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Part III: PASCHAL MYSTERY VICTORY, part of the PASCHAL MYSTERY, JOY and DIVINE MERCY series

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PART III: PASCHAL MYSTERY VICTORY

Part of the PASCHAL MYSTERY, 

JOY AND DIVINE MERCY series


 VICTORY IN PAIN:

“To live is Christ, to die is gain.” [Phil 1:21] Somehow, the victory that Christ won over death, hell and the grave must become ours, as He intends. We need to learn how to receive the benefits of the price that He paid for us.

…Pope Francis has so often insisted that Christians must build their lives on the crucified Christ… We receive Christ’s strength to defeat the devil by sharing in his victory on the cross over sin, death and the diabolic power—his striking of the serpent’s head…” 1


TOUGH CHOICES

Simply put, we continue the theme of Part II, as Jesus’ joy applies to us: To get to true, solid joy, we have some tough choices to make. To get to resurrection, we need to die. At this point, we tend to lose most of our audience. But we will continue.

Jesus saw many turn away from Him when it came to the “hard sayings”. We human beings have not changed that much. Will we find the determination and courage to continue? His grace and help and open arms are there for us.

Modern life has only increased both our need and our desire for “ease”. The “ease” that it makes solid sense to go after is the “easy yoke and light burden” that Jesus, Himself, described… and called it His (“My yoke… My burden”) to give. That may take some time—even much time—to find. For some of us, it is very hard to imagine!

The trouble is, getting to that point takes some determined seeking and sustained commitment (and at least a mustard seed of faith) during difficult seasons of life. But any other way reaches dead-ends, and confuses our hearts and souls… and ultimately makes our path less meaningful and more burdensome.

We spoke of tough choices. Robert Frost spoke of choices in one of his poems. Let’s look for a moment at a few of those well-known words.

“THE ROAD NOT TAKEN"

"Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both…

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.” 2


That truth still applies. Now let us look at what can make a real difference in our lives, even now…


FOR THE SAKE OF THE JOY...

We said it earlier in this blog series—and these few paragraphs bear repeating, as they relate to Jesus in His horrific ordeal, and to us and to our choices:

“For the sake of the joy that was set before Him, He endured the cross.”

This scripture—a simple little statement—says so, so much concerning Jesus in regard to his own perspective regarding the worst time in His earthly life: “For the sake…” [Hebr. 12:2]. I believe that literal volumes could be written on that one verse—and all the foundations of truth that lie behind it.

The joy that was the motivator to endure the cross was connected, basically, to us… and concerned us. Jesus knew Himself as the Savior… the Way… the Life… the gate (the sheep gate)… the door that would open everlasting life and countless blessings to “whomsoever” would believe and “enter through the narrow gate”.

What level of love (at the thought of, or the immediate experience of, such agonizing suffering) must someone have/ possess/ abide in… to even consider “joy” as an option amid such potential or very present and cruel torment? How did Jesus—as “man” dependent on His Father’s care and guidance, and on the Holy Spirit’s presence—find that joy?


SELF-SACRIFICING LOVE VS. HAPPINESS

(Again, repeating a few lines from a previous posting...)

That very real love that Jesus had/has for us—so broad, so deep, so enduring (quite literally, self-sacrificing)—can help produce (in us) a level of joy as a mind-set and a heart-set that goes far below the surface circumstances of life.

This kind of joy is almost the polar opposite of circumstantial “happiness”. Its source of gladness runs deeper than momentary pleasure or satisfaction or fun. What happens when those more pleasant things are not so available? For some, those things are their purpose for living. But what happens when we find them in short supply, for some reason… an absence of “happy” circumstances—for longer than we had hoped, or even for a brief period of time? How do we cope? What helps us to function??

Pope Francis said in a homily given in St. Peter’s Square in 2013:

“…Let us look around: how many wounds are inflicted upon humanity by evil! Jesus on the Cross feels the whole weight of the evil, and with the force of God’s love he conquers it, he defeats it with his resurrection. This is the good that Jesus does for us on the throne of the Cross.

