Tag Archives: passion

26 November: Jesus was Praying Alone, III.

Jesus realises the truth of his passion and resurrection before meeting the disciples at Easter.

If you are just joining us, I invite you to scroll back to the posts of the last two days. We are looking at Luke 9:18f, and we’re considering the interrelation of the two questions Jesus asks his disciples about his identity. We ended yesterday with the realisation that the crowds’ opinion of Jesus’ identity was much tamer than that of the disciples. Yet, these very crowds would finally prove to be murderous. This is the real issue Jesus is raising here, I believe. He wants the disciples to begin to grasp that following him means that they will be putting their very lives in jeopardy. Would the disciples have the strength for what would come? Would they be able to hang on to their conviction about Jesus’ divinity no matter what the crowds thought and did?

The short answer is no. When Jesus was arrested, tried by a rigged jury and crucified, the disciples, with few exceptions – and those mostly among his female followers – caved in. Jesus already foresaw it. I imagine that this was the subject of Jesus’ prayer on the occasion we are reflecting on. He emerged from prayer knowing that he needed to try to prepare his men for the kind of courage that would be asked of them. We can see Jesus’ delicacy here. They will be asked to undergo their own passion in imitation of him after he has died, risen and ascended. He doesn’t force this information upon them in all its brutal detail yet – it would be far, far too much for them. They cannot yet grasp Jesus’ own passion, much less are they able to contemplate theirs. But he asks them questions which would enable them to, as it were, eventually tumble to the truth. Subsequent events show that it takes the disciples a very long time to reach that truth – and when then do, they do only because Jesus has ascended and sent them the Holy Spirit, the Counsellor, to lead them to all truth.

What can we learn from all this? We can learn that we are invited to be courageous – way beyond what we may imagine. We learn that we need to hold fast to our belief in Jesus’ divine identity. Jesus is the Christ of God. Jesus is God. Like the original twelve disciples, we are doing well if we believe and profess this. But we, like them, stand beside Jesus in this gospel passage as he emerges from his prayer and turns to us with serious eyes and a grave heart to tell us that we will be challenged deeply in our life of discipleship.

Our relationship with ‘the crowds’ will not be a comfortable thing. Now, as ever, there are few members of ‘the crowd’ who really accept Jesus’ divinity, or give full weight to its implications. Popular opinion may think of Jesus as a prophet and a wise man, but such notions do not demand much of those who hold them. We, on the other hand, have committed ourselves to follow Jesus with our whole being, and to accept, in an absolute sense, everything he said and did. There will be plenty of people who will have a platform from which they will speak of their disbelief, elevating it into a sort of alternative theology, and giving it crowd-appeal because of its fine-sounding catch-phrases and use of popular jargon. They will accuse true disciples of being behind the times and of making demands that have been superseded by the demands of the modern world. They may even become murderous towards us.

We see from this episode that Jesus prayed, and then he asked his disciples two interrelated questions of greatest magnitude. We, like Jesus’ first disciples, are asked to see the implications of these questions for our discipleship. Jesus’ solemnity in asking them warns us that it will never be easy to be his disciples “Who do you say that I am” is the most important question we must answer in our life with the Lord. Maintaining our commitment to this answer – no matter what the crowds may think – is the most important thing we will ever do. Are we ready?

Jesus was Praying Alone

Part III


If you are just joining us, I invite you to scroll back to the posts of the last two days. We are looking at Luke 9:18f, and we’re considering the interrelation of the two questions Jesus asks his disciples about his identity. We ended yesterday with the realisation that the crowds’ opinion of Jesus’ identity was much tamer than that of the disciples. Yet, these very crowds would finally prove to be murderous. This is the real issue Jesus is raising here, I believe. He wants the disciples to begin to grasp that following him means that they will be putting their very lives in jeopardy. Would the disciples have the strength for what would come? Would they be able to hang on to their conviction about Jesus’ divinity no matter what the crowds thought and did?


The short answer is no. When Jesus was arrested, tried by a rigged jury and crucified, the disciples, with few exceptions – and those mostly among his female followers – caved in. Jesus already foresaw it. I imagine that this was the subject of Jesus’ prayer on the occasion we are reflecting on. He emerged from prayer knowing that he needed to try to prepare his men for the kind of courage that would be asked of them. We can see Jesus’ delicacy here. They will be asked to undergo their own passion in imitation of him after he has died, risen and ascended. He doesn’t force this information upon them in all its brutal detail yet – it would be far, far too much for them. They cannot yet grasp Jesus’ own passion, much less are they able to contemplate theirs. But he asks them questions which would enable them to, as it were, eventually tumble to the truth. Subsequent events show that it takes the disciples a very long time to reach that truth – and when then do, they do only because Jesus has ascended and sent them the Holy Spirit, the Counsellor, to lead them to all truth.


