A Thought for Easter15/04/2017
From the moment of His divine conception in the womb of Mary to His ultimate death on a cross, Jesus the Christ emptied Himself into the perfection of human form and thus into all encompassing, human love.
In taking human form Jesus took on and reflected the perfection of human nature and the perfection of human love that were part of God’s original gift to all humanity. But humanity constantly misused, and continues to misuse, its other great gift from God of free will. It strove instead to choose power, wealth and self-satisfaction, which led, and still lead, to great injustices in the world.
So the divine Son of God became human to model in all His humanity, especially in His human actions and words, the original, divine plan for unconditional love to be practised and experienced by all humanity. His death on the cross illustrated the extent of that unconditional love, for “greater love has no one than to lay down one’s life for a friend” (John 15:13). We participate, through remembering, in Jesus’ great act of universal redemption on Calvary by participating actively in Eucharist, wherein Jesus the Christ accomplishes within us the fruits of His Pascal Mystery and, through our being channels of His unconditional love, within all those with whom we interact in an unconditionally loving way.
The regular practice of contemplation, often today confusingly termed meditation, gently and gradually increases our awareness of our silent, still, inner reality, the place beyond words, thoughts and feelings wherein God resides as divine, pure love. “The purpose of our meditation (meaning ‘contemplation’) is that there should be nothing false in us, only reality. Only love. Only God.” (The Way of Unknowing; John Main). That is why St. Paul tells us so clearly “if I am without love, I am nothing.” (1Cor 13:2)
As people who strive to practise it know only too well, suffering (being taken for granted, ignored, reviled and betrayed) and perhaps for some even death itself, are the inevitable consequence or price of practising unconditional love in a selfish and unjust world. But that suffering and death for such expansive love also lead to eventual resurrection, as embodied by Jesus and remembered by Christians every Easter Sunday.
In human terms, this resurrection takes place for both the lover and the one being unconditionally loved, as both become part of divine love which flows eternally within the fellowship of the three divine persons of the Holy Trinity, a love which also embraces the whole of humanity and the whole of God’s creation. It is that flow of divine love that brings about the ‘new creation’ initiated by Jesus the Christ; “for anyone who is in Christ, there is a new creation: the old order is gone” (2Cor5:17). St. Peter calls it “a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus the Christ from the dead, and into a new heritage that can never be spoilt or soiled and never fade away.” (1Peter 1:3-4)
Easter Sunday is the time for Christians to rejoice in the resurrection of Jesus the Christ and to strengthen their resolve to continue striving, with the indwelling power and guidance of His Holy Spirit, to help bring about the ‘new order’ and ‘new birth’ started by the death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. Paul’s ‘new creation’ and Peter’s ‘new birth’ and ‘new heritage’ are about the followers or disciples of Jesus the Christ helping to resurrect the whole of humanity and all creation by their constant practice of faithful, unconditional love. That love opens the channels of God’s compassionate love, mercy and justice to the whole of His divine creation. “It is by your love for one another that everyone will recognise you as my disciples.”(John 13:35). It is the personal experience of that kind of love which effectively evangelises people and draws them to Jesus the Christ to be recreated and reborn as His disciples. Eucharist and the prayerful reading of, and reflection on, Sacred Scripture strengthen and guide us in our Christian vocation. That vocation of active discipleship is to be, and to herald, the ‘good news’ of God’s unconditionally loving presence of Jesus the Christ in all humanity and the whole of creation. God loves the whole of humanity and the whole of His creation, not because it is in His own interest to do so, but because it is His very nature to love. God can do not other than love unconditionally. As Fr. Richard Rohr has written about our love for God; “It is not a requirement in order that we can go to heaven later, it is an invitation so that we can live an entirely full life now.” (Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality).
So, let us all “Give thanks to Yahweh for he is good, for his faithful love endures for ever.” (Psalm 118:1)
(The author acknowledges with grateful thanks the continued inspiration of the writings and teachings of Pope Francis, Fr. Richard Rohr and his co-worker Cynthia Bourgeault. )