Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart. We have renounced the shameful things that one hides; we refuse to practice cunning or to falsify God’s word; but by the open statement of the truth we commend ourselves to the conscience of everyone in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you. But just as we have the same spirit of faith that is in accordance with scripture—“I believed, and so I spoke”—we also believe, and so we speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus, and will bring us with you into his presence. Yes, everything is for your sake, so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal. (2 Cor 4:1-18)
Yesterday, the Charlotte Diocesan Office of Economic Opportunity sponsored a day of reflection for seniors in our parish—and we have many seniors. It was a wonderful day. I have been teaching for two months now in various venues. It was a treat to sit back and be taught.
Monsignor Mo West, Chancellor, gave us oldie goldies a big shot in the arm, a dose of spirituality for the Golden Years. He talked about the giants we face in our lives—illness, financial insecurity in tough times, loss of loved ones, etc… We deal with the giants in our lives creatively as David did with Goliath. David, much smaller in stature, chose a sling shot over armor and the sword. We overcome the giants because we live in the person, power and presence of the Risen Jesus.
The opening scripture was 2 Corinthians 4. I recommend using lectio divina to let the word in this passage form us and mold us.
We carry the treasure of God’s light to us, Jesus the Christ, in “clay jars,” “earthen vessels.” Clay vessels deteriorate over time. The wind polishes them. The rains cleanse them. The sun brittles them. Over time, they just wear out. It did not take me long to recognize my vessel of clay. The cholesterol is rising. The blood sugar eludes the insulin. Everything I eat turns to fat. The heart beat pressures the blood vessels. A slight wrong move results in days of tender movement in the knee.
But, we prevail in the love of Jesus. “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies.” We are not crushed, driven to despair, forsaken, or destroyed. We are coming to new life, risen life now, in Jesus the Christ. Yes, we weather the storm. The waves rise and roar but we sail on, perhaps a bit more slowly.
We realize that we are carrying the death of Jesus in our mortal bodies. He lived a full, vigorous life of love, service and opposition to oppression. [Often we focus only on Jesus’ death when we really should focus on his life. It was his life lived in union with Abba God that brought him through death into new life.] In the end, he died and came to new, risen life. In our living and our dying, we proclaim life in Jesus the Christ—the blessing of life in Jesus “so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.” We live and die in Jesus. Praise, thanksgiving and gratitude are our constant prayers.
“Even though our outer nature [false self] is wasting away, our inner nature [True Self] is being renewed day by day.” When I heard outer nature…inner nature as the passage was being proclaimed, my mind immediately went to Merton’s false self and trues self.
Our false selves are dying. The acquisitive, possessive, individualistic part of us that knows not God is fading away as night draws nigh, as we lose power and control. The myth of the individualistic separate self is exposed for what it is—a lie.
We are being blessed to the glory of God. Our true selves are emerging. The golden years give us the time, opportunity, the challenges which wear away the mask of the false self, the outer self. We know that we must die to self in order to overcome the giants in our lives.
The regular practice of prayer, lectio divina and participation in the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, prepares us to receive the gift of contemplation—deeper union with God. If we faithfully show up, God will show up and fill us with life and love.
As we die to our false self, we then find ourselves living from our true center, the inner self, the true self where we encounter the living God dwelling within us. After all, that is what incarnation is all about. God dwells within us! Challenges become opportunities. As we struggle hopelessly to regain our lost inner unity (paradise), we come to the pointe vierge (the virgin point where night meets dawn). We come face to face with our nothingness, our dying, our emptiness. We fall into the abyss of our own poverty and tumble out into the love of God dwelling deep within us. “Our inner nature is being renewed day by day” as we become more of the person that God wants us to be.
In our retirement years, we need only one golden parachute—the love of God. As we confront our giants and accept our own nothingness, the parachute of God’s love will let us fall gently into infinite Love. We are immersed in Mercy beyond Mercies and all is well and all will be well!