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A Once-For-All, Never-Ending Sacrifice

On this Good Friday, I continue my journey through Scott Hahn’s book, Lenten Reflections from A Father Who Keeps His Promises.

Jesus, at the Last Supper and through His cross and resurrection, is both priest and sacrifice.  Scott Hahn reflects on all the parallels between the holocaust offerings of the Old Testament and Christ’s offering.  The reading for today digs deeply into the Letter to the Hebrews.

Not only does the epistle describe Christ’s offering in terms of sacrifice.  Paul also describes the sacrifice in terms of inheritance:

Now where there is a will, the death of the testator must be established.  For a will takes effect only at death; it has no force while the testator is alive.  Heb. 9:16-17.

Christ had to die for the will to work because, as any estate planning attorney will tell you, a will only speaks at the death of the testator.  So, Christ’s death was necessary for anyone to gain His “eternal inheritance.”  Paul describes who the heirs are:

“Those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance.”  Heb. 9:15.

Who, then, is called to receive the eternal inheritance?

Jesus tells us:

“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”  Matt.  28:19-20.

We all are heirs!  Jesus told the Apostles to make disciples of everyone!  And so, if I am to be an heir to the eternal promise, I need to behave as an heir.

Day 45-1 Through Christ’s once-and-for-all sacrifice, which we participate in at every Mass, Christ wipes our slates clean and gives us eternal life.Day 45-2


A Wise Man’s Fall From Grace

On this Friday of the Fifth Week of Lent, I continue my journey through Scott Hahn’s book, Lenten Reflections from A Father Who Keeps His Promises.

King David’s dynasty continues in his son, Solomon.  We are all familiar with the Wisdom of Solomon.  When God offered Solomon anything he desired, Solomon asked for wisdom:

“Give your servant, therefore, a listening heart to judge your people and to distinguish between good and evil. For who is able to give judgment for this vast people of yours?”  1 Kings 3:9.

 God is pleased with Solomon’s request and rewards him not only with wisdom, but also with wealth, longevity and fame.

For Solomon, this wisdom gives him insight into people’s hearts, the ability to discern their inner desires and motives.  He becomes famous far and wide for his wisdom.

His earliest display of wisdom involves a dispute of two mothers, each claiming she was mother to an infant.  Solomon orders that the baby be split down the middle and half given to each mother.  The true mother—wanting the best for her child—surrenders her child, asking that the child be given to the other.  Solomon sees this, knows the true mother and gives her the baby.

From this decision comes the expression of “splitting the baby.”  Unfortunately, common usage misses the entire point of Solomon’s decision.  Nowadays, “splitting the baby” is typically used to describe a compromise position, perhaps something a mediator or arbitrator might do to arrive at an easy answer.  Or the end result of difficult negotiations:

Since then the expressions “splitting the baby” or “cutting the baby in half” have generally been applied as a metaphor to relate to the need to find a simple compromise solution which “splits the difference” in terms of damage awards or other remedies.

 But this—compromise between two positions—isn’t the wisdom displayed by Solomon.  He wasn’t trying to negotiate some middle ground between the two mothers.  Instead, his wisdom arose from his knowledge of human nature.  He knew the true mother would rather give up her child to another to spare its life.  His wisdom allowed him to discern this.

Despite his divine wisdom, Solomon fell.  And he did so in spectacular fashion.  Solomon had 1,000 wives from various countries and religions.  And his wives “turned his heart to follow other gods.”

Because of Solomon’s idolatry, God withdrew His blessings.  What an incredible fall from grace!  Despite all his wisdom, Solomon could not avoid the temptations of his wives who lured him into idolatry.  Not that I am blaming them any more than Adam can blame Eve for his forbidden consumption.

If someone with all the Wisdom of Solomon can fail, can succumb to temptation, what chance do I have?  I wonder if Solomon’s failure was caused by his reliance on his own wisdom and not on God.  Was it pride that made Solomon vulnerable to temptation?

I know I don’t have the wisdom of Solomon.  My only recourse is to lean on God and seek His strength.  And when I do fall, I am comforted know that there is “more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.”  Luke 15:7.

Day 38-1

In my weakness I rely on God.  In my foolishness I seek His wisdom.  

God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, so that no human being might boast* before God.  It is due to him that you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, as well as righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Whoever boasts, should boast in the Lord.”  1 Cor. 1:27-31.

Day 38-2

True Liberation

On this Saturday of the Third Week of Lent, I continue my journey through Scott Hahn’s book, Lenten Reflections from A Father Who Keeps His Promises.

After God freed the Israelites from Egypt, He sent them through the unfamiliar terrain of the wilderness and then the desert. At first grateful for their freedom, the Israelites later regretted the change and resented their deliverer:

“If only we had died at the LORD’s hand in the land of Egypt, as we sat by our kettles of meat and ate our fill of bread! But you have led us into this wilderness to make this whole assembly die of famine!” Ex. 16:3.

