FEBRUARY 7, 2008: DT 30:15–20; LUKE 9:22–25
WHOEVER WOULD SAVE HIS LIFE WILL LOSE IT, AND WHOEVER LOSES HIS LIFE FOR MY SAKE WILL SAVE IT. From the beginning of his preaching, Jesus made it clear his message contrasted sharply with the common human ways of thinking and planning. His doctrine revealed a view of realities that inverted usual evaluation of life: “Blessed are the poor in spirit”, “Blessed are they who mourn…” When the Lord began to speak of the need to deny oneself and take on suffering even unto death, his call to discipleship met with perplexed incomprehension. Even those who remained with him because of their faith in his person found this doctrine altogether too much for them. Such teaching came upon his hearers with the force of a higher plausibility that emanated more from the person of the Lord than from insight into the law that gave rise to it. Indeed, God’s ways remain beyond our comprehension today, long after the resurrection. Only after the resurrection and the descent of the Holy Spirit, did it prove possible to understand how it could be that the poor are blessed above the rich, the mourning are happy beyond those who rejoice in this world; in short, how it is better to lose one’s life in God’s service, by following Jesus, than to save it in this world. I said “understand”, but that needs to be qualified by adding “to a certain degree.” The fact is that God’s ways remain beyond our comprehension today, long after the resurrection, but we can understand that by sharing in the cross of Jesus and by faith in his person, we find new life, a life that is eternal for it is a participation in the Spirit of God. What we cannot grasp is just what God’s nature is that demands the renewal of our mind and spirit.
In these first days of Lent the liturgy confronts us with the requisite practices tat express true conversion of heart in the form of mourning, prayer, and fasting. More importantly, we are presented with Jesus’ attitude toward suffering and the cross. In so far as the cross is the Father’s will it is not merely tolerated, but even embraced with love. This disposition on his part prevails over his very human repugnance at impending suffering. He arrives at it only through an immense, interior struggle that engages all his strength. His following through by carrying out this mission to the bitter end reconciles us with the Father, as we are reminded in the canon of the mass and in every sacramental absolution in the sacrament of reconciliation.
By adverting to this feature of the liturgy as we follow through with our Lenten practices, we actively collaborate with our Savior’s great work so as to be truly transformed in our inner man by the operations of the Spirit he has won for us. May the race of this Eucharist strengthen us in our daily effort to lived out this mystery of the cross until we arrive at the fullness of resurrected life in Christ Jesus, our Savior.
Abbot John Eudes Bamberger