Saturday, April 7, 2012


April  7,  2012

Quote for Today

"In the cross 
of Christ
excess in us
is met by 
excess in God; 
excess of evil
is mastered
by excess 
of love."

Louis Bourdaloue [ 1632-1704] - French Jesuit - "The King of Preachers".

Painting on top: Jesus Agony - Georges Rouault [18710-1958] - French painter

What is the best thing you have ever done and what is the worst thing you have ever done?

Friday, April 6, 2012


The title of my homily is, “Powerless.”

Ever feel that way. Powerless! Of course you’ve felt that way! You don’t have the microphone. I do!

I have a pile of old newspapers in the corner of my room and whenever I spot something in a newspaper that grabs me or I see something I want to read - but don’t have time to read - it goes on my newspaper pile - before someone throws it out. Well, this morning I put one newspaper too many on that pile - and the whole tower of paper came crashing down.

Surprise! There on the ruins of the collapsed tower was an article on preaching from January 23, 2004. Before the collapse it was probably near the bottom. Now it was one of the papers on top of a spread out pile of old newspapers across the whole floor of my room.  

Interesting. I picked it up because of the title on top of the page: “Connecting God’s Story with the People’s” by Patricia Lefevere. Maybe that’s why I saved it in the first place.  I read it then and there - because I was preaching tonight. Maybe it would give me an inspiration. Maybe it would challenge me to come up with a good Good Friday homily - by reading that article on preaching.

The article reported on a preaching conference that took place in the College of St. Elizabeth in Morristown, N.J. There in the third column was the goal of preaching. “The goal is to get someone in the parish to say, ‘I know myself in that story.’”

I’m sure some of you who are married to a newspaper collector have already said, “I know my husband in your newspaper pile story.”

Since today is Good Friday and the goal is to preach on the Cross - and knowing that the cross here at St. John Neumann Church is very large - and knowing we’re all going to be invited to come up and kiss another cross tonight - I would hope that everyone here can look at the cross tonight and say, “I know myself in that story.”

What’s the story? Why did Jesus die on the Cross? Why do millions of people wear a cross around their neck? Why do people have a cross hanging somewhere in their house? What’s the story? What’s its attraction? What does it touch in the human story that makes both so connected?

When you look at the cross - what do you see? What do you hear? What story is Jesus preaching to you tonight - or all your life?

Listen to that story - the one you’re hearing. Go with it. Let my words tumble down like a tower of babble - or pick up the words you’re hearing from the cross tonight.

The title of my homily for tonight is, “Powerless.”  To be honest for some reason that’s the theme I’ve been thinking about all this week - knowing that I was to preach on Good Friday evening.


My plans for Lent - to clean my room  - didn’t happen. My plans for years now has been to pitch the newspapers. I never get to them. Maybe there’s something in one of those papers that is very important - and very helpful to someone. I know I need to pitch them - someday. Hasn’t happened yet. In fact, I restacked that pile already - a bit more secure - a bit more able to get even higher.  But I know - I know - I know - sometimes towers and plans crumble and tumble.

In fact, the first thing I feel powerless about is time. I’ll never get through all those old papers.  Now that I’m 72 I’m finding that today I’m not able to get as much done as I was able to get done 10 years ago. Obvious story.

Then comes the creeping big, big, big, issue where all of us feel powerless: death. When you hit 70, at least for me, I hear death at times going, “Hmm. Hmmn.”

And if I’m talking about feeling powerless, there’s also the big issue of getting my way. The older I get the more I’m reminded of the reality I can’t control others. How about you? Ever try to control the world?

Wait a minute. Of course we have some powers. Sometimes we’re handed a menu. Sometimes we get the TV remote. Sometimes we can leave really early and beat the traffic. But sometimes - sometimes - sometimes - the electricity is out and there is no TV or a truck with hazardous material crashes and Hazmat teams have to be called and a road is closed for 3 hours - and we experience being stuck. Sometimes mom or dad gets sick - or ups and dies - and all plans are mute.