What can we learn from all this? We can learn that we are invited to be courageous – way beyond what we may imagine. We learn that we need to hold fast to our belief in Jesus’ divine identity. Jesus is the Christ of God. Jesus is God. Like the original twelve disciples, we are doing well if we believe and profess this. But we, like them, stand beside Jesus in this gospel passage as he emerges from his prayer and turns to us with serious eyes and a grave heart to tell us that we will be challenged deeply in our life of discipleship.


Our relationship with ‘the crowds’ will not be a comfortable thing. Now, as ever, there are few members of ‘the crowd’ who really accept Jesus’ divinity, or give full weight to its implications. Popular opinion may think of Jesus as a prophet and a wise man, but such notions do not demand much of those who hold them. We, on the other hand, have committed ourselves to follow Jesus with our whole being, and to accept, in an absolute sense, everything he said and did. There will be plenty of people who will have a platform from which they will speak of their disbelief, elevating it into a sort of alternative theology, and giving it crowd-appeal because of its fine-sounding catch-phrases and use of popular jargon. They will accuse true disciples of being behind the times and of making demands that have been superseded by the demands of the modern world. They may even become

murderous towards us.


We see from this episode that Jesus prayed, and then he asked his disciples two interrelated questions of greatest magnitude. We, like Jesus’ first disciples, are asked to see the implications of these questions for our discipleship. Jesus’ solemnity in asking them warns us that it will never be easy to be his disciples “Who do you say that I am” is the most important question we must answer in our life with the Lord. Maintaining our commitment to this answer – no matter what the crowds may think – is the most important thing we will ever do. Are we ready?

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25 November: Jesus was Praying Alone, Part II

Yesterday we were reflecting on Luke 9:18f. If you weren’t here, please scroll back and have a look the reflections so that today’s will make more sense to you.

In Luke 9: 18 and following Jesus was praying, and when he stops, he asks the disciples who the crowds think he is. We’re pondering this in light of the fact that in this question Jesus probably wants the disciples to articulate an answer – mainly for their own instruction, rather than his. Given yesterday’s reflections, I now imagine that Jesus already had a pretty good idea of the opinions that were in circulation about him, but let’s listen to what the disciples tell Jesus: ‘Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, others again, one of the ancient prophets come back to life’ (Lk 9:19). Did the disciples give an accurate report? Who knows. The disciples only tell Jesus the opinions that were favourable. Were less favourable opinions being circulated as well? Almost certainly. But, even if the disciples had perceived Jesus’ crowd-appeal correctly, crowds are notoriously fickle; maintaining popularity for any length of time is nearly impossible, as subsequent events would overwhelmingly demonstrate. This was something Jesus knew far better than the disciples did. But the disciples have answered Jesus’ question, and now he has another for them – a question which is more closely linked to his first question than I had previously realised.

‘And you, who do you say that I am?’ Peter speaks for all in his answer. “You are the Christ.” That this opinion was shared by the Twelve is borne out by the fact that not one of the Twelve contradicts Peter – and other gospel passages show that the disciples were certainly capable of breaking into an argument, even at the most solemn moments, had they disagreed with Peter. So: excellent. They have grasped Jesus’ true identity. Perhaps it was only in that very moment that this truth comes home to all of them, we don’t know. But it does come home, and Peter voices this for all. Jesus, in other gospel accounts of this episode, is moved by Peter’s courage and perception, and praises him. But more is at stake here even than Peter’s superb answer to Jesus’ question.

In other gospels, Jesus moves quickly into a prophecy of his passion – and Peter, voicing what all the disciples would feel, is horrified, and tries to talk Jesus out of the whole thing. We know how Jesus responds to Peter: he seems shaken, and very sternly calls Peter ‘Satan,’ and commands him to ‘get behind’ him. But, once again, this is about the disciples – indeed, it is about discipleship. We just heard what the Twelve think the crowd thinks of Jesus. Now, the question that is of supreme importance for them is this: are they capable of being faithful to this astonishing truth of Jesus’ divinity in the face of a public whose opinion about Jesus’ identity is favourable enough, but nowhere near as radical as their own? The disciples had sussed the un-heard-of and shocking, even frightening truth about Jesus himself – that he, a man, was the Christ of God. It is now possible to see that there is yet another question that Jesus doesn’t ask, but that hangs in the air over everyone’s head, which is this: “What would the crowds say about you if they knew what you thought of me?”

