Saturday, November 07, 2009

The final loss…

The Church is called to announce the Good News of Jesus to all people and all nations. Besides the many works of mercy by which the Church must make Jesus’ love visible, it must also joyfully announce the great mystery of God's salvation through the life, suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus. The story of Jesus is to be proclaimed and celebrated. Some will hear and rejoice, some will remain indifferent, some will become hostile. The story of Jesus will not always be accepted, but it must be told.

We who know the story and try to live it out, have the joyful task of telling it to others. When our words rise from hearts full of love and gratitude, they will bear fruit, whether we can see this or not.

Henri Nouwen, from Bread for the Journey

There is a darkness that we are all led into by our own stupidity, by our own selfishness, blindness, or by just living out of the false self. And there is a darkness that I believe God leads us through for our own enlightenment. In both cases, we have to walk through these dark periods by brutal honesty, confessions, surrenders, letting go, forgiveness, and often by some necessary restitution, apology or healing ritual. I still hear of Vietnam vets who feel they must go back to Vietnam and help some Vietnamese children to be healed.

Different vocabularies would have called these acts of repentance, penance, mortification, dying to self, or ego stripping. By any account it is major surgery and surely feels like dying (although it also feels like immense liberation). We need help and comfort during these times. We must let ourselves be led by God and also by others. But how can we know the light if we’ve never walked through the darkness?

Richard Rohr, from Hope Against Darkness, pp. 165, 173

I honestly believe that the process Rohr describes is what Jesus was describing when he spoke of taking up one’s cross to follow him, of losing one’s life in order to save it (Luke 9:23-24). This loss of ourselves is true poverty. We speak of “making losses” in business, we speak of losing friends, losing social standing; but these are mere shadows, pre-echoes, of this final loss.

Only when we have faithfully followed our Saviour on the way of the Cross will we have any witness to bring to others. If we have not done this, we shall have nothing to say.

I think in our own time, as in any other probably, too few people realise just what we are called to as Christians. It is far too easy to stop and merely enjoy the social, musical, companionable, comforting aspects of church (good and lovely as they are) and miss the heart of the matter. I think this is what Jesus was getting at when he said, “…small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matthew 7:14 NIV) This is anything but elitist. All are called to follow Jesus; it is only our own reluctance to walk through the darkness of confession and surrender that holds us back from finding the way to life. May our Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on us sinners, truly…


  1. Yes, may the Lord have mercy...

    Thank you for this Mike. I've missed stopping by.

  2. The whole direction of current "self-help" is towards the instantaneous, isn't it? From The Secret onwards. I was interested to read Malcolm Gladwell's latest book, Outliers, in which he observes hugely successful people in different fields and finds the commonality that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to go beyond acceptable to really, really good at something, whether it's music, chess or computing.
    I know that's not exactly what you're talking about, but with all the resurgence of "spirituality" these days, I think we are after the pretty bits, the experiences. I know I'm guilty of that myself.
    Peeling back the layers of self that Rohr speaks of is terrifying. It's a form of death.