Editor: Sr. Barbara gave a Lenten Day of Reflection at the La Salette National Shrine in Attleboro, MA, on March 21, 2015. She’s on the faculty at Boston College in Chestnut Hill, MA. These are notes from her presentation.
We baptized Christians need not look for sacrifices but rather refocus our perceptions in the midst of life. In his book, The Life of Jesus, Sushako Endo describes the training Jesus experienced – extreme training in spirituality. However when he completed this training, he went back to ordinary life since that’s where those to whom he would minister live each day.
Jesus Emptied Himself
As John the Evangelist reminds us: “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit (John 12:24).
It is in the midst of our life on this earth that Jesus comes to us. God’s saving word works in all areas of our life. Jesus took on our entire life, our hopes and sorrows, for love of us. He emptied himself for love of us.
We need God to help us through the joys and sorrows and notice God’s healing and supportive presence. We are a resilient and brave people, but we do tend to oscillate between our fear and dread, our challenges and our hopes.
Part One: Facing Life With Its Challenges and Blessings
We need to face the truth of life – that life has its share of both challenges and blessings. Examples abound in our present world: for example, the Isil terrorists, the death of entire families in fire and war, the fact of global warming, etc.
Emily Dickenson offers us her own wisdom about life:
Tell all the truth but tell it slant,
Success in circuit lies,
Too bright for our infirm delight
The truth's superb surprise;
As lightning to the children eased
With explanation kind,
The truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind.
We try to grasp for the hidden treasures in our life. Our search will involve:
1) accepting the challenges and
2) believing that from the darkness can come light and resurrection.
Love is stronger that illness; hope is stronger than any challenge. Even in darkness, we can sometimes see the light more clearly.
How does new life emerge for the darkness? Spirituality is grounded in our relationships, with God and others.
• One side of the coin (from the human perspective): How do we search for hope in the midst of darkness?
• The other side of the coin (from God’s perspective): How does God search for us?
Dr. Elizabeth Libert asks in her book, Changing Life Patterns: Structural Development in Spiritual Direction (Chalice Press), the question: What are the newer and deeper levels of life and love to which we are being called?
We need to learn the lessons of the beauty-and-beast portions of our life’s journey. It can be seen as going through several stages;
• Birth: we learn to survive and grow;
• Two Years Old: Rough and ready (I am the center of my life);
• Childhood: We conform to acknowledged social habits and are respectful to each other. The movie, Pleasantville; begins in black and white, an apparently simple uncomplicated tale. Then a young man notices that his mother now realizes that life is broader than she originally thought. She begins to explore new possibilities in her life and finds out that life is full of wondrous variety and beautiful colors!
• Community of Neighbors: Can we see ourselves as part of one whole human family?
• Hold All Things: A person can hold onto both the contradictions and challenges of life and still live in hope.
The fact is, there is good in every situation, if we but take the time to look lovingly and deeply wsith the help of God.
• What is a challenging time that you have experienced in the last few months or so?
• What have you had to let go of?
• What did you resist and what were your feelings?
• What “new” is your heart calling you to?
• Did you personally find the “hidden face of hope”?
Part Two: How Does God Search for Us in Our Dark Times?
St. Ignatius’ insight, out of his own life-experience, realized fully with his injury – a cannonball hit to his leg— that God used this to invite Ignatius into a life of love. He realized that it isn’t sin that is important but rather the love of God. Ignatius grew through his despair to the hope given by God alone.
The Truly Good News
The ultimate good news is that God has offered to fill our voids. In Elizabeth Barrette Browning’s, Sonnets from the Portuguese, she describes how God is indeed all around us:
Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries,
And daub their natural faces unaware.
Isaiah, in his Fourth Servant Oracle (Isaiah 53:2-5), describes the life of the Son of Man, whom we hear as a prophecy of the life and passion of Jesus, the Messiah:
He grew up like a sapling before him, like a shoot from the parched earth;
He had no majestic bearing to catch our eye, no beauty to draw us to him.
He was spurned and avoided by men, a man of suffering, knowing pain,
Like one from whom you turn your face, spurned, and we held him in no esteem.
Yet it was our pain that he bore, our sufferings he endured.
We thought of him as stricken, struck down by God* and afflicted,
But he was pierced for our sins, crushed for our iniquity.
He bore the punishment that makes us whole,
by his wounds we were healed.
And finally, let us reflect on the newest translation of the Holy Saturday, Exsultet, for our final affirmation that in Christ, we have been raised and given hope that need never die:
O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam, which gained for us so great a Redeemer! Most blessed of all nights, chosen by God to see Christ rising from the dead!
Of this night scripture says: “The night will be as clear as day: it will become my light, my joy.” The power of this holy night dispels all evil, washes guilt away, restores lost innocence, brings mourners joy; it casts out hatred, brings us peace, and humbles earthly pride. Night truly blessed when heaven is wedded to earth and man is reconciled with God! …
May the Morning Star which never sets find this flame still burning: Christ, that Morning Star, who came back from the dead, and shed his peaceful light on all mankind, your Son, who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.
Reflect Question: What has really touches me and sticks with me? Then ask God for the grace to understand and embrace it with trust and hope.