Shame and the Cross

1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12, NIV.

Since returning to the Catholic Faith of my youth a few years ago, I have been looking for a good Cross with the body on it. I have Crosses without the body, and I have an Ignatian Cross that was given me at my Commissioning Mass after receiving a degree from Spring Hill College as a Spiritual Director. I am pretty picky about getting a realistic Cross. I don’t want an emaciated weak looking Jesus. I don’t want Jesus to be too “white.” I want the nails to be through his wrists, not his hands. I am also aware Jesus was in almost all probability crucified naked. I really have not found what I want, but the picture you are looking at is as close as I can get to being what I would like.

While there may not be any inherent shame in being naked in some cultures, In Jesus’ day being naked on the cross was the ultimate indignity often reserved for slaves while stoning and beheading were viewed as more “dignified.” The Scripture above, from Hebrews 12, speaks to the shame of the Cross, which Jesus endured for us.  It is not my purpose at this time to write a scholarly treatise, but I have included some valuable links in case one might be inclined to do some independent research on the matter of Shame and the Cross at the end of this document.

So, what have I done? I have purchased a realistic Picture of Jesus on the Cross, with nails through his wrists, being fairly muscular, with a Crown of thorns, in the darkness of the day where the Sun retreated from the land, and yes, naked, with his private parts showing, just as I imagine they would have been. I had it framed, and draped a nice piece of cloth over the private parts in one of my downstairs offices and I intend to take the cloth off the picture on Good Fridays, AND also take it off when I sin and ask God’s forgiveness so I can sense the shame I caused Jesus and experience my own shame for missing the mark. I know Jesus sees me and loves me and forgives me and has endured the Shame of the Cross for my benefit and that of the whole world.

Just to let you know, that is what I have done.

I love you, Jesus, please forgive me of my shame.

John Cooper

Tuscaloosa, AL

Useful Links below:

https://catholicproductions.com/blogs/blog/crucifixion-the-shame-of-the-cross

https://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/freeman/an_atonement_of_shame

https://catholicexchange.com/how-jesus-can-heal-your-shame/

Rosary of Thanksgiving

Rosary of Thanksgiving

Since returning to the Catholic Church a few years ago, I have said the Rosary in a conventional way perhaps twice in a small group. However, I keep thinking of other ways to pray the Rosary. One way is a Rosary of breath, another is a Rosary of the dead, and today, I thought if a Thanksgiving Rosary. Using the Rosary Janelle Avery made for me I went right around thanking God for everything, and used the little crosses in the Rosary to thank him for my personal crosses to bear. I went around just once, but I have so much to be thankful for, I could easily have gone around many times. Say a prayer of thanks for what the Spirit brings to your mind on every bead, and on the big Cross, thank Jesus for what he has done for all.

Christian Spirituality for the Final Third of Life: a Small Group Course

Oh Jesus!

Oh Jesus, the One who can walk through closed doors, yet you knock, that we may open our doors to you and choose you of our own free will, thus participating in your love and grace!

I am the Possum you Killed

It was an invigorating Spring day, and I had just crawled up from the creek between the 20-acre and 15-acre McCulley fields where I saw you last Fall, hand picking the outside rows of corn to make way for the John Deere corn picker. You were working with your Uncle Bill last Fall. I have good hearing, and I heard you coming. Stepping in the crisp leaves, your feet crunched along the path leading to the larger creek. You often went this way, crossing the creek to reach the lower fields for hunting.   I could smell you. Humans have an odd smell to possums like me.

I saw your 22-caliber semi-automatic rifle and recalled that many times you shot sparrows on the electric high wire, “just for the fun of it.” Oh no! I didn’t have time to crawl back to safety. At least rabbits have a chance. They can run fast and jump and dart around, but my only defense was to lie there, helpless, playing dead among the fallen leaves.

