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THE SLEDGEHAMMER OF TRUTH POUNDS THE CAMEL THROUGH THE EYE OF THE NEEDLE
Why is it more difficult for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle (Matthew 19:24)? The direness of our predicament in the Valley of Tears is one of the two engines of salvation. The other engine is the sweetness of paradise. The sweetness of paradise pulls us to the entrance of paradise. The direness of our predicament in the Valley of Tears pushes us to its exit. However, the serpent cast an illusion that sugarcoats the direness of our predicament in the Valley of Tears. The sugarcoating induced Adam and Eve to run away, like foolish children, from their home with God in paradise and take us with them into the Valley of Tears. The sugarcoating is thicker for the rich man than for the poor man. The thickness of the sugarcoating makes it harder to shatter. The thicker the sugarcoating, the harder the sledgehammer of truth needs to work. A rich man thinks that he can exploit his riches to fend off the crosses that besiege us as we pass through the Valley of Tears (Luke 12:13-21). His riches can hold the crosses at bay. The poor man, not having the cushion of riches between himself and his crosses, is more aware than the rich man of the direness of his predicament. Riches conjure up the dangerous illusion of safety and of independence from God (Luke 12:16-21). Riches give the rich man a false sense of security. A poor man with no resources is much more likely to turn to God than a rich man with resources. God is the resource of the poor man. God is all that the poor man has.
FEAR NOT! THE SCRIPT IS ALREADY WRITTEN
Indeed, the Valley of Tears is a scary place. Yet, fear not. Isn't the script already written? Have you not read the script? Will our immutable God rewrite the script? The exodus of the Jews is a powerful allegory that the genius of God embedded into the history of humanity to inform us about the destiny of the children of Adam and Eve who participate in the new exodus. The Jews made their escape through the hostile desert. So, too, Christians. We are making our escape through the Valley of Tears (Psalm 23:4), across the Red Sea of death, the worst and the last of our crosses (1 Corinthians 15:26), and into the promised land, the land flowing with milk and honey (Numbers 13:27). Standing like a colossus in the middle of the Red Sea of Death is Jesus. He stands at the nexus between the exit of godlessness and the entrance of paradise. Through his bloody wounds the great leap is made from time to eternity (Our Lady of Good Success). He is the way (John 14:6). "No man cometh unto the Father, but by me." (John 14:6). The new exodus is marching hand-in-hand, arm-in-arm together as one family to the rhythmic beat of the loving heart of our living God! In the script, the Red Sea of Death is parted for us. Rejoice and be glad!
THE EVIL THAT WE DID TO JESUS OPENED THE MOUTH OF GOD
The evil that we did to Jesus opened the mouth of God. HIS BLOODY WOUNDS ARE THE MOUTH OF GOD. "Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4). By his bloody wounds we are healed (Isaiah 53:5) (1 Peter 2:24). Through his bloody wounds, the good news of great joy was preached to us. Witness the Truth by watching the traffic through his bloody wounds. Buckets of blood spilled through the wounds that we opened in his body. On a cataract of blood, his life itself followed his blood through his wounds and out of his body. But not a drop - not a drop - of his love for us did likewise. His most Sacred Heart stayed filled to the brim with love for us (John 13:1). Because his most Sacred Heart stayed filled to the brim with love for us, he was able to say, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Forgiveness is the sweet fruit of his love for us. Isn’t a tree known by its fruit (Luke 6:43-45)? We tortured and killed him. He suffered and died. Yet, he did not stay dead and he did not stop loving us. He emerged from the dead still alive and still in love with us. That he emerged from the dead still alive revealed to us his power. Nobody emerges from the dead. He did. That he emerged from the dead still in love with us, however, revealed to us something more significant about divinity than power. Our conception of divinity as power is incomplete. Divinity is also love - a mysteriously intransigent, inexplicably persistent and radically stubborn love (Isaiah 55:8-9) (Psalm 8:4-8).
CHRISTIANITY IS THE LOVE STORY THAT BEGAN WITH A LOVE NOTE FROM GOD TO US
A LOVE NOTE IS THE FOUNDATION OF CHRISTIANITY
God did not keep his love for us to himself. He did not bottle it up. He did not lock it away in the dungeon of his heart. He was not reticent about it. He expressed his love to us. How? GOD EXPRESSED HIS LOVE FOR US BY SENDING US A LOVE NOTE. JESUS IS THE EXPRESSION OF GOD'S LOVE FOR US. What genre of literature is the Word of God (John 1:1)? The Word of God is a LOVE NOTE - a LOVE NOTE from God to us.
