Tag Archives: Easter

Book Review: Killing Jesus

A few months ago, I finished reading Bill O’Reilly‘s outstanding work “Killing Lincoln” about the assassination of the 16th President of the United States and the events surrounding and leading up to that event.

The book was so well written and informative that it inspired me to purchase for my Kindle his other two similar books: “Killing Kennedy“, about the assassination of our 35th President of the US, and “Killing Jesus“, about the events surrounding our Lord’s death.

I held off actually reading “Killing Jesus” until this time of year, the time surrounding those actual events. Today is Holy Thursday, when Jesus instituted the Sacrament of the Eucharist. Tomorrow is Good Friday, when he was nailed to a cross and died for our sins. And then, of course, Sunday is Easter, when he rose again.

But O’Reilly does the subject a most honorable turn. Despite his own Roman Catholic upbringing, and that of his co-writer, Martin Dugard, he does not approach the matter of Jesus’ death, and all of the events leading up to that event, from a religious or spiritual standpoint. Instead, as with Lincoln and Kennedy, he takes a purely historical look at the events.

O’Reilly and Dugard have taken the telling of these types of important events, the untimely murder of the most important figures in history, and made them completely accessible at every level. They do this with an almost conversational tone to the story-telling, mixing in the necessary known and verifiable facts with other discernible information based on the times of the events.

The end result, in “Killing Jesus” (and “Killing Lincoln“, for that matter) is a book that is well written, easily understood, and that stands on it’s own as an important new resource for anyone that has any interest in the topic. And who can say that they have any interest in human history without being interested in Jesus?

Whether you are one of the billions on the planet who believe in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, who came to free us all from our sins, as I believe, or you are a complete atheist, one thing that you cannot deny and remain credible is that Jesus did indeed live, and that his teaching has indeed had a profound effect on human history.

As O’Reilly puts it in his introductory ‘Note to Readers’:
To say that Jesus of Nazareth was the most influential man who ever lived is almost trite. Nearly two thousand years after he was brutally executed by Roman soldiers, more than 2.2 billion human beings attempt to follow his teachings and believe he is God: That includes 77 percent of the U.S. population, according to a Gallup Poll. The teachings of Jesus have shaped the world and continue to do so.

I am in the midst of reading this book now, at Easter time, and should be finished over the weekend itself. I can already say that I highly recommend it to true believers, as well as to simple fans of history. It is, at the very least, a great story of an important world figure who lived during a most interesting time for humanity – the Roman Empire era.

I have a number of books lined up for reading on my Kindle once finished this excellent read. After his treatments of Lincoln and Jesus, I am absolutely now looking forward to reading the Kennedy book. That sound like a great one to put off, however, for the fall, as the 51st anniversary of JFK’s own assassination rolls around come November.

Lenten Sacrifice

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the holy Christian season covering approximately six weeks until Easter.

During the Lenten season, Christians traditionally prepare for Easter through a process of increased prayer, penance, and sacrifice.

Of course, we are all supposed to be praying regularly, asking repentance and making atonement for our sins, and finding ways to sacrifice some part of our own blessings in the form of charity all during the year.

Lent is a good time to both get yourself back on track if you have let some of that spiritual responsibility slip, and also a good time to strengthen your commitment to areas of your life that perhaps need more attention.

To meet these increased spiritual goals during Lent, Christians often make what amount in the secular world to New Year resolution-type promises of change. Only these are promises to God from themselves. The promises can involve saying a daily rosary, returning to Church and the sacraments, and giving up something of importance to them.

That last part, the giving up of something important, is known as a Lenten sacrifice. Remember, the whole point is to prepare for the events of Good Friday and then Easter, when Jesus Christ sacrificed his own life for your sins. Keeping that much sacrifice in mind, how tough is your own?

Each year, I also try to make a Lenten sacrifice. I’ve usually had success in the past, but this year I am going a little more ambitious. I am personally building a number of elements into my Lenten sacrifice. Maybe one or more will inspire you as well.

First, I am actually simply going to continue a spiritual exercise which I began all the way back in November. At some point in mid-November of 2013, I began to say a full rosary each day. Somehow, I have been able to keep it up every day. I have found lately that there were a couple times where I almost just let it go. Lent will be a good time to increase my commitment to it.

Next, I am going to commit to going to Church more often. My own local St. Christopher’s Roman Catholic parish will be offering Mass on a nightly basis. I will be going a few times. I am also volunteering more in my role as a church Lector to do the readings at Mass during this period.

Also during Lent, I am going to make sure that I participate in appropriate sacraments more often. Most specifically, going to Confession, doing Penance, and sincerely attempting to stay away from the occasion of sin. I’m planning on making a Confession now, at the start of Lent, and again closer to Easter.

These things should go a long way towards meeting my goals of increased prayer and penance during Lent, and your own adoption of any would help you do the same. So now, on to the sacrifice part. What am I “giving up for Lent” this year?

First, we’ll start with the treats/goodies category. I will be giving up all cakes, cookies, pies, candy, ice cream, and other similar desserts and treats. Only exception will be for breath mints, which some might consider as “candy”, but which I slot into their own special category as someone who has a lot of dealings with the public.

