Has anyone ever accused you of having a Messiah complex? It might have been intended as a criticism – unnecessary interventions, over-involvement in other people’s affairs, or doing for somebody what they could do for themselves – but the real damning statement would be to say that you lack a Messiah-complex. Indeed, the drama and anguish of a life that cares about other people, however imperfectly, is infinitely better than a lukewarm heart, for the only thing to come out of indifference is death to the human soul. We must therefore learn to be like Jesus, who found appropriate ways to befriend his adversaries (Jn 3:1-21), uplift the oppressed (e.g. Lk 17:11-19), speak truth to the powerful (Jn 18:28-40), and even offer consolation to his persecutors (Lk 23:24). If we join Jesus on that slow and intentional journey to Jerusalem, filled with many prayerful nights of trying to sort things out on the mountaintop, the barnacles will be scraped from our personalities and our otherwise disordered need to interfere, fix and control will give way to some new and life-giving way of being. We will thus become co-redeemers with Christ (Col 1:24), forming together a single Messiah capable of bringing healing to a broken world and renewing the face of the earth. Ave Crux, Spes Unica!
“Little things with great love.” This was the spiritual mantra of the Little Flower, adopted by a certain mother of the poorest of the poor, which makes the bold claim that the all is contained in each individual thing. How easy it is to constantly stay at the level of the big picture, mentally moving around concepts about strategic planning, obsessing about how to successfully rebrand our organization, crunching numbers and data to improve our financial footing, all the while forgetting the texture and concreteness of life at an ants-eye level. To do little things with great love is, in some ways, a humble admission that our limited minds could never really figure things out, but that we can get glimpses of the meaning of it all by living creaturely, with our boots on the ground, embracing the simple daily realities offered to us within our modest slice of the big picture. Let’s therefore take a lesson from the disciples who, having sequestered themselves in the literal “upper room,” surrendered their need for perfect understanding and allowed their feet to touch the earth (Acts 2:41-42). In this way, we shall become sacramental, like the Little Flower, spending our days doing little things with great love exactly where we stand, celebrating the beauty and goodness of life in the details. Ave Crux, Spes Unica.
Have you ever seen the image of Jesus in an icon? He is definitely staring at you, but he also has these inner eyes that are looking somewhere deep. The result is the feeling of being drawn in, invited into something going on inside of him. Jesus’ interior life has something to do with the one whom his heart loves (Song 3:3): a gazing upon his beloved, a constant act of trust, a deep and abiding feeling of peace. Even though the old warning to maintain “custody of the eyes” seems like old-fashioned advice in our modern times, there really is something to being disciplined about where we look. Indeed, if we, through our eyes, are giving ourselves away to the various alluring objects in our surroundings or on our phone screens, we forfeit the inner intimacy that we are actually desperate to find. Let’s therefore have the humility to use our eyelids as natural shields that guard our souls. Let’s get into the habit of sitting quietly in a chair in the morning or evening, with our eyes closed, looking inward, remembering what it is like to be with the beloved. Let’s, like Jesus, become people who learn to love others by simply looking at them (Mk 10:21). Ave Crux, Spes Unica.
“The Power of Now” is the title of a trendy book on spirituality that has captured the imagination of a popular audience. It speaks to the average modern person who lives a screen-to-face kind of life and who is thus bombarded with psychological stimuli almost every moment of the day. In this highly addictive situation, all time collapses as one is left with a bowl of images, ideas and emotions that just get pushed around ceaselessly in the mind. What if, however, we shifted the focus from mind to heart? What if we directed our attention to some deep place in the soul? What if we found a still point around which the rest of our lives could be structured? This is the power of “now,” and it is above all else an act of trust in the invisible one who simply is (Ex 3:14, Jn 8:58) and who invites us to be with him (Jn 15:4). Therefore, the next time we catch ourselves obsessing about the future or living in the past, let’s return to the “now.” All it takes is a deep breath, an act of intentionality, or looking down at our feet to recall where we are. In this way, we shall realize that the hour is constantly upon us (Jn 12:22) and discover that a life rooted in the present moment has time for absolutely everything (Ecc 3:1-8). Ave Crux, Spes Unica.
“Holding life with an open hand” is the most memorable line that I have ever heard in a homily. It awakened something deep in me, the desire to trust, to be vulnerable and to choose a posture of receptivity despite being in a world that is full of dangers. How easy it is indeed to say no, to shut down, to withdraw, to hide, to jockey for position, to manipulate outcomes, in a word, to try to be in control. That’s all fear-based stuff, a clenched fist that becomes sore and does not lead to life. We can, however, practice living with an open hand by literally extending one of our hands outward…gradually releasing it to an open position…then breathing….again….and again….and again….gazing upon the mystery….of a power….that is made perfect….in weakness (cf. 2 Cor 12:9). What if we learned how to navigate the contours of family life, the workplace, political and religious spheres like that? We would probably feel peace in our guts and start believing that existence really is coherent and that ours is simply to cooperate. Let’s therefore go back to the garden and, with our praying Lord (Mt 26:39), overcome that grabbing instinct (Gen 3:6), by making the firm decision for hands and hearts and feet and ears and minds and bodies and souls that are constantly open to the gift of life. Ave Crux, Spes Unica.