Catholic Contextual urban Theology, Mimetic Theory, Contemplative Prayer. And other random ramblings.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Sermon at Parish Mass, Trinity 20 2015

Isaiah 53.4-12
Hebrews 5.1-10
Mark 10.35-45

The three readings we have heard today are like a curtain rising to disclose the mysterious symbol at the heart of our faith: the cross.

We are so used to the cross that it has perhaps lost its power to shock. It is in every church, it stands over every altar, we have it in our homes, we wear it round our necks. Yet what is it? It is the image of a means of cruel and shameful death, and on it a man dying nailed to a piece of wood.

This is a most unlikely image for anything, let alone for a world religion. Who would choose that as their corporate logo? And yet, gazing on it, we see more than meets the eye. The cross shows us God for us, God on our side, God present in the worst that can happen, God present to save us. The cross draws us to the one who is shown on it. “When I am lifted up from the earth”, said Jesus, “I will draw all people to myself”.

The cross is so unexpected that it has to be of God. Only God could make suffering into peace, defeat into victory, death into life. The transformative power of God breaks into the deadlock of human sin and suffering and death, and against all our expectations does something new.

This is foreshadowed in the hauntingly beautiful passage from Isaiah we heard this morning. Most of the time the Old Testament prophets addressed themselves to the needs of the people at the time. If people were acting unjustly or not following God’s ways the prophets would pronounce judgement against them, so that they might repent. If the people were suffering or threatened the Prophets would speak of God’s care for them and his promise of deliverance.

The book of Isaiah is like that, mostly addressed to the needs of the people at the time it was written, and in this section of the book the people were in exile in Babylon.

But in the midst of the words addressed to their present need there comes a series of poems about the “Servant of the Lord”. This is a mysterious figure who suffers and is rejected and yet it is discovered in the end that God was on his side, and working through him. More mysteriously still, it is through his sufferings that many will become righteous, it is through him that sin will be taken away.

Who is this person? The Servant of the Lord doesn’t correspond to anyone in Israel’s history at the time that Isaiah was writing. And yet this poem discloses something of the heart of God. Even if the identity of the Servant was not clear, the poems did assure God’s people that God was with them in their exile, and that God could be trusted to work his purpose out even in the midst of affliction and rejection. God was not absent, even when he seemed to be silent. 

The idea that God can work through suffering and rejection was there in the Jewish tradition and in the scriptures. But it was there in a veiled way. For the disciples, it was not until after the resurrection that it all fell into place, and they were able to see how exactly Isaiah’s “Servant of the Lord” described Jesus. Until that happened, they simply couldn’t understand that the Messiah had to suffer, however often Jesus tried to tell them.

And so James and John, in today’s gospel reading, are still getting it wrong. They think that the Kingdom of God will happen when Jesus drives suffering and oppression away. His glory, they think, is suffering avoided. His victory will come about in the normal human way, by Jesus rising to the top of the heap and crushing everyone else beneath him. And they want to be there with him.

How little they understand. Jesus warns them of the cup and baptism of suffering that he must drink. “To sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” Who are those for whom it has been prepared? Mark tells us in chapter 15 of his gospel: “And with him they crucified two bandits, one on his right and one on his left.” These are the places that James and John think they want to occupy!

The Son of Man, says Jesus, came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. And as the letter to the Hebrews says, Jesus was made perfect through suffering and so became the source of eternal salvation.

Now the rational part of us might want to ask, “How?” How does the death of Jesus bring our peace? How does his suffering earn our salvation? What’s the deal?

The New Testament is full of many images that show us facets of Christ’s saving death. He was paying a ransom, a price to free us from being held captive by death. He was fighting with the powers of evil and defeating them. He was the new Adam, the human race restarted, sharing everything that it is to be human including our suffering and death, so that all humanity might be raised to new life in him. He was showing what the love of God is like, so that we might learn to love. By his voluntary giving of his life he was paying the debt that sinners owe to God.

All of these images are there in scripture, but they are facets of a mystery. And, in the end, the cross itself defeats our attempts at analysis. It shows us a love and mercy beyond anything we can comprehend or define, because it is of God.

