Sunday, March 29, 2015

Every Knee Shall Bend

Palm Sunday is March 29, 2015

Celia Sirois is an instructor, lecturer, and Co-Director of New Directions for Catholic-Jewish Dialogue. I was privileged to be able to attend one of her lectures about a year ago.

The main thesis of her talk was that in 2 Philippians, Paul presents THE central beliefs of the Christian Faith.

She compared our knowledge and Paschal presentation of 2 Philippians, to the Passover celebration in a Jewish home. And, in comparison to Jewish teachings, she found the Christian teaching of our central belief -- well, sorely lacking.

In the Judaic Faith, the central core of their belief is in the Exodus story, according to Sirois. The Exodus story is bound up in the identity of each Jewish person. The fact that Yahweh, the holy "I Am", delivered the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, into the Promised Land, and gave them the Torah and the Ten commandments, informs the daily life of every observant Jewish family member.

Each Passover, a Jewish family not only re-reads the Exodus story aloud around the Passover table; in fact, every member of the family plays a role. The youngest child present asks the famous first question: "Why is this night different than any other night?" The leader of the seder is often the male elder in the family. The children are even encouraged to act out some of the Exodus story, by going on a hunt for the last piece of matzoh to be consumed after dinner, which represents the Israelite's reclamation of the soul or self that was missing during enslavement.

Sirois laments that, at Easter, we Christians do not teach our children the central story of Jesus' human appearance on earth, His death for us and His Resurrection. How many of us, even adults, do not realize the full extent of our central story?

In Deuteronomy 6: 5-7, appears the central command to the Israelites [the Shema] : "And you shall love the Lord your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. . . And you shall teach [these] diligently to your children, and shall talk of [these] when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up."

And SO, Our Jewish brothers and sisters have a sacred duty to teach their children, down all of the generations, their central story of being saved, by God, from slavery.  Why do not WE Christians do the same with our Faith?

 Herein lies our central belief:

"Christ Jesus, though He was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
something to be grasped.
Rather, He emptied Himself,
taking the form of a slave,
coming in human likeness;
and found in human appearance,
He humbled Himself,
becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Because of this, God greatly exalted Him
and bestowed on Him the name
which is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
of those in heaven and on earth and under earth,
and every tongue confess that
Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father."  -[ 2 Phil. 6-11].

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Christ Jesus ---

Though He was in the form of God-- [Matthew 17: 1-5- "Jesus was transfigured before them. . . A voice from the cloud said, 'This is my Son whom I love. Listen to Him!"]

Did not grasp at equality from God -- [John 5: 19- "I say to you, a Son cannot do anything on His own, but only what He sees His Father doing. . I cannot do anything on my own."]

He instead emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave-- [After washing the disciples' feet, Jesus says, 'Amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master.' " - John 13.]

He came in human likeness-- [Luke 2: 7- "She gave birth to a firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes."]

And found in human appearance: [John 11: 35- At the death of Lazarus, "When Jesus saw Mary weeping, . . He was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. Jesus wept."]

He humbled Himself:  [Mark 10: 45- "For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve."]

Becoming obedient to the point of death on a cross: [Matthew 26:38- "My soul is sorrowful, even unto death." AND, Mark 14:1- " Not what I will, {Father}, but what You will".]

God greatly exalted Him: [Luke 2: 14- "{Upon the birth of Jesus}, suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with angels, praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest.'"]

And bestowed on Him the name above every name: [Matthew 1: 23- "Behold, the virgin shall bear a Son and they shall name Him Emmanuel, which means, 'God is with us'."]

That, every knee should bend: [John 18: 4-6- Judas the betrayer gathered a band of soldiers and chief priests, with lanterns, torches and weapons. . "Jesus {asked}, 'Whom are you looking for?' They answered Him, 'Jesus the Nazorean.' He said to them, 'I AM.' They turned away and fell to the ground."]

 Of those in heaven: [Luke 22: 43- "And to strengthen Him, an angel from Heaven appeared to Him {in the Garden of Gesthemane}."]

And on earth: [Matthew 27: 54- "The centurion and the men with him, keeping watch over Jesus and all that was happening, said, 'Truly, this was the Son of God!' "]

And under earth: [John 6: 70-71- "Did I not choose you twelve? Yet is not one of you a devil?'; Matthew 27:5-6 - "Then Judas, His betrayer, seeing that Jesus had been condemned, deeply regretted what he had done. He returned the thirty pieces of silver, saying, 'I have sinned in betraying innocent blood.' Flinging the money into the temple, he departed and went off and hanged himself."]

