Sunday, April 27, 2014

Divine Mercy Sunday: Letting Jesus Heal Our Wounds

"Peace be with you … Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe." – Jn 20:26-27 

Thomas did something we would all like to do. It would be so much easier to believe if we could touch and see the wounds of Christ. Yet, the wounds of Christ are present every day in many different ways. I can still touch them; perhaps I just don’t see them.

We are all wounded. Some of us carry the wounds that are deeper and more intense than others. These wounds can be physical or spiritual, recent our long-standing. An injection or a pill isn’t enough to heal these wounds. Healing is an internal process that puts things right, and to do this we need to face our wounds.

Jesus carries our wounds. In today’s gospel, Jesus invites Thomas to touch the wounds in his hands and side. In so doing, Jesus is also inviting Thomas to come face to face with his very own wounds, which Jesus is carrying. It is only by facing his own wounds that Thomas can be healed and then proclaims, “My Lord and my God.”

We, like Thomas, are invited to face our wounds, which Jesus carries for us. Like Thomas we are invited to heal whatever it is that threatens life within us. Moreover, we are called to touch the wounds of Christ in others around us. In doing so, we allow the grace Jesus offers to heal the wounds that prevent us from being whole. And we will find the strength to rejoice, “My Lord and my God.”

Each day this past week, we glimpse into an aspect of the Risen Jesus. He is already present, in a new form, consoling with healing and peace, inviting us to let go, eliciting joy, and sending us to testify to love. May the joy of this Easter Season bring about a greater, deeper renewal in each of us, and in our communities!

Adapted from Anthony Chezzi

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Saturday in the Octave of Easter: Impossible Not to Witness Love

"It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heart." - Acts 4:20

“Go into the whole world
 and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.” – Mk 16:15

Genuine love cannot be contained. Like the life-force emanating from all created beings, it is resilient, persistent, unstoppable. Like water over-spilling its container, love overflows beyond a person’s heart and hands. Peter and John in Acts 4 risk further imprisonment and persecution by proclaiming that it is impossible not to testify to what they’ve experienced regarding the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

Through retreat work and sharing the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, I am very blessed to know people who are experiencing God’s love in such a way and depth that they cannot keep it to themselves. Their tales of transformation are inspiring: a young woman is quitting her high paying job to spend four months serving the poor and making a month-long retreat not because she’s having a crisis, but because she wants to respond more deeply to God with her life; a single mother who struggled with depression, trying to earn love and seek approval much of her life now shares about the joys of praying early every morning, taking walks with God, experiencing peace consistently, even through her times of loneliness, and empowering her children to a genuine discovery of their own faith; a reserved Vietnamese man apologizing to his children and family in public with an honesty and humility that elicits similar courage from other men; a young couple grieving the loss of their newborn with a raw openness and strength that reverberates through both of their own extended families. These stories are proclaimed by action more than by words.  These people carry out St. Francis of Assisi’s advice: “Proclaim the Gospel always; and when necessary, use words.” Our new Pope seems to be one of these people.

There is a clear pattern happening to these people: as they allow themselves to be touched, healed, forgiven, lead, etc… they magnify God’s love and goodness. They cannot keep such a life-force to themselves. Moreover, the more they let God effect grace in their lives, the more they become instruments of peace and joy. Step-by-step, in ordinary living, with openness, they join this revolution of love, this conspiracy of grace, this contagion of life. They manifest an ordinary witness of extraordinary love. They inspire people around them. I am one of these people, who is empowered to be likewise.

O Risen One, grace me with your humility and courage to magnify your presence and love in the way I treat people around me.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Friday in the Octave of Easter: Drawing Deeper in His Love

Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead. - John 21:1-14

Experiencing the real Messiah can be one of our greatest challenges. Yet, nothing made Him more real than the ordinary things He shared with them as revealed in today’s gospel. He prepares food for them. He eats with them. He nourishes their hearts with care, reassurance, and healing as they begin to carry on His ministry after His death and resurrection. And as we come close to the culmination of this Lenten season, we are invited to answer, “Do I know the Lord, or do I just know about Him?”

