Tag Archives: Courage

The Way Of The Cross

I was going to read through someone else’s meditations on the Stations of the Cross. Then I remembered that I’m a Catholic writer with a vivid imagination, so I thought I’d write my own.

The First Station: Jesus is condemned to death.

I know why this is happening. He doesn’t have to die. He’s dying because we’re weak; because we’re sinful; because there’s a huge, dark chasm between us and His Father, and He wants to bridge that gap. He’s dying because He loves us, and He desperately wants us to love Him back. Still, He doesn’t have to die. I just feel like this could have, really should have happened another way. Who am I in this scenario? If it were me, would I, like Pilate, knowing Jesus was innocent, be a coward and let Him die? Would I be one of the soldiers? If so, would I just do what the others were doing and beat Him and insult Him? Would I have the courage to at least question the others? Would I be one in the crowd practically cheering Pilate on? Would I be one of His friends who ran away? Would I be a silent friend who stood by at a distance? How close am I really willing to get? I don’t like these questions, but they’re there. This is what my sins cost Him, and this is the price He’s willing to pay for my soul. I am grateful, but I know I can never thank Him enough.

The Second Station: Jesus receives His cross.

I know that sins are heavy. They hurt. When I realize I’ve done something particularly wrong, I feel it. It makes me sad, and it makes me ashamed of myself. I physically feel that guilt. That’s just for one person; that’s just for me. Jesus, who is fully human, had to carry my own sins, but everyone else’s, too. Even the thought is terrifying. On top of carrying all the sins of everyone ever, He was brutally beaten and insulted, He had to carry the instrument of His own physical death. Through all of it, He was silent. I can’t even fathom that. It would make me so angry. We are quick to be angry, particularly at Judas, but had he even hoped for the Lord’s forgiveness, he would have been forgiven. Jesus wants to forgive us, but the weight of our sins makes us afraid to go to our Savior. That’s exactly who He is: our Savior, and we can trust Him. He desperately wants us to trust Him.

The Third Station: Jesus falls the first time.

God fell. The strongest Person in the universe fell. He wasn’t weak. He was brave. He is brave. He was willing to fall for us. He was willing to fall for me. He was willing to die for me. Thinking of Him falling kills me because I can’t do a thing about it. I can’t go back in time and make it right. We say that after Original Sin was the “fall.” He didn’t have to fall. He could have stopped all of this. He allowed Himself to fall. He was doing His Father’s will, but it was a choice, too. This is what our fall cost. This is what it looks like. God is willing to fall with us. He’s willing to come down to our level. If we’ve fallen as low as it’s possible for a human to fall, God will find us there.

The Fourth Station: Jesus meets His Mother.

To be sinless in a sinful world must have been strange, both for Jesus and his Mother. Obviously this whole ordeal was terrible for Him, but His Mother, who was, and is, the closest person to His Heart, had to watch the whole thing. I imagine her being there would have been a comfort for Him. Would it not also have been painful? She had to suffer, too. She had to watch her Son suffer and die for sins that were not her own. A part of me wonders how she could have been there and not be resentful, but of course, I know. She would have known that it was worth it. I’m grateful that she was there to comfort Jesus since I can’t be. What would I even say if I could be? Neither “Thank you,” nor “I’m sorry this is happening to you,” seem to cut it; and what can just a glance really say? Somehow I think she could say it all with just a look.

The Fifth Station: Simon helps Jesus carry the cross.

