Tag Archives: love of God

Stench of the Cross

by Howard Hain

 

Rembrandt Begger Seated on a Bank (1630)

Rembrandt, “Beggar Seated on a Bank”, (1630)

 


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For we are to God the sweet aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing…

—2 Corinthians 2:15


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We see so many images of Christ Crucified. Museums and churches are full of them. And they should be. It is the greatest paradox ever told.

And to go along with the abundance of visual representations, there are of course also many artworks in written form depicting the Passion of Jesus Christ. Shelf after shelf can be filled with books containing the seemingly endless repertoire of poems, plays, and musical compositions based on the subject.

But none can capture the stench of death.

Smell moves us like no other sense.

It is so powerful. So quick. So nauseating.

Think of that the next time you’re riding the subway on your way to a museum. Think of that when a homeless man enters your subway car. Think of that when you’re tempted to switch trains at the next stop due to the stench.

Breathe deep instead.

Think of the stench. Think of that poor man—that poor sorrowful man dying right in front of you. The stench of rotting flesh. The stench of death.

No artwork that you’re on your way to see will bring Jesus and His Cross more to life.

Take a deep breath, and pray. You’re on holy ground.

Pray for yourself. Pray for the man. Pray for all those on board. Pray for the entire world.

Pray that that particular stench, that stench of death, right then and there, brings life.

That it brings life to hardened hearts.

That it brings life to senses numbed to the utter poverty of human suffering—suffering that manifests itself in oh so many ways.

That it brings life to what the world says can’t and shouldn’t be redeemed.

And give that gentleman a few bucks.

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The Metropolitan Museum of Art recommends an entrance fee of twenty-five dollars. Do you know how much consolation that poor suffering Christ riding right next to you would receive if you gave him that much?

Do you know how cheap a price that is to pay to be able to get so close to a living breathing masterpiece of sacrificial life?

Dig in deep. Dig into your pockets. Dig deep into the reserves of your heart.

You will be amazed how such a prayer, such an act of compassion, such a “living faith”, will transform the stench of death into the aroma of life.

Breathe deep. Pick up your cross. Die daily.

Get over yourself.

What a breath of fresh air!

Now that’s truly an entrance fee.

And it’s worth every drop.


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Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

—John 12:3


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Howard Hain is a contemplative layman, husband, and father. He blogs at http://www.howardhain.com

Follow Howard on Twitter @HowardDHain   http://www.twitter.com/HowardDHain

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St. Therese of Lisieux

therese
St. Therese of Lisieux was born in Alencon, France in 1873, the youngest of 9 children. The year she was born the economies of Europe and the United States failed; historians call it the Long Depression; it lasted for 6 years, till 1879. France was hit the hardest.

During this time, her mother died, when Therese was 4 year’s old. Her family was never poverty stricken, but her biographers say she experienced a sense of helplessness and suffering as a child.

She had a spiritual experience on Christmas day 1886, when she was 13. She would always have a special devotion to the Child Jesus. She entered the Carmelite convent when she was 15 and for the next 7 years she lived the simple, routine life of a Carmelite nun until her death of tuberculosis on September 30, 1897. She was only 24.

She kept a notebook of her reflections on the spiritual life and after she died her two sisters who were also Carmelite nuns made the notebook public. They called it The Story of a Soul and it became a spiritual classic among Catholics. Therese called her spirituality “the little way.”

She had a great desire for God and she wanted to die for God if she could. In The Story of a Soul she recalls her envy of people who did great things for God, who built hospitals or were great theologians or who traveled as missionaries to other continents.

Emerging from its depression, France embarked on what it called a “civilizing mission” into Asia and Africa, and one way it tried to civilize places like Vietnam (French Indo-China) was to send Catholic missionaries there. In exciting times like these, Therese thought of herself, living unknown in a convent, as a nobody.