 And every tongue confess:  [ Matthew 28: 19- "Go, therefore, and teach all nations."; Acts 2: 5-6- "Now there were devout Jews from every nation staying in Jerusalem. They were confused because each one heard {and understood} them speaking in their own languages.]

That Jesus Christ is Lord: [John 18: 5: "Jesus answered them, "I AM".]

To the glory of God the Father:  [John 11:40- "Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?].

God, I love, you, the Lord my God, with all my heart, with all my soul, and with all my might. And I will diligently teach these words and the story of Jesus' Crucifixion, to everyone, when I sit in my house, when I walk by the way, when I lie down, and when I rise up. All the days of my life.

[Related Postings: "Palm Sunday" April 6, 2011 ; "My Palm Sunday Life", March 24, 2103; "Why Did Jesus Have to Die?", August 31, 2014.]

(c) Spiritual Devotional 2105. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Straddling Two Lives

"Whoever loves his life, loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be. The Father will honor whoever serves me." -[John 12: 10-33].

It has been said that, all of our lives, we straddle this life and the next Life. We have one foot firmly planted in our everyday world. We have one foot pointed towards our Life after we die.

In John's Gospel, the author uses the sense of "the world", as the world lived in the flesh and in the midst of Evil. In John 7:7, Jesus says to his brothers, "The world hates me, because I testify against it, that its works are evil."

Paul says something similar: "Now the works of the flesh are obvious: impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, coursing, and things like these."- [Galatians 5: 19-20].  These are the things of the world. Paul makes clear that these things are diametrically opposed to the Kingdom of God.

And yet, we are all born into this world, as gritty and cruel as it can be; and we must navigate the negative and destructive things all around us.

Sometimes, it can all be too much to bear. A friend once heard someone talking about Heaven, that is, the Kingdom of God. We were musing about what a perfect place Heaven must be. She called out, "Ready? Are you ready to go?"

We both laughed. But, actually, no I am NOT ready.

This life on earth is filled with good and bad. These diametrically opposite states of being can shift in an instant.

My entire life has been like that:

When I was three, there was a fire in my grandparents' house. I had stood in the driveway of my parents' home, sobbing. I did not want to even get in the car to go over to my grandparents' home. I hated the acrid smell of the smoke and the black soot on the walls. But, I was grateful that my grandparents were alive and unharmed.

When I was four, I nearly drowned in my neighbor's pool. But, I was comforted down to my very heart, that my mother's strong arms pulled me out. I was coughing and gasping when I was lifted up. But I had not drowned. No, I was alive!

When I was seven, I was diagnosed with a chronic lung disease. I hated how my body shook and my ribs ached after a night spent coughing. But I loved my grandmother for ensuring that I took my cough medicine. I loved how she popped a candy in my mouth after the medicine, to take away the bitter taste.

When I was ten, my beloved grandfather died. He was my only loving force, in a family who refused to say, 'I love you.' In a family where a sibling called me ugly and hit me. And then, my parents told me, "You are too sensitive." But, I loved how safe and happy I felt all those times as a little girl, when I climbed into my grandfather's lap! I hated how my grandfather called and called for me as he lay dying in the hospital-- and I was not allowed in to see him. But I love how being told of his repeatedly calling my name, reassured me of his unconditional love.

On and on, this dance of the good and the bad has gone in my life--

In graduate school, I was the victim of a violent crime. I almost died that day, but my parents did not allow me to come home and recover. I hate how they abandoned me. But I love how my classmates tenderly took care of me.

After school, I met my husband. I hated how my family would not stand in the receiving line at our wedding. To this day, I fear that it is because he is Catholic. But I loved my husband from the day we met, and I love him deeply, still. His love has healed and transformed me!

There are times that I fall into despair, and I say that I hate my life. But what I am really saying is that I hate all the tragic events, the strife, and the evil against me. I hate that these have ever happened to me. But on many levels, that is okay! We are supposed to hate evil, strife, jealousy, divisive factions, anger, violence, etc.

You notice in all of my stories- whether bad things happened to me because of accident or willfully bad behavior -- it was Love that saved me!