Simon was a stranger. He didn’t know Jesus. To him, Jesus was just a guy–a criminal for all he knew–who was too physically weak to carry that cross. Jesus, in His humanity, needed help. Still, Jesus is God, and God needed help. I keep coming back to the fact that things could have happened differently. Again, this is a moment that looks like weakness. From a strictly human perspective, I suppose it is. Truthfully, though, it’s a moment of love. Throughout this ordeal, what Jesus needed most was love. This time, Jesus initiated it. He allowed someone to help Him in His weakness. He needed to love someone because very few people were loving Him. I expect that changed Simon a lot, and I expect by the end of their short encounter, He loved Jesus. I wonder if anything was said between them. I wonder what I would have done had I been in Simon’s place. If Jesus had been a stranger to me, and I had been there at the time, would I have agreed to help? Would I have refused? Would I have seen Him for who He really was? Would I have spoken to Him? Would I have listened and responded had He said anything to me? There were people there who knew Him from before. They were watching from a distance, but after seeing Him fall, no one thought to help. They were afraid to help. What makes me most uncomfortable is the thought that I might have been afraid to help. In the end it was a stranger who helped Him, and it wasn’t exactly willingly. Jesus said that when we help “the least of these,” we’re helping Him. More often than not, “the least of these” are strangers. I need to remember that when I am given the chance to take the place of Simon.

The Sixth Station: Veronica wipes the face of Jesus:

Veronica was brave. At this point, there was very little anyone could do. I sometimes find myself wondering about odd details like what the weather was like that day. Usually I picture the sky being overcast, but what if it wasn’t? What if there wasn’t a cloud in the sky? That would almost make the whole thing worse. What if the sun was shining bright on the whole bloody mess to show it in all its evil cruelty? For the most part, it was horrible, and awful, and cruel, and evil. Then out of nowhere, Veronica steps out of the crowd and offers Jesus what little comfort she could. I don’t even know if they had known each other from before. Maybe she was a stranger, too. Maybe this small act of kindness put her in danger. Maybe it cost her greatly, but to her, it was worth it. I think she knew who He was. Because of that, He shared something of Himself with her in a particularly special way. Jesus wants to do the same for us. He loves us. If we love Him, directly through devotion and prayer, or by helping “the least of these,” we do for Him what Veronica bravely did. Sometimes that’s what it takes. Sometimes it takes bravery. Let us be brave, and when we aren’t feeling brave, we can ask her to pray for us.

The Seventh Station: Jesus falls a second time.

Was this fall worse than the first? What was the cause of it? was it something specific? was it something external, merely physical, or was it some particularly horrible sins? Was it the weight of World War II? Was it the weight of all the abortions happening today? Was it the weight of two millennia of people rejecting His love? Why did He fall? When I think about it, I want to help Him up. I want to end His suffering, but that’s because I know Him. I know that this second fall was my fault. I ignored Him for a long time. I rejected His love for a while. I want to help Him up because I know Him. Do I want to help strangers up when they fall? Do I try? Do I at least pray for them? I can at least do that. Sometimes I forget to, and that, too, I think, is part of why He fell this second time. He will fall with us and for us as many times as it takes to show us who He is and how loved we are.

The Eighth Station: The women of Jerusalem weep for Jesus.

Jesus encounters another small act of love. All these women can do is weep for Him. Sometimes that’s all we can do when we encounter horrible things, especially injustice. Here Jesus shows His strength. He tells the women not to weep for Him. He offers them some comfort, and tells them that they should weep for themselves. They love Him. They are loyal to Him. Being loyal to the Lord, and staying loyal, is sometimes difficult. The first several centuries after Christs’s death were dangerous for anyone who would be called His followers. It more often than not meant a bloody death not unlike His own. For some, this is still the case. For many, though, calling yourself Christian usually means being seen as strange, and sometimes being shunned by colleges or neighbors. For the most part, it’s mostly dangerous to our image. What is most important to us? Our God, or our ego; our reputation? I imagine this is what He meant. Still, had I been there; had I been one of those women, I would have wept for Him. Maybe it was all He could say because He had to keep walking, but I would want Him to see that what He was doing mattered to me, and it matters to me that He still suffers for our sins.

The Ninth Station: Jesus falls a third time.

He fell because He was exhausted. Not only was He carrying the sins of the world; not only had He been tortured and insulted; not only was He carrying the physical weight of the cross; He was certainly being spiritually abused, too. This was the Devil’s last stand. He knew that Jesus was our Savior, and he knew that he had lost this war. He tried, nonetheless, to bring the Lord down. This was the last battle. Yet again, I want to do something. I see in my mind the Lord on the ground, bleeding and exhausted, and I wish there was even a word I could speak to Him. I wish I could take His hand, even for just a moment and give Him an ounce of comfort. I don’t know what gave Him the strength and courage to get back up, but He did. Maybe it’s this desire, and that of so many others that gave Him what He needed to get back up. I hope so. He has to know that I love Him. I know He knows that, but when you love someone, you tell them. Tell Him what He already knows, but desperately needs to hear.

