Building strong foundations for total wellness

Easter Sunday — The GIFT

By Deacon Jonathan Norton

Once when I was a boy my family went to the beach for vacation. Of the many ways that my cousins and I found to entertain ourselves in the ocean, one popular “game” was to go out until the water was a little above my waist and then turn my back to the waves. I stood there waiting for the next wave to come in, and as the anticipation grew, waiting, waiting, waiting… then bam! the wave would crash into me and send me flying face first back into the water! It was such a thrill and I would hurry get back up and reset myself for the next wave. It was such a thrill!

In the spiritual life our experiences of God’s love may seem like they only come in waves. Unfortunately waiting for the next “wave” is often not very exciting. Yet, it is a reality of the spirutal life. Many great saints and spiritual writers have spoken about handling the highs and lows of the spiritual life. St. Ignatius of Loyola, in his teaching on the “Discernment of Spirits”, used the words “consolation” and “desolation.” Times when we recognize the closeness of the Lord we are in consolation. Desolation are the times when we are less aware of the Lord’s love present in our lives. Understand that the Lord always loves us and is always near, but our experience and awareness of His presence fluxuates. We go through a cycle of experiencing consolation and desolation none the less. The important thing is to remember that God is always near. Therefore in times of consolation, enjoy them! Soak in the light of grace. This is a good time to journal and remain aware of the grace that you are receiving. Then, in periods of desolation, when tempted to lose faith, we can refer back to our journal and try to find peace in knowing that God remains with us and soon we will experience Him once again. St. Ignatius is very clear that when in desolation it is even more important than ever to maintain our prayer schedule (or return to it if we have neglected it). Awareness of whether we are experiencing consolation or desolation is very helpful in maintaining course through the spiritual life.

I cannot imagine the intensity of the desolation that Jesus must have felt on the cross. He was aware of what awaited him in Jersualem long before he arrived. The physical pain of his passion was terrible, but the added emotional and psychological suffering is incredible. He was rejected by his closest friends. He was rejected by the crowds who welcomed him into Jerusalem. He even felt abandoned by the Father, crying “my God, my God why have you abandoned me?” He has experienced any level of suffering or loneliness that we have. How grateful we should be for his fidelity to the plan of salvation. While on the cross they scoffed at him, and mocked him saying, “come down from the cross and then we will believe!” Do not be mistaken, as the Son of God, he certainly was capable of leaving the cross. But he didn’t! What terror for us if the impossible would have happened? That Jesus would abandon the plan, and leave the cross! Without His sacrfice, we would be left to the power of death. But alas, He did not leave us. He remained on the cross, and gave his life. Now he offers us salvation! Do not be afraid! My friends, may we look to the cross and be in awe of His love! Beyond the cross we will find a great treasure of glory! He is risen and goes before us, to prepare a place of life, happiness and peace!

Jesus says, “my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” We each have our crosses to bear. But if we look to Jesus, we can be encouraged knowing that he goes before us. Next time you experience a time of desolation may the cross be a source of strength, and may you be encouraged by the great joy of Easter! Alleluia, alleluia, Jesus has risen! Alleluia, alleluia!  -DJN


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