The deacon who teaches my Biblical School class says that our Love for one another is a glimpse, in the present, into what Eternal Life will be.

I know this is true, because Jesus said, "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." - [John 3:14]

Now, instead of hating my life, I live by this command-- "This is my commandment, [Jesus said], that you love one another as I have loved you."

The world can be an ugly place. I choose Love.

[Related Posting: "Hating This Life",  March 25, 2012;  "New Year, New World, January 1, 2015; "The Desert", Feb. 25, 2105.]

(c) Spiritual Devotional 2015. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Come To The Light

"And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil. For, everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might be exposed. But whoever lives the Truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God." -[John 3: 14-21].

When my son was little, he had a Batman utility belt. In addition to the pocket with the Batarang, the belt had a button to push. When you pushed the button, on came the voice of Batman, saying his well-known phrases. A favorite phrase was, "Evil cannot stand the light."

I thought that sounded oddly familiar, even Biblical, so I looked it up in Scripture. It was then that I found John 3.

It has been said that the author of John's Gospel wanted to paint a compelling picture of Jesus. (In theology, this is called "Christology", as in 'Who is Jesus?'). I see in this portraiture a clear choice set forth, between darkness and light, death and life, hate and love.

When I began my first job in a tall skyscraper in a big city, one of my first bosses was an older guy who always seemed to give sage advice. Turns out that he was Irish, and a former seminarian who ultimately decided not to become a priest. My first day on the job, he called me over to talk with him. I asked him what his best advice was?

He said, "If you would be horribly embarrassed by something you did, ending up on the front page of the newspaper, don't DO it."

Today, I believe that his advice also goes back to John 3: "People preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil."

If you read and re-read the Bible, the many of the most evil events occur at nightfall:

In 2 Samuel 11, David sees Bathsheba on an adjoining rooftop, bathing. It is eventide. Then, David lays with her. That is the beginning of the end to his unblemished reign.

When Jesus was nailed to the cross, "darkness came over the whole land." -[Mark 15:33.]

We have seen over time, plenty of instances of evil occurring in the darkness : Jerry Sandusky at Penn State and his abuse of several young men. No one spoke up. They kept it a secret to "save the reputation" of the football program..  Bernie Madoff and his massive fraud worth $50 billion. He perpetrated this scheme for so long because of the web of conspiracy around him. Many investors lost everything they had. Former President Richard Nixon's secret theft of Watergate files, intended to guarantee his reelection. This secret scheme ultimately brought down his Presidency.

Tragically, I have a deep connection to this "darkness"-- no, I am not aware of anything dire that I have done? Although, I readily admit that I am a sinner, far from perfect!

No, the secrecy in my life was built in order to mask the abuse going on inside my childhood home. My family used to say, "What happens in these four walls, stays hidden." Out in the larger world, my family was the very model of a "fine family". We were pillars of the community. Admired corporate types. Teachers. Church-goers. Well-educated. Well-spoken. Well-dressed.

But in our home, the windows were covered with blinds, sheer curtains and then, also heavy drapes. The blinds were usually not all the way up. You could not see inside the house, during the day or at night. Rarely was the front door open, even in very hot weather.

I was instructed to not tell anyone, anything about our family. I was not allowed even to tell anyone what my grandfather did for a living. I became almost mute. No one seemed determined to do anything about my unusual silence. I was called, "Obedient. Sweet. Quiet."

There is a special kind of trauma in being told how exemplary your family is, when the ugly Truth is quite the opposite. The child within starts to wonder what the Truth really is? Or is anything the Truth at all?

I have learned in the ensuing years, to deeply question secrecy. There is privacy. But then, there is secrecy. Darkness. Conspiracy.

Instead, I have found my compass in Jesus. Jesus IS the light. Jesus IS Life. Jesus IS Love. If I am following these, I have nothing to fear from the light, because "my works can be seen clearly as done in God."

Jesus IS the Truth. And so, beware anything done in cover of darkness, If you cannot speak the Truth, perhaps there is something sinister going on? Something that needs to be brought out into the Light. Because, if it is Evil, it cannot withstand the scrutiny of the Light!

[Related Postings: "A Light In The Darkness", Feb. 10, 2014; "The Sensation of Evil", Dec. 16, 2012; "The Light of the World", Feb. 8, 2011].