But you saw me and decided it would be “fun.” I heard a “crack” and instantly felt searing pain engulf my body. I think you thought I would just die instantly, like on Gunsmoke, like when Matt Dillon shot the “bad” men. Pain seared through my body, pain like I had never felt before, even birthing my new litter, my eight joeys, hidden in my pouch.  What would happen to them?  I realized they will die too, after suckling the last of the milk from my dead body.  Please take care of my babies!

I was still playing dead when you poked my hairless stomach with the barrel of your rifle. I squirmed with the intense pain. You shot me again, you evil monster, with your weapon of destruction, towering over me with your testosterone-laden teenage body. Your power was absolute. As life seeped from my body, my spirit rose, and, for an instant, hovered over my lifeless body, and over you~~you heartless boy.  Don’t you know that creatures suffer too?   What have I ever done to you?  Why? I have always done my duty in life, eating ants and ticks and taking care to offer balance to the environment.

As I watched you from above, I saw that you had tears in your eyes. You had seen my babies when you poked me in the stomach. I could see guilt and remorse on your face as you realized that they would die too, from starvation or prey to another of God’s creatures. I heard you moan, “Oh, no! What have I done?”  I believe that you felt badly for taking my life for no good reason. But, why didn’t you bury me? You just left me to rot… I hope that my death will influence you to put away your rifle and live peacefully in this world with all of God’s creatures, and that we will meet again someday.

God told me I will be resurrected when you are, just at the right time, the same time as you, and I will be your pet possum, with my little babies again too, and with Pal, your boyhood dog, and Ossie, the cat you loved, and all your ancestors, your father and your mother, your brothers and sisters who have died, Faith, Hope, Paul, David, all of them, and we will live in peace in a Peaceable Kingdom, for evermore.

In Love,

Your possum, Mercy

p.s. Don’t think yourself better, dear Reader, you who pay other people to do your killing for you.  You who go to Church and pray to your God. Your God is my God.  He is in you, Brother or Sister just as God is in all things, and in me too.

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I was that teenager who thought shooting animals was “fun,”  whose  life changed forever that Fall day, as I stood over Mercy’s lifeless body and heard her pups mewling for milk. I have confessed my sin to others. Mercy was one of my greatest influences. I am thankful that Mercy had some little part in my putting my gun up for good.  Mercy had a little part in my becoming a Conscientious Objector to killing and war. I am satisfied Mercy had some influence in changing my life. Thank you, Mercy, for all you have done for me. I think of you often and will always remember you, Mercy!

In Love and Mercy,

John Cooper

Inner Peace and the Encyclical

I am inspired today to say something about the need for deep inner peace in relationship to Pope Francis latest Encyclical, Fratelli tutti. See: https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2020-10/fratelli-tutti-pope-fraternity-social-friendship-short-summary.html for a brief summary which contains a link to the original document.

In conjunction I would like to share a Spiritual Exercise one can pray by themselves or with others written by Fr. Michael Hansen, S.J. of Australia. I have been sharing these Exercises on my Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/Let-God-In-One-Ignatian-Journey-108638330545262. I credit Fr. Hansen and the FSE Field Hospital for the adapted picture and text.

Praying this Exercise will help you breathe in deep inner peace which is needed to understand Pope Francis’ Encyclical.

John Cooper, Tuscaloosa, AL

THE CPR OF PEACE                            First Aid

As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts. Col3:12-16

See, Open my mouth; the tongue in my mouth speaks.

My words declare the uprightness of my heart, and what my lips know they speak sincerely. The spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life. Job 33:2-6

I touch the Heart of Peace.

I take a slow breath, in and out-a breath in to receive the Spirit of Peace, and a breath out to breathe out all the anxiety, agitation, fears and burdens I carry within me. This breath of body and Spirit, is life in every sense. I repeat, feeling peace settle in me.

I remember a small story of someone who gave me deep peace when I was afraid and lost in the demands of ever-changing distress. If praying alone I hold that memory, if I am praying in a group, I share it with them, listening in turn to their stories, feeling touched by the Spirit of Peace … I begin to understand how such peace

is so desirable in these unsettling times.

I desire the Gift of Peace.

