Lent gave us the opportunity to walk closely with Jesus if we made time for Him. Ideally, each of us approached Lent maximally and received an abundance of His Divine Graces. Realistically, however, many of us probably missed a significant number of spiritual opportunities that Lent naturally offered. Perhaps we got sidetracked because of an illness; death of a family member; or because we got busy preparing for marriage, buying a new home, trying to find a new job, or hoping for a promotion. The good news is that Jesus awaits the return of our hearts — anytime, anywhere, anyhow. Its never too late to re-boot our spiritual journey.
Fr. John Burns [via Ave Maria Press] released Return: A Guided Lent Journal before Lent; however, it can also be used any time of the year to help us Return to Jesus. We just finished the study and I would highly recommend it. At one point, Fr. Burns discusses the fact that “Jesus’ emptied himself taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.” Philippians 2: 4-9. I would like to draw your attention to these few verses and consider how Jesus’ emptied himself out for our sake. I don’t feel its similar to what we do when we commit acts of self-emptying or kenosis. What’s the difference? Kenosis vs. Jesus’ emptying of self involves completely different actions, intentions and circumstances. This renders them literally and figuratively worlds apart. How so?
Yes, kenosis typically involves some form of self sacrifice; but, that sacrifice is to help us change, avoid or stop behaviors that have prevented us from being authentically happy. Perhaps these behaviors and attitudes have even led to an addiction or dependency or bad habits that we want to gain control of. And so we undertake different types of self sacrifices to change the things that are preventing us from becoming the best persons we could be. Some people go on diets, some try to empty out their closets; some try to limit their spending, some stop drinking or doing drugs, some attend marriage counseling, some start going to Church, etc. These forms of self denial help us stamp out or reverse the negative influences that waged war against our physical, mental, social, and/or spiritual wellness. The self sacrifice regimens [kenosis] may eventually help to improve personal relationships especially as we become more other-centered than self centered. While edifying, kenosis is not even close to Jesus’ self emptying. He emptied himself out for our sake and the sake of the whole world - not to help himself! “Jesus came to rescue us because we couldn’t save ourselves.” [Fr. John Burns] He willingly died in order to bring us back to God without getting something in return. We should ask ourselves what Jesus’ sacrifice involved? As I prayed through this question, I believe that it involved emptying himself into someone [Mary] and for a specific reason [for our ultimate rescue because we can’t save ourselves]. The act of pouring his divine nature into Mary’s body meant that he willingly and permanently conjoined his divine nature with human nature. Mary’s ova provided the human DNA for Jesus’ incarnation. Jesus’ sacrifice rendered each of us the beneficiaries — then and now — if we accepted this inheritance. Jesus’ self emptying was also perfectly and permanently self-limiting and selfless and beyond all human understanding.
Take a few minutes to consider the depth and meaning of His emptying for yourself. Compare and contrast Jesus’ authentic, divine love to your own. If you think you’re not ever going to be good enough for Jesus’ emptying, you need to realize that he didn’t take that into account when he loved you enough to die for you. His love isn’t conditional and that is something to be truly grateful for.
Have a Blessed Easter. Jesus died and is Risen! Alleluia! Amen!
“Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus, Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.” Philippians 2:4-9