But she made a spiritual discovery:

“Since my longing for martyrdom was powerful and unsettling, I turned to the epistles of St Paul in the hope of finally finding an answer. By chance the 12th and 13th chapters of the 1st epistle to the Corinthians caught my attention, and in the first section I read that not everyone can be an apostle, prophet or teacher, that the Church is composed of a variety of members, and that the eye cannot be the hand. Even with such an answer revealed before me, I was not satisfied and did not find peace.
I persevered in the reading and did not let my mind wander until I found this encouraging theme: Set your desires on the greater gifts. And I will show you the way which surpasses all others. For the Apostle insists that the greater gifts are nothing at all without love and that this same love is surely the best path leading directly to God. At length I had found peace of mind.
When I had looked upon the mystical body of the Church, I recognised myself in none of the members which St Paul described, and what is more, I desired to distinguish myself more favourably within the whole body. Love appeared to me to be the hinge for my vocation. Indeed I knew that the Church had a body composed of various members, but in this body the necessary and more noble member was not lacking; I knew that the Church had a heart and that such a heart appeared to be aflame with love. I knew that one love drove the members of the Church to action, that if this love were extinguished, the apostles would have proclaimed the Gospel no longer, the martyrs would have shed their blood no more. I saw and realised that love sets off the bounds of all vocations, that love is everything, that this same love embraces every time and every place. In a word, that love is everlasting.
Then, nearly ecstatic with the supreme joy in my soul, I proclaimed: O Jesus, my love, at last I have found my calling: my call is love. Certainly I have found my place in the Church, and you gave me that very place, my God. In the heart of the Church, my mother, I will be love, and thus I will be all things, as my desire finds its direction.”

Her love transformed all she did, however small, into a gift for God.

Sing a New Song

Here’s St. Augustine’s comments on a psalm:

“Sing to the Lord a new song; his praise is in the assembly of the saints. We are urged to sing a new song to the Lord, as new people who have learned a new song. A song is a thing of joy; more profoundly, it is a thing of love. Anyone, therefore, who has learned to love the new life has learned to sing a new song, and the new song reminds us of our new life. The new person, the new song, the new covenant, all belong to the one kingdom of God, and so the new people will sing a new song and will belong to the new covenant.

“There is not one who does not love something, but the question is, what to love. The psalms do not tell us not to love, but to choose the object of our love. But how can we choose unless we are first chosen? We cannot love unless someone has loved us first. Listen to the apostle John: We love him, because he first loved us. The source of our love for God can only be found in the fact that God loved us first. He has given us himself as the object of our love, and he has also given us its source. What this source is you may learn more clearly from the apostle Paul who tells us: The love of God has been poured into our hearts. This love is not something we generate ourselves; it comes to us through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

“Since we have such an assurance, then, let us love God with the love he has given us. As John tells us more fully: God is love, and whoever dwells in love dwells in God, and God in him. It is not enough to say: Love is from God. Which of us would dare to pronounce the words of Scripture: God is love? He alone could say it who knew what it was to have God dwelling within him. God offers us a short route to the possession of himself. He cries out: Love me and you will have me for you would be unable to love me if you did not possess me already.”

The Great Commandments

Mk 12:28-34

One of the scribes came to Jesus and asked him,”Which is the first of all the commandments?”
Jesus replied, “The first is this:
Hear, O Israel!
The Lord our God is Lord alone!
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
with all your soul,
with all your mind,
and with all your strength.
The second is this:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
There is no other commandment greater than these.”

“Well said, Teacher,” the scribe says to Jesus, who spoke of loving God and loving neighbor.
He was among the representatives sent by the Roman-backed Jewish priestly leaders to discredit Jesus after his symbolic attach on the temple. Mark describes the attempts by the scribes–scholars skilled in religious matters –to trap Jesus in chapters 11 and 12 of his gospel.

But this scribe is different. The familiar words he’s heard so often seem to touch his heart as Jesus speaks them.  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength…Love your neighbor as yourself.” That’s more important than the temple sacrifice and worship you’re working to maintain.

There’s no evidence that the scribe left everything to follow Jesus, but he’s told he’s ‘not far from the kingdom of God.” What became of him, we wonder?

We may not be far from the scribes, though. We lose sight of what’s important too.  We get used to even the holiest things and defend ourselves with questions as they did.

Jesus engaged them, however. Will he not engage us this Lent, stirring our hearts, our souls, our minds, and renewing our strength with his truth?

Lord,
Let me hear your voice, your unfamiliar voice– I don’t listen to you enough.
Though unseen, you are always with me,
Though unrecognized, you care for me and all the world.
Feed me with the best of wheat and honey from the rock,
As once you led your people out of Egypt,
Lead us to your truth.