Visio Divina for 4/10/11 – “The Crucifixion” – Day 1 (Listening)

“Crucifixion” was featured in the first week of our Lenten visio divina series, with reflections by Kathy Janku. This week as Lent approaches its conclusion, we return again to the text and image of the Crucifixion, with reflections by Taylor Morgan.

LISTENING

Read the text below, preferably aloud. As you hear the word, “listen with the ear of your heart” for a word or small phrase that God has for you this day.

 

Luke 23:33-46

When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. [ Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.’] And they cast lots to divide his clothing. And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, ‘He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!’ The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, ‘If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!’ There was also an inscription over him, ‘This is the King of the Jews.’

One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, ‘Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!’ But the other rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.’ Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ He replied, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.’

It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.’ Having said this, he breathed his last.

COMMENTS

In the Gospel of Luke, the author stresses that while salvation is a gift from God, there is a a definite human component as well. God gives the gift of his Love (seen here in its extreme at the Cross), but we must choose whether or not to accept it. This is a recurring theme in Luke, where we are presented with numerous examples of how some choose to accept this gift, while others do not. [Think of the Rich Man and Lazarus (16:19-31), the account of the ten healed lepers (17:11-19), or perhaps this line from the prediction of the day of the Son of Man: “I tell you, on that night there will be two in one bed; one will be taken and the other left” (17:34).]

In all of these cases we have a choice. Do we accept the message of Jesus, realizing that to accept the message means to accept the person and everything that comes with him? The crucifixion is the climax for this decision.

Imagine yourself in the place of the two criminals, suffering the intense agony and pain of crucifixion. But it is not just you…the man who is said to be the Messiah is suffering right on your side…his mission and ministry and promises have come to this. He spoke of peace but you feel no peace now. He preached love and life, you are facing scorn and death. He talked about a kingdom…is this his throne?

Do you accept this suffering man as the anointed one of God?

As in the rest of the Gospel, there are two choices, and the two criminals show them to us. The one rejects the Messiah who can’t or won’t prove himself in an awe-inspiring display of power. The other accepts this broken and bloody messiah, whose message is somehow deeper than such a show of might ever could be.

-Taylor Morgan

© Crucifixion, Donald Jackson, 2002. The Saint John’s Bible, Order of Saint Benedict, Collegeville, Minnesota.  Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Catholic Edition, © 1993, 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

Visio Divina for 4/8/11 – “Raising of Lazarus” – Day 6 (Contemplating)

CONTEMPLATING

 Notice the transforming presence of God within you. Let go of words and images. Surrender all that is stirring, even if only briefly, and rest for a few minutes in God’s embrace.

 

COMMENTS

In the “contemplation” segment of Visio Divina, we are to let go of words and images and allow ourselves to rest in God.

I have prayed with this illumination and text many times over the past two months, and as I sat down to pray with this again, I noticed an inner sense of calm and relief…and a little smile on my face.  I realized the source of this calm was a deep knowing: God will always come for us.  God will always come for us…no matter what.  Before Jesus chose to enter hostile territory again in order to respond to Martha and Mary’s plea, he said to his disciples: “This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (John 11:4).  Jesus’ choice to come reveals not only who he really is – this also reveals who God really is…and what God is really like.  God will always come for us.  This is hard to believe if you’ve been in that “tomb” for a long time; it’s hard to hang onto that if you’re struggling with the ‘burial bands’ of addiction, shame, grief, or anger; and sometimes you may need to shout out to God as Jesus did on the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  You may need others in your “community of healers” to uphold you, and to help you carry your burden, as you struggle to sit up in your “tomb,” and as you decide whether or not to take another step toward that light.  All of that is part of the journey…and all of it is prayer.

Verse 35 in this chapter of John states that Jesus wept: I see that as part of his agony in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Jesus knew what his raising of Lazarus would lead to, and he chose it anyway.  This is the source of my sense of calm and relief…again…God always comes for us.

As we move toward Holy Week, perhaps this is a time to hold silence, and become more aware of the choices Jesus made for us…long before he reached Gethsemane.

This leads to a question for each of us to ponder: What are my choices leading to?

–Amie Schumacher

©Raising of Lazarus, Donald Jackson 2002, The Saint John’s Bible, Order of Saint Benedict, Collegeville, Minnesota.  Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Catholic Edition, © 1993, 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

Visio Divina for 4/7/11 – “Raising of Lazarus” – Day 5 (Praying)

 PRAYING

Pray to God, allowing for the transformation of your being and feelings. Give to God what you have found in your heart.

