Contemplating Jesus

THE BELT

Posted on by Lucinda M. Vardey

In what could be termed an inquisition between Jesus and Peter, where Peter was forced to repeat his love three times (John 21: 15-18) Jesus was clearly requiring confirmation of the authenticity of his heart.  Through this incident, Jesus makes clear that a loving relationship with him is not only the imperative for discipleship, but a necessity in order for his work of love to be accomplished.

With his direction to feed his sheep and to “follow me” Jesus likened the way as though dressing with a belt.  A belt would have a number of subtle significances: it could represent one’s ego, one’s desires and one’s ambition –  “…..when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished.”  Youth is a time of discovery, of making personal impacts, of developing friendships, of putting one’s stamp upon the world with energetic and determined motivation.  Basically the belt holds up one’s self will.

“But when you grow old,” Jesus continued,  “you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.”   St. John adds that this comment was an indication of the sort of death Jesus was to undergo.  And yet, as in all things with Jesus, he invites us to greater awareness.  In the case of the belt, it is to realize that our motivation with age is to no longer lead with our heads and our ambition, but be led by our hearts onto an impersonal path, a path certainly paved with our destiny yet holding no clues to its destination.   It is a path of trust and surrender and far more difficult to accept.

Thomas Merton supplies some explanation to the process Jesus calls us to:

“In order to become myself I must cease to be what I always thought I wanted to be, and in order to find myself I must go out of myself, and in order to live I have to die.” *

Jesus’ crucifixion was the extreme emphasis of the same message: to respond with an unconditional “yes” to the will of God. His stretching out of hands to allow the belt to be put around him required his cooperation.   It is only from this willing acceptance that the ways of God reveal that which exceeds the limits of our imagination.

* New Seeds of Contemplation p. 47

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