Thursday, April 5, 2012

"My life is not about me."

Lenten Meditation  5 April 2012

“Each time we eat and drink, we agree to die with him, in him, for him and because of him.  The eating says to our very body that henceforth our lives are not our own, and ‘my life is not about me!’”  (Page 216)

The Last Supper by Juan de Juanes (1523 - 1579)

            Lent is just about finished; there is still the last meal for the condemned and then the execution.  We know the outcome, we have read the book and seen the movie; we have walked this path before, some of us too many times to want to count the times we have gone to Golgotha.  We have been changed every time we have looked into the face of the one who accepts the horrors of a brutal death in order to absorb the evil that tries to consume us.  But for today we need to remain with Jesus and his disciples, including the one who will not just betray Jesus, but us as well.  For today we must be willing to enter the upper room and sit at table with our Lord, allow him to bring us to a deeper understanding of his work in our own lives, and discover more intense transformation in our lives.

            As we recline around the low table with Jesus, we watch intently as together we rehearse the ages-old story of release from slavery, of God’s mercy for us as the angel of death passes over our homes to strike the first-born of every generation, both human and animal, in the homes of the Egyptians.  We watch as Jesus does what he has done so many times in our presence at meals: he takes, blesses, breaks and gives.  We saw this on the hillside when there were the thousands to feed with merely five barley loaves and two small fish.  As we have walked with him toward Jerusalem in the past weeks he has done the same at most of our meals, but this time it is different.  Tonight he changes us as he says, “This bread is my body…this wine is my blood.”  Some of us are horrified at the thought of eating human flesh and drinking human blood—cannibalism—which is absolutely prohibited by the Law.  But Jesus has instructed—no commanded—us that when we do this he is present in our midst, that he himself is nourishing our souls for the work we have yet to do.

            The liturgical Churches that follow the Triduum Sacrum, the “holy three days” with our reliving the Last Supper in the upper room, the Garden of Gethsemane, the Way of the Cross, and finally the explosion of light with the Resurrection have the opportunity not just to think about and “remember” in our minds those events.  We have the occasion to understand at an experiential level what all this has to do with me.  Being a follower of Christ, being a Christian, is not just about “me and Jesus” in a sweet embrace that brings me salvation. Being a Christian means being willing to take up the Cross and follow Jesus wherever He leads me, to absorb the evil with which I am confronted rather than reacting with violence, to have my life transformed, day by day, as I grow into the full stature of Christ.  Being a Christian means dying to self in Him, with Him, and for Him in order to live in Him, with Him and for Him.

            As I write this essay this morning, I am intensely aware of impending death.  The joy of being at table with Jesus is muted by the cloud of immanent dying.  I know the story too well to be naively joyous.  Not only is it Maundy Thursday, the first day of the Triduum Sacrum, this day I will be with a friend from youth whose wife is like family as the medical team disconnects life support systems which have been keeping David’s body in a semi-functional condition for the last several days.  David will die today as his lungs and virtually all of his other organs have ceased to function.  We will release him into the arms of a loving Savior, in whom David has rededicated his life in recent months.  We will be given the gift of the presence among us of our Lord Himself as we mourn the loss in this life of our brother, husband and friend.  We will be able to witness to one another the love of God because we know, as Paul Harvey used to say, “the rest of the story.”

            As Father Rohr says, we learn through living into our Christian vocation that “my life is not about me!”  As we continue to be transformed into the likeness of Christ, as we are able little by little to let down our defenses to our Lord, as we discover God’s love in some new way and through some unexpected person, as we mature not just in years but in depth of dedication, as we give up the need to control, as we are fed again and again at the Lord’s Table, we discover that our lives are richer than we ever could have asked for or imagined.

            May you discover this day your life in Jesus in some new, more deeply transformed way.  And may you be nourished from the abundance of God’s richness in order to meet with confidence the way you have been called to carry the Cross.

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