The Tenth Station: Jesus is stripped of His clothes.

What more could they–what more could we–do to Him? We could do this. We stripped Him of His clothes, but in so much of what we do, we sometimes unknowingly strip each other of our humanity. Jesus said to love our enemies. In this moment, we were His enemies. He didn’t hate us. He loved us. Ultimately, we aren’t meant to have enemies. If we have enemies, we see them as just that: enemies. We don’t see them as people. This comes out more subtly, in so many ways, however. Our sinful nature leads us to see others as objects of pleasure, or as convenience items, or as inconveniences to be disposed of. Even at this moment, Jesus did not see us this way. He saw us as people in need of redemption. Even at our worst, He loved us, and even at our worst today, He still loves us.

The Eleventh Station: Jesus is nailed to the Cross.

One of the final things Jesus does before His death, as He is being nailed to the Cross, is to ask that we be forgiven. We didn’t know what we were doing. We didn’t know that we were killing God. Still, He was human. Sure, He wasn’t sinful, but we had done everything humanly possible to hurt Him and shame Him, and He still loved us. Before any of this, He gave us the Eucharist, knowing this would happen, so that He could always be a part of our lives. Why He would want to be part of my life, after what my sins cost Him, is beyond me. That’s not how God is. That’s who He is. He is greater than any evil this world can throw at Him. He is greater than my fear, my confusion, my weakness, my sinfulness, or anything else. He simply loves me. Maybe it doesn’t make sense, but love doesn’t have to. It just is.

The Twelfth Station: Jesus dies on the Cross.

God is dead. God is dead, and I killed Him. It didn’t have to happen this way. He didn’t have to die to save my soul; to save humanity. He died for us to show us what we’re worth to Him. No matter what the world says, and no matter what I think because of that, God says I’m worth dying for. Still, God is dead, and my sins killed Him. I am tempted to feel guilty about this, and when I sin, I rightly do. He doesn’t want me to carry that guilt, though. He doesn’t want me to carry the shame. He already did that. He wants me to come to Him, and ask forgiveness. He wants to forgive me. He wants to be with me. That’s why I can look at a crucifix and say, “Thank you,” though I’m tempted to leave things at “I’m sorry.” Don’t just leave things at “Thank you,” though. Thank Him for the sky. Thank Him for hot water. Thank Him for the ability to read this. Even small things are so meaningful to Him, and that, too makes it worth it.

The Thirteenth Station: Jesus’ Body is given to His Mother.

This is a very human moment. Mary was Jesus’ mother. She had just lost her Son. It seems wrong that a person’s child should be the first to die. I’d like to think she knew what it meant, and I believe that she knew He would rise again. Nonetheless, her Child had died the most horrible death possible. He had suffered the most a human could suffer. If I were in her place, I’m not sure I would have had the hope I knew she had. I think again to the friends who ran away. Would I be with them, or would I be with Mary to receive Jesus’ body? What would I say to her? There probably would be nothing to say. I don’t think a single word of comfort would really be available, not when God is dead.

The Fourteenth Station: Jesus is laid in a tomb.

The finality of it just seems weird. What would I do, not knowing that this was not the end of the story? I think I’d be in shock. Death wasn’t supposed to happen; isn’t supposed to happen. It is meant to seem strange because it isn’t right. Yet God is willing to go even this far to save us. He died so that, in the end, we don’t have to. Jesus died and was laid in a tomb, and most thought that this was the end. Those in power hoped that this was the end. Time and time again, through the centuries, we are proven wrong. God is never outdone. The finality seems weird because it’s like an unresolved chord at the end of a song, or a spot on a canvas that hasn’t been painted, or the end of a story that hasn’t been written. Knowing that this isn’t the end of the story, but the sad end of a chapter, gives us what we need when we must hope against hope.

