Thursday of the Fifth Week of Lent
GN 17: 3-9
PS 105: 4-5, 6-7, 8-9
JN 8: 51-59
As an undergraduate, one day while finishing my lunch and staring at a large wooden crucifix in the dining room, I thought to myself: How absurd and yet so profoundly beautiful. Given all the reasons to believe and not believe in this ultimate antidote to death, it was above all the beauty of this mystery of Christian faith unfolding in the experience of lived reality that intensified my desire to believe. After all, I had fallen in love with the beauty of Christ’s life long before I understood it.
Standing before unsettling mystery, we can either prostrate like Abraham and listen to God’s Spirit stirring in our desires, or we can throw stones in protest like Jesus’ persecutors.
I can bet that a lot of what Jesus said sounded as absurd to his own followers as it did to his opponents. “[B]efore Abraham came to be, I AM.” No surprise people wanted to kill him. But some of Jesus’ followers haunted by Christ’s beauty stopped to listen to what they desired. As a result, faith and understanding ensued.
Though the disciples who remained with Jesus struggled to comprehend his teachings, their prostrated hearts knew that this Jesus expressed a beauty and attractiveness that satisfied deep desires in ways that nothing else could. Rather than beholding beauty like a piece of artifact in a museum, the disciples strove to emulate the beauty of Christ’s life in their daily lives, which in turn affirmed the truth and reality of such beauty.
With his own life, Jesus paints for us this beautiful vision: in him there is immortality, intimate union with God as Father, and glorification. Do we desire this beauty? Or, at the very least, do we want to desire this beauty? If desire at its core is the compass to God’s beauty, then Lent is a time for intense purification of desires so we can better distinguish between authentic and artificial beauty.
Quang D. Tran, S.J., currently serves as the associate pastor of College Church.