We’re not quite finished with this passage, but this seems to be a good place to stop and pray. Tomorrow we will conclude our reflection.


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7 June: The Month of the Sacred Heart.

1 O dearest Lord, thy sacred head
with thorns was pierced for me;
O pour thy blessing on my head
that I may think for thee.
2 O dearest Lord, thy sacred hands
with nails were pierced for me;
O shed thy blessing on my hands
that they may work for thee.
3 O dearest Lord, thy sacred feet
with nails were pierced for me;
O pour thy blessing on my feet
that they may follow thee.

4 O dearest Lord, thy sacred heart
with spear was pierced for me;
O pour thy Spirit in my heart
that I may live for thee.

I first heard this hymn at Canterbury Cathedral during Holy Week, and enjoyed its unsentimental simplicity and the fleshy images; this is a Jesus you could touch, as Thomas did. I’m glad to share ‘O dearest Lord’ with you in this Month of the Sacred Heart. May his blessing pour down over your head, hands, feet and heart as the sun pours down on the sea, the sand – and the people on the beach – in this picture from Wales.

Father Andrew, who wrote this hymn was a pioneering Anglican Franciscan, working in East London during World War II. Search through Agnellus Mirror for more of his reflections.

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28 February: Saint Francis and his blindness.

Francis and the Passion

Rowan Williams said that Christ lived a life-long Passion. It was a passion, both in terms of human suffering – just one example being when the members of his local synagogue tried to kill him by throwing him down a cliff – and in terms of zeal, enthusiasm, living each day to the full; and in terms of love. Saint Francis grasped this idea and tried to live it out, feeling his own response to being alive and loved by God as falling short.

Would we not have compromised on the form the Franciscan order should take; be more practical in many circumstances than Francis was? Let us use this Lent to become conscious of where our compromises go too far.

“St. Francis was a dying man. We might say he was an old man, at the time this typical incident occurred; but in fact he was only prematurely old; for he was not fifty when he died, worn out with his fighting and fasting life. But when he came down from the awful asceticism and more awful revelation of Alverno, he was a broken man.

As will be apparent when these events are touched on in their turn, it was not only sickness and bodily decay that may well have darkened his life; he had been recently disappointed in his main mission to end the Crusades by the conversion of Islam; he had been still more disappointed by the signs of compromise and a more political or practical spirit in his own order; he had spent his last energies in protest.

At this point he was told that he was going blind. If the faintest hint has been given here of what St. Francis felt about the glory and pageantry of earth and sky, about the heraldic shape and colour and symbolism of birds and beasts and flowers, some notion may be formed of what it meant to him to go blind. Yet the remedy might well have seemed worse than the disease. The remedy, admittedly an uncertain remedy, was to cauterise the eye, and that without any anaesthetic. In other words it was to burn his living eyeballs with a red-hot iron. Many of the tortures of martyrdom, which he envied in martyrology and sought vainly in Syria, can have been no worse.

When they took the brand from the furnace, he rose as with an urbane gesture and spoke as to an invisible presence: “Brother Fire, God made you beautiful and strong and useful; I pray you be courteous with me.” If there be any such thing as the art of life, it seems to me that such a moment was one of its masterpieces.

From Saint Francis of Assisi: The Life and Times of St. Francis, by G. K. Chesterton

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15 October, Little Flowers of Saint Francis LXXXVI: that exceeding love.

Cross in cave at Zakopane, Poland; Greyfriars’ chapel, Canterbury.

Saint Francis caused the book of the Gospels to be brought unto him; for God had put it in his mind that, by the opening of the book of the Gospels three times, that which it was the will of God to do unto him should be revealed. And, when the book was brought unto him, St. Francis betook himself to prayer; and, when he had finished his prayer, he caused the book to be opened three times by the hand of Friar Leo, in the name of the Most Holy Trinity; and, as it pleased the Divine Providence, in those three times ever there appeared before him the Passion of Christ.

The next day came, to wit the day of the most Holy Cross, and St. Francis, betimes in the morning, or ever it was day, betook himself to prayer before the entrance of his cell, and turning his face towards the East, prayed after this manner: “O my Lord Jesus Christ, two graces do I beseech Thee to grant me before I die: the first, that, during my lifetime, I may feel in my soul and in my body, so far as may be possible, that pain which Thou, sweet Lord, didst suffer in the hour of Thy most bitter passion; the second is that I may feel in my heart, so far as may be possible, that exceeding love, whereby Thou, Son of God, wast enkindled to willingly bear such passion for us sinners”.

