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Jesus, the Blessed Son of God, hungers and thirsts for uprightness. He abhors injustice. He resists those who try to gather wealth and influence by oppression and exploitation. His whole being yearns for people to treat one another as brothers and sisters, sons and daughters of the same God.
With fervor he proclaims that the way to the Kingdom is not saying many prayers or offering many sacrifices but in feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and visiting the sick and the prisoners (see Matthew 25:31-46). He longs for a just world. He wants us to live with the same hunger and thirst.
Jesus, the Blessed One, is gentle. Even though he speaks with great fervor and biting criticism against all forms of hypocrisy and is not afraid to attack deception, vanity, manipulation and oppression, his heart is a gentle heart. He won’t break the crushed reed or snuff the faltering wick (see Matthew 12:20). He responds to people’s suffering, heals their wounds, and offers courage to the fainthearted.
Jesus came to bring good news to the poor, sight to the blind, and freedom to prisoners (see Luke 4:18-19) in all he says, and thus he reveals God’s immense compassion. As his followers, we are called to that same gentleness.
Jesus is the Blessed One. The word benediction, which is the Latin form for the word blessing, means “to say (dicere) good things (bene).” Jesus is the Blessed One because God has spoken good things of him. Most clearly we hear God’s blessing after Jesus has been baptised in the river Jordan, when “suddenly there was a voice from heaven, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on him'” (Matthew 3:16-17).
With this blessing Jesus starts his public ministry. And all of that ministry is to make known to us that this blessing is not only for Jesus but also for all who follow him.
Jesus was truly free. His freedom was rooted in his spiritual awareness that he was the Beloved Child of God. He knew in the depth of his being that he belonged to God before he was born, that he was sent into the world to proclaim God’s love, and that he would return to God after his mission was fulfilled. This knowledge gave him the freedom to speak and act without having to please the world and the power to respond to people’s pains with the healing love of God.
That’s why the Gospels say: “Everyone in the crowd was trying to touch him because power came out of him that cured them all” (Luke 6:19).
Hope and faith will both come to an end when we die. But love will remain. Love is eternal. Love comes from God and returns to God. When we die, we will lose everything that life gave us except love. The love with which we lived our lives is the life of God within us. It is the divine, indestructible core of our being. This love not only will remain but will also bear fruit from generation to generation.
When we approach our deaths let us say to those we leave behind, “Don’t let your heart be troubled. The love of God that dwells in my heart will come to you and offer you consolation and comfort.”
“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” — 1 Corinthians 13:13
“To say that I am made in the image of God is to say that love is the reason for my existence, for God is love. Love is my true identity. Selflessness is my true self. Love is my true character. Love is my name…. To find love I must enter into the sanctuary where it is hidden, which is the mystery of God.”
Thomas Merton. New Seeds of Contemplation (New York: New Dimensions Press, 1961): 60-61.
Many people say, “I am not afraid of death, but I am afraid of dying.” This is quite understandable, since dying often means illness, pain, dependency, and loneliness.
The fear of dying is nothing to be ashamed of. It is the most human of all human fears. Jesus himself entered into that fear. In his anguish “sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood” (Luke 22:44). How must we deal with our fear of dying? Like Jesus we must pray that we may receive special strength to make the great passage to new life. Then we can trust that God will send us an angel to comfort us, as he sent an angel to Jesus.
I’ll be reading from and selling copies of Mansion of Memory this Friday May 18 at 7 pm at Poetry Lincolnton.
$11. All profits go to Bright Futures Joplin Tornado Fund. Please join us, if you are in the area.
Emptiness and fullness at first seem complete opposites. But in the spiritual life they are not. In the spiritual life we find the fulfillment of our deepest desires by becoming empty for God.
We must empty the cups of our lives completely to be able to receive the fullness of life from God. Jesus lived this on the cross. The moment of complete emptiness and complete fullness become the same. When he had given all away to his Abba, his dear Father, he cried out, “It is fulfilled” (John 19:30). He who was lifted up on the cross was also lifted into the resurrection. He who had emptied and humbled himself was raised up and “given the name above all other names” (see Philippians 2:7-9). Let us keep listening to Jesus’ question: “Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?” (Matthew 20:22).
When we hold firm our cups of life, fully acknowledging their sorrows and joys, we will also be able to lift our cups in human solidarity. Lifting our cups means that we are not ashamed of what we are living, and this gesture encourages others to befriend their truths as we are trying to befriend ours. By lifting up our cups and saying to each other, “To life” or “To your health,” we proclaim that we are willing to look truthfully at our lives together. Thus, we can become a community of people encouraging one another to fully drink the cups that have been given to us in the conviction that they will lead us to true fulfillment.