What powerless power

    A little sister writes about her meditation from citations which struck her during lent.

From Ron Rolheiser: “The cross and resurrection reveal a redeeming, not a rescuing God.

Despite all our prayers and pleadings this year, God has not come to rescue us from this pandemic!  But Jesus didn’t rush to Bethany either when he heard that his dear friend Lazarus was sick and dying (John 11).  He waited a couple of days until after Lazarus had died to show up!  And this is the same way God the Father treated Jesus on the cross.  He didn’t rescue him from humiliation, suffering and death.  God raised him only after he died.  The cross and resurrection reveal not a “rescuing” God but a “redeeming” God who promises to be always with us,who gives us a life which does not stop with death, a full life iwhere there will be no more pain, tears, nor death.

Also from Ron Rolheiser: “The cross of Christ is felt, deeply, in the marrow of our bones and in the depths of our hearts as the deepest of all secrets.”

What is that secret?  I think it’s perhaps the power of powerlessness.  Even though he taught and healed and forgave people during his earthly life, Jesus chose in the end to be powerless and non-violent before the forces of evil.  It was a conscious choice: “I am the Good Shepherd… I lay down my life for my sheep….  No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.” (John 10:14-18)  After the last Supper Jesus was no longer the one who was doing miracles, but he became powerless.  And that path led him to Gethsemane, betrayal, arrest, humiliation, being beaten, stripped and eventually nailed to a cross.  Yes, Easter celebrates his victory over death, but it was his suffering and death that gave us the possibility of new life, eternal life.  His descent to powerlessness became the creative force in Easter joy.  What powerless power!  Suffering is part of the path to life and resurrection and is mirrored in much of nature as in the birthing of a child with its accompanying pain and joy. 

Pope Francis speaks of this “powerless power” as the “omnipotent weakness” of divine love:

“The only power capable of conquering the hearts of men and women is the tenderness of God.  It is not the power of instruments or the force of law that delights and attracts, humbles and overcomes, opens and unleashes, but rather the omnipotent weakness of divine love - the irresistible force of its gentleness and the irrevocable pledge of its mercy.”

The “powerless power” or “omnipotent weakness” of divine love is also mirrored in much of nature as in the power of a helpless newborn to melt a hardened heart or the power of a tiny seed that falls into the ground and dies in order to bring forth abundance of life. 

I end with a quote I love from the 13th century Persian poet and Sufi mystic Rumi:  “Very little lives on jagged rock. .. Be grounded.  Be crumbled, so that wildflowers will come up where you are.”

Mysteries to ponder.  Mysteries that remain just that, mysteries… but mysteries that feed and nourish my spirit and fill me with hope in the Risen One !


little sister Joël