Good Friday is the Ultimate Contradiction

Here’s a post I wrote for Signs of Contradiction:

Today is the ultimate contradiction. It’s Good Friday. Why good? Why isn’t it called bad? How can we possibly say that the day on which a man whom we believe to be God in the flesh, was nailed–impaled through the wrists and feet with spikes–to a cruciform piece of wood standing vertically above the ground, was good? After 3 hours of excruciating pain, involving pushing up on his nerve pierced wounds in order to breathe, he died. Doesn’t sound good at all does it? Sounds like the triumph of darkness–how is this Friday “good” by any stretch of the imagination?

And then, another question arises. Why would God undergo such suffering at the hands of the wicked? Those who saw the disfigured man hanging from the accursed tree must have thought to themselves, “surely he wasn’t who he said he was, otherwise he could be delivered from this.” They voiced their objections with the taunting words, “If he is the Son of God, let him come down from the cross.” It was bad enough for a prophet of God to die like that, but God himself? Crucifixion was the sign of total and utter defeat. Is it fitting for a powerful God to subject himself to such humiliation and torture, and at the hands of his own creatures? He worked miracles, they said it was by the power of demons. He preached love and mercy, he was hated and nailed to a cross. By all standards, the Good Friday event seems to be a complete failure.

But out of darkness comes the great dawn, out of the pain of childbirth comes the joy of a child come into the world. Why did God allow the worst evil, deicide, the murder of God Himself, to occur? In order to bring a greater good out of it. On the Cross, Jesus took sin and death upon himself, and by doing so, did away with them. Because it was God who died on Good Friday, death died. If death could dare to swallow up Life Himself, only one thing could happen: death would be destroyed from the inside out. It sounds like a contradiction to say that God died, and yet that’s exactly what happened. To be sure, God always existed. However, because Jesus Christ is God-made-man, God experienced death. Jesus absorbed death and hatred with his love and life. So, out of the worst thing that ever happened came the best thing that ever happened. No longer can we say, “does God know what it’s like for me to suffer?” And that’s why it is called Good Friday.

Is it weakness on the part of God to descend to the depths of human misery? Quite the opposite. Good Friday is the sign of God’s Almighty Power. As the Servant of God, Bishop Fulton Sheen once said (and I paraphrase), “It is human to come down from the cross, but it is Divine to hang there.”

Resolved…

To continue blogging for the foreseeable future. I have been preoccupied with many things, including the last session of philosophy 101 and I hope to share what I’ve been thinking very soon.  Please excuse the sporadic posts… I will work on being consistent with my writing. But I have to cut this particular post short as Holy Week begins tomorrow…

Christmas in March

The climatic destruction of the ring that held the world in its enslaving grip is one of my favorite passages of the Lord of the Rings. JRR Tolkien sets it up beautifully: while the evil forger of the ring, Sauron, literally had his eye on the powerful and mighty of the world, he failed to detect the lowly hobbit making his way to the back entrance to Mordor, to the fires of Mount Doom. He certainly did not suspect that such a humble creature could bring about the downfall of his kingdom. It’s a great story that retells an even greater story. There is something especially striking that Tolkien chose March 25 as the day the ring was destroyed and the power of darkness was conquered.

For the early Christians, March 25 was understood to be the day of the crucifixion. The humility of God on a Cross brought about Satan’s ultimate defeat, catching him unaware. Christ destroyed the power of death represented by the ring, by taking it upon himself. It could not be more fitting than for the event of Redemption, the deliverance of the universe, to take place during the spring equinox, when winter’s days are numbered. March 25 marks the coming of light. That’s why it was also understood to be the day that marked the conception of Jesus Christ.

Today is the day that led up to Christmas. It’s Christmas in March. God became man in the womb of a humble woman, respecting her free will and cooperation, for a purpose unlike that of the pleasure seeking gods of the ancient Greeks or other civilizations. God became man in order to make man become like God. That is what is behind today’s Solemnity of the Annunciation.

