Wednesday of Holy Week

For your sake I bear insult,
and shame covers my face.
I have become an outcast to my brothers,
a stranger to my mother’s sons,
because zeal for your house consumes me,
and the insults of those who blaspheme you fall upon me.
R. Lord, in your great love, answer me.

There is a crucifix front and center in every Catholic Church; it is often the first and most outstanding visual event upon entering the sacred space. The height of the ceiling may be inspiring and its imagery amazing; the windows may be colorful and their pictures exciting but the eye is directed forward toward the crucifix.
In Saint Clare’s abbey chapel it was the only image and she urged her sisters, “Gaze on him.”
We gaze on him with love and wonder even as, on that dreadful day, his tormentors mocked his nakedness and hurled insults, mud, sticks and stones at him. He bore insults as shame covered his face; he was a disgrace to his family, a stranger to his relatives, and an outcast to his fellow citizens. 
Few Christians have known his suffering; not many are called to martyrdom; but everyone knows the agony of his abandonment. It comes as one becomes a person, separated and isolated from others.
No matter how much I care for others and they care for me, I realize that no one knows what goes on in my heart; no one can fathom my isolated experience. Nor can I bridge the other's apartness from me. Every person is unique and radically unknowable.
What did it mean to Jesus to be so alone in that terrible moment, with nothing but his unbearable pain for companionship? The sky did not split open as he suffered; there was no thundered shout, “You are my beloved son!” There was nothing but the catcalls of his tormentors and even they were fading into silence.
When we gaze on him we allow the dreadful beauty of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit to invade our consciousness and rearrange our existence. God opens within us space for others to occupy our hearts even as we realize no one and nothing can ever fill our emptiness.  We are doomed, cursed and invited to an eternal receptivity before the unfathomable mystery of other persons.
Inspired by Jesus' open arms on his cross, we invite others to come live in our hearts, taking what appears to be limited space. We feel threatened that, “There may not be enough for me.” But we cannot resist their need for love, reassurance and companionship – even when we have so little to give. In fact we have nothing to give but, to our amazement, that nothing is more than satisfying when they gaze on him within the sanctuary of our hearts.

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.