Holy Week Reflection
A meditation before the Cross
Brother Jesus Crucified, your gaze towards us during the last week of your earthly sojourn did not differ from the way you looked towards us throughout your whole life. Your eyes perfectly mirrored the gaze of the Beloved One: the gaze of your Father and ours. When we look into your eyes, we see the One whom we have desired from our earliest days – whether or not we have named that desire as the yearning for You.
Yet it seems too good to be true that you would love us for no reason. Something in us wants to earn your love so that we can be something in your sight. Why do you love us – why should you love us – we who as a world are so intent on destroying ourselves in self-hatred? Why do we get continuously caught in the web of illusion and violence, and never learn?
Jesus speaks back to us:
Through the way I lived and through the way that I died, I wanted you to know beyond any doubt that there is nothing you can do to make Me love you more, or to make Me love you less. Although all those years ago you killed the very Son of God – and you still kill Me, for I am hidden and revealed in innumerable faces – I still say back “Father, forgive them.” I still say back that you don’t really know what you’re doing.
Nothing can divert Me from loving you – nothing in the past, in the future or in the now, for I do not, and cannot, change My love for you. There is nothing but Love in Me, but it’s you who pull back in fear from too much goodness.
My Father is no Shylock who seeks the spilling of blood to appease his anger and to placate some supposed debt. What parent among you would condemn your children to the torturers so your anger at their failures can be assuaged? Does this not describe how you can be towards others when you’ve forgotten Whose you are, and so you seek to prove yourself, protect yourself, and search out others to blame and shame? If you see life through the lens of resentment and revenge, then you’ll surely see God as resentful and vengeful. God cannot be violent towards you, because there is no violence in the Trinity.
My cross doesn’t change the Father’s mind about you –it’s to change your mind so you can re-see. I do not keep a register of wrongs; it’s you who do this in your heart when you fear that love has to be earned. My death doesn’t cause the Father to feel better about you and so cause a re-opening of the gates of heaven; it’s you who fear the clanging shut of heaven’s gates because you can’t trust that God could love what you can’t love – namely yourself. I do not reject you; it’s you who reject yourselves.
God has never had a problem with you; it’s you who, in fearing unconditional Love, withdraw and lock up your souls. God has never been dismissive of you; it’s you who’ve been dismissive of yourselves – and then you become afraid that God is dismissive towards you. Look upon Me, for I reveal the Heart of God Who is mercy within mercy. I offer you and the world a way through the wells of self-hate and despair which block you from celebrating My eternal presence in the world.
The worst thing in human history was for humans to kill their God; the best thing in human history was for humans to witness My response. Never would I say to you and the world: “You’ve made your bed, now lie in it!” Rather I proclaim that “Although you have made your bed, and you are lying in the consequences, I pledge to lie right beside you and love the hell out of you as long as it takes for you to see the truth of what really is – and the truth is that you have always had divine blood in you – and I cannot forget my own.”
Even though in words I preached about love of enemy, I knew the only way to show how to truly live and love was to demonstrate it in my body. On the cross, I defeated evil’s power to have the last word by out-staring the darkness and overcoming evil with love through radical forgiveness. I relinquished the need to punish and blame by re-seeing the enemy and out-loving the sin.
There is nothing My grace cannot transform into goodness. I absorbed the hatred of others by refusing to hurl it back in vengeance. By bearing the consequences of hatred, I demonstrated another way to meet evil besides revenge.
For where you see sin, I see a pain-filled soul. Those who crucified me thought that by crucifying me they would get rid of their fear. Yet I could see it was they – not I - who were trapped and pinned, but they did not know it.
I, your crucified Brother, am an image of what you continually do to yourselves, to others, to the earth, to reality. If you do not let Me transform your pain and mercifully restore your dignity, then you will surely transmit it to others or keep flogging yourselves mercilessly within.
If you say that you believe in Me, then I invite you to do as I do – to go to the gallows if necessary for the sake of My justice and truth, yet continue to love your enemy all the way there. Breathe forgiveness as I do, and surrender into the mystery of the Father’s faithfulness, as I do. Your life is not a trap, and your life is never in vain.
So stay on the vine; stay connected and in communion with Love – which is what I am. You rightly meet the Eucharist with reverence – so why do you not meet yourself and the rest of creation with the same reverence and dignity? It is My Body disfigured in bomb-blasts. It is My Blood spilt on the streets.
Jesus, your life and death show us there is another way to meet life. You’re willing to pay the price of loving to the end when no love is returned. As we gaze upon You, we see that we as individuals and nations no longer have to try to be gods, for You are to be our only God. We and our nations no longer have to try to be better than others, for You tell us that who we are is who we are in God. We no longer have to be approved of and respected, for You tell us we are already God’s beloved. We no longer have to play blame games, hoard and scrub our souls, for You tell us that there is no identity to bolster, construct, prove and protect, and no love to warrant, earn, win or possess.
You descended into hell so You could hang in co-solidarity with our pain, and in its iceberg hells of separateness. You favour no-one, yet favour everyone; You are on nobody’s side, yet everybody’s side. You became the Scapegoat so we would not have to make scapegoats of each other, and keep perpetuating the cycle of killing and violence.
Because of you, we can model a new way – Your Way – to live fully humanly. May we not just worship You, but be You for the world. May the Spirit, who in the beginning called light from darkness and something out of nothing, raise us and our world again and again into a beautiful new creation. Into your hands we commend our spirits and Your beloved world.
©Patrick Oliver 2013