At Calvary …

The years I spent in vanity and pride,
Caring not my Lord was crucified,
Knowing not it was for me He died
On Calvary.

    • Refrain:
      Mercy there was great, and grace was free;
      Pardon there was multiplied to me;
      There my burdened soul found liberty
      At Calvary.

Oh, the love that drew salvation’s plan!
Oh, the grace that brought it down to man!
Oh, the mighty gulf that God did span
At Calvary!

The Paradox of the Cross and Christian Freedom

I have posted before my thoughts and questions on Why the Cross in which I asked “What did Jesus come to save us from”.

Whereas I fumbled with my answers   – this post on an Ignatian Spirituality website  (quoted  in its entirety), gives a beautifully simple answer to the question I had posed.

road - freedom theme

Jesus came to set us free. From what?

The kind of freedom Ignatian spirituality preaches is freedom from the attachments, fears, and blockades that inhibit our human flourishing.

One of those blockades, sin, is more than choosing to do wrong. Sin includes operating our lives from a place of fear—preventing us from being our truest selves. Blockades to the freedom of our flourishing are those places in our lives that seem comfortable and safe but in truth keep us stagnant in faith and keep us from our dreams.

For instance, in marriage I might like to keep an escape hatch open so I can get out “just in case.” What seems to be the freedom of keeping options open prevents me from genuine commitment. When the thought of financial freedom keeps me in a job that drains the life from me and does not utilize my gifts, I’m impeded from the freedom of developing my gifts. The fear of change and endless “what-if” scenarios may cause me to freeze in the safety of my current life situation.

The paradox of Christian freedom is that when we take risks and make choices, we don’t restrict our freedom; we increase it. God calls us to have freedom from our fears and attachments so that we may have the freedom for a full life. When we cling to our comfort zone in fear we sin, a sign that the evil spirit is trying to prevent us from fully living out God’s call. We must allow Jesus to lift our burdens from us!

The genuine freedom that comes from following the call of God to let go of the illusory “safe path” leads to greater trust in God and one another. When we let go of unhealthy attachments, fears, and other blockades, we gain the freedom to be our best selves, our most whole selves. And then our dreams can unfold, our relationships can be more trusting, and we can cultivate our gifts and talents in new ways.

Source: The Paradox of Christian Freedom – Ignatian Spirituality

Spiritual Freedom

Freedom birds from cage

Freedom from what binds us

Spiritual freedom is an interior freedom, a freedom of the mind and heart.  People who are spiritually free know who they are – with all of their gifts and limitations – and are comfortable with who they are.  ** 

When we let go of unhealthy attachments, fears, and other blockades, we gain the freedom to be our best selves, our most whole selves.

** See Day 3 of following link for full quote on Spiritual Freedom 

Picture Credit :  found on various sites on internet.  Have not been able to obtain original source.

When love cripples

Once a little boy  playing outdoors found a fascinating caterpillar. He carefully picked it up and took it home to ask his mother if he could keep it. She said he could if he would take good care of it.

The little boy got a large jar and put plants to eat, and a stick to climb on, into the jar. Every day he watched the caterpillar and brought it new plants to eat.

One day the caterpillar climbed up the stick and started acting strangely. Worried, the boy called his mother who understood that the caterpillar was creating a cocoon. She explained to him how the caterpillar would go through a metamorphosis and become a butterfly. chrysalys The little boy was thrilled to hear about the changes his caterpillar would go through. He waited every day for the butterfly to emerge. One day, a small hole appeared in the cocoon and the butterfly started to struggle to come out.

At first the boy was excited, but soon he became concerned. The butterfly was struggling so hard to get out it looked like it couldn’t break free!  It looked like it was making no progress! 

The boy was so concerned he decided to help. He got a scissors and very carefully snipped the cocoon to make the hole bigger. The butterfly quickly emerged! As the butterfly came out the boy was surprised to find it had a swollen body and small, shrivelled wings. He continued to watch it, expecting that at any moment, the wings would dry out, enlarge and expand to support the swollen body. He knew that in time the body would usually shrink and the butterfly’s wings would expand. But neither happened! untitledinjured butterflywikicommons The butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and shrivelled wings. It never was able to fly…

As the boy tried to figure out what had gone wrong, his mother explained to him: the butterfly was SUPPOSED TO STRUGGLE. In fact, the butterfly’s struggle to push its way through the tiny opening of the cocoon pushes the fluid out of its body and into its wings. Without the struggle, the butterfly would never, ever fly. The boy’s good intentions had hurt the butterfly. “

Excessive zeal, love and care of parents for their children, spouses for each other, and elders towards children, can sadly and often cripple growth of the people they are trying to help.