I slowly and prayerfully read the prayer texts above.

I name all the places in my life where I desire the gift of peace …

I ask the Spirit for peace, serenity and harmony in my heart, and for the breath that gives me Life.

I breathe in the Spirit of Peace.

I imagine and feel the Spirit of Peace breathing deep, harmonious peace into me. I breathe it in deeply, wait, then breathe it out to into my agitations and worries, into my spiritual life, desires and relationships. And I pray this peace spreads far.

I repeat as desired – breathing, peaceful, in harmony …I conclude in thanks, considering two questions. Firstly, if possible, how might I make contact and reconnect with the one who brought me great peace? Secondly, to whom and how do I pass on this exercise – who urgently needs peace now?         ·

PRAYER TIME: Go gently, using the generous time you have put aside for this prayer.

The three dots … indicate the places to pause.

If you are specially moved at any of the steps, remain there for the rest of the prayer.

 

FSE FIELD HOSPITAL © Michael Hansen SJ

Contact: field-hospital@fsecloud.life    •  www.fsecol ud.life  •  JISA ministries www.jisa.org.au

19th Annotation Spiritual Exercise

Painting by Peter Paul Rubens

Warning: Taking this Exercise effectively requires your willingness to give up everything to live only in God’s love and grace. One must commit to 34 weeks of prayer and discernment each day for about one hour or more each day. Do not undertake this matter lightly. You are likely to suffer loss, even of the self. You may need Spiritual Companionship. To join a small group to take the 19th Annotation or to arrange for monthly Spiritual Companionship via Zoom, email jcooperforpeace@gmail.com

(This Exercise is available in Spanish, Arabic, and other languages. See links for details.)

To preview the 19th Annotation 34 week Spiritual Exercises review the links below: https://onlineministries.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistry/RetreatintheRealWorld/

https://onlineministries.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistry/cmo-retreat.html

Contemplation on Woundedness

Pix: Public Domain


Contemplation on Woundedness

(A Spiritual Exercise)

  1. I make a gesture of reverence like a bow, folded hands in prayer, or the Sign of the Cross.
  2. I enter a period of silence and meditation.
  3. I think about what I desire, that I desire to discover and be healed of my woundedness.
  4. I remember how God has always been with me, helping me and healing me.
  5. I read the Prayer Texts below:

Hebrews 13: 5 Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, “I will never leave you; I will never abandon you.” 6 Let us be bold, then, and say:

“The Lord is my helper,

I will not be afraid.

What can anyone do to me?”                    

John 20:26 A week later the disciples were together again indoors, and Thomas was with them. The doors were locked, but Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands; then stretch out your hand and put it in my side. Stop your doubting, and believe!.” (GNBDK)

1 Cor 12:12 Christ is like a single body, which has many parts; it is still one body, even though it is made up of different parts. 13 In the same way, all of us, whether Jews or Gentiles, whether slaves or free, have been baptized into the one body by the same Spirit, and we have all been given the one Spirit to drink. (GNBDK)

I meditate in silence, thinking about the prayer texts above.

Are there any physical, mental, or spiritual wounds God can help me with today?

I wonder why Jesus kept his wounds when he could have been resurrected in a perfect body.

I wonder if my wounds are a part of Jesus body and his a part of my body.

6. I enter into silent meditation, touching my healed wounds and scars and if I am in a group. I show my scars and allow others to touch them and touch others’ wounds and scars if appropriate.

7. If doing this exercise in a group, I gently share my thoughts in confidence, and whether alone or in a group, I verbally forgive any who have wounded me. I will write these matters down in my Journal when I am finished for future reflection and action.

8. I am silent again, this time hoping to enter a state of thoughtless contemplation, allowing God to heal any remaining wounds in my heart, body, and mind in the way he chooses.

9. I resolve to share in the sufferings of others, of the world, of those who are dying and the poor, of those alone, and the sufferings of Jesus whom I and others disappoint when we sin.  