Why I’m Staying

I wasn’t going to write about this for various reasons, a significant one being that plenty of other people already have. However, being Catholic, and being an emotional, thinking person, I feel like I have to. A lot of people have written or made videos about why they’re leaving. This is about why I’m staying.

I heard in the early two thousands, when I was growing up, that there was some kind of scandal going on in the Catholic Church. I didn’t pay attention because I was a kid. It’s only recently that I’m learning how bad it has been, and unfortunately, it’s tempting a lot of people, or even causing a lot of people to leave. This has been an ongoing issue, and the Catholic Church has always had problems, but it has come to light more radically in the past couple of decades. The details are easy to find, and quite honestly, I’m too horrified to go into them here. All that needs to be known is that far too many children were victimized by men who were supposed to lead our Church, and be examples of holiness. Instead, they exploited their power and broke sacred vows they had made to God.

All I can say is that I’m sorry I didn’t know. I wish I could change the way things are, but I can’t. I wish I could somehow prove to the victims that God loves them, but I probably can’t. A lot of what has happened has come to light because of a recent report from Pennsylvania. I can’t bring myself to read it, but as far as I know, it is available to read. I could barely handle the few stories I’ve read or heard. A lot of people, probably much like myself, are leaving because, like me, they’re indignant about this, and perplexed as to how our leadership could have let this happen.

I do think that our leaders are at fault, some moreso than others, but I think we also have to look in the mirror and admit to ourselves that, maybe, in some sense, we’re a little bit to blame. Maybe we’ve been a little too trusting, and maybe, on the other hand, we’ve been too hesitant to believe it when we hear that a priest could do such a thing. I think a lot of us just haven’t paid enough attention. I’m not saying everyone is to blame. As I said, this wasn’t on my radar until recently because I was a kid while a lot of it was going on.

When I first read about this, I cried, and I have since asked God, in one way or another, “How could this have happened?” It’s because of things like this that Jesus had to carry His cross. It’s because of this that I’m staying. I’m staying for His sake. This is His Church, and it’s our Church, too. Jesus predicted that people would leave Him. He said that some will simply ignore His teachings, some will accept them while life is good, but leave when life gets hard, but some will stay.

I had a bad dream and woke up at four this morning. I prayed for a while, and eventually God gave me this: “The truth will set you free.” Jesus is the Truth, and we will get through this. Mike Donehey, the lead singer of Tenth Avenue North, often puts teaching videos on YouTube. In one he explains that once, he was praying about a bad time he and the band were going through, and God came back with, “Why do you call Good Friday, Good Friday?” Mike didn’t know how to answer, so God said, “It’s because you know what happened on Sunday.” This is Friday, and Friday sucks right now, but we also know that history has a tendency to repeat itself, and Sunday will come. God will not abandon us.

I’m staying because I believe that the Catholic Church is the traditional Church that Jesus intended. I believe in its fundamental teachings, and the reality contained in the sacraments. I believe that Jesus is truly alive and active in this Church, and I know that this bothers Him even more than it bothers me. I’m staying because I love Him, I love His Church, and I can honestly say that, though I don’t know them, I love the people who were so deeply hurt by this. To anyone reading this, I urge you to stay, pray, and do whatever you can to make our Church what it should be.

Fear Is A Lie

I realized something recently. When I’m working, I listen to Christian music almost exclusively. I’m talking about bands like Tenth Avenue North and Rend Collective. When I’m hanging out with my dad (my mom doesn’t really like music), we almost exclusively listen to secular music. My preferences in both categories don’t cover a hugely wide range of genres because I know what I like. When it comes to movies, I’ll watch almost anything, from romance to action to horror films, as long as the story is good. I don’t mind what some might consider vulgar language, and I don’t mind portrayals of faiths or belief systems that contrast with my own. I’m not afraid of these things.

