Monday, March 8, 2010

Emptiness is the condition of being filled with hope

I think that by the time the Romans drove the nails into His body, Jesus was empty and exhausted. I believe this allowed him to be calmly determined, to see His choice with clarity. The spiritual disciplines (i.e., prayer, fasting, alms-giving) help us get our egos out of the way because they have the effect of emptying us. It is only by being empty that we can be hopeful, that is, full of hope. It is hope, which is certainty, not  naïve wistfulness, that allows us to achieve clarity of purpose. Through practicing the spiritual disciplines, I learn to sacrifice, which means giving something up because I freely choose to, not because I have to, or because I am obligated to.

The Cross as the Tree of Life

Everyday presents me with opportunities to offer sacrifices and sacrifice, in turn, is what turns many defeats into victories. There is no magic involved in this because sacrifice requires a choice, a decision, one that is almost always difficult because I have to put aside my ego, which is made possible by my practice of the spiritual disciplines. For example, I can let an insult fester, I can seek vindication, or try to get even, or I can forgive it and offer it up, as it were. Love requires sacrifice. Jesus sets the example by dying on the cross.

Jesus did not want to die on the cross, we all know that, but neither did He do it because the Father made Him. No! He chose it for our sakes in obedience the Father. This tells us that obedience, too, is a choice. So we see that freedom is the indispensible condition for being a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ. If we are His followers, his disciples (disciples practice the disciplines of their master), we must choose the cross, too. This is part of what I call the inverse property of redemption, which is something I hope calls to mind St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross's (i.e., Edith Stein) The Science of the Cross, in which we come to see that without the cross there is no resurrection; without Good Friday, Easter not only loses meaning, but is not even possible. Please, don't take my word for it.

"Then Jesus told his disciples, 'If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it'" (Matt. 16:24-25). A paradox, no? This requires trust in the One who tells us this. It is trust, even if tentative and a bit skeptical at first, that allows us to take the risk of verifying this through our experience.

Meum cum sim pulvis et cinis

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