Apr 14 to Apr 20: XV. Jesus Rises from the Dead; Concluding Prayer

ReadingWalk With Jesus, Chapter XV; Concluding Prayer (pages 91-98)

As we enter Holy Week, we are coming to the end of our Lenten Walk With Jesus inspired by the paintings of Sr. Helen David and guided by Henri Nouwen. Thanks to all of you who have walked along, whether you joined us for the entire journey or stopped by occasionally during Lent. During our time together we have reflected on the fourteen stations of Jesus’ passion, crucifixion, death, and burial–stories we will hear recounted throughout this most important week of the Christian year. This week we look ahead with wonder and awe to glorious culmination of the Gospel story, Jesus Rises from the Dead, that we celebrate on Easter Sunday and in the Easter season that follows.

During these weeks of Lent, we have met, suffered with, and been inspired by the poor and marginalized from around the world. By encountering them and learning their stories we have come to better understand our own struggles and pains. And as Henri and Sr. Helen David remind us, Jesus is always present to unite his suffering with the suffering of God’s children. Yet, the suffering is not the end of the story. As Henri writes this week, “Yes, there is sadness but gladness too. Yes, there is grief, but joy as well. Yes, there is fear, but also love. Yes, there is hard work but celebration follows. And, yes, there is death, but also resurrection.” (p. 93)

We are people of the resurrection. In Henri’s words, “All is different and all is the same to those who say ‘Yes’ to the news that is whispered through the ages from one end of the world to the other. . . All is the same, and all is made new . . . And so the smile of God and the smile of God’s people reach reach each other and become one in the undying light that shines in the darkness.” (p 95)

You are encouraged to look back and reflect on Henri’s and Sr. Helen David’s remarkable presentation of the Stations of the Cross. Was their uncommon approach helpful in your preparation for Easter? Did the contemporary stories of the poor and suffering help you to see Jesus as Emmanuel, God-with-us, active in our world today? Have you encountered people with challenges similar to those portrayed in Sr. Helen David’s paintings in your life? How did you respond? Finally, and most important, how have you been touched spiritually during our Lenten journey and how will your life be different or what changes will you make as a result? Please share your thoughts to the degree you are comfortable doing so.

One final time, thanks to all of you for your participation, whether you actively posted or journeyed in silence. It has been a privilege and a pleasure for me to be with you this Lent. May you and yours have a blessed and joyous Easter season.

May the Lord give you peace.


P. S. This Advent we are planning to discuss Following Jesus–Finding Our Way Home in an Age of Anxiety that will be published on September 17th. This brand-new, never before published work of inspiration, is based on a series of lectures Henri gave in the basement of a church while teaching at Harvard. Edited by Gabrielle Earnshaw, the founding archivist of Henri’s papers, this book offers a compelling case for why Christianity is still relevant, beautiful, intelligent, and necessary in the modern world. More information will be available later this year.

Apr 7 to Apr 13: Jesus . . . XII. Dies on Cross; XIII. Taken From Cross; XIV. Laid in Grave

ReadingWalk With Jesus, Chapter XII, XIII, XIV (pages 73-90)

Thanks to each of you for another week of insightful, compassionate, and supportive discussion.  It is clear that Sr. Helen David’s paintings and Henri’s meditations have struck a chord that is resonating beautifully within our small Spirit-filled community.

We are nearing the end of our Lenten journey together. This week we confront Jesus’ death on the cross (XII) and its immediate aftermath as his body is taken from the cross (XIII) and is laid in the tomb (XIV). From a worldly perspective, this looks like the end of the story of Jesus of Nazareth.  But we know better. As we focus on Jesus’ death on Good Friday and the solitude of the grave on Holy Saturday this week, we also await Jesus’ glorious resurrection on Easter Sunday (XV) that we will consider in our final week.

Sr. Helen David’s painting for the twelfth station is unlike any of the others because it is so impersonal. Rather than drawing our attention to an individual or group, she shows us the “powers” or the “forces” of death that run rampant in our modern world. In his meditation, Henri reminds us that those same powers of death crushed Jesus too and he died. However, by his death (and the resurrection that follows), he removed death’s sting and gave us the power to participate in eternal life where death can no longer reach.  Henri writes, “The great challenge of the Christian life is to say ‘Yes’ to life even in the smallest and, seemingly, unimportant details. Every moment there is a choice to be made: the choice for or against life.” As you reflect on this station, you might consider how you make those choices in your life.