Christ’s Cross embraced with love never leads to sadness, but to joy, to the joy of having been saved and of doing a little of what he did on the day of his death.” [blogger’s emphasis] 3

We have been asking throughout this series:


HOW CAN THERE BE JOY IN ALL THIS?

“The joy of the Lord is my strength.” We all know that there are times when we feel so overcome with pain or grief that we may not feel at all like laughing—and perhaps do not even want to hear about “joy”. The truth is: Pain, suffering, trouble and distress make us weak in ways that we cannot fully control. It is a true blessing to find a source of strength at those times.

Joy—and rejoicing in, and because of, the Lord—is a source of real strength. Thinking about Who He is and wants to be for us… remembering what He has done in the past (in history, in others’ lives, and in our own for those who have allowed Him access as Lord to their lives)looking at the truth-promises of His word, and gaining confidence and hope from them… These things can give us cause for joy and rejoicing in Him.

And we don’t have to be perfect saints to experience God’s joy!

Should it be a surprise that some of the most noticeable examples of joy in life are found in those who are "hardest hit"? Joy comes either as a sought-received-gift-grace from God or as a grown-gift-fruit of the Holy Spirit (developed by the Lord’s presence and rule over our lives).

Maybe it's the grace that becomes more obvious amid the contrast of horrendous circumstances. Perhaps it’s the gladness of one experiencing a peaceful joy in the midst of a time when peace—much less, joy— seems impossible to find.

Maybe it’s the fact that, when what’s circumstantial or superficial fails to satisfy (or the situation, itself, brings pain on some level) we find some people seeking and looking more earnestly for something that lasts… something more satisfying…something deeper than the surface feelings and experiences.


PROCESS AND JOURNEY

Any and all persons who ask and seek the Lord for joy can find the grace available. As in some other experiences, I believe that there is a “line” to cross that is like an airplane breaking the sound barrier… or any other kind of “breaking through”. What I mean by this is:

We rarely move suddenly from the place of intense pain and/or mental and emotional anguish—as if one would flip on a light switch. But, we can walk by the power of the Spirit through the process/journey—described, in some ways, above, but always differing… according to varying circumstances, differing individuals (their maturity and character, expectations, preparation, personality and culture, etc.), and in regard to types and degrees of pain, etc.

(...And, to seemingly contradict myself, God, Himself, by grace, CAN make what would be a long journey "short", instead... or He can so much carry the pain that it may be experienced as a "dimmer"-style light switch... The healing can be much faster than normal, natural grief or recovery after pain. But this would be a great and unusual gift… that some have experienced.)

When God leads (or even carries us!), we get through the “jungle”/ “mess”/ “overwhelm”/ “shock and horror” in ways we could never do alone.

God has always been in the habit of giving grace and gifts. (It’s part of the “overflow” of love from the One Who IS “LOVE”, Himself; part of the expression of Who He is, deeply and thoroughly). The above verse says, “The joy of the Lord is my strength”. Although His giving is in His very nature as “Love”, Himself, we still need to turn toward Him—in honesty, in seeking, in asking for help.

I believe that the Lord shares His joy. It says that the joy is “of” Him. That joy did not come easily to Him as a man—nothing was “automatic”… nor does it come easily to us. (We would like to hear otherwise!)

When we say it is not "automatic", it is referring to the fact that God will not barge in or through a door in our life that we do not choose to open. Giving us free will is part of the expression of His love. Love to be real love has to be free, and not forced.


LOVE IS WHY HE CAME—THE PASCHAL MYSTERY

THE WAY. THE GATE. THE DOOR

(We recall a small portion of what was in Part II of this series that applies here…)

This One—Jesus—God, Himself was sent to earth to save and deliver… after we had rejected every other one (the prophets) whom God sent to bring truth or light. He made His grand entrance into our fallen presence by being born in a stable (crowded, smelly, unclean). Being the all-knowing and ever-wise God, with myriads of choices in time and place to make His presence known on earth, it was no accident on His part to come into such unpleasant circumstances (cold; his birth unattended by loving relatives or familiar faces; noisy; lacking privacy, in danger from King Herod, etc.).

