This is the second of four posts about a recent retreat experience I had.
Introduction: Careful What You Pray For
Part 1: The Barren Visitation
Before I dive into the main points of this post, I wanted to expand a tiny bit on something I meant to say in my last post, but didn't because I hit publish too quickly and didn't proofread until later. "Learning a Little Way" touched on it in her comment, and I was so glad she did!
What Mrs. Fitz and I experienced, by bringing the peace and life of Jesus to one another, is what we all experience time and time again through these blogs. Whether it's to commiserate over CD1, offer prayers of hope during the 2WW, pray for potential adoptions, answering parenting questions, whatever, each time we "visit" one another, we bring Jesus with us - His Peace and His Life. Our visitations, whether in person or bloggy, are the continuing of "the" Visitation between Mary and Elizabeth, and no matter the state of our physical fertility, these visitations are always fertile.
And now, I begin with my reflections on the two of the most agonizingly beautiful days of my life. As we began our coursework on Monday, looking at how Theology of the Body, the New Evangelization, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church are all tied together intricately, the theme of the week became clear. To be a good evangelist, we must have real experience of God, of Jesus, of the Holy Spirit. For someone else to want what we have, so to speak, we must speak from the heart. Yes, theological knowledge is important, but conversion happens because of an encounter that stirs the heart. That encounter will look different for each person, but conversion, true and ongoing conversion does not happen without it. (For me personally a good example of this is our transition from birth control to NFP and how that experience with separating and then re-uniting the procreative and unitive ends of sexual intercourse informs our decisions regarding our infertility treatments.) So, in an attempt to honor my deep acceptance of this, I'm going to keep this as theologically light as I can, but I'm happy to answer questions, give more background if you want it.
One way of looking at the original sin of Adam and Eve is to say that the original sin was impatience. It was grasping at and taking something to which God had said "no." Hmm, have I, an infertile one, ever been impatient? Tried to grasp for something? Yea, the tears started here. Prior to this consideration I had always sort of seen Adam and Eve's sin as somehow removed, I couldn't relate, I mean, it's just an apple, eat something else. And tied right up with impatience is pride; pride that I know better than God (Adam and Eve's pride that they knew better than God and should eat of the tree). I learned over this retreat so much, so. much., comes back to pride.
And if conversion and patience and humility are connected, so too is suffering. In December, 2000, reflecting upon the need to speak from our own conversion experience, our own encounters with Christ, Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI) stated:
The success of [St. Paul's] mission was not the fruit of great rhetorical art or pastoral prudence; the fruitfulness was tied to his suffering, to his communion in the passion with Christ....We cannot give life to others without giving up our own lives.
We were challenged to replace our own name, so mine would read:
The succes of Rebecca's mission will not be the fruit of great rhetorical art or pastoral prudence; my fruitfulness will be tied to my suffering, to my own communion in the passion with Christ....I cannot give life to others without giving up my own life.
The next theme of the week was prayer. That to truly be a person of ongoing conversion, prayer is crucial. Pope Emeritus Benedict has said: Prayer is nothing but becoming a longing for God. This rings so true for me, in those dark dark moments when the tears come from a place so deep inside they overwhelm me. When, though usually spurred by another failed cycle; another fight with The Man; another day of brown bleeding; another pregnancy announcement; etc., my cries are nothing but sobs and desperate cries for God. They are not cries for a baby or healing or anything else, but the desperate cry for Jesus. I have come to learn those tears, those moments, are the most profound, honest prayers I will ever pray, for truly, in those moments, I want nothing but God and somehow, in that place of my soul where He lives, knows it and cries out.
This is the very desire of humanity. To see God; to be with God.
Yet, we have seen God. Our Creator so humbled himself to become a man, Jesus. Because Jesus was fully divine, we can say with confidence that we have seen the face of God. But, Jesus was not only divine, he was also fully human as well. We see so many images of Jesus teaching and healing and showing kindness. Yet, we also see so many images of Jesus suffering and in pain. When we see this, we see God teaching, God showing kindness, God suffering, God in pain.
Jesus experienced the full range of human emotions, just as we do, for He took on all of humanity's suffering and sin from all of time in order to redeem humanity. Including the feeling of being abandoned by God. Let that sink in for a moment. Even Jesus, fully divine, was willing to take on the feeling of being abandoned by God. His very words: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? on the cross are proof of this, as is His agony in the garden of Gethsemane. It is in this moment, on the cross, when God meets us in our abandonment. Jesus words remind us that even in our darkness, our sorrow, our fear, God is with us. If God is with us even in our cry of abandonment - then we are never truly abandoned.
It was to this moment I felt God was calling me. As the tears dripped from my eyes and my heart was pierced, I felt as if He was saying "Follow me." And I knew where we were going. To the cross I feared when I gave my Fiat in December. I knew then, and I know now, my only Hope is in the resurrection; in the face of the Risen Jesus. In Novo Millennio Ineunte, Blessed Pope John Paul II', said: The resurrection was the Father's response to Christ's obedience. As I read, and underlined those words, I knew I had no choice but to trust that if I followed Christ to that moment on the cross, to that feeling of abandonment, that I would be rewarded. I knew I had to let it happen. I felt my impatience bubbling up inside me, I wanted to grasp for resurrection and skip the pain, and yet I knew I would follow Him. I remembered the whispered Voice from just a few weeks ago, Trust Me.
My fruitfulness will be tied to my own suffering, to my own communion in the passion of Christ.
Part 3: My God, My God, Why Have You Abandoned Me?
Part 4: In the Service of Life