Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Burden of Grace

Reposting: The Burden of Grace

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. As such, 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 holy burning 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, grace can cause suffering and 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!” Even when others were encumbered with limitations, even when their God-given potential was not realized, Christ groaned. In the Gospel of Mark, such an expression was given when he healed the deaf man. "He took him off by himself away from the crowd. He put his finger into the man's ears and, spitting, touched his tongue; then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, 'Ephphatha!' (that is, 'Be opened!')."

Not only Jesus, but the Holy Spirit is said to groan within us. He too seeks to bring about our full potential in Christ. As St. Paul said, "In the same way, the Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings." (Romans 8:26) This is the burden of grace; that burning desire of God to see his children purged from every stain of sin so that grace can be fully realized within us. In St. Louis de Montfort’s consecration prayer to Jesus through Mary, he invokes the Holy Spirit to from Jesus Christ in his soul: “O Holy Spirit, give me great devotion to Mary…so that by her You may truly form in me Jesus Christ, great and mighty, unto the fullness of His perfect age. Amen.”

For reasons only God knows, during his thirty three years on earth Jesus had to conceal his glory. It was like wearing a mask. Among doubters and critics, I am sure there was a temptation of sorts to reveal his divine identity. And even among those who were sincerely in search of God, out of the love and respect for their holy desire, the temptation to show himself as God, so as to remove any doubts, must have been a desire burning within the heart of Christ. But to those chosen few, Our Lord did take off his mask so as to confirm his Divine Sonship.

One such time was on Mt. Tabor. Jesus invited St. Peter, St. James and St. 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” was to come off and stay off. 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 how good eternal happiness was and how good they could be in heaven. However, as long as they lived on earth, they could not be who they truly were.

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.