The Child on the Cross

Written by: Leticia Cruz

“. . . And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” Luke 2:34

When we think of Jesus, specifically when we look at the crucifix, most of us fail to acknowledge that it was a baby on that cross. A baby who endured the cruelty, the envy of the authorities that handed Him over to Pilate, Judas’ betrayal – His exclamation on Calvary.

Maybe you find yourself thinking that it is foolish to say a baby was crucified. Or maybe, being that babies are the most innocent and beautiful persons on the planet, it sounds like an evil thing to say. However, when we glimpse a little more closely into His passion, we see that we can come to a few conclusions. 1) Jesus was perfectly innocent, 2) He was the most beautiful and innocent person to ever walk the Earth, and 3) Mary saw her baby being crucified. Let’s focus on the third one. (Yes, I realize I repeated His innocence, but it is worth saying a thousand times over.)

It is worth just thinking about – I know Mary thought about it. She was a loving mother and knew her son was the Son of God. She knew it was her baby being tortured and nailed to the Cross, by the Roman soldiers. We have all heard the old adage, “Parents do not stop being parents even when their children are grown.” She knew her innocent baby was dying, and more than that she accepted it because it was her baby’s will to give His life for us. I will hold firmly to the thought that Mary DID acknowledge it was her baby giving His life; that her heart was/is perfectly pure. She really saw God; She really saw her baby. 

Therefore, if we ask Mary for help, we too can see our baby Savior; Jesus on the cross. Thus, we can come to love Him more. Speaking of seeing, it is worth mentioning her gaze. The image of Maia Morgenstern who played the role of Mary in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ comes to mind. Her gaze was amazingly profound and beautiful. The solace expressed in her eyes can help us imagine Mary’s. (I can’t think of a better image to help with this.)

During this season let’s ask Our Lady for help to really see so that our minds and hearts can love the Innocent One. If we can see, with Mary, that her baby, Jesus, was nailed on that day, our love for Him and others will grow. Accepting the sacrificial gift of a perfectly innocent and perfectly beautiful baby Jesus making His life and death a gift for us, is the first step in knowing that we are loved. And because He loves us, we must always love ourselves being that well – He loves us and Mary loves all of her children, even though we are not perfectly beautiful and innocent like our baby Savior.

Happy Lent, and happy awaited Easter.

One Heart Full of Love

One Heart Full of Love By: Mother Teresa of Calcutta Edited by: Jose Luis Gonzalez Balado Published: August 1st, 1988

It has NEVER been my custom to publish a post that is simply one large quotation from another author but this post is an exception. Mother Teresa shared numerous words of wisdom during her lifetime and there are countless books by or about her that capture her view of life as lived in union with God. One book, One Heart Full of Love: Mother Teresa, has a beautiful excerpt that a priest, Father Francis, shared while I was on a private retreat, in one of his weekday homilies. The excerpt was entitled “We Will Be Judged By Our Love” and it had various subheadings. I will share one of them that beautifully describes one fundamental act of love that can be practiced by all of humanity: Self-Gift.

Introduction: “I am deeply grateful to God for allowing me to share with you, so I can bring you the joy and gratitude of our people, the poor, under whose distressing appearance Christ is hidden. You possess a wonderful and noble goal: to try to find ways of putting into practice your love for God and for your neighbor. Faith in action is love, and love in action is service. By transforming that faith into living acts of love, we put ourselves in contact with God himself, with Jesus our Lord.”

Giving and Self-Giving: Some time ago a Hindu gentleman was asked, ‘What is a Christian?’ He gave an answer that was both very simple and surprising. ‘A Christian is someone who gives of himself.’ From the very start, we perceive that indeed to be a Christian is nothing other than to give of oneself for the sake of Christ. God so loved the world that he gave us his son. That was the first act of self-giving. His Son was given to us because he wanted to be one with us, like us in everything except sin.