Babies cry in church. Newspapers get wet - it rains - even when they are double bagged. Sometimes in the middle of the joke we’re telling, so and so enters the room - and says, “You gotta hear what just happened to me.” Sometimes the tests prove positive. Sometimes someone hits our car. Sometimes our kids - get into a fight. Then there’s drugs. Addictions. Sickness. Pregnancies.

As priest I got used to yawns a long time ago - but sometimes it gets to me when someone is reading the bulletin - while I’m preaching the greatest sermon of all time. I wouldn’t make that comment at a Sunday homily. I still find it horrible every time I read a newspaper column or comment about another priest abuse story. Those newspaper stories I don’t want to save.

I can’t control the church - what others say - what others do - nor government - nor family - nor parish - nor wanting to sleep the whole night without having to get up to go to the bathroom.

Wouldn’t it be lovely - if we got our own way? Or would it?

Isn’t it lovely -  when - another totally out of our control - totally out of our plans - surprises us - with a compliment or does something out of the ordinary to make life so much sweeter for another - and we see it happening right before our eyes.

That’s why I loved that Random Act of Kindness movement - or the Mall Flash Mobs - when a big group starts singing Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus - to everyone’s surprise.

Wouldn’t it be great if a whole section of Catholics in church belted out a hymn and surprised everyone?

Powerful - ever feel that way?

Powerless - ever feel that way?

So this week - this Holy Week - this Good Friday - I’ve been thinking about the issue of feeling powerless - especially the powerless side of life.

The story of the cross has the power of a thousand interpretations.

I want life to go this way. Surprise something or someone cuts across my life and everything goes the other way.

It took the Christian Church and some big heresies to come up with the Creed statements about Christ being both Human and Divine - being one of us and still in the Trinity.

One of the earliest Christian texts is a hymn sung in the early Church that says Jesus - fully God - fully powerful - emptied himself of his Godness - and became one of us - and then went even lower - becoming our servant - and then lower dying on the cross for us - and because of this God the Father lifted him up and brought him back his powers as God - so every knee - should bend and proclaim Jesus as Lord. It can be found in Paul’s Letter to the Philippians Chapter 2: verses 5b to 11.

What did Jesus do? He became one of us? We all die. Jesus died. We all suffer? Jesus suffered.  We all experience put downs - being nailed down - humiliations - abuse? Jesus did it all - experienced it all. Our God became one of us. The Powerful One became the Powerless One.

I’m not sure about this - as I move towards a conclusion - and I better get to a conclusion - because this homily is getting top heavy and might tumble and crumble like a pile of old newspapers.

I’ve been wondering: what is the biggest issue in life?

I’ve been asking that question for quite some time now. I have a few candidates: love, forgiveness, information, power and choice.

At times I narrow those 5 down to 2:  power and choice. Do I have to make a choice between them? I don’t know.

Tonight I choose to talk about powerless - that Jesus chose to give up all his powers - and look what happened - and look what happened after that.

Maybe there’s a story here: maybe if we let go of all our powers and choose to simply love one another, forgive one another, get to know one another, and empower each other - we will rise to new life.

I hope tonight you say as you look at the cross: "I heard my story tonight."


At some point -  pain - too much
pain - can be anesthetic - can be
numbing. Then - surprise - as a
result,  one starts to spot others
and stops thinking of oneself.
While lying in a nursing home bed,
one begins to notice the person
in the corridor making the stations
of the cross while walking
with their walker. One sees
the agony in the garden in
the face of the lady who comes in
to pick up the tray with the
uneaten meat loaf and the nibbled
on apple pie. One knows -
just knows, “Something’s wrong!”
Maybe it’s money. Maybe
it’s her teenager. Christ! 
With eyes closed - resting on
one’s wooden cross in room 219 -
one hears at times shriek cries from
some Judas in the distance
who can’t let go of a betrayal
from a long time ago. They cheated
on someone they loved because
they were doing or not doing
something they didn’t like
and couldn’t forgive them.
Now we know they didn’t know
what they were doing. Sometimes
we only know some things when
we’re old. Sometimes self destruction
can take longer than 3 hours on a cross.

