Reflections for May are by Archbishop Charles Dufour, Archbishop of Kingston, Jamaica
Love, Grace and Fellowship
Saint Paul was right when he said, ‘no one knows the innermost self except the spirit of man’; similarly, ‘no one knows who God is except the Spirit of God.’ Knowing who God is makes us love Him as He deserves to be loved. That is why Jesus came to reveal the love of the Father. He said, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my words, and my Father will love Him, and we will come to Him and make our home in him.” That fellowship He promises is the gift of the Spirit who would live in us, sanctify us from within and unite us with the Father. Therefore, this Mystery we celebrate today is the mystery of Divine Grace revealing the love of the Father so that through that same grace we would respond to the love of God in such a way that our spirit would find its fellowship in God. In other words, the Mystery of Holy Trinity is not an invention of man but the result of man’s deepest experience of God in a very personal and intimate manner.
The events at Golgotha at the ninth hour of that day were very troubling and unsettling to even to the bravest among them. What fearful death of the condemned! Yet, the multitude looked on, mostly out of curiosity, some out of hatred, some out of fun and mockery. But there were few who gathered out of reverence to one of the condemned. There was a strange attraction in the death of one of the condemned. He was crucified like any other criminal; yet, He seemed to be in control of the situation. He elicited sympathy, compassion, love and understanding. His serenity was totally new to the on-lookers. Never before had they seen one dying more serenely than this man. Never before had they seen love flowing from the one condemned to die. Never before had they seen a purpose in someone dying. Never before had human history witnessed that the death of one man could transform the future of the whole mankind. Truly, they would soon realize that it was indeed better that this One man died for the whole nation; not only for the nation, but for the whole of mankind. Totally new turn of events; God indeed, was in control of the events, because it was the moment when God recreated mankind in the image of the Son once again. Unlike the first creation, where the Father created man in His image and likeness, now in this new creation, He looked at the image of His crucified Son, and recreates man in accordance to that image. He reshapes human history and human future in accordance to that image. The Father continues to create and recreate humanity in the Son, in that expression of His love for man.
The mysterious darkness that filled the earth made the upheaval at Golgotha to subside. What all these could mean, the people wondered. Why this darkness at mid-afternoon? Why the tremors of the earth? Why the rushing of the clouds, the rumblings of the thunder? A fearful silence slowly crept in their midst. And, there was a strange reverential silence at the foot of the Cross as well, among His mother, the Beloved Disciple and the holy women. But the silence at the foot of the Cross was broken by the sound of the crucified. It was a painful whisper in loving surrender and a mysterious determination: “Father, into Your hands I commend My Spirit,” He cried. It was the ultimate moment: the anticipated moment of triumph, the moment of grace. By breathing His last, He was breathing fresh life upon the world. By dying, He brought new life into the world. By giving up His Spirit, He was giving His Spirit to us. The Son has redeemed the world; the second stage of recreation of mankind in the image of the Son. He died, that man might live; that was human redemption. Henceforth man would live only through dying. Only selflessness for the sake of God and in love for man could redeem man from his sin and death by bringing a fresh lease of life, a fresh lease of grace into his life. By His death, He has let the river of grace flood our hearts, making us fertile field for the Spirit to work in us and bear fruit in us.
The creative act of God was never to be wanting in elements of surprise. The re-creation through the redemption of mankind could only mean there must be a renewal in the Spirit in the hearts of men. This renewal by the Spirit was already visible even at the foot of the Cross, at the death of the Crucified Love. The centurion’s witness proves that the Spirit blows where He wills, renewing the lives of men from within: ‘when the centurion saw the manner in which Jesus died, he praised God, and said, “Certainly this man was innocent”’ (Luke 23.47). The centurion would no longer be the same. His life had been totally altered by the events of the day. And so he testified, ‘certainly this man was Innocent.’ In other words, He is the perfect sacrifice that could take away the sins of the world and bring about forgiveness of our sins. Peter would witness this aspect of the renewal in his life as well: how he felt that forgiveness in his heart when the Blessed Lord uttered from the tree of shame, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do!” For Peter, it meant his denial; certainly, he did not know what he was doing. But now, being renewed in the Spirit, he would commit himself to the cause of his Master. Certainly, only the death of this innocent man could renew our lives because He has paid for our sins with His Blood, and has given us His Spirit who would lead us in the way of holiness. The creative act of God encompasses the renewal of mankind because it is through this renewal of the spirit of man that He recreates Him. That is why the Son had to die and give up His Spirit. To remind us that it is His Spirit that renews the world He would later on appear to His disciples and breathe into them His Spirit, saying: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven…” (John 20.22-23). Indeed, unless we are born in the Spirit, we would have no share in His Kingdom.
The Father reveals His love for us through the Son; He enables us to partake of this love expression by sending His Spirit to us so that we would have fellowship with Him. Therefore, it is the life of the Son which exposes the love of the Father, and imparts the Spirit to us, drawing us ever closer to that fellowship with the Father. Where else could we see the love of God manifested fully if not at the crucifixion where the grace of God is poured into our lives? It challenges us to give ourselves selflessly in such manner and thus find our fellowship with God. Then why do we delay to show the world that we are born again in His death, that we are recreated by the love of the Father in the image of His Son, that we are redeemed by the Blood of the Son, and are renewed by the Spirit, the gift of the Son to us?
Let us pray:
May we surrender our lives to You,
allowing you to recreate our inner man in the likeness of your Crucified Son.
May we reflect His sacrificial love in laying down our lives for the life of the world.
May Your Holy Spirit continue to renew us, and lead us to a life in you. Amen.