Holy Thursday. This is my body. Yours. All of me, I give you.
Good Friday. This is my all. Yours, Abba.
There’s a pattern here; a pattern of handing over, pouring out, giving, abandoning – whether or not others understand or value the gift.
Jesus lived life, and lived his anguish and his death. And whatever he was in any moment, he gave and offered. He poured it out without stinting. This is a lesson about living and dying it seems we all need to learn. It is not an easy one. It has nothing to do with giving “in order to” — create a need for others to give back to me, to look good, to benefit, to get the answers I need, to feel complete, to have reached some achievement, to settle something, to be better than, to earn love (which, by the way, we can’t!). Pouring oneself out in love is a way of being, not a strategy.
Trinity – God who are (as opposed to ‘is’ in singular) – are the persons who are this love in constant dynamic pouring. Jesus’ living was an ‘earthing’* of this way of being, and a way in which we could see it, and trace the pattern ’til we learn it for our own lives’ implementation.
A lifetime ago, a wise high school religion teacher I had (as a student!) said that if we remove Jesus from his humanity then we will easily find reasons not to follow in his footsteps. “How can I be like him? He’s God! I’m not God. I can’t be like him. No one can.” Instead, in Jesus we find the user’s manual for the way to live a meaningful human life. Live in accord with our hard wiring. Learn to be the love that is constantly outpouring in compassion and care and self gift. This is not to say be a wimp or have no boundaries. But it is to say that in this moment – the only one we have – give all to whatever and whoever is before you. It’s the only real way to live and to love.
The cross has always brought me to silence. It does so even more now, in light of my own experiences of grief and loss. At death, human life and consciousness drains out of the physical body which has, in some way, broken or tired or worn out. We can see the person ebbing, like a wave pulled back in to the ocean’s vastness.
I have learned, under the tutelage particularly of Franciscan theology and spirituality, to see Jesus’ death on the cross as God’s ultimate outpouring in love without reserve. St. Clare of Assisi would have us gaze, consider, contemplate, and imitate the one on the cross – and so become transformed and beautiful in the light of such love. She would have us be confident in the one “in Whose embrace we are already caught up” (Clare of Assisi’s letters to Agnes of Prague). St. Francis, her dear friend, focuses on following in the footsteps of Christ. We are all invited to live and to die as Jesus lived and died. And to love each other, creation, the universe – ALL – as we live, by giving all we are to whatever and whoever is in our specific vocational and daily path.
Jesus indeed may be heard praying today, “I place my life in your hands.” May he teach us, each and all, the way to living self giving love. May we find the joy in living and giving this way – as it is what we are created to be and do. And, in little and big moments, may we draw strength from our relationship with the one who lived this in his human life too and who told us he would be with us always. With him, and in the courage of the Spirit, perhaps may we learn to pray too “I place my life in your hands” over and over, until the day we too are the ebbing tide on the way to the vast ocean. That moment’s ability to hand over life will be informed by all these others. And we will have learned by then, with Jesus, to hand it over to friends, to God, to ministry, to mission, to healing, to compassion, to making a difference, to showing God’s presence in the world.
This Good Friday may we know how deep is God’s love for us, and receive it deeply that it may transform us (as Clare advises). And may we look at the cross and the one there, and allow ourselves to see, to witness, perhaps to mourn, to wait. His life and love are not lost, but we must stay by the tombs often in order to come to a new place. I’ll meet you in vigil there, with the women who knew nowhere else to go. Honor the mystery of today, and let it settle about and within you, between and among us.
[* Anthony Gittins speaks of Jesus as the “earthing” of the Missio Dei – God’s mission. I love this way of naming the Incarnation’s reality as God “earthed”.]