Contemplating Jesus

UNBOUNDED MERCY

Posted on by Lucinda M. Vardey

 

 

Spanish mystic and poet John of the Cross taught that human beings are composed of sense and spirit. On the soul’s journey, the senses get purified after we surrender our inner selves to the direction of the spirit of God. This purifying process disarms a priority to emotions with their undisciplined waywardness, that causes us to vacillate between the turbulence of feelings, and knowing and following the will of God. Purification therefore enables our senses and emotions to be contained, allowing us to enter into a larger experience of the love of God, the sort of love that stretches us, like the arms of Jesus on the cross.

This type of radical transformation, John of the Cross emphasized causes suffering, because purification is a challenging and painful process.

In Jesus’ life and teachings we can clearly identify the purity of his spirit. Aligning oneself to God’s will does set the spirit as priority but it does not preclude feelings and acts of compassion. Philosopher and theologian Dietrich Von Hildebrand explained that if emotions are allowed to steer direction, other than be a response to a good, they lose “their proper character.” Jesus repeatedly showed that we are to respond to a need with not only an open mind and heart but by clarity of intention, with preferably little or no sentimentality.

Such a state of being Jesus exemplified in Matthew 14. We learn that after hearing of the beheading of his herald and cousin, John the Baptist, he withdraws on a boat to a deserted place to be alone. But as soon as he gets to shore a large crowd are waiting for him and he heals their sick and relieves their hunger with a handful of loaves and fish.

From these events, we are surely called to ponder the extraordinary humanity within the divinity of Christ. What normal man could, on hearing of a cruel death of someone close to him, not become fearful for himself, or be overcome with an urgent compulsion for retribution? What normal man could obviously extend the kind of unwarranted mercy to Herod and Herodias who, fuelled by personal desire and pride of position, wilfully killed an innocent? What normal man would, under such circumstances, turn, without needing composure, to a generosity that knew no bounds by feeding 5000 people?

 

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