|One of the tapestries in Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Los Angeles|
God means what he says. What he says goes. His powerful Word is sharp as a surgeon’s scalpel, cutting through everything, whether doubt or defense, laying us open to listen and obey. Nothing and no one is impervious to God’s Word. We can’t get away from it—no matter what. Hebrews 4:12-13 Translation from The MessageThe author of Hebrews has a clear message. Jesus, the Word of the Divine One, can break through anything to change us at the very base of our being. Nothing can stand in the way except our openness to the Word and our willingness to accept that offer of life. He mentions two categories of obstacles that we can place before this offer: doubt and defens[iveness]. I know I have experienced both of these.
When I reflect on the message that Jesus preached, I often catch myself thinking, "Can this really be true?" Is there really a Divine One who is a person and who loves me as me just as the Divine One loves everyone as individuals? It seems too fantastic to be true. I can also find no end of excuses or explanations why I am doing all I can to respond. I easily get defensive about my own need to change and that defensiveness keeps me from being present to Christ's nudges, from really hearing the Word and its offer of life.
But I need to face the reality that it is my need and desire to have a sense of control over my life that keeps me from hearing the Word and responding. It is precisely the sense of control that is key. I know, if I think about it, that I have little or no control over my life. I desperately want to control it, to be in control because that provides me the illusion of power and autonomy. Yet I also know that I cannot be open to the life giving action of the Word unless I can let go of that relentless demand for control.
The Letter to the Hebrews tells us that we have a high priest in Jesus who knows our life because he experienced it fully, save for sin. When you encountered the reality of what was about to happen to you that night in the Garden at Gethsemane, you were shaken to your core. Here is part of a reflection I wrote over 20 years ago on that scene.
You were the magic one. For three years you traveled the land, amazing everyone with your teaching. You were the miracle man, the wonder worker. You outwitted the Scribes. You were the clever one and yet you were the loving one. All who came in contact with you came under your spell, your charisma. With gentleness, you disarmed enemies and told them to do the same.
You talked about your death and what it would mean, but you were the Teflon rabbi. You slipped every punch. Without seeming to, you controlled all situations. Now, you were about to lose control.
You knew that you had to die but it began to dawn on you exactly how that would happen. You would be arrested and from that point on, you would have no control. Your power, your gentleness, your cleverness would count for nothing because others would have control over you, for the first time in your life. Once you lost control, you knew or feared what would happen: condemnation, beatings, humiliation, and finally execution. http://williampickett.com/prayers/gethsemane-prayers/thoughts-in-the-garden/This fear of losing control blocks my full openness to the Word. How to live through that fear and be open to the life of the Divine One is the greatest challenge of my life.