Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Devotion for today: running just as fast as I can

Last week we spent time in Gethsemane with Jesus. We now watch ourselves leave in a most unflattering way.

Scriptures for meditation: 1 Peter 4:12-13
 Beloved, do not be startled at the trial by fire that is taking place among you to prove you, as if something strange were happening to you, but rejoice, insofar as you share in the sufferings of Christ, that you may also rejoice with exultation in the revelation of his glory.

Jesus tells us: Mark 14:51-52
But a certain young man was following him, having only a linen cloth wrapped around his naked body, and throwing it off he fled from them naked.

Rev. Robert Barron in “Word on Fire” tells us: Scholars suggest that, like a Renaissance painter who places contemporary figures anachronistically into a depiction of a biblical scene, Mark is symbolically situating all of us in the Garden of Gethsemane in the figure of a man running off into the night. The principal clue to his symbolic identity is in the simple description “follower of Jesus,” which makes him evocative of all disciples of the Lord from that day to the present. Another clue is his manner of dress. The Greek term here is sindona, which designates the kind of garment worn in the early church by the newly baptized. The point is this: following Jesus, being a baptized member of his church, is a dangerous business. Participating in Jesus’ kingdom puts you, necessarily in harm’s way, for Jesus’ way of ordering things is massively opposed to the world’s way of doing so. The shame of this young man – running away from the Lord at the moment of crisis – is the shame of all of us fearful disciples of Jesus who, more often than not, leave behind, in the hands of our enemies, our baptismal identity. The naked young man, escaping into the night, therefore poses a question: what do we do at the moment of truth?
This mysterious figure makes a comeback before the Gospel of Mark closes, and in his return all of us sinners can find hope.  On the morning of the resurrection, the Marys come to the tomb, carrying their spices and fretting about the massive stone covering the mouth of the grave. They find the stone rolled away and, upon entering the sepulcher, they see a “young man dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side.” The words used for “young man” and “white robe” are the same that Mark used to describe the disciple in the Gethsemane scene. This confident figure announces the resurrection to the startled women. “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here.” Exegetes suggests that this angelic presence in the empty tomb of Jesus is evocative of all of us disciples of Jesus at our best. Wearing once again our white baptismal garments, which we had abandoned during times of persecution, we announce to the world the good news that the crucified one is alive. Having recovered our courage, our voice, and our identity, we function as angels (the word angelos simply means messenger) of the resurrection. (Crossroad Publishing Co., 2011)

Prayer: Divine Mercy Chaplet Closing Prayer:
Eternal God, in whom mercy is endless, and the treasure of compassion inexhaustible, look kindly upon us and increase your mercy in us, that in difficult moments we might not despair, nor become despondent, but with great confidence, submit ourselves to your holy will, which is love and mercy itself.

My thoughts: I have never viewed the young man in the “fleeing the garden” passage as actually applying to me. Reading Fr. Barron’s explanation, however, makes it crystal clear. Here we are in the garden, not one of the twelve apostles, but brave enough to be there nonetheless. We have been spending these last few hours with Christ, professing our love for Him and comforting Him. Times get tough, and we run away, abandoning Our Lord. The world does this to us. We can feel so brave and “on fire” in the safety of our prayer life, yet operating in the real world causes us to falter, and at times, to flee from our intention of always staying close to Christ. Fr. Barron reminds us, however, that there is a happy ending to our embarrassing situation. Throughout our lives, if we keep up our efforts to be courageous in times of persecution, we will become “angels of the resurrection”. Now that is a challenge worth running after!

Our Prayer to God:    Lent is not a time for us to get stuck in guilt over our sinfulness, but rather a time to face our sins, confess them, and move on to the joy which waits for us on Easter Sunday. Since we have fled the garden today, let us resolve to come back, fully clothed this time in the grace of God, to continue our walk with Christ through His passion. “Jesus, forgive me, for I am a coward, but I desire to be a brave soul. Help me to remain with you throughout these forty days, and bless me with the strength and grace to become more like you. Amen.”

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