COMMENTS

Is there someone in your life that you struggle to love?  Perhaps someone who has hurt you deeply, and for whom you experience much pain in just thinking about them, much less praying for them?  I have someone like that in my life – and I’d imagine most of us do.

The “word” that came off the page for me today was Jesus’ statement to Martha: “Your brother will rise.”  I’ve prayed with this text and illumination many times over the past few months, and every time I got to that part I’d quickly move on.  I didn’t want to think about that where this person is concerned…so much pain inflicted, and seemingly dismissed as if nothing.  But in this prayer today, that statement stood out so clearly and resonated so deeply, that I did not read the rest of the passage.  I felt the Holy Spirit calling me to sit with this, and talk to God about what I was thinking and experiencing.  This form of prayer is like that.  Sometimes we’re called to just stop and pray with a particular word or phrase in the text, as opposed to continuing on in the effort to “finish” the reading.

I stopped and sat with God, and I let Jesus’ statement surround me: “Your brother will rise.”  God gave me a great gift in this prayer today, by showing me what is authentic in the depths of my heart where this person is concerned.  I realized that underneath all the pain, anger, and sense of betrayal, lies a core bit of truth: I really do want this person to “rise.”  I really do want this person to be freed from the burial bands of denial, shame, and anger.  Then my eyes darted down to Jesus’ question: “Do you believe this?”  I felt a great sense of freedom as I realized that not only do I wish healing for this person, but I also know that it’s not up to me.  All I have to do is believe, and then give the rest to God.  This doesn’t mean that the pain I still feel has somehow magically been erased – in fact, it may never go away completely.  Deep wounds are like that sometimes.  But the gift for me today is greater freedom, deeper healing, and more willingness to simply allow Jesus to do what he came to do: free us…love us…heal us…bring us home.

As you continue to walk with Jesus in his suffering, death, and resurrection this Lenten season, is there an area of your life in which Jesus wants to walk with you, in your particular Paschal mystery?

–Amie Schumacher

©Raising of Lazarus, Donald Jackson 2002, The Saint John’s Bible, Order of Saint Benedict, Collegeville, Minnesota.  Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Catholic Edition, © 1993, 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

Visio Divina for 4/6/11 – “Raising of Lazarus” – Day 4 (Seeing – Continued)

 SEEING (continued)

Return to God’s word for the purpose of “hearing and seeing” Christ in the text. Fix your gaze on the illumination below. Ask God to open the eyes of your heart and enable you to see what God wants you to see. Be open to images, thoughts, impressions, and feelings that come into your awareness.

COMMENTS

In this illumination, I’m struck by the burial bandages wrapped around Lazarus…bands which appear to be unraveling and coming away from his body.  As I prayed with the text, the “word” that resonated for me was Martha’s response at the end: “…I believe that you are…the one coming into the world.”

As I prayed with this illumination, from Lazarus’ perspective it appears that a figure highlighted with gold is approaching…it appears that Jesus is ‘coming into his world.’  My sense is that the more we allow Jesus to come into our world…our very self…the more our own unique ‘burial bands’ start to unravel and fall away.  What are these bands?  Could they represent aspects of ourselves that hinder our walk with God?  My experience has been that the more I allow Jesus to show me what is actually in my heart, as opposed to what I think is there or what I want to believe is there, the more inner freedom I enjoy.  We might assume that these revelations of our own inner truths will be necessarily painful to see…but not always!  Sometimes God reveals to us our own authentic goodness that we carry – a true goodness that was covered over with ‘burial bands’ of a false or outdated concept of self.  We are then invited by God to embrace this more accurate view of self.  How freeing this can be!  Truly, the more we can let Jesus break into our lives, our inner core, and let his presence heal us…let his presence show us to ourselves – the more these bands fall away, and we sense a greater capacity to see and enjoy the abundance of life within and around us.

During this Lenten season, what ‘burial bands’ are you discovering that hinder your walk with God?

