At last the sun is shining as we gather on our final morning for retreat. The sky is a brilliant blue, the leaves below are many shades of green waving in the breeze. Heaven!
After 4 days of wandering in the Old Testament wilderness, we come into the New Testament. Here, the word for wilderness is cross. Our way now is to follow Jesus … to complete the interior dying that he modeled.
This death is not literal, but an internal emptying out, a giving up of control, ego and independence. It’s an embrace of loving obedience.
Of course, this runs counter to the message we get from the world. The world says self-promotion is the way to success!
Jesus’ example shows us otherwise.
Does that mean we should try to make our lives hard? Keep our eyes on the pain and suffering of the cross? Absolutely not. Just because something is hard doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do. We are called to a balanced life – a balanced spirituality! – of loving forgiveness, obedience and mercy.
And the dying part – the emptying out part – is best kept in our interior. The ways we are misunderstood, the ways we’ve been betrayed, the ways we suffer are to be kept secret. Sure, we can look to our confidantes for counsel, but we must resist the urge to say, Look, how I’m hurting, what I’m giving up, how hard my life is! We are not to advertise our pain!
Because when we do, we spread death, not life. When we expose others’ dishonesty or meanspiritedness, we traffic in death. When we share our indignation, hurt and outrage, we don’t follow Jesus’ example of letting those things die in him.
To broadcast our unhappiness is to send it back out into the world. To hate someone who has behaved hatefully toward us is to send the hate back out.
Like Jesus, we must let the hate and anger and indignation die within us. Let the power of the Holy Spirit transform the hate into grace and resurrection.
But while death is private, resurrection is public. It’s our gift to the world! We are called to share our joy, our smiles, our good will. The world needs to see Jesus Christ in us!