place before our eyes, always keep us mindful of what we are doing and what is at stake.

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 11, 2019

Matthew 25 Gospel Reading

Today's Gospel is Matthew 25.


The genesis of this book was inspired by a set of talks that Father Benedict J. Groeschel C.F.R., gave several years ago in the Diocese of Manchester, NH. At the time while researching material for a project I was working on I came across an advertisement for the talks and found both the title and topic striking. The topic seemed to fit Father Benedict's lifetime of working among the poor and raising money to help their plight. I approached him, shortly after listening to the tapes and asked him to consider doing a book version. He liked the idea but was reluctant to pursue the project alone due to the shortage of time available to work on it.

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Unwilling to let go of the project, I approached another friend of the poor, Bishop Robert J. Baker of the Diocese of Charleston. I knew that Bishop Baker's priestly ministry had been devoted to finding Christ in the poor and with a wealth of experience he had in this area that if I could join his thoughts with Fr. Groeschel' s we would have a book that would be of great benefit to the rest of us. After approaching Bishop Baker with my request he agreed and then Father Benedict agreed to collaborate on this book.


While the Bishop and Father Benedict were working on the written text of the book I came across a stunning work of iconography one day while visiting an Eastern Catholic church. On the back wall of the church was an icon of the Last Judgment taken from Matthew 25. I found that the great iconographer Mila Mina had written the icon. I immediately contacted Mila and asked if the icon might be used as an illustration for this book, her response was "anything to make the Gospel known!" Thanks to Mila and her son Father John Mina for allowing Joyce Duriga and David Renz to photograph the icon at Ascension of Our Lord Byzantine Catholic Church, Clairton, PA.

Fr. Groeschel has written the introductory text that begins each section as well as the final "What Should I Do?" at the end of the book, and Bishop Baker has written the individual meditations and prayers contained in each of the six sections.


While this book was being written, Father Benedict was involved in a horrific accident that nearly took his life. At the time of the accident the text he was working on was in his suitcase. He had just finished the introduction to "When I was a stranger..." as you read over the text for that section you might sense that he was having a premonition of what was about to happen in his life-where he would soon be in an emergency room under the care of doctors, nurses and as well as his family and religious community.


You will find that this book provides you with keys to finding Our Lord in the poor, and to overcoming the fears and obstacles (represented by the seven deadly sins in each section) that prevent you from responding to His call.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

First Sunday of Lent Meditation

The Cross of Christ Teaches Us. . . 
Our Mission


 And the angel of the Lord said to him, “Why have you struck your ass these three times? Behold, I have come forth to withstand you, because your way is perverse before me; and the ass saw me, and turned aside before me these three times. If she had not turned aside from me, surely just now I would have slain you and let her live.” Then Balaam said to the angel of the Lord, “I have sinned, for I did not know that thou didst stand in the road against me. Now therefore, if it is evil in thy sight, I will go back again.” And the angel of the Lord said to Balaam, “Go with the men; but only the word which I bid you, that shall you speak.” NUMBERS 22:32–35

 Then Jesus said to him, “Begone, Satan! for it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’” Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and ministered to him. MATTHEW 4:10–11 

One of the strangest stories in the Old Testament recounts the mission of the prophet Balaam. A pagan king wanted to conquer the Israelites, and wanted Balaam to help him achieve this ambition by pronouncing a curse on the enemy. So he summoned Balaam.

At first Balaam refused to come, but eventually Balaam set out on his donkey to meet with the king. Although this story is found in the Book of Numbers, it is the Second Letter of Peter that gives us insight to Balaam’s motives: “Forsaking the right way. . . they have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Be’or, who loved gain from wrongdoing, but was rebuked for his own transgression; a dumb ass spoke with human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness” (2 Peter 2:15–16).

Balaam was not setting out to do God’s will; he was trying to profit by the gifts that God had given him. Balaam was stopped en route by his donkey, which saw an angel barring the path. When Balaam beat his donkey, the animal protested that he was trying to save his master’s life. Finally Balaam’s eyes were opened to the angel of the Lord, who affirmed that, indeed, the donkey had saved his life. The angel told him to go along to the king: “Go. . . but only the word which I bid you, that shall you speak” (Numbers 22:35). In the end, Balaam blessed the Israelites, accomplishing God’s purposes. However, Peter’s epistle reveals that Balaam’s temptation moved him along the path to do the will of God. He did not start out intending to do good, but God intervened.