–Amie Schumacher

©Raising of Lazarus, Donald Jackson 2002, The Saint John’s Bible, Order of Saint Benedict, Collegeville, Minnesota.  Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Catholic Edition, © 1993, 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

Visio Divina for 4/5/11 – “Raising of Lazarus” – Day 3 (Seeing)

SEEING

Return to God’s word for the purpose of “hearing and seeing” Christ in the text. Fix your gaze on the illumination below. Ask God to open the eyes of your heart and enable you to see what God wants you to see. Be open to images, thoughts, impressions, and feelings that come into your awareness.

COMMENTS

This is such a powerful illumination!  Every time I pray with it, I “see” something different.

The “word” that caught my attention as I read through the text was: “…everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.”  I was reminded of a time of deep struggle in my life – a time when I experienced much anger toward God.  During that time I stopped praying, I stopped going to church, and I thought I’d renounced even God.  As I prayed today, I wondered what upheld me during that downward spiral; I wondered what sustained my ‘belief’ in God, so that I would “never die.”  Then I sat with this beautiful illumination, and my eyes were drawn to the three little gold figures to the left of Lazarus.  I had my answer.

What upheld me during that painful time of blindness and self-imposed isolation was: community.  Remarkable – given that I’d renounced God, church, and basically everybody else during that time.    I didn’t realize it then, but I know now that there was a “community of healers,” a community of believers, holding me up to God in prayer.  They sustained my ‘belief’ at a time when I couldn’t – or wouldn’t – believe.  In this illumination, I see that community represented by those golden figures next to Lazarus…next to me…and next to you.

I felt much gratitude well up in my heart over this realization.  Then it occurred to me: I can do the same thing for others who are stuck in blindness; for others who are lost and stuck in a “tomb” of some sort.  I can give back what I was freely given, by being a member of someone else’s “community of healers” – whether they’re aware of it or not.  I can be part of that cadre of people who help carry the burdens of someone else, at a time when they simply cannot.  This is one way in which I can accompany Jesus, the Good Shepherd, as he goes in search of that one lost sheep.  Amazing…

Who do you think is in your “community of healers?”

Is there someone you know, stuck in a “tomb” and struggling to believe, for whom you could “appear” through prayer, as one of those golden figures?

–Amie Schumacher

©Raising of Lazarus, Donald Jackson 2002, The Saint John’s Bible, Order of Saint Benedict, Collegeville, Minnesota.  Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Catholic Edition, © 1993, 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

Visio Divina for 4/4/11 – “Raising of Lazarus” – Day 2 (Meditating)

MEDITATING

Ruminate on the word you were drawn to in yesterday’s scripture passage (John 7:53-8:11). What does the word or phrase you have chosen mean to you today?

COMMENTS

The word that caught my attention today is “believe:” Jesus asks Martha if she believes what he has told her about himself.  Out of curiosity, I did a little research on that word.  One source I consulted stated that this word is found in John’s Gospel 99 times – much more than any of the other Gospels combined.  To believe is to trust, receive, and accept…without evidence.

I pondered what Jesus may have felt when he asked Martha if she believed him.  Jesus has shared with her something that is core to his very identity and being; he has just traveled through hostile territory to get there; and he knows that what he is about to do will seal his fate, as far as the Temple leaders, who want to kill him, are concerned.  Jesus knows his “hour” is fast approaching.  I get the sense here that Jesus literally aches for Martha to believe him: as if that bit of human solidarity and validation is of utmost importance for him at this moment.  It makes sense.  We all long to be believed, received, and accepted, when we risk sharing something intrinsic about ourselves.  Without this kind of validation, we can be left feeling unsettled, uncertain, and hurt – especially within a context of great stress and grief, as this is for Jesus.

Scripture doesn’t tell us what Jesus was feeling at this moment, but later in this passage we know that Jesus wept.  What an exquisitely beautiful, intimate, and very human response!  Jesus, God-incarnate, joins us in our deepest hurts – our “tombs” – and then proceeds to bring us to new life, beyond anything we could’ve imagined possible.  God is only limited by our belief…our faith.

What do you believe about Jesus?

–Amie Schumacher

©Raising of Lazarus, Donald Jackson 2002, The Saint John’s Bible, Order of Saint Benedict, Collegeville, Minnesota.  Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Catholic Edition, © 1993, 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

Visio Divina for 4/3/11 – “Raising of Lazarus” – Day 1 (Listening)

 LISTENING

Read the text below, preferably aloud.  As you hear the word, “listen with the ear of your heart” for a word or short phrase that God has for you this day.

