John 19:10-11 – Pilate therefore said to him, "Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?" Jesus answered him, "You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above."
There are strange paradoxes to our faith that often elude us in the subtlety of their message and meaning. For example, the great God of Creation came to us as a helpless baby. This same God who holds the stars in the divine hand is absolutely powerless to command love from the smallest part of creation. And when it comes to Jesus of Nazareth we are truly confronted with the powerlessness of our God. Henry Nouwen points us to his powerless birth, his powerless death, and ultimately to his powerless life.
Listen to the tale he has to tell of the Christ of God.
- Jesus, the powerless child of God, is blessed in powerlessness. When, after a long hidden life in Nazareth, Jesus began his ministry, he first offers us a self-portrait.
"Blessed are the poor," he said. Jesus is poor, not in control, but marginal in his society. What good can come from Nazareth?
"Blessed are the gentle," he said. Jesus does not break the bruised reed. He always cares for the little ones.
"Blessed are those who mourn," he said. Jesus does not hide his grief, but lets his tears flow when his friend dies and when he foresees the destruction of his beloved Jerusalem.
"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice," he said. Jesus doesn't hesitate to criticize injustice and to defend the hungry, the dying, and the lepers.
"Blessed are the merciful," he said. Jesus doesn't call for revenge but heals always and everywhere.
"Blessed are the pure in heart," he said. Jesus remains focused only on what is necessary and does not allow his attention to be divided by many distractions.
"Blessed are the peacemakers," he said. Jesus does not stress differences, but reconciles people as brothers and sisters in one family.
"Blessed are those who are persecuted," he said. Jesus does not expect success and popularity, but knows that rejection and abandonment will make him suffer.
The beatitudes give us Jesus' self-portrait. It is the portrait of the powerless God.
And it is to the powerless God we pray this day to be filled with all the transforming power of love that reaches out to touch, transform, and heal the creation itself and ultimately the human family with all its foibles and frailties.
Prayer: Great God of highest heaven, come anew to us through your Son and show us the blessed life that you invite us to live as we empty ourselves and put on Christ. Amen.