Spiritual U-Turns 


A friend once told me of the time he decided to give in to a certain temptation that he had been fighting for years. As he went to get into his car that night, he discovered that one of his car’s tires was flat. Most people would see a flat tire as a momentary inconvenience; my friend saw the flat tire as a sign from God. He stayed home that night, and from that moment on the temptation left him. God used my friend’s momentary lapse to put him on the pathway to holiness.

 Scripture has many examples of God using Satan’s ploys to accomplish his own purposes. The Gospel of Matthew offers one such example. When Jesus was about to begin his ministry in Israel, he went into the desert to fast for forty days—symbolic of the forty years the Israelites wandered in the desert. During that time, Satan presented three types of temptations to Our Lord. Ironically, each of the particular temptations Satan chose was related to the mission that God had given to Jesus. Each of them was a perversion of Jesus’ true mission and purpose.

Bread of Life. First the evil one tempted Jesus to turn stones to bread. After all, Jesus was hungry from fasting. However, Jesus knew that his greatest hunger was not physical but relational: He had a hunger only God could satisfy.

The significance of this temptation became clearer on the night before Jesus died, when he took the bread and changed it into his own Body and Blood. “I am the bread of life,” Jesus declared. “If anyone eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh” (John 6:48, 51).

Those who partake in the Body and Blood of Christ under the appearance of bread and wine, wrote St. Cyril of Jerusalem, become “united in body and blood with Him.” Similarly, St. Pio of Pietrelcina (Padre Pio) observed that after communion, “the heart of Jesus and my own—allow me to use the expression— were fused. No longer were two hearts beating but only one. My own heart had disappeared, as a drop of water is lost in the ocean.” The miracle of the Eucharist is that Our Lord transforms our hearts of stone into hearts of flesh.

 Source of Life. In the second temptation, Satan tempted Jesus to demonstrate his power by throwing himself off the Temple roof, so the angels would rush to his defense. Jesus recognized that his enemy had twisted Scripture to achieve his own purposes. “You shall not tempt the Lord your God,” he replied firmly (Matthew 4:7).  The things that tempt us most in life can lead us to discover our true calling.

As with the temptation to turn stones to bread, Satan’s temptation was a perversion of the real mission of Christ. By dying on the cross, Jesus threw himself into the hands of the Father, trusting that God would raise him on the third day.

When Franz Jaegerstaetter, a saintly Austrian who refused to fight in the Nazi army, faced certain death because of his refusal to give in to the Nazis’ wishes, Franz wondered if he were committing suicide. It was a meditation on the mission of Jesus, who went to Jerusalem knowing that they were going to kill him there, that finally convinced Franz that standing up to the evil of his day, no matter what the personal cost, was the right thing to do.

 Prince of Life. Finally the Lord was tempted to bow down to Satan in order to win the world. However, just as Jesus rejected the attempts of his followers to make him king or to win the kingdom by the sword, so he rejected this bloodless solution. Jesus knew that real victory would not come easily, and that his kingdom was not an earthly one. His message was not a popular one; ultimately it led to his death on the cross. This “King of the Jews,” as the Romans named him, knew of but one way to win over the world: “. . .when I am lifted up from the earth, [I] will draw all men to myself” (John 12:32).

Those who would be powerful continue to bow to Satan in order to win the world, selling their souls for a temporary advantage. Politicians, religious, and others who promote evil in order to win—whether the prize is power, approval, or other earthly glory—may succeed for a time. But such victory is fleeting, and leaves in its wake an emptiness that is as close to hell as one can get on this earth.

Find Your Mission 


Just as Satan tempted Christ with a perversion of his true mission, the things that tempt us most in life can lead us to discover our true calling. However, we will recognize God’s purpose for us only by the light of the cross. Using God’s gifts to achieve anything other than the divine plan will not bring long-term satisfaction. The path to true joy comes from placing our gifts under the control of the Holy Spirit, and allowing the cross of Christ to reveal Satan’s lies and deceptions for what they are. St. Augustine, who spent his early years tempted by the beauty of creation and even fathering an illegitimate child, later found in God the beauty he was seeking. “Too late, O ancient Beauty, have I loved Thee,” he wrote.

