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For Me

God does not always act in ways that we human beings consider fitting.

Consider the Incarnation.

God-with-us, Emmanuel, comes as the most vulnerable of creatures: a human fetus; a human newborn dependent on fallible adults for care and protection, and who hasn’t yet learned to control his bodily functions; a small child who must be taught as all children must; a youth who, like us, must grow in wisdom and in stature (see Luke 2:52).

Consider the Crucifixion. 

The Messiah was to be a great political and military leader, ushering in world peace.  He was not supposed to be executed by the Romans.  So what about this suffering Christ?

If we accept that God comes in a form that admits suffering—which many have claimed is unfitting for divinity—we might accept as well that this Son of God would suffer, say, for the grandeur of the universe, perhaps for the whole world, maybe even for humanity.  And so he did.

But wait—we learn that Jesus of Nazareth suffered and died not just for a conglomerate of impersonal humanity, but for each one of us.  St. Ignatius of Loyola, in his Spiritual Exercises, emphasizes this personal nature of the Passion of Christ, speaking of “the great suffering Christ endures for me.”

For me?  Not just for everyone or for the cosmos, but for me?  For a person who never learned to fold a bottom fitted sheet properly?  Who gets on the Interstate going the wrong way and only notices it a half hour later?  Whose temper pops up at inconvenient moments and whose selfishness always lurks just under the surface?  For me, unworthy, grubby, and sinful?

Consider also the experience of Saint Paul and others who have come after him:

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  (Galatians 2:19-20)

“…who loved me and gave himself for me.”  Wonder of wonders:  for me…  for you.

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For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.  (Romans 5:6-8)

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