They complained that God delivered them from a land of plenty—where their bodily needs were met—to the sparsity of the desert and wilderness.

God heard their cry and provided for His people, but on His terms. Each day He provided their daily allotment of quail and manna. And He gave them water from a rock. Through this rationing, the Israelites learned to look to God for all their needs.

Does God teach me this lesson?

For me, sometimes God shakes me out of the complacency of routine to remind me how much I need Him, and how much I can rely on His provisions. For example, a few years ago I traveled to Benin, a beautiful country on the Atlantic coast of Africa.

I thoroughly prepared for the trip, researching the culture, the U.S. Embassy contacts, etc. Because of this, my two weeks there were enjoyable and I settled into a busy yet comfortable routine. On the trip back, however, I had to take a detour through Burkina Faso, a country I hadn’t researched, hadn’t prepared for, and knew nothing about. My flight reservation—originally through a major European carrier—changed to a small African “puddle jumper” whose safety was questionable. And I was landing in Burkina Faso at night.

I was already nervous about the changed itinerary, and my nerves were strained even further when my initial flight was delayed, causing me to miss my connection in Burkina Faso. And my connection was the last flight out that night! So, I was stuck in a foreign airport in an unknown land in the middle of the night. I was scared!

I leaned heavily on God for my sanity. Over and over again, I prayed “Hail Mary” until some semblance of calm settled over me.

God taught me to rely on Him and remember that all success comes from Him and all glory belongs to Him.

Maybe that is God’s intent when I find myself in uncomfortable situations. Maybe when God uproots me, it is because He wants me to draw all I need from Him. He knows that I can’t get what I truly need from any other source than the soil of His love.

Day 25-1

When I turn to God as my sole provider, only then do I find true freedom. And when I think that I am free when I take back the reigns, that is when my life goes haywire. Day 25-2

Broken Sacramentals

Broken Sacramentals

Beads in my pocket, formerly attached;
Loosely floating orbs and chain links recently unlatched.
A crucifix and pendant—remnants and remains
Of things I use to garner graces, gifts and holy gains.

A patch of woolen fabric, a square with icon blessed
That used to hang consolingly, a comfort on my chest.
This scapular most holy. A rosary of wood.
Now sit inside a leather pouch instead of where they should.

And though they both are damaged,  and neither one is whole,
They each provide me blessings for my worn and weary soul.
These broken sacramentals,  though bruised and broken things,
Still serve their purpose, drawing me to Jesus Christ our King.

Their brokenness reminds me that even with my blame,
Even though I’m flawed and weak, He’ll use me just the same.
If only I allow Him, surrender to His will,
He’ll use me to draw people to his sermon on the hill.

This broken sacramental, though barren all alone,
He’ll take me—if I offer—to draw children to his throne.
And just like broken bead strings, when put to holy use,
My life can be a blessing in the ways that He will choose.


Measuring Up: Mene

To the previous post.
To an explanation of the story line.

Mene.  My friends call me that.  But it wasn’t always a term of affection or endearment.  It was an insult, a pejorative.

My name is Zacchaeus and I’m now chief tax collector and a wealthy man.  I suppose I’m an influential member of my community, perhaps powerful.  Of course, it’s not Jerusalem, but Jericho is a solid town in its own right.  Joshua thought it was worthy of his efforts.  Alexander the Great enjoyed the views and our thirst-quenching springs.

I worked hard and, through my sweat and intelligence I attained this position.  But growing up it wasn’t my hard work or brains that my schoolmates focused on.  It was my size — or lack of it.  I was, and remain in a physical sense, of small stature.

I guess I was so slight that I didn’t “count” in their eyes.  Maybe I didn’t “measure” up.  But the joke is on them!  Now who’s counting?  I have more coins to count than all of my schoolmates together.  Who is measuring?  I measure them, assess them for tax purposes.  Now who lacks stature?  I have the power of the Roman Empire backing me up.

Growing up I was picked on, bullied, because of my size.  I was in many ways an outcast.  Oh, I participated in all the ceremonies and festivities of our faith.  But I was never really accepted by my peers.  Not until I attained my present position.  Now people no longer walk over me.  They are more careful around me.  They still ridicule me, but not to my face.  Except for the Pharisees.  Those arrogant, self-righteous zealots!  They still spit in my face.

I thought that I would find satisfaction in my power.  And for a while, I did.  I have great wealth, great power.  But that power seemed empty.  And I began to realize what I sacrificed by taking this position.  While giving my children an inheritance of creature comforts, I was rejecting the inheritance promised to my People.  I didn’t have any more friends in my position.  Sure I was surrounded by sycophants seeking to gain my good graces.  All that I gained was empty.