Parents who fear their children will be rejected and  try to make them perfect – to ‘conform’ to peer standards – cripple a child’s ability to accept himself as he is.  He will always strive to be perfect before he can be accepted.

Jesuit Priest Anthony de Mello was very critical of the popular phrase “I’m OK, you’re OK” which sends a deep message to the subconscious that you have to be OK to be accepted.  We should rather, he suggests, keep reminding ourselves and our children “its OK to be not OK!”  

Parents who are too protective of their children and curtail their movements out of fear, send out subtle messages of doubt, timidity, lack of courage and inability to cope with dangers that may surface. Do not let fear cripple. Better rather to warn your children of these dangers, role play how to handle them and send them out with courage, hope and confidence in their ability to cope.

I know a girl who was at risk for epileptic seizures. Her parents were so scared to send her out,  she lived and died not ever leaving the confines of her home except with her mother or father.  Love and parental fear crippled her.  The words of the song by Leeanne Rhymes are a poignant reminder of “the soul so afraid of dying that it never learns to live”. 

They say “love must be tough’.  I think this means we should learn to let go and learn to love with the ‘good’ of the object of our love being the primary focus.

I know another beautiful and talented child – a slow learner in academic studies – but with sharp observation skills and with it an outstanding talent for  imitation and drama. Unfortunately, because our society believes you need the three R’s (Reading, wRiting and ‘Rithmetic)  to be a ‘whole’ person, she is considered ‘mentally challenged’,  cosseted and treated her like a five year old without realisation of how crippling this action is.  Sadly, who she is or can be is mirrored in the low expectations of people around her.  They think she can never crawl out of the cocoon alone and so she never is given the opportunity to struggle, to strengthen her latent and unique talents, and soar.

Parents,  spouses, elders … we need to keep the story of the boy and the caterpillar in mind.  Actions, albeit of love, can stifle growth;  ‘help’ can  be a hindrance to progress. Fear for safety paralyses and encourages doubts, anxiety, lack of confidence. Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust God and let go.  He who takes care of the lilies of the field and the caterpillars in their cocoon will fulfil his plan for your little caterpillars,  for they are His beloved children.

May we always give our children the freedom to struggle, to take their own time to strengthen their wings, to be who they were created to be,  so they may one day soar to the heavens. imagesKF0LHI4Itelepic.netimagesB8OMQEU7programs.omsi.edu

WHY THE CROSS?

"The Son of Man came ... to give his life as a ransom for many."  Mark 10:45.

“The Son of Man came … to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45

With all thy getting, get an understanding  (Proverbs 4:7)

 On his death bed, Pope John XXIII (whose vision convened Vatican II) had stated:

“It’s not the Gospel that has changed, it is just that we can understand it better.” 

I find this statement so comforting when I grapple with questions like the meaning and purpose of the Cross – for I am a Doubting Thomas by nature.   I could not accept a+ b = c in Algebra without questioning why a or b etc. .. so it is no surprise I had difficulty accepting the statement of faith that Jesus died to save us from our sins: that he gave his life as a ransom for many that so many Christians accept without question.

Sure, I accepted it as a child.  But when the age of  so called reason hit me, what was black and white became grey, cloudy, and foggy. I realized I could not give a proper explanation if a non-Christian asked me how Christ’s death on the cross saved us from our sins  – and why God wanted such a sacrifice from his Son. I found myself fumbling to explain what I did not understand.

  1. He gave himself as the perfect sacrifice as a ransom for many. 
 I wondered if was just and fair.  Did God really want this sacrifice ?
  1. We are “saved” by his death. 
How exactly can his death ‘save’ us?  I sincerely wanted explanations. Could we not have been “saved” another way?  
  1. What is my sin that deserved such a death?
I don’t  think I commit any big sins that warrant Jesus dying on the cross for me. Maybe that alone makes me a sinner! 

