HENRI NOUWEN part two

God’s Breath Given to Us

Being the living Christ today means being filled with the same Spirit that filled Jesus. Jesus and his Father are breathing the same breath, the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the intimate communion that makes Jesus and his Father one. Jesus says: “I am in the Father and the Father is in me” (John 14:10) and “The Father and I are one” (John 10:30). It is this unity that Jesus wants to give us. That is the gift of his Holy Spirit.

Living a spiritual life, therefore, means living in the same communion with the Father as Jesus did, and thus making God present in the world.

Being Clothed in Christ

Being a believer means being clothed in Christ. Paul says: “Every one of you that has been baptised has been clothed in Christ” (Galatians 3:26) and “Let your armour be the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 13:14). This being “clothed in Christ” is much more than wearing a cloak that covers our misery. It refers to a total transformation that allows us to say with Paul: “I have been crucified with Christ and yet I am alive; yet it is no longer I, but Christ living in me” (Galatians 2:20).

Thus, we are the living Christ in the world. Jesus, who is God-made-flesh, continues to reveal himself in our own flesh. Indeed, true salvation is becoming Christ.

Claiming the Identity of Jesus

When we think about Jesus as that exceptional, unusual person who lived long ago and whose life and words continue to inspire us, we might avoid the realisation that Jesus wants us to be like him. Jesus himself keeps saying in many ways that he, the Beloved Child of God, came to reveal to us that we too are God’s beloved children, loved with the same unconditional divine love.

John writes to his people: “You must see what great love the Father has lavished on us by letting us be called God’s children – which is what we are.” (1 John 3:1). This is the great challenge of the spiritual life: to claim the identity of Jesus for ourselves and to say: “We are the living Christ today!”

Being Like Jesus

Very often we distance ourselves from Jesus. We say, “What Jesus knew we cannot know, and what Jesus did we cannot do.” But Jesus never puts any distance between himself and us. He says: “I call you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have learnt from my Father” (John 15:15) and “In all truth I tell you, whoever believes in me will perform the same works as I do myself, and will perform even greater works” (John 14:12).

Indeed, we are called to know what Jesus knew and do what Jesus did. Do we really want that, or do we prefer to keep Jesus at arms’ length?

Jesus Is in the World Not of It

The Beatitudes offer us a self-portrait of Jesus. At first it might seem to be a most unappealing portrait – who wants to be poor, mourning and persecuted? Who can be truly gentle, merciful, pure in heart, a peacemaker, and always concerned about justice? Where is the realism here? Don’t we have to survive in this world and use the ways of the world to do so?

Jesus shows us the way to be in the world without being of it. When we model our lives on his, a new world will open up for us. The Kingdom of Heaven will be ours, and the earth will be our inheritance. We will be comforted and have our fill; mercy will be shown to us. Yes, we will be recognised as God’s children and truly see God, not just in an afterlife, but here and now (see Matthew 5:3-10). That is the reward of modelling our lives on the life of Jesus!
Jesus Is Persecuted

Jesus, the favorite Child of God, is persecuted. He who is poor, gentle, mourning; he who hungers and thirsts for uprightness; is merciful, pure of heart and a peacemaker is not welcome in this world. The Blessed One of God is a threat to the established order and a source of constant irritation to those who consider themselves the rulers of this world. Without his accusing anyone he is considered an accuser, without his condemning anyone he makes people feel guilty and ashamed, without his judging anyone those who see him feel judged. In their eyes, he cannot be tolerated and needs to be destroyed, because letting him be seems like a confession of guilt.

When we want to become like Jesus, we cannot expect always to be liked and admired. We have to be prepared to be rejected.

Jesus Is a Peacemaker

Jesus, the Blessed Child of the Father, is a peacemaker. His peace doesn’t mean only absence of war. It is not simply harmony or equilibrium. His peace is the fullness of well-being, gratuitously given by God. Jesus says, “Peace I leave to you, my own peace I give you, a peace which the world cannot give, this is my gift to you” (John 14:27).

