Sunday, September 25, 2011

Kenosis: Let Go & Let God

Homily from the 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time - Year A

This weekend, twenty-five women from our parish and beyond are on a “Christ Renews His Parish” weekend.  This is the 50th women’s “Christ Renews” weekend at St. Vincent’s.  A couple of weeks ago, the 50th “Christ Renews” weekend for men was held.  It’s a kind of milestone.

Every team selects a theme and has a banner made depicting this theme and those banners are hung throughout the various rooms used during the weekend: in the cafeteria, the Spiritual Center and so on.  A couple of past “Christ Renews” teams selected the theme “Let Go and Let God.”  It’s a great theme and you could say it’s the theme St. Paul speaks so beautifully about in his letter to the Church in Phillipi – our second reading today.

Today, St. Paul tells us about the attitude of Jesus; the same attitude he wants us all to have.  Paul says, that though Jesus “was in the form of God, [He] did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave.”  It’s a beautiful description of Jesus’ attitude: “he emptied himself”  The Greeks have a word for this we heard all the time in the seminary: “kenosis” – the emptying of one’s self.   And the fullness of Jesus’ kenosis is the gift He makes of Himself for us on His Cross.

Although He is fully divine; He let’s go of His divinity.  The night before He died, He begged His Father that if it were possible, to let the cup of His passion and death to pass Him by.  But then He immediately submitted Himself to the Father’s will: “Not as I will, but as You will.”

Jesus let’s go: He let’s go of His own will.  And Jesus let’s God: He defers to the Father’s will completely.  It’s ironic isn’t it? Jesus, who is God, is the epitome of letting go of Godliness.

One of my favorite depictions of Christ on the Cross is this one: this was the type Crucifix, Blessed Pope John Paul II carried as his crozier during his pontificate.  One of the unique and beautiful features of this Cross is Jesus’ hands.  You see, in this Cross, Jesus’ hands are not only pierced by the nails.  Jesus actually grabs the nails, he embraces them, he grasps them.

The Original Sin of Adam and Eve was that they regarded equality with God something to be grasped.  They weren’t satisfied with gratefully accepting all that God had to offer.  Instead, they grasped for themselves the gift of God when they grasped the fruit from the tree;  like children who won’t let you simply hand them a cookie. Even though you are going to give it to them, as soon as they see it, they lose sight of the fact that you are offering it to them and they reach for it saying “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!”

Unlike Adam however, Jesus, the New Adam, grasps not the fruit from the wood of the tree.  Rather, he grasps the nails from the wood of the tree.  He grasps, and firmly holds onto, our salvation until His dying breath. 

This is the attitude of Jesus Christ.  This is the attitude St. Paul urges us to adopt for ourselves.  “Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out for his own interests, but also for those of others.

If we insist on continuing to grasp our own selfish interests, we will be unable to grasp God and our loved ones.  If we fail to undergo our own kenosis; if we fail to empty ourselves, we will have no room for God, for our spouse, for our family and friends.  We need to let go, and let God.

I’d like to close by sharing with you the words of another preacher, Dr. James Allen Francis – a Baptist preacher who, in 1926, spoke immortal words about Jesus Christ. The following is an adaptation of his sermon. And as you listen to his words, I invite you to look upon Him. Look at Jesus on this magnificent Cross in our sanctuary and listen to these words:

“Here is a man who was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another village. He worked as a carpenter shop until He was thirty. Then for three years He was an itinerant preacher.

He never owned a home. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family. He never went to college. He never put his foot inside a big city. He never traveled two hundred miles from the place He was born. He never did one of the things that usually accompany greatness. He had no credentials but Himself…

While still a young man, the tide of popular opinion turned against him. His friends ran away. One of them denied Him. He was turned over to His enemies. He went through the mockery of a trail. He was nailed to a cross between two thieves. While He was dying His executioners gambled for the only piece of property He had on earth – His coat. When He was dead, He was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.

Nineteen long centuries have come and gone, and today He is a centerpiece of the human race and leader of the column of progress.

I am far within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched, all the navies that were ever built; all the parliaments that ever sat and all the kings that ever reigned put together, have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as has that one solitary life.”

My friends, Christians throughout the world, regard Jesus Christ the way they do not because He elevated Himself, but rather because He allowed Himself to be elevated on the cross.

We love Him not because He climbed the corporate ladder or the political world or a popularity contest, but rather because He climbed the mountain of Calvary.

We worship Him as our God not because He grasped Godliness, but rather because He grasped God-forsakenness by grasping the nails which pierced His hands.

We give our lives to Him because in Him, and in Him alone, we find a place to live for all eternity.

We find it in Him, in His Sacred Heart because He emptied His Heart to give us a place to live.

We love Him because He let go and let God.

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