John 11:17, 20-27

When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days…When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home.  Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.  But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.”  Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”  Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”  Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.  Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.  Do you believe this?”  She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”

 COMMENTS

In this initial part of Visio Divina, we are asked to “listen with the ear of [our] heart” for a word or short phrase that God has for us this day.

The “word” that was most prominent for me in this time of prayer was: “while Mary stayed at home.”  I’ve been there.  There are times for me when initiating connection with Jesus, and further building relationship, just seems more than I can do.  Perhaps I’m afraid of what I will hear, discover, or experience, if I intentionally spend time with him.  Mary was a true disciple of Jesus: she spent much time sitting at this feet, listening to him teach, and just taking in his presence, passion, spirit, and love.  She deeply loved Jesus…and her brother.  Perhaps in the swirl of her grief, and all the people present, she needed a little more time.

What I find consoling about this is that, because of the Resurrection, and because of Pentecost, even when we find ourselves unable (or unwilling) to initiate connection with Christ in some intentional way, Christ still comes to us.  Even when we feel too tired, or angry, or overwhelmed, or maybe just feeling apathetic about everything “spiritual,” we are still not alone.  I know from experience, Jesus waits for us.  He respects our need for space, but never abandons.  Jesus always meets us where we’re at…even in our own unique “tombs.”  In that space, words are not even necessary.

Where is Jesus meeting you today?

–Amie Schumacher

©Raising of Lazarus, Donald Jackson 2002, The Saint John’s Bible, Order of Saint Benedict, Collegeville, Minnesota.  Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Catholic Edition, © 1993, 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

Visio Divina for 4/2/11 – “Woman Caught in Adultery” – Day 7 (Becoming Christ-like)

BECOMING CHRIST-LIKE

Return to God’s word. Allow it to transform you. Notice how your faith is being deepened and your way of life motivated.

COMMENTS

The emphasis for this phase of Visio is: “Becoming Christ-like.”  We ask ourselves: ‘What difference can this text make in my life?’  ‘How am I challenged by this text?’

As I prayed with this text again, I returned to what I perceive is a moment of choice for the woman, as depicted in the bottom panel.  Scripture doesn’t tell us what this woman’s life was like before this event.  We don’t know what kind of life experiences, possibly even traumas, may have transpired which served to form her way of looking at herself and her world.  We don’t even know her name.  This particular passage is referred to as “free-floating,” in that not only was it not included in the earliest manuscripts of John’s Gospel, it also had been placed in different places within John, as well as within another Gospel, in later manuscripts.  It seems to me that the story about this woman is as unsettled and rootless as the woman herself.

That sense of being unsettled, and facing a choice, is what I see in this woman…and in myself.  In reality, we all are challenged on a daily basis to ‘choose life,’ and to walk past that drawn curtain into the light, with Christ.  Every choice, no matter how seemingly trivial, can reflect our outlook on life.  I do know that when significant pain or trauma has occurred, as it has for this woman, you can’t then ‘choose life,’ or ‘walk into the light,’ as if nothing has happened.  Trauma changes us.  We don’t transcend our pain, so much as we integrate its lessons into our very self, with Christ’s healing presence and touch.  And this is what I see as “becoming Christ-like.”  All throughout his active ministry, Jesus experienced — and integrated — the pain of rejection from family, friends, leaders within the Temple, and most of the people at large.  All along, he faced the choice of continuing his mission…or not; all along, his pain served to deepen his love and commitment to us; and all along, his choices prepared him for his ultimate choice.  In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus ‘chose life’ in choosing to stay true to his mission, to his love for God, and to his love for us.  Christ knows how difficult and searing this choice can be…and he walks with us as we struggle to choose.  For me, that’s becoming Christ-like.

How are you becoming Christ-like?

–Amie Schumacher

©Woman Caught in Adultery, Aiden Hart with contributions by Donald Jackson and Sally Mae Joseph, 2003 The Saint John’s Bible, Order of Saint Benedict, Collegeville, Minnesota.  Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Catholic Edition, © 1993, 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

Visio Divina for 4/1/11 – “Woman Caught in Adultery” – Day 6 (Contemplating)

CONTEMPLATING

  Notice the transforming presence of God within you. Let go of words and images. Surrender all that is stirring, even if only briefly, and rest for a few minutes in God’s embrace.