Peace is Shalom — well-being of mind, heart, and body, individually and communally. It can exist in the midst of a war-torn world, even in the midst of unresolved problems and increasing human conflicts. Jesus made that peace by giving his life for his brothers and sisters. This is no easy peace, but it is everlasting and it comes from God. Are we willing to give our lives in the service of peace?

Jesus Is Pure of Heart

Jesus, the Beloved of God, has a pure heart. Having a pure heart means willing one thing. Jesus wanted only to do the will of his heavenly Father. Whatever Jesus did or said, he did and said it as the obedient Son of God: “What I say is what the Father has taught me; he who sent me is with me, and has not left me to myself, for I always do what pleases him” (John 8:28-29). There are no divisions in Jesus’ heart, no double motives or secret intentions. In Jesus there is complete inner unity because of his complete unity with God.

Becoming like Jesus is growing into purity of heart. That purity is what gave Jesus and will give us true spiritual vision.

Jesus Is Merciful

Jesus, the Blessed Child of God, is merciful. Showing mercy is different from having pity. Pity connotes distance, even looking down upon. When a beggar asks for money and you give him something out of pity, you are not showing mercy. Mercy comes from a compassionate heart; it comes from a desire to be an equal. Jesus didn’t want to look down on us. He wanted to become one of us and feel deeply with us.

When Jesus called the only son of the widow of Nain to life, he did so because he felt the deep sorrow of the grieving mother in his own heart (see Luke 7:11-17). Let us look at Jesus when we want to know how to show mercy to our brothers and sisters.

Jesus Hungers and Thirsts for Uprightness

Jesus, the Blessed Son of God, hungers and thirsts for uprightness. He abhors injustice. He resists those who try to gather wealth and influence by oppression and exploitation. His whole being yearns for people to treat one another as brothers and sisters, sons and daughters of the same God.

With fervor he proclaims that the way to the Kingdom is not saying many prayers or offering many sacrifices but in feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and visiting the sick and the prisoners (see Matthew 25:31-46). He longs for a just world. He wants us to live with the same hunger and thirst.

Jesus Mourns

Jesus, the Blessed One, mourns. Jesus mourns when his friend Lazarus dies (see John 11:33-36); he mourns when he overlooks the city of Jerusalem, soon to be destroyed (see Luke 19:41-44). Jesus mourns over all losses and devastations that fill the human heart with pain. He grieves with those who grieve and sheds tears with those who cry.

The violence, greed, lust, and so many other evils that have distorted the face of the earth and its people causes the Beloved Son of God to mourn. We too have to mourn if we hope to experience God’s consolation.

Jesus is Gentle

Jesus, the Blessed One, is gentle. Even though he speaks with great fervor and biting criticism against all forms of hypocrisy and is not afraid to attack deception, vanity, manipulation and oppression, his heart is a gentle heart. He won’t break the crushed reed or snuff the faltering wick (see Matthew 12:20). He responds to people’s suffering, heals their wounds, and offers courage to the fainthearted.

Jesus came to bring good news to the poor, sight to the blind, and freedom to prisoners (see Luke 4:18-19) in all he says, and thus he reveals God’s immense compassion. As his followers, we are called to that same gentleness.

Jesus is Poor

Jesus, the Blessed One, is poor. The poverty of Jesus is much more than an economic or social poverty. Jesus is poor because he freely chose powerlessness over power, vulnerability over defensiveness, dependency over self-sufficiency. As the great “Song of Christ” so beautifully expresses: “He … did not count equality with God something to be grasped. But he emptied himself, … becoming as human beings are” (Philippians 2:6-7). This is the poverty of spirit that Jesus chose to live.

Jesus calls us who are blessed as he is to live our lives with that same poverty.

Jesus’ Self-Portrait

Jesus says: “Blessed are the poor, the gentle, those who mourn, those who hunger and thirst for uprightness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and those who are persecuted in the cause of uprightness” (Matthew 5:3-10). These words offer us a self-portrait of Jesus. Jesus is the Blessed One. And the face of the Blessed One shows poverty, gentleness, grief, hunger, and thirst for uprightness, mercy, purity of heart, a desire to make peace, and the signs of persecution.

