In the sound of silence

I posted this on Good Friday, three years ago 2017…

“On Good Friday last year the SS found some pretext to punish 60 priests
with an hour on “the tree.”
That is the mildest camp punishment.
They tie a man’s hands together behind his back, palms facing out and fingers pointing backward.
Then they turn his hands inwards, tie a chain around his wrists and hoist him up by it.
His own wight twists his joints and pulls them apart…
Several of the priest who were hung up last year never recovered and died.
If you don’t have a strong heart, you don’t survive it.
Many have a permanently crippled hand.”

Jean Bernard, Priestblock 25487: a Memoir of Dachau


(worn grave marker, Rock of Cashel / County Tipperary, Ireland / Julie Cook)

“Despite our earnest efforts, we couldn’t climb all the way up to God.
So what did God do? In an amazing act of condescension, on Good Friday,
God climbed down to us, became one with us.

The story of divine condescension begins on Christmas and ends on Good Friday.

We thought, if there is to be business between us and God, we must somehow get up to God.

Then God came down, down to the level of the cross, all the way down to the depths of hell.

He who knew not sin took on our sin so that we might be free of it.

God still stoops, in your life and mine, condescends.
“Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” he asked his disciples,
before his way up Golgotha.
Our answer is an obvious, “No!”

His cup is not only the cup of crucifixion and death,
it is the bloody, bloody cup that one must drink if one is going to get mixed up in us.
Any God who would wander into the human condition,
any God who has this thirst to pursue us, had better not be too put off by pain,
for that’s the way we tend to treat our saviors.
Any God who tries to love us had better be ready to die for it.
As Chesterton writes, “Any man who preaches real love is bound to beget hate…
Real love has always ended in bloodshed.”

William H. Willimon,
Thank God It’s Friday: Encountering the Seven Last Words from the Cross

Dusty and Dry

I cared for you in the wilderness, In the land of drought.
Hosea 13:5

DSCN1904
(Photograph: a dusty and dry country road Troup County, Georgia / Julie Cook / 2013)

We all find ourselves, at some point or another, in the proverbial desert. A lonely, dry, dusty, barren land. On this particular day however, when I took the picture, it was more of the literal dusty and dry land. Difficult to see and even more difficult to breathe. The heat of the day gave way to sweating which just compounded the misery as the red dust coated us from head to toe–sticking to any exposed skin turning each and all red as a brick.

It always seems that a time of spiritual euphoria eventually gives way to a spiritual desert. One minute you’re on top of your game, then bam, the next thing you know… you’re in the bottom of the bucket. A kin to living life on a bit of a roller coaster I suppose, just, thankfully, not at the same speed.

There are times I often feel out of step with the world as my faith seems to run counter to the world’s appetite for that of, quoting both Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa, “a culture of death.” There is so much that I find to be morally and ethically wrong which in turn the world embraces as right and admonishes me for not accepting and being on board. I begin to question myself, my faith. I begin to wonder what’s wrong with me rather than what’s wrong with the world.

But then I think I hear the insidious whispers of our ancient adversary and I am reminded that the battle is still raging…it is the war that is already won. I do grow weary. I, like the psalmist, often wail and lament as there is great gnashing of teeth. Giving-in seems just easier, accept you say, you might as well because the world accepts, it’s just a matter of time, it will wear you down eventually.

I recently read a wonderful quote by Cardinal Sean O’Malley regarding the real life story of Father Jean Bernard–a prisoner and survivor of the infamous death camp Dachau …“In the darkest times of history the Lord has raised up Saints to be a beacon of Christ’s redemptive love.”
No one promised it would be easy. Living life in a fallen world is often like walking through a mine field–tiptoeing at spots, dashing along at others and then oddly feeling entirely safe at other places. Thank God for the “Beacons.”

No, life is not easy…be it our own little world’s dramas or the dramas that play out on the much larger and grander stage of the world—either way however, there is a Promise, there is an eventual Victory and there is always HOPE. Here is to the Hope that is promised us as I continue reading and hearing of the heartaches and needless violence playing out locally as well as world wide. Take heart and be of good courage….hear now the words of Paul…..

….. Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.
(NIV Ephesians 6:10-20)