“Jesus emptied himself…”
– Philippians 2:7
My Dear Friends in Christ,
It’s an overwhelming Gospel reading. It is filled with strong historical characters involved in dramatic actions. It’s an uncomfortable Gospel dealing with violence and brutality, persecution, and hatred. Even sanitized, it is gruesome and graphic, both about the physical violence and about human nature. It’s about important people misusing power and authority to silence an inconvenient voice and example, to manipulate the crowd, to forward their agenda and get what they want. It is also a familiar story and, in rushing through it, I often miss a great deal of what is there. Sad to say, not just the small things, but important ones that can help unpack how God is at work. And it’s a long story, the length of which opens many doors for distraction.
There are many ways we can look at it: exegetical analysis of the scriptural text; scientific analysis of the physical descriptions of activity and bodily harm; psychological analysis of the major players, good and bad, and how they respond; historical analysis seeking to get to the truth of what actually happened; and, literary analysis of the text. All of these factors tend to distract me from the heart of the matter: this gospel is ultimately a love story. It is a love story of and from one who is infinitely creative, stridently determined, incredibly focused, strikingly vulnerable, pointedly gentle even in the face of violence and mockery. Ultimately, it is a love story that focuses on one who is absolutely generous, and open in what he offers: Himself.
Use what I call the 7/7 rule: Take 7 minutes each day over the next 7 days to pray. Objectively, it’s not a long time and surely you can find it. Spend the first minute telling God where you are, and the last minute asking God for what you need. But leave the 5 minutes in between for God. Allow God to delight in you and strengthen you. I guarantee you that God will make use of the time you offer if you can focus on your offer rather than the reward. Together, let us pray for one another and for all those who will come to encounter Christ during this Lent. Pray that through the intercession of Saint Joseph they might be cared for and watched over by the God who loves us and draws us close.