The son’s coming is ushered in by a new act of self-giving. Christ is given into the care of a woman, the Blessed Virgin Mary, the virgin immaculate. Because of her deep humility and total openness to God, the first thing that occurs to Mary is to share her son with others.

With the attitude of a servant of the Lord, Mary went with haste to share Jesus with others. We know what happened when St. John the Baptist welcomed Jesus while he was still in the womb. Mary’s gift of Jesus filled St. John and his parents with joy when the virgin arrived pregnant with child to visit her cousin Elizabeth.

As if this self-giving, this first self-giving, were not enough, Christ made himself the Bread of Life. He wanted tot give himself to us in a very special way- in a simple, tangible way-because it is hard for human beings to love God whom they cannot see. He made himself the Bread of Life to satisfy our love for God, our hunger for God. We have been created for greater things We have been created in God’s image and likeness. We have been created to love and to be loved.”

Misión Antes De Vocación

En el cumplimiento de sus deberes, que sus intenciones sean tan puras que rechacen de sus acciones cualquier otro motivo que la gloria de Dios y la salvación de las almas.

San Juan Pablo II

Muy a menudo Buscamos entender lo que “la voluntad de Dios es para nosotros”, nos preguntamos “¿Cuál es mi vocación?”. Deseamos ardientemente descubrir la respuesta a esta pregunta y gastarnos en ello. Con celo nos apresuramos y en la oración le preguntamos; No es ningún secreto para los más cercanos a nosotros, aquellos en quienes confiamos. Estamos en un viaje para encontrar ese estado permanente en la vida que nos traerá la plenitud. Y agrada a nuestro Señor encontrar este tipo de celo en nuestros corazones, él de ninguna manera desea que busquemos algo menos. Pero, ¿hemos entrado alguna vez en la quietud del corazón donde Jesús mora y le preguntamos desinteresadamente: “¿Qué es lo que deseas de mí?”

En medio de los estudios, en el corazón de todas las relaciones, en el centro de nuestra espiritualidad, al inicio de cada día, yace una misión que nos ha dado Jesús. Esta misión no requiere discernimiento tangible para encontrar, es y siempre ha estado dentro de la profundidad de nuestro ser y se fortalece con la oración. Esta misión no es más que la gloria de Dios y la salvación de las almas. Una misión más agradable a Dios. Es lo que nos traerá mayor satisfacción.

El momento presente vivido en la presencia de Dios da nacimiento a la pureza de la intención. Esta pureza se caracteriza por tener un resultado deseado único e indiviso para cada acción, palabra y escritura. Es decir, glorificar a Dios y acercar a los demás a su Sagrado Corazón. La vocación vendrá garantizada. Una vez que lo hace, no debemos sorprendernos al descubrir que nuestra misión sigue siendo la misma, sólo toma una expresión diferente. Le complace ver la matriz en la que nos pasamos por su gloria. Nuestro pequeño sacrificio se convierte en Lily pura y nuestra caridad invisible una hermosa rosa. La fragancia de este tipo de vida que se da totalmente al servicio de Dios y el alma del otro se vuelve embriagante, “un alma que es afuego con amor divino no puede permanecer inactiva” (Santa Teresa).

Nos atraemos a lo que es hermoso y bueno. Naturalmente, un alma unida a Jesús se vuelve hermosamente adornada con su bondad y de esta manera somos capaces de atraer a otros hacia él. ¡ De esta manera las almas pueden ser ganadas por Dios! Es fácil de entender pero difícil de vivir. Pero si preservamos el mismo celo retratado en nuestra búsqueda de la voluntad vocacional de Dios y la aplicamos a nuestra misión, todo lo demás tomará su lugar. Incluyendo nuestra vocación.

Surrender to the Unknown

Photo by Nick Belt

“If someone surrenders himself entirely to God resolving to do
anything for Him, the Lord will protect that person from deception.”

