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When God took on flesh in Jesus Christ, the uncreated and the created, the eternal and the temporal, the divine and the human became united. This unity meant that all that is mortal now points to the immortal, all that is finite now points to the infinite. In and through Jesus all creation has become like a splendid veil, through which the face of God is revealed to us.
This is called the sacramental quality of the created order. All that is is sacred because all that is speaks of God’s redeeming love. Seas and winds, mountains and trees, sun, moon, and stars, and all the animals and people have become sacred windows offering us glimpses of God.
When Jesus says: “Sky and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” (Luke 21:33), he shows us a direct way to eternal life. The words of Jesus have the power to transform our hearts and minds and lead us into the Kingdom of God. “The words I have spoken to you,” Jesus says, “are spirit and they are life” (John 6:63).
Through meditation we can let the words of Jesus descend from our minds into our hearts and create there a dwelling place for the Spirit. Whatever we do and wherever we go, let us stay close to the words of Jesus. They are words of eternal life.
The words of Jesus can keep us erect and confident in the midst of the turmoil of the end-time. They can support us, encourage us, and give us life even when everything around us speaks of death. Jesus’ words are food for eternal life. They do much more than give us ideas and inspiration. They lead us into the eternal life while we are still being clothed in mortal flesh.
When we keep close to the word of Jesus, reflecting on it, “chewing” on it, eating it as food for the soul, we will enter even more deeply into the everlasting love of God.
Standing erect, holding our heads high, is the attitude of spiritually mature people in face of the calamities of our world. The facts of everyday life are a rich source for doomsday thinking and feeling. But it is possible for us to resist this temptation and to stand with self-confidence in this world, never losing our spiritual ground, always aware that “sky and earth will pass away” but the words of Jesus will never pass away (see Luke 21:33).
Let us be like Mary, the mother of Jesus, who stood under the cross, trusting in God’s faithfulness notwithstanding the death of his beloved Child.
Facing a Lonely West
Poems About Loss
Facing a Lonely West is a book of poetry that explores many kinds of human loss. The death of the poet’s mother and the grief that followed offer narrative for several poems. Others deal with job loss, loss of intimacy—sexual and communal—miscarriage, loneliness, and drowning. The poems reflect on the past and lead through a dark tunnel to an unknown future without a syrupy conclusion that no one can quite believe.
The spiritual knowledge that we belong to God and are safe with God even as we live in a very destructive world allows us to see in the midst of all the turmoil, fear, and agony of history “the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory” (Luke 21:27). Even though Jesus speaks about this as about a final event, it is not just one more thing that is going to happen after all the terrible things are over. Just as the end-time is already here, so too is the coming of the Son of Man. It is an event in the realm of the Spirit and thus not subject to the boundaries of time.
Those who live in communion with Jesus have the eyes to see and the ears to hear the second coming of Jesus among them in the here and now. Jesus says: “Before this generation has passed away all will have taken place” (Luke 21:32). And this is true for each faithful generation.
It’s not about when Jesus is coming; it’s about that He is coming.
How can we not lose our souls when everything and everybody pulls us in the most different directions? How can we “keep it together” when we are constantly torn apart?
Jesus says: “Not a hair of your head will be lost. Your perseverance will win you your lives” (Luke 21:18-19). We can only survive our world when we trust that God knows us more intimately than we know ourselves. We can only keep it together when we believe that God holds us together. We can only win our lives when we remain faithful to the truth that every little part of us, yes, every hair, is completely safe in the divine embrace of our Lord. To say it differently: When we keep living a spiritual life, we have nothing to be afraid of.
Many people live with the unconscious or conscious expectation that eventually things will get better; wars, hunger, poverty, oppression, and exploitation will vanish; and all people will live in harmony. Their lives and work are motivated by that expectation. When this does not happen in their lifetimes, they are often disillusioned and experience themselves as failures.
But Jesus doesn’t support such an optimistic outlook. He foresees not only the destruction of his beloved city Jerusalem but also a world full of cruelty, violence, and conflict. For Jesus there is no happy ending in this world. The challenge of Jesus is not to solve all the world’s problems before the end of time but to remain faithful at any cost.
This seems to address the difference between optimism and hope.
When we are anxious we are inclined to overprepare. We wonder what to say when we are attacked, how to respond when we are being interrogated, and what defence to put up when we are accused. It is precisely this turmoil that makes us lose our self-confidence and creates in us a debilitating self-consciousness.
Jesus tells us not to prepare at all and to trust that he will give us the words and wisdom we need. What is important is not that we have a little speech ready but that we remain deeply anchored in the love of Jesus, secure about who we are in this world and why we are here. With our hearts connected to the heart of Jesus, we will always know what to say when the time to speak comes.