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

From Show Me The Way

But take care, as you value your lives!  Do not forget the things which you yourselves have seen, or let them slip from your heart as long as you live; teach them, rather, to your children and to your children’s children. — Deuteronomy 4:9

Indeed it is in memory that we enter into a nurturing and sustaining relationship with Christ.  In his farewell discourse Jesus said to his disciples, “It is for your own good that I am going, because unless I go, the Advocate will not come to you; but when the Spirit the truth comes he will lead you to the complete truth.” (John 16:7, 13)  Here Jesus reveals to his closest friends that only in memory will real intimacy with him be possible, that only in memory will they experience the full meaning of what they have witnessed.

They listened to his words, they saw him on Mount Tabor, they heard him speak about his death and resurrection, but their ears and eyes remained closed and they did not understand.  The Spirit, his spirit, had not yet come, and although they saw and heard, smelled, and touched him, they remained distant.  Only later when he was gone could his true spirit reveal itself to them.  In his absence, a new and more intimate presence became possible, a presence which nurtured and sustained in the midst of tribulations and which created the desire to see him again.  The great mystery of the divine revelation is that God entered into intimacy with us not only by Christ’s coming, but also by his leaving.  Indeed, it is in Christ’s absence that our intimacy with him is so profound that we can say he dwells in us, call him our food and drink, and experience him as the center of our being.

That this is far from a theoretical idea becomes clear in the lives of people like Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Alfred Delp who, while in Nazi prisons waiting for death, experienced Christ’s presence in the midst of his absence.  Bonhoeffer writes: “The God who is with us is the God who forsakes us (Mark 15:34); before God and with God we live without God.”  Thus the memory of Jesus Christ is much more than the bringing to mind of past redemptive events.  It is a life-giving memory, a memory which sustains and nurtures us here and now and so gives us a real sense of being rooted amid the many cries of daily life.

In Jesus no division existed between his words and his actions, between what he said and what he did.  Jesus’s words were his action, his words were events.  They not only spoke about changes, cures, new life, but they actually created them.  In this sense, Jesus is truly the word made flesh; in that word all is created and by that word all is recreated.

Saintliness means living without division between word and action.  If I would truly live in my own life the word I am speaking, my spoken words would become actions, and miracles would happen whenever I opened my mouth.


We give thanks to you, God,
we give thanks to you,
as we call upon your name,
as we recount your wonders.

But I shall speak out for ever,
shall make music for the God of Jacob.
Psalm 75:1,9

1 Comment on LENT: Wednesday of the Third Week in Lent, by Henri J. M. Nouwen

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