Blogger for the National Catholic Register, Simcha Fisher highlights the connection between the Lord of the Rngs and March 25, emphasizing the heroic yes of the Blessed Virgin Mary that made Redemption possible:

http://www.ncregister.com/blog/simcha-fisher/mary-as-hero

Paralympics Going Strong

Photo highlights from the 2014 Winter Paralympics

I’m not too sure if many people know that athletes from around the world are still competing in Sochi, Russia. The Paralympics, featuring international athletes with various disabilities, is going on right now and you know that I’m watching. The Paralympics always run parallel to the Summer and Winter Olympics and take place in the same host country. Ever since I heard commentators and saw commercials mentioning the Paralympics, I’ve been looking forward to catching them on TV. While they are almost exclusively limited to the NBCSN cable satellite channel, I’m glad that the Paralympic events are finally being shown on TV in the United States. I really hope that NBC gets it right next time so that more people can actually watch them.

Yesterday afternoon, I watched ice sled hockey. It was a great game! USA beat the Canadians in the semifinals and have a shot at the gold medal! If we win, it will more than make up for the Olympic men’s and women’s hockey teams losing to Canada. I usually don’t watch hockey but I make an exception for the Olympics of course. Fascinating sport, ice sled hockey. Seems more dangerous than regular hockey. Players, with amputations and other lower extremity disabilities, use sleds with skates and hockey sticks that also work as paddles to steer the sleds. I’m really impressed by the adaptive equipment used in the Paralympics. For skiing events like cross-country, biathlon, and slalom,  there are races tailored for athletes who sit on these awesome things called “sit-skis.”  And then for curling— yes, there is such a thing as wheelchair curling, don’t ask me why—pool-cue-like sticks are used to launch the stones onto the targets wherever they are, if they actually exist.

Anyway, I enjoy watching the Paralympic events and I am continually inspired by the strength and determination of those who participate in them. One of the members of the sled hockey team, Rico Roman, is especially inspiring to me. He is a war veteran who lost a leg because of an IED. When he was recovering, somebody asked him if he would like to play hockey. Roman was not a fan but eventually began playing anyway. I think it’s pretty awesome that he recovered and learned to make the best of his situation, picking up a new skill in the process. There is a commercial in which she is featured offering encouragement to athletes to train for the Paralympics: “Before you can run, you will learn how to walk, again,” and that even though it seems almost impossible, a “longshot,”  one can become the greatest in one’s sport through a perseverance that never stops going forward.  And ultimately, in the process, such an effort will bring about a realization that everything, breathing, still being alive, has been a longshot. I can certainly attest to that. 

The 2014 Paralympic Winter Games will conclude at the closing ceremonies on Sunday. But before that, the sled hockey final between USA and Russia will be on Saturday at noon. (You can see it live streaming here).

Update:

Congrats Team USA on the gold medal victory in sled hockey! Well played!

Happy Woman’s Day!

To all the members of fairer sex reading this blog, I just want to you wish you a very happy woman’s day! I have to admit that I didn’t even know there was such a thing as an international women’s day until recently when one of my nurses mentioned that it was celebrated in Africa. It’s definitely worth dedicating every March 8 to acknowledge and celebrate the contribution that women throughout the world make by their very existence. While I could probably do a better job of it, I appreciate each and every woman in my life, from my mother, to my sister, to my closest relatives, to my friends, to my nurses. They all make like more pleasant. Where would I be without them? Of course, without my mom, the answer would be…nowhere. She is a straight up heroic and generous woman, as anyone who knows her will readily attest.

We need to acknowledge and respect women for sure.  There is more I want to say, but I’ll leave it there for now.

 

What I’ve been up to.

Dear readers,  or should I say, reader, or is it more accurate to say chirping crickets? No matter, I’m here to continue this blog. It’s been about more than a year since I’ve posted anything substantial here but there is so much that I could/can possibly write about. I’ve never really tried to blog about something I  especially enjoy doing, watching movies. Well, maybe I’ve tried once or twice. Anyway, I have been busy making excuses and neglecting to renew my domain name and directing it to my hosting provider to really care. But the more I think about it, the more I feel like I’m supposed to be writing and sharing my thoughts… so here I am. I’m officially back to blogging, even if nobody reads my stuff anymore.