I believe that part of the purpose for those choices was to “announce”, so to speak, to our secular and religious worlds (and all our secular and religious systems) that this God of Love was and is willing to come into our messes… into our “uncomfortable” places in life. He is willing to endure and deliver/ redeem/ restore our broken ways. It’s why He came. Love is why He came.

Jesus truly became the “gate”… the “door”… the “Way” between two unmixable entities. An open portal was made—by the perfectly holy and righteous One, Who “became sin” for our sake, without actually sinning, or doing anything but loving!

And a “flood” was released through a portal torn (as surely as His own Body was ripped and torn for His blood to flow), allowing heavenly graces and power, healing and restoration to be unleashed into every fallen and broken person and place on earth that would choose to receive Him and all that He offers us.


OUR DYING AND RISING

We live in a fast-paced, I-can-do-anything (good, “bad”, or indifferent) culture. We are quite accustomed to independent thinking and self-reliant living. This often includes self-motivated and self-focused buying/ recreating/ doing/ deciding/ choosing… At least, that seems to be the expected pattern in many arenas of life—and the prevailing assumption in our media, news and reporting.

The “realities” we see on TV and in magazines... and most books and blogs… are too often so far (in attitudes, practices, assumptions, priorities, etc.) from what we hear the Lord whisper to our hearts, and what we see and hear in scripture.

So-o-o-o… The “good news” becomes, on an experiential level, “less-than- ‘good’" news. It becomes downright difficult to hear. We feel like saying, “C’mon, God… There must be some other way!! There must be a better—or easier—way to find ‘joy’! Say it isn’t so!” But Jesus said: “In this world, you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world.” [Jn 16:33]


CRUCIFIED… AND FINDING JOY…

LETTING CHRIST LIVE THROUGH US

“I have been crucified with Christ, yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me…” [Gal. 2:20]

“…I even consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have accepted the loss of all things… that I may gain Christ and be found in him… to know him and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by being conformed to his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” [Phil. 3:8, 10, 11]

“For if we have grown into union with him through a death like his, we shall also be united with him in the resurrection… If, then, we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. We know that Christ, raised from the dead, dies no more; death no longer has power over him… he lives for God.” [Rom 6:5, 8, 9, 10b]

It begins, and continues, as we trust

“Trust, then, means to believe in Jesus, to love Him, and to hope in Him. It means to be totally absorbed in Jesus as our Lord and Savior, to rely completely upon Him”. 4

If we want more of a fullness of His grace and gifts to live in “[His] kingdom come”, it means to be getting to know Jesus as the true Savior and true and daily King that He intends to be for us… to rely more completely upon Him.

“We desire to have His mind and thoughts, His will, His power, His Heart, and His total trust in the Father. To sum up, when we really trust in Jesus, we can say with the Apostle Paul: ‘It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me’. “(Gal 2:20) 5

Pope Francis says: “God takes the initiative… ‘he has loved us first’ [1 Jn. 4:19]… he alone ‘gives the growth’ [1 Cor. 3:7]. This conviction enables us to maintain a spirit of joy in the midst of a task so demanding and challenging that it engages our entire life. God asks everything of us, yet at the same time he offers everything to us.” [blogger’s italics] 6

TRUE JOY VS. HAPPINESS

Before we look at a quote from Pope Francis, let’s review the “joy” related terms…

“Happiness”, “joy” and “laughter” are certainly related. They overlap, but are not the same thing. Joy is something deep within that can be sometimes seen on the outside (and even taken to be "happiness"), but it is mostly evidenced in a gentle peace or contentment, even when circumstances are not obviously “happy”.

