by Peter Kwasniewski
God calls individuals, not collectivities. As the saying goes, “God so loved the world that He did not send a committee.” He tells us in tender words: “I have called you by name; you are mine” (Is 43:1).
We hail the Cross as the spes unica, the one and only hope of mankind. The Cross is this hope because it proclaims the love of God for each one, expressed in an offer of total forgiveness. The Cross is the primordial Gospel. That is why Saint Paul, the great preacher of the word, can say: “I judged not myself to know anything among you but Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (1 Cor 2:2).
To modern man, then, the message could be proclaimed: “Either there is a God who loves you as His creation, and you should have faith in Him and trust Him; or there is not, and you are nothing special, you are in fact worthless. The former is the path of meaning, life, victory in the face of death; the latter, the path of despair, listless depression, restless acquisitiveness. Jesus Christ is the flesh-and-blood sign not only that God exists, but that His love goes beyond anything we can imagine or conceive. God calls you by name. Do not harden your heart, but surrender to His incomprehensible love.”
People today are preoccupied with “originality,” but never has there been so much mass-marketing, uniformity, conventionalism, and political correctness. A man or woman of strong personal identity and reasoned conviction is actually rather hard to find.
Indeed, there is a certain irony in speaking of becoming “unique.” There is only one true original: Jesus Christ, the perfect Image of the Father (cf. Col 1:15). The rest of us are derived from the pattern precontained in the divine mind, and our lifelong job is to conform ourselves, as much as possible, to that pattern, which is to say, to Jesus Himself (cf. Rom 8:28). Our goal, in that sense, is to become Him, to be likened more and more to Him, “until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph 4:13), who is the savior of our humanity and of our personality.
Becoming who we are demands a going out of ourselves to the One who made us in His image. The more we are like Him, the more we become ourselves, until in the end we are both truly individual, as God made us to be, and truly Christ’s, as He ever calls us to be. At root, Lent is not so much a time of beating ourselves down as a time of raising ourselves up, with the help of His grace, to where God wants us to be. This necessarily involves discipline, self-control, and self-denial, but it is all for the purpose of growth, strength, and glory.
The mystic Richard Rolle (1290–1349), in his work The Fire of Love, writes words that may inspire us this Lent [and Holy Week] to enter more deeply into the Passion of Our Lord, that we may receive the full flood of His risen Life.
scourge me, wound me, slay me, burn me;
do with me here and now
whatever in your goodness you decide;
that in the days to come I may know and feel
not evil, but your love—
and that, for ever!
To be despised, rejected, insulted by all,
for your sake,
is sweeter to me
than to be called the brother of any earthly monarch,
honored among men, and praised by all.