Friday, April 18, 2014

Spirituality: “The Failure of Jesus” by Pope Francis, Open Mind, Faithful Heart: Reflections on Following Jesus, pp. 284-285

The most painful failure Jesus experiences at the level of human friendship is with his disciples, and above all with Judas, who does not see the mercy in the Master’s eyes. The final moments Jesus spends with his disciples are marked by a terrifying isolation: an abyss has been created. Jesus is not able to get through to them, and they have no idea what their Master is going through. This is the beginning of the terrible solitude and the profound rejection that Jesus experiences on the cross, where he feels abandoned even by his Father” “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” (Matthew 27:46).

It is there on the cross that Jesus feels the full force of failure and evil, and it is there that he transcends them. It is there that he reveals the unfathomable depths of his love because only the greatest of lovers possesses the peace and vitality of spirit needed to embrace failure. In the crucified Jesus, we see the culmination of all those ancient failures that we read of in the Old Testament in particular times and places. Hebrews tells us that the Israelites “all died in faith without having received the promises” (Hebrews 11:13) – that is, they died with some sense of failure. 

In his death, Jesus assumes and fulfills all these failures scattered across the history of salvation. Now only one solution remains: the divine solution, which in this case is resurrection as revolutionary ferment. This means that Christians today must incorporate into their daily lives the conviction that Jesus Christ is fully alive and walking in our midst. Otherwise, their Christianity will be pseudo-failure. 

If they try to evade the scandalous failure of the cross, which appears to be the total negation of human hope, then they have not truly “hoped against all hope.” If their hope fails, they will seek out a more acceptable kind of failure, failure that can coexist elegantly with universal, all-purpose values. Such is the failure of religion without devotion, religion that knows nothing of the healing font of all devotion, Jesus Christ risen from the dead and living among us.