Sir, We Wish to See Jesus

John 12:20-33

I think I am the world’s worst gardener, well, at least the world worst at starting things from seeds. I am not sure if I do not have the patience, or I just forget. I have tried everything. I have read books, blog posts, Google, everything, and nothing seems to work. So, I only buy plants that have already grown, and I seem to do ok with those.

We are coming to the end of our Lenten journey, and I have to ask, how has it been going? For many, it feels like we have been in a state of perpetual Lent since last year. A year ago, I had just started in a new interim position, and we were preparing for our second Sunday of virtual worship. We had begun to think about Easter, but we all thought for sure we would be back in the Church by that time. Well, here we are, preparing for our second Easter of virtual worship. So, I ask again, how has your Lent been going?

Today’s Gospel takes place during Passover. People have come from all around to worship, and of course, Jesus is there with his Apostles. By this time, the word has spread about Jesus and people and intrigued by what they have been hearing.

“Some Greeks” have come, no doubt they heard about Jesus along the trade route, and they want to learn more. They come to Philip and ask if they can see Jesus. Phillip goes and checks with a couple of others who check in with Jesus. The funny thing is the passage is not clear if they saw Jesus or not. The Apostles come to Jesus, presumably ask if he will see the Greeks, but he starts talking.

In John’s Gospel, this is the first time that we hear Jesus speak of his death. Jesus is getting his friends ready for what is about to happen, but Jesus being Jesus, does not come right out and say it.

Jesus uses the image of a seed.

Way back when I was in seminary, I had a class on preaching. The professor teaching the class told his students that we needed to use imagery that was understandable by those listening or they will not understand when preaching. Jesus often used agricultural or fishing imagery because that is what those listening would have understood. But it makes us work a little harder.

Jesus says that “unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” For there to be life, there has to be death. For the seed to grow, it must first die.

The kernel of wheat is a seed with a hard outer shell that protects the inside’s soft seed. This is important when the seeds are being stored so that the seeds are not damaged. But the outer shell of that seed has to give its life so that what is contained inside may flourish and grow.

Jesus is speaking of his life and what he has to do. He has to die so that there will be life. He will go into the ground, his tomb, so that there will be life eternal.

But then, Jesus turns the topic to others, to you and I, and what we have to do.

Yes, Jesus speaks of dying, and how we have to die, we have to take up our cross, and all of that. But remember, Jesus used metaphorical language, so we are not speaking of actual death here but spiritual death. This is why I ask you at the start, “How is your Lent going?” The giving up of things during Lent is to train us to transform ourselves into another being. To lose that hard outer shell so that the soft seed inside might begin to grow.

We need to die to ourselves. This does not mean we need to sacrifice ourselves or our comfort, some might be called to do that, but this is not a blanket call for us. We are to die to sin. Yes, I said sin. I know we don’t like to talk about sin, but we have to. Sin is missing the mark, not living up to our potential, not using the gifts God has given us to build up the kingdom.

But there is also another sin that we need to cause the death of. The sin of racism, we saw this sin play out in Atlanta this past week. We need to cause the death of the sin of hatred in all of its forms. We need to cause the death of the sin homophobia and all of the other phobias around us. We need to die to all of this sin because that is what keeps us from shedding that outer shell that is preventing that seed from growing.

Friends, the season of Lent is all about shedding that outer shell. It is hard work; the soil has to be just right. We have to use the right amount of water, fertilizer, and sunlight, or nothing happens. Lent is when we prepare the soil by reading Scripture, increasing our daily prayer routine, or starting one. We use this time to give up bad habits and create some new ones.

As we continue to walk with Jesus toward the cross and eventual resurrection, let us continue to work to remove that hard outer shell so that what is inside may blossom and grow.


Mothering Sunday

Mothering Sunday

For us here in the United States, Mothering Sunday might sound a little strange; after all, Mother’s Day is in May. Mothering Sunday was the inspiration for Mother’s Day, but the tradition goes back as far as the middle ages and has a profoundly spiritual significance to it.

As with most things spiritual, it isn’t easy to place an exact date for Mothering Sunday’s origin. It has been tied to the 4th Sunday of Lent since the Medieval Times as sort of a respite from Lent’s rigors.