Next, a bit tougher one thanks to specific circumstances. I will be giving up soda as well. However, I am giving myself a “special dispensation” on St. Patty’s Day weekend to allow for drinking soda at events surrounding that upcoming celebration. Better that than imbibe in too many “adult beverages”, especially when driving. Outside St. Patty’s weekend, no soda either.

Not just a “don’t do that” period, Lent is a time to “do”, to take action where it may be needed. I am going to begin seriously getting back into a regular physical workout routine. Starting with daily walking, and then building up to more as the Lenten season advances and I get in better physical conditioning.

And then I added on a new one this year, limiting my use of personal social media, particularly by refraining from Facebook, Twitter, and other forms of social media during the Lenten season with two exceptions only.

Those two social media exceptions will be this blog, where I will actually attempt to write MORE, something that I have been trying to get myself to do anyway. And also my professional Twitter account @PPDMattVeasey, where I have an expected responsibility to participate for my employer.

I have also undertaken a couple of more personal restrictions for Lent, and we’ll just keep those between me and the Lord at this point. Oh, and all of my fellow Catholics should remember to refrain from eating meat today, Ash Wednesday, and every Friday through Good Friday. Also, today and each Friday you should limit yourself to one full, large meal.

I think that if I can successfully accomplish all of that, it adds up to a solid, legitimate personal Lenten observance. Prayer, penance, and sacrifice all built into the plan. So, there’s my plan for Lent – what’s yours?

Surrender like Christ

Today is Palm Sunday, celebrating the triumphant entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem to begin the pentultimate week of his life which would end in the most important event in human history.

As Christ willingly surrendered himself for our sake, we should follow his lead. Our inspiration can be found right in the Bible, in Proverbs 16.

It is the Old Testament’s Book of Proverbs chapter 16 where we learn to “entrust your works to the Lord, and your plans will succeed.” This important chapter of God’s own book of wisdom is full of lessons and inspirational sayings that guide us to surrender our lives to the Lord.

We all make plans and set our lives on a course. But no matter how well-meaning or well planned that personal direction might be, you will not find ultimate success without the blessings and guidance of the Lord. You must not only make your plans, but your plans must include yielding to God’s ultimate plan for you.

In his mind a man plans his course, but the Lord directs his steps” says Proverbs 16. “Happy is he who trusts in the Lord.” 

Make your plans, they are necessary. But just as necessary is to both pray on your plans and to include in your prayers to God an acknowledgement that He might have another direction for you. Make your plea that His will be done.

By acknowledging to God that you are at His mercy and will succeed only with His grace and blessings, you humble yourself appropriately and place your ultimate fate in His hands. “All the ways of a man may be pure in his own eyes, but it is the Lord who proves the spirit.”

Proverbs 16 gives advice for avoiding the influence of negative or evil people who will try to distract you from good in lessons such as “A scoundrel is a furnace of evil, and on his lips there is scorching fire” and “He who winks his eye is plotting trickery; he who compresses his lips has mischief ready.”

The book urges one to speak only truth and to bring positive messages to the lives of others with sayings such as “Pleasing words are a honeycomb, sweet to the taste and healthful to the body.” And yet we must do more than talk the sweet talk. Like Christ, we must be willing to walk the hard walk and surrender to God’s will for us.

How much better to acquire wisdom than gold!” sparks the book. “To acquire understanding is more desirable than silver.” We want to succeed, and we often measure that success by money, goods, and power. This is not how God sees, or will measure, your success.

Like Jesus Christ, as you plan and train and work towards your worldly goals, remember that you need to ask for God’s help and blessing. You need to be willing and open to His possibly having a different direction in mind for you.

And you need, as Proverbs 16 and other books of the Bible can teach you when read regularly and reverently, to recognize that worldly success is not your ultimate or most important goal.

NOTE: this entry is the continuation of the regular ‘Sunday Sermon’ series which can be found here most Sundays, all entries for which you can view by clicking on the below label from the www.mattveasey.com website

Lent: Still time to re-dedicate yourself

You’ve had two shots at it now. First came your ‘New Year Resolution’ to quit smoking, begin a diet, start exercising, read more, go back to school, end a damaging relationship, whatever. Then came Ash Wednesday, and with it the beginning of Lent, and yet another chance to give something up, this time sacrificially.

Okay, so maybe you’re 2010 batting average is suffering with an ‘0 for 2’ start to the year. Or maybe you wish that you had added some other item to your list of things to give up or begin as that new beginning or that sacrifice. Maybe you never made any resolution or made any Lenten sacrifice to begin with. It’s not too late to begin to dedicate yourself, or to re-dedicate yourself.

As for the idea of a resolution, it’s still very early in 2010. We just began March this past week. Almost 10 full months remain in the calendar year. There is plenty of time to make the positive changes to your life that you wanted to make, plenty of opportunity to make 2010 a different year than any other.

And as for a Lenten sacrifice, there is still a full month until Easter Sunday. If you ‘gave up’ something for Lent but then backslid or caved in to whatever the temptation, you can still make a statement that means something.
Whatever your vice, be it smoking, alcohol, dietary, sexual, habitual, giving it up as a sacrifice to the Lord for a full month is a legitimate sacrifice.

