Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Scar of Hope

As Christians we should never limit ourselves to asking: how can I save myself? We should also ask: what can I do in order that others may be saved and that for them too the star of hope may rise? Then I will have done my utmost for my own personal salvation as well.  
(Pope Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi, #48)
I went this morning to Cleveland's Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist to participate in the Sacrament of Confession. I went with Adam, another Jesuit, after we had eaten breakfast, stopped at the West Side Market for coffee, and then taken a walk. The cathedral, although dimly lit, was quite active with final preparations being made for the liturgies that will be held this evening and tomorrow.

As I waited in a surprisingly long line to take my turn in the confessional, I meditated on the power of the Incarnation, the Christian belief that the Word - the Word through whom all things came into being - assumed human flesh. The Incarnation is the belief that the Almighty Creator of all that is, was, and ever shall be actually cares enough about humans that He would cast His lot amongst us.

This is, indeed, hard to believe. Crushing cynicism and apathy seem wage against such a belief, against such hope. Yet this is Christian hope: that God loves us and is willing to enter our lives, to enter our human story, in order to show us how to allow God's story of creation to become our story. This is a story I believe and it is where I have placed my faith. This is the story I wish to share with a world where so many doubt whether anyone truly likes them, let alone loves them in a deep and abiding way.

In a special way, we are called upon to remember that God's love for humanity always flows outward, always expands toward others. God's love isn't something I deserve or merit and it is surely not something that I can horde. Quite to the contrary. As I come to dwell in the story of God's love for me, I have no choice but to share it with others. Having been touched and scarred by God's love, I can do nothing else but share that with others.

When we are etched with God's love, it leaves a trace on us that defines us as who we are. God's love leaves a wound, a sign of our vulnerability. In talking about the traces left on our bodies, I cannot help but think of the following scene from the movie Jaws:

Note how the scars lead deeper and deeper into the story that is most defining of Sam Quint. He doesn't just share his story outright; no, he moves toward it, obliquely, following the contours of his flesh. We move from outside toward the inside, from the surface to the depths, and in so doing we learn this man's story.

Where has hope left a scar in our hearts and on our bodies? Can we take a few moments and ask where we find the mark where we have experienced God's grace, a grace that leaves its mark upon us? Do we dare to share these marks with the world, showing and telling about our encounters with the Holy One whose Risen Body bears the scars of his earthly life?

Please know that you will be in my prayers this Christmas season. It is hard to believe that this is my last Christmas as a regent and that, God willing, I'll soon move on to theology studies. It has been an honor and a joy to share another year of this Jesuit's Journey with you and I look forward to sharing future exploits in the years to come.

May the Hope of Christmas leave an abiding mark on your heart!

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