Henri Nouwen, a Dutch Priest and past spiritual leader of the L’Arche Daybreak Community, just down the road from here in Richmond Hill, wrote the following in his little book called With Burning Hearts:
“When you are feeling only your losses, then everything around you speaks of them. The trees, the flowers, the clouds, the hills and valleys, they all reflect your sadness. They all become mourners. When your dearest friend has died, all of nature speaks her name, the branches, heavy with leaves, weep for her, and the dahlias and rhododendrons offer their petals to cover her body. But as you keep walking forward with someone at your side, opening your heart to the mysterious truth that your friend’s death was not just the end but also a new beginning, not just the cruelty of fate, but the necessary way to freedom, not just an ugly and gruesome destruction, but a suffering leading to glory, then you can gradually discern a new song sounding through creation, and going home corresponds to the deepest desire of our heart.”
Jesus death was, in many ways, no different than that of any other human being. By emptying himself of God and choosing to become fully human at his crucifixion, while nailed to a cross, Jesus chose to die as one of us.
Death is a scary thing; and make no mistake about it, it was a scary thing for Jesus as well. Did he not cry out from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And do we not also feel abandoned and very much alone at times, and perhaps especially at the loss of a loved one or the prospect of our own death?
The example that God sets before us in the life of Jesus is normative for Christian values and behaviour. But Jesus has something to teach us right up to the end of his life and in a way, in fact, he has left the best for last. Jesus’ emptying himself of God on the cross is an act of radical trust in God. But can we trust and entrust every part of ourselves to Jesus?
It is true that God already knows every part of our being; those places in our hearts where the light shines, as well as those that remain in the dark. But God needs to hear from us. Good relationships are not built on assumptions about what the other one may be thinking, and our relationship with God is no different. Are we able to say to Jesus, “Yes, we trust you and entrust our lives to you.”, just as Jesus entrusted himself to God? If so then we go beyond simply walking in Jesus presence – we dare to open ourselves to communion with him.
God desires nothing more than communion with us. In and through Jesus, God wants, not only to teach and instruct us, but to become one with us. But we need to invite him into our lives. And when we do a mysterious thing happens. The one whom we have invited, becomes our host. He invites us to share bread with him, and to drink wine from his cup. He invites us further, to the most intimate place in the universe, to join him on the cross; where God’s deepest desire and ours meet.