Thursday in the Fifth Week of Lent
Today is one of those days when I sympathize with the crowds who are arguing with Jesus. In today’s gospel, He has said that “whoever keeps my word will never see death.” The crowd points out that there are plenty of people, Abraham chief among them, who clearly kept God’s word and just as clearly died. Monty Python might cry out that “this is an ex-prophet!” In our own lives, we may know many individuals who have kept Jesus’ words and died. So what does this all mean?
We have seen at several points this week that what God means by a word and what we mean are not quite the same. Newness, glory, justice–all of these have had their meanings transformed by the gospel readings this week. Now, it is death’s turn. Death marks a great transition–Hamlet calls it “the undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveler returns.” We cannot see beyond it, and we cannot return from it. But we are not ended by it. God did not make us to die and end, but to live with Him forever. God will keep us safe, even as we go through death. Our God will gladly follow us into the grave to protect us.
Grace: An intimate knowledge of the many blessings received, that filled with gratitude for all, I may in all things love and serve the Divine Majesty.
Reflection: In the meditation upon sin, we made reference to Dante’s vision of hell, a cold, desolate place where the fire of love has been extinguished and all lies in a spiritual torpor. This is the perfect image of the heart grown cold to the stirrings of love which God places within it. At the opposite end of Dante’s journey lies a vision that perfectly encapsulates the final meditation of the Spiritual Exercises, the Contemplation to Attain Divine Love. From the lowest reaches of the spiritual universe, Dante ascends to the heights of heaven, where he views “the love that moves the sun and the other stars.” At the heart of the universe lives the Trinitarian God, whose perfect love draws all being into an ordered symphony of praise. Dante feels himself drawn into this harmonic vision through the enflaming of his passions and desires. No one with eyes to see can sit impassively at the vision of God’s love. From the disordered state in which Dante had fallen at the beginning of the poem, he becomes progressively cleansed of his disordered affections through the grace of God and the intercession of Beatrice until finally he is able to pass through the heavens and stand in the presence of God. But notice that Dante only sees God’s depths after he has been interiorly transformed.