For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Matthew 16:25
The other day I was praying about many things, and I heard in prayer, “I needed Him to experience fatherlessness.” And then in my head, I got an image of Jesus weeping over the death of Saint Joseph and it felt as though Lazarus was not the first time Jesus wept over death. I felt in my heart that God the Father wanted God the Son to experience, in his human nature, the loss of his human father as a full entering into our humanity. And of course we know that on the cross, when Jesus cried out that He was forsaken (Matthew 27:46), He felt Fatherless in His suffering. The Second person of the Blessed Trinity entered fully into the consequences of the fall without sinning Himself. Jesus experienced the deepest wound of all of us, the Father wound that expelled us from Eden. Death was not in the Father’s plan for us. Sin begot death and death makes us feel Fatherless, like we have no protection, a fierce consequence for the original rejection of His mercy, a consequence we chose for ourselves. And I can hear the devil screaming, “down with the Patriarchy, let’s not even use the word Father,” as women and children everywhere get devoured. We run from our self-inflicted wounds instead of facing them and being healed.
The catechism of the Catholic Church says of God the Father;
By calling God “Father”, the language of faith indicates two main things: that God is the first origin of everything and transcendent authority; and that he is at the same time goodness and loving care for all his children. God’s parental tenderness can also be expressed by the image of motherhood, which emphasizes God’s immanence, the intimacy between Creator and creature. The language of faith thus draws on the human experience of parents, who are in a way the first representatives of God for man. But this experience also tells us that human parents are fallible and can disfigure the face of fatherhood and motherhood. We ought therefore to recall that God transcends the human distinction between the sexes. He is neither man nor woman: he is God. He also transcends human fatherhood and motherhood, although he is their origin and standard: no one is father as God is Father. ccc239 (emphasis mine)
So for us, everything becomes a movement back towards the Father and it is why Christ’s sacrifice, and the sacrifice of the Mass are an offering to the Father. I am not sure that people at Mass are aware of that, that we make an offering to the Father. It is a movement towards His merciful love, his divine will, towards His total and complete goodness, so that earth may one day be as it is in heaven. But it requires then that we pass through the consequence of death to meet that eternity. When we take up our cross and follow him, we make our way back to rest in the Father. It isn’t just a physical dying, but the dying to the human will so one can be filled with the Divine Will.
But here’s the thing, I think the idea we have in our head of what that looks like, isn’t the same as what it is as it’s happening. The devil will take your, “dying of self”, and try to twist it into resentment or despair. Despair is giving up. God doesn’t want you to give up, He wants you to let go.
Giving up and Letting go are two very different things. Neither of them “feel” very good. One brings a death spiral or a wrathfilled rage, and the other accepts God’s will and surrenders to it, letting go of all, sometimes even of those things you thought to be good and holy.
Last year, when I experienced the crushing, I essentially had to stop all ministry work and cut most things, even at home, back to a minimum. It was a living in the sacrament of the present moment. I realized how ingrained in my soul was the thought that in order to be loved by God, I had to be “doing”. It is definitely taught to us by the culture. Worthless are those who cannot contribute. I did not think that laying in bed with a bad back, I was worth anything, and at the time God was silent. I realize now this was purposeful, because I was being presented with a choice.
I could forget the journey I had taken with the Lord who I knew loved me and decide it was all just a load of bull and I could give up, or I could decide that what I had been through and taught was true, and I could ask for merciful love, despite my feelings. I had to let go of all that I was doing, and hand it all to God and ask Him to make good of my weakness. In other words, I had to rest in the promises of the Lord. I had to admit I am lowly and can’t do it all, and I had to know, I am loved regardless of what everyone else thought of my absence or lack of ability. It wasn’t lost on me that all of this happened the year after my own Father died. My feeling of fatherlessness was just that, a feeling, but God’s true Fatherhood was actually guiding me all along. Because no one is Father, as God is Father.
A few years back a Priest I know placed his hands on my head and prayed, “Lord, take her to the darkest places and let her be a light.” I was taken aback by the prayer and a little afraid. But I knew the prayer was a Marian prayer. God the Father has also provided us a Mother. The Lord took Mary to the darkest place of the crucifixion, and there she stood as a light, a pure reflection of His Fatherhood. So I embraced the prayer and asked for supernatural fortitude. I believe in these times we live in we all need to pray for supernatural fortitude.
And so, over the past year, I learned to see God in the mess, in places I would have missed if I hadn’t been taken there. God was most certainly at the Cross, and I would have missed Him in my own cross if I had given up instead of letting go.
In that trial, I did let go. I did the bare minimum, only what was absolutely needed instead of all that I desired, even if what I desired was good. I let God direct my path because I wasn’t strong enough to direct it on my own. I gave what I could and I surrendered the rest. From a ministry perspective it was the most disorganized year I ever had and a lot of mistakes were made. But, in the end, it was also the most fruitful year I ever had. God showed up in the lives of the people I was supposed to be ministering to, including those in my family. I had to detach from my own role in it and hand it all to God. It is a level of surrender that is actually hard to explain, but I feel it in my bones, quite literally, which used to ache from stress, but with each level of surrender, don’t seem to carry the stress as much. It is though, a continual work in progress and I know the trials are far from over, but I do have a resolve that He is with us.
I write all this to give you hope. If you feel like giving up, don’t. Let go instead. And you will come to know that no one is Father like God is Father. It is the purification of all that isn’t what He wills. And the Father gives us supernatural grace and power in the darkest of places.
In the coming weeks I hope to expand what I have written here to include what is happening on a larger level in the church. The purification of the church is needed, just as much as the purification of your own soul. But it is scary, as scary as a bunch of Jewish Apostles watching their religion crumble and their Messiah be crucified. It is the darkest of places. But the Father who creates out of His power, redeems and restores out of His love. Trust in His love. God is love.
Good and upright is the Lord;
therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
He leads the humble in what is right
and teaches the humble his way.
All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness,
for those who keep his covenant and his decrees.