(c) Spiritual Devotional 2015. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

"Je Suis Irish"

"What we look for in life are people who really see us." -- Actress Bebe Neuwirth.

St. Patrick's Day is March 17.

My mother and her family were 100% English. My Nana on my father's side was Irish.

I never understood that I was Irish, until I was grown and married. My parents told me that I was English. I suppose my parents wanted to protect me from the bigotry that was always hurled at the immigrant classes.

The Irish were no better, in society's eyes at that time, than Italian immigrants, or blacks. In fact, in many a shop window, there would be a sign that said, "Help Wanted. No Irish or Colored Need Apply" -["Wave of Immigrants Faced Trouble", Hartford Courant, June 22, 2014].

If I would mention my Nana to my family, and say that she was Irish Catholic, I would get shudders and eye-rolls.  I would be told :  "Oh. THAT." Then, the subject would be quickly changed.

My family's fear of bigotry BECAME bigotry. In the process, I lost my ethnicity. I also lost my Faith. My family thought it was cool, capitalistic, American, to distrust religion. From there, it became pretty easy for my family to declare that Christians, especially Catholics, were lame hypocrites who were a burden to society. . I started to fear, if I AM part Irish Catholic, what does that make me?

I ended up a cipher, with no accurate sense of my ethnicity. No religion. No faith. I even learned to hate my Irish freckles.

I once told a black friend of mine in graduate school, that on St. Patrick's Day, EVERYONE is Irish. She looked at her deep brown skin, acknowledged her black wiry hair --- and let out a roar of laughter.

Okay, literally, we are not all Irish!

But I look around at what has been going on the last few years. There was the Occupy Wall Street movement, attempting to make the 1% less invisible. . After several horrifying police shootings in the U.S., at black citizens, there has been the "Black Lives Matter" movement. After a shooting of three Muslim students in North Carolina, there has been a "Muslim Lives Matter" movement. In Paris, after the shooting of Charlie Hebdo for publishing a Muslim caricature, we had the "Je Suis Charlie" campaign. After the execution of Boris Nemstov, the Russian dissident, we had the "Je Suis Nemstov" campaign. In Paris and Moscow, we have had the "I  Am Not Afraid:" campaign.

What is going on in our world?

I think there is a human longing to really be seen as who we are. There is inevitable and permanent damage to our souls, when we are forced to pretend to be someone else, or worse yet, to be no one in particular..

 We do NOT want to all be seen as the same! Bigotry is not, cannot, be battled with a tolerance campaign, that casts us as all the same. No one wants to feel like we are safe, only if we are invisible! We can battle bigotry only by pointing out that we are ALL different, and that is OKAY.

On St. Patrick's Day, it is okay to be Irish. We Irish in America do not need to pretend that we do not come, generations back, from somewhere else on the planet.

On St. Patrick's Day, it is also okay to be Puerto Rican, Italian, Brazilian, German, etc, etc. On St. Patrick's Day, it is okay to be yourself! And our world is all the richer for this. . . .

Erin Go Bragh!

[Related Postings: "St. Patrick's Day", March March 16, 2011; "My Irish Heart", March 14, 2102].

(c) Spiritual Devotional 2015. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Where Is Your Temple?

"Since the Passover of the Jews was near, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves, as well as the money changers seated there. He made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen, and spilled the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables, and to those who sold doves, He said, 'Take these out of here, and stop making my Father's house a marketplace'  At this, the Jews answered and said to Him, ' What sign can you show us for doing this?' Jesus answered and said to them, 'Destroy this temple and in three days, I will raise it up.' The Jews said, 'This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and you will raise it up in three days?' But, He was speaking about the temple of His body. Therefore, when He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this, and they came to believe the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken." -[John 2: 13-25].

In this Scripture, we see very a different Jesus, one who is very angry, and righteously so. Instead of the peaceful, gentle shepherd cradling a lost lamb, we see a Jesus who is fiercely protecting the sanctity of the Temple. For, the Temple has become a tawdry marketplace, where moneychangers extort hefty exchange fees for foreign currency, in exchange for local currency required for Temple for offerings. Similarly, sellers are hawking various animals to be used in sacrificial offerings at the altar.

Today, we face a far different problem. The Temple is not infected with commerce and the greed of secular materialism. In fact, the Temple has been largely outpaced by commerce. To say this another way, the Temple has become virtually obsolete, eclipsed long ago by the commercial world.