© Andy Costello, Reflections 2012

Painting: Vincent Van Gogh, Old Man in Sorrow (On the Threshold of Eternity) Saint-Rem, April May 1890. Kroller-Muller Museum, Oterio, Netherlands.


April  6,  2012

Quote for Today - Good Friday

"Give me a lever long enough,
and a fulcrum strong enough,
and single-handed
I can move the world."

Quote from Archimedes [c. 287-212 B.C.]

Picture: Segment of the Isenheim Altarpiece by Matthias Gruenwald [1506-1515]

Have you ever stood below a cross and Christ moved you?  Be specific. When, where, how?

Thursday, April 5, 2012


April  5,  2012

Quote for Today

"A nice person lives here
with a mean old buzzard."

Sign on a door in Defiance, Ohio.

Question:  If this sign was on my door, who's who?

The title of my homily is, “Taste!”

It’s just one of the words in today’s reading from Hebrews 2: 9b-10.

It’s just one of the words we taste on Holy Thursday.


The author of Hebrews is telling us that Jesus has saved us by tasting death. Just as all of us will taste death - and have tasted it with the death of loved ones - neighbors and associates and parishioners - Jesus is one of us by tasting death - dying for all of us.

On Holy Thursday the Jewish people celebrate the Passover - with a meal.

The Passover meal connected - grounded - placed - put - the people of Israel back in Egypt - on a night different from all over nights - the night when they escaped, exited, Exodused, ran from slavery towards freedom - baptized in the waters - moving into the desert - heading from the Land of Suffering towards the Land of Milk and Honey.

If you ever have a chance to go to a Seder Meal, go to it.

If you ever have a chance to go to the Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, Easter Sunday services, go to them. They are moments different from all other moments.

At the Passover Meal, the unblemished sheep or goat from their flock is slaughtered. The blood is put on the two doorposts. The Lamb is roasted and served. The unleavened bread is eaten. The bitter herbs are tasted. The different cups of wine are tasted. The people around the supper table are tasting history - doing this in memory of Moses and those who were in on that Passover. The people at the Passover Supper were tasting not only history - but also the mystery of how they were saved by the Lord.

It is the Passover of the Lord.

The title of my homily is, “Taste!”

Jesus tasted that Passover Meal every year till that night - especially that Holy Thursday night - his Last Supper - till he passed through the waters and blood of death - and entered the Promised Land of Eternal Life.

At that Last Passover, at that Last Supper, Jesus did a few things differently. He washed his disciples feet and told us to do likewise. He said he did it as an example of how to treat each other starting from one’s feet. At that Last Passover, at that Last Supper, he took bread and he took wine and offering them up to God he said, “This is my body, I’m giving it to you. This is my blood, I’m pouring it out for you.”

Taste and see how good the Lord is.

That’s what we celebrate this day.

Taste Holy Thursday this Thursday.

Pass over your life and your love and your service to the Lord and to each other - and experience the love that Jesus talks about at that Last Supper - that Meal which we celebrate over and over again till the Lord comes in Glory. Amen.


Painting on top: Kimberly Burgess

Wednesday, April 4, 2012



Today is the so called, “Spy Wednesday”. It’s the most  "backgroundish day" — the most “didn’t-make-it” day — the least featured of the name days in Holy Week. We know all about Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and then Easter. They made it. “Spy Wednesday” didn’t.

Why not? It's the day  Judas is featured. However, when it comes down to it,  Judas is someone we know very little about. Yet he's also someone about whom a lot has been written. I found that out when I went looking for quotes and comments about him. I came up with some  interesting ones and I’ll put a few of them in this homily.

Judas, we hardly know you. Who are you? Why did you do what you did?


The gospels get into his motivation and his story. Yet, do they really know the man and what made him tick?