Life is a courageous journey or nothing at all. The essence of being human is that we are in the end prepared to be broken up by life. Good days bring happiness, bad days give us experiences, and the worst days allow for lessons to be learned. It is an inevitable process in discovering who we are and coming to an understanding that most things in life happens for us, not to us. It paves a way for us to live from the heart and knowing that every day of freedom is an act of faith and trust. And this happens when we are willing to say, “Lord, I am invested here without any guarantee about what will happen.”

Finding beauty is living in a blessed world. However, it is truly up to us to open our hearts and receive His love. C.S. Lewis’ metaphor of knowing God’s presence in his life resonates with me most. He writes that he believes in God, “as I believe the sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” And when we immerse ourselves in His words and apply it to our present situation, anxiety flees and helps us to connect His truths to what is actually happening in our life. We begin noticing the empty tombs and the many signs of God’s generous love and grace through our families, relationships, resources, gifts, abilities, and opportunities. Suddenly, we have gone from inference to real experiences with Jesus.

Lord, help me to live with a compassionate heart, gracious in awareness, courageous in thought, and generous in love.

Reflected by Tam Lontok

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Thursday in the Octave of Easter - God's Peace Be with You

While they were still speaking about this, he stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” - Lk 24:36

When I read and imagine Jesus saying "Peace be with you" directly to me, I can feel His peace wash over me, but amidst all the obstacles, ups, and downs, I find myself struggling to keep myself open to receiving His peace. In a world where I am constantly surrounded by noise, mobile phones, television, and negative voices, I too often find it difficult to keep His peace inside my heart.

Over the years, I have come to realize that when I stop to become more aware of anything other than the fruit of peace bubbling up in my heart, I can also stop to remember that Jesus died on the cross for me and has risen so that he can conquer death and all things not of God. It is during these times that I can remember that he died so that I can have life after death and that I should not let anything else take over my heart.

Lord, may Your peace remain in my heart from the moment I wake up to the moment I lay my head down to sleep. May I have the awareness of Your movements so that I can push away anything other than Your presence in the sacred spaces of my heart.

Reflected by Theresa Hoang Dung Tran

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Wednesday in the Octave of Easter - God's Continued Presence

“Peter said, ‘I have neither silver nor gold, but what I do have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, rise and walk.’” - Acts 3: 6
I read the Easter story to my kindergarteners before dismissing them for Easter vacation. The topics of heaven and God emerged in the discussion that followed. I addressed questions about heaven’s location beyond the clouds and how God can live simultaneously in both heaven and the church. A few children explained how a grandparent or a pet had already gone to live in heaven. These were all typical things that five-year-olds would say.

Then, one girl shared that she once mailed a card to God. “But he didn’t write back,” she continued. She had a disappointed look on her face. This was the first time I heard a student share something like this, so I addressed all the children sitting on the rug. I asked, “If you could write a letter to God, what would you say?” One child would write a simple “I love you.” Another wanted to know if God could come live with us. Many children wanted to ask God, “What do you look like?”

Our sense of sight is often the most visible, tangible way to acknowledge one’s existence. God sent us Jesus in the most concrete form we could identify with – the embodiment of a man. Even though Jesus no longer lives and walks among us in human form, God weaves reminders of Jesus’ presence in our lives.

Let us not forget that something amazing has happened and is still happening this Easter season. God’s love for us not only lives in stories and memories of Jesus, but also in the ways we are called to respond to reminders of Jesus in our daily lives.

What would you write in a letter to God? How could you hear His response, even if He didn’t “write” back?

Open our hearts, Lord, to feel Your presence and listen intentionally, even if we cannot see you.

Reflected by Nathalie Medina

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Tuesday in the Octave of Easter – Let Go, Let God …

"Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them, 'I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'" – Jn 20:17

The more we love someone or something deeply, the more we tend to cling. We mistake the object of our love as the Source of our longing, because that person, thing, or circumstance has helped us be happy, find meaning, or grow. We can become too attached, even possessive, holding on too tightly. We don’t really know how healthy our attachment is until that relationship changes, is severed, or lost.