COMMENTS

I sat down to pray this morning, read through the passage once, gazed at the illumination again and realized: I just really don’t want to sit with this text again.  I felt a sense of resistance and wondered why.  I decided to “distance” myself a bit from the central action in the story, and imagined myself in the crowd of people who had come to the Temple to hear Jesus teach.  As I watched what then transpired, many thoughts and emotions came to the fore.  I realized that my “judgment” of the woman hinged on whether or not I liked her; it depended on my perception of her attitude – was she defiant and arrogant, or was she shamed and fearful; I realized my own rocks were as death-dealing as those of the scribes and Pharisees – just less obvious.

In my imagination, I then halted the action: pressed the ‘pause’ button so to speak, and pictured Jesus now sitting with me in the back of the crowd, viewing the whole scene.  I spoke with Jesus about what was coming up for me: I wanted to leave…I wanted to turn my back on the whole situation and get myself to safety; I was reminded of a few acts of brutality I’d witnessed in my past – acts perpetrated on completely helpless victims; I recalled some acts of brutality I myself had experienced, at the hands of someone who is supposed to love and care for me – and my own helpless vulnerability during those times; and I also recalled times when I had inflicted pain on others – equally helpless and vulnerable.  I didn’t like being on either side: either as victim or as perpetrator – and I told this to Jesus.  Jesus then invited me to allow the shadow side of me, and the victim side of me, to sit with one another: to talk and to learn of the other; to understand; and hopefully someday, to embrace, forgive, and integrate into greater wholeness.

We all have aspects of ourselves we’d rather not see or acknowledge.  But when we turn our back to what’s really inside of us, we just end up projecting this onto other people, because they remind us of what we’d rather not see in ourselves.  This is one of the sources for such realities as racism and sexism; it’s also one way that abusive behavior is acted out generationally within families.

In my prayer today, Jesus gently brought to my awareness aspects of myself that need healing and acceptance – in order to give me the gift of greater wholeness, inner freedom, and deeper conversion.  Inner healing always brings us intimately closer to Christ, because we then become less afraid of our own humanity.

What does Jesus want to heal within you today?

— Amie Schumacher

©Woman Caught in Adultery, Aiden Hart with contributions by Donald Jackson and Sally Mae Joseph, 2003 The Saint John’s Bible, Order of Saint Benedict, Collegeville, Minnesota.  Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Catholic Edition, © 1993, 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

Visio Divina for 3/31/11 – “Woman Caught in Adultery” – Day 5 (Praying)

PRAYING

Pray to God, allowing for the transformation of your being and feelings. Give to God what you have found in your heart.

COMMENTS

The emphasis for today within this prayer of Visio Divina, is “praying.”  In this aspect of the process, one is to discern: “What does this text mean for me?”  Time then is spent in dialogue and interaction with God, regarding what the Spirit has brought most prominently to one’s awareness.

I realized Jesus’ interaction with both the scribes and Pharisees, and this woman, were challenges steeped in love.  Jesus confronted these abusive men, not by engaging them in a heady dispute about the law, but by bringing them face-to-face with their own inner reality and truth.  Only in their hearts could true conversion take place – if they are willing to receive it – and that is their challenge.  Jesus gently comforts this woman, and releases her from condemnation, but he challenges her as well.  The curtain is drawn aside, revealing Jesus’ invitation for her to walk in the light of his way – within the reality and context of her life and her need for ongoing healing and conversion.  This will certainly be difficult, given what she will need to face: her husband, her family, her social standing and context, and so on.

We all have to face the consequences of our actions, and sometimes that process can be quite painful.  But as this illumination reveals, we don’t ‘go our way’ alone: Jesus invites each of us to walk in his light, as we go about the daily business of our lives.  Our challenge in this Lenten season is to seek our own inner truths with Jesus; to allow Jesus to gently bring us to greater awareness of ourselves – which is the gift of deeper conversion, and a more intimate relationship with Christ.

Jesus is always calling us — challenging us — to come closer to hiim.  The depth of his yearning for each of us is hard to fathom, but no less true.

What message does Jesus want you to hear today?

–Amie Schumacher

©Woman Caught in Adultery, Aiden Hart with contributions by Donald Jackson and Sally Mae Joseph, 2003 The Saint John’s Bible, Order of Saint Benedict, Collegeville, Minnesota.  Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Catholic Edition, © 1993, 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.