God composed a LOVE NOTE to us in the Incarnation, delivered it to us in the form of a baby at Bethlehem, verified its genuineness in the violent collision between Jesus, our Savior, and the evil we did to him at and about Calvary, and celebrates its triumph over the serpent who waged war against it whenever a priest says a Mass.
THE LOVE NOTE IS THE FOUNDATION OF CHRISTIANITY. The edifice of Christianity is built upon the LOVE NOTE.
Have you read the LOVE NOTE?
Has the knowledge that God loves you sunk in? Have you absorbed it.? Has it permeated your understanding?
His Bloody Wounds are Question Marks
HIS BLOODY WOUNDS ARE PUNCTUATION MARKS THAT STAND BETWEEN THE CRUCIFIXION AND THE RESURRECTION. They are not periods; they are not semi-colons; they are not commas. THEY ARE QUESTION MARKS. THEY MARK A MYSTERY. 'What answer would Jesus give us in response to the evil that we did to him?' At the time we punctuated his body with question marks, we did not know what his answer would be because we did not know our God. Our God was a stranger to us. We assumed our God was like us. The reasonable expectation was that the evil that we did to him would trigger his reflex for revenge, retaliation and retribution. "An eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot" Exodus 21:24. Thankfully, he did not respond to our evil in kind (Isaiah 55:8-9). He changed the tone of the conversation (1 Kings 19:11-13). His answer to the evil that we did to him was asymmetrical - radically asymmetrical Isaiah 55:8-9Psalm 8:4-8 (KJV) [What is man?]. Why? Why was his answer to the evil that we did to him asymmetrical - radically asymmetrical? Love. Our God is head over heels in love with us. His love for us survived the evil we did to him. The survival of his love for us took the symmetry out of the never ending and ever escalating cycle of evil. LOVE WAS THE DOOR THROUGH WHICH HE EXITED THE MADNESS OF EVIL. Love set him free. Love can set you free as well.
WE ARE TRAPPED TOGETHER IN THE SAME POT
We are trapped together in the same pot. It is called the Valley of Tears. When we piss in it, we ruin it not only for the target of our venom but for ourselves. “One Lord, one faith, one baptism,” (Ephesians 4:5). Therefore, add nothing to the pot that increases its toxicity. Dilute the toxicity of the pot with the sweet fruits of love, one of which is forgiveness. Water the toxicity down. Refuse a demotion from the level of our loving God to the level of the most miserable and hideous of loveless beast. When we fall, we contaminate the pot. The greatest, most pernicious heresy is that each of us lives in our own pot - that we are isolated in our own, independent silos. Now is the time to know what we do (Luke 23:34) - to recognize our shared, dire predicament and that it is in our own self-interest to sweeten the pot. What are we doing to sweeten the pot?
WHEN JESUS PAID US A VISIT, HE BROUGHT US A GIFT AND SHOWED US HOW IT WORKED BY USING IT HIMSELF
JESUS HUNG FROM HIS CROSS TO TEACH US HOW TO HANG FROM OUR CROSSES. While we tortured and killed him, He clung to his love for us, held tight and refused to let go. Therefore, follow him (John 14:6). Cling as Jesus clung, hold tight and refuse to let go of love, evil’s invincible foe. Only love kicks evil’s ass.
Jesus was well aware of the direness of our predicament in the Valley of Tears.
To mitigate the direness of our predicament in the Valley of Tears, Jesus transported advanced, alien technology from heaven and released it into the Valley of Tears on the road from the Crucifixion to the Resurrection. The technology that Jesus transported and released was the technology of love. On the road from the Crucifixion to the Resurrection, we tortured and killed him. He suffered and died. Yet, he did not stay dead and he did not stop loving us. He arose from the dead still alive and still in love with us (Exodus 3:1-3). The more brutal is the evil, the more amazing is the forgiveness (Luke 23:34). Witness the asymmetric combination of evil and forgiveness that Jesus introduced into our reality on the road from the Crucifixion to the Resurrection and be amazed! "What a paradise it is for a soul when the heart knows itself to be so loved by God." (St. Faustina - Notebook VI, 1756).