The original Scripture readings for this day are filled with references to mothers and metaphors for mothers. The introit for the day comes from the Prophet Isiah 66:10-11 and Psalm 122:1

“Rejoice ye with Jerusalem; and be ye glad for her, all ye that delight in her: exult and sing for joy with her, all ye that in sadness mourn for her; that ye may suck and be satisfied with the breasts of her consolations. Psalm: I was glad when they said unto me, we will go into the house of the Lord.”

In Paul’s Letter to the Galatians (4:21-31), Paul uses the story of Sarah and Hagar as an allegory of Jerusalem, “which is the mother of us all” Paul understands this story as an allegory and advocates for an understanding of motherhood that transcends the material world.

The Gospel lesson for the day is the story of the Feeding of the five thousand (John 2:1–14) and is a reminder of mother earth gifts.

During this time, the tradition began of visiting one’s “Mother Church,” the church of one’s baptism, or of visiting the closest Cathedral or Mother Church of the Diocese.

The practice of celebrating Mothering Sunday was revived in reaction to Mother’s Day’s creation in 1913 by Anna Jarvis in the United States. Constance Penswick Smith published a play in 1913 called In Praise of Mother: A Story of Mothering Sunday and a book A Short History of Mothering Sunday in 1915. But her most influential work in the revival of Mothering Sunday came with the 1921 publication of The Revival of Mothering Sunday, a book in four chapters pointing that Mothering Sunday should transcend biological motherhood and include:

‘The Church – Our Mother’
‘Mothers of Earthly Homes’
‘The Mother of Jesus’
‘Gifts of Mother Earth’

On this Mothering Sunday, let us call to mind all those who have helped mother us in our lives.Let us Pray:

Loving God,

Thank you for mums and children and for all the joy of family life. Be with those who are grieving because they have no mother; Be close to those who are struggling because they have no children; Be near to those who are sad because they are far apart from those they love. Let your love be present in every home and help your church to have eyes to see and ears to hear the needs of all who come. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

God’s Love for All

John 3:14-21

It has been said that each preacher has only one sermon and that that sermon is adapted to fit various situations. I believe this to be true, and for me, that one sermon and that I constantly preach is the sermon about the unconditional love of God for everyone, without exception. Almost every sermon I have preached in the last 15 years has been about this radical concept of love that Jesus taught us and commanded us to follow.

In today’s Gospel lesson from St. John, we hear the famous line, “‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” After “judge not lest ye be judged,” this is probably the most often quoted line of Scripture, but the least practiced and understood.

Loving one another is not a suggestion but, as I previously said, a command of Jesus, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.” We will be known by how we love each other, including those we disagree with.

Now, let me pause here for a minute for a point of clarification. The command is to love. Jesus says nothing about liking people. There is a difference between loving someone and liking them, and yes, you can love someone without liking them. We can also love someone without agreeing with their choices, not that anyone is looking for our permission or our approval.

Love is an interesting word. In English, we have one word for the concept or emotion of love. For example, saying I love my spouse is the same word we use when we say I love hamburgers. It’s the same word but a different emotion, well, at least I hope it.

As we know, the Gospels have come to us from Greek, so we have translated what we read from the original Greek language. In Greek, there are seven different words for love. There is a word to describe romantic, passionate love. A word for intimate, friendship love. A word for playful, flirtatious love. Unconditional family love. Self-love, love built on commitment, and finally Agape, or the all-inclusive love.

It is this Agape or all-inclusive love that we turn our attention to today. Agape love is generally an empathetic love toward Humanity itself and is sometimes connected to altruism since it involves caring for and loving others without expecting anything in return. Another way of putting it is this love sort of pay-it-forward love—people helping others selflessly—is the foundation of great societies and communities.

This Agape love is the love that causes us to be concerned for what happens next door but also for what happens across the world. This is the love that moves us to action when we see the devastation from a storm, extreme poverty, or children being held in cages. This is the love that makes our hearts hurt when we see the faces of people fleeing their home to find a better life and risking it all to see that it happens. This is the love that does not allow us to build walls but to build bridges. This is the love that causes us to not only give a handout but a hand up. This is the love that commands us to love others without condition because this is the love that God has shared with us. This is the love that requires forgiveness for past wrongs and hurts again because that is the love that God has shared with all of us.

One of the many blessings I have had in ministry was responding after a disaster. Shortly after Hurricane Katrina slammed into Louisiana, I was sent to Baton Rouge to set up a logistics operation for the hundreds of thousands of pounds of relief aid that would be pouring into the state. The kindness and generosity shown were amazing.

