Saturday, June 09, 2012
When St Paul invites us to become other Christs, when he says to us, “In your minds you must be the same as Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5), it seems as if he proposing an impossible ideal. The gap between the sinless Christ and myself seems unbridgeable. But when we take the incarnation more seriously, when we look upon Christ in his humanity and in full acceptance of all the limitations that implied, we can begin to have a better idea of what Paul is proposing. Jesus emptied himself and lived a life of total trust in his Father’s loving providence. He worked no miracles for himself but depended completely on his Father. Jesus lived this life of trust out to the very end when his Father seemed far away, as on Calvary. Shortly after crying out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” he can serenely let go his life and fall back into his Father’s arms. It is here in this life of total trust in the Father that you and I can be like our Saviour.
Consider this modern humorous parable. An atheist who is a keen mountain climber is climbing a high and difficult peak. He is all alone, way up on the mountain height. He is crawling along a narrow ridge. He moves with great care as there is an immense drop over the side. Then, despite all his experience, his foot slips and he tumbles over the edge. A small tree is growing out of the wall of the cliff and as he falls he grabs a branch of the tree. Hanging there and peering down into the depths below, he has second thoughts about religion and cries out to God for help. The only answer to his cry is the echo of his own voice. He tries again, “Oh, God, help me and I will believe in you!” Again the only answer is an echo. He cries out again, “Please, God, help me. If you help me I will do anything you ask.” This time the silence is broken by a mighty voice booming out over the valley. The voice says, “That’s what they all say when they are in trouble.” The excited converted athiest shouts back, “No, God. I am different from the others. I really will do anything you ask.” “All right then”, answers the voice, “let go the branch!”
This little parable describes the bottom line of faith. “Let go the branch”. I have a poster which shows a kitten hanging from a height and looking down in terror. The caption reads, “Faith is not faith, till it’s all you have to hang on to.”
“Let go the branch.” To me this is what Jesus had to do on Calvary. He hung from the tree of the cross very much alone. Friends had deserted him. The leaders had rejected him and even God seemed far away. His act of death was a letting-go of the branch of the tree of the cross. It was his own deliberate act of trust. “No one takes my life from me; I lay it down of my own free will” (John 10:18). He let go and fell back into his Father’s arms. He is safely caught and lifted back to to life. It is because of this immense trust that we, his followers, can serenely let go in death and know that we do not plunge into an abyss but fall gently into the Father’s arms.
In a beautiful scripture image God said that he carried his chosen people to safety on “eagle’s wings” (Exodus 19:4). I never realised the beauty and power of this image until a scripture scholar explained it to me. The mighty eagle lives way up in the mountain peaks. It nests on a narrow ledge overlooking a deep valley. There the eagle hatches her young. When it is time to train the young birds to fly, the mother takes the young bird and places it on her back and then flies over the valley. At a great height the mother eagle turns over and drops her young bird into space. The little bird tumbles helplessly down through the air. As it falls, it furiously flaps its stunted wings. As yet they are not sufficiently developed to enable the young bird to fly successfully. All the while the mother eagle is circling round the little bird as it plummets down. After some minutes, the mother bird sweeps under the fledgling, catches it on her broad wing and gently flies back up to the ledge and safety.
In his teaching, Jesus invited us to look at the birds of the air and learn from them about our heavenly Father and his concern for us. If a mother eagle can so care for her young and not allow it to fall to destruction, what about our heavenly Father? Will he allow his beloved Son Jesus to fall to destruction and final death? Jesus banked his life on the certainty that his Father would catch him. His trust was vindicated. Our faith says he did all this for us. He lived for us, died for us and he rose for us. What are we learning as we contemplate his death and resurrection? Are we discovering the hidden meaning and being nourished?
• adapted from the book: Give God a Chance, by Robert Kelly SJ
Dear children, I call you to accompany me in my mission of God with an open heart and complete trust. The way on which I lead you, through God, is difficult but persevering and in the end we will all rejoice through God. Therefore, my children, do not stop praying for the gift of faith. Only through faith will the Word of God be light in this darkness which desires to envelop us. Do not be afraid, I am with you. Thank you. Medjugorje message, October 2, 2007
Posted by bg at 9:48 pm