The Risen Jesus meets Mary Magdalene as she is overcome by grief. By asking her, “Whom are you looking for?” he invites her to get in touch with a deeper desire beyond her tears and loss. Moreover, when called by name in a familiar and intimate way, she responds in deep faith with “Rabbouni-Teacher.” You are the one in whom my hope for fulfillment, my longing for intimacy, is placed. Gradually, she realizes that one she loves, Jesus of Nazareth, is been transformed into the Lord of her faith. Slowly, she grows in awareness that the great love of her life is more than flesh-and-blood, but the great Giver. Instead of focusing on her loss, the Risen One gives her a mission to console, to let go, to witness a freer love.

I am very much like Mary, bent over the tomb, mourning when a relationship with a person, a project, or dream that has brought happiness or meaning does not last as long or turn out the way I expected. It gives me much hope that the Risen Jesus meets Mary and I in our longing and grieving, offering something greater than what we cling to. While I still hold on to my plans, my dreams, something greater awaits. The Risen One invites me to let go and let God be God. That invitation becomes an offer to fulfill my longing for greater life and meaning. For God’s very Self, for the Giver of all gifts.

Risen Lord, help me to relax whatever I am clutching that I may be more willing to be embraced by You.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Monday in the Octave of Easter - Consoled to Witness

“… he died and was buried, and his tomb is in our midst to this day.” –Acts 2:29

I was 16 years old when my grandmother passed away. It has been a good 13 years since that eventful day. I loved my grandma very dearly. Everyone in the family did, as she had a way to keep us all together, like glue holding several pieces in place.

On the day that grandma died, I remember heading to the funeral home immediately after school, feeling completely devastated after hearing the news from my sister. The place had an eerie silence to it. Melancholia enveloped the room where my grandma’s remains laid; her body at that time was a few hours from being embalmed. I remember feeling the lowest I've ever felt. While everyone was keeping watch outside the funeral home, I came in, approached my grandma’s remains, took the white cloth off of her to reveal her face, and held her hand. Breaking into sobs, I felt her hand against mine, forcing her clenched fists to open up so I could somehow intertwine our fingers. But her hands were so cold, so stiff, so lifeless… completely devoid of the warmth I had been so fond of all my life. I was pouring all my sadness at my loss when my sister came to comfort me, along with the rest of the family.
Recalling my experience of loss, I can only imagine what it was like for Jesus’ disciples who witnessed his death, only to find three days later, that truly he has risen from the dead. What a joyful moment that must’ve been! To see someone you love so dearly come back to life!

I still miss my grandma’s presence to this very day. Very often when I am faced with difficult decisions, I would wish I could hear her voice and her sound pieces of advice. She has not risen from the dead of course, but I do believe that through Christ Jesus, one day we all shall rise with Him, who has promised us life eternal.

Lord Jesus, thank you for your passion and cross, through which You have conquered death for us, once and for all.

Reflected by Chariz Penalber

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter Sunday: The Difference of the Resurrection

“We are witnesses…” – Act 10:39

Last year, I became friends with a woman unlike anyone whom I’ve befriended before. In her forty years of life, she cannot recall any experience of being loved. She remembers being cared for, but not loved. Hearing about her rough childhood and difficult adult years, I can understand why she says, “I don’t know what love is.” Yet, what amazes me is her persistent desire to develop a relationship with God through prayer and community. After a year, I see a difference with her faith. She is gradually imagining a God who loves her personally, as she is. Although she has yet to understand the why’s or what’s of her life, she believes. It is incredibly inspiring to me, and contagious.

We all have a story to tell. Not so much with words, but by how we live. How we live is how we tell our story. Will it be a story of tragedy or one of hope? The difference lies with believing in the Resurrection, which gives us lens of hope to interpret the events of our lives. To one who believes all things are possible; to one who doubts, everything is difficult. The Resurrection is not simply the happy ending to a sad story. Rather, it’s the difference that transforms a tragic tale, like the way my friend’s life is unfolding.

We are called to proclaim the story of God’s love with our lives. To let our story speak and draw people into the drama of God’s love. This is what it means to witness, to make known, to testify to our love story with God.

