Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Christ’s passion, His free gift

Christ and the Pauper, Andrey Mironov 2009

Pope Francis asks to whole Church in our vocation and charism of love, to “go out to the peripheries.”

When you and I go into to the homes of families who are poor, not only financially, but broken by a complex labyrinth of suffering from generation to generation, often with knots of suffering, that is beyond our capacity to untie, we just have to love them. And in the process of being there to love them, you will absorb a lot. And if you’re a really sensitive soul, you’ll absorb more, for we absorb what is in our environment. We absorb that suffering, but without sin.

When, for example, Jesus came out to sinners, when he forgave people caught in sin, when he reached out to touch sinners, with compassion and mercy, he immersed Himself in the dirt! Pope Francis says, he wishes that “shepherds would smell like the sheep.” He prefers a bruised, beat-up Church, because it’s been out on the streets, rather than a Church that “healthy” but is self-preserved behind its own security and comfort zone.

Jesus got his hands dirty, helping people. And I’m sure He stank! Have you ever had a homeless person sitting next to you? They smell like urine and it reeks sometimes!

So when you are with the people, you ‘smell’ like them, not just physically but also spiritually. We absorb our surroundings, like Jesus on the Cross, who out of solidarity with broken humanity and suffering, took everything upon himself, except for the sin.

Not the sin. That, we don’t compromise with. Love the sinner, but we do not touch the sin. In other words, we don’t condone it, we don’t accept it, and we don’t embrace it. The sin, that part is off-limits. And that’s how Jesus was, in his whole mission of His Sacred Humanity, He became like us in everything, except sin.

Sin is very, very, real. Christianity is not all about sin, but about freedom; yet sin is very, very, real. And for that reason, Christ had to go on the Cross. That’s how real sin is. Christianity is not like other religions, think of Hinduism, and all the different incarnations of the deities of Hinduism, Vishnu and Krishna, and all the rest, and it’s not like our religion. The Hindu gods, you don’t see them suffering in the place of their people. You don’t see any resemblance to a God suffering for the people.

In addition, the Mystery of Christ is a historical event. Other religions like Hinduism, are a spirituality associated with a distinctive Oriental style of mythology. Similarly, the Greeks and the Romans had their own mythology- the Pantheon.

The radical nature of Christianity comes in, where the mystery, became event and history. God didn’t just come to show us how to meditate, to avoid all suffering— He entered into the suffering! So we don’t see The Deified One, in the lotus position, transcending all human suffering, and escaping this world; you see Him entering into the core of human brokenness and taking it upon Himself in order to liberate us.

What Jesus did for us is radical! Jesus is not simply a deified man – He’s The Deity made man. Not a simply a godly man, but God-made-man. Emmanuel with us, embracing us, getting messy in our midst, in order to lift us up to God’s glory. Amazing. Amazing! 

SOURCE: New Mexico Retreat, 2017, “First Love Exodus”

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