“Happy” is a state of being that is more visible, and outward-situations-experiences-oriented, while being connected to what satisfies, gives pleasure, or produces enjoyment. Laughter can be produced by either one—or by some ridiculous happening, or by a funny greeting card, or unexpected words… or come out of “nowhere”! But let’s get back to “joy” amid suffering…


LIVING LENT AND EASTER

Pope Francis wrote:

“There are Christians whose lives seem like Lent without Easter. I realize of course that joy is not expressed the same way at all times in life, especially at moments of great difficulty. Joy adapts and changes, but it always endures, even as a flicker of light born of our personal certainty that, when everything is said and done, we are infinitely loved.

I understand the grief of people who have to endure great suffering, yet slowly but surely we all have to let the joy of faith slowly revive as a quiet yet firm trust, even amid the greatest distress." 7

When we do have the joy of the Lord, some others—even many others—may never know the degree or depth of our pain or sorrow. The world is accustomed to looking at outward behaviors and may assume that the joy exhibited is simply circumstantial happiness.

Others may never see true joy, or may wonder where or what it is. (But the Lord knows…) It’s not that the pain has gone away (although some of it may). Rather, the pain is more enveloped by and companioned by the Lord’s miracle and grace of joy.

This “joy companion” then slightly—or sometimes largely— overshadows the sorrow (or pain, or trouble, or depression, or the waiting, or grief, or loss, or difficult endurance, etc.), as a mature shade tree would cover us and minimize the effects of the glaring sun and stifling heat on a sizzling hot day. (This reminds me of the Lord’s covering wings in Ps. 91.)

Or... it can seem to be as if our pain and/or shattered brokenness were enveloped in a cast with a soft, somewhat cushioned lining, that surrounds and supports.


FINALLY FINDING JOY… OR… RECEIVING HIS JOY

Living joy in the middle of undesirable situations is not magic. As we said before: It’s not like flipping a switch and it’s there forever. But it is REAL. It will be tested at times. But it can be chosen again and again.

We open the door when we choose to look where the Lord shows us to focus*: on the “good”; on His call; on His grace and beauty, goodness and majesty; on His plans and purposes (requiring, at times, that we tear ourselves away from our own plans, agendas, goals...); on all that gives cause for gratitude…

Real joy is true and deeply joyous joy, the kind that is more unshakeable than what we are accustomed to, naturally, in life… much like “the peace that surpasses all understanding”. There is joy that surpasses all understanding. The Lord loves when we seek passionately after Him and the gifts that He wants to give us.

“My soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is… But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness… It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord” [Lam. 3:17, 21-23,26].

Let’s wait quietly for the Lord to move in our hearts and lives… in and with peace, and even joy… and with patience for all the help He desires to give us.


PLEASE NOTE: WE WILL BE PUTTING A SHORT PAUSE IN THE SERIES TO PAY  ATTENTION TO TWO KEY FEAST DAYS IN MARCH: ST PATRICK AND ST JOSEPH.

Then look for more on PASCHAL MYSTERY, JOY AND DIVINE MERCY coming up.

The series continues with:

PART IV: DIVINE MERCY IN THE MODERN WORLD: WARNINGS MARK HIS MERCY

We have more coming up in our blogs in late spring as we see God's mercy manifested in Mary's apparitions at Fatima... and take another look at the rosary as we celebrate the month of May. 


FOOTNOTES:

1 WHO IS THE DEVIL? WHAT POPE FRANCIS SAYS, by Rev. Nick Donnelly, p. 9

2 The full poem is available in several anthologies and on many internet sites.

3 WHO IS THE DEVIL? WHAT POPE FRANCIS SAYS, by Rev. Nick Donnelly, p. 9

4 POPE BENEDICT’S DIVINE MERCY MANDATE, by David Came, Marian Press, Stockbridge, MA 01263, p. 69

5 Ibid

6 The Joy of the Gospel, Evangelii Gaudium, Vatican translation, Pauline Books, p. 9

7 WHO IS THE DEVIL? WHAT POPE FRANCIS SAYS, by Rev. Nick Donnelly, p. 8-9

8 To understand a fuller explanation about focus (from what scripture says about where to focus), please see Part II of this series.

This article is taken, in large part, from a blog originally posted by Kathy Boh on March 25, 2016, on trinitychurchsupply.com/blog




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