It is good that the Easter Season lasts 50 days. We have longer than Lent for this truth to marinate in our minds and in our hearts. To be a good contagion for people around us.

“Risen One, deepen my trust and in your transforming love! Help me to witness your mercy.”

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Holy Saturday - Vigil in the Holy Night of Easter

“We have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” - Romans 6:4

It is difficult for us to experience Holy Saturday during Holy Week. Although we have read the story and know there is a happy ending of resurrection and new life, this luxury was not available to Jesus’ first followers. All they had was the hope that somehow their Savior would live on their hearts and imaginations.

Life is often a time of Holy Saturdays with no resurrection in sight. After the shock of death or words that bring despair (such as cancer, divorce, terminal, or unemployment), we have to begin living with the ‘what’s next’ as we enter the void of unknowing. From time to time, most of us live in Holy Saturday. We experience the joy and excitement of Easter and the disheartening pain of Good Friday, but those are immediate and momentary. In between death and resurrection, fear and hope, pain and comfort, lies the valley of grief and uncertainty of Holy Saturday and not knowing what the future will bring.

There is no antidote to uncertainty. Life is about dealing with the question marks and making the best of them without any guarantees for what will happen next. We do not know if the cancer can be cured or if we will love again or find our true vocation. And while I am an affirmative and hopeful thinker, in some ways, I am at complete surrender. Like the women and men on the first Holy Saturday, I live with an uncertain future.

As our resurrections are still in suspense, we can take this time to pray, lift our concerns up to God for comfort, and listen for God’s voice of companionship, care, and counsel as we live the uncertainty of Holy Saturday. What is left open and uncertain in my life? Where am I grieving? What are my ‘what’s next’ questions?  

Lord, help me draw strength from Your endless love and know that Your grace is enough for me.

reflected by Tam Lontok

Friday, April 18, 2014

Good Friday - Following Jesus Involves Embracing Our Cross

“Into your hands I commit my spirit; you will redeem me, O Lord, faithful God.” - Psalm 31:5

Each of us has a cross to carry. There is no need to make one or look for one. Living every moment of our life and fully embracing our humanity inevitably brings us to our crosses. My older brother and I often joke that following Jesus is easy, if only we can choose the cross – the suffering – we want. Yet, the cross is precisely the manner of suffering that we do not prefer. Jesus’ call to discipleship echoes: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”

Maybe we can't study; maybe we have been laid-off; maybe we are handicapped; maybe we suffer from depression, from poor self-image, from a serious disease; maybe we experience conflict in our families; maybe we are victims of violence or abuse. We didn't choose any of it, yet these things are our crosses. We can ignore them, reject them, refuse them or hate them. But we can also embrace these sufferings, and allow them to help us be united with Jesus on the cross. Even in darkness that suffering often brings, we can risk that God’s wisdom and love can transform our crosses into greater life.

Both my cousin and maternal grandmother suffered greatly at the end of their lives. Although they died two decades apart, they taught me a similar lesson. In their own ways, they struggled yet embraced their crosses. Despite my ability to accept her impending passing, my grandmother had come to peaceful acceptance of her death. She shared with me that Jesus was with her, that she was sharing his suffering. That he was sharing hers. And in much of her life, this was her experience, her crucible of faith – Jesus’ way of drawing her close to him. When suggested by her pastor to unite her suffering to Jesus’ and offer them to help children in hospital nearby, my young cousin Thy understood fully and said “yes”. She allowed her husband, families and relatives, and so many friends and hospital staff to be with her in her last moments. We sang the Prayer of St Francis in tears as she gave up her spirit. Like our grandmother, she embodied Jesus’ stance before the cross; she taught us how to die with grace. While the doctors and our earnest prayer could not save her, our presence may have eased her suffering and accompanied her home to God.

Like Jesus, we cannot choose our cross. Yet, embracing our cross while struggling to entrust ourselves to God can make room for greater life and meaning.