In the Acts of the Apostles there is the detail about Judas’ death that is very messy - and rarely mentioned. It says, "As you know, he bought a field with the money he was paid for his crime." That seems like a very quick transaction. Then the Acts of the Apostles adds,   “He fell headlong and burst open, and all his entrails poured out” [Acts 1: 18] Is that TMI - too much information - and in a homily? I wonder if that story  about the field is a mix up or misunderstanding coming out the story bouncing off his being buried in a potter’s field [Cf. Matthew 27: 7]. Did someone using poetic license make up the bursting apart story as well as him wanting to buy a field with the money he got for betraying Jesus?

It seems that money was his big motivation.


Down through the years Judas is listed with the great spies and betrayers. Spies and traitors down through history have always been disliked people. There’s Brutus who betrayed Caesar. There’s Quisling, the Norwegian politician who was a traitor and collaborated with the Nazi invaders. There’s Benedict Arnold who betrayed his side to the British in the Revolutionary War. In our times in our country there have been traitors like Robert Hanssen, Aldrich Ames, John Walker Jr., Jonathan Pollard and others. What were their motives - other than money?

Judas received 30 pieces of silver for betraying Jesus.


“Dante sets him [Judas] in the lowest of all hells, a hell of cold and ice, a hell designed to show who were not hot sinners swept away by angry passions, but cold, calculating, deliberate offenders against the love of God.” (Cf. Barclay, Mark, p. 328)


Shakespeare has Richard the Third saying, “So Judas did to Christ: but he, in twelve, / Found truth in all but one; I, in twelve thousand, none. / God save the king! Will no man say, amen?” (Cf. Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, p. 195: 10)


Yet if there is any character whom we don’t know, it’s Judas. Everyone thinks they know him, but do they?

Graham Green writes in The End of the Affair [1925] , “If we had not been taught how to interpret the story of the Passion, would we have been able to say from their actions alone whether it was the jealous Judas or the cowardly Peter who loved Christ?”


We don’t know Judas, yet we continue to stereotype him.

John Le Carre 1963 novel had the title, The Spy Who Came In from the Cold. Why not dub Judas with that title and ask him in prayer, “What happened Judas? What happened? Why did you do it?” Then listen. Answers might give us some deep insights into yourself and others .

Or maybe forget about Judas and only go into ourselves.

Today’s gospel has what I think is the worst line in scripture, -- the horrible words, “Better for him if he had never been born.” Meaning: “woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed.” Judas!

Instead of looking at Judas, let’s look at ourselves. Have we ever had that feeling, “I wish I was never born”? We might have that feeling when we have betrayed another or have been betrayed. Or we made a horrible mistake - that broke trust. We want to sink into the ground from which we came.

Betrayal is that kind of a sin: betraying or being betrayed.


In a poem, Emily Dickinson said that the soul can be a friend or a spy. Listen to her adjectives. It can be an imperial friend or the most agonizing Spy.

                “The Soul unto itself
                  Is an imperial friend—
                  Or the most agonizing Spy—
                  An Enemy—could send.”

Francis Thompson in The Hound of Heaven wrote,

              “But with unhurrying chase,
               And unperturbed pace,
               Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
               They beat—and a Voice beat
               More instant than the Feet—
`             All things betray thee—who betrayest Me.’”

Isaac Bashevis Singer “When you betray somebody else, you also betray yourself.”


Well, when we feel that, it’s not time for the Judas Tree, it’s time for the Jesus Tree—the Cross.

Judas killed the one person he needed—the one person who could forgive him—the one person who called him and gave him a calling. Jesus is the one who said to him,  “You have a reason for being born.”

So if you feel crummy, betrayed, or having betrayed another, start again. Don’t kill yourself. Turn to Jesus.

Let me end there. Let’s begin there. Go to Jesus with a kiss.


Drawing on top by Brendan Monroe - from The New York Times


April  4,  2012

Quote for the Day

"God enters by a private door into every individual."

Ralph Waldo Emerson [1803-1882]

Photo: a side street in Mykonos, Greece

Tuesday, April 3, 2012



The title of my homily for today is “Betrayal and Denial”. I’d like to reflect a little bit on those two issues: Betrayal and Denial. They are two issues that we sometimes feed on.

