"For blest is the wood through which justice comes about." (Wisdom 14:7)
Fr. Louis Chardon in his book, The Cross of Jesus, went on to point out a peculiar burden our Lord had carried during the thirty-three years of his earthly life. That burden quite simply was hiding his identity; that is, the constant restraint of not revealing his glory to his people. His divinity- in all of its majesty -was bottled up in his human appearance.
In the Letter to the Hebrews it states that God is a consuming fire. The full expression of Jesus’ divinity must have been forever burning and pressing up against the limits of his humanity. The prophet Jeremiah had a taste of this burning desire seeking to be released when he said: “I say to myself, I will not mention him, I will speak in his name no more. But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones; I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it.”
This is the kind of grace that hurts; the kind of grace that seeks to be fully realized. For Christ's followers, the suffering that this grace causes can be a kind of holocaust that is pleasing to God. Like the prophet Jeremiah, the restraints weighed heavy on our Lord Jesus. He eagerly anticipated a transfigured universe whereby his glory, contained within human limits before his resurrection, could be fully revealed. He said, “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!” In the meantime, however, he continued to empty himself, thus “taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance.” (Philippians 2)
Consider the following from another vantage point: Imagine a scenario in which the whole world knows you or at least has heard about you. For several years you go missing only to return to your native land with this difference: In the company of your loved ones- those whom you know perfectly well -you are required to wear a disguise. People everywhere are wondering about you; longing to see you face to face. At the same time, critics are accusing you- in your hidden identity -of being a charlatan. Nevertheless, the mask is not to be taken off. You can demonstrate who you are; you can allude to who you are; but as far as communicating your full identity, you simply have to rely on others to do that. And it is only in front of a few choice friends that the mask could be taken off.
One such time was on Mt. Tabor. Jesus invited Peter, James and John up the mountain with him just weeks before his Passion. “While he was praying his face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white.” For a moment, the three Apostles had a glimpse of his glory. But St. John the Evangelist was given yet another opportunity. Years after our Lord’s ascension into heaven he appeared to St. John, his beloved disciple. In the book of Revelation our Lord’s “mask” had come off and the Apostle had written the following about his appearance: “The hair of his head was as white as white wool or as snow, and his eyes were like a fiery flame. His feet were like polished brass refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing water.”
In restraining the full splendor of his glory before his resurrection, Jesus was able to identify with those whose full potential had yet to be realized. In the spiritual order, the Saints possessed the grace and burning desire to be with Christ in heaven. For those who had a vision of heaven like St. Paul and little Jacinta at Fatima, their earthly pilgrimage became a burden for them because they knew- as if by experience –that eternal happiness began at the threshold of death.
And yet there are those people in the ordinary walk of life whose full potential is checked by limitations or misfortune. It may be a crippled man who wants to walk; the infertile couple who wants a baby of their own; or an unemployed person who wants to be given a chance to work. In all of these cases, there is a mystical but real affinity with our Lord’s Incarnation and the earthly limitations he took upon himself. He too did not actualize his full potential because of the mission that God the Father had given him.
There will come a day for all of us that the gifts and ability God has given us will come to light. In the meantime, however, we must peacefully and trustingly accept the Lord’s timing as to when that day will be.