Remember what Lent really is all about. It is a time of voluntary self-denial, a time to reflect on that ultimate sacrifice that Jesus Christ is about to make for you as an individual. He is about to go through the process of being imprisoned, publicly mocked, tortured, and put to an agonizing death, all so that you might have an opportunity to have your sins forgiven and may earn a place in Heaven for eternity.

Whether it be something as mundane as giving up drinking soda beverages or something as sexually addicting as viewing pornography, your personal sacrifice can never equate to what Christ went through on your behalf. The important thing is to focus on making a sacrifice, and then doing your personal best to stay with it for a month.

And also remember that your attitude during this sacrificial period is important. It matters that you don’t pull out the “I Survived Lent” t-shirt on Easter Sunday morning and shovel a pile of jelly beans into your mouth. It is not enough to simply give something up, or make increased church donations, or whatever your sacrifice, but you should do so joyfully in the knowledge that God is recognizing your change.

If you began a period of sacrifice a few weeks back when Lent officially began, but fell off the wagon, get yourself right back up and get back on. There is a four weeks long journey ahead to Good Friday and Easter, and your slightly shortened time of sacrifice would be no less valid. It’s the idea of caring about it that matters. Don’t give up, there’s still time.

NOTE: this is the continuation of the regular ‘Sunday Sermon’ series, all entries of which can be enjoyed by clicking on that label below this entry at the http://www.mattveasey.com website

After the fire, the fire still burns

John the Baptist began to spread the new way with a fiery oratory style and a radical message that inspired the masses and threatened the establishment. So the powers-that-be chopped off his head and extinguished his fire. Or so they thought.

Little did they know that Jesus Christ was there to pick up the torch. He would not allow the flame to be extinguished. Instead his message and his style went even further, flaming up so brightly that many saw the hope of an entirely new world, one which would not see the current authorities retain their traditional power.

And so again out of fear, they took him away. They beat him, mocked him, and nailed him to a cross where he would also die. They thought that they had extinguished the flame once again. The fire was out as Jesus died and his followers, it’s final flickering embers, dispersed into the wind. Or so those same powers of this world thought.

Jesus had indeed been put to death on Friday, and his body taken away and buried in a tomb on Saturday. A massive stone had been set against the opening to the tomb, and guards set outside so that none would be able to remove it. And so night time fell, and into the early still-dark hours of Sunday morning, Jesus lifeless body lay there entombed.

Early on Sunday morning, three of Jesus’ female followers arise before dawn, gather their spices and oils, and set out for the tomb. Mary Magdalene, Salome, and another Mary intended to further and better care for Christ’s body, which had been hastily prepared for initial burial by Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus.

They had followed Jesus in the group of his closest friends for some time. They had the fire lit inside them by his new teaching that included “Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

Setting out at about the same time was a 2nd group of women, led by Joanna, who had arranged to meet Mary Magdalene’s group at the tomb. They too had the fire lit inside of them by Christ’s teachings that included “love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.” 

They knew that a large stone had been rolled in front of the tomb, but they had no idea that it had now been sealed and had guards placed at its entrance.

Before they arrived, an angel suddenly appeared at the tomb and frightened the guards with his brightness. The guards fled in awe and terror, and when they did so, the angel rolled the stone away from the tomb.

As Mary Magdalene’s group approached they immediately saw that the stone was rolled aside, and that the tomb was open. She left the other two there and immediately returned to town to let Jesus’ Apostles know that the tomb was open.

The other two women decided to enter the tomb, and there they found the angel who said to them

Do not be afraid. I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified. He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has been raised from the dead, and he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ Behold, I have told you.” 

The two women quickly ran back to town to give the message to the Apostles.

Then Joanna’s group arrived, are met by two angels, and are given the same message. They also excitedly return to tell the message. They catch up with the first group, and all of the women are suddenly met on the road by Jesus. They immediately fall to his feet and do him homage as he gives them the message himself: “Do not be afraid. Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”

Peter and John, having been given the message by Mary Magdalene, run ahead of her and arrive at the tomb. The fire of Jesus’ teachings which included “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden” has fully engulfed their lives. There they see that Jesus is gone, and examine the burial cloths. They observe that in the condition the cloth is found, it appears as if Christ’s body was not removed, but instead appears to have simply disappeared from within.

For all of these men and women, these close followers of Jesus Christ, the Word burns like a flame within. It will be further inflamed as the reality of his rise from the dead and the continuation of his teaching takes place in the coming weeks. Christ had died, but now he had risen and thus had defeated darkness, sin, and death. The authorities had once again misunderstood. Just as with the snuffing out of John’s life they had not put out the fire of his message, neither had they with Jesus’ death.

Jesus spread his fiery message during his lifetime and his public ministry, and the authorities believed that fire had been put out. These earthly ‘authorities’ failed to realize that after the fire of Christ’s life had been extinguished, the fire of his message still burned.

On his return it now burned again even brighter, and would begin to spread around the world as a raging inferno of peace, hope, and love.