***********

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 9, 2019

Repent or Perish

The First Luminous Mystery: The Baptism of the Lord
Our Lord, though innocent, takes on our sins as He enters the water of Jordan and is baptized by John. His mission of our salvation is blessed by the Father's praise and the Spirit's descent. Ask Our Lady to help you pray this decade, pondering the light that comes from submission to the will of God.
--from Praying the Rosary: With the Joyful, Luminous, Sorrowful, and & Mysteries by Michael Dubruiel and Amy Welborn.

Repent or Perish Luke 13:3
"I must decrease, He must increase" St. John the Baptist told his disciples after his encounter with Christ. Our submission to the will of God begins with our submission to Christ--our own dying with Him and rising anew in Him at our Baptism. But the act of submission needs to happen at every moment of the day. Every second brings with it a moment of prayer--will I submit to my will against His or will I bow down to His authority and choose Him. The world may cry out "I've got to be me," but the servant of God cries out "I've got to be His." St. Paul reiterates this when he declares, "I live, no not I, but Christ."
We fear this repentance. We secretly grieve that we won't be ourselves if we submit. Something within at a very early age urges us to resist (original sin) and it does not go away quietly. So many of us are slowly perishing, spending our demise judging others, living in darkness.
The biblical notion of this state of humanity is that of something that is lost. Will we continue to cling on to the lost being or will we allow ourselves to be found by Christ--at this moment and at every moment walking in His light and overcoming the darkness of the lost?

Michael Dubruiel

Friday, March 8, 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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Thursday, March 7, 2019

Daily Lent Devotional

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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From the Introduction (part 4)

“What Do I Do Now?” 

Start reading this book. Each section is designed to be read and pondered on its own; read one of the entries each day, or take up  one section each week. There are parts of this book with which you may readily agree; other sections will probably anger you. Don’t worry about that; parts of this book elicit the same reaction in me. When faced with the cross, my inner demons rebel. Surrendering to the cross of Christ is the only way to rid oneself of whatever evil may be lurking in our lives. 

The way of the cross is the only sure way to joy and freedom. The world offers us happiness and rejects the cross, to be sure, but it is a happiness that is short lived. For those who embrace his cross, Jesus promises a joy that never ends. The evil one makes it hard for us to see the truth of Jesus’ claim at times. But those who seek the truth will experience—either first-hand or through living saints like Pearl—true reality: What the world promises is a lie. 

We are all headed to Cross City, whether we are following Christ or not. For those who follow Christ, Cross City is the gate to eternal life. For those who venture along that path without Christ, the cross brings only suffering and ultimately death. The crucified Christ is the Vine; we are called to be the branches. May his joy be in you, “that your joy may be full” (John 15:11).   More

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Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Ash Wednesday in Rome