The one incident that stands out for me to this day was the story of a small Roman Catholic Church in Baton Rouge that ministered to refugees from Vietnam. This church had nothing, no resources or staff, and they were not supported by the government or by the Red Cross. In fact, the Red Cross refused to certify them as a shelter, even though they were sheltering more than 100 people because they did not meet their narrowly defined criteria. But this little church opened its doors to the hundreds of Vietnamese people who had been displaced in New Orleans.

I was working out of the Catholic Charities Office, so we went to see what assistance we might offer them. I was reminded that they were used to housing refugees, and so this was just an extension of what they have always done, but it was more than that. They opened their doors, they opened their wallets, and they opened their hearts because it is what we do as Christians. They saw people in need, they knew they could help, and the love of God helped them do it. Truly a blessing.

To truly understand this command to love everyone, we have to return to the story of creation. In the story of creation, God creates the world and everything in it by speaking it. God speaks creation into existence except for when God creates Humanity. Genesis tells us that God formed Humanity from the dust of the ground. The hands of God fashioned Humanity out of nothing, but that is not the most amazing part of the story. After God fashioned Humanity with God’s own hands, God breathed life into Humanity. The very breath of God, God’s Ruach, was breathed into the lungs of Humanity. Genesis tells us that God created Humanity in “our own image and likeness,” and the breath of God is the divine spark that is inherently present in all of Humanity. It is that divine spark, that breath of God, that compels us to love all of Humanity. In the end, God sat back and looked at creation, all of creation, and said, “it is Good.”

But for me, it all comes down to the verse from today’s Gospel. For God so loved the world that he sent Jesus to show us a new way, the way of love. Think about it; God loved the world, all of creation, to such an extent that God was willing to humble Godself in the person of Jesus Christ, to take on this frail form that we have for no other reason than to show us a better way.

Sure, we can get all theological and talk about substitutionary atonement and all the rest, but I am a simple guy with a very simple theology that tells me that this God of love, in an act of love, sent Jesus to say to us, there is a better way.

There was a wedding not long ago in England. A young couple was being married, and they invited a preacher from the United States to preach during their wedding. Perhaps some of you know this story. But this preacher spoke about love, not just the love of the couple standing before him, but the love that God has for all of creation and our part in that. In that sermon, the preacher said, the way of Jesus is the way of love. And the way of love will change the world.

One of the more famous quotes of Mahatma Gandhi is, “be the change you want to see in the world.” Friends we need to love, and we need to be love to the world. We start in our own little sphere of influence, from the places where we are right now, and then that love spreads, and like Bishop Curry said at that small wedding, that love will change the world.


Flipping Over Tables

John 2:13-22

There is a viral MEME, you know, the thing that has a photo of something and usually has a funny caption, of Jesus clearing the Temple of the Money Changers. The caption on the MEME reads, “If anyone ever asks you what would Jesus Do? Remind them that slipping over tables and chasing people with a whip is within the realm of possibilities.” This makes for a nice soundbite or MEME, but how theological is it?

The other problem is the soundbite is asking the wrong question. The question should not be what Jesus would do since we are not Jesus. The question should be, what is Jesus asking us to do?

Sure, in the story from the Gospel of St. John, we do see Jesus, in the Temple, with a whip, flipping over tables, and chasing people. But as I always caution, Scripture usually goes much deeper than what we first encounter on the page. We must drill down into the passage to see what is happening.

As he has done on many previous occasions, he comes to the Temple and finds the tables of the Money Changers there. Worshippers needed to buy things for the sacrifice, and they could only buy them from the sellers in the marketplace at the Temple. As a way for the Temple to make a little extra, they created their own currency and required that this currency be used in the Temple precincts. The exchange rate was set, usually not particularly good for the person exchanging their funds.

Now there are a couple of important things happening in this story. First, Jesus needed to get the attention of the Temple authorities. His time was coming to an end, and he needed to make a big splash to get their attention. Jesus needs the Temple authorities to be concerned about him, but he has just been some backwater preacher up until now. Jesus needs to go big or go home.

The second thing happening here is the focus of Jesus’ rage is not on the political system or the injustice of big corporations. Jesus’ rath is on those in authority in the Temple, the Chief Priests, and Scribes. The ones who study the law all day and are supposed to have the best interests of the people they serve at heart. The authorities know what is going on, but they turn a blind eye to it because, well, simply put, it is making them money.

