Pax vobiscum! Before I start my post for tonight, I want to ask you all from prayers, be it a five second mention while making a holy hour, or a couple traditional prayers, whatever. I am at, what I think will be, a crossroads in my discernment. I am not questioning the Providence of God, I am merely trying to understand why God has me at this point and where he wants me to go. Certain things remain though:
-I want to consecrate my life to Christ as my Spouse (and yes, I have an Image of Christ in my mind and heart: Priest and Victim … that’s my Image and I am sticking to it) and Mary as my Mother and Queen
-I want to serve the Church as a post-secondary/seminary level professor, pastoral associate, and/or diocesan work.
-I have always felt a particular call to serve in the Church of Detroit and serve her priests in one way or another.
-I do not think that aspiring to be well-educated is selfish or non-beneficial to the Church.
-The possibility of becoming a consecrated virgin for the Archdiocese of Detroit is becoming a possibility for me.
-It is PAINING me physically and spiritually to think of not becoming a sister but what God wills, God wills.
-Thinking with my mind is as important and thinking with my heart. A well-formed conscience is conducive to genuine faith and love.
Now that I have said all of that, allow me to continue with the intent of my post. Not that you have any choice otherwise in reading this.
One good thing that came out of my week’s retreat was my realization that I need more Scripture in my life. I have to admit that I have a bit of an aversion for it. Not for Scripture in itself as the Word of God but in the idea of reading it. I chalk it up to the droll and horrendous presentation of it I got in high school. It was kinda like my liturgical experiences at College at the campus chapel: the abuses and utter irreverence at times left a bad taste in my mouth on on my soul (that and I got yelled at for kneeling and stares for receiving Communion on the tongue). Because of that, I did the bare minimum of Scripture classes (maybe one extra class for the sake of hours) for my degree. I studied mostly systematic, sacramental, and moral theology for my degree.
So now, I feel I must make it up to the Lord. One way I do that is by praying The Divine Office which is pretty much, save for the Office of Readings, Scripture up to the wazoo. Another way occurred to me over the week of retreat.
Being the ever astute retreatant I was, I forgot/never thought to bring a Bible with me. Thank the Lord one of the postulants had hers that she was willing to lend me. I borrowed that and used it when I needed it. It was a nice NAB with a leather zip cover. While I don’t mind the NAB for the most part, I still prefer the RSV-CE. No, not the NRSV-CE. The RSV. The NRSV uses that scourge of the English language known as “inclusive” language in its rendering (read:emasculating) of just-fine translations for the sake of “inclusivity.” But I won’t go off on that. You all already know my stance on that little plague. I am grateful to the postulant though for her kind generosity. 🙂
That experience over the past week told me that I need to have more Scripture in my life outside of Divine Office and Holy Mass, so I came up with this which is by no means original. I make the Sign of the Cross, open my RSV-CE, flip through the pages, run my fingers over a particular pair of pages and where my finger stops, I read. In my making the Sign of the Cross, I ask God to show me a passage He wants me to see at that moment of my life.
Dang, does he know how to make introductions. Here is my section:
Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, la’ma sabach-tha’ni?” that is, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” And some of the bystanders hearing it said, “This man is calling Eli’jah.” And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave it to him to drink. But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Eli’jah will come to save him.” And Jesus cried again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. (Matthew 27:45-50)
Yeah. I know. Uplifting but it is Lent after all. But as I read it, I think I can see why God had my finger fall there on that particular page and on that particular section.
In this section, we see Christ at His last moments alive. He is hanging on the cross, dying of shock and asphyxiation, surrounded by faithless people who desire signs more than salvation. We don’t see Mary or John or the other Mary’s here. We know they are there but not featured are they. In this scene, Christ is alone, in unimaginable physical, spiritual, and psychological pain. He cries out to God the Father in what seems to be in raw cry of despair, asking Him why He has abandoned Him to die like this, gorily nailed to a crudely shaped tree surrounded by those who lack real faith (save the obvious exceptions).
The bystanders, thinking that he is crying out to Elijah (Eli = Elijah), await if the great prophet of God will arrive to save this teacher/blasphemer (He does claim to be the Son of God after all). Others, wishing to try to relieve Him (intentions for good or ill) give him a sponge soaked in vinegar/gall (cheap wine) possibly to numb his pain a bit. Some might think it an act of mercy. Others might think it an act of selfishness, this criminal keeps crying out in pain, let’s just drug Him so He shuts up until He’s dead.
Considering the fact that these were probably the same people who, though earlier in the week were praising Him as the Messiah, were spitting on Him and abusing Him in many ways, I tend to be of the opinion that they wanted to quiet His wails of pure agony and pain. He was detracting from the day’s entertainment of watching Him die. Yes, people can be this horrible.
Finally, the climax: Christ cries out again and yields His spirit to the Father and dies. Note how it does not just say that He died. It adds the ever so important act of willfully handing His spirit over to the Father. He did not passively die. He actively choose to yield His spirit to God in expiation for the sins of the many. Everything He did in His Passion and Death was done volitionally. Nothing did He passively accept. He went through unknown and unfathomable torment, but he willed Himself to endure it to the bloody end.
Now that we have looked at the scene with a bit of depth, now I will share why I think God had my finger fall here at this particular time of my life.
At first, I was all “What does this all mean? How does this apply to me right now?” Then it dawned on me! Even Christ Himself in His humanity felt like God had abandoned Him to untold suffering. While my suffering is nowhere near what He endured for me and for us, I think I can empathize in my own lacking and flawed way.
I have to admit that recently there have been times when I have felt that while God may not have abandoned me (is He really able to do that if He is omnipresent?), He feels distant. But that distance is not because of what He has done. It is totally on me. It is at those times when I need to have stronger faith to know that He is always with me, even when times are trying and when it would be much easier to lose faith and just throw my hands up and surrender to fate.
Christ could have just passively accepted death. He actually could have done just what they wanted to happen, for Him to come down from the cross and save Himself. But that was not the best thing for the salvation of the world. It would have just been a temporary sign and nothing salvific would have come from His suffering. Signs while they can elicit faith, would probably only be based in the seen miracle rather than the unseen reality of His divinity. Christ did not come to win people’s superficial faith. He came to lead people to deeper and more genuine faith in Him and His mission for the salvation of many.
Though it was more difficult and agonizing for Him to continue suffering in the many ways He did, He in His infinite wisdom, knew that His accepting willfully the pains, agonies, and ultimately death on the cross would be the culmination of all He had preached and lived for. Of course, there is also the Resurrection but for the sake of this post we are going to stick with what we have at hand: the Passion and Death of Christ.
Christ here is telling me that I must keep the faith that He is with me no matter how bleak things look. In fact, it is when I feel most alone that He is closest to me. If I keep the faith and choose the best part, no matter how hard it may be, things will come out better than I could have ever imagined.
I feel this now at this crossroads in my discernment. It was Providence that put this section of Scripture before me. All I need to do now is learn from it.
All right, it’s getting late. I best be heading to bed. I am off to SJA tomorrow morning to pass out more raffle tickets and hopefully assist at Mass.
Have a blessed Saint Joseph’s Day!
God bless you and Mary keep you all!