And then I heard of the Teacher.  The stories that came from Galilee about this man!  He gave sight to the blind, and healed the lame!  The Pharisees hated that, which made him all the more endearing.  Sure I had influence and could buy just about anything I wanted, but the stories I heard told of real power!

For weeks I wanted to meet him.  No, just to see him.  From a distance.  I knew he was way over my paygrade, way too good for me.  I was not worthy to meet him, but I only hoped to witness his miracles, or just hear him teaching.  I heard wonderful things about him and hoped for, well, I don’t know what I hoped for.  I can’t exactly put it into words.  All this power, wealth and respect is great, but it didn’t quite do it for me.  I still felt a nagging emptiness that I cannot describe, an itch that could not be scratched.

I wanted to see him, but he was all over the area, preaching here, teaching there.

And then I overheard my servants talking about him.  There was an excitement in their voices that was more intense than usual.  I edged closer to the servant’s quarters to listen in.  In hindsight, I find it ironic that I felt the need to eavesdrop on my own servants in my own home.  But I wasn’t ready to admit my interest in the Teacher — not even to myself.

I heard words, then sentences.

“He gave sight to the blind!”

“He’s on his way!”

“He’ll be here tomorrow!”

I almost fell through the door on that last one!  I felt my heart pounding hard in my chest.  I felt my resolve harden:  I had to see him!

The next day I woke up extra early, dressing in my fine robes admittedly to impress the Teacher.  I had a lighter-than-usual breakfast, hoping to get to the main road before he arrived.  That’s when I heard the growing hullabaloo.  Excited voices shouting outside my walls, then my servants start agitating, cleaning up quickly, speaking in hushed but frantic tones.  I finally cornered one to find out the fuss.

“He’s already here!” he said.  “The Master is entering the town!”

I rushed out the door, hoping to catch a glance.  I had planned on getting out early to find a good spot on the side of the road.  But by the time I got out, the streets were filled with the crush of crowds pressing to touch his cloak.  You would think all my power and money could get me a decent seat for the impromptu parade, but no one gave me a second thought as they shoved me aside in my attempts just to peek at his advance.

I had imagined standing some distance from the crowds, watching from a hilltop and striking a dignified pose.  This plan quickly dissolved as I scrambled for any promontory.  I finally spied a sycamore fig down the street where the parade route was sure to lead.  The crowd was thin here, and in desperation I scrambled up its trunk, clinging to the limbs.

Some pointed up at me, laughing.  “Mene! Mene!  In the tree!” began the chant, but soon their attention returned to the approaching entourage.

The crowd surged ahead of the main event, and for a moment I clung hard to the limb for fear of falling.  The tree swayed slightly but the breeze fell still as the crowd’s noise rose from a murmur to a dull roar.   And then I spotted him!  He had a shy, serene smile.  He clearly enjoyed the kids running by him and pulling on his robes and fingers.  Just witnessing this sense of peace amid the turmoil around him was enough to bring calm to my soul.

I was getting ready to climb down so I could follow the crowd as it passed.  But then something strange happened.  Jesus looked up and said to me, “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.”  Me?  A Tax collector?

To the previous post.
To an explanation of the story line.

Measuring Up: Sotah

Christ and the Woman Taken in Adultery by Cranach the Younger

To an explanation of the story line.

“Go, and sin no more.”

That’s what he told me.  Amazing words.

They call me Moriah (God teaches).  When I finally met our Teacher face-to-face, I can’t say it was the best meeting.  But before I get into that, let me tell you a little about myself.

I am a simple woman, the wife of a metal-smith.  It wasn’t my plan to marry Shem-Tov.  I was betrothed to his brother, Rei. Rei was everything his brother was not.  Kind, gentle, a true friend.

I don’t mean to sound ungrateful to Shem.  He was very dutiful and I am grateful that he took me in when Rei was killed.  I know he married me out of obligation, and I am grateful for that.  He wasn’t unkind.  He was a good provider.


963. The One That Got Away

Dream House

If you love something, let it go.  If it comes back, then it was meant to be.  If it doesn’t . . . .  But what if that something is a moment in time? Or an opportunity?  Or a careless word?

My mind was still hazy as I swayed over the toilet, emptying an unusually full bladder.  Ok, so it’s not unusual for me.  Besides my throbbing headache, I didn’t have much to remind me of what happened last night. How many nights have I lost to that beast?  How many girlfriends?  Jobs?  Friends?

I didn’t even remember waking up.  Did the alarm go off?

Stumbled through the morning routine.  Shit.  Shower.  Shave.  Bleed.  Brush.  Bleed.  Dress.  Inspect the bare cupboard.  Cuss.  Drive to Mickey D’s.

I finally stumbled into work. Funny looks, side glances.  Occasional gasps.  Then I noticed the nametag on my door.  NOT my name.  NOT my door.  How could I forget?  That question was quickly replaced by, “how do I get out of here without being seen?”


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