10. I recite the Lord’s Prayer myself or in my group together in communion with others.

11. I smile because I know I am healed and forgiven, as wide and long a smile as appropriate, and maybe I laugh because now I know God is big enough to take care of me solve my problems.  I can’t believe I perhaps thought he was not big enough to solve all my problems.

12. If anything is still unresolved I will share the matters with my Spiritual Director, Pastor, or counselor, or friends. I resolve to take this exercise again as often as needed. I will share this exercise with others as appropriate.

John Cooper

Tuscaloosa, AL

Contemplation on the Mystical Roots of Unconscious Prejudice

(Pix: John Cooper)

(A Spiritual Exercise)

  1. I make a gesture of reverence like a bow, folded hands in prayer, or the Sign of the Cross.

2. I enter a two minute period of silence and meditation.

3. I think about what I desire, that I desire to discover and be healed of prejudice.

4. I take an item or symbol of my ancestors and hold it in my hands.

5. I enter into silent meditation for two minutes, holding the item and if I am in a group, sharing the item I am holding with others.

6. I read the Prayer Texts below:

Gen 1:31 God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. (NRSV)

Gal 3:28 So there is no difference between Jews and Gentiles, between slaves and free people, between men and women; you are all one in union with Christ Jesus. (GNBDK)

1 Cor 12:12 Christ is like a single body, which has many parts; it is still one body, even though it is made up of different parts. 13 In the same way, all of us, whether Jews or Gentiles, whether slaves or free, have been baptized into the one body by the same Spirit, and we have all been given the one Spirit to drink. (GNBDK)

Lev 19:32 “Show respect for old people and honour them. Reverently obey me; I am the LORD.

33 “Do not ill-treat foreigners who are living in your land. 34 Treat them as you would a fellow-Israelite, and love them as you love yourselves. Remember that you were once foreigners in the land of Egypt. I am the LORD your God. (GNBDK)

Deut 5: 9 I bring punishment on those who hate me and on their descendants down to the third and fourth generation. 10 But I show my love to thousands of generations of those who love me and obey my laws. (GNBDK)

“…so much is hidden in the unconscious…Below all this is the vast unknown world of corporate memories inherited from our families, our culture and our race…However there is a time for amassing information and a time for letting it go into the hands of God to allow him to illuminate, draw out and bind together what we already know…the works of the memory become in some way divine if they are controlled by the Holy Spirit.” (Door Through Darkness: John of the Cross and mysticism in everyday life, pp. 104-105, 133, Sister Eileen Lyddon, New City Press).

7. I meditate in silence, thinking about the prayer texts above.

8. If doing this exercise in a group, I gently share my thoughts in confidence and confess my sins of prejudice and unconscious inheritances I may have received of which I am now aware.  I speak aloud my pain, my grief, how I have been hurt and how I have hurt others.  If I am privileged, I resolve to give something back, love, prayers, money, or what I may be inspired to pay forward for my future generations.  If I am exercising privately, I write these matters down in my Journal when I am finished for future reflection and action.

9. I am silent for two more minutes, this time hoping to enter a state of thoughtless contemplation, allowing God to do His work silently and passively in my heart and mind.

10. I and others, if I am in a group, moan as if we were dying, perhaps even crying out loudly, AGHH! I grieve. I moan…

11. I recite the Lord’s Prayer myself or in my group together in communion with others.

12. I enter silence for 3 minutes and 29 more seconds, making a total of 9 minutes and 29 seconds of silence and resolve to pray in silence about these matters at other times and the exercise ends without comments or additional discussion, but I will discuss what I have experienced with my Spiritual Director, Pastor, or counselor or friends and I resolve to take this exercise again as often as needed. I also resolve to share this exercise with others as appropriate.

John Cooper

Tuscaloosa, AL

Breath of Life

Our prayer is living our lives in your Presence, oh Lord, every breath in, every breath out, given in all places and at all times for Your praise and glory. Breathe on us, holy Spirit; ignite our hearts with Your love, grace, and mercy that we may be  one with You!

John Cooper