When I was a child, practically everyone I knew went to one church or another.  If you met someone new, the first question asked would be, 'What parish are you from?' Your church was your home, it defined you, it cradled you.

When I was 14, my grandmother died. Suddenly, my parents stopped waking me up early to go to church on Sundays. I would wake up too late for Sunday services, confused and disoriented. I asked, 'Are we going to church?' I was told, 'No, we don't do that any longer.'

In my teen literalism, I thought that by taking church away, that my parents were taking my Faith away. I thought they could take God away. It did not make any sense to me -- Suddenly, did we no longer believe? Was all that sacred music and Scripture just so much nonsense? Had we been faking it, or going through the motions, all along? For whose benefit? Wouldn't God know?

I remember asking, 'If we don't go to church, what should I do instead?' I was told, 'Do your homework. You need A's to get into college.'

Suddenly, the sacred in our lives was gone. Enter the world of competition for grades, college admission, and eventually job interviewing.

I remember entering high school when I was 14 going on 15. Every high schooler struggles to define herself-- Is she athletic? Is artsy? Is she intellectual? Popular? That struggle seemed all the harder, because my spirit-self had been confiscated.

When I was a junior in high school, my brother decided to help me define myself- the way that HE thought I should be. For my birthday, he gave me a pale yellow and teal striped sweater. He instructed me to wear it with pale vanilla corduroys and matching shoes. He wanted me to be "cool". When I wore this combination, my brother would praise me enthusiastically. He even thought I was cool enough to say hello to in the school hallway.

But I felt like an Imposter.

It was only years and years later, that I read Matthew 6: "Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your body, what you will wear. Is not the body more than clothing? . . Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin." I began to realize that I was NOT the sum total of how I looked on the outside. What mattered was my inner spirit. But where would I find that?

After college, I went to graduate school to study business law. I wanted to believe that the Law would bring structure to my world, and help me make orderly sense of who I was and how I was to behave.

When I finished graduate school, and began work in financial services, though, I began to see troubling signs that the Law was being bent and stretched so much because of Greed, that the Law had become just an annoying standard to work around.

It was not until years and years later than I read Martin Luther King. Jr., in his book, "Strength To Love." He said, "In a sense, the history of man is the story of the struggle between good and evil. . How can evil be cast out? . . . Men have usually pursued two paths to eliminate evil and thereby save the world. The first calls upon man to remove evil through his own power and ingenuity in the strange conviction that by thinking, inventing and governing, he will at last conquer the nagging forces of evil. This idea, sweeping across the modern world like a plague, has ushered God out and escorted man in, and substituted human ingenuity for divine guidance."

I hated to see that the Law, which I had spent years dissecting, and analyzing and which I had put great Faith in -- was only as fragile and imperfect and subject to corruption as Man himself!

This whole passage from King reminds me once again of Jesus driving out the human, commercial influences from the Temple. We human beings cannot possibly believe that our ingenuity, our commerce and power alone can save the World! If we believe this, then we have turned ourselves into gods and made God Himself obsolete.

I continue to ask myself, "Where is my Temple?"

Yes, I do attend church weekly now! But I can fully understand, as an adult Christian, that Jesus' presence is not limited to the church building. When He says, "Destroy this Temple, and in three days, I will raise it up", He means that HE is the Temple. His body was "destroyed" by Crucifixion, but in three days, He rose again.

If Jesus' Temple is nowhere -- after all, after His Crucifixion, His body was never found -- then Jesus is everywhere! He is on the Internet. He is in the prayers in my weekly Prayer Group. He is in my fellow parishioners at my weekly Bible Study. He is in my classmates at Biblical School. He is in the breezes that caress my face when I open a window! He is in my son's smile.

AND no one can take the body of Jesus away from me! He is in the Eucharist, which I receive each Sunday.

Most importantly, He is not in the clothes I wear, the degrees I hold, the car I drive.  No, these I do not worship. Jesus is very close to me. He is IN my Heart!

[Related Postings: "Anger In the Temple", March 10, 2012].

(c) Spiritual Devotional 2015. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Transforming Hope

"Jesus took Peter, James and John and led the  up to a high mountain apart by themselves. And He was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them. Then Elijah appeared to them, along with Moses, and they were conversing with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, 'Rabbi, it is good that we are here! Let us make three tents: one for You, one for Moses and one for Elijah.' He hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified. Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them; from the cloud came a voice, 'This is my beloved Son. Listen to Him." Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone but Jesus alone with them." -[Mark 9: 2-10].

