Rousing Her Radiance: Day 28
‘Mary triumphs with the sword in heart, not hand.’ - Cardinal Christoph Schonborn
Loving Christ’s body hurts. The more we love Jesus, the more we love His heart’s desire, ‘the Bride who has made herself ready’ (Rev. 19:7). Well, not quite ready. She still stumbles down the aisle. ‘Jesus entrusts Himself to men who betray Him again and again,’ laments Pope Benedict XVI alongside us.
We ache for Her. All members of Jesus are subject to Her failings because She is us. We stumble, and shepherds He entrusted to tend us fall sideways and backwards in the grand procession.
At times, it is a quiet discontent and at others a body blow—a direct hit. We have all been scandalized in route to consummation.
Blessedly so. Let me share three things I’ve learned about suffering well for the Church (Catholic and Protestant).
1. Gift of Tears: ‘Let the ministers of the Lord weep between the porch and altar, “Have pity and spare Your people, O Lord, give not Your heritage to reproach” …Why should they say among the peoples, “Where is their God?”’ (Joel 2:17). My community lay in ruins. We had landed in the center of a thriving ‘mother’ church that presided over a fast-growing international movement. The aging founder John Wimber chose a successor who stumbled morally under the weighty assignment. Then John died. Amid it all we scandalized the church with our abuse crisis.
Jesus invited me into Joel’s prayer: for weeks all I could do was weep before the ‘altar’ at church services. It was pure, from His heart for His Bride. I wanted His beauty to rise from Her ashes. For His name’s sake. I was grieving for Her, not me. I didn’t know if we had a future there or anywhere. I prayed through tears.
2. Bearing: ‘If someone is caught in sin, restore him gently and watch out for your own temptations. Bear each other’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ’ (Gal. 6:1-2). Everything was uncertain except God’s faithful love for us. We had to bear the burden of not knowing what would happen. We stood with those more impacted by the losses than we were. We trusted Him and the Spirit helped us, reminding us that the Father’s embrace broke fear and all its enslaving attachments (Romans 8:15-16). We persevered in prayer to serve Her amid a messy process.
‘Perseverance means remaining underneath, not throwing off the load but bearing it. We know too little in the Church today about the ministry of bearing. Bearing involves not shaking off the weight nor collapsing under it but remaining underneath it and thus finding Christ there, even as He bore His Cross.’- Dietrich Bonhoeffer
3. Growing Up into Jesus: ‘Then we will no longer be like infants, tossed and blown about by…men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, living the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Christ who is our Head’ (Eph. 4:14-15). Bearing with the Church in Her groanings, especially when we experience the wound, invites us into maturity. We are learning His ache for Her affliction, sharing it a little. We find Him. He burns off baby fat and self-concern so we can tend to Her.
We as members of Christ become ministers. Maybe the best thing on the Synod on Synodality? Quiet people spoke. Lay members discussed big topics with cardinals. I love that. Jesus entrusts each one of us with the privilege of doing our part for Her, beginning with prayer. Costly. He allows us to be pierced by an embattled Bride. He is making us ready.
‘Thank You for entrusting us with preparing a people for You. Help us to know our part and to do it. Give us tears, patience, and a glimpse of how You help us through our hurts. Teach us to carry a little cross for the Church.’
‘Father, we thank You for Jesus who established the Church on a Rock against which hell will not prevail (Matt 16:18). We pray for every Christian leader to build on Her firm foundation of sexual clarity and integrity. Father, unmask the deceiver and divider of Christians and unite us in one Spirit. As weak members of Christ, we ask for truth to guide our pursuit of sexual wholeness, for grace to sustain it, and for spiritual power to transform us. May we reflect the chaste radiance of Jesus (2 Cor. 3:18) as we “shine like stars in the universe, holding out the word of life” (Phil. 2:15-16) to a lost and hurting world.’