A little bit about what I’ve been doing for the last few weeks: well 1st of all I have been enjoying the Winter Olympics. All of the preparation, training, and perseverance that athletes put into getting ready make watching the Olympics worth paying attention to. I have to admit that I am something of an Olympics junkie… but I don’t watch curling, because, well, I don’t really get it. That’s probably true of pretty much everybody. Does anybody get curling and how is it a sport? But I digress. Something else I’ve been doing is getting ready to launch a new project with a friend of mine. We both have muscular dystrophy and have similar experiences. We’re both Catholic, live in the Washington metropolitan area, and we both made pilgrimages to Lourdes. The name of our project Is Signs of Contradiction, a video podcast and blog, located at www.signsofcontra.wordpress.com. Yeah, just like the game but with real life flame throwers, fighting real-life monsters. Or something like that. And another thing I’ve been up to: I’ve been taking a philosophy class! It’s really fun! No, really!

What will I do next, God willing? Watch the Oscar awards, and of course, keep blogging. Thanks for reading!

Pope Francis!

Habemus Papam, We have a Pope!

Wednesday afternoon at around 2 PM, my nurse alerted me to the smoke emitting from the Sistine Chapel.  When I turned my head to the TV screen I noticed that the smoke was gray– white smoke! “White smoke!” My heart started racing. Day 2 of the Conclave and we already had a  Pope! Bells started ringing as we anxiously awaited the announcement, “Habemus Papam!” About an hour after the white smoke, the curtains at the Apostolic Palace shuffled and out came the Cardinal who spoke the Latin words we longed to hear. And then, he announced the name: Georgium Marium. Wait, who? “There has to be some kind of mistake,” I blurted out. None of the Cardinals I knew had that name! Whoever it was, he had chosen the brand new Papal name, Francis. I was so surprised to see a Pope I had never seen before in my life!  For what seemed to be 3 long minutes, the new Pope stood completely motionless. I think he was getting over the shock of being elected, and taking in the crowd. My initial, somewhat negative, reaction faded when Pope Francis, bowing his head, asked the crowd to pray for him before he gave his blessing.

Later, I learned that Pope Francis, a Jesuit, had been Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina and  that he lived very simply.  He chose the name Francis after St. Francis of Assisi, for his simplicity and love for the poor.  What’s most striking about Pope Francis, formerly Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, is his sincere humility.  In his 1st day, Pope Francis paid honor to Our Lady and paid his hotel bill! I’m sure that this Holy Father will continue to bless us with surprises. It is a complete surprise that he was chosen to be Pope– proof of the Holy Spirit’s involvement in the matter. The Cardinals who were the likeliest candidates were not chosen. Evidently, the saying is true, “he who enters the conclave as a Pope, comes out as a Cardinal.

Tomorrow is Pope Francis’ Inaugural Mass. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, spiritual leader of  Orthodox Christians will be in attendance… it will be the 1st time that’s ever happened. It seems that Pope Francis was known for his outreach towards the Orthodox in Argentina. There are signs of good things to come with the new Pope, as there were with Pope Benedict.

March 12: Past and Present

March 12 testifies to the unshakable historical continuity of Christianity.

Back in 2000, Pope John Paul II made history on March 12. The Holy Father celebrated the “Day of Forgiveness” in which he asked for pardon on behalf of Catholics for their sins throughout history. I remember watching this Jubilee Year celebration and being visibly moved by the great gesture of humility. It made me realize that the Catholic Church is made of members who are sinners, and this does not wake away from her holiness, but somehow enhances it. The admission of faults paradoxically brought home the fact that the Church is Holy, a Divine Institution because it acknowledges Truth. I was struck by the thought that no other religion was ever known to have made such a sweeping apology on behalf of its members.

Fast forward to 2013. Pope (Emeritus) Benedict XVI has stepped down from the Office of St. Peter.       The Church goes on as it has for 2000 years and another Pope will be chosen. A Conclave has been convened for Cardinals to prayerfully elect a pope from among their number. Today is day one of the Conclave—1 vote has taken place and ended with black smoke indicating that a pope hasn’t been elected yet. Everybody’s keeping an eye on the chimney at the Sistine Chapel hoping for puffs of white smoke. The next pope will be number 267… I wonder who it will be. No matter who the next pope will be, one thing is certain: the Catholic Church goes on— because it is a Divine Institution. It has to be, because of 2 reasons: 1. If sinful Catholics have not been able to destroy the Church by now, nobody can. 2. There has been an unbroken succession of popes since the 1st century, (and providentially, one of those popes was St. Gregory Great who is believed to have died on March 12 in the 7th century).