-Brother Lawrence

What if we took steps in life with the heart of a child? with no future
steps laid out except the one in front of us. Kind of like a child who
leaps into the back seat of his family car. He, at times, does not know where
he is going but he doesn’t worry because he knows that mom or dad is driving. That is enough to convince him to make an act of trust. What if we look at what Jesus has done or allowed to happen in our lives? We can come to recognize His guiding hand, we can begin to know and love the driver and we too can make an act of trust. At times it feels as if we are at the edge looking out into the abyss of the unknown trying to convince ourselves to jump, not knowing where we will land.

The Lenten season is a very appropriate time to practice not only acts of trust but willful acts of surrender.

A time always comes when we are caught amid living, astonished at how we got where we are and wondering where we are going next. Personal reflection during moments like these usually begin with a plan. There is a plan, an A, B, C type of plan and it usually includes details of what steps to take first and what backup plan to implement in case the first steps backfire. This reaction to life is lead by our intellect and if our intellect alone is heading our implementations we know that we are off to a bad start. 

Planning is not all wrong, it is a part of our participation with the plan
of God for our lives. He does not discourage our efforts, but he does ask us to look at the root of our motivation for planning. What is the engine that powers our motivation for making life choices? Is our mind or our heart the engine? Do we reason our way through life or do we will our way through life? And what role do we give prayer in all of this?

“Whether you eat or drink or speak or converse with a person in the world, or whatever else you do, be ever desiring God and having your heart affectioned to Him, for this is a thing most necessary for interior solitude, which demands that the soul have no thought that is not directed toward God” (St. John of the Cross)

Surrender begins with the exercise of doing God’s will in our daily duties. We exercise surrender of the will daily so that when the time comes to bend to something big in life our will is strong enough to let go of all it was holding on to. Similar to those who exercise their body so that when the time comes to perform, they are not stiff and weak but agile and strong.

Have you ever tried the “trust fall” when you are near a friend or
loved one? you simply fall in their direction without warning? the idea is that you grow in trust when they react quick enough to catch you. These trust falls are necessary in the spiritual life, they are the choices we make in prayer, the choices we make during times of inspiration, they are the life choices we make with a spiritual guide or with blind faith. If they are made in complete surrender to God and are in union with His will, we cannot be deceived, we are not left wondering if we took a step in the right direction.

If our choices are rooted in our desire for God, they will be done with an intention to glorify Him. If we want to make a change in life but we are afraid because it would significantly change everything we’ve known and lived for, we simply must discern the root of the change, what prompted it? what goal do we hope to achieve by it? is it a pure desire? is it from God? Even if it is not clear where it will lead or if it will even work, as long as we trust God with the initial step, “step A” without creating a B, and a C for ourselves, God will bless it and once we take it, he will ask us to take another step and another. Not B, or C steps, but new A steps and each of them requiring a leap of faith into the unknown.

 

Perfecta Caridad

Hace poco leí un libro llamado In the Face of Darkness, por la hermana Timothy Marie Kennedy, O.C.D. y llegué al capítulo 6 donde leí esta cita, “entre Jesús y el alma fluye una corriente que nadie ve y un diálogo que nadie oye”. Entonces pensé: “si nadie ve la corriente que fluye entre tú y Jesús, ¿de qué sirve?”. Debe haber una razón más productiva para que este diálogo suceda que simplemente ser una corriente invisible.

“Entre Jesús y el alma fluye una corriente que nadie ve y un diálogo que nadie oye”. – Madre Luisita

¡Y por supuesto, encontramos que hay un propósito mayor! Dios tiene una razón para todo y la razón de este flujo de diálogo actual e invisible se llama “caridad perfecta”. Esta idea proviene originalmente de las escrituras, entre otros pasajes, se encuentra en Mateo 5:48 “tú, por lo tanto, debes ser perfecto, como tu Padre celestial es perfecto”. Pero ¿cómo podemos imitar su perfección si no sabemos cómo se ve? ¡Ah! Exactamente… ¿Qué pasa si, ¿qué tal si, esa corriente de diálogo que mencionamos anteriormente era una pieza del rompecabezas? ¿Qué pasa si el propósito de este diálogo fuera en aras de una mayor revelación de la perfección?