Similarly, I am beginning to care less and less about what people think when I say that I am Christian, and I believe the Christian God to be the only true God. As I said, I am beginning to care less. As a teenager, I purposefully separated myself from others, but it was not for faith reasons. I had no faith back then. Still, I didn’t care what people thought of me. It was out of spite. Now I have faith, and my God has taught me to love, and now that I do love, I care what people think of me. It’s odd, and ironic. I care what people think because I love. I need people to understand that I believe in absolutes and in objective morality, and though I’m not perfect, I try not to judge. What I am trying to say is that I care less about my image now, and more about whether or not people can see the real me. The real me is Christian.

The world breeds fear. It’s hard to overcome it because the world is just so complicated. There are wars, there is violence, there is hunger, there is sickness, and there is a multitude of other problems, not to mention the supernatural factors. I’ve learned that fear is probably the Devil’s most powerful weapon. The most important thing to remember is that Jesus has already won. That means we’ve already won. My mom and I are listening to a story right now that’s told largely from the perspective of a seventeenth century Jewish woman living in London. At that time in London, apparently the leaders of the Jewish faith condemned theater because it was vulgar. I remember hearing that Christians had very similar sentiments about early Rock ‘n’ Roll, thinking that it was downright evil. They said the same about games such as Dungeons and Dragons when that first came out.

Such fear is nothing but a lie. Of course there are lines that need to be drawn. I don’t listen to certain bands or even just certain songs by bands that I otherwise like because they insult my Lord or my religion, for example. However, fearing something and ignoring or condemning it are two entirely different things. There are things we as Christians can ignore, tolerate, and even enjoy, even when these things are not explicitly Christian. There are also, of course, forms of entertainment or other practices that should be spoken against. Obviously this requires discretion, and I believe there are plenty of people braver and better equipped than myself to do this. My aim in this post is to speak against fear. I’m not a warrior, and I’m not a coward.

I started thinking about this recently because I’ve started getting bored of the same phrases and imagery that are used over and over in so many worship songs. I want real worship, and I want real artistry, not a bunch of lines that are copied and pasted from Scripture on top of yet another new melody. This is done because it is easy, but also because Scripture is the Word of God, and we love it. We trust his word, and it gives us comfort and hope. It is understandable, but it is also overdone. God himself is an artist. His plan and his way of doing things are totally strange, yet beautiful. We are made in his image and likeness, and as Christians, and especially as Christian artists, we should aim to mirror that. Be bold, be strange, venture into the absurd, do not be afraid to love, and above all, do not give into fear.

Because It Really Does Work

I was in a class that I hate last night, and there was a guest speaker. She was a retired preschool teacher and the wife of the minister at her church. She came to tell my class a story. She brought props. She came to tell us a story about how she and her family got through her husband’s cancer, her cancer, and her recent knee surgery. It got real really fast.

I remember reading a book called “90 Minutes In Heaven.” It was about a preacher who got into a really bad car accident and had a near death experience. Actually, he technically did die. His heart stopped and he saw amazing things before he was resuscitated. He spent a long time in the hospital and had to go through a really arduous and painful recovery.

What these two stories had in common is this: the characters in them were not alone. The lady in class last night said that she and her family would not have got through two cancer diagnoses and recoveries if they hadn’t had people praying for them. They knew that they had people and God on their side, and it was tremendously helpful to them psychologically, but also, they–and I– believe spiritually, in that the prayer itself made a real, significant difference.

The preacher in the story I read had given up on life. Towards the beginning of his recovery, there was one night when he was lying there in the hospital and decided to stop living. This decision had a real, physiological effect. He started dying. His friend, who was also a preacher came and told him that he may have given up, but his friends were going to hold an all night prayer vigil and were not going to let him die. They did that, and miraculously, the preacher started getting better and completely recovered relatively quickly.

I know from experience that it sometimes feels like praying is futile. Sometimes prayers are answered, and sometimes they’re not, and we have no idea why. Sometimes our prayers are answered in ways we don’t understand; in ways that don’t really seem like answers at all. Sometimes we have to wait. Sometimes, even if our prayers are answered and we’re sure of it, we despair because of all the prayers (our own or not) that don’t get answered. Sometimes we despair because the world and its problems are very big and we are small.

