Dear Brethren. Once again I find myself writing for this blog and asking myself why I do it. I think the main reason is that I love Fr. Victor and I just can’t say “no” when he invites me to share my little reflections. What helps me the most is that , even though I am painfully challenged by the readings, sooner or later they drop me softly into a state of prayer and I am touched by the delightful, mysterious Love of God. I realize that I also write this because I love you too, everyone who reads this, and hope that even a small ray of this Divine Love I feel might get past these words and touch your hearts.
In this Friday’s Gospel (Lk 9: 18-22), “ Jesus was praying in solitude and the disciples were with Him.” He asks them who do they think He is. Peter tells Him, “The Christ of God.”
I try to be there in this scene and look at Jesus, accompanied by those He loves and yet in “solitude.” Holiness is sometimes defined as “being set apart.” Jesus, of course, was and is so different from everyone of us, His brothers and sisters. Did He ever feel loneliness? Or was he in such intimate contact with His “Abba” that He never felt alone?
Last weekend I worked with my Emmaus Brothers in a retreat in Miami, FL. I live in New York and I had not seen them in half a year. I felt such joy in serving among them, whom I admire so much. But I also felt alone many times, much welcomed, but still an outsider after so many months away. And yet, I was never lonely. To my eyes, the light of God’s Holy Spirit glowed everywhere around me, in the eyes of everyone, even inside of me. Things tend to fluctuate in the spiritual life; it’s all in God’s will, but lately I feel so accompanied, so loved by my Heavenly “Papa”, held so tightly by my Divine Brother, in the splendor of Their Spirit, that sometimes I just have to sit down and shake my head, and my tears, because it is too much for me.
Friday’s Psalm (144) begins to express this feeling:
“Blessed be the Lord, my rock,
my mercy and my fortress,
my stronghold, my deliverer,
my shield, in whom I trust.
Lord, what is man, that You notice him;
the Son of Man, that You take thought of him?”
I ask Him the same question that He invites the disciples to ask: “Who are You?” Lord why do You love us so much? Why do You give us Your very Self when we reach out to You in prayer? And my mind goes back to the last part of the Gospel reading. Yes, intimate prayer can be a blissful experience, but sometimes it pierces our hearts like a spear. It is painful and scary. Would Jesus feel fear and sorrow when His Heavenly Father would tell Him that He actually was the Suffering Servant, a martyr for all of humanity? He tells the disciples who He really is: “ The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.” (v 22)
Peter might have thought: “That’s not what I was imagining when I called Him ‘the Anointed One of God.’ I think I meant a mighty, victorious warrior-king, no?” The great apostle must have been very distressed. I myself, have been, many times, before the hundreds of crucifixes I have knelt in front of, asking Him, “Why did it have to be like this? I hate to see You suffer like this! Why this horrible ritual?” And so on… My Lord has been slowly curing me of this whining. I don’t completely understand, but He has led me to accept this “horrible ritual” as the source of the Power that enables me to “dare approach the Throne of Grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.” (Heb 4 : 16), and not be afraid to be loved by this great Love.
There is a catch though. In this same Gospel, our Lord goes on to say: “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” (Lk 9:23-24)
Wow! Again I am reminded of the beautiful Peter and his three denials. Am I ready to die for the One who gives me every breath of life? I certainly hope so, to strive for not just “spiritual death,” but to go out into harm’s way, up to Calvary, into the heart of suffering, carry the cross with the crucified of this world, bring some relief, some companionship, some empathy to every Child of God I meet.
Help me Lord! Give the strength to love, and die, like you!