Jesús quiere amar el alma y hace justamente eso, si el alma está abierta a recibirlo. Es maravilloso tener una dulce corriente de diálogo con Jesús, sentarse en soledad lejos de todo el mundo y mirarlo mirándote fijamente, en silencio. Para experimentarlo en la Eucaristía y sentir el hormigueo de deleite al unirse a él en el amor. Estás construyendo una relación, esto es bueno. Pero la razón por la que él desea entrar en el alma tan mal es doble.

Amor: ¡su misión es usted! Jesús quiere prepararte con un amor transformador que penetra en tu ser y esto se lleva a cabo en los rincones más íntimos de tu corazón, es un asunto privado entre el amante y el amado. Nadie debe ser invitado a esta reunión entre tú y Jesús, sólo tú y él. Diles a todos que se salgan. Hasta…

Eventualmente, usted llegará a darse cuenta para que Jesús estaba preparando su corazón todo este tiempo, con un empujón de la gracia, por supuesto. La intimidad que le permite deleitarse es por el bien de su familiarizándose con su amor. Él quiere que usted (nosotros) entienda el significado del amor y la única manera de hacerlo es entrando en esta escuela de amor con él.

En el momento en que te das cuenta de que el amor está destinado a conducirte a desear el bien del otro, es el momento en que este diálogo interior que sostenía tan querido se convierte repentinamente para el otro. Ya no es sólo tú y Jesús, sino, en su madurez, se convierte en ti, Jesús, y tu prójimo. Esta relación se transforma en una expresión aún más íntima y completa, se transforma en una expresión de amor perfecto.

Perfect Love

I was recently reading a book called In the Face of Darkness, by Sister Timothy Marie Kennedy, O.C.D. and I reached Chapter 6 where I read this quote, “between Jesus and the soul there flows a current that no one sees and a dialogue that no one hears.” Then I thought, if no one sees the current that flows between you and Jesus what good is it? There must be a more productive reason for this dialogue to be happening than simply being an invisible current.

“Between Jesus and the soul there flows a current that no one sees and a dialogue that no one hears.”– Mother Luisita

And of course, we find that there is a greater purpose! God has a reason for everything and the reason for this flow of current and invisible dialogue can be found in something called, “perfect charity”. This idea originally comes from scripture, it can be found, among other passages, in Matthew 5:48 “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” But how can we imitate His perfection if we don’t know what it looks like? Ah! Exactly. . .What if, just what if, that current of dialogue we mentioned earlier was a piece of the puzzle? what if the purpose for this dialogue was for the sake of a greater revelation of perfection?

Jesus wants to love the soul and he does just that, if the soul is open to receive him. It is wonderful to have a sweet current of dialogue with Jesus, to sit in solitude away from the whole world and gaze at him as he gazes at you, in silence. To experience him in the Eucharist and feel the tingle of delight as you join him in love. You are building a relationship, this is good. But the reason he desires to enter the soul so badly is twofold.

Love: His mission is you! Jesus wants to prepare you with a transforming love that penetrates your very being and this takes place in the most intimate recesses of your heart, it is a private matter between the lover and the beloved. No one should be invited into this meeting between you and Jesus, its only you and Him. Tell everyone else to bud out. Until. . .

Eventually, you will come to realize what Jesus was preparing your heart to grasp all along, with a nudge from grace of course. The intimacy that he allows you to delight in is for the sake of your becoming familiar with his LOVE. He wants you (us) to grasp the meaning of love and the only way to do that is by entering into this school of love with him, and every time you freely engage in this inner dialogue the closer you come to understand what exactly he wants you to do with the relationship you are building with him.

The moment you realize that Love is meant to lead you to desire the good of the other, is the moment when this inner dialogue you held so dear suddenly becomes for the other. It is no longer only you and Jesus but, in its maturity, it becomes you, Jesus, and your neighbor. This relationship moves into an even more intimate and complete expression, it moves into an expression of perfect love.