Julian of Norwich, the mediaeval mystic, wrote a great deal about the cross in her book “Revelations of Divine Love”. The book, the first written by a woman in English, tells us all that we know about her. It seems that she had been married, but her husband and children had died. Then she herself fell gravely ill and for a week hovered on the brink of death. Then she had a series of visions of Jesus on the cross. She recovered, and spent the rest of her life meditating on what she had seen. This is part of what she wrote:

From the time that [the vision] was shown, I desired often to know what our Lord's meaning was. And fifteen years and more afterward I was answered in my spiritual understanding, thus: 'Would you know your Lord's meaning in this thing? Know it well, love was his meaning. Who showed it to you? Love. What did he show you? Love. Why did he show it? For love. Keep yourself therein and you shall know and understand more in the same. But you shall never know nor understand any other thing, forever.'

The Cross does not take away suffering. It is not death avoided. It is not a sticking plaster on our wound. The cross shows us the heart of God’s love, imprinted with the wounds of our own suffering and sin. And it shows us love victorious, love in the midst of suffering opening the way to the resurrection and the Kingdom of Heaven.

The cross stands at the heart of our faith. We need to forget our familiarity and just stand and gaze as the cross opens to us depths of love that we could never have imagined and can never put into words. The cross silences our theories and questions and explanations and holds us until we know that it reflects back to us both the truth about ourselves and the greater truth, the mercy, love and hope that God has made known.

“'Would you know your Lord's meaning in this thing? Know it well, love was his meaning.”

Sermon at Parish Mass, Trinity 19 2015

Amos 5:6-7, 10-15
Hebrews 4:12-end
Mark 10:17-31

What do you give a man who has everything? Well, the shops are already putting up their Christmas decorations and will soon be urging us to part with more of our cash for this or that present that we must give, or perhaps this or that thing that we want ourselves, and have to get someone else to give to us. And sadly some families will get seriously into debt to buy things they don’t need.
What do you give a man who has everything? The man who kneels before Jesus in today’s gospel seems to be a man who has everything. He is rich, in fact the Greek means that he had many properties: he was a landlord with a large property portfolio. Besides that, he has kept the whole law from his youth onwards – he says. He has everything he needs, he has ticked every box. He is the perfect “self-made man”.
And yet for some reason he feels impelled to run up to Jesus and kneel before him. And he asks, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”. Perhaps this man, in the presence of Jesus, has suddenly caught a glimpse of what the life of God is like, and has seen the contrast with his own life of self-made self-sufficiency. Despite his seeming to possess everything and to have achieved everything, he senses that somewhere there is a huge gap, a deep longing and a desperate need. And it is to Jesus that he feels he must turn.
But Jesus turns the tables on him by saying, “you know the commandments”, implying that those will tell him what he needs to know. But look closely: Jesus has changed one of them. The last commandment, according to Exodus, is “You shall not covet your neighbour’s house; you shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, etc etc.” But Jesus says, instead, “you shall not defraud”. Coveting is desiring what belongs to someone else. And one way to get what belongs to someone else is to defraud them. Perhaps Jesus is probing how this rich man acquired his wealth. How did he come to own his neighbour’s houses?
But the rich man claims to have kept the commandments. And Jesus, we are told, looked at him and loved him, though there is a sharp irony in his response. “There is one thing you lack”, he says - to the man who has everything. And the one thing he lacks is - that he has everything! “Sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then, come, follow me.”
The disciples are puzzled by this, as they often are. They are slow to grasp the radically different nature of God’s kingdom. The rich man’s assumption is that his riches are a sign of God’s favour. That was a common assumption at the time, and the disciples probably shared it.  But Jesus says no, it will be hard for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God. And to underline the point he makes the famous statement that “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
The disciples are astounded by this. Who can be saved? If even the rich, whose wealth must be a sign of God’s favour, will struggle to enter the Kingdom, what hope have the poor got? But yet again, the disciples are getting it wrong.
And indeed Christian disciples down the centuries have found this teaching distinctly uncomfortable, and have tried to take the sting out of it. Mediaeval commentators explained that there was a very small gate in the walls of Jerusalem, called “the eye of the needle”, so low that a camel could only go through on its knees. So Jesus was making a joke, and what he really meant was that you can be rich and get into heaven, provided you say your prayers.
The problem is that there was no such gate in Jerusalem, and there is no such meaning in Jesus’ teaching. Mark’s account couldn’t really be clearer: Jesus means what he says. Riches, possessions, are a huge obstacle to entering the Kingdom.
Why? Because the Kingdom is God’s gift, and not our construction. We have to receive it as gift, and not grasp it as possession.
Also, the Kingdom is God’s rule and justice made real in the world. The inequalities and injustices that lead to a few people being vastly rich whilst many are grindingly poor have no place there. In God’s Kingdom there are no rich and no poor – there are only those who become like little children, that is, like those who possess nothing but receive everything as a gift. For the poor, who already have nothing, it is easier to enter the Kingdom than for the rich, who have so much to lose.
There are implications of this both for society and for ourselves. Economic injustice is part of the sinfulness of the world, which those who enter the Kingdom have to leave behind. There is a gospel imperative to work in this world to overcome those injustices.
But lest we think that this is an excuse to point the finger at other people, we need to remember that the call to conversion begins with ourselves. It is those who hear the Gospel who must change, so that we can enter God’s kingdom. The Kingdom has to become real in our lives so that it can become real in the world around us. We have to live according to the values of the Kingdom if we are to make those values real in the world. So how we handle property, invest money, use our time, and so on, is part of how we are to respond to the call of Jesus.
Jesus invites us to enter God’s kingdom of justice and righteousness. But to do that we must leave behind all that can hold us back. This will be shown in how we behave and live our lives, of course. But it requires a deeper conversion of our hearts, to become like little children. We need to ask ourselves what attachments, possessions and riches we have that will make it hard for us to enter the Kingdom. This could be anything at all that we cling on to, that we fear to surrender. For we are only able to receive God’s kingdom as a gift if we let go of everything else. Do we trust our heavenly Father enough to do that? Do we trust like little children?
The Kingdom of God, ultimately, is about love. The love of God who desires to embrace all in his justice, righteousness and mercy. And what keeps us out, ultimately, is fear. The fear of loss, the fear that makes us cling on to what we think we possess.
But, as St John tells us, perfect love casts out all fear. The Trappist monk Thomas Merton commented on that. He said that love knows no fear because it has already given away everything it owns, and so it has nothing left to lose.
What do you give the man who has everything? Nothing, because he is no longer able to receive. What do you give a child, who possesses nothing but is simply open to receive what is given? The Kingdom of God.

