Today's Wisdom

Those who do not pass from the experience of the cross to the truth of the resurrection condemn themselves to despair! For we cannot encounter God without first crucifying our narrow notions of a god who reflects only our own understanding of omnipotence and power
Pope Francis

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Way of the Resurrection: Imitation of Christ on the Cross and Saints

I want to first thank our Lord Jesus Christ for his outpouring love which I believe, with the Church, that it is the essence of God. “God is Love” says St. John the Apostle. There is no Resurrection without the Cross. And to imitate Christ on his cross, I must start with imitation in the anthropology of homo sapiens. Imitation is one of the traits that distinguish the human race. Very young kids imitate their parents, and we, too, adults imitate others. This is one of the ideas of René Girard’s mimetic theory. Girard, a member of l’academie francaise and retired Professor of civilization at Stanford University has challenged the academic world with his insight into generative anthropology, psychology, evolutionary sciences and Biblical studies. His multi-disciplinary approach has also impacted post-modern philosophers. This research correcting the great Jean Piaget was confirmed by Giacomo Rizolatti, and his neuroscientists team in 1996 in their discovery of the mirror neurons. According to Girard, much of our desires’ outcomes are the result of mimesis (imitation). A man desires a woman more strongly when he perceives that his model, his brother for example, also desires her. By the same token, I imitate leaders/artists/politicians/academics that were/are models to me. I also imitate the good saints if they influence me. For so long, I regarded great saints as my model. I am sure that many people admire saints such as the Virgin Mary. The Virgin Mary points us to Christ. Many Muslims, like Christians, venerate her even though they stop short of worshiping her son. Most people shy away from declaring their faith for fear of social or political pressure in secular countries, or worse, in dictatorial countries, for fear of violence/vengeance against them. This leads me to talk about one courageous woman whose love of Christ made her imitate him. She has been recognized all over the world as the saint of Calcutta. I was reading last night the “private writings of Mother Teresa” who passed away in 1997 and was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 2003. One of Mother Teresa’s private letters addressed to her spiritual director, Jesuit Fr. Joseph Nuener in 1961 says this (Focus here) “In Loreto, Father, I was very happy – I think the happiest nun. Then the call came. Our Lord asked directly – the voice was clear & full of conviction. – Again & again He asked in 1946. – I knew it was He. Fear & terrible feelings – fear lest I was deceived. – But as I have always lived in obedience – I put the whole thing before my spiritual father – hoping the whole time that he will say – it was all devil’s deception, but no–like the voice– he said–it is Jesus who is asking you–& then you know how it all worked out –My Superiors sent me to Asanol 1947– and there as if Our Lord just gave Himself to me– to the full. The sweetness & consolation & union of those 6 months–passed but too soon. And then the work started –in Dec. 1948. –By 1950 as the number of the Sisters grew–the work grew. – Now Father–since 49 or 50 this terrible sense of loss–this untold darkness–this loneliness–this Continuing longing for God–which gives me that pain deep down in my heart.–Darkness is such that I really do not see–neither with my mind nor with my reason.–The place of God in my soul is blank.–There is no God in me.–When the pain of longing is so great–I just long & long for God–and then it is that I feel–He does not want me–He is not there.”(Kolodiejchuk, 2007, Pp. 209-210). The missionary she founded “The Missionaries of Charity” expanded far beyond her expectations, not only in India but also in Europe and North America. Many people converted to the Catholic faith when they saw her example. Nevertheless, Teresa endured her night of darkness for 50 years. She did not waver in her love of Christ. She said in another letter to the same priest “No Father, I am not alone - I have His Darkness – I have His pain ­– I have the terrible longing for God–to love and not be loved.” (Kolodiejchuk, 2007, P. 225). She wanted in her mission to satiate the thirst of Jesus on the cross for souls. In her response to Archbishop Perier in 1956, Mother Teresa showed her determination to accept anything Jesus would permit in order to satiate his thirst for souls: “Please pray for me, that I may please God to lift this darkness from my soul for only a few days. For sometimes the agony of desolation is so great and at the same time the longing for the Absent One so deep, that the only prayer which I can still say is - Sacred Heart of Jesus I trust in Thee – I will satiate Thy thirst for souls” (Kolodiejchuk, 2007, P165). Jesuit Fr. Edward Oakes commented on Mother Teresa’s doubts and desolation revealed in 2007 in an article published in First Things. He said this “Mother Teresa's darkness was a direct result of the actions of Jesus on her soul. She first felt the call to leave her original order, the Sisters of Loreto, and establish a new order, the Missionaries of Charity, when she heard the voice of Jesus say, "I thirst." That is, he thirsted in the poor; and when in obedience to him, she turned to the destitute to slake that thirst, she became Christ's own chosen instrument, living out the same reparative suffering that had already brought redemption to the world—but which now has to be continued by the members of his Body, the Church. In other words, to understand the reality of her experience of darkness, one must turn, yet again, to St. Paul, who said: "I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions, for the sake of his Body" (Col. 1:24). Thus, far from representing a temptation to infidelity, Mother Teresa's darkness was the truest indication of her fidelity to Christ and to his ongoing work of redeeming the world, mediated through the suffering members of his Church. No wonder, then, that, except for a few captious and frightened atheists, the world—and not just Catholics—has so quickly and readily recognized her as a saint. Because she is one.” (Oakes, 2007). In His death, Christ experienced hell. His thirst on the cross is in need of such souls as Mother Teresa. She, as many before her, participated in the sufferings of Christ so as to share in his Resurrection. References: Kolodiejchuk, B. (2007). Mother Teresa – Come Be My Light, The Private Writings of the “Saint of Calcutta,” Image-Double Day. Oakes, E. (2007). Does Doubt Belong to Faith?, First Things, October 2007 issue.

Today's Quote

"Behold I make all things new." (Revelation 21:5)


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