To shield us from evil’s sting as we pass through the Valley of Tears, a firewall is needed that stands between evil and the children of Adam and Eve. Jesus taught us the composition of the firewall. The seeds of evil do not grow in the soil of love. Therefore, we build our firewall out of the soil of love.
The trail of love that Jesus blazed is the best way to pass through the Valley of Tears, across the Red Sea of Death and into the Kingdom of God. The trail of love is the path of least resistance. It is the easy way not the hard way (Matthew 11:28-30). He blazed the trail so we don’t have to blaze our own trails through the wilderness. His recommendation is that we follow him along the trail of love that he blazed (John 14:6).
Moreover, He did not just lob his recommendation to us from the sidelines at a safe distance. He did the most remarkable thing! He himself entered the fray. He himself joined the scrum at the line of scrimmage. He was so confident that love is the grease that lubricates the wheels of our passage through the Valley of Tears that he himself showed us that love works. He donned the jet pack and flew to show us that we, too, can fly. What a crazy daredevil this Jesus was!
The Son of God did not transport and demonstrate pie-in-the-sky, head-in-the-clouds technology. He transported and demonstrated down-to-earth, practical technology. We can use it today, not just tomorrow, profitably. It is relevant to this world not just to the next. Furthermore, the technology is platform agnostic. It works whether you are a Roman Catholic, other Christian, Jew, Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Pagan, Atheist, Saint, Sinner or something else. It is open source technology. It is catholic in the broadest sense of the word. No religion has a monopoly over it.
CAN YOU HANG FROM YOUR CROSSES AS JESUS HUNG FROM HIS? Can you cling as Jesus clung - to love? It is in your self-interest to do so.
† THE EXCLAMATION POINT †
The Word of God (John 1:1) is proficient in punctuation. He is an expert in it. We punctuated his body with bloody wounds. The Crucifixion is the exclamation point that the Word of God affixed to the sentence, 'God loves us'. GOD DOES NOT JUST LOVE US. GOD LOVES US EVEN THOUGH WE TORTURED AND KILLED HIM. Wow! Now, that's love. Always punctuate the sentence in the same way that the Word of God punctuated the sentence. Never omit the exclamation point. Mark Twain said, "The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter—’tis the difference between the lightning-bug and the lightning." Therefore, illuminate the darkness of our understanding of God not with the lightning-bug, but with the lightning.
THE CRUCIFIXION AMPLIFIED THE FACT THAT GOD LOVES US
God is love (1 John 4) [God is love]. However, although correct, it is inadequate to say that 'God is love'. We do a disservice to God when we only say that 'God loves us' or that 'God is love'. We need to include the 'AMPLIFIER' that Jesus included when he demonstrated his love for us on and about the road from the Crucifixion to the Resurrection. If we leave out the brutal ugliness of the Crucifixion when we say that 'God loves us', we sacrifice the highlight, the emphasis, the intensification, the magnification, the amplification and the accentuation of his love for us. HE DID NOT JUST LOVE US. HE LOVED US EVEN THOUGH WE BAPTIZED HIM IN A BOILING CAULDRON OF SUFFERING. His love for us survived the evil we did to him - unscathed. He continued to love us - nonetheless. Now, that is love! Wow! Therefore, never forget to include the amplifier. 'THE SON OF GOD LOVES US EVEN THOUGH WE TORTURED AND KILLED HIM' is a superior articulation of God's love for us because it includes the amplifier. A word to the wise is sufficient.
THREE GALLONS OF MEANING
DOES YOUR TANK HAVE THE CAPACITY TO HOLD THREE GALLONS OF MEANING? To store the revelation that Jesus released into the Valley of Tears that God loves us dearly, Jesus deposited three gallons of meaning on the road from the Crucifixion to the Resurrection (1 Corinthians 1:17) . From this repository, the revelation is distributed to the children of Adam and Eve across time and space. The vehicle for the distribution of the revelation is the Mass.
One gallon of meaning was deposited into the Crucifixion on the near side of the Cross of Christ.
One gallon of meaning was deposited into the Resurrection on the far side of the Cross of Christ.