They are sitting there, or better, they are dwelling there in our heart - perhaps in the bottom back of our deep freeze. And when we are down or when someone “does it again” - past betrayals and past denials pop up. We take them out of the deep freeze. We thaw them. We let them simmer and then we begin to nibble on them in our hurt.

Some people overeat to compensate for their anger. Some people try to stuff themselves, to plug the hole that leads to their heart, where past betrayals and denials linger and want to come to the surface.

So this morning a brief reflection on “Betrayal and Denial”.


They are two major issues that we have all heard lots about in our time. We have seen and heard so much about individuals and communities denying, denying, denying. We have all seen so many betrayals in government, marriages, and in the priesthood and in religious life. So betrayal and denial are two realities we are quite familiar with.


Today’s gospel is Holy Week material. It’s contains heavy duty heart stuff.

Besides Jesus, today’s gospel has three main characters: Judas, Peter and the Beloved Disciple (not absolutely sure who he is). Now we would all love to be the Beloved Disciple, reclining right there next to Jesus bosom (as in Abraham’s bosom), but the reality is: we are more likely to be Judas as well as Peter. The reality is: where charity and love should reign, often we find experience betrayal and denial.

Today’s gospel begins with Jesus sitting there with his disciples and he is growing deeply troubled. His heart is a washing machine stirring around big issues, especially, these issues of betrayal and denial - two of the major issues of our time and all time.


The human heart contains both and a lot more. Isn’t that the message of Jesus? The human heart contains love and it contains sin. And let him or her who doesn’t have sin in their heart start throwing stones and then they will discover they have sin in their heart.

Jesus said go down deep into the garden of the human heart and you’ll find rotten apples and they can ruin the whole barrel - especially if we deny they are there.

So today’s gospel contains warning signals to us. I could be Judas. I could be Peter. Neither role is outside my acting ability.

As we grow from childhood to adolescence to adulthood, somewhere along the line we discover evil. It’s out there. Someone betrays us. Someone hurts us. Some abuses us. Someone hurts another. We are shocked. There is evil in the garden.

And as we grow we soon discover that we too can be evil. We too can be cruel. We can be Peter. We can be Judas.

Problems arise when we deny that inner reality and start to make others - the different or the foreigners or people of some other nationality or color to be the problem - or women as the one who cause rapes or what have you.

In today’s gospel Judas makes the move and we read, Satan moved into his heart. And then the dark innuendo, “It was night.”

Satan is not too far from the tree called me. And he slithers around the tree or hangs in its branches. And that tree is not out there. It’s planted in here, in my heart. And the tree is the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And we have eaten from both - and we have been graced by good fruit and poisoned by bad fruit.

And the question is: do we accept or deny that reality?

We’ve all had this experience of someone grinding us down. Have we ever admitted doing the same to others?


In their book, The Choicemaker, Sheila Moon and Elizabeth Howe  have great stuff on this issue. Let me cite two examples:

The first example that Moon and Howe  mention is that of a birthright Quaker who was an upholder of pacifism and the doing of good works. In his rigidity, he forced two of his children into revolt and anti-social violence, because he, the father, had never faced his own inner darkness. (p. 84)

The second example is that of a character they call Mr. J. “Let us take a look at Mr. J. On Tuesday he awakens tired, irritable, closed off from his family, and spends the day trying to escape himself by being egocentric, unaware, and inadequate. He doesn’t see what the situation requires from him. He makes erroneous evaluations of himself and of others. He does things that are consciously or unconsciously hurtful, even cruel, both to himself and others. Failures multiply until at last, exhausted, he falls into bed only to lie awake for the endless hours it takes for him to see what he has done. On Wednesday Mr. J. tries to approach everything with more openness and flexibility. His evaluations are more genuine and sensitive, and he manages to engage in many more dialogues than monologues. In short, by trying to avoid his evil he comes to grief, and by recognizing it and assimilating it he acts more creatively and also is more richly fulfilled. As Jesus said, “Whosoever shall see to wall himself in shall be destroyed, and whosoever shall let the walls fall shall find life.” (pp. 89 - 90)


So today I’m suggesting that we zero in on our own heart. We need to sit in our own garden. We need to sit under our own tree. We need to inspect and look at your own fruit. And like Newton maybe an apple will fall on your head and we’ll wake up to look at it. Maybe it will be a good apple - maybe it will be a bad apple. We have both in our tree. Next, look around in the grass below the tree called “ME” or stand up and look at the apples on our tree. We’ll find two apples that are two of the biggest issues in our times: betrayal and denial.

