March 23, 2013

Lenten Journey: The Goal

It is not that I have already taken hold of it or have already attained perfect maturity, but I continue my pursuit in hope that I may possess it, since I have indeed been taken possession of by Christ Jesus.  Brothers and sisters, I for my part do not consider myself to have taken possession.  Just one thing:  forgetting what lies behind but straining forward to what lies ahead, I continue my pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God's upward calling, in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:12-14

For Reflection...

Far from attaining perfect maturity am I.  There are days, moments really, when I think, "There it is!  I have arrived."  Those don't last very long.  The next thing I know, I find myself unraveling in this way or that.  The very thing I thought I had, at last, taken hold of, slips through my fingers like so much sand, leaving me wondering how I could ever have imagined I'd arrived.

Other times, just at the moment I feel on the verge of despair -- I'll never get it! -- something shifts, sometimes something so small or subtle that I'd miss it completely if I wasn't paying attention.  I'm quite sure there are plenty of times I'm not paying attention and instead of moving forward I buy myself another go-around on the same spiral.  But those times when I notice, when there is movement large or small, I know that perfect maturity is more than a fantasy.  It's the end for which we're made.

I just can't get there on my own.  On my own, I can reach and grasp and struggle to possess what I want, and I end up bruised and exhausted, but with my hands empty.  I cannot possess a thing without recognizing that it is I who first have been possessed.  In Christ, who has claimed me -- from my creation, in my baptism, sinner that I am -- and only in Christ, I have the capacity to strain forward toward the goal.  And the goal, in the profound paradox that is the Christian life (which is to say, life), Christ himself is the one who strives, the means of striving, and the goal itself.

For Entering In...

As you come more intentionally into the presence of God, see the face of Jesus, the face of Mercy, before you, and know that you are God's beloved.

Reflect on these questions:
  • What have you hoped for for yourself this Lent in your relationship with God?
  • Have you had any experience in the past five and a half weeks of feeling like you have achieved something for which you have hoped?  Have you taken a step toward "perfect maturity" in any area of your inner life?
  • Where do you judge that you have fallen short?  Is there something you have you hoped for for yourself that you feel like giving up on?
  • What allows you to strive ahead?  Do you find it easy or difficult to persevere?  What helps you to try again when it feels like it might be easier to quit?
  • Reflect on Christ as the one who strives in the path of the goal which we strive toward.  Christ in you, Christ as the way, Christ as the summit of perfection that God intends for us:  Consider using this as the basis for your prayer through Holy Week.
Spend several minutes allowing your body and mind to be at rest.  If thoughts come, let them go by.  What if the only thing that mattered was your being, not your thinking or feeling or doing, not your accomplishments, just you?  And what if you and Christ were in perfect union -- not one and the same, but united, like a bride and her bridegroom?

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