AfterWords is a series of community-contributed reflections intended to further the conversations that begin during Parish sermons.
A 3-Minute Read
by Christion Murphy
Jordan put it well: many say “yes” to the words of Christ but “no” to the way of Christ.
It’s a sobering reality. For many the way of Christ requires too much. It forces us to admit we can do nothing for ourselves. We are helpless to save ourselves, despite all the self-help guidance we read and apply. According to Eugene Peterson, that belief in our own self-reliance and self-sovereignty must be “exorcised” from our imaginations. Peterson later in Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places will point to the Eucharist. At the eucharistic table, he reminds us, we proclaim the Lord’s death and remember that the way of Christ is embodied in the “receiving” (taking), “blessing,” “breaking” and “giving” that we participate in each Sunday. To say “yes” to that way is to offer all we have to Jesus as a living sacrifice, meager though it may be. It is to affirm that we are utterly dependent on Christ.
The way of Christ also requires dying to self and that death always includes suffering. Like Christ’s own body broken for us, we must also be broken. Peterson continues: “It is impossible to understand our participation in salvation as a life of untroubled serenity, a life apart from suffering, a life protected from disruption, a charmed life, a life exempt from pain and humiliation and rejection.” As terrifying as that may sound, the breaking is never for its own sake, and we are never crushed. No, the breaking is necessary to remove the hardness, as Christ infuses our suffering with meaning and purpose.
James says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4). Suffering’s “full effect” makes us complete so that we can be just the right seasoning in people’s lives, salt that enhances rather than offends, and a light that leads to Christ. The way of Jesus is counterintuitive to all we are taught. The world says that we should use our energy and resources to protect ourselves from suffering, take charge, fight! But when we say “yes” to our own dying of self, we allow God to do his reshaping work in our lives. We choose the only path that brings transformation.
In one of my favorite liturgies, the leader asks respondents how they would practice loving the Lord with all their heart, soul, and mind. Their answer is to pledge their love, continual remembrance, service to others and their vocations, to offer their lives to others, to choose to be “wounded rather than wound.”
Then the leader asks: “Do you now possess the needed strength to perfectly accomplish such holy requirements?”
And they respond:
“We do not. We are weak and inconsistent, and often buffeted by fear and pride and selfishness. But being impoverished and ill-equipped as we are, we will look to the grace of God and to the sanctifying work of the Spirit to accomplish his purposes in and through us this day, as we in grateful response, seek to choose that which pleases him. We open our hearts anew…that the love of the Father and the life of Christ and the breath of the Spirit would quicken within us a greater affection for your ways.
Work your will in us, Lord Christ.”
–“Liturgy of the Hours: Daybreak,” Every Moment Holy, Vol 1.
May that be our own affirmation this week as we moment by moment and day by day say “yes” to the way of Christ.