Sermon at Parish Mass Harvest Thanksgiving 2015

Joel 2.21-27
1 Timothy 6.6–10
Matthew 6.25–33

Do not worry, says Jesus, in today’s Gospel reading.

And yet we seem to live in a world of worry and anxiety. About food and drink in many parts of the world, also about jobs, housing, the violence and instability of so many places and regimes.

So is Jesus saying that we should do nothing or care nothing about these things, just sit back and let it all wash over us?

Let’s look more closely. This is part of the Sermon on the Mount, which is extensive, radical and demanding teaching. Jesus calls “blessed” those who are poor, those who mourn, the meek, the merciful, those who are persecuted, and so on. He teaches us to be totally committed to following him so that we can be salt and light in the world, seeking the righteousness of God’s kingdom above all other things. He teaches us to be reconciled, to forgive, to love our enemies and do good to those who hate us. He teaches faithfulness in all things, in marriage and in our word, so that there is no gap between our interior and exterior lives, between what we think and what we say and do.

And he teaches us to pray, in simplicity, and in total dependance on our Heavenly Father who knows what we need.

It is when he has taught his disciples all these things, and more, that he then says, do not worry about the necessities of life. So this is not saying that we can be lazy, or that we shouldn’t care about what we need for our daily lives. Rather, we have to get our priorities right. The most important thing is for our lives to be centred on God, and ordered by the values of his kingdom. That is what we should be concerned about above all. If we get that right, then the lesser things will fall into place more easily, and will be seen in their proper perspective.

The trouble with anxiety is that it consumes all our attention and drains our energy. And above all it distracts us away from what we should be focussed on, which is God. If we get the vertical dimension right – our relationship with God – then we are more likely to get the horizontal dimension right too, which is our daily needs and our relationship with our neighbour.

This begins and is rooted in prayer. A good definition of prayer is “raising the heart and mind to God”. Mostly we do this through words, at least to begin with, such as the words of the Psalms and scriptures, the Lord’s prayer, and other familiar forms. But prayer can take us beyond words into silence, where our hearts and minds are simply raised to God in love. And prayer should also be something that permeates our lives and daily actions. If our hearts and minds are raised to God then our daily duties will be illuminated and transformed. Then we won’t just live in the world, but by living we will raise the world to God.