When we look at our denials and especially our betrayals, we might want a rope to hang ourselves on that tree. Relax. We don’t have to be Judas. Be Peter. He learned all about forgiveness - three times - probably 70 times 7 times after that. My message would be that there is sin inside our heart, but if we have a choice between Peter or Judas, betrayal or denial, choose denial and not betrayal. Be Peter and not Judas.


Painting on top: The Taking of  Christ by Michelangelo Caravaggio [1602]


April 3,  2012

Quote For Today

"I am always humbled
by the ingenuity
of the Lord,
who can make
a red barn 
cast a blue shadow."

E. B. White [1899-1985]

Monday, April 2, 2012


Life - it’s like an elevator ride.

You get on. Sometimes you go up and sometimes you go down.

Sometimes you end up on the wrong floor. You weren’t thinking or someone misunderstood you and pushed the wrong button.

Life - it’s like an elevator ride.

Some long for the good old days - when there was someone standing there in an uniform ready to serve you - someone to ask with a smile, “What floor!” To push the buttons … To say, “Please step back!” To say, “Ground floor” or “Fifth floor” when they bring you to your floor - and then to say as you exited the elevator, “Have a great day!”

Life - it’s like an elevator ride.

Sometimes you’re all alone.

Sometimes someone says, “Hello!”

Sometimes someone pushes the button for you.

Sometimes there is someone who loves to start a conversation or make a comment.

Sometimes everyone is so - so quiet.

Sometimes you recognize your neighbors.

Life - it’s like an elevator ride.

Sometimes you get stuck. Sometimes it’s stuck.

Sometimes you have to wait.

Sometimes it’s crowded.

Life - it’s like an elevator ride.

Some people leave such a sweet scented perfume - even when they are long gone.

Some people leave a sour odor - and there are no windows to air them out of your life.

Some people - you’ll hardly or never know, they were there.

Life - it’s like an elevator ride.

Some people take the stairs - whenever possible.

Some people make odd comments about those who take the elevator - but the day might come - when they are in a wheel chair - or their legs are failing - and they too will take the elevator. Then they’ll know.

Some people bring you up; some people bring you down.

Life - it’s like an elevator ride.

© Andy Costello, Reflections, 2012

[This is an image that hit me when I read today’s gospel - for Monday in Holy Week - John 12:1-11. Jesus was invited to a dinner at the house of Lazarus, Martha and Mary - and “Mary took a liter of costly perfumed oil made from genuine aromatic nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and dried them with her hair; the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.” Open up your Bible. Read John 12: 3. Put your nose to the words. Your nose will still grab the scent.]


April  2,  2012

Quote for Today

"Better be kind at home
than burn incense
in a far place."

Chinese Proverb
Picture  "A Path for Gods"  by Ole Jensen - found on line.

Sunday, April 1, 2012


[This is a Palm Sunday Reflection for 2012.]

I stood on the side - on the edge of the crowd that day - wondering what was going on.

I looked at Jesus’ face - better his eyes - as he came up the road that day. He seemed so elsewhere.

Sitting on a donkey: what was that all about? Crowds waiving palms - praising him: what was that all about? He seemed so elsewhere.

Where was his mind? What was he thinking? What was he wondering about? What were those standing there that day thinking?

I know I’ve been there - at a meal - and I was a hundred miles away. I was chewing lamb, but in my thoughts - I was chewing on something else - planning something else - wanting to be elsewhere.

