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It was October 1966, then, a young professed in our Academy. Stressed by intermittent knee pain and overwhelmed by teaching and surveillante responsibilities, I fingered a slim paperback in the pocket of my petticoat and ached for more of Abraham Heschel’s Man’s Quest for God – Studies in Prayer and Symbolism (1954). I had been forewarned to keep this book underwraps; its Jewishness smarted against acceptable norms in the Catholic world in which I lived.

But Heschel’s words shimmered off the pages and left track marks upon my psyche—I would return at a later time.

These words still shimmer, but integrated at a deeper level than decades before. Central to Heschel’s theology is what he calls divine pathos: God’s continuing need for us as co-creators in his multiple expanding universes—an understanding Heschel gleaned from his studies of the Talmud and kabbalistic and Hasidic writings.

No matter that the prophets and Jesus of Nazareth decried the hardness of heart they encountered along dusty Palestinian roads, natives filled with self-absorption, haughtiness, and stingy spirits. Similar avoidance of collaboration with Creator God exists today.

Yet, God persists in His offer.

Stripped of its religious trappings, co-creation again appears in the Eleventh Step of Alcoholics Anonymous: Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out. The handful that brings love, harmony, and peace where before there was none do experience shimmering life.

Such is the viable antidote for our world, no matter who is in power.

It happened so subtly—“I’m going home! I’m going home!”—so prompted my spirit emerging from psychic depths, cuing me toward the next diminishment. Never could I have produced such self-talk; its simplicity says it all, so quiet, so low key.

True, for some time increasing weakness, exhaustion, shortness of breath, and muscle loss has further depleted my energy, not without my notice and some angst. Such symptoms correspond to my terminal disease, interstitial lung disease with rheumatoid arthritis. Still the daily dose of Dexamethasone has kept me somewhat functional.

But I’m in a different space, one filled with lightness, color, hope, evidence of more release from the bondage of this existence. No matter that my symptoms will only cease with the death in my body—My attitude, for today, for which I offer thanks to God. Not that there won’t be upheavals before my final breath. Usually there are, so I’m told.

Still, “I’m going home!” That’s all that matters.

 

Christ was humbler yet, even to accepting death, death on a cross. But God raised him high and gave him the name which is above all other names…

These verses are taken from the Christological hymn that Paul quotes in his letter to the Philippians (56 C.E.) and serve as the leitmotif for Holy Week. Each day’s events underscore the humility of Jesus, beginning with His triumphal entry into Jerusalem at Passover seated upon the back of a donkey.

Sensing his earthly mission coming to a close, and in the wake of that, conflict, he orchestrated this bit of drama. He knew his few followers would misinterpret his action in their craving for a political Messiah to rout the hated Romans. Psalm 118’s “Blessings on the King who comes…,” fueled their frenzy and drew the Pharisees’ censure watching this spectacle unfold through streets thronged with pilgrims. Jesus’s intent was to image the peaceful Messiah, only later grasped by his followers after his resurrection.

Years of meditation on this curious story, recorded in the four gospels, have deepened my sense of Jesus Christ, totally other than first perceived. Like his first followers, I still get trapped in expectations of what I want, when I want it, how I want it. My terminal illness, however, casts urgency upon learning to listen, anew, to his Father for direction, to practice humility and obedience, one day at a time.

The future holds my final days before transitioning from them. There’s no preparing for them. They will unfold, as they will.

 

 

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