If we can do that, then we will really be praying, and our prayer will encompass everything. Prayer is where we get our relationship with God right and so our relationship with the world falls into place too.

Part of prayer of course is intercession. Praying for those in need, bringing the sorrow, the anguish, the sickness of the world to God. We don’t do this to remind God of situations he would otherwise forget or not notice. We don’t do it to persuade God to change his mind. Rather, intercessory prayer is raising the whole world to God so that the whole world can be brought back into the right relationship with God in which everything falls into place.

As human beings it is our supreme privilege and duty to do this. We are the thinking, speaking and praying part of the material creation. Through prayer, we seek bring the whole of creation back into harmony with God.

This is an unceasing work, and it involves every part of our lives. When we lift the world to God in prayer we are lifting ourselves too, and so bringing ourselves with the world into greater harmony with God. So how we pray affects how we live. Pope Francis expressed this very simply: “We pray for the hungry, then we feed them. That is how prayer works.”

And our prayer always begins with worship and thanksgiving. We begin by acknowledging our total dependance on the Creator. This too we do on behalf of the whole creation. Praise and worship are the duty that the creation owes to the Creator, and we humans are the part of creation that can express that consciously. And, although we are sinners, we who are baptised are incorporated into Christ, and so take part in his perfect and sinless offering of worship to the Father. 

So today we give thanks for the good gifts of creation, and we do so in the Eucharist in which we are drawn into Christ’s own offering of himself for us. This is not just something we like to do, it is our duty and our joy. Through our worship and our prayer on behalf of the creation we are raising the world to God and doing our part in bringing creation and creator back into harmony.

This is why, at Harvest, we who have more than we need collect food and money for those who don’t have enough. This is part of our prayer and worship, part of our work to lift the world to God and restore the harmony and balance of creation. We recognise that everything we have is a gift from God, and therefore we recognise our duty to try to restore balance in an unbalanced world.

But our prayer is to be real and take root in our lives, not just today but every day, and in all that we do. We live in a world that is dangerously out of harmony with the Creator. Environmental catastrophe threatens in many ways, while the rich nations of the world are carrying on as if the earth could take as much damage as we can throw at it.

Agricultural communities are increasingly under pressure to produce more for less. We overload the soil with fertiliser to boost crop yield, while drenching the ground with pesticides and weedkillers to prevent the growth of anything else, and genetically modify the crops so that they are more resistant to the toxins with which we are filling the earth. Meanwhile farmers in the developing world find themselves undercut by bulk imports from rich nations. Workers are exploited, pollution chokes the rivers and seas, and yet the cycle of consumption continues to spiral out of control.

The good earth is profoundly out of balance, a situation that cannot continue without risking disaster. Humanity urgently needs to find the path of ecological conversion that Pope Francis talked about in his encyclical on the environment earlier in the year. Prayer is where this path of conversion begins, but it must expand to embrace the whole of our lives and how we live in the world. Then, when the creation is back in tune with the Creator, we will indeed be able to place our hope in the promise that the scriptures give us, that God will renew the earth and give life in abundance to all.