I like to think that Jesus' transfiguration was a total, generous and miraculous gift from God, BEFORE that painful and despairing day of Jesus' Passion. All my life, I have seen that God is extravagantly generous to me, before I even need Him!

Jesus' transfiguration was no doubt something that Jesus needed, before his agonizing death, when the world rejected Him and cruelly hung Him on the cross to die.

Jesus' transfiguration was no doubt something that His disciples needed as well. Only, well, their reaction was to get busy making tents.  It was so dazzlingly beautiful up on the mountain top, with Jesus in His shimmering glory, they wanted to stay there.

The very real implication as Christians, is that we may have to leave the mountain top, but His glory travels with us. Jesus' transfiguration is a Promise for all of us, paid in advance!  His glory is our outlook and our way of life. His transfiguration transforms us, and informs us as His followers.

It has been said that we Christians are an "Easter People". We look past all the violence and hate and despair on earth. We are promised in advance, what glory is ours to come in the next life.

To that end, it almost does not matter what happens to us in this life, or who is against us. As Paul said in Romans 8: 31B-34, " Brothers and sisters: For if God is with us, who can be against us? . . . Who will bring a charge against God's Chosen Ones?"

I had this way of thinking, even as a child. There were days when my mother gave me four-day-old leftovers, barely warmed, for dinner, and told me, 'Eat that!' I could not gag it down, so I picked at what I could eat and left the rest. I knew full well that there was other, good food in the house, but no such nurturance was offered to me.

I began to figure out on what days this awful, force-fed food came. On those days of privation, at age five,  I realized I would have to find food elsewhere. So, I ate more in the school dining hall that day, or I had a snack at a neighbor's house. My family's "punishment-by-food" could not rattle me.

Nor could their attempts to blackmail me, by offering sums of money for certain behaviors. Their money became irrelevant to me.

When a sibling called me ugly every day and I received black eyes, my parents told me that I was too "sensitive". I simply left the house then. I sat deep inside the forsythia bush in our front yard, her yellow buds sheltering and caressing me.

By age ten, I stopped speaking. I had nothing to say. I could not argue with them, I would not win, they had all the worldly power. By not speaking, I would not give them Myself.

God was in the silence. I stripped away all the false rhetoric about how there was no God, and how Christians were losers. After I had lost food, physical safety in my own home, respect for who I was as a daughter, I still had God. With God alone, they had no hold on me.

So, I bided my time. By age 13, I was saving my babysitting money, one dollar at a time. Every day, I got up and worked towards a better tomorrow. I worked very hard in school to earn all A's. I would need top grades to get my education, so I could support myself later on. I lived on Hope. Where my family refused to say,' I Love You', I feasted on Hope.

The deacon who teaches my Biblical School class says that Hope is subversive. Hope is not a cynical acceptance of what IS. Hope refuses to accept the ugly, desperate, violent situation in which we find ourselves. The deacon says, "When people truly believe in Hope, they are unstoppable!"

Hope can topple dictatorships. Hope can bring down walls. Hope can see the future as something real and tangible to be grasped. Hope gives GOD the last word!

You can take everything away from me, and I did lose so very much. But I always assumed that the future would bring me a transformed life.

When Jesus died on the cross, He was denied food, given only a reed soaked in vinegar. He was stripped of His clothing, He was naked. He was stripped of all respect, called names. He was mocked for not being able to walk down from the cross, His very power was questioned. His identity was taken away, as He was mocked for daring to call Himself "The Messiah", and for calling God His Father.

The deacon says that "Hope is the centerpiece of the Christian Faith. We do not live and suffer and die into Nothingness. We simply transform."--- We live and transmute and transform and convert, as beings drawing ever closer to God -- all of our lives.

We are Resurrection people, as Christians. Even as humans drag us down, God raises us up.  Our Hope propels us towards God. I pray that you never let go of this Gift-- for Hope is Life!

[Related Postings: "Transfiguration", March 20, 2011; "Transfiguration of Christ",  March 5, 2012; "My Transformation", February 24, 2103].

(c) Spiritual Devotional 2015. All Rights Reserved.