In Words Made Flesh Fran Ferder writes: “The true kenosis of Jesus lay not in self-abnegation but in self-embrace, saying a consistent and honest yes to all the demands that being fully human made on him. . . And his self-emptying took two forms: profound self-acceptance and radical self-disclosure.” I don’t always want to accept myself as I am. I’m not mathematical or mechanical. I know only the rudiments of technology. I don’t have a green thumb. And I’m not disclosing on a blog my faults. But when I accept myself as I am (though still working on improvement), I give over to God in gratitude the person who I am. The giving-over is a self-emptying, for I empty myself of wishing I had gifts other than those uniquely given to me by God, and I accept the talents I lack. When I can say, “Thank you, God, for the gifts I don’t have,” I think that is a kind of kenosis, an emptying-out of myself.
God Empties Out
The kenosis of Philippians 2:7 is Divinity poured out and thus Love poured out, for God is Love. In this pouring out, the Second Person of the Trinity became human, taking the form of a slave. This pouring out continues as love is poured out over the universe, God taking on the form of the cosmos as an extension of the Godself. In the essay “The Ecstasy of Agape” by Kerrie Hide we read: “Agape incarnates, becomes flesh through speaking the Word into creation, and God’s ecstasy creates the world.” Hide also writes, “Incarnation is an organic expression of the Trinity’s endless self-sharing.” Thus I receive my being in the self-surrender of God. Creation evolves as divine life loves. I grow as I receive divine life.
How open am I to divine life? How am I pouring out my love to extend love-energy?
It’s Holy Week!
Will you really make it a “holy week”? To do so enlarge or unclog your arteries. Clear out space in your week to be fully engaged in the Church’s prayer. Don’t miss the beautiful Holy Thursday liturgy, the meaningful and engaging Good Friday service, and the glorious—absolutely stunning—Easter Vigil. If you aren’t there, you’ll surely be missed—and you will have missed the whole point of Lent.
Our motto this week:
Walk the last steps with Jesus.
Henri Nouwen writes: “A spiritual discipline. . . is the concentrated effort to create some inner and outer space in our lives.”
Do we feel over-extended? Have we promised ourselves that we won’t take on one more thing? Saying no to the next request takes self-discipline (unless the request is something we know God wants us to fulfill). When we balance work and leisure, what do we do with the time outside of the necessities of life? What is important enough to carve out space in our demanding schedules?
Have we carved out space for extra prayer or attending church services this Lent?
If we take up the spiritual discipline Nouwen recommends, we will be set “free to pray, or to say it better, [allow] the Spirit of God to pray in us.”
We’re over halfway through Lent. Is your heart feeling better?
This week we’ll look at our spiritual rib cages. Perhaps we feel “caged in” by our bad habits and addictions. But there are ways to expand our hearts by the protective rib cage of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Confession gives us spiritual strength and protection against future temptation. Use opportunities this week to express your sorrow to God or to apologize to someone or make amends.
As this weekend’s responsorial psalm asks,
Create a clean heart in me, O God.
God Lives Where God Loves [March 16]
The enemies of Jesus can’t believe that Jesus is the Christ. After all, they know where Jesus is from, and no one will know where the Messiah comes from. How wrong they were in limiting Jesus Christ to a geographical location.
God has many attributes: mercy, healing, omnipotence, omniscience, creativity, and infinitely more qualities than we can imagine. But one of them is not love. God does not have love; God is Love. God’s love is the energy that is existence. God’s love is at the core of evolution, expanding the universe in playful activity every moment. God’s love just can’t stop gushing and spilling over, for Love is who God is.
And since we are made in the image and likeness of God, we are love. Unfortunately for us it can be difficult to let our love gush and spill over and create and energize, but when we do we are most fully ourselves. Saint Bonaventure said, “You truly exist where you love, not merely where you live.” Where does God live? God lives where God loves. Let God love you today so that you and God can become one in the bond of love.
“So I Am At Work” [Wednesday, March 14]
Jesus said, “My Father is at work until now, so I am at work. . . . the Son cannot do anything on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for what he does, the Son will do also.” When I look at the work of Jesus, it is always demanding—more demanding than the physical labor of a carpenter’s shop—but the demanding work of discerning what work the Father wants done and having the courage to do it. As Jesus speaks these words, he faces angry religious leaders, incensed that Jesus broke the Sabbath and called God his own father. Spiritual work, such as the teaching Jesus did, is demanding. No wonder Jesus could sleep in the boat during a monstrous life-threatening storm! He spent his days leading people to a deep religious consciousness—no easy feat in his day among people who believed in either in monotheism of a pantheon of gods and goddesses.
As a follower of Jesus, I too must say “So I am at work”—and do the work of God. It’s the great need of our time in a secular society. To all those who are reading this and spend your day doing the work of God in whatever your role, thank you for your commitment.
As we approach Holy Week, the day’s work for the priest, the liturgist, the church musician, those responsible for the art and environment for the holy days ramps up. If you can, say a word of thanks to them or lend a hand.
Flanner O’Connor claimed: “All human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us and the change is painful.”
Many New Testament stories show persons eager for change: a parent eager for a child’s cure, an official begging for his servant’s healing, three apostles ready to stay up on Tabor, a crowd anticipating more miraculous bread, ten lepers going home after years of forced isolation. One story, however, sticks out for a possible reluctance to accept the grace-given change. It’s the story of the man who had been lame for 38 years. Jesus asked him, ‘”Do you want to be healed?” All the lame man ever knew was his inability to walk. His pallet, like a security blanket, meant he did not have to make his own way in the world. What would life be like if he walked? Did he have any skill other than begging?
Lent is a time for personal conversion, changing our ways—maybe even throwing away our security blankets. Change demands courage. In the remaining weeks of Lent, let’s look seriously at our need to change and beg God to give us the grace.
Who knows? Maybe our lame and limping will change to dancing.
This week let’s focus on our heart’s oxygen supply. Our penance this week is probably one you’ve never thought of:
Be a breath of fresh air!
Be a “breath of fresh air” in your workplace, your neighborhood, your school, your home. Fill the week with good deeds and delightful surprises. If your church has special Lenten services, attend one this week. Don’t forget to pray for those preparing for the Easter Sacraments at the Vigil. Consider writing them a note to say you’re praying for them.
This is just one way to be a breath of fresh air.
Sadness and grief have been saturating the days of January and February, more incessantly than the rain swelling the rivers. A terrible accident left a young family without husband and father. Fire forced neighbors into the cold in early morning hours. A family matriarch wavers between life and death. Daily news reports tell of shootings, floods, war, starvation, threat of nuclear war, and culture eroded through dishonesty, vulgarity, and little value placed on life. How do we remain sane?
Dick Ryan gives this answer: “Whatever happens to me in life, I must believe that somewhere, in the mess or madness of it all, there is a sacred potential–a possibility for wondrous redemption in the embracing of all that is.” How does one embrace all that is when so much is hurtful and inhuman? Jesus has shown the way in his passion and death. He accepted all the hate directed toward him. He received the blows as gentle as a lamb led to slaughter. He forgave the friends who betrayed him and denied knowing him. Jesus Christ’s self-emptying allowed room for the suffering to enter, become transformed into grace, and sent out as salvation. The sacred potential buried in the tomb was redemption and glorious Resurrection.