|"The Crucifixion" - el Greco|
Right across from my recliner is a crucifix, then an icon of the Nativity, and finally a print from Assisi showing four holy places of the life of St. Francis. If you're awake at 5 a.m., and you're not feeding a baby or getting ready for work, you have the luxury of talking to Jesus for a bit. Having a crucifix there is a good conversation starter.
I was talking to Jesus about how He managed to carry that cross. Just the physical trauma of it; I know He was God, but He was just walking around in human skin. He had no Superman powers. He stilled stubbed His toe and it hurt. He got headaches (can you imagine hanging around with the Apostles and NOT getting a tension headache??) He cried and got scared and angry. "How, Lord, did you carry that piece of wood that was weighed down by my sins? How did you manage??"
And frankly, I was asking Him, "How can I manage? How can I keep going when I'm in so much pain?" I know how much surgery hurts. I know I'm going to be sick from the anesthesia. I know I'm going to be grouchy and uncooperative. So, Jesus, do I just muster up the courage and be a "good Marine," so to speak?
And then I got my answer. It was nicely done, I will give Jesus that. No cloud descending from on high. Nope, it was ... well.
I said my morning prayers in my Magnificat. And then I turned to the meditation of the day from Fr. Bernard Bro, OP.
Basically the mystery of the cross isn't a mystery of strength but a mystery of helplessness. It is a victory, to be sure, but a victory hidden even from the eyes of the victor, a victory having every appearance and all the taste of defeat, and experienced as a defeat.
The cross isn't a mystery of bravery but a mystery of love. It doesn't consist in suffering courageously nor merely in suffering, full-stop, but in being afraid of suffering; it doesn't consist in overcoming an obstacle but in being crushed by it; not in being strong and noble-hearted but in being small and absurd in one's own eyes; not in deploying virtue but in seeing all one's virtues routed and pulverized; and in accepting all this lovingly. And in accepting lovingly to be strengthless; strength is no use, love is what's needed.[Hats off to Fr. Bro for the use of the semi-colon there, by the way.]
So there it was: the answer to my early morning chat with Jesus. It is not courage I need; it is love. It is a willingness to sacrifice, not to be the strongest or bravest. It is a willingness to be crushed - not for no reason, but so that God may use that in however He chooses. It is time to stop gritting my teeth and being brave, and time to let go.
Who, being in the form of God, did not count equality with God something to be grasped. But he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, becoming as human beings are; and being in every way like a human being, he was humbler yet, even to accepting death, death on a cross. (Phil. 2: 6-8)