Help us Lord Jesus, to trust that by your holy cross you have redeemed the world! Help us to embrace you though our crosses these days.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Holy Thursday - Re-membering Means Becoming More Like Jesus

“Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” – 1 Corinthians 11:23-24

“If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.” – Jn 13:14-15

People who know they are about to die take special leave of their loved ones. Their last words and actions sum up their greatest hopes and desires for those they love. At the Last Supper, Jesus left his disciples two acts of remembrance. First, Jesus took the bread, blessed, broke, and gave it to his disciples. Second, he washed their feet.

Jesus summarized his own life when he took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to his disciples. He is chosen to reveal God’s boundless love, blessed at his baptism in the Jordan River, broken on the cross, and given as bread for all. Being chosen, blessed, broken, and given is the sacred journey of the Son of God, Jesus the Christ.

It is also our journey. We remember Jesus by recalling what he did. Moreover, the word “re-member” also means “to become more fully a part of.” Thus, we remember him when we live as people chosen, blessed, broken, and given as food for the world. We become the very body of Christ that is taken, blessed, broken, and given. Likewise, we remember him when we wash one another’s feet with a similar humble and self-giving love as he did. The Eucharist and feet washing are integral acts remembrance. By remembering in these ways, we become more like Christ.

It’s so interesting to me that in the past 2,000 years of Christian history, the two clearest and consistent means of encountering Jesus are the Eucharist and feet washing (serving God’s poor). I am deeply moved by Pope Francis’ surprising choice not to celebrate Holy Thursday Mass at one of Rome’s many basilicas but at a juvenile detention center with many Muslims youths. He is washing feet “in remembrance” of Jesus. He is practicing what he preached yesterday: “Holy Week is not so much a time of sorrow, but rather a time to enter into Christ’s way of thinking and acting. It is a time of grace given us by the Lord so that we can move beyond a dull or mechanical way of living our faith, and instead open the doors of our hearts, our lives, our parishes, our movements or associations, going out in search of others so as to bring them the light and the joy of our faith in Christ.”

“Thank you, Jesus, for helping us to become more like you through the Eucharist and feet washing. With whom do you invite us to attend the Eucharist or wash their feet these days?”

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Wednesday of Holy Week - Fruitfulness Beyond Human Measure

"Insults have broken my heart, so that I am in despair. I looked for pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none." - Psalm 69:21

We belong to an age that wants quick results. We want visible productivity, to see with our own eyes what we have made. Instant gratification often creeps itself into our spiritual life but that is not the way of God's Kingdom. Often our witness for God does not lead to tangible results. Jesus himself died as a failure on the cross, betrayed by friends, handed over by a follower. In his earthly life, Jesus did not see much “success.” Still, the fruitfulness of Jesus’ life is beyond any human measure. As faithful witnesses of Jesus, we have to trust that our lives too will bear fruits, even though we cannot yet see them.

What is important is how well we have tried to love. God will make our love fruitful, whether we see that fruitfulness or not. Just as God raised Jesus from the dead, God will give fruition to our sacrifices.

“Lord, help me to trust in your sanctifying power and not to expect ‘successes in all that I do.”
Inspired by Henri Nouwen

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Tuesday of Holy Week – We All ‘Hand Others Over To Suffering’

“Jesus was troubled in spirit, and testified, ‘Amen, amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.’ The disciples looked at one another, at a loss as to whom he meant” - John 13:21-22

In Greek, to “betray” means to hand the other over to suffering. Judas’ betrayal handed Jesus over to suffering. Peter’s denial leaves Jesus to suffer alone. In different ways, Judas and Peter are sources of sorrow for Jesus.
The truth is that each of us hands others over to suffering, especially those close to us. Intentionally or unknowingly we betray as Judas or deny as Peter.  We overprotect, cling too tightly, or hold unrealistic expectations of people we profess to love.  Judas handed Jesus over to suffering partially because he wanted to force Jesus to become a political Messiah; Peter denied knowing Jesus because the cost of discipleship would be too much for him.

When we are willing to confess that we often hand those we love over to suffering, even against our best intentions, we can experience God’s forgiving love. When we, like Peter, allow Jesus to look upon our guilt with love and mercy, our hearts can be purified and consoled. In turn, we will be more ready to forgive those who, often against their will, are the causes of our pain.