Jesus is calling out the hypocrisy of the system in the Church. The system that has been created benefits those in power, not the poor or those on the margins. Under the watchful eyes of the Authorities in the Temple, the system that has been created makes it difficult for everyone to be accepted and feel welcome. Jesus is coming to flip the entire system over, not just the tables of the Money Changers. Jesus comes and flips over the practice of sacrifice and offers himself as the ultimate sacrifice once and for all. John places this story not as a stand-alone but as part of the larger Gospel story of change and transformation.

The third thing happening here is the personal dimension of the story. There is always a personal dimension to the Gospel for me. The Jews believed that God resided in the Temple, God’s house if you will. Jesus is changing the dynamic of theological thought that takes God out of the Temple of brick and mortar and places God in the Temple of Humanity, in our hearts. But for God to dwell there, there must be room. Jesus asks each of us to chase away those things that keep us from the true worship of God. Jesus wants to cleanse the Temple of our hearts; he wants to slip over the tables of hatred, racism, classism, nationalism, and all the other isms that live in our hearts. Jesus wants to change our Temple from brick and mortar to compassionate, caring flesh that sees us not using people for what we can gain but helping people because, like us, they are beloved children of God. Jesus wants us to make room for God in our lives and not just in a superficial way but in an intense and personal, dare I say, intimate way.

My wife and I have been clearing out spaces in our home that we do not usually see. You know the places, closets, basements, and all the rest. As our baby gets older, we are discovering she will need more room to play, so we have to make room. We are going through things that we no longer use or are broken and discarding some, selling some, and giving away most.

The season of Lent is a particular time on the Church calendar. The services and the readings point towards this idea of renewal and cleansing. Take time during this season to make room in your Temple for God. Clear away some of the things that keep us from that deep relationship that God wants to have with each of us.


Forgiveness, A Key Ingredient to Our Spiritual Life

Traditionally there are three themes for the season of Lent: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. To this traditional list, I like to add a fourth, forgiveness. If the conventional three are the stool legs, forgiveness would be the seat, the one that holds all the rest together. Although one certainly can practice the other three without forgiveness, spiritually, it just works better when forgiveness is added to the list.

The Sunday of Forgiveness is held on the Sunday before Lent, starting in the Orthodox Christian Church. In the parish I served, there was a tradition at the end of the liturgy; everyone formed a line and approached the priest. Each would ask forgiveness of the other and grant forgiveness to the other. The person would then stand to the priest’s right as the next person in line came forward and so on. The ritual continues until everyone has come through the line.

Sure, there may be people in the line that you do not need to forgive or that you need forgiveness from, but the ritual is about the act of forgiveness. The theology behind this ritual is that one does not enter lent holding anything against another. Forgiveness is essential to worshipping God.

The communion liturgy of the ancient church used to contain a line about holding grudges. If you have anything against another, the instruction was to leave your sacrifice in the church, go and seek reconciliation with the one, and then return to the church for communion.

Forgiveness is essential to our relationship with God and with others.

There are two dimensions to forgiveness, giving and receiving. The critical thing to remember about forgiveness is that forgiveness is not for the person you are forgiving. Forgiveness is for you. By withholding forgiveness, we give power to the other person to control a portion of your life. If we withhold that forgiveness, they hold power. The moment we forgive, the power returns to us.

Forgiveness is not about the state of mind of the other person. Many times, the other person does not even know they have harmed or offended us. We offer them forgiveness by letting go of the hold they have on us.

Forgiveness does not mean forgetting. When we offer forgiveness to the other, we are not ignoring the pain. We are merely taking power back that the other person has.

Let us use this time of Lent to be open to the idea that we all need forgiveness, and we all need to grant forgiveness. It may not always be easy but, in the end, it is worth it.

Lent Evening Prayer

Join Rev. Peter on Wednesday evenings during Lent for Evening Prayer and Reflection. This is a great opportunity to take up the invitation to grow closer to God this Lenten Season.

Reflection Themes

March 3rd ~ Forgiveness
March 10th ~ Fasting/Almsgiving
March 17th ~ St. Patrick
March 24th ~ Prayer
March 31st ~ The Days of Holy Week

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My Friend Joe

I am not the type of man that has many friends. It is not easy for me to let people into my life, so I tend to keep most people at arm’s length. But every so often, someone special crosses your path, and you just know that this guy, this person is a true friend. For me, that person is Joe.

