Archive for April, 2007

The Light Shines In The Darkness

April 8, 2007

It is sunrise on Easter morning. The sky is pinkening in the east and soon the sun will filter brightly into our living room, high overlooking the East River and the borough of Queens. The apartment is quiet. Soon my wife will awake and we will prepare to meet some family for “the paschal mystery,” the Easter Eucharist.

There we will hear Luke’s account of Jesus’ Resurrection and his remembrance in Acts of how Peter preached about it in the early days of the Church’s life. We will hear the author of Colossians remind us that we have died and that now our life lies hidden with Christ in God.

But the Lesson at Morning Prayer was from the first chapter of John! A “strange” reading for Easter day and one which I usually associate with Christmas. Yet there it is, the Easter message: “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.” (John 1:5)

Among the several miracles of Easter, that is the one I am most grateful for this morning. That despite the best efforts of the religious establishment and the Roman government, the light of Christ still shines. Despite the struggles and confusion of the early Christians, the light of Christ still shines. Despite the on-again-off-again attempts of the Church to be faithful down through the centuries and in the face of our many sins, the light of Christ still shines.

Why does it shine? For what purpose does it shine? “That We All May Be One!” One with God. One with each other. May our Easter celebration across the world remind us of that calling and give us both the will to pursue it and the grace to accomplish it.

Now, the apartment is flooded with light! The sun is risen.

The Son is Risen!


The Way of the Cross – The Way to Peace

April 6, 2007

Today I walked the Way of the Cross through the frigid streets of New York with Pax Christi. For twenty-five years this Catholic peace group has organized this Good Friday event as a public witness to the Passion of Christ and its relationship to issues of justice and peace. 

I.  We prayed the First Station “Jesus is condemned to death” at the United Nations around the theme of torture.  “Jesus, victim of torture, help us help all victims of torture.”

II. We prayed the Second Station “Jesus is made to carry the cross” opposite the Nigerian Consulate around the theme of Darur.  “May we find the strength to defend those who have no voice.”

III. We prayed the Third Station “Jesus falls the first time” across from the Jewish Simon Wiesenthal Tolerance Center around the theme of discrimination, particularly against Middle Eastern people.  “Forgive our violence toward each other.”

IV. We prayed the Fourth Station “Jesus meets his mother” in front of the Pfizer Pharaceutical Company seeking a world initiative to eradicate AIDS.  “Loving God, open our hearts to your word.”

V. We prayed the Fifth Station “Simon of Cyrene is forced to help carry the cross” on 42nd Street and 3rd Avenue in front of many shops and the Woolworth Tower around the themes of employment, wages and immigration. “Te lo pedimos, Senor (We ask you, O God).”

VI. We prayed the Sixth Station “Veronica wipes the face of Jesus” in front of the Grand Hyatt Hotel and Grand Central Station around the theme of helping the stranger. “God of mercy and justice, hear our prayer.”

VII. We prayed the Seventh Station “Jesus falls the second time” near the commercial banks of Madison Avenue on the theme of We, the privileged; we, the disenfranchised. “Oyenos, O Dios! (Hear us, O God)!”

VIII. We prayed the Eighth Station “Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem” opposite the New York Public Library around the theme of education, a national priority? “We pray that no child is denied the joys and happiness of a true childhood.”

IX. We prayed the Ninth Station “Jesus falls the third time” opposite Bryant Park on the theme of mother earth falling under the weight of consumerism. “Forgive us all.”

X. We prayed the Tenth Station “Jesus is stripped of his garments” on a grungy city street between Sixth Avenue and Broadway remembering our city stripped of affordable housing, “O God, hear our prayer.”

XI. We prayed the Eleventh Station “Jesus is nailed to the cross” at the busiest Armed Forces Recruiting Station in the country seeing our society nailed to the cross of militarization. “God of peace, forgive us.”

XII. We prayed the Twelfth Station “Jesus dies on the cross” at the same location in Times Square in opposition to the death penalty. “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

XIII. We prayed the Thirteenth Station “Jesus is taken down from the cross” in front of the world’s largest McDonald’s restaurant asking the question, Will this culture sustain us? “Enough for everyone, forever!”

XIV. We prayed the Fourteenth Station “Jesus is laid in the tomb” beneath Disney Enterprises, Madame Tussaud’s and many garish billboards recognizing our need to find quiet space in the busy city for Jesus. “O God, help us to hear you.”

XV. We prayed the Fifteenth and final Station “The Resurrection of Jesus” in a spirit of recommitment. “We lay down our sword and shield. We will not study war any more.”




Just What Is “A Den Of Robbers” Anyway?

April 3, 2007

There was a wonderful piece in The Christian Century magazine last week by Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan. It’s entitled “Collision Course” and it traces the events of Holy Week in the Gospel according to Mark.


It begins on Palm Sunday, of course, and speaks of two processions toward Jerusalem on that day. The first procession came from the western city of Caesarea. That procession was headed by the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, astride his war horse. Ever since a couple of riots had taken place in the Holy City on or around Passover, a cohort of Roman soldiers had been sent up to Jerusalem to reinforce the troops there and quell any possible trouble.

The second procession, from the east, was – of course – headed by Jesus, astride his donkey, acting out the prophecy from Zechariah which speaks of a king of peace on a donkey, banishing the war horse and the weapons of war from the land.  The two were on a “collision course:” Jesus versus Pilate — the nonviolence of the kingdom of God versus the violence of the Empire. The authors say that Lent and Holy Week are about Christians repenting for being in the wrong procession! We too often line up with the empire when we should be lining up with Jesus!

Palm Sunday night finds Jesus entering the temple, looking around, and then heading out of town to Bethany with his 12 friends. It was late by that time, and you don’t conduct demonstrations when nobody is around. So, he returns on Monday and matches his demonstration against Roman political power with one against the temple authorities. They had collaborated with the imperial system, and profited from it.

So, he turns the tables on them on Monday and calls the temple a “den of robbers.” I had never thought about it, but a den of robbers is not where robbers rob, but a “safe house” to which they return after having robbed somewhere else. It’s not what they were doing in the temple that was the problem. It’s what they were doing to the poor in their daily lives!

On Tuesday  Jesus gets into a series of conflicts with the temple authorities and finally ends up with what we sometimes call the “little apocalypse” in Mark 13 where he warns of the eventual destruction of the temple. He would have been arrested right then except that he was protected by the “pro Jesus” crowd who actually did regard Jesus at least as a prophet. So the authorities let him alone and he went away.

On Wednesday, the authorities give up and simply hope Jesus will eventually return to Galilee and leave them alone. But Judas, perhaps concerned about this as well, offers to find Jesus one evening so that they can arrest him without his supportive crowd. On Thursday night, Jesus shares a final meal with his closest friends and is arrested in a wooded area later that night.

His interrogation, torture and execution, of course, take place on Friday. That event is even recorded in extra-biblical history. The Jewish historian Josephus writes, “Pilate, upon hearing him accused by men of the highest standing among us, had condemned him to be crucified.”

Jesus is put to death by imperial power. Only to be raised, three days later, by divine power. The powers-that-be said “No” to Jesus. But God said “Yes.”  And it is that divine “Yes” that we are preparing to celebrate this week!