Sermon at Parish Mass Trinity 17 2015

Numbers 11: 4-6,10-16,24-29
James 5:13-20
Mark 9:38-50

“After Jesus had finished teaching the disciples”, so begins our gospel reading today. To understand what we heard today, we need to remind ourselves what Jesus has been teaching the disciples just before this scene, in the passage we read last week. There were two main points.
Firstly, the Messiah is going to be rejected and killed. Secondly, who is the greatest? You will remember that the disciples were arguing among themselves who was the greatest, and Jesus took a little child – a non-person in the culture of the time, someone of no significance, and said that the greatest in the kingdom of God were those who made themselves least of all.
But these disciples are really very slow on the uptake. How patient Jesus must have been with them, because as we hear today they still they don’t get it. “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” They’re still thinking in terms of power and control, and of needing to protect their own position and status. Thinking that way has been a problem for the people of God from the beginning, as Moses discovered in our Old Testament reading today.
But Jesus says, simply, don’t worry about the other people, and don’t stop them. “Whoever is not against us is for us.” There simply is no need, no place, for rivalry and fear in God’s kingdom. Because God’s kingdom is about God’s superabundant generosity and love breaking in to a world which is deeply resistant to love. It is about love being made known in the excluded, the powerless, in the victim of human rivalry and fear and control. And it is ultimately about love made known in the Man on a cross, Jesus who so completely trusted the Father’s generous love that he gave himself up even to death, knowing he would not be abandoned.
But to the disciples in today’s reading that is a contradiction and a scandal. And scandal is the key to unlocking today’s Gospel reading, in particular the very hard and startling things that Jesus says at the end.
Scandal crops up all the time in the New Testament, though we aren’t always aware of it because the Greek word skandalon is translated in a number of ways: scandal, stumbling-block, offence, obstacle, and sometimes as “sin”. The image is of a block of stone in your path that you fall over or can’t get round, but at the same time that you can’t leave alone. It both attracts and repels, and worries away at you. And the big scandal of the New Testament is the crucified Messiah, a seeming contradiction which is an obstacle to faith for those who can’t understand it. St Paul says in 1 Corinthians “We proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”
Jesus does not want the disciples to avoid the approaching scandal. The scandal that the Messiah, the saviour of Israel, is going to end up on a Roman cross. But they still want to think that there isn’t a scandal. So he confronts them directly with what seems to be very scandalous teaching:
If any of you put a stumbling-block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off... And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off... And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out...
This saying of Jesus is very shocking. And it is meant to be. But it is not so much about hands and feet and eyes as about the scandal itself, the stumbling block. And there’s irony in it, because if your foot or your eye caused you to stumble, you wouldn’t exactly cure the problem by cutting it off or tearing it out. 
Jesus is trying to focus the eyes of the disciples on the scandal, the stumbling block, that they are trying to avoid. They are still thinking of the Messiah in earthly terms, of power and control and fear, and that is an obstacle for them. They need to unlearn that, and learn instead that God’s kingdom is quite other from what they had thought. God’s kingdom is founded on God’s generous love alone, not on power and control. This is a kingdom that will become real through a Messiah who will be rejected, and killed, and will rise from the dead.
In the end, they still don’t get it, and they still won’t understand, right up to Good Friday itself, when the betrayal and crucifixion of Jesus will finally completely shatter their whole conception of what God and his Kingdom are about. It will only be once they have lost everything that they will discover the Kingdom of generosity, the kingdom only given to those who know that they have nothing.
We too are called to own our poverty and so discover God’s generosity. Like the disciples, we too need to be alert for the scandal we are trying to avoid. That may be the desire to possess and control, because we don’t really quite trust God’s generosity enough.
That’s something to be alert for in the community of the Church, as the disciples show us. I was reminded of this when reading some of the election addresses from people standing for General Synod. The new synod, which will be elected next month, will have to deal with some controversial issues. There’s nothing new in that: arguments and disagreements have been part of the church’s life from the beginning, as we can see by reading the Acts of the Apostles. Indeed in God’s providence this is part of the way in which the church grows and develops.
But in the midst of disagreement we must not lose sight of God’s generosity. God has called all of us to be part of his holy people, and that is his gift. God has given us to each other, and we must not therefore be scandalized by one another, whatever our differences. And that applies not only to the Church of England, but to all Christians whatever church or community they may belong to.
But we need to look within ourselves as well. Scandal can mean many things: stumbling-block, obstacle, offence, sin. What is there in our own lives which is an obstacle to Jesus coming to us, or to us giving ourselves totally to him? What is it that provokes offence? Where are we still following the way the world thinks, the way of power, control and fear? Where is it that we are still not trusting God’s generous love?
Jesus calls us as we are, whatever our stumbling blocks, our scandals and our sins. Jesus calls us to the embrace of God’s generous love, the love that forgives all sins, the love that raises the dead. In the embrace of God’s love our minds will be transformed as we leave behind the way the world thinks, trapped in power and control and fear, and are set free into the unlimited, generous, and utterly vivacious love of God.

Sermon at Parish Mass Trinity 16 2015


Wisdom of Solomon 1.16 - 2.1,12-22

James 3.13 - 4.3,7-8a

Mark 9.30-37

“Could a robot do your job?” That was a question asked by BBC last week. To help answer the question you could go online and type in your job, and you got a score giving the likelihood that you would be replaced by a computer within 20 years. Apparently the clergy rate at 2%. But for bus drivers it’s 61%.