I read a quote–by whom I forget–that said something along the lines of: hope and despair are not polar opposites. They are out of the same mold. The only difference is that hope holds on to something. Hope believes in some kind of future. Hope allows for love, while despair is weirdly narcissistic.

As individuals we are small, but together we are huge. Metaphysics suggest that all beings are interconnected in a mesh that is meant to work as one individual, or mechanism. Sociology suggests that humans are social animals that are happier and more productive when working and playing in groups. Religion suggests that we are meant to worship God together and work together to better the world.

So many times it seems that when people pray in groups, those prayers are answered. When people pray together, miracles happen. When people pray together, mountains get moved…. That’s not to say that individual prayers aren’t as powerful. God loves each individual person equally, and pays just as much attention to the lonely hiker lost in the mountains as he does to the mega churches on Sundays.

That being said, there seems to be some kind of power in numbers. I know that, for some reason, I find it easier to pray when I’m with other people. I also feel more genuine when I’m praying with other people. Sometimes when I’m praying by myself, I get distracted, or I don’t say what I really want or need to say. Sometimes I try to pray for something I know I should care about, but actually really sort of don’t.

A couple nights ago I had a dream. A knight was charged with the defense of the castle while the king was away. He was strong, and a good fighter, and fully capable of doing his job. However, he was not quite capable of dealing with a supernatural threat. At one point, a demon showed up in the castle and attacked the knight, nearly killing him. The knight said, “Please, have mercy on me.” The demon obliged, but said that the knight must leave the castle and that he would be forever shamed. The knight left and went to hide away in a dark place. Then he said, “Lord, let there be courage where there is fear; let there be strength where there is weakness; let there be love where love is lost; let there be faith where there is none.” I had not been a character in the dream up until that point, but then I came into the dream as kind of a spirit-thing, and gave him a hug. That was it.

I think his prayer was wicked good, and I’ve been using it when I can. I’m really not sure what my part meant. I guess I’ll leave you with that. That is my prayer for tonight; that there would be courage where there is fear; that there would be strength where there is weakness; that there would be love where love is lost; that there would be faith where there is none in this crazy world.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Slipping

Today in chapel, the speaker talked about living for something worth dying for: giving everything are and everything you have to Jesus, and using all your resources to make the world a better place. It kind of made me feel bad to be honest. It sounds easy in a way; praise the Lord, pray for the world and be nice to people. On another level it’s really hard. I don’t know what it means to give all I have, partly because I feel like I don’t have much to give. I’m broke, so I can’t donate anything, and I’m disabled, so I can’t go anywhere and offer service to anyone.

I know that dedicating my musical ambitions to God is a good thing, and I know praying is a good thing. I do both of those. I pray every night, and I’m still trying to maintain that kicked-in-the-pants drive when it comes to music. I go to the studio once a week, which I’ve been doing for a while, and I’ve been practicing and writing more than usual lately. I’ve also been doing research when I have time, on top of school. I just feel like my mood is slipping. I think I know why, and I think it suffices to say that it probably has something to do with lady issues.

I’m on Spring Break as of Thursday, and I’ll be busy enough, which will be good. I’m playing at an open mic on Wednesday, March 12, and I have a recording session the following night. I’ve also been in touch with a woman who is very interested in becoming a songwriting/performing duo. She was the only person who replied to the craigslist ad I sent out last week, and she’s several years older than I am, but she seems very nice, and we seem to have the same idea of where we want our music to go. She’s also Christian and is committed to using music to glorify God, which is the whole point of this craziness. I’ll be meeting up with her either at the open mic or some other time next week. It should be super cool.

I guess I have to keep things in perspective. I prayed earlier today that God would give me patience and courage. I think great things can come of my project, but it’s going to take time. I’m just too expectant for results now. I’m hoping my new potential band mate (Sam) can give me some pointers, because I think she has a little more performing experience than I do.

I’ll leave you guys with some song lyrics

I will sing Hallelujah
‘Cause there is good in things and I believe it
I can see that it’s true
And it’s beautiful

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!