Sweet Jesus, the Helpless God

My local parish has a pilgrim statue of Our Lady of Fatima.  It’s not very large – perhaps about 2 feet high.  For those parishoners who are so disposed, they can sign up at the church to have it delivered to their houses for a week or two for veneration and to assist in focusing their prayer efforts.  It’s a beautiful sacramental.  There are also stories about it doing some pretty miraculous things. My family has been on the receiving end of such a small miracle…but that is the subject of another story.

Anyhow, a few years ago, I signed up to have it delivered to my house.  You don’t know exactly when the statue will be arriving, and that mysterious arrangement is deliberate.  As the elderly lady who is the custodian of this statue told me,  “The good lady comes and goes on her time table. Not on ours.  Sometimes she stays at a home for 1 week. Sometimes 3 weeks.  It all depends on when and where she is needed.”  And so, I signed up and eagerly awaited her arrival.

Many weeks went by and I had completely forgotten about it when we received a call and were told that Our Lady was ready to visit.  And so she arrived to much anticipation and delight of our family.  She was there only but a few days when two separate crises hit both my wife and I.   As we dealt with the problems and appreciated the consolation of this sacramental, I remembered what the elderly lady had said when she dropped it off, “It all depends on when she is needed.”  I didn’t think that was much of a coincidence then, and I think it even less so now.

Two Sundays ago, I happened to be in the sacristy of my church speaking with our pastor, when I noticed a beautiful crucifix standing up on a pedastil.  It must have been about 3 feet high.  A crucifix, of course, is probably the most powerful and popular sacramental in the Catholic faith and is a witness to St. Paul’s admonition to preach Christ crucified: “For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified…” (1 Cor.1:21-23).  For me personally this crucifix had a much more powerful effect than any other crucifix I had ever seen.  For many, this crucifix would perhaps be indistinguisable from any other crucifix, but to me it made a profound impact.  Seeing my reaction to it, the lady who was entrusted with it at our parish informed me that it was from Montreal, and it had been visiting various parishes in the archdiocese.  It was scheduled to go back to its home on Friday (Apr.17), but she added nonchalantly, “You can have it for Thursday if you like.”  As she made that offer, a very unmistakable thought immediately came to me, “You’ll need it. Say yes.”  So we picked it up on Thursday morning after Mass and placed it on our little “altar” in our home.  Here are a couple of pictures of it: 

In the Catholic faith, there are sometimes supernatural manifestations which occur through sacramentals such as statutes and icons to remind us of the incarnational reality of the Christian faith – that pure spirit (God) used matter (the human flesh of Jesus) to save mankind.   The same principle is applied through the use of inanimate objects like statues and pictures. It is not that the things in themselves have any real worth or power (like pagans wrongly believe), but it is that God uses these objects to communicate his power and love and therefore makes them holy and set apart, not unlike what the early Christians experienced with St. Paul’s handkerchief (Cf. Acts 19:11).  In the case of this particular crucifix, the lady informed us that it oozes holy oil.  When I touched it, it did indeed seem damp and if you looked closely at the body, you could see little pockets of an oily substance emanating from some apparent pores.  (I, myself, am not making any supernatural claims about it. I am simply observing what I saw and the fact that the Church does recognize that these manifestations do indeed occur. Whether this particular phenomenon is, in fact, supernatural is not my declaration to make or to deny.)

Embroiled in the whole Development & Peace fiasco, I thought the offer of hosting the crucifix might well be related to this…that some negative thing was going to happen on Thursday.  And sure, enough, Thursday rolled around and indeed bad things did happen.  It was probably the most difficult time for me as a Catholic, and so the presence of this powerful crucifix at my home helped me regain my confidence and love for the Church.

In my contemplation and prayer on Thursday night and as I gazed on His face, I was consumed by that look.  The profound sadness of that face…the empathy that it evokes….the helpless expression. As I sat staring at it, enraptured by His gaze, I felt a strong sense of Our Lord’s helplessness and betrayal during his crucifixion.   It was a consolation to me as I united my small suffering with the Master’s suffering – to accept it, to understand it, and to share in it.

And that is what was being repeated now through our laxity, complicity, and negligence in fighting for the innocent and the helpless unborn children

They are crucifying me again, and few are helping me.

The disunity in humanity. The separation. The hatred. The divorce. The violence.  All of it was being manifested through abortion which was separating the Church, the body of Christ.  This was the ache I saw in our Lord’s face that night.

Why does this have to be? 

Because choices have consequences.   Abortion is a choice which has eternal consequences – both in this life and the next for many people.  It’s an evil choice with evil consequences.  To counter evil choices, there must be equally sacrificial ones to repair the damage that abortion has inflicted. That’s how the cosmic reality works.  There must be reparation. There must be crucifixion to make satisfaction for the sins – not just physical crucifixion but spiritual and material ones as well.  And while Christ’s death on the cross was sufficient to make reparation to the Father, He includes us in participating in that reparation to be a co-redeemer (“co” meaning “with” not “equal to”) through His mystical body which is the Church.

Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. (Colossians 1:24)

  

One thought on “Sweet Jesus, the Helpless God

  1. Thanks for a lovely post, John. I lift you and your family up in prayer. May the joy of the Lord be your strength and shield and may you abide safely under the shadow of the Almighty.
    Deborah

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