Sunday, March 4, 2012

A Lenten Meditation

The Crucified Christ1

The outreach of love is here confronting the intimate presence of rejection and betrayal. But it is not frustrated for Jesus is going from this world (bounded by fear and death) to that place of endless life and communion where His Father dwells. As a consequence, the gift He left me of His body and blood sustains me in the Spirit for this new and endless life. I, who now grow in love’s embrace, am born of God and get to know Him. I learn that the way of love makes me take the lowest place, the role of a servant, that others might be washed and nourished with this truth. I cannot serve God without becoming this servant before my fellow man.
Jesus’ solidarity with the poor and the lost bring about its own consequences. I must be disarmed. I must be cleansed of these age-old encrustations that have worked so effectively at keeping my God at bay. I must be drawn into this movement of divine life embodied by Jesus, and act as He acts. This new life has as its central feature and direction the humble service to others. From it I form a new community of selfless love.
Jesus’ giving of Himself as my food and drink, nourishes my experience of forgiveness and peace that only the Father gives, and transforms me from within. This gift of love pouring itself into me so I get caught up in its outpouring – transforms me into loving others as I am being loved. It is this gift of Christ that brings all the other gifts as well as I share in the bond of this unbreakable love dwelling within the Trinity. I soon realize that this love is very impatient with the way things are and seeks a transformation beyond any human expectation. It’s as if the wine of God’s divine mercy meets my excess of lovelessness so that my sins are forgiven; and this blood shed has the power to bind the heart of God to the fate of my suffering.
God refuses to act in any other way save the way of love; so when I pray it is not to manipulate God, but to let God act in me and in my world. I seek to let all that I am, belong to and long for yield to God’s reign. I take on God’s forgiveness, offering hope and love to all. Mercy becomes the atmosphere that surrounds me as I learn to shed my preoccupation with thoughts centered on my short, timid span of life that clothes me in defeat, fear and faithlessness. In this context God transforms me into my true self, removing my defensive self wrapped in pretension. My patience also grows as it waits for the fullness of God’s kingdom to be unleashed in me.
It is true that the truth Jesus utters in the name of His Father is not a political conspiracy; it is addressed to everyone. It is a Kingdom that owes nothing to violence. It is populated with those who openly live in the realm of mercy, receiving and giving it, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. In Jesus God is keeping His promise of salvation. And this promise pushes me to look forward and out, into the whole of history and creation, to see that God is much greater. I often fail to grasp the astonishing grace that is at work here, refusing to let God live in me in this new, wonderful, though disconcerting way. And I often become angry with those who challenge me to see and respond to His greater justice that defuses the violence of my own self-promotion and rivalry. Jesus often addresses me on this, but I respond otherwise. What he intends for my salvation I see as undermining my security. I keep reminding myself that I am entering a new world of divine generosity and mercy.
Jesus’ death offers the weak and hopeless victims of this world the promise of unending life. God is revealed as the God of another life, one where I live in communion with Him and with one another. The murderous lovelessness of all mankind is judged in the light of this life. A Life that has no need of a violent defense for its truth comes on its own terms: truth about God, about my relationship with God and with my neighbor. It is an all-inclusive Kingdom, filled with the power of crucified love. For me to allow this life within myself I must embrace the fact that everything that is familiar will be completely transformed and nothing will be the same again. I will be going head to head with the:
• Shady world of distorted justice
• Religious intrigues
• Political oppression
• Foreign occupation
I will be leaving my idols behind as I find my deepest identity loving others and being responsible for the poor. And that will have a political impact. This will incur suffering from the world that does not tolerate such seismic disturbances; and the making of a new social order since faith is never itself unless it is busy about the Kingdom of God. Thus I keep the flame of good from being snuffed out by the oppressive weight of evil.
Jesus’ surrender to the Father for the sake of the world’s salvation is Jesus’ way of serving the cause of His Father and refusing to do anything less than that. Such obedient self-surrender I must acquire in dedicating myself to the causes my heavenly Father requires me to carry out. My plans will be forever interrupted by the dreadful otherness of God’s will and the demands of my suffering neighbors. Once confronted, He will not let me rest or rejoice until I act. And it is through this meeting of Jesus in the least of His brothers and sisters, that His image will be burned within me as I begin to conform to this Christ through His love.
The crucifixion reveals that the excess of my capacity for evil is outwitted by the excess of love on God’s part. The most demonic gestures of my evil are used to dramatize the ecstatic extravagance of His mercy. By unmasking my capacity to destroy that deface my true self; it brings about a great reversal. For, by the cross, a greater good uses this evil for its own loving purposes; and opens the way to turn my sin-encapsulated life to God. His love, which is not of this world, reveals a love that keeps on being love no matter what rejection it encounters. And the greatest darkness I face, the sense of the terrifying absence of God, is put to death. Finally I realize that His Holy Spirit has no other identity other than that of unconditional love.

