Chew on this cud: A cow only eats grass yet becomes a nourishing and protein-packed feast for others. This is a great analogy for the spiritual life. Indeed, while it can be easy to develop a sensationalized spirituality that is constantly on the lookout for fireworks and ticker-tape parades, it is the simplicity of prayer, quiet time spent with the Father, and attentiveness to our most inward longings that actually makes our lives fruitful and capable of sustaining others on their own journeys of faith. This is definitely the story of Jesus, the “slain lamb” (Rev 5:6), whose hidden life in Nazareth eventually gave way to Jerusalem where eucharisitc nourishment flowed from his side and has been feeding people across cultures and time periods ever since. Why not, therefore, experiment for a year? One hour every night, or first thing in the morning. Uninterrupted time with our heavenly Father, renewing our inward spirit, being fed with grace on the inside so that our personalities, our thoughts, our intentions, our work, our words, and our very lives might become prime rib for starving souls on the outside. Ave Crux, Spes Unica.
Intentionality replaces sentimentality in a mature adult faith. When we are young, our religious imaginations tend to be caught up in the heroic stories of saints, our hearts in the fervor of devotion, our minds in the beauty of ecclesiastical logic, and our senses in the rich symbolism of the liturgy. As time goes on, however, our souls grow wary of being caught up in anything at all and long instead to stand on something that lasts. To be intentional is a decision, a firm act of the will that draws us out of our comfort zones into the deep (Lk 5:4) where the one whom our hearts love (Song 3:3) actually dwells. Perhaps this is the essence of Jesus’ entire ministry, that is, taking a risk on his heavenly Father as he encountered the poor and proclaimed the truth over the predictable rubrics and emotional highs of temple worship (Mt 12:6-7). Perhaps we ourselves need to be honest about our affinity for all the fanfare, outward appearances and spiritual consolations. Whatever the case may be, wallowing in sweet religious feelings is not enough. We must cultivate a deep intentionality which at some point will allow us to get up from the tax table (Mt 9:9), extend our hands in trust (Jn 21:18), and follow wherever he leads us (Jn 8:12). Ave Crux, Spes Unica.
“We Shall Overcome” is a famous song that just seems to touch the hearts of all people no matter the culture. It has been used in many political contexts, but always in a way that links the heaviness of the world’s demands with the hopefulness implicit in human nature. The song offers a constructive way to deal with the natural tension of living as individuals in society, and thus invites us to celebrate the paradox of a weight that is powerless to crush us when we confront it with our vulnerability. The image of Jesus before Pilate comes to mind: the full force of the Roman Empire juxtaposed with a single man, bound and beaten, who does not say a word (Mt 27:14). One can almost hear “We Shall Overcome” playing in the background, as Pilate, standing in amazement (Mt 27:14), dumbfoundedly asks himself, “What is truth?” (Jn 18:38). The next time, therefore, a colleague takes aim at us, a family member slights us, someone cuts us off in traffic, or we simply feel the pressure mounting with each peek at our phone screen, we can choose to be like Jesus by standing tall and holding the line. With our faces set like flint against stone (Is 50:7), we will in fact be in the constant mode of overcoming any obstacle that prevents us from realizing our deep dignity as children of the living God. Ave Crux, Spes Unica.
It is not entirely clear why subatomic particles behave the way they do, but they tend to gravitate toward one another, share space together, and interact in unexpected but profound ways. This so-called “entanglement,” however, collapses when one tries to measure it, perhaps a defense mechanism which helps to preserve the intimacy and dignity of the particular particle relationship. It seems to me that this is the meaning of the resurrected Christ: Jesus is capable of being entangled with all sorts of different people – breakfast on the beach (Jn 21:1-13), breaking bread with two strangers (Lk 24:13-35), passing through a locked door (Jn 20:19-29), a great commision from the mountain top (Mt 28:16-20) – but he escapes containment. In fact, he literally tells Mary Magdalene, “Do not hold on to me!” (Jn 20:17), as if to say that true communion with our heavenly Father and all of creation falls apart the moment it gets captured and becomes a spectacle. Let’s therefore follow Jesus into a world of cosmic entanglement by dying to the fear-based clinginess that keeps our spiritual lives pinned to old and unenlightened laws of physics. Indeed, we shall one day be caught up in the clouds with him (1 Thes 4:17) in a relationship that needs no validation other than the immeasurable dignity we possess together as children of the living God. Ave Crux, Spes Unica!