At the beginning of Lent I wrote to you regarding a way to think about Lenten observances – not simply as penitential – “I am giving up….” but as more. I wrote:
“Lent isn’t about denial. It is about transformation. It is the season in which we prepare to encounter the mystery of Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection by endeavoring to become more Christ-like ourselves. Transformation is about letting ourselves be filled with God’s presence so that we can be shaped by God’s grace. But we have to make room for God’s grace. We have to empty ourselves to make room for God – and that may mean leaving aside your favorite TV shows, chocolate, or whatever else takes up time, space, and energy in your life. And so, we give up things/habits as a way of beginning the transformation.”
If Lent was about “room for God,” then the Easter season and beyond should be about coming to realize that God is the entire room! God should be not merely the reference point but the whole context out of which we operate. God is not merely the source of our existence, he is the substance of our existence, the very life we have, and without God we would be lifeless, even if we are alive. Put another way, if Jesus is not Lord of all, he is not Lord at all.
I think St. Francis of Assisi understood this and made it a principle of Franciscan life: Desu meus et omnia – My God and my all. Francis came to deeply know and believe in the One who gives us life every day, who is the reason we get up in the morning, and who is the focus of our praise. Both our raison d’etre and the reason why we do what we do. God is both the source of love and the sort of love we should have and express. God is the overwhelming, awesome, all-loving being that can sweep our lives into wholeness, completeness, and rest. He is Lord of all.
But that transformation in the way we view God does not leave us in control. Frankly, it can be scary. Rather than seeing it as being swept up in the arms of a loving parent and held close, it can seem like the flood waters sweeping us away. So, it is safer to domesticate God, turn God into our buddy, shrink him down to our size, to manageable proportions. We can even turn it all into a popular Top-40 song: “What if God was one of us? Just a slob like one of us? Just a stranger on the bus?” (words by Eric Bazillian, sung by Joan Osborne, 1995). While I like the song and even sing along with it, I am deeply aware that God was indeed one of us and while He was right there on the bus, he was not a slob like one of us. Jesus did not come to merely try on humanity, or hang out with us. He came to show us the fullness of what humanity was intended to be. He came to save us from ourselves, and for Himself.
But so often we just don’t see that. Or the tyranny of everyday life begins to fill up the room we made for God. It is indeed a Divine Mercy that God continues to wait for us.