Three weeks ago, I wrote about the importance of getting our hands dirty as disciples of Jesus—of entering into the mess and sufferings of another person and walking with them, loving them where they are and leading them toward holiness and heaven. Of course, to lead someone to heaven we have to be headed that way ourselves, and holiness is a high bar. Even Jesus himself acknowledges that for man it is impossible.
Ever since the Fall, when Adam and Eve first saw themselves as vulnerable and covered their nakedness in fear, we all tend to protect ourselves. We hold a bit of ourselves back, even from those we love. Why? Because we don’t want to appear reckless, foolish or naïve. Because we don’t want to be abandoned and left with nothing. Because we secretly wonder to ourselves, If I give away everything in love, who will love me?
As always, Jesus has the answer. He poured himself out on the pillar, the pavement and the cross, suffering, sweating, bleeding, dying for us. From his words at the crucifixion, we may think he also questioned whether anyone remained who loved him in that moment. But the Word of God knew the well the words of Psalm 22:
My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? Why so far from my call for help, from my cries of anguish? My God, I call by day, but you do not answer; by night, but I have no relief. Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the glory of Israel. In you our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you rescued them. To you they cried out and they escaped; in you they trusted and were not disappointed. … You who fear the Lord, give praise! All descendants of Jacob, give honor; show reverence, all descendants of Israel! For he has not spurned or disdained the misery of this poor wretch, did not turn away from me, but heard me when I cried out. – Psalm 22:2-6, 24-25
Jesus knew that, whatever happens here, however bad it gets, God does not abandon his faithful ones.
We are called to the same reckless, sacrificial love, even in the face of oppression, persecution, violence and death. We are called, occasionally, to righteous anger—but always to fearless humility, steadfast obedience, unfailing generosity, persistent prayer, personal detachment, and boundless, willful peace, joy and love.
Our faith holds us to a higher standard. We are called to stand with and care for the most vulnerable, not because we are the cause of their weakness, but because we are Christian. We are called to root out prejudice and racial injustice, not because we are racist, but because we are Christian. We are called to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and the imprisoned, not because we are guilty, but because we are Christians—called to sacrificial love for family and friends, neighbors, strangers and enemies.
For man it is impossible. But all things are possible for God.
Much is expected from us. Do not be afraid to lose everything in order to gain eternity. The One who loves you into being is with you, this moment and always.
Blogger’s Note: This post appeared as a column in the July 26, 2020, bulletin of St. Michael Catholic Church.