Like the Jews, I too had  questions on the scandal of the cross, (1 Cor. 1.18-21) so I dug deep for answers.

  • I learned about the Jewish/Old Covenant tradition of sacrificial atonement, the unblemished lamb and the scapegoat tradition linked with the Passover.
  • I understood much more the beautiful connection to the Paschal mystery of the New Covenant.
  • I realised that the Hebrew people, though saved from death by the cross marked in blood on the lintel of the  doorpost (Exodus 12.7),  still had to journey to the Promised Land.
  • I accept that we too,  even though marked by the blood of the Cross of Jesus, still have to undertake our own Exodus from this life to the next.
  • I am also now closer to understanding that it was not only by Christ’s death on the Cross that we have been saved but by his whole life and works. His passion and death was a culmination of his life and mission.

I believe we could have been saved even without a death on the Cross if we had accepted Him and His message.  But fickle human beings that we are, we may not have accepted his message of ETERNAL LIFE or more importantly, believed in the resurrection from the dead, unless we witnessed it for ourselves.  So his very visible death was for those like me  -like Thomas -who loudly, arrogantly  proclaim that we have to ‘see’ to believe.

The consolation is that He my creator, knows our weaknesses and he gently invites us to probe deeper into Him,  to put our distrusting fingers in his wounds as he responded  to Thomas  … “Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe !! ” 

"You have believed because you have seen.  Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe."  John 20:29

“You have believed because you have seen. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” John 20:29

And I also believe that His suffering and ignominious death  underscored His fundamental message – the paradox of  ‘death for life’:

 “Most assuredly I say to you … unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” (John 12:23-25)

“If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:24-25)

The Cross underscores the message of giving up to your life to find new life with the Father  “… for what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and suffers the loss of his own soul?” (Mark..36)   and is thus the ultimate and perfect symbol of :

  • Standing up for truth and justice –  for GOD –  even at cost of your life.
  • Moving away from the things that separate us from goodness and moving towards the source of all goodness
  • Restoring lives created in the image and likeness of God,
  • Exchanging a shallow living for eternal abundant life – DIVINE EXCHANGE .

His detractors thought they could quell his message by his death ….  yet even his death, Jesus’ message was the paradox of LIFE – for he lives amongst us still:

“Saul Saul .. why do you persecute ME”  Acts 9:4

No room for doubt here. He lives amongst his people. 

——————————-

So I found some answers to my question … “Why the Cross?   I can’t say that I have found all the answers, but I have found enough to embrace  – to wrap my arms around, to cling to that precious Cross.

What then of the answer taught in catechism that “he died to save us from our sins” ?

I would respond it is a doctrinal answer given – the wondrous paschal mystery explained in a brief dogma,  until you can find the answer and the meaning of the Cross for yourself.

And when you do, chances are you too will give the same answer  …  for there are few words that can capture the glorious essence of the saving power of the Cross.  

I would like to invite you to share your experience, love and hope in the Cross with other believers to strengthen and help fellow travellers.

Reflections on the Cross of Christ from the early church fathers
What Happened on the Cross, by John Damascene
A Few Drops of Blood Renew the Whole World, by Gregory Nazianzen
What We Behold on the Cross, by Augustine
Contemplating the Lord’s Passion by Leo the Great
The Lamb that was Slain by Melito of Sardis
The Power of the Blood of Christ by John Chrysostom
By One Death and Resurrection the World Was Saved by Basil
The Life-giving Cross of Christ by Theodore the Studite
Let us too glory in the Cross by Augustine
The Cross of Christ by Leo the Great
The Body of Christ Gives Life to Those Who Receive It, by Cyril of Alexandria
The Death of Death by Augustine

Photo credit:  The Cross – divinemercychurch.com.

Doubting Thomas – numerous sites; source unknown.

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“Prisoner, who was it that bound you?”

chains   paul in prison

The question Tagore posed to ‘The Prisoner’ was asked of me recently when I passed up a glorious opportunity.

I was driving to work  when the tri-shaw ahead of me slowed to a standstill. Wondering what the problem was for the road was clear of traffic,  I overtook him.  And there on the road ahead was an enchanting sight indeed –  although I did not realise it at that time. Continue reading