I first met Joe virtually before that was even a thing. I had only been ordained a few years, and I was finding my progressive theological voice, and I stumbled upon this guy from Scranton who taught me about living the Gospel in everyday life. Joe cares deeply for everyone that he encounters. Joe lives the Gospel of Jesus Christ and his command to love your neighbor without condition. Joe is a strong advocate for everything that he believes in and fights hard for those beliefs.

Myself, Bishop Thomas Bryant, Fr. Joe Grieboski

Although I met Joe about 13 or 14 years ago, it was not until 2018 that we met in person. Joe had helped me find my progressive theological voice, and I had moved on from the denomination that ordained me and was serving in another, more progressive denomination. Joe had been ordained a priest in the Independent Old Catholic Church, one of the churches affiliated with Utrecht in Holland. Old Catholic Priests have valid orders but are not under the authority of Rome. I asked Joe if there was room for an ex Orthodox priest now serving in the United Church of Christ, and he paved the way for me to join. Joe was standing beside me when I knelt at the altar in the War Memorial Chapel at the Washington National Cathedral as I was welcomed into the fold.

Joe is a dreamer and a planner, and we talked for hours on the phone and on Zoom about the Church and how we were going to make it a place that welcomed everyone regardless of their background or any of the other things that keep people out of Church. We wanted a different Church, not one hung up on buildings and material wealth, but that worked to make lives better for not just a chosen few, but for everyone. Yes, I know it is a lofty dream, but Joe made it sound possible. Joe so desperately wants to spread the love of God to everyone.

Last fall, Joe was elected Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of the Eastern United States of the Independent Old Catholic Church. At the same time, I was elevated to Monsignor, and I saw Joe’s fingerprints all over that honor that was bestowed on me. I had the honor of being the Master of Ceremonies for his consecration, and what will be one of the greatest joy of my life, I celebrated the Eucharist with him at the High Altar at Washington National Cathedral. That holy ground where so many theological giants have stood and that place from which the message of love rings forth each and every day.

Me showing Bishop Elect Joe and is wife Tracy how to put his new Crozier together prior to his consecration as Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of the Eastern USA, IOCC

Joe did not know this, but I had decided that my gift to him was to create his Bishop’s Staff his crozier, the symbol of his Episcopal Office that he would carry with him for the rest of his life. I crudely fashioned it out of wood as a reminder to Joe of the wood of the Cross of Jesus the Cross that we must bear each day in ministry. It was not perfect, and there were some rough spots, just like in our spiritual lives, but over time, with use, those places would become smooth. I had the privilege of presenting my gift to him at his consecration.

Joe was there for me when my mother died, and he was there again, two years later when my father died. Joe was one of the first people I told about my wife and me expecting our daughter. And Joe was one of the first I told when she was born this past April. Joe shared my moments of great joy and great sorrow. Joe is my mentor and my confessor.

On Wednesday, my friend Joe died, and his death has left a large hole in my heart.

I think I can honestly say that Joe was more than my friend, Joe was my brother, and I loved him. Joe will be missed by so many, but I have to smile thinking about Joe sitting with Jesus, arguing some fine point of theology.

My friend, I never told you how much you mean to me, and I am sorry for that; I hope I brought a little humor into your life. Joe and I used to Facebook Message each other these funny little MEMEs and other things that we might not want to post on Facebook. The day before he died was the feast of the Chair of St. Peter. I took a picture of my chair, the very chair I am sitting in to write these words, and I sent it to him and wished him a happy feast day. He responded with a heart, and that was the last communication I had with my friend.

Joe, you will always be in my heart. Thank you for all that you taught me. Thank you for giving me the courage to preach God’s message without apology. I hope I make you proud.

Love you brother!

The Great Litany

In The Book of Common Prayer, on page 148 is the Great Litany. The Great Litany, like all Litanies, is a prayer of supplication consisting of several petitions and responses. Interestingly, this particular Litany is the first prayer translated into English by Thomas Cranmer. He would eventually assemble The Book of Common Prayer, most of which is still in use today.

In writing this Litany, Cranmer borrowed from several others, including the Sarum rite and the Litany of Martin Luther. The original 1544 version included invocations to the Saints and the Blessed Virgin Mary, but these were omitted in 1549. The Litany was ordered to be used in Church processions by Henry VIII when England was at war with Scotland and France.