Lord, help me to understand the ways I may be causing others to suffer; help me to let your gaze draws my heart more deeply.

inspired by Henri Nouwen

Tenth Avenue North's song, "Healing Begins," can be a way to help let Jesus' gaze shine upon us with mercy.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Monday of Holy Week - An Extravagant and Humbled Love

“Mary took a liter of costly perfumed oil made from genuine aromatic nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and dried them with her hair; the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.” – John 12:3

Mary demonstrated a love toward Jesus that is uninhibited and breaks social conventions. According to Judas, she used expensive oil costing more than a year’s wage. To him, her dramatic expression is rather wasteful.  Yet, her extravagant act is coupled with a profound humility. She went down on her knees and tenderly dried Jesus’ feet with her hair. Her unabashed expression of love must have puzzled some people in the room, and made others uncomfortable. However, Jesus defends her, “Leave her alone. Let her keep this for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me”. He accepted her love, humbly and extravagantly shown.

This Holy Week invites us to enter more deeply the love of God that Mary foreshadows. The readings reveal Jesus who embraces denials and betrayals by his closest friends (tomorrow and Wednesdays); Jesus who humbles himself to wash our feet – the dirtiest part of ourselves (Holy Thursday); Jesus who sacrifices his life on the cross – entering our greatest darkness – to save us (Good Friday); Jesus who calls people to baptism and deeper faith (Holy Saturday); Jesus whose Resurrection brings us to greater hope and trust (Easter Sunday).

It is not easy for many of us to accept a love so lavished and seemingly wasteful. Going to Mass several times this week (especially Thursday–Saturday), praying the Rosary, showing love in quiet and sacrificial ways will help us enter the drama of God’s extravagant and humbled love in Jesus.

Jesus, help me to embrace your passion and your love more fully this week.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion: A Crazy Love

“My soul is sorrowful even to death. Remain here and keep watch with me.” – Mt 26:38

It is difficult for those of us familiar with the Passion of Jesus to encounter it as a love story. Yet, with imagination, we might approach its radical meaning. Suppose that you and I belong to a tribe deep in a jungle of Africa, Asia, or South America without any contact to the outside world. Imagine hearing the Passion proclaimed. We would think that it is completely crazy, wacko, muy loca! Why would anyone celebrate such a tragic failure of a traveling preacher who was publicly executed in a most horrifying way? Completely crazy!

From an outside perspective, Jesus’ passion is absurd. Yet, from a believer’s inside perspective, it is very different. Through the eyes of faith, his passion is a moving sacrifice, an incredible act of love, a gesture of self-giving friendship that our hearts cannot remain neutral or untouched.

This past Monday, Fr. Frans van der Lugt SJ, one of my Dutch brother Jesuits was martyred in Syria. He is one of 150,000 people killed in the Syrian civil war. Yet, his killing struck a chord, because he chose voluntarily not to evacuate the Old City of Homs. Rather, he wanted to share the plight of the Syrian people, Muslims and Christians alike, especially the mentally handicapped. He wrote: “The Syrian people have given me so much, so much kindness, inspiration and everything they have. If the Syrian people are suffering now, I want to share their pain and their difficulties.” Living and serving in Syria for 48 years, he was considered a kind of holy puzzle by many Syrians – a Dutchman who learned to love Syria perhaps more than they themselves. He was a man of peace who was dragged out of his house and shot twice in the head.

Grieving the death of this brother Jesuit helps me to get in touch with the martyrdom of Jesus. Similarly, Jesus chose to share our plight, especially the suffering. He was a man of peace, a holy puzzle, who cared deeply, who was executed. Two similar passions. Two similar love stories.

Jesus’ Passion or Holy Week cannot be experienced as outsiders. It would be absurd. Yet, when we enter the suffering of anyone around us, including ourselves, his Passion becomes more real. So would the radical love God has for us.

This week, let us allow ourselves to be drawn close to the poor, needy, marginalized, or afflicted. Consider learning about the persecution of Christians in the Middle East, how the persecution has increased in the past year, and how religious violence worldwide has reached new highs.

Lord Jesus, help me this week to be united with you in my suffering and in solidarity with those who suffer.