‘He goes before us…’: Do we desire life, do we long for freedom, do we want the love that is stronger than death, and the joy that makes our lives complete, then we must follow. Holy Week is like a ‘bas relief’ painting: it puts front and center the Paschal Mystery, a mystery that is woven in our lives. Our lives are stamped with the ‘paschal mystery’, stamped with this paradigm of Life that rises up out of death, the precious life that expands, with each surrender to the Divine will. We are to follow with a living faith…a faith alive, a faith that can move mountains of doubt and transform negativity, despair, and hopelessness. He goes before us showing us the Way, embodying the Way that is to be our way to life and unconditional love. He goes before us right now. What will this ‘renewed encounter with Jesus’ offer us, what will it ask of us, what will it open up for us as we follow?
The Holy Thursday liturgy revolves around two rituals: the Eucharist and the washing of the feet. I continue to re-read Br. Christophe’s journal, Born From the Gaze of God. It is one of those books where entries that I did not focus on before suddenly jump out and speak new things that were not there before! The three short, pithy texts that I will read give us a glimpse into Christophe’s encounter with Jesus. To me these texts express Eucharist and what Jesus is communicating in the washing of his disciples’ feet. The first: “To be sowers of love just where we are” (p.xiv). Next: “It’s better to be the Body of your Presence resolutely and simply, to be simply there in a relation of love, vulnerable, exposed” (p.xiv). The third: “Yes, to be your body here” (p.8). These words of Christophe bring Eucharist into daily life; they are a way of washing another’s feet in whatever relationships we meet in ordinary moments of our lives. We are called, each one of us, to be Christ’s body, the body of his Presence as we follow the Way of the gospel.
What is the force, the power behind the Paschal Mystery? It is Love…unconditional Love. This is what comes to us in the encounter. As we receive this Gift, we are transformed within our heart’s depths and almost imperceptibly we begin to embody this same unconditional Love….Of course, we will fall many times along the way. Still, with each ‘renewed encounter with Christ’, we will once again be met by unconditional Love. What will be the outcome if we engage in this living encounter with Love? It will be impossible not to live by and give what we have received. We will be more like Christ in mind and heart, and this will spill over into our choices and relationships.
Listen to another encounter of Br. Christophe: “Since here you are hard at work in my heart. Ah, first of all: disarm it. And if the thing is not too hard—this whole self of mine—purify me then I may perhaps be able to help you a little to LOVE” (p.201). To pray: disarm my heart puts us in relationship, in an encounter with Love. Such an authentic encounter with Christ will disarm us of our defenses, of our false sense of self, of our self-righteousness, of whatever keeps our hearts hardened. This disarming, this opening of the heart, then enables us to receive the Love that is always coming towards us…the Love that can heal and transform the powers of darkness and death. Yes, with this disarmed, converted heart, we become co-workers with Christ, helping to build up this body of God’s Love and Life! And it does not matter what we are doing or how small the act: ‘sowing love right where we are’.
The gift of God’s Son: what we meet in the Eucharist is the gift of God’s unconditional Love…Love incarnate. Through, with and in the One we are following, we encounter a Love that is fully surrendered, the only Love that is stronger than any power of evil and darkness.
I conclude with yet another encounter of Christophe with Jesus:
“Today you tell your terrified disciples to row with the wind against them:
Courage: I am. Do not be afraid.
If one understands the Eucharist, one understands everything” (p.29).