And, when he had continued long time in this prayer, he knew that God would hear him, and that, as far as was possible for a mere creature, so far would it be granted to him to feel the aforesaid things. Having this promise, St. Francis began to contemplate with very great devotion the Passion of Christ and His infinite charity.

We were celebrating the Season of Creation during September, so these posts are about a month later than the events they record.

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11 April: All in an April Springtime, II.

All in an April Springtime, II.

I am the wood 
On which you chose to die. 

I am the beam you carried on your shoulder, 
Pulling at your torn and scourged flesh. 

I am the rest on which they laid your hands, 
You held me close,  
As close as nails could hold. 

You drew my pain 
To make it yours. 

And then they lifted you 
And you forgave me.

SPB

Saint Francis, we know, received the marks of Christ’s passion in his own flesh; here he contemplates the instruments of the Passion. Sheila has a Franciscan insight here; the Cross itself feels the pain of a broken world. Perhaps we, too, should be seeking forgiveness for the wrong we are unwillingly complicit in committing against God and his Creation.

Two poems from American poets that harmonise with this one were published here a couple of years ago. Start with Joyce Kilmer’s prayer of a soldier in France and follow the arrow to the next post by Christina Chase. Happy Easter!

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5 August: Passion flowers

Another glimpse of Nineteenth Century Britain: Three passion flower graves seen on a recent walk: the first with the passion flower vine climbing the Cross, mingling with the Crown of Thorns to frame the Monogram, IHS, meaning Jesus, is an explicit Act of Faith; we found it near the entrance to Canterbury Cemetery. The second is nearby: from the end of the Century, the carving more rigid than on other stones we have seen. The passion flower is joined by a morning glory to our left, a rose to the right, and a lily above. The final stone is one we missed earlier in Harbledown churchyard. This is from 1940, a good half century later than anything we’ve spotted so far.

We reflected on the meaning of passion flowers here. It’s an interesting read. I close with the last paragraph of that post.

When you see a passionflower let it remind you that Jesus is real, his death was real, as indeed will ours be – but so, too, will our rising. And when you see a passionflower on a gravestone, send us a picture to put in the blog!

passionflower.real.jpg

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9 July: Oh dear!

After the Passion play at Oberammergau it was time for Jerome K Jerome to leave the village and make room for the next wave of visitors. He was driven down to the railway in a horse-drawn omnibus, along with other passengers, including a couple of Englishwomen. The word ‘omnibus’ means ‘for all’: but not quite, it seemed:

They were grumbling the whole of the way at having been put to ride in an omnibus.  It seemed that they had never been so insulted in their lives before, and they took care to let everybody in the vehicle know that they had paid for first-class, and that at home they kept their own carriage.  They were also very indignant because the people at the house where they had lodged had offered to shake hands with them at parting.  They did not come to Ober-Ammergau to be treated on terms of familiarity by German peasants, they said.

Diary of a Pilgrimage by Jerome K. Jerome.

Of course, they missed the point but so do we when we are anxious to maintain our good image, even if only in our own eyes.

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Going viral XXXIV: Passion flowers on our doorstep.

Walking around during lockdown, we came to Saint Stephen's church. Many years ago we came here regularly for Roman Catholic Mass. Today the church, like all churches, is closed, but not the churchyard. We found one stone with a passionflower, bottom centre of the disc, amid roses, a morning glory (?) and others that must have meant something to the bereaved husband. There are oak leaves and acorns in the triangular panels below the disc.

This verse is my best reading of the damaged inscription. It speaks of hope.

A happy world, a glorious place
Where all who are forgiven
Shall find their loved and best beloved
And hearts like meeting streams that flow
For everyone in heaven.

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Going viral XIX: Where is God?

It was a headline in another website: ‘Where is God in a pandemic?’ followed by ‘We don’t know, but can you believe in a God that you don’t understand?’

I wonder, can I believe in a God that I do understand? S/He would hardly be a God – or a god – if I could understand him or her! Faith seeks understanding, says Saint Anselm, faith does not depend on understanding.

The Passion – that is, the life and death of Jesus – tells us that God is here in our suffering as he is in our joys. We pray for all suffering from illness, those caring for them in any way, and those who have been bereaved, and all who have died.

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