The whole message of the Gospel is this: Become like Jesus. We have his self-portrait. When we keep that in front of our eyes, we will soon learn what it means to follow Jesus and become like him.

Jesus, the Blessed One

Jesus is the Blessed One. The word benediction, which is the Latin form for the word blessing, means “to say (dicere) good things (bene).” Jesus is the Blessed One because God has spoken good things of him. Most clearly we hear God’s blessing after Jesus has been baptised in the river Jordan, when “suddenly there was a voice from heaven, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on him'” (Matthew 3:16-17).

With this blessing Jesus starts his public ministry. And all of that ministry is to make known to us that this blessing is not only for Jesus but also for all who follow him.

Jesus’ Compassion

Jesus is called Emmanuel which means “God-with-us” (see Matthew 1: 22-23). The great paradox of Jesus’ life is that he, whose words and actions are in no way influenced by human blame or praise but are completely dependent on God’s will, is more “with” us than any other human being.

Jesus’ compassion, his deep feeling-with us, is possible because his life is guided not by human respect but only by the love of his heavenly Father. Indeed, Jesus is free to love us because he is not dependent on our love.

Jesus’ Freedom

Jesus was truly free. His freedom was rooted in his spiritual awareness that he was the Beloved Child of God. He knew in the depth of his being that he belonged to God before he was born, that he was sent into the world to proclaim God’s love, and that he would return to God after his mission was fulfilled. This knowledge gave him the freedom to speak and act without having to please the world and the power to respond to people’s pains with the healing love of God.

That’s why the Gospels say: “Everyone in the crowd was trying to touch him because power came out of him that cured them all” (Luke 6:19).

Going Beyond Our Wants

Sometimes we behave like children in a toy shop. We want this, and that, and then something else. The many options confuse us and create an enormous restlessness in us. When someone says, “Well, what do you want? You can have one thing. Make up your mind,” we do not know what to choose.

As long as our hearts keep vacillating among these many wants, we cannot move forward in life with inner peace and joy. That is why we need inner and outer disciplines, to go beyond these wants and discover our mission in life.

The many contradictions in our lives – such as being home while feeling homeless, being busy while feeling bored, being popular while feeling lonely, being believers while feeling many doubts – can frustrate, irritate, and even discourage us. They make us feel that we are never fully present. Every door that opens for us makes us see how many more doors are closed.

But there is another response. These same contradictions can bring us into touch with a deeper longing, for the fulfillment of a desire that lives beneath all desires and that only God can satisfy. Contradictions, thus understood, create the friction that can help us move toward God.

Healing Contradictions

The many contradictions in our lives – such as being home while feeling homeless, being busy while feeling bored, being popular while feeling lonely, being believers while feeling many doubts – can frustrate, irritate, and even discourage us. They make us feel that we are never fully present. Every door that opens for us makes us see how many more doors are closed.

But there is another response. These same contradictions can bring us into touch with a deeper longing, for the fulfillment of a desire that lives beneath all desires and that only God can satisfy. Contradictions, thus understood, create the friction that can help us move toward God.

Freedom Attracts

When you are interiorly free you call others to freedom, whether you know it or not. Freedom attracts wherever it appears. A free man or a free woman creates a space where others feel safe and want to dwell. Our world is so full of conditions, demands, requirements, and obligations that we often wonder what is expected of us. But when we meet a truly free person, there are no expectations, only an invitation to reach into ourselves and discover there our own freedom.

Where true inner freedom is, there is God. And where God is, there we want to be.

Joint Heirs with Christ

We continue to put ourselves down as less than Christ. Thus, we avoid the full honour as well as the full pain of the Christian life. But the Spirit that guided Jesus guides us. Paul says: “The Spirit himself joins with our spirit to bear witness that we are children of God. And if we are children, then we are heirs, heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:16-17).

When we start living according to this truth, our lives will be radically transformed. We will not only come to know the full freedom of the children of God but also the full rejection of the world. It is understandable that we hesitate to claim the honor so as to avoid the pain. But, provided we are willing to share in Christ’s suffering, we also will share in his glory (see Romans 8:17).