One gallon of meaning was deposited into the connection between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection. The connection between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection is the least understood but most important gallon of meaning of the three gallons of meaning. The connection between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection adds a layer of meaning above and beyond the meaning that each of the two events holds in and of itself.
The Crucifixion and the Resurrection are not separate, independent, unrelated events. The connection that joins the Crucifixion and the Resurrection together into two parts of a single unit is the symbiotic dance of question and answer. The symbiotic dance of question and answer weaves its way through his bloody wounds to tie the Crucifixion and the Resurrection together into an apocalyptic conversation - an interrogation to be precise. In the Crucifixion, we shout our sharp question to him with lash, thorns, nails and spear. “Who are you, Jesus? identify yourself! Friend or foe? In the Resurrection, He whispers his gentle answer back to us (1 Kings 19:11-13).. He did not answer the evil that we did to him in kind. He did not require "an eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot" (Exodus 21:24). He did not give us a taste of our own medicine. Thankfully, he changed the tone of the conversation. He forgave us (Luke 23:34) The radical asymmetry between us and our God is highlighted by the radical asymmetry of our question and his answer (Isaiah 55:8-9). Are you privy to the conversation? The Crucifixion and the Resurrection cooperate together to produce the answer to the question, 'Who is God?'.
Many who contemplate the Cross of Christ, unfortunately, have only a one gallon tank. A one gallon tank cannot handle three gallons of meaning. WHAT IS THE CAPACITY OF YOUR TANK (1 Corinthians 1:17)?
ESCAPE FROM THE VALLEY OF TEARS
Riding on a cross - alone - without an army - with no weapons but love (1 Corinthians 1:25), Jesus invaded the Valley of Tears. Make no mistake. He did not come to evacuate us from it. Only Sister Death evacuates us from it (Canticle of the Sun) and she waits until we are ripe. Nor was his purpose to turn the Valley of Tears into a better, more hospitable place for godless people to live. God wants to turn godless people into People of God. Jesus invaded the Valley of Tears to show us the way through the evils of the Valley of Tears. He blazed a trail through it for us. He invites us to follow him through Valley of Tears on the trail that he blazed. The trail is the only shortcut through the wilderness. It is the easy way not the hard way. It is the path of least resistance. He hung from his Cross to show us how to hang from our crosses. THE TRAIL WAS BLAZED TO MITIGATE OUR DIRE PREDICAMENT IN THE VALLEY OF TEARS NOT TO AGGRAVATE IT. He mitigates our dire predicament in the same way that sugar cubes dilute the bitterness of a cup of bad coffee. We come into intimate contact with the sweet truth in the Valley of Tears when we engage in close encounters with our living and loving God at the holy places that define the escape route through the evils of the Valley of Tears.
GOD WANTS HEROES NOT BOOKKEEPERS
God wants heroes not bookkeepers. He did not invade the Valley of Tears to recruit and train an army of bookkeepers whose only martial skill is to keep track of spiritual debits and credits in order to render an account of them to God in the hereafter. Christianity is a more serious endeavor than handing in your scorecard at the end of a round of golf. God wants heroes who can fight evil not bookkeepers who can recordkeep. God wants heros who are willing to jump on the grenade of evil for their neighbors (Matthew 5:38-40). Jesus is recruiting and training an army of heroes from amongst humanity who can resist evil with love. When we resist evil with love, we help Jesus deliver the coup de grâce to the serpent and his fallen minions. It is a wartime army not a peacetime army. God wants us to stand with Jesus - shoulder to shoulder - cheek to jowl - in the scrum at the line of scrimmage as a comrade-in-arms fighting together against evil as part of a glorious band of sisters and brothers. VICTORY AGAINST EVIL COMES THROUGH HEROES NOT BOOKKEEPERS. Forget about keeping the books.
JOIN THE SCRUM.
FIGHT THE WAR.
MOUNT THE CROSS.
DO NOT LET YOUR CROSSES MOUNT YOU.
Let your love smother evil as water smothers fire. Love is the energy that gives us the courage to jump on the grenade of evil for our neighbors. Love turns us into superman with the strength to deny ourselves, to pick up and carry our crosses (Matthew 16:24-25). Love is saving the world. In the process of saving the world, we save ourselves.