As the crowd along the road waved palms and shouted, “Hosanna!” I could spot a few of his enemies - tight faced - angry - planning something else.

I watched him all that week - a week that was to be different from all other weeks.

Weeks and months before this week, I heard him say - he had to get to Jerusalem. So I knew he was in Jerusalem long before he got to Jerusalem that day.

I knew he knew - this was to be his destiny - so here he was - but he seemed to be so elsewhere.

Life can often be what we didn’t plan it to be. We know what we want till we get what we want. And then we realize it wasn’t what we wanted.

That Thursday evening, I was close to the end of the table for that supper. I watched his hands. They were tapping the table at times. I watched him eyeing the bread - wincing as he broke it. I saw him tasting the wine slowly - and his face seemed to be sensing - that he knew he was about to be crushed.

I heard him say, “This is my body….” with the bread. “This is my blood ….” with the wine. I heard him say, “This is the beginning of a New Passover, a New Exodus, a New Covenant, a New Life.”

I knew this was his last supper with us. I just knew that when I saw Judas slip out into the night. Something was wrong with Judas. He also could be so elsewhere.

At that meal I listened carefully. Jesus told us about loving one another. After he the shepherd would be slaughtered like the Lamb for the Passover Supper - we would be scattered. What was that all about? He was passing over too many steps that we hadn’t taken yet. After he's gone, he reminded us to remain together like branches on the vine - because separated we’d have no life within us. He told us to produce much fruit and in the meanwhile - to wash feet. He kept on talking about his Father - coming from and going back to him - sending a Spirit to us. None of us are scribes. Yet I wished there was someone who was taking this down.

I saw Jesus’ face tighten as he too went out into the night.

We followed him - bundled up together - in fear and in the dark.

He didn’t ask me to join him in prayer. Once more it was just Peter, James and John. However, I was watching - watching John in particular. It seemed that he was sensing something that Peter wasn’t. James? I am not sure. John always seemed to be taking it all in - seeming to be so elsewhere - at times.

I could hear Jesus’ frustration with Peter - not staying awake - but sleeping - while he Jesus was deep in prayer, deep in worry, deep in scare - deep in fear.

Silence. Night. What’s next?

Then I heard the soldiers coming with torches - burning bright torches - probably to arrest Jesus. I saw Judas’ face in the light. I saw the kiss. Jesus looked right at Judas. Judas turned away. And as they dragged Jesus away, Judas’ face fell. He seemed so elsewhere.

I stayed on the edge. They rushed Jesus to places behind big doors - strong gates - big walls. I couldn’t get inside. But I heard that they were beating and making fun of Jesus inside - with no clue what they were doing.

That Friday I heard the crowd screaming for Barabbas - screaming for crucifixion - and I thought I spotted in the crowd some of those I saw last Sunday who were praising him. I guess people can be like that.

I watched him being forced to carry his own cross on the way to Calvary. I think he caught my eye once - but I looked elsewhere. I didn’t know what to do.

I stayed at the edge of the crowd at Calvary. I saw some of his blood squirt from his hands when they nailed him to the cross - right onto the skin of a small boy who carried the bucket of nails and the hammer to Calvary. That was ironic because some cried, “His blood be upon us and upon our children.”

I heard him cry from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

God seemed so elsewhere - so it seems - sometimes.

Jesus hung there for what seemed like hours.

Jesus seemed so elsewhere when he died.

I kept saying to myself, “Now what? Now what? Is there a next or do we all go back home - to all the elsewhere’s we’ve been thinking about the past three years - to all these elsewhere’s we all left behind?


When fishes flew and forests walked,
And figs grew upon thorn,
Some moment when the moon was blood,
Then surely I was born.

With monstrous head and sickening cry,
And ears like errant wings,
The devil’s walking parody
Of all four-footed things.

The tattered outlaw of the earth,
Of ancient, crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,
I keep my secret still.

Fools! For I also had my hour;
One far fierce hours and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears,
And palms before my feet.

G.K. Chesterton  [1874-1936]