The rubrics are quite simple:

To be said or sung, kneeling, standing, or in procession; before the Eucharist or after the Collects of Morning or Evening Prayer; or separately; especially in Lent and on Rogation Days.

The Great Litany strikes a penitential tone and is often used on the First Sunday in Lent. The Litany contains an invocation to the Trinity, several petitions for the deliverance from evil, spiritual harm, and all kinds of “calamities.” The Litany also includes petitions pleading the power of Christ’s Incarnation, life, death, and resurrection asking for deliverance; prayers of general intercession; the Agnus Dei; the Kyrie; the Lord’s Prayer. The Litany ends with a versicle and response based on Ps 33:22; a concluding collect; and the grace.

Most all Christian Churches have some Litany. Although I am not sure it could be considered a litany, one of the most beautiful is the prayer said by Orthodox Christians during the time of Lent called the Prayer of St. Ephraim. This is prayed individually or during worship, and after each verse, one makes a complete prostration. This prayer, like the Great Litany, is penitential.

 O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, despair, lust of power, and idle talk.

But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience, and love to Thy servant.

Yea, O Lord, and King grant me to see my own transgressions, and not to judge my brother, for blessed art Thou, unto ages of ages. Amen.

Lent is a time of prayer and repentance, and the prayers of the Church, like the Great Litany, are a reminder of that penitential nature of the Season.

First Sunday in Lent

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. After being made alive, he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits— to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities, and powers in submission to him.

1 Peter 3:18-22

Humans have an understandable aversion to suffering. Who in their right mind wants to endure any suffering for any reason, not me. I work as a chaplain for a hospice agency. The hospice philosophy is to help the patient have a good death, and one of the ways this is accomplished is by ensuring that there is little or no suffering as best we can. In hospice, we holistically achieve this by treating the patient physically, mentally, and spiritually.

Here we are at the start of Lent, a season that has, as its focus, the suffering of Jesus, and in this pericope from 1st Peter we face it head-on. Suffering has been a hallmark for Christianity for most of history. There was, and still is, this idea that we must suffer as Christ suffered to be good Christians. Well, I don’t think that is necessary. There is also this mistaken idea that God wants us to suffer and that God causes us to suffer. Again, I don’t see it this way.

This notion that suffering is a spiritual disciple has led to all sorts of abuse by the church and by others for centuries. This type of theology has allowed pastors to counsel women to remain in abusive relationships and others to abuse themselves to become closer to Christ. This type of theology is offensive. Christ suffered not to bring more suffering upon us but to save us from eternal suffering.

As I mentioned, there is also this idea that God causes human suffering. If this were true and God did cause human suffering, which is often unpredictable and undeserved, God becomes an arbitrary God who does not appear to love us. Can we trust such a god? If God does cause some to suffer, then, by some perverse sense of logic, humans would have little motivation to intervene to stop that suffering. Is this why we feel we do not have to address the suffering of others?

What is needed is a better understanding of suffering. The text from 1st Peter reminds us that Jesus suffered terribly before he died on the cross. God did not cause his suffering; instead, it resulted from Christ’s faithfulness to his reconciling mission. By suffering and dying, Jesus defeated death and suffering.

Through his life, suffering, death, and resurrection, Jesus has become the one who walks with us. There is no experience, be it a tragedy, triumph, joy, or sorrow that is unknown to Christ. Even in our suffering, be it by accident or by design, Jesus is with us. St. Paul, in his Letter to the Romans, says that “nothing is able to separate us from the Love of God in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:39).

In hospice, my aim is to relieve the spiritual suffering that many of my patients experience. For some, there is a feeling that God has abandoned them and, because of something they have done in the past, God is causing their illness. Some will find comfort in confession and forgiveness, and some find comfort in the knowledge that God is with them, and through his own life, Jesus walks along with them and understands. My role is to bear witness to the love of God through the suffering of Jesus Christ in their lives.

As we enter this season of Lent, we should not forget Christ’s passion. Most of us want to skip over the suffering parts of the story and jump right to the joy of Easter, and that is understandable. But what about the garden, betrayal, arrest, trial, and the cross? These events are essential to the story and should be embraced and not skipped over. Understanding how and why Jesus suffered is as necessary to the story as the resurrection. Understanding that Jesus suffered helps me in those times of suffering to know that I am not alone.


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