The Resurrected Christ

Divine forgiveness begins to upset and change the world. With the final act of surrender, the current of divine mercy begins to flow and change my life. Mercy has already begun its work enabling my heart to change and my sins to be forgiven. Jesus’ time of healing love has come. Grace is flowing through my prayers by the very fact that I am praying and through the promise that Jesus brings: the mystery of an all-merciful love that is now being revealed.
The manifestation of love which is given from beyond this world acts within mine to unfold all its light and power. Jesus is drawing all peoples unto Himself. Jesus’ intimacy with His Father is providing a welcoming love to all His fellow believers, and I am no longer alone. The Spirit of truth is never deterred when my love grows cold and filled with sin that perverts my heart as it attempts to reject Jesus, Who continues to give witness. While Jesus gives me to everyone in a new unity of love.
Meeting the gaze of His inexhaustible love that has come and found me, gives itself to me. I am now in the presence of this incomprehensible love that humbles me to the core. Finding my days ever richer, deeper and more complete I begin to:
• Adore this love
• Yield to this love
• Live in this love
• Move and work with this love.
Nothing in the whole of creation can separate me from God’s love as revealed through Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit is the very ecstasy of love and mercy in which God supports the world. With such grace faith adores, surrenders and gives thanks. And I am jolted out of myself as I join with the immense family of those who suffer. I become far more tender, compassionate and generous as the crucified Christ forever troubles my life with the demands for self-giving.
The Father sends His beloved Son to the God-forsaken because nothing can span the distance except the Spirit of love that knows no bounds. Only love survives the most deadly point of death in order to bring about new creation. And Jesus descends into these depths, to bring the compassion of the Father; thus Jesus changes the realm of death into a place of meeting. There is now a fundamental assurance that the peace of His presence will continue, no matter how troubled the times become. His wounds, now raised and present to me, are capable of redemption, despite all my struggle, pain and violence. As I devote my life to a life of peace-making, the peace I have received must be given to others. This peace will not settle for anything less than freedom for all those to whom it is offered. It will not be used as a convenient consolation for me when I come to God on my own terms.
Meanwhile, as the peace and rejoicing sent by the Risen One into the world begins to stir and energize new life; He demands that I confront the world, condemning the violence that rules it, naming its crimes and standing behind its victims. The truth I tell in Christ’s name, promises no peace or joy, but only disturbance and judgment, to those who hide in darkness, away from the light that now shines. Violent relationships based on envy and vengeance are abolished as Christ reveals the vicious circle of all my hatreds. Not only has the merciful love of God broken into my world, but my world has been irrevocably united to Him, breaking through to its ultimate destiny; so that the whole of creation is contained in the risen humanity of Christ. Another energy is at work – the limitless love that nothing in creation can resist or diminish.

1 Behold the Cross: Meditations for the Journey of Faith by Tony Kelly C.Ss.R (Liquori Publications) This book that I have based these reflections on is a perfect Lenten sequel to Clare of Assisi: A Heart Full of Love. The book’s meditations on the death/resurrection of Jesus read as if St. Clare had written them herself. The only change my reflections made is in the style of the book: I personalized them instead of leaving them in the second and third person plural (we, us, they and them).

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