Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Lent: Sorrowful Tuesdays

The fifth Sorrowful Mystery is the Crucifixion. From this solemn mystery we are to gain the fruit of perseverance. Here's my take.

The path Christ carried the cross-member of Hs cross was arduous. The crowds and soldiers jeered and inflicted insults upon His battered body. Historically, I've learned that carrying the cross-member was somewhat reserved for further humiliating the victim of crucifixion. Although the entire cross was not carried, the cross-member weighed upwards of 100 pounds. Carrying an awkward load like this after being scourged was simply more torture and a means of ensuring a fairly quick, although more excruciating, death once crucified.

Christ knew this was His cup in the Agony in the Garden. Perhaps He thought He fully understood the physical pain, exhaustion, and grief that this cup meant. I can personally say identify with that thought with my breast cancer journey. However, no matter how prepared you think you are, the reality is unbelievably different -- usually worse. However, even if Christ was surprised at the horrible reality of this cup, He persevered in His task.

Christ didn't have to do anything. At any point Jesus could have called the angels to His aid. He is God and all-powerful. However, the other side of God is that He is all-loving as well. John 3:16 is often quoted, "for God so loved the world that He gave His only Son." God's plan for His Son included this excruciating and humiliating death. Jesus willingly accepted that this was the only way to save man-kind. Why were we worth all this grief?

In a way, we aren't worthy of anything. We are sinful, prideful, independent, careless, etc. however, just as God has another side; we too have another side... We were created in His image. God gave us free-will and desired that we use our gifts for His glory. Not because He needs us, but because love is not complete without being returned. The ultimate gift of love was laying down His life to ransom us. It was a huge price to pay, but since God created us out of love, He saved us out of love.

Jesus told the parable about the lost sheep. As a literal (OCD) person, I've always had a little trouble with this parable (kind of like the one about sheep not opening their mouths when they're sheared or slaughtered). In the parable, the shepherd abandons 99 sheep to find one. In my experience, farmers (as close to shepherds as I've experienced) do not abandon the majority of their animals. Perhaps if the lost animal is the only one of its kind or highly prized for some reason, they may look for it. However, realistically, the 99 are worth much more than one.

This is another example of how God's ways are not our ways. Jesus's point, the moral of the story, is that all of His flock are prized. If I try to think like God (impossible I know, but I try) and abandon what little I know of farmers (shepherds), I can reason that having one sinful person return to the flock means more than keeping 99 in the flock. The reason is because the return of the one indicates the depth of love of that one. Initially the lost sheep forsakes its shepherd. Once it is found, the sheep once again obeys its shepherd. This type of devotion is crucial to our relationship with God.

How many times have I been that lost sheep? How many times have I abandoned what I know is right to do what I want? How often do I express my love for God by doing His will and not my own? I pray that the answer to the latter is 'often' and to the former are 'seldom'. In truth, I know that I need to be more like a sheep to God's shepherd.

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