LENT: Tuesday of the Third Week in Lent, by Henri J. M. Nouwen

From Show Me The Way

Then the master sent for the man and said to him, “You wicked servant, I canceled all that debt of yours when you appealed to me.  Were you not bound, then, to have pity on your fellow-servant just as I had pity on you?”  And in his anger the master handed him over to the torturers till he should pay all his debt.  And that is how my heavenly father will deal with you unless you each forgive your brother from  your heart. (Matthew 18:32-35)

God’s compassion is not something abstract or indefinite, but a concrete, specific gesture in which God reaches out to us.  In Jesus Christ we see the fullness of God’s compassion.  To us, who cry out from the depth of our brokenness for a hand that will touch us, an arm that can embrace us, lips that will kiss us, a word that speaks to us here and now, and a heart that is not afraid of our fears and tremblings; to us, who feel our own pain as no other human being feels it, has felt it, or ever will feel it and who are always waiting for someone who dares to come close – to us a man has come who could truly say, “I am with you.”  Jesus Christ, who is God-with-us, has come to us in the freedom of love, not needing to experience our human condition.

*****

In Jesus Christ the obedient servant, who did not cling to his divinity but emptied himself and became as we are, God has revealed the fullness of his compassion.  He is Immanuel, God-with-us.  The great call we have heard is to live a compassionate life.

As long as we live on this Earth, our lives as Christians must be marked by compassion.  We must realize that the compassionate life is not our final goal.  In fact, we can only live the compassionate life to the fullest when we know that it points beyond itself.  We know that he who emptied and humbled himself has been raised high and has been given a name above all other names, and we know too that he left us to prepare a place for us where suffering will be overcome and compassion no longer necessary.  There is a new Heaven and a new Earth for which we hope with patient expectation.  This is the vision presented in the Book of Revelation:

Then I saw a new Heaven and a new Earth; the first Heaven and the first Earth had disappeared now, and there was no longer any sea.  I saw the holy city, and the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of Heaven, as beautiful as a bride all dressed for her husband.  Then I heard a loud voice call from the throne, “You see this city?  Here God lives among men.  He will make his home among them; they shall be his people, and he will be their God; his name is God-with-them.  He will wipe away all tears from their eyes; there will be no more death, and no more mourning or sadness.  The world of the past has gone.” (Revelation 21:1-4)

This is the vision that guides us.  This vision makes us share one another’s burdens, carry our crosses together, and unite us for a better world.  This vision takes the despair out of death and the morbidity out of suffering, and opens new horizons.  This vision also gives us the energy to manifest its first realization in the midst of the complexities of life.  This vision is indeed of a future world.  But it is no utopia.  The future has already begun and is revealed each time strangers are welcomed, the naked are clothed, the sick and prisoners are visited, and oppression is overcome.  Through these grateful actions the first glimpses of a new Heaven and a new Earth can be seen.

Prayer

Dear Lord, help me keep my eyes on you.
You are the incarnation of Divine Love,
you are the expression of God’s infinite compassion,
you are the visible manifestation of the Father’s holiness.
You are beauty, goodness, gentleness,
forgiveness, and mercy.

To you I want to give all that I am.
Let me be generous, not stingy or hesitant.

Amen.

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