Wednesday, September 14, 2011 — Week of Proper 19, Year One
Holy Cross Day
Today’s Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer)
EITHER the readings for Wednesday of Proper 19 (p. 984)
Psalms 72 (morning) 19:73-96 (evening)
1 Kings 22:1-28
1 Corinthians 1:1-13
OR the readings for Holy Cross Day, (p. 999)
Morning Prayer: Psalms 66; Numbers 21:4-9; John 3:11-17
Evening Prayer: Psalms 118; Genesis 3:1-15; 1 Peter 3:17-22
For Holy Cross Day
Sometimes I do my own form of anthropomorphising the story of Jesus’ death. Maybe I’m using that word wrong, but here’s what I do. I wonder how I would have interpreted what was happening, had I been Jesus, when the bottom fell out of Jesus’ mission and ministry, and he had to face the time of trial. I wonder how I would have reacted. Would I have resisted the inclination to despair and depression?
I know I am too motivated by results. I want things to work out for the best. I like to see a plan start, to solve the inevitable problems, and get it to a place where it is working. Then I like to go to the next plan. I like to see things improve.
At my healthiest, I can do the best I can do right here, right now, and let go of most of my attachment to results. I can be patient as we tweak a plan, solve problems, and work now for something that is likely to come to fruition in the future. I tend to be an optimist, to keep plugging away and hope that things will get better. But if I get to the place where I’m having a hard time imagining that something is going to work out eventually, I tend to get stuck.
I can imagine the excitement that Jesus might have felt working with people day by day, bringing a bit of light and healing and coherence to their lives. Sometimes I get to do that myself. I can imagine his sense of process as he slowly puts together his team of disciples and watches them become more empowered and loving, despite the occasional quarrels and pettiness. I can enjoy his joy in teaching and telling stories that help others bring new perspective and clarity to a greater reality. What joy it is to connect people with God.
But when it all falls in around his ears, and his doom seems certain, how did he move through that? When it looks like everything he had worked for would probably be destroyed, how did he face that faithfully? How might I have moved through that? When he had to give up all that seemed good and satisfying and hopeful in his life and work, how did he remain coherent?
I’m reminded of a quote from a letter from Thomas Merton:
Do not depend on the hope of results. …You may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results but on the value, the truth of the work itself. And there too, a great deal has to be gone through, as gradually you struggle less and less for an idea and more and more for specific people. The range tends to narrow down, but it gets much more real. In the end, it is the reality of personal relationships that saves everything…
…there is no point in building our lives on …personal satisfaction, which may be denied us and which after all is not that important. …You are probably striving to build yourself an identity in your work, out of your work and your witness. You are using it, so to speak, to protect yourself against nothingness, annihilation. That is not the right use of your work. All the good that you will do will come not from you but from the fact that you have allowed yourself, in obedience of faith, to be used by God’s love. Think of this more and gradually you will be free from the need to prove yourself, and you can be more open to the power that will work though you without your knowing it…
The real hope, then, is not in something we think we can do, but in God who is making something good out of it in some way we cannot see.
(Thomas Merton, quoted by Robert J. Wicks, Living Simply in an Anxious World, Paulist, 1988, p. 42)
Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ was lifted high upon the cross that he might draw the whole world to himself: Mercifully grant that we, who glory in the mystery of our redemption, may have grace to take up our cross and follow him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.
(The Collect for Holy Cross Day, Book of Common Prayer, p. 244)