April 9 - Look Upon the Cross
Apr 9, 2019
Scripture: The older I get, the more I love and appreciate the human condition. We are not good at suffering, and we are certainly not good at suffering at the hands or under the leadership of someone else. Built in to the complaints of the Hebrews who railed against God was a recognition that they were indeed made for better things than slavery, wondering, and hunger. Even when humanity was satisfied in paradise, Adam and Eve had an inkling they were meant to be more like God. The mistake the Hebrews made and the mistake Adam and Eve made were the same, they were grasping for good. The complaints and demands were an exercise of their authority, they wanted God to do what they wanted. This is antithetical to the union with God we are meant to attain. The prayer Jesus taught us says, "Thy will be done." Mary, prayed perfectly, "Let it be done to me according to thy word." Because of sin, God is always just in exacting our life, from the moment of our conception, we are on borrowed time which is given to us in mercy. The Lord sent the serpents among them to teach them, to reprove them with the rod of suffering and death. God asked them to look upon the bronze seraph lifted up in order to be healed. This was to show them that their Lord is kind and merciful. For just as Jesus was talking to the people before his impending death, the humanity is still the same as that humanity that was lost in the desert. You cannot learn the way of the Trinity, total surrender in love, total self gift, except by the crucifixion of the Son. That Jesus gave himself up to torture and death, worse yet becoming sin itself (though he never sinned), in order to save us and be with us; is the greatest act of love ever performed on earth. What did Jesus possess? A crown of thorns? The nails in his hands and feet? The cross from which he hung? Even the sign that named him "King of the Jews" was meant to mock him and mock the Jews, and yet the truth was plainly there. He was poor and naked at the end, even what belonged to him moments ago were lost to a game of dice the guards played. Unless you can look upon that image and understand that Jesus is GOD (I AM) and that is what God does, we will die in our sin. If we look at God as the consolidation of good things and power for Himself, we don't understand His divine nature. We will emulate the wrong thing. When we see Jesus and recognize that He is God, we too will empty ourselves and take the form of a slave in loving service to all those around us.
Core Principle of Faith: I gave a talk on the saints this past weekend and it would be wise to use them as the example for today's readings. St. Francis of Assisi began the mendicant order of the Franciscans. Every member literally gave up everything to follow Christ and to spread the Gospel. They made every human effort to grasp at no good thing for themselves, but to give every good thing in the service of God. When someone stole Francis' hood (that's where they kept their money - pass the hat) Francis send a brother after him at full speed to offer him his robe as well. St. Clare a friend of Francis was cloistered with her sisters and they gave their lives in this way to God as well. They prayed and studied and worshiped God. Their poverty was so complete that they did not own any possessions, not even in common. Put these men and women up against the Jews in the desert and you will see a stark contrast. The Jews looked upon the seraph serpent desiring the goodness of the healing hand of God. The Franciscans in their emptiness looked upon Christ's cross asking how they might be more like Him. St. Francis famously was given the stigmatta. Humans have never changed, we always wanted to be like God. In Christ's cross we were shown the truest nature of God, for many they cannot accept that. For the one with Life in them, they see the role to which they must seek to conform.
A Warning: I'll put the warning here. Though Jesus demonstrates self-emptying and giving himself completely away in love, he also had a vocation (calling) from the Father to do it in that way. The same would be for anyone who suddenly wanted to live a mendicant lifestyle of Gospel poverty. You can't abandon your family to do that. God has already called you to that vocation. Within that vocation you can live more simply, serve more joyfully, etc., but you cannot fail to live faithful the vocation given. The other part of this warning is that we must NEVER assume that this self-giving isn't immediately connected to the idea of receiving. If people like Francis didn't constantly receive in love from the generosity of others, his life would have been very short lived. For just as the Jews in the desert must eat, they were intended to be joyful at any provision that sustained them and to thank with love the one who gave. For just as Trinitarian life is about each member giving themselves fully away to the other Persons, the Trinity would break if the other two Persons failed to receive the full gift generously given. It is like a pot luck supper, each may from their own supply provide a food item to the party without knowing exactly what others had provided. Yet, all can choose from the goods there as they are all generously given, not owned by any, and partaken by those who wish to consume it.
Living this at Home: Training our children with a certain sense of austerity is to train them for a spirit of giving. My friend the other day was teaching her son about money and she was using the Dave Ramsey method. Her son earned money doing chores but she asked him to place the money in three envelopes; saving, spending, and giving. Little practices like this make a huge difference in training the child to be a child of God. What type of lessons would it be if there were only two envelopes; Spend and Save? Here is this simple practice you have three lessons, we are allowed to enjoy the fruits of our labor (spend), we are intended to delay immediate satisfaction (save), and we are intended to love and serve others (give). You can't just dress your children and rags and send them into school as little Franciscans, in fact St. Francis was actually a very pampered kid. Teach them love of family, love of friends, and most of all love of God. Let them experience and see the value of giving and helping. God will call them where they need to be. I personally believe that the reason we don't have millions of canonized saints, is that for most saints, they don't need extraordinary stories to do the simple and regular work of God's vineyard. They simple live and love joyfully in everyday life.