Thoughts of a Catholic convert

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Friday, April 22, 2011

Retreat week 29

I'm not doing so well with week 29, contemplating Jesus dying. I resist believing his death by torture was purposeful, all part of a greater plan that would only be finalized if he was murdered, but then I'm just left with his meaningless suffering :( Anyway, here's part of the retreat material by Larry Gillick SJ for this week ...


For the Journey

[...] We have watched the violence of scourging, crowning with thorns, stumbling under the weight of the cross, and the mockery of his tormenters. Now we stand with Mary where it is not violent but safe. At the foot of the cross we can say anything we want or anything we usually say about ourselves, but those words and images pale in meaning and importance when we stand at his feet and receive what he is saying over us. We are safe here; we stand in the shadow of the cross. This shadow cancels our personal shadows, our guilt and shame. There can be some shame in our spirits flowing from our realization that it has taken all this to impress on us how loved we really have been all during our wanderings and strayings.

As he is dying, the crowds give up their jeering and move away to continue their celebrating of the Passover within the city of Jerusalem. We stay in the quiet celebration of the “new and everlasting covenant.” Doubts and fears have chased most of his friends away, but he has remained faithful, and we pray to receive encouragement to our staying faithful to him. Away from the shadow of the cross, our shadows lengthen and our past infidelities incline us to not believe and not receive all that he has said about us while on his journey to the cross of cancellation. We gratefully return to our watching place, his watching place. We listen to his final benediction and pledge of faith in his Father’s care.

Ignatius asks those making the Exercises to quietly receive at this second Eucharistic celebration all that is offered. We look up at this cruciform altar and ponder the words of the prophet Isaiah: “Here is the Servant of the Lord. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief and we esteemed him not” (Isaiah 53:3). We pray with our hands open to accept this mystery of our being loved this much and for always. At the foot of the cross our arguments falter and our questions about worthiness are rendered absurd. We watch, we listen, we are safe, and we find ourselves created anew, again ....



Blogger Matthew said...

Based on what's come after the crucifixion, I think it would be hard for anyone -- even an atheist -- to call Jesus' suffering "meaningless". Right?

6:46 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Matthew,

Yes, in that context, it's not meaningless.

But I was thinking - if atonement theory is something that was more or less constructed by early Christians to give meaning to Jesus' execution, in the face of what must have seemed to them like a surprise ending to his ministry, then does the resurrection have to be intrinsically linked to his murder? I mean, is there any reason to suppose that the resurrection only happened because Jesus died a violent death, that God would not have resurrected him if he'd lived into old age or even just a few years later? If the resurrection, which is the wonderful thing about Easter, would have happened to Jesus no matter how or when he died, then to me, at least, his suffering in crucifixion seems meaningless.

But this could just be crazy talk, me trying as hard as ever to not do the crucifixion contemplation ;)

6:55 PM  
Blogger BillsBlog said...

the story of Jesus is really nice, but it is also just a reworking of several pagan rituals and myths about death and rebirth three days later. There is really nothing sillier than attaching signifigance to "Easter", which is a pagan holiday, even named after a goddess of reproduction and fertility and ergo, all the eggs and rabbits. It is total nonsense, so don't let it get to you. On the other hand, there is a certain human truth that, in the death of tragedy, there is generally resolution of rebirth in three days. Chin up. Become a Buddhist. The Catholic thing is such nonsense!

6:19 AM  
Blogger BillsBlog said...

Oh Matthew. Please.

6:20 AM  
Blogger crystal said...

I did give some time to Buddhism but it just wasn't satisfying for me. The four noble truths, the idea that life is suffering and detachment from desire is the way to get around this struck me as depressing (and hopefully untrue). The (Catholic) spirituality of Ignatius of Loyola suits me better - in that, desire is what holds everything together.

12:35 PM  

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