That was, I hope, a little whimsical. And of course it’s true that automation and computers have changed the way we work, and doubtless will continue to do so. But that can affect us personally. Work gives value and meaning to our lives, so if we can just be replaced by a machine, what does that say about our value as people?

But do we have to think about people in that way? Suppose we borrowed one of the children from the Sunday School for a moment and asked them, “could a robot do your job?” Now of course that’s a crazy question to ask a child. Children don’t have jobs, so any measure of a person’s value based on their job just doesn’t apply to them.

So we need to beware. The scale of values we use can lead us astray.

In today’s gospel reading we see the disciples going astray because they are using the wrong scale of values. They are in rivalry with one another about who is the greatest. And that is after Jesus telling them a second time about his rejection, betrayal and death. The Messiah is going to be accounted as worthless by the world. But the disciples it seems are not prepared to be valued the same way.

When Jesus takes a child as an example, he is showing them a person of no value in the culture of the time. Children had no rights or position. The disciples have got it all wrong. They need a different scale of values. A scale in which those who seem to be worthless are in fact the most important in the Kingdom of God.

Jesus is teaching the disciples and us that we need to abandon our attempts to value ourselves by rivalry with one another, by our endless comparing of ourselves with other people, our desires for what other people have got.

Instead, like children, we need to receive our true worth as a gift, in all simplicity. What is our true worth? It is that we are God’s children. God has created us from nothing and gives us our being. In Jesus he forgives our sins, and calls us to share his life. This is totally gratuitous. We cannot earn it, or merit it, or steal it from someone else. It is simply God’s gift. And that gift will be entirely ours if we are able to receive it as a gift, rather than trying to grasp it as our own.

The victim, the outsider, the child, were accounted worthless by the world in Jesus’ day. But Jesus says these are the people who actually matter. These will be the greatest in the Kingdom of God. And if we understand that then we can leave behind all our rivalrous desires, our attempt to construct our own value at the expense of other people, which in the end only torments us.

When the disciples had their argument about which of them was the greatest, did that make them happy? No. It made them less contented than ever. Because they were putting a value on each other and wanting it for themselves. And as that value was all wrong anyway it was a desire that could never be satisfied.

How foolish it is to be craving for what we haven’t got, while refusing what we have got, our life and being as God’s gift. And in truth our rivalrous desires do nothing but draw us into a spiral of misery and destruction.

St James in his letter spells this out to the church he was writing to – and remember these are Christians he’s addressing! “Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you? You want something and do not have it; so you commit murder. And you covet something and cannot obtain it; so you engage in disputes and conflicts.”

We might think it’s a bit extreme to say that you commit murder because you want something and don’t have it. But in fact once you start comparing yourself with other people, wanting what they’ve got, and placing them on a scale of values, you are in danger of saying that there are some people who have no value at all. And how is murder possible, except by setting a person’s life at no value?

This is indeed just what happened to Jesus, as he tried to tell the disciples today. He was the victim, the outcast, the one who could be disposed of because he had no value. But, like the child, also a person of no account, he is the greatest in the kingdom of God. Jesus knew with absolute certainty that everything he was and possessed was the Father’s gift. He knew that could never be taken away. And so he could also tell the disciples that after being killed he would rise again. Jesus held onto nothing for himself and abandoned himself entirely to the Father’s generosity and love. He abandoned himself in complete trust that the resurrection would be the first fruits, the first return from the Father, for his total giving of himself.

This is what Jesus calls us to do today. To abandon our desires for what we don’t have, in order to receive what we truly are: God’s children, by his gift alone. This is the path of true joy and contentment.

The desires and allurements we are presented with all the time are empty promises: desires for lifestyle, career, power, money, glamour, desires for the latest model of this or that that we must have because someone else has it too. These are cravings that feed on themselves and just keep on growing without ever being satisfied. They cannot give us true life.

But God can, and does. He has created us in love and redeemed us in his mercy, showing us in Jesus the way to salvation, the gate to eternal life. Eternal life is not this life stretched out for ever. It is the life that God lives, the only life that is ultimately real. When we let go of all our attempts to create ourselves, when we abandon ourselves into the Father’s love and throw ourselves entirely on his generosity, then we will have the joy and bliss of finding our true selves in him.