Welcome to Part 5 of a blog series ‘DC Abbey’, reflections on my 3 days at a Benedictine monastery in DC NE, St. Anselm’s Abbey. I share to hopefully inspire others to a monastic retreat. I value critical feedback, so please comment below.
In Part 4 I explained that Jesus, fully divine, yet also fully human, understands our persistent desire to disobey God. The Spirit’s beautiful play on words that Jesus ‘fell’ on the way to Golgotha, helped me to see Jesus in a completely new light. Jesus knew what ‘falling’ – a word Christians often use to say we sinned – felt like. It was amazing to know that Jesus knew what I felt like in my moments of failure. Jesus was brought closer to me than I ever imagined he could be.
When we arrive at the breaking point of temptation, Jesus understands, because he too faced that point in Gethsemane, and when he fell on the Via Dolorosa. In those moments he heard – and was tempted by – sin’s siren call to give up on the way of God. Jesus, as the writer of Hebrews affirmed, is like us in every way, yet is without sin.
What made Jesus different? Jesus persevered.
In the wilderness Jesus faced down his tempter, overcame, and angels came to strengthen him. In Gethsemane, Jesus rose up from prayer and met his enemies head on, even as his friends abandoned, and his closest one denied him. On the Via Dolorosa, Jesus shouldered his cross, got his legs underneath him, and carried it. Jesus persevered. Faced with a choice between his will and the Father’s he said, “Not mine, but yours be done.” And here is the crazy part, in the words of Jesus:
You will accomplish greater things than these.
I previously gave intellectual assent to this truth, but after the Holy Spirit dropped this theological bomb on me, I knew it deep in my inward parts. I am just as capable as Jesus to fully obey God. I too can face down my enemy, with all of heaven behind me for strength, and overcome. Jesus overcame in Gethsemane and on the Via Dolorosa not in his divinity, but in his humanity. That means there is hope for you and I. When the apostle says you have overcome the world, he was speaking from a reality he saw lived in Christ crucified.
But what if someone has already failed so many times, doesn’t that negate what I’ve just said? No. The Holy Spirit knew my objection and met it. That wonderful play on words that Jesus fell also gives us hope. Jesus fell and got back up again, so even if we fall down, stumble or trip, he reaches out with a compassionate hand, helps us up, and gives us forgiveness and strength to persevere again.
I had come to St. Anselm’s Abbey seeking strength to live more vigorously. And I gained it. Unsurprisingly, it all came back to who Jesus is. He is our paradigm, the only perfect human. But to live like him is not unattainable, just very difficult. Yet, when we come to see him as he is, it creates something new within that inches us closer to Christ revealed in us.
So, if you struggle, Jesus understands. You can approach him boldly for help. If you’ve fallen down, Jesus understands, don’t despair. He has all the strength and perseverance you need to get back up again, and overcome.
“This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” — Apostle John