From a 2006 trip by Michael Dubruiel
I often blog what the Pope says at his General Audience on Wednesdays, but I will never do so without the sense of what it is like to actually be there. Thanks to several people we knew that to get a good seat at the General Audience we needed to be there as soon as they allowed people in, around 8:00 a.m.(two and half hours before the audience begins, although one of our contacts told us that Benedict had been beginning them about a half hour early). So we were there, dressed for warm weather, because it was rather warm at the time. We found the shortest line and waited about ten minutes until the mad rush began. The security was fairly lax at the entrance point that we were at, police with wands, but not really using them. So once through the entrance we ran (sort of the way people were running through the columns when Pope Benedict was about to be announced as the successor of St. Peter last year).
We were able to get to the fourth row right against the center rail, which turned out to be a pretty good spot. The two men sitting in front of me were from Brazil, I think the people behind us were from Ireland. There was a group from Steubenville near us, as well as the St. Thomas folk who were just behind us.
Then it turned cool, the sun disappeared and the clouds covered the sky. The temperature must have dropped ten or fifteen degrees. I think Joseph fell asleep, as well as the baby and for the most part we sat in silence with some outbursts of enthusiastic groups now and then.
Ten o'clock arrived and we were hopeful that the pope might come out early, but not today. Then at ten thirty there was a commotion and suddenly there he was, well looking exactly like the pope! You can see how dark the skies were and the pope had on his winter coat.Pope Benedict has shunned the glass case that John Paul used after he was shot in 1981, when I saw Pope John Paul in Miami he was behind the glass of the popemobile when he drove through the streets of Miami,but then I saw him up close at Mass the next day (a Mass that wasn't finished because of a thunderstorm). I remember being shocked at how old Cardinal Ratzinger was when he celebrated the funeral of Pope John Paul, and even how he seemed bent with age as he entered the conclave to elect the new pope--but how youthful he emerged from the conclave!
Organ music is played as a background which gave the feeling of either a carnival or funeral but didn't seem to strike the right chord for the ceremony.
Now right after the Pope passed us the baby's bottle somehow dropped onto the pavement and went rolling down the path the pope had just passed. A Swiss Guard finally picked it up after it had rolled for what seemed like an eternity, and looked at it suspiciously. He finally walked over and handed it to me.After making the circuit the Holy Father's pope mobile drives up the steps and then he gets out and goes to his chair...Then you hear something along the lines of: 
Cari Fratelli e Sorelle,
Inizia oggi, con la Liturgia del Mercoledì delle Ceneri, l'itinerario quaresimale di quaranta giorni che ci condurrà al Triduo pasquale, memoria della passione, morte e risurrezione del Signore, cuore del mistero della nostra salvezza. Questo è un tempo favorevole in cui la Chiesa invita i cristiani a prendere più viva consapevolezza dell'opera redentrice di Cristo e a vivere con più profondità il proprio Battesimo. In effetti, in questo periodo liturgico il Popolo di Dio fin dai primi tempi si nutre con abbondanza della Parola di Dio per rafforzarsi nella fede, ripercorrendo l'intera storia della creazione e della redenzione.
Which I now know means:
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today, with the Ash Wednesday Liturgy, the Lenten journey of 40 days begins that will lead us to the Easter Tridium, the memorial of the passion, death and Resurrection of the Lord, heart of the mystery of our salvation. It is a favourable time when the Church invites Christians to have a keener awareness of the redeeming work of Christ and to live their Baptism in greater depth.

The audience continues with the pope teaching a lesson in Italian. At the conclusion various Monsignors in different languages greet the pope in the name of the various language groups present. Some groups when they are announced sing, some just cheer. The pope acknowledges them with a wave, then responds with a summary of his teaching in that language. This pope like John Paul before him is fluent in a number of tongues and it is interesting to hear him speak English.
Finally the Pope gives his Apostolic blessing, blessing religious articles also.
Then he greets the Cardinals and bishops present. At this audience there was one cardinal (I believe it is Cardinal Jorge Arturo Medina Estevez the very Cardinal who announced to the world last year Habemus Papam!) pictured here in the piazza afterwards. Then the sick and handicapped are brought in wheelchairs before him, pushed by nuns for the most part, and he gives each of them a blessing. I'm not sure what the history of this is or for how long this has been done, but I found it to be one of the most poignant moments of the audience. There was a long parade of these crucified memembers of the Body of Christ and they evoked from the Marian prayer "do you do we cry, poor banished children of Eve, in this valley of tears." The wisdom of giving these souls the privileged position at the audience and the primacy of a personal meeting with the pope was incredibly Christian--a great witness. Would that all in attendance learn to see in those marginalized the truly important.
After this the pope walked over to the barrier to the left at which were standing a group of Moslems and he greeted them and spoke to them and then worked down the line. At the end of this line he mounted the popemobile and then passed along the barrier on the right and shook hands as he went along. Then the popemobile made its way down the steps toward me. (Click on any image for a full size shot)
Until finally, there he was right in front of me.
So I put the camera down for a second or two. Then after I gave him a wave, I picked it up again just in time because someone handed him a baby.
Then he was gone, as Joseph would say "back to the Pope cave (ala batcave)." The thousands that had gathered began to disperse. Amy had more Rome Reports video to shoot, so she went with the kids for the outside shots. I was to meet with Jeffrey Kirby to take a walk up to the North American College for a tour and lunch. While waiting, I spotted another group gathered for the pope's audience, a group of Eastern monks.
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