In the thirteenth station we are asked to consider the intimate union between love and sorrow, especially when faced with senseless and horrific death at the hands of evil forces in the world.  Mary the mother of Jesus experienced this at the foot of the cross as did those in El Salvador mourning at the graves of the four murdered churchwomen. Looking at both Mary and the churchwomen Henri writes, “There is never love without sorrow, commitment without pain, never involvement without loss, never giving without suffering, never a ‘Yes’ to life without many deaths to die.”  Using Sr. Helen David’s painting as inspiration, reflect on situations in your life where you have met suffering and brokenness  with the love of Jesus; what was the outcome?

Finally, Sr. Helen David and Henri bring us to the silence and solitude of the grave.  Although it appears to be the end, it is not. As Henri writes about the young widow, “She understands something that the powers of death cannot understand. There are a trust and confidence in her that are vastly more powerful than the weapons that killed her husband.” The young widow knows in her heart that Holy Saturday is followed by Easter Sunday. So do we. Looking back on your life, are there times you have rested with Jesus in silence and solitude in the face of difficult circumstances?

As always, you are invited to share what is on your heart to the extent you are comfortable. We look forward to an other week of rewarding reflections. Thanks to all of you that have joined us this Lent, those who are actively commenting and those reading and reflecting in silence.  You are all welcome here.

May you have a blessed week.

Mar 31 to Apr 6: Jesus . . . IX. Falls Third Time; X. Stripped; XI. Nailed to Cross

 Reading: Walk With Jesus, Chapter IX, X, XI (pages 55-72)

It has been another week of deep and meaningful sharing with rich and supportive comments being exchanged among the members of our Lenten community. It’s a blessing for all of us–those actively posting and those present in silence–to walk with Jesus among the vulnerable this Lent.

This week we are brought closer and closer to the suffering Jesus. First we see him from a distance as he falls. Then our focus narrows and we observe him being stripped and personally exposed.  Finally, we zoom in on his hands and feet and can almost feel the pain and anguish as he is nailed to the cross.  All this really happened in Jerusalem nearly 2000 years ago and it is right that we recall it today. As Henri and Sr. Helen David continue to make clear,  Jesus’ suffering has not ended and it continues in the lives of God’s people in our world.

In the ninth station we come upon a man who has stumbled and fallen in the city, and it could be your city. He has extended his hand in loneliness seeking assistance. It is a most human gesture; it can be life-giving if  met by an outstretched hand in response or it can lead to despair if people ignore the plea for help. In the background, a man walks by. Will he help?  Next we meet a woman who, although covered by a blanket, suffers the true nakedness of having lost her dignity. Jesus willingly accepted the loss of his dignity on Calvary to show us the immense compassion of God’s love. Where can we bring compassion to others? Finally, we encounter a suffering man dying alone, his difficult and painful life coming to an end. Yet, this man is at peace. He has given everything and has done the best that he could in his trying circumstances. Jesus gave everything on the cross so that this man, and all of us, can have hope in living and in dying. How can we live our lives so that our dying brings hope to others?

We have three beautiful paintings and meditations to ponder. Perhaps the comments and questions above may get you started.  Or you might want to refer to the reflection guide below.  And, as always, it is most important that you follow the prompting of the Spirit, wherever it may lead.  Please share with the group whatever is on your heart to the extent you are comfortable.  We look forward to hearing from many of you as we continue our Lenten journey this week.

Here in Maryland the daffodils and forsythia are in full bloom; in Washington the cherry blossoms are reaching their peak. Although it is still Lent, the changes in nature remind us we are we are heading toward Easter, a time of resurrection and joy.  May you be blessed this week.

Peace and all good.

Reflection Guide:
Henri follows a threefold approach at each Station. First, he places us in Sister Helen David’s picture. He then transports us to Jerusalem to join Jesus on his way to Calvary. Finally, Henri challenges us walk with Jesus and to build God’s Kingdom here and now.

At each Station (or in each chapter) you might:

  1. Ponder on Sister Helen David’s drawing.  Take note of your observations, impressions, reactions, and any questions that my arise.
  2. Read Henri’s reflection.  How does Henri’s reaction to the drawing compare to yours?  Does Henri’s description of Jesus’ suffering at this Station give you new insight into your life and faith journey? How do you respond to Henri’s challenge to walk with Jesus? What concrete steps will you take and when?
  3. How you will respond? Carefully (prayerfully) consider how your heart responds